Published 9/12/15 on johnlarsen.org
The paradox of Schrödinger’s Cat is a rather well know paradox in quantum mechanics. Much has been written about its meaning for quantum superposition and the details of the paradox. I would refer the interested reader to these sources. For our purposes, it is enough to point out that in the paradox, the cat, which is in a box, is in a state of being both alive and dead until the box is opened and the cat is inspected. The condition of the cat remains in a condition of being both states unresolved until an act (opening the box) forces the resolution. This duel unresolved state is known as superposition.
In the past Mormon prophets, seers and revelators fulfilled their titles by making prophecies and revealing doctrines that were previously unknown. Several of the these doctrine have been left a state of superposition. That is, like Schrödinger’s Cat, the doctrines are in a state of being both true and false at the same time. The doctrine is perfectly unresolved and the consequences of the doctrinal definition cannot be realized.
This state of doctrinal superposition, in my belief, is perfectly intentional. Some people suppose that the leadership today has lost the gift to revelate, or at the minimum the hubris to assert that they have this power when they do not. But I think that the Mormon Church has always shown a gift for corporate precision and management of even the most minute detail. The idea that it would have escaped them to make doctrinal clarity is laughable.
One of the most important doctrines in this state of superposition is the Doctrine of the Heavenly Mother. The idea is rather simple and at the core of Mormonism. It is this: there is not merely a God who created the world, but the act of creation employed by God is an extension and glorification of the act of procreation employed by men and women in this mortal sphere. God as a man could not create the spirits of humankind on His own but rather He and His eternal spouse did so together as a family unit. Thus we do not merely have a Father in Heaven, we of necessity have a Mother also.
For Mormon theology, this isn’t just an artifact of the creation myth. This doctrine is baked into the holiest rights performed in the endowment and sealing ceremonies. And this is the principle reason for the expensive temple creation in which the Church engages. At the heart of Mormonism is Exaltation. And Exaltation is predicated on finding and marrying a spouse in the temple. By the language in the temple it is clear that both man and woman will be exalted, to follow in the footsteps of God and His wife. And, as Joseph Smith taught, God was once a man who became exalted Himself.
If this is so central to the practice of Mormonism, why is this doctrine in a state of superposition and what does it mean for practicing Mormons that it is stuck in Schrödinger’s box? Let’s address the latter question first. Today in Mormonism, there is a cultural imperative to not talk about, write about or suggest that there either is or is not a Mother in Heaven. There are many tales of official and unofficial censure for those who discuss this doctrine. And the censure isn’t merely limited to those who speculate on the doctrine. Even outlining what Mormon Prophets have said on the topic will get you in trouble. Anything approaching official deceleration on the topic is clearly motivated to preserve the state of superposition.
So what would happen if this ambiguity was resolved? Let’s first suppose that the Church were to rule that the doctrine was an archaic relic of the past in line with other discarded doctrines. As hinted above, the doctrine of exaltation as a path to Godhood through sealing and marriage would effectively lose its raison d’être. If there is no Mother in Heaven, exaltation as a path for women doesn’t really exist. Additionally the doctrinal basis of “forever families” loses any meaning in the afterlife since God as a single being is responsible for creation. Indeed, the belief system that makes Mormonism unique would be shaken to its core. God as a single being outside of the cycle of exaltation creates instability in the entire “plan of salvation.”
Let’s suppose then the Church takes the alternative path and fully embraces the doctrine of the divine Mother. The Church then loses control of the feminine as a subjugation to the masculine through the priesthood. The Church has long insisted, to the point of excommunication, that members may not pray to the Mother directly. Since prayer by the Church’s own admission is a personal process, the Church has positioned itself as an intermediary between the Heavenly Mother wherein it has never insisted such a role in one’s relationship to God (however the Church also has a history of frowning on one’s “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” outside of the confines of the Church.) The Church would have to explain, once the Heavenly Mother is fully acknowledge, WHY members couldn’t or can’t pray to her directly. She is, after all, the Mother of our souls and She who bore us into existence. Under what right did the Church suggest that we cannot communicate directly with one of our Gods and our closest creator?
This would lay bare the obvious misogyny of the Church since the Mother’s role is either to be silenced and suppressed by a controlling Husband and Father (God) or it wasn’t the will of the father but merely the men in charge of the Church. If this is the case why should be have any confidence in these cruel men who would keep us from our mother? The only other alternative is too terrible to confront–that Mother in Heaven could have contact with us but chooses not to. No, what would be clear is that a woman’s role in the Church is to spend an eternity bearing children whom she will be bared from communicating with, comforting or even having them know she exists. The Church obviously does not want to deal with the existential crisis this would bring on.
Because of this superposition, Mormon theologians and Sunday school teachers can use the Heavenly Mother as an out to thorny issues, especially when the obvious anti-female bias is exposed. But they never have to actually deal with the consequences of the doctrine as outlined above. For Mormon teachers, Heavenly Mother both exists and doesn’t exist and they only have to use the resolution of that state when it is beneficial to them and never have to actually deal with the downsides.
Mormonism can thus preserve its male dominance and suppression of the female in all forms because out there SOMEWHERE there is a solution to the problem that will balance the score between men and women. And though the Church appears to be a male dominated organization, the future will surely balance the score in the form of the Heavenly Mother. The fact that it actually doesn’t isn’t relevenat because of the superposition. Thus the male emphasis has a safety net–there is a devine female out there somewhere. But if we lose the safety net if we actually use the doctrine and make the Heavenly Mother real.