Unprepared to engage Mormon missionaries when they knock on your door? Perhaps the book of Mormonism, the Bible says, is the God of Mormonism, consisting of both Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father. Welcome to this edition of Viewpoint on Mormonism.
I'm your host Bill McKeever, founder and director of Mormonism Research Ministry, and with me today is Eric Johnson, my colleague and colleague, at MRM. We continue looking at chapter 12 in the book, the LDS Gospel Topics series, a scholarly engagement. This chapter is titled Mother in Heaven, a Feminist Perspective, and the two authors, Carolyn Klein and Rachel Hunt Steenblick, are offering their criticisms as well as a little bit of praise for the Gospel Topics essay that speaks of a Mother in Heaven. If there's nothing else we can take away from this chapter, and certainly the Gospel Topics essay on this topic is the Church does admit that this is an official doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That Heavenly Father, the one that Latter-day Saints call Elohim, is married to this individual, understood only as Heavenly Mother. She doesn't even get a name, which I guess you could say plays into some of the complaints that the two authors have, because a lot of what Latter-day Saints are told about Heavenly Mother is kind of vague in many areas, and of course they are complaining that they are not really allowed to worship Heavenly Mother, and they're certainly not to pray to Heavenly Mother. Today we are going to be looking at page 318 as we wrap up our critique of this particular chapter.
These are excellent questions. It's kind of unfortunate that it gets mentioned only towards the end of the chapter, but I'm glad it was mentioned, because I think the authors raised some very good questions about this subject. What is Heavenly Mother's status in the Godhead? Is she—and again, she is capitalized, as it is consistently throughout this chapter—is she completely outside the Godhead? Well, if she's completely outside the Godhead, then you certainly couldn't consider her to be a female goddess, technically, could you?
No, probably not. But if so, what implications does this have for her status as deity? Is she not God in any way, and thus is the God the Latter-day Saints refer to only God the Father, or perhaps at times the tripart God consisting of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost? If she is a bona fide God, then shouldn't the LDS missionaries, when they come to our door, instead of merely referencing the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, shouldn't Heavenly Mother be listed among those three? And so we don't really have a doctrine of tritheism in the context of Mormonism. Actually, you have four members in the Godhead. And I think they're right to complain about this, because the essay itself doesn't really address this.
It leaves you hanging. You naturally have to assume a lot of things, but your questions can only go so far. And I can understand why these authors in this particular area would be a little concerned about that, and want some more complete answers from the Church. That would be something that would be great for the president of the Church to address in General Conference. Is Heavenly Mother a bona fide God, and if so, why is it that the Church does not include her in the Godhead listed among the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost? And you know as well as I do that that will never be brought up, because it is full of gasoline.
And to even address the issue, you're not going to make anybody happy. There are going to be people on both sides who are going to wonder why you're bringing this up. So Heavenly Mother really is not talked about very often at General Conference.
Occasionally, as they mentioned in 1991, Gordon B. Hinckley did, but it's not something that is talked about at great length, and certainly not to go into details like you're suggesting here. On that same page, 318, the authors introduce 19th century apostle Erastus Snow. 19th century apostle Erastus Snow claimed that God is a combination of deified male and female. He stated, And then they go on to cite a woman by the name of Janice Allred. Now, this isn't the first time Janice Allred's name is brought up in this chapter. It's brought up earlier on page 304, but Janice Allred was a feminist who was excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for constantly writing and discussing about this topic of Heavenly Mother.
From a feminist viewpoint, what do they say on page 319? Janice Allred's vision of God falls nicely in line with Snow's as well, as she argues that God is indeed the divine couple of Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father. She, however, envisions an even more expansive role for Heavenly Mother. Not only is she half of the God portion of the Godhead, but she is also, Allred argues, acting in the role of the Holy Ghost. Wow, as you keep getting into this subject deeper and deeper, it just gets curiouser and curiouser, and of course, it becomes more heretical and more heretical.
I was just about to say that, Bill. I'm going to say pagan. This is really paganism. In the final thoughts section of this chapter, it says that the Gospel Topics essay accomplishes a couple of very important purposes, particularly in regard to dismantling cultural silence on Heavenly Mother, and also legitimizing as authoritative Church doctrine some positive and ennobling quotes about a capitalized singular Heavenly Mother. But it might have gone further, specifically establishing the importance of the doctrine, giving greater historical context on this important issue, and articulating more clearly and thoroughly Heavenly Mother's status and role within the framework of LDS thought in life. However, the authors chose not to address these issues, perhaps fearing that a more thorough examination would only lead to difficult questions and implications. Well, let me stop you there, Eric, because based on what is in the Gospel Topics essay, dealing with the subject of Heavenly Mother, I think these two authors of this chapter, in critiquing it, seem to have come up with a pretty good list of difficult questions and implications without it going into all the details that they personally would expect this essay to cover.
They've certainly brought up a lot of what I feel are very good questions that should explain a lot of the confusing aspects of this doctrine. The essay refuses to do so for whatever reason, but I think what it included, and I think these two authors seem to prove my point, even though it didn't say everything they had hoped the essay would say, it still raises a lot of information that perhaps is going to cause a more thorough examination that would probably lead to, as they say, difficult questions and implications. As they found the essay to be somewhat disturbing from one aspect, maybe another female member would find it disturbing from another aspect. Remember, not every female member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds to the feminist view that these two authors hold to. The two authors go on to say, the essay, while a notable starting place, sparks more questions about Heavenly Mother than it satisfies. The essay mentions that Latter-day Saints do not pray to Heavenly Mother, a point that should be nuanced, but it never explains why.
I don't know if that statement is really fair in this context, Eric, and this is why. If you go back to page 307, and right here I'm quoting from page 321, though the essay itself might not seem to answer the questions that they are talking about here, the authors seem to answer that question earlier, when the leaders point to the pattern and statements of Jesus himself as the reason why Latter-day Saints don't pray to Heavenly Mother. So even though the essay might not do that, it seems that these two authors already know why. They just don't like the reason that their church is giving them, and they don't really seem to care that the church leadership is pointing to the example and statements of Jesus himself. As we've said earlier in this series, they want to go more towards what they think Joseph Smith said about this topic.
They don't really seem to be concerned, at least in my opinion, as to what their leaders or even Jesus has said on it. But as we pointed out this week, Heavenly Mother is not found in the standard works. It's certainly not found in the official teachings of the church, including the first four presidents of the church. I'm going to suggest that Adam-God, that was a sermon given by Brigham Young in the Journal Discourses Volume 1, we have more reason to believe that it should be an official doctrine more than we have on Heavenly Mother, because Brigham Young called it a doctrine. The Adam-God doctrine, even though it was rejected by many Latter-day Saints of the day and has not been accepted by the leaders throughout the years, it was taught at General Conference. But I've never heard a conference talk given on Heavenly Mother that we're supposed to pray to Heavenly Mother. Yeah, and I think you're right. When we look at the Adam-God sermon given by Brigham Young in April of 1852, it seems to have all the qualifications of being an Orthodox teaching within Mormonism.
But as you pointed out, it's not. It was questioned by Orson Pratt during that time, and certainly leaders other than Orson Pratt questioned it as well. But today, Latter-day Saints don't believe that. But Bill, if the church came out and said, oh, yes, we're going to go ahead and believe in Heavenly Mother, and we want you to pray to her, and we were wrong for all these years, what is that going to do to the members who are faithful in the LDS Church?
I think you raise a good question. For all these years, the LDS leadership has been telling its people not to believe certain things about Heavenly Mother or practice certain things in light of her existence. Are they not leading the church astray and doing so? See, to reverse it all of a sudden seems also problematic for the leadership of the church, because I think it's fair to ask, well, if we're going to start praying to Heavenly Mother now and treating her as a bona fide God, which you would assume should include her also in the God head, why weren't you saying this all along? Why did you seem to not be privy to the importance of her status?
This is where I think the two authors make a very good point. Thank you for listening. If you would like more information regarding Mormonism Research Ministry, we encourage you to visit our website at www.mrm.org, where you can request our free newsletter, Mormonism Researched. We hope you will join us again as we look at another viewpoint on Mormonism.
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