Strangers in ParadoxStrangers in Paradox
Explorations in Mormon Theology
by Margaret & Paul Toscano

on the cover:
“The important ferment that has been occurring recently in the Mormon intellectual community has been a well-kept secret in the larger world. Paul and Margaret Toscano, whose impressive book could do much to remedy this unfortunate situation, present a stimulating case for a Mormonism in which grace and justice play a much more prominent role. Strangers in Paradox deserves the careful and critical attention of both Mormons and non-Mormons alike.” —Richard J. Mouw, Provost and Professor of Christian Philosophy and Ethics, Fuller Theological Seminary

“What the authors have to say about male and female in the Godhead, about monogamy and polygamy, about the ordination to the priesthood of men and women, reflects a life in religion lived in the fullness of the human.” —Ann and Barry Ulanov, authors, Religion and the Unconscious

“Well thought-out and documented, Strangers in Paradox makes a good contribution to what Latter-day Saints are thinking about themselves and will open up thinking both on the role of women and the mystical nature of the concept of paradox.” —Paul Edwards, director, Temple School, Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and author, Preface to Faith: A Philosophical Inquiry into RLDS Beliefs

Strangers in Paradox proves that Joseph Smith’s prophetic insights are resilient, even timeless, when recrafted by modern mythmakers of similarly prodigious talent.” —Daniel H. Rector, publisher, Sunstone magazine

title page:
Strangers in Paradox
Explorations in Mormon Theology
by Margaret & Paul Toscano
Signature Books
Salt Lake City

about the authors: Margaret Toscano, a doctoral candidate in Hebrew at the University of Utah, teaches humanities at Salt Lake Community College. Paul Toscano, an attorney practicing in Salt Lake City, is author of Gospel Letters to a Mormon Missionary and Invisible Religion in the Public Schools.

dedication: For our daughters
Angela, Elizabeth, Mary, and Sarah

epigraphs: I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. —Jesus

Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient. —Eve

Thy mind, O man! If thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss … —Joseph Smith

When I leave this frail existence,
When I lay this mortal by,
Father, Mother, may I greet you
In your royal courts on high?
Then, at length, when I’ve completed
All you sent me forth to do,
With your mutual approbation
Let me come and dwell with you. —Eliza R. Snow

copyright page:
Cover Design: Julie Easton

Cover Illustration: “Strangers in Paradox” by Carol H. Norby, collage, 1990
Illustrator’s Note: The cover illustration to Strangers in Paradox: Explorations in Mormon Theology represents the Toscanos’ eclectic approach to their subject through a variety of symbols. The all-seeing eye represents God’s omniscience. The ministering angel is a messenger of good tidings whose wings suggest flight through time and space and between the celestial and earthly realms. The cross is the Christian symbol of atonement. The lion is a king, ruler, and an ancient Christian symbol of strength. The handclasp (ca. 1300 A.D.) represents friendship and love. The clasped hand is trusting, welcoming, and free of weapons. The oak leaf and acorn are symbolic of human potential for spiritual growth. The figures of Adam and Eve are adapted from the work of Albrecht Dürer, from the sixteenth century. Eve holds a candle in one hand, for light and knowledge, and a lily in the other, for purity. The golden drapery represents the sacred trust of motherhood. Adam holds an apple signifying the Fall. Adam and Eve lean toward one another representing their interdependence. The hand of God lifts the veil that separates the earth (the foliage) from the celestial worlds. The arch is placed between the veil and the foliage to show entrance into life on earth from a previous existence.

©1990 by Margaret and Paul Toscano. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. ∞ Printed on acid free paperLibrary of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Toscano, Margaret Merrill, 1949-
Strangers in paradox : explorations in Mormon theology / Margaret Merrill Toscano, Paul James Toscano. p. cm.
1. Mormon Church—Doctrines. 2. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—Doctrines. II. Title.
ISBN 0-941214-98-2
BX8635.2.T67 1990
230′.93–dc20 89-27210

Introduction [see below]

Part I: First Principles
01 – Cornerstones
02 – Keystones

Part II: Godhead
03 –  Holiness to the Lord
04 – The God of Flesh and Glory
05 – The Divine Mother
06 – Jesus Christ and the Mormon Pantheon
07 – Beyond Matriarchy, Beyond Patriarchy
08 – The Marriage of Time and Eternity

Part III: Redemption
09 – Divinity and Humanity
10 –  Bringing Good Out of Evil
11 – The Case for Grace
12 – Metaphors of Salvation

Part IV: Priesthood
13 – The Nature and Purpose of Priesthood
14 – Priesthood in the Book of Mormon
15 – Women and Priesthood in the Bible
16 – A Kingdom of Priesthesses
17 – The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood
18 – Woman, Ordination and Heirarchy
19 – Zion: Vision or Mirage

Part V: Sex Roles, Marriage Patterns, and the Temples
20 – Sex Roles
21 – Monogamy, Polygamy, and Humility
22 – Rending the Veil
23 – The Mormon Endowment



[p.xi]This book is about religious ideas. Our objective is to explore the landscape of our religion and to share our discoveries with others, who like us struggle with the primary questions of life, who find themselves thinking about divinity and humanity, good and evil, justice and mercy, male and female, substance and form, the sacred and the secular.

This is not a systematic theology, nor is it reflective of mainstream Mormon thought. We do not provide complete discussions of or final answers to the questions we address here. Rather, our approach is personal and subjective. In these chapters we invite further discussion and reassessment. Our goal is to be clear and thought-provoking without being strident or dogmatic.

This work is based in large measure on our experiences as Mormons and our studies of the history and doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We hope that none of our readers will find this objectionable or offensive. It cannot be helped. Throughout these chapters we deal with the ideas, teachings, and revelations of Joseph Smith, whom we love and admire. We do not shy away from his most controversial contributions: sexuality, materiality, magic, polygamy, eternal progression, and continuing revelation. But this book is not meant to be a description of his teachings or a restatement of Mormon theology. We do not see either his period or our own as a golden age. For us Joseph Smith’s teachings, like those of every other prophet, constitute not the final word but a point of departure.

We are guided in many of our discussions by concepts and precepts of Christianity and to some extent by Judaism and other religious traditions ancient and modern. We feel a profound kinship with many men and women in these other traditions, people we have come to [p.xii]respect deeply, who have given us much in the way of insight and inspiration. But we also realize that we have some profound disagreements even with those whom we quote extensively. We are aware that religions, while they share much in common, differ on important questions. We believe that there is good in both what is common and uncommon in them and that people who are interested in religious ideas and a religious life can benefit by reflecting on the spiritual insights and experiences of others, even of those with whom they disagree.

Though our primary audience will undoubtedly be LDS, we hope those of other faiths will find our ideas stimulating. This approach, however, presents us with a problem. How are we to deal with both groups at the same time? In most cases, we resolve this by addressing the LDS reader directly and assume the non-LDS reader to be an interested onlooker. Because of the diversity of our audience and the particularity of our own world view we have provided explications of the basic assumptions and interpretive principles that underlie this book. These appear in the first two chapters. Here however we must say a word about our employment of pronouns and references to deity. Traditionally God has been pictured as a male, and therefore scriptural language has reflected this masculine bias. This bent, we believe, must be counterbalanced, but without either arbitrarily negating or rewriting our historical religious texts or being slaves to their deficiencies. The simple solution is to employ gender neutral references where possible. But this is more difficult than it sounds because there are not many words in English that can be used in this way without sounding archaic or cumbersome (i.e., “the Most High,” “the Eternal,” “Eloheim,” etc.). The other technique is to alternate pronoun references to deity between “he” and “she.” This solution is not always workable for those like us who believe that most scriptural references are to Christ. On the other hand if, as we believe, there is a female counterpart to Christ, then all references to him, except in a particular historical context, are references to her as well.

We have done our best to resolve this problem, but our resolution is inadequate. This is because every reference to deity invokes a deep, complex, and unresolved theological question about the nature, number, and character of the godhead. Thus our references reflect our own imperfect and incomplete understanding of the divine nature. We wish therefore to clarify that when we use the masculine pronoun to refer to deity, we do not mean to deny the reality, importance, or equality of [p.xiii]the female; and when we make reference to the female, we do not wish to slight the traditional view of God.

A number of chapters deal with the female divinity and require appropriate references to her. The word “Goddess” is offensive to some because it sounds pagan. On the other hand the exclusive use of the term “Heavenly Mother” emphasizes nurturing and mothering while neglecting other attributes. For this reason we use both of these appellations as well as the terms “female deity,” “Divine Lady,” “God the Mother,” and “female God.” Unfortunately none of these is as personal as the name Jesus. But this failing arises from the absence of a clear and universally accepted revelation of the identity of the female, which no lexical or grammatical legerdemain can correct.

Finally we must acknowledge that many of the ideas contained in this book have been gleaned from and refined through conversations with friends to whom we owe much. In gratitude we would like to name them all but will not, primarily to refrain from burdening anyone else with the responsibility for ideas and concepts they may not share.