God the Mother
by Janice Allred
Anger, Sex, and Pain
The Body in Service of the Spirit
[p.69]There is a strong anti-material, anti-body bias at the foundation of Western culture. This attitude toward matter influenced the development of Christian theology so that the living, personal God of scripture was transformed by philosophers and theologians into an impersonal absolute and the manGod Jesus Christ, whose resurrection the scriptures testify of, became reabsorbed into the transcendent spirit that is God which is without body, parts, and passions. Joseph Smith, however, taught that the god who sits in yonder heavens is a man like us who has a body of flesh and bones. “That which is without body, parts and passions is nothing,” he proclaimed, and spirit itself is matter (J. F. Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith [Salt Lake City, 1968],.181). Most religions have taught that the body is evil and that we must be saved from it, but Joseph affirmed its goodness and taught that we can only be saved with it. He declared, “The great principle of happiness consists in having a body,” and “All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not” (in A. F. Ehat and L. W. Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith [Provo, UT, 1980], 60).
These radical concepts introduced by Joseph Smith have not been fully integrated into Mormon thought. Despite his teachings on the goodness of the body, anti-body notions and assumptions continue to pervade our discourse. I will give just a few examples, all of which give a clear body-spirit distinction and which locate the body as the source of sin. David O. McKay consistently located morality in the control of the spirit over the body. “The whole purpose of life is to bring under subjection the animal passions, proclivities, and tendencies, that we might realize the companionship always of God’s Holy Spirit” (in C. Riddle, “Mormonism and the Nature of Man,” To the Glory of God [Salt Lake City, 1974]’ 145).
[p.70]Chauncey Riddle, a BYU professor of philosophy, defined man as a dualistic being, a being of spirit, which is the real person, and of body, which is the tabernacle of the spirit. This philosopher sees the spirit as the good part of man, the body as the evil part. Although he would probably concede that the body is good when controlled by the spirit, his view does seem to entail that the body is the source of sin. He asserts, “Sin is the triumph of the flesh over the spirit” (ibid., 142), and “[Salvation] is a thing of degree, progressing step by step as the spirit of a person triumphs over his own flesh through faith in Jesus Christ” (143).
An article in the Ensign suggests this same duality. The author attempts to reconcile King Benjamin’s teaching in the Book of Mormon that the natural man is an enemy of God with Brigham Young’s statement that man does not naturally do and love evil, but as the spirit sons and daughters of God, we only do evil in opposition to the promptings of the Spirit of Truth within us. This writer suggests that there are really two natural men in each of us, one being our spirit, the other our physical body, implying that our physical body is the natural man that is an enemy to God. He states that in mortality our spirit bodies struggle to subdue and control the desires, appetites, and passions of our physical bodies (D. Burton, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, Mar. 1990, 53). According to this view of the human body, its main purpose is to furnish a source of opposition to the spirit, to test it, and perhaps strengthen it. This view makes no effort to understand joseph Smith’s teaching that one of the main purposes of mortality is to acquire a physical body, that the body somehow helps the spirit to become more like God. The natural man described by King Benjamin is not simply a physical man. He is a physical and spiritual being, an enemy to God, not because he has a physical body, but because his spirit is in rebellion against God. King Benjamin does not characterize the natural man directly, but he does characterize the saint, the person who puts off the natural man through the atonement of Christ. This person is like a child-submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, and willing to submit to all things the Lord inflicts upon him (Mos. 3:19). If we assume that the natural man is the opposite of the saint, then he is unresponsive, proud, self-assertive. full of hate, and in rebellion against God. Surely these are sins of the spirit rather than the body.
Jesus taught that the inner person is in a state of sin before committing outward sins, that evil deeds proceed from an evil heart, good deeds from a good heart. In the version of the creation given by joseph Smith, spiritual creation precedes physical creation. The Lord explains this further in the [p.71]revelation recorded in Section 9 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Here he says that he created all things both spiritual and temporal. He explains that the distinction between temporal and spiritual is for the benefit of our understanding, but to him all things are spiritual. This cannot mean that the Lord excludes the temporal from his reality, but that what we distinguish as temporal and spiritual constitute one reality for him, which he calls “spiritual.” We must remember that the Lord’s “spirituaF’ is not the same as ours because it includes our temporal. Because the Lord’s understanding of spiritual includes both our spiritual and our temporal, we need to ask why the Lord uses the word spiritual to characterize his understanding for us. This, again, must be to aid our understanding. Perhaps it is because reality is more like our conception of spiritual reality than our conception of physical reality, or perhaps it is because we tend to think of reality in physical terms and the Lord is trying to expand our view. Because spiritual creation precedes temporal creation, it seems to be in some sense primary. Thus the Lord says that he created Adam (who stands for all of us) to be an agent to himself and he gave him commandments which are spiritual. I will show later that a body is required for agency, but commandments are spiritual because the spirit is in control of the body and commandments are addressed to it because it is the spirit which chooses to obey or disobey. The body does what the spirit requires of it as far as its capacities allow it to; it does not have a will of its own which it sets in opposition to the spirit. “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” does not mean that the flesh is unwilling to do what the spirit wants, but that it may be unable to. I suspect that the weakness of our flesh prevents us from committing greater sins as often as it impedes our good deeds.
Elder Melvin Ballard taught that “all the assaults that the enemy of our souls will make to capture us will be through the flesh because it is made up of the unredeemed earth, and he has power over the elements of the earth” (in “I Have a Question,” 53). But in the Doctrine and Covenants we read) “[T]he earth abideth the law of a celestial kingdom for it filleth the measure of its creation and transgressedl not the law” (88:25). Since the devil is a spirit) it seems more reasonable that he would address our spirits, although he certainly takes advantage of our physical nature. For example, because of our bodies, we do not see him and think that the ideas he somehow presents to us are our own. Returning to Section 29 we read) “Wherefore, it came to pass that the devil tempted Adam, and he partook of the forbidden fruit and transgressed the commandment.” It was not the fruit itself that enticed Adam; he did not have an uncontrollable desire for it; but the temptation was [p.72]to his spirit. Other versions of the temptation story show that Eve partook of the fruit to become wise, to gain knowledge, or to become as the gods; surely these are spiritual aspirations. Adam then partook of the fruit to obey the commandment to remain with his wife and have children with her. Again, Adam was not succumbing to a temptation of the flesh, but grappling with the complexiries of what it means to obey God. “Wherefore, I, the Lord God caused that he should be cast out of the Garden of Eden, from my presence, because of his transgression, wherein he became spiritually dead, which is the first death.” Spiritual death also precedes physical death. The body follows the spirit; it serves it for good Or evil as the spirit chooses.
My purpose here is to show how the body helps the spirit, how it serves the spirit, and to explore some possibilities in answering the questions of why we need a body, why beings who have bodies have power over those who do not, and why God has a body. My project is not simply to enumerate the contributions of the spirit and the contributions of the body. It seems to me that we have no way of separating these out. In mortality we experience ourselves as spirit and body. While we may think we know what part of us is body and what part is spirit, I do not think this is self-evident. In Western thought there is a traditional mind-body distinction, and it is tempting simply to assume that our spirits are our minds and our physical bodies are our bodies and that they each have the characteristics which philosophers have ascribed to them. But Joseph Smith’s teaching that the spirit also has a body ought to make us suspicious of this idea. According to him, all spirit is matter, only more refined. Our spirits are actually intelligences embodied in spirit matter. So our spirits also have a mind-body problem. Furthermore, intelligence is characterized as light, which according to modern physics mayor may not be substantial. Intelligence is also called the light of truth which suggests an even more refined version of the spirit-body duality.
It may be helpful here to consider the dimensions of the mind-body problem in philosophy. Most of us experience ourselves as a mind within a body. Our minds are private, subjective, and not capable of being directly observed or experienced by anyone else, while our bodies are public and objective, extended in space, and capable of being seen and measured. Our minds desire, hope, plan, imagine, symbolize, and remember, while OUf bodies are subject to physical causality; they behave mechanistically. Our minds are holistic, while our bodies are composed of cells, muscles, blood, bones, and nerves whose interactions are explained by biology, elements and compounds acting according to the laws of chemistty, and elementary particles joined together by the laws of physics. Dualists maintain that both body and [p.73]mind are real and primary; their problem is to show how they can relate since they are fundamentally different. Idealists say that the mind is fundamental and try to reduce matter to mind, while materialists consider matter to be fundamental and try to show how mind is really reducible to matter. Since all three positions are tenable, having strong arguments both for and against them, I suspect that they all possess some truth but that they all err in attempting to circumscribe all truth.
When Lehi declared that there must be opposition in all things, that all hings must be a compound in one, he was asserting a fundamental law of realiry that I call the principle of polarity. This principle states that every existing thing, if it possesses one member of an oppositional pair, must also possess the other. As a metaphysical concept, the principle means that instead of being fundamentally separated from each other, opposites depend upon each other for their existence. Magnetic polarity illustrates this principle. A magnet possesses both a negative and a positive pole. Although joined together, each pole retains its identity. It is impossible to separate the poles; if a magnet is broken in half, each half will have its own pair of poles. Oppositional pairs united in a whole may be separated, but then the separate parts must possess their own complementaries or cease to exist. The properties of matter-extension, duration, complexity-require the existence of complimentary particles. Although these particles are attracted to each other and form a whole, they cannot merge completely or matter would cease to exist. The principle of polarity also applies to abstractions; ideas are known through a process of analysis and synthesis.
The basic laws of quantum mechanics further elucidate the principle of polarity. Quantum physics describes a wave-particle duality at the subatomic level of matter. At this level matter can be equally well described as solid particles or as waves. The Principle of Complementarity states that each way of describing quantum reality complements the other and that neither description is complete without the other. However, according to the Uncertainty Principle, only one side of the duality is definable at a given time. Measuring the exact position of an electron, focusing on its particle nature, makes it impossible to measure its momentum, its wave-like manifestation. In other words, the process of measuring forces us to look at oneside of the dualism, but we must remember that the other side is equally real. The dualism cannot be collapsed: one side of the duality is not reducible to the other. In reality the opposites are inseparable, but thought demands dichotomy. For these reasons what I am attempting in this essay might be interpreted as seeing the spirit in body and matter in mind.
[p.74]To understand how acquiring a body helps a spirit, it would be helpful to compare a pre-mortal spirit, an unembodied spirit, to a mortal being, one who possesses both body and spirit. However, we have little information about the attributes of pre-mortal spirits. Therefore, I will focus on the Fall, which brings us into mortality, and the changes it made in the condition of Adam and Eve. One problem with this is that Adam and Eve are embodied before the Fall so that the changes in their condition brought about by the Fall are not, literally speaking, those of embodiment. But I am employing the story of the Fall as a myth about what it means to be a human being as a being of both body and spirit. Our spirits are embodied and become mortal simultaneously, yet the Adam and Eve story reflects the truth that we are not fully fallen until we reach the age of accountabiliry. For every change that embodiment effects, there is a pre-embodiment parallel; in order to acquire agency we must first choose; in order to sin with knowledge we must first sin in ignorance. Here I will focus on mortal embodiment with the understanding that there are both pre-mortal and post-mortal embodiments.
After Adam and Eve partook of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, their eyes were opened and they knew that they were naked. This associates the body (its nakedness) with self-awareness. To be selfaware means to know that we are separate from the world and from other human beings; it means to set limits on what we are, to understand the du.alism of me and not-me, self and other. Some statements of Joseph Smith about spirits suggest certain possibilities here. “The Spirits in the Eternal world, glory in bringing other Spirits in Subjection unto them, Striving continually for the mastery,” and “spirits of the eternal world are diverse from each other as here in their dispositions spiring ambitious, &c As man is liable to enemies there as well as here it is necessary for him to be placed beyond their power in order to be saved. This is done by our taking bodies” (in Ehat and Cook, 207, 208). Here spirits are seen as trying to gain mastery over each other, as trying to subject other spirits to themselves, and acquir.ing a body is seen as a way of gaining the power to resist being subjected by other spirits. Somehow bodies help us to define our identity; they set limits and boundaries on who and what we are.
One change that Joseph Smith made to the Genesis account of the Fall was correcting “they knew that they were naked!) to “they knew that they had been naked.” He also described Satan’s state of being without a body as being naked. “They knew that they had been naked” may mean that they knew that they had been without bodies or that they became aware of what having a body means. To be naked is to be exposed. The body separates in-[p.75]ner and outer; without a body there may be no distinction, no self-awareness. Of course, to say that spirits strive to gain mastery over each other implies a self-awareness, but Joseph Smith also says “it is a Natural thing with those spirits that has the most power to bore down on those of Lesser power” (in Ehat and Cook, 68), which implies a kind of pre-conscious, nondeliberate state of affairs where spirits of more intelligence naturally overpower those with less intelligence as the greater light of the sun necessarily eclipses that of the stars. In discussing the mind-body duality, I said that the mind is private and the body is public. It should now be clear that the privacy of our minds is possible only because they are separated by bodies, that the qualities of mind depend on the qualities of matter.
Having bodies makes us part of the material world which is given to our minds through the medium of our senses. The thoughts, desires, intentions, and plans of other people are not directly accessible to us but must be embodied in order for us to be aware of them; they must be put into material forma smile, a gesture, words spoken or written-which we receive through our senses. Our senses thus unite us in that they make us aware that we share a common world: seeing, hearing, smelling, touching all put us in contact with a common reality. They are intentional in the philosophical sense and transitive in the grammatical sense—they have or take an object.
Most of our internal states are related to something external. Love is love of something; desire is for something; anger is against someone about something. Pain, however, has no reference to something outside ourselves. Pain happens within my body. It is effortlessly present to me, but you may remain totally unaware of my pain even when you are in my presence. Pain defines the limits of the self; it divides us. Because it is impossible to feel another person’s pain, I must choose how I will relate to it. I may ignore it, try to alleviate it, or use it to control another person, to gain mastery over him. The fact of pain, the body’s vulnerability, requires our spirits to choose either love or pride, to value others or only ourselves. Physical pain is, of course, never purely physical. Along with it we may experience fear, loneliness, and frustration. Mental pain and sorrow are more communicable than physical pain and may be shared and empathized with, but the element of choice and the imperative for spiritual development demanded by the factieity of physical pain are still present.
The Lord said to Adam, “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Thoms also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return unto the ground; for out of it [p.76]wast thou taken: for dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return” (Gen. 3: 17 -19). This passage both identifies the body with the earth and opposes it to the earth. Adam must work in order to maintain his life, in order to be more than dust. Through work he can turn dust into bread which, when he eats it, will literally become his body. This process can serve as a metaphor for all human creations. All artifacts, the whole of civilization, may be considered an extension of the human body.
What artifacts do for the body, then, the body does for the mind. The tool, which is made by the hand, recreates the hand, becomes an extension of the hand. There is a reciprocity between body and artifact and body and mind; in creating artifacts we create and recreate ourselves; in taking on a body the spirit creates and recreates itself.
As substitutes for our bodies, but lacking sentience, artifacts disembody us as they enable us to forget our bodies and engage in mental work. Sitting in a comfortable chair in a temperature controlled house, I am able to forget my body as I read a book. Pain, however, embodies me, making me acutely aware of my body and its isolation from other bodies. My sentience is not communicable and sharable in itself, but I may objectify it in material objects and thus fundamentally transform it into that which is communicable and sharable. The body allows us to choose what we share and what we don’t share.
Language is an artifact, arguably the most fundamental to civilization; spoken it is a performance of the body and written it becomes a material object. Adam names the animals in the Garden of Eden, and it is by partaking of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that Adam and Eve become mortal. To name is to distinguish, set apart, point out, and knowledge dichotomizes. Language requires symbols, both primary (the words themselves) and secondary (concrete things and processes representing abstract notions). And symbols themselves are physical in contrast to things symbolized which are mental; in other words, the symbol is the body and the symbolized is the spirit, and language requires a body. Metaphor is at the heart of language, and the body and its movements furnish many of the metaphors which constitute abstractions. Language is linear and sequential: we put it together piece by piece, but meaning emerges from it holistically. Consciousness is generally considered to be holistic. It possesses a uniry which is intentional and sequential; it is directed toward an object and it can only think of one thing at a time. The holism of consciousness is usually contrasted with the atomism of matter. Is consciousness equivalent to mind? Is mind equivalent to spirit?
[p.77]To begin an answer to these questions, let us again consider the wave-particle dualism of quantum mechanics. An elementary particle such as an electron is represented by a wave-function which estimates the probability that the electron will be found in any given place. The wave-function describes the electron as if it were smeared over a large region of spacej indeed, as a wave the electron does occupy simultaneously all positions defined by the wave. When an electron is actually detected, however, it always has a definite position; it manifests itself as a particle.
If we reflect on our thought processes, we realize that our minds are more than consciousness. As I write this essay, a jumble of vague notions and images, many possible thoughts, are present in my mind like the wavefunction of the electron. The act of focusing, bringing one thought into full consciousness, forming it into words, is like observing an electron, forcing it to manifest itself as a particle. The mind, then, also possesses a dual spiritbody nature. Consciousness, language, and knowledge seem to depend on this duality, emerging when spirit is made to manifest itself particulately. Surprisingly, when we consider the dual nature of mind, consciousness, logic, language, mathematics, rationality—all traditionally considered to be the essence of mind—turn out to be associated with the body component of mind, the limiting, separating, either-or side of mind. Our spirit may be more closely identified with our uncounscious mind than with our con scious mind.
This analysis also suggests another re-evaluation of spirit and body. Usually we think that our spirits must discipline our bodies, but if our spirits are like the wave-function of a quantum particle, they are not required to choose. In the quantum world there is no succession of cause and effect. When an electron prepares to move from one energy state to another it simultaneously moves in all possible directions at once. These transitions are called virtual transitions to distinguish them from the final transition, called the real transition, where we find the electron when we look for it. Virtual transitions are, however, real in that many physical processes-for example, the blue of the sky—are the result of them. Choice and agency both depend on the spirit-body duality. Our spirits want to go in all directions at once, but our bodies force them to choose. Because the body can only occupy one position at a time, can do only one thing at a time, it forces us to make a choice; the mind chooses, but the body compels it to choose. A rational consideration of choices requires that the conscious mind consider possibilities one by one, so here again it is the body component of the spirit-body du-[p.78]ality that compels the choice, the conscious mind selecting one of the possibilities present in the imagination.
We have seen that the spirit-body duality is present in the mind. Let us now examine the spirit-body relationship in the emotions. Reason is often thought of as being opposed to feeling, the reason-emotion dichotomy being one of the basic dualisms of Western thought. But the principle of polarity tells us that emotion itself must have a rational component. Every emotion has its own logic—its characteristic thought patterns—as well as its physiological manifestations. Those who see the body as the source of sin see the passions as arising in the body and emphasize the importance of the spirit controlling the passions. I argue that emotions originate in the judgment (here again spiritual creation precedes physical) and that the body serves the spirit by endowing the judgment with feeling. Because anger is often the emotion singled out as the one over which the spirit must gain mastery, I will analyze anger in order to explain the idea that the emotions originate in judgments.
Efforts have been made by experimental psychologists to reduce emotions to physiology, but no one has succeeded in isolating the emotions on the basis of hormones, neural circuits, blood pressure, heart rate, skin tempera, ture, or any combination of these. The physiology of anger has been studied probably more than that of any other emotion, yet no one has been able to distinguish its physiological manifestations from those of other emotions. When asked what their own physical response to anger is, people give a wide variety of answers (see C. Tavris, Anger [New York, 1982], 66-67). Recent research suggests that emotions are physiologically similar and that “they differ primarily because of the situations in which they occur and because of the interpretations that we give to our bodily states” (ibid., 70). Indeed, in order to study the physiology of anger, experimenters must first arouse anger in their subjects, which they usually do by staging some little drama designed to provoke anger. Anger, even if it could be physiologically produced by stimulating some rage center in the brain, would still have to be interpreted as anger to distinguish it from some kind of seizure. It is impossible to separate the feeling of anger from the interpretation of it as anger and the situation in which the anger arises. It always makes sense to ask, “What are you angry about?!) and “Who are you angry at?” We would think it strange if someone answered that he was not angry about anything or at anyone. Of course, we all sometimes get angry at inanimate objects or difficult situations, but to maintain our anger as anger we look for someone to blame. Anger always invalves a moral judgment; the moral judgment of anger is that someone did [p.79]something wrong purposely or inexcusably, usually to me, although, of course, I may be angry about injustices done to other people.
A little reflection on our own experiences of anger should convince us that anger originates in judgment rather than feeling. If someone pushes me, it makes a great deal of difference whether I believe he did it purposely or accidentally and why. If I think he pushed me accidentally, I will probably not be angry, unless I think he was trying to get ahead of me in line. If I think he pushed me purposely, I will probably be angry, unless I discover he was pushing me out of the path of an oncoming car. My anger can be instantly aroused or abated depending on the judgment I make.
Judgment is mental and we have seen that the mind has both a spiritual and a bodily component. When Adam and Eve partook of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they became as the gods knowing good from evil and they also became mortal. Having a mortal body is thus associated with having the ability to make moral judgments. In anger we judge that someone has done something morally wrong. Our ability to feel anger is a consequence of our possessing moral judgment. But anger is more than a judgment; it is also a feeling and the feeling is the body’s contribution to the emotion. The body serves the spirit by endowing the judgment with feeling. It gives us the sense of caring, the sense of urgency and importance, and the focus and the energy to act to effect needed change. Joseph Smith suggested that emotions result from having a body when he said, “[T]he Lord Calls them together in Counsel & agrees to form them tabernacles so that he might Gender the Spirit & the tabernicle together so as to create sympathy for their fellowman” (in Ehat and Cook, 68). Alma also made this connection when he said “and he will take upon him their infirmities that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh” (7: 12).
This analysis of anger can illuminate our thinking about several questions concerning anger, righteousness, sin, and God. The first I will consider is, “Is anger always a sin?” or “Is there such a thing as righteous anger?” Since anger is constituted by a judgment that a responsible moral agent has willfully or inexcusably injured another person and the feeling of indignation aroused by this judgment, it should be obvious that the righteousness of the anger depends on the righteousness of the judgment. Certainly it is often the case that one person injures another. Other people’s actions are not in Qur control. We cannot eliminate evil in the world, so, unless we want to do away with our ability to make moral judgments, we cannot eliminate our anger. However, anger as we experience it is more than an emo~ tion; it is also a call to action. The desire of anger is to name the offense and [p.80]the offender and to right the wrong and punish the wrongdoer. It is necessary to distinguish the emotion of anger (judgment and feeling), the expression of anger (in words or facial expressions or bodily movements), and the actions our anger leads us to. Our anger may be justified, but our expression of it may be offensive and the actions we take because of our anger may be unrighteous. Or our anger may be unjustified, but we might never find this out if we did not express it, so the distinction among emotion, expression, and action is an important one. Because we experience others’ anger only through their expression of it and what they do because of it, we sometimes fail to make this distinction and we talk about eliminating, overcoming, or controlling anger as if it were simply a matter of the good spirit or rational mind gaining control of the evil body or unruly emotions. But we have seen that anger originates in the judgment, so if we are to resolve our anger righteously we must begin with our judgment. I prefer to speak of resolving anger rather than controlling, overcoming, or eliminating it because these terms imply the concept of anger I am arguing against.
Anger begins in a hasty judgment which I must re-examine. First, I must allow myself to feel my anger and to know that it is anger. This is holistic because anger is a combination of judgment and physiology. In anger the judgment is already made. Feeling my anger requires me to express it, and it is in this stage of anger resolution that we often go wrong. How I express my anger and whom I express it to can greatly influence my ability to resolve it righteously. Although anger begins in judgment, the feeling of anger is a strong one which calls for me to defend myself; anger arouses my body to fight. If I say something to the person who has offended me in this state of arousal, I am likely to say things that will offend him and lead to an escalation of hostilities. If I am unable to express my anger to the person who has offended me, I may take my anger out on someone I can safely hurt by finding some fault with her and then punishing her for it. If, in the heat of anger, I could remember that anger begins with a hasty judgment which should always be re-examined, I could save myself a lot of trouble. In questioning my judgment I weaken or dispel the feeling of anger. Making a moral judgment involves many different questions and considerations. It demands an examination of values, expectations, and intentions. Anger always as~ signs responsibility. I need to look for possible excuses for the person I blame and I need to ask myself if I bear part of the blame. If I decide no one is to blame, my anger may be changed into resignation or sadness.
Usually I will need to talk to the person who has offended me in order to understand her feelings and intentions. If I can re-examine my judgment [p.81]of anger and assess my own responsibility before talking to her, I can probably avoid an escalation of hostility. However, in judging how different people handle anger and in dealing with the anger of different people, it is important to take different personality types into account. Extroverts tend to process their thoughts and feelings in interaction with others, while introverts prefer to process them internally. While extroverts are more likely to get in trouble in expressing their anger, introverts often fail to express their anger at all and thus fail to resolve it, which can result in them hurting themselves or others in many different ways.
In re-examining my anger I take responsibility for it. I recognize that my anger is not simply imposed on me by others or by my body. I choose my anger because I choose my values, my expectations, my ideas about what others ought to do, and my notions of my rights and your rights. It is empowering to understand this and realize that I can overcome my anger by re-examining my judgment, but if I then conclude that no one can make me angry, that my anger is mine and your anger against me is your responsibility, then I have substituted pride for anger. My anger with you is a complex relationship of my judgment, my feelings, and what you did. If! say you cannot make me angry, then I say I do not care what you do, that your actions have no effect on me. If I say that your anger with me is your problem, then I say that I have no responsibility to you. I should not let you control me or manipulate me with your anger, but I must listen to it and respond to it. Re-examining my judgment may dispel my anger or transform it into another emotion or it may convince me that I or someone I care about really has been sinned against. Anger demands that the wrongdoer be punished. But is it ever right for me to punish another person? Jesus tells us that if someone offends us we must go to him and seek a resolution. Without doing so, I can never even be sure that my anger is justified. Expressing my anger to the one who has offended me may lead to a resolution of the problem giving rise to my anger or it may not. If not, retaliation or legal remedies may be justified, but for a follower of Jesus there is always a final step in the resolution of anger.
When Jesus said that whoever is angty with his brother is in danger of the judgment, he linked anger and judgment, but the judgment he referred to is the final judgment where God judges us according to our works. But aren’t we all in danger of this judgment? How do we escape it? By relying on the merits and mercy of Jesus Christ, by having our sins remitted through faith in him and the power of his atonement. And to retain the remission of our sins, he requires us to forgive others. Jesus does not tell us [p.82]never to be angry. He tells us that when we are angry we are required to forgive. Forgiveness cannot be separated from anger; in order to forgive we must first be angry.
Our bodies serve us in anger in the same way that they serve us in pain; anger tells us that something is wrong, someone is to blame, and that some, thing must be done about it now. If we refuse to feel our anger, if we deny our anger, we are lying to ourselves in some way—by changing or denying our values or by demeaning ourselves as someone not worthy of justice, regard, or fair treatment. We substitute depression for anger. We can also substitute pride, hatred, resentment, and envy for anger, but only by acknowledging anger and seeking its righteous resolution can we transform it into reconciliation and forgiveness.
This analysis of anger also permits us to answer the question, “Is God ever angry?” with a “yes” and to accept the straightforward testimony of the scriptures without radical reinterpretation. God’s anger in the scriptures is always directed towards those who deliberately choose evil and refuse to repent and God’s punishment follows God’s judgment. “And it shalI come to pass, because of the wickedness of the world, that I will take vengeance upon the wicked for they will not repent; for the cup of mine indignation is full: for behold, my blood shalI not cleanse them if they hear me not” (D&C 29:27).
There is great power in anger; the expression of righteous anger itself, a sharp rebuke without any threat of punishment, has the power to induce remorse and reform behavior. When the scriptures speak of the anger of God, they often conflate alI its elements-the judgment, feeling, expression, and punishment alI merge into the power of anger, which is the power of destruction. “The Lord cometh from far, burning with his anger … his lips are full of indignation, and his tongue as a devouring fire” (Isa. 30:27). Instead of being a bodily passion which we must subdue and overcome to be more like God, anger is one of the powers of God which we must learn to understand and use wisely within the limits he has set as we seek to become more like him. Thus anger is like sex. Anger has the power of destruction, sex the power of creation.
Our bodies separate us; they give us individual identity. In the story of the creation of humanity and our fall into mortality, embodiment, separation, sexuality, sexual intercourse, and sexual reproduction are interrelated principles. The story of the creation of Adam and Eve can be interpreted, not in the usual way as the creation of a male and then a female, but as the creation of a human being who did not become male until the female was [p.83]created so that male and female were created simultaneously. Symbolically this means that embodiment demands sexuality and that there can be no male without a female. This interpretation can be supported by the text. The Hebrew word adam is the word for humanity in general as well as the word for a single man or a proper name. Phyllis Trible translates “And the Lord God formed man” as “And then Yahweh God formed the earth creature.” She writes, “[T]his creature is not identified sexually. Grammatical gender … is not sexual identification. Nor is sexuality assumed here since it is created later. In other words, the earth creature is not the male; it is not ‘the first man’ .. , Instead, the earth creature here is precisely and only the human being, so far sexually undifferentiated.” Not until God removes the side from the earth creature (the Hebrew word for rib can also be translated as side) to form a companion for it does it gain sexual identity. “The new creature, built from the material of ha-adam, is female, receiving identity in a word that is altogether new to the story, the word issa. The old creature transformed is male, similarly receiving identity in a word that is new to the story, is (see God and tile Rhetoric of Sexuality [Philadelphia, 1978], 75, 80, 98). One Hebrew legend found in the midrashim describes the original Adam as androgynous, a male facing in one direction, a female the other. It was necessary for God to split the one into two in order to make sexual intercourse possible (W. I. Thompson, The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light [New York, 1981], 23).
The split of humankind into male and female symbolizes the separation of complementary pairs; each of the members of each pair is often considered to be either masculine or feminine. Mortality means death; and separation, if it is not balanced by union, leads ultimately to death and dissolution. Sexual union creates new life and prevents the death of humanity, but each individual male and female must die. Eve links death and sexual reproduction when she says, “Were it not for our transgression [which brought about death] we never should have had seed” (Moses 5:11). In’ sexuality we have the principles of separation, limitation, and either~or which characterize the body, while in sexual intercourse we have the principles of union, expansion, and holism which characterize the spirit. Sex embodies both the principles of body and spirit. The power of sex is as much symbolic as physical. Symbols, remember, embody an abstraction or the spiritual component of a duality. Being embodied in mortal bodies, we experience what we perceive through and in our bodies as being “real. n Elaine Scarry discusses the symbolic meaning of the human body in war. She writes:
[p.84]In … [war] … the incontestable reality of the body-the body in pain, the body maimed, the body dead, and the body hard to dispose of-is separated from its source and conferred on an ideology or issue or instance of political authority … The rules of war are … arbitrary and … depend on convention, agreement, and participationj but the legitimacy of the out~ come outlives the end of the contest because so many of its participants are frozen in a permanent act of participationj that is, the winning issue or ideology achieves for a time the force and status of material “fact” by the sheer material weight of the multitude of damaged and opened human bodies (The Body in Pain [New York, 1985], 62).
Sexual relations confer a reality to the love of two people and their desire to join their lives together and to share their thoughts, feelings, problems, and joys. Sexual activity, when it is abused, may also symbolize the desire to possess, control, dominate, or degrade another person or the desire to be possessed, controlled, dominated, or degraded by another person. Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants contains the revelation given to Joseph Smith on eternal marriage. This revelation states:
If a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood … they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fullness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. Then shall they be gods, be~ cause they continue (vv. 19-20).
Those who are not married in the new and everlasting covenant “when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants … [who] cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition” (D&CC 132: 16-17). God is neither beyond sex nor exclusively male; the gods are men and women joined by everlasting covenants. Since one of these covenants is a marriage covenant and the gods have bodies of flesh and bone and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever, the union of the gods is also sexual.
In sexual union two become one and if a child is conceived one will become two. “Unto the woman … [the Lord] said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception: in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children” (Gen. 3:16). “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall [p.85]cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh” (2:24). These two verses speak of two kinds of unity: parents and child, and husband and wife. One unity must be broken for the other to be realized. In union there is joy, but in separation there is pain.1
Both anger and sex are attributes of God connected with embodiment. Is pain also something God experiences? I suspect that most of us hope that pain is something we leave behind when we conclude our mortal probation. “Spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fullness of joy, and when separated, man cannot receive a fullness of joy” (D&CC 93:33-34). The gods dwelling together in their eternal glory certainly experience a fullness of joy, but Jesus Christ with the nail prints still in his hands and feet surely teaches us that God also feels our pain. Enoch was astonished when he saw God weeping. He asked the Lord, “How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity” (Moses 7:29). His answer was that God wept for the sins and pain of humankind. As Jesus Christ, God suffers for our sins because he loves us. As the Holy Spirit, God is with us in our pain because she loves us. That which we value, we willingly suffer pain for. As vehicles of separation and pain, our bodies enable us to show what we ultimately value. The gods break the circle of their perfection and suffer the pains of mortality to bring forth a continuation of the seeds and to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of humanity.
1. I have used heterosexual imagery because it is fundamental to the polarity I am discussing. I do not mean to devalue homosexuality. My purpose in using the scriptures from Section 132 is to show that in Mormon theology the gods (celestial beings who are like God) are sexual beings. I do not mean to imply that celestial sexuality is exclusively heterosexual. (See footnote 1 in “Toward a Mormon Theology of God the Mother.”)