This is the fifth post in our series on Mother in Heaven.
Click here to link to the pevious four essays.
Once upon a time, I sat in homes and cafes with Mormon women in Vienna, Austria for hours at a time, interviewing them about their lives in general, and their experiences and beliefs concerning the church more specifically. I did this for a few reasons: The first being that I loved these women, and wanted to spend time with them before I bid the Continent adieu. The second being a project I believed in, which was started at my school by Claudia Bushman, called “The Mormon Women Oral History Project.” The project set out simply (albeit radically) to let Mormon women speak their own histories, and to record them and transcribe them. (I wrote a bit more about my experience at The Exponent blog, and others wrote more for Kofford Books.)
Among the questions I asked, and the answers I listened to, there was one that resonated with me so deeply, that it was sometimes difficult to initiate. As the question approached, my heart (and/or the butterflies therein) fluttered with equal amounts anticipation and fear. On brave days I pronounced the question as it was written, “What is your conception of Heavenly Mother?” And then I sat in silence until the woman spoke, all the while understanding the boldness behind the query, and the corresponding assumption that the interviewee did have a concept of her Mother in Heaven, that was just waiting to be teased out. On less brave days I broke the silence myself, with a softer, less presumptive, question, “Or, do you have a conception of Heavenly Mother?”
I found out that many of the women did, but not all. Some expressed a desire to know more. Some expressed theories on why we do not. Some were satisfied with their supposed reasons. Others were not. Then one, one shared the most beautiful thing about Heavenly Mother that I have ever come across, notwithstanding four (funded-by-BYU) months of full-time research.
It concerned a personal, revelatory experience in a temple. The woman sat inside the space we call most holy, on a day that she felt immense pain, and immense frustration with her husband. After a time, her pain reflection was broken up: she felt God speak to her. In her anger and frustration, she said, “No. I don’t want to speak to you. I want to speak to Mother.” And then my friend felt/heard something else. “She’s here.” Like when you are in college and you call home before the time of cellphones, and your dad answers, but you need to talk to your mom. Your dad goes and gets her, and sometimes stays on the line too. It was like that for this woman. She felt them both, and knew that they were both listening and that they both care. And because her Heavenly Mother was there, she could speak, in honesty and openness, and she could let Them give her an answer.
My tears came with this recollection, because it confirmed my deep feelings that Heavenly Mother is close, and that She shares concern (and response) with the Father. They came again, when I remembered the words of Eugene England:
Modern scriptures and revelations suggest quite plainly that we would more accurately and profitably read the scriptural references to “God” as meaning God the eternal partnership of Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. They have a more perfect unity even than that of God and Christ and the Holy Ghost, and so the word God implies both of them, at least as much as it denotes the three beings in the classical Christian trinity called “God.”
Such a more correct identification of “God” might help us better comprehend the direct role our Heavenly Mother played in our creation and salvation. When we read in Genesis that God said, “Let us create man in our image,” it makes most sense to read it as God the Father and God the Mother speaking as One. When we read in John that God sent His only begotten Son to save us, it would be better to understand, as it certainly makes more sense, that our Heavenly Parents sent Their only begotten Son. (As Women of Faith: Talks Selected from the BYU Women’s Conferences, “Becoming Bone of Bone and Flesh of Flesh.”)
God is two, as much as, or more than it is three: it is Father and Mother, united. Thus, She acts, She loves, She listens, just as He acts, and loves, and listens. We may also get this “God is two, male and female” principle from Doctrine and Covenants 132, and from the inferences of early LDS Apostle, Erastus Snow:
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. The male and female principle is united and both necessary to the accomplishment of the object of their being, and if this be not the case with our Father in heaven after whose image we are created, then it is an anomaly in nature. But to our minds the idea of a Father suggests that of a Mother…. Hence when it is said that God created our first parents in His likeness … it is intimated in language sufficiently plain to my understanding that the male and female principle was present with the Gods as it is with man. (Journal of Discourses, 26:214.)
(Forgiving Snow’s imperfect science) I for one, rejoice in Their uniting.