Sunday, November 26, 2006

Heavenly Mother

I clicked on one of the links that Andrew Sullivan provided in his discussion of Mormon undergarments, and came across a fascinating website on Mormonism. One Mormon doctrine that I did not expect to find at all is that Mormons believe there is a Heavenly Mother alongside a Heavenly Father, and that together they produce the spirits of human beings.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rejects the idea found in some religions that the spirits or souls of individual human beings are created ex nihilo. Rather it accepts literally the vital scriptural teaching as worded by Paul: "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." This and other scriptures underscore not only spiritual sibling relationships but heirship with God, and a destiny of joint heirship with Christ (Rom. 8:16-18; cf. Mal. 2:10).

Latter-day Saints believe that all the people of earth who lived or will live are actual spiritual offspring of God the Eternal Father (Num. 16:22; Heb. 12:9). In this perspective, parenthood requires both father and mother, whether for the creation of spirits in the premortal life or of physical tabernacles on earth. A Heavenly Mother shares parenthood with the Heavenly Father. This concept leads Latter-day Saints to believe that she is like him in glory, perfection, compassion, wisdom, and holiness.

Elohim, the name-title for God, suggests the plural of the Caananite El or the Hebrew Eloah. It is used in various Hebrew combinations to describe the highest God. It is the majestic title of the ultimate deity. Genesis 1:27 reads, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them" (emphasis added), which may be read to mean that "God" is plural.

Mormons believe that God the Father has a body like human beings, as does God the Son, while the Holy Spirit is a spirit.
Latter-day Saints perceive the Father as an exalted Man in the most literal, anthropomorphic terms. They do not view the language of Genesis as allegorical; human beings are created in the form and image of a God who has a physical form and image (Gen. 1:26). The Prophet Joseph Smith explained, "The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit" (D&C 130:22). Thus, "God is a Spirit" (John 4:24) in the sense that the Holy Ghost, the member of the Godhead who deals most often and most directly with humans, is a God and a spirit, but God the Father and God the Son are spirits with physical, resurrected bodies. Latter-day Saints deny the abstract nature of God the Father and affirm that he is a concrete being, that he possesses a physical body, and that he is in space and time.

On the idea that God the Father and Mother produce human spirits:
The Father, Elohim, is called the Father because he is the literal father of the spirits of mortals (Heb. 12:9). This paternity is not allegorical. All individual human spirits were begotten (not created from nothing or made) by the Father in a premortal state, where they lived and were nurtured by Heavenly Parents. These spirit children of the Father come to earth to receive mortal bodies; there is a literal family relationship among humankind. Joseph Smith taught, "If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves" (TPJS, p. 343). Gods and humans represent a single divine lineage, the same species of being, although they and he are at different stages of progress.

When I read this, I am reminded of the Shiur Qomah texts, which describe (the male) God in extremely anthropomorphic terms, as well as of the Enoch literature, in which Enoch ascends to heaven alive and is transformed into the highest angel (eventually gaining the name Metatron in the Hekhalot texts). It would be fascinating to learn what the intellectual/religious influences were upon Joseph Smith and other founders of the Mormon church, and whether they knew of the Enoch books or the other pseudepigrapha.

3 comments:

  1. Enoch figures largely in Mormon theology...

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  2. "Reversed, the Name of God becomes HAY VOV HAY YUD. And these two syllables, HAY VOV and HAY YUD, can be vocalized as the sound equivalents of the Hebrew pronouns HU and HI, which are rendered in English as HE and SHE respectively. Combining them together, HAY VOV and HAY YUD become HE-SHE."

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