Editor’s Note: This is article 5 in a 12-part series on The Parental God. The earlier 4 articles can be found HERE.
It has come to my attention that in some quarters, some of the content of these articles has actually stimulated the very kind of speculation about our heavenly parents and our mother in heaven that it sought to quell and to channel. This despite my repeated attempts to label speculation for what it is and to shy away from it. For any effect it has had in fueling speculation or taking the focus off of God and Christ, I am truly sorry. For the record, I know, deeply and gratefully, that Jesus Christ is the God of this world and that He acts under the direction of His Heavenly Father and ours. We are blessed to know of heavenly parents and heavenly mother, but in fact all we know about her is that she exists. We are each entitled to personal revelation, but only the Prophet receives revelation for the Church about the true nature of God.
I had hoped that quoting from Prophets about our heavenly parents would set the stage for what I want to do in the rest of this series–namely to write about what has always been Linda’s and my focus, striving to do our best in our marriages and parenting and to aspire, over the eternities, to become more like God in these roles. Thus you will notice in the remaining 7 articles in this series that I will tilt back strongly to what we know and to what our Prophets have chosen to emphasize (and to my own comfort zone of families and parenting.) The topic of article 6, for next week, is Christ and the End and the Means that He and the Church provide for our families. It will be nice to be back on that very firm ground!
A Question from a Granddaughter
Our 16-year-old granddaughter, in response to last week’s article 4, and with a directness adults sometimes lack, asked the question “If there is a Heavenly Mother, how come she wasn’t part of the Restoration? Why didn’t she appear with Heavenly Father? Where has She been? Why don’t we know more about Her? Why don’t our Prophets talk more about Her?
She felt strongly (and I agreed) that her questions were legitimate ones. We have unequivocal prophetic statements affirming Her reality and Her importance, yet over the course of the Restoration’s history to date, relatively little has been said of Her.
This granddaughter went on to ask if it is just because of the emergence and strength of current feminism that we are now starting to talk more about Her. In other words, is the discussion driven by current societal consciousness and political issues and gender debate rather than by doctrine or prophetic utterance?
Our daughter (her mother) tried to explain to her that the Restoration is ongoing, and that we are continuing to gain additional insight to God and that we can receive only that which we are ready to receive. But as you could guess (or would guess if you know how inquisitive and demanding this granddaughter is) the discussion continued. “But if it’s that important, if She is our Mother…why, why, why…”
To be candid, her question falls into quite a big category of Restoration questions—the category of “Things we know of but don’t know much about yet…”. And while there are plenty of things in that category, this may be the biggest and most consequential one, so some thoughtful and prayerful speculation or the pondering of possibilities is justified and warranted.
Some Possible Answers
Let me suggest at least a half dozen possible explanations (I don’t favor any one of them, and don’t even know if the best answer is one of them or several of them or something much greater than any of them, but thinking about the possibilities can be faith preserving simply by allowing that there are many possible answers—some that we may never have thought of— and that we can look forward to the day when we may know more.)
And as was stated in the last article:
“There are many, many things that we do not know about our Parents in Heaven, but the central thing we do know overrides and supersedes them all:
We know that She IS.
We know that He IS.
We know that They ARE”
Before we list seven possible, plausible possibilities (or answers to my granddaughter’s question) let me eliminate or wipe away one answer that has been given too often and that seems to me to be at best counterproductive and at worst insulting. “She is too special to talk about…in order to protect Her, information has been withheld…She is so sacred and so incomparably wonderful and beautiful that we cannot comprehend…” If none of those reasons would work with our Heavenly Father, they also cannot work with our equally important and powerful Heavenly Mother.
So, what are some more plausible potential reasons that we don’t yet know a great deal about Her?
- We, as a Church and as a people and as individuals, have not asked about Her diligently enough. We know that God reveals in accordance with our inquiries rather than by His own initiative. He (They) are committed to our agency and will not violate it by initiating answers to questions we have not asked. Some feel that the revelation granting the Priesthood to all races could possibly have come sooner if the depth of pleading inquiry that President Kimball put forth had come sooner.
- We, as a society and as a culture, were not ready for the kind of paradigm contemplated by the implications of the equal Oneness of Heavenly Parents. A patriarchy has a hard time accepting or even fully grasping a Heavenly Mother who is a full and equal partner with Heavenly Father. Spiritual history is replete with truths that were revealed at a later rather than an earlier time, not because of the readiness of God, but because of the readiness of men.
- Virtually all of our recorded history and scripture was written by men and what they wrote is what was reflected through their own personal lenses. It is very possible that more could have been heard, observed, and manifest concerning Heavenly Mother than was ever recorded or explained.
- Christ is the God of this world. He is Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament as well as the Christ of the New Testament. Heavenly Father comes only very occasionally, and only to introduce His Son. Perhaps He could have been equally well introduced by Heavenly Mother, and He could have expressed and lived His full allegiance to Her, but we know that was not the case, and in faith we assume there was good reason for that order and reality.
- This mortality that we see and live in is just one act in a three-act play. It is possible that Heavenly Mother has a more prominent leading role in the first act of our premortal life and/or in the third act of the Spirit world and the judgement and the Millennium and the Celestial Kingdom.
- As was suggested earlier, “God” and even “Father” could be something of a surname that includes both Heavenly Parents, and though we (and the scripture’s authors) spoke of seeing and speaking only to one, perhaps it has always actually been both.
- (This one from a friend who read a draft of this article) Maybe our Divine Mother’s stewardship has more to do with the natural realm than the heavenly. We have referred to earth as “Mother” since the beginning of time—the nurturer of abundant life and endless creativity. She was worshipped during ancient Biblical times (prior to the Deutoronomist reforms of King Josiah) in the temple and in common life as Asherah, symbolized by the tree of life. Evidently, she was a grounding, nurturing and very immediate presence in their lives. Could it be that it’s the same with us today, but we just haven’t figured out how to talk about it in our religion? What if we have been enjoying and feeling her presence since the beginning as we connect with creation. Maybe that communion with nature is a form of prayer. Perhaps if it’s possible to access her presence through broken language at all, it would be the language of poetry or contemplation rather than petition. There’s a beautiful complementarity and symmetry in this notion of the relationship and roles of our Divine Parents, in my opinion. And notice how it answers your granddaughter’s questions about Her absence at the Joseph’s vision: She WAS there—in the grove—holding Joseph even when he was flat on his back almost overcome by darkness.
And another reviewer added this: “The name given to the first mortal archetype of divine woman was Eve. Chava in Hebrew, interestingly pronounced like hah when trying to fog the mirror and literally meaning breath of life. One could imagine then that, after the pattern of creation, the mother in whose image this woman was created held the breath of all things living after an exalted fashion.”
A third friend sent a response that gets at the second (is this political?) part of my granddaughter’s question. He said “I think that this process of considering alternative explanations that challenge our base assumptions is a very important skill that needs more emphasis and teaching in every aspect of our lives. Reason #1 caused me to think about God’s process and pattern during the reformation prior to the restoration. God inspired individuals with a yearning for answers to specific questions. Many of the conclusions they reached were incorrect, but those conclusions (including the error of those conclusions) inspired others to ask similar questions that moved the realm of thought in a specific direction. I feel that God does “spadework” to prepare the ground in a society before revealing important truths. Often this is seen as the social changes or pressures changing God’s church. But who really inspired the thoughts that started the social change? All positive social change is founded in truth and light, and that all comes from the Divine. God doesn’t react to social pressure, he creates pressure to inspire questions and then gladly answers those questions when the time is right.
Faith that there is an Answer
Again, I am not advocate any of these possible answers, it may be some combination of them or an even more glorious answer not yet contemplated. But the fact that there is a range of “could-be” answers—a list that could be much longer than this—can give us faith that there is an answer, and that it will be a wonderful answer, and that it will come when the Lord wills.
One thread that runs through all seven of these possibilities is that our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother have a perfectly, synergistically equal Oneness, but that that equality does not imply sameness. We can all see traces of that in our own relationships. Linda and I strive for equality and Oneness (knowing that is a long struggle, indeed a long-range, eternal goal) but even when we feel it, she may be doing one thing and me another. She may be in one place and me in another. Back in our midlife, struggling with two companies and nine children, we created in our minds two “limited partnerships” (a legal business form where partners may have exactly equal equity, but one is the general partner, managing most of the day to day, and the other is a limited partner with equal ownership but less constant involvement). In those days, Linda was the general partner in the “Inner partnership” of what went on inside our home, and I was the general partner in the “Outer partnership” of what went on outside our home. And we each told the other the detail of both and strived to cross-over as often as possible. If we mortals can attempt that, surely our Heavenly Parents can “divide and conquer” on many things and we have yet to learn how that Divine Synergistic Oneness Partnership works and why one of Them is more visible in some things than the other.
Irony: How can the one Faith that believes in a Heavenly Mother be filled with Patriarchy?
Let’s be blunt. We, as a church and as a people, have a history of Patriarchy.
(Patriarchy is defined as “a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.” This is not to be confused with “patriarchal” which has many positive uses, including a patriarchal order by which we trace our ancestry.)
In our defense, this whole world has a history of Patriarchy. And both ours and the world’s form of patriarchy are more exposed—and by many, more regretted—today than ever before. Male domination and misogyny and glass ceilings and the exploitation of women may be the biggest of all historical blights on humanity.
Many, without insight to God’s purpose or revelations, might argue that our particular brand of patriarchy is worse than the general brand because of our history of plural marriage.
But it could also be argued that our brand is better, because of the respect and reverence within which our theology holds women and because of historical evidence like Utah being the first state to give women the vote.
But the real question is about how we can overturn all remaining vestiges of gender inequality and eradicate patriarchy completely along with all of the damage it does. And this may be an easier challenge in the Church than in the world.
Because we know the God-ordained equality of man and woman, and we know that it is only within this synergistic equality that we can be exalted. This is the strongest possible doctrinal motivation for turning our flawed “patriarchal order” into a true “familial order.”
And by the way, there is also a degree of a matriarchal order that needs a similar type of refurbishing. When we say “matrimony” rather than “patrimony” it may inadvertently suggest that marriage is the domain of the woman, and man is the appendage. Women who assume that the home and the parenting and the family is more their concern than their husband’s are violating the idea of a familial partnership in perhaps a less drastic but still dangerous way.
Beyond the devastating damage that patriarchy has done throughout the world over the centuries, it is the separated, sometimes competitive aspects of patriarchy and matriarchy and of men v. women that deceive us and keep us away from the truly Familial order and Familial Priesthood, and Familial qualifications for exaltation that our restored Gospel teaches but perhaps does not sufficiently emphasize.
It is covenant families that can be exalted and become the Government of God. It is celestially married couples that share the Familial Priesthood and that can live with our Heavenly Parents in Celestial glory. And it is the Church that, in President Lee’s words, “is the scaffolding with which we build Eternal Families.”
This building of Eternal Families takes place across the Spirit-World-and-Millennial-including eternity. Currently-single people need not worry because none are left out of this opportunity.
Making the Pivot from Patriarchal or Matriarchal to Familial
Perhaps one key challenge in preparing the world for the Second Coming is to replace patriarchy and matriarchy in any and all of its forms with “familialarchy”—with an order and a paradigm and a focus that leads us to become what God is and to progress toward where God is.
Some speculate about how many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints there will have to be on this earth before Christ can come again. It might be better to worry about how many committed marriages and in-tact families there will need to be on earth before He can come to lead His Kingdom, which is His Family.
An intriguing Book of Mormon prophecy about the last days says that there will be “two Churches only.” The word “churches” may be used to indicate two opposing groups or directions into one of which everyone in the world fits. Perhaps the first “church” is those committed to the sacrifice and responsibility pattern of marriage and commitment and the paradigm of family as the basic unit of society. And perhaps the second “church” is those who avoid this familial pattern and view the individual as the basic unit. The first “church” develops responsibility and sacrifice and selfless love while the second attitude or paradigm tends toward the “freedom” of the absence of commitment and often evolves toward more hedonistic self-love and “looking out for number one.” If these are the two “churches,” then the missionary objective and outreach of the Church, beyond making converts, should be about helping to strengthen marriage and family worldwide among any and all people.
The key to all of this is The Parental God.
Because to one who truly believe in God as a Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father, all humans are his or her literal siblings, all people and all genders and all races and all sexual orientations and all people of all faiths and of no faith are our spiritual brothers and sisters and are equal in God’s sight and in His and Her love.
In the current season of the TV series This is Us, Kevin and Randall who grew up as siblings— though Randall is Black and adopted and Kevin is white and not—come to a reconciliation and understanding and mutual respect because of the acknowledged fact that they share the same parents and realize that this linkage is stronger than any of the surface things that might divide them. We can all do the same spiritually. Knowing what we know about our Heavenly Parents and premortal past and universal siblinghood should make us the most tolerant, least prejudiced, most globally and humanity focused people in the world.
It should also make us the most joyful people in the world because when hate and suspicion and divisions go away, joy fills in the spaces where they used to be.
Thank you for reading this fifth article, and please feel free to share your inputs and thoughts and questions directly with me by going to https://valuesparenting.com/contact-eyres/. You can also hear further discussion of this article on our Podcast “Eyres on the Road” which is available on your favorite podcast app or at https://byuradio.org/eyresontheroad.
And please come back next week for article 6.
Richard Eyre is the New York #1 Bestselling Author of more than 50 books, a dozen of which are on parenting and marriage. He believes that the ultimate parenting and marriage example is God