Sharing the Map of Female Experience

 

by mraynes

I can remember the moment, a cold, March day in a warm classroom on BYU campus. The inversion was beginning to loosen its strangle-hold over the valley and I was beginning to emerge from a months-long depression, a byproduct of emotionally violent misogyny and my first heartbreak. I had read the article with interest but had the detachment of a soul lost in a dark mist.  The article was in no way controversial; a faithful essay acknowledging and de-constructing  the problematic aspects of the gospel for women. Indeed, the main thesis of the essay was that Mormonism was not oppressive for women but rather, revolutionary for women. The class’s discussion on this particular topic was like many that take place at BYU, remarkable only for the antipathy towards the subject. But somehow, for me, that was the day the fruit was offered. And I partook.

It began subtly at first, a fire in my womb, as if that which makes me what I am awoke and refused to sleep any longer. The fire spread to my limbs one at time, taking a moment to activate each nerve-ending, and then slowly planting itself in my heart. I had been born again only to feel that life being asphyxiated under the weight of a force I could not control. It was as if a war was being waged between this awakening and my physical body. All of my muscles constricted at once, an unseen serpent of muscle memories, socialization, indoctrination and fear wrapped around my chest to crush the life-force within me.  In desperation I cried out, “Why? Why have I never heard this before? Why haven’t they taught us this?” I did not recognize my voice but I recognized the pain; a deep, primal pain that my body had been hiding in a forgotten sinew.  In the awakening of a deeper consciousness, the unheard sob of my soul escaped and hung in the air as a cry for help. For a moment I saw my pain reflected, briefly igniting in the eyes of my dear teacher and then disappearing just as quickly as it had come. That was all the answer I needed.  The knowledge that the pain was real and that I had not awakened to be alone in this new and often inhospitable world.

I share this story, not only because it is the story of my feminist awakening, but because there is power in the sharing.  I have never spoken of it before. It was a memory known only to me, and perhaps my teacher, and I kept it because it was raw and painful. But as I sat down to write this essay, it was this experience that kept bubbling to the top, longing to be released. Longing to be shared. Longing to be healed.

Ursula LeGuin once said that “when we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains.” In reading this, I am reminded of how California spent 100 years as an island because those who knew the truth believed those in authority who told them that their truth was wrong.  I was afraid before that someone would take my story, my truth, and use it to diagnose me.  Afraid that someone would use this painful, personal story to prove that I was crazy or abused, that I had delusions of grandeur and that I have manipulated truth to push my own agenda.  Perhaps some still will.  And perhaps I fear this because some part of me believes these things are true. But I have recently been convinced that those who would do this to my story are not worth thinking about.  I also know that I will never begin to get over my fear, that I will never be a whole person worthy of that god-given spark of divinity until I offer my experience as truth.

For too long, too many of us have stood at the sidelines content to have our stories, our experiences told through the eyes and language of somebody else.  How can we be surprised then, when those stories are no longer about us and instead we become an object in somebody else’s story? I have been thinking a great deal recently on how the female experience within the gospel often gets caught in this trap.  I asked that question all those years ago because despite being raised in the Church, that was the first time I had been introduced to the idea that the unique experience of Mormon women should even be considered and that was deeply painful to me.

Perhaps there is no more poignant example of where women’s experience is either not considered or forgotten all together than with the revealed doctrine of Heavenly Mother. We are told nothing about Her, we are told that She is too sacred to talk about, certainly to sacred to be talked to and if we do, we are disobeying the prophet, pushing our own agenda and blaspheming God. We are supposed to be content with the knowledge that she exists and somehow makes sense out of female exaltation. To some this knowledge is nothing more an amusing academic riddle, one to be talked and talked to death with little consideration for the half of humanity to whom this question means everything and unaware that it is they who profane the very being of God.

And so here is my contribution to truth: I have experienced the Mother.  She came to me, uninvited, as I hovered between life and death and this has transformed me. Whether or not She is theologically relevant, the gift She left me with is knowledge…knowledge of myself.  Is there any gift greater? There is no agenda in the desire for knowledge about ourselves and there is power in sharing the truth we have learned. After all, sharing our truth gives voice to our humanity, heals our wounds and gives us the courage to find new territory within our existence. And maybe in sharing, we women will develop the key to understanding the incomplete map we’ve been given.

Mraynes

Mraynes lives in downtown Denver with her husband and four children. She spends her time lobbying at the Colorado Legislature, managing all the things and preparing Gospel Doctrine lessons.

You may also like...

40 Responses

  1. Alisa says:

    I loved reading from your personal blog about your experience with the Mother. Thank you for that link.

    “[T]his question means everything…” On a doctrinal level, this question does mean everything. If we interpret Abraham’s understanding that God’s work and glory is to bring about the Eternal Life and exaltation for his children, the question of female exaltation is very much an important issue to God, as revealed through the prophets. Sometimes we shake our heads at other faiths who have debated or have decided female humans do not have a soul. Yet, in many ways, we have the same uncertainty in our faith because of our lack of discussion and official clarification on the issue.

  2. suzann werner says:

    Thank you for beautifully expressing your experience with Mother God. How sad it is that we are not free to express our deeply felt female spiritual experiences in Relief Society. It is equally sad that we cannot express our sense of female loss and isolation without fear of frightening church members, or being marginalized.

    So, in your BYU class discussions about women in the Church, what conclusions were drawn? Were problems discussed, or did everyone agree that the Church is all roses and butterflies for all women.

    Suzann

  3. Jessawhy says:

    What a beautifully written and powerful post, Meghan.

    I’m not sure if you’re talking about the same professor, but I’ve been reading Valerie Hudson’s book, “Women in Eternity, Women in Zion” and she addresses the woman question as one central to religious philosophy.
    Although the authors’ perspectives are ennobling and comforting, I’m still torn by the idea that we don’t hear these issues addressed in church or by church leaders to any minimal degree.
    For me, even though the book can bring me great peace, the church’s silence on the issue tends to counteract that peace and almost negate the arguments altogether.

    (I’m sorry if this doesn’t make sense if you haven’t read the book. I’ll try to explain it a little better if someone asks)

  4. suzann werner says:

    When each individual women comes to the realization that she is the object in someone else’s story, I guess we must invent a personal story where we feel empowered and included.

    Unless we share our spiritual discoveries, each one of us must invent this wheel over and over.

  5. tara says:

    Beautifully written, I am interested which essay you read at BYU; Thanks for sharing this

  6. Caroline says:

    oh wow. This gave me chills. And it deserves a wider audience than this blog. I hope you’ll submit it to the Exponent II magazine.

    My bone-crushingly painful awakening came to me in the temple during an endowment session. The stark contrast between the peace and love I was supposed to feel and the horrendous pain I actually did feel because of the subordination of women that was presented there – well, it was nearly too much to bear. I couldn’t talk about it for years to anyone. Some things are too awful for words, at least initially.

    I do love the way you talk here about the importance of telling our own stories. I’m going to be speaking to a bunch of women’s studies in religion students about feminist blogging soon, and you perfectly articulated one reason why I think these online forums are so important for women. We must write our own lives. We must claim our own experiences.

  7. mraynes says:

    I agree, Alisa, the question of female exaltation does mean everything. And it frustrates me how some people cannot see why this is important to us. You’re absolutely right, we have the same uncertainty in what it means to be a woman in this life and the next as much as Mormons argue to the contrary. We have no moral superiority here.

    Suzann, thanks for your comment. I agree, RS would be a great place to share these stories, maybe we could work it into a new Relief Society Meeting…Stories of the Divine Mother night. 🙂 Honestly, I can’t remember exactly how the conversation went. It was a women’s history class so I’m sure there were opinions on both sides of the issue.

    Thanks, Jess. Funny enough, the article was by Valerie Hudson although it was not her book, that hadn’t been published yet. This was my first introduction to Dr. Hudson and I count it as one of the tender mercies of my life. Her work also brings me a lot of peace but I know what you’re saying about how the continued silence by the church on these issues sometimes outweighs the peace. That is why I think we need to take Sue’s advice and start sharing our stories with each other. Even if the church continues to remains silent, the combination of our stories will at least fill the void.

  8. mraynes says:

    Thank you, Tara. The essay was by Dr. Valerie Hudson but I don’t think it was ever widely published. She shared many of the same ideas in a book she later published, “Women in Zion, Women in Eternity.”

  9. Deborah says:

    First, I had never read that story you linked to about your experience during childbirth. Beautiful.

    Second, I love the metaphor of incomplete maps. There was some point in my life — when I had experienced considerably less . . . everything — that I didn’t understand the Catholic focus on the “mysteries of God.” Saw that as a symptom of less knowledge. Now, mystery is one of my favorite spiritual concepts. To ponder the unfathomable and try, with the light we’ve been given, to take the next small step in this spiritual journey (not a surprise the “Lead Kindly, Light” — by the Catholic theologian John Newman — is among my favorite). God is a mystery, one I embrace wholeheartedly. Mother in Heaven is a mystery, one I reverence. My own, recent intimations with feminine spirituality have been rooted in Mary, mother of Jesus. This has come as a surprise to me, but not an unwelcome one. That’s a percolating blog post, when I’m ready to share.

    Thanks for this post.

  10. mraynes says:

    Caroline, it is amazing how painful these paradigm shifting moments are. I feel grateful that you have shared your story with me because it has helped to put into perspective my own negative experience with the temple. It is amazing the strength to be found in this sharing, that’s why I think the internet has been so important in the re-emergence of Mormon feminism. The internet has made sharing our stories with other women readily available.

  11. Geoff J says:

    “To some this knowledge is nothing more an amusing academic riddle, one to be talked and talked to death with little consideration for the half of humanity to whom this question means everything and unaware that it is they who profane the very being of God.”

    Well that was mighty inconsiderate and misguided judgment on your part (ironically enough).

    We talk about the subject of Heavenly Mother because we want to better understand what has actually been revealed and what is made up or implied or speculated or logically deduced.

    You say “the revealed doctrine of Heavenly Mother”. Revealed to whom and where? That is the subject of much debate. I firmly believe in the Divine Feminine but I don’t go around making bold metaphysical claims on this subject like you seem to be doing here.

  12. mraynes says:

    Actually, Jeff, not inconsiderate at all. I thought long and hard about whether I wanted to broach this subject knowing that I was taking a calculated risk in making people like you angry. In the end I decided the risk was worth it. I wasn’t guided by the desire to keep from offending you, I was guided by the desire to help my fellow sisters who long to have an understanding of their place within eternity. Perhaps this is misguided to you, I think others here would argue otherwise.

    I obviously don’t have a problem talking about Heavenly Mother. What I do have a problem with is a thread that fails to account for the fact that this “doctrine” is vitally important for half of humanity. This seems to me to be unbelievably myopic.

    One of the failings of my post was that I was not able to differentiate what I thought the offending comments were. Certainly not everybody who participated in that thread was at fault but I stand by my statement that several commenters profaned the being of God. I say this because, like it or not, Heavenly Mother is a part of our doctrine, a doctrine that all of our modern day prophets have stood beside. When some commenters called into question her existence or relevance, I believe that profanes Her.

    As for my making bold, metaphysical claims about the divine feminine, I fail to see where I do that. I acknowledge Her existence, a point that I’ve already said is backed up by modern day prophets. Anything else I say about her is my own experience and not one that I expect others to rely on for information on the divine feminine. Perhaps you are offended because I did not speak of the subject in a rational or logical way…but that was kind of my point. It is impossible for me to be rational about this because I, as a woman, have too much riding on this doctrine.

  13. Jana says:

    Meghan:
    I read your story today as I was sitting in a secluded research library. It was very quiet in there and I had a few moments alone to let your words wash over me. Then I realized I was hearing the familiar words that I’ve heard echoed so many times in the prayer circles of the temple, but all female voices petitioning with even greater pathos and desire. The women of the church have been waiting for so long to know their mother…

    It

  14. Kim B. says:

    Thank you. I too have experienced the Mother and then experienced the pain and confusion as to why this is such a taboo subject. Just a week ago I was talking with another sister in the ward when I mentioned Heavenly Mother, I noticed her squirm and appear uncomfortable.

    Although I find great solace in the fact that those who seek Her will find Her, I wonder why it must be so.

  15. Geoff J says:

    I wasn’t guided by the desire to keep from offending you, I was guided by the desire to help my fellow sisters

    I am mostly annoyed at how you paint the whole discussion incorrectly. So you disagree with some of the comments in the thread — why not just say that? Which specific commenters are you asserting think this subject is “is nothing more an amusing academic riddle”? I don’t think that is an accurate accusation about any of the primary commenters in that thread.

    I was guided by the desire to help my fellow sisters who long to have an understanding of their place within eternity.

    Guess what — you don’t have a monopoly on this desire. We discussed this important topic for the very same reasons. It is painfully arrogant of you to assume otherwise.

    What I do have a problem with is a thread that fails to account for the fact that this “doctrine” is vitally important for half of humanity.

    You misread the thread. The commenters there don’t do this in my reading of it.

    When some commenters called into question her existence or relevance, I believe that profanes Her.

    So jump in and join those who defend the existence and relevance of MiH rather than taking unsupportable potshots at all of the participants in the thread from afar. At the very least respond to the specific comments/positions you disagree with and bring a useful argument with you.

  16. mraynes says:

    I really like the metaphor of the unfinished map as well, Deborah. One of the things that gives me peace in the gospel is that there is so much we don’t know, so much that is yet to be revealed. The possibility for equality is endless. I also love the idea of mystery, there is something humbling and beautiful in accepting that God is more than we can logically understand. I look forward to your post on Mary, it has always interested me that the Catholics have chosen her to be a demi-god of sorts. There is something really powerful in this but I confess that I don’t know enough about Catholicism to fully understand why.

    Beautiful, Jana. Oh how I wish what you said could be true.

    Kim, this baffles me as well. To me, the current status quo is a self-fulfilling prophecy, we don’t speak of Her because we never have. Of course, there is no way to get out of this cycle until we start speaking up, but that is a problem in and of itself for reasons already mentioned. I don’t really have any answers but I share in your pain. Thank you for sharing.

  17. Deborah says:

    Simmer down, Geoff. The very nature of the conversation on your thread would have made the type of sharing Meaghan offers nearly impossible. Different blogs, different conversations. Responding tit for tat, comment for comment often brings more heat than light, anyway. But we need to make room for sharing our experiences with feminine divine — and sometimes an analytic treatment isn’t sufficient. Its part of our spiritual history, part of our Mormon story. It’s a beautiful part of our theology. Let’s keep the temperature down on this thread.

  18. kmillecam says:

    Guess what — you don’t have a monopoly on this desire. We discussed this important topic for the very same reasons. It is painfully arrogant of you to assume otherwise.

    I find your comment to be as painfully arrogant as you seem to find mraynes’s take on the other blog post. Some of us feel this same disparity mraynes describes where Mother in Heaven is a topic more easily debated and profaned than the male counterpart.

    As to your calling mraynes’s differing viewpoint to be a “monopoly”, turn that finger around and examine yourself.

  19. kmillecam says:

    Sorry, my previous comment was supposed to have the first paragraph in quotes, quoting Geoff J.

  20. mraynes says:

    Geoff, (I’m sorry I misspelled your name the first time)

    I think you make valid points. Perhaps I should have jumped into the thread over at NCT but you have to admit that that is a rather intimidating forum for a woman with no formal legal or theological training. 🙂 I also find it interesting that on a post about Heavenly Mother, out of 170 comments, I did not see one female voice. I think that speaks volumes.

    I didn’t point out specific comments that I disagreed with in the OP because that was not the point of my post. I wrote this as an emotional, anti-analytical response, one that specifically took into account the female, Mormon experience. With comments like Blake’s #33, I doubt that my differing experience or viewpoint would have been welcomed.

    I don’t think we are at cross purposes here. You want to understand Heavenly Mother, I want to understand Heavenly Mother, we just have different ways of going about that. I didn’t misread your thread, the comments that were made over at NCT just don’t work for me or for a lot of women; instead of helping us understand MiH, they draw us further from Her. This post was intended as a place for women to relate their unique viewpoint on being a Mormon woman and the doctrine of the divine feminine. Male voices are welcomed here, certainly they too long for a Mother and have valid experiences to share about what it means to be a Mormon man.

    I opened this forum as a supportive place to share our affirming experiences not as another opportunity to argue the existence and importance of Heavenly Mother.

  21. Geoff J says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply mraynes.

  22. mraynes says:

    Thank you, Geoff. I’ve learned a lot from our encounter.

  23. MchllChndlr says:

    mraynes, thank you so very much for sharing this post. I find it difficult to articulate much more than the roiling confusion I endure as a motherless mother to two small children, in Mormon culture and doctrine. I will find the book by Dr. Hudson and seek comfort there, comfort that I dearly desire our priesthood leaders to openly advocate.

  24. Idahospud says:

    Thank you for this, mraynes. I have been desirous for my own encounter with the Mother; as one who has been physically motherless since age 7, I have looked to many women to teach me what I needed to know, but the unavailability of both mother and Mother has been at times almost excruciating. As the mother of five daughters, I want very much to both experience and pass along the feminine Divine, and I feel frustrated that, institutionally, we are discouraged from seeking Her or a relationship with Her.

    Thank you for your post.

  25. Emily U says:

    I’m happy to learn Valerie Hudson’s book was published. She gave me a copy of the manuscript when I took a class from her at BYU, but last time I checked I couldn’t find it published anywhere. Now I see you can buy it on Amazon.

  26. D'Arcy says:

    mraynes, beautiful post as always. I find myself, especially the last two years, really questioning where I stand with God. I continue to pull from other women’s stories to help me see mine more clearly.

  27. ECS says:

    mraynes, I enjoyed this post, thank you.

    That we have a Mother in Heaven is dangerous concept unless it’s contained within a carefully circumscribed teaching or doctrine. Or a non-doctrine (anti-doctrine?), because we really don’t know anything about Her. Only that She doesn’t want, or isn’t allowed, to talk directly to Her children.

    I think that because the Church currently allows only men to receive revelation to change or clarify a doctrine/teaching/practice/policy, we’re not going to find out much more about our Mother in Heaven until the men find it sufficiently urgent and important to ask God about Her and receive an answer. And judging from the statements made by Church leaders that it’s not important that we know more about our Mother in Heaven, I’m not holding my breath.

  28. ECS says:

    Darn it, I hate making typos in comments I can’t edit – almost as much as the people who make a special comment to apologize for the typos. 🙂

    Anyway, I loved your post, m. I hope you’ll continue to share your thoughts about our Mother in Heaven with us.

  29. Alisa says:

    ECS, I think you make some great points. Sometime I want to do a post about my experience of learning I’m expecting a baby boy right in the middle of my feminist/matriarchal awakening. I think it’s sad that many men don’t seem to yearn for the feminine divine. Some do, and have helped me immensely in my journey to find the Mother. Until we can reach a good balance of divine masculine and divine feminine – healing the wounds that the imbalance has caused to both men and women – I will be sad to witness how being isolated from the Mother also hurts our boys and our men. That our Church leaders are all men should not mean that they need the divine feminine less than we do. We all need her in our lives, just as we all need the Father.

  30. mraynes says:

    MchllChndlr, please know that the Exponent is a safe place to share your joys and your pains. There have been a few places in my life that I have turned for comfort, Dr. Hudson was one and Exponent has been another. I hope you find the peace your looking for.

    Thanks for commenting, Spud. I am so sorry that you lost your mother at such a young age, no wonder you long for a relationship with a heavenly mother. I have a daughter too and I struggle with how to pass this knowledge on. In the end, I decided on trying to model the unbelievable love I felt in that experience. I don’t always succeed but I strive hard to achieve it. I hope that where I fail, our Divine mother will make up the difference.

    Emily, so you were a fellow student? I can’t begin to express what Dr. Hudson has meant to me. I’m glad that her book is so readily available to others now. Thanks for letting us know.

    That is a beautiful plan, D’Arcy. I think there must be something to the idea of community being a conduit to get closer to God. I’m glad that this is a forum where we can do that.

  31. mraynes says:

    ECS, I’m so glad you commented. I agree, I don’t think further information about Heavenly Mother will be coming from the Church leadership anytime soon. I don’t know if I think this is a good thing or a bad thing because like you said, Heavenly Mother is a dangerous concept. I remember there was a post over at fMh that talked about how increased revelation from the church could result in a view of Heavenly Mother that feminists might be supremely uncomfortable with. That’s why I really like the idea of the grassroots of Mormonism openly sharing their experiences with the divine mother. I hope that soon this sharing grows to a point where the leadership can’t ignore it but I’m not holding my breath for this either. 🙂

    Alisa, it’s funny because the time when I felt like I connected with the feminine divine was for the birth of my son. I did not have the same experience with my daughter. I feel like this is really profound but I can’t really articulate why. I think I needed to feel that unconditional love so that I could pass it on to both my son and daughter because you’re right, both need it desperately.

  32. Kelly Ann says:

    Mraynes, Your post moved me. Thank you for sharing it. I love to hear people speak of their experiences or even merely their thoughts. I have felt like I couldn’t and this is what has pained me the most over the years. And so now that I can I pray for experiences that will move be closer to the divine in all its forms and understand just a tad more.

  33. suzann werner says:

    About 20 (?) years ago there was a quiet ground swell about Heavenly Mother in many areas of the church, including Arizona, Utah, and BYU. Women were openly discussing Her and including Her, along with HF in public prayers .

    It all ended when Pres. Hinkley, in a talk at GC, warned about talking and praying to HM. In one day, all open discussion about Mother in Heaven ended, and the fear of talking about her set in throughout the church. I notice that men in the church can talk about HM, but women get in trouble when they do they do.

    Private desires, even personal revelation about HM cannot be censored or suppressed which is creating another ground swell of women receiving empowerment from knowing Her.

  34. Brooke says:

    Thank you for sharing your awakening story. I love to hear people’s stories. It means so much more when they are fragile stories, personal and intricate and complicated.

  35. Jacob J says:

    I did not see one female voice. I think that speaks volumes.

    What are the volumes it speaks? I can tell it is a dig, but I honestly don’t know what you think it means. Should I be worried I don’t see any mail comments on this thread (except for Geoff J’s)?

    My emotional response to your framing this discussion as female=emotional and male=analytical is sadness. I think it is unfortunate.

    it is they who profane the very being of God.

    One of the meanest and most hurtful things said about me in all my years in the bloggernacle.

  36. mraynes says:

    Jacob J, is it really that difficult to see why the lack of any female voice on a thread with almost 200 comments that has eternal significance for women is telling?

    What it says to me is that women don’t feel comfortable participating in that forum. I think that’s a tragedy because half of humanity’s thoughts and experiences with Heavenly Mother are not being considered. And yes, it does concern me that there were not more male commenters on this thread. I really hope this doesn’t mean that Exponent II is an inhospitable place for men. Perhaps it means that our male commenters didn’t feel comfortable speaking about Heavenly Mother in the way I spoke about her. Either way, I think this is a problem. Men and women have got to be able to speak about Heavenly Mother in both an analytical way and an emotional way if we have any hope of understanding this doctrine.

    Which leads me to your next point; I’m not sure where I framed this discussion as male=analytical and female=emotional. As a feminist, this would be a pretty ironic thing for me to believe and I don’t believe it for a second. I said that it is impossible for women to be 100% analytical about Heavenly Mother because we have too much riding on this doctrine. Even Lynnette at ZD, who I think gave the most analytical feminist response to the issue of MiH, framed it as “Why I don’t want to believe in Heavenly Mother.” Perhaps I am interpreting this wrong, but that is an emotional reaction to some very problematic aspects of the doctrine of Heavenly Mother. But once again, I believe that both analytical and emotional dialogues on MiH are vital if we are to understand Her.

    As for your last point, I truly apologize for your hurt feelings. I already acknowledged to Geoff that one of the major failings of my post was that I did not differentiate what comments I found offensive. I tried to explain why I did this but I can understand why my words might still have been hurtful to you. If it helps, I went back and read your comments at NCT and you were not one of the commenters that I was accusing of blaspheming the being of God. I actually quite appreciated your comments where you tried to debunk some of the non-revelatory things said about Heavenly Mother. I think we are both in mutual bemusement at the meaning of “ultimate in maternal modesty”! And you quite pointedly said that you didn’t think Heavenly Mother was made up, which I think safely takes you out of the blaspheming camp. But once again, I apologize that my words hurt you.

  37. Jacob J says:

    Thanks for your gracious response.

    What it says to me is that women don’t feel comfortable participating in that forum.

    Sure, that is a possibility. I’m not positive that is the reason, since we have had more female participation on other threads and I can think of other plausible explanations. But even if I assume you are correct, I have to wonder what we did to make females feel uncomfortable. There are several possibilities, but I hope it is not because we are rude to women or that we treat HM as either amusing or purely academic. If that is the reason then we need to repent over at NCT. If it turns out to be that women naturally congregate with other women and men naturally congregate with other men, then I think that would be a less incriminating explanation (for both of our threads).

    I’m not sure where I framed this discussion as male=analytical and female=emotional.

    I’m glad to hear that I read you incorrectly and it sounds like we are on the same page here. For the sake of explanation, I inferred this from the combination of you referring to our discussion at NCT as “academic” and then said that you: “wrote this as an emotional, anti-analytical response, one that specifically took into account the female, Mormon experience.” The way in which you pitted the emotional against the analytical and then tied our all-male thread with the analytical and your emotional post as a “specifically female” experience gave me the incorrect impression that I expressed in my last comment.

    you were not one of the commenters that I was accusing of blaspheming the being of God.

    I’m glad to hear that since I try to always be respectful. To be honest, though, most of the people who participated in that thread are friends of mine, so I become somewhat defensive at your accusation even if I am not being singled out. I saw you called out Blake’s #33, but he didn’t make any comments close to #33 or #133, so I am not sure which comment offended you. Since you have acknowledged the need for both emotional and analytical discussions on this topic, I would hope that an honest investigation into the basis and origin of this doctrine does not amount to blasphemy in your mind. Either way, I would not consider it to be offensive, blasphemous, or inappropriate so if it strikes you as some/all of those things then that would explain our disconnect.

  38. mraynes says:

    Thank you for your response, Jacob. I really appreciate your taking the time to engage with me.

    It has been interesting to re-visit this post and the NCT post after several weeks removed. I will admit that the NCT thread made me very angry at the time and that is probably not a good place to write from. As I have looked back at it today, there was not as much objectionable as I first thought and I realize that I painted with much too broad a brush. That being said, I don’t regret my response to the post because I do feel there needed to be a pendulum swing. The NCT post was very analytical and it cried out for some emotional balance :). (I can totally see how you inferred the male=analytical, female=emotional tone in my post, bytheway).

    As I said before, both analytical and emotional dialogues are important, and I enjoy both. I agree that an academic investigation into doctrine can be honest and spiritually uplifting. But I do feel that comments such as Blake’s, which is still showing up as #33 in my computer, crossed the line into blasphemy. Yes, he gave a very reasoned and analytical response but I feel comparing the belief in a Heavenly Mother to the Easter Bunny is blasphemous. And then to go on and dismiss any need for a conversation or emotional attachment to the Mother in Heaven doctrine seemed very convenient as well incredibly offensive to me.

    This was one example, there were a few others but in general, you are right, the conversation was respectful. But as long as there are comments like Blake’s, women like me will not feel comfortable participating in similar discussions because we don’t want our sacred and genuinely heart-felt desires dismissed as idolatry and ridiculed as politically or psychologically motivated. I think this is a tragic loss for everyone involved.

    In writing this post, it was my hope to give credit to different ways of approaching doctrine. I wanted my emotional need for Heavenly Mother considered just as honest as my intellectual need for her. And I wanted to provide a space for men and women who have this same need to share their feelings without fear of being condemned. Perhaps I went about it in a bumbling manner, but my desire came from a good place.

  39. Jacob J says:

    In writing this post, it was my hope to give credit to different ways of approaching doctrine.

    And you did an excellent job of it. I think the bulk of this post is great and I’m glad you shared it. I agree with you that it is important for experiences like yours to be out there along side discussions like ours at NCT. And like you, I’m glad we can have a friendly conversation even though we started out with some disagreement.

    You are absolutely right about comment #33 being Blake’s, I apologize. I had too many tab’s open and was looking at the other recent NCT Heavenly Mother thread when I was looking for that comment. In Blake’s defense, he didn’t compare HM to the Easter Bunny, he said:

    Replace MinH with Easter Bunny and the argument and logic are just as sound.

    It seems fairly clear that he was critiquing the logical validity of the argument he had just cited and was using the Easter Bunny to show that specific argument to be invalid. I didn’t (and don’t) see that as a comparison of Heavenly Mother and the Easter Bunny. Perhaps to avoid that exact misunderstanding, his very next statement said that he was not calling into question the existence of HM. His concern about the lack of public revelations as a basis for the development of a theology seems like a good point to me and echo’s my original concern on that thread about people making things up.

    I can see why you could bristle at his comment about some feminists creating HM in their own image. I don’t know who he was referring to specifically so I can’t really defend that other than to say that he did give two prominent disclaimers that he was not trying to accuse all believers in HM of having done that. Also, I just want to reiterate that Blake was challenged by several different people on almost all of his points, so I would hope this would help make NCT an inviting place for you to speak up if you wanted to.

    I’m glad the thread seemed less objectionable to you upon review. I’ve had the same experience re-reading threads which really bothered me the first time around, so I can relate. Thanks for taking time to respond to me today, I’ve appreciated our exchange.

  1. December 30, 2009

    […] joy, hope, and […]

Leave a Reply