Consider that the tree of life and temple ascension are at their deepest levels tied to birth concepts and actually symbolize the placenta (tree or link between mother and child) and the umbilical cord (iron rod and covenants made by dividing and reconnecting things).
At birth we are cut off from the tree of life and the rod, so Lehi’s vision shows us how we can return. Note that after Nephi was shown the tree, he was shown a woman, Mary.
Nicodemus’ question may have been more insightful than we realize: “How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” The temple patterns illustrate a symbolic return to the womb, innocence, Eden, etc. In fact, the original Nauvoo temple architect Wandle Mace said: “The order of architecture [on the Nauvoo Temple] was unlike anything in existence; it was purely original; being a representation of the Church, the Bride, the Lamb’s wife.”
John the Revelator, in the 12[th] chapter [and] first verse of [the book of Revelation] says, ‘And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.’ This is portrayed in the beautifully cut stone of this grand temple.” (Wandle Mace, autobiography, 207, L. Tom Perry Special Collections Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.)
Typically, steeples can be seen as more of a phallic, masculine symbol, yet there is another way that a steeple might be interpreted:
“The axis mundi (also cosmic axis, world axis, world pillar, center of the world, world tree), in religion or mythology, is the world center or the connection between Heaven and Earth. As the celestial pole and geographic pole, it expresses a point of connection between sky and earth where the four compass directions meet. At this point travel and correspondence is made between higher and lower realms. Communication from lower realms may ascend to higher ones and blessings from higher realms may descend to lower ones and be disseminated to all. The spot functions as the omphalos (navel), the world’s point of beginning. The image is mostly viewed as feminine, as it relates to the center of the earth (perhaps like an umbilical providing nourishment). It may have the form of a natural object (a mountain, a tree, a vine, a stalk, a column of smoke or fire) or a product of human manufacture (a staff, a tower, a ladder, a staircase, a maypole, a cross, a steeple, a rope, a totem pole, a pillar, a spire). Its proximity to heaven may carry implications that are chiefly religious (pagoda, temple mount, minaret, church) or secular (obelisk, lighthouse, rocket, skyscraper).
If the temple itself can represent a womb, then perhaps the steeple(s) where present can represent an umbilical connection between earth and heaven. A reconnection of the prior blessings and nourishment lost when we were originally, literally cut off from the placental tree of life.
Often I’ll hear people speculate and wonder where “Heavenly Mother” is in the gospel, seeing how there doesn’t appear to be any direct reference in the scriptures or in LDS theology other than a certain hymn and some quotes from Church leaders. I’ve heard many people suggest that God keeps her hidden from us because of his respect for her, but I don’t believe that’s the reason.
Personally, I think that if you look closely enough, you will find the divine Mother throughout scripture and our theology. Feminine themes permeate Judeo-Christian and LDS theology, from the atonement to most if not all ordinances and temple worship. The principles Jesus championed seemed more feminine than masculine, he focused more on charity, love, tenderness, grace, kindness, humility, and patience; he was a lamb and not a lion. The first witness of the resurrection was Mary, a woman.
We don’t seem to realize how deeply all these connections run.
Although the church is typically symbolized by a woman in the scriptures, the core leadership is primarily male. It seems as though the feminine reigns doctrinally while the masculine reigns governmentally, at least for the time being. Outside of this fallen, mortal sphere, things are different:
“When the frailities and imperfections of mortality are left behind, in the glorified state of the blessed hereafter, husband and wife will administer in their respective stations, seeing and understanding alike, and cooperating to the full in the government of their family kingdom.
Then shall woman be recompensed in rich measure for all the injustice that womanhood has endured in mortality. Then shall woman reign by Divine right, a queen in the resplendent realm of her glorified state, even as exalted man shall stand, priest and king unto the Most High God. Mortal eye cannot see nor mind comprehend the beauty, glory, and majesty of the righteous woman made perfect in the celestial kingdom of God.” – James E. Talmage, “The Eternity of Sex”, Young Woman’s Journal, Oct. 1914: 602-3 page 138
While current conditions in this probationary state are not at this level, this understanding should have a dramatic impact on how we conduct ourselves in relation to one another. Unfortunately, this vision is largely forgotten or ignored in the daily bustle of life and with men and women more focused on administration, programs, and policies. Losing sight of the greater purpose is just par for the course with anything we deal with in mortality, it’s a continual struggle until we become converted to higher ideas.
Perhaps church government is meant to represent the Adam and Eve relationship on a macro-scale. God said to Adam and Eve:
“I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children, and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” (Genesis 3:16)
Paul carried on a similar teaching in the early Christian church:
Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:23-33, NASB)
It is possible that for the purposes of mortality, that this arrangement exists as part of life’s proving ground. Placed in respective roles, how will we respond, what will we do? Will women refuse to accept the circumstances? Will men give of themselves as Christ did for the church, or will the idea of ‘authority’ go to their heads? Will we keep competing and contending or discover that harmonious balance?
Sometime we wish things were more obvious, more out in the open and clearly defined. I think it is key to remember how Jesus taught in parables to both reveal and conceal sacred information. The knowledge would be accessible to those who had eyes to see, who came to inquire of him as did Nephi (1 Nephi chapters 10-11) while they are hidden from those who seek to reason with the understanding of men alone.
The restoration is ongoing, it isn’t complete. The way I see it, anything less than Zion is apostasy, but I also understand that our willingness to pursue while making mistakes along the way is part of the process and purpose of life.
I don’t know how far we are from Zion, a place or a state where hearts and minds are one and they are no poor among us. I think it is a mistake to look out and judge the world, the people of the church, and our neighbors. We ought to be more concerned with building Zion in our own minds and hearts and in our own homes. Until that has been achieved, what right have we to look out and judge others?
We can’t control the world and impose our will on those around us, but we can live a holy life. We can understand doctrine and respect the divine nature of men and women and behave in a manner that would be welcome in heaven; let’s begin there.
Great stuff to chew on. The Adam and Eve relationship is at the heart of the Gospel and at the heart of each of us. If we study this story carefully, there is hardly anything in our lives we cannot apply it to. When Joseph Smith said, “If you do not comprehend God, you do not comprehend yourself,” I think he might have been thinking about this great allegory. There is so much to learn about the nature of Deity and our own individual natures by carefully studying the sacred symbols of Adam and Eve. They are in many ways not unlike Yin and Yang, the body and the spirit, the conscious and the subconscious, and a million other things.
I think you said it all when you mentioned, “Will women refuse to accept the circumstances? Will men give of themselves as Christ did for the church, or will the idea of ‘authority’ go to their heads? Will we keep competing and contending or discover that harmonious balance?” Women not excepting the circumstances is like Eve choosing not to partake of the fruit. And men not giving of themselves as Christ did for the church is like Adam not partaking of the fruit. But Eve and Adam DID partake, and likewise women and men must symbolically obey their “roles” or progression cannot occur.
We are only as far away from Zion as we are from achieving it in our homes. We can live a terrestrial life now…even a celestial life. In D&C 88:25 it says, “And again, verily I say unto you, the earth abideth the law of a celestial kingdom, for it filleth the measure of its creation, and trensgresseth not the law.” If the earth can do it, then perhaps there is hope for us as well. :)
I believe that the woman is to teach wisdom – how to DO things, while the man is to reveal knowledge – the facts of things. I believe that is why we are missing many things in the church today. Woman must come forward and share in the roles of teaching and governing. There should be NO competition in the church or in the home and yet we find competition in both. If we can give women more honor and authority to teach the HOW-to of the gospel we will start to find and create Zion. Until then, it will allude us, for Zion is the woman. I know that may seem like Eve is not accepting her station, but that is not the point. Will we move out of the telestial state and choose a higher terrestrial state? Or continue in this one? There is a progression and it means we change from what we are given and bring it to a higher plane. If we continue to do what we have always done then we will get what we have always gotten. That is NOT Zion.
The priesthood can only have a fullness when the man and the woman are united and at-one. The priesthood is the power to act in God’s name. What woman can give birth without this right? She is acting in God’s name when bringing children to the earth. Priesthood cannot be given or taken from women. It is their divine right. It is not Melchesideck Priesthood or Aaronic Priesthood that they have, but something else. It is the keys to giving life that they hold. If keys are things that open doors, then the woman holds the keys of birth. They are the only ones who can turn those keys, with the help of their husbands they have the power to create life. That is priesthood if I ever heard of it. Men have a different priesthood, but at some point we must allow men and women to be equal or we are only propagating what we already have. The TELESTIAL Kingdom. Don’t we want to get out of this mess? Don’t we want to move on from here?
If we want to bring the garden back, a state of oneness with God, we cannot continue to live the telestial laws that put women under men. Yes it was a curse Eve received in the garden but it is also, just like Adams curse to be removed through bringing Zion back to the earth. Adams curse was by the sweat of his brow he would eat all the days of his life. The earth is to return to it’s paradisiacal state, so that means women are not to be ruled over by their husbands anymore either. We can help bring that about by establishing the structure to support women not being under their husbands anymore, just as our love and becoming pure in heart will establish Zion and start to heal the earth. It all comes about as we become perfected through living our covenants, and getting rid of envy, jealousy and strife. There is a way back, but we have to embrace it fully. Honesty I don’t know how this is to be done except that if we were living and doing our covenants and getting out of condemnation like D&C 84 tells us we must do, we would be given the knowledge and power to do it. There must be a few who are willing to obey the Lord and take on themselves the covenant of repentance to the degree that we activate the promises given with that covenant.