My Father’s Path, My Mother’s Path, and Mine
I knew, throughout Primary and Young Women, that I was a child of my Heavenly Father, that my soul was one of the noble and great ones, and that I was on a path to become like Him. Sure, kind of arrogant, and it did lead me to be kind of self-righteous until I mellowed in adulthood, but I knew that Heavenly Father loved me at least as much as any other person. The Young Women theme affirmed to me every week that I would become like Him, and it was my sacred duty to live up to those values because I was blessed to become exalted.
I prepared diligently to attend the temple to receive my endowment. I wanted to be able to deepen my spiritual reserves, to see greater heights to which I could reach. I was a Gospel Doctrine teacher in my YSA ward, and I felt the spirit testify to me as I taught truth to this group of men and women — much of the time sharing the more complicated versions of events I was learning as I made studying the scriptures and church history a priority.
I had felt for some time that I was on a plateau, and was so looking forward to my endowment, that I was sure would open up the path to me to reach closer to my destiny of becoming like my Father. I paid close attention to people’s discussions about temple-related topics, and so there was a lot that didn’t surprise me. I was uncomfortable with the clothing, but mostly because I wasn’t familiar with how to place and tie everything (and the cheap, mass-produced textiles kept me thinking about consumerism and comparing that to Old Testament scriptures about women producing these items). The ceremonial things that many people find weird weren’t a problem for me.
The problem for me was that I saw that my path had nothing to do with my Father at all. And worse, I realised that my Mother wasn’t present. Not in the temple, not in the Young Women theme, not in Sunday School or Primary. The message I heard in the temple was that my Father did not want me, and my Mother either agreed or was powerless.
In the years since then, I have attended the temple few times – twice to attend sealings of loved ones. The second endowment session I participated in, I realised later I had spent the whole time apologising to the woman whose name I bore. The third, I prayed deeply beforehand to feel my Mother’s presence. I had a special experience in the chapel as people assembled before the session, but that feeling was gone as we took our places and the ceremony began. I spent the entire time as I do some sacrament meetings when I need to feel more grounded, and I counted the number of times the word “love” was spoken. It was zero, and if I participated in another endowment session, I don’t remember it.
I didn’t have another experience like that, regardless of my seeking for it. In time, I came to terms with my pain that I had imagined a connection to my Father that doesn’t exist. I buried much of my longing for a Mother, telling myself that happens in the next life will happen, whether I worry about it or not. Until I read Rachel Hunt Steenblik’s book of poetry in search of Her, Mother’s Milk, I didn’t realise that much of what I had submerged was anger.
I ached through the first section, The Hunger – I know that feeling well. I was hesitant throughout the next section, The Reaching. At the first poem of the middle section, The Learning, I had to put the book down as long-held-back frustration and anger swept over me.
Tired (p. 40)
but She is
Why did She create me if I was going to be too tiring to care for? Or was that a surprise, and Her silence comes from regret? If I cannot know Her, how can I learn Her path? Or what if I do not want a path of silence, whether that comes from indifference or inability?
A State of Rest (p. 93)
The mother isn’t
She sleeps when
Her children sleep,
I am not ready for hope. I would like that to be true, I would like to be able to feel that, believe that. But for right now, I can’t. I will keep Rachel’s book close in case that day comes for me, and in the meantime, I will forge a path that feels right for me.