Our Father and our Mother
Have a very special child.
He is our older Brother,
With manners meek and mild.
His sisters and His brothers,
We love Him oh, so much,
And we know there are no others
Who can match His loving touch.
We gathered in a council,
Conducted by our Father,
Who said, "I need one to fulfil
A mission like no other."
The voting was unanimous
By all who loved each other
Yet another's voice was venomous
Against our Heavenly Father.
Our Mother's heart was broken
As harsh words that son did speak,
But the Eldest gave a token
That our Father's will He'd seek.
He said, "I'll go to glorify the name
Of our Father, kind and loving."
But the other wanted fame,
So he started others shoving.
A fight ensued which saddened all
To know that one we loved
Had lifted up his prideful heart to fall,
His wicked plan...to rule above!
Our family grieved the tragic loss,
One-third the family's total,
Because one tried to be the boss,
A great controlling Mogul.
But though the loss was greatly felt
Among our family's hosts,
With burning joy our hearts did melt
Our shout shook earthbound coasts.
The plan complete, the first came down
His life endured the testing.
Obedient Son received the crown,
And now is ever resting.
Oh what joy our Parents feel
To know their Son's returned,
Now His brothers and His sisters kneel
When we find our souls...He earned!
© Diana M. Isham
Based on the following passages of Scripture: Job 28: 4,7, Jeremiah 1:5, Isaiah 14: 12-14, (mournfully lamented) and 15, Rev. 12: 7-10 (clarifies more fully Isaiah's lamentation). Also see Ensign, "The Lord as a Role Model for Men and Women" 1980: www.lds.org.
Being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (also known as the Mormon Church) all my life always made me different from everyone else. My family didn’t drink alcohol after a long work day and Folger’s coffee and R rated movies didn’t exist in my house. I invited friends to church and had a poster of the prophet on my wall. I was the Mormon girl. And then I got into high school and became a young adult. My liberal Seattle upbringing of church-less friends influenced me. Suddenly almost as if overnight I became the anomaly again, but this time as a member of the church. I no longer supported my religion’s stance on same-sex marriage, I didn’t apply to BYU, believed there was no excuse for polygamy, and had serious career plans instead of just becoming a stay at home mother. I noticed over time that women are treated as the second class gender in the church. This bothered me, and no longer was I a Mormon. I was now a Mormon Feminist. The key solution to sexism in the LDS church is to bring Heavenly Mother to her equal glory by changing the Young Women’s theme to daughters of Heavenly Parents, lifting the ban to praying to her, and further establish her reality.
The LDS church is still stuck in the 1950’s. Women are to stay at home with the kids all day, cooking and cleaning while the husband goes to work all day to provide for the family and presides as the speaker and head of the household. Divorce is rare, and LBGT are too afraid to come out. Mormons believe in gender roles, as is clearly outlined in the Proclamation to the Family, which can be found on lds.org. Females have babies. Males provide for those babies. Men preside over the family, women support their husbands. This extends into church callings. Ladies teach children, teens and other women while men are in charge of the whole church on regional and overarching levels from Bishops (priests) to Prophets. Extending up to the deity level, Heavenly Father is in charge. Organizations such as Ordain Women and Feminist Mormon Housewives have tried to combat such issues of sexism in the church, which recently led to the excommunication of Kate Kelly, the Ordain Women founder (Goodstein). Though these are great movements which have my full support, another issue of the church is often overlooked which contributes to the church’s attitude about gender.
Heavenly Mother exists, but is never talked about. LDS theology believes the trinity is separate. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have human bodies of flesh and bone. Also, they believe heaven is divided into 3 kingdoms, and divided 3 times inside of the highest kingdom (the Celestial Kingdom, which qualifies you to become a God/Goddess yourself). A part of getting into the Celestial Kingdom is celestial marriage. This paired with a vision from the founder, Joseph Smith, brought about the idea of Heavenly Mother. However, she remains a mystery and given no credit. She is not taught in children’s Sunday School and rarely mentioned in older classes. She is merely a blurry idea and forbidden to be prayed to. Heavenly Father is the focus of worship, the man.
Girls are not taught their own divine future. The youth program of the church is divided into the Young Women and the Young Men. Every Sunday, the Young Women stand up and recite the “Young Women’s Theme,” which starts out, “We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us and we love him” (lds.org). Why is it not stated as “daughters of our Heavenly Parents, who love us and we love them”? The Church believes those of the Celestial Kingdom will one day become just like God, with their own children as the way we are now his. Women will one day become Goddesses and men will become Gods. Even in a women’s only class, the female future of greatness is ignored by ignoring their own example by only stating to be daughters of their Heavenly Father. Especially in the children’s Sunday class (called Primary) she is ignored completely and not taught at all, even though their class has extreme emphasis on family. The church feels the need to vigorously force teaching on gender roles but yet completely disregard the role of the heavenly future for more than 50% of its members.
Perhaps the biggest irony of the forbidden prayer to Heavenly Mother is that the role of women in the family taught by Mormons is to be nurturing caregivers of the children. Classic LDS families are three or more children with the mother caring for them at home all day while the husband goes to work, putting his PhD to use to make a high enough salary to support the family by being the main money maker. Heavenly Mother, “gives birth, then renounces any involvement in her children’s lives, even at points when they could very much use her nurturing and guidance… What good is a Heavenly Mother if interaction with her is so irrelevant to humanity’s spiritual growth on earth” (Welker 33). Forbidding communication means that the Mother in Heaven can’t be a nurturing mom. Prayer to Heavenly Father is not addressed to her. This is the root to LDS sexism. When it is even taught that Heavenly Father presides over the family of all of the billions of humans beings that now and have ever existed, of course husbands preside as well. Needless to say, men presiding can lead to oppressive marriages and an unnecessary dictatorship within a home, which is only damaging to families.
Any Mormon, if asked why Heavenly Mother isn’t talked about, will say that apparently Heavenly Father sought to protect his wonderful wife from her own name being used in oaths and curses or from her name being taken in vain. However, this is completely ridiculous and only a theory that spread. How could a goddess not stand up for herself? The idea of Heavenly Father ”protecting” her deepens the Mormon philosophy that men are too preside and aligns right with the sexist ideas of the church, such as withholding leadership roles from women. The invisibility of a feminine divine “sets [female members] up to be weak” (Johnson-Bell). So, not only is the argument by church members pathetic, it is also “incredibly damaging to women because it continues to render them voiceless and unrecognizable” (Johnson-Bell).
Holly Welker states in her article, Beyond Big Love, that “It’s one thing to believe you’ll someday become a god, and another to believe you’ll someday become Mrs. God, or perhaps one of several Mrs. Gods” (Welker 33). By Welker referring to Heavenly Mother as a “Mrs. God”, she points out that the heavenly wife is treated as merely a sidekick with no individuality or equal level of importance. “One of several Mrs. Gods” of course refers to the Church’s belief in polygamy. Because the Heavenly Mother doctrine is so vague, one may speculate we don’t know her well because God has many wives. Yes, Mormons were polygamists when they first started out and no longer marry more than one wife at a time.
But a lot of people may not know that they still believe in multiple wives being married to one man in the eternal scheme of things. A man can get married in the temple to his BYU sweetheart. Then, if she dies before him, he can go marry his LdsMingle.com companion, also in the temple. Marriage in the temple is eternal, meaning it will last even after death. Civil marriages tend to say, “till death do us part”. Therefore, this man has married two women in the temple which means he will have both wives for eternity. Yet a woman whose husband died could not do the same thing. Polygamy is still believed! Believing God himself even had many wives, or is even possible, is the most demeaning outlook to women ever. She’s either essentially worthless, or Heavenly Father is a scumbag according to true believing Mormons. Polygamy is obviously demeaning to women. Believing that even God would participate in such an ugly practice is the most sexist, horrifying idea ever developed.
Heavenly Mother needs to be further established as a doctrine of the church in order to place women as equals to their male counterparts. She is a blur of confusion, a question mark and given no credit, even though the doctrine is supported. The church hymn book has two songs that mention her. The third verse of O, My Father, written by Eliza R. Snow chimes, “In the Heavens, are parents single? No, the thought make reason stare! Truth is reason, truth eternal tells me I’ve a mother there” (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 292). Joseph L. Townsend’s song, Oh, What Songs of the Heart, ends with “oh, what songs we’ll employ, when our heavenly parents we meet!” (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 286). Yet, searching the church’s official website for “Heavenly Mother” returns few results and just further overshadows her because the overwhelming majority of the results simply swap in returns for Heavenly Father with no mention of Heavenly Mother at all (lds.org). Until Heavenly Mother is given credit and further explained, sexism will continue.
If being different means that I believe women are equals to men, with neither being better than the other, I will gladly stand even if I’m alone in those beliefs in the religion I was raised in. The Church needs to open its eyes to the strength of the 21st century. Girls need to be taught their own divine future. And communication needs to be opened to Heavenly Mother without the fear of excommunication because her children deserve her nurturing and she deserves to hear our gratitude. Heavenly Parent theology needs to be better directed and used more often. Sexism within the Mormon church is a problem that can only lead to horrible consequences. Movements of Ordain Women and feminist blogs can only do so much. Bringing to light the Church’s current doctrine will go further, especially since apostles are finally beginning to use the term Heavenly Parents more often. There is no reason for Heavenly Mother to be placed higher or lesser than Heavenly Father. She simply needs to be equal. Men and women are people, each with a brain, a heart, and abilities. Mormons already hold unique beliefs. God having a wife isn’t even weird. Ignoring her, however, is bizarre.
Goodstein, Laurie. “Mormons Expel Founder of Group Seeking Priesthood for Women.” Nytimes.com. The New York Times, 23 June 2014. Web. 20 Oct. 2014
Johnson-Bell, Jennifer. “OxyMormon: Feminism Ain’t Got No Place on the Pulpit… Or Does it?” LUX: A Journal of Transdisciplinary Writing and Research from Claremont Graduate University. 2.1 (2013): 6. Web. 6 Oct. 2014
LDS.org. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, n.d. Web. 6 Oct. 2014
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: LDS, 1985. Print.
Welker, Holly. “Beyond Big Love.” Bitch Magazine: Feminist Response to Pop Culture 2011: 30-34. Academic Search Complete. Web. 6 Oct. 2014.
Recently I found out that Nicholas Cage will be starring in the remake of Left Behind to be released in theatres this October. This came as a total shock to me, considering what a great actor he is. I was equally appalled that he would even consider taking part in a B-grade evangelical film about – of all things, the Rapture? He does not strike me as a believer in this doctrine.
The Rapture is the belief that Jesus Christ will return and take all the “true Christians” to heaven in a “secret Rapture” while everyone else will be left behind to suffer through the Great Tribulation. It belongs in a theological category called Premillennial Dispensationalism which divides the ages of humankind into seven key dispensations. At the moment, we are in the dispensation of Grace, or the Church Age. The next dispensation will be set off by the Rapture, which will usher in the Great Tribulation prophesied in Revelation when the Antichrist will reign supreme over all the earth.
Many Mormons can consider themselves lucky to have never heard about “the Rapture,” but as an ex-evangelical who grew up tortured by this belief, I have a firm testimony of this destructive theology. I was just entering middle school when I first heard about the Rapture in the form of a four part video series called A Thief in the Night – which made the Left Behind series look like a Stake single’s dance. For me this film series, along with the corresponding doctrines, created issues of divine abandonment –and understandably so. In these films Jesus is presented as a divine tyrant who can save and condemn at will. I was thoroughly convinced I would be one of the ones “left behind” by the very Jesus who was supposed to be my Savior. I thought I would wake up one morning and find everyone gone- including my parents!
The Jesus I now know and love would not do something like that to one of God’s children. And neither would our Divine Parents. In fact, I will go as far to postulate if I had been raised with a belief in Heavenly Mother, I do not believe I would have suffered through those intense fears of divine abandonment. There would be no need for fear because I would be secure in the love of a Divine Mother. With a loving Mother in Heaven, there would be no fear of being “left behind” by Her beloved Son. She simply wouldn’t let it happen!
And perhaps if the evangelical churches opened their hearts to Heavenly Mother, this destructive doctrine would not even exist. After all the Queen of Heaven is mentioned in Revelation 12:1 right before the Antichrist even makes his debut in chapter 13. - How in the world could so many Christians miss this? –
Revelation 12:1 “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.” (representing the twelve tribes of Israel)
That’s my theory anyway. But then again, I do not believe the Rapture is substantiated by Scripture. It’s nothing more than a couple of random verses grossly taken out of context. But that is an argument for a whole other time.
But here’s something even more interesting – it seems to me Heavenly Mother already serves that same protective function the Rapture purports to fulfill. Her job is to protect her children. God is described in the Gospels as a mother hen gathering Her children in time of great peril, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered my children together, even as a hen gathereth her children under her wings, and ye would not! Behold your house is left unto desolate.” (Matthew 23: 37-38; compare also with 3 Nephi 10: 4-7 for Mormons).
Have evangelicals created the erroneous Rapture doctrine in the absence of Heavenly Mother because they are looking for shelter from the storm? If so, it is due to our lack of a belief in Heavenly Mother that our spiritual houses are left desolate.
The Rapture does nothing more than reflect- and reinforce- our fears of divine abandonment. But it does not have to be that way.
Israel, behold thy Mother!
Agitating Faithfully Summer Scripture Study Series
Lesson #2 – Snakes! Yikes?
I am thoroughly convinced that if Disney ever came out with their own version of the biblical creation story, the snake would come out swinging its hips and singing, “I ain’t so bad after all.”
Recently my husband and I watched the new Noah movie starring Russell Crowe. (*this blog post contains a spoiler alert!) While this film has received endless criticism- and understandably so - I was deeply impressed by one recurring theme – that of the snake skin wrapped around Noah’s arm and the way it was passed down from generation to generation. What is the meaning behind this? It seems there so much is more to this symbolism than meets the eye.
The snake skin symbolism reminded me of the tefilim in Judaism that is bound around the forearm in accordance with the command in Deuteronomy 6:8. In Orthodox Jewish circles, they still continue this practice today.
But why a snake skin? First, we have to keep in mind this was long before the Exodus; long before Abraham, even. And there had to be some ceremonial ritual in place to preserve these traditions- and the Priesthood it represented – from generation to generation. But this still does not fully answer our question.
From the very beginning of the movie, you can tell the snake skin was taken from the Garden of Eden around the time Adam and Eve ate of the fruit. But was the snake itself ever a symbol of evil? Based on the some of the latest research I have conducted – and even based on the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints- the answer is simple. No.
Before it became influenced and possessed by the devil (see Moses 4: 6-7), the serpent was a symbol of all that was holy – both in the ancient Near East and the New World. Perhaps this is the reason Eve initially trusted the serpent and looked to it for the wisdom it offered.
Andrew C. Skinner explains that the serpent would come to exhibit a dual nature, “One role connected serpents to the heavens by having them represent deity, creative powers, and healing. The other linked them with the underworld and associated them with evil, harm, and destructive influences.” (1) Therefore, it would only make sense that the devil would seek to duplicate or profane that which was holy, and in doing so, deceive the first humans.
It simultaneously explains the reasoning behind Moses raising the serpent in the desert - the perfect foreshadowing of Christ. It is also interesting to note that the “Seraphim,” the holiest of the angels found in chapter six of Isaiah, were historically depicted as fiery creatures. In fact the very word “seraph” is similar to “serpent.” Were these winged “fiery creatures” dragon like? If so, the Seraphs certainly meet their match in the book of Revelation as Michael the archangel, the head of the Seraphim, leads them in the great battle against the evil dragon (Revelation 12: 7).
It is this dual nature of the serpent, that as a Mormon feminist and convert to the faith, I find most perplexing. On one hand, the serpent is sly, cunning and not to be trusted. One the other hand, it can be – and originally was – a symbol for all that is pure and holy.
Is it any surprise the serpent is also historically a symbol for the Goddess, who is also mentioned in Revelation 12:1?
And yet, there remains an ongoing creative tension between the woman and the serpent as they struggle against one another to gain leverage (see Genesis 3: 15, Moses 4: 21, and Revelation 12). In the end it will be the woman and her descendants who triumph over the serpent.
And this, folks, is scriptural.
By the way, near the end of the Russell Crowe movie, Noah blesses his two granddaughters with the snake skin – against his better judgment.
(1) Skinner, Andrew C. “Serpent Symbols and Salvation in the Ancient Near East and the Book of Mormon” in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 10/2: 2001: http://publications.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu
Growing up in the Baptist church I was taught to see Adam and Eve’s “fall from grace” in the most negative light. It was the cause of our sinful state and the primary reason we were separated from God and needed a Savior- and of course, Adam may have given in, but Eve was solely to blame for eating that proverbial “apple.”
I was never taught to see Eve’s transgression as an act of bravery. And although I am a feminist, I would never have thought to see traces of myself in her – except perhaps in the areas where I struggle most in the “sinning” department.
True, I will confess my love for Heavenly Mother and Mary Magdalene, or the great women of the Hebrew Bible; Sarah, Miriam, Hannah or Sariah from the Book of Mormon....but Eve?
Until one day a couple weeks ago, I walked into the Gospel Principles Sunday school class – by accident, really, because as Chorister I had to change the numbers on the song board for Relief Society, and something told me to stay, so I did. Although I could not for the life of me tell you what the lesson was on for that day, what I can say is somehow the discussion digressed to Mother Eve, and I felt in that moment as if that part of the lesson was just for me.
Just within that past week, I had been facing a very important decision in my life- where to apply for a doctorate, and quite honestly I was thrown for a loop. That Wednesday, I had been up at the church doing genealogy and I received a blessing in which I was told I would be given clear direction so I could become the person my Heavenly Parents wanted me to be. I just didn’t think the direction would come so quickly, and that in the next day or so I would be on the phone making a decision that in many ways would force me to come full circle with my religious upbringing.
I kept asking, “God are You sure?”.... “Really Mother?"...." You’ve got to be kidding me.” And I kept hearing “yes.”..... "Really?"...... "Yes." Okay, I’ll get the rest of my application materials together, but I’m not so sure about this.
So fast-forward to that Sunday sitting in Gospel Principles class, hearing a theological perspective that would be so far removed from, well you name it. I felt for all my concerted efforts to push the limits of my theological upbringing over the years....and yet, there was Mother Eve. She had been there- she had marked the path. She knew. She had asked the same question- there has to be more!
And yet, if I hadn’t pushed the limits, I wouldn’t have been sitting there in that Gospel Principles class. I wouldn't have joined the LDS Church. Perhaps in reaching for the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, I stumbled upon the Tree of Life. I too, knew something was missing, and I kept pushing, kept challenging. Kept seeking, kept knocking….“If any of you lack wisdom…”
And yet, in all my inner struggles and hidden fears, I kept hearing God say, it’s okay. All the mistakes you felt you made in the search for wisdom were necessary; it was all just part of the process.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, “Some Christians condemn Eve for her act, concluding that she and her daughters are somehow flawed by it. Not the LDS! Informed by revelation, we celebrate Eve’s act and honor, her wisdom and courage in the great episode called the Fall.”
Hebrew scholar Dr. Nehoma Aschenasy points out that if you go back to the Hebrew meaning of the term “beguiled;” it does not mean “tricked” or “deceived” or even duped. Rather it was a calculated decision. This rare verb indicates an “intense multilevel experience, evoking great emotional, psychological or spiritual trauma.” It was the great catalyst for spiritual transformation that caused Eve to ponder her purpose.....in more ways than one, this describes my personal journey.
Joseph Fielding Smith said the “transgression” was necessary- something they had to do.
And as one of my friends pointed out that in doing what she had to do, Eve dared to confront the devil on his own level – and she emerged stronger as a result.
When Eve “saw” the fruit was good, she was seeing as a visionary sees into the future. She’s Eve the Seer, made in the likeness of our Heavenly Mother. And what does she teach us? In order to push forward in our Eternal Progression, sometimes we have to keep pushing, knocking, seeking, before the door will become open to us.
President Uchtdorf said….
"Brothers and sisters, as good as our previous experience may be, if we stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop pondering, we can thwart the revelations of the Spirit. Remember, it was the questions young Joseph asked that opened the door for the restoration of all things. We can block the growth and knowledge our Heavenly Father intends for us. How often has the Holy Spirit tried to tell us something we needed to know but couldn’t get past the massive iron gate of what we thought we already knew?"
And just as I was hitting the "submit" button for some of my application materials, my husband called for me to come outside just in time to see a snake slithering across our back yard. We have no idea where the snake went after that. We thought it either went into the woods, or crawled into a hole, but there were no holes around, and we never actually saw it go into the woods.....My husband thinks it just disappeared.
Reference: "Empowering LDS Women" http://empoweringldswomen.blogspot.com/p/mother-eve_01.html
Priesthood is defined as the authority to act in God’s name. It is also a call to service.
On Saturday, Oct. 5, I joined about 200 other women in Salt Lake City in the stand-by line to gain entry into the Priesthood session of 183rd LDS General Conference, Fall 2013. However, we were denied entry. Shut out.
After the Conference Center was roped off and the now- infamous garbage truck rolled by, we all joined together in singing “I am a Child of God,” a reminder to all of our worth in Heavenly Father’s eyes, and for me a solemn prayer to my Heavenly Parents. As we were singing, I changed the words ever so slightly, “To live with Them someday.”
However, nothing could compare to the bewildered feeling I felt once we were all turned away. I thought to myself, “I came out all this way for this?” There was that empty, lingering feeling of now what?
On some levels, I think we all felt it.
Sunday was an eventful day that I will never forget. As a friend and I were passing Temple Square, the non-LDS protestors were in full swing. I walked up to one of them and calmly said, “Our Heavenly Parents love you.”
To my surprise, a brother in the faith who happened to be standing there thanked me, and as I walked off, this angry protestor yelled back, “And what is your Heavenly Mother’s name?” Initially, I had planned to keep walking and not say a word, but feeling inspired, I turned around and called out firmly, “Her name is Asherah.”(1) I have no idea if the man even heard my reply, but I had assurance that I had spoken up on Heavenly Mother’s behalf; for She too knew exactly how I – how we all felt — for She too has been shut out for far too long.
Later that evening, I found myself at an LDS Affirmation/Reconciliation discussion. The Spirit was strong as I administered blessings to those who asked. In that moment, I knew exactly why I had been called out to Salt Lake. I had been called to serve those whom Pres. Uchtdorf had addressed in his Conference talk “Come Join with Us” — for I found myself among them; the doubters, the questioners and the disaffected, who for whatever reason did not fit in with the Church’s standards of righteousness. Yet here they – we – were, faithfully seeking and knocking for the door to be opened. Yet they too felt shut out.
That night I joined friends for the Eccles Organ Festival at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in downtown Salt Lake City. I spent some time praying in the Chapel of our Lady of Zion, as I was reminded of another important person, a pillar of Zion, who had been shut out— Mary Magdalene. But that never stopped her from fulfilling her mission.
It was not until I boarded the plane flying out of Salt Lake City on Monday, October 7th that I was reminded once again that our efforts were not in vain. As I got to talking with the couple I was sitting next to on the plane, I found out the husband, a Branch President, had been sitting in the Priesthood session when he heard us singing. “I felt the Spirit,” he said.
Even though we had been shut out from the Priesthood session, our voices were not shut out.
After spending a day at the Smith Farm and Sacred Grove in Palmyra, I am reminded of another family who also knew firsthand what it meant to be shut out. But they never let it stop them from loving and serving. Instead, they stood as a living testimony of, in the words of Pres. Uchtdorf “heed(ing) the call of the gentle Christ,” (2) who also experienced firsthand what it meant to be shut out by the spiritual and religious authorities of his time.
Drafted at Palmyra Inn, NY
10/13/2013 11:00 pm
(1) For a detailed explanation of how I reached this conclusion regarding the name of our Mother in Heaven, please see my post on Doves and Serpents “Redeeming Asherah” http://www.dovesandserpents.org/wp/2013/04/redeeming-asherah/ I realize She may also have been known by various other names throughout history.
(2) Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Come Join with Us,” LDS 183rd General Conference: Fall 2013.