Why it’s time to search for Heavenly Mother
The restored truth that we have a Heavenly Mother, and that She and Heavenly Father are an exalted couple—an exalted woman and an exalted man married in the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, is one of the most important revelations of the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ.
For literally millennia, the questions, “Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going?” seemed to be addressed from a male point of view. For women, the answers were far from certain and not very hopeful. There was apparently even debate within the early centuries of the Christian church concerning the issue of whether women had souls.
The idea that God is a Heavenly Father who has a Son, and who used the vessel of a woman’s body to effect the Son’s mortal incarnation, strongly suggested femaleness was clearly somehow “other” than divinity in a way that maleness was not. The purported cursing of Eve, the notion that God intended Adam to rule “over” Eve, the reservation of priesthood and apostleship for men, the “uncleanness” of women of reproductive age under Mosaic law, the explicit likening of spiritual waywardness to a promiscuous woman throughout scripture, all furthered that supposition. Inferences from these things, such as the idea that the most spiritual of men, a priest, was a man that shunned marriage to a woman, only deepened it.
Now, certainly Christianity arguably offered a tangibly better life for women by banning polygyny and cousin marriage, insisting that wives inherit their husband’s worldly effects, requiring a single standard of marital fidelity for men and women (and disinheriting illegitimate children), demanding that women give sincere consent in marriage, and emphasizing the impossibility of divorce for husband as well as for wife. But in terms of offering good answers to the deepest questions of the human female heart, what did we get from traditional Christianity?
Who am I? As a woman, I am a physical and spiritual defective.
Where did I come from? As a woman, I came from a man—I was merely one of his ribs.
Why am I here? To incarnate the sons of God (and the Son of God); to do the will of men, specifically my husband.
Where am I going? Unclear. If my purpose is childbearing, which happens only in mortality, and if the Heavenly Family consists solely of a Father and His Son, women qua women appear to have little “place” in heaven.
I feel deep sadness that for millennia my sisters and foremothers had to settle for these answers when the truth is so much more glorious. There is also a part of me that wonders how it is possible that a faith community that has known for almost 200 years that we have a Heavenly Mother could have downplayed, even obscured, the revolutionary good news of the divine feminine.
However, since we can do nothing about the past, let’s set that to one side, for the future is before us and before our daughters. We can take consolation from the fact that where our foremothers are now, they have far better answers than they did while on earth.
So, with knowledge that we have a Heavenly Mother, how might the answers to the above questions look different?
Who am I? I am a daughter of my Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father.
Where did I come from? I am made in the image of my Heavenly Mother, who is a goddess as wise, loving, and powerful as my Heavenly Father.
Why am I here? I am here to work out my personal salvation and exaltation, to build the kingdom of heaven on earth, and to open doors to progression for all of God’s children through the ordinances of the priestesshood.
Where am I going? I am going to become a Heavenly Mother.
Even beyond these wonderful answers, we also are able to answer some other very important questions:
How are men and women to relate?
What was marriage meant to be?
How is the kingdom of God on earth to be brought forth by men and women working in partnership?
When Heavenly Mother Is Revealed
It is no exaggeration to say that when Heavenly Mother is revealed, everything changes. For example, knowing of Her, we no longer stand mute before questions of why our faith community puts forward the ideal of marriage between a man and a woman as the foundation of human society, because now we know that the Heavenly Family is not a male-only unit and that the foundation of heavenly society is an everlasting marriage between an exalted man and an exalted woman.
Knowing Her, we also now know why misogyny is an abomination before God, and why one of the most critical challenges is whether God’s sons and God’s daughters are capable of living together in loving, respectful, equal partnerships.
Knowing Her, we realize that virtues, characteristics, perspectives, labors, and skills gendered as feminine within a given society are as equally a part of the divine nature as those gendered by society as masculine.
The whole world, and the whole heaven, changes when we understand She is there.
So why have we ignored Her?
What can explain the reluctance of the Christian world to accept the divine feminine? Perhaps more of a puzzle is explaining the reluctance of the Church of Jesus Christ to more vigorously promulgate the truth of Her existence. While the rest of the Christian world can be forgiven for viewing the existence of Heavenly Mother as a heretical doctrine—even though in some cases denominations have augmented the role of Mary to fill the inevitable void thus left by Her absence—what is holding back the Church of Jesus Christ? What are we afraid of?
I suppose it could be the desire to not see Her as maligned as He has been. However, given that truth was meant to shine forth and not be hid under a bushel, and given how much it would mean to the women and the men in the Church to know their Mother, I have trouble accepting that as the reason.
My mind therefore wanders to other possible reasons. I will list a few thoughts here:
The later prophets of the Old Testament, such as Jeremiah and Ezekiel, are adamant that one of the idols abominable to God was “the queen of heaven” (scholars suggest this was probably Ashtoreth). That those in Israel and Judah sacrificed to and made cakes for the queen of heaven is apparently greatly offensive to God (see, for example, Jeremiah 44:11-30). Perhaps ecclesiastical authorities are chary of doing anything that might seem as if “the queen of heaven” is being worshipped. Of course, most all the other idols were apparently male. “Baal,” for example, is a name meaning “Lord,” ostensibly of heaven and earth. Ashtoreth was Baal’s wife. If we can understand that there is a difference between Baal, a false male idol, and Heavenly Father, a true male god, is it not possible for us to differentiate between Ashtoreth, a false female idol, and Heavenly Mother, a true female god?
Perhaps the issue is a lack of revelation. Maybe that precludes us from thinking beyond what we currently know. What are some things we think we currently know? Heavenly Mother appears not to be part of the godhead for this earth, and that the godhead is all male. It seems that Christ did not pray to Heavenly Mother, and we have been enjoined by our general authorities not to pray to Her as well. Perhaps this makes it difficult for some to understand how She can be a god if these things do not obtain.
But may it be that we simply don’t understand the function of a godhead, and how that might differ from the work of goddesses? Is it possible that three-personage godheads preside over fallen worlds as part of the responsibilities of the priesthood? And that there are other worlds, or planes of existence, over which Heavenly Mother and Her counsellors preside? Is it possible the remedy to this dilemma is simply “the further light and knowledge” we have been promised if we ask in faith?
Some might fear that that priesthood keys and offices would have to be “shared” with women if we affirm the equal partnership of women and men in the heavens. This is an irrational fear, for women have their own priestesshood keys and ordinances, and it is only by uniting the different keys—not erasing the differences between the keys—that the Great Plan of Happiness can exist.
Would there be a greater amount of counseling between men and women regarding Church matters of we spoke more openly of Her? Surely there would be, but that is something to celebrate, not to fear.
These thoughts lead into another possible source of reluctance: the fear that men might choose to worship Him and women might choose to worship Her, and so the perception of unity between Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother might be lost, and therefore unity between God’s sons and God’s daughters might dwindle as a result.
I think it is possible for humans to make a mess of any true doctrine. That is why we have Church leadership that labors unceasingly to keep the doctrine pure. If our marriages are strong, I think the chance of men and women believing they were meant to live separate lives is small, while the incredible positives of the children of God finally finding their Mother would far outweigh that risk.
How do we move forward?
If our faith community and the world that we seek to reclaim from darkness and despair would benefit so immensely from acknowledging, loving, and getting to know their Mother, how would we facilitate that? Paul enjoins us to put milk before meat, and there are plenty of milky steps to be taken.
First, we could simply start saying our “Heavenly Parents” or “Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother” when we know it is appropriate to do so, just as we say “sons and daughters” and “brethren and sisters” when we know it is right to say so. Our general authorities have been leading out in this endeavor. We have recently been happy beneficiaries of some old weeds being pulled, such as the new change in the Young Women’s theme that now references our Heavenly Parents. How wonderful it would be to hear a talk in general conference about God which explicitly mentions that God is our Heavenly Father and our Heavenly Mother?
Second, it is time for a straight-up Sunday School lesson, not only for adults but also for Young Men and Young Women, about Heavenly Mother, and about Her daughter who is a “type” of Her—Mother Eve. What can we learn about Heavenly Mother by studying the life of Eve, and the courage it took to make the choices she did? What can we learn about the relationship between Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother by studying the equal partnership between Adam and Eve? What mists of darkness are dispelled when we understand that Eve did not sin in the Garden of Eden, but is rather to be praised for her courage and wisdom? And that God did not punish Eve, nor set Adam to “rule over” her?
Third, we can follow the counsel of our general authorities and begin to see, value, and consult with women. The changes in the temple ceremonies have helped to part that veil and restore sight to those who were blinded by the traditions of the fathers which devalued, silenced and even invisibilized women. We can begin our journey to sight by providing better names to those previously invisibilized women, such as “the mission president’s wife.” In this journey, Neylan McBaine’s excellent book Women at Church would make a terrific primer for our efforts.
Fourth, we can make the doctrine that we have a Mother in Heaven part of our regular missionary discussions. There are many—not only women, but also men—who long for and yearn to feel the touch of the divine feminine. That we have a Heavenly Mother is not a peripheral doctrine, and as the darkness of this fallen world becomes ever more confusing, that doctrine assumes in greater clarity its true centrality and importance. Let’s add those additional lumens to the light we offer to the world groaning under the weight of the false traditions of the fathers.
Last, but certainly not least, the best way to promulgate the doctrine that we have a Mother in Heaven is to ask for the further light and knowledge we need to dispel the fear of the unknown. May our prophets, seers, and revelators ask the seemingly tough questions about why Heavenly Mother is not considered part of the godhead, or why/whether one should or should not include Her in our prayers to our Father in Heaven, or how equal partnership works in Heaven. I have a feeling that when the dew of truth distills down from Heaven, we will realize those weren’t tough questions after all, and that we should not have feared.
Truth heals. The truth of the divine feminine will heal many, both in the Church and in the world. It is said that the last shall be first, and the first last; She who was first lost must be found at last for the sake of all the children of God.
Dr. Valerie Hudson Cassler is a University Distinguished Professor and holds the George H. W. Bush Chair at Texas A&M University. A PhD in political science, her professional expertise is in international security, foreign policy, and gender. Dr. Hudson has published extensively on women and security, receiving multiple accolades and national recognition for her work. She has a forthcoming coauthored volume titled, The First Political Order: How Sex Shapes Governance and National Security Worldwide, set to be released through Columbia University Press in 2020.
1 Here’s one Christian commentator: “Clearly, the idea of the “queen of heaven” as the consort or paramour of the King of heaven is idolatrous and unbiblical. There is no queen of heaven. There has never been a queen of heaven. There is most certainly a King of Heaven, the Lord of hosts. He alone rules in heaven. He does not share His rule or His throne or His authority with anyone.” (https://www.gotquestions.org/Queen-of-Heaven.html )
2 Margaret Barker argues that the doctrine of Heavenly Mother was well known to the Israelites in the early period of their kingdoms, and was erased just as many of the plain and precious parts of the doctrine were taken from the scriptures.