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(Address given at the Certain Women Art Show, on 22 October 2021, Salt Lake City, Utah)

My favorite article of faith is the 9th: “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”

My favorite Hugh Nibley quote is: “God can’t pour a one-gallon revelation into a one-cup mind.”

My favorite math fact is: “1+1=2.”

Over the course of my time with you, I’d like to tie all three quotes together in a way that speaks to the purposes of this inspiring art show.

The male gaze, I assert, has hovered over the world of women like the giant eye of Sauron in The Lord of the Rings. What the male gaze finds interesting and valuable is visible and counted in our world; what it does not find interesting or valuable is invisibilized, viewed as without value, and even sometimes erased. The male gaze leaves us in a world of shadows, where some of the most important phenomena of this world are hidden or missing. Our powers of sight and hearing are dramatically impaired, and our vision and our imagination suffer as a result. This unfortunate state of affairs applies to both men and women, for in our fallen world it is males who dominate politically, economically, and intellectually in every land.

The examples I could give you of the dominance of the male gaze are legion.

The male gaze has perverted so much of reality for us, and yes, it has perverted our spiritual reality as well. Most religions posit a male God alone and without female counterpart; male priests and priesthood alone and without female counterpart; male spiritual, creative power without female counterpart; male spiritual authority without female counterpart; male interpretation of God’s will without female counterpart. The invisibility and even the historical erasure of women in the realm of the spiritual is a clear tip-off that this is the fallen world’s male gaze at work, worming itself into the very core of our religions. Who knows what truths about the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ were purposefully or unconsciously hidden by the male gaze even in the transcribing of scriptures that have been passed down from one generation of men to another?

I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet because he did something no other spiritual man has done before, at least in the Abrahamic tradition: Joseph Smith told us the Truth. The Truth is that there are Two, not One. He told us there is a Heavenly Mother, married to Heavenly Father in the new and everlasting covenant, and that there is no such thing as divinity outside of marriage between an exalted man and an exalted woman. In just giving us that sliver of new vision, the sun began to rise over this fallen world and things that were in shadow began to come into the light.

I submit to you that if there are Two, the whole world changes. One of my very favorite philosophers is Sylviane Agacinski, who expressed this understanding eloquently, though she is not a member of our church. Agacinski suggests that we have been starting from the one—what I’ve been calling the male gaze—when in fact such a stance is a lie. There is no one; there has always been two. Agacinski uses the term “mixity” to refer to this truth about humankind: that there is no one face of humanity, no default male human being; there are always two faces, two beings, the man and the woman. Humanity must be represented as a couple, and only as a couple, lest we slip back into the fallen world’s primacy of the male gaze. Agacinski exhorts us to “begin again from two, and not from the one,” and thus open the door to real human flourishing.

Joseph Smith’s revelation is thus an invitation to begin again from the Two, and not from the One. As a faith community, it has taken us the better part of 200 years to even begin to tentatively accept that invitation. I used to shake my head at the 40 years the Israelites had to hike around Sinai before they were ready to enter the promised land; but when I think of the 200 years it has taken before we Latter-day Saints were even ready to consider there was a promised land, a farther shore of Two-ness, I weep.

There is a vast horizon our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother want to show us in terms of how these Two live together, and how they want us to live together as men and women! It is not for naught that we refer to Christ as the Bridegroom. I feel Heaven straining at the bit to shower us with further light and knowledge on what is at the heart of our divine destiny! We are so close, and yet I feel we still persist in questioning whether 1+1 really equals 2. Now, I am not saying there has not been real and substantial progress in the Church! I am old enough to remember when women did not give prayers in sacrament meeting, let alone general conference. When we couldn’t imagine using the word “priesthood” or the word “authority” in conjunction with the word “woman.” When there were no women at all in the planning councils of the Church at either local or general levels. I remember a time before Eve was considered “courageous and wise.” When the Young Women’s theme—the Young Women’s theme!—mentioned only Heavenly Father. Yes, good-hearted men and women have been pulling the old weeds from the garden of Zion, slowly but surely, and rejoicing is in order!

But I still feel Heaven straining! There is greater light and knowledge They are yearning to give us about Their joint rule of the Heavens! There is so much to be brought out of the shadows of this fallen world and into the light! The re-establishment of right relations between men and women is the key to establishing a Zion society, the key to the promised land of milk and honey. My own research over the least three decades has shown that nations that oppress and marginalize women are cursed with lower scores on over 150 indicators of national security, welfare, prosperity, health, and governance. It is almost as if this were a law decreed by Heaven, that to the degree a society harms women, it is cursed, and to the degree it elevates women to equal standing and joint rule with men, it is blessed.

The dividing line between the world of spiritual darkness and the world of spiritual light lies in the treatment of women. This can even be seen in the temple. What commandment is given at the time the lights go up and the higher priesthood given? Think about it. It’s about right relations between men and women, isn’t it? The fallen world is the world of the male gaze and male rule, the world of shadows; and thus the Godhead for this world, a kind of presiding bishopric for the fallen world, is an all-male trio. That makes sense. We have all-male bishoprics for our congregations in the fallen world. That makes sense.

But we’re not aiming for the fallen world. We are aiming for the Celestial Kingdom, where the sun shines so brightly there are no shadows at all! Now, we are not ready to become celestialized as a Church—we’re not ready to even do that as wards and stakes. But we can be ready to do that in our homes. We can live and perfect the Two and Their joint rule in our homes even now. We can receive that further light and knowledge our Heavenly Parents want to give us for our homes now, even if our congregations and the larger Church cannot yet go there. We can create a mini Celestial Kingdom right there in our own home, and as each household in our faith community moves in that direction, our congregations and our church will become ready for our Prophet to more formally give us in greater abundance that further light and knowledge They have promised to send. We know that we can and we will build Zion here on Earth in preparation for the return of the City of Enoch from its celestial habitation. That City will not return until there are people on Earth prepared to treat women as They do there. These are not daydreams of an eccentric old professor; this has been foretold in our scriptures. (By the way, have you ever wondered why Enoch’s Zion was so feared and so hated in its own day? I submit it is because of how differently women were treated in that blessed city. Remember—the great dividing line between the fallen world and the kingdom of heaven is the treatment of women.)

OK, I have hit two of my three favorite quotes at this point in my remarks to you. But don’t forget that Hugh Nibley quote: “God can’t pour a one-gallon revelation into a one-cup mind.” How do we become like the Celestial Two—a one-gallon revelation if there ever was one!—when the male gaze has so blinded our eyes and stopped up our ears that we suffer from one-cup-mindedness? How do we walk out from the shadows into the light?

We need the female gaze. We need new eyes and new ears that will prepare us for the joyous, soul-refreshing knowledge of how the Two live in eternal happiness, how the Two jointly rule the Kingdom of God, how Two-ness is woven into the Great Plan of Happiness so much so that there is no happiness without that Two-ness. And it is you, our female artists, our female musicians, our female writers that will help give us those new eyes and new ears. Look around you at this beautiful art . . . is it not enlightening? Does it not help you see what would otherwise be in the shadows? Does it not help you envision new possibilities? Does it not help you imagine what could be? You, our wonderful female artists, are stretching out our one-cup minds so they are big enough to hold all that Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother want to give us. In the words of Isaiah, you are “restoring the paths to walk in” and “building up the old waste places.” I am so grateful to each and every one of you who created these works of light. You are building the kingdom of God on earth!

One of the most important things you can help us with at this moment in time is the relationship between Eve and Her Mother. As things currently stand, there is not even the slightest suggestion that they had any relationship at all. And that’s completely ridiculous. You women in the audience—how often do you talk to your mother? My female students talk to their mothers several times each day! (And so do some of my male students!) No, the thought that Eve and her Mother had no relationship makes reason stare. Clearly the relationship between Eve and her Mother, between the earthly feminine and the Divine Feminine, which surely existed then and surely exists now, has been completely invisibilized by the male gaze. Our own female eyes and female ears have been so undermined by the dominance of the male gaze that that we women think we are not able to be in touch with our own Mother in Heaven! No doubt we couldn’t even perceive it if our Heavenly Mother were to reach out to us, so dulled are our female senses by the male gaze. As if, in the vernacular of the modern day, someone took our cell phone and smashed it and we’re confused about how to reach Her or even if we can reach Her at all.

This is a lamentable state of affairs. Eve stands for each one of us; we are all daughters of Eve. Eve was foreordained to follow in Her Mother’s footsteps, to learn what Mother knows, to understand how Mother feels, and to approach Her Wisdom—and so are we, Eve’s daughters, similarly foreordained. We know that Eve was successful: Eve conducted herself with courage and wisdom in the episode we call the Fall. Eve did as her Mother had done before her. But we know nothing about how this came to pass at all. How was Eve able to understand she must fulfill her foreordained role to partake of the Tree of Wisdom and give its fruit to Adam? What did she learn from Her Mother to prepare her to do this extraordinary act? What did Eve learn about her relationship with Adam, and about the relationship that exists between her Heavenly Parents? What did Eve learn from the Fall that puts her on the same path as Heavenly Mother? What did Eve learn from seeing her daughters oppressed because of their sex in the fallen world she had opened for them?

I’ll go further. What did Eve learn about her own priestesshood from Her Heavenly Mother? What did she learn about the sacred earthly ordinances of the priestesshood? How did her Mother in Heaven prepare her to become a mother on earth? How did her Mother impart Her wisdom as Eve faced the trials of motherhood? What wisdom did motherhood give to Eve? In all of these things, what I yearn to see is the path of the Divine Feminine as perceived through the female gaze. To follow in her Mother’s footsteps, Eve had to have known Her Mother. And so must we. What I yearn to see with spiritually refreshed eyes is the Divine Feminine reaching down to touch the earthly feminine and lift her up. While the temple film and script is vastly, vastly improved with regard to its depiction of Mother Eve, every woman who has seen it still notices the shadows that the male gaze cannot help but throw over the subject.

So my final exhortation is this: To the wonderful female artists among us, give us a language, give us a vision, give us a symphony of the path of the Divine Feminine. Teach us about Eve and her Mother. Teach us about the Celestial Two, and the path the earthly two must walk to become as They are. Teach us about Christ the Bridegroom, one of Two Himself. As we see and hear your art, we’ll develop the one-gallon hearts and one-gallon minds we need to return to the presence of our Heavenly Parents. We will become strong enough to build Zion in our homes, and then to extend Zion within our congregations, and on and on until the blessed day when the City of Zion returns to earth once more. We will be able to clearly teach our daughters who they are, so they will not become lost in the misery of this dark world.

And, my sisters, the task is more pressing than ever. In our own day, we are seeing women not only greatly oppressed in the same bad old ways we’ve known for millennia, but also in new and unprecedented ways. We are even seeing the attempted erasure of the very concept of “woman” and “mother.” My sisters, this is a time when unless we have the vision that only the female gaze can give us, we will surely perish. You have been born at the precise time we need you most. You were born for such a time as this.

Bless you for all you have shown us and all you will show us. Thank you for this rich feast that surrounds us, and thank you in advance for the riches yet to come!



NOTES:

(More: “Visualizing Heavenly Mother, Public Square, https://publicsquaremag.org/faith/visualizing-heavenly-mother/ )



Full Citation for this Article: Cassler, V.H. (2021) "Eve and Her Mother: The Importance of the Female Gaze in Our Art," SquareTwo, Vol. 14 No. 3 (Fall 2021), http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleCasslerFemaleGaze.html, accessed <give access date>.

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