Podcast: A Heavenly Mother

Last summer Russell Stevenson sat down with Rachel Steenblik and Caitlin Connolly, two women who have studied the concept of a divine feminine–or Heavenly Mother.

Rachel was the primary researcher on a BYU Studies article that identified known references to a Heavenly Mother in the Mormon historical record. Caitlin was commission to paint Heavenly Mother by Deseret Book. 

Though it is assumed that we have a Heavenly Mother, she is rarely mentionioned in LDS Church discourse, with a preference to referring to Heavenly Father or Heavenly Parents. 

Steenblick notes that most members are aware of the reference to a Heavenly Mother by Eliza R. Snow in “O My Father.” However, her song was not the first reference. W. W. Phelps wrote two pieces–one a few months before the Prophet Joseph Smith’s death and one a few months after. And in the nineteenth-century Church, a Heavenly Mother was not unfrequently referenced. 

Three prophets of the twentieth century, Spencer W. Kimball, Joseph Fielding Smith, and Harold B. Lee, stated that women were created in Heavenly Mother’s image.

Contemporary Old Testament scholars see the divine feminine, or a Heavenly Mother, in scripture, though it is difficult for the lay person to identify those references.

Both women feel discussions of a divine feminine are important because they help to answer the question for women: “Where do I belong in the eternities?

The Church’s gospel topic essay “Mother in Heaven,” the BYU Studies article, and a new book published by Deseret Book can help encourage dialogue on this important topic.

Check out to the resources referenced in the podcast at LDS Perspectives

Podcast: God and the Problem of Pain with David F. Holland

David F. Holland is a respected scholar and Professor of New England Church History at Harvard Divinity School. On October 29, 2016, he spoke on the topic “Latter-day Saints and the Problem of Pain” at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at BYU in Provo, Utah.

Recently LDS Perspectives host Nick Galieti interviewed David Holland about his presentation at BYU, his further explorations on the seemingly paradoxical problem of pain, as well as the role pain and suffering play in the journey of the Christian disciple.

David reflects on counsel given to his father from Elder Neal A. Maxwell, prior to an address Holland’s father gave at BYU. The counsel was to be sensitive to the unseen problems that inform the varied histories of audience members, “There are scars that go unnoticed, but you must see them. You must tread with caution on the hallowed ground of another’s suffering.”

Holland shared that two members of his New England area stake committed suicide within a week of each other. It is in this backdrop that David spoke in simultaneous roles as an admittedly amateur-philosopher and historian-scholar.

He reviewed a history of the role of pain and suffering in early American religious settings, as well as proposed answers to the questions many still carry about the relationship of pain to our mortal experiences. Answers for which the restored gospel of Latter-day Saint theology meets in rich and profound ways.

Holland elaborates on how historically religions saw pain and suffering as the voice of God declaring his displeasure with their actions. Others felt discord with the concept of a deity that only spoke when displeased.

The people of early America, when faced with this paradox of “a choice in which God could either be cruel or mute, they increasingly chose the silence.” Thus a mute God, and a rigidly closed cannon became part of how many religious Americans viewed life and religious practice.

Many today view God, or their concept of God, as the answer to pain and suffering. If there is no reprieve from pain, then there must be no God. With so many today feeling the pains of depression and other mental health issues, Holland postulates that “[Mental illness] is the next great frontier of our ministry [as Latter-day Saints].”

 

Podcast: The Power of Positive Self Talk

Growing up, Leta Greene never thought she would grow up to be a beauty consultant and motivational speaker. But she has overcome the scars of emotional and physical abuse and feelings of awkwardness and ugliness, excelling at life by choosing happiness.

Leta has developed a system of changing the way women perceive themselves through daily validation or “vanity prayers.” She has learned that nobody can give from an empty well. One of the most important things we need to nurture is our relationship with ourselves.

Through her experiences, she speaks to setting healthy boundaries to protect against emotional and physical abuse and listening to our inner compasses in our interactions. She advocates only allowing into our spheres of influence those we love, trust, and who take responsibility.

The way women perceive themselves is often the biggest “glass ceiling” they need to break in order to excel and achieve their dreams. Leta gives us some tools to begin thinking in new ways.

LDS Perspectives Podcast: Balancing Religious Tensions with Mauro Properzi

 

Finding a balance between loyalty or commitment to one’s faith and sympathetic openness to other faiths is one of the biggest challenges Mormons face in an age of inclusiveness.

The classic “theology of religions” view of other faiths known as “inclusivism” broadly fits what Dr. Mauro Properzi thinks this balance should look like in an LDS context.

The idea is that one’s faith is unique, most effective, and overall preferential (or one could use the term “truest”) in leading to our eternal destination. Other religions, however, while being positive paths that move as a whole in the same direction, lack some elements that characterize the faith you embrace. Perhaps other paths take unnecessary detours, perhaps they have holes that cause slower progress, perhaps they are not as scenic. Still, these roads are going in the same general direction as your road, not in the opposite one. In short, if your road leads to God, the other roads don’t lead to Satan; they are also oriented toward God.

Inclusivism is the middle ground. Two other positions represent the ends of the spectrum of religious tolerance.  On one side is exclusivism, which in its bluntest form is the message that only my religion is good, true, divinely inspired, and salvific. At its opposite is pluralism with the message that all religions are true, divinely inspired, and salvific since it is believed that they teach the same message in different cultural contexts.

What is clear is that in our postmodern Western culture many people, whether religious or not, lean in the direction of pluralism and exclusivism is not very popular. Exclusivism, however, is an important component of Christianity, and of Mormonism in particular; in fact, in the pursuit of truth in general. It is not the whole of the answer but it is a significant part of it.

The challenge for us, and for any other person of faith who feels these tensions, is to be reflective about them and not succumb to pressures that aim to eliminate them. For us these pressures can come from social interactions both within the church and outside of it … pressures that want to obliterate one side or the other of the spectrum.

Join Laura Harris Hales of LDS Perspectives Podcast as she interviews Mauro Properzi about false obstacles and rich opportunities that come from learning about other religions.

Tithing and the Law of Consecration

Steven Harper points out that one of things the Revelations in Context series was designed to do was to encourage study of the history and doctrine of the LDS Church in order to get past the folk doctrines we’ve invented.

One of the misunderstandings that has developed over time is the relationship between the law of consecration and tithing.

The law of the Lord is given in D&C 42, and it is to love God and love your neighbor. We are encouraged to give of our time and temporal means to relieve the suffering of others.

It is not a law governing ownership but one that asks us what we are willing to do with what we have.

Tithing didn’t replace the law of consecration but rather is one way in which we practice it. The law is eternal and does not change but the way we practice it does.

In the early days of the LDS Church, any freewill offering was considered tithing. This has changed over time.

The law is about agency, accountability, and stewardship.

Listen in on this fascinating discussion between Steven C. Harper and Nick Galieti of LDS Perspectives Podcast as they delve into the meat of the law of consecration.