Thursday, May 12, 2016

Diversity of God

Presented at The Mormon Transhumanist Association 2016 Conference on 9 April 2016 at the Provo City Library.

Joseph Smith said, “I want to ask this congregation, every man, woman and child, to answer the question in their own hearts, what kind of being God is?”[1]

It’s an excellent question. Who is God? What is God? What does God look like? What does it mean to be made in the image of God?

I believe religion to be one of the most intimate aspects of the human experience. If we do not learn how to empathize with each other’s experiences we run the risk of allowing our religion to override our humanity. For this reason, I will answer Joseph’s question through a personal narrative.

I was a young girl who had been faithful to her religion.

I sang hymns of praise to the man.[2] I sustained predominantly male leaders[3], while men presided in my religion,[4] scriptures,[5] [6] [7] and family.[8] I began my prayers addressing Him and ending them in the name of the Son.[9] I sought comfort from the Holy Ghost who took on the male pronoun.[10] I read scriptures glittered with the stories of men only to soak my pillow with tears for the women who were raped, bought, sold, beaten, silenced, and subjugated in our most sacred texts.[11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] Worshipping maleness was an inescapable reality when I was taught the Father is the ultimate object of our worship.[17]

As I sat in the pews each Sunday, I would even listen to women testify over the pulpit, “I know Heavenly Father lives, He loves us, and He wants us to be just like Him.”

But don’t they see? Our Father is male.

As Joseph Smith, Jr. stated in the King Follett discourse, “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today and the great God who holds this world in it’s orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by His power, was to make himself visible—I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man.”[18]

The Family: A Proclamation to the World suggests my gender is essential to my eternal identity and purpose.[19] So where does a woman find herself in such a male-dominated religion dictated by such patriarchal scriptures?

For as beautiful as the concept of deification is, the male superlative placed on God is a sore limitation for those of us who don’t identify as male.

I am one such person.

The fabric of my body, mind, and soul are undeniably female. I see my effeminate nature as a source of strength. It is a vital aspect of my being. Even if I could become like God the Father, I have no interest is changing my body, gender, or sexuality to fit a patriarchal paradigm. I could not, in good conscience, deny such an integral part of my identity—an identity that my religion also told me was created in the image of God.

But are females really created in the image of God? Could my body look like God’s body?

I was repeatedly told throughout my youth comments similar to what Elder Oaks said, “And young women, please understand that if you dress immodestly, you are magnifying this problem by becoming pornography to some of the men who see you.” [20]

To them my body wasn’t godly, it was pornography.

My religion perpetuated the idea that my body was a dangerous symbol of sexual immorality that needed to be regulated, covered, and controlled. My female body, my shoulders, breasts and thighs, had been so overly sexualized that the body of God couldn’t possibly look like mine. If my body really was created in the image of God that message was lost and never quite made it to the young girl sitting in the pew.

It was clear. Embracing the trajectory of Heavenly Father meant rejecting myself. Embracing myself meant rejecting Heavenly Father.

Heavenly Father became a burden. He was everywhere—dominating religion, scriptures, praise, music, and worship. His name brought pain.

Being restricted from the priesthood[21] in my teens only intensified my feelings of rejection from God and religion. Why should I put faith in Heavenly Father and His priesthood, when He put so little faith in me? If my religion didn’t trust women as an equitable part of governance, then why should I put my trust in that religion? Why would my religion praise my womanhood and then blatantly try to manipulate me with benevolent sexism?

As a young adult, I attended the LDS temple with my husband. I felt such great pain about my gender, body, sexuality, potential deification, and God that the temple crushed my fragile faith.

As a young mother sitting in the Celestial room, projections of heaven and hell looked pretty similar. The projection of the Celestial Kingdom meant supporting my husband in his creation of worlds—silently adorning the background of his cosmoformed masterpiece. Proverbs states, “A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband.”[22] The Celestial Kingdom meant I was an ornamentation in my husband’s throne—an object to symbolize his glory. It meant watching my husband have unlimited sealings, marriages and intimacies with other women, while I would be confined to one man. Clearly my role in the Celestial Kingdom would be predicated by my current role and that was more than troubling.

Worst of all, the Celestial Kingdom meant evolving into Heavenly Mother. Heavenly Mother is rather unique to Mormonism.[23] She is a lovely concept of God that I have taken comfort in[24] on more than one occasion, but in all honestly, becoming Heavenly Mother terrified me.

The Heavenly Mother aesthetic of godhood is undervalued, underutilized, underappreciated, and unloved. Most troubling is that patriarchal leadership still discourages us to worship Her or pray to Her directly.[25] The projection of Heavenly Mother is cut off from Her offspring. As a mother of three children, the thought of being cut off from my offspring is hell.

Is that my future? Does celestial glory mean to simply disappear—mentioned in the occasional footnote?

Words like “exaltation”, “eternity”, “deification”, and “theosis” became nightmares I couldn’t escape. What little faith I had left in my religion and God eventually vanished in the temple.

They had me so worried about whether heaven would open its gates for a girl like me that I hadn’t taken the time to question; do I even want to go?

I had no intention of ruining the projections of a loving Heavenly Mother or Father that brought comfort, peace, and motivation to people I loved, but I could not be inspired by these Gods.

I eventual concluded, no God was better than that God.

I took refuge in functional atheism. It came all too naturally. It was attractive and alluring. It brought relief to gaping wounds that my religion was unwilling to notice or blatantly ignoring. How could they notice when the women who dressed my wounds[26] were silenced and excommunicated? Functional atheism was beautifully numbing, like morphine pumping through my veins dulling my senses. Stoicism was safe.

In my apathy toward God, functional atheism allowed me to liberate my mind. I was free and with an unbridled thirst for truth. I even imagined I was limitless without any god, but the truth was even if God was nothing more than my own imaginary projections of the future or past, rejecting the projection of God was in fact another limitation. The projection of no God or even the possibility of godhood was lifeless. Morphine was no longer enough.

I wanted to feel again. I wanted to stop fighting the past and start building the future. I needed freedom from religious dogmas, nihilistic projections, escapism, and even atheism. I needed to have the freedom to put my personal projections onto God so that my righteous aspirations of love, compassion, joy, and flourishing could become a tangible reality.

I needed to see the image of God within myself.

I’d like to repeat Joseph Smith’s comments concerning theosis while removing the male aesthetic, “God was once as we are now, and is exalted, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. […] Here, then, is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be gods yourselves, the same as all gods have done before you.”[27]

This is the New God Argument.[28] For those of you not familiar with the New God Argument, I’ll give a brief overview before expanding on the implication of the argument for intersectionality and diversity.

The New God Argument suggests that there are practical benefits in placing trust in the existence of superintelligent beings—beings so far evolved from us that they may even warrant the term posthuman or God. The argument is not a means to prove the existences of God, but suggests practical faith that we may become such.[29]

As our species has evolved, we have developed tools and technologies that have greatly increased our creative and destructive capacities. We currently have the destructive ability to cause our own extinction. However, violence is declining[30] and the world is getting better. I am confident in saying that as a woman, there’s never been a better time to be alive and I have faith that someday my daughter and her daughter will be able to make the same claim. If this trend in compassion continues, it seems our motivation for life and flourishing is, at least, equally increasing alongside our technological advancements.[31]

If humanity manages to avoid extinction, we could have the capacity to create simulated worlds similar to our own.[32] Through technological advancements we have begun the process of simulating all kinds of experiences. Imagine what future simulations may entail. Would we become so proficient that we could simulate an entire world? Would it be beyond the capacity of superintelligences or gods to simulate our world?

Even though this is an optimistic trajectory, we might miss the target. It is possible we could go extinct, destroying ourselves and our planet. It’s possible our compassion has limits and we might allow our religions to override our humanity. It’s possible Moore’s Law is dead. It’s possible no such beings have evolved beyond our current state and we simply cannot pass through the Great Filter. Yes, all of these pessimistic projections are possible and related risks should be mitigated. However, I also think it’s worth noting that despite all the apocalyptic prophecies and pessimistic projections, we are still alive. We’re still here. The resourcefulness and resiliency of the human spirit has proven itself time and time again. Our species is not only a survivor of the past, but creators of the future.

What if we exercised our agency and took control of our future—not in blind assertion, but with optimistic trust and hope in humanity? We have a choice. We can prove Moore’s Law. We can choose compassion. We can choose human flourishing, immortality and even God, a God just as natural as the evolutionary laws that govern the universe. We can remove the shackles of superstition and cynicism, and choose an egalitarian representation of humanity in a pluralistic deity as a hopeful trajectory for all bodies.

From the perspective of a Mormon Feminist Transhumanist, God is quite lovely. So authentically beautiful that even a skeptic, like myself, could not deny such a sound aspiration.

The evolution of God is a story of epic proportions when diverse communities band together in an effort to lift one another. God is as intersectionally diverse as ourselves.

Strangely, the words of Joseph Smith have new found meaning.

In all God’s complexities, since the dawn of humanity, God is simply the desires and faith of what we may overcome and become.

Everyone one of us is a God in embryo striving to evolve into something far more than our current state—yearning to defy death—reaching beyond our known limits into what can only be described as the unknown. Blending of the human and divine is suggested in Psalms, “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High” [33] and “the offspring of God.” [34] In Genesis we are symbiotically created in the image of God,[35] both male and female.

But what does it mean to be made in the image of God? What does this mean for female bodies, brown bodies, intersex bodies, or homosexual bodies?

We are all composed of both male and female, metaphorically, generationally, and physically. From an LDS perspective, Elder Erastus Snow stated, “If I believe anything God has ever said about himself. . . I must believe that deity consists of man and woman.”[36] To be made in the image of God is far more diverse and personally intimate than a monotheistic male aesthetic.

In 2nd Nephi we read that God denieth none, black and white, male and female, all are alike unto God.[37] Note the scripture does not state we are alike unto each other as a homogenous group, but rather in all our diversity all are alike unto God.

If we suppose that superintelligent post humanity is more evolved than ourselves, then evolution would result in a more diverse God, not less. Over all, evolution generally favors increase complexity of long periods of time.

For example, look at all the various species of dogs that are the product of evolution. The wolf is their common ancestor, but how did this broad diversification take place? Wolves gave up their freedom in exchange for a partnership with humans. They slowly domesticated over generations until they warranted a new label, dogs. Thousands of years of breeding and artificial selection have resulted in every species of dog among us today.[38] The diversity sculpted by human hands is truly astounding.

Even more radically diverse is the diversity of life on our planet. Billions of years of natural selection and random genetic mutations have resulted in practically countless species. Humans have been diversifying life on this planet for centuries.

Your family tree is not only composed of a diversity of genders, sexes, races and humans, but a variety of species. Fish, beetles, giraffes, oxen, trees, flowers, bacterium, and humans all share a common ancestor—life, the ultimate image of God. God is personified in every unique, complex, and multi-faceted being that has ever lived.

Suddenly, the image of God is far more diverse than previous representations, and it seems the further a life form evolves into a greater state of knowledge, consciousness, and awareness, the more godlike that life becomes.

God is every hope, dream, and desire that we might transcend our meager existence, and into our supreme selves through an increase of “light and knowledge,”[39] and the radical expansion of our intellectual capacities.

Genesis supports the evolutionary sentiment of enhanced knowledge. When Adam partakes of the fruit in the Garden of Eden “the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.”[40] This scripture supports the plurality of God and the notion that increased knowledge is essential to our evolutionary transcendence. In Mormonism, we call it eternal progression.

It is not our destiny to blur into a homogenous white, cisgender, heterosexual, faceless society.  Quite the contrary, our diversity should be celebrated as part of our godly attributes. God is incomplete without us—we are coeternal. It seems our diversity is required for humanity to truly display the all-encompassing image of God. The God expressed in Job is more diverse than we could possibly imagine,[41] “behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain”[42] God.

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

The image of God is in your reflection, and I’m convinced that image is never more complete than when we unite in all our diversities to lift one another into a transcendent exaltation.

Consider the practical benefits of broadening our understanding of God to include the intersectional images of all beings on the planet. Doctrine and Covenants prophesies the earth “may be prepared for the celestial glory…that bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever and ever.”[43] The celestial kingdom is prophesied to be right here if we choose to cultivate such a godly community for all bodies.

The oversimplification of God may have once served a purpose, but we have sacrificed rationality and logic in favor of convenience.

In closing, I’ll answer Joseph’s question more succinctly, “…what kind of being is God?”

God is what we may become in capacities we have only begun to imagine and discover by embracing technology, religion, science, God, and faith as the catalysts to enhance the evolutionary process of eternal progression.

God is eternal life and that image resides in you.

Notes and Citations

[1] Joseph Smith, Jr., “The King Follett Discourse,” General Conference Meeting (Nauvoo: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, April 7, 1844).

[2] William W. Phelps (text) & Scottish folk song (music), “Praise to the Man,” LDS Hymns (Salt Lake City, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985), 27.

[3] General Authorities and General Officers, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, accessed January 4, 2016,

[4] Richard G. Ellsworth and Melvin J. Luthy, “The Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Priesthood,” (1992), accessed January 4, 2016, The word ‘priesthood’ has several meanings for Latter-day Saints: 1. Priesthood is power, the power of God, a vital source of eternal strength and energy delegated to men to act in all things for the well-being of mankind, both in the world and out of it."

Ephesians 5:22 KJV. “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.”

[6] 2 Corinthians 3:18 KJV. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

[7] Genesis 3:16 KJV. “Unto the woman he said, 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.”

[8] The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles, “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” General Relief Society Meeting (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, September 23, 1995), Paragraph 7. “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.”

[9] Gordon B. Hinckley, “Daughters of God,” LDS General Conference (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, October 1991). “However, in light of the instruction we have received from the Lord Himself, I regard it as inappropriate for anyone in the Church to pray to our Mother in Heaven.”   

[10] LDS Gospel Topics, s.v. “Holy Ghost,” accessed February 20, 2016, “He is a personage of spirit, without a body of flesh and bones.”

[11] Deuteronomy 22: 13-21 KJV. “If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her, And give occasions of speech against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid: Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel’s virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate: And the damsel’s father shall say unto the elders, I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her; And, lo, he hath given occasions of speech against her, saying, I found not thy daughter a maid; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter’s virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city. And the elders of that city shall take that man and chastise him; And they shall amerce him in an hundred shekels of silver, and give them unto the father of the damsel, because he hath brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel: and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days. But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father’s house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.”

[12] Deuteronomy 22:28-29 KJV. “If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.”

[13] Deuteronomy 21:10-13 KJV. “When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the Lord thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife.”

[14] 1 Kings 11:3 KJV. “And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.”

[15] Proverbs 21:19 KJV. “It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.”

[16] Ephesians 5:22-24 KJV. “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”

[17] LDS Gospel Topics, s.v. “Godhead,” accessed February 20, 2016, “They acknowledge the Father as the ultimate object of their worship.”

[18] Joseph Smith, Jr., “The King Follett Discourse,” General Conference Meeting (Nauvoo: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, April 7, 1844).

[19] The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles, “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Paragraph 2. “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”

[20] Dallin H. Oaks, “Pornography,” LDS General Conference (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, April 2005).

[21] Blaire Ostler, “The Priesthood is a Spiritual Technology for Women Too,” The Transfigurist, accessed October 23, 2015,

[22] Proverbs 12:4 KJV. “A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones.”

[23] LDS Gospel Topics, s.v. “Mother in Heaven,” accessed February 20, 2016,

[24] Blaire Ostler, “How a Mother Became a Transhumanist,” The Transfigurist, accessed June 6, 2015,

[25] Hinckley, “Daughters of God.”

[26] Ordain Women,

[27] Smith, Jr., “The King Follett Discourse.”

[28] Lincoln Cannon and Joseph West, “The New God Argument,” accessed February 12, 2016, “The New God Argument is a logical argument for faith in God. Given assumptions consistent with contemporary science and technological trends, the argument proves that if we trust in our own superintelligent potential then we should also trust that superintelligent posthumanity probably would be more compassionate than we are and created our world. Because a compassionate creator may qualify as God in some religions, trust in our own superintelligent potential may entail faith in God, and atheism may entail distrust in our superintelligent potential.”

[29] Cannon and West, “The New God Argument,” Faith Assumption,

[30] Steven Pinker, “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined,” (New York: Viking, 2011).

[31] Cannon and West, “The New God Argument,” Compassion Argument,

[32] Cannon and West, “The New God Argument,” Creation Argument,

[33] Psalms 82:6 KJV. “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.”

[34] Acts 17:29 KJV. “Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.”

[35] Genesis 1:27 KJV. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

[36] David L. Paulsen and Martin Pulido, “A Mother There: A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven,” BYU Studies 50, 1 (2011): 79.

[37] 2 Nephi 26:33. “For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”

[38] Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (Episode 2: Some of the Things That Molecules Do), DVD, presented by Neil deGrasse Tyson (2014; Fox / National Geographic Channel).

[39] Doctrine & Covenants 50:24. “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”

[40] Genesis 3:22 KJV. “And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:”

[41] Job 11:7 KJV. “Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?”

[42] 1 Kings 8:27 KJV. “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?”

[43] Doctrine and Covenants 88:18-20. “Therefore, it must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory; For after it hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father; That bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever and ever; for, for this intent was it made and created, and for this intent are they sanctified.”