At the end of last summer, my husband bought a wind chime on clearance. I love it. I love the beautiful sound it makes as the wind travels through it. One afternoon just after we hung it over our deck, my kids and I were sitting at the table eating lunch. A gentle breeze swayed the wind chime to chant an unfamiliar melody. Instantly, my kids were standing on their chairs yelling, “Ice cream truck! Ice cream truck!” I have to admit that I laughed at their ignorant reaction. Their ears were not yet accustomed to the wind chime, so they associated its sound with something more familiar to them.
But I was humbled later in the afternoon when I heard the wind chime’s tune and walked into the kitchen to see who had left the refrigerator door open. No, it was not the familiar warning that the fridge had been left open. Through all of this, I started thinking about how our ears become accustomed to certain sounds and it feels safe to have those familiar sounds around us. But if a new sound arises, it feels unsettling. Like Pavlov’s dogs, it is an automatic reaction to grab your phone as soon as you hear the familiar tone. But the first time your phone rings after you have changed your ring tone, you are the last to realize that it is your phone.
One familiar sound for me has been the preference for male pronouns at church. It sounds natural to say, “brethren and sisters,” “male and female,” “sons of man,” “all mankind,” etc. The scriptures were written by men, interpreted by men, and most of the main characters are men. Even our male God, who has just enough doctrinal room for female pronouns, is always referred to as “He,” “Heavenly Father,” “the Lord.”
My ears were so accustomed to these male pronouns that it was as if they didn’t exist at all. I went to church, I heard the familiar comfortable language that I had been conditioned from infancy to hear, and I acted like a Pavlovian dog, eating up the message right on cue. When I started hearing new sounds that came from a mother language, it was unsettling and a bit confusing, much like my new wind chime. I started hearing about the “divine feminine,” “Sophia,” “Heavenly Mother,” She, She, She…I started thinking about They, God the Mother and the Father. What a beautiful and powerful melody!
It was hard not to retain my natural inclination to the familiar sounds of my youth. But with practice, the words began to flow naturally from my mouth. Now I can say, “sisters and brothers,” without cringing. “Female and male” no longer sounds backward in its order. Most importantly, “Heavenly Parents” is the title that naturally comes out of my mouth without faltering over “Heavenly Fa-.” Now when other people use male only titles or pronouns, it sounds like a cacophony to my ears. But when I hear the familiar language of a feminist awakening, I have a natural reaction to it. When someone says, “Heavenly Parents,” I am naturally inclined toward them.
So I can understand why members of my ward were uncomfortable when the mother tongue came out in my sharing time lessons. I can understand why it so unnerved my bishop and Stake President that they took immediate and painfully devastating actions against me. Just as I thought the new chimes were only a warning on my fridge, they thought my new words were a warning for a slippery slope to apostasy. I spoke of Heavenly Mother and they silenced me because the sounds unnerved them. Instead of listening and trying to understand where the sound was coming from, instead of attuning their ears to the beautiful music of the divine feminine, they instantly smashed my new wind chime to the ground.
Jesus often said, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” In Church I have always heard that those who have “ears to hear” are those who are spiritually attuned to hear and understand Christ’s messages. I think the same principle applies here. Knowing and understanding the beautiful and powerful messages of the divine feminine requires us to become spiritually attuned to it. Because these are not sounds we are used to, it takes practice, patience, and understanding. My hope is that the words which describe the spiritual experience of women will someday be welcome and even commonplace in our Church. I hope that someday our youth will grow up being perfectly comfortable and familiar with the sounds made by the wind chime of the divine feminine. I hope that our leaders, who have heard the same familiar tune for so long, will listen and try to understand, before they silence. There is a beautiful new melody waiting to be heard by those who have “ears to hear.”