Friday, May 20, 2011

Review: A Mother There

The reason I haven't done reviews in months is because I wanted to do a review of When God was a Woman, but it's a very dense book: I've renewed it from the library around 5 times, and I'm still only a third of the way in. Meanwhile, there are other great articles and books that need attention and I don't want to miss those, so When God was a Woman is on hold for a little bit.

The biggest buzz around Heavenly Mother this month has been about the David L. Paulsen and Marin Pulido's BYU Studies article, A Mother There. I linked to it in my Mother's Day
 Talk post. You can find it for free here. Mormon Matters did a discussion on the article that you can listen to here. On to the review!

The authors state the thesis of the article, "In this paper, we will share important historical accounts that cast serious doubt on the specific claims that, first, a sacred silence has always surrounded this treasured Mormon doctrine and that, second, Heavenly Mother’s ascribed roles have been marginalized or trivialized." They then separate what they have found as references to various traits of Heavenly Mother into "Heavenly Wife and Parent," "A Divine Person," "Co-creator with the Father," "Coframer of the Plan of Salvation," "Involved Parent in Our Mortality," and "Mother in Heaven in the Hereafter."

First, I loved having access to new Heavenly Mother quotes that I didn't have access to before. Most of the sources that Paulsen and Pulido studied are tucked away in the Church Archives and not available online. I loved this so much, that I used some of the quotes in my Mother's Day Talk. And I enjoyed the layout of the article with the focus on the traits of Heavenly Mother that aren't limited to being a mother. Women are more than their ability to be mothers. And Heavenly Mother is more than a Heavenly Mother- she's a goddess! Attributing godly traits to Heavenly Mother is one of my goals in this blog and the reason I put together Months in Review.

There were some fascinating references. I really enjoyed the sections on Heavenly Mother's involvement in our current lives. There was even one where a man felt that it was inspiration from Heavenly Mother that led to him giving up smoking.

I agree with Paulsen and Pulido's thesis that Heavenly Mother has not always been shrouded in "sacred silence." In the past 15 years or so, I think many people have felt that "sacred silence" is important and I heard that repeated in church classes growing up. But I don't believe that is helpful, needed, or even wanted. I feel that with the boom of the information age of the Internet, more discussion on Heavenly Mother has been happening and I hope that the "sacred silence" around her will disapear.

The other side of the coin of "How wonderful it is to have more quotes to reference!" is the fact that there's a reason most Mormons did not know of these quotes: they are hidden away and not accessible. On one level, I felt like Paulsen and Pulido's thesis was saying, "Of course she's been mentioned throughout the history of the Church. Why does anyone think we don't talk about Her? Look at all this proof!" But Paulsen and Pulido did years of research through old Church publications to find the 600+ references they mention. On the other hand, I can take less than a second and find 504 references to Heavenly Father in General Conference and over 13,000 references to Heavenly Father total on Heavenly Mother doesn't get the same treatment.

What I hope that this paper will do is bring to light that Heavenly Mother has been, is, and can be spoken of. I would love to see a collection of all the 600 or more quotes in a database to read and access. It would be wonderful to add some of those quotes to WAVE's Words of Wisdom project! And we can all make sure that when we talk about growing closer to our Heavenly Father, we include Heavenly Mother. I'll keep mentioning her as She comes up in lessons and discussions, and you can too.

I enjoyed listening to the Mormon Matter's podcast on this. Pulido was on the discussion panel and one of the first things he mentioned was that in his research, he found no instances that anyone in the First Presidency or Quorum of the 12 has ever said that we can't talk about Heavenly Mother. There was also some discussion on the issue of praying to Heavenly Mother and at the end a mention of putting together an art project (perhaps a gallery collection?) of art and writing about Heavenly Mother.

I think you'll all enjoy reading the paper and listening to the subsequent podcast. Happy reading and listening!

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