Feminine Element


An article in the Juvenile Instructor by George Q. Cannon, ‘The Worship of Female Deities’, May 15 1895 : 1

In the days of Jeremiah the prophet the worship of “the queen of heaven,” a feminine deity, was very common. The people of Judah attributed great power to this female deity, so much so that when Jeremiah declared the word of the Lord unto them concerning their idolatrous practices and their departure from the true God, they replied to him, both the men and the women, that they still intended

“To burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then we had plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil. But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine.” –

It appears from the record of Jeremiah that it was chiefly the women who worshiped this deity. They esteemed it an honor to their sex, and as a vindictation of the rights of their sex, and had such faith in this worship that they believed prosperity had been the result, and that in departing from the worship of this queen of heaven they had wanted all things, and had been consumed by the sword and by the famine. It was in vain that the prophet of the true God pled with them and endeavored to show them that they were deceived, and that by continuing this course they were sure to bring down the anger and the hot displeasure of the true God.

There are no predictions so full of threatening recorded in the Bible respecting the fate of women, or wherein women are mentioned so pointedly, as in these predictions of Jeremiah concerning this false worship. Jeremiah said:

“Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, saying: Ye and your wives have both spoken with your mouths, and fulfilled with your hand, saying, We will surely perform our vows that we have vowed, to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her.”

The prophet continues:

“Behold, I (the Lord) will watch over them for evil, and not for good.” The Lord also said that they should be consumed by the sword and by the famine, which prediction was literally fulfilled.

The record concerning this idolatrous worship of a female deity called the queen of heaven, is brought to mind by reading a chapter in a local paper which bears the head “The Woman’s Bible.” lt is written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She aims to give a construction, and perhaps a translation, of the scriptures that will be favorable to woman and to woman’s rights, and to assign her, as she appears to think, her true position in the minds of the people. She quotes from the Bible, and comes to the conclusion from the Biblical account that there was “a simultaneous creation of both sexes, in the image of God,” and that in the “consultation in the Godhead the masculine and feminine elements were equally represented.” She quotes Scott, the commentator, where he says “this consultation of the Gods is the origin of the doctrine of the trinity.” Mrs. Stanton’s conclusion, however, is that “instead of three male personages, as generally represented, a Heavenly Father, Mother, and Son would seem more rational.” She says:

“The first step in the elevation of woman to her true position, as an equal factor in human progress, is the cultivation of the religious sentiment in regard to her dignity and equality, the recognition by the rising generation of an ideal Heavenly Mother, to whom their prayers should be addressed, as well as to a Father.

“If language has any meaning, we have in these texts a plain declaration of the existence of the feminine element in the Godhead, equal in power and glory with the masculine.”

Now, to my mind this is rank idolatry, and is as false as the worship of “the queen of heaven” was by the women of Judah in the days of Jeremiah.

It is most dangerous doctrine to be taught to the rising generation of our people. If adopted as a belief and persisted in, it would undoubtedly lead to as dreadful consequences in these days as it did to those who pursued a similar course in the days of the prophet Jeremiah.

That a woman as intelligent and influential among her sex as Elizabeth Cady Stanton should make such a declaration that “instead of three male personages as generally represented (in the Godhead), a Heavenly Father, Mother and Son would seem more rational,” shows how easy it is for gross errors to creep in and to be accepted as truth.

Such doctrine is flattering to many of the female sex. There is an air of fairness in the idea, especially in these days when there is so much said upon equality of the sexes. There is good reason to believe that the same ideas prevailed among the Israelites at the time they accepted “the queen of heaven” as a goddess to be worshiped.

It has not been uncommon for different nations to worship female deities. Pele, a female deity, was worshiped by the Sandwich Islanders. In ancient days Isis was the principal goddess worshiped by the Egyptians. She was adored as the goddess of fecundity and as the great benefactress of their country, who instructed their ancestors in the art of agriculture. Perhaps this was the deity whom the Israelite exiles worshiped in Egypt, they living at Pathros, in Egypt, at the time when the interview took place between Jeremiah and them, though Aphrodite is said to have been worshiped by the Israelites in the days of their idolatry. The worship of this goddess was attended with lewd orgies.

The Greeks and Romans also indulged in the worship of female deities. Juno, a celebrated deity, was worshiped by both Greeks and Romans. Ceres was the goddess of Corn, Clio of History, Diana of the Chase, Erato of Lovers, Hygeia of Health. Minerva was also a noted name in their mythology. She was supposed to represent Wisdom, War, and the Liberal Arts, as Pallas also did Wisdom, and as Vesta did the domestic hearth. These are a few of the feminine deities who were worshiped at one time and another, and who were supposed to confer great benefits upon their worshipers.

The tendency to attribute God-like powers to members of the female sex is exhibited nowadays in the adoration which is paid to the mother of the Savior, the Virgin Mary. The belief in her influence with her immaculate Son, and the aid which He is supposed to be ready to bestow, calls forth from thousands of worshipers prayers and offerings to her.

This belief has spread through various lands, and is another illustration of the disposition to ascribe the power of God to a Woman. That great care must be exercised among the Latter-day Saints upon this point there can scarcely be a question. The late Sister Eliza R. Snow com posed a hymn which opens with “O my Father, thou that dwellest.” About a year ago a companion hymn to this invocation of Sister Snow’s, entitled “Our Mother in Heaven,” was published in the JUVENILE INSTRUCTOR. In this hymn there is too much of this inclination to deify “our mother in heaven” manifested to make it such a hymn as ought to be sung and to become a house hold hymn among the Latter-day Saints. There is no ground to think that the author had any design to teach any wrong ideas when he wrote this hymn; neither did the publishers. But if the Editor’s attention had been called to this before it appeared in the columns of the Juvenile INSTRUCTOR, he would have suggested some changes. For instance, in the third and fourth verses the poet says:

“’Tis recorded in your journal, How you stood by Father’s side When by powers that are eternal Thou wast sealed his goddess bride: How by love and truth and virtue E’en in time thou didst become, Through your high, exalted station, Mother of the souls of men. When of evil I’ve repented, And my work on earth is done, Kindest Father, loving mother, Pray forgive your erring son.”

This language approaches to worship. Our mother is called a “goddess bride.” But this is not all: she 1s appealed to with the Father to forgive her erring SOI).

Poetical license may warrant the use of language to an extent that might be considered improper in prose; but, as Latter-day Saints, we cannot be too careful concerning the use of language that may lead to wrong impressions, especially regarding the Being whom we worship. In this poetry the mother is placed side by side and on an equality with the Father.

One of the great commandments which the Lord gave to Israel after He led them out of Egypt and from the midst of the idolatrous people of Pharaoh, who had many false gods, was:

“Thou shalt have no other gods be fore me.”

The Lord also told the children of Israel, “I, the Lord, am a jealous God.”

The most terrible woes which came upon Israel during their career in the land of Canaan were the result of de parting from the worship of the true God and bowing down to idols and false gods. The worship of the true God has been revealed to us. He has revealed Himself in our day. Mortal men have beheld the Eternal Father and the Redeemer, Jesus. And we know that they live. We know also that our Father in heaven should be the object of our worship. He will not have any divided worship. We are commanded to worship Him, and Him only.

In the revelation of God the Eternal Father to the Prophet Joseph Smith there was no revelation of the feminine element as part of the Godhead, and no idea was conveyed that any such element “was equal in power and glory with the masculine.”

Therefore, we are warranted in pronouncing all tendencies to glorify the feminine element and to exalt it as part of the Godhead as wrong and untrue, not only because of the revelation of the Lord in our day, but because it has no warrant in scripture, and any attempt to put such a construction on the word of God is false and erroneous.