Sunday was Mother’s Day. As it sometimes can, it brought up feelings of frustration for me. While we pay lip service to mothers and may give them breakfast in bed or a chocolate bar at church, we do almost nothing to recognize any of their power, authority, or divinity. We tell moms that their hard work on earth is seen and appreciated, yet we continue to absolutely ignore them in the eternities.
The first thing I saw on my social media newsfeed Sunday morning was a Mother’s Day message from Russel M. Nelson, already shared, liked and commented on by several of my good friends. I read the first paragraph, and what he said jumped out to me. It read, “I never cease to be amazed that when Heavenly Father created women, He not only gave them the capacity to bring life into the world, but He also endowed them with the gifts required to shape and teach all of us.”
There was no mention of Heavenly Mother, whatsoever, in this thought. What if I had posted something similar, ON MOTHER’S DAY, about my own family?
Me, with a picture of my dad: “I never cease to be amazed by my incredible father, and how when he created me and my sister, he gave us so many of his gifts and talents.”
I know what would happen next. Everyone would say, “Actually, Abby – your MOTHER did a whole lot more work creating you than he did, and it’s literally Mother’s Day, so maybe you should talk about her instead of him right now.” I would sound ungrateful to my mom, and very out of touch with the reality of how childbearing actually works. Dads are great, but they rightfully get almost no credit in the creation of their child, because their part (while critical) is infinitely less demanding physically, emotionally, and mentally than what mothers do.
And yet, President Nelson only talks of Heavenly Father and how he created all of us, apparently all on his own, on Mother’s Day, and many LDS mothers are sharing his words and thanking him for saying them. I honestly don’t understand why we are all okay with this. If we have a Heavenly Mother, then she deserves so much more, especially on the one day set aside each year to honor motherhood.
Later in the morning, I received the card below with two small chocolates from my ward. For a Mother’s Day message, the quote on it felt overwhelmingly masculine. It was from a man (President Gordon B. Hinckley), and said, “You are very precious, each of you, regardless of your circumstances. You occupy a high and sacred space in the eternal plan of God, our Father in Heaven. You are his daughters, precious to him, loved by him, and very important to him. His grand design cannot succeed without you.”
There was also a copy of a painting of a young woman kneeling in communion with her Heavenly Father.
Once again, the message was about Heavenly Father and His eternal plan, and His relationship to the daughters that HE created, with no mention of Heavenly Mother, or Her connection or hopes for Her daughters. And it’s on Mother’s Day – how is this not seen as strange? And why do I often feel like I am the only one around noticing these things?
Several years ago, my ward’s relief society lesson on Mother’s Day was about Joseph and Hyrum Smith. On the one day set aside to honor women specifically, in the women’s organization’s meeting of just women studying the official Relief Society message – it was a lesson about two men. I pointed this out to my bishop in the hallway afterwards, and he said, “Oh. I guess that is kind of weird, isn’t it?” I was so glad that he recognized the strangeness of what had just happened, but it didn’t mean much. We didn’t make the men study the words of two prominent Latter-day Saint women the next month on Father’s Day to balance it out or anything.
The very next year in Sacrament Meeting, we sang, “Oh, My Father” as the closing hymn in Sacrament Meeting. This isn’t unusual, as it’s one of the very few places Heavenly Mother is mentioned explicitly and is thus a popular choice for Mother’s Day services. However, it struck me as frustrating that the hymn we most immediately jump to as being about mothers is literally named after a father. The majority of the song is about our Father in Heaven – being nurtured by Him, learning to pray to Him, learning that you came from His presence, and then at the very end of the third verse Heavenly Mother is mentioned for the very first time. And she’s only first mentioned as someone in connection with her husband – because Heavenly Father couldn’t be single. That’s not to downplay the importance and beauty of Her being sung about in beautiful lyrics in a worship setting, but it’s to point out how tiny the crumbs are that we’ve come to live off of as women looking for our exalted place in the afterlife. We will happily sing a song about Heavenly Father and call it a Mother’s Day song because Heavenly Mother is mentioned at the very end of it. Where is the song called, “Oh, My Mother”, that actually talks about Her (and Her power and glory and ability to create) for all of the verses? That would be a real Mother’s Day song.
I’ve spent years coming to understand the role that these hidden and almost invisible messages played in determining how I saw myself and other women. If every time a little girl learns about God she’s told it means Heavenly Father, and Heavenly Father alone, she won’t see Heavenly Mother as God-like or powerful. If every time she hears Heavenly Mother discussed at all, it’s whispered and hidden, she’ll see that her intended place is to someday shrink into nothingness and disappear. The way we teach about Mother in Heaven isn’t empowering to any girl. It’s damaging and teaches her that her worth as a female is to be praised with breakfast in bed once a year, then forgotten about for the rest of eternity. Meanwhile, her male peers look forward to becoming Gods and creating universes with numberless children they will have a meaningful relationship with.
I see this clearly every Mother’s Day, and it makes the whole holiday depressing, even if I like being a mom. I have maybe 40 or 50 more Mother’s Days left, where I’ll get a gift or meal, but then after that I’ll become a Heavenly Mother who will basically cease to exist. Every time my children talk about me, they’ll omit me from the story and say that Dad created them (with no help from me, it would seem). It makes me think Mother’s Day is actually just another holiday for the men, not me.