Confession: I am a feminist.
I haven’t always been a feminist. This has actually been a recent change and a slow change. And it’s a change that has made me nervous because Mormon’s and feminist’s haven’t always gotten a long. And I care what my family and my Mormon community think about me. So I’ve stayed quiet and haven’t shared the struggle within my heart. Because I don’t want them to think I am crazy. I haven’t blogged in almost a year and I have been tempted to give up blogging all together. But I’ve been praying to be able to find my voice again and to find the courage to share it. And last night I couldn’t sleep. I felt so strongly that this is a story that I need to share. What I am about to share is my experience and I do not speak for all of the LDS church.
2014 was an awful year for me. I was overcome with a deep fear of the future and failure. My dad got transferred to a new store, my mom got sick and I missed my brother on his mission. Everything was changing and it didn’t seem to be changing for the better. I realized that my health was going to be more of an issue for me than it had in years pass for the rest of my life. I was paralyzed by my fear, anxiety, and a deep-seated depression. And I faced failure for the first time in my life. All of this culminated to make me really, really ticked off at God. I ended up yelling at him a lot. Going to church every week made me feel even angrier.
I have always believed in God and I have always had a good relationship with him. It is something that came naturally since I was a little girl singing I am a Child of God and A Child’s Prayer. And I have worked really hard on my relationship with Jesus Christ. As Mormon’s we believe that God is the Father of our Spirits (we often call him Heavenly Father) and that Jesus Christ is our elder brother. This has often been comforting to me because it reflects the relationships I have on this earth with my own father and (younger) brother. I love them both dearly and I know they both love me so it has always been easy to picture God and my Savior Jesus Christ loving me like a father and a brother. That is part of the reason I feel like I could get so mad at God. I get mad at my dad sometimes and it’s because I care about him and my relationship with him and that is the same way that I feel about God. and I know that even when I get mad at my dad that he still loves me and I had confidence God would be the same way.
But the thing is I also have a mother. And just like I love and have a good relationship with my dad and brother, I have a good relationship with her . I can’t imagine my life without her. Her illness was one of the hardest things about 2014 because I had to face her mortality and the fact that she may not always be here on earth with me. That was so difficult. We Mormons believe that we have a Heavenly Mother as well.
“In the heaven’s are parent’s single?
No the thought makes reason stare!
Truth is reason; truth eternal
Tells me I’ve a mother there.”
O My Father – Eliza R. Snow (emphasis added by me)
The thing is though that we don’t know much about Her and besides this one hymn we don’t talk about Her much. I have been told since I was little that we don’t talk about Her because Heavenly Father loves Her so much He doesn’t want people to take Her name in vain so He doesn’t let most people know She even exists and doesn’t let the rest of us talk about Her. I accepted this for most of my life but for some reason in October this stopped making sense to me. I don’t know if it was because life was so hard and I was angry with God or if realizing that my mom will die someday caused it not to make sense anymore but I just couldn’t understand it. If my dad decided to keep my mom away from my brother and I and told us she’s out there in the world somewhere and loves us but we are not allowed to think about, talk about, or talk to her I think it would be more abusive than loving. And I can’t believe that God is an abusive husband. It doesn’t make sense. And I can’t believe that Heavenly Mother is that fragile. She must be strong because women are strong.
I felt this longing to know my Heavenly Mother well up inside of me. It is the closest I have ever had to an experience like the one Joseph smith describes in Joseph Smith History when he wants to know what church is true. I couldn’t think of anything else. I felt this whole in my heart that I couldn’t believe had been there for 23 years and I had never noticed before. But I knew that like Joseph, if I lacked wisdom I could ask of God. So I began praying. And I began searching LDS.org, BYU studies, The Sunstone, The Exponent, amotherhere.com, and anything else I could find. I learned that She is referenced more than I knew., although many of these references are more general “Heavenly Parent’s” references but I could still find Her. I couldn’t find anything supporting the don’t talk about Her rule although we have been asked not to pray to her. I learned she is a co-creator with God. I confirmed the knowledge that She loves and cares about me and my life. Still I was left with some questions like:
- Does Heavenly Father practice polygamy? If so what does that mean to who we are as his children and in relation to each other?
- What is Her relationship to the Godhead?
- What is She doing now? What role does She play in our daily lives?
- Why must we be so disconnected from Her?
- If She is a Goddess and has the same attributes of God, all-knowing and all-powerful than doesn’t She hold the priesthood? Because the priesthood is the power of God. What does that mean for women on earth today?
- Why do we talk so little about Her? Why has so little been revealed?
I don’t know when answers to these questions will come. I do know that if they aren’t answered while I am alive they are the first things I will ask her when I die. But everyday I have been praying to Heavenly Father to come closer to her and to see her hand in my life. This has been the beginning of a beautiful relationship with a mother I longed for and didn’t even realize I was missing. As I have searched for her I have been promoted to begin studying all of the scriptures in search of the stories of women there. I haven been touched by the stories of these women. Some I was already familiar with like the stories of Sarah, Rebecca, Ruth, and Hannah but I now feel a closer kinship with them. Some I just began to learn about like Hagar, Asenath, Puah and Shapirah, the daughters of Zelophad, and the concubine in Judges 19 and I am amazed I didn’t know their stories before. This is my first time reading the bible all the way through and it has been wonderful to find these heroines to look up to. Their stories have taught me that Heavenly Father and Mother love their daughters and have a great work for them. I believe no one cries harder than Heavenly Mother when women are abused and oppressed.
I have also felt impressed to search out the women from church history. I had no idea that relief society had such a history of feminism, often brought about by polygamy. As I have read the stories of Eliza R. Snow and Emmeline B. Wells and other sisters my heart has been moved by the work of the women who came before me who paved the way for me to be able to vote, get an education, and have a career.
My mother, grandmothers, and aunts have also paved the way for me. As I have searched for heavenly mother I have been struck by the influence of the women in my family. Because my mother got a college degree I knew from a young age I would as well. Because my mother, my aunts, and my grandmothers have worked so hard inside and outside the home I know it is possible for me to do both as well. They have shown me the joy that can come from motherhood and a career. I long for the chance to be a mother and I hope to be able to start a meaningful career I can give my heart to as well soon. And I know it’s possible because they have paved the way for me.
As I have searched for Heavenly Mother I have pondered my future responsibility as a mother. I long to be a mother like my both my earthly mother and my Heavenly Mother. I pray for the chance every day. I feel pangs of jealousy as I see my friends step up to the sacred role and i pray to have that jealousy to be turned to happiness for their good fortune. As I think about the future I hope I have both sons and daughters. I want my children to know their Heavenly Mother. I want them to feel her love and influence. I believe the most feminist thing a woman can do is raise their daughters to know their worth and their sons to respect women and treat them as equals. A blogger once said that when men are wicked women suffer. And I believe that whole heartedly.
I believe that Heavenly Mother wants all of us as women to support each other and love each other. Nothing must pain her more than to see us tear each other down. She must have had a hand in the writing of As Sisters in Zion. And I believe Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ must all be feminists. “God is no respecter of persons” and as I have searched for Heavenly Mother I have felt the need to claim feminism for myself. My search for Heavenly Mother has changed my perspective on modesty and loving my body. I don’t think any girl or woman would struggle with body image issues if she realized that she was made in the image of the most powerful and beautiful woman ever. No woman or girl would struggle with confidence either. This search for heavenly mother has made me realize that one of the greatest truths I have ever been taught is that “gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” Because I will not “grow up” to become live Heavenly Father in the eternities. I will be like Heavenly Mother.
I long for my Mother in Heaven. I long to remember her beauty, love, kindness, compassion, strength, courage, and wisdom. She must possess every divine and Godly attribute. I wonder what she is doing now and what I will be doing like her in the eternities. I know she hasn’t forgotten me.
This search has forever changed my understanding of who I am and who I have the potential to become. I still long for the answers to the questions about Heavenly Mother. They feel so important to my understanding of who I have the potential to be after this life and who I can be today. But I will pray for patience until the revelation comes and look to the women who came before me in my family, in my church, and in the scriptures for glimpses of my Heavenly Mother’s face. I will search for glimpses of Her face in my friends, co-workers, and acquaintances. And I will pray that I will portray glimpses of my Heavenly Mother and the divine feminine in my face for my children and all those who I interact with to see.
That is why I am a feminist. Because I have a Heavenly Mother who loves me. And I love Her. And I will stand as a witness of Her and Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ at all times and in all things and in all places. My full family.
And if Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother are equal in heaven and are co-creators and working together towards the same goal shouldn’t men and women be equal and work towards the same goal on earth as well? Shouldn’t men and women work as equals at work, at home, and at church? I hope and pray that all is equal in heaven. I hope and pray that all is equal on earth as well.
I am a feminist not in spite of being a Mormon but because I am a Mormon.