Mary is on my mind. And not just because it’s almost Christmas or because I recently gave birth to my first baby boy. Yes, Mary was a mother. But more importantly, she was the mother of Christ. Christ is not something I have trouble believing in, and Christ had a mother during His earthly existence! A mortal mother whom we know so little about, and yet we know more about her than we do about our Heavenly Mother. And it is this fact that has been a source of immense pain and stress for me over the last few months.
Shortly before my son was born, I stopped attending church. What started out as an escape from my negativity-inducing ward, carried over into maternity leave, and extended beyond into full inactivity. I didn’t make this decision lightly, and despite how it appeared, I did it very consciously. I could no longer keep up appearances that my good standing was worth fighting for, and in many ways, I have been happier staying home on Sundays, despite the guilt I feel in sending my husband to church with my 3 older children.
But that guilt is nothing compared to the pain of questioning not only the role, but the very existence of a mother in heaven. In searching and pondering (I can’t bring myself to pray yet) I have gone the rounds of logical thinking. I started with “She exists and we are not supposed to pray to her” and moved to “She is kept from contacting us, or else she would manifest herself ”. This turned into “She is willfully and intentionally absent from our lives” and then uncovered, “What would prevent her or cause her to refrain from connecting with us?” and finally “Why was she not revealed to Joseph as equal to the Father and Son? Could her role be so different from what we imagine that it makes no sense for us to have a relationship with her?”
I began to believe if she was indeed kept from us, then she had no power and we truly have no example of an exalted and eternal woman. I’m not sure if this hurt more or less than believing that my mother would not make an effort to contact me. I also began to wonder if she did not exist independently of the Father and if they were truly “one”. I wondered if “father” and “mother” were merely earthly constructs given as a way for us to comprehend the incomprehensible, and not necessarily eternal and immortal roles; thus implying that our view of heaven is limited (duh). And as I went further down the rabbit hole, I imagined scenarios of eternity that made polygamy look like a welcome reality.
How could this be? How could the whole of my faith and religious practice rest on doctrine that is practically non-existent to us? How could such a key player in our spiritual existence be such a clouded concept? And if I couldn’t talk myself through the logic, nor pray my way to an answer, what was the point of attending a church that causes me pain and essentially offers me nothing in the form of a goal as a woman. I could be a good person in this world without the church, so why go?
But the truth is that I want to go back. Call me crazy and I couldn’t really tell you why, but I want to find my way through this and I want to regain some form of peace. I don’t want to wound the LDS feminist movement with my poor example of faith, nor do I want to harm the church that in many other ways brings joy and peace to struggling individuals and strengthens families. I know that isn’t always the case, and that many have their own pain caused by the church, but I see the good, and I want those parts for my children. In addition to which, I have had powerful spiritual moments of clarity (in the temple at that) where I have known (at the moment at least) that I was in the right place and on the right path.
But I can’t ignore this void anymore. I can’t pretend that it doesn’t matter. I envy the hope of others. Many women are able to find her in their lives and are able to connect with her in ways that I am not. I see the beauty in this and I want to support efforts to include a feminine divine in our worship and to praise it. I just don’t know how to believe that this must look like what many Mormon Feminists see as a literal Mother of us all. In denying the essentialism of gender and acknowledging the eternal existence of our intelligences, I come closer to understanding why perhaps it may be that we are not acquainted with an individual. And though I feel a strong need to find and add balance to the nature of God, I just can’t say that I know what that looks like at this point.
Of course, I am aware that I could be wrong. I am lacking in so much right now that I have to allow for the possibility that I just don’t want to see what is right in front of me.
Faith is the substance of things hoped for. And right now I am still hoping that I will find answers to my questions. I am hoping that if a mother exists, that I can and will find her. But I also know that if I do, I will not be able to stand by and allow her to remain hidden. I will not be able to shy away from the reality of her role and existence, and I won’t be able to passively attend a church that does so, nor teach my children otherwise.
I acknowledge that my beliefs are a work in progress. I know that many feel differently towards the divine feminine and may disagree with me. But I also can’t continue to act as though I feel the same until I have my own witness of truth. I am hopeful to find it, and I hope to one day share more certainty with my sisters.
Please feel free to discuss your own views and beliefs about the doctrine of Heavenly Mother. I would appreciate and welcome your experiences and thoughts if they are not too personal to share. How have you found and nurtured your own connection to the feminine divine?