This is a guest post by Idealist at Large, a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who loves the scriptures, and especially enjoys reading Isaiah, Moses, 2 Nephi, Moroni, and Paul’s letters. Her blog is Peaceable Treasures www.peaceabletreasures.blog, where she writes about Gospel topics and life matters. She lives in Queensland, Australia, and is currently working on a project to help parents counteract the radical theories their kids are learning at school.
It often gets said that women are largely ignored or forgotten in the scriptures; that it’s all about men, because they’re all written by men. This seems to be mainly the result of applying feminism to the scriptures, more than properly understanding them – their purpose and context in history.
Most histories that we have were written by men, for a variety of reasons, including that what ‘we’ know is largely from European and British culture, that men most often held overt positions of power, and at certain periods of time, were more likely to receive an education that included writing. They were also the ones who generally held administrative positions in literate civilisations, so they would either be directing or making official records. Moreover, we might consider that the writing of scriptures was a priesthood responsibility – revelation meant for a nation or church group was given to priests and prophets, and recording it was commanded. The scribe might have been male or female – I don’t know enough to say, but I think we often assume. Even if they were usually male, it doesn’t affect the meaning or applicability of what was recorded.
For more than a thousand years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ it was assumed that a great deluge of water destroyed almost all life on Earth. The story in the Bible of a destructive punishment against a violent people, with only a handful of survivors, was looked on as part of history. Noah and his family were considered real people who built a real boat and safely rested on the top of a Mountain top. The children of this great prophet who believed to have had children and repopulated the world with people and animals. Religious believers looked around at the world around them and saw evidence in the rocks and the landscape. They would point to massive boulders, for instance, and explain that only a great rush of water could move them to where they now rested. No one at first questioned these conclusions.
Religious investigators continued to study geology with the hope of understanding the Great Flood until the mid-19th Century a new concept became popular. A number of influential researchers developed the theory of uniformity. They believed that whatever happened in the past can only be understood by applying modern observations. In order for geological evidence to make sense the processes of nature must have taken many millions of years at a very slow pace. From this came the key to the theory of Evolution and the rejection of any worldwide deluge evidence. The very idea of a violent catastrophe that changed the Earth’s history was unacceptable. Changes in the Earth and its life was slow, gradual, and easy to observe.
A generation later the idea of uniformity is still accepted, but with very abrupt disruptions. Modern geologists talk of at least five extinctions that can only happen because of major catastrophes. Some even argue that humans themselves are causing a sixth extinction, although with varied theories on when it will be fully realized. The most famous life destroying catastrophe is a meteor that destroyed the dinosaurs. Like all theories it was at first rejected, but eventually enough evidence was found to be accepted by most scientists. There is even a crater off the coast of Mexico that is considered the exact place the celestial object hit that did the damage. A geological layer of clay containing high levels of the metal iridium is believed to represent the exact time of impact. Even the Great Flood is, to a degree, getting a second look.
For over a century and a half critics of the Bible have pointed to the book of Genesis as a main argument against its historical truth. Many of the minor arguments against it in other books, including the existence of King David and some long vanished civilizations, are slowly falling away. Over the last 50 years archaeology has uncovered some remarkable evidence of Bible history. Although minimalists still exist, a growing acceptance of accuracy among academics has shifted. That doesn’t mean they have become religious believers. Instead, they acknowledge that it gets much of history correct, no matter if a blatant bias and religious context. Much of the book of Genesis hasn’t received the same re-evaluation and continues to be rejected and mocked. There are too many world transforming miracles that the scientists and historians don’t see as scientifically sustainable.
Other than the Garden of Eden and the Fall, none have come under such critical ridicule as The Great Flood. It is the story of a world gone morally depraved to the point that God decides to do a reset. He warns the people that if they don’t repent then they will be destroyed. Only a single prophet named Noah and his friends repent and remain righteous. Noah is given the divine command and instructions to build a large boat. The people mock him as deranged. Once the boat is made the world is covered in a massive deluge of water that apparently kills every person and living creature. The only survivors are seven individuals and the animals Noah brings onto his protective ship. After months floating on the water, a bird sent out finds a mountain top that Noah lands his ship. The waters dry up and the world is started over again. Scientists and historians don’t believe there is any evidence for such a tale and dismiss it as laughable. Much like those in the story who eventually drowned.
Easy as it would be to agree that the Biblical writes came up with an astounding whopper of a whale story, that isn’t the only place the story exists. In fact, the myth of a Great flood come from all over the world on every continent that can sustain a civilization. This includes not only Europe and Asia, but both North and South America. Wide ranging as the differences might be, there are some basic similarities. The myths virtually always include a wicked people, the covering of the world by a form of water, and survivors who restart or recreate the world. Very slowly the idea a flood could devastate a large population of people enough to be remembered is gaining acceptance.
(And is that necessarily a bad thing?)
(Lattertarian is a jaded Gen-X Saint living in Southern California, currently serving as a Sunday School president)
Periodically this concept crosses my path, either in real-life conversation or in some random corner of the blogosphere or wherever. It popped up again the other day in an oddly specific way, taking form in the question “why shouldn’t I pray to Heavenly Mother?”
I got to thinking, and at some point decided I needed to start writing stuff down so I could keep the details straight and work through it. On reflection it appears to me that there is a broad four-step progression here. Unfortunately that progression slides in sequence from benign to malevolent, and does it pretty quickly. It’s important to have perspective on what’s good here, what’s bad, and how to distinguish which is which and evaluate your own position and desires.
First we must lay out a basic frame. I’m looking specifically at this from the Restored Gospel view as promulgated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is easy to turn Heavenly Mother into a pagan Goddess-figure, and that’s outside the bounds of where I want to look. I’m approaching this as a facet of currently accepted Latter-day Saint theology and cosmology, not chucking all that to wonder if Freya or Hera or Isis or whoever are for-real. It’s worth noting that this is in line with the basic question at the start of this. “Heavenly Mother” as a thing requires that a number of other gospel concepts be in place.
Thus, I am stipulating up front to the following:
- Heavenly Father exists as, literally, the Father of our spirit selves
- He is a perfect, loving, omnipotent Father who created this Earth and its associated mortal experience for our learning
- The Godhead concept (that is, a nontrinitarian separate and distinct God, Christ, and Holy Ghost) is correct
- The Restored Gospel is legitimate and accurate
- The scriptures are sound reference documents, written by prophets
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is led by prophets who have been (and are) called of God.
In short, I am really talking to Church members here. If you are not a member of the Church, I’m not going to tell you that what follows isn’t for you, but you’ll probably have questions. By all means, find a Latter-day Saint friend you trust and ask. Read this with them. See what they think.