Being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (also known as the Mormon Church) all my life always made me different from everyone else. My family didn’t drink alcohol after a long work day and Folger’s coffee and R rated movies didn’t exist in my house. I invited friends to church and had a poster of the prophet on my wall. I was the Mormon girl. And then I got into high school and became a young adult. My liberal Seattle upbringing of church-less friends influenced me. Suddenly almost as if overnight I became the anomaly again, but this time as a member of the church. I no longer supported my religion’s stance on same-sex marriage, I didn’t apply to BYU, believed there was no excuse for polygamy, and had serious career plans instead of just becoming a stay at home mother. I noticed over time that women are treated as the second class gender in the church. This bothered me, and no longer was I a Mormon. I was now a Mormon Feminist. The key solution to sexism in the LDS church is to bring Heavenly Mother to her equal glory by changing the Young Women’s theme to daughters of Heavenly Parents, lifting the ban to praying to her, and further establish her reality.
The LDS church is still stuck in the 1950’s. Women are to stay at home with the kids all day, cooking and cleaning while the husband goes to work all day to provide for the family and presides as the speaker and head of the household. Divorce is rare, and LBGT are too afraid to come out. Mormons believe in gender roles, as is clearly outlined in the Proclamation to the Family, which can be found on lds.org. Females have babies. Males provide for those babies. Men preside over the family, women support their husbands. This extends into church callings. Ladies teach children, teens and other women while men are in charge of the whole church on regional and overarching levels from Bishops (priests) to Prophets. Extending up to the deity level, Heavenly Father is in charge. Organizations such as Ordain Women and Feminist Mormon Housewives have tried to combat such issues of sexism in the church, which recently led to the excommunication of Kate Kelly, the Ordain Women founder (Goodstein). Though these are great movements which have my full support, another issue of the church is often overlooked which contributes to the church’s attitude about gender.
Heavenly Mother exists, but is never talked about. LDS theology believes the trinity is separate. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have human bodies of flesh and bone. Also, they believe heaven is divided into 3 kingdoms, and divided 3 times inside of the highest kingdom (the Celestial Kingdom, which qualifies you to become a God/Goddess yourself). A part of getting into the Celestial Kingdom is celestial marriage. This paired with a vision from the founder, Joseph Smith, brought about the idea of Heavenly Mother. However, she remains a mystery and given no credit. She is not taught in children’s Sunday School and rarely mentioned in older classes. She is merely a blurry idea and forbidden to be prayed to. Heavenly Father is the focus of worship, the man.
Girls are not taught their own divine future. The youth program of the church is divided into the Young Women and the Young Men. Every Sunday, the Young Women stand up and recite the “Young Women’s Theme,” which starts out, “We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us and we love him” (lds.org). Why is it not stated as “daughters of our Heavenly Parents, who love us and we love them”? The Church believes those of the Celestial Kingdom will one day become just like God, with their own children as the way we are now his. Women will one day become Goddesses and men will become Gods. Even in a women’s only class, the female future of greatness is ignored by ignoring their own example by only stating to be daughters of their Heavenly Father. Especially in the children’s Sunday class (called Primary) she is ignored completely and not taught at all, even though their class has extreme emphasis on family. The church feels the need to vigorously force teaching on gender roles but yet completely disregard the role of the heavenly future for more than 50% of its members.
Perhaps the biggest irony of the forbidden prayer to Heavenly Mother is that the role of women in the family taught by Mormons is to be nurturing caregivers of the children. Classic LDS families are three or more children with the mother caring for them at home all day while the husband goes to work, putting his PhD to use to make a high enough salary to support the family by being the main money maker. Heavenly Mother, “gives birth, then renounces any involvement in her children’s lives, even at points when they could very much use her nurturing and guidance… What good is a Heavenly Mother if interaction with her is so irrelevant to humanity’s spiritual growth on earth” (Welker 33). Forbidding communication means that the Mother in Heaven can’t be a nurturing mom. Prayer to Heavenly Father is not addressed to her. This is the root to LDS sexism. When it is even taught that Heavenly Father presides over the family of all of the billions of humans beings that now and have ever existed, of course husbands preside as well. Needless to say, men presiding can lead to oppressive marriages and an unnecessary dictatorship within a home, which is only damaging to families.
Any Mormon, if asked why Heavenly Mother isn’t talked about, will say that apparently Heavenly Father sought to protect his wonderful wife from her own name being used in oaths and curses or from her name being taken in vain. However, this is completely ridiculous and only a theory that spread. How could a goddess not stand up for herself? The idea of Heavenly Father ”protecting” her deepens the Mormon philosophy that men are too preside and aligns right with the sexist ideas of the church, such as withholding leadership roles from women. The invisibility of a feminine divine “sets [female members] up to be weak” (Johnson-Bell). So, not only is the argument by church members pathetic, it is also “incredibly damaging to women because it continues to render them voiceless and unrecognizable” (Johnson-Bell).
Holly Welker states in her article, Beyond Big Love, that “It’s one thing to believe you’ll someday become a god, and another to believe you’ll someday become Mrs. God, or perhaps one of several Mrs. Gods” (Welker 33). By Welker referring to Heavenly Mother as a “Mrs. God”, she points out that the heavenly wife is treated as merely a sidekick with no individuality or equal level of importance. “One of several Mrs. Gods” of course refers to the Church’s belief in polygamy. Because the Heavenly Mother doctrine is so vague, one may speculate we don’t know her well because God has many wives. Yes, Mormons were polygamists when they first started out and no longer marry more than one wife at a time.
But a lot of people may not know that they still believe in multiple wives being married to one man in the eternal scheme of things. A man can get married in the temple to his BYU sweetheart. Then, if she dies before him, he can go marry his LdsMingle.com companion, also in the temple. Marriage in the temple is eternal, meaning it will last even after death. Civil marriages tend to say, “till death do us part”. Therefore, this man has married two women in the temple which means he will have both wives for eternity. Yet a woman whose husband died could not do the same thing. Polygamy is still believed! Believing God himself even had many wives, or is even possible, is the most demeaning outlook to women ever. She’s either essentially worthless, or Heavenly Father is a scumbag according to true believing Mormons. Polygamy is obviously demeaning to women. Believing that even God would participate in such an ugly practice is the most sexist, horrifying idea ever developed.
Heavenly Mother needs to be further established as a doctrine of the church in order to place women as equals to their male counterparts. She is a blur of confusion, a question mark and given no credit, even though the doctrine is supported. The church hymn book has two songs that mention her. The third verse of O, My Father, written by Eliza R. Snow chimes, “In the Heavens, are parents single? No, the thought make reason stare! Truth is reason, truth eternal tells me I’ve a mother there” (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 292). Joseph L. Townsend’s song, Oh, What Songs of the Heart, ends with “oh, what songs we’ll employ, when our heavenly parents we meet!” (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 286). Yet, searching the church’s official website for “Heavenly Mother” returns few results and just further overshadows her because the overwhelming majority of the results simply swap in returns for Heavenly Father with no mention of Heavenly Mother at all (lds.org). Until Heavenly Mother is given credit and further explained, sexism will continue.
If being different means that I believe women are equals to men, with neither being better than the other, I will gladly stand even if I’m alone in those beliefs in the religion I was raised in. The Church needs to open its eyes to the strength of the 21st century. Girls need to be taught their own divine future. And communication needs to be opened to Heavenly Mother without the fear of excommunication because her children deserve her nurturing and she deserves to hear our gratitude. Heavenly Parent theology needs to be better directed and used more often. Sexism within the Mormon church is a problem that can only lead to horrible consequences. Movements of Ordain Women and feminist blogs can only do so much. Bringing to light the Church’s current doctrine will go further, especially since apostles are finally beginning to use the term Heavenly Parents more often. There is no reason for Heavenly Mother to be placed higher or lesser than Heavenly Father. She simply needs to be equal. Men and women are people, each with a brain, a heart, and abilities. Mormons already hold unique beliefs. God having a wife isn’t even weird. Ignoring her, however, is bizarre.
Goodstein, Laurie. “Mormons Expel Founder of Group Seeking Priesthood for Women.” Nytimes.com. The New York Times, 23 June 2014. Web. 20 Oct. 2014
Johnson-Bell, Jennifer. “OxyMormon: Feminism Ain’t Got No Place on the Pulpit… Or Does it?” LUX: A Journal of Transdisciplinary Writing and Research from Claremont Graduate University. 2.1 (2013): 6. Web. 6 Oct. 2014
LDS.org. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, n.d. Web. 6 Oct. 2014
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: LDS, 1985. Print.
Welker, Holly. “Beyond Big Love.” Bitch Magazine: Feminist Response to Pop Culture 2011: 30-34. Academic Search Complete. Web. 6 Oct. 2014.