Previously, I reviewed a couple of interesting discourses/articles by Dennis Potter and James McLachlan in the book, “Discourses in Mormon Theology”, which contains the discourses for the first Seminar of the Society of Mormon Philosophy and Theology (SMPT).
In this post, I’ll discuss an article written by former LDS member, Margaret Toscano, titled: “Is There a Place for Heavenly Mother in Mormon Theology? An Investigation into Discourses of Power”.
I was hoping for some interesting information regarding the belief in a Heavenly Mother through the ages, however Toscano chose to use her time as a protest speech against Mormon male hierarchy.
She is correct that there is little known about Heavenly Mother. I am sure most of us wished there were more doctrine and teaching in regards to her. That said, we can gain interesting information regarding her from a Biblical point of view, such as God’s consort as Wisdom (as seen in Proverbs and elsewhere). Toscano does not share any such information with us.
Instead, she rants at how little power the Church gives to women, which she says is reflected in the silence on Heavenly Mother.
For example, she mentions President Hinckley’s “Four Cornerstones of Faith”: 1. testimony of Jesus Christ as Son of God, 2. the First Vision of Joseph Smith, 3. the Book of Mormon, and 4. the restoration of priesthood power and authority.
Toscano writes, “While these four propositions may appear fairly neutral, they all have implications for how women and ethnic minorities are positioned in the Church organization, since all four cornerstones center on male figures that are represented as white.”
That God chose to send his Son to Israel (non-white) and bring about the Restoration through male figures becomes a modern travesty for her. It seems clear from her statements that history should be changed to suit her misandry.
President Hinckley becomes a target again for Toscano, as she notes him reading a letter from a girl asking if men are more important than women. Pres Hinckley responds by discussing Heavenly Mother as an important doctrine, even though we should not pray to Her.
Toscano writes, “President Hinckley says this prohibition in no way “belittles or denigrates her”, but it surely makes her subordinate in some way to Heavenly Father and less important to the Church since her children have no access to her….He then remarks that those who have done so “are well-meaning, but they are misguided.””
She then notes that this “can easily be read to mean that any who pursue the topic of the Heavenly Mother are also “misguided””.
She attacks temples as places we spend many resources on, but there is no mention of Heavenly Mother. She also attacks Blake Ostler’s book, “Exploring Mormon Thought, The Attributes of God” for not mentioning Heavenly Mother – when Blake’s focus was discussing the theology of what God is in regards to other religious philosophies (which do not have any theology on a Heavenly Mother whatsoever).
Then she shares with us her dislike of the Proclamation on the Family. While it states we are born of Heavenly parents, ‘it is the male God alone, the Eternal Father, who is worshipped and whose plan governs and guides his children along the path toward immortality. What then of Heavenly Mother? Is she involved at all in the salvation of her children? Is she an “equal partner” with her divine spouse…? How can she be an equal partner if she is absent or invisible in the work of the Godhead?”
While denigrating LDS prophets and proclamations, she praises feminists that push for a radicalization of women’s theology. “Sadly, my efforts have failed and I must admit defeat for now because no amount of theorizing can change the dominant pattern in a church that accepts the present status quo as God’s will and those who question it as heretics. Further, if the majority of LDS women do not feel that they are in a subordinate position and are content with their present role in Mormon culture and discourse, then it would be unethical for me to try to define them otherwise. Nevertheless, my own ethical sense also compels me to explain what I see as the ways in which the present structure is at odds with the demands of Christ’s gospel (concerning a “balancing authority”).”
She then attacks SMPT on being an open forum “when most of its members owe allegiance to the LDS Church….I do not mean this observation in a caustic or polemical way….” She notes that of the speakers at the conference, she is the only female.
She then directly attacks priesthood hierarchy.
“I have hoped to show the danger of letting authority hold sway over truth or beauty or love, not just for women, but for all….In a hierarchical structure such as the Church’s, every man is a “girl” to the men above him in the priesthood pipeline.” She notes that if we dump women and minorities on the “trash bin” of Church hierarchy, then we are doing the same to Christ.
The discourse was “caustic [and] polemical” in every way. I agree that we need to expand priesthood power to women and minorities, and we are. Perhaps there will someday be “a” priesthood office given to women. However, Toscano is connected to the Ordain Women movement, and so will not be happy with the old white men running the Church, until the priesthood is given to women and there are at least 6 female apostles.
As with Dennis Potter’s Liberation Theology article, which I recently reviewed, here we have another social attack on the foundations of the Church. When members (or former members) think that doctrines can be changed by a vote of the loudest minority, then they show they do not believe in a Church that is lead by revelation. Changes occur, but only in accord to God’s will and the readiness of the people for that change.
A comparison can be made with the Community of Christ (formerly the RLDS). In the last half century, the CoC has ordained women and accepted gay marriage. In doing so, they have replaced revelation with social expediency. This is noted in the CoC’s stance in regards to Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. Joseph is no longer considered the prophet of the Restoration, but as a charismatic leader. The Book of Mormon is no longer required scripture, but more of an interesting artifact or inspired fiction.
For the LDS Church to make big changes without God’s revelatory approval would mean we are embracing the world’s stance, seeking its approval. We would have to give up the First Vision, priesthood authority and hierarchy, temples, the Book of Mormon and many of the revelations in D&C. We would have to gut the gospel God has given us.
I do not know why God set up priesthood hierarchy as He did. I do not know why there was a priesthood ban. I do not know why the Lord has not revealed more on Heavenly Mother. I wish I did have some of these answers. I am glad that the Church is expanding authority for women on the local and general levels, and look forward to more. I hope we see two new apostles called this October conference that are from Latin America, Asia, or Africa. That said, I am not going to take what I see as one flawed issue of the Church and declare war on the Church.
Toscano was excommunicated in the early 1990s as one of the famed September Six. Her stance then is clear in this speech given in 2004, and recent statements show she still holds rancor against men in the Church. While we must fight misogyny (hatred of women) in the world, we also need to fight misandry (hatred of men). I hope someday that Toscano can learn to love as she claims Mormons must do, and seek God’s will rather than her own social agenda. There is a lot of opportunity for women in the Church, and hopefully more will come their way in the future. The Church’s focus is saving people through Christ, not establishing a social agenda of equality or liberation. In replacing the gospel with such concepts, it is easy for members to get lost in the politics, rather than getting lost in service to the Lord.