Heavenly Mother’s Day: My Search for the Mother

Margaret Toscano coverGuest Post by Margaret Toscano

“MaMa!” It’s a primal utterance, recognizable in many languages. And it’s more than a title or role. It can be a cry for help or an exclamation of pain or need. Not long ago I was walking around my school, something I do to find some thinking space when few people are around. I was struggling over some problems; I can’t even remember what now. But the pain was deep. I opened my mouth to pray quietly, and this is what came out: “MaMa! MaMa!” I didn’t intend to pray to the Mother, but my soul cried out to her. It startled me, but felt right. There was no need for more words. I can’t say this resulted in a grand spiritual experience, but I felt some comfort and hope and love—enough to keep me going and feel a bond with her.

My theological search for the Mother began in much the same way—indirectly. I didn’t even know I had a longing to know about her. But as I began trying to formulate a Mormon feminist theology in the 1980s, I knew that the Feminine Divine had to be a part of it, and it was not simply because Mormonism has a doctrine of the Heavenly Mother. More importantly Mormonism is an embodied theology: resurrected, gendered bodies are considered eternal. And the roots of Mormonism go back to Jewish and Christian texts, which picture God as male. Even when theologians dismiss the body of God by saying he is beyond gender and sex, the weight of tradition, sacred texts, and pronouns says otherwise. I believe women need to picture and connect with an embodied Divine Female to feel the divine within their own bodies. Without a female divinity who is fully God and who is fully involved in the creation and redemption of the world along with the male divinity, the place of women in religion can never be equal with men.

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Heavenly Mother’s Day: Desire and Sex in Relationship to Heavenly Mother Theology

There is no set doctrine about the Heavenly Mother that is a taught within the church. Because of this, andhera because evidence suggests that the concept of a Heavenly Mother originated with Joseph Smith, Jr., Since the start of the church, Mormon women have sought a divine role model to who they can relate to on a personal level. As complicated as the emotion of desire is, the desire for a Mother in Heaven is real. This desire is one of a very small groups of unifying factors that are shared by Mormon women across political lines: Conservative groups such as Mormon Women Stand discuss and celebrate the Heavenly Mother (seemingly ignorant of the fact that this has cost some women their church membership), as much as many of those who are in kinship with the progressive Ordain Women organization also seek Her. .

 

Based on the posts in this Heavenly Mother’s Day collection, and previous writings at the Exponent and otherwise that reference the Heavenly Mother, it seems to me that the foundation of this seeking is because women (and men) desire a sense of empathy from a God who can understand and relate on a mortal level. Many Mormon women seek a Divine Mother who has felt the joy and frustration of childbirth, infertility, dating, lonliness and divorce. We seek a Mother who can heal us when our breasts swollen with the milk for a stillborn child, as much as we seek Her to heal us from the loss of our breasts and reproductive organs due to cancer or other mortal abnormalities. But most of all, the seeking for our Mother God for both men and women is founded in the theology that teaches of a divine eternal family, that is led by divine parents.

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Heavenly Mother’s Day: God the Mother Revisited

Guest Post by Janice Allred

 

I first began thinking seriously about God the Mother around 1987. My sister, Margaret Toscano, was already doing work in this area, and reading her work and godtalking with her helped me to realize how important this topic is. I had always been interested in philosophical questions, which led me into theology. My first theological essay, which dealt with forgiveness, was published in 1978 in Sunstone. Several years before this I had already started developing an understanding of the Godhead that differs from the current Mormon teachings. It is based on the Book of Mormon teaching that Jesus Christ is the Eternal Father; there are not two (or three) separate male members of the Godhead. When I started thinking seriously about God the Mother, I realized that she had a place in this interpretation of the Godhead.  My first essay on God the Mother, “Toward a Mormon Theology of God the Mother,” was based on this reinterpretation of the Godhead. In this paper I proposed that the Godhead consists of two persons, the Eternal Father, who as the Son redeems us, and the Eternal Mother, who is the Holy Spirit. Since writing this paper, I have continued to develop this understanding of the Godhead. I now see God the Mother and God the Father as both fully involved in Creation, Redemption, and the work of the Holy Spirit.

 

A viable interpretation of a fundamental concept sheds new light on difficult questions, opens up new areas to explore, and reveals embedded structures. I have been working on the theology of God the Mother for almost thirty years and I have found abundant material in the scriptures that supports and expands my understanding. Although I have refined and expanded the ideas in “Toward a Mormon Theology of God the Mother, I still believe and continue to build on the ideas presented in it.

My work on the theology of God the Mother was originally motivated by my belief in equality and justice and my desire to incorporate these ideals into my understanding of the Godhead. My emotional connection to her and my longing to know her personally came many years later. Here I share two pieces with you that give this aspect of my quest for knowledge of the Heavenly Mother. The first is a poem I wrote for this occasion. It is inspired by Eliza R. Snow’s “O My Father.” The second is an excerpt from a presentation I gave in a 2012 Sunstone panel, “Heavenly Mother and the Letter of the Law.” Since the Church forbids us to pray to Heavenly Mother, the panelists presented letters to her. I was asked to end the session with a letter of blessing from her. The blessing is based on my study of the scriptures. I take the liberty of putting it in the voice of the Mother.

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Sisters Speak: Mormon Feminists and Temple Recommends

Dear Exponent readers, the Sisters Speak column of an upcoming Exponent II magazine will focus on the topic of the temple recommend interview experience for feminists.  I am looking for brief (one or two paragraph) responses to the question below, and I will email some of you commenters to ask if I can quote you in the magazine. For those that would like to respond privately, please email me at carolinekline1 at gmail dot com. 

Several years ago when I was newly married, I did a temple recommend interview with my bishop. I breezed through most of the questions, but when he asked about whether I lived up to my temple covenants, I responded, “Well, I don’t hearken unto my husband. That doesn’t work for me.” The bishop was a bit puzzled, replied something about how that covenant in the temple isn’t all that different than what Paul says in the New Testament, but I reasserted again that I would not be hearkening unto my husband. The bishop shrugged, moved on, and signed my recommend.

Since then, there have been years when I have decided to not pursue a recommend. I don’t love the dynamic of being asked these personal questions by men I barely know, and I struggle with the temple anyway. So it was easy to decide to bypass the recommend process. However, a part of me wished I had a recommend. I knew I would have more credibility in my Mormon community if I did, and therefore more opportunities to serve and help others in my ward.
As a Mormon feminist, what are your thoughts about holding a temple recommend? Do you think temple recommends hurt Mormon feminists by giving leaders something to hold over feminists’ heads, or do you feel they help Mormon feminists by giving them important credibility within their communities? How have you handled the trickier questions in the interview about belief, affiliation, covenant keeping, and more? Have these interviews been good experiences for you? 
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Heavenly Mother’s Day: Let There Be Light

Guest Post by Leslie Dalton

 

Leslie is a junior high English teacher. She and her husband live in Utah County.

 

In the beginning, there was a glorious, perfect couple. Their love was so pure, so deep, and so holy that they had each become extensions of the other. Their children called them Elohim, which is one name, but means “the gods.” They were happy to share a name because they did not distinguish themselves from each other. They were one in thought, heart, and purpose

 

Satellite view of Magellanic Cloud

This all happened so long ago that it is impossible to count the years, or even eons. And yet you and I were there, with our Mother and Father, for that is also what we called Elohim. We lived with them, and they loved us, and taught us, and we were happy.

 

But like any good parents, Mother and Father knew that it would be important for us to have certain experiences, just as they had, once upon a time. So they gathered us all together and presented their plan for our growth and happiness. It would mean leaving them and forgetting our life with them for a short time, but it would give us some things we could never have otherwise. Mother and Father told us that it would be difficult. It would not seem fair. Some of us would have difficulties and pain that we couldn’t even imagine. Some of us would be lost, and a few of us might never return. We listened carefully to their wisdom, and we agreed it was the best way.

 

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Retreat Forward

treesRecently I attended one of the several Mormon Feminist retreats that happen around the US. I have been to different retreats off and on for twenty five years now, placing me somewhere in the middle of women who pioneered such programs and women who are just discovering them. In each, the first guideline is to keep the details of what is shared in trust, drawing a kind of sacred circle around the discussions and personal moments. This allows everyone to participate with openness in a safe environment. I have no intention of breaking this promise, but I do want to share some general reflections on why I love these experiences and how I believe they propel me forward throughout the year, at least to the next one when I get filled with energy once again.

Telling people I am going – For many of you, telling people you have signed up for one of these retreats can result in the “tut-tut” of disapproval and fear for your wayward soul. For me, it is an opportunity to share a part of myself that I don’t express very often. I do have to endure the inevitable “Mormon Feminist” oxymoron joke (I weather this with the patience of a girl who has lived with the juxtaposition of “Pandora” and “Box” for fifty years), but after this ritual of obligatory chuckling, we often begin a more multi-dimensional conversation than we may have had before. I reveal my continued affiliation with remarkable women and my desire for spiritual connection. The other person will often open up about their religious activity and their desire to participate in more meaningful ways. Sharing my plans invites additional layers to the relationship and to our understanding of each other.

Seeing old friends – I have friends that I only see at retreats. After the whoops of excitement and hugs and marveling at how beautiful we remain year after year, we pick up the narrative exactly where we left off. I feel closer to the women I spend forty-two hours with each year than those I see every day. There is an intensity to our bond that telescopes a universe of affection into a walk to and from the cabin. These are the people who know me best and hold my history and love me anyway.  

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Heavenly Mother’s Day: Sunrise on a Yearning Female Soul

Guest post by Domestic Philosopher
sunrise-gift-3

Sunrise on a Yearning Female Soul

 

Cold bears down.

I fall upon my knees in prayer.

Enduring, hollow winds that fill these my broken bones and empty spaces.

I grieve in silence, “Father, where is my Mother?”

 

Minutes pass, these endless seasons.

My winter-minutes leaving me alone.

Still I pray, I pray and watch.

The signs of life and subtle embers, warmth is sure to come …

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