(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.
With that in place, let us reason together.
Step One: “I believe Heavenly Mother exists.”
Okay. I think it’s totally reasonable to believe that, and I think within the Church it’s pretty easy to believe that. There is nothing wrong with believing our Father has a partner-companion. It makes logical sense (thanks, Eliza Snow!). This is a reasonable premise, and nothing suggests otherwise.
There are a few different ways to conceptualize that. An intriguing one I’ve seen suggests that the being we call “God” is in fact a celestial duality, that “the Father” is in fact “the Parents.” This is not an unreasonable thing to believe, to a point. After all, if the Father is a celestial, perfect being, the Mother must surely be likewise.
If we stipulate that She is out there and His equal, then we must also stipulate that She exists in perfect harmony with our Father. If He is a perfect Father, it makes sense that She is a perfect Mother. It likewise makes sense that She knows everything He does about who we are and what we’re doing, She loves us at a level that equals His, and the two of Them are in perfect agreement about everything regarding mortality. That is all totally reasonable. However, this is the place where individuals contemplating Heavenly Mother can start to get in trouble, because if all that is true then it SEEMS totally harmless to consider the next proposition.
Step Two: “I can have a relationship with my Heavenly Mother.”
If you can have a relationship with your Father, and He and Mother are equal partners in the whole eternal plan, then why not cultivate a relationship with Her? It sounds like a good question, and at first blush seems totally harmless. But exploring it at all makes it break down quickly.
What does it mean? What is a “relationship” in this context? Scripturally, and in the words of prophets both ancient and modern, as well as in the words of Christ himself, A relationship with the Father involves prayer (directly addressing Him to offer thanks and seek advice or aid) and obedience to commandments (to gain the proper spiritual alignment that allows the Holy Ghost to dwell with us and guide us). That’s worship. There is no other relationship to cultivate with an exalted, celestial being but worship.
Are you “just wanting to be comforted that She’s out there”? You can do that already. That’s a function of faith. Are you looking for “confirmation” in the Moroni’s-test way? Why? We’re told directly that A) we are to worship none but the Father, and B) the only way to do that properly is by following the teachings and leadership example of Jesus Christ. There’s not a “Mother” in those instructions; while it is totally reasonable to believe in the duality mentioned above, it appears to be an error to believe that Father and Mother, while “equal,” are also interchangeable. At no point are we to seek engagement with any other divine-type entity. The scriptures are plain about that, Christ is plain about that, and prophets (ancient and modern) are equally so.
Are you “just wanting to get Her take on life”? Be careful what you wish for. God doesn’t answer questions on spec. If we want information, He will give us information, but then we will be responsible for the information and what we do with it. None of us can get a question answered but then refuse to do whatever that knowledge logically demands, and not be held accountable for our arrogance. There’s no getting around that. Which makes the next proposition untenably dangerous.
Step Three: “I can pray to my Heavenly Mother.”
A tangent here before we tackle this. In much the same way my frame here excludes pagan Goddess-worship, I am also excluding “pray to the Virgin Mary” Catholic-style Goddess worship. Praying to a being other than God to petition that being to intercede on your behalf with God is not an effective way to roll. The whole intercessor concept is ultimately based on God being unapproachable because He is incomprehensible and unknowable. But scripture (including the teachings of Christ and the prophets) decries this, laying out a pretty explicit way to approach, comprehend, and know God. God is your Father. You can talk to Him.
Thus, given what we have in scripture and from the prophets about the Father, why would you ever think it was a good idea to pray to Mother? Moreover, why would MOTHER think it was ever a good idea for you to pray to Her? If She and the Father are totally unified in purpose, then She agrees that He needs to be the sole point of contact for us here in mortality. If She agrees that you need to keep your eye firmly on your Father to navigate the madness of mortality, if She inserts her presence it would only be a disastrous distraction for Her children. Why would She ever countenance putting Her children in unnecessary spiritual peril by allowing Herself to become a distraction at a time of Her child’s critical need?
But, in the interest of honest inquiry, let’s stipulate to this a little bit and see where the scenarios lead. Let’s say that somehow, some way, you have successfully prayed and made contact with your Heavenly Mother. There are really only two possible responses you can get (well, there are kind-of three, but we’ll get to the third separately because it involves a major caveat). Anyway, the two options:
In the first scenario, your Heavenly Mother says “I love you and watch you right alongside your Father. And your Father’s instructions are clear, and as His celestial partner and companion I concur. Go worship Him and follow His commandments. Everything you say to Him you say to both of Us. Everything you get from Him you get from both of Us. Now go.” Given the truth already given to us by God, this response is theoretically the most likely. Our Father’s commandments are explicit in this regard, and our brother Jesus’ articulation of Father-as-sole-point-of-contact is equally so. If you believe She is an equal partner in total agreement with the Father, it follows that Mother would only ever respond to prayer in this way.
The truly dangerous follow-up question here is: what do you do when this is the response? Because I’ll bet a dollar the “pray to the Mother” proponents don’t contemplate this possibility much (for reasons that will become clearer in the next step down this rabbithole). Instead, I have a strong suspicion that what people are really hoping for is the second scenario.
That scenario’s response goes like this: “You found me! Good job. How can I help?”
If that is the response you want (maybe even yearn for), but it is not the response you get, what will that do to you? If it would shatter you to have to grapple with this, why would your perfectly loving Mother do that to you? It would be better for Mother to not answer you at all than to give you an answer you’re not ready to hear.
But let’s stipulate that this second answer is the one you want and the one you get, and Mother asks how she can help. Think about what that means for a second. If Heavenly Mother is willing to consider your prayerful petition about ANYTHING, She is operating outside the bounds God has set. You cannot believe with any validity that a perfect, loving Mother in perfect union with Father would ever grant you permission to disobey Him (in the “tell Him I said it was okay” way), not because she is subservient to Him, but because She agrees with Him. For Her to give you any kind of independent instruction would mean that your Heavenly Parents are NOT perfectly aligned in celestial partnership. That has colossal ramifications, jeopardizing the entire relationship between you and your Father. Because it leads almost immediately to a concept that will shred your soul. To wit:
Step Four: “Father is keeping Mother from me.”
The best way I’ve heard this articulated goes like this: “If your earthly father told you you were not allowed to communicate with your mother in any way (no phone, no visits, nothing), and that all communication had to go through him, would that be viewed as a healthy relationship?”
It sounds like a fair question, but it fails after only a moment’s consideration. It fails because it is myopic; it ignores the context of both our relationship with our Father and the timeframe of mortality. A more properly contextualized version of that question is this: If you and your earthly father left home for a weekend camping trip, and he told you that for your own safety in the wilderness you needed to listen to him and him alone for the weekend, would you feel as though he had cut you off from your mother?
The answer to that isn’t about the relationship between your Heavenly Parents at all. It’s about you. Because what that question is really asking is: do you trust your Father in Heaven?
This is a question that involves a real choice, because the ramifications of each answer will change you dramatically. If you trust your Father, then spending a weekend with Him alone is not a problem. If you trust your Father, then you know that after the weekend you will go home and sit down with both your parents to talk about your trip and what you learned. If you trust your Father, then you will do what He tells you, because you trust that he knows more than you and that his commandments will keep you safe. And remember, you are only really extending this trust for a metaphorical weekend. Mortality is an eyeblink in the larger eternity of your existence. If you close your eyes to do a trust fall into your earthly father’s arms, have you somehow been denied access to your earthly mother because you can’t see her for those few seconds? Trusting your Heavenly Father is the path to spiritual strength.
I suggest to you that your desire to “contact,” “have a relationship with,” or “follow” Heavenly Mother is grounded in you not trusting your Father. I am not here to call you “bad” for lacking that trust. I concede you may have trauma or something that makes trust hard for you. I want to assure you I get it, and I’m sensitive to that.
But I implore you to think this through, because the solution to your lack of trust in Father is not to start trying to trust somebody else–it’s to learn how to trust your Father. If Father is perfect, and Mother is his perfect companion-partner, then if you don’t trust one, CAN you trust the other? How can you justify trusting a perfect Heavenly Mother who chose to partner with an untrustworthy companion? Conversely, if Heavenly Mother is a perfect, loving mother, then if She trusts Father, shouldn’t you?
Persisting down this “kept from me” line of consideration gets darker and darker, descending further and further into entropic chaos and spiritual death, which is why I urge you to stay in the bounds that have been clearly set for us. Look at how quickly this whole line of inquiry can spin into utter horror.
If Father is somehow suppressing Mother, then He is more powerful than She is. If He is somehow suppressing Her, then they are not equal partners. If they are not equal partners, then what? If She is genuinely inferior, then your desire to seek her sends you chasing lesser light–what is it you think She can do for you, if She cannot get out from under God’s thumb? If He is a genuinely superior being, then is He suppressing her because He is being mean, or because He knows He is superior and wants you to be superior, too? If He is being mean, then He is not a perfect, loving father, and the whole plan of salvation is a scam. If He is not being mean, but just accepts that He is simply superior, then he can still be a loving father, and all this is ultimately your problem with your own faith.
Or let’s get even weirder. Is Heavenly Mother actually superior to the Father, but lets Him run things? If that’s so, is He aware of this scheme? Have They made a deal where She does vast unknowable work behind the scenes while He oversees the kids’ mortal schooling? If so, then it is sound advice to follow His commandments, since he’s “in charge down here.” Do you think you can appeal to the Mother to change the mind of the Father? If they have agreed that He is in charge down here, then no appeal to Her would ever be countenanced. Do you think He has messed something up and so you need to go over His head? If so, He is not a perfect, loving father, and the whole plan of salvation is an illusion. None of those options lead you to a place that is healthy for your soul.
But wait, it gets worse! What if Father is NOT in on this scam? What if He has been FOOLED by Mother, who is secretly in control? Putting aside for the moment that this would mean God is NOT omniscient or perfect, that can mean one of two things. It can mean that we are animals in a cosmic petting zoo, just a hobby Father cultivates and which Mother cares nothing about. If that is true, then everything we do is pointless and there is no reason to call upon Mother anyway.
Or perhaps Father is unaware of Mother’s manipulations because She intends for us to have this mortal experience following Father’s commandments, as all of those commandments point to enabling us to return to His (and by extension Their) celestial presence. If that is not what She wants, why would She have allowed Him to set up mortality this way? If things are running as She deems appropriate, there is nothing you stand to gain by striving to find Her. She will just point you back to Father.
Whichever way you slice this, the only sound choice here is to trust God the Father, pray to Him alone, worship him exclusively, and follow His commandments. There is no end-running that.
Trust can be challenging, I admit. Not being able to see all that God can see can be frustrating. In practice, that can make us hesitant to obey commandments–we can’t see why the commandment is being given because the problem it relates to may not be immediately visible. If your father, on that camping trip already mentioned, tells you not to pitch your tent too close to the firepit, you may not understand why. After all, the commandment is given before the fire is even lit. How can he know what “too close” is? So you pitch your tent too close, only to lose your shelter when it inevitably catches fire. What could you possibly gain by satellite-phoning Mother to get her take on it?
You don’t know all the things your Father knows, and can’t see all the things your Father sees. His commandments reflect that. There is no getting around that. And His commandments are there for very good reasons.
Step Five: “Wait, there’s a step five?”
Oh yes, and it’s the darkest of all. Remember back in step three where I mentioned there was a third possible outcome to praying to Heavenly Mother, but it came with a caveat? This is that scenario, the scenario where you inadvertently put yourself in grave danger. We’re headed off the map; here there be dragons.
So there you are, praying to the Mother, seeking desperately, perhaps even tearfully, for a sign She is out there. Given the nature of this conversation and everything we must already stipulate to, if you get an answer can you even be sure who it’s from?
If you believe in a Heavenly Mother in the context of the rest of the Restored Gospel’s cosmology, then you must also believe that billions of fallen spirits, Lucifer’s army, are also out there trying to fool you and lead you astray at every opportunity. Lucifer talked angels into rebelling against God. Do you honestly believe he won’t take advantage of anyone stepping away from God in search of something else? If you consciously open your soul in search of a power other than God, who do you really think is most likely to find you first?
When Joseph Smith knelt in that grove and opened his soul to eternity, honestly trying to make contact with something beyond himself to point him in the direction of truth, who found him first? When Jesus himself fasted in the wilderness for 40 days, opening his soul to the things of eternity so he could become the ultimate vessel of truth, who found HIM first? Both survived because they were pointing their open souls in the proper direction: God the Father and His wisdom and strength. They were following the pattern God set forth. If you’re not following that pattern–if your target in your soul-opening supplications is not God the Father–then who will save you from the powers most likely to find you first?
Our Father’s commandments exist for our spiritual safety, even our spiritual survival. They mark boundaries within which we can safely learn the fundamental dichotomies of life: true and false, right and wrong, action and consequence. Without understanding those concepts, we cannot progress. Willfully seeking something outside that will destroy you.
Step Six: “I can handle it. I need to do this.”
One of the hardest lessons of mortality is humility. And one of the greatest Satanic traps of all time is the lie that you don’t need to be humble. You don’t need to trust Father. It is seductive to fantasize that if only you pray hard enough and think hard enough and “trust yourself” hard enough, you will pierce the veil of mortality and discover what God is REALLY up to back there. Something out there is CALLING to you, and you need to find out what it is.
Are you so intent on praying to Mother because somewhere, deep down, you believe She WANTS you to “discover” that everything the Father has said is a tissue of lies, and She wants you to find Her instead? Is She hunting for an elite (an elect?) with the wisdom to see through the illusions of Father’s system and come directly to her? And once you discover Her she will empower you, granting you access to divine secrets and permissions unavailable to your lessers who have not found her? She has “such sights to show you”?
Maybe you’re good enough to operate outside the Father’s plan. Maybe you don’t actually need Him after all. And once you get this special knowledge from Mother, you can lead your brothers and sisters to salvation and exaltation. You’ll be, like … well …
Well, that sounds dreadfully familiar.
It’s seductive to believe that your seeking makes you SPECIAL, that coloring outside the lines is the ultimate act of piety and discovery. That you and only you (or you and some small group of likeminded spiritual explorers) will be rewarded for your efforts with knowledge regarding how things REALLY work. But only Father has put forward a system that will bring you knowledge AND power. You have no reason to believe that anything else you contact will regard you as anything but a speck, a nothing compared to a being of such power as to build a titanic eternal system. Why would you ever truly matter to such a being? What is its goal? Praying to a mysterious Goddess with an agenda that is somehow NOT bringing to pass immortality and eternal life is stepping aside from God’s plan. Praying for something you think might be BETTER is Satan’s plan, pretty much directly.
It’s seductive, for sure. Grasping for power always is. But that doesn’t make it smart.
What you NEED to do, is trust your Father. The only sound choice here in mortality is to trust God the Father, pray to Him alone, worship him exclusively, and follow His commandments. There is no end-running that. You don’t know all the things your Father knows, and can’t see all the things your Father sees. His commandments reflect that. There is no getting around that.
And you don’t need to take my word for it. Go ask Him. He’s waiting. He is right there, just outside your peripheral vision, waiting with His hand outstretched. All you have to do is turn and reach. He will be there. He is infinitely patient, so He will wait there for as long as it takes. The sooner you turn and reach, the sooner you can find the spiritual knowledge, power, and peace He promises. Humble yourself and pray. You will be amazed by what happens.