k686Every morning growing up in Idaho, my father read the Book of Mormon to us. He was an amateur actor and loved to theatrically emphasize the hellfire and damnation verses: “You shall be cast into that lake of fire and brimstone whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever!”  This always sent my mom storming from the kitchen shouting, “You can’t say that to the kids! You are taking it all out of context! We know God is not like that!” My father would counter that he was simply quoting the Book of Mormon, and how dare she presume to know better than the Nephite prophets. We kids would just roll our eyes. [1]

God of Wrath, God of Love

Carl Jung’s Answer to Job analyzes the Biblical character of Jehovah and His evolution from a wrathful Jehovah to merciful Christ. (It is important to understand that God Himself does not change. God is a timeless being who is unchangeable. The evolution from wrathful Jehovah to merciful Christ illustrates the evolution of man’s understanding of God, not God’s nature.)  Jung theorizes that the Jehovah of the Old Testament is in an “animal” state, responding to natural instincts like anger, obsession with justice, jealousy, and abhorrence. When humanity indulges in these same natural instincts, they get into trouble, starting fights, refusing to forgive, seeking power and revenge. So how come Jehovah can be this way, and we can’t? Mormons strive to repress these “natural man” instincts. But should we really try to repress instincts which come from our nature, instincts manifested in God Himself? Jung believed that repression was an ineffective way of dealing with these troublesome instincts. He wrote:

In the unconscious is everything that has been rejected by consciousness, and the more Christian one’s consciousness is, the more heathenishly does the unconscious behave, if in the rejected heathenism there are values which are important for life—if, that is to say, the baby has been thrown out with the bath water, as so often happens.

Jung speculates that perfectionistic Christians risk “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” by trying to root out all of their animalistic instincts. Not even Jehovah can seem to overcome His own jealousy.  Even after the coming of a merciful Christ, Jehovah lashes out at humanity in a final Apocalypse: “I have trampled them in my fury…their blood have I sprinkled on my garments…for this was the day of vengeance.” (D&C 133:51)

Jung argues that what is needed is not repression, but balance.  And for balance to occur, a feminine counterweight is needed. Justice needs to be balanced with mercy, anger with patience, perfectionism with wholeness, truth with wisdom.

Balancing Masculine Justice With Feminine Mercy

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God’s lover Sophia: “I was his constant delight, rejoicing always in his presence.”

As a psychologist, Jung believed the individual should strive to achieve a balance between the competing masculine and feminine forces within.  He saw these gender forces as influencing not only individuals and relationships, but communities and religions as well. Jung viewed Old Testament justice as a masculine phenomenon and New Testament mercy as a feminine one.[2]  The Divine Feminine had been all but forgotten in the Old Testament, except subversively, in the form of Sophia or Wisdom, who is anthropomorphized as God’s lover in the book of Proverbs: “when he marked off the earth’s foundations, I was the architect at his side. I was his constant delight, rejoicing always in his presence.”  According to Jung, Jehovah’s Old Testament flirtation with Sophia had it’s ultimate fulfillment in Christ, who brought about a new unity of the masculine and feminine: the demands of justice were fulfilled, but at the cost of a personal sacrifice by God Himself.

The Eternal Battle of the Sexes

The merciful Christ did not overthrow the wrathful Jehovah. Rather, they share the throne of God together, as a single, balanced God. But this balance was not achieved easily. Masculine and feminine forces do not always fit comfortably together. In the case of Jehovah, the marriage of these two forces could only be achieved through the ultimate sacrifice: a bloody atonement. Only something so dramatic could reconcile the opposing forces at work both in God and in humanity. Jung wrote:

From a God who is a loving father, who is actually Love itself, one would expect understanding and forgiveness. So it comes as a nasty shock when this supremely good God only allows the purchase of such an act of grace through a human sacrifice, and, what is worse, through the killing of his own son…One should keep before one’s eyes the strange fact that the God of goodness is so unforgiving that he can only be appeased by a human sacrifice! 

William Blake Michael Foretells the CrucifixionJehovah’s obsession with justice cannot be overlooked. It must be purchased in blood. But the great paradox of the situation is that Jehovah Himself goes down to earth to become Christ and pay the sacrifice. Why does He do this? Jehovah must take responsibility for the fact that elements of His own nature are responsible for the terrors and errors in the world. While men and women do sin against God, sometimes they are simply acting according to His prewritten creative design. This is an injustice Jehovah cannot overlook.  He MUST provide a Savior, both to save mankind from their sins, and to save Himself from the immorality of having deliberately mislead Eve in the Garden and making her fall into a miserable world, with miserable instinctual natures, something she and Adam didn’t really deserve. He created a violent world and then came down to fully experience that violence Himself,  In so doing, a balance between masculine and feminine forces in the universe was achieved.

Job and Joseph Smith

Many other Christian religions have become thoroughly emasculated in a modern world whose ethos is increasingly feminine.  These religions ONLY emphasize the sweetness and mercy of Jesus, making few demands and avoiding any talk of hell and a wrathful God. But Mormons have resurrected the wrathful Jehovah, and put Him side by side with the gentle Christ. Joseph Smith’s revelations are full of phrases like this from the Doctrine and Covenants: “the anger of the Lord is kindled, and his sword is bathed in heaven, and it shall fall upon the inhabitants of the earth.

But there is an important difference between Jehovah’s revelations to Joseph Smith and those of the Old Testament.  Compare the prayers of the long-suffering Job to the prayers of Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail. To Job, who complains of his unfair trials, Jehovah rages, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?”…and proceeds to “wow” him with visions of His power till Job finally concedes: “I put my hand over my mouth.”  Jehovah’s response to Job amounts to a simple “might makes right.”

36481_all_31-01-JosephLibertyJailBut when Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail cries unto the Lord, Jehovah answers with a new tenderness, “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment… if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high…The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?”  What has changed from Job to Joseph Smith? The Masculine Jehovah has been transformed by Christ into a balanced figure of both severity and compassion, one who still subjects His creatures to trials and demands of perfection, but who tempers them with mercy and empathy.

We cannot escape from the Old Testament Jehovah, neither in our doctrine, nor in our individual identity. As the Book of Mormon says, “mercy cannot rob justice.” The forces of masculine orthodoxy and feminine tolerance will forever be at war with each other. But like any marriage, a balance CAN be achieved, however imperfectly. We must strive for perfection, never settling for anything less than an eternal ideal.  But while eternally striving towards perfection, the masculine ideal, we can accept wholeness, the feminine ideal, within our temporary, ever-changing, imperfect state.

Questions:

  • Is there are balance between masculine and feminine forces within the church today, and how do you think it compares with the same balance or lack thereof in other churches?
  • What do you think of these masculine/feminine dualities: justice/mercy, perfection/wholeness, truth/wisdom?
  • Do you agree that there is an “eternal battle of the sexes,”a universal tension between the masculine and the feminine that can only resolved through something as strong as atonement?
  • How do you reconcile Jehovah’s masculine traits (anger, jealousy, justice) with the same traits in your own life? Do you see them as divine or animalistic? How do you explain the fact that all human conflict seems to stem from traits that are fundamental aspects of Jehovah’s Biblical identity?

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[1]Who is right, my mom or my dad? Personally, I’m with my dad. Hellfire and damnation scriptures are there for a reason. I’ve never been bothered by them. Perhaps this is because I am a man, and men sometimes need the kick in the pants that comes from feeling the fear of God. I think for women it may be different. We all know many LDS women who feel inadequate in the face of the church’s constant haranguing on obedience. They need reassurance that they don’t need to be perfect. I remember on my mission, the Elders responded well to the constant drumbeat of obedience to the letter of the law. They needed it and were generally not harmed by it. But the Sisters were more motivated by the spirit of the law which builds on their natural feminine desire to bring souls into the circle of Christ’s love.

[2] Carl Jung wrote: “Perfection is a masculine desideratum, while woman inclines by nature to completeness.” This might not make sense to modern Mormons, given that so many LDS women seem trapped in perfectionism and LDS men seem careless. But this actually proves that perfectionism is not as natural state for women as for men.  Men thrive under military discipline, order, justice, and competitiveness. But women can spiritually crumble when constantly measuring themselves against others in a perfectionistic, obedience oriented church culture.  In morning scripture study, my mother’s insistence that my father skip fear-of-God scriptures was a response to built-in gender preferences, whereas my father felt motivated by the same scriptures. (Please understand I am speaking ONLY in sweeping generalities and that I understand that individuals vary greatly and everyone has a mixture of both masculine and feminine traits.)