Editor’s Note: When we at Meridian first got word of this twelve-part series of articles by Richard Eyre, we were immediately excited because we share Richard’s conviction that the most basic and pivotal truth revealed (or re-revealed) in these Latter Days is the nature of God as our literal (not metaphorical) Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. It is a beautiful truth to consider and to ponder, and it is the foundation for many of the other unique and distinctive teachings of the restoration. We invite your comments and questions on each of the twelve articles in this series which will appear here one per week.
Article One: The Core of the Restoration: The Nature of God and our Relationship to Them.
A Universal Belief of the Heart
The people of this planet, throughout its history and pre-history, have harbored and expressed a resilient faith in something higher, something divine.
Yet there is, and has always been, vast variety in the gods that humans perceive and worship, single or multiple, tangible or ethereal, involved or indifferent, present or distant, approachable or unreachable, internal or external, knowable or unknowable.
The Sovereign God
The Jealous and Vindictive God
The Omniscient and Omnipresent and Omnipotent God
The Dictatorial God
The Loving, Forgiving God
The Mystical God
The Benevolent God
The Unknowable God
But there is one paradigm, one particular form of belief in who and what God is, that literally changes everything—even our hearts.
The Parental God.
Our observation (Linda and mine) during our travels in over 100 countries on this planet is that virtually all people are, on some level, drawn to the notion of the brotherhood of all mankind. Most human souls are pulled emotionally toward the idea of one human family, and are attracted to the metaphor of a heavenly father, and touched by the symbol of a nurturing mother earth.
The question we always wish we could pose to those we meet from all different backgrounds is this: “What if the reason we are drawn to these feelings is that they are more than feelings? What if they are shreds of spiritual memory? What if, as the poet Wordsworth said, we came to this earth ‘not in utter nakedness and not in entire forgetfulness, but trailing clouds of glory…from God, who is our home’”?
And what if these yearnings that we all occasionally feel are not just notions or ideas or sentimental longings; what if, instead, they are the hints of exact and precise reality. What if the term “Parental” is not just a description of a certain kind of unconditional love or a metaphorical suggestion of how God cares for us? What if it is more than that, much more? What if each of our spirits, each of our true selves, actually have Heavenly Parents and thus are literal siblings with everyone else, living on the same orbiting planet-school, and sharing the same spiritual genetics, the same pre-mortal past, the same eternal destiny and the same Spiritual Parents?
Now that would change everything. Or, if it is simply true and always has been, the knowing or believing of it would change everything.
Within the Restored Gospel we do know this truth, and the question we will explore in this series is how much it changes us, how much it should change us, and how we can use this knowledge to do our small part in changing and uniting the divided world we live in.
Readers who know Linda and me at all know us as best-selling authors of parenting, family, marriage, and life-balance books…
And indeed, this series could be construed as being about parenting, or as a series about family, or life, or even about Oneness in a marriage—but in a vastly different sense than the how-to family guides that we have written for more than forty years.
Vastly different because this is a series that suggests, and even proclaims, that God Himself is a Parent—not metaphorically or symbolically, but literally, the literal Heavenly Father of our spirits (or, more precisely, one of our two Spiritual Parents, along with our Heavenly Mother); and that we are and were, even before this world, a part of Their spiritual family; and that this current mortal life is a pivotal phase of an eternal life that stretches forever backward as well as forever forward.
But before you think too much about that, please think first of this as a series about this Church’s new perspective—about the Restoration’s radical new view of heaven and earth—about a paradigm shift that changes everything and that can never be fully described in words—even though that is exactly what I will try to do in the little introduction that follows.
The Biggest Paradigm Shift
par·a·digm: A set of assumptions, concepts, values and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality. A model, pattern, template or perspective—a worldview or a mental framework in which to see and understand what is around us.
There is a classic story of a ship at sea. One foggy night the ship captain sees on his radar that he is on a collision course with another ship. He radios the message that the other vessel should change course. The response is “No, you change course.” Angry, the captain radios again and demands “I am a mega tanker and you are in my path, YOU change course.”
The next response reveals the captain’s false paradigm and shifts it to a true one, “I am the lighthouse, you change course.”
Now think of some of the biggest paradigm shifts of history, and how dramatically they changed how we think and what we perceive:
–The shift to the realization that the world was round rather than flat.
–The shift from the Ptolemaic paradigm (the sun revolving around the earth) to the Copernican paradigm (the earth revolving around the sun.)
–The shift from Galen’s miasma theory (disease caused by noxious “bad air” or “night air”) to the germ and bacteria discoveries of Louis Pasteur.
–The shift from the impossibility of human flight to the aerodynamic truth discovered by the Wright Brothers at Kittyhawk
As pivotal as each of these and other historic paradigm shifts have proven to be, the one we are talking about here—the restored paradigm of a Parental God—is much, much bigger, because it changes everything, from our perception of other humans to our view of ourselves.
Phases of the Perspective
As we have watched converts learning about the Gospel and coming into the Church from different faiths or from no faith, the Parental God paradigm shift happens within them (and through their prayers) in four stages (and I suppose they are the same phases that we Church members undergo as our testimonies of God develop):
- Entertainment of the possibility that the God in whom we have always believed, or hoped, or wondered about or pondered upon is actually our Heavenly Parents.
- The development of faith in such a God.
- Actual connection with that God.
- The gradual and growing epiphany that this paradigm and this connection changes everything.
Stage 1 sparks and initiates fundamental changes in how we think about ourselves and others and in what we prioritize and how we treat those around us.
Stage 2 desires and seeks even greater changes and growth in how we worship and how we live and begins to desire God’s will to determine our life directions rather than our own desires.
Stage 3 receives answers and confirmations and direction from our Heavenly Parents and begins to guide our covenant path back to Their eternal family.
Stage 4 allows us to “see everything new” and has the power to change and improve not only our faith, but our character and our relationships.
Not only are the stages of the Parental God Paradigm available to everyone and to anyone, they have within themselves, like seeds, a force and an energy that will grow within anyone who plants them in his or her soul.
The Singular and the Plural
Of course, the great wonder and the great joy is that the Parental God we refer to within our restored truth is One God, comprised of two Heavenly Parents.
This series will probe what has been revealed about both of our Heavenly Parents and will revel in the truth that—just as in our own deepest relationships, there is a me, a thee, and a we—so with God there is a She, a He, and a They.
The divine They involves a synergy and a Oneness beyond our imagination, a completeness that incorporates a beauty and a power that creates and comprehends all.
Finding our Real Parents
Among misplaced or adopted children, particularly as they reach an age of independent thought, there is almost always an impulse, or a desire, or even an obsession to find their natural parents.
This can be explained as a logical interest in discovering the origin of their genes, in finding out why they are who they are and why they have the gifts and tendencies and difficulties and propensities that they have. But it is something more than that—it is the deep, natural desire to belong.
If this is true with regard to our physical, earthly parents, would it not also be true regarding our Spiritual Parents? We find this in people everywhere—this yearning for home—our real home, this longing for something deeper, something more. It is a sense that (to paraphrase Pierre Teilhard de Chardin) we are not physical beings who occasionally have a spiritual experience but rather spiritual beings who are currently having a physical experience.
We are all wise when we (as CS Lewis did) think of these longings as catalysts for our spiritual transformation.
From whence does this longing come? Wordsworth would say, “from God who is our home.” The Restored Gospel would say “from the literal fact that we are Spiritual Children of our Heavenly Father and our Heavenly Mother who love us enough to send us here and give us the unspeakable opportunity to progress, ever so gradually, toward becoming what They are.”
“I Wouldn’t Give a Fig…”
Oliver Wendell Holmes is credited with the quote, “I wouldn’t give a fig for the simplicity that exists on this side of complexity, but I would give my right arm for the simplicity that lies beyond complexity.”
Think about the complexity and variety in the philosophy and writings available to us today on happiness, on meaning, on purpose, on relationships. Volumes fill the shelves and ideas spill across ten thousand podcasts. There are endless ideas and conclusions and pronouncements about how and when and where and with whom to do a million worthwhile things; and on how to think about and prioritize every aspect of our lives, of our goals, of our beliefs, and of our faith. There are long and detailed and highly complex (and widely divergent) approaches to being and to getting everything that humans think they want.
If we back up a little from that complexity (on this side of it) we have oversimplifications like “the five steps to happiness” or the “path to fulfillment” or the “ten lessons of successful management;” and we have lists of “best practices” for everything from good diets to good parenting. The simplicity on this side of complexity includes endless, formulaic, how-to books and courses and podcasts and social media on every subject imaginable.
But what is on the other side of complexity? What is the simple, single undergirding and overarching truth that vaults beyond the oversimplifying and that fully embraces and supersedes all the complexity? What if there was one truth, one paradigm, one true way to look at ourselves and our world—and at the divine—that simplified everything that we want—including happiness— and that suggested that we could really have it?
The truth of a Parental God.
“But we already know that Truth”
One friend who read a draft of this article said “Why don’t you write this—about a literal Heavenly Father and Mother—to people of other faiths? Because we already believe it!”
My answer was that I may try to do exactly that at some future point, but that my concern at the moment, both for myself and for other Church members, is that while we believe this pivotal doctrine, we don’t fully appreciate it, or fully internalize it, or fully realize how great its ramifications are in every part of our thoughts and our lives.
We would do well to remember President Oaks’ talk The Challenge to Become where he compares mortality’s purpose to that of a father who wants to help his child gain all the character traits he has developed.
An ongoing dynamic throughout scripture pits Remembrance against Forgetfulness. Constant effort to remember and apply what we already know, what has already been revealed, makes our lives spiritually dynamic, while forgetting or taking for granted dims and dulls our light.
One of the most dangerous and destructive tendencies most humans have is the pattern of taking things for granted. This is a practice so harmful and so robbing of our joy that it should perhaps be called a sin. Taking blessings (or truth or spiritual comprehension) for granted inhibits both our gratitude and our generosity. If we take for granted the revealed truth of our Heavenly Parents we will never feel the joy and gratitude of that parentage, and we will never share it generously with others.
But if we do see it—truly appreciate and internalize it and feel it—it can change us every day—change our outlooks, change our resilience, change our perspective, change our prayers, change our love, change our joy, change our hearts.
Why I can’t Write this Series
I undertake this series with no confidence and no credentials.
First of all, no human has the capacity or the comprehension to conceptualize God. It would be like a stone-age tool describing a computer, or a single cell amoeba explaining a man. And second of all, no one can know anything about God except what is revealed to him or her, and it is our Prophets to whom the most penetrating revelation is given.
Thank God (thank Them) that revelation has been given, starting with the First Vision and continuing to this day, to this dispensation’s Prophets, and we have access to it and to the same Spirit that gave it.
So, while I can’t write this series, I can try to organize what has been said and written by Prophets and can rely on a power, a source, a spirit that can write it through me.
And sometimes it is knowing you can’t do something that opens a door to doing it. When you know that you don’t know enough—that you don’t grasp or comprehend one millionth of what you would have to know—it pulls you away from any form of self-reliance and establishes total spirit-reliance and you simply write what you feel.
And as you do, you begin to see in a new way, and you real-eyes that you do know—that there is another kind of knowing—and that some feelings are more reliable than eyes or ears or even brains.
A Big Ask
I am aware of what a big ask this series implies—of how much it will ask of you and particularly how much it will ask of friends of other faiths or no faith that you may share it with. It is going to ask them (and to some extent to ask each of us) to reconsider, re-emphasize, and reprioritize and rethink the biggest question of all: “Who and what is God?”
In a new, secular book Think Again, Adam Grant suggests that each time we think again, or rethink our answers, our perspective, our goals or our beliefs we are more likely to get them right.
Getting God right is a very big thing, and refining and expanding our current beliefs (or re-accessing our current doubts or lack of beliefs) is the most important thinking-again that we will ever do.
This series asks us all to consider, to ponder, and to study and pray about the truth that God is both a literal Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother, and that Wordsworth’s poem is in fact (perhaps much more than he knew) both a true paradigm and a true promise:
“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting. The soul that rises with us, our life’s star, hath had elsewhere its setting, and cometh from afar, not in utter nakedness and not in entire forgetfulness, but trailing clouds of glory do we come, from God who is our home.”
And even if we believe this, even if we feel that we have always believed it, can we ask ourselves how deeply we know it and how completely we have internalized it in our souls.
Join me here next week when we will consider the myriad of other eternal truths that stem from our belief in a Parental God and the specific ways in which that perception can change how we think about everything—from people to politics, and from testimony to tolerance.