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Prefatory Note by V.H. Cassler: I very much enjoyed this talk by Elder Brian K. Ashton when I heard it in conference. And yet while listening to it, I realized something extremely important was missing. I thought it possible that Elder Ashton might not recognize what was missing because of his sex; after all, each of us is limited by our historical time, place, culture, and even our bodily, sexed experiences. Perhaps if Elder Ashton and I had co-written the talk, it would have looked something like this . . . If you find your mind reacting to any particular sentence’s adaptation, ask yourself why, given the doctrine on Heavenly Mother promulgated by the Restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I promise that will be a very revealing exercise.

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For her entire life, my wife, Melinda, has tried with all her heart to be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. Yet, beginning in her youth, she felt unworthy of Heavenly Father’s and Heavenly Mother’s love and blessings because she misunderstood Their nature. Fortunately, Melinda continued to keep the commandments in spite of the sadness she felt. A few years ago, she had a series of experiences that helped her better understand God’s nature, including Their love for Their children and Their gratitude for our ever-imperfect efforts to do Their work.

She explains how this has influenced her: “I now feel sure that Father and Mother’s plan works, that They are personally invested in our success, and that They provide us with the lessons and experiences we need to return to Their presence. I see myself and others more as God sees us. I am able to parent, teach, and serve with more love and less fear. I feel peace and confidence rather than anxiety and insecurity. Instead of feeling judged, I feel supported. My faith is more certain. I feel my Father and Mother’s love more often and more deeply.”

Having “a correct idea of [Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother’s] character, perfections, and attributes” is essential to exercising faith sufficient to obtain exaltation. A correct understanding of our Heavenly Parents’ character can change how we see ourselves and others and help us to understand God’s tremendous love for Their children and Their great desire to help us become like Them. An incorrect view of Their nature can leave us feeling as if we are incapable of ever making it back to Their presence.

My objective today is to teach key doctrinal points about our Parents that will allow each of us, but especially those who wonder if God loves them, to better understand Their true character and to exercise greater faith in Them, Their Son, and Their plan for us.


The Premortal Life

In the premortal world, we were born as spirits to Heavenly Parents and lived with Them as a family. They knew us, taught us, and loved us. We wanted very much to be like our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. However, to do so, we recognized that we would have to:

1. Obtain glorified, immortal, physical bodies;
2. Be married and form families by the sealing power of the priesthood; and
3. Acquire all knowledge, power, and divine attributes.

Consequently, our Father and Mother created a plan that would allow us, upon certain conditions, to obtain physical bodies that would become immortal and glorified in the Resurrection; marry and form families in mortality or, for the faithful who did not have this opportunity, after mortality; progress toward perfection; and ultimately return to our Heavenly Parents and live with Them and our families in a state of exaltation and eternal happiness.

The scriptures call this the plan of salvation. We were so grateful for this plan that when it was presented to us, we shouted for joy. Each of us accepted the conditions of the plan, including the experiences and challenges of mortality that would help us develop divine attributes.


Mortal Life

During mortality, Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother provide us with the conditions we need to progress within Their plan. Our Heavenly Parents organized Christ as Their Son, and the Father begot Jesus Christ in the flesh with Mary, an apprentice of Heavenly Mother. Our Heavenly Parents provided Jesus Christ with divine help to fulfill His mortal mission. Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother will likewise help each of us if we will strive to keep Their commandments. The Father and Mother give us agency. Our lives are in Their hands, and our “days are known” and “shall not be numbered less.” And They ensure that eventually all things work for the good of those who love Them.

It our Heavenly Parents who give us our daily bread, which includes both the food we eat and the strength we need to keep Their commandments. The Father and the Mother give good gifts. They hear and answer our prayers. Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother deliver us from evil when we let Them. They weep for us when we suffer. Ultimately, all of our blessings come from the Father and the Mother.

Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother guide us and give us the experiences we need based on our strengths, weaknesses, and choices so that we might bear good fruit. Our Heavenly Parents chasten us when necessary because They love us. Our Father is a “Man of Counsel” and our Mother a “Woman of Counsel,” who will counsel with us if we ask.

It is our Heavenly Parents who send both the influence and the gift of the Holy Ghost into our lives. Through the gift of the Holy Ghost, the glory—or intelligence, light, and power—of the Father and the Mother can dwell in us. If we will strive to increase in light and truth until our eyes become single to God’s glory, Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother will send the Holy Spirit of Promise to seal us up unto eternal life and reveal Their faces unto us—either in this life or the next.


Postmortal Life

In the postmortal spirit world, Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother continue to shed forth the Holy Ghost and send missionaries to those who need the gospel. They answer prayers and help those who lack them receive vicarious saving ordinances.

The Father and the Mother raised up Jesus Christ and gave Him power to bring to pass the Resurrection, which is the means by which we obtain immortal bodies. The Savior’s Redemption and Resurrection bring us back into the presence of the Father and the Mother, where we will be judged by Jesus Christ.

Those who rely upon “the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah” will receive glorified bodies like the Father and the Mother and dwell with Them “in a state of never-ending happiness.” There, the Father and the Mother will wipe away all our tears and help us continue on our journey to become like Them.

As you can see, Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother are always there for us.


The Character of our Parents

To become like the Father and the Mother, we must develop Their character traits. Our Heavenly Parents’ perfections and attributes include the following:

The Father and the Mother are “Endless and Eternal.”

They are perfectly just, merciful, kind, long-suffering, and want only what is best for us.

Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother are love.

They keep Their covenants.

They do not change.

They cannot lie.

The Father and the Mother are no respecter of persons.

They know all things—past, present, and future—from the beginning.

Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother are more intelligent than us all.

The Father and the Mother have all power and do all that They take into Their heart to do.

Brothers and sisters, we can trust in and rely upon the Father and the Mother. Because They have an eternal perspective, Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother can see things we cannot. Their joy, work, and glory are to bring to pass our immortality and exaltation. Everything They do is for our benefit. They “want [our] eternal happiness even more than [we] do.” And They “would not require [us] to experience a moment more of difficulty than is absolutely needed for [our] benefit or for that of those [we] love.” As a result, They focus on helping us to progress, not on judging and condemning us.


Becoming Like Our Father and Mother

As spirit sons and daughters of God, each of us has the potential to become like the Father and the Mother. To do so, we must worship God in the name of Their Son. We do this by striving to be obedient to the will of our Heavenly Parents, as the Savior was, and by continually repenting. As we do these things, we “receive grace for grace” until we receive of the Father and Mother’s fulness and are endowed with Their “character, perfections, and attributes.”

Given the distance between what we are as mortals and what Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother have become, it is not surprising that some feel that becoming like the Father and the Mother is unattainable. Nevertheless, the scriptures are clear. If we will cleave in faith to Christ, repent, and seek God’s grace through obedience, eventually we will become like Them. I take great comfort in the fact that those who strive to be obedient will “receive grace for grace” and ultimately “receive of [their] fulness.”

In other words, we won’t become like the Father and the Mother on our own. Rather, it will come through gifts of grace, some big but mostly small, that build upon one another until we have a fulness. But, brothers and sisters, it will come!

I invite you to trust that Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother know how to exalt you; seek Their daily, sustaining help; and press forward with faith in Christ even when you cannot feel God’s love.

There is much we do not understand about becoming like the Father and the Mother. But I can testify with certainty that striving to become like the Father and the Mother is worth every sacrifice. The sacrifices we make here in mortality, no matter how great, are simply incomparable to the immeasurable joy, happiness, and love we will feel in God’s presence. If you are struggling to believe it is worth the sacrifices you are asked to make, the Savior calls to you, saying, “Ye have not as yet understood how great blessings [God] hath … prepared for you; … ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along.”

I testify that your Heavenly Father and your Heavenly Mother love you and want you to live with Them again. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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Afterword: This was a revealing exercise, was it not? We know there is a Heavenly Mother . . . do we believe She had nothing to do with the Great Plan of Happiness? That She had nothing to do with the design of this world? That She does not show forth Her love unto Her children? Do we believe that Heavenly Mother is somehow not the Heavenly Mother of our Savior Jesus Christ? Such thoughts “make reason stare.” If those things cannot be true, then why do we invisibilize Her, and make it seem that Heavenly Father is either on old bachelor, or that in contradiction to what God has told us to strive for in our own earthly marriages, Heavenly Father does not counsel with Heavenly Mother at all about these important matters concerning Their children?

When will it be time to say what we, in reality, know to be true? What would it mean for the women of the Church if we said it? That is, if we openly declared that our Heavenly Mother loves us as much as our Heavenly Father does? That this is not just His Plan, but it is Their Plan for Their children? [1] That Christ is not only Heavenly Father’s son, but also Heavenly Mother’s son?

And what it would mean for the men of the Church, and for the families of the Church, if we openly acknowledged these truths? I submit that families on earth cannot be truly patterned after the Heavenly Family without acknowledging Her love, Her power, and Her wisdom alongside His love, His power, and His wisdom. And since families are the very heart of the Great Plan of Happiness, we but obstruct that Plan when we cannot acknowledge with regard to Heaven what we clearly acknowledge here on earth--that mothers are indispensable to the family unit and its success. Would we have happier families if we ignored what earthly mothers do for their families? No. Then how can we ignore what our Heavenly Mother does for Her family? Is not the fifth commandment, the first with a promise, to "honor our father and our mother"?

In the final analysis, the concept of the human family as God intended it simply cannot be effectively defended in these darkening days without Her. I am sure you have guessed that my favorite Article of Faith is the 9th.


NOTES:

[1] Consider why it was that Mother Eve and not Father Adam was foreordained to oversee the giving of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? This strikes me deeply as evidence that the daughters of God understood the importance of this earthly journey, even with all of its special woes for women. And if they did, I feel they only reflected Heavenly Mother’s conviction. [Back to manuscript].



Full Citation for this Article: Cassler, V.H. (2018) "The Father and Mother: An Adaptation by V.H. Cassler from an October 2018 General Conference Talk by Elder Brian K. Ashton," SquareTwo, Vol. 11 No. 3 (Fall 2018), http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleCasslerFatherMother.html, accessed <give access date>.

Would you like to comment on this article? Thoughtful, faithful comments of at least 100 words are welcome. Please submit to SquareTwo.

COMMENTS: 4 Comments

I. Margie Detiege

I’m pleased to note that I wasn’t alone in noting something missing from Elder Ashton’s talk.  I might say that I was disappointed enough by what I considered the male-centric oversight, that I not only tweeted about it to him and #ldsconf (even though I now see I got his last name wrong, so he probably didn’t see it) saying, “We're not just children of God.  We’re children of Gods. Heavenly Father & Heavenly Mother have sent us here. Hoping we can change the language in Church…” (I tend to use the Abrahamic “The Gods” rather than try to understand “God” as plural), but then tweeted a follow-up to a person who tried to use the “sacred silence” argument with me.  I told them “nice sentiment, but is false doctrine.” Then I pasted a link to “A Mother There” and told them to download the .pdf and read page 75.  They didn’t respond back.  Hope they read it.  I’ve done something similar as you with the Proclamation on Family as I memorized it, using clarifications made by Q12’s or standing prophets in the last 25 years, which clarify certain statements in the Proclamation in view of the further light and knowledge we’ve since received.  It has really opened my mind to the true power of women when I include the Divine Female and myself as part of a divine couple in training in the Proclamation.  Here’s how the Proclamation would read if I had “helped”:

We the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do solemnly proclaim that marriage is ordained by The Gods and that the family is central to the Creators’ plan for the eternal destiny of Their children.

All human beings, female and male, are created in the image of The Gods.  Each is a beloved spirit daughter or son of Heavenly Parents and as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.  Gender (but now as I have read your other essays) Sexed-ness is an essential characteristic of individual pre-mortal, mortal and eternal identity and purpose.

In the pre-mortal realm, spirit daughters and sons knew and worshiped The Gods as their Heavenly Parents and accepted Their plan by which Their children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life.  This divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave.  Sacred covenants and ordinance in this divine plan, which are available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of their Heavenly Parents and for families to be united eternally.

The first commandment which our Heavenly Parents gave to Eve and Adam pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife.  We declare that the commandment which The Gods have given to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.  Further, we declare that the The Gods have commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between a woman and a man, lawfully wedded as wife and husband.

We declare that the means by which life is created to be divinely appointed.  We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in The Gods’ eternal plan.

Mothers and Fathers have an obligation to love and care for one another and for their children.  Children are an heritage unto the Lord.  Parents have a sacred responsibility to rear their children in love and righteousness, provide for their physical and spiritual needs, teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments and be law abiding citizens wherever they live.  Wives and husbands, fathers and mothers will one day stand accountable before The Gods for the discharge of these obligations.

The family is ordained by The Gods.  Marriage between a woman and a man is essential for The Gods’ eternal purposes.  Children are entitled to birth within the conditions of matrimony and to be reared by a mother and father who honor their marital vows with complete fidelity.  Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded on the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work and wholesome recreational activities.  By divine design PARENTS are to preside over their family in love and righteousness [this is based on the church and family not being set up in the same structure and the father not deriving his authority in the family from the church, but from the sealing marriage in the temple from which father AND mother are endowed with the same priesthood; also from the previous paragraph, the following sentences and that two people aren’t equal if one presides over the other--author].  Fathers are primarily designed to provide for the necessities of life and the protection of their families; mothers are primarily designed to provide for the nurture of their children.  In these sacred responsibilities, mothers and fathers are to help one another as equal partners.  Death, disability and other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended family should lend support as needed.

We warn that individuals who abuse spouse or children, who fail to fulfill family responsibilities or who violate the law of chastity and don’t repent, will one day stand accountable before The Gods.  We further warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to support those measures designed to strengthen and maintain the family as the fundamental unit of society.

Keep up the great work.  Love your writings. ~Margie

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II. Patricia Klain

I read the article and I can only be considered a peer in the aspect that I am a daughter of God and that means heavenly parents and I read the scriptures too. 

I have loved the insights to ponder on our heavenly parents and feel emboldened because of the Proclamation's declaration of heavenly parents. Pondering and appreciation are different from worshipping. There are three in the godhead. 1st Article of Faith. One name by which salvation comes. Jesus Christ.  

We are going through many ministerial changes right now.  God has had plenty of time to address this if needed. It brings to mind when the sisters have served in the kitchen and at the end of the banquet the MC forces us out into the doorway so the attendees can clap their appreciation. It was never part of the calling to serve and is awkward. There must be eternal reasons why God has said very little on his wife. I ponder on that. He is infinitely kind, loving, thoughtful. His ways are higher than man's. Eternally higher. What beauty am I unaware of in this reluctance to expound on something he does not deny.  I knew her too. I will again. 

Thank you for letting me add some thoughts. 

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III. Kathy Bence

This issue is loaded with food for thought about women on all levels, but I decided to leave my comment with your article addressing the Church’s rather than the world’s consideration of women.  I’m part of the world by default, but I choose to remain in the RCJC, despite my disagreements with some of its history, doctrine and failure to clarify this seldom mentioned Heavenly Mother.   Elder Tad Callister said, “If one does not correctly understand his (her) divine identity, then he (she) will never correctly understand his (her) divine destiny. They are, in truth, inseparable partners.”  This muddled explanation of Heavenly Mother touches on both a women’s identity and her destiny, resulting in a less than ideal understanding of either.  I look forward to the day when we can openly testify of Her.

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IV. Maurice Erickson

I believe that the 9th Article of Faith applies here...'We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, & that He will yet reveal many plain & precious things'.   In a nutshell, search for 'Margaret Barker'. She is an Old Testament scholar-extraordinaire. She convincingly demonstrates that King Josiah's purge & other politics prior to & near 600 B.C cost us much plain & precious knowledge of our Mother in Heaven, along with other truths. See Dr. Barker's BYU Devotional, 'What Did Josiah Purge?' Then watch, 'Restoring Solomon's Temple' by Barker. Solomon's Temple contained many truths that were later purged. We are left desolate for certain sacred information about our Mother in Heaven, plus other Truths. Search '2014 Temple on Mount Zion Conference'. FAIR-Mormon, FARMS, John A. Widtsoe Foundation, 'Temple Studies Group' are all great resources regarding our Mother in Heaven. All have presentations by Margaret Barker, plus LDS scholars. For instance, John Thompson, 'The Lady at the Horizon', Daniel Peterson, also a noted LDS & BYU scholar, 'A Divine Mother in the Book of Mormon?'  & 'John A. Widtsoe Foundation: Keynote speaker Margaret Barker'. Be sure to hear John Welch's introduction to Dr. Barker's keynote address. Amazing, eye opening, & further Light & knowledge available via Dr. Barker & many LDS scholars & associates. Truly a Wonderful Flood of Light!  Looking forward to the '...many plain & precious things that He will yet reveal'! Best wishes, everyone!