Fiona Givens recently resigned her position at BYU’s Maxwell Institute under pressure from Church leaders over her speculation that the Holy Ghost might be Heavenly Mother. Dr. Margaret Toscano says this is an ancient Christian belief and wonders why Church leaders were bothered by Givens bringing it up. Are Church leaders scared of Heavenly Mother?
Margaret: My view on the Heavenly Mother and the Holy Ghost is complex, if you want me to get into that, I could. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with speculating about that.
GT: The brethren do [think it’s wrong to speculate about that.]
Margaret: I know the brethren do, but why? Why are they afraid? I think that people have a hunger to know more about the Heavenly Mother, and that the more we talk about it, that maybe true ideas will come forth. I want to throw in here a little bit of an irony, though, that I feel about Fiona, that makes me smile, as somebody who got in trouble and got excommunicated for my writings about priesthood and the Heavenly Mother. So, there’s another book, and I have it in my home office, not here in my school office, called the Routledge Handbook of Mormonism and Gender. Actually, I have a chapter in there on men and priesthood, which I liked that article. We can talk about that another time, Rick. But Fiona has a chapter, it’s called Feminism and the Heavenly Mother.
GT: In the same book?
GT: Oh, wow.
Margaret: I have to say, and I don’t care if she sees this, that I’m a little mad at her about her chapter. I think her chapter is not–I don’t want to use too negative of a word. But, since the chapter is called Feminism and the Heavenly Mother, she doesn’t quote any Mormon feminists, including myself, in that chapter. She only quotes two men from BYU, Dan Peterson, and suddenly, I’ll forget, he just passed away, the dear man. He’s a wonderful man. I’ll think of in just a second.
GT: Not Michael Quinn?
Margaret: No, If I look it up here, I’ll find it, and I’ll think of his name in a minute. This is just because I’m old, everybody, that suddenly my mind goes blank. But it’s really important, because he was actually David Paulsen, and Martin Pulido, did a really good article called–about the Heavenly Mother in BYU Studies. They counted all of the official references to the Heavenly Mother. There are like 600 of them, they found, official references to Heavenly Mother.
Margaret: They include heavenly parents, not just Heavenly Mother. Well, I actually did a response to their article where I say I’m really glad they did this article. It’s wonderful. But you know what? That’s not a lot. Because I counted in one General Conference, I counted that there were 900 references, in just one conference to, God the Father and Jesus. So, to say that over 150 years, we had 600 references to Heavenly Mother, 600 in 150 years compared to 900 in two days, is not a lot. So, I said, we need more about her, not less.
GT: Well, they don’t want to get in trouble.
Margaret: No, they don’t want to get in trouble. I think it’s a little ironic, why didn’t Fiona in her article…? I don’t want to use the word–dishonest doesn’t sound right. But I think that it’s unfair, maybe that’s better. If she’s writing an article about the Heavenly Mother and feminism, and she doesn’t quote anybody other than Linda Wilcox, who has written about the Heavenly Mother, and there are a lot of us who have written about the Heavenly Mother. She doesn’t quote any Mormon feminists. She only quotes Daniel Peterson and David Paulsen and Martin Pulido–men about the Heavenly Mother. Was she afraid to quote us because she didn’t want to get in trouble? Well, I think it’s kind of ironic now that she’s getting in trouble for talking about the Holy Ghost as Heavenly Mother, and yet she wasn’t willing or brave enough in her article in this Routledge Handbook, to quote Mormon feminists, like my sister, Janice Allred, who’s speculated about…
GT: I need to get her on.
Margaret: Yeah, about the Heavenly Mother and being the Holy Ghost. She didn’t quote Janice. She didn’t quote me. I have a whole article about all the different references and images of Heavenly Mother. I’ve written a lot about the Heavenly Mother. She doesn’t quote me. She doesn’t quote Janice. She doesn’t quote [other feminists.] There’s a whole Sunstone issue on the Heavenly Mother. She doesn’t quote Rachel Hunt Steenblik, only men. So, she was very cautious, but now she’s in trouble. I’m not gloating. I’m not gloating. I don’t want her to be in trouble, because I don’t believe that she should be reprimanded. But do you know what? We need to have more courage and support people.