The Providential Significance of True Mother’s Leadership


This is Part I of a two-part article. Part II will appear next week.

By Thomas Selover

2014-04-23 15.01.09 croppedOn September 3, 2012, the Unification Church and movement entered a new and critical phase in its development. Long foretold by sociologists of religion and new religion watchers, the seonghwa (ascension) of Reverend Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the Unification movement, was accompanied and followed by anguish, confusion and realignment on various levels.

Even a brief review of the history of major religious movements shows that, in each case, the passing of the founder occasioned a fundamental transformation of the religious movement. Those movements that successfully transformed were able to survive and develop; those that did not have disappeared. The crisis of succession, or what sociologist Max Weber termed the problem of “the routinization of charisma,” would seem to be an inevitable turning point in the history of religious movements. The Unification movement is not an exception; this crisis and transformation were unavoidable.

The Unification movement is now in a very new stage of the providence, beyond what has been charted in previous understandings of the Principle and of Rev. Moon’s teachings. Even if events after his passing had unfolded in a different way, the novelty of the situation and its challenges would have been present nonetheless. Unification sources — especially the Divine Principle books, but also True Father’s speech volumes from earlier days — do not give us a comprehensive account of this time, although they do contain insights that we need. So there is a necessity for members to pray, study, and discuss together, seriously and respectfully.

True Mother’s leadership role is unprecedented in the history of world religions. For each of the main central figures — including Confucius, Buddha, the Greek philosophers, Jesus Christ, and the Prophet Muhammad, no spouse held a leading role in the ongoing development of the religious community. This fact is one of the reasons why True Mother’s leadership is controversial. There has naturally been some unfamiliarity and some opposition. In this situation, that opposition has provided an opportunity as well as a necessity to proclaim True Mother’s leadership clearly in providential terms.

The purpose of this two-part article is to put forward some elements for a case that True Mother’s leadership of the Unification movement at this time is a providential necessity.

The Meaning of Providential Necessity

Care must be taken when referring to “necessity.” The concept here is not one of logical, mathematical or causal necessity in a narrow sense. Events surely could have unfolded differently than they did, and nothing in this presentation intends to deny that fact. According to Unification teaching, the providence of God has always unfolded according to specific patterns of restoration, filtered through the degrees of fulfillment of the human portion of responsibility on the part of innumerable known and unknown contributors.

The whole of Unification theology is built on the premise of the providential necessity of True Parents. On that premise, Unification theology is distinguished from traditional Christian theology. The providential necessity of the coming of True Parents implies that their advent is necessary for salvation, restoration and recreation. Moreover, their status and role in the establishment of Cheon Il Guk, the Nation of Cosmic Peace and Unity, is unique and irreplaceable.

Since 1960, our movement has celebrated True Parents, and placed their picture together at the forefront of our devotional piety and public occasions. There are countless passages in True Father’s sermons which speak of the uniqueness and irreplaceability of True Parents, which must include True Mother as well as True Father. Recognizing that True Mother’s leadership fulfills a providential necessity also means acknowledging that if events had unfolded differently, there would have been a major providentially necessary step missing. More will be said on this point in Part II.


In expressing the uniqueness and irreplaceability of True Mother, the concept of “only-begotten daughter” (독생녀, 獨生女) that is found in both True Father’s and True Mother’s teachings has become a central issue within the Unification movement. True Mother’s announcement of her status as the “only-begotten daughter” of God is one of the points of debate and division in the movement at present. Although there are precedents for the use of this term in True Father’s speeches, it is also true that the concept is novel in terms of typical expressions of Unification theology and polity. Therefore, it requires a careful process of theological reflection.

The clearest precedent for “only-begotten daughter” is the use of the term “only-begotten son” (독생자, 獨生子) with reference to Jesus and also True Father. For Christianity, the creedal statement referring to Jesus Christ as the “only begotten son” came to mean “begotten before all worlds.” If Unification theology were to develop along the same lines, it would lead us toward the kind of Christological confusions and controversies which have beset Christian theology.

Fortunately, we have the resources of East Asian religious thought to work with as well as the biblical tradition. For example, according to traditional Buddhist sources, at the time Siddhartha Gautama — who would become the Buddha — was born, he took seven steps and spoke the following words: “In heaven and on earth, I alone am the honored one.” (천상천하 유아독존, 天上天下 唯我獨尊). These famous words contain the same word 독, 獨 (“only, solely”) as in “only-begotten.”  These words might sound like a self-centered claim, but it couldn’t be so, because, according to the tradition, the Buddha has no self. This statement could not be the result of individualistic self-consciousness or self-promotion, which would be a problem. For Unification theology also, a perfected person is not always asking “what about me?” Instead, such a perfected person asks what he or she can do for the sake of others.

The famous first words of the Buddha were often quoted by True Father, and the Divine Principle text also quotes this saying in the section on the value of a person who has fulfilled the purpose of creation:

Every person who has completed the purpose of creation is thus a unique existence in the cosmos. We can thus affirm the truth in the Buddha’s saying, “In heaven and on earth, I alone am the honored one.” (Exposition of Divine Principle, p. 164)

We can say, then, that the term 독 獨 in “I alone am the honored one” (唯我獨尊) means that Buddha is the uniquely awakened one, who then sets out to awaken others. Perhaps True Father as only-begotten son (독생자, 獨生子) and True Mother as only-begotten daughter (독생녀, 獨生女) can also be understood similarly as “uniquely born” or “born solely from Heaven.”

Another significant passage in East Asian religious thought that has the term 독獨 is the first chapter of the Confucian “Doctrine of the Mean” (중용, 中庸), containing the concept of shin dok (신독 慎獨) as characterizing the noble or profound person. Literally, shin dok can be translated as “being watchful and careful when alone.”

The contemporary Confucian scholar, Tu Weiming, explains shin dok more fully in terms of “vigilant solitariness,” even when the profound person is surrounded by others. Perhaps this Confucian concept of “vigilant solitariness” can also shed light on the nuances of what it means to be “only begotten.” Though she has had very little time physically alone since the beginning of her mission in 1960, True Mother’s life has been characterized by careful alertness and lonely solitariness.


True Mother speaking at Belvedere on June 5, 2016.

Preparation for Leadership

As detailed in numerous sermons and public talks, True Father deliberately raised True Mother to fulfill her providential and public role. He speaks particularly of preparing her during the crucial first seven years of their mission together as the True Parents, from 1960 to 1967. True Mother began the indemnity course from the position of servant of servants, just as True Father had done earlier. True Mother followed the course laid out for her, consciously, willingly and with determination.

To restore the original position of Eve was a world-historical task. According to the patterns of the providence of restoration recounted in Unification theology, there is first the restoration of Adam, and then Eve. There is an asymmetry between the positions of Adam and Eve during the course of restoration.

The complex course walked by True Father and True Mother since 1960 is a theme for careful, extensive and thorough study, beyond the scope of this article. However, a key point is that True Father proclaimed True Mother as equal with him. At least since the time of the 30,000 Couples Blessing in 1992, True Father and True Mother have stood in equal positions. This is Father’s teaching.

From the equal status of True Father and True Mother, many other implications follow. It becomes clear that the victory of an only-begotten daughter, along with the victory of an only-begotten son, was necessary for the True Parents, unique in history and in the cosmos, to be fully established.

True Mother as Queen

True Mother is not a successor to True Father in terms of leadership; on the contrary, True Mother’s leadership is the continuation of True Parents’ leadership.

That continuation was edified on Foundation Day, when True Mother appeared in royal robes with crown and scepter. Understanding the providential necessity of True Mother’s leadership requires investigating and upholding not only her status as True Mother but also as True Queen.

True Father clearly explained the importance of True Mother’s position as Queen, in the following words:

This daughter [True Mother], who was 17 years old when she was blessed to me, must become the queen (여왕). She must advance to the position of the Queen of the Heavenly Kingdom (하늘나라의 여왕). Therefore, after our Holy Wedding she had to go through the positions of wife, mother and grandmother, and rise up to the position of queen. When I refer to her as True Mother, it is because she is the mother who represents the heavenly nation. When I say she is my wife, it means that she represents the king and therefore must be attended as if attending the king. (Cham Bu Mo Gyeong, p. 206 [Book, 593-216, 2008-06-16])

As is clear from this passage, the title True Queen is not simply an honorific term for the wife of the True King. The concept of True Queen includes within it the qualifications for leadership. In other words, it is providentially important that the Queen (여왕) be able to actually reign. In order to manifest and realize her leadership, it has been providentially necessary for her reign to be put into actual practice.♦

Dr. Thomas Selover (UTS Class of 1977) is a professor at Cheongshim Graduate School of Theology in Korea. He received his doctorate from Harvard University Divinity School in comparative religion and Confucian thought and has taught at universities and colleges in the U.S., Canada, China, and Korea.

12 thoughts on “The Providential Significance of True Mother’s Leadership

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  1. A question for Dr. Selover:

    Does the title “only begotten son/daughter” refer to an innate characteristic or is it based on specific accomplishments; how is it earned?

    Thank you for an interesting presentation.

    1. Johann, thanks for your question. The way I understand it is that “only begotten son/daughter” is an innate characteristic in the sense that it begins from conception/birth, but becomes a matter of conscious awareness through accomplishment.

  2. True Mother has referred to “only begotten daughter” not only for herself, but for Eve; the woman who should have been found at the time of Jesus; and for the woman who should have been found in TF’s original course before True Mother.

    Also, note that saying that the Original Begotten Daughter must be found, we can take recourse in True Father’s words that ‘If there is an original begotten daughter, there must be an original begotten son,” and his 1993 words in Blessing and Ideal Family, “In the history of searching for one man, if you have reached the point of finding that man, then as the next step you must search for a woman. The movement which proposed to search for a woman was the Unification Church we have today.” “If a perfect man is born, a perfect woman will be born.” “The third Adam comes in the position of Adam before the Fall and has to search for Eve before the Fall. The third Adam must find the unfallen Eve and have the Feast of the Lamb.” “Because Adam and Eve fell and lost their family foundation, another representing perfected Adam meets the perfected Eve and has a family. This is the Feast of the Lamb.”

    In essence, True Mother’s teaching is complimentary to True Father’s, just discussing the feminine side of preparation for the Feast of the Lamb (the Only Begotten Daughter), versus the masculine side (Only Begotten Son, or Messiah).

  3. Dr. Selover makes two exceedingly important points in his article. The first has to do with the Only Begotten Daughter (OBD) and Only Begotten Son (OBS). He basically defines OBD/OBS in functional rather than ontological terms. As he says, if Unification theology were to develop along the lines of Christianity, asserting that OBD/OBS means “begotten before all worlds,” Unificationism would be subject to the Christological confusions and controversies which have beset Christian theology, i.e., debates over divinity and humanity. Drawing on East Asian traditions, Dr. Selover rightly states that “only begotten” has more to do with being in a position to uniquely serve others. True Mother’s continual expression of concern for the world’s 7 billion people is consistent with this.

    The second important point has to do with succession. Many Unificationists, including those who strongly support True Mother, mistakenly regard her as True Father’s successor. Dr. Selover again rightly points out that “True Mother is not a successor to True Father in terms of leadership; on the contrary, True Mother’s leadership is the continuation of True Parents’ leadership.” As he implies, the Unification tradition will be impoverished if her leadership, as True Father’s, is not recognized, affirmed and implemented.

  4. Good try, Thomas, and well-written. But it seems to me you ignore key words of Father like everyone else. In particular, I’m reminded of Father saying that while he and Mother are equal, they are still in different dimensions. We can’t simply tune out what’s inconvenient to hear. We need to fully understand what Father meant in every case. No discussion of Mother’s equality with Father is complete without discussing what Father meant with his “different dimensions” remark.

    But this whole discussion movement-wide really borders on the silly. First, to not understand Mother, a priori, as a co-creator with Father, as Divine Principle teaches us, is just abject obstinance. The question confronted by many Unificationists properly is whether or not Mother is continuing in the same course now, today, as expected by Father. That’s where the controversy lies for such people, and what needs resolving. I’ve argued that no one can properly resolve that concern without raising their heart to where it can cognize God’s heart, and raising their mind to properly cognize Divine Principle. Otherwise, people remain simply bleating sheep complaining about dew on the grass. Guessing — no matter how educated — simply won’t do. Certain knowledge is demanded.

    Second, members are plainly confusing themselves over the meaning of “only-begotten.” Divine Principle tells us that every human being is a co-creator with God. Do we really need a philosophical, theological or ontological discussion on the meaning of “co-“? So in this regard, the people fighting with Mother are fighting over the perception (rightly or wrongly) that Mother means she is the *only* begotten daughter of God, and not simply the *first.* Father was pretty plain about the fact that he expects all of us now and in the future to exceed anything he accomplished in heart or deed. He told us that human beings are capable of being even greater than God, of being even a parent to God. Therefore, accepting Father’s words at face value (along with DP that states categorically human beings are to be co-creators with God), it seems rather facile to put together an appropriate understanding of “only-begotten.” Mother’s concern for humanity is not even relevant to the “only-begotten” issue, because there are other people who have been at least *as* concerned for humanity and have practically done more under worse conditions. In any case, Mother recognizes Jesus as the first “only-begotten son” of God, and Father the second. Therefore, the notion that Mother means she’s the “only” as opposed to the “first” is reasonably (though not entirely) refuted.

    Third, I myself remain firmly of the mind that Father never meant for him or Mother to be actual, real monarchs over human society. Mainly because it inherently conflicts with Divine Principle and the Heart of God and humanity. Father lacked language to really express what goes on in God’s heart and what better implies to fallen people the magisterium of God’s Principle and the ultimacy of True Love than Christian-based references to monarchy? However, human beings will resent and fight against monarchy till the end of time. Not because they’re evil or fallen, rather because humanity was not created to live under a monarch but as co-creators with God as individual truth bodies wholly governed by their conscience aligned with God’s heart. That simple concept in Divine Principle should be enough to dispel the very idea of monarchy, regardless of Father’s words. He told us repeatedly that Divine Principle and true love are that to which we must align ourselves, not to him. He told us if he ever taught a principle that was not Divine Principle, we must not follow him. He told us that about 80% of his words were direct from God, meaning the other 20% were Father’s own derived understandings, imagery and so forth. He told us to not trust him 100% because he was human and prone to error, just as are we. He told us that he is a servant of God, just as are we. He told us to focus 100% on God and God alone through our conscience. And many more such things.

    The people who are in conflict with Mother have many valid concerns. Those absolutely must be divorced from the crazy talk by the same people else we’re essentially throwing out the baby with the bath water and we’ll never get the resolutions we need to confidently move into the right future. Father didn’t work to create a new, higher level of Christianity with a monarchical couple (True Parents) instead of a monarchical prince (Jesus). He worked to liberate God and humanity by fulfilling the purpose of creation through creating the first human family centered on Principled true love and as a model for replication, toward creating a familial world. Even if that happened only symbolically because neither Father nor Mother nor their children were capable of reaching that level, it is still a seminal accomplishment and the keystone for others to build the ideal world…as Father said others would in fact do.

    We must move onward to the next stage, which Father already explained. Absent that, our movement is only going to split further. When Mother dies, it will separate like blood in a centrifuge and what happens next is anybody’s guess. But expect two things from it: 1) it will mirror the same human nature we’ve witnessed over the last 5,000 years of recorded human history; and 2) it will follow the path of organized, orthodox, leader-centric religion.

    The bottom line is that we have a duty to understand these issues today and to properly educate our 2nd and 3rd generations. Our key to unlock such understanding is Divine Principle rooted in unconditional true love…not made-up theology or personal vendettas or ignorant mulishness.

    1. Christopher, thank you for your critical reflection. No doubt, there is more to be understood. I meant it when I said that “there is a necessity for members to pray, study, and discuss together, seriously and respectfully.” I would appreciate a reference for the “different dimensions” remark.

      You asked, “Do we really need a philosophical, theological or ontological discussion on the meaning of ‘co-‘?” I would say, yes we do. That would lead to a serious and fruitful discussion about how our individual and collective responsibility fits with that of True Parents, in practice.

      I agree that True Parents did not come to establish monarchy as we have known it (see Part II). But on the other hand, I don’t think we can say that “Father lacked a language” and so used monarchical language, because it’s not only his words but also his ritual actions that are involved. What those rituals imply, and do not imply, for our future is an important area for further research and reflection.

      Lastly, I do not believe we can “properly educate our 2nd and 3rd generations” until we invite them to think with us in community about these important and realistic issues.

    2. The thought of different dimensions is perhaps explained by True Parents, being male and female, living in different “worlds.” The Bible teaches that the Messiah will come as the King of Kings, so there is a lot of royalty and monarchy there; if you have visited the Heavenly Palace, you have experienced “monarchy,” but of course one of a heavenly nature. I agree with the concept of “first” instead of the adverb “only” with regards to “begotten,” and your stress on co-creatorship, of which “royalty” may also be an aspect again. We should not become divided as a result of different translations, semantics or transcriptions. Deep in our hearts we all appreciate and long for royalty, and we promise to realize it in the Pledge too. Our challenge is to keep our feet on the ground, as we all become kings and queens, and not to forget, the rest of mankind and the suffering world.

  5. Dr. Selover,

    As a professor at Cheongshim Graduate School of Theology, I’m afraid you are going to have to write many of these articles, trying to help some of us to understand TM’s position. Just like Dr. Wilson, Dr. Hendricks, and others, you will blamed for standing up for what is right — just like TM.

    Thank you. Waiting for Part II next week.

  6. Excellent article, but no doubt throwing more “fuel on the fire” of the doubters — who will doubtlessly endeavor to continue to throw subterfuge into the mix with silly. But thank you for the effort.

  7. While True Mother is the only-begotten Daughter of God, True Father isn’t the only-begotten Son of God, for before Him, it was Jesus.

    1. As I tried to show in the article, the “only” here means something more like “solely” or “uniquely”. So, it would be appropriate to say that True Father is the only-begotten Son of God, and so is Jesus.

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