Finding Mother God, Finding Myself
This address was originally delivered at the “Let’s Talk About Heavenly Mother” fireside on June 25, 2022 at the Provo City Library Ballroom, and can be viewed in video format here.
My name is Ash Rowan, and my pronouns are they/them and he/him.
I’ll start by disclosing that I’m not entirely Mormon these days. It doesn’t feel accurate to say I “left” the LDS Church; I haven’t removed my records, mostly as a gesture of hope, but I also don’t attend services anymore. Since May of last year I’ve been worshiping with a Unitarian Universalist congregation, and doing a bit of what I call “homeschool” or “DIY” Mormonism on the side. I’m still invested in the culture, and some of the doctrine.
Rest assured: my goal is NOT to get any of you to leave the Church. I am going to tell you that faith is a living thing, that it’s yours to define and explore in ways that feel authentic to you. It can be scary. It can be fun. And it can be so deeply meaningful.
2019 in particular, for me, was a year of major self-discovery, and determining what that meant for my relationship with the Church. In April I was formally diagnosed as being autistic, and in July I publicly came out as nonbinary. I was still fairly new to motherhood, and navigating that role and its associated expectations.
Femininity had become a thorny subject for me–I related to it in some ways, but not in others, and the lack of female leadership and femme futures within the Church felt bleak. What was the long-term eternal plan for women, wives, and mothers? And was there room for a queer person like me?
The concept of Heavenly Parents and Heavenly Mother wasn’t entirely foreign. It seemed to me like She’d always been “hidden in plain sight”. Probably like many of you, I had latched onto a reference in the hymn “O My Father,” and various offhand remarks in conference, but was also told that we don’t speak to or about her–because she’s simply too sacred. That reasoning felt flimsy to me, so I dove in deeper. What I kept noticing was an emptiness. A lack of listening to women’s stories. A loss of authority. And just a void where any knowledge of, or relationship with, a Mother Goddess should be.
There weren’t many “approved” resources for learning more. One of my favorites was this book which, surprisingly, you can find at Deseret Book–it’s a picture book called “Our Heavenly Family, Our Earthly Families,” with artwork by Caitlin Connolly. It speaks so naturally about our godly heritage, while also acknowledging the reality of diverse family permutations here on Earth. Each set of pages also features quotes from LDS leaders, including women leaders, describing the nature of our Eternal Parents. I was encouraged to see that Heavenly Mother could exist easily within orthodox views, and that it could be so accessible for kids to learn about Her too.
For the most part, though, I felt like I had to tiptoe around in what sometimes felt like the restricted area of a library, reading things by Carol Lynn Pearson or Rachel Hunt Steenblik (who I love dearly—but I’d been brought up to believe that feminism was an enemy.) What I found, though, is that the Spirit spoke to me through them just as well as through officially-sanctioned channels: a discovery which, in itself, was a blessing. This was also around the time that Frozen II was released; I related strongly to Elsa’s journey, and the idea of an inner voice calling me out into these uncharted spaces. That was terrifying; I didn’t want to be led astray, or, maybe even worse, lead my kids astray. But I also knew I was being challenged to find a deeper, more authentic faith, and the only way I could do that was by being bold and forging ahead, and trusting that I could trust myself to know Truth when I found it.
The doctrine of Heavenly Mother became a lifeboat for me. Her existence was a promise, filled with hope, that said there was still more to explore. There was still room for discovery, space to reclaim for people and ideas that had previously been relegated to the periphery. The current power system–patriarchal and white and oppressive in nature– wasn’t the only way we had to do things.
If there was room for an Eternal Mother in our cosmology, maybe there could be room for me too. Even if I had to fight to claim that space.
And maybe it didn’t always have to be a fight. Maybe finding and reclaiming Her could be done in small moments too, like expanding every mention of Heavenly Father into Heavenly Parents, or addressing God as “Them” and “She.” One of my most profound spiritual experiences involved singing “A Child’s Prayer” and directing its questions to Heavenly Mother while I rocked my infant son to sleep. I felt Her presence there with us when I asked, “Heavenly Mother, are You really there?”
As I’ve explored my spirituality, I’ve practiced a KonMari approach to faith—a series of intentional choices about the beliefs I want to keep carrying with me. One truth that I have chosen to hold onto is the idea that God is expansive. God is an infinite love that cannot be contained, yet still encompasses femininity alongside masculinity–and, like me, is also some of both, and neither at all.
In finding Heavenly Mother, I have found more of myself, and vice versa. The promise that I belong to both God and Goddess empowers me to be brave, and bold, and to take up room in spaces that used to be closed off to me.
I see Heavenly Mother’s divine DNA embodied especially well in Jesus, as someone who ministers among the marginalized, and uplifts even unlikely prophets who challenge unjust traditions. She is love: radically unconditional love.
Our Mother God is a radiant refuge, a sustaining force of life we can all come home to, within ourselves and along with each other. She is no longer lost and hidden, and never will be again.
May we each hear and heed her call, to be healed, to be whole. Amen.