The Religion & Culture Web Forum
The Mother in Heaven and Eve: Models of Femaleness in Early Mormonism"
by Susanna Morrill
Lewis & Clark College
This month, Professor Susanna Morrill of Lewis & Clark College examines the importance of two female figures in early Mormon theology and culture.
But where did [Mormon] women find religious, even theological justification for their transformed lives? How and where did they mine their young faith for female-focused religious inspiration? The answers to these questions are many and complex. In this essay, I want to focus on just two, but important answers—the Mother in Heaven and Eve.
The basic theology, beliefs, and practices of the early LDS church were self-consciously patriarchal. Women were expected to take a less prominent role at every step on the path to salvation. But what is not so clear and what needs to be now highlighted is that this distinctive, restorationist, literal LDS theology also held within it an abiding tension over the interpretation of femaleness and the role of women within the plan of salvation and the institutional church. Not far beneath the surface of this straightforward and seemingly thoroughgoing patriarchal system were social and theological trends that accorded women and femaleness great power and respect.
Early in November, an invited response to Professor Morrill's essay will be offered by Catherine A. Brekus of the University of Chicago Divinity School. Responses may be found in the archived discussion board for this Forum (pdf).
The commentary will run through the month of November, after which it will continue to be accessible through the Web Forum archive.
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