Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Mother Here

An art and poetry contest for work representing Heavenly Mother is accepting entries until March 4th, 2014. I have donated to the contest since I have doubts about my ability to produce a fitting entry, although I intend to try. I feel inspired to try. I've written a few good poems in the past, but I'm hardly a poet. I've made some decent art, but my best stuff is embroidered, so doesn't qualify as 2D. By profession I'm a biophysicist and a teacher, not an artist or poet, but that won't stop me from trying. You see, I want to know more about Heavenly Mother. It seems to me that getting people thinking about Her is a possible step towards someone seeking and receiving revelation that will help us all know Her more. So I'm hoping that you start thinking about Mother in Heaven and make something beautiful. It might only be beautiful to you (as is the case with most of the art I make, although my family and friends encourage me, anyway). It might be amateur folk art (which I am likely to love, even if it won't ever win a contest). It might not meet the criteria of the contest (my wife said she wants to knit a Tree of Life hearkening back to early representations of the tree as a goddess). So if this idea inspires you, too, do something about it. If you're having trouble thinking of ideas, I've got some stories that might get you started.

If you are serious about doing this, you might want to come back and read my ideas later. They are speculative and dubiously doctrinal, and they might interfere with your receiving truly inspired and true ideas. Disclaimer done, I hope you enjoy my stories.

Agency is Eternal

My father-in-law spends a lot of time riding a tractor and thinking. He once shared with me his thoughts on a statement in The Family: A Proclamation to the World. "Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose." He concluded that if gender was part of our being as spirit children, we must have chosen it as intelligences, because God would not force us into a particular state of being. My father-in-law would probably not agree with the conclusions I eventually came to from this idea (that some individuals may have chosen a gender different from male or female, and that the genders some individuals chose may not match up with their biological gender, which could have been an accident of their births in the messy world we live in), but either way it seems like possible inspiration for art. There is real tension in making a decision that will affect us for the rest of eternity, and real joy in finding your choice is leading you home--helping you become the you you sense you could be, the most fulfilled being you could hope for. What kind of Heavenly Mother would inspire an intelligence to emulate Her? What would that transition be like? What is the experience of an intelligence being born, or growing, as a Heavenly Mother in embryo?

The Next Vision

The Encyclopedia of Mormonism reminds us of these teachings of Joseph Smith regarding visions:

"Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject" (TPJS, p. 324; cf. HC 6:50). He also declared that "the best way to obtain truth and wisdom is not to ask it from books, but to go to God in prayer, and obtain divine teaching" (TPJS, p. 191).
I envision a new story that might have some of these familiar elements--or it might happen some way I've never imagined:

There was in the time when I lived an unusual excitement on the matter of a Mother in Heaven. It began on the bloggernacle but soon became general among Mormons everywhere. Indeed, every ward and branch seemed to have someone talking about it, and lots of people had different opinions about it, which created no small stir and division in Sunday School, some crying, “Lo, here!” and others, “Lo, there!” Some were contending for Feminism, some for simply more talk about Mother in Heaven, some for the status quo or for an end to speculation or blasphemy, some for recognition of Heavenly Polygamy.
For, notwithstanding the great love which the converts to these different faiths expressed for everyone, and the great zeal manifested by the respective teachers, leaders, and agitators, who were active in getting up and promoting this extraordinary scene of religious feeling, in order to have everybody converted, as they were pleased to call it, let them believe what they pleased; yet when the members began to file off, some to one party and some to another, it was seen that the seemingly good feelings of both bloggers and bishops were more pretended than real; for a scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensued—blogger contending against blogger, commenter against commenter, Elders Quorum president against Young Womens councilor; so that all their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions.
I was at this time in my fifteenth year. My mother’s family hoped more would be said by the prophets about Heavenly Mother, and four of them joined that party.
During this time of great excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness; but though my feelings were deep and often poignant, still I kept myself aloof from all these parties, though I read their several blogs and listened to their talks as often as occasion would permit. In process of time my mind became somewhat partial to the Feminist sect, and I felt some desire to be united with them; but so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with women and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong. 
My mind at times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult were so great and incessant. Those who favored the "yet to be revealed" status quo were most decided against the Heavenly Polygamists and the Feminists, and used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the Heavenly Polygamists and the Feminists in their turn were equally zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others. 
In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it? 
While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let [her] ask of God, that giveth to all [people] liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given [her]. Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of woman than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to scripture. 
At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture. 
So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I went into the foothills near my home to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of two thousand ____ ____. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to receive my own, new revelation. . .

I leave the rest of the story to you. I don't know what it will be, but I have no doubt God will answer, and it will be a vision that opens the heavens in ways people have prayed for yet never imagined. I feel I'm more like a Robert Mason than a Joseph Smith or even a Wilford Woodruff, although I haven't attained to Robert Mason's gifts or goodness. In Chapter 3 of Wilford Woodruff: History of His Life and Labors, Wilford Woodruff says of aged "Father Mason":
He said that [the work of establishing God's church and kingdom] would commence upon the earth before he died, but that he would not live to partake of its blessings. He said that I should live to do so, and that I should become a conspicuous actor in that kingdom.
I've had no visions of the future as God has ordained it--only fond imaginings and hopes of Zion and the eternities. I'll seek the visions, since I'm told it's my right, but I don't trust myself yet to get them, or get them right, but maybe you or I will live to see the day when visions of Mother in Heaven are proclaimed to the world by prophets, and we see more glorious panoramas of existence than we have yet imagined. Too often I doubt God will reveal it to me, but I don't doubt some guileless soul will seek and need to know the answer, and God will speak through her, if we will listen.

Post Script

So submit your art. Tell your friends. Donate if you like. Read the rules, if you want a chance at winning, because my ideas might not fit the requested theme. If your art doesn't get selected for display by the judges, send me your poem or a picture after the contest and we'll put our art up on a "Rejected Heavenly Mother Art" blog, or some such thing. Or at least I can tell you what I love about your entry.

1 comment:

  1. This is beautiful, Jonathan. "The testimony of Christ is the spirit of prophecy." I think many people, both women and men have begun to have visions of Heavenly Mother. Perhaps not visitations, per se, but surely, personal revelation about Her and from Her.

    I believe art is a means for heaven to spill into earth. Art about Heavenly Mother (or Heavenly Father or Christ, for that matter,) is in itself revelation. Thanks for this great essay.