Insight into Absentee Heavenly Mother

by Jessawhy
Church shoes

Most Sundays my husband helps our kids get ready for church. Our three little boys, ages 2, 4, and 7 each need more than a little assistance with finding church clothes and shoes as well as donning these items.

Last Sunday I watched in slight irritation as my 7 year old lay on the floor while his dad jammed his size 1 feet into his shoes. I rolled my eyes and said, “Honey, he can put on his own shoes.” In my mind, the child was capable of accomplishing the job unaided (even our 2 year old can put on his own shoes) and there were clearly more important tasks to attend to.

But, my husband is incredibly patient and tuned in to our kids and is willing to give them the extra help that I don’t think they need.

It was at this moment that I thought of our Heavenly Parents.

Perhaps Heavenly Mother up there watching us thinking, “My husband sure does baby those kids. They’re big enough to put their own shoes on.”

I’m not sure that I like this idea, but it was struck me as potentially applicable in the moment.

What do you think?

Jessawhy

Jessawhy is a wife, mother, community volunteer, activist and student. She is currently working towards a Physician Assistant degree.

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33 Responses

  1. m&m says:

    I’ll bite. I don’t think mortal weakness transfers to God. I see faith in Him as being inextricably tied to His perfect character, and this strikes me as implying that somehow He’s missing something, somewhere, somehow. I don’t think that’s true.

    I don’t think Heavenly Mother misses anything, either. 😉

  2. z says:

    It also doesn’t explain absence in times of genuine need, or the reasons for having a relationship other than needing help and guidance.

  3. Molly says:

    Probably the main reason people avoid this topic so much is that it’s fraught with bad and worse options. First off, there are in theory many Heavenly Mothers. Even the language of the proclamation on the family is very carefully composed to allow for this possibility.

    But say there is just one; why isn’t she speaking to us and why can’t we speak about or to her?

    If she chooses not to so Heavenly Father can do all the work, then we have a deadbeat mom. If she isn’t allowed to talk to us because Heavenly Father “wants to protect her from being slandered the way he is,” then she is a battered wife. If she wants to talk to us but our leaders refuse to let us, then our leaders are bad children. What a dysfunctional family! Continuing to address this tangle of problems with “we don’t know” really frustrates me.

    I remember a Cal Grondahl cartoon (or was it Pat Bagley?) that showed the “Celestial Family Photo.” A cherub was putting a paper bag over Heavenly Mother’s head while saying “out of respect.” That doesn’t give me much to look forward to if her experience is supposed to be a template for mine.

  4. Jessawhy says:

    I may not have articulated my idea very well with this analogy.

    Perhaps we really don’t need the kind of help we think we do.

    When my kids get so upset about the color of their cup, or they fight over turns on the tricycle, I think God must feel like that about us. We think issues are so huge when God probably thinks they’re not.

    m&m, I don’t think it has as much to do with human parenting as it does with the option that both parents see the same situation differently and have diverse ways of dealing with it. Maybe both are good.

    z, So the question is, “What is genuine need?” This was a question I remember from Econ 110. There really isn’t definable need, it’s all just wants. I must expect that my need looks different than what God may think I need.

    Molly,
    Yes, I know all of these explanations. I’m not saying I totally believe that MiH is standing back watching us put our shoes on by ourselves, but it was an alternative idea to the ones you presented that have left me feeling depressed about this issue for the last few years.

  5. madhousewife says:

    My theory is that HM, if she exists, is having a spa day.

  6. ECS says:

    “Of course many women claim they do not feel excluded and are satisfied with the status quo. But if female priesthood and female divinity are a restoration or fulfillment of revelations from God, they are the inheritance of all Mormon women.

    They are a call from God for all of us to accept a new order of things. When God commanded the church to build Zion, it was a call for equality in both earthly and heavenly things (D&C 70, 76, 78, 82), which I believe included the equality of men and women. To paraphrase Doctrine and Covenants 113: Zion cannot put on her strength until her daughters put on the authority of the priesthood and return to the power which they have lost. This is the dispensation of the fullness of times when all things must be brought together in one. If women are not restored to their rightful place as priestesses in Zion, the restoration cannot be complete.

    And until God the Mother is accepted as the equal of God the Father, we as a church will remain bereft of the fullness of the Spirit of God. Zion, our Mother, cannot return until we are ready to receive her.”

    Margaret Toscano said this 18 years ago, and we’re still waiting.

  7. Jessawhy says:

    Madhousewife,
    LOL! That’s awesome. I wish I could get a break from my kids at the spa sometimes.

    ECS,
    I love that quote. Is it from Strangers in Paradox? That is one of my all-time favorite books. And Margaret is one of my all-time favorite Mormon feminists.
    Thanks for bringing that to the discussion.

  8. js says:

    Hm. It doesn’t strike a chord with me. I’ve read a lot of thought-provoking material on the subject, and the one I like the most theorizes that our Heavenly Mother may in fact be the Holy Ghost. The thought of the quiet whisperings and comfort being given to me by my Heavenly Mother is very comforting indeed. (and makes more sense than a random male spirit that apparently won’t have the opportunity to come to Earth for a body…a story that never quite made sense to me).

  9. js says:

    Also, in regards to “our need” I think whenever one has reason to cry out in pain and anguish, we expect to feel the love and comfort from our Heavenly Parents. Even if its “not a big deal” in the grand scheme of things, ie, our brother broke our favorite doll, it still FEELS awful to us in our limited, mortal understanding. And a good, kind parent gives comfort when its needed, not only when its “justified”.

  10. mraynes says:

    I’m so glad you posted this, Jess. I know that this isn’t going to be satisfactory for a lot of people because we want comfort from Heavenly Mother regardless of whether it’s justified or not. But I think this explanation is infinitely preferable to “Heavenly Mother is too sacred to talk to or about.” I can swallow that my mortal understanding is insufficient to understand the absence of our Mother. But it no way do I believe that I can’t know Heavenly Mother because I might hurt her feelings, that’s total b.s. Anyway, I don’t love the idea but at least it makes sense.

  11. z says:

    “z, So the question is, “What is genuine need?” This was a question I remember from Econ 110. There really isn’t definable need, it’s all just wants. I must expect that my need looks different than what God may think I need.”

    Sure, but I think unless you’re willing to define all of everyone’s needs as not genuine, my point still stands. Is it not possible to have genuine need?

  12. My take on it has always been Heavenly Mother is off working in some other part of the Universe while Heavenly Father stays home with the kids. 🙂

  13. G says:

    jessawhy~ LOL!
    k, this did make me smile.

    But that is probably because I give very little credence to the religious language of heavenly parents (For real? This world as example of a big house of children being watched over loving by Sky parents? CPS should haul Mommy’s and Daddy’s combined absent/negligent behinds to jail! Seriously!)

    I can smile only as long as I don’t think of the kids that Daddy has locked away down in the basement, chained to a wall to lie in their own feces, only getting fed stale bread once a week…. (hope mom is enjoying that spa break. yah)

    ugh… k, not smiling any more.
    Sorry, I know that this was not at all the tone or direction you wanted for this post. I probably shouldn’t even post this.

    But I’m going to. Because this is what comes to mind whenever I hear people try to explain deity as a loving parents. Some of the offspring get special attention with things they really may not even need any help with, while other offspring are abused and neglected in the most horrific of ways.

    Yah, on further thought, parent-hood descriptions and analogies of God don’t fly for me.

    (sorry about bring that up. the post did make me smile~ I’m a lot like you: those kids can put there own dang shoes on!)

  14. Kaimi says:

    Good point, Jess. Maybe She’s watching Dad say, “don’t make me stop this car and come back there,” and smiling indulgently, or rolling Her eyes a little. Dad stresses about little things sometimes; but She loves us, and loves Him. And She’s staying out of this one.

  15. Jessawhy says:

    mraynes,
    Yeah, I’m still not sure this post was the right choice, but here it is 🙂

    Like you, there aren’t any answers that are satisfactory for the idea that our MiH is absent. This one at least gives her the benefit of the doubt.

    z,
    Sure it’s possible to have a genuine need. I don’t think this analogy is perfect, it’s probably not even my favorite one, but it just let me think of the divine feminine in a different way.
    I actually think about Her a lot. I heard a talk in church last week about a mother who texted her wayward daughter this phrase, “I miss you,” which was the reason she came home and back to the church.
    That story made me teary because I thought about how much I would love to have a Heavenly Mother say that she missed me. It’s pretty discouraging for me to dwell on the Mormon vision of the all-male trinity. Like everyone else, I’m always just looking for ways to make what I’ve been taught make sense, or to validate the ways that I’ve chosen to reject what I’ve been taught and find something else that makes more sense.

    this is carrie,
    Agreed. That’s a good possibility, especially if she’s the more educated of the two 😉

    G,
    I like what you said about not imagining God as a parent. It certainly does take a lot of pressure off our expectations.
    The God of the OT commanded a lot of killing, not the kind of thing parents usually do. (There’s a funny Mr. Deity episode about that.)

    It’s hard for me to completely reformulate my thinking about the divine without the parenting model. I’d like to read more about that. Any ideas?

  16. Jessawhy says:

    Thanks, Kaimi.
    I like that, “Don’t make me come back there!”
    But in our family, I’m the one that drives. 🙂

  17. G says:

    You know, I think I COULD get on board with the ‘God as our parents’ thing if the “ALL KNOWING, ALL LOVING” parts of the definition were removed.

    The State of the world looks like the product of a couple of fallible, inconsistent, conditionally-loving, favorite-playing parents (or worse).

    Maybe even soften that statement a bit to just make them normal run-of-the-mill-good-intentioned-but-fallible parents.

    Parents who are like us. Who make mistakes and don’t always have the answers and some days just don’t have the energy or the patience. Who maybe do things with the best of intentions only to find that what they did has horribly tragic consequences. And sometimes horrible things happen for no reason at all and they are unable to do anything about it, helpless to help, helpless to save, only able to weep in anguish at it all.

    Maybe we don’t hear about Mom because she LEFT Dad. Or they got a nasty divorce with a really bad custody battle and right now we’re on Dad’s weekend visit. That would make much more sense to me regarding the silence about Heavenly Mother:

    Us: “Dad, tell us about Mom

    Dad: [on a bad day] “Shut up kid
    [or on a good day] “<i?Mom is… doing something important… somewhere else… don't worry about it…”

    Yes, this is a very bleak picture of Heavenly Parents. I’m sorry if it offends. It is the only divine-parent-analogy that could explain to me the human wreckage that happens on this planet every day.

  18. m&m says:

    I don’t think it has as much to do with human parenting as it does with the option that both parents see the same situation differently and have diverse ways of dealing with it.

    Or have different roles?

    That Margaret Toscano quote is way too presumptuous for my liking. (It’s the whole “feminists are right and the prophets are wrong” mentality that I talked about in my comment on Lynnette’s post.)

    G., wow. I guess I wonder how you process all that pain w/o God’s plan and love on the table. Jessawhy’s follow up comment where she says, “I like what you said about not imagining God as a parent. It certainly does take a lot of pressure off our expectations” to me seems to accomplish the opposite of helping with the pain and inequity of this mortal sphere…because having Him as a loving parent with an eternal plan and a Savior who can make everything right makes all the difference to me.

    In short, I don’t wanna be an orphan — to me that makes life even more painful!

  19. Kim B. says:

    jessawhy – Thank you. I have been giggling since I read this post yesterday.

  20. G says:

    m&m~ Everyone find various ways of processing/explaining/coping with the pain.

    Whether it is through belief in a loving God who will eventually make everything better, or by activism to try help ease human suffering, or by trying to keep blinders on as to what pain is out there (our modern 1st world life-styles do a pretty good job of that). Etc Etc Etc.

    I think its a matter of personality and personal experiences that determines which explaining/processing/coping mechanism a person uses.

    For me personally, I found that belief in an all loving all powerful parent God wasn’t effective at explaining/processing/coping with the reality of the pain in this world.

    [What does work as a processing mechanism for me is a whole other topic, for a different thread. Suffice it to say, I simply do my best to love others and ease suffering in the small ways I can.]

  21. G says:

    [and I’m sorry about the threadjack, jessawhy. Rhis was really supposed to be a thread about why Heavenly Mother appears to be absent. Forgive me for turning it towards theodicy and human suffering]

  22. Natalie K. says:

    But, but, but….. I thought WOMEN were the ones who nurtured, cared for, and taught their children?!?!

    *world view crisis*

  23. Janna says:

    This last week my Sunday School teacher brought up the idea of the Mother in Earth and the Father in Heaven thought. She said that the idea of having a mother in the earth and a father in the heavens made her feel very protected and safe.

    I’m still thinking about it.

  24. Kaimi says:

    m&m writes:

    That Margaret Toscano quote is way too presumptuous for my liking. (It’s the whole “feminists are right and the prophets are wrong” mentality that I talked about in my comment on Lynnette’s post.)

    Would you consider it presumptuous if someone held the opposite belief?

  25. smanda says:

    When I was a teenager I babysat for a woman who was a faithful Christian Scientist. The dinner prayer we often said in her home, holding hands, was this =, “Father-Mother God, loving me, always has met and always will meet, every human need.” Not a Mormon prayer, and I dont use it as a prayer in my life, but I do recite it sometimes in moments of distress because it reminds me that my Mother in Heaven is included in the prayers I say and certainly in the answers I receive. For me, it is far and away enough that the religion I practice includes my Mother in Heaven – an idea that is anathema elsewhere.

  26. D'Arcy says:

    Great post Jess! Fun to read and fun to think about.

  27. MJK says:

    –It also doesn’t explain absence in times of genuine need–

    My mom went on a mission to Hong Kong in Feb of 2009. I had my first child in June. (She was committed to go and got her call before I found out I was pregnant.) I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished she could be here in the last 7 months and I’m sure I’ll keep wishing it until she gets home in August. On the other hand, I think I may be learning and growing more being out of contact with her during this important learning time for me.

    Just something I’ve been thinking about.

  28. Kelly Ann says:

    Great post and discussion, Jessawhy. I am not sure what to think about somethings but the more I learn the more I believe we really have “a dysfunctional heavenly family” and I hope in the next life it will make sense because part of me believes it never will.

  29. K says:

    Interesting posts. As a convert to the church
    I had a hard time with the idea of a Heavenly
    Mother at first. But it makes sense that if we
    have a Heavenely Father, we’d have a Heavenly
    Mother as well (like the hymn “Truth is reason;
    truth eternal tells me I’ve a mother there.”)

    I giggled at the post about the car trip (mom’s
    staying out of this one – clever. 🙂

    From my understanding, our heavenly parents have
    an eternal increase, meaning that at this very
    moment, She could be up there taking care of her
    new spirit children. Maybe They have divided up
    the parental responsibilities, and because it’s
    difficult to watch your children suffer, and we
    do suffer down here, She’s responsible for the
    “younger” ones up there, and He’s responsible for
    us.

    In any case, I believe the general authorities
    have the answer that we should be satisfied with,
    even if it’s not the full story, because
    honestly, it’s not something that’s important
    to know now. It’s not vital to our eternal
    progression to have that answer, and I figure
    that when we get up there, we can ask Her for
    ourselves why she was anonymous. 😉

  30. Lynnette says:

    Fun post, Jess! To throw another question into the mix–we always seem to assume that the behavior of HF and HM is related to their gender roles. What if after all this, it turns out to be a personality difference? HM just has a different parenting style, is less of a micro-manager, but it actually has nothing to do with her status as a female. I guess it ends up kind of bad for us women here, since it means we don’t get to exercise the power of God and all that, but nonetheless it’s a fun possible twist in all these endless discussions of the subject.

  31. Lynnette says:

    It’s not vital to our eternal progression to have that answer

    That’s exactly what makes this whole thing so crazy for me. We have this exciting doctrine of a Heavenly Mother–but then it turns out that she’s so unimportant that we don’t actually need to know anything about her.

  32. L says:

    It’s good to hear others’ thoughts. Lately I’ve wondered if perhaps at least part of the reason we don’t hear much about Heavenly Mother these days is that openly airing such beliefs would (more) clearly separate the Church from the doctrinal camps of mainstream Christianity, and that, for whatever reason, that’s not a direction some leaders want to move. Of course, I have no idea if that’s the case; even if it is, it doesn’t resolve the problems everyone has mentioned here. I appreciate hearing from others, because the whole situation is thoroughly disheartening for me!

  33. Gina says:

    “not vital to have that answer”
    It might be. If all I have to look forward to is being unimportant, then I may not make the effort to go any further. Why bother? I have to hope there is more to it and that with study and prayer we can find it. Otherwise what do I tell my daughters?

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