Tuesday, December 25, 2012

"The Family" Part 2

"All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose. (The Family: A Proclamation to the World, The Family: A Proclamation to the World)"

These are some of the weirdest and most wonderful doctrines of Mormonism. We have a mother in heaven! Who else teaches this? We go so far beyond the typical, weak anthropomorphism religious people are so often criticized for. We don't claim a God who looks like us, we claim Gods who look like men AND women, who are literally our parents, and who want us to 'grow up' to be Gods like them. Far from disavowing this doctrine (despite some downplaying in the media), this is right at the beginning of the document defining our church's stand on the importance of family. We claim that gender isn't some accident of birth to be transcended after the resurrection, but important now, important in the future, and important in our pasts. There are all sorts of things that could be said to ridicule or condemn these teachings. They are in many ways more reminiscent of the Greek Gods we learn about in children's stories than like any contemporary concept of God. Alternatively, one can take the ideas seriously and possibly conclude that this is what you should expect Gods to be like if one is to take religion and evolution both seriously (Natural Gods, Existential Assumptions).

On top of these positive claims made in "The Family", there are a lot of cultural assumptions we make. So, to explain my Mormonism and why I could accept this part of "The Family" as scripture, I share another list of rhetorical and real questions highlighting what I see as omissions and implications that help "The Family" transcend our current culture and provide potential value for future generations:

  • Which aspects of us are in his image? We don't have his glory. What else is left out?
  • Is that image all there is to God's body? (Is God more than the image of our bodies?)
  • Is it implied that women are more in Mother's image?
  • Does image include sexual orientation? Really?
  • Are there only two eternal sexual orientations?
  • Do we really believe that every individual is created in God's image, or are individuals who are not clearly male or female not created in God's image? Created in a faulty image? Created in the image of a God we haven't seen (just like this proclamation implies women are)? If you have a clear answer to this, which scripture or president of the church or general proclamation did you get it from (seriously, please share. I will edit my post accordingly)?
  • Exactly how does gender relate to sexual orientation? 
  • Is gender is really an essential characteristic of EVERY person in mortality? I believe this, but if it's true, exactly how is it essential? For some is it essential in its brokenness, and not in its enduringness? Or are the essential parts of gender something not exactly like binary, male-female sexuality? 
  • What essential role does gender play in our eternal identity? For example, does it mean that if you are a righteous man you will get to be a benevolent heavenly father, beget children, and be worshipped in the worlds you make? If you are a righteous woman does it mean you will get to bear children for eternity and be protected from blasphemy by not being talked about much? If you are something else you will get to be happy in a subordinate role of some kind, or will you be fixed and then get to be a God or a mother? Are you sure this is what Mormon scripture and modern prophets teach?

Once again scripture, examined, not only allows for greater richness of interpretation than our cultural assumptions suggest, but requires we reexamine those assumptions to see if we really know they are from God.

I'm getting excited to see what future parts will make me ask myself. Comments are welcome to help me avoid errors in reasoning as I proceed.

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