Friday, August 29, 2014

MORMONISM'S DIVINE MOTHER GODDESS - PART 1



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This article is Part 1 of 2 that addresses the Mormon belief in a Heavenly Mother who reigns in heaven as God's wife. In my past articles on Mormonism the sequence has been to first address the subject from the Biblical viewpoint and then offer a comparison to Mormon beliefs. But this time I’m reversing the procedure and writing about Mormon beliefs first, and then in Part 2 the biblical perspective.

Why write about this subject? Because the Mormon Church in its attempt to portray its beliefs as Christian continues to believe in a Mrs. God. LDS leaders generally will not talk openly about it because they know it is objectionable to non-Mormons and they are trying to portray their church as Christian. But I'm also writing about it because I know you'll find the subject a fascinating one.


MORMONISM'S DIVINE MOTHER GODDESS 
“To a knowledgeable Mormon the idea [of a Heavenly Mother] is as natural as the doctrine of salvation by grace is to a Christian. It is an integral part of Mormonism.”
(Robert McKayThe Evangel) (1)

This two-part article will cover the following:

            PART I - The Mormon perspective
  1. The Mormon belief in a Mother Goddess in Heaven.
  2. What are the three major reasons why members accept this doctrine?
  3. Reference to the Canaanite Goddess, Asherah as God's wife, offered to teachers of adult Sunday school classes in LDS Wards as “helpful insight.”
  4. How the doctrine developed.
  5. Mormon women admonished not to pray to their Heavenly Mother.
  6. Basic introduction and details about Mrs. God.
  7. Sex in heaven.
  8. Religious sex in ancient religions
  9. Do any other religions today have sexual rites relating to a Mother Goddess?
  10. LDS leaders’ verification of the Mother in Heaven doctrine.
  11. Polygamy (Celestial marriage) in heaven: its purpose.
  12. The consequences to members if the LDS Church repudiates this doctrine.
  13. Why the church needs to cover-up the belief to the public.
  14. Summary of Mormon beliefs in the Heavenly Mother.
PART II (will be posted in approximately one month)
  1. Mother Goddesses in antiquity, specifically Asherah.
  2. How Asherah shifted from being Baal’s wife to Jehovah’s and vice versa.
  3. The claim that Biblical writers and copyists deliberately altered the scriptures to hide the truth about God’s wife.
  4. LDS statements admittedly connecting their Mother Goddess with Asherah.
  5. Other religions today that believe in Mother Goddesses.
  6. What the Bible says about God having a consort, specifically Asherah, the Queen of Heaven.
  7. Summary of the Mormon beliefs in a Heavenly Mother.
  8. Summary of God's biblical warnings and admonitions about Asherah.

PART I

THE MORMON BELIEF IN A MOTHER GODDESS IN HEAVEN

“The stupendous truth of the existence of a Heavenly mother, as well as a Heavenly Father, [has become] established facts in Mormon theology.”
                   (Milton R. Hunter [LDS], First Council of Seventy) (2)

Kevin L. Barney, a Mormon writing for the Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR), an apologetic arm of the LDS Church, in an article, “Do We Have a Mother in Heaven?” answers the question and defines the particulars in three succinct nutshells:

  • “Each of us has a spirit that has an existence apart from our physical bodies.
  • These spirits were not created from nothing (ex Nihilo) at our physical birth, but preexisted our entrance into this world.
  • We are the spirit children of God.
  • Just as our physical bodies were begotten and born by earthly parents, our spirits were [literally] begotten and born by Heavenly parents.(3) [brackets mine]
Mother goddess, one of God's many wives, producing spirit offspring

What are the three major reasons why members accept this doctrine?
Aside from the reason that it is a beautiful concept for members to anticipate that one day they will become Gods and Goddesses and people future worlds with their children, the primary reason that Mormons believe in a Heavenly Mother, states Kevin L. Barney, is (1) because it was revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith and (2) subsequent church leaders have endorsed it. At the same time, Barney admits that the Bible says nothing directly about a Divine Mother.

Mormons compare their Mother in Heaven with Asherah, the Canaanite Goddess
Nevertheless, determined not to let the Bible have the upper hand, Barney uses Old Testament archaeological evidences of the worship of Asherah, the Canaanite wife of Baal and Queen of Heaven, claiming that from the time of Adam, Asherah was originally worshipped as God’s true wife but this fact was deliberately covered up by Bible writers and copyists who falsely attributed Asherah as Baal’s wife instead of Jehovah’s. Why would they do this? To supposedly promote their monotheism.

LDS scholars make a decided connection between their Mother in Heaven and Asherah (more later), including Mormon Fundamentalist, Fred C. Collier who states in his booklet, “The Common Origin of Ancient Hebrew/Pagan Religion and the Demise of the Hebrew Goddess,” that this early knowledge about Asherah being God’s wife was the reason the children of Israel were tempted so often to worship Asherah. They recognized that she had been mated in error to Baal instead of Jehovah.(4)

The true knowledge of God and his consort/wife, Collier claims, was had up until the time of Moses, then taken away because of Israel’s transgressions:

. . . the Prophet Joseph Smith taught that the religion which was originally revealed to Adam and which passed down through the lineage of the Patriarchs was a pure form of Anthropomorphic Polytheism. . . .the Gospel in its fullness was first given to Adam, and passed down through the lineage of the patriarchs, form[sic] Enoch to Noah to Abraham. Hense [sic] . . . the religion of the Patriarchs included Baptism, all the gifts of the Spirit, and the knowledge of Christ, as well as that of our Father and Mother in Heaven and all the coinciding ordinances of the Temple.

It was not until the apostasy of Israel, during their sojourn with Moses in the wilderness, that the Fulness of this Gospel was first taken from the Earth [i.e., baptism, gifts of the spirit, knowledge of Jesus, temple ordinances [LDS], Melchizedek priesthood and knowledge of an anthropomorphic God and his wife]. In other words, it was the Prophet’s [Joseph Smith] view that [at the time of Moses] rather than restoring the Fulness of the Gospel as it was had by the Patriarchs, the Lord at this time took the Fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood out of their midst, and with it the knowledge of God, and left in the stead thereof the Aaronic Priesthood and a carnal law, commonly known as the Law of Moses. Thus, as far as the masses were concerned, the children of Israel remained in darkness, without the whole knowledge of God [and his wife] for thirteen centuries – from Moses to Christ. (5) [underlining, paragraphing, and brackets mine]

Mormon scholars claim that in the secret circles of Solomon's temple, Asherah was revealed as the true consort of the God Yahwey.
The common understanding among Mormon scholars is that the knowledge of God’s true consort was restored in the secretive, ritualistic circles of Solomon’s temple but was eventually lost again. God then restored it through Joseph Smith. Lay members, however, only maintain the general belief that their present-day temple rituals were the same as those practiced in Solomon’s temple but do not specifically focus on the assertion that the doctrine of Asherah, the Heavenly wife was had in the Solomonic rituals.

Mormons claim that Jewish writers tampered with the scriptures to hide Asherah in order to promote their monotheism. 
Like other LDS scholars, Collier makes the claim that the reason the KJV Old Testament does not indicate this “truth” about God and his wife is because of deliberate tampering by Jewish writers and copyists who left out many references to her. He also correctly mentions that Asherah was represented by sacred trees, sacred groves (where sexual rituals took place), and wooden poles similar to totem poles. (More about the sacred trees and groves in Part II.) He says:

It is regrettable that most of the references to sacred trees [that represented Asherah, God’s wife] have been obscured in the King James translation. This is because the King James Version was based on the Masoretic Text which was tampered with by Jewish interpreters in an effort to remove the implication of Asherah worship. (Collier. Ibid, p. 27) [brackets mine]

To accuse the writers and copyists of the Bible of deliberately altering the scriptures to discredit the supposed truth that Asherah is God’s wife so they could be promote their monotheism is absurd because there are plenty of references to Asherah, the Queen of Heaven and her sacred groves still in the KJV. (BTW, God said to Moses in Exodus 34:13 to specifically destroy the Asherah images and “cut down their groves.” The NLT says “cut down their Asherah poles.”)

The biblical copyists would never have purposely done that. One need only consider how they viewed the texts that were handed down to them. The scriptures to them were absolutely sacred and contained God’s holy Word. They would not have dared purposely change anything. They tried to be as accurate as they could—in fact, they had to copy the scriptural texts onto lengthy, forty-five-foot scrolls and if found to have even made one mistake they had to start all over with a new forty-five foot scroll! They took their work very seriously.

Reference to the Canaanite Goddess, Asherah, as God's wife offered to teachers of adult Sunday school classes in LDS Wards as “helpful insights” to the Book of Mormon.


Old Testament Israelite cutting down Asherah Pole in obedience to God forbidding its worship.
(more about Asherah poles and trees in Part 2)

The adult Sunday school (SS) teachers in local wards go by an authorized manual to teach from. FAIR (the apologetic arm of the LDS Church), offers “Helpful Insights” on their site related to SS lesson topics that teachers can access.(6)

Lesson 3 in the current LDS SS lesson manual is “The Vision of the Tree of Life,” referring to Nephi’s dream in 1 Nephi 11 in the Book of Mormon. Nephi doesn’t know what the tree represents, so he asks and the “Spirit of the Lord, or “spirit guide,” tells him. FAIR’s “helpful insights” point out that the tree is associated with the “Mother” of the Son of God. “Tree” of course, is significant because Asherah is always represented as a tree and also viewed as “Mother.”

FAIR provides the SS teacher with the following information, but to avoid violation of FAIR’S copyright by quoting it word-for-word, I am paraphrasing the content:

            King Josiah, in his reform, cleared the temple of all symbols of divine figures except that of
Yahwey (Jehovah), which included the common presence in the temple of a carving of a tree on a wooden pole that represented the goddess Asherah, the consort of Yahweh. She was part of the worship in the Solomon temple for two-thirds of the temple’s existence. The answer Nephi’s guide give him in 1 Nephi 11:18 on what the tree in his dream represents is that it is to be associated with “the mother of the Son of God.” [paraphrased]

Why was the tree associated with Mary?
To clarify this, FAIR recommends the essay by Daniel C. Peterson, “Nephi and His Asherah: A Note on 1 Nephi 11:8-23.”(7)

Peterson says that the question about the meaning of the tree lies in the dream’s depiction of the virginal mother of the divine Jesus, saying that “the virgin is the tree.” Then he anticipates the question of how the tree can possibly have any connection between Asherah and the virginal mother of Jesus. His explanation is that it is because Nephi’s vision is definitely making reference the “sacred tree” mentioned in the Bible depicting the ancient Canaanite and Israelite associations with the Asherah tree.

(By the way, if Joseph Smith had access to the “Coptic Apocalypse of Paul” [an apocryphal document originating in Egypt in the mid 3rd century AD, not to be confused with the other Apocalypse of Paul], one can see the similarities between Nephi’s vision of the virgin and Tree of Life and Paul’s vision of the virgin and Tree of Life depicted in the Apocalypse.)

FAIR’s “helpful insights” also suggest an interesting, but scholarly, article entitled, “Does God Have a Wife?” by Alyson Skabelund Von Feldt. (8) There is also an interesting blog, “Lehi’s Library,” that has a commentary on Asherah. (See this endnote for the URL)(9)

With FAIR, LDS scholars and lay writers emphasizing that the tree in Nephi’s dream ties in with the “Divine Mother” image which also ties in to Asherah being Jehovah’s wife, it naturally reinforces the Mormon belief that (1) God has a wife, and (2) in the Old Testament Asherah was his true wife, not Baal’s.

I found it rather curious that every time LDS writers try to prove their point that Asherah was/is God’s true wife, they blast the reformer Kings of Israel who ousted the Asherah images from the temple (they were the righteous Kings whom God really approved of) and they exalt the bad Israelite kings who kept bringing the Asherah poles and images back into the temple as if they were the good guys. Go figure.

Caution: Please be aware that the average Mormon in his or her belief about a Heavenly Mother is probably unfamiliar with the LDS Asherah connection to Nephi’s Tree of Life or as the name of God’s consort—unless they have heard it in a SS lesson. Further, not all adult SS teachers go to FAIR’s website to look for these “helpful insights,” and may be totally unaware of the LDS scholars assertion about the Asherah connection between the Mormon’s Mother in Heaven and Nephi’s Tree of Life dream.

How the Mormon doctrine developed
The earliest account for the doctrine of a Mother in Heaven occurred in 1839. Joseph Smith, consoling Zina Diantha Huntington in the death of her mother, told her:
Not only would she know her mother again on the other side, [but] more than that, you will meet and become acquainted with your eternal Mother, the wife of your Father in Heaven.
When Zina expressed surprise that she had a Mother in Heaven, he told her:
You assuredly have. How could a Father claim His title unless there were also a Mother to share that parenthood?”(10)
Smith taught the same doctrine to one of his plural wives, Eliza R. Snow, who in 1845 wrote a poem which became the text for the hymn, “O My Father,” still to be found in Mormon hymnals: In part, it reads:

            In the heavens are parents single?
            No; the thought makes reason stare!
            Truth is reason, truth eternal
            Tells me I’ve a Mother there.

            When I leave this frail existence,
            When I lay this mortal by,
            Father, Mother, may I meet you
            In your royal courts on High?(11)

The fourth LDS president, Wilford Woodruff, “claimed that the hymn was a revelation from God and it was seconded by later LDS President Joseph F. Smith.”(12)

However, even before Eliza penned her poem, the concept was already being promulgated. W. W. Phelps, in a hymn composed for the dedication of the Seventies Hall in Nauvoo, Illinois in Dec. 1844, wrote this couplet:

Come to me; here’s the myst’ry that man hath not seen: Here’s our Father in heaven, and Mother, the Queen. (13)

Mormon women admonished not to pray to their Heavenly Mother
Mormon women today are cautioned not to pray to their Heavenly Mother. However, there are members who admit to this, insisting they want to establish a relationship with her. The following is an example:

In a 1974 letter to the editor of the LDS journal, Dialogue, an LDS lady said she prayed to her Heavenly Mother and said that she [the heavenly mother] responded, saying that “little was known about her because the men had never bothered to ask.”(14) [brackets mine]

As a result, Pres Hinckley prohibited members from praying to her, calling it “inappropriate,” and adding that “the fact that we do not pray to our Mother in heaven in no way belittles or denigrates her.”(15) His statement was interpreted by some Mormons as a “gag order.”(16) Other leaders have validated the injunction by calling it “sacred silence,” the reason being to “avoid drawing attention to her and to preserve the sacredness of her existence.”(17)

Fundamentalist, Fred C. Collier was quick to pick up on this:

[A]ncient Israel found themselves in the same situation that the [LDS] Church is in today. They knew that God was married and that His wife was Asherah, but it was forbidden to acknowledge Her existence through prayer or any form of ritual worship. (18)[brackets mine]

Some feel that President Hinckley’s statement smacked of the male priesthood ego in the church that wants to diminish the significance of women and keep them silent, rather than preserving the sacredness of the Heavenly Mother’s status.

Nevertheless, Hinckley’s “gag order” did not diminish among members. Author, Elaine A. Cannon, in a BYU article entitled, “Mother in Heaven,” states that: “Today the belief in a living Mother in Heaven is implicit in Latter-day Saint thought.”(19)

Because of the kibosh on praying to their Heavenly Mother, members, while still believing, are somewhat reluctant to talk about Mrs. God publicly. A Wikipedia article under the heading, "Controversy around Sacred Silence," notes that members view any mention of Heavenly Mother as "treading on forbidden ground," especially in view of the fact that the church disciplined feminists like Lynne Kanavel Whitesides, Maxine Hanks, Janice Alred and Margaret Toscano.(20)

But despite the shhh place on the doctrine, it continues to persist, as historian Linda Wilcox says, as “a shadowy and elusive belief floating around the edges of Mormon consciousness."(21)

In recent years it has raised the ire of LDS women’s advocacy groups. In a May 9, 2011 article, “Is Heavenly Mother Making a Comeback in Mormonism?” Joanna Brooks wrote:

New evidence suggests that the taboo might finally be easing. Research funded by the BYU Women's Research Institute and published this year in the journal BYU Studies reviewed more than 600 references to Heavenly Mother in Mormon discourse since 1844. "Most Mormons believe that discourse about Heavenly Mother is forbidden or inappropriate," write study authors David Paulson and Martin Pulido, a misperception the authors soundly dispel by demonstrating that it has no basis in Mormon history of doctrine.
LDS women's advocacy groups are also making notable efforts to heighten awareness of the female divine, and some Mormons are reporting an uptick in Mother-in-Heaven references of the pulpit last weekend--it being Mother's Day, and all. Is Heavenly Mother making a comeback in Mormonism? Here's hoping.(22) 

Basic introduction and details about Mrs. God

Mormons believe that the man presently acting as our Heavenly Father was once a mortal on a previous world who earned his godhood by faithful service in an LDS-like Church, advanced in the priesthood and married in the temple. 

When the resurrection occurred for that world, he and his wife were exalted to Godhood and Goddesshood (plus his other polygamous wives). He became a Heavenly Father, “King and Priest” (in keeping with the terms used in the LDS temple ceremony); his wife, a Heavenly Mother, “Queen and Priestess.” 

The Heavenly Mother may have had the name of Agnes Jones, the man, Richard Smith, in their previous mortal world, but now they are known as Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father. The goal for present-day Mormon men and women is the same.

Verification comes from Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie:

. . . man will become as the Father is now, and the woman will become as God the Mother.(23)
The sole objective of this planet’s God, his wife and plural wives, (more later) is to procreate and produce “spirit children.” These children will go down to earth, and through the process of physical birth enter the bodies of human babies. 

But hold on! There's one fly in the ointment in believe that God and his wives produce "spirit" children who have no physical body yet.

God issued a command at creation that each should produce after its own kind, e.g., a fish can only produce a fish, chickens only chickens, humans only humans. In other words, a donkey and an elephant cannot produce a “donkeyphant.” However, in Mormon theology God appears to violate this command. As a resurrected man of flesh and bones with wives of like makeup, how is it they can only produce “spirit” children having no flesh and bones as they do? I leave that one to the Mormon theologians to wrestle with.

Sex in heaven
Mormons thoroughly understand that God’s process of producing his “spirit” children is through sexual intercourse
Through his wives he will beget millions of spirit children destined to gain physical bodies on planet earth.

And yes—just in case you’re wondering—Mormon procreation by God and his wives is meant to be literal. It is not a metaphorical concept. One might be tempted to think otherwise because ancient religions indulged in physical enactments of sex to express mystical concepts. But this is not the case with Mormonism. The Mormon concept of a copulating male and female God is taken literally by the LDS Church. It is the only way, in Mormon thinking, that any kind of birth, including spiritual births through God and his wives, can take place.


John Heeren, et al, in “The Mormon Concept of Mother in Heaven,” stated:

Just as male mortals need females to provide tabernacles for waiting spirits, so Heavenly Father, being of ‘body, parts, and passions,’ requires a Mother for spirit procreation.(24)

LDS expounders offer the logical necessity of a God having a wife because marriage between a man and woman was the pattern God set in Genesis when he made male and female in his own image (also indicating there was a female Goddess present)—and because LDS theology states that members can only be exalted to Godhood as married pairs. Therefore, states John Heeren, et al, in their essay, The Mormon Concept of Mother in Heaven, “God, as an exalted man, must [also] be married.”(25)

What does the phrase "continuation of the seed" mean?
“Continuation of the seed” is the term Joseph Smith coined for Celestial marriage and having sex and producing children in heaven. To emphasize that sacred sex is indeed the highest practice of the gods, early LDS Church leaders taught that Mary, the mother of Jesus, became impregnated not by the Holy Ghost but by God Himself, who came down and had relations with her; thus, making Jesus literally God’s begotten son.

To reiterate this belief, Bruce R. McConkie states:
(This) is to be understood literally. Only means only, Begotten means begotten; and Son means son. Christ was begotten by an Immortal Father in the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers.”(26)
This is, of course, in direct contradiction to the scripture, Matt. 1:18, 20. “When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost . . . for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.”

Other LDS Church presidents and leaders have reiterated the role of God in fathering Jesus:

Brigham Young said:
“Now, remember from this time forth and forever, Jesus Christ was not begotten by the Holy Ghost.”(27)

Joseph Fielding Smith declared:
“Christ was begotten of God. He was not born without the aid of Man, and that Man was God!”(28)
Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr., the son of the 10th prophet of the church, said in his book,         Religious Truths Defined:

“The birth of the Savior was a natural occurrence unattended with any degree of mysticism, and the Father God was the literal parent of Jesus in the flesh as well as in the spirit.(29)

Sex is dominant in all pagan religions
In the high rituals of pagan religions religious sex is always considered the ultimate expression. In The Satanic Bible, Anton Szandor LaVey states:
The highest plateau of human development is the awareness of the flesh (p. 81) [and in the temple ritual] woman is the altar . . . because she is the natural passive receptor and represents the earth mother.”(30) [brackets mine]
Phallic images, a fertility symbol, usually dominate pagan religions. LaVey claims that the Catholic Church demoted the pagan fertility symbol of the phallus to the “holy water sprinkler. You can also find phallic images in Nepal and India. The article in the endnote of this paragraph gives more detail and also spells out what it believes the Western world’s (U.S.) depictions of the image are, which I’ll let you read for yourself and decide.”(31)

Ancient religions practiced sexual rituals. It occurred in the Greek religions and was viewed as a “state of inspired exaltation” as described in Julius Evola’s book, “The Metaphysics of Sex.” There were also sexual practices in ancient Rome, particularly the Roman Bacchic Cult; also in Pompeii; the Hunga empire in Japan; the Dionysian mysteries and the Gnostic rituals during the New Testament period. In Asian countries, within Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto and Taoism, such as in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Japan and China, erotic art has a spiritual meaning.

Mormonism has not been left out. Fundamentalist Fred C. Collier claimed to have acquired unauthorized copies of documents that were smuggled in and out of the LDS Church archives, particularly documents pertaining to the temple ceremony. In a letter to me, dated July 12, 1986, he told me that the sealing altar in the Salt Lake temple was originally covered with phallic symbols and when present day leaders discovered one (I believe he said in a storage room or attic), they had it removed.

The Second Endowment in the Mormon temple engaged in sex between husband and wife
Collier added that sexual activity was probably engaged in the second part of the LDS temple ordinance called the Second Anointing (or Second Endowment), where a woman makes her final covenant to be sealed to her husband forever. He said that in this ordinance, sex was considered “properly indulged in,” and “sexual intercourse in the temple was considered as an act of worship on the part of a woman for her God.” The woman worships her husband in this manner because she understands that in heaven he will be her God.

The Second Endowment is no longer practiced by the general membership but thought to be practiced by the General Authorities, although there is no proof. (See my articleThe Mormon Temple Ceremony.” Click on “Articles” on dashboard.)

False religions have usually incorporated sex into their religious rituals, so it is not surprising that it is emphasized in Mormonism. In early LDS temple rituals it was believed to have actually taken place as part of the marriage ceremony but in LDS temples today it is not indulged in except, perhaps, in the Second Endowment.

Do any religions today have sexual rites relating to a Mother Goddess?
The only two I’m aware of, although I’m sure there are more, is Satanism and WICCA (Witches International Coven Counsel Association). WICCA practices sexual rituals in their “Great Rite” to symbolize creation in the union of the Maiden Goddess with the Lover God. (Some Wiccans worship a pantheistic Mother Goddess; others are polytheistic (many goddesses), some duotheists (God and Goddess) and others, monotheists (God and Goddesses representing an unknowable Source) [more in Part II]

Verification of the doctrine of a Mother in Heaven by LDS leaders
Apostle Erastus Snow, teaching in part on the anthropomorphic concept of God at a Quarterly Conference on May 31, 1885, said:
Now, it is not said in so many words in the Scriptures, that we have a Mother in heaven as well as a Father. It is left for us to infer this from what we see and know of all living things in the earth including man . . . Hence when it is said that God created our first parents in His likeness¾it is intimated in language sufficiently plain to my understanding that the male and female principle was present with the gods as it is with men.(32)
In 1909, the First Presidency under President Joseph F. Smith confirmed the concept of heavenly parents:

. . . man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father,” as an “offspring of celestial parentage . . . and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity.(33)

The late President of the Church, Gordon B. Hinckley, acknowledged in 1991:

Logic and reason would certainly suggest that if we have a Father in Heaven, we have a Mother in Heaven. That doctrine rests well with me.(34)

In 2005, the First Presidency and Council of Twelve stated:

All human beings¾male and female¾are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.(35)

Bruce R. McConkie, in his book, Mormon Doctrine, stated:

Spirits are actually born as the offspring of a Heavenly Father, a glorified and exalted man.(36)
Implicit in the Christian verity that all men are the spirit children of an Eternal Father is the usually unspoken truth that they are also the offspring of an Eternal Mother.(37) 

This doctrine that there is a Mother in Heaven was affirmed in plainness by the First Presidency of the Church (Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund) when, in speaking of pre-existence and the origin of man, they said that 'man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Fathter,' that man is the 'offspring of celestial parentage,' and that 'all men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity.' (The quote from First Presidency is taken from Man: His Origin and Destiny, pp 348-355. Cited in McConkie, Mormon Doctrine) (50)

Mormon, Theodore M. Burton, in a 1995 speech in Taiwan entitled, “Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice,” announced:
The Chinese tradition of respect for one’s father has its origin in the Fatherhood of God, who is the father of our spirits. We are spirit children of God the Eternal Father. There cannot be a father in heaven without a mother. So our spirits were created by a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother. The Chinese tradition of respect for one’s earthly mother then is also based on a divine truth.(38)
In 1995, the belief was reiterated by the late President Gordon B. Hinckley:

[Each person is a] “spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents.”(39)

That we have "Heavenly Parents" was also affirmed by the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles in the Ensign, the official magazine for the church, in Nov. 1995, entitled: "Proclamation on the Famil." 

The idea of an anthropomorphic God and Heavenly Mother probably shocks you. But the LDS Church goes a step further¾God doesn’t just have one wife, he’s polygamous!

Polygamy (Celestial marriage) in heaven: its purpose
There will be polygamy in heaven for all LDS men and women who sufficiently tow the line in the church. Joseph Fielding Smith stated:

Is it not feasible to believe that female spirits were created in the image of a ‘Mother in Heaven?’”(40)

Because of this belief, Mormon men in this life may be sealed (married) in the LDS temple to more than one wife; however, not at the same time. It is usually after a wife has died or there has been a valid civil divorce that the man can remarry a second wife in the temple. In heaven, he will have both wives (unless he was issued a “temple divorce from one of the wives.”).

When I was a member, the undercurrent of thought was that a man could have no more than a thousand wives, but he had to have at least a quorum of three to become a God. Mormon Fundamentalists state that a quorum of three is rudimentary, five is medium, but for the highest quorum, seven and sometimes twelve are required. The more wives, the greater the heavenly exaltation for the husband and his wives.

The logic in having more than one wife in heaven
The logic for God having more than one wife in heaven is this: It would take God too long to produce spirit children fast enough with only one wife. Therefore, single females in a God’s prior earthly world, who were unfortunate not to be married, are given as plural wives to those men who become Gods. These plural wives then become Goddesses and Heavenly Mothers, to stand along side their God-husband. As part of God’s harem they will spend eternity giving birth to millions of spirit children. (All I can say is, Whew!) 

Mormons who understand this doctrine also understand that while God the father was the literal father of their spirit in the pre-existence, they may all have different mothers because of the polygamous factor.

Plurality of wives still a commandment
“The practice of celestial marriage, including plurality of wives, was commanded,” states Bruce McConkie, and is considered a serious commandment for members. This is why it remains in the church’s Doctrine and Covenants, Section 132. They anticipate practicing it not only in heaven, but also during the Millennium when Christ turns his kingdom over to the LDS Church. Many single women during that time will be sealed (married) to already-married men.(41)

The LDS Student Review states:
“. . male Latter-day Saints may be sealed to more than one wife.” . . . “If any of these polygymous (sic) men gain exaltation with two or more wives, he will be a heavenly father with plural heavenly mothers as his companions.”(42)

Orson Pratt stated:
“We have now clearly shown that God the Father had a plurality of wives . . . by whom He begat our spirits.”(43)
The reality of the problem
Unfortunately, the first wife of Mormon men will have to put up with their God-husband having relations with hundreds of other women. While a Mormon woman today may publicly glorify this “wonderful principle,” in private it is often another matter. Some women bemoan the fact that besides the jealousy issue, he’ll be so busy he won’t have any quality time to spend with them.

When I was in the LDS church, a wife of one of the Bishopric came to my home in bitter tears. She sat in my living room sobbing, telling me that she was so in love with her husband that she could not bear the thought of sharing him in eternity. I’m sure other LDS wives struggle with this.

Knowing that women naturally have a problem with this, leaders in the Relief Society continually encourage them by promoting the beauty of the doctrine and liken them to the role of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mary Foulger of the General Board said:

We stand in awe at Mary’s assignment to be the mother of the Lord, but we, too, have been called to be mother gods.(44)

Right now, because God and his wives are still busy producing spirit children, Mormon women are told three things:
  1. Have as many babies as you can, so as to provide physical tabernacles for them.
  2. You will be ensuring that Heavenly Father’s spirit children will be born into families who belong to the “only true church” instead of going into irreligious or Christian families.
  3. By having a large family here on earth, you are practicing the privileges of Goddesshood.
Because of the mandate it is not unusual for LDS wives to suffer considerable guilt if they do not live up to the Church’s admonition to produce. The church, however, does say that an exception is when the mother’s health is at risk.

“Eternal pregnancy” is the name of the game. Mormon women, say Rick and Carmen Branch, “will be pregnant, giving birth to one spirit child, then another, then another, ad infinitum.”(45)

In the Family Home Evening Resource Book, President Joseph Fielding Smith said:

There is no end to this development; it will go on forever. We will become gods and have jurisdiction over worlds, and these worlds will be peopled by our own offspring. We will have an endless eternity for this.(46)

The consequences to members if the LDS Church ever reputiated this doctrine to its members
If the church ever denied the belief of a Heavenly Mother, the membership would go into a tailspin. Why?

There are six reasons:
  1. If there is no Mother in Heaven that means God is no longer their literal Father. He can’t be because as a man of flesh and bones he would be unable to produce children by himself.
  2. They would lose their sense of identity in being a literal spiritual offspring of God.
  3. Members would have to deny their belief that they have their Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother’s “divinity” flowing through their spiritual veins.
  4. Women would no longer anticipate their eternal destiny in heaven. Specifically, they would lose any sense of significance and self-worth gained in the church because their future as a glorified baby-maker is all they have had in a system ruled by a patriarchy.
  5. For the men, they would obviously have nothing to look forward to in a heaven with no plural wives or the ability to produce offspring and populate a new future earth.
  6. If no marriage in heaven, then temple marriage would no longer have any meaning.
Denial of a Mother in Heaven by the LDS Church would topple everything and produce serious, serious repercussions. (More detail in my article, “Is the Mormon Church Turning Christian?” Click on “Archived Articles” on dashboard.)

Why the church needs to cover up the belief to the public
The LDS Church can never repudiate this doctrine to its members because early church Presidencies officially declared a Mother in Heaven. Therefore, denying it would devastate members. If LDS leaders realize they can't come out and deny it, they must somehow cover it up to the public by acting vague on the subject and not have it taught in the local wards.

Why? Because the church’s objective is to gain converts by convincing the world that they are Christian, and their belief in a Mother goddess would certainly convince the world to the contrary—especially those from Christian backgrounds.

So, how do they do this without denying the belief outright? When pressed in interviews, spokesmen use carefully manipulated words and phrases (double-speak) to give the impression they don’t believe it. Members understand and accept this “heavenly lying.” They feel it is necessary to protect a sacred concept.

Mormon leaders instruct members to keep mum about the doctrine
Tour guides on Temple Square, as well as missionaries, are instructed not to say anything about the belief. Neither are local teachers in the Wards. Teachers of adult Sunday school classes must prevent any possible shock to investigators or new members who may be attending. Church leaders contribute to this caution by carefully editing out from their lesson manuals all controversial doctrines such as the Mother in Heaven. The rule now for teachers in the wards is to totally stick with the manual and not deviate or offer extemporaneous comments about long-standing, non-Christian doctrines. This has proved frustrating to many of the teachers. Mormon, Ken Driggs is an example:

For a long time, I taught the Gospel Principles class in my ward. One Sunday we sang a hymn in sacrament meeting that referred to our Mother in Heaven, Eliza R. Snow’s O My Father"In heav’n are parents single? . . . No, the thought makes reason stare! . . . Truth is reason; truth eternal . . . tells me I’ve a mother there."  The manual touched on family that Sunday, and I mentioned the Heavenly Mother in my lesson. I did not see this belief as heretical. Rather, it was something I had been taught all my life. After class a furious missionary scolded me for bringing this up, for "not teaching from the manual." Apparently an investigator had been in class and freaked out at the reference.(48)

While a divine heavenly Mother is a tantalizing and seductive concept, the one hitch for seriously considering it as valid, rests in two cautions:

  1. The belief can only be found in pagan religions (those religions contrary to the faith and beliefs of the Old Testament prophets and teachings of the New Testament).
  2. God consistently condemned it, and chastised Israel when they believed in the female Heavenly Mother Goddess, specifically the Canaanite goddess, Asherah. (Covered more fully in Part II)
To wrap up Part I, here is a summary.

Summary of what Mormons believe. (Remember, in October, Part 2 will cover the biblical perspective)

  • The Mormon God, a resurrected man from a previous world, is our present Heavenly Father. He, along with his many goddess wives, are producing the spirits of babies born on earth. They accomplish this production physically, in the same manner as husband and wives do here.
  • Members will one day earn and achieve their own Godhood. Men will become Gods with a plurality of wives, and the women will be their Mother Goddess consorts and spend eternity giving birth to spirit children.
  • LDS scholars and apologists use the idolatrous worship of Asherah to validate their belief in a Divine Mother.
  • LDS understanding is that the true knowledge about God having a consort was originally given to Adam and was included in the first set of Moses’ stone tablets  (the higher law). But in the second set of tablet, when Israel sinned by worshipping the golden calf, it was purposefully omitted because of their unworthiness and only the Ten Commandments were given (the lesser law).
  • Knowledge of God and his consort Asherah was known in the beginning and also secretly known in the inner ritualistic circles of Solomon’s temple, but then lost again. It was restored through Joseph Smith.
  • The Bible’s failure to show Asherah as Jehovah’s true consort was due to a deliberate cover-up by Bible writers and copyists who falsely attributed God’s wife to Baal instead of Jehovah, in order to promote their monotheism.
  • The church cannot officially repudiate the doctrine because it was officially declared by previous church presidencies and could also cause serious devastation with members who believe it.
This concludes Part I.

DON'T MISS PART II 
 (in approximately 1 month)

PART II will cover the following (maybe more
  • Mother Goddesses in antiquity, specifically Asherah.
  • How Asherah shifted from being Baal’s wife to Jehovah’s and vice versa.
  • The claim that Biblical writers and copyists deliberately altered the scriptures to hide the truth about God’s wife.
  • LDS statements admittedly connecting their Mother Goddess with Asherah.
  • Other religions today that believe in Mother Goddesses.
  • What the Bible says about God having a consort, specifically Asherah, the Queen of Heaven.
  • Summary of the Mormon beliefs in a Heavenly Mother.
  • Summary of God’s Biblical warnings and admonitions about Asherah.

Until next time, (If you enjoyed this article, please click the share buttons)


Janis

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FOOTNOTES
1.  Robert McKay, “A Mother in Heaven,” The Evangel, Oct. 1986, last page.
2.  Milton R. Hunter, First Council of Seventy, The Gospel Through the Ages, 1958, p. 98. Cited in Jerald and Sandra Tanner’s, Mormonism – Shadow or Reality? 1972, p. 164-165.
3.  Www.fairlds.orgKevin L. Barney, "Do We Have a Mother in Heaven?" (Mesa, Arizona: FAIR, 27 June 2001)
4.  “The Common Origin of Ancient Hebrew/Pagan Religion and the Demise of the Hebrew Goddess.” Doctrine of the Prieshood, Feb. 1991, SLC, Ut Vol. 8 No. 2. See also www.zianet.com/collier/goddess.htm.
5.  “The Common Origin of Ancient Hebrew/Pagan Religion and the Demise of the Hebrew Goddess. Doctrine of the Prieshood, Feb. 1991, SLC, Ut Vol. 8 No. 2. See also www.zianet.com/collier/goddess.htm.
6.  Fair Study Aids/Gospel Doctrine/Book of Mormon/Lesson Three. http://tinyurl.com/csjxzkx
7.  Essay in Mormons, Scripture and the Ancient World: Studies in Honor of John L. Sorenson, edited by Davis Bitton (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1998) ISBN 0934893314. Article can be read in full at http://tinyurl.com/6kds8x.
8.  “Does God Have a Wife? By Alyson Skabelund Von Feldt at http://tinyurl.com/d9v5bsx
10.  Susa Young Gates, “Eliza R. Snow Smith,” History of the Young Ladies’ Mutual
Improvement Association of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from November 1869 to June 1910 (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1911), 15-16.
11. Times and Seasons 6, (15 November 1845), 1039.
12. “Prayers to Heavenly Mother Still Plague LDS Church. The Evangel, Aug. 1992, p. 1.
13.  W.W. Phelps, “Come to Me,” Times and Seasons 6 (15 January 1845), 783.
14.  Linda Wilcox, “The Mormon Concept of a Mother in Heaven,” in Women and Authority: Re-emerging Mormon Feminism, ed., Maxine Hanks (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1992). Available (at least in June 2006) at http://tinyurl.com/c9kpy6o Cited in “The Heavenly Mother by Marilyn Stewart, The Evangel, Jan-Feb 2007, p. 8.
15. “Mormons Counseled Against Praying to ‘Mother in Heaven.” The Evangel, Dec. 1991, p. 10. Pres. Hicnkley’s quote is from his article in the Ensign, “Daughters of God.” (Nov. 1991), 97.
16.   “Mormons Counseled Against Praying to ‘Mother in Heaven.” The Evangel, Dec. 1991, p. 10.
18.  (Collier. Op cit. p. 39)
19. http://tinyurl.com/cly6l7t Elaine Cannon reiterates this information as author of the encyclopedia entry in: Encyclopedia of Mormonism, vol. 2, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillian, 1992), s.v. "Mother in Heaven."
21.  Wilcox, Linda P. "The Mormon Concept of a Mother in Heaven." In Sisters in Spirit, ed. Maureen U. Beecher and Lavina F. Anderson. Urbana, Ill., 1987. Also  in Women and Authority: Re-emerging Mormon Feminism, ed. Maxine Hanks (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1992), 3–21.
23.  The Ensign, May 1975, p. 43.
24.  “The Mormon Concept of Mother in Heaven: A Sociological Account of Its Origins and Development, by John Heeren, Donald B. Lindsey, Marylee Mason, (Journal for the scientific study of religion, Vol. 23, Issue 4, Dec. 1984, p. 407.
25.  See “The Mormon Concept of Mother in Heaven: A Sociological Account of Its Origins and Development” by John Heeren, Donald B. Lindsey, Marylee Mason, (Journal for the scientific study of religion, Vol. 23, Issue 4, Dec. 1984, p. 397.) 
26.  Mormon Doctrine, 1979 ed., pp. 546-47
27.  Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 51. Cited in Jerald and Sandra Tanner’s Salt Lake City Messenger, Feb. 1991, p. 13.
28.  Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, p. 18. Cited in Jerald and Sandra Tanner’s Salt Lake City Messenger, Feb. 1991, p. 13.
29.  Religious Truths Defined, p. 44. Cited in Jerald and Sandra Tanner’s Salt Lake City Messenger, Feb. 1991, p. 13.
30.  Anton Szandor LaVey, The Satanic Bible, p. 119,131.
32.  Journal of Discourses, 26:214.
33.  First Presidency (Joseph F. Smith, John P. Winder and Anthon H. Lund), “The Origin of Man,” Improvement Era 13 (November 1909): 80. Cited in endnote No. 1. Cited in Bruce R. McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine, p. 516.
34.  Gordon B. Hinckley, “Daughters of God,” Ensign 21 (Nov. 1991), 100. Cited in endnote No. 1.
35.  Message given at the General Relief Society Meeting held September 23, 1995, in Salt Lake City, Utah. See http://tinyurl.com/qgo1. (Italics mine)
36.  Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1979 ed., p. 750.
37.  Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1979 ed. p. 516
38.  “Come Listen to the Prophet’s Voice,” Theodore M. Burton. Speech given August 13, 1975, typed copy, p. 1. Cited in The Evangel, August 2004, p. 5.
39.  President Gordon B. Hinckley, The Family: A Proclamation to the World.
40.  Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 3:144. Cited in “Our Mother Which Art in Heaven? by Rick and Carmen Branch, The Evangel, August 2004, Vol. LI, No. 8.
41.  Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine1979 ed. p. 52.
42.  The LDS Student Review, Nov. 20, 1991, pg. 13. Cited in, “Heavenly Mothers,” in The Evangel, June 1992. Unsure if page 7 is correct page number for the latter.
43.   “The Mormon Concept of Mother in Heaven: A Sociological Account of Its Origins and Development, by John Heeren, Donald B. Lindsey, Marylee Mason, (Journal for the scientific study of religion, Vol. 23, Issue 4, Dec. 1984, p. 397. Italics mine.
44.  The Ensign, November 1980, p. 105. Cited in The Evangel, August 2004, p. 6.
45.  Rick and Carmen Branch, “Our Mother Which Art in Heaven?” The Evangel, Aug. 2004, p. 6.
46.  Family Home Evening: Resource Book, 1983 ed. P. 4. Cited in “Our Mother Which Art in Heaven?” by Rick and Carmen Branch, The Evangel, August 2004, Vol. LI, No. 7.
47.  Purposely left blank.
48.  "A New Future Requires a New Past."[1] Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 41, No. 2, Summer 2008), 75. Italics mine.
49.  Cited in "A Mormon mystery returns: Who is Heavenly Mother?" by Peggy Fletcher Stack in the Salt Lake Tribune May 16, 2013.
50.  Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1966, p. 516.

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