Truth is Reason, Truth Eternal

Guest post by Lindsay Ragan (she/her). Lindsay spends her days raising three strong capable women. She enjoys listening to podcasts, jamming out to music with heavy beats and weird noises, and learning about Quickbooks. She lives in the midwest with husband, three daughters, and Scout, the dog she swore she’d never get but who is healing her cold hardened heart. 

I had heard rumors that someone was going to address the topic of Heavenly Mother in the 2022 Women’s General Session and to my surprise they were right! Elder Dale G. Renlund gave his talk “Your Divine Nature and Eternal Destiny”.

He didn’t say much about Heavenly Mother, however the bulk of my thoughts are going to focus on a quote that has been pounding in my head since I originally heard it, then played back, wrote down and played back again. The context of this influential quote comes from discussing the LIMITED information the Church has received about Heavenly Mother through the Prophets AND how others (the women he was addressing) may have more questions and want more answers. He said he did, too.

“Seeking greater understanding is an important part of our spiritual development, but please be cautious. Reason cannot replace revelation. Speculation won’t lead to greater spiritual knowledge, but it can lead us to deception or divert us and divert our focus from what has been revealed.”

Now I am sure some may see this quote and think, “He is an appointed, benevolent apostle and is trying to guide us like a trail guide warning us of pitfalls.” For me, the red flags start to fly. His warning feels like a shut down. He is patting our collective heads saying, “Don’t worry your pretty little heads with reason. Just follow the Prophet, HE knows the way.”

 The quote continues to be bothersome because of the warning against speculation. Speculate is defined as “the forming of a theory or conjecture without firm evidence.” I am immediately reminded of Hebrews 11:1 “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” To have or develop faith in something (especially unseen or without firm evidence) you have to form a theory or hope, in a word, speculate. I am being WARNED against developing faith in an unseen Heavenly Mother because it “can lead [me] to deception…and divert [my] focus from what has been revealed.” This makes no sense to me. 

What is the concerning deception we face seeking Her out on our own? What are they, the leaders of the church, asking us to be cautious of? What are they afraid of?

The Church says they value women, that the doctrine of Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father should level the playing field but it does not. This is illustrated in Elder Renlund’s talk. He quotes the first line of the YW Theme, “I am a beloved daughter of Heavenly Parents” he then shares, in the same breath, “HE loves you…. HIS love has always been there.” To Elder Renlund, God is Male. Only God the Father loves us. That is why we are commanded to only pray to HIM. This statement of his creates an image for me. It is like he is on a global stage showcasing Mother and Father and then steps in front of Her, and points his body and his focus on Him. We can still see Her, even while he is trying to divert our focus!

So again, what is the caution for? I think the reason for the caution isn’t really women (or anyone) seeking out Heavenly Mother. I think the issue Elder Renlund and other leaders of the church are concerned with is people thinking for themselves. Why else are they trying to control our worship? Why would anyone, prophet or not, have the AUTHORITY to tell someone else how to PRAY to God? They think they do. We are told through conferences and correlated lessons, “We’ll tell you how to believe/pray/worship and if you don’t believe/pray/worship like we said to, YOU are deceived and YOU must repent and get back on the covenant path (and NEVER leave it) and FOLLOW THE PROPHET! If you don’t, you are lost and give up your eternal destiny.” THIS. IS. MANIPULATION.

This indoctrination of “the Prophet knows the way” starts in Primary and continues on every single Sunday. Just this last conference members were told repeatedly that Russell M. Nelson is God’s Mouthpiece. That we must follow the leaders of the church because eternal blessings are at stake. Because following them is the “only real way to follow Christ,” no matter if what they say and do is unChristlike.

In my own journey I dealt with the struggle of knowing if I was deceived. My first personal experience with Heavenly Mother came unexpectedly. I had just read the BYU Symposium article “A Mother There” a few weeks before. The article had scoured historical Church texts and documented statements from Prophets and historical female members. I had thought of Her in theory my whole life, being told She is our precious Mother protected by Father and Son to shield Her from Her blasphemous children. I hadn’t really considered who She really was until referencing the article. That She is a God; She can handle a couple bazillion snotty teenager spirit children. Since my mind had been open to a more expansive and powerful view of Her, I was able to sense Her on my own level and in my own understanding. It was a beautiful and peaceful experience. Yet, fear crept in unprovoked. I had read the Gospel Topic essay Mother in Heaven. I had listened to President Hinckley stating how he regards “it as inappropriate for anyone in the Church to pray to our Mother in Heaven.” So when I did, I felt like I was breaking a cardinal rule. I would then struggle to reconcile my personal experience and the teachings of the men of the church. I had heard about women being excommunicated for teaching about Heavenly Mother. Was I risking my beloved membership by cherishing and sharing this foundational experience? Was I really being deceived?

How can one know if they are being deceived? If someone is trying to tell you what and how to believe and that if you don’t you are deceived… that is a pretty good sign they are trying to manipulate or scare you into compliance. However, if you listen to that still small voice inside you, that is the part of you that is a part of God, you will be prompted. Like one who is prompted to not turn down x road, later to find a cliff, they recognize that as God guiding them. I believe we can be alerted spiritually, too.  When we hear or learn something that sparks the spiritual alert system, for example, “You are a beloved daughter of Heavenly Parents. HE loves you,” it is the doubt and the red flags that ARE the answers. When something doesn’t FEEL right in our heart or make actual sense in our mind, don’t put it on the shelf. THAT is God communicating with us. THAT is PERSONAL REVELATION. No one, including prophets, seers, revelators, can take that from you. For me like Eliza R. Snow wrote,  “Truth IS reason, truth eternal tells me I’ve a Mother there.”  And NO ONE will take Her from me. 

Finally a note. I don’t need my experience with God to be yours. There are some who don’t connect with the strictly gendered God. I am cool if your experience is nonbinary or more ambiguous. God is there for us to connect with.  God will tell you in YOUR heart (your spirit) and in YOUR mind (your reason) what is right and true for you.

This post is part of a series, Contemplating Heavenly Mother. Find more from this series here.

I had the desire to connect with our Heavenly Mother but was it right to pray to her?

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8 Responses

  1. john spowart says:

    Fantastic article Lindsey! Random thoughts after reading it- 1. The Church takes a hard line stance on the importance of male and female in marriage. 2. The Church also takes a hard line stance on the importance of 1 gender in diety – that’s some dissonance. and 3. If there is a way to minimize/erase Heavenly Mother without minimizing women – that ‘way’ was not displayed in any of the respective talks on the issue.

  2. Beth Young says:

    I agree! This has been my experience and these are very much like my thoughts, as well. She can absolutely handle our spirit teen angst! The Q15 are operating as spiritual gestapo. If we don’t follow them, then they think that we aren’t followers of Christ. Yet, their unChrist-like sexism should be apparent to all who hear them speak. Thank you
    , Guest Post!

  3. Bryn Brody says:

    Absolutely beautiful. Also a timely reminder of what manipulation looks like. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Heather says:

    So much of the rhetoric does not make sense. I agree that the church’s response is fear based. Thank you for this.

  5. Mortimer(a) says:

    Excellent post! Amen! Thank you for articulating that discord and cognitive dissonance with something that was said (even by someone in the red velvet chairs) can be *personal revelation*. Women are often enculturated to turn away from those feelings, thank you for pointing out that they need to USE them to grow.

    Here’s my assessment of what’s going on:

    I think SLC is trying to mainstream the church with the Evangelical American right. The points of alignment would fill an entire post, but I’ll just say that pesky “limb and twig” beliefs like “Adam-Ondhi-Ahman”, Heavenly Mother, our faith AND works-based salvation ethic, and even the BoM are being quietly downplayed as we tirelessly try fitting in with the Evangelical right.

    The “Mormon Moment” flung us into the spotlight, and the ordeal left us with several scars. Consequently, our yo-yo has swung far over to “mainstreaming” and away from “let your freak flag fly”. Although Heavenly Mother is part of Eastern Orthodox, Jewish, Hindu, some Christian, and even Contemporary universalist beliefs, we still get painted as lone weirdos.And, if the GAs blew out birthday candles with a wish, they’d wish that we fit in with general Protestant, and moreover, right-wing evangelicalism.

    The problem is us pesky feminists, who keep bringing Her up.

    Just in case they are counting the number of mentions in a logarithm ….

    Heavenly Mother
    Heavenly Mother
    Heavenly Mother
    Heavenly Mother
    Heavenly Mother
    Heavenly Mother
    Heavenly Mother

  6. Kaylee says:

    I ran across a lovely scripture today. D&C 136:32 “Let him that is ignorant learn wisdom by humbling himself and calling upon the Lord his God, that his eyes may be opened that he may see, and his ears opened that he may hear;”

    I like to read the word “wisdom” as a title for the divine feminine (Proverbs 3 is lovely with this interpretation!). Anyone who feels ignorant about Heavenly Mother is welcome to talk to God about it. This works with James 1:5 also…

    I really wish the church was better at accepting that not all members need to believe and worship in the exact same way

  7. nonny says:

    Reason is the gateway to revelation

  8. K Peterson says:

    Wonderfully said. Your thoughts bring new meaning to the innocent Primary song, Do As I’m Doing! 😳

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