From Friends of Other Faiths
“And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me, Look! And I looked and beheld a tree; and it was like unto the tree which my father had seen; and the beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow.” -1 Nephi 3:46 RAV, 11:8 OPV
Within the Latter Day Saint movement, there are a number of theologies regarding the nature of God. In the Fellowship, and within Mormon Kabbalah, we accept all of them. It’s about how God reveals Himself, or Themselves, to us as individuals. We build, as it were, our own religions.
This said, it is clear there is a female aspect of deity. This may be, as the trinitarians would say, the female aspect of a gender-less parent God. Or, it could be as other believe, multiple Gods. Elohim, the name for God in the first chapter in Genesis, is a Hebrew word meaning “gods,” plural. It is a combination of the masculine singular with the feminine plural.
The “Evolution” of God
Many look to the Bible to understand the nature of God. However, the idea of divinity met with a number of radical changes as the Israelites developed the Ancient Hebrew religion. In the 7th to 6th century BC there were major modifications made as the Kingdom of Judah fell into Babylonian captivity. It was around this period, likely due to their loss as a nation, monotheism emerged. This idea was solid as doctrine by the time of Rabbinical Judaism in the 2nd century AD.
We can still “travel back in time,” so to speak, by looking at the Torah. In the creation story, Genesis 1:26, Elohim said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” and created them, male and female (Genesis 1: 26-28). Some claim that this is referring to a God the Father and a God the Mother―our heavenly parents. In Kabbalah this first chapter is seen as the spiritual creation. Is there a Mother God? Or a Divine Feminine side to Deity?
In traditional Kabbalah, which is normally seen as monotheistic, there is a mother goddess, Shekinah. She is also known as Sophia in Gnostic scriptures. She is known in the Old Testament as the Queen of Heaven (Jeremiah 44:17). Some Latter Day Saints and Mormons believe, as some Kabbalists teach, that this female deity is the Holy Spirit. Other Latter Day Saints see Her as God the Mother, wife of El, with flesh and bone, equal in all ways to the Father. Some call her Asherah. Who is correct? This is a mystery.
Regardless of one or multiple deity, in order to understand Chokhma, we must see our Heavenly Mother as a Goddess in Her own right. This may be as a part of the Trinity, or as an independent being acting as one with Avinu, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, even if one sees Her as the Holy Spirit. We know the Divine Feminine is real. Joseph Smith reportedly did see our Heavenly Mother in vision.
“One day the Prophet Joseph asked [Zebedee Coltrin] and Sidney Rigdon to accompany him into the woods to pray. When they had reached a secluded spot, Joseph laid down on his back and stretched out his arms. He told the brethren to lie one on each arm, and then shut their eyes. After they had prayed he told them to open their eyes. They did so and saw a brilliant light surrounding a pedestal which seemed to rest on the earth. They closed their eyes and again prayed. They then saw, on opening them, the Father seated upon a throne; they prayed again and on looking saw the Mother also; after praying and looking the fourth time they saw the Savior added to the group.” -Abraham H. Cannon (Wilcox, Linda P. (1987), “The Mormon Concept of a Mother in Heaven”, in Maureen Ursenbach Beecher; Lavina Fielding Anderson, Sisters in Spirit: Mormon Women in Historical and Cultural Perspective, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, pp. 64–77.)
To those new to this concept, there are some commonly asked questions: How do we know this? What should we do with this knowledge? Why don’t we worship Her as we do God the Father? Is She even doctrinal, or merely a logical conjecture based on hints in the scriptures?
Let’s start with how we know there is a Divine Feminine. She is mentioned in the scriptures, in a variety of places. Let’s look at one of the clearest examples:
“The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the Queen of Heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger.” – Jeremiah 7: 18
It really doesn’t get much plainer than this―“Queen of Heaven.” This term was also used by either Joseph Smith Jr. or W.W. Phelps who’s lyrics stated “Here’s our Father in heaven, and Mother, the Queen” (History of the Church 5 p. 254). (There is some confusion as to where the idea came from in the poem.) This scripture actually answers many of the above questions. Yes, she is real. Jeremiah also talks of her later in chapter 44: 15-19. However, in both accounts he speaks of the sin of worshiping Her alone.
Why don’t We Worship Her?
It must be made clear that we do not worship the Divine Feminine. She will not save us from sin, and neither will the Father. Elohim sent the Son, Jesus Christ, and it is through Him we are saved. Yes, in the trinitarian notion of deity they are all the same person. However, the scriptures are still clear on this point, for whatever reason.
We worship YHVH/Jesus Christ, as we were commanded in the Law (Exodus 20:2-5, Deuteronomy 5:6-10, Mosiah 7:113-114 RAV, 13:12-14 OPV). Christ is our emissary. We worship the Divine Masculine and Feminine, or our Heavenly Parents, through Him. It is their divine attributes of Love and Compassion we strive to emulate. We can only do this as we follow the example set for us by Jesus Christ in His earthly ministry.
When we pray, we pray to Elohim as one. The Divine Feminine/Heavenly Mother hears, and either through or as the Holy Spirit answers our prayers. If one wishes to clearly address “Elohim,” one is directly addressing both Masculine and Feminine deity. This term is plural and thus more deliberate in speaking to God the Father and Mother. And, there are those that pray to both directly by name, and those that pray to the Father, as Jesus taught, understanding that both are listening and answer.
There are a number of scriptures that hint to the Divine Feminine, such as Roman 8:16-18 or Genesis 1: 26-27. Nephi’s vision explaining his Father Lehi’s vision of the tree of life in the Book of Mormon may be one of the best examples, however. The tree is called “the tree which is precious above all” by the Spirit of the Lord (1 Nephi 3:49 RAV, 11:9 OPV). In Nephi’s day, trees were used to represent the Queen of Heaven in the Jerusalem temple. When Nephi asks what the meaning of the tree is, the tree turns into Mary, the mother of Christ (1 Nephi 3:49-53 RAV, 11:11-13 OPV). She is said to be, like the tree, being “exceedingly fair and white.”
This idea of Mary being “white” is an interesting play on words, as while the color of the bark of the tree of life was white, the term “white” in Joseph Smith Jr.’s day was used to denote something was pure, wholesome, or good. We see this use many times throughout his translation of the book (though some have taken the term out of context to denote race). Mary the mother of Christ was obviously not Caucasian. She was not white in reference to the color of her skin. Rather, Nephi, seeing her in a vision, would have known that she was purified from sin; a sanctified young woman.
In Lehi and Nephi’s vision, Mary represents the Divine Feminine, being the emissary of the Mother much the same way Christ represents the Father. Mary is even known as the Queen of Heaven. This idea of the tree becoming Mary would have made perfect sense to Nephi.
The Divine Feminine
The Divine Feminine/Heavenly Mother is as real as the Divine Masculine/Heavenly Father. Regardless of one’s view of deity, they are one either literally or spiritually. She is not hidden by the Father, as some might claim, nor is She a fragile thing in need of protected as some mythologies claim. Rather She is a living part of our worship and our lives as we worship the Father through the Son, even Jesus Christ. We should remember Her as we pray in Jesus name.
by David, First Elder
Originally published by The Church of Jesus Christ in Christian Fellowship. Shared with permission.