Sunday, July 18, 2010

Do Mormons Pray to Heavenly Mother?

It’s not a secret that Mormons believe that God the Father has a wife and she is called Mother in Heaven or Heavenly Mother. In one of the distinctive LDS hymns "O My Father," poet Eliza R Snow wrote, “In the heav’ns are parents single? No the thought makes reason stare. Truth is reason, truth eternal, tells me I’ve a mother there.”

When Larry King asked president of the church at the time about the LDS belief in Heavenly Mother, Gordon B. Hinckley responded, “Yes, but we don’t pray to her.”

It appears to me that many members of the church who feel a desire to learn more about our Mother in Heaven believe that President Hinckley’s response was also an instruction that Mormons ought not to pray to Heavenly Mother.

This is the only source I have encountered that would specifically prohibit praying to God’s equal and feminine counterpart, if indeed it is a prohibition.

The scriptures remain silent to even a mention of heavenly mother (as far as I know, maybe Isaiah or somewhere in the Old Testament makes some oblique, cloaked in allegory reference to her). The Doctrine and Covenants, a collection of recorded revelations after the establishment of the LDS church, mentions that those who remain faithful in keeping their covenants to the ordinances of the gospel can become gods. Gods in this context remains gender neutral. It logically follows since women are as capable at fulfilling the commandments that they do can become gods—or in the feminine—goddesses.

The Doctrine and Covenants in expanding on the state of those who are exalted describes that those men and women who are sealed in the new and everlasting covenant (temple marriage), “shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths” (D&C 132:19). Referencing Psalms 82:6 and Christ’s own words in John 10:34, Doctrine and Covenants 76:58 states,” Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God.”

The temple ceremonies of the LDS Church more clearly state that women through participating in the ceremonies and their faithfulness that they will be priestesses and goddesses with the implication that they will be equal to their husbands.

The play “Mother Wove the Morning” by Carol Lynn Pearson illustrates how, throughout human history, knowledge of the feminine divine has been removed from cultural wisdom to the point that now our belief in a female counterpart to God earns us the status of a pagan cult in the eyes of many religious denominations.

If then it is acknowledged as truth and women are in training to become goddesses, a Mother in Heaven does exist and must hear our prayers. If she hears our prayers and there is no specific prohibition to praying to Her then it appears to me that it is a personal choice, one not condemned by God, to include prayers to a Mother in Heaven if Father in Heaven to whom his people have been commanded to pray is not cast aside.

It could be argued, however, that when addressing our prayers to Heavenly Father that actually we are praying to Elohim, a Hebrew title that implies male and female diety (see my previous post on this topic: More Ponderings on Heavenly Mother

I then ask, is it appropriate to address our prayers to Elohim? What about our Parents in Heaven, Father and Mother in Heaven, or our Heavenly Parents?

And since I’m not yet comfortable to take my prayers there, I am currently feeling that the generic term “God” is least restrictive and most inclusive. This is a interesting circle of development because when I first started believing in the existence of God, I found the title too impersonal, ambiguous and felt that the divine was largely unknown and unknowable. I then preferred the humanity, intimacy and closeness that came from viewing God as my Father. And now I’ve come back around to embracing the title of God again, even if it is borne out of a discomfort that is coming from considering a change in believe that is not officially sanctioned by church doctrine.

It feels right, in my mind, to include Heavenly Mother in my prayers, though, I suspect whether I have been addressing her all these years, she has been hearing my prayers all along.

Until next time when I contemplate what Heavenly Mother might be thinking if response to her invisibility in the world today.


Seth R. said...

If you haven't already, I would recommend you read Kevin Barney's article in Dialogue "How to Worship Heavenly Mother Without Getting Excommunicated." Daniel Peterson also wrote an interesting article linking Heavenly Mother with the Old Testament goddess Asherah. He links the Tree of Life in Nephi's vision as being a symbol for Asherah. The article itself is titled "Nephi and his Asherah."

Jenne said...

Hi Seth. I'm so used to my blog being my own quiet bit of the internet that its nice to have commenters, especially with references like that.

I have read the article Nephi and his Asherah, and I'm excited to read Kevin Barney's article. Its from Dialogue so I'm considering subscribing and getting the DVD archive. I did find that my city library system subscribes to the journal at one of their locations. I'm intent to read the article however so sometime soon, I'll do that.

Deborah said...

I've been (pleasantly) surprised to hear even "orthodox" women sometimes confess to experiences with a feminine divine or reaching out to her. I imagine that many more Mormon women reach out quietly than we'll ever know . . . I am fascinated by the reverence for Mary in the Catholic tradition; I think it is our souls hungering for a balance to purely male-centric worship.

Jenne said...

I'm just beginning to understand that need, Deborah, and to feel it acutely during church meetings. I've only just recently read some of the analysis of male discourse that is prevalent in the church and now having that reference, I'm listening more closely and seeing the possibilities for where a feminine discourse is missing. I'm praying that I don't get too frustrated with it and that there can be some changes made to allow for it.