#VisibleWomen: We are daughters of Heavenly Parents

Esther

Dear President Oscarson, Sister McConkie, Sister Marriott, and members of the YW General Board,

As I write you this letter, we are celebrating International Women’s Day throughout the world.  I am filled with love and a feeling of strong kinship as I think of the ways that my sisters around the world of all faiths lead, inspire, and serve in their communities.  I think of many of my own personal heroes from past and present: Amelia Earhart, Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Ellen Sirleaf, Mother Teresa, Malala Yousafzai, Esther, Ruth, Anna, Mary, and so many more.  I honor them and look for inspiration from their lives as I look to make my own corner of the globe a better place as much as possible.

I am a life-long member of the church and have had the privilege of serving in many capacities.  I currently serve with the Young Women, specifically the Mia Maids, and am constantly challenged by working with such incredible young women in my community.  They are smart, strong, and ambitious girls who are navigating the tricky waters of adolescence with faith and resolve.  I have been doing my best to teach them and inspire them to follow God and to live a life patterned after the life of Christ.

Every Sunday, we stand together and say the Young Women Theme.  I love this ritual – it draws our minds and our hearts back to the values that we stand for, and it reminds these women of their divinity and worth as daughters of God.  However, I am a bit concerned that one opportunity for reminding these girls of their divinity in the YW theme is being missed: that they are daughters of not only a Heavenly Father, but Heavenly Parents, and that their divine nature stems from both a Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother who love them, and they love them.

I know that we don’t speak much of our Heavenly Mother at church, although a recent article in BYU Studies shows that, historically in the church, “there has been substantial discussion and elaboration on the roles and divinity of our Heavenly Mother.”[1]  However, even recent statements from prophets and general authorities have referred to us as being children of Heavenly Parents – as recently as the October 2014 General Conference, President Uchtdorf reminded us that “pondering this truth — that we are children of heavenly parents — fills us with a sense of origin, purpose, and destiny.”[2]

In my home, on the wall directly behind my workstation, I have framed pictures of women who inspire me.  Every day, when I sit down to work, I am reminded of the great things that they did with their lives, and I am reminded that I am capable of doing equally great things.  It reminds me to use my time wisely, and it reminds me of my capability to make a difference in the lives of those around me.  Before I had these pictures up, I was more likely to waste time or become distracted, but now I have a focus.  I see what a good force I can be – I am reminded of it every day.  I believe that this kind of ritualistic reminder, though seemingly small and simple, can have an incredible impact on how we see ourselves and how we act.

Dear sisters, I believe that if we can make this small and simple change to the YW Theme – of changing “Heavenly Father” to “Heavenly Parents” – our girls will be invigorated.  They will see themselves not just as daughters of a Heavenly Father, with past and present divinity, but they will see that there is future divinity for women, too.  I believe that envisioning Heavenly Parents, with a Father and Mother side-by-side, will embolden them to see themselves as they are: divine daughters of God, with divine nature and divine potential.  They will be reminded every week of their divinity, and that “in the heav’ns, are parents single? No, the thought makes reason stare!  Truth is reason; truth eternal, Tells me I’ve a mother there.”[3]

Thank you for your service, your leadership, and your example.  I pray for you and our other church leaders, and I look forward to hearing from you in our General Women’s Meeting this month.

Sincerely,
Liz Johnson
Midland 1st Ward, Midland Michigan Stake

*****

[1] Paulsen, David L.; Pulido, Martin (2011), “‘A Mother There’: A Survey of Historical Teachings About Mother in Heaven”, BYU Studies 50 (1): 70–97.
[2] Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Living the Gospel Joyful,” October 2014 General Conference.
[3] “O My Father,” LDS Hymns #292.

 

Liz

Liz is a reader, writer, wife, mother, gardener, social worker, story collector, cookie-maker, and hug-giver.

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20 Responses

  1. Tessa says:

    Please! It would be such an easy change.

  2. spunky says:

    This is a beautiful letter! I hope others will follow suit and send in similar letters!!! (I know I am!)

  3. Olea says:

    But what if there isn’t future divinity for women? And what if She doesn’t love us? (In the sense of love as an active verb rather than an emotion).

    • Spunky says:

      Is this what you think, Olea?

      • Olea says:

        I worry so. I hope not. I don’t know, and I don’t really know how to know.

      • Amelia says:

        I think you are not alone in that worry, Olea. Though I think most who worry so do so in silent suffering. There are, unfortunately, ample reasons when we dig into Mormon theology and scripture and liturgy (what there is of it) to worry so. I think even small changes like this one (Heavenly Parents in the YW theme) would pave the way to revision of more egregious problems in things like the temple ceremony. The more we can make a conscious, overt statement of the reality of God the Mother as God the Father’s equal, the more widely that is accepted, the more likely it is that the archaic remnants of patriarchy and sexism are excised from Mormonism.

        It will be a long process. I doubt I’ll live to see as much change as I hope will happen. But evolutions take generations. In the meantime, I choose to reject the notion that women are nothing but chattel invented by a sexist god to serve sexist men. I know it is harder for some than it is for me to actively reject that notion, but for my own sanity I do it. I hope you find some mechanism for finding peace in spite of your worry. It is a terrible thing to have to worry about, I think.

      • Spunky says:

        Amen, Amelia.

      • Olea says:

        Thanks Amelia. I already expected to be divine one day because of the things I learnt in YW, which made the temple hard. I think if I’d said “heavenly parents” every week, it would have been even harder, but your comment reminded me that evolution and change is messy, and will probably hurt. And, frankly, that’s okay.

        Thank you for growing that hope a little 🙂

      • Ziff says:

        This might be only tangentially related, Olea, but your comment reminds me of one of my favorite posts on Heavenly Mother. It was written by my sister Lynnette over at Zelophehad’s Daughters:

        http://zelophehadsdaughters.com/2007/11/07/why-i-don%E2%80%99t-want-to-believe-in-heavenly-mother/

        And to be complete, I should also mention that she wrote a follow-up post arguing the other side a couple of years later:

        http://zelophehadsdaughters.com/2010/10/23/why-i-do-want-to-believe-in-heavenly-mother/

  4. EmilyCC says:

    A beautiful and heartfelt letter. I know I wished for the inclusion of Heavenly Mother so much when I was in Young Women’s.

  5. Joni says:

    I’m an adult serving in YW and I’ve started making this change… it’s only a few words different, but I still do it quietly so I am not seen to be ‘corrupting’ the girls! It makes me so sad when these beautiful young ladies stand up each week and chant in unison an oath which leaves out the divine being who shares their gender.

  6. Mari says:

    Plus this!
    ALL HUMAN BEINGS—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

  7. Lucy Walker says:

    This would be a small, but incredibly significant change. For now, like Olea, I feel an enormous amount of pain and uncertainty regarding the role of women in the LDS faith.
    When I hear the YW Theme as presently written I hear:
    WE ARE FALLEN DAUGHTERS of our Heavenly Father, punished forever for Eve’s transgression. WE WILL “SUBMIT as witnesses of God the Father and his many polygamous wives,through invisibility and sacrifice at all times and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18:9) as we strive to live the Young Women values, which are:

    Obedience • Fertility • Physical Beauty • Service • Sacrifice • Responsibility for the actions of others • Covered Shoulders

    WE BELIEVE as we come to accept and act upon these values, WE WILL BE PREPARED to entice a man to marry us, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and be saved through our husband’s relationship to Jesus Christ if all of our male children go on missions and all our children get married in the temple.

  8. Jen says:

    *APPLAUSE*

  9. Ziff says:

    I love it, Liz! This seems like such a doable change. I mean, we even say “Heavenly Parents” in the beloved FamProc! It’s only the tendency toward status-quo-protecting conservatism that keeps us from having the YW theme say the same thing!

  10. Rachel says:

    I love, love, love this. I wonder if it would be out of order for Young Women leaders to remind their girls to think of both of their parents when they say “Heavenly Father” until this change is enacted.

  11. Sally says:

    Liz, did you hear back?

  1. March 8, 2015

    […] Dear President Oscarson, Sister McConkie, Sister Marriott, and members of the YW General Board, As I write you this letter, …read more       […]

  2. September 7, 2016

    […] #VisibleWomen: We are daughters of Heavenly Parents […]

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