Guest Post: Call Me Crazy, But I Hope Leadership Never Embraces Heavenly Mother
Guest post by Rachael, who grew up in the heart of Utah Valley in a large LDS family. Her greatest moments of peace were not inside the church buildings but in the American Fork Canyon and the foothills close to home. She worships the Divine Feminine and is a practicing Pagan. She has presented at the Claremont Conference of Mormon Studies, the BYU Conference on Mysticism, and at Sunstone.
After the recent Women’s Session of General Conference in which it was again discouraged to talk about Heavenly Mother, my thoughts have inevitably turned to her again. I am a post-Mormon who hasn’t practiced or attended church for over a decade, but a big part of my heart still connects with the Mormon feminine divine who calls so many of us to a deeper search. She is hidden in official church discourse, yet grassroots channels and social media have elevated her, created poetry and art in her image, and even created events to celebrate her. Maybe church leadership just can’t see that the more they try to hide her, the more we will find her. And although it sounds strange, I hope the church leadership never embraces the doctrine of our Heavenly Mother. Here’s why.
Based on doctrine alone, we know a select few things about her: She is a resurrected and exalted being just like Heavenly Father. She is his wife. Logical extension of the doctrine concludes she is the mother of our spirits, just like Heavenly Father is the father of our spirits. However we cannot worship her even though she is a god, and we are discouraged from relating to her even though she is the mother.
Most of what we know about her is in terms of “not’s” and “don’ts.” She is a god who isn’t worshiped. She is a mother who does not mother. She is an exalted being who somehow still needs protection from humans. The church leadership, in their attempt to hide her, has made her into an obscure and shadowy doctrine that is full of paradoxes and contradictions.
But here is why I think this is so exciting. Because church leadership has refused to take ownership of the doctrine of the Heavenly Mother, they have inadvertently surrendered her into the realm of speculation and, I would argue, mysticism. Mystics from all faith traditions claim that they experience their god directly, and without the intervention of the authority or hierarchy that normally gatekeeps the spiritual experience. Mystics experience God as an intimate and personal reality, often claiming that they feel god in their bodies or all around them, as an infinite source of love that cannot be mitigated by institutions. No matter how much leaders tell us we should not worship her, they cannot control the hearts of people who are ready to connect with the Feminine Divine.
Because official doctrine and text refuse to tell us about her, we are given a kind of freedom that we wouldn’t have otherwise, to relate to her directly. We are not going to be able to get to know Heavenly Mother through the scriptures, through the Brethren’s revelation, or through any traditional sanctioned methods. We’re going to get to know her directly. Through prayer. Meditation. Personal experience. Art. Poetry. Relationships with others. Through our bodies, minds, and senses.
I recently read a book called Crux by Jean Guerrero. In the book, she quotes the philosopher Chesterton who basically says: the fuel for mysticism is never the answers, it is the questions themselves. And the thing about the questions is that they are almost always paradoxical. It is the paradoxes themselves that fuel the mystic’s search. And because the paradoxes are never resolved, the fuel is unlimited. The richness that lives inside of the paradoxes is almost infinite. And that is exactly how I feel about this search that I’m on for Heavenly Mother because she is full of questions, full of contradictions, and full of paradoxes.
The church has attempted to water down and ignore these complexities, but my premise is that the beauty of the Feminine Divine lies exactly in the unknown. Yes, it is infuriating and problematic how our leadership rejects her, but I would rather find her on my own than have her filtered through the constricting lens of hierarchical dogma. Her mystery has given me room for a sort of creative mysticism. Her mystery has given me room to relate to her from my heart and my experience. I know it is against the leader’s commands to relate to her, but no institution can stop the reality that the Divine Feminine is reentering our collective consciousness and we want to know her. I believe she wants to be known.
This post is part of a series, Contemplating Heavenly Mother. Find more from this series here.