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“God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, that has not been revealed since the world was until now;
Which our forefathers have awaited with anxious expectation to be revealed in the last times, which their minds were pointed to by the angels, as held in reserve for the fulness of their glory;
A time to come in the which nothing shall be withheld, whether there be one God or many gods, they shall be manifest.”
Doctrine and Covenants 121: 26–28



LOST IN SHIPPING

I worked at one of the most accomplished contemporary art foundries in the world. It was the hardest job I have ever had, and nothing will ever match the thrill of testing the limits of casting liquid metal. I engineered and built sand molds, and in the heat and cold we poured bronze, aluminum, stainless steel, silver, and many more metals and alloys. It was filthy, high pressure, high craftsmanship work that required ceaseless innovation.

In time my assignments moved into shipping the finished sculptures, and the Foundry had been commissioned to cast hundreds of large architectural aluminum castings for the façade of a luxury apartment building in New York City. The 10-foot-long castings were palletized in groups of 18 and shipped on numerous flatbed trucks as they were finished, and just in time for installation. Though the office oversaw setting up the shipping schedule and keeping a tally of what was needed, from across town I was responsible for the palletization and truck loading. I kept careful count of what went out, and after a few months all our work had been accomplished and the Foundry put everything aside that pertained to this job.

Months later, the CFO came to visit me in the crating shop. He was under quite a bit of stress as he quizzed me once more about how many pallets had shipped. And how many castings were on each pallet? Was I sure? Because 18 castings were missing. Exactly one pallet's worth. And at last the parties were going to court because progress on the façade had stalled. The unaccounted-for castings and the liability of lost time was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. To make 18 more castings would cost the Foundry dearly, and the project’s original schedule would be decimated.

He said, “Kamron. I’ve made a decision. I am going to proceed based on your word. If you say we made and shipped the 18 then I will inform them that we shipped them. Period. And the lawyers can fight it out. If you say you are not sure, then we will tool back up and the job will be a loss.”

I went to my notes one more time and I said, “We shipped them. We shipped them all.”

He looked me over and with that, he left the crating shop.

***

For modern humans there are myriad ways at our disposal to keep records and communicate. We can track new teen drivers, find old lovers on Facebook, and tally our number of sandwich purchases a on punch card. Despite the wonders of our day, the Foundry had completely lost track of 3,000 lbs. of very precious items on a pallet as large as a Volkswagen van.

But loss is the rule, not the exception. Perhaps almost all the work that humans do involves trying to get something from where it is to where we want it, without breaking it or losing it on the way. I think this is the work of the Gods as well. As premortal spirits in the presence of God, we had something nice: a world of intelligent beings and loves and associations that had developed over millennia. And God put it all at risk to ship us over time and place to a destination more suited to eternal beings of light. They packaged us in a mortal body and placed us in our mother's watery womb. With this first baptism by a priestess of creation we were made heirs of a promise of universal resurrection through the Atonement of Christ, and sent away to part the first of two veils, and by baptism after baptism, and anointing on anointing, we would finally part the veil that shields us from the blinding glory of the divine presence. If only one baptism was needed, then everyone has already accomplished it by virtue of being carried in their mother’s womb. The scriptures and other signs and markers were delivered just about the same way we were: as seeds of purity at inception, and then subject to all kinds of damage as they germinated and grew and then took on lives of their own. If translated correctly, both scriptures and these beings of light from the primordial realm could level up, from the telestial world to the terrestrial, a plane closer to that of the celestial Gods.

***

The CFO of the Foundry had left the crating shop to put his reputation on the line, and to stand his ground where he could have no assurance except for my notes that he was in the right. A few days later, he drove to the shop to tell me that the castings—a full pallet of 18—had been found. “You see,” he said, “they were loaded off the trucks and stored on the construction site and distributed through some of the building's floors until they were needed. At some point walls had been framed up around some of the pallets. And then wiring and plumbing and sheetrock were installed and a room containing the last pallet had been completely closed in! The pallet had been lost right inside the building and no one knew.”

Is it any wonder that the original doctrines of the Godhead might have been confounded within the very scriptures and the beautiful churches built to hold them? Because like the apartment building in New York City, hundreds or thousands of people have been involved, oblivious to the pallet in the nearby room. As time has elapsed, it is more than possible that some of the most important doctrines of the Kingdom of God have been “walled in.” Once found, the need for litigation evaporates. What builder would not bang the drum and blast the horns in celebration: “We have found what was lost! We have found what was lost! Hallelujah!”

This essay presumes a basic familiarity with the doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereafter called, “the Church”), of which I am a faithful and devoted member. Doctrines of the Church as revealed by Joseph Smith anticipate a universal resurrection, the first level of salvation brought about by the Atonement of Jesus Christ. This is a free gift of love to all humankind and is attended by an eternal glory like that of the stars. Its glory is likened to this world’s astonishing beauty, and is called the Telestial Kingdom. It is in this telestial world that the Church is charged with fulfilling ordinances and teaching truths that contribute to preparing the willing individual for a higher glory known as the Terrestrial Kingdom. Terrestrial glory is compared to the moon, a mysterious heavenly body that, like the sun, is responsible for life on this earth. Its contribution to creating and sustaining life cannot be overestimated. Its perfection is miraculous; its beauty inspires awe; its proportions and placement justify belief in a deliberate creation. The majesty of this kingdom is continually present yet understanding is veiled from the creatures she sustains. Higher than these, the realm of God’s dwelling is called the Celestial Kingdom, and just as the sun is higher than the moon, so is the glory of the Celestial Kingdom greater than the Terrestrial. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereafter called, “the Saints”) affirm that Jesus Christ, as the Only Begotten Son of God, was a celestial being who—because of his birth by a mortal woman—was able to descend to this world and take on mortality in order to bring about the salvation of the entire human family through the Atonement. We further believe that some, male and female, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel and through sanctification by the Holy Spirit and the Atonement of Christ, will become Celestial Beings after the order of the Only Begotten Son, sealed in the Everlasting Covenant to a companion of the opposite sex where their posterity and potential for creation will go on forever.

What about hell? Hell exists. It exists on this earth in places and in minds, and in spirits who refused the offer of life. I believe that there is no end to love reaching into hell with the offer of life; it will go on eternally, because the Celestial world cannot be worth having until hell has been fully penetrated with the offer of illumination.

The thing that I love most about this religion is that it contemplates and aspires to a truth made of all truths circumscribed into one great whole. It is about a mighty transformation of all we know into something greater than we have begun to comprehend. If it has stopped being that, and it is only a prosperity religion about existing well in this world as this world is, then I would rather go back to drinking, because I enjoyed the ease and welcomeness of my lower mind numbed by twenty years’ worth of unbelief and fine beer. My wife Bethany’s dedication comes from her experience that even when complete belief is lacking, commitment to this gospel bears the best fruits. She acts out the highest ideal of the religion, and by acting it out, brings it into being. She says, “If it is true, a greater reward for living it out cannot be imagined: an eternity of endless growth and creative potential shared with people we have loved, married, taught, learned from, and befriended in this life. If there is just a chance that some of this is true it is worth living for.”

While I see an endless gospel expanse, many of the Saints seem to like this religion’s defined parameters and borders. I hear “I agree” when an idea is familiar, but there can be howls of “false doctrine” at the mention of the unfamiliar. For example, the Trinity of Christendom is the familiar to which our evangelized faith relates. The revelation that it is three distinct personages that comprise the Godhead, namely the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, is confirmed and expounded on by the sermons of Book of Mormon and Latter-day prophets, does not upset this familiarity. Greater than this, however, is revelation pointing to a Heavenly Council and the indispensable and equal role of women in creation. Unlike many in Christendom generally, most of the Saints acknowledge the existence of Heavenly Mother and her presence in the plurality of Gods, called Elohim, but for some, to elaborate on this is an uncomfortable step outside of the orthodox. What kind of creating does Heavenly Mother do? If there is more than one woman in the Heavenly Council, which there surely is, the specter of polygamy looms in the tribal imagination and all kinds of confusion and doubt take over. In this dynamic, the religion tends toward assimilation instead of differentiation, and the Church is steadily losing its willingness to be peculiar, which had been embraced by its earliest generations. To most of the Saints, this trend away from peculiarity is a good thing; we need not wrestle with the unfamiliar.

In the neat tubes of oil paints arranged in an orderly row on the shelf in my art studio there is endless potential for the chaos of creation. But if anyone can buy one of my original oil paintings it is probably because they have followed the rules of this world with some excellence and are living in a state of renewing surplus that allows them to spend their excess on luxuries. When things are going well, there is a balance between creative forces and orderly forces. I wonder if in our unprecedented prosperity our religion isn’t listing a little too far toward the orderly. And so while the leadership of the Church has prudently chosen to establish doctrine on bedrock foundations, I feel it is a mistake to assume that the placement of their stones in the construction of our holiest ideas is intended to limit our religion to their current forms. Some nuances of this subject are discussed in Elder Oaks’ “Trust in the Lord” talk from the October 2019 General Conference of the Church where he distinguishes between the general and the personal, a borderland of much confusion in the Church. Whenever I immerse myself in the Conferences of the Church, I am grateful to now have the gift to believe what I hear and to feel the peace of mental and intestinal harmony with what is said. It is a treasure that I have fought for during several decades of my life. I am very individualized, but I feel tethered to orthodoxy by a nourishing cord that is very capable of stretching with me where I go. To arrive at this position cost decades of hardship but I am filled with gratitude and rejoice in feeling this kind of equilibrium.

The scriptures are to me like buckets and buckets of glorious paint. I study them and commentary on them from the best books I can find, and I listen to the scriptures read to me for hours on end as I fulfill the tasks of my daily work and go for walks. The canon runs over with uninvestigated doctrines only touched on by prophets. But I don’t want my church run like an art class. That’s actually the last thing I want. I want my church run by people that operate well in this telestial world. But the religion belongs to a Messiah who died penniless and scorned, unaccomplished in attainment to authoritative position in the religious community of his time, unnoteworthy in his trade, and naked as a bloody lamb. The particular Christian creed to which I have covenanted my all would have never started if Brother Joseph, likewise unattained to the accolades of many men, didn’t have one foot in a grove of trees and the other in the celestial world.

After generations of the Church’s assimilation I look around and wonder if there is much difference between our religion and the world anymore, and if we have lost our taste for the adventure the Lord would give us. If the doctrine is finite, then it can be mastered just like the other telestial trades and castes, and we can end up with a worldly religion that hardly looks like Christ at all, except that it is abundant with good deeds. I have heard President Russell M. Nelson plead for greater curiosity on the part of the Saints, and to seek to be tutored by the Holy Ghost, only to have a member cudgel that curiosity with a quote from Heber C. Kimball, Bruce R. McConkie, or even Russell M. Nelson himself. The more our religion becomes a path to prosperity and less an ongoing revelation of things we have never heard before, the more cudgels there seem to be.

Although I am devoted to the Church, as an inventor, foundryman, and artist, I have spent my life cultivating skills of creation. I am wired more for innovation than orthodoxy. Creation is a lot more violent and uncertain than the maintenance of that creation. I think the world and our Church could have taken countless precise forms, and so I think that the maintenance of one exact form should acknowledge that other equally good forms might have existed within the bounds the Lord has set for us. The purpose of this essay isn’t to restate things that are already familiar. Smarter, more qualified, and more authoritative people than me are responsible for establishing Church doctrine. Instead, I offer a variant on what our scriptures seem to say to me: I offer it in no way authoritatively, but rather as a gift from me to you that can be declined. This scriptural interpretation points to a new world that I believe in. It is wonderous and astounding and on the horizon. It is so close I can feel it. It may take a form like I imagine, or it might be completely unimaginable—and I readily admit I may be wrong, in which case feel free to decline my gift. Then again, this understanding might have already been intuited and taught by prophets, saints, and apostles past, but knowledge of this new world has slipped away from our collective knowledge. I diverge most from the things that are familiar in that I think a new understanding of the priestesshood of womankind will be the main difference between the terrestrial world and the telestial world we live in now.


THE FIRST VEIL: BIRTH

Bethany and our children and I were on a special outing with loved ones on her side of the family high up at the tree line in the mountains of Colorado. As we began a hike into a grove of trees, our childrens' grandmother asked that we all gather inspiration from the sacredness of this untrammeled natural world, and to always remember that, “we are all created in the image of our Heavenly Father.”

“And the women and girls are created in the image of Heavenly Mother,” Bethany added.

Over his shoulder, one of Bethany’s relatives turned to Bethany and asked, “Apostate much?” Another of her relatives asked if an excommunication was pending. These men are among the best you will ever find in a group of Latter-day Saint brethren, so it is especially unfortunate that so many seem to be confused about the doctrines of the Church and every human being's kinship to Divinity as children of loving heavenly parents.

Key to understanding the doctrine and culture of the Church is “THE FAMILY: A Proclamation to the World.” Written and ratified by the First Presidency and the Council of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1995, it states in part:

“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.”

So at first, it appears completely unambiguous that women are made in the image of God. And more specifically, in the image of their Heavenly Mother, the presumed mate of their Eternal Father. But Heavenly Mother is never actually mentioned as such. Listen closely as the proclamation continues:

“Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

“In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His 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.”

After one sentence suggesting Her presence in God, the other heavenly parent evaporates and Her children “[worship] God as their Eternal Father and [accept] His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection.”

What seemed clear is made immediately unclear. What role, if any, does such a heavenly parent perform in the love, nurture, and salvation of Her earthbound children? Is it wrong to ask? Some seem to think so. The naysayers’ position can be justified by the scriptures themselves. Heavenly Mother’s Priestesshood is unspecified, and the Holy Ghost, in whom many of her symbols reside, has usually been assigned the pronoun “he" when referred to by the Elders of the Church. The specific assignment of the male sex to the Holy Ghost was first taught by Heber C. Kimball in 1857: “[L]et me tell you, the Holy Ghost is a man; he is one of the sons of our Father and our God; and he is that man that stood next to Jesus Christ, just as I stand.”

However, these things are not quite as cut and dried as Heber C. Kimball indicates. A little study illuminates that the pronoun “he" is partly a matter of translation from language to language, and that the Holy Spirit was “she,” the “Shekhina,” for centuries, even millennia, before the Holy Spirit ever received a male designation. Does this mean Heber C. Kimball is wrong? No, but it may mean that there is a male spirit that is part of the Godhead designed to preside over this fallen world, but that there is also a female spirit that was understood by the ancients to exist as well. That such an ancient understanding would be obscured over time is not surprising. The scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, are nearly devoid of a feminine Christian theology because so was the time and cultural milieu in which these scriptures were produced. In the Book of Mormon there is but a single trace of a heavenly mother, in an Asherah motif unfolding into a vision of the Virgin Mary. But unlike the Tree of Life and Fountain of Living Water motif that culminates John's Revelation in symbols of the sacred feminine from Egypt to Mesopotamia and beyond (Revelation 11, 12, 22), Nephi's Asherah is more discreet, and almost goes unnoticed by the Saints. (For a thrilling and much more compelling study of the divine Lady in Nephi's vision, see Daniel C. Peterson’s article, “Nephi and His Asherah.”) Like John’s Gospel, the Book of Mormon collapses all the symbols for the Elohim Council of Gods into Christ alone, dealing with the divinity of Christ almost exclusively, as was done through the centuries of the Reformation in Europe and in the American Colonies and into the Restoration. The point is that in the course of this linguistic and doctrinal apostasy and restoration, the idea that there might be a feminine divine spirit (in addition to a male divine spirit) faded, and the idea of a single male divine spirit dominated, but became more and more incongruous with the original representations of the Spirit as involved with spiritual birthing processes. It is the doctrine of births and rebirths, combined with the ancient understanding of a feminine divine spirit and the Church’s doctrine of Heavenly Mother, that most interest me. I have found what I feel to be strong evidence for this in searching the New Testament Gospels, and in the sermons of Joseph Smith and in the ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

One of my favorite addresses in the world is the “Sermon in the Grove,” a talk given by Joseph Smith on a rainy day on June 16, 1844. Speaking of the Elohim in Genesis, Joseph thunders, “Now you know that of late some malicious and corrupt men have sprung up and apostatized from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and they declare that the Prophet believes in a plurality of Gods, and, lo and behold! we have discovered a very great secret, they cry, ‘The Prophet says there are many Gods, and this proves that he has fallen.’ It has been my intention for a long time to take up this subject and I lay it clearly before the people, and show what my faith is in relation to this interesting matter … I will preach on the plurality of Gods … I wish to declare I have always and in all congregations when I have preached on the subject of the Deity, it has been the plurality of Gods. It has been preached by the Elders for fifteen years.”

The glorious doctrine that Jesus Christ is fully divine in his own right, and the Son of the Father in a distinct and separate sense, is, I believe, the key to unlocking the mysteries of heaven. From this baseline we in the Church fundamentally differ from the rest of the Christian creeds, and affirm what other Christians deem to be heresy, that, like Christ, earthly men, women, and children are akin to the Gods, but in an earlier stage of development. Like the Prophet Joseph, it is my intention to explore the plurality of Gods.

It appears to me that the doctrine of the plurality of Gods is largely confined in our day to the Godhead. In turn, the Godhead doctrine is wrapped up in what the people have shown a capacity to understand and a desire to know, “and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding. And inasmuch as they erred it might be known; and inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:24–26).

In this telestial world, the capacity is usually going to be a telestial capacity, or put another way, just about one level up from the doctrines of hell. From biblical periods to now, there have been times that any knowledge of God as revealed by God, has hung by a thread. The Godhead doctrine was different in the time of Noah than during the time of Solomon. It was different for Adam than it was for Nephi. It was different for Abraham than for Jeremiah, and it was different for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than it was for the disciples of the living Christ when he walked amongst them. How so? Because it is through Priesthood ordinances that we understand the nature of the Gods, and Priesthood ordinances have varied in their symbolism and administration as they have been instituted in different times and among different peoples. As an individual, Joseph Smith, by the power of God, translated ancient scriptures into modern scriptures that are probably quite different than the specific artifacts and documents from which he translated. Every time period, including Joseph’s time period, has made an impression on our scriptures on their way to our time. As a body of Church members, our own time period will inevitably have an impact on our doctrines. This is deliberately accommodated by a God who loves our agency. We are revealed the Godhead that we have the capacity and desire to receive. I think we can look to the life of Christ Himself as the highest model of how the ordinances of Priesthood were administered by both men and women.

The symbols of womanhood in the Heavenly Council as properly understood are familial, and such familial relations represent the highest order of the Melchizedek Priesthood, which is the Everlasting Covenant of the Priesthood. They embody the plain truth that the creation of life in the universe—the life most like God's life—is accomplished by male and female. This is key to understanding John's Revelation, temple theology, the pre-mortal world, and the Terrestrial and Celestial Kingdoms. As High Priests of the Melchizedek Priesthood, the Twelve Apostles held the keys of the ecclesiastical kingdom of the Christian Church after Christ's departure. Moving beyond this commonly accepted doctrine—and I freely admit this is speculation—with keys delegated from Christ, elect women that we read of in the four Gospels were part of the terrestrial order of the Melchizedek Priesthood, or the Everlasting Covenant of the Priesthood, and administered ordinances therein.

***

Plainly expressed, I am putting forward that there is a priesthood godhead that presides over this fallen world, but that there are also women who function in specific divine roles that might constitute a priestesshood godhead for this world. The Father, the Son/Bridegroom, and the male Holy Ghost have their counterparts and consorts in the Mother, the Daughter/Bride, and the female Spirit or Shekhina. This understanding also suggests that there is meant to be a terrestrial council, male and female, that echoes the Heavenly Council, male and female, such that, wherever God is, there is both male and female.

Now, in opposition to the doctrines of a Godhead made up of a Heavenly Council of Gods male and female, is monotheism. Centuries of theories have been spent on reconciling Christ's divine Sonship to the Father in monotheistic terms. Doctrines of an amorphous pantheistic non-Being preceding all energy and matter and from which all energy and matter sprung forth ex nihilo, as well as doctrines of the Trinity, are among the fruits. A monotheistic all-male Trinity has usually resembled the highest political order of whatever time period it has inhabited, as if to say, “as below, so above.” In Gentile nations before and since Christ, the Godhead looked like a king to his vassals, flanked on right and left by cherubic strongmen. In the cultural milieu of a Christian religion born near the founding of America, the Godhead might have been best understood as an ennobled Presidency with perfect counselors.

The telestial model of the Kingdom of God that I grew up in my own time period is the corporate, run by chief executive officers of impeccable competence. The problem and the benefit of the corporate model is that the most successful navigators of the telestial world are going to thrive in the telestial church. The people that don’t like to be managed, both at work and in their religion, or are turned off by the corporate ascension models of attainment to righteousness, sometimes have to look elsewhere for the peace and joy that Christ seemed to promise His followers. Christ’s Christianity of paradox and humility is often incongruous with corporate Christianity, and the more wealth and status the Church and its people amass, the more easily this can be pointed out. The cultural elite will naturally rise to fill most of the positions of authority and everyone will have what they need if they are managed effectively. But the consequent vision of heaven is often, and naturally, a projection of ascents to the same kinds of worldly heights they achieved here, only higher.

But our progression in temple ordinances undercuts this conventional understanding of our day. For example, the ultimate temple ordinance that can be administered in mortality is the second anointing. To set the stage for this discussion, consider that in his Book of Moses Insights series of articles under the banner head of The Interpreter Foundation, Jeffrey M Bradshaw describes that God’s ordinances are often paired. I would paraphrase and adapt this idea as follows: a first baptism extends the offer to enter into the tent (birth), and the second seals the first by the offer to sit down (born again). Likewise, an offer to enter into immortality like that of the Gods is offered in the endowment of the Saints in the Temple, but the offer to sit down with the Gods is extended through the second anointing which the promises and covenants made.

That second anointing ordinance, which is guarded with sacred silence, has been administered only very rarely in recent generations, though it was quite common for the temple endowed to go on to receive this ordinance in the first generations of the Church. It was so common in the early days of the Church that for at least several decades it was considered an essential ordinance of exaltation and thousands received it. It is extremely significant that its symbolism pertains to the resurrection and, without saying more, involves an active role and blessing offered by the wife in a married, sealed couple. The priestesshood of women and its role in resurrection is no longer emphasized or even mentioned to the Saints because this ordinance has faded from a more prevalent understanding. This fading may even apply to the endowment ceremony, as well. It appears that the endowment ceremonies of the first generations of the Church included an ordinance signifying birth into mortality, or the parting of the first veil, in which women play such a vital role.

My studies and thoughts about the ordinances of birth and resurrection, or the two veils, performed by women bearing the highest order of the Melchizedek Priesthood, were directed by my in-depth and unguided study of the scriptures and apocrypha, and I make no claims of authority for my views. However, these sources suggest to me there are archetypes for feminine deities of the Heavenly Council, namely, The Mother, The Bride, and The Female Spirit (or Shekhina). I am led to believe that concepts of a male Holy Ghost in an all-male Godhead biased the forebears of our religion toward interpreting these feminine figures as archetypes of wives/disciples and not as priestesses, and this may even have further prodded others toward regarding their own wives as being of lesser status and lesser priesthood.

As a people, we are charged to translate our individual religion into a higher religion called Zion. I think that one of these days, worthiness for the second anointing will be recognized once more as being very important, will become more prevalent, and will be administered to regular Saints, welders and grocery store clerks, primary workers and Sunday School teachers, as well as those with high ecclesiastical office, just as the ordinance was distributed without regard to status during the Church’s restoration in the 1800s. Perhaps this would even be a sign of the approach of the Second Coming. Like Enoch’s city of Zion, a better model might lift us, or translate us, from the telestial to the terrestrial order of things. It is not coincidental that the transition from telestial to terrestrial is accompanied by the commandment of chastity, which orders right relations between men and women. The terrestrial is marked by a new understanding of who women are and what equal partnership between men and women means. We are called to be like those in Zion so that we can abide the coming of the Savior:

“And a book of remembrance was kept, in the which was recorded, in the language of Adam, for it was given unto as many as called upon God to write by the spirit of inspiration; And by them their children were taught to read and write, having a language which was pure and undefiled. Now this same Priesthood, which was in the beginning, shall be in the end of the world also. Now this prophecy Adam spake, as he was moved upon by the Holy Ghost, and a genealogy was kept of the children of God.” (Moses 6: 5–8)

Continuing in D&C Section 84: 20–28:

“… without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh; For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live. Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God; But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory. Therefore, he took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also (Melchezidek); And the lesser priesthood (Aaronic) continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel; Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments, which the Lord in his wrath caused to continue with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel until John, whom God raised up, being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb. For he was baptized while he was yet in his childhood, and was ordained by the angel of God at the time he was eight days old unto this power ... to make straight the way of the Lord before the face of his people, to prepare them for the coming of the Lord, in whose hand is given all power.”

THE SECOND VEIL: RESURRECTION

Consider the hints in the scriptures about the importance of women at the veil into this life, as well as at the veil out of this life. Two women, the Virgin Mary and Elizabeth—cousins and elect women of God—were chosen to carry John and Jesus into this world: two men who as premortal beings held great Priesthood power. John’s baptism in Elizabeth’s womb is singled out to underscore the forgotten knowledge that the first ordinance of baptism occurs, or might occur, in a mother’s womb. This baptism of birth is an ordinance of the priestesshood to which women were foreordained. It is of a pair with the second anointing, because when a soul appears ready to part the veil to enter back into the presence of God, a woman is also present. These take nothing away from the baptism and first endowment offered by men. Both what is offered by women and what is offered by men is needful. While what is offered by men is visible, what is offered by women has been obscured, but we can clearly see that women stand at the veil of transition from life to life, namely, from premortal life to mortal life, and from mortal life to exaltation. (The idea of birth into mortality as a Priesthood ordinance had never occurred to me before I heard Valerie Hudson Cassler’s talk on “The Two Trees” at the conference, “Lady of the Temple,” which took place on October 23, 2013, in Logan, Utah.)

I am satisfied that this might point to the work and glory of Heavenly Mother: to bring to pass the mortality and exaltation of humankind, through the priestesshood borne by her daughters at the two veils: the veil of mortality and the veil of the presence of God. I see allusions to this woven all throughout the Gospels, beginning with Elizabeth’s pregnancy with John, and culminating with Mary Magdalene’s conversation with Christ at the tomb. Although Christ described John as a prophet, “yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet" (Matthew 11:9), Christ said, “Verily I say unto you, among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11). And “My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it” (Luke 8:21).

In light of this Christian hierarchy that is not of this world or its kingdoms, let us consider the first three verses of Luke 8:

“And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him, and certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, and Joanna … and Susanna, and many others which ministered to him of their substance.”

It is possible that the importance of these women has been greatly overlooked.

Bearing oil of anointing for the resurrection of the King/Priest, Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene, in particular, are types for the two olive trees standing as witnesses before the throne of God discussed in Revelation 11. These two women anoint Christ with oil on two separate occasions. First, in the house of a Pharisee in the city of Nain, Magdalene anoints Christ with oil and bathes his feet in her tears (Luke 7), and later in Bethany, Mary anoints Christ by breaking a very costly box of spikenard over his head (Mark 14: 3 and John 12: 3). Christ passed through a kind of birth in his passage through the veil to meet his Father. I propose that while the scriptures provide a description of two anointings, they only hint at the actual ordinances of the corresponding priestesshood covenants for those who have ears to hear because of their initiation into temple rites, especially the second anointing. The actual ordinance of the second anointing of Christ by Magdalene was most certainly fulfilled privately just prior to his betrayal and Crucifixion. Knowing that this anointing would cause His Resurrection and His calling and election as the Lamb of God to be made sure, the woman who prepared Him for this moment must have been present for the most intimate, heartbreaking, and faith-filled moment in history on which the salvation of all humankind depended.

Later, Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany are the first two apostolic witnesses of Christ's resurrection in Matthew. Quoting Matthew 28:

“As it began toward dawn the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher … and the angel answered and said unto the women, He is not here: for he is risen … Come see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet and worshipped him.”

In Mark, the first witness to the resurrection is Magdalene. In Luke, the female disciples bearing oils of anointing include Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene, and they (although primarily Mary Magdalene) are the first witnesses of the Resurrection.

Now serving as the archetypal Lady at the veil, Mary Magdalene, the apostle to the apostles in John's Gospel, stands with a jar of oil for embalming, but John 20:17 reads, “Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” Christ’s passage through the two veils with a woman by his side administering in the ordinances of priestesshood in both cases was now an accomplished reality, and from thenceforth the children of God would follow.

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Christ's material personification of the divine was both a revolution and a restoration. But the earthly women whom Jesus loved also represented feminine divinity from the glory of the Heavenly Council. In the same way that Christ was a radical incarnation of the divine in a physical body, so were eternal spirits born into the material bodies of the sacred women who loved and accompanied Jesus of Nazareth in this mortal sphere. I believe that in Christ and the two women who were with him, and in John the Baptist and Elizabeth, we see a terrestrial order composed of the priesthood and priestesshood that fills in the gaps in our understanding of the fullness of the Priesthood of the world from whence we came and to which we will return. As we enter a new, more terrestrial world, I believe that divine women of heaven will be revealed to have been among us all along. First century Christians taught that the temple made with hands—the human body—is the temple of the Holy Spirit. This clay. This dirt and blowing ash. We are the temple when the Holy Spirit abides in us. And in a woman weeping at the death of her brother, Lazarus, we can see the Female Spirit. In a mortal mother, we are beholding the likeness of the Queen of Heaven.

It seems to me that the message of Christ and the Patriarchal religion long before him, is that humankind is redeemed by blood: the blood of Christ's atonement and—in a metaphorical way—the blood of women. Menstruation in women, whether fertile or barren, is a token of the priestesshood to which they were foreordained, whether they bear children in this life or not. They, all of them, are by nature a similitude of Christ in the fallen world. Blood symbolism was a way to understand the redemption inherent in the cycles of life and salvific potential in suffering. The very nature of womanhood, together with symbols such as the cycle of the moon, is inscribed with holiness. Note also that this worldview is the complete opposite of an incomprehensible single male abstraction controlled at a single temple with a scarcely breachable holy of holies. This worldview defies the accusation of Eve’s deceit. It baffles Christendom's argument for the fall as a catastrophe. It has been noted before that men have to go up to the mountain to see the glory of God, but the kingdom of God comes to women where they are.

I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the stone the builders rejected, the chief cornerstone. The anointed one took at last the paradoxical incarnation of a broken and bloody lamb whose exquisite suffering for the alienation of humankind commenced in an olive grove in Gethsemane. I choose to believe that there, Christ's Mother, the comforting angel, administered to Her son under Her standard in the grove, an olive tree. And then, as suffering magnified into greater and greater mockery, in poignant irony, the Son was nailed to a dead tree of cruelty and shame. In those last few hours, the fragrant olive tree was transfigured as the cross itself. From the Gospel of Thomas, Christ said, “Lift the stone, and there you will find me; split the wood and there I am." Her symbol was totally debased in the instrument of crucifixion, so that this profanity became a barque, or sailing ship, that would carry the great Melchizedek Priest through the veil of the true heavenly temple.

The Mother, the Bride, and the Female Spirit (Shekhina) are the indispensable consorts of the Father, the Bridegroom, and the Male Spirit (Holy Ghost). All together, they are our loving Family, and like a smoking furnace and a burning lamp in our breath and in our cells, our cloud by day and our pillar of fire by night, as we sojourn, nearly blind, to the feet of the holy mountain.

END


Full Citation for this Article: Coleman, Kamron (2020) "TERRESTRIAL LOST AND FOUND, Anticipating Further Light and Knowledge on Ordinances with Administration by Women Bearing the Highest Order of the Melchizedek Priesthood," SquareTwo, Vol. 13 No. 3 (Fall 2020), http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleColemanLostFound.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. Anonymous

Kamron Coleman's article, "Terrestrial Lost and Found, Anticipating Further Light and Knowledge on Ordinances with Administration by Women Bearing the Highest Order of the Melchizedek Priesthood" (13/3), adds a beautifully crafted layer of thought to the emerging discourse on the subject of what constitutes the Godhead and the possible roles of our Heavenly Mother and the Holy Spirit. 

In particular, Coleman's concept of a female counterpart for each member of the Godhead is worth weighty consideration. My own understanding of these roles varies somewhat - I believe that although fully embodied, Heavenly Mother herself fills the role of the Holy Spirit to each of the children whose spirits she birthed in pre-mortality. In this view, therefore, the Godhead consists of Father, Mother and Son, each of whom has an eternal companion counterpart.  Coleman's rationale, however, deserves serious consideration.

If I can just add one thought to the discussion on anointings and other ordinances. Coleman's statement "That second anointing ordinance, which is guarded with sacred silence, has been administered only very rarely in recent generations..." is not accurate. A multitude of sources confirm that, in fact, while the general membership of the church remains unaware of it, after a hiatus in the early 20th century, the Second Anointing ordinance continues to be administered to scores, most likely hundreds, of members each year. Currently, with the approval of the President of the Church, it is given in the various Temples by a member of the First Presidency or the Twelve. It is given to General Authorities of course, but also to Area Authorities, Temple Presidencies, some Mission Presidents, and others.  As some others have pointed out, the logistical challenges of bestowing a non-routinized ordinance requiring the highest level of approval in a church of millions remain the fundamental reason it is not widely known. 

In the past, as with all other essential ordinances, it has also been administered on behalf of deceased members as official, publicly-available annual reports of the Salt Lake Temple used to note. If vicarious Second Anointings are still performed, it is probable that this is done only in the Salt Lake Temple. 

The takeaway from this is that the promise of this blessing, clearly mentioned in the opening sentences of the Endowment, remains a promise open to all. 

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II. Kamron Coleman, the author, responds to Anonymous

Thank you for your very generous and informative comments.

Perhaps, regarding the Second Anointing, instead of "administered only very rarely" I should have said that the ordinance is distributed "only very selectively." Because as you said, if the Second Anointing is administered to hundreds annually in a church of millions, special selection is clearly playing a major part in the ordinance's distribution.

While I recognize the need to be selective for many reasons, not just volume, I am reflective that while we like to say that no calling is more important than another in the Church, the distribution you described strikes against that sentiment. If it were not so, the ordinance's distribution could remain very selective but not predictable by callings that indicate higher status. Perhaps a Primary worker and her husband who is a selfless ministering brother, would be astonished and overwhelmed with gratitude, and their faith strengthened, if it were acknowledged that their service and devotion has been recognized by the Lord, just as if they held "high" callings.

I don’t bring it up for the sake of fairness. Quite the contrary. I envision this ordinance as playing a major role in bringing about a millennial order of translation and resurrection of souls. Its distribution amongst Saints of all social castes might be imperative in a time of great tribulation and for the efficacy of terrestrial temple work. I am asking the reader to ponder whether the telestial model of hierarchy must come with us into the terrestrial kingdom. Perhaps it must. I was hoping it would be a little more like Christ's selection of Apostles from amongst the regular hoi polloi of his day. Or at least partly. Visually speaking, as it is now, the distribution of the Second Anointing ordinance looks like making excellent people into potential gods, instead of the translation work of turning lead into gold.

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III. Lura Hafen

I read this article a month ago and found myself pondering on it several occasions since. Often in my study I would reflect upon the concepts shared in this article. Though much of it is easy for me to understand and agree with, my pondering was from a different direction. My thoughts kept going to how each of us are different and how our minds and understanding  have a different needs for focus and comprehension. As a strong woman in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints I have never questioned my worth, value, and importance in His work. I have never felt slighted as though I did not fulfill the same importance of a man. I have no doubt about who I am and the need for women in the moving forward of the Gospel. My personality breaks things down to line upon line, what do I need to know now, and seeking personal revelation for me and my family.

I know my Father lives. I know I have a heavenly Mother. I know her worth is beyond my comprehension but within my understanding (as limited as that is).  I know the more I study, ponder, and pray- the more that will be revealed to me that relates to me and my needs.

I have the greatest respect for this author who has his own need to comprehend based on his own individual person. It leaves me in that much more awe that I know God helps give him direction and comprehension as He does me. I have always known I can do anything through Him if it be His will. So, whether I am a person that is driven to understand the anointings, the eternal prospective of the priesthood, my individual worth, or to know that information will come to me line upon line in due time, I am able to go forward with His peace as the Spirit bares witness to me.

Thank you for your time in sharing these things. There is much insight that can be gleaned from expansive research that was undoubtedly done.

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IV. Cynthia Webecke Steadman

I'm so in line with women holding the PriestESShood, that I baulk at the idea of saying that women are going to exercise the Melchizedek Priesthood. To me, there should be a female title for the power women hold--maybe the Rebecca Priestesshood?

I would love to see the footnotes for this article. There are so many points that are mentioned from "things that I studied" that I would like to follow up on but can't because of the lack of sources.

I do like the idea that the 3 males are balanced by 3 females. To me, that makes the star of David a great symbol, further enhancement of the "DiVinci Code" explanation. I like each person in the male symbol and each in the female symbol being represented by the point of a triangle.

Frankly, I was shocked to learn about the second anointing. I knew about having your calling and election made sure, but for some reason I'd always assumed that involved an angelic visitation or something. I have to admit that I cheated and looked it up on Wikipedia. There aren't enough details that I feel it was inappropriate. Part of me is glad that the phrases have been changed since the Wikipedia article was written, because certain phrases chafe me.

I enjoyed the discussion of the menstrual blood symbolism.

As for women being at both veils--I've been a student of the "Two Trees" idea where women had one veil and men had the other, that I'm not quite sure this is sitting well with me? But at the same time, men do have to help out with the first veil by helping with conception, so it would make sense that women have a role in the second veil.