Guest Post: The Weird Stuff

Guest post by Kaitlyn, a former Marine Corps intelligence officer, and a current SFF writer, with several published short stories. She moves around the world with her spouse and four children. You can find her on Twitter @KZivanovich

I don’t remember when I was first taught about Heavenly Mother. But I remember when I was taught to be ashamed of Her.

At 15 years old, I had a religious conversation with a friend. I eagerly went home to share my missionary experience. Shocked, I relayed that my friend had never heard of Heavenly Mother! So I bore my testimony of Her!

The trusted adult I shared this with deflated, put his face in his hands, and groaned. “Kaitlyn, we don’t tell them the weird stuff.”

Suddenly my testimony-sharing triumph was an embarrassment. A colossal mistake. I’d done something very wrong, something idiotically wrong. I burned with humiliation. She was real, She was a comforting doctrine, but She was the “weird stuff,” and I should’ve known better than to air our family’s weird secrets.

Worse, I’d offended Heavenly Father, who, as I was taught, intentionally kept Her a secret to protect Her from the world. I had exposed Her to ridicule and mockery. How could Heavenly Father ever trust me again?

As I grew up I realized that I knew plenty of men who treated their wives this way. They spoke for their wives, and referred to any of their pursuits as “little projects.” They praised their wives, from the pulpit, for all of their sacrifices for the family, for their unwavering support in their callings, and for “putting up with them’. Being married to a righteous man, I realized, meant sitting alone with your kids on Sundays while your husband sat on the stand and people bore testimony of his great leadership. Was this how Heavenly Mother felt? Was this how Heavenly Father intended it? To me, it was a nightmare. I kept that to myself too. We don’t talk about the weird stuff, even with each other.

I felt the feminine wound before I knew what to call it. It deepened when my Beehive advisor gently chastised me for wanting a career when I grew up. Only as a last resort, she declared. My divine purpose was to stay at home. My personal revelation would never tell me to go against the Family Proclamation.

It cut deeper when my unmarried sister expressed a desire to receive her endowments and her YSA ward bishop said no, women are prone to immodesty and without a husband, she’ll break her covenants or fail to wear her garments correctly. Her righteous desires were naive and misplaced. She shouldn’t trust her own inspiration.

My trust in priesthood leadership eroded when the stake president delayed giving my convert husband the Melchezedech priesthood after grilling him about which sexual acts we engage in as a married couple. We needed to cease all acts that could not result in pregnancy. Our Bishop intervened because this was clearly non-doctrinal. But how humiliating for my sex life to be picked apart behind closed doors by men who judged themselves to have authority over every aspect of my behavior. The wound deepened. Festered.

I’ve been YW president in two different wards. Never once was a name I prayed over and submitted for a calling, approved. My inspiration was nice, but the bishopric would rather I pray over this name instead. A bishopric counselor once threatened to fire me when I questioned a Stake youth initiative, and offered alternatives to the stake’s plan. If I couldn’t support our stake leaders, then I couldn’t be YW president, he said.

After prayerfully preparing a lesson about the Temple for my YW, the priesthood holder supervising my lesson wrote a lengthy email saying I had revealed too much. I was not to tell the YW what specific covenants we make in the Temple. I responded that I knew exactly what I covenanted not to reveal, and that wasn’t one of them. But he had the priesthood and a deeper understanding of the Temple than I did.

My male seminary student concluded that because there are only six named women in the Book of Mormon, it proved that God cares more about men. My testimony was not enough to counter the evidence in the scriptures.

And one day, the bandaids I’d put over the wound refused to hold any longer. I sat in the temple that day, on the left side of the room, separate from the men who make covenants directly with God, while I made them through my husband. I shook beneath the veil I had to don, as a woman, while engaging in the Holy Order of Prayer. And I said, God? Is this how You want it to be? Is this really what You think of me, of women? Do You really love us so much we have to be silent to be protected? I am clearly considered “less than” here in Your holy temple, is this right? WHY?

I felt an embrace from both sides, banishing all of the fury and pain in my heart, and I heard a voice in my mind say, “Kaitlyn, you know Us better than that.”

They didn’t say, “Trust Me, someday you’ll understand.” Nor was I chastised for my lack of faith or daring to question Them. They reminded me that I had already received a witness of Them, Mother and Father both, and to trust that witness. I wasn’t wrong. God was no respecter of persons. Every soul was great in Their sight, including mine.

I first prayed to my Heavenly Mother while in labor with my fourth child. I’d been taught it was wrong to speak to Her, but I figured laboring women had a special dispensation. I prayed to Her. Through 24 hours of labor, I called on Her to attend me, and She came with the power of a hurricane. I spoke to Her. I spoke to my daughter. We three together worked a miracle.

I whispered of Her to my newborn daughter. It would be years before I spoke openly of Her, but I wouldn’t teach my children to be ashamed of the weird stuff. I wouldn’t deny them this strength, power and comfort just because outsiders might think it strange.

Could I pray to Her when I wasn’t in labor? When it had nothing to do with childbearing and rearing? Was She only able to attend to women who were fulfilling their divine role as mothers? To me, the thought made reason stare. She loved me before I had children. She must love me after. Or even if I had no children. Even if I were not a woman.

And when the guidance and direction of men failed me, I trusted my Heavenly Parents. As They’d said: I knew Them better than that. I knew Them. I knew Her. And I began to know myself.

I’m not ashamed to talk about the weird stuff. Heavenly Mother is a real, living person who loves me; not a concept to placate women or enforce their silence. She is real, and we have both the obligation and the privilege to know Her.

As long as I stay in the church I won’t be able to prevent the feminine wound inflicted by institutionalized patriarchy. Neither will my ashamed silence fix it.

I’m teaching my kids the weird stuff.

This post is part of a series, Contemplating Heavenly Mother. Find more from this series here.


  1. My heart aches for your teenage self being told that Heavenly Mother was the “weird stuff” we don’t talk about. I’ve had some similar experiences. Shame and secrecy are deterrents to spiritual growth.

  2. Thank you for sharing this story, the whole of it. It’s only “weird stuff” because there hasn’t been room at church where it’s acceptable to talk about it. When I was a kid, a woman was bearing her testimony about Heavenly Mother and was asked to sit down before finishing. She never bore her testimony again. I don’t remember the specifics of what she said, but I do remember connecting with her words.

    • That is heartbreaking. But it accomplished exactly what they intended: that woman would forever be silent, and everyone else knew they had to be careful. Considering the things I’ve heard over the pulpit, that weren’t censored, why Her?? Why is She so dangerous? It is infuriating.

    • Thank you for reading. I know my experience isn’t unique, and it’s bittersweet to know this resonates. I’m not alone! But also… We’re all going through this pain…

  3. Yes. Yes. Yes. I feel your words. Thank you for your trust in sharing your vulnerability and your courage with us.

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