Perspectives on the Holy Ghost

By: Mormon Heretic
June 27, 2011

I was surprised when Hawkgrrrl’s post about Patriarchy and Political Oppression turned to a discussion on the gender of the Holy Ghost.  I don’t have anything definitive to add to the gender issue, but I would like to open a discussion.

A few years ago, I listened to some classes from the Covenant Theological Seminary, run by the Presbyterian Church.  They offer degrees in theology and allow you to listen to some of the classes for free.  I have found these classes intensely interesting, and have learned a ton of information about ancient Christianity.  As part of these discussions, they talked about the evolution of the Trinity.

As the mother of Christ, Mary holds a unique role.  Some ancient Christians have talked about God the Father, God the Son, and perhaps Mary is God the Mother–a sort of holy family trinity.  While Mormons don’t subscribe to the Trinity doctrine, I think this approach to the Godhead would have some appeal to Mormons, especially considering the words to the Mormon hymn, “Oh My Father.”

In the heavens are parents single? No, the thought makes reason stare!
Truth is reason, truth eternal Tells me I’ve a mother there.

I find this concept that the Holy Ghost could be female especially fascinating, but I am far from decided on the issue.  Given Mormon theology that husband and wife cannot be exalted without each other, does it make sense that the Holy Ghost could in fact be female?

A Mormon by the name of Lance Richardson wrote a book called The Message. Lance had a Near Death Experience, spending a considerable amount of time in a medically induced coma.  Lance recounted moving experiences of meeting with loved ones who had passed on before.  A cousin named Randy had passed on before; Randy related to Lance how he was assisting his family.  Randy told Lance,

“There are many powerful, wonderful spirits who are being called home right now, that they can better help their families prepare for that which is about to take place in your world.  One of the major reasons many of us are here is to serve and help those in mortality….”

I had never understood nor thought of how God delivers assistance to us.  With billions of children, what more perfect plan could he use than through righteous family members?  It made me think about how often I may have been given inspiration from God through ministering “family” servants of God.  I could believe it was truth.  And once again I felt that burning warmth inside, testifying to me that it was.

Randy discussed meeting men and women on the other side that help us through times of struggle.  Now I’m sure there are plenty of scriptures you can provide “proving” that the Holy Ghost is a “he” rather than a “she.”   Could it be that “we” are the Holy Ghost when we become one with God?

I have given a few different perspectives here on the Holy Ghost, and I am open to others.  Do you think any of these perspectives have merit?

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104 Responses to Perspectives on the Holy Ghost

  1. LDS Anarchist on June 27, 2011 at 4:13 AM

    Currently, I believe the Holy Ghost is a She. But then you probably already knew that.

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  2. joe on June 27, 2011 at 6:41 AM

    i was under the impression that mormons believe that adam is the holy ghost aka michael the archangel? although i guess it could be an adam / eve tag team

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  3. Dan on June 27, 2011 at 7:06 AM

    The Holy Ghost is a male at this point, theologically. It is not Michael, because Michael is Gabriel, and Gabriel is not the Holy Ghost. Gabriel is an angel, not a God. The Holy Ghost is a member of the Godhead, not just an angel. Whether the Holy Ghost is our Heavenly Mother is only speculation, or some other female, is only speculation. And I don’t prescribe to the notion that we lost that knowledge simply to a misinterpretation of translation over the years. That would indicate that Joseph Smith, who apparently saw a lot of the Celestial world apparently, was not given to see the Holy Ghost, and thus when asked about the Holy Ghost, made it up.

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  4. Justin on June 27, 2011 at 7:20 AM

    It is not Michael, because Michael is Gabriel, and Gabriel is not the Holy Ghost.

    Was the confusing nature of this comment on purpose?

    Also, ditto LDSA’s comment in #1:

    Currently, I believe the Holy Ghost is a She. But then you probably already knew that.

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  5. SilverRain on June 27, 2011 at 7:45 AM

    Michael/Adam cannot be the Holy Ghost, nor can Heavenly Mother because the Holy Ghost does not yet have a body.

    And Noah is Gabriel, according to LDS thought (not necessarily doctrine.) Michael is Adam. Neither one could
    be the Spirit.

    I highly doubt the Spirit is female, since Nephi saw him. That could have been Jesus whom he saw, but it is doubtful, since he refers to the Spirit and to the Son separately later on.

    Frankly, I don’t think it matters much if the Spirit is male or female. Trying to read one’s own personal wishes into scripture is always a dangerous thing, however.

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  6. Justin on June 27, 2011 at 7:53 AM

    nor can Heavenly Mother because the Holy Ghost does not yet have a body.

    While I generally agree that the Holy Ghost is not our Mother in heaven — I’m not really attached to that idea all that much.

    Where does the idea that our Mother must have a physical body of flesh and bone come from? Wouldn’t thinking that that must be the case be the same thing as reading “one’s own personal wishes into scripture“?

    I highly doubt the Spirit is female, since Nephi saw him.

    Bearing in mind that “man” can [and usually is] used to refer to “human”, rather than merely male in gender.

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  7. Jeff Spector on June 27, 2011 at 8:19 AM

    In the grand scheme, does it really matter?

    I wouldn’t mind really if the Holy Ghost were female just because of the “comforting” part of its (just to be generic) nature.

    I realize that will offend both sides of the question.

    But, at this point, I have to agree with SilverRain on this, Theologically, we are taught that the three members of the Godhead are male.

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  8. Justin on June 27, 2011 at 9:48 AM

    There was an historical gender-shift for the term “spirit”, from the feminine ruakh in Hebrew, through the neuter pneuma in Greek, to the masculine spiritus in Latin — effectively obscured the original idea of a Holy Trinity, with one God as three inter-related aspects: Paternal, Maternal and Filial — God as Father, God as Mother Spirit, and God as Incarnate Son, such that the Son proceeds [or is born] from the Father joined with the Sacred Spirit.

    This would likewise apply to all of us as well. There are three stages of progression in mortal life:

    (1) We go from mortal, fallen humans to being spiritually reborn by the Holy Ghost ["sanctified in the spirit"].

    (2) Then we die and when resurrected we enter a state of incorruptibility in which we are quickened [reborn] by the Spirit — becoming like Jesus’ resurrected body.

    (3) In what is a possible transitional state between (1) and (2) for some — there is a third stage, which is the state in which Jesus was in when He was born.

    Some people have achieved a bodily state we call translation. A translated body appears to correspond to the one Jesus had while on earth. These bodies are sanctified in the flesh [by the Holy Spirit], so that they are holy and the powers of the earth cannot hold them. Yet these are not equal to a resurrected body.

    In all of these stages of progression, the Holy Ghost has the central role of birthing us literally as children of God [according to the spirit in the first stage and according to the flesh in the last] How can we be “born of the Spirit” if she be a male personage?

    Carrying this pattern for mortal progression [the pattern where the Holy Ghost is birthing us as new creatures] — one could extrapolate backwards and conclude that the same held true in the pre-mortal life — i.e. that the Holy Ghost was responsible for birthing our bodies of spirit element.

    Though, if this be the case — She wouldn’t correctly be called our “Mother in heaven”, as the Holy Ghost is on this earth, striving with the children of men.

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  9. SteveS on June 27, 2011 at 10:13 AM

    “How can we be “born of the Spirit” if she be a male personage?”

    Behold the mystery of the gender of the Holy Spirit!:

    Matt. 1:18: “Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.”

    Luke 1:34-35: “Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…”

    How can Mary be “with child from the Holy Spirit” if he be a female personage?

    In truth, I think both the “born of the Spirit” reference (John 3:5) and the references I listed above are semantic signifiers of something for which our language and our human experience cannot adequately describe. Both are metaphorical language, imo, that give at best only limited insight into the actual working of God in time and space. Trying to sketch a theology of the Holy Spirit from such passages is bound to lead to lots of supposition, and almost certainly, to error.

    Because really, does it matter if the Holy Spirit has a gender? If it is “female”, does that make it more/less special, powerful, important for understanding God’s ways? If it is “male”, does that make the Spirit more/less special, powerful, important for understanding God’s ways? If feel it only diminishes God’s power if we begin to insist that the Holy Spirit is this or that, male or female, works this way, but not that way, etc. Isn’t it enough to say that the Spirit is a gift of God’s grace, an injection of God’s presence into human experience?

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  10. Will on June 27, 2011 at 10:23 AM

    I’ll stick with the scriptures on this one, HE is a member of the Godhead.

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  11. Justin on June 27, 2011 at 10:29 AM

    Steve asked:

    How can Mary be “with child from the Holy Spirit” if he be a female personage?

    There were four persons mentioned in the scriptures as being involved in the conception of Jesus Christ:

    (1) God the Father, a male personage and God
    (2) The Holy Ghost, a female personage and God
    (3) Jesus Christ, a male personage and God who emptied himself of divinity to be born as a human
    (4) Mary, a female personage and human

    That you noted Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost — it can be inferred that the Holy Ghost was the mother of Jesus Christ

    Since the scriptures also state that Jesus was conceived by the power of God and it is outright stated that our Heavenly Father is literally the Father of Jesus Christ — it can be inferred that God is the father of Jesus Christ

    The scriptures say that Mary was a virgin before Jesus’ conception, throughout her gestation, and at the time He was born. Thus it can be inferred that Jesus was not conceived by Mary having intercourse with anyone

    Mary is said to have chosen to bear Jesus, was His mother after the manner of the flesh, and was a chosen vessel for Him during gestation.

    I would infer that Mary supplied an egg that was emptied of its genetic material [just as a vessel is an empty container], was filled with the incorruptible seed of the Father and the Holy Ghost, then she bore Jesus to term, gave birth to Him, nursed Him, etc.

    All Jesus inherited from Mary [acting as His surrogate mother here on earth] was a vessel of flesh [or "tabernacle of clay"] — not mortality, weaknesses, or DNA.

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  12. Last Lemming on June 27, 2011 at 10:41 AM

    Put me down as one who believes that the Holy Ghost is neither gendered nor in any sense human. Any maleness or humanness that one might feel in the presence of the Holy Ghost is simply the HG channeling the Father.

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  13. SteveS on June 27, 2011 at 10:42 AM

    I don’t know if I should bite, but here goes:

    I think that questions about “how” Mary ended up pregnant with Jesus aren’t the point, and supposition about who the father and mother of the baby are beside the point as well. As I said previously, I think that the phrases “with child from the Holy Spirit” and “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” are semantic approximations for something that cannot be described adequately using human language. It’s not important how; it is important only to understand why.

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  14. Heber13 on June 27, 2011 at 10:56 AM

    I remain open to different perspectives and interpretations, and find it fascinating.

    However, I believe the church has stuck to the “Spirit is a male personage”.

    The Godhead is presented as a presidency in a priesthood leadership way. In fact, it could be the Holy Ghost is more of a calling than one specific personage. It could be different spirit persons act in this capacity from time to time (and then released to have their mortal experience), since at some point the personage who is the Holy Ghost will need a body to be exalted.

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  15. hawkgrrrl on June 27, 2011 at 11:16 AM

    I don’t think the church is so far entrenched on this that it couldn’t back off with further light & knowledge. Personally, I think the HG is the most overlooked and least talked about personage of the godhead. We talk about “the spirit” but as an amorphous human conscience or advance warning system more than a personage. I think this is true of all Christianity. Does anyone really talk seriously and theologically about the HG?

    I think the HG is a computer program.

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  16. Heber13 on June 27, 2011 at 11:20 AM

    Taken from the Church manual “Gospel Fundamentals” Chapter 7 “The Holy Ghost”

    “The Holy Ghost works with our Father in Heaven and Jesus. He testifies to us that They live and They love us. He helps Them teach us the things we need to know and do and helps us obey Their commandments. He does not have a body of flesh and bones as our Father in Heaven and Jesus have. He is a spirit. He looks like a man.”

    That’s pretty specific. They don’t like to change teachings and say, “Sorry, we were wrong all those years in that teaching blessed by the correlation program and Q12 members.”

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  17. Jeff Spector on June 27, 2011 at 11:30 AM

    I agree with Hawk that the HG is the least talked about and least understood. Given that this is the personage that should be communicating with us the most out of all members of the Godhead, we seem to not understand much.

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  18. Heber13 on June 27, 2011 at 11:39 AM

    Jeff, I think that is because knowing God the Father and His characteristics is what it is all about.

    Knowing Jesus Christ and His qualities and His teachings and His example is critical to coming to know the Father.

    There is nothing specific about the Holy Ghost that is salvific. HG testifies of the other two and the truth. Nothing about his character or qualities or personal ideas or example are important…his role is purely to testify of truth.

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  19. Justin on June 27, 2011 at 11:44 AM

    Given that this is the personage that should be communicating with us the most out of all members of the Godhead, we seem to not understand much.

    Calls into question the level of communication that takes place — hadn’t thought of that angle Jeff.

    Good call [though I don't know if you meant it that way].

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  20. Jeff Spector on June 27, 2011 at 11:46 AM

    “Good call [though I don't know if you meant it that way].”

    I think I did. I’ll say I did…. :)

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  21. Justin on June 27, 2011 at 11:51 AM

    Then I’ll give you a “thumbs up”.

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  22. Jeff Spector on June 27, 2011 at 12:05 PM

    Heber13,

    I do not disagree with you, knowing the Father and the Son are “life eternal.” But Jesus also goes to great lengths to explain that He will and to us a “Comforter” to testify to us.

    We should also understand who that is….

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  23. SteveS on June 27, 2011 at 12:13 PM

    Heber13 (#14, #16): those comments deserve to be part of that patriarchy discussion posted by Hawkgrrrl a couple days ago. Sooo much in there that, from a feminist perspective, is representative of the persistence of patriarchal organization and relationships being entrenched deep into Mormon theology.

    I agree that official Mormon literature portrays the HG as male, and that any change in perspective on this point will be highly unlikely. It might not be right (who knows? who cares?), but it doesn’t matter as much, say, as treating all people equally (other races, women, gays, etc.), and so it won’t likely have to be reconsidered.

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  24. Justin on June 27, 2011 at 12:18 PM

    The Holy Ghost is not some peripheral doctrine [like the nature of the conception of Jesus Christ]:

    And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do.
    [...]
    then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost;
    [...]
    Unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.

    Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do
    [...]
    For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.

    And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.

    The action of the Holy Ghost — which many Christians and LDS lack the ability to fully explain — is what saves us.

    That we do not fully understand who the Holy Ghost and how She functions among believers in Christ points to the fact that most of us are damned to hell b/c we have not experienced a fire baptism nor can be properly expound on what exactly all that entails.

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  25. Will on June 27, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    This is one of those things that people bring up just to be obstinate – just to try and prove a point. They push the limits to try and get people to buy into their agenda. In my judgment, this notion that the Holy Ghost is a female personage is mostly coming from the feminist crowd. They want to use this as leverage to suggest a member of the Godhead is female to further their agenda.

    The reality is that the Holy Ghost is a he and saying he is a she won’t change that fact – saying it over and over and over and over won’t change reality.

    To the feminists pushing this agenda, I say: nice try.

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  26. Justin on June 27, 2011 at 12:33 PM

    To the feminists pushing this agenda, I say: nice try.

    Lol — I don’t think that the feminists would accept me into their group.

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  27. SilverRain on June 27, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    “Where does the idea that our Mother must have a physical body of flesh and bone come from?”
    Because of the little we know about her, we know She is the equal partner to the Father, and that She has been exalted. Part of exaltation is an exalted body.

    “Wouldn’t thinking that that must be the case be the same thing as reading “one’s own personal wishes into scripture“?”
    No, because it is based on common understanding of doctrine, not on my own personal wishes.

    “Bearing in mind that “man” can [and usually is] used to refer to “human”, rather than merely male in gender.”
    But the same thing is not true of the pronoun “he,” which Nephi used. Have you read the passage?

    I would not mind in the least if the Holy Ghost were female, but Church doctrine is pretty clear on this, despite wresting by those who would wish otherwise.

    Since I truly don’t think it matters, I prefer to go with revealed doctrine over personal preference.

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  28. Alice (alliegator) on June 27, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    I hate it when people further the agenda of equality. Pfft…

    There are some really interesting ideas- some that hadn’t occurred to me.

    I like the idea of the HG being more of a calling- it always bothered me a little as a kid that the HG would miss out on mortal life, family, etc…

    Does the church teach that the HG has never had a body, or just doesn’t have one right now?

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  29. mh on June 27, 2011 at 1:23 PM

    will, please do not assume sinister motives of a feminist crowd with an agenda. I find the idea intriguing, but don’t claim one position or another. however, if the proclamation on the family claims that gender is an essential characteristic, and if exalted mormon men are to be kings and priests unto the most high, and we can’t be saved without our wives who have been promised to be queens and priestesses, then why isn’t there more talk about females in the godhead. eliza r snow asled if parents are single, no the thought makes reason stare. I can’t imagine god as without female influence.

    I probably should have discussed lance’s book more. he describes meeting his grandfather. lance’s father was an idaho state senator. the grandfather whispered to the father that he needed to leave to catch a flight. the father jumped up and rushed to the airport. lance’s medical condition had worsened and his father gave him a blessing. lance said he could imagine his grandfather whispered to his father the words of blessing. the father said he never felt stronger promptings.

    another story tells of a grandmother whispering to a granddaughter going through a divorce. the book shows that these holy ghost promptings come from family members, male and female. could it be that the personage of spirit is both male and female? could it be that we are the holy ghost when we learn to become one with god? could it be that the holy ghost is one of our stepping stones to our eternal progression, and that the spirits of family members haven’t been resurrected yet, so that is why the holy ghost is a personage of spirit?

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  30. Justin on June 27, 2011 at 1:27 PM

    Because of the little we know about her, we know She is the equal partner to the Father, and that She has been exalted. Part of exaltation is an exalted body.

    I would venture you know even less than that. My reading of the scriptures gives me about zero expositions on the nature of a Mother in heaven.

    Everything we say is personal extrapolation into scriptures.

    Have you read the passage?

    Continuing the sarcasm…

    …no I haven’t. You say Nephi said this — I’ll have to take a look!

    Nephi also refers to the Spirit as “it” — so I don’t base things exclusively off of the gender pronouns used.

    but Church doctrine is pretty clear on this

    I don’t care so much to figure out what “Church doctrine” is — they can teach whatever they want, I’m interested in what is actually the case.

    I prefer to go with revealed doctrine over personal preference.

    Wondering — do you equate “Church doctrine” with “revealed doctrine”?

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  31. Justin on June 27, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    will, please do not assume sinister motives of a feminist crowd with an agenda.

    I can assure you that the feminist crowd would not include me in their ranks.

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  32. Will on June 27, 2011 at 1:53 PM

    Alice/MH

    Push equality, fine. I’ll be the first one in line to ensure all people are treated equality – that all people are treated with fairness. That is great; but let’s not take the name of the Holy Ghost in vain in the process. Let’s not drag him through the mud in the process. It is been testified by ancient and modern prophets that the Holy Ghost is a male personage. Above all, Jesus Christ says the Holy Ghost is a male personage. I’ll stick with them.

    And when presented with these scriptures, it is brushed off as translation error or personal opinion or some other non-sense. When presented with their testimonies if it is still not accepted; then, the only logical and fair conclusion is to assume an agenda.

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  33. Justin on June 27, 2011 at 1:56 PM

    Claiming the Holy Ghost is a woman = being dragged through the mud.

    Will — can’t you see why you aren’t well received on issues like this?

    And when presented with these scriptures, it is brushed off as translation error or personal opinion or some other non-sense.

    Will — what is your take on the scriptures that refer to the Spirit as “it”. Are they to be brushed off, while you hold to the ones that call the Spirit “he”?

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  34. Alice (alliegator) on June 27, 2011 at 2:03 PM

    I don’t know if the HG is male or female. I don’t really care, as it’s irrelevant to the purpose of the holy ghost.

    How is speculating on the gender of the HG taking his/her/their name in vain, or dragging him/her/them through the mud?

    Let’s not get carried away.

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  35. BeansDude on June 27, 2011 at 2:04 PM

    Very intriguing post. I’m sure I’ll be pondering some of these ideas for a while.

    Asking these types of questions is a good thing in my opinion. As Christ put it: “Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you”.

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  36. MH on June 27, 2011 at 2:17 PM

    Will, you seem to be equating that a female Holy Ghost=mud. I’d be a bit more careful if you claim to be so “equality” minded. I think you’re blind to your subconscious sexism. There is nothing inherently gross about whether the Holy Ghost is female, so your comments there are a bit harsh to females. Be more careful.

    I wonder if the Holy Ghost is both male and female because the Holy Ghost is us–males and females. I wonder if the “personage of spirit” is a sort of training ground to help us to become like God. I mean, what better teachers could we have than God and Christ to become one with God? Maybe the Holy Ghost is a position that each of us fulfills from time to time to learn how to influence our loved ones until the resurrection, at which time our personage of spirit will become resurrected with flesh and bone?

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  37. Alice (alliegator) on June 27, 2011 at 2:27 PM

    In Gospel Doctrine yesterday, our teacher was talking about how we know if something is from the HG, or just in our own head. She brought up a book she had read, that talked about how there are NO coincidences, but that those who had died before us were constantly sending us messages, helping us in our life. It wasn’t an LDS book, but the idea kind of fits with the idea of the HG as a calling. Interesting idea.

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  38. Heber13 on June 27, 2011 at 3:10 PM

    #23 SteveS- I was just noting what was said from the church, not making any assertions to whether it was right or not…but it is clear on this topic what the church teaches.

    I personally think it makes more sense to me (as has been stated) to have it be female, but if that was the case…would that not still be a problem with sexists? That would solidify doctrine that the woman (female Holy Ghost) is not equal with the male (Heavenly Father) but is only to testify and carry out the orders of the Father? It would imply even sons are more important than wives? That’s not right.

    Bottom line, SilverRain said it best in #26:
    “I would not mind in the least if the Holy Ghost were female, but Church doctrine is pretty clear on this, despite wresting by those who would wish otherwise.”

    What matters is the role the HG is performing, not the gender, race, or anything else of the personage.

    And because of that, I don’t think we will get further revelation on it, because it is just a tenet, of which we need not concern ourselves with. (see D&C 19:31)

    So I can accept the church’s teaching, and move on.

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  39. Irony on June 27, 2011 at 3:11 PM

    I actually think this is a worthy pursuit of one’s time. Some here have pushed the idea that it simply doesn’t matter – and perhaps, ultimately, it doesn’t – but ignorance was never a principle of the gospel.

    It would seem (not only from this discussion, but many others) that Mormons are a strange bunch in that they don’t really want to ask questions, but rather want the answers provided them through “Church doctrine” and established ways, means and hierarchies. I find that mildly disconcerting for a religion that was based on the premise of asking, seeking and knocking.

    That said, perhaps I’d most like to discuss is this:

    “…in Hebrew thought, Ruach Ha Kodesh was considered a voice sent from on high to speak to the Prophet. Thus, in the Old Testament language of the prophets, She is the Divine Spirit of indwelling sanctification and creativity and is considered as having a feminine power. “He” as a reference to Spirit has been used in theology to match the pronoun for God, yet the Hebrew word ruach is a noun of feminine gender. Thus, referring to the Holy Spirit as “she” has some linguistic justification. Denoting Spirit as a feminine principle, the creative principle of life, makes sense when considering the Trinity aspect where Father plus Spirit leads to the Divine Extension of Divine Sonship.

    … The writings of the Catholic fathers, in fact, preserve the vision of the Spirit encapsulating the “peoplehood of Christ” as the Bride or as the “Mother Church.” Both are feminine aspects of the Divine. In the Eastern Church, Spirit was always considered to have a feminine nature. She was the life -bearer of the faith. Clement of Alexandria states that “she” is an indwelling Bride. Amongst the Eastern Church communities there is none more clear about the feminine aspect of the Holy Spirit as the corpus of the Coptic-Gnostics. One such document records that Jesus says, “Even so did my mother, the Holy Spirit, take me by one of my hairs and carry me away to the great mountain Tabor [in Galilee].”

    The 3rd century scroll of mystical Coptic Christianity, The Acts of Thomas, gives a graphic account of the Apostle Thomas’ travels to India, and contains prayers invoking the Holy Spirit as “the Mother of all creation” and “compassionate mother,” among other titles. The most profound Coptic Christian writings definitely link the “spirit of Spirit” manifested by Christ to all believers as the “Spirit of the Divine Mother.” Most significant are the new manuscript discoveries of recent decades which have demonstrated that more early Christians than previously thought regarded the Holy Spirit as the Mother of Jesus.
    One text is the Gospel of Thomas which is part of the newly discovered Nag Hammadi texts (discovered 1945-1947). Most are composed about the same time as the Biblical gospels in the 1st and 2nd century AD. In this gospel, Jesus declares that his disciples must hate their earthly parents (as in Luke 14:26) but love the Father and Mother as he does, “for my mother (gave me falsehood), but (my) true Mother gave me life.” In another Nag Hammadi discovery, The Secret Book of James, Jesus refers to himself as “the son of the Holy Spirit.” These two sayings do not identify the Holy Spirit as the mothering vehicle of Jesus, but more than one scholar has interpreted them to mean that the maternal Holy Spirit is intended.

    So far in Western traditional theology, the voices advocating a feminine Holy Spirit are scattered and subtle. But for them, it is a view theologically defensible and accompanied by psychological, sociological, and scientific benefits of recognizing “the new supernature” developing within vast consciousness changes happening in the human evolution.

    … According to Professor Neil Q. Hamilton at Drew University School of Theology, the Gospel of John shows us how “the Holy Spirit begins to perform a mothering role for us that is unconditional acceptance, love and caring.” God then begins to parent us in father and mother modes.

    A Catholic scholar, Franz Mayr, a philosophy professor at the University of Portland, also favors the recognition of the Holy Spirit as feminine. He contends that the traditional unity of God would not have to be watered down in order for scholars to accept the feminine side of God . Mayr, who studied under the renown German theologian Karl Rahner, said he came to his view during his study of the writings of St. Augustine (AD 354-430) who saw that a significant number of early Christians must have accepted a feminine aspect of the Holy Spirit such that the influential church father of North Africa castigated this view. St. Augustine claimed that the acceptance of the Holy Spirit as the “mother of the Son of God and wife-consort of the Father” was merely a pagan outlook. But Mayr contends that Augustine “skipped over the social and maternal aspect of God,” which Mayr thinks is best seen in the Holy Spirit, the Divine Ruach Ha Kodesh. St. Jerome, a contemporary of Augustine’s, and two church fathers of an earlier period, Clement of Alexandria and Origen, quoted from the pseudopigraphic Gospel of the Hebrews, which depicted the Holy Spirit as a “mother figure.”

    A 14th Century fresco in a small Catholic Church southeast of Munich, Germany depicts a female Spirit as part of the Holy Trinity, according to Leonard Swidler of Temple University. The woman and two bearded figures flanking her appear to be wrapped in a single cloak and joined in their lower halves showing a union of old and new bodies of birth and rebirth. …

    Likewise, this:

    Karen Vaughan points out:

    “Sophia, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Hochmah is the feminine personification of Wisdom in the Pentateuch. She is neither a goddess nor a new age creation of feminist theologians. She was a real biblical person with more material on her in the Old Testament (with Apocrypha) than anyone in the scriptures, except God, Job, Moses and David …

    “One reason we little consider Sophia, even in readings of the Old Testament, is that English translations usually translate the feminine Sophia into the abstract “Wisdom”. Although the Greek and Hebrew words were fully feminine, the English is not. The fullest development of her is in the so-called “Wisdom Books” of the apocrypha in the Greek Pentateuch (sic. – should be Tanakh or Old Testament – ed.) that were canonised into Christian Scripture and are still used by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. Sophia dominates the first nine chapters of Proverbs and is found in both the Old and New Testaments.

    “In the Hebrew tradition, Sophia was considered to have been with God from the beginning of Creation. In Proverbs 8:27-51, Sophia says:

    “When God [Yahweh] set the heavens in place, I was present,

    When God drew a ring on the surface of the deep,

    When God fixed the clouds above,

    When God fixed fast the wells of the deep,
    when God assigned the sea its limits-
    and the waters will not invade the land,
    when God established the foundations of the earth,

    I was by God’s side, a master craftswoman,
    delighting God day after day,
    ever at play by God’s side,
    at play everywhere in God’s domain,
    delighting to be with the children of humanity.”

    Just a couple of added things to think about.

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  40. Will on June 27, 2011 at 3:19 PM

    MH,

    “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”

    Don’t you think this would apply to a member of the Godhead? I sure do.

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  41. SilverRain on June 27, 2011 at 3:30 PM

    Ah, Justin. You are a never-ending font of argument. I wasn’t using sarcasm, I was asking a sincere question.

    I tend to forget that you have no real interest in what Church doctrine is. Sorry for forgetting that.

    Irony—I have nothing against asking, seeking, and knocking. But I’d not go preaching what I found through personal revelation to Church or world general, either. Let alone the wisdom of preaching pure speculation.

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  42. Will on June 27, 2011 at 3:30 PM

    “can’t you see why you aren’t well received on issues like this?”

    I am not received well because sometimes I can be a little overbearing.

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  43. Heber13 on June 27, 2011 at 4:04 PM

    Will, tact is also important in a discussion. I hope that was tactful enough to give you feedback, and I mean it sincerely, not negatively. Love ya bro!

    Irony: as a mormon, I totally enjoy asking and reading through things in detail for myself rather than have the answers given to me by authorities…however, I was too busy today to finish reading the rest of your post. Can you tell me what it said and if I agree with it?

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  44. Cowboy on June 27, 2011 at 4:05 PM

    Two or three questions here are being asked/addressed:

    1) What does the Church currently teach as the doctrine of the Holy Ghost?

    I agree with Hawkgrrrl here that the Holy Ghost is generally pretty elusive topically in most conversation, beyond the fact that “we need to have it”, when you get it, what it does, and how to lose it. Still even with all of these “it” references to spirit, when I have heard Church leaders speak of “it” in a gender form, “he” is always rendered male and never female.

    2) What did Joseph Smith really teach on this topic?

    I’m not personally prepared to offer a suggestion here, so I will just point out that this is somewhat of a seperate point in the conversation.

    3) What is the actual real nature of the Holy Ghost really, regardless of the various teachings and quotes on the matter?

    That’s a hard one, I don’t really believe in Ghosts, so I better just leave that one be. Suffice it to say, for the purposes of this conversation this is also a seperate question at play here.

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  45. Heber13 on June 27, 2011 at 4:20 PM

    Cowboy, one of the teachings is to receive a remission of sins through the Holy Ghost. It is based on one’s faith in the Atonement, but done through the Spirit.

    What do you make of that teaching? How do you think that works?

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  46. Justin on June 27, 2011 at 4:33 PM

    I wasn’t using sarcasm, I was asking a sincere question.

    Blasted typed text — I don’t get inflection of voice or body language, so I may misinterpret.

    Then to answer your question sincerely — yes SilverRain, I have.

    I tend to forget that you have no real interest in what Church doctrine is. Sorry for forgetting that.

    So — are you saying that you do equate “Church doctrine” with “revealed doctrine”? Or that it only matters that we settle what “Church doctrine” is and is not — and then just leave the rest to just be marked in margin of our scriptures, never to be discussed openly [...unless I make sure to use the obvious disclaimer that it is entirely of my own opinion]?

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  47. Cowboy on June 27, 2011 at 4:47 PM

    Heber13:

    I don’t see it as anything but a teaching, so I can’t really theorize on how I think it facilitates a remission of sins, because…well…I’m not really sure that it actually does.

    As for the point you’ve been making, I actually agreed with you if you read my comment. Hawkgrrrl was right, in that the Church hasn’t been agressively pounding the notion that the Holy Ghost is male. Still, I think you are ultimately right that they have been as-matter-of-factly implying it for years. I also agree with you that the notion of the Godhead as a form of Priesthood presidency seems to suggest the same thing. In short, I think you are right that the Church teachings seem to be that the Holy Ghost is male.

    I personally don’t know that there is any Holy Ghost – as of yet I have had no observable interaction with such a being, so I am not betting on it.

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  48. Stephen M (Ethesis) on June 27, 2011 at 7:07 PM

    Heber13 — when I was at BYU I knew professors who thought that it could be the Holy Ghost is more of a calling than one specific personage.

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  49. Stephen M (Ethesis) on June 27, 2011 at 7:14 PM

    Ran across this post, for the next time we discuss just what gender/sex applies to the Holy Ghost (translate “lack of a body” for “disability”):

    http://www.feministlawprofessors.com/2011/06/areheart-disability-trouble/

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  50. Mike S on June 27, 2011 at 7:17 PM

    Great post and interesting discussion. My 2 cents:

    1) I don’t know that the Church specifically teaches much regarding the Holy Ghost. For something that we teach is so important in our lives and an integral part of the baptismal process, there is a strange silence.

    2) I don’t know that scriptural references to “he” or “she” answer the question. There have been translations through the years. And until recently, the masculine gender was used for just about everything. I think many of the scriptures quoted are figurative and not doctrinal in their use of gender.

    3) I would love to see modern revelation on this subject. If I were the prophet, this would be one of the things I would rank high on my list of “Important things to ask God next time I talk to Him”. It would rank FAR higher than what color shirt someone should wear or whether we should spend billions on a mall.

    4) Since everything is so vague, I have my own personal opinion. I think there is an underlying “something” that binds all life together. This includes all mankind, but I also include all other forms of life to varying degrees. I think this is the “Holy Ghost / Holy Spirit / spirit / universal consciousness / etc”. And for balance in the universe, I picture this as having more feminine qualities than masculine (just as I picture God as having more masculine than feminine). I admit this may be a biased projection and says more about me than reality.

    5) I think we, in the LDS Church, seem to think we have a “lock” on experiences with the Holy Ghost since we receive the “gift of the Holy Ghost” after baptism. I have seen and read experiences just as powerful as any I have seen in our Church in Muslims, Baptists, Hindus, Buddhists and atheists. People have “felt” deaths in family members across the world that were confirmed several days later. People have been led to truth that brought peace in their life. Etc. Because of this, I think what we call the “Holy Ghost” is a much more universal thing throughout the universe. I think it is an energy that is felt by all people, not just LDS. And I think it confirms truth anywhere we find it, which includes but is not exclusive to truth in the LDS Church.

    Just my 2 cents.

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  51. Will on June 27, 2011 at 7:32 PM

    MH/Justin:

    “Will, you seem to be equating that a female Holy Ghost=mud. ”

    You both made this false assumption. This is not what I am saying. Not at all. If the scriptures said the Holy Spirit was a female I would be fine with that, but they don’t. They clearly (along with testimony of modern day Prophets) say he is Male. With this said, they are using his name in vain to push an agenda. It is taking the name if God in vain. It is using his name to push an agenda. In my opinion, it is more about a cause than a quest for truth. If it were about truth the quest would end with the clear, descript passages in the scriptures. Nowhere, and I mean nowhere does it denote the spirit is female in the scriptures. Nowhere.

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  52. Badger on June 27, 2011 at 8:49 PM

    Joseph Smith discussed the nature of the Holy Ghost in Lectures on Faith. I’ve included a small excerpt from lecture 5 below. It seems unclear how or whether this can be reconciled with more recent formulations like the one Heber13 quoted from Gospel Fundamentals, but I’ve always thought it was very interesting.

    It seems most consistent with a non-gendered view. Alternatively, in the context of this discussion, it might serve as a warning against overconfidence about what is positively nailed down as doctrine.

    For those who don’t know the history (even to the meager extent I do), the Lectures were presented in 1834 by Joseph Smith to the School of the Prophets, and included in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, which was ratified by a General Assembly in Kirtland later that year. However, the Lectures have since been dropped from both the LDS and RLDS D&C. I’m not sure it’s exactly clear what the official basis for dropping them was. However, I think it’s fair to say that at a minimum, there is an appearance of inconsistency with later teachings. So it’s not hard to see why they got a second look.

    From Lecture 5 (emphasis added):

    We shall in this lecture speak of the Godhead; we mean the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing, and supreme power over all things….

    They are the Father and the Son: The Father being a personage of spirit, glory, and power, possessing all perfection and fullness.

    The Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle, made or fashioned like unto man, or being in the form and likeness of man – or rather, man was formed after his likeness and in his image.

    He is also the express image and likeness of the personage of the Father….

    And he being the Only Begotten of the father, full of grace and truth, and having overcome, received a fullness of the glory of the Father – possessing the same mind with the Father;

    which Mind is the Holy Spirit, that bears record of the Father and the Son….

    …and these three constitute the Godhead and are one: the Father and the Son possessing the same mind, the same wisdom, glory, power, and fullness;

    filling all in all -the Son being filled with the fullness of the Mind, glory, and power; or in other words the Spirit, glory, and power of the Father – possessing all knowledge and glory, and the same kingdom;

    sitting at the right hand of power, in the express image and likeness of the Father – a Mediator for man – being filled with the fullness of the Mind of the Father, or in other words, the Spirit of the Father;

    which Spirit is shed forth upon all who believe on his name and keep his commandments….

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  53. SteveS on June 27, 2011 at 9:11 PM

    Heber13 (#37): it’s all good, bro. I’m sorry if I inferred that you believed what you wrote in #16; I think we actually agree quite a bit. Take a look at my comment (#45) on the Patriarchy post by Hawkgrrrl. We somehow ended up saying about the same thing about feminism and the gender of the Holy Spirit.

    On another topic, others have mentioned how little we really know about the Holy Ghost even though it is supposed to play a pretty big role in our lives. It’s not just a Mormon phenomenon, though: here’s a book a came across recently (I haven’t read it yet) discussing this very thing: Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit, by Francis Chan and Danae Yankoski.

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  54. LDS Anarchist on June 27, 2011 at 9:38 PM

    #50 said:

    You both made this false assumption. This is not what I am saying. Not at all. If the scriptures said the Holy Spirit was a female I would be fine with that, but they don’t. They clearly (along with testimony of modern day Prophets) say he is Male. With this said, they are using his name in vain to push an agenda. It is taking the name if God in vain. It is using his name to push an agenda. In my opinion, it is more about a cause than a quest for truth. If it were about truth the quest would end with the clear, descript passages in the scriptures. Nowhere, and I mean nowhere does it denote the spirit is female in the scriptures. Nowhere.

    Lmao. I’m sorry, I had to quote that again. It is such an emphatically ignorant statement, that I can’t help but laugh.

    Will, by ignorant, I mean that you obviously are just looking at the English translations, just as the GA’s and most English-speaking LDS do. If you look at the original tongues, you find that the scriptures, do, indeed, refer to the Holy Ghost as feminine.

    Your statement is akin to some LDS members in my mission who once were arguing with me over the meaning of certain scriptures. In their native tongue, the scriptures said what they were saying it said, but when you looked at the English Triple Combination, you could see the glaring mistranslation. The Enlish said one thing, their foreign-language translation said another. It was useless to try to explain it to them because they could not understand the original English their foreign language translation was based upon. In their minds, there was nothing in the scriptures that gave the understanding I was explaining to them. They were right, of course, but only insofar as their secondary (mis)translations were concerned.

    Now, I ask you, where, in the Triple Combination scriptures, revealed by Joseph Smith, is the Holy Ghost referred to as a “he”? Can you find even one single reference? If not, you are basing the whole “Holy Ghost is a male” argument on the Bible, which we all know is only true insofar as it is translated correctly, and on the GA’s, who also are relying upon the English Bible alone and not the original tongues.

    Unless we go to the original tongues, you, me and all the GA’s will remain ignorant about a good many things, regardless of titular office. And just because someone in the church has a high sounding titular office, doesn’t mean he isn’t ignorant. The twelve apostles at Jerusalem assumed Jesus was speaking of the Gentiles when He talked of His other sheep. The Lord is content to leave people in their ignorance.

    If you are interested in learning more about this topic, I will point you to the Is There a Question About the Gender of the Holy Spirit? section of this article. Or, you can choose to not examine the original tongues, keep your blinders on, read only the English Bible and continue to refer to Her as a he. Be my guest.

    For my own part, I am very much like you. As you said, “If the scriptures said the Holy Spirit was a female I would be fine with that.” I am the same way. Since learning that the original tongues refer to the Holy Spirit as feminine, I now call Her a She. And I’m fine with that, because I want to align my beliefs with the scriptures, like yourself.

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  55. Mormon Heretic on June 27, 2011 at 11:11 PM

    Will, you admit you are “not received well because sometimes [you] can be a little overbearing.” Well brotha, this is one of those times.

    We believe the the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly. Ever heard this Will?

    I previously discussed women with priesthood in Ancient Christianity. It has been pretty well documented that Bible translators changed the name of some women to be men because of the need to be patriarchal. Let me quote one example from that post.

    Romans 16:7 references Andronicus and Junia. Some translators changed the name Junia (female) to Junis (male.) Clearly Junia was an apostle. Early Christian Father John Chrysostum (who lived from 347-405 AD) is quoted as saying, “how great the wisdom of this woman must have been that she was even deemed worthy of the title of apostle.” (In ep. ad Romanos 31.2)

    You seem to stubbornly claim that “I mean nowhere does it denote the spirit is female in the scriptures. Nowhere.” yet you conveniently ignore the fact that Mormons know well the problems with biblical translation. Please reconcile this for me Will.

    Joseph Smith referred to “corrupt scribes” that purposely changed certain meanings of scriptures. Could it be that the scriptures referencing the Holy Ghost as female were changed?

    This isn’t some feminist agenda. It is a search for the truth. Perhaps if you didn’t worry about being sexist, you might actually learn something.

    Sometimes I think it is best to ignore you when you make truly uneducated statements Will. Please, don’t be so overbearing when you plainly show your ignorance.

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  56. Mormon Heretic on June 27, 2011 at 11:21 PM

    Will, in an effort to help you with your communication, let me refer to one problem I find. I think it’s not a stretch to say that your comment #31 was clumsy. You said

    let’s not take the name of the Holy Ghost in vain in the process. Let’s not drag him through the mud in the process.

    Now, instead of saying, “yea, what I said wasn’t very elegant”, you blame it on us by saying “You both made this false assumption. This is not what I am saying.”

    Either apologize for the clumsy mud comment, or tell us why calling the Holy Ghost “she” is dragging “him” through the mud. Don’t blame the listener for your bad communication. Clarify it or admit it was a poor choice of words. You might not appear so “overbearing”, and you might get some people to agree with you.

    Just trying to help you bud. We need people like you to comment, but we need you to be a bit less clumsy when you do it. We don’t need “overbearing.”

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  57. SilverRain on June 28, 2011 at 8:05 AM

    Justin #46—Yes. I am a believing member of the Church. Among other beliefs, this means that I subscribe to the stewardship model of revelation. In other words, I believe that world-wide revelation comes through the First Presidency and General Auxiliaries, as those given the general keys and authority of administration of the church. If I receive personal revelation, it applies personally.

    IF I’m lead by the Spirit to share what has been revealed to me, I am honest about how I share it. I don’t claim that it is revelation given to the Church general, nor that the leadership should have received that revelation too because I’m obviously more in tune than they are to what the Church needs and to what is True.

    It also means that I recognize that the Prophet is mortal and imperfect, and therefore some common modes of Church thought might be imperfect. But, being imperfect myself, I’m okay with that. I trust Christ (who is the actual head of the Church) to atone for whatever mistakes are made in the leadership’s honest desire to do the right things. (And I don’t think the gender of the Holy Ghost is something to get my knickers in a twist about, nor to waste my time pondering. Maybe once I get faith and charity down, I’ll spend some time on that.)

    Since I don’t sit in their seat, I don’t presume to know how to drive their bus. Even if they get in an accident while I’m a passenger.

    And, since I thought this was an LDS blog, I generally speak to LDS doctrine. That is perhaps my mistake. I have certainly been given the impression in the past that such a perspective is less than welcome by some. But I think that some appreciate it, so I keep plugging away.

    (And FYI, I usually use caps or italics when I’m being sarcastic. Something like: have you read it? vs. have you READ it?)

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  58. Justin on June 28, 2011 at 9:43 AM

    (And FYI, I usually use caps or italics when I’m being sarcastic. Something like: have you read it? vs. have you READ it?)

    Thanks — I’ve commented back-and-forth with you enough before that perhaps I should have noticed that. But now I know.

    So does being a believing member of the Church mean that I have to be a believing member in Church doctrine?

    I would say that I am a believing member of the church b/c I have the gift of belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world — and I am a member in good standing at my local congregation.

    But does that mean my allegiance is to commonly understood, official Church practices and established policies — or is my allegiance to the standard works — or I guess are both of those the same thing?

    And, since I thought this was an LDS blog, I generally speak to LDS doctrine.

    And I thought this was a blog — which meant that most here didn’t click a link to read “Perspectives on the Holy Ghost” b/c they were actually seeing if they could find out what the official Church position was on the issue. I think we’ve spent enough advertising mormon.org for people to know they can just go there.

    I think it’s pretty evident that established policy is to teach that, as a personage, the Spirit is male — The First Presidency in Heaven and all that.

    This was called Perspectives — plural — meaning not just the one the Church leaders publish in manuals.

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  59. SilverRain on June 28, 2011 at 10:10 AM

    Most of your questions really aren’t on topic, so I’ll not answer them here.

    For your last point, the question in the OP was whether or not I, as a commenter, thought any of the perspectives have merit. That takes it decidedly out of the realm of simple speculation to weighing those speculations.

    So I’m not really sure why you’re beating up on me for measuring those speculations against doctrine in order to highlight why I don’t think they have merit.

    Unless, of course, you just don’t like what I’m saying, so are trying to discredit me. Since I strongly suspect that is the case, and since I’ve “crossed swords with you before” and find little purpose in it, I shall let my words to this point stand as they are with no further explanation.

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  60. Justin on June 28, 2011 at 10:25 AM

    So I’m not really sure why you’re beating up on me…
    [...]
    Unless, of course, you just don’t like what I’m saying, so are trying to discredit me. Since I strongly suspect that is the case…

    Well — now you can color me completely misunderstood.

    Most of your questions really aren’t on topic, so I’ll not answer them here.

    But I need to know whether my “perspectives on the Holy Ghost” make me no longer a believing member of the church. Isn’t that relevant to the discussion?

    If once someone quotes Mormon.org I should then stop speculating, weighing others’ speculations, and commenting on a blog — or else I risk bringing my standing in the church into question — I think that’s quite on topic.

    Also, in my experience on posts authored by MH — as long as discussion isn’t heated and explanations are intriguing — one does not wear out his/her welcome.

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  61. Will on June 28, 2011 at 10:36 AM

    MH,

    I didn’t say it was clumsy; I said you didn’t understand what I was saying. I think I was pretty clear. As for reconciliation, I will say it for the 5th time. Modern day Prophets have indicated the gender of the Spirit. Yes, I understand some portions of the bible were not translated correctly. Yes, I understand there are evil and conspiring men. Yes, I understand some things can be taken out of context. I don’ think this is the case. The scriptures indicate the gender of the spirit is male. There is no indication by ancient or modern prophets (true prophets) of the spirit’s gender being female. Until there is, I will stick with the scriptures.

    With this clear, definitive information from modern and ancient prophets; and, from the text of the Savior it is clear. With this said, it is my opinion the talk of the gender of the spirit is political.

    Let’s not confuse boldness with overbearing.

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  62. Justin on June 28, 2011 at 10:47 AM

    Modern day Prophets have indicated the gender of the Spirit.

    I don’t think SilverRain will answer me — so I’ll ask you:

    Do you equate “Church doctrine” with “revealed doctrine”?

    Meaning once we settle what the “Modern Day Prophets have said” is and is not the case — the matter is settled. I might be able to mark a certain personal insight into the margin of my scriptures, but that’s it.

    What is your take on the process of canonization for the establishment of a body of “standard works” by which we judge doctrine and conform behavior?

    Meaning no exposition by a “Modern Day Prophet” on the doctrine of our Mother in heaven or on the Holy Ghost have been canonized as LDS scripture. You can find one quote here-and-there — but we could just Brigham-bash each other to death with all the things GAs have said through the last century and a half.

    You say the scriptures indicate the Spirit’s gender is male. Do you include the non-canonized GA statements as “scripture” or are you referring to gender pronouns? What about the instances in the Book of Mormon where the Holy Spirit is referred to as “it”? Don’t those matter — or do we just stick to the “he”s?

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  63. Will on June 28, 2011 at 11:13 AM

    Justin,

    My main point is that spirit is either referred to as a third-person pronoun (he) or a quasi-noun (as a person “the spirit”). He is never referred to in a third-person description as she. Never. Not one time in the scriptures, ensign, gospel doctrine manuals, lesson manuals, priesthood manuals, bible dictionary, bible index, official description of him on LDS.org or in conference talks. He is always referred to as “he, the spirit, the comforter, the Holy Ghost, etc”. The latter descriptions (comforter, spirit, etc.) are more adjectives as they describe his purpose (comforter) or this presence (spirit, Holy Ghost ). This is confused as gender neutral, when in reality it is describing his attributes. I think this is intentional. I think it is purposeful to distinguish him from the Father and the Son – he is spirit, he is comfort, he dwells in our hearts. Don’t confuse this as gender neutrality.

    To answer your question, I do accept most of the items described above as official doctrine — scriptures, ensign, gospel doctrine manuals, lesson manuals, priesthood manuals, bible dictionary, bible index, official description of him on LDS.org or in conference talks.

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  64. Justin on June 28, 2011 at 11:20 AM

    To answer your question, I do accept most of the items described above as official doctrine…

    I hate to continue pounding at it — since I appreciated you giving me your perspective — but I too agree that those sources can be used for pegging down what is official Church stances/doctrine/etc.

    I am wondering about the fact that the standard works must be canonized by the vote of the church before they become binding on LDS as scripture.

    So while ensign, gospel doctrine manuals, lesson manuals, priesthood manuals, bible dictionary, bible index, official description of him on LDS.org or in conference talks can be good sources to see what is being said on the issue — there have been no canonized revelations on the matter of a Mother in heaven or Holy Ghost gender.

    Does “official doctrine” just equal standard works from your perspective? What’s the point in having a set of standard works if we don’t use them as the standard — instead deferring to various other publications?

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  65. Will on June 28, 2011 at 11:26 AM

    “Does “official doctrine” just equal standard works from your perspective?”

    Short answer, yes; long answer, sometimes.

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  66. Justin on June 28, 2011 at 11:28 AM

    OK — I think my commenting itch has been scratched.

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  67. MH on June 28, 2011 at 1:12 PM

    Will, I said you didn’t understand what I was saying. I think I was pretty clear.

    Well, it wasn’t clear to me. Your clarification in comment 61 did not address mud at all. You told me that I misunderstood, so I’d like some clarification of your “clear” comment. Why does referring to the Holy Ghost as “she” akin to dragging the Holy Ghost through mud? (Please don’t dodge the issue again?)

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  68. MH on June 28, 2011 at 1:15 PM

    Will,

    To be sure, I find what you call “boldness” really another word for “obnoxious”, “overbearing”, “ignorant”, and “uninformed.”

    You seem to hold the English Bible as better than Greek, Latin, Hebrew, etc. Why is that? Have you studied these languages and know their translations are worse than English? Are you trying to say the the female apostle Junia is really the male apostle Junis? If so, how do you know Junis was male? What exactly are your credentials for all this knowledge of the Bible?

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  69. Will on June 28, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    MH,

    It is clear to me, but not to you so it appears I have not done an adequate job of communicating. Here it goes again:
    The scriptures, the ensign, the relief society manual, the gospel doctrine manual, the priesthood manuals, various Prophets, various Apostles, various conference talks; and, the official doctrine on the official church web-site refer to him as a he as follow:

    “The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead. He is a personage of spirit, without a body of flesh and bones. He is often referred to as the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of the Lord, or the Comforter.”

    To me, conference talks, especially from the Prophet, would (under my long-term answer) constitute official church doctrine. That is the whole purpose of a Prophet.

    With this said, it is clear – crystal clear. The spirit is a male personage. So, for you or anyone else to question his gender is an insult to him. Just as it would be an insult if someone questioned your gender.

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  70. Alice (alliegator) on June 28, 2011 at 1:31 PM

    Why is it an insult to wonder about someone’s gender?

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  71. Will on June 28, 2011 at 2:03 PM

    The following poll is in order:
    Will comment’s are:

    A) The sign of a total [jerk] ***edited by MH–please no profanity.
    B) Uninformed
    C) Aimed at pushing buttons with liberals
    D) Funny
    E) Just another voice on conservative radio
    F) A typical orthodox, conservative Mormon.
    G) It is a Cover. His real name is Glenn; and, he uses the alias Will to keep his cover with a remote desktop connection to a Utah IP address.

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  72. mh on June 28, 2011 at 2:06 PM

    bravo alliegator. my point exactly. a sexist person views being called ‘she’ as inferior, or not macho. if will was compared an athlete like nancy lieberman, that would be an insult because will is a man. it’s not macho to be considered a she. being a she is an insult in will’s world. that’s she a female holy ghost is mud. you can’t get more sexist can you will?

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  73. Will on June 28, 2011 at 2:19 PM

    MH,

    That’s quite the leap. Sexist?

    Look all I am doing is defending what has been said in the scriptures and by various church sources and all of them say the Holy Ghost is a He. For you to play the sexist card tells me for sure your commentary has an ulterior motive.

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  74. DavidC on June 28, 2011 at 2:39 PM

    My main point is that spirit is either referred to as a third-person pronoun (he) or a quasi-noun (as a person “the spirit”). He is never referred to in a third-person description as she. Never. Not one time in the scriptures, ensign, gospel doctrine manuals, lesson manuals, priesthood manuals, bible dictionary, bible index, official description of him on LDS.org or in conference talks. He is always referred to as “he, the spirit, the comforter, the Holy Ghost, etc”.

    Will, can you clarify your comments with regards to this statement, as hyperlinked in LDSA’s comment @ #50:

    “I was teaching advanced Hebrew, and I had decided to take the class through the book of Judges. As we read along, I noticed something odd about Judges 3:10:

    The Spirit of Yahweh came upon Caleb’s younger brother…

    In English, this passage from Judges doesn’t appear startling, but in Hebrew something strange leapt out at me: “came upon” was a third person FEMININE verb, indicating it’s subject “Spirit” was being understood as a feminine noun. Hebrew is not like Aramaic in its use of the word “spirit”. While the word is exclusively feminine in Aramaic, in Hebrew it is sometimes masculine. Therefore, the question that came to mind was why had the author of Judges chosen here to make the Spirit of Yahweh feminine, when he could just as easily have made it masculine? Oh well.

    I just shrugged my shoulders and went on, not overly concerned. Occasionally, I thought, one finds something inexplicable in the Bible: no big deal. But then came Judges 6:34. Again, “Spirit of Yahweh” was feminine.

    At this point I decided to consult the concordance. Much to my surprise, every occurrence of “Spirit of Yahweh” in Judges is feminine. As I pondered that, I recalled Genesis 1:2, the first occurrence of “Spirit of God” in the Bible, and realized to my shock that it too is feminine.

    Back to the concordance. Out of 84 OT uses of the word “spirit”, in contexts traditionally assumed to be references to the Holy Spirit, 75 times it is either explicitly feminine or indeterminable (due to lack of a verb or adjective). Only nine times can “spirit” be construed as masculine, and in those cases it is unclear that it is a reference to God’s Holy Spirit anyway. (Please see Appendix 3 for a complete list and detailed discussion of the usages.)

    The New Testament references to the Holy Spirit are not helpful for conclusively deciding on the gender of the Holy Spirit, since “spirit” in Greek is neuter, and so is referred to as “it” by the New Testament writers.

    The conclusion of all this is that our traditional assumption of a masculine Spirit is questionable; in fact, the evidence seems overwhelming that the Spirit should be viewed as “She”, which does seem to make sense, since the other two members of the Godhead are labeled “Father” and “Son”.

    When you said never, I would assume you knew what you’re talking about. However, at best your use of the term “never” is ignorant, at worst, well, blatantly misleading and wrong. As a faith that prides itself on revelation, seeking, asking and searching, perhaps we should be a little more open to debate, discussions and elucidations as they present themselves.

    Otherwise, please clarify why you use the word NEVER when it’s patently wrong.

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  75. Will on June 28, 2011 at 2:58 PM

    DavidC.

    If the Old Testament is so clear with its Hebrew and Aramaic (isolated text from the Old Testament, mostly Jeremiah) about the Gender of the Holy Spirit, then I would image such doctrine is universally accepted by faiths centered on the Old Testament. I mean, they have been studying it for several thousand years; and, most of them still speak Hebrew. No language issues there. It must be official doctrine of Judaism, right? Wrong. Not only do they see him as incorporeal, but as one God; and, definitely as a male personage. That blows that theory clean out of the water.

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  76. MH on June 28, 2011 at 3:58 PM

    Will, clear back in comment 36, I said you were blind to your sexism. I really believe that. You aren’t a bad person. I believe you are sincere, despite your attacks that I may have an “ulterior motive”. (I admit that I get tired of your self-righteousness, and your constant branding those who legitimately disagree with you as somehow more sinful than you or have an ulterior motive.) I really do think you are trying to do what you think is right, and I really do think you are blind to your sexism.

    I often go by either MH or Mormon Heretic. People have often wondered if I am male or female, because neither or these references are obviously male or female. (Since I added the gravatar, people don’t ask so much anymore.) I don’t take these questions as an insult. If someone thought I was female, I would view that as a mistake. A mistake is not the same as an insult.

    For the record, I am of the opinion that the Holy Ghost can be either male or female. I don’t think that referring to Holy Ghost as a “she” is insulting. Can you explain why that is an insult? My guess it that either (1) you won’t be able to articulate why because “I should already know”, or (2), if you do articulate a reason, you will betray your blind sexism. Either way, it’s not going to look good for you Will. But I am interested to see which direction you go.

    Of course, there is option 3–your preferred–change the subject and hope nobody notices, or 4–make ridiculous statements that the English Bible is absolutely error free on all references to the Holy Ghost. (After all, “it” is the same as “he”, according to you.) But I really am interested to see which direction you go. So please, why is it an insult to refer to the Holy Ghost as feminine? Why isn’t it simply a mistake?

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  77. FireTag on June 28, 2011 at 4:29 PM

    I have been hesitant to comment on this thread because the CofChrist tradition does NOT have the same notion of the physicality of God and the primacy of the human form that the LDS does. We would say that God “takes on” physical form rather than “has” physical form; God takes on such form in order to be more understandable to our limited human minds. When communication requires it, God may take on entirely different forms — for example, a burning bush in the appearance to Moses.

    Our denomination uses “He” for God out of cultural habit. There would be a lot of confusion, but no meaningful theological difference, in giving God a gender pronoun that was feminine, or even a gender identity no human has.

    After all, it’s a big multiverse, and it may be the height of human arrogance to think that God hasn’t given intelligence to other forms than human. Our notions about God’s gender may be as provincial as past eras’ notions about God’s race.

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  78. SteveS on June 28, 2011 at 4:37 PM

    Firetag, I like CoC more and more everytime you post or comment here. Thanks for sharing.

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  79. Will on June 28, 2011 at 5:01 PM

    Mh,

    You are the one that keeps bringing this back to sexism, not me. That is not my issue. As stated earlier, if the scriptures, ensign, manuals, etc…stated the Holy Ghost was a female, I would be fine with that. The insult is chiefly to those that have declared it official church doctrine. It is questioning their judgment; and, ironically their revelation via the Holy Spirit. It is not an issue of language and translation; it is an issue of revelation. It is official church doctrine. If they are going to present it in all of the gospel and priesthood manuals then it is official church doctrine (I think that is why they call the class Gospel Doctrine). If they are going to publish it to the world via the internet and conference addresses it is official church doctrine. If the Prophet is going to utter in from the pulpit by the power of the Holy Ghost, then it is official doctrine. They present doctrine in these manuals and in conference to teach the true nature of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost so we can better worship them. So we can better serve them. So we don’t worship false Gods.

    Snubbing your nose at their revelations and teachings is an insult. Thinking you know more than they do, or are entitled to revelation for the church as a whole is an insult to their office. It is an insult to their calling. The Savior said he that receives my servants, receives me. I think that is true; and, if true the opposite would be true. He that rejects me rejects my servants. He that insults my servants insults me. He that insults the Father insults the Son; he that insults the Son insults the spirit. They are one.

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  80. Will on June 28, 2011 at 5:12 PM

    Mh,

    You never responded to my Poll. My guess it that either (1) you won’t be able to articulate why because “I should already know”, or (2), if you do articulate a reason, you will betray your blind hatred. Either way, it’s not going to look good for you MH. But I am interested to see which direction you go.

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  81. Dan on June 28, 2011 at 6:48 PM

    I responded, but my comment was sent to moderation.

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  82. Dan on June 28, 2011 at 6:50 PM

    hey MH, why didn’t you just edit my comment as well? In any case, I’ll go with your edit and reply that A) Will is a total [jerk]

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  83. Will on June 28, 2011 at 8:09 PM

    Dan,

    That is very kind of you.

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  84. dmac on June 28, 2011 at 9:26 PM

    MH,

    Seems Will took option 3 – again. Still, it was worth a try.

    I’ve really enjoyed this post and the discussion. I must admit, I’ve never really thought about the gender of the HG until the post by hawk the other day. But it got me thinking. And the more I pondered it the more I realised that my unconsious notion of the Holy Ghost was more feminine than masculine. But I also realise that’s probably due to my perception of comforting and nurturing being feminine attributes – and it says more about my perception than perhaps the reality.

    I don’t think I’m invested either way. But I can certainly see that some people are! Thanks for great food for thought folks.

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  85. MH on June 28, 2011 at 10:27 PM

    Will, I don’t understand the purpose of your poll–obviously it is way off topic, so that’s why I ignored it (I thought it was a weird joke that wasn’t funny.)

    But if you seriously want an answer, then I’ll choose B, though it was tough to pick between A, B, and C. You don’t let facts or logic stand in the way of your position. Ignorance is bliss for you, I suppose, and you think that it works for you.

    I just wish you could distinguish between boldness and overbearing. But I think you like to be overbearing. I guess it gives you a weird ego boost that I don’t understand. It’s almost as if you put your own “kick me” sign on your back and enjoy being kicked. I don’t get it, but whatever floats your boat….

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  86. MH on June 28, 2011 at 10:32 PM

    FireTag, I appreciate your perspective, though I openly admit I have a hard time understanding the universe, let alone a multiverse.

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  87. FireTag on June 28, 2011 at 10:40 PM

    Understand it? Not at all. Stare at it in wonder and awe the way your avatar first glimpsed other worlds? You bet.

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  88. Mormon Heretic on June 29, 2011 at 3:39 PM

    I went back and read Will’s comment 79 again. From what I gather, the insult is really aimed at the leaders. Then extending that, because the leaders represent God, then it is insulting God. So really, the real aim of the insult is the leaders because they have (according to Will) already spoken on the matter.

    By Will’s logic, if you insult the leaders by disagreeing with them (because they are obviously as infallible as God), then God/Holy Ghost is insulted. I guess that’s why Will doesn’t think it is sexism. Anyone who questions any leader’s interpretation of scripture (regardless of any evidence that leaders might disagree among themselves, or that modern scholarship shows that the leaders might be in fact wrong on any topic) then that person is on the high road to apostasy.

    Did I get that right Will? Am I understanding your point of view now?

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  89. Will on June 29, 2011 at 3:55 PM

    MH,

    My answer is C. Yep, C. I’ll stick with that one. Since you think it’s B, then who really is A?

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  90. Mormon Heretic on June 29, 2011 at 4:37 PM

    Never mind Will. It’s hopeless to have a meaningful conversation with you. If your aim is simply to push buttons, then I have severely over-estimated you in these conversations. I thought you were sincere. Now I know better. If you are admitting to pushing buttons, then I see who really has the ulterior motive now. What a waste of time.

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  91. Will on June 29, 2011 at 4:52 PM

    MH,

    Thank you, I was hoping you would say something like that.

    My point in all that is you and Dan and numerous others and pile on the insults all day simply because you don’t agree – simply because you disagree with my point of view. It is precisely when you don’t agree that the insults get hurled. Let’s see – sexist, clumsy, self-righteous, uninformed, obnoxious, ignorant and racist. Did I miss any? And, aren’t you supposed to moderate that kind of thing. Have I hurled any your way? So, it really is difficult to have a serious conversation, but the problem is with you, not me. Perhaps now you understand the point of the poll.

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  92. Mormon Heretic on June 29, 2011 at 4:59 PM

    Will, you have lost every ounce of credibility you ever had. Are you pleased? I was giving you credit for being sincere. Now you’ve lost that. Was that your goal all along?

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  93. Dan on June 29, 2011 at 5:01 PM

    He’s always been here simply to push buttons, MH.

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  94. Will on June 29, 2011 at 5:09 PM

    “I was giving you credit for being sincere”

    You mean by calling me sexist, clumsy, self-righteous, uninformed, obnoxious, ignorant and racist.

    The point of the poll and my comment in 89 was to bait that response. It was to see your true motive; and, from the comments and insults your motive is clear.

    Can’t I defend the words of ancient prophets and apostles about the gender of the Holy Ghost without being accused of sexism?

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  95. Bishop Rick on June 29, 2011 at 9:58 PM

    The Branch Davidians believed the gender of the Holy Ghost to be feminine.

    So do Messianic Jews

    FWIW

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  96. Mormon Heretic on June 29, 2011 at 10:21 PM

    Will, you have admitted to a problem communicating. I have tried to help you with your communication, but you blow me off every time.

    If you don’t want to be accused to sexism, don’t say (as you did in comment #32), “let’s not take the name of the Holy Ghost in vain in the process. Let’s not drag him through the mud in the process [by calling the Holy ghost female].”

    This sounds incredibly sexist. Other people felt that way too: Two other people asked you to clarify immediately after you wrote comment 32. Rather than go directly to the issue of why calling the Holy Ghost female amounts to mud, your poor communication skills seemed to dance around the issue. It took until comment 79 (that I had to read several times), that I finally figured out why you felt it was insulting to refer to the Holy ghost as “she”.

    In comment 79, there is a logic chain that most people won’t follow very well; at first read it appears to be dodging the issue. After a careful read, I realized that you don’t think the thought of the Holy Ghost is female is inherently repulsive, but rather (1) you think church leaders believe the Holy Ghost is male, (2) because of this, if I disagree with their “pronouncement”, then I am insulting them by not agreeing with them, (3) since they represent God and God is one with the Holy Ghost, I might as well be insulting the Holy Ghost directly.

    Will, this is poor, ineffective communication because you aren’t clear. It took me several times to realize what you were saying. And believe it or not, I was trying to be charitable in my assessment of your communication when I called you clumsy. Rather than calling you sexist in comment 56, I was hoping that calling the comment clumsy was less offensive than immediately assuming you were sexist. Would you rather be called a clumsy communicator, or a sexist? I vote for the former.

    But your next comment 61 denied that 32 was clumsy, and seemed to reinforce an idea that you were sexist. I was trying to give you an out Will, and not only are you not taking the out, but you’re making it worse by reinforcing the original sexist-sounding comment. You’re making the situation worse. If you would prefer me to say that your communication is ineffective rather than clumsy, then I will say your communication on this issue is ineffective. Is that better?

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  97. Mormon Heretic on June 29, 2011 at 10:32 PM

    Now to the other issues.

    If you don’t want to be called self-righteous, then don’t say that I have ulterior motives.

    If you don’t want to be called obnoxious, then don’t intentionally push buttons as you admitted in comments 89 and 94.

    If you don’t want to be called ignorant, then don’t claim to be an expert on biblical translation as you did when you said, “There is no indication by ancient or modern prophets (true prophets) of the spirit’s gender being female. Until there is, I will stick with the scriptures. Other people have discussed other translations, and you have ignored them. Look, I’m not a biblical translation expert either, but I’m not going to make a “bold” statement like that when I know I can’t back it up. It is ignorant and overbearing to make such an assertion–not bold.

    If you don’t want to be called racist, then don’t try to defend Brigham Young when he said that anyone who marries an African should be killed immediately. (I’m not saying you did this, but you do seem to support the leaders even when some of their statements are indefensible.) Yes, we should support our leaders, but we should distance ourselves from such patently offensive, racist comments.

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  98. Will on June 30, 2011 at 5:27 AM

    MH,

    You have proved my point and have validated the purpose of my poll and my comment in 89. It is personal for you, you are coming after me, not what I stand for. It is about attacking me, not countering my arguments or stance on issues. So use some of your authority on this blog and start moderating yourself.

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  99. Mormon Heretic on June 30, 2011 at 10:40 AM

    What do you stand for Will? You’ve admitted to purposely pushing buttons, so if that’s what you stand for, then you’ve lost all credibility.

    What arguments of yours did I not counter? What stance did I not argue with?

    You think I am attacking you, but I am attacking your arguments. I am trying to help you be a more effective communicator. Cut the bullcrap with the pushing buttons, and write arguments that make sense and are defensible Will. You’ll get a ton more respect. Your arguments are weak, and can’t be backed by facts or logic. You don’t like to hear that, I am sure. But please tell me what arguments I am not attacking.

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  100. Brian on June 30, 2011 at 12:39 PM

    Anyone who tries to engage Will in a serious discussion, deserves what they get.

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  101. Dan on June 30, 2011 at 12:46 PM

    Spot on Brian. It’s as if people have forgotten that this is a serious discussion for Will, what he used as an introduction into who he is.

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  102. LDS Anarchist on July 1, 2011 at 4:06 AM

    Re: #95,

    Well, that’s settles it.

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  103. LDS Anarchist on July 1, 2011 at 4:12 AM

    that, not that’s

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  104. Carey on July 2, 2011 at 7:39 PM

    It took me about 3 days to finish reading everything in this post. Obviously the discussion has taken many twists and turns but the one issue that seemed to resonate with me wasn’t the gender question but why does it matter. The same question can be asked to everything and I think the answer to them all is because we seek knowledge. We want to understand the mysterious of God/Life, and do that we must question everything. This is life eternal. This is the glory of God. This knowledge is how we form our worldview, and participate in the grand ritual of life as new creatures in Christ.

    Is the Holy Ghost a female/male? Is the Holy Ghost an actual ghost/spirit? Or is it just another part symbol within the story/model we have been given in our language/culture to comprehend and it is actually something physically/spiritually different altogether?

    I believe the answers to these questions will only be discover/revealed as we expand our understanding of the God/Life and the only way I know to do that is to search/ponder/pray/ask/knock and thanks to Google searching has gotten much better, and thanks to this blog (and others like it) reading/pondering has expanded too.

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