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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : Is the Holy Ghost Female? » Is the Holy Ghost Female?

Is the Holy Ghost Female?

Don - October 3, 2005

I substituted for two weeks in gospel doctrine…my favorite calling.  The lessons were about leaving Nauvoo, Winter Quarters, B.Y. getting to the valley and about the Willie & Martin handcart company.  I love making things real for everyone and in the first lesson talked in detail about the difficulties of crossing Iowa, causing the delay of going to Utah and about the Mormon Battalion.  I was fortunate to be able to relate the story of my 4th great grandfather’s trip from England, conversion, and going to Nauvoo.  Part of the story was his joining the Mormon Battalion and subsequent death during their march to California.  The lesson went well with several comments after class.

The next week I talked about handcarts in general, the 10 different handcart companies and details about why the Willie & Martin companies left when they did and their many un-expected problems.  I read from a couple of pioneer journals.  One class memeber briefly shared his ancestor’s experience in the rescue party.  One story I practiced several times and read to the class was about B.Y. tearful experience in seeing the frostbitten feet of a young girl and the promise he made to her.  Her toes were amputated using a saw and butcher’s knife.  Emotionally it was difficult for me to read.  Many in the class felt and reacted to the emotion.  After class several sisters came up and expressed how "spiritual" the lesson was, or them feeling the spirit there.

This got me thinking, which is always dangerous, why do we associate the spirit with tearful emotions?  It seems that when we have felt tender emotions during a talk or meeting we equate that with the spirit.  Very seldom, if ever, do I "feel" the spirit unless it’s in this humble, soft, emotional state.  And it’s been my experience that women generally are much more sensitive to these feelings than men. 

Since the connection seems to be at least partially based on emotions, and women are more emotionally sensitive, then the Holy Ghost could be a woman.  If the Holy Ghost is a woman it provides a nice balance to the Godhead.


  1. “Why do we associate the spirit with tearful emotions?”

    This is an interesting question and it reminds me of a lesson given in the MTC by one of the main instructors. The talk was on recognizing and identifying the Spirit and was THE best message I’ve heard on the subject. He gave the example of a Fast & Testimony mtg. where a really sad story is told and the speaker is in tears along with, of course, the entire congregation. This never fails in leading to people leaving the chapel claiming that the Spirit was SO strong during his/her testimony. “Well,” stated the instructor, “sometimes, it’s JUST a sad story.”

    This REALLY made me ponder about the Spirit and about what people associate with It. I think many members have a great misconception of What/Who the Spirit is.

    As for the main question of the post–I’ll have to think about that a little more.

    Comment by Tim J — October 3, 2005 @ 7:09 pm

  2. Very seldom, if ever, do I “feel” the spirit unless it’s in this humble, soft, emotional state.

    Really? Or is that the only time that you easily recognize it? I think that I feel the spirit in those times but more often than not it comes in what BY/JS(?) said “pure intelligence” entering my mind and heart.

    The question of “how does the Spirit feel to me?” is perhaps the most important thing we can know in our lives, yet all we ever say is “still, small voice.” or “burning in your bosom.” Yeah, okay, that’s right… sometimes. But not always. Each one of us is wired differently and the Spirit is going to communicate to each one of us based on our wiring. I’m thankful the Spirit isn’t a one-size-fits-all communicator.

    Comment by Rusty — October 3, 2005 @ 7:30 pm

  3. Rusty,

    I completely agree with you. The Spirit communicates with us individually in a way that fits us best.
    I remember the first time I prayed about the BOM–I finished my prayer, and then started to laugh. That was my answer, and I KNOW that it came from the Spirit.

    Comment by Tim J. — October 3, 2005 @ 7:36 pm

  4. In an eternal sense (God being independent of time), aren’t HM and the Devil part of the Godhead too? Maybe there are other players we don’t know about? Jesus’ wife?

    Comment by Steve EM — October 3, 2005 @ 8:23 pm

  5. Don, I don’t know if you are aware of this, but a lot of prominent Mormon theologians have thought the Holy Ghost was a woman. We don’t hear this as often anymore, perhaps because the most famous recent people to build a system around this idea were Janice Allred and Paul and Margaret Toscano–since excommunicated for their theology. But, anyway, you’ve tapped into an interesting, even venerable, if now not very visible vein of Mormon thought.

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — October 3, 2005 @ 8:33 pm

  6. Is it firm doctrine that the Holy Ghost is an unembodied humanoid? Is it necessarily a sexual being at all?

    Comment by Last Lemming — October 3, 2005 @ 9:01 pm

  7. Marion G. Romney during GC, May, 1974:

    Jesus referred to the Holy Ghost as a male person. Speaking to his disciples, he said:

    “… It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send HIM unto you.” (John 16:7. emphasis added.)

    And further,

    “… when HE, the Spirit of truth, is come, HE will guide you into all truth: for HE shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever HE shall hear, that shall HE speak: and HE will shew you things to come.

    “He shall glorify me: for HE shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” (John 16:13–14. emphasis added.)

    I’ve also always thought, possibly incorrectly, of godhood being an office of the priesthood.

    Comment by Tim J. — October 3, 2005 @ 9:18 pm

  8. I don’t know that I feel either way about the gender of the holy ghost. I do, however, shrink from tying arguments about it to things that valorize tearfulness for its own sake or that make emotions feminine or spiritual response essentially emotional. There seems to be little evidence for such claims (While the savior did weep, the scriptures are far from replete with images of weeping from feeling the spirit.). It always worries me when we make claims that seem to justify a lack of “spirituality,” whatever we mean by that, on the part of men. I have occasionally felt the spirit in ways that have made me tearful, but I wouldn’t say that is the essence of my experience with the Holy Ghost.
    On the other hand, I see nothing that would say the Holy Ghost is definitely a man or definitely a woman.

    Comment by Steve H — October 3, 2005 @ 9:23 pm

  9. Interesting question. For myself the most powerful experiences I’ve had with the Spirit have been aggressive and forceful ie, “COUNT AGAIN!” or “DON’T GO IN THERE!” Definitely not soft and humble although I’ve had those experiences too.

    Along with Tim J I’ve always thought the Holy Ghost was a priesthood office.

    Comment by kristen j — October 3, 2005 @ 11:30 pm

  10. Another quick thing on recognizing the Spirit:

    I read Simon Southerton’s reasoning (in his own words) behind leaving the Church. He was the former bishop that tried to link the DNA of Hebrews w/ Native American’s, couldn’t, and so he apostasized.
    Anyway, he went to say that what he thought was the Spirit was an invented feeling. He said that after Australia beat the U.S. in the America’s Cup, he was filled with an immense amount of joy and happiness, similar to what he had thought was the Spirit, and that he recognized that he never really felt the so-called Spirit, only some contrived emotion.
    I read this and felt sad for him. It was no wonder why he apostasized.

    Comment by Tim J. — October 3, 2005 @ 11:58 pm

  11. I tend to think that the Holy Ghost is a man, but in a similar vein, I’ve long wondered whether the Holy Ghost was a calling, rather than a person… which would allow holders of the calling to come to earth to be clothed in flesh.

    * shrugs shoulders *

    Comment by Silus Grok — October 4, 2005 @ 11:40 am

  12. Forms of communication from the Holy Ghost:

    1. Testifies. Gives testimony.

    2. Prophesy, as in prediction, like the prophet or patriarch.

    3. Comforts. Section 122.

    4. Uplifts. Energizes. “Quickens” both mentally and physically.

    5. Informs. Gives words to speak. Inspire. Helps find things, tells home teachers who to call. Sometimes the words come clearly and can be written down verbatim. Sometimes ideas, concepts, and feelings are given, and we have to translate them into words.

    6. Restrains us from doing things, often through a feeling of uneasiness.

    7. Confirms. We propose then ask for confirmation to receive the burning in the bosom, or a stupor of thought. Sometimes it is not a burning feeling, but a feeling of peace or comfort.

    8. Impells to action. Revelation that is not sought, such as Nephi killing Laban. “Strokes of ideas” quote from Joseph Smith.
    “Driving directions” stories such as “slow down” or “take a different route” that avoids an accident.

    9. Implants desires. Like Cyrus wanting to send the Jews back to their homeland. We think it is our own idea or desire, but it was planted there by the Holy Ghost.

    Even within each of the above methods of revelation, there can be varying intensities or “volume” of the communication.

    Comment by GreenEggz — October 4, 2005 @ 2:47 pm

  13. GreenEggz,
    That’s a good list. Is it your own or something from a manual? It seems that pretty much all HG communication can fall within one of those.

    Comment by Rusty — October 4, 2005 @ 4:08 pm

  14. Don,
    I thought you were the one who told me most of the time you felt the Spirit Rusty described, as “pure intelligence.” That’s surely the way I most often feel it/him/her. If it were just the very few times I’ve felt it with emotion, I’d have no testimony and have apostasized long ago.
    By the way, who’s to say the priesthood is only a male thing? (eternally speaking)

    Comment by Bret — October 4, 2005 @ 6:56 pm

  15. Bret, the priesthood thing is another post, I will tackle it sometime later….I agree with the hint you are making

    Comment by don — October 4, 2005 @ 8:20 pm

  16. The Scriptures speak of the Holy Spirit as bearing authority similar to the Priesthood (cf. Luke 1:35, 2 Ne. 32:2-3), which clearly suggests male only. Also, angels, both pre and post-mortal, are always presented as male in appearance, which again suggests some priesthood element to the calling. This all suggests its a male. And, there really isnt anything literal in the Scriptures suggesting its a female. The closest thing you could draw on would be the various OT wisdom literature references which present Wisdom as a woman to be courted, which isnt compelling.

    It is my view that there is one “Holy Ghost” (i.e., the President of the Pre and Post mortal spirits) and that office or calling is vacatated and filled over time by different personages of spirit. Otherwise, whoever it was would be stuck. The various pre and post-mortal angels then operate under the Presidency of the Holy Ghost (whoever this may be). Whoever it may be in specific is largely irrelevant because the authority they bear/wield is that of the Father, so they are naturally deferring to Him, just as Jesus did, in an matter of authority. Hence their general unwillingness to identify themselves, and thereby divert worship away from the Father.

    Why do people equate feelings with the presence of the Holy Spirit? This is something that has always troubled me. I fear too many people, myself included, mistake completely subjective experiences and emotions as a manifestation of the Holy Spirit. I had a mission comp who thought that getting goosebumps was a manifestation. Maybe for him it was, I really dont know. Its treading on thin ice to parse other people’s experiences. In my case, I believe I have ruled out so many subjective experiences that I cut myself off from various manifestations.

    Don, if you have your lessons in electronic format and want to share them, I can host them on ldsgospeldoctrine.net for you.

    Comment by Kurt — October 5, 2005 @ 7:01 am

  17. Tim J — I didn’t check every single pronoun in those selections you gave from the Gospel of John, but in the cases where I checked, a non-genderized pronoun, or none at all, is used in the Greek where the translation “he” is used in English. It was the King James Version translators who decided to call the Comforter a He. In terms of Greek grammar, She would have been just as appropriate to use in translation. (The sentence structure is similar to D&C 36:2, where the pronoun “which” is used to refer to the Comforter.)

    In D&C 120:33, the Holy Ghost is referred to as an it. I’m pretty sure that’s the case in the Book of Mormon in at least one instance as well.

    I’m pretty sure there’s somewhere in scripture where the Holy Ghost is unequivocaly described as male, but I haven’t found it yet.

    Comment by cronista — October 5, 2005 @ 12:54 pm

  18. Kurt, thanks for the offer to post my gospel doctrine lessons, but I now only get to substitute once in a while. I taught for 3 years but the crule Bishop took that away from me.

    Your comments and Bret’s have me preparing for a post on priesthood and women however…may be done today or tomorrow.

    Comment by don — October 5, 2005 @ 1:05 pm

  19. This was discussed on T&S not too long ago. The only scriptural instance where “the Spirit” appears unequivocally male that anyone could identify is in Nephi’s vision of the tree of life, in which the “Spirit of the Lord” is identified as male. But even in that example, it could be Christ’s spirit, since he had not yet assumed his earthly tabernacle, and since this Spirit of the Lord is replace by an angel once baby Jesus appears in the vision. (If I’m remembering right.)

    I don’t think any of us know specifically why particular people were ex’d. Toscano’s Paradox book had other glaring criticisms of church leaders, etc. that could have ex’d her sans any speculation about theology.

    Agree w/ priesthood (power of God) not being gender specific–particularly post-earth-life and after final judgment/ when we receive our glorified bodies. Also w/ the Godhead being gender balanced.

    Comment by LisaB — October 5, 2005 @ 5:38 pm

  20. Thanks Cronista. It came directly from Romney’s talk. I heard this was given at the height of the ERA when there was a lot of discussion (mostly outside the Church) surrounding the fact that God might be a woman. I suppose he was trying to defuse that theory along with a couple more.

    Does anybody have any scriptural or even anecdotal evidence of Women receiving the PH after resurrection? I’m not asking in a doubting manner. A lot of this goes aroung the ‘Nacle but I haven’t read anything that really convinces me this is true. Sorry if this is a threadjack–it might need its own post.

    Comment by Tim J. — October 5, 2005 @ 9:00 pm

  21. Tim J., Women recieving the Priesthood after this life is fundemental to the restored Gospel. It is the whole point of the Temple. If you want sources, drop me an email.

    Comment by J. Stapley — October 5, 2005 @ 10:22 pm

  22. No need J. I just checked out your blog (I figured you’d have something over there) and found plenty to mull over. It’s interesting and I’ll have to do some serious study and thought over this. Thanks.

    Comment by Tim J. — October 5, 2005 @ 11:30 pm

  23. If the HG is female, I think I’m gonna stop using the phrase “feeling the spirit.”

    Comment by Al — October 6, 2005 @ 8:50 am

  24. LisaB,

    Some assume the “Spirit of the Lord” means the pre-mortal spirit of Jesus Christ. This is not the case. In 1:12 we have Lehi filled with the “Spirit of the Lord” and in 15:12 we have “the Spirit of the Lord which was in [Lehi]“. Such descriptions would be reserved for the Holy Spirit, and not the pre-mortal spirit personage of Jesus Christ.

    Then in 13:15 Nephi says “I beheld the Spirit of the Lord, that it was upon the Gentiles”. Now, 3 Ne. 15:23 states:

    And they understood me not that I said they shall hear my voice; and they understood me not that the Gentiles should not at any time hear my voice that I should not manifest myself unto them save it were by the Holy Ghost.

    Thus, the “Spirit of the Lord” must be the Holy Spirit as the Lord will never manifest Himself personally to the Gentiles except by the Holy Spirit.

    Furthermore, the phrase is repeatedly used in the OT synonymously with the Holy Spirit. Take for example Isa. 11:2 and Isa. 61:1 which state the Messiah will be anointed by the Spirit of the Lord.

    Finally, if we look at what this present spirit says in v. 6-7 we see him bearing witness of the Son of God. This is the kind of thing the Holy Spirit would say (cp. 3 Ne. 11:32), not the kind of thing the Lord himself would say (ct. Ether 3:11-16).


    With respect to your assertions regarding the Priesthood going to women being fundamental and the whole purpose of the Temple, I completely disagree, but this isnt the thread for addressing that issue.

    Comment by Kurt — October 6, 2005 @ 9:15 am

  25. Ask Nephi. Nephi is the only mortal on record in the Canon as having seen the Holy Ghost. I believe he made a definitive statement on the issue; although I’m happy to support Christ’s statements to the same fact as well.

    Last Lemming: The Proclamation answers your question very clearly.

    Comment by lyle stamps — October 7, 2005 @ 12:48 am

  26. Hey Kurt–Wow! Thank you! Lots to read and think about here!

    Comment by LisaB — October 7, 2005 @ 8:58 am

  27. Okay, finally getting back to this.

    Whoever said the thing about the the Spirit working in clearly male priesthood terms, could you point me to some of those? Is this what you were trying to point to, GreenEggz? Or were you just looking at various descriptors but not commenting on them? ‘Cause none of these seem gender-specific to me.

    Kurt, I’ve read through your post several times and your references. Still not convinced that we “know” that the Holy Ghost is male, from Nephi or otherwise.

    The use of the same phrase does not necessarily mean that each speaker/gospel writer (even prophet) had the same meaning in mind. For a godhead-specific example of this, look at scriptural (even BOM) use of the term Father if you want to see how confusing and not explicit that can be. Sometimes the Father is Jesus the Son, who becomes our spiritual Father and we his children and heirs of the same promise through the atonement, and sometimes the Father is God the Father.

    I still think the Nephi Tree-of-Life vision Spirit of the Lord is the pre-mortal Spirit of Christ (1 Ne 11). The fact that no one in all of scripture ever claims to see the Holy Ghost in human form (rather than in the sign of the dove or as a tongue(s)of fire) seems to support the unlikelihood that Nephi did either.

    Also, why would the Spirit disappear (v 12)and an angel take that Spirit’s place right before the vision of Christ’s birth is shown if that Spirit is not Christ’s premortal Spirit? That would make absolutely no sense.

    To me it makes more sense to assume that the Spirit of the Lord means that Jesus himself was speaking with Nephi in Spirit (pre-mortal)form. Nephi later testifies that he, and his brother Jacob, both saw Christ as Isaiah had (2 Nephi 11:2-3). The Tree of Life vision is the only account we have of Nephi seeing Christ, and his comparison to Isaiah means to me that he (and Jacob) not only saw, but also interacted with and was taught by the Savior as Isaiah had been.

    In the Tree of Life vision, the Spirit of the Lord seems to (by the timing of his disappearance) make clear that he is the Promised Messiah as the vision unfolds. The Doctrine & Covenants, Isaiah, Revelation (as just three examples) are full of examples of Jesus testifying of himself in the 3rd person.

    Also the angel’s use of the statement “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” (vs 16 & v 26) makes less sense if Nephi had not been given some understanding of Christ’s premortal glory to see what the Lord “condescended” to by entering mortality as we all do, and walking among us, and serving us.

    For any who missed the significance of this discussion, the apparently gender significant verses are 1 Ne 11:10, 13. In these two instances, the “Spirit of the Lord” Nephi refers to is twice assigned the pronoun he. I don’t know in what phase of the translation process that gender assignment occurred (ie if it is here a language issue or a theological issue), but because I believe that this is Christ rather than the Holy Ghost, the gender of the Holy Ghost remains undefined in my view.

    Even if it turned out to be the Holy Ghost, “in the form of a man” in v.12 could simply mean in human form–similar to the phrase “as one man speaketh with another” (same verse). It’s not gender exclusive.

    (Tangent–Of course you don’t think the statement about Christ not appearing to the Gentile except by the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean that Nephi could not have actually seen Christ, right? He’s ostensibly of the House of Israel first of all. Second, there are many scriptural examples of individuals who did see Christ. Of course the Holy Ghost plays a role even in those revelations. But it doesn’t mean someone can’t actually see or interact with Christ. And as stated above, Nephi states that he, Jacob, and Isaiah all saw Christ.)

    At any rate, it’s not a deal breaker for me either way. But I think it is very important that we not make assumptions that have not been revealed (ie Holy Ghost’s gender). As for the NT and the Gospel of John, my understanding is that in Greek and Hebrew all the pronouns for the Holy Spirit are female. Those may well be linguistic aberrations of their own, so I don’t know that we know how Christ referred to the Holy Spirit. And the Bible Dictionary does not assign a gender to the Holy Spirit. This seems like something to me that if it were known, it would be clearly doctrinally defined.

    Moving on, what do you all think of the phrase in 1 Nephi 20:16 “the Lord God, and his Spirit, hath sent me [Jesus Christ]“?

    What do you all think of denying the Holy Ghost being a greater offense than denying Christ? (As Peter did and was forgiven for even in advance?)

    Comment by LisaB — October 9, 2005 @ 5:02 pm

  28. Yikes! Sorry for the novel! But one more–what do ya’ll think of the salvatory ordinances being done in the name of the Father Son & Holy Ghost?

    Comment by LisaB — October 9, 2005 @ 5:03 pm

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