Scholar says 'God had a wife'; LDS writer Tresa Edmunds says, 'Yeah. We know.'

Published: Thursday, July 7 2011 2:03 p.m. MDT

The theory that "God had a wife," presented strongly in a BBC documentary earlier this year, got support Wednesday from a Mormon writer for the UK Guardian.

One episode of the BBC documentary series "The Bible's Buried Secrets" was called, "Did God Have a Wife?" The episode chronicled the biblical research of Francesca Stavrakopoulou, who claims that ancient Jews may have believed God was married.

"Far more significant is the Bible's admission that the goddess Asherah was worshipped in Yahweh's temple in Jerusalem. In the Book Of Kings, we're told that a statue of Asherah was housed in the temple and that female temple personnel wove ritual textiles for her," Stavrakopoulou wrote in a recent article, according to the Daily Mail Online. "... Asherah was also the wife of El, the high god."

She also asked: "Might (Asherah) have played the role of a divine wife in ancient Israel too?"

It is clear from the documentary that Stavrakopoulou thinks so. While this idea has raised some eyebrows, others aren't surprised.

"After all, the idea of a married deity is philosophically no stranger than the idea of an unmarried or eternally single deity — right?" BBC blogger William Crawley wrote.

Tresa Edmunds, a California-based writer for the UK Guardian, linked Stavrakopoulou's ideas to the historically Mormon concept of a Heavenly Mother in a piece published Wednesday in the belief section of the British paper's website.

"A programme on BBC2 has made news for presenting scholar Francesca Stavrakopoulou's theory that 'God had a wife,'" Edmunds wrote. "The reactions from the religious and academic world were varied, but for Mormons, it can best be summed up as, 'Yeah. We know.'"

Edmunds, a stay-at-home mother and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, outlined the origins of Mormonism's early ideas about a Heavenly Mother and its status in the faith today. "Much of the discussion about Heavenly Mother consists of references to the logic of the relationship," wrote Edmunds, who occasionally contributes to the Guardian's Comment is Free section of its website. "If God is the father of our spirits, as Mormons believe, then there would need to be a mother."

Edmunds' piece comes in the wake of an in-depth look at the historical Mormon teaching of Heavenly Mother. The article, published earlier this year in BYU Studies under the title "'A Mother There': A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven," was written by BYU philosophy professor David Paulsen and his student Martin Pulido.

Paulsen and Pulido noted that there are two official Church pronouncements on the doctrine. The most recent of these appears in the LDS Church's "The Family: A Proclamation to the World," which contains the following: "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." Much earlier, in 1909, The First Presidency of the Church declared: "All men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother and are literally sons and daughters of Deity."

Beyond these official statements many have speculated about a Heavenly Mother but not much else has been said authoritatively. During a general church Relief Society meeting in 1991, President Gordon B. Hinckley, who at the time was a counselor in the church's First Presidency, discussed the doctrine.

"Logic and reason would certainly suggest that if we have a Father in Heaven, we have a Mother in Heaven. That doctrine rests well with me," President Hinckley said in the talk later published in the church's magazine, the Ensign. "However, in light of the instruction we have received from the Lord Himself, I regard it as inappropriate for anyone in the Church to pray to our Mother in Heaven. The Lord Jesus Christ set the pattern for our prayers. In the Sermon on the Mount, He declared: 'After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.' When the resurrected Lord appeared to the Nephites and taught them, He (also) said: 'After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.'"

Editor's note: Hal Boyd performed research and contributed to the content of the article, "'A Mother There': A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven."

EMAIL: hboyd@desnews.com

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