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Gospel Topics Chapter 12 Kline/Steenblik Part 3

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever
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July 6, 2021 9:05 pm

Gospel Topics Chapter 12 Kline/Steenblik Part 3

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever

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July 6, 2021 9:05 pm

In the final week of this 11-week series, Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson take a closer look at the chapter written by Caroline Kline and Rachel Hunt Steenblik in the book The LDS Gospel Topics Series. For a look at the entire series and articles written on each of the Gospel Topics essays, visit


Mormonism 101, a book by Mormonism Research Ministries, Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, has helped many who want to understand what separates Mormonism from the Christian faith. Since 1979, Mormonism Research Ministry has been dedicated to equipping the body of Christ with answers regarding the Christian faith in a manner that expresses gentleness and respect. We are looking at chapter 12 in the book, The Gospel Topics Series, a scholarly engagement.

It was written by Carolyn Klein and Rachel Hunt Steenblick. It's titled Mother in Heaven, a Feminist Perspective. And, naturally, as an evangelical, I certainly do not believe there even exists such an individual as Heavenly Mother, but I think in the context of Mormonism, the two authors do raise some interesting, if not compelling, questions.

If you're going to have a doctrine of a Heavenly Mother, what do you do with her? And they're asking questions, as we're going to discuss today, whether or not it should be appropriate for Latter-day Saints to pray to Heavenly Mother. And that is what is addressed at the bottom of page 306. And we should mention that that 1991 talk that they are making reference to was titled Daughters of God.

It was a message that was given by Gordon B. Hinckley in October of 1991, and it can be found in the November issue of Ensign Magazine 1991. Then the essay is cited, while every other quote in the Mother in Heaven essay emphasized Heavenly Mother's involved role as partner to Heavenly Father in the godly duties of loving humans. In planning for their salvation and working to help them, Hinckley clearly positions Heavenly Mother as having a different role than Heavenly Father, one that is more removed and distant than that of the involved Father God with whom LDS members are encouraged to commune. Thus, the essay's comment about Latter-day Saints not praying to Heavenly Mother firmly positions Heavenly Mother as quote-unquote other, separate, shadowy, and distinct in role. It problematizes the previous quotes, which emphasize similarities between Heavenly Parents rather than differences. This is a sobering but necessary part of the essay because it highlights the institutional church's ambiguous rhetoric on and treatment of Heavenly Mother. She is equal and involved in her concern, status, and salvific planning, yet we are to only commune with God the Father because that is, quote, the pattern set by Jesus Christ, end quote, and in practice rarely include her in our LDS God rhetoric.

Now, here was a problem that I had with what the authors are saying here, and it goes back to what I said earlier in this week, when it says she is equal and involved in her concern, status, and salvific planning, yet we are to only commune with God the Father because that is, quote, the pattern set by Jesus Christ. Did you conclude what I concluded from that statement, Eric, that this seems to prove that the two authors are much more concerned with looking for something being said by Joseph Smith, the founder of their organization, rather than the pattern that is even pointed out by the church leadership, a pattern set by Jesus Christ? I get the impression from that statement they don't like the alleged pattern set by Jesus Christ and emphasized by their leaders. Throw what Jesus did out, throw what Jesus said out, we want to go with what we think Joseph Smith said, because what Joseph Smith said we feel more fits the worldview that we have chosen to have as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As a New Testament Christian, you would think that the emphasis would be put more on what Jesus said and what Jesus did, but we admit the Latter-day Saints would not claim to be New Testament Christians. And so, at least with the example of these two writers, they don't seem to care what Jesus said.

They don't seem to care what Jesus did. Even when their own leaders point to his example in both word and deed, they would much rather reject that and go with what they feel Joseph Smith was promulgating. Which is in and of itself a bit vague, because even the authors tend to admit that there's really no substantial doctrine that was ever taught by Joseph Smith publicly.

She mentions some things that were perhaps said privately about Heavenly Mother and such, but we don't really have anything public from Joseph Smith on this topic. And we've talked about that this past week, but what I find to be interesting is that they're not satisfied with just God the Father. They're not satisfied with just Jesus. They want to add a fourth member to the Godhead if they possibly could, because it seems like they want Heavenly Mother on the same status as Heavenly Father. On page 308, they have a subtitle, Contestable Claims. It says, despite the essay's calling to our attention, church leaders' view affirming Heavenly Mother, there are a couple of statements near the end of the essay which are contestable. The penultimate paragraph states, quote, Latter-day Saints direct their worship to Heavenly Father in the name of Christ and do not pray to Heavenly Mother, end quote. It then quotes, as previously noted, a portion of President Hinckley's 1991 address, Daughters of God, quote, the fact that we do not pray to our mother in heaven in no way belittles or denigrates her, end quote. The essay, however, does not include Hinckley's other remarks in his 1991 talk about praying to Heavenly Mother, specifically his statement, quote, In light of the instruction we have received from the Lord himself, I regard it as inappropriate for anyone in the church to pray to our mother in heaven, end quote. Also omitted is the sentence directly preceding the quoted portion in Hinckley's original speech, quote, I suppose those who use this expression and who try to further its use are well-meaning, but they are misguided, end quote. The authors go on to say this is notable because as LDS Church member Aaron Taylor writes, the Gospel Topics rendition differs from Hinckley's prescriptive statement from 25 years earlier.

The Gospel Topics essay features, in the words of Taylor, quote, a descriptive statement and not a prescriptive one. It doesn't say that we should not pray or must not pray to Heavenly Mother. It doesn't say that if we pray to Heavenly Mother, we'll face church discipline. It just says that we do not pray to her.

It's descriptive and it's false. I know Mormons who pray to Heavenly Mother, end quote. And of course this quote is attributed to this LDS member, Aaron Taylor. Does that carry a lot of weight with you, Eric?

Because it certainly doesn't carry a lot of weight with me. In fact, she goes on in the next paragraph and gives some other examples, but just because Latter-day Saints are praying to Heavenly Mother, if it hasn't come from the leadership, then it's not authoritative for them to be praying to Heavenly Mother if that's not what is taught to do. There's another very disturbing segment in this chapter, and it starts on page 310.

As we read this, you're going to understand why it's disturbing. At the bottom of page 310, the authors say, A number of prominent LDS writers have expressed their yearning for Heavenly Mother and their confusion as to why she is so overwhelmingly absent from church leaders' rhetoric about deity. Carolyn Pearson's searing poem, Motherless House, gives voice to the profound sense of loss some Saints feel at Heavenly Mother's absence from their lives. I read that, and immediately what came to mind is, obviously, in the mind of these Latter-day Saints that Carolyn Pearson is referring to, it appears that Jesus obviously isn't enough for these members. And that's what's particularly troubling to me about this chapter. It's like, Jesus isn't enough.

We don't even care what Jesus said or did. We want a Heavenly Mother, and not having a Heavenly Mother in the way that we think she should be in our lives shows that we have an absence of some sort from our lives. Christian, that should really bother you that there are Latter-day Saints who were thinking like this, but apparently this is some real feeling that some members of the church are having. It goes on to say on page 311, LDS women like Pearson yearn for more information about and acknowledgement of Heavenly Mother and feel acute bewilderment about their own status in the eternities given Heavenly Mother's shadowy and unheralded role.

Perhaps the reason that she has a shadowy and unheralded role is that it's not mentioned once in the standard works, as we've been talking about this week. We don't have the early leaders who taught definitively in this belief. It's just an assumed truth, which we would call an argument from silence. So I don't understand why there is this yearning for an imaginary being, I'm going to say, that doesn't exist. God the Father does exist. Jesus does exist. I would think that if you want truth, you're going to pursue them, and you're not going to pursue an imaginary figure like Heavenly Mother.

And think about this, Eric. For centuries, Christians have found solace and completeness in the person of Christ. We've never had a doctrine like this. This gets brought up so late in history, and of course there's so little written about this entity, which probably explains, I think, why it's so vague. But Joseph Smith allegedly talks about this privately.

Others catch on to it. You have Eliza Roxy Snow write a poem about it, and all of a sudden this becomes a very profound doctrine that is so important to some Latter-day Saint women that they don't even find any completeness in their lives, unless they're allowed to pray to her and worship her? You mentioned Jesus earlier. I don't see anywhere in the New Testament where Jesus' disciples were yearning for a relationship with Heavenly Mother.

That certainly was not a priority in their lives. And yet they also, I would believe, had a completeness in their life when it came to their relationship with God. See, this is what bothers me about this whole chapter. If nothing else screams loudly from what the writers of this chapter are saying, it's, we don't believe Jesus is enough. We need more information on our Heavenly Mother. We need the ability to worship her. We need the ability to pray to her.

If not, then our lives are not complete. That alone tells me these people that are being mentioned in such a predicament don't seem to be Christian at all, even though they may belong to a church that has His name. Thank you for listening. If you would like more information regarding Mormonism Research Ministry, we encourage you to visit our website at, where you can request our free newsletter, Mormonism Researched. We hope you will join us again as we look at another viewpoint on Mormonism. As with most Christian organizations, Mormonism Research Ministry depends on the generous financial support of friends like you. If you like what we do and how we do it, would you consider helping MRM meet its financial obligations? Merely go to our website, At the right, you'll see a donate button. Click there and follow the instructions. MRM is a Christian nonprofit 501c3 organization and your gifts are tax deductible. Not only that, they are greatly appreciated. Thank you for your support of this ministry.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-24 10:40:44 / 2023-09-24 10:45:40 / 5

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