Pithy Phrase

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a woman, I put away childish things.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

It Is Not Enough

A couple of posts ago, a commenter asked me what changes I want to see in Mormonism or in the world.  While they are far too numerous to list in a single post, here is one that has been haunting me for nearly a year now.

I just read a fantastic post over at Zelophehad's Daugthers about the sexist nature of Mormon cosmology.  While I wouldn't assert that Mormonism's cosmology is the most sexist, per say, this post lists a lot of issues I have with the male-centric treatment of eternity in Mormon theology. Don't get me wrong, there are many things I love about Mormon cosmology, like the incorporation of the law of conservation of mass, the idea that we have always existed, and the almost reincarnation-like idea of eternal progression.  So much of Mormon cosmology is beautiful, but it is incomplete in its presentation.  It is presented from an entirely male point of view.  As the ZD post mentions, while Jehovah, Adam/Michael, Abraham, and Peter, James, and John all play a role in premortality, there is no mention of Eve, Sarah, Mary, or any other woman in our premortal dialogue.  And that includes Heavenly Mother.  We are taught that the plan of salvation was Heavenly Father's, and that he taught it to all of us, his spirit children.  Did Heavenly Mother have no say in this plan?  Did she not teach it to us as well?  Were all of the pre-Earth logistics undertaken by men alone?  What were all of us female types doing that whole time?  Why haven't these questions been addressed?

I am grateful that we have a Heavenly Mother at all.  Given the Mormon doctrine that sex/gender is an eternal characteristic, it would stand to reason that a literally male god would have a literally female equivalent (unless you want to go down that "everyone was male until God created Lilith/Eve/Pandora and thereby introduced evil into the world" road, which I, of course, do not).  But somehow, it is not necessary that we know a single thing about her, except that she exists.  Men can look at all the information we have about Heavenly Father, and have some idea as to what to expect, should they succeed in attaining exaltation.  They can expect to create worlds, have eternal posterity, and be omniscient and omnipotent.  Women have exactly none of that.  I have almost no idea what exaltation would hold for me; I only have what I learn in the temple.  There, I learn that I am to be obedient to my husband and that I "get to" be a priestess to him.  So all I can gather is that I am bound to an eternity of servitude and childbearing.  To be honest, if that picture is accurate, I don't want exaltation.  I'd rather chill in a lower echelon of glory where everyone is equally in second place.

When visiting my husband’s home ward last Christmas, I attended the gospel essentials class taught by my fabulous feminist mother-in-law.  It was on Heavenly Father, and at some point in the lesson I made a comment about Heavenly Mother.  After church, my fabulous feminist father-in-law came up to me and kindly told me that I can’t mention Heavenly Mother in a gospel essentials class where investigators and new members are present.   I replied that I see no reason why that should not be addressed, and he answered that the doctrine of Heavenly Mother is “not essential.”  When I tearfully asked why not, he fairly admitted that he didn’t know, and that it was troubling.  I was certainly troubled, and went to my room and moped and wept about it a little bit.

That is my question now: why is Heavenly Mother not essential?  Why the hell not?  Why is it not essential that over half of the church have an inkling of what eternity holds for them? Why do women not warrant actual, knowable role models: a mother, a goddess, a female angel or prophetess? When will the entirely male leaders realize that what we have isn’t enough?

It is not enough for me.

I wish more women (and men) would stand up and admit it with me.


Erin said...

Thank you for another beautiful post. I completely agree with you.

Christy Watkins said...

I like that your issues are with the cosmology and not eternal truth itself. Because the latter is obviously pretty hard to change :-) We can't change what exists eternally; only gain a better understanding of it through our relationship with our Heavenly Father (or parents) and our Savior. I can't say I agree with your interpretation of what we are taught in the temple... and I actually think that interpretation conflicts with everything else we are taught in the church outside the temple. But one of the most beautiful things about the Gospel is that (somewhat like your father-in-law seemed to reference) not all of our learning will take place in church classrooms. In church classrooms we teach basic principles. But so much more can be taught to us through personal revelation. The realm of eternal information available to us is endless. If we seek knowledge earnestly, and if we seek it from heaven itself, we can continue to poke holes through the dark sky until more and more light shines through onto our limited mortal minds. Perhaps the question to ask yourself is "What is it that I want to know?" If you can identify what you want to know, there is definitely a way to find it out. And while all of our sacred experiences of personal revelation are not and should not be shared publicly, I can promise you there are many women who have found answers to these types of questions :-)