Three Sundays ago in Relief Society we had lesson 1 in the Joseph Fielding Smith manual. It was the lesson on Heavenly Father. I had ended up on the front row with my knitting and my baby. The first discussion in the class included listing the traits of God on the board. I sat there wondering if I had something to add while everyone else put up all the phrases I was already thinking about: all the omni-stuff, loving, merciful, etc. And then,
Male? Really? When “we are sons and daughters of Heavenly Parents” God is still male? Is Heavenly Mother not a god? When I die do I not get to be like God? If maleness is so important to understand of God, then does my femaleness preclude me from being like God? Why isn’t anyone saying anything about how ridiculous that word is up there? Why isn’t someone doing something about it? Doesn’t it feel wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong to everyone else?
My visceral reaction mush have pushed into the physical realm because the person sitting next to me looked at me and asked, “Are you ok?”
“I don’t know. Let me think about it.”
No, I am obviously not ok. What do I do about that? Do I get up and leave? I have to play the piano for closing. My baby is asleep on me. I want to knit. If I leave, will anyone know why? If I leave, will the wrongness that is on the board stay on the board without anyone saying that it’s wrong? Should I sit here in my upset-ness and ignore it? No, I can’t do that. My body is not ok and if I sit here and do nothing, I waste all this adrenaline. I need to do something with it.
I raised my hand. I was called on.
I don’t remember exactly what I said in the middle, but I know I started with, “I want to push back against the notion that God is ‘male,’” and ended saying that whatever issues we have about not talking about Heavenly Mother: “I think that is crap.”
I was now really shaking.
Another commenter made a comment, which pretty much made me feel like my testimony and dedication to the Church was questioned. I chose not to turn around to see who it was. I chose not to try to figure out whose voice it was. I just sat there, trying to ignore the whole room and knit. With shaking hands, I tried to knit.
The teacher, trying to redirect the conversation, turned to Joseph Smith-History to discuss what the First Vision tells us about God (fun fact: nothing about God’s sex).
While trying to knit, I went back over what I had said. I was nervous, I was embarrassed to have had an outburst, embarrassed at my lack of eloquence (Did I really say, “That is crap?” I am no Carol Lynn Pearson). I again wondered if I should just get up and leave. I wondered if I had just ruined any chance of having a non-activities-committee calling ever.
When Relief Society was over, I got a hug from someone. Another person came to talk to me about her own experience with feeling the Feminine Divine. I tried engaging her politely and I think I succeeded, but my brain was still on “I really don’t want to be here”-mode. I spent the night tossing and turning over “What I should have said” instead. But after a day of that, it was out of my system.
The next Sunday I was out of town for a family funeral.
The Sunday after that, I nervously went to church. It was ok. My outburst wasn’t a big deal.
Over the few weeks, some wonderful things happened. A person who hadn’t been there called me up and asked how I was doing and knew I had a hard time at church that past Sunday. I got an email from someone I didn’t expect, thanking me for “recognizing our Mother God.” I got a postcard thanking me for a prayer I gave in Sunday School. One of the older women I really admire came up to me after Relief Society this past Sunday and thanked me for saying something. I tried to apologize for being inarticulate and she just said, “I’m not an activist person, but you are and that’s ok.”
My outburst was embarrassing to me. I felt foolish and bumbling. For all the grace I lacked in that moment, I am grateful for the grace my ward has. I am grateful that my outburst was returned with a burst of love and acceptance.
This past Fast Sunday, I considered sharing my testimony of Heavenly Mother, but I decided against it, fearing more embarrassment. But if I had, I would have said that I love my Heavenly Mother as I do my Heavenly Father. Heavenly Mother is important to me because having a female god gives me hope that in the next life, I’ll have value for being myself and not my husband’s property. She makes my relationships with other women important and meaningful. If it’s not important to have a relationship with the one eternal, powerful woman we know of, then why bother having relationships with the mortal, fallible women that are my daughters, my sister, my mother, my friends, myself? I know She is waiting for us to reach out to Her. I know She is always reaching out to us. I see her in everyone.