Guest Post: This is Why Feminism and Expanded Doctrine of Heavenly Mother is Necessary in the LDS Church

by Kelsi

tweet_editedMy brother is a die hard Aggie fan. He absolutely loves sports and one of his favorite things to do is to discuss (read: argue) sports especially with fans of other teams. He especially seems to find enjoyment out of needling BYU fans. This is why I was not surprised when I was looking through my twitter feed the other night to see that he had been discussing (read: trolling) some BYU fans on twitter. But then I read the tweet in the image up above. My brother had needled one of the BYU fans into using derogatory/demeaning language about women as a come back.

This stopped me in my tracks.

This was not okay.

Name calling is never in good taste and never shows an intelligent mind. But the use of that particular term not only degrades females God-given, God-designed, bodies that were made in the image of God. No, it also very strongly implied that the absolute worst thing that this man could think of would be to call another man, a girl. Because that is literally, in this man’s eyes at least, the worst thing that a human being can be.

This is why we need feminism.

We don’t need to just say “women are incredible” and “women are amazing” and “I love women so much”. This is an instance of coming “near with their lips but being far from their heart.” We need the treatment of women to “raise the bar” not just in lip service but in action. We need to make it clear that the physical, emotional, social and spiritual (especially spiritual) lives of women are just as important as mens.

How do we do this?

We need to expand our doctrine of Heavenly Mother. I have been told the false doctrine that “we don’t talk about Heavenly Mother because she can’t handle being degraded and disrespected like Heavenly Father can.” Heavenly Mother is in fact being degraded when we as a society continue to use language and treat women in ways that disrespect and degrade them. Heavenly Mother is being disrespected when we continue to underestimate and undervalue the contributions that women have to offer. Her life is being devalued when we act like she isn’t there and when we act like the spiritual lives of women don’t matter as much as men’s spiritual lives.

We have come so far.

But we still have so far to go.

When we come to truly love and respect and honor Heavenly Mother, not just in words but in actions as well, that is when we as a society, both as men and women, will learn to love and respect and honor the women in our lives.

This is why Mormons need feminism.

Kelsi is a twenty-something who has lived her life up and down Interstate 15 and currently finds herself living smack dab in the middle of Utah county. Lately you can find her working with the coolest pre-schoolers in the land, most of whom are unable to speak and some of whom are unable to walk or even hold their head up.  Kelsi has a secret monthly ritual of watching New Girl’s episode “Menzies” and The IT Crowds episode “Aunt Irma Visits” on Netflix because nothing makes cramps more manageable than period jokes.

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16 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    Amen, Kelsi. I remember being so struck by Mary Daly’s quip, “If God is male, then the male is God.” Yes indeed. How we talk about and image God is hugely important for how we see ourselves and how we see each other. If HM were a regular part of our discourse, a deity that got equal airtime as HF, I think women’s positions in the church and in society would change quickly for the better.

  2. Wonderful post Kelsi! Although it may be well-intentioned, using superlatives about womenkind during church meetings is not enough to combat sexist attitudes like those you witnessed in your brother’s online conversation. We need more than that.

    • Andrew R. says:

      April, you are correct, and unfortunately I don’t believe you can eradicate these sexist attitudes. Sexist attitudes are an extension of human attitudes. The notion that “I’m better than you”, or “my Dad’s bigger and better than your Dad”, etc. perpetuate throughout society.

      We already teach “Love thy neighbour”, does everyone fall in love with this, the second greatest commandment, all the time? Nope. I am not saying we have to give up hope, and we must continue to ensure that everyone has the same opportunities and respect given regardless of race, gender, economic situation, disability, etc.

    • Kelsi Moore says:

      Thank you!

  3. Andrew R. says:

    “we don’t talk about Heavenly Mother because she can’t handle being degraded and disrespected like Heavenly Father can.”

    That is quite the version I have heard – the one I have heard is along the lines of HF would not want the name of His wife (eternal companion) degraded.

    Whilst I am ambivalent on the extent to which this is true using absolutes like “false doctrine” are not helpful, and possibly incorrect. I know that I bristle more when my wife is being defamed than if it were me, and the same is true the other way round.

    I have no truck with the idea of having more information about Heavenly Mother(s). I think it could be helpful. I have given the possibility of plural since I believe it is more than likely that there are multiple Heavenly Mothers. If we have a situation where a man will be sealed to more than one wife then that person will have multiple wives in the eternities.

    I think that this is a much more likely reason for her not being given form in scripture. Of course it is possible that one earth equals only one of the wives (although multiple earths with that wife).

    It could also be the case that the spirit children of more than one wife (or indeed all wives) go to each earth. So expanded doctrine of HM would mean bringing them all out – and which one is mine?

    Are you ready for the answers? To what extent would the cause of feminism be set back by knowing that the spirit children breeding programme definitely requires multiple wives?

    NB – I am not saying this is the case, only that I believe it could be.

    • nrc42 says:

      “Spirit children breeding programme.”

      Andddd that is why I’m leaving the Church as soon I graduate. But kudos for a spot-on depiction of the role of women in LDS theology: breeding stock.

    • J says:

      The fact of the matter, Andrew, old bean, is that Heavenly Mother used to be in the scriptures, particularly parts of the old testament (bits here and there were translated out). If you know where to look, She is also in the Book of Mormon. We don’t see Her because we are not familiar with some of the symbolisms of the ancient religions, but she is there.

      https://www.mormonwomen.com/sunday-school-supplements/lesson-seventeen/

      http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/fair-conferences/2015-fairmormon-conference/the-mother-in-heaven-and-her-children

    • Kelsi Moore says:

      Andrew,

      I stand by my use of the term false doctrine but I respect the fact that you don’t agree that it rises to that level. The main reason I would call it false doctrine is because I can’t find the idea of Heavenly Mother being unable to handle being degraded or disrespected anywhere in the scriptures or the words of the prophets. That’s why I don’t see it as doctrine and when it is talked about in church settings as a fact I see that as false doctrine. But you don’t have to agree with me on that.

      I hope you don’t think that I’m trying to say that either heavenly mother or father want or enjoy being degraded. I think it’s very clear that they do not (just look at the first two of the Ten Commandments). So I don’t doubt that Heavenly Father would bristle if Heavenly Mother was disrespected and vice versa. But people breaking those first two commandments doesn’t mean that God suddenly stops interacting with his children because it’s just too painful. So it doesn’t seem like a good excuse as to why we aren’t allowed/encouraged to have a relationship with Heavenly Mother. And the way it’s been told to me it seems like we have some sort of view that Heavenly Mother is locked away in some room some where not allowed to interact with her kids because what if they hurt Her. That is not a healthy way to handle things or to treat someone you love. If you started locking your wife away and didn’t let her talk to any kids that you might have, I would be very concerned about your marriage relationship and your family dynamic.

      As far as the possibility of finding out that there is more than one of Her, I personally am ready for it. Because the fact of the matter is that the possibility that there is more than one her is a possibility right now without additional knowledge. Personally I would like to know what I’m dealing with and getting into in the eternities.

      • Andrew R. says:

        I don’t think it is a doctrine. I agree it has been said. But that doesn’t make it a doctrine.

        From my mother’s arms I have been taught that I have a Heavenly Mother. I have never been told Heavenly Mother is simply a breeding machine.

        My personal belief on the ‘creation’ of Spirit children, non doctrinal, is that the process is one done by a God and Goddess in equal measure using equal but opposite powers. I don’t believe they are carried in any way by Mother. I think that it is possible that HF takes care of mostly the physical and HM the Spiritual, pre-mortal. But that could change from creation to creation – there may be a world where men are waiting for more information on HF.

        Either way, one thing is for sure, we all know our Heavenly Mother and she knows us. When the veil drops we will remember Her and what She has taught us.

    • Moss says:

      Every doctrine and teaching about women in the church is a “that’s good!/that’s bad” situation. “We have a Heavenly Mother! That’s good!” “But we don’t talk about her because she’s part of an eternal breeding program. That’s bad.” “Deborah was a prophetess and a judge in Israel! That’s good!” “But it was just to shame all the men for not being more righteous. That’s bad.” “Eve made a courageous decision that started the Plan of Salvation rolling! That’s good!” “But because of her disobedience she blew her shot at being directly connected to God and can only be exalted through her husband. That’s bad.” I’m starting to think that God, himself, doesn’t think very much of women and probably makes the same kind of awful jokes our twitterer in the op makes. Either that, or this is just a useful tactic to shut down women who start to think that the Church doesn’t have to be as androcentric as it is.

    • Olea says:

      Yeah, the “our kids might be mean to you!” reason is a terrible one, that still points to sexism as being an eternal principle. I get more distressed/offended/aggressive when it’s my loved ones who are defamed than when it’s aimed at me, too. Does that mean I should be the presider in a marriage relationship, and keep my husband safe (read: locked away) from dealing with other people who may demean him? I don’t think so.

    • bonnie says:

      And I bristle more when someone defames my husband than when they do it to me. This is called love. It’s not because I’m tougher and he needs to be protected.

  4. Sarah says:

    <3 Love this

  5. Moss says:

    We create God (Mother and Father) in our image. This is why our vision of the afterlife we inherited from our ninteenth century forebearers is the ultimate patirarch with his wives- this is what their families aspired to. Now our vision of God is more of a 1950’s nuclear family with mom at home, dad bringing home the bacon, and kids underfoot. It looks to me that as our definition of what a family is changes, so does our projection of what God (and the afterlife) look like. As the family changes again, I am sure we will see another shift. For example: in the Old Testament, Elohim is the Supreme God of a Council of Gods which is made up of many gods (including the Advesary- who wasn’t who we think of as Satan). Perhaps this is what the afterlife really looks like? We form Godly councils? Perhaps it is more like a web of interconnectivity like it seems Joseph Smith was trying to create? I think it is important to recognize this mapping of our current ideal family on our conception of deity and the afterlife.

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