Beliefs Culture Faith Jana Riess: Flunking Sainthood Opinion

Mormon founder turned over priesthood keys to women, says Deseret Book author

Folks, take a look at the lead article in the new issue of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. (It’s behind a paywall but is well worth the two bucks, I promise.) Titled “The Perfect Union of Man and Woman,” it makes three main historical and theological arguments:

1)   Joseph intended the Relief Society to give women a role that was collaborative with male priesthood.

2)   Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother co-preside.

3)   Ancient traditions (and some early Mormon traditions) associated Heavenly Mother with the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this is the person who wrote it: Fiona Givens, a Deseret Book author who has been traveling widely in response to local invitations (with her husband, author and renowned intellectual Terryl Givens) giving firesides and  touring with the “Time Out for Women” series that is sponsored by Deseret Book.

Last week I saw Fiona at a colloquium for historian Richard Bushman, so we sat down to discuss the piece.

RNS: You write that “Part of [Joseph’s] reclamation entailed a restoration of the Divine Feminine together with a revision of contemporary conceptions of priesthood power and authority in conjunction with ‘keys’ Joseph believed had been lost following the advent of Christianity.” So are you saying that Mormon women had priesthood keys?

Fiona Givens: Looking at the inaugural Relief Society minutes and Joseph Smith’s whole mindset of collaboration, he was thinking of men and women collaborating in ecclesiastical and administrative roles. He uses the word “preside” quite consistently. He is turning over priesthood keys to Emma. There is in the historical record much to justify the idea that Joseph was helping to organize a female “order” to collaborate with the male quorums that had already been established, though women were never given administrative authority in the church as a whole.

RNS: What was Joseph Smith drawing on in thinking about women’s leadership?

FG: His mother said he did not read widely, but he did read deeply. I think that’s an important quality of Joseph that needs to be understood more. Two things are working here: he read the New Testament really closely, and if you do that, you’re going to see female voices. Joseph Smith had an extraordinarily magnanimous mind, and he saw what had not really been seen by his contemporaries in ecclesiastical roles: women as leaders. If one is going to read the text closely and be willing to move the male paradigm aside, suddenly it’s clear that women were ministering with men in collaborative roles as apostles, prophets, teachers, deacons, etc. in the New Testament.

RNS: You spend some time in the article tracing the LDS doctrine of Heavenly Mother, and I was surprised to see an emphasis there on the revelation about her as collaborative.

FG: Joseph’s restoration of Heavenly Mother was critically important. He was a collaborative thinker who felt that his revelations needed to be assisted by other bright, intelligent, intuitive minds. When he discovered—and one is not quite sure how—that there was a Heavenly Mother, this same idea of collaboration he had already modeled influenced the way Joseph saw the relationship between the Father and the Mother as primarily collaborative.

Chapters 4 and 5 in the Book of Abraham illustrate this quite dramatically.  So at the end of the day, we can read Moses 1:39 as “this is our work and our glory to—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”

RNS: The article has an account I’ve never heard before: of Joseph, Sidney Rigdon, and Zebedee Coltrin having a vision of the Heavenly Family: Father, Mother, and Son. Why don’t we hear more about this?

FG: We don’t hear about it because Heavenly Mother has only just become a safe topic. Quite honestly, since the essay on Heavenly Mother came out, implying approbation by the leadership of the church, the conversation discussing who she might be is now tenable in a way it has not been in the past.

RNS: In the article you have a controversial line of argument that suggests that Heavenly Mother may actually be the Holy Ghost. Where does this come from?

FG: I want to make clear that I am not making this claim, just tracing a fascinating but neglected historical dimension to the Divine Feminine. We find this in the Church Fathers Jerome and Augustine and others. The Coltrin vision is suggestive. Joseph, in the Doctrine and Covenants, never appends a pronoun in his discussions of the Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit, or the Comforter, and Elder Charles Penrose actually identified the Holy Ghost with Heavenly Mother.

Contemporary Mormons, of course, will say the Book of Mormon refers to the Holy Spirit as a he. But then one needs to look at the culture in which the Book of Mormon came forth. People in the nineteenth century were looking for biblical consistency. What encouraged Brigham Young and most converts to join the church was the fact that the Book of Mormon was consistent with the biblical text. Suddenly shifting the gender of the Holy Spirit was not going to convince anyone to join the LDS Church.

RNS: What do you hope for the article to accomplish?

FG: As a historical researcher, I am simply trying to excavate a history of how the Divine Feminine has been understood in the Christian, and in the Mormon tradition. I do not intend this article to be a persuasive piece. I see it as part of an ongoing conversation, and hope it will open doors in many different directions.

There is much work to be done. I’m hoping I can turn this Cliffs Notes version into a monograph in which I can highlight the role of the Divine Feminine in the Hebrew tradition, the Catholic tradition, and now in our tradition—and how this all fits into Joseph’s wonderfully expansive view of the role of Heavenly Mother—and women—in the gospel restoration.


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About the author

Jana Riess

Senior columnist Jana Riess is the author of many books, including "The Prayer Wheel" (Random House/Convergent, 2018) and "The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church" (Oxford University Press, 2019). She has a PhD in American religious history from Columbia University.

64 Comments

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  • The Church of Jesus Christ in Christian fellowship pointed out these two facts earlier this year, and the founder got blocked on Facebook by the Ordain Women group for pointing it out. The Fellowship exists as a blueprint for finishing the work Joseph Smith started. The Relief Society was suppose to grow to a point where the First Elder/Prophet and Elect Lady/Prophetess lead the Lord’s church that the Lord’s Word be established by the mouths of 2 witnesses. You can see the blueprint at http://reliefsociety.cjccf.org/

  • God bless the Internet. It’s the only reason Church leaders are “allowing” these kinds of conversations – and that’s discouraging. Nonetheless, thank you Fiona for DIALOGUE piece & interview.

  • This is ridiculous – and I can’t imaging the mental gymnastics it would take to say something like “…it’s clear that women were ministering with men in collaborative roles as apostles, prophets, teachers, deacons, etc. in the New Testament.”

    Yeah, that’s totally clear. That’s why Paul (in 1 Cor 14:34-35) says that women shouldn’t even TALK in Church. Because these supposed female “apostles, prophets, teachers, deacons, etc.” we’re just better at ministering silently. SMH

  • Women DO have a collaborative role with the priesthood. Anyone who has ever worked in the Relief Society can tell you that. .

  • I agree with Sister Fiona Givens, there does appear to be significant evidence that Heavenly Mother is the Holy Spirit. Consider these sources and analysis:

    “Janice Allred, in her groundbreaking essay “Toward a Mormon Theology of God the Mother”, provides an alternative interpretation of who the Holy Spirit is, and how the Holy Spirit could be equal to God that resonates well with me, she explains God this way:

    “‘In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; in the image of his body, male and female, created he them.’ If God created male and female in the image of his own body then God the Creator must be the Divine Couple, a Man with a male body and a Woman with a female body. If God the Creator is the Divine Couple and God the Redeemer is the male part of the Divine Couple, then it is reasonable to conclude that God the Witness or Testator is the female part of God the Creator.

    God himself came down among the children of men to redeem his people. He sacrificed his immortal body and took on himself a mortal body to become one of us and suffer the pains and sorrows of mortality. He sacrificed his mortal body so that he might conquer death and bring about the resurrection of all humanity and he suffer pains of all our sins so that we might be redeemed.

    God herself came down among the children of women to succor her children. She sacrificed her immortal body to be with us; she remains a spirit so that she can always be with us to enlighten, to comfort, to strengthen, to feel, so suffer with us in all our sins, in our loneliness and pain, and to encircle us in the arms of her love. She bears witness of Christ and leads us to him, teaching us of their will so that we might partake of eternal life in their kingdom.”

    To my surprise, Allred drew upon LDS scripture for her new interpretation, and there were a large variety of other sources that likewise validated this interpretation. . .

    Interestingly, there appear to have been historical discussions within the early LDS Church that included Heavenly Mother in the Godhead:

    “Sister Emmeline B. Wells (general secretary of the Relief Society; 1888-1910) published an excerpt of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s The Women’s Bible in an early Church affiliated publication – the Women’s Exponent 23:248 (April 1, 1895). In the excerpt, Stanton claims that Genesis 1:26-27 clearly shows ‘a consultation in the Godhead’ where ‘masculine and feminine elements are equally represented.’ This consultation involves the doctrine of a trinity, but not that of three male personages; Stanton’s trinity comprises instead ‘Heavenly Father, Mother, and Son'” (Pauslen et al., A Mother There: A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven, footnote 38).

    Further, there is evidence that the Mother in Heaven may have been worshiped in the Temple in Jerusalem, but was later removed, and that many alterations were made in the Hebrew texts to remove any reference to her. Margaret Barker who presented at the 2015 FairMormon Conference used historical and language analysis to show:

    “As late as 400CE, the Christains knew that Jesus had a heavenly Mother; she was called the Holy Spirit and she was called Wisdom . . . [that] Mother in heaven was a central figure in the old temple. Over many generations there was pressure to remove her, but we do not know why. Isaiah recognized that removing her led to false teaching. The refugees who eventually fled from Jerusalem took with them their old faith and did not forget her. They were the preserved or the preservers of Israel whom the Servant of the Lord would restore. Scribes in the second temple era tried to remove from the Hebrew texts all memory of the Mother and her Son, and modern translators have continued their work by not translating accurately even what remains.” (Margaret Barker, “The Mother in Heaven and Her Children”).

    The Gospel of the Hebrews, a syncretic Jewish-Christian gospel, correlates the Holy Spirit with Heavenly Mother:

    “Even now did my mother the Holy Spirit take me by one of mine hairs, and carried me away unto the great mountain Thabor.” (Gospel of the Hebrews quoted by Origen)

    Some have even found evidence for Heavenly Mother in the Bible as written (see, for example, The True Bible Code, “The Holy Spirit is God’s Wife”).”

  • They may collaborate – working with the priesthood. But that’s it. They have absolutely no decision making power at all. Any and all decisions have to be approved by someone holding the priesthood, from activities to callings etc.

  • Very long story , but to make it really short … a personal witness to a visitation beyond description ( very earth shaking ) of unbelievable intelligence and presence that immediately and audibly spoke to me . It was definitely not female .

  • it could have been alcohol, drugs, satan, Zeus, or a bit of undigested turnip just as easily.

  • A few Points.

    1 There is evidence that verses 33 and 34 were inserted latter and were not original with Paul
    Try reading the Chapter and skipping those two verses
    https://www.lds.org/scriptures/nt/1-cor/14.34-35?lang=eng#26

    2 For those that accept Joseph Smith’s authority to revise the scriptures, he changed speak to rule. https://www.lds.org/ensign/1976/02/new-testament-backgrounds-1-and-2-corinthians?lang=eng

    3 The salutation at the end of Paul’s Greatest theological letter, Romans, refers to several women (10 of the 29 greeted by name)who are obviously engaged in the work of the Church. Of particular note are “hard workers” Tryphena andTryphosa, who were possibly doing mission work, Peobe the deliverer and therefor authorized reader and explainer of the letter, and Junia who was, with Andronicus, “of note among the apostles”. Whether this is equivalent to the modern Eclesiastical office or merly adescription of a very sucesful missionary couple (“Large A vs.small a” apostles as Elder Carlos H,. Amado explained to us missionaries when he acompianed Pres Hinkley to Buenos Aries, Argentina) is not certain but definatly not nothing. (http://www.womeninthescriptures.com/2012/10/tryphena-and-tryphosa.htm

  • Only in your mind . The problem is that the event was a daytime physical occurance that anyone present could have also witnessed .

  • A couple of very foundational things taught about the Godhead by Joseph Smith must be ignored in order to believe the conclusions of Janice Allred. Joseph Smith taught that the Father and the Son are separate individuals. This is the very first thing he learned about the nature of God as it came in the First Vision. With this in mind, her statement “If…God the Redeemer is the male part of the Divine Couple, then it is reasonable to conclude that God the Witness or Testator is the female part of God the Creator” falls apart.

    The idea that the Mother in Heaven is the Holy Ghost who gave up her body to be able to be here with us also ignores the LDS doctrinal definition of resurrection. Resurrection is the permenant reuniting of the spirit with the body. From Alma 11:45 “…concerning the death of the mortal body, and also concerning the resurrection of the mortal body. I say unto you that this mortal body is raised to an immortal body, that is from death, even from the first death unto life, that they can die no more; their spirits uniting with their bodies, never to be divided…”. Also from D&C 138:17 “Their sleeping dust was to be restored unto its perfect frame, bone to his bone, and the sinews and the flesh upon them, the spirit and the body to be united never again to be divided…”. If we believe as has been taught by LDS prophets that “as man now is, God once was” and extrapolate that to mean that God the Father was married on an ancient earth and both He as the Heavenly Mother were resurrected, then she can’t give up her body to become the Holy Ghost.

    In the LDS Church we are taught that the one with the authority to teach doctrine and interpret scripture is the president of the church. My understanding is that Janice Allred was excommunicated from the LDS Church for this very teaching you quote. If she appealed this to the First Presidency, they sustained the action of her bishop. In effect, they agreed with her bishop that her teachings on the subject were false doctrine. The two items I pointed out ought to be sufficient to convince any Mormon that the teachings of Janice Allred were incorrect, and that they should follow the prophet instead of her.

    Also, about Fiona Givens claiming that there is evidence that the Holy Ghost is the Mother in Heaven, she does not make this claim, only that others have. In her own words, “I want to make clear that I am not making this claim, just tracing a fascinating but neglected historical dimension to the Divine Feminine.”

  • Who conferred keys on Eliza R Snow as Presidentess after Brigham disbanded the RS for 23 years? Come on Brigham seriously? Why did you have to say “stay at home”, and “if you see females huddling together veto the concern” ? President Linda Burton – please confirm to the rest of us here, were keys conferred upon you as general RS president when you were “set apart”? We all acknowledge how poorly the anonymous authors of the essay “JS teachings about PT&W” explain the meaning of “ordain”, and “ordination”. The fact that the essay entirely skips the duties, responsibilities, authorities, powers and keys exercised by priestesses in Zion reduces the fulness of the blessing promised in D&Cov 113:8.

  • LB35, my first thought after reading Janice Allred’s article was the First Vision as well. But as I studied the First Vision there appears to be a lot of discrepancies:

    “it is a bit unclear if Joseph Smith exactly knew what he saw himself. He was born in 1805, and claimed to have “seen God the Father and Jesus Christ” in 1820. In 1832, twelve years after the event, Joseph Smith writes down the earliest known account of the First Vision:

    “a piller of fire light above the brightness of the sun at noon day come down from above and rested upon me and I was filled with the spirit of god and the opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph thy sins are forgiven thee. go thy walk in my statutes and keep my commandments behold I am the Lord of glory I was crucifyed for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life.” (History, circa 1832, Joseph Smith Papers at josephsmithpapers dot org)

    Here, Joseph saw the “Lord”, and the Lord states that He was “crucified for the world” – meaning there was possibly only one personage, who corresponded to Jesus Christ. Three years later (fifteen years after the event), Joseph Smith recounted the First Vision to a visitor in Nauvoo, Robert Matthews, which account was recorded in Joseph’s Journal by a scribe:

    “I called on the Lord in mighty prayer, a pillar of fire appeared above my head, it presently rested down upon my head, and filled me with joy unspeakable, a personage appeard in the midst, of this pillar of flame which was spread all around, and yet nothing consumed, another personage soon appeard like unto the first, he said unto me thy sins are forgiven thee, he testifyed unto me that Jesus Christ is the son of God; ” (Journal, 1835-1836, Joseph Smith Papers)

    Here, it is a bit ambiguous who the personages are, and it includes further details not found elsewhere, e.g. “many angels” in a vision. Other accounts follow the widely circulated First Vision account: Heavenly Father appeared together with Jesus Christ (see 1838 Account, 1842 Account, an attempted correlation of the First Vision Accounts, and some Second Hand Accounts from people Joseph Smith told). However, some of the Second Hand Accounts from twenty-plus years after the First Vision, likewise, contain ambiguity over who appeared, and reference only one personage (see Levi Richards Journal (1843) and Alexander Neibaur Journal (1844)).

    I continue to believe very strongly that Joseph Smith saw God, but given the length of time between the First Vision and the first recorded version of it and the discrepancies between the various accounts, I feel there is still plenty of room to believe Joseph Smith saw God in one or multiple forms, and there is still room to believe that God may actually be the “divine couple” – Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother – with each taking on a role on this earth as, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, respectively. Joseph Smith may have only seen one personage, or two personages – with one being Jesus Christ and the other could have been Heavenly Mother, an angel, or someone/something else, but in the end, I don’t really know.”

  • @LB35, regarding the ability of Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother being unable to give up their glorified, immortal bodies for different forms, e.g. a mortal body and a personage of spirit, are you saying that our Heavenly Parents are somehow limited in their power? Are they not omnipotent, all powerful, and all knowing? Does Alma and D&C refer to our Heavenly Parents or to us humans who will be resurrected?

    Regarding being contrary to the teachings of Joseph Smith, do we really know exactly what he said? Is there any possibility that what he taught or wrote was incorrectly documented, transcribed, or underwent any revisions? The 1830 Book of Mormon has substantial revisions from our current versions:

    “For instance, the original 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon confirmed that the male portion of the divine couple, “God the Father”, is also Jesus Christ:

    “Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Eternal Father!” (Book of Mormon, 1830, Pg. 25, see the 1830 Book of Mormon at josephsmithpapers dot org) As compared to: “Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!” (1 Nephi 11:21)

    “These last records which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first, which is of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father and the Saviour of the world; and that all men must come unto Him” (Book of Mormon, 1830, Pg. 32, see at josephsmithpapers dot org). As compared to “. . . that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved.” (1 Nephi 13:40)

    Portions of the current version of the Book of Mormon, likewise, address how the male half of God is both the Father and the Son:

    “And because he dwelleth in flesh, he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son— The Father because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son— And they are one God, yea the very Eternal Father of heaven and earth. And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the Son to the Father, being one God” (Mosiah 15:2-5; also see Allred, Pgs. 22-23).”

    The Book of Commandments has substantial revisions when compared to the Doctrine and Covenants, see for example Chapter IV of the Book of Commandments as opposed to D&C Section 5 (see Ch. IV of the Book of Commandments at josephsmithpapers dot org)

  • LB35, my first thought after reading Janice Allred’s article was the First Vision as well. But as I studied the First Vision there appears to be a lot of discrepancies:

    “it is a bit unclear if Joseph Smith exactly knew what he saw himself. He was born in 1805, and claimed to have “seen God the Father and Jesus Christ” in 1820. In 1832, twelve years after the event, Joseph Smith writes down the earliest known account of the First Vision:

    “a piller of fire light above the brightness of the sun at noon day come down from above and rested upon me and I was filled with the spirit of god and the opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph thy sins are forgiven thee. go thy walk in my statutes and keep my commandments behold I am the Lord of glory I was crucifyed for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life.” (History, circa 1832, Joseph Smith Papers at josephsmithpapers dot org)

    Here, Joseph saw the “Lord”, and the Lord states that He was “crucified for the world” – meaning there was possibly only one personage, who corresponded to Jesus Christ. Three years later (fifteen years after the event), Joseph Smith recounted the First Vision to a visitor in Nauvoo, Robert Matthews, which account was recorded in Joseph’s Journal by a scribe:

    “I called on the Lord in mighty prayer, a pillar of fire appeared above my head, it presently rested down upon my head, and filled me with joy unspeakable, a personage appeard in the midst, of this pillar of flame which was spread all around, and yet nothing consumed, another personage soon appeard like unto the first, he said unto me thy sins are forgiven thee, he testifyed unto me that Jesus Christ is the son of God; ” (Journal, 1835-1836, Joseph Smith Papers)

    Here, it is a bit ambiguous who the personages are, and it includes further details not found elsewhere, e.g. “many angels” in a vision. Other accounts follow the widely circulated First Vision account: Heavenly Father appeared together with Jesus Christ (see 1838 Account, 1842 Account, an attempted correlation of the First Vision Accounts, and some Second Hand Accounts from people Joseph Smith told). However, some of the Second Hand Accounts from twenty-plus years after the First Vision, likewise, contain ambiguity over who appeared, and reference only one personage (see Levi Richards Journal (1843) and Alexander Neibaur Journal (1844) at gospel topics essay: first vision accounts, second hand accounts).

    I continue to believe very strongly that Joseph Smith saw God, but given the length of time between the First Vision and the first recorded version of it and the discrepancies between the various accounts, I feel there is still plenty of room to believe Joseph Smith saw God in one or multiple forms, and there is still room to believe that God may actually be the “divine couple” – Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother – with each taking on a role on this earth as, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, respectively. Joseph Smith may have only seen one personage, or two personages – with one being Jesus Christ and the other could have been Heavenly Mother, an angel, or someone/something else, but in the end, I don’t really know.”

  • Joseph Smith was pretty clear that the Father and Son were separate beings. In D&C 130:22 he states, “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.” Although the different accounts of the First Vision emphasize different things that happened that day, I really doubt that Joseph was ever confused about what he saw or forgot details of that event, even years later. There are three members of the Godhead according to his teachings based on that event, each separate and individual.

  • Is God limited in what He can do? Yes, there are limits. God can not lie, He can not allow mercy to rob justice (…do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto you, Nay; not one whit. If so, God would cease to be God. Alma 42:25). So, no, a resurrected being does not have the ability to die. It is commonly believed that the laws of God are eternal; in other words, they apply to all generations in the eternities, to our Father in Heaven as well as to His Father in Heaven and us. So the terms of the resurrection apply to both us and our Parents in Heaven.

  • @lb35:disqus, it’s interesting you chose that section, because it has a long history of being slowly modified over 15 years, until it appeared in that form. See BYU Professor Dr. Ronald E. Bartholomew’s excellent analysis of it in “The Textual Development of D&C 130:22 and the Embodiment of the Holy Ghost”, BYU Studies Quarterly 52, no. 3 (2013). You cite scripture as if it is set in stone, but it has undergone revisions over time, which raises the possibility that something may have been lost over time.

    Regarding the first vision accounts, there is quite a bit more variation than “different things that happened that day”, for example, Joseph Smith’s age varied from 14 years to 17 years between several of the accounts, the number and identity of personages varied (e.g. only the “Lord”, two personages and a pillar of fire, a host of angels without Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and two personages w/o a pillar), in some accounts he was told “all the churches were wrong” but not in others, in some accounts his object was to determine which church was true while in others he was concerned about forgiveness of sins, etc. I think the issues of varying first vision accounts and changing scriptures is more nuanced than “this current version of the scriptures says this” – end of discussion.

  • It’s really unfortunate that the church doesn’t have someone who could just ask God for this type of information and give a clear answer. Like a prophet or something like that.

    Welp, at least Jesus got his mall…

  • @lb35:disqus, to me there appears to be a difference between “could not” and “would not”. Would God lie? No, because God is honest and truthful. I believe Agency is an eternal principle, or else whither Satan’s plan to remove agency and force everyone to be perfect? I believe God’s plan was to preserve Agency, so that we will be able to continue to choose, but learn to choose the good, choose light, choose knowledge, until we grow brighter and brighter as the perfect day.

    You seem to be describing a limited God, without substantial power. Is God limited by something else greater? Or does God choose to live according to ideals and truths that govern behavior? I’m not sure, but I’d rather believe that God can do all things, just as “I can do all things in Christ, who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13)

  • You really have to wonder when the Givens are finally gonna say ****it and decide to do the right thing, the MORAL thing, and stop stringing people along with this stuff.

    Fiona, is the BoM actual history? Unless you can answer that in the affirmative, nothing else JS said or did really matters, including whatever @ women & priesthood.

  • Answers were given in general conference. Just because they didn’t stand up and say “sister Kelly, we asked and the answer is …”, doesn’t mean the answer wasn’t given.

  • … the implication being, of course, that both the all-male institutional Catholic & Mormon hierarchies are in serviceable condition. Completely wrong, they’re both disaster zones, and in the case of the LDS, the best is yet to come. Mendacity + mismanagement is not sustainable in the Information Age

  • @disqus_WLvRjV8d2T:disqus, I’m genuinely curious, are you saying that you had a personal visitation with the “Holy Spirit” or you received knowledge of the Holy Spirit during your personal witness? I’m open to light and knowledge from any source . . .

  • @Seldom_Seen_Smith:disqus , I’m open to that possibility too, as it is a plausible answer, but I find the collection of information on Heavenly Mother in various faith traditions to be compelling, not that it must be true necessarily, but that it is widespread. For example, the Gospel of the Hebrews, the Nag Hammadi Library (i.e. Gnostic gospels), early Mormon teachings on Heavenly Mother, etc., which I think makes it worth studying and understanding.

  • If I understand the question right , I am saying it was a personal appearance of the undeniable . As surely as if you walked into a room and it was obvious , on an even greater scale , a being of unfathomable intelligence and presence entered where I was . It’s impossible almost to describe , but there was no mistaking it . And when the voice spoke , it pierced something in our own selves that normally we are unaware of . It was not just a warm , fuzzy feeling . It was earth shattering . When people say they ‘ felt the Spirit ‘ , they don’t know what they’re talking about .

  • That sounds like a very powerful experience, thank you for sharing. Do you interpret that experience as being from the Holy Spirit? In other words, that it was the Spirit speaking to you? Could it have been God, e.g. Heavenly Father, speaking through the Spirit? Or something similar?

  • I’m only left to believe that it was the Holy Spirit . Could it have been an other worldly being unidentifiable ? Possible .

  • @disqus_WLvRjV8d2T:disqus, interesting, I hadn’t heard about Lecture 5th:

    “Lecture Five 2. There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing, and supreme power over all things, by whom all things were created and made…. They are the Father and the Son: the Father being a personage of spirit, glory, and power, possessing all perfection and fulness. The Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, is a personage of tabernacle, made or fashioned like unto man, being in the form and likeness of man, or rather man was formed after his likeness and in his image. He is also the express image and likeness of the personage of the Father, possessing all the fulness of the Father, or the same fulness with the Father; being begotten of him, and ordained from before the foundation of the world to be a propitiation for the sins of all those who should believe on his name. He is called the Son because of the flesh…possessing the same mind with the Father, which mind is the Holy Spirit that bears record of the Father and the Son. These three are one; or, in other words, these three constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme power over all things. Q & A 15. Do the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit constitute the Godhead? They do.”

    (Dahl, Larry E., and Charles D. Tate, eds. The Lectures on Faith in Historical Perspective. Provo, Utah, 1990, encyclopedia of mormonism, lectures on faith)

    Fascinating. I really miss the questioning and exploration that we had in the early Church. It’s much more interesting, and creative.

  • Doesn’t that strike you odd , that a man who only a few years earlier claimed to have seen the Father and the Son , has now produced hard doctrine that says the Father is a personage of spirit ?

  • Your experience reminds me of an experience David Allred had, as recorded in Janice Allred’s article on Heavenly Mother:

    “Janice was driving-she had been since Denver-and I was reading to her from Margaret’s and Paul’s book [Strangers in Paradox]. I got to a part of the book that overwhelmed me suddenly: “Rather each is cast in the Image of the Mater Dolarosa, the mourning mother who imposes upon herself a voluntary exile in order to wander with, and comfort her children, mourning and grieving in the veil of tears.” At this point I felt tears welling up inside of me and I choked on, “She is like Rachel weeping for her children. She is De …”

    I couldn’t control my voice; I couldn’t go on. I wept for a while and then said, “I am very touched by this.” Janice said, It’s more than that. It’s revelation.” I said, “She is here with us. She is in the back seat with us and … ”

    What was I feeling? I was saying inside myself, “This is what I want-to comfort in this veil of tears, to nurture, not to advance myself. This is what I have always wanted.” Yearning towards her, I cried out in my heart, “I want to share your loneliness and sorrows. How can I? Oh, that I could comfort with you!”

    I realized that she was not in the back seat. She was around me and before me. With tear fogged eyes I saw her fill the horizon in front of me. I couldn’t go on reading. Tears were on my cheeks. I am not usually so overcome with feelings. I rarely cry. I stopped wondering if Janice would wonder why I was having such trouble going forward. I began wondering if I could remain on earth. I was being expanded and it was joyful-and it hurt!

    This was not just empathy for the Mother. This was epiphany. She is here! I felt such love and identification for her and her work and rapture at her presence.

    What would I tell Janice? What could I tell her? Finally I regained control and found out.

    “I’ve given my heart to the Mother. She was here and I wasn’t sure that I would go on living.”” (Janice Allred, “Toward a Mormon Theology of God the Mother”)

    I’m not trying to insinuate that your experience was the same, or that any similar conclusions or meaning should be attached to it, but I found the parallels of an overwhelming, indescribably experience as an interesting parallel. I appreciate your willingness to discuss it, and explore its meaning.

  • It is really odd, and it makes everything a little bit more fuzzy and open to reinterpretation.

    The only conclusion I can come to is, I’m not sure Joseph Smith was even sure what he experienced. Maybe his concept of God and understanding was constantly evolving, I don’t know. Maybe it was all recorded incorrectly, I don’t know. But there is definitely quite a bit more uncertainty in early Church teachings than we realize.

  • When Oaks reads this Dialogue article he will refer back to his statement in April 1992, “No priesthood keys were delivered to the Relief Society. Keys are conferred on individuals, not organizations.” He really holds on tightly to the old error of History of the Church, 4:607; “I now turn the key in your behalf.”
    Sisters were endowed to receive the keys of discernment, and the “keys of pow’r which will influence to virtue and goodness.” 26May1842. The Goddess on high as a creative, co-author of the plan of salvation desires that our women burst through the front door of the temple on their way out with keys in hand empowered to do the work of salvation. Why should we keep that old steward of tradition at the door, sheepishly with a basket in hand, to remind the sisters as they walk out of the temple doors, “drop your keys of power in the basket please!” No priestesses [to become such] are allowed to leave these doors! It would be like running out of Costco without the guy checking your receipt.

  • Gee, I musta missed that “clear answer.” I’m not alone. Perhaps you’d care to reiterate?

  • There is really nothing worse than the self-congratulatory fiction of reactionary sects crowing that somehow they are doing any better than the more progressive ones on the subject of membership growth. They aren’t, but like most things associated with reactionary religious belief, its all about feeling superior to others as “spiritually special” more than anything else. I see the progressive christian and jewish sects are still alive and well despite your claim that “they commit suicide”.

    My guess is a generation ago, Mormons like yourself would have thought the same thing about giving black people the priesthood. That it destroys the fundamental building block of Mormonism as the church of the white race. yadda yadda yadda.

    Its telling that sects like yours can’t seem to retain its youth except by keeping them in near-gulag conditions of isolation from the rest of the world. Missionary work is hardly engaging the rest of the world. Not like going out there and getting an education and employment outside of one’s demographic bubble.

  • I champion womanhood in the Kingdom. However, there is no evidence that Mary Magdalene was an Apostle. It does bear mentioning, though, that she is my ultimate scriptural heroine because she had faith in the Resurrected Lord when the brethren did not. That’s a remarkable testament to the magnificence of womanhood and I am honored to work at the temple and in the Kingdom every day with illustrious women. My mom and Aunt Jannie are among these magnificent souls. However, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is governed exactly as the Lord wants it to be. Ordain Women is an ignominious stain on the world in the latter days. We men (for better or worse) have been commissioned with the Priesthood but women seem to be better folks without it. I don’t think that’s an accident or mere happenstance. This is ultimately what I believe on the matter: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2002/04/women-of-righteousness?lang=eng

  • All gods, however advanced they may be in their eternal progression, must keep rules and abide by laws. That’s why we have commandments, so we may learn to live after the manner of godliness.

  • Way to split hairs here. Also you are completely full of it.

    “Plus, even an outsider like me can see that the masculine nature of the Mormon priesthood is the fundamental building block of Mormon male identity.”

    Like that doesn’t sound like an insider crowing about their sect. Riiiight? People who phony claim to be of one group and make arguments to the contrary are fairly common. You are parroting dishonest Evangelical cliches and pretending you are a “none”.

    “Third, check the figures for the “alive and well” progressive religious bodies of Christians and Jews. Numbers are plummeting.”

    Numbers for ALL Christian and Jewish sects are plummeting. Reactionary sects are trying to pretend their demographic expansion (making lots of babies) counts as growing acceptance of their beliefs. But they can’t seem to retain people when they get to adulthood. Carrying the reactionary belief into the next generation is extremely problematic for them.

    So the whole, “Progressive churches are dying because of their permissiveness” is just a load of phony self-congratulatory fundamentalist fiction.

  • @disqus_r8I33hbEfT:disqus, so in your estimation, do the commandments, of their own power, give God power, or does God have power from the progress/perfection obtained through keeping commandments? In other words, does God become powerful through keeping commandments or is God so powerful that keeping commandments is a natural bi-product of perfection? Does Logos emanate from God because of perfection or does God reach perfection through acquiring Logos?

  • Numbers are plummeting in all religious sects. for now, its faster in the more liberal sects, but that’s because “everyone make nice” doesn’t play to fear anywhere near as well as “believe or burn.”

  • “RNS: The article has an account I’ve never heard before: of Joseph, Sidney Rigdon, and Zebedee Coltrin having a vision of the Heavenly Family: Father, Mother, and Son. Why don’t we hear more about this?
    FG: We don’t hear about it because Heavenly Mother has only just become a safe topic. Quite honestly, since the essay on Heavenly Mother came out, implying approbation by the leadership of the church, the conversation discussing who she might be is now tenable in a way it has not been in the past.”

    The reference to Coltrin’s vision is problematic. In the discussion above the reference is made to the Heavenly family – Father, Mother, and Son (Jesus). Coltrin related this vision at least three times (including the detail that he was with Joseph and Sidney in one account, and with Joseph and Oliver in the other two accounts). In the two accounts including Oliver instead of Sidney, Zebedee relates that he saw Father Adam and Mother Eve, but does not mention the appearance of the Son. In all three accounts the context is the same – Joseph leading them to pray in the woods after a conference in New Portage.

    Either Givens is ignorant of the other two accounts, she is implying that Heavenly Father is Adam and Heavenly Mother is Eve, or she is intentionally disregarding the other two accounts because they contradict her premise. In any of these three scenarios, it is either poor scholarship or poor integrity in her pursuit of being a “historical researcher.” I’m a fan of the Givens’ but this response is disappointing because it is clearly taking the story out of context to accommodate an ideological agenda.

  • Because any time you are about to do the right thing, it is usually prefaced by saying ****it.

  • prove to me that Mary Magdalene was an Apostle and held the Melchizedek Priesthood. Use scriptures. If you don’t, it’s speculation. It’s dangerous to wrest the scriptures as Peter taught and to make stuff up.

  • You should take your complaint to the Catholic Church, not to me. That was their term for her.

    as far as the Melchizedek priesthood, prove that ANYONEever held it, except by supposition or wishful thinking. Mel is first mentioned in Genesis, which hardly makes him or his priesthood historical. He is identified in Judaism as Shem, the son of Noah, making him even less likely to be real, though he would be one of the fathers of the Jewish people, which would also make him more mythical then real..

  • Doctrine and Covenants Section 84 makes it quite clear that the Biblical patriarchs had the Holy Priesthood, which is the Holy Priesthood after the order of the Son of God, or the Melchizedek Priesthood. Nice try. Psalms 110:4 says Christ is a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. The scriptures say so. Is your assertion scriptural? You fools will argue just to argue, just like the fools I indulged at the Mormon Miracle Pageant this past week.

  • So you refer to another holy book of dubious provenance to “prove” something.
    Again, take it up with the Catholic Church. Perhaps you can explain to them why your church has superseded theirs. They will be as interested as I’m sure I am.

  • I don’t get it. Christ is a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, but Christ gave the keys to Peter. So Peter was also made a priest after the order of Melchizedek.

  • I love members of the Catholic Church I meet on a consistent basis as well as on my mission in Tucson and El Paso. I will not speak with the pontiff because I know he’s a false priest. He never had the Priesthood nor have any of his successors, especially not in the schism era. What an embarrassment for them. These books of scripture are true. It’s up to you to decide if you’ll pray about my comments and learn for yourself. Of course, it’s fun (and destructive to your spirit, beware) to play devil’s advocate.

  • “I will not speak with the pontiff because I know he’s a false priest. ”
    A True Christian says it all in True Christian-speak.

  • Heavenly Mother = Holy Ghost
    Quite apart from all other pitfalls, this would completely destroy the idea that the Holy Ghost is a “personage of Spirit”

  • Things that are important we tend to remember quite well. I recently commented on a post made on FB by my Blazer teacher. His step daughter had written “by my step-dad”. I wrote, “by my Blazer Teacher”. I am 51 now.
    My brother asked how I remembered who my Blazer teacher was as he didn’t remember any of his old primary teachers.
    I remembered him because of the impact he had on my life.
    If I had received the First Vision I doubt I would have forgotten any of it. I do believe, just as with all things we relate to others, that I might have told it differently to different audiences. And I might also have missed bits out in some tellings.
    And it is possible that those writing my story might miss bits out, or add something from a misunderstanding.

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