“The supreme religious challenge is to see God’s image in one who is not in our image.”Jonathan Sacks
I’m finishing up Barbara Brown Taylor’s Holy Envy (highly recommend!). For those unfamiliar with Taylor, she grew up non-religious, converted to Christianity as a young adult, became an Episcopalian pastor, then left the ministry to teach world religions at a small college in Georgia. The book’s title addresses her “envy” of teachings and practices in other religions she’s studied, and what she’s learned about God and Christianity (which she still practices) by engaging with other world religions.
Towards the end of the book, Brown talks about what spirituality means to her and quotes a friend who defined it as “the active pursuit of the God you didn’t make up.” I (like Taylor) was struck by this concept–that spirituality is the pursuit of some truth outside of yourself, purified of your own ego projecting itself onto your version of deity. The pursuit of ultimate reality or Truth.
Easier said than done, though. In response to this concept, Taylor notes that she “could not argue with the part about making God up. All you have to do is dust my Bible for fingerprints to find my favorite parts and the ignored ones–or follow my tracks on Google, or check my book purchases on Amazon, or poll my friends. I stick very close to sources that support my view of reality.” She continues, “Ask anyone what she means when she says ‘God’ and chances are that you will learn a lot more about the person that you will learn about God.”
I think I agree with Taylor, but with a two caveats.
First, I think it is easier for some people than others to imagine themselves as God or God like themselves. In the LDS Church, it’s generally easier for a white male to imagine a God like himself than it is for a woman or a queer person or a person of color. So I actually don’t object to us imagining where and how we find God in ourselves. It’s critical work. But that’s where we start—not where we end.
The second follows from the first: we need to give others the opportunity to share their experience of God to more fully understand God’s nature. An example: I love that the LDS Church has (historically) expressed (tepid) support for the existence of a Mother God, Goddess, or feminine divine, in the form of a “Heavenly Mother.” (Yes, I’m capitalizing that and I will never stop.)
At the same time, I am uncomfortable with the way that a cisgender heteronormative Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother can be weaponized to deify straightness and reinforce gender norms. I was unsettled by this until I heard Rachel Hunt Steenblik respond to this concern in a podcast episode with Patrick Mason, Fiona Givens, and Bethany Brady Spalding. She said (paraphrasing from my memory) that she can only contribute to a version of Heavenly Mother that she–a cisgender, heterosexual, married mother of biological children–can experience and understand, and (based on her poetry) she seems to relate more to the feminine divine as a woman, mother, and daughter. She can’t speak for queer people, so she invited queer people to describe their experience with divine queerness; Blair Ostler gave us a great example in Queer Mormon Theology – an example that both showed us how God can be queer, and expanded our own understanding of love and God and the atonement overall. Similarly, black people need to describe their experience with black divinity, indigenous people theirs, and on and on for all the many identities we assume and differences between us. Only when every body in the body of Christ is free to express their experience with divinity and help us see the way that divinity is embodied in all of us can we get a fuller, truer picture of God.
So my caveat to Taylor’s writing (which I think she would agree with) is that it is important that we find the divinity embodied within us and imagine what that looks like. Our perspective, while limited, still matters. But it’s essential that we do not limit God to our own perspective, experience, and body. Surely God is not that small.
Unfortunately, we have a sticky problem in the LDS Church. We are very hung up on the idea that God is some kind of Celestial Man–a very literal white, bearded Father. Because that’s what Joseph Smith reported seeing in his vision, and it’s become a distinctive teaching for us. We pride ourselves in rejecting the amorphous, incomprehensible God of other Christian faiths in favor of our concrete one.
While I think that imagining God as Father can be helpful, that it’s entirely possible that God has presented Godself as something concrete to help someone understand and connect, and that Fatherhood is part of God’s character, over time I’ve come to believe that it is hubris that we think we can or should limit God to a male body simply because it’s hard for our brains to understand anything except the familiar.
And let me state this very clearly: I am deeply suspicious of a person or group of people who claim special knowledge about who God is, and tell us that God happens to look just like them. White male cisgender heterosexual fathers who claim that God is a white male cisgender heterosexual Father like them? Well, color me skeptical. Male religious authorities telling us we need to stop communicating about and with, connecting to, crediting with the creation, and—for goodness sakes— capitalizing references to a female deity because we are only supposed to worship a male one? Hard pass.
So how do we do the work needed to get closer to the truth about God?
Taylor describes two ways she’s attempted to pursue the God she didn’t make up. First, she studied other religions’ versions of God. I would add that we need to study other people’s vision of God even within our own religion–and we need them to speak up about it so that we can. While Taylor thinks this is an extremely important practice, she noticed that she “was still drawn to the teachings that [she] liked.” She was still somewhat blinded by her own biases even when piecing a God together through religious traditions outside her own. Rather than shutting down other peoples’ experiences of God because they don’t conform to our own, as Church leaders seem to be doing with women in the Church who are experiencing the feminine divine, we should be listening to them and seeing what pieces of the God puzzle they might add to our understanding.
So her next suggestion? Practice seeing God in everyone around her, no matter how different they were from her and how much she may dislike them:
“[W]hat better way [could there] be for me to actively pursue the God I did not make up–the one I cannot see–than to try for even twelve seconds to love these brothers and sisters whom I can see? What better way to shatter my custom-made divine mosaic than to accept that these fundamentally irritating and sometimes frightening people are also made in the image of God? … The stranger … the one who does not look, think, or act like the rest of us–may offer us our best chance at seeing past our own reflections in the mirror to the God we did not make up.”
I would have loved this concept had I read it a month ago, but it hit me particularly hard this week given the rumors about the attempted erasure of Heavenly Mother. I am in search of a larger God–a God who is big enough to fit the world. Not a smaller one.
Can our leaders rise to the challenge of seeing God’s image in people who don’t look like them? In queer people? In people of color? In you? In me?
- What’s something you learned from the LDS faith about God that you appreciate?
- What’s something you learned from another faith about God that you appreciate?
- Have you ever learned something about God from an experience with a person you didn’t relate to or like?
- How do you filter what new information to include in your picture of God–how do you decide what to keep and what to discard?
- We’re working on a guest post about Heavenly Mother, but if you’d heard about the rumors I’ve referred to here, any thoughts?
Let’s say you’re a TBM who wants to be more God-like. My question to you is this: are you going to be the kind of God who:
1. Gives his love conditionally like RMN has suggested
2. Gives his love unconditionally as many scripture-based sources suggest
3. Carries out his anger and vengeance per the Old Testament
If you say all three, I’d question your mental health.
Thanks, Elisa. Brilliant, thoughtful, and thought-provoking, as usual.
I know you love Sagan, and the mention of a God that appears in a form with which we are comfortable reminds me of the alien life form in Contact appearing to Dr. Arroway as her father to make her feel more familiar and comfortable with the experience. Perhaps that is why we are led to believe God is a cisgender white male, but I’m wholly unconvinced that a God concerned with his or her children’s understanding would permit that limited understanding to prevail, which for me creates other questions. Could we say that LGBTQ people who have prayed about their orientation and received loving confirmation from God are wrong? I certainly won’t, but the church will. Can we say that God intervenes in our daily lives if straight, white, male perceptions of God are allowed to persist? I won’t, but the church will. Can we say that God has roles he or she wants individuals to fit into if there are clearly hierarchies and open discrimination in being anything but cisgender, white, and male? I won’t. The church will, as will my dad, who says women can’t have the priesthood because “that’s not how it is supposed to be” according to the straight, white, male God he was taught.
To me, a core issue with regard to the nature of God is inclusion. I can’t accept that God has a chosen people, particularly because almost all the people saying God is a straight, white, male are themselves just that. In the words of Eddie Vedder, “Jesus greets me. Looks just like me.” Also, if God wants his or her children to experience joy, why condemn them to lives of misery as unenthusiastic mothers, indentured helpmeets, and coerced celibates?
What I’ve learned about God from Buddhism is that we don’t really know anything, so there is not enough information on which to base a religion that has defined definitions of God and puts people in tiers.
Not to be confrontational, but I am curious about the hard pass you’re taking to the definition of God that the church you attend sells and embraces. How do you manage that? On the one hand I am perplexed, and on the other I am deeply moved and impressed. I’m unable to abide with the amount of cog dis the church creates, and I think there is a deep well of spiritual substance within the women–and these people are mostly women–who can navigate. Does it prevent you from finding some kind of peace with the concept of the divine?
If you can “understand” god, it isn’t god. LDS doctrine posits a god that is simply another more evolved creature who apparently can find keys, and cries but can’t stop genocides and didn’t create anything except rules. No thanks.
“What’s something you learned from the LDS faith about God that you appreciate?”
I’d point at a material God, a God so different from the theological constructs of creation ex nihilo and the Trinity. A God made of the same “stuff” as we are. A God willing to get His hands dirty. And I picture God as a Black man. Looks like Morgan Freeman, but carries peppermints in His pocket like my grandfather. And, I know this will be unpopular, but I really have not fallen in love with the Heavenly Mother concept. But then, my mother had serious narcissistic personality disorder, destroying every person she could, so we didn’t relate. My grandmother essentially raised me. So if there was a Heavenly Grandmother discussion, I’d be all over that.
“What’s something you learned from another faith about God that you appreciate?”
I really appreciate the stations of the cross as practiced in Catholicism. Meditating on the process and the events moves me. I enjoy Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur celebrations in Judaism. A period of intense repentance and vibrant spiritual celebrations would do us all good. Celebrating G-d’s existence and presence with the blowing the shofar is just awesome.
@Old Man, I don’t think it’s at all uncommon that either Heavenly Mother or Heavenly Father doesn’t resonate because of a person’s experiences with an earthly parent. Someone who had an abusive father may have a similar response to Heavenly Father. That’s why we need to broaden our vision of God. If someone connects to God as a Mother or Father, great! If not … that’s fine too, because that is *not* all that God is.
I actually prefer Goddess / Feminine Divine / Mother God / God the Mother because “Heavenly Mother” is too loaded with baggage from LDS versions of womanhood, and I really view God more as encompassing everything than being binary. So I don’t take offense that it’s not your favorite as long as you don’t tell my friends to stop talking about her ;-).
As I read this post, a voice in the back of my head said, “Wait. Are you personally attacking me!?” Just kidding, (sort of) it’s just that a few points hit close to home.
“It is easier for some people than others to imagine themselves as God or God like themselves.” Guilty as charged. I also had to nod along to the quote about making God in my own image, “I stick very close to sources that support my view of reality.”
Sheesh- this post was a good wake up call for me, and posed some good questions for me to reflect on. I realize that it doesn’t paint me in a flattering light at all, but I am very comfortable with my view of God, a God who looks like me. Nobody has really ever suggested that I seek out a God that doesn’t look like me. I hope I have the strength to contemplate, consider, and search this topic more, or that I will have the strength to do so in the future.
One more thought:
“It is important that we find the divinity embodied within us and imagine what that looks like” 🙂 I haven’t read the book or seen the movie, but my wife and I have been discussing a quote from Eat, Pray, Love, “God dwells in me, as me.” This can be understood in many different ways, but I definitely appreciate the acknowledgment that we are all divine.
The day I saw my first blue-eyed Jesus painting in an LDS chapel was the day I realized that our god would appear to be something of a projection – or, more specifically, a psychological defense mechanism against the inevitability of death. Agree w/ Jared’s brother above on the kindly utility of Buddhism.
By “Nobody has really ever suggested….” I meant, “I haven’t heard (or haven’t listened to) anyone suggest…”
A couple of years ago I posted on one of her earlier books, “Leaving Church.” I’ll share one quotation from her book (selected sentences from the last chapter) that was in that post, then put a link to the post below.
“Many years ago now, when I was invited to speak at a church gathering, my host said, “Tell us what is saving your life now.” It was such a good question …. Although we might use different words to describe it, most of us know what is killing us. … Teaching school is saving my life now. … Living in relationship with creation is saving my life now. … Observing the Sabbath is saving my life now. … Encountering God in other people is saving my life now. … Committing myself to the task of becoming fully human is saving my life now.”
I always found this interesting:
I, too, enjoyed Barbara Brown Taylor’s “Holy Envy,” as well as her other books. As for the kind of male divine imagery found in so much of American Christianity, I’ve begun reading Kristin Kobes du Mez’s “Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation.” So this is certainly not an LDS-specific problem or issue. So-called rugged masculinity fused with gung-ho patriotism, individualistic salvation, fundamentalism, and patriarchy makes for quite the toxic brew far removed from the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and the promised peaceable reign of Christ.
“The day I saw my first blue-eyed Jesus painting in an LDS chapel . . .”
For what it’s worth, I’ve read or been told at least a couple of times that Galileans, at least around the time of Christ, had a fairly strong genetic trait of lighter skin and blue eyes. In a few out of body accounts I’ve read, they consistently have Him with blue eyes but darker skin. One supposed 1st person account from a contemporary of the Savior also described Him as blue eyed. That said, I could’t care less how He or my Heavenly parents look. Wish I could recall the sources.
I heard once about an artist the Church wanted to commission for a sculpture. I don’t know all the details, but according to his research, he thought the Savior would likely be clean-shaven with shorter hair if He was going to maintain good relations with the Romans as long as He did. He would only do the sculpture if he could do this portrayal. The Church ultimately decided not to go that route.
I’ll fully admit I generally grow in appreciation for God as outlined by LDS doctrine as I learn about other religions, but I appreciate the fact that He is a God who doesn’t hesitate to work outside His Covenant people at any given moment.
Somewhat related,I had a Sunday School teacher who encountered a very learned man on his mission who had done pretty extensive studies of all world religions, including LDS. He finally concluded God was a being voraciously seeking experience, which he gains through his creations. Once his creations finish mortality, they’re simply reabsorbed and add to his experience. I don’t think many out there would come to the same conclusion, and it doesn’t sound very appealing.
There is also this:
@stephen check out the capitalization in the gospel topics essay! Apostates! Wonder when they will revise it …
@jaredsbrother thanks for your comment and question. Not confrontational at all – but not easy to answer either. This comment is basically an entire post but here goes:
For a long time, I had difficulty with / objected to policies and practices of the Church w/r/t women and queer folks, but I viewed those as peripheral to the core of the Church / gospel. Now, peripheral does NOT mean unimportant. They were and remain extremely important to me. And I didn’t shelve them – I wrestled with them all the time. But I felt like at its core there were prophets (who make mistakes) and the plan of salvation was mostly right (but should include same sex families etc.). I also hoped for changes that would give women more visibility and influence and that would welcome same sex families into the fold. So that kept me engaged for a long time despite deep differences with the Church on social justice issues.
About 3 years ago, my perspective shifted a lot. I came to believe that Church policies and practices w/r/t queer folks and women were actually not peripheral at all, but arose (at least in part) from the Church’s very concept of God (as a God of requirements) and the Atonement (a substitutionary sacrifice). But as I studied the history of Christianity and other religious traditions, I no longer believed in a God of Requirements or a substitutionary atonement. So it was no longer just some parts of Church policy or doctrine I disagreed with, but the Church’s very concept of God and Christ – very, very central teachings. So I didn’t really even trust Church leadership to teach the true nature of God – which is pretty problematic for someone who claims to be a prophet.
That has very significantly shifted my Church practice and relationship and I engage on quite different terms than before. I focus pretty much *all* my efforts on my local congregation (ward level, I don’t really even do stake stuff.). And I have taken my moral authority back from the Church and basically don’t defer to Church leaders at all (unless they earn that deference by speaking with *real* authority, which I would define as truth – not a position or priesthood office or calling). While I certainly pay attention to Salt Lake (hence a lot of my blog topics), that’s from an academic / social interest perspective. I try not to let it impact my life. To the extent I still engage, it’s for a few reasons:
(1) No matter what I do or believe, gay kids will still be born in Mormon families. I’ve spent the better part of 12 years serving with the YW, and I figure they are better off having me as a leader than someone else because I don’t teach anti-LGBT stuff. I’ve had multiple former youth come out after they were in my class and I am confident I never said anything that did further damage to them and I hope I actually gave them hope and love. So I am *not* trying to change “The Church” but I *am* trying to do my best in my little corner of the world. I’ve always said if and when the Church seems to be doing more harm than good to my family, that’s it.
(2) While I don’t think the Church teaches a very expansive or accurate picture of God, its God served me well for many years. And ultimately paved the way for me to imagine a larger God when I was ready to. That’s hard to let go of, and I can generally be fine letting my God co-exist with the Church God. I have been totally fine with the Church not saying much about Heavenly Mother – in fact, I’ve preferred that because I don’t need men defining Her for me. I don’t get a lot out of Church meetings or lessons, but I do get a lot out of my own preparation for them and my own wrestles. I (like so many women) am fine developing my spirituality in private and not worrying so much about what the Church does or doesn’t say. However – if the Church comes down hard on Heavenly Mother (instead of just ignoring Her), I may really reconsider. Because I think that’s deeply, deeply problematic. We’ll see.
(3) I think community is important. I’m an introvert and as much as I’d love to cultivate a community outside of Church, I really don’t have one. So Church is one place that gives me many opportunities to see God in other people, even people very different from me. It gives me opportunities to serve and get outside myself and try to love other people. I think I would be kidding myself if I said I’d be able to find that somewhere else – at least not without serious effort. Now, I may end up making that serious effort, but I’ve not felt compelled to yet.
It will be interesting to see how women respond to whatever’s coming. Women have had their own personal experiences with Mother God and the fruits have been good. We are talking about it and we are seeing that we are not alone in wanting and having richer spiritual experiences than what the Church has offered us, and a lot of that is through a more expansive view of God. It seems like The Brethren see that women are connecting with Mother God and then leaving or disengaging. If they think telling us to stop is the answer, I think they’ll find they’ve just pushed a lot of women out the door. Maybe they don’t care, so long as the orthodox ones who will obey them stay far away from the feminine divine / developing their own spirituality.
@Eli I don’t care what color eyes Jesus had (although I do agree we shouldn’t be representing him as white). I do care deeply what gender divinity is allowed to take on, so I have a real problem with rejecting Heavenly Mother.
As for your last paragraph, that’s an odd way of putting that concept. I’ve definitely heard the concept that life is the universe wanting to experience itself, and God is the universe. We are all a part of God and each other. I don’t think it’s so much that we get “re-absorbed” in God but that we were never ever separate to begin with. I think it’s a useful concept and one I’ve used with my non-believing kiddos to get them to be able to connect spiritually with the divine in a way that they are comfortable with.
Great post and comments. I blame each one of you for being the reason I do not need to attend Church—I get serious spiritual nourishment and enlightenment here several times a week.
So this topic is vastly underrated in my opinion in terms of being a “shelf-breaker” for people. Most of the time we hear about Book of Abraham, Polygamy, Racist Doctrines, or campaigns against LGBTQ or feminist supporters that folks cite to explain why their testimony crumbled.
But to me, understanding how shaky the LDS version of God really is, becomes the ultimate blow for the purpose and foundation of every modern doctrine and practice in the Church.
As most readers here know, the concept of God or Godhead, or the divine nature was so turbulent during JS tenure, that it baffles me how the Church unabashedly teaches the concept of God as if it has always been the same. Consider,
-a Trinitarian theology in the BoM,
-a single Lord in JS’s first written description of his first vision,
-a separate (unembodied) Father and resurrected Son but Holy Spirit that was not a person but a substance for communication (this was literally the “Doctrine” in the 1835 D&C—read Lectures on Faith, lecture fifth),
-the Holy Ghost transitioning to a separate personage of some unknown origin,
-giving Heavenly Father multiple wives (and Jesus too, because ya know, like Father like Son),
-changing the temple ceremony to teach that Adam was really our God, then changing again right after BY dies,
-making us all these little gods in embryo (as man now is, God once was . . .),
-modernizing God as a Holy parent who is super heterosexual and cannot create any spirits that would be born otherwise.
I know I missed several other iterations through the history. Yet the point is, this evolution of deity puts serious doubt as to the truth of the Church’s assertions regarding God’s nature and key parts of the Plan.
We have no actual idea what we are talking about when we speak of God. We are searching, hoping, reasoning, but likely mistaken far more than we realize. And funny enough, I don’t think God cares at all, so long as we are making a sincere effort to search and work towards a better version of understanding for ourselves and all of humanity.
Eliza, snap snap, thankyou for articulating my muddled thoughts and making them clearer.
Mostly I have given up any attempt at a definition of God and have come to the conclusion that They are cosmic and therefore incomprehensible, my job here is to do my job and be part of Their work with Their children. And not get in the way of that. Thinking too much about it just makes me disagreeable with someone. I try to be open to what the Universe is teaching me about God, and I’m not sure that I have any responsibility to tell anyone else about that, but only to facilitate their journey.
And for sure, my perception of them is changing all the time as I try to get both my ego and my unconscious out of the way . Really hard work. God, what a job.
@counselor, as I’ve been listening to people’s reactions to the rumors about the Church telling us to stop talking about / to Heavenly Mother, I’ve seen pretty convincing arguments that the reason is because fully including Her into our concept of God and theology would really kinda break a lot of currently-foundational teachings about the plan of salvation, families, etc. And I think that’s right. But also a bit silly to be afraid of given how much Church teachings on God have changed.
Here’s why you are right. Prepare your self with a barf bag for what I am about to say . . . got one? Okay, here it goes–
I suspect that the reason that Heavenly Mother cannot be deified, worshiped, or talked about openly in detail is because the Church authorities believe two things: 1) God the Father is a polygamist and there is more than one Mother in Heaven and to worship a group of Mothers is too confusing, and 2) they truly believe she is NOT worthy of worship equal to the Father because of gender and roles.
Think I may be exaggerating? How about a few quotes from early apostles–
Heber C. Kimball–
“The brother missionaries have been in the habit of picking out the prettiest women for themselves before they get here, and bringing on the ugly ones for us; hereafter you have to bring them all here before taking any of them, and let us all have a fair shake.”
“I think no more of taking another wife than I do of buying a cow.”
“Prepare yourselves for two weeks from tomorrow; and I will tell you now, that if you will tarry with your husbands, after I have set you free, you must bow down to it, and submit yourselves to the celestial law. You may go where you please, after two weeks from tomorrow; but, remember, that I will not hear any more of this whining.”
“We have clearly show that God the Father had a plurality of wives, one or more being in eternity, by whom He begat our spirits as well as the spirit of Jesus His First Born, and another being upon the earth by whom He begat the tabernacle of Jesus, as his only begotten in this world. We have also proved most clearly that the Son followed the example of his Father, and became the great Bridegroom to whom Kings’ daughters and many honorable wives were to be married. We have also proved that both God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ inherit their wives in eternity as well as in time… And then it would be so shocking to the modesty of the very pious ladies of Christendom to see Abraham and his wives, Jacob and his wives, Jesus and his honorable wives, all eating occasionally at the same table, and visiting one another, and conversing about their numerous children and their kingdoms. Oh, ye delicate ladies of Christendom, how can you endure such a scene as this?… If you do not want your morals corrupted, and your delicate ears shocked, and your pious modesty put to the blush by the society of Polygamists and their wives, do not venture near the New Earth; for polygamists will be honored there, and will be among the chief rules in that Kingdom.”
Need something more recent?
Family Proclamation 1995–
“In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan.” (Note that despite mentioning “heavenly parents” earlier, no authority, power, worship of, or even mention of an “Eternal Mother” appears throughout the document).
“By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.”
I warned you you might be sick.
@Counselor, I agree, and there are a lot of other reasons too. Non-exhaustive:
1 – we are trying hard to fit in with mainstream (well, evangelical / conservative) Christianity. We don’t want to be seen as
2 – our theology (expressed in the temple endowment) is that men are kings / priests to God and women are queens / priestesses TO THEIR HUSBAND. They changed the language in 2019 to obscure that (by saying “new and everlasting covenant” instead of “husband”) but it means the same thing. So literally, women are eternally subordinate to husbands, who in the temple stand proxy for the savior to them. So I don’t think it’s in leaders’ intent that women actually become Goddesses. We become something lesser than that to our God husbands, even if we sort of share in that Godhood in the same way we “share” in a husband’s “priesthood.”
3 – Heavenly Mother (unless we are polygamists, which we are, but we don’t like to acknowledge that) makes the Jesus-as-the-literal-son-of-God with Mary as a mother is … complicated.
4 – Most fundamentally, and this would be a whole other post, but I think that a true understanding of and experience of the feminine divine would completely upset our entire Church structure (build on male-led hierarchies) and plan of salvation (build on a Father who would torture and kill his son to redeem all his poorly-behaving children). Someone who has truly experienced a more expansive vision of God, including the feminine aspects (whether you want to call that Heavenly Mother or something else) comes up with a very different view of very core Church teachings. Since those teachings are the carrot / stick we use for compliance (no more sad heaven), that would fundamentally remake the Church. I think that would be a great thing, but obviously top leadership’s goal is to preserve the institution at all costs, so it’s not an acceptable outcome for them.
By delightful coincidence, Richard Rohr’s daily meditation blog has focused this week on feminine divine imagery. It’s presented some challenging yet refreshing images to those of us raised within patriarchal religious thought.
“All you have to do is dust my Bible for fingerprints to find my favorite parts and the ignored ones…”
Oh, my goodness, what a great line.
For a long time, I have appreciated Jewish god concept as incorporeal. Although the gender of God in Judaism is referred to in the Tanakh with masculine imagery and grammatical forms, traditional Jewish philosophy does not attribute the concept of sex to God. At times, Jewish aggadic literature and Jewish mysticism do treat God as having a gender. I also love simplicity in explanations…Genesis 1:26,27.
Elohim was translated as God singular in the King James Version even though it was accompanied by plural verbs and other plural grammatical terms.
It gives me new perspective and helps me describe my god with feminine aspects.
I can’t stop thinking about how often I create my own Jesus our of parts of the Gospels and ignore the parts I don’t like or that don’t work in the picture I have of Him. I mean, who says “get behind me, Satan” to His chief and coolest apostle? , “who is my mother?” to the guy telling Him that his precious mom is waiting to see Him, or “let the dead bury their dead” to the disciple who just lost his dad? Frame it as teaching lessons all you want, but who says that crap to people who care about them?
And, in conclusion, let me say that I do not want to be a god, I don’t want to be a god, I don’t want to be a god. Take it from me, no one should want me to be their god. All I want is a small hut on a cloud in the farthest part of any kingdom, a hand-held harp with a teaching manual, nice restaurants close by, and streaming tv with ESPN.
Let to the discussion as usual.
But rickpowers last few comments got me thinking. A few weeks ago in GD we were discussing the Abrahamic covenant and how cool is it that we can be promised kingdoms, principalities, without end? And all I could think of was that I didn’t want any of those things. I just want to be with the people I love.
But I’d also settle for a great hiking trail, some amazing Mexican food, and an Apple tv subscription as well =).
The God I’ve made is mostly based on Mormon theology, past or present. He or She or something in between is: (1) continuing to progress; (2) is not stirring the pot; (3) omni-benevolent, but not any of the other omni’s; (4) likes oldies rock; and (5) has a sense of humor. He or She or something in between probably likes coffee and has wine for dinner.
I’m pretty sure I’m polytheistic. Father in Heaven, Mother in Heaven, Christ, maybe Mother Teresa, maybe the Dalai Lama (soon). I hope there is good diversity in the mix.
Chadwick: ” A few weeks ago in GD we were discussing the Abrahamic covenant and how cool is it that we can be promised kingdoms, principalities, without end? And all I could think of was that I didn’t want any of those things. I just want to be with the people I love.”
You’re a perfect candidate for those blessings because, 1) like Abraham you don’t seek for power, and 2) also like Abraham your “kingdom” will be comprised of that which is dearest to your heart: your loved ones.
I suspect that the reason the LDS leaders do not want any serious conversation about Heavenly Mother is because Brigham Young very openly taught about her, even revealing her name: Eve. Heavenly Mother is likely a doctrine that sprang from the Adam-God Doctrine, which Young claimed to have learned from Joseph Smith himself.
So, either the LDS leaders do not want to deal with the fall out that would come from dredging that old controversial doctrine up again, even if it has been rejected.
Or…. perhaps the LDS leaders still hold to the doctrine, and just don’t dare openly admit it. I call it the Ben Kenobi Strategy. Hide the truth (Vader is Luke’s father) behind cleverly-devised cryptic talk (Vader killed Luke’s father). If that is what is going on, if they do indeed still hold the Adam-God Doctrine as true doctrine that the people aren’t ready for yet, then it is obvious why they do not want to be talking about Heavenly Mother.
Elisa, we have a four-month-old child in the house, which ends up taking a lot of time I would otherwise spend reading and writing on internet forums. That’s my explanation for not at least offering my thanks yet for the time you took to respond to my questions. I appreciate the thoughtful post.
I also appreciate that you mentioned taking your moral authority back, which gets at the heart of what I still believe is a profound dilemma in the church. I think a loving God would ultimately want his or her children to develop their own moral and ethical sensibilities–their own sense of self–and find peace in a grounded, defensible world view that includes compassion for all. The church, in contrast, often appears to want obedient members above all else, personal relationships with God and established sense of self be damned. I think they’ve erred in that focus on authority and hierarchy, and especially when I read thoughts like those you shared here, I think the price paid for that focus will be considerable.