Reference: McArthur Krishna, Bethany Brady Spalding, and Caitlin Connolly (2016) Our Heavenly Family, Our Earthly Families (SLC: Deseret Book); available for pre-order--book will be published August 22, 2016.
From the authors who gave us Girls Who Choose God: Stories of Courageous Women from the Bible and Girls Who Choose God: Stories of Strong Women from the Book of Mormon, comes a new book, Our Heavenly Family, Our Earthly Families, all published by Deseret Book, the publishing arm of the LDS Church. Our Heavenly Family, Our Earthly Families (hereafter, OHF) is a substantially different enterprise from those earlier volumes, whose purpose was to bring to the fore women in the scriptures whose stories may not be as appreciated in our current culture. This was a very helpful endeavor, and I have used both books in family home evenings.
OHF, on the other hand, is a picture book designed to advance the premise that our earthly families are based upon an eternal template--the template of our Heavenly Family. (I should note that the artist for this new book, Caitlin Connolly, is not the same as that for the other two volumes, Kathleen Peterson, so the look of the current volume is also much different than the earlier ones.)
The text discusses how a family--whether earthly or heavenly--shares numerous traits. The text explores how a family is a setting where children are nurtured, where members counsel together, where we develop talents, where we work and play, create and celebrate. In families, we learn forgiveness, and learn about our divine heritage. In all these things, the pattern is set from the divine template.
Now, on the one hand, you might say, "Well, duh." Ah, but you shouldn't. No, indeed, dear reader, you should not, for She is there! She is there! For the first time in the history of publishing by Deseret Book--in other words, given the imprimatur of the Church itself--is a depiction of our Heavenly Mother! Yes, the cover and the very first page of text contain an image of our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother! Together! And no, this is not a depiction of Adam and Eve, but a depiction of Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father, for these two have white hair and are colossal in size, compared to all the children who have non-white hair and are all smaller in size. Furthermore, the accompanying text says,"Do you know that you are part of a heavenly family? Our Heavenly Father, Heavenly Mother, and all of Their children make up our heavenly family." Here is the cover image:
As a parenthetical note, contrast this with the only--and very non-official--depiction of Heavenly Mother by an LDS artist that I have in my files. This image was sold in LDS bookstores in the 1980s and 1990s, though never sanctioned by the Church and not published by Deseret Book. The artist is A. Oddous, the title, "An Eternal Mother" (notice the article "an"), and the year 1981:
I think, dear reader, that you can tell that the publication of OHF is an exciting--nay, historic!--development. After years of silence, even culturally enforced silence, about Heavenly Mother, there She is on the cover of a book published by Deseret Book! This is momentous indeed, and will be so very helpful in teaching our sons and our daughters the path to happiness.
Let us pause and consider why this is so very important at this moment in history, and why the Church might have finally become open to a depiction of Her on the cover of a book meant for teaching children. When I was growing up as a member of another Christian denomination, I was inculcated with the notion that God was a man, a single man. God certainly wasn't married; he was single. And God certainly had nothing to do with womanhood; God was male.
Unremarkable? Well, yes, but, dear reader, think hard about what comes from those uncritical assumptions. If there is nothing of woman in God, women must be somehow two steps removed from divinity--or even actually defective in terms of divinity, compared to men. If there is nothing about women in the concept God, then sexual intercourse is an earthly act with no divinity in it. If there is nothing about women in God, then the family unit of husband, wife, and children is not divine; it's but an accommodation to the fallen world. If God is male, but has no doings with a divine female, then can He even be characterized as heterosexual? And if men on earth wish to follow the example of their Father, is the holy man on earth a man who must be celibate and shun any intimate relationship with a women? Or maybe there is no such thing as male and female in the hereafter (after all, what's the meaning of male without female?), in which case being male or female is a conceptualization that has no divine origin whatsoever.
You can see where we could go from here. If God is single, male (or has no sex at all), then why would anyone ever think that heterosexual marriage is the foundation of anything divine? There is no reason to insist on heterosexuality, no reason to insist on sex (male and female) as an important identifier of an individual, no reason to insist on marriage and sexual relations as being important at all . . .
In which case homosexuality and trans-sexuality could never be construed as sins, there is no basis for privileging heterosexual marriage and child-rearing over any other form, and no reason to even encourage young people to marry and have children . . .
Why? Because we have started from the absolutely wrong premise that sex and women have nothing to do with divinity. And how did we get that so wrong? Because She was missing.
I ask, in all sincerity, is it possible that all these new worldviews are gaining ground because we have kept Her hidden for so long?
Think of what happens when She is revealed in all her divine glory, in all her equal partnership with Heavenly Father. When She appears, it all changes. Male and female are meaningful because our Heavenly Parents are male and female. Male and female are thus divine. Marriage between a male and a female is to be desired because our Heavenly Parents are a male and a female who are married. Heterosexual marriage is thus divine. A mother and a father are both needed to raise children, because a Mother and a Father are both needed to raise a heavenly family. The necessity of mother and father is thus divine.
I would say with boldness that the Church has--finally--realized that it is impossible to defend the family without Her. It cannot be done if She is not there. And somehow, that is divinely ironic. The LDS Church, light years ahead of other Christian faiths with its doctrine of Heavenly Mother, neglected and overlooked the treasure She offered Her covenant children. That was a mistake, for the ground upon which the family could most effectively be defended is Her sacred ground. To its credit, the Church (I choose to believe) now sees that mistake and is beginnning to rectify it--and not a moment too soon. Let us hope it is not a moment too late.
Kudos to the authors, and kudos to Deseret Book, for publishing this first book, thereby "restoring the paths to dwell in" (Isaiah 58:13). May we all read this book to our children, and linger with them over that first illustration! And may Deseret Book be bold enough to publish additional books of restoration!
Full Citation for this Article: Cassler, V.H. (2016) "Book Review: Our Heavenly Family, Our Earthly Families (or, Deseret Book Depicts Heavenly Mother for the Very First Time!)," SquareTwo, Vol. 9 No. 2 (Summer 2016), http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleDeseretBook.html, accessed <give access date>.
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I. Kathy Bence
If they're fortunate enough to grow up with a mother and a father, children are generally less confused over marriage, sexuality and the benefits of both a mother and a father raising a child so, of course, it makes sense that there would be even less confusion with the bigger picture of the "divine template." This article helped me see how some major issues in our day could be remedied, or prevented, if Heavenly Mother was included in the picture. I feel like saying, "well, duh!"