Sunday, December 30, 2007

Gods and Goddesses

During the September 2006 women's conference, one of the speakers (sorry, didn't write down who, and too lazy to look it up) was speaking about God's love for us, and said something to the effect of; "What does His love feel like? Like a mother holding an infant." And I thought, "Why can't you just get over it and say that God is our Mother?!?"

I find it fascinating (well, okay, pretty infuriating too) that so many of the scriptural/cultural references to our distinctly male God, use maternal symbolism. Born of God, nourished by God, gathered under his wing like a hen gathers her chickens... And as mormons, we theologically believe that there is a Heavenly Mother... but this is not Her they are talking about. All of her skills and talents and gifts have been appropriated and applied to the all powerful Father. When I let it, this can really piss me off.

Lynette wrote an amazing piece over at Zelophehad's Daughters about why she doesn't want to believe in Heavenly Mother, and this part in particular really struck me, "I am not persuaded that the doctrine of Heavenly Mother is actually all that positive, at least in the context in which we have it... if Heavenly Mother exists, what we have is a divine role model for women which may be more disturbing than no role model at all– one in which women are silenced to the point of invisibility, in which they seem to disappear altogether into the identity of their husbands."

Honestly, I think that it is sort of the favorite parent thing taken large scale... you know, will the baby say 'dada' or 'mama' first? And in our lovely patriarchal culture, you better be sure that all the good little children are taught to say 'dada'


Lessie said...

Yeah, this was one reason it was so hard for me to try and pray to heavenly mother--did she really want to be prayed to? did she really have equal status since nobody's heard anything from her? I worried about Lynette's reasoning a lot when I considered women's roles in the church. What if the patriarchal structure was the example of the eternities? That was what eventually led to my "I respectfully decline to participate" decision and ultimately, my leaving all together (although I haven't removed my name, more cause I'm afraid of what hubby will say than anything. He's been supportive, but I don't know if that would be something he could stand given his current way of believing).

G said...

it drives me nuts when individuals claim that we should just get used to the idea because that is what it is going to be like in the eternities.
for example, this comment over at fMh about polygamy and patriarchy...

I wanted to make some sassy comeback about how I had prayed to god about it and she had told me not to worry, silly men and their silly ideas had less sway up there... I didn't. but, in a way, that is how I feel.

(chandelle) said...

ugh. what a nasty comment.

that photograph is GORGEOUS.

the whole heavenly mother thing didn't really bother me for a long time in the church. when i was a pretty new member i asked somebody why, if we have one, she's never mentioned, and especially why she isn't worshiped in the same context (especially as regards elohim supposedly being male & female). i was told something along the lines of, "god respects and loves his wife [though now i know it's more likely to be wiveS] so much that he wouldn't allow the world to denigrate her name the way his name is taken in vain. he loves her so much, he wants to protect her. that's why she isn't mentioned." even at that time, i sort of rolled my eyes, like, "oh yes, the all-powerful god-mother of the world would be so vewwy vewwy hurt if somebody took her teensy-weensy name in vain!" please. how does that make sense when, if she WERE mentioned and worshiped by mormons, presumably it would be anything but disrespectful? i think the truth is closer to - let's avoid talking about her lest she get a big head and forget her station as a servant of her god and master.

G said...

"let's avoid talking about her lest she get a big head and forget her station as a servant of her god and master."

or even worse... if women here on hearth started getting big heads full of all sorts of ideas that would disturb the current order of things.

heaven forbid!

(ps, about the image, thanks, I like it too... I planned on doing a whole series of little fabric 'breasts' or 'wombs' in a similar fashion... but at the moment I am a little ambivalent about reducing my feminine symbols to woman's reproductive abilities... need to work out my theory on it.)

Kiskilili said...

Hooray, G, I'm glad you have your own blog! (I guess I've been out of it.)

The whole Heavenly Mother thing makes no sense to me. As you point out, we feel it's perfectly appropriate to compare Heavenly Father to a mother. But does this even make sense for a Church that believes in eternal, divine gender roles? Does our Heavenly Father have his gender role mixed up? Meanwhile, we claim motherhood is a woman's most essential identity and women are basically born mothers (already a problem, to my mind). But Heavenly Mother does absolutely no mothering that we know of! If we value motherhood so much, why is our role model for mothering a virtually absent mother!?! It all seems a little crazy.

G said...

hey kiskilli! naw, your not out of it, this is pretty new. glad you stopped by.

yep, we got some pretty mixed up gender messages coming at us from the powers that be.

Anonymous said...

Suggestion/hypothesis: Heavenly Mother theorizing holds a similar place in LDS theology to many other 'deep' doctrines. No one really knows, so all sorts of myths and theories are made up, but no decisive revelation or theological statement has been canonized. This means (given the conservative nature of most members) that most of what you hear is colored by conservative, patriarchal worldviews. It does not make those views necessarily right even if they are the vast majority of views people state or speculate publicly with. You are just as free to speculate a feminist hypothesis, though the culture of most church members will likely mean a lot of funny looks, maybe even the occasional rebuke. You however may remain confident you are just as easily within the realm of acceptable hypothesizing as they are, even if they don't accept that.

On the other hand, given that it is one of those Gospel mysteries we don't really know about, both the traditional patriarchal view-holder and the feminist viewholder need to ultimately acknowledge (if push ever does come to shove, though hopefully it won't), that we don't really know the answer yet.