Guest Post: Parenthood and Godhood

Jessawhy (one of my favorite AZ bloggers) sent in this thoughtful guest post about gender, parenthood, and godhood with some thought-provoking questions at the end. Enjoy!

In less than a year of interaction on the bloggernacle, starting with Feminist Mormon Housewives, I’ve learned a great deal about how other Mormon women feel about feminist issues in the church. From what I can tell, there is a huge variation in comfort with the patriarchal leadership, the definition of roles for men/women and mothers/fathers, and even scouting’s place in the church.

 

I’ve read and participated in countless threads that have resonated with me, or infuriated me, and sometimes both. Still, I don’t feel like I have a solid stand on many of these issues. There seem to be so many doctrines and emotions that complicate my understanding of my importance in the church, and in God’s plan.

This weekend’s General Conference was an example of how confused I feel by what is taught about gender roles in the church. My unsettled feelings are sometimes put in words by various church leaders, although I’m not sure that’s what they expected. For example, the issue of parenthood was a focus of a few talks during conference. Although I didn’t hear all of Sister Beck’s controversial talk, she allegedly focused on the importance of parenthood, but did not mention fatherhood. In contrast, I heard several talks about the Godhead, and specifically God the Father. These talks reverently sought to help us understand the love of our Heavenly Father, his divine Parenthood, and how we are his children. Neither of these doctrines are new, but they came together for me in a new, confusing way today.

Although my concerns are pretty broad, today’s question is:
Why is a mother the ultimate parent in this life, but God the Father is the heavenly parent we should know and emulate?

Sometimes I feel like there is some big piece of this puzzle that I am missing. Does anyone else feel this way? Maybe you did, but you located the missing puzzle piece, or rearranged other pieces to create another image? I think many of you have come to terms with this idea and don’t see it the same way I do, so please help me understand the peace that you have found, or the hope that you have.

I honestly don’t think I’m looking for a feminist fight here, but I see such a contradiction in these doctrines that I’m really struggling in what to believe right now.

EmilyCC

EmilyCC works for a national non-profit and lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her spouse and three children. She is a former editor of Exponent II and a founding blogger at The Exponent.

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  1. Mike says:

    Thanks for the honest question (rather than the bashing that’s been going on on both sides of the debate on this talk). I disagree with your premise, however, that Sister Beck’s talk was on parenthood. I also didn’t catch all of it (with 2 kids under 4–conference bingo doesn’t work for my kids, by the way), but from what I gathered it was about motherhood, not parenthood in general. Just as there have been talks on Fatherhood in the past. I don’t think that mothers are considered the ultimate parent in this life by the church. The proclamation on the family makes it clear that parents are equal partners, and we hear talks on both motherhood and fatherhood, and parenthood in general, all the time. If Sister Beck’s talk came across as contradicting that, then surely her talk was misunderstood.

  2. Caroline says:

    Jessawhy,
    I’ve had similar questions for years now. Women are told over and over again that motherhood is their hightest calling in life, that their primary responsibility in the family is to nurture children, etc. That old (faulty) analogy says it all: “Men have priesthood, and women have motherhood.”

    Of course, there is also mention these days that men’s primary responsibility is fatherhood, but that is IMO diluted by the focus on men as priesthood holders.

    So anyway, I too see that huge discrepancy. Woman’s primary purpose, role, and goal in life is motherhood…. so where is she in the eternities? Why are we encouraged to have absolutely no relationship with our Mother in Heaven?

    I think this is a problem. In my ideal world, both women and men would have priesthood responsibilities, and in the eternities both women and men would have relationships with their children.

    In the meantime, in my family at least, I embrace the principle of equal partnership: we both take care of children, we both lead spiritual practices in the home. (Ask me someday about how Mike and I blessed our baby.)

  3. Chelle says:

    Wow, what an interesting post. I don’t think I ever thought of it that way, but what you say makes sense, or at least maybe helps me to understand why I have some confusion and disconnect on these issues as well. Sister Beck’s talk was on mothering, as I understand it, and yes there are talks given on parenthood, there are not as many as on fatherhood (I just did a search on LDS.org and my hunch was confirmed). In general when things such as the women and the priesthood and parenting are discussed, I have heard church leaders say things said like “men have the priesthood, women have motherhood,” which I don’t think makes sense.

    Interestingly too, when looking at the talks that came up for fatherhood and motherhood on LDS.org, the ones for fatherhood are mostly about leading and presiding, etc, and the ones for motherhood are about nurturing and homemaking. But if we are all trying to emulate our Father in Heaven, where does that leave us?
    It seems that we need to all work on supposed feminine and masculine traits in order to truly be like Him. Not in some sort of “everyone ends up with no gender”, but that if we truly want to be like God, maybe we do need to embrace some of the characteristics from both genders.

  4. Deborah says:

    Jessawhy:

    I take great comfort and hope in the depiction of Christ in the scriptures. He embodies both male/female characteristics — the scriptures contain a great deal of explicit messianic “mother imagery” (The Book of Mormon language of “I will gather you as a hen gathereth her chickens” is my favorite.)

    That’s why a focus on Christ — such as Elder Wirthlin’s beautiful talk — do a great deal, in my mind, to repair the gender divide. Wirthlin said, among other things, “At the final day, the Savior will not ask the nature of our callings. He will not inquire about our material blessings or fame. He will ask if we ministered to the sick, gave food and drink to the hungry, visited those in prison, or gave succor to the weak.” That language of ministering, succoring, and literal feeding would seem to better fit a traditional talk on motherhood.

    If we believe Christ to be a reflection of his heavenly *parents* — and our Godhead doctrine that Elder Holland reemphasized beautifully allows for this — then he is the best of Mother and Father. That’s where I find personal peace . . .

  5. Jessawhy says:

    Mike:
    I’m glad you liked the question. I probably shouldn’t have just pinned my comments about parenthood on Sis. Beck’s talk, but like you said, it was getting the most debate and was on my mind. Chelle’s point that talks on fatherhood are more rare than motherhood, and the idea that mother’s calling is nurturing is what led me to consider women as the ultimate parent, but I understand that you disagree. I think it’s intuitive (and has been said in conference in some ways like this) Mother’s have the most important role in shaping their children (nurturing, etc) Fathers seem to have a more distant, presiding, providing protecting role. Of course this varies widely in practice, and my husband is so loved by his sons that every night when he comes home from work there is 10 minutes of squealing and celebrating “Daddy!” He is not a lesser parent in anyway, and I really hope that this is true for most families.
    But, based on the way things are outlined in the Fam Proc, and elsewhere, it seems that it wouldn’t necessarily be so.
    Caroline:
    I’m glad to know others have the same questions, and also glad that you have found balance in your marriage. (I am assuming your DH Mike is not the poster from above?) I’d like to hear more about how you blessed your baby, because I’m expecting in the next few weeks and want to be part of blessing our baby.
    Chelle: Nice to see you here 🙂
    Thanks for the research, I had the same hunch. It does seem that we should develop characteristics of each gender to be more like God. I think Christ definitely showed the way in that regard. But that brings up an interesting point, if God the Father is perfect in all characteristics, is there a need for another example, a female God for the women of the world to look to?

  6. Jessawhy says:

    Deborah,
    It looks like we cross posted. Thanks for your comments. I have heard similar explanations about Christ as the ultimate example, representing His Father and Mother. Unfortunately, I haven’t read anything about that in the scriptures. Does Christ mention that he has a Mother in Heaven?
    At the risk of sounding blasphemous, I must admit that I often doubt the reality of a Mother in Heaven, especially one who is equally yoked with God the Father. The sources I have seen for such ideas have been more like logical inferences than direct revelation (but I am happy to read more about it from those who have better resources).
    I agree that we can all learn from Christ how to be more perfect in this life, and that is really all that we need to know. These other issues aren’t as important as our commitment to be perfected in Christ. Perhaps discussions about men’s and women’s roles miss the point of our ultimate, similar destinations. Thanks for your comments.

  7. madhousewife says:

    I’ve long doubted the reality of a Heavenly Mother. To me this has always been the most troubling feminist issue in the church. Whoopi Goldberg said she loved Star Trek when it first ran because it was the only show that showed black people in the future. Mormonism doesn’t show women in the future. Consequently I have my doubts about a lot of doctrines in the church. Stuff that makes sense on the surface doesn’t make a lot of sense when I really think about the implications. Obviously, that’s where faith comes in, and I get that. I’m willing to have faith. I just get annoyed when people talk as though there isn’t a logical problem.

    I’m one of the few (I guess) who liked Sis. Beck’s GC talk. I liked it because it was challenging and had more practical application to this life. I didn’t care for her talk at RS conference the week before. I felt like she was talking around issues rather than addressing them–a lot of wink wink nudge nudge, you-know-what-I-mean phrasing. She would say stuff like “we understand our role as women” or “we know the value of our role”–sorry, I can’t remember her exact phrasing–but she spoke as though it were just a given that LDS women know their role in the eternities. I would think, “No, Sister Beck, I don’t understand or know any such thing.” I just get annoyed when people assume that stuff. Only mildly annoyed, but still–annoyed.

  8. alisa says:

    Great post and question. First, you mention Sister Beck’s talk. I haven’t been on the Bloggernacle to see what’s going around, but I want to say that I felt totally left out of her audience. “Mothers who know…” was repeated over and over. I guess I’m waiting for a talk that’s to “women of faith” or “women who really want to have faith” rather than those who already know with a surety.

    I think that the Church is going toward dividing men’s and women’s roles as administrative and nurturing, respectively. Men preside. Women comfort. I listened to the talk by Elder Hales (I think it was him) on personal revelation, and noticed that most of his examples of revelation were about putting so-an-so in this Church position. Very administrative. Some of the best administrators I’ve known outside Church are female, but I think that the Church doesn’t really see this as something women are talented at.

    So God is a grand administrator: organizing matter and words, setting up organized religion, giving revelation about who fills which slot, etc. I guess I can say I don’t feel nurtured by God, or my bishop, or anyone in these administrative roles. That’s not their job. Maybe we’re not given the opportunity to know our Heavenly Mother because God has placed women here on earth to do Her work. I just don’t know where that puts those of us women who are less nurturing.

  9. Janna says:

    Caroline you wrote,”In my ideal world, both women and men would have priesthood responsibilities, and in the eternities both women and men would have relationships with their children.” Amen, and the best marriages I see in the church already follow this model, whether they put it in those terms or not. I am single, and for the last year, I’ve “interviewed” a few couples about what makes their marriage good (respectful, productive, mutually beneficial, etc.) as a way to assuage my fears about marriage – and the bottom line is that it always comes down to some iteration of your ideal.

    Alisa, you wrote, “Maybe we’re not given the opportunity to know our Heavenly Mother because God has placed women here on earth to do Her work.” This is an interesting idea.

    I was given an assignment in a BYU religion class to research a gospel doctrine of my choosing, and then write a paper about it. Prior to writing our papers, we announced our topics in class, and all you could hear were my classmates shifting around uneasily in their chairs after I announced that my topic was Heavenly Mother. I chose Heavenly Mother because I thought, “Gee, I don’t know much about her.” I hadn’t meant to be provocative. I should’ve realized something was up when all but 2 of my resources (one was “Oh My Father” and the other was an article in Exp II in which Spencer W. Kimball was quoted discussing her) were in the locked files at the BYU library. I had to get special permission to read the writings of the Snow family (Lorenzo, Eliza, and Erasmus) who wrote extensively about her. The only comment on my paper from my professor was “Check your resources.”

    I reread the paper about a year ago, and was appalled. I posited the “Heavenly Father is protecting her” and “She’s just TOO sacred” arguments, and I seemed content because I didn’t question whether these theories could be attempts to keep the women quiet. Now, I do.

  10. LauraandAndy says:

    Concerning the discussion about having a heavenly mother: I think the church puts more emphasis on ideas sometimes when they are socially acceptable. Perhaps the reality of the situation is we don’t focus very much on our Heavenly Mother because there are multiple Heavenly Mothers and one Heavenly Father. My personal belief is that sometimes the church’s intent on withholding information is to avoid negative publicity, and other times it is divinely inspired and for our own benefit. (i.e.-It sort of bugged me that we have taken this long to notably acknowledge the Mountain Meadows massacre. It seemed the obvious motive was the release of September Dawn. On the other hand, I have always wondered whether blacks were unable to hold the priesthood until well after the Civil Rights movement to ensure the continual growth of the church and to wait until the members and the racist attitudes of society at large had changed enough to be accepting of such a revelation.) I think it’s difficult to conjecture why there isn’t more discussion about our Heavenly Mother, but I would like to think that it isn’t because she or they are actually inferior. The things we learn about women’s potential in the temple have brought me great amount of solace concerning my divine potential as a woman.

  11. Chelle says:

    I love the Whoopi Goldberg comment. I completely understand where she is coming from on that. I think this is my biggest issue with the church, and started the general turn of events toward other crisis of faith. If there are no women in the future to look toward (ie Heavenly Mother) and all we have is conjecture, or ideas from men, things that have changed over time, or statements that previous church leaders made, but current ones don’t affirm, then I feel like I might as well make up what I hope it will be like and go with that. That has brought me the most peace so far, but I am far from certain I am correct. I know the temple helps some, but for me it just brings more angst and personal conflict.

    I think it is incredibly difficult to not have someone who is like you to emulate though, which is why, if there is a “hidden” Heavenly Mother, it doesn’t work very well for me. And I do feel comfort from Heavenly Father at times, I think that He can be nurturing, and all of those things that we women are told to be, but if I am told that I can’t ultimately be like Him, then what CAN I be like?

  12. mraynes says:

    Jessawhy, what an interesting question and one that I don’t have a particularly good answer for. The doctrine of Heavenly Mother is somewhat of a paradox for me because I find it incredibly comforting but I also feel a lot of pain that She is not more of a presence in our mortal lives. I too, have moments of doubt on whether She exists or is as important as we are told She is.

    My husband floated a theory by me a couple of days ago that I thought was interesting, but that we both agree, is deeply flawed. As a father, he often feels left out and unimportant because I am the only person our baby boy wants. Perhaps our relationship with our Heavenly parents is similar; we have a deep and loving relationship with our Mother, but our relationship with our Father is a little more distant. His idea was that our Heavenly Mother has willingly stepped out of the limelight so that we could develop a stronger relationship with our Heavenly Father.

    Like I said before, there is part of this theory that does not sit well with either of us, but it is difficult to articulate. We all have a primal need for our Mother and I have a hard time believing that our Mother would so willingly cut Herself off from Her children. (I recommend listening to the Margaret Toscano interview on Mormon Stories, I have never heard the complexities of Heavenly Mother expressed so powerfully).

    Ironically, I had to become a mother in order to feel my Heavenly Mother presence. I haven’t figured out what this means but I am grateful to feel Her in my life, teaching me how to be a better woman.

  13. cchrissyy says:

    1) Pr Beck’s talk wasn’t about parents of women, she only adressed mothers. once I read it, i realized that and lost my frustation of leaving dads and non-mothers out, it just wasn’t meant for them.

    2) I’ve noticed what you mean about Hf and HM and often joke that in life, women are stuck with the kdis while the dad goes out to make, earn, lead in the world, but in eternity it’s the mom who goes out and dad gets stuck dealing with us kids all day 🙂
    that is NOT my actual belief but hey, it releases tension and saves me from having to explain what I really think deep down 🙂

    and i think in life both sexes are supposed to emulate Christ, both in his strengths and leadership and work and his compassion and service and sensitivity. there have been great blog posts this year (by JNS/RT?) about how the virtues aren’t gendered, it’s all about becoming Christlike and not just taking after his “feminine” traits and your husband takes on Christ’s “masculine” traits but we are ALL in need of developing ALL those qualities.
    I think our society, restoration-time society, and Biblical society have limited our vision severely.

  14. Dr. B says:

    I have read the comments here with great interest. I have a different perspective on the matter. I see the talks about men exercising their priesthood are mostly about the brethren encouraging men to take a role that few do. Most leaders in the church are busy with work, and church assignments. The spiritual leadership is suppose to come from the father but I find in most homes that the wife is the spiritual leader also. I don’t speak for every other supposed male leader but I can speak from my experience and observation. Mothers can be both nurturing and strong leaders that really do share in the priesthood. I have had my wife as my home teaching companion more years than other priesthood holders. We have prayed together and participated in healing sick children.

    I know this argument is disliked by feminists but I still feel men would muddy the name of HM if she was the focus of our attention.

    Mormon authorities are used to mirroring biblical patterns. The Bible and Book of Mormon are patrarchial in nature. We try to replicate those patterns. Little is known about women throughout scriptures. I am not responsible for those patterns but we seem to follow the same conventions even today. The role of women is admittedly poorly defined because little is mentioned nor revealed.

  15. Chelle says:

    dr. b,

    That is great you have an equal relationship with your wife in many aspects. I think the thing that seems to be difficult for many is that it doesn’t seem like the obvious ideal, especially in the afterlife.

    How do you think men would muddy the name of HM if she were talked about? I’m honestly curious, as this is an argument that is brought up often. I know that HF is often denigrated, which is obviously a very bad thing, but I think we are still better off for having heard about and talking about Him. It reminds me of the Muslim idea about veiling women to shelter them, (which is their religious preference, and I have nothing against people doing it if they are not pressured into it), but I don’t personally agree with the premise.
    But maybe I am missing something.

    You’re very right there is very little in the scriptures on women, so maybe we do go by patterns and conventions, neither of which satisfy me much. I would rather go by revelation. It seems like at times we have none of the above, so we read a lot into the silence as well.

  16. Starfoxy says:

    I’m not sure where I stand on this either. Using your puzzle imagery I’ve got a bunch of pieces that may not even be part of the same puzzle, but they seem like they’ll fit together alright if I can find the bits that connect them all. I’ll share a few of them, though they’re all pretty half-baked. (My husband’s comment on these ideas are “that’s a pretty bleak view.” but it’s what makes be feel better.)

    First is the idea that women have some very very important task to fulfill in order for the plan of salvation to succeed (you only get one guess what that task might be). To ensure that this task is adequately performed our choices on earth had to be severely circumscribed. I think that nearly any widespread knowledge of Heavenly Mother would have blown away any attempts to keep women’s choices limited. It’s the opposite of the most common theory- that Heavenly Mother has to be secret to keep her from being degraded- in this theory Heavenly Mother has to be secret to make sure the rest of us will be sufficiently degraded.

    My other idea is more difficult to explain. I tend to think that the common notions about ‘flesh’ are misguided at best, and probably outright false. We often think of the body as an object our spirit inhabits. A person’s spirit is the entire substance of their being, and the body is this fantastic, yet unweildy tool that the spirit must conquer and subdue. Some people will even go so far as to say that the body is essentially a seagull around the neck of the spirit, and once they are free of it their true nature and they can be perfect, and happy, and exalted. I don’t think this is the case. I believe that the body and the spirit are two co-equal entities that must merge themselves into one being- just as a family is made of two equals coming together as one so is the soul made of two equals coming together as one. Women minister to the flesh, men minister to the spirit. This formulation can be perfectly just and fair when the body is as important, valuable, and inherently good as the spirit. Since we tend to see the body as fallen and the spirit as exalted we are prone to take a dim view of those who’s duty is the care of bodies.

    And my last thought is, I suspect that much of the gospel as we have it now just isn’t for women. Women can get by on it, we can get the important ordniances and the vital knowledge we need to get to the next step, but we all know that there are vast amounts of knowledge, powers, etc that we just don’t have now. Who knows what the nature, locus and meaning of those things might be.

  17. Jessawhy says:

    So many interesting comments, so little time 🙂
    madhousewife: I thought exactly the same thing about Sis. Beck’s talk last week, that she was just leaving us hanging on important definitions of women’s roles. (though she did specifically mention getting married and having babies) I’m glad you liked her talk in conference, I didn’t catch all of it. It’s interesting to hear another woman doubts the existence of a heavenly mother. I suggested it on other threads and didn’t get much of a response. For me, the trouble is that if the Godhead is complete and perfect and all male, then there is nothing missing. We heard in conference that we are not polytheist, so to say that we believe in a God the Mother (equivalent to God the Father) seems to contradict that concept. (then there’s the idea that Jesus and the Holy Ghost would have wives, etc) It’s all so beyond anything we discuss doctrinally. But, like you said about Whoopi Goldberg, we have to see something of ourselves in the future, even in eternity. That’s where my feminist crisis started, when I realized that there were almost no women leaders in the church to admire and emulate in a similar way that we do the Q of 12 and 1st Pres. Even this last conference, I think only 2 women spoke in 10 hours of conference. That in itself is a statement. I also think that’s part of the reason why Sis. Beck’s talk is so controversial, she’s the one we’re supposed to look up to and identify with. With dozens of male GA’s, each with different personalities, strengths, etc. it is easier to find one that speaks to you. For women leaders in the church, they have to speak for all the women in a way that male leaders don’t have to speak for all the men. (I hope that makes sense) So, considering that, I think I’m more inclined to give Sis. Beck a break. She has a hard job.

    Alisa: (hi there!)
    Good point about men in the church being administrators. I’ve been reading Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling, and it strikes me how different the church was then under Joseph’s leadership. There is so much bureaucracy now, I think he would be shocked. I guess my only comment to your idea that men and women have skills that cross the gender divide is that we are all supposed to be perfect (nurturers or administrators) so in the end maybe it will all even out. . . But of course that doesn’t help now when the nurturing husband is administrating and the organized wife is nurturing. Hmmm.

    Janna:
    I’m interested to read your paper (and your sources) on Heavenly Mother. That sounds like very tricky research. What do you think your professor thought of your thesis? How would you approach the paper differently today?

    LauraandAndy:
    I can see why the church wouldn’t focus on multiple Heavenly Mothers (much like it doesn’t focus on polygamy in the afterlife), but I’m not sure that gives me comfort. The scenario you describe makes me think these women are somehow less qualified and less perfect than Heavenly Father. Maybe that’s a stretch, or maybe there’s something else about that premise that bothers me, but I can’t put my finger on it. Still, we have plenty of doctrines that are a PR nightmare that we don’t officially repudiate, so why not try to explain one that affects more than half the membership of the church?

    Chelle:
    Nice summary, exactly my question. It’s like we’re related or something.

    Mraynes:
    I really appreciated your post at fMh on Heavenly Mother. I hope that there are many women that have had experiences like yours. I haven’t, but perhaps one day I will have faith to feel the love of Heavenly Mother. I’ve also thought about how short this life is compared to eternity, and that perhaps there is something for us to learn with an all-male deity that we can’t learn any other way. It’s definitely a possibility, and one that keeps me going. I’ve also heard Margaret Tuscano’s podcast, and agree that she has some really good points, and I found myself agreeing with her a lot more than I expected to.

    cchrissy:
    I think we’ve discussed some of your ideas throughout this thread. The joke about men and women changing roles is one I’ve heard before, but it seems to contradict the FamProc where we’re told our gender roles are eternal (I believe this includes the nurturing vs. presiding/providing/protecting.)
    Christlike virtues are absolutely non-gendered, but sometimes they are described that way in church, which is another sticky issue for those of us who are confused about these things.

    Dr. B.
    Thanks for joining the conversation. Like you, I see many homes where spiritual leadership is shared between spouses. I’m particularly interested in your description of healing your children with the help of your wife, and her being your HT companion. These are good ways to help balance what can be a very patricarchical family structure, but I wonder how many families practice them. My husband isn’t comfortable with my participating in healing children, and I’m not sure where to refer him to change his mind.
    Also, I agree that we do mirror the bible in our church set-up. But, like Chelle says, I hope that we can rely on revelation as well, in matters like this.

    Thanks everyone for your comments, this has been a great conversation with many interesting viewpoints.

  18. Jessawhy says:

    Starfoxy:
    I’ve had to read your comment three times to really take in all that you’re saying. (you should do a post on these, btw)
    First: Women are given fewer choices (bingo) and a very important role in the P of S. It makes sense. I was about to say that this could have been solved by giving women a greater sex drive, but that wouldn’t have encouraged her to stick around long enough nurture her children. Your theory does make me feel better, but part of me wonders how the idea of agency factors in here. Maybe agency within the bounds of a larger plan for women?
    Second: I’ve thought a lot about this idea of body and spirit as a perfect whole, although I think I’ve reversed the two in my mind. I would certainly like to see more discussion on the divinity of the physical body. I believe it was Elder Holland in “Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments” (taped to the door of every BYU Freshman dorm) who discusses the act of procreation being the closest we come to being gods in this life. There is an incredible doctrine behind our bodies, and their union as husband and wife, that I really hope to understand in 50 years or so. 🙂 That concept gives me comfort as well.
    Your last idea is what my husband thinks. His perspective is just, “Duh, there’s a bunch out there we just don’t have access to right now. I’m sure a lot of it will help you feel better.” And, having him think that does help.
    Thanks for sharing your puzzle pieces.

  19. cchrissyy says:

    Another puzzle piece is that a united heavenly couple may share duties and interaction with us in a perfect way but we judeo-christrians are dumbies who’ve always assumed it’s a singular male figure and not the force and intelligence of two perfectly joined beings.

  20. Behind the Infamous Veil says:

    It’s really late where I am, but I just want to jump in and tell Starfoxy how much I like her thoughts. I haven’t heard this before, and I hope to hear from you more on the subject!!

  21. Deborah says:

    (Want to shoot us a guestpost, Starfoxy?) 🙂

  22. Janna says:

    The paper is in my storage unit in Cambridge! (I now live in NYC — no room for old college papers). If I can track it down again, I am happy to forward my resources.

    Interestingly, my professor was the only female religion professor at BYU at the time. I don’t know what she thought about my thesis. Knowing me at 18 years old, which is when I wrote the paper, my thesis was weak – so, she was probably thinking, “This is a weak thesis!” Generally, all I remember thinking was, “I want to find out what’s out there about her.”

    Now, I would explore how Mormon culture’s handling of Heavenly Mother is an extension of other cultures’ removal of worshipping a female deity (and the subsequent demonization of women) and the sociopolitical reasons for this phenomenon. (As an aside, for an interesting read, I suggest Nel Noddings’ “Women and Evil.”)

  23. Caroline says:

    I think that mraynes brought up a really interesting point about how she feels Heavenly Mother’s presence in her life.

    I think that’s part of the solution to this problem (for me). It just doesn’t make sense to me that such an important relationship should be cut off while we’re on earth, so I’ve come to think that making Heavenly Mother a part of my life is an important part of my journey as a human.

    Even though the Church authorities don’t encourage us to pray to her, I think there are ways to make Her a part of our lives. Thinking, talking, writing, and praying about Her are ways we can feel Her more and develop a connection. I personally make it a practice to refer to Heavenly Parents (rather than God) whenever I give a talk or make a comment in Church, and I find it immensely inspiring to gently acknowledge HM like that.

  24. Caroline says:

    Jessawhy,
    Regarding the baby blessing – If you have your blessing in your own home, you can do it your way. You can hold the baby, you can say your own blessing along with your husband’s, you can have a circle of women come up and give a mother’s blessing. There are lots of options.

    I happen to have very conservative in laws, so I couldn’t go as far as I wanted, but Mike and I did hold the baby together – no one else in the circle. And then Mike read a blessing that we had composed together (a fact which Mike specifically acknowledged to our audience.) We also, to keep his dad happy, just gave the baby a blessing, not a name. Somehow that distinction made his dad and the bishop (who Mike told all about it) feel better.

  25. Jessawhy says:

    Jana:
    It’s great that you even have your college papers! I think I kept my senior thesis and that was about it 🙁
    I really like your ideas for how you would write the paper now. Sounds like it would make a good book, too. I’ll have to check out that one you recommended.
    Caroline:
    We blessed our last baby at home, and I think we’ll do it that way again. You present an interesting variety of ways for a mother to be involved, and I think my husband may be up for some of them. I know another man who composed a blessing and memorized it, I believe, for when he blessed his baby in church. I think it’s a great idea. The name part is strange, though.
    I think it’s a shame that women aren’t encouraged to bless their own children the way they were in the early church. Does anyone know the history on how that has changed?

  26. mraynes says:

    We reluctantly blessed Baby G in Fast & Testimony Meeting in an attempt to become more connected with our ward. I still managed to feel a part of the ceremony because I got up to bear my testimony and pronounced a blessing on my son across the pulpit. It was a fantastic experience for me, but I’m not sure if it helped us become more connected to our ward, they seemed pretty uncomfortable :)!

    I agree with what Caroline says, if we want Heavenly Mother in our lives, we have to be proactive in getteing Her there. I haven’t started praying to Her, that still seems a little scary, but I will ask for Her presence in my life. I also try to emulate Heavenly Mother in my interactions as a wife, mother and human being. This is how I’ve felt Her the most; I will often receive inspiration on how our Heavenly Mother would handle a client or how She would nurture my son. It has been an amazing experience and has changed the way I interact with the world.

  27. Liz says:

    Something that has made Heavenly Mother more tangible to me is found in my sister’s patriarchal blessing.

    She was blessed to know that she had inherited specific personality traits from our Heavenly Mother (which were listed) and that she should recognize and cultivate them.

    I’ve pondered on this in my own life, and it’s given me great comfort (partially because it was a formal–and divinely inspired- acknowledgement that She exists.)

  28. Jessawhy says:

    mraynes:
    I wonder if your work with disadvantaged women is part of your perspective on this issue. I’m interested to know if you think that’s the case, or if you would have the same thoughts or feelings about Heavenly Mother regardless.
    Liz:
    Cool for your sister to have that in her patriarchal blessing. Mine mentions heavenly parents, which, I should interpret as revelation about Heavenly Mother. I hadn’t thought of it like that before.

  29. mraynes says:

    Jessawhy, the connection between my work with abused women and Heavenly Mother’s presence was something I never put together. I started counseling women about the same time I became a mother, which was when Heavenly Mother became more present in my life. It makes total sense to me because a lot of the women I help have such fear of men and patriarchy. I believe that our heavenly parents know how best to succor their children; and perhaps what they need most is comfort from their Mother in Heaven.

  30. Bree says:

    Thanks, Jessawhy. You’re post is helping me sort through and pinpoint why I was so disturbed by President Beck’s talk. My thoughts are too jumbled to articulate at the moment. Starfoxy’s comments really helped as well.

    And I’m looking forward to meeting you both at the next AZ snacker. The move to Mesa has nearly pushed me over the edge and it’s nice to know there are women nearby with similar questions and concerns.

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