This piece is in response to this essay that the church put out today.
I need a mother. I don’t need the notion of a mother, or even the appreciation for a mother. I need a mother that comes with me in the middle of the night to take care of a child. I need a mother who nurtures my intellect and challenges me to do more. I need a mother who believes in social justice and rages with me when I don’t know where else to go. I need a mother who validates my wildness and urges my ideas to take root. I need a mother in heaven, not merely an appreciation at the idea of one.
On this earth I have a mother someone once described as a woman without an ounce of guile, and I agree. She is a constant blessing to me. Her own mother died when she was fifteen years old and the consequences of that sad and sudden passing away have followed her through the years, sometimes appearing in the form of depression or anxiety and sometimes in the form of gathering her children snuggly around her. My mother deserves a Mother in Heaven, I do, my husband, my daughter, my son does. In a sea of patriarchy, it is so sad for me to think that when my grandmother passed away, it was amen to a reachable mother figure for my father. It brings me to tears to think of the lost years my mother spent without knowing a Heavenly Mother when she so desperately needed a woman figure rather than the unkind stepmother she got. I won’t even think about myself leaving this world without my own children having a firm grasp and joy in who their Heavenly Mother is.
In the new church essay on Heavenly Mother there are profound and simple phrases that are wonderful to hear, “The doctrine of a Heavenly Mother is a cherished and distinctive belief among Latter-day Saints.”, and, “In 1909, the First Presidency taught that “all men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother, and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity.” What beautiful tidings to spread. I do, however, take issue with a line in the final paragraph. Perhaps because of it’s placement as final, as the last word. The line says, “As with many other truths of the gospel, our present knowledge about a Mother in Heaven is limited. Nevertheless, we have been given sufficient knowledge to appreciate the sacredness of this doctrine and to comprehend the divine pattern established for us as children of heavenly parents.”
Here’s the thing, my knowledge is not “sufficient”. I suppose it is sufficient if all I am to know is that my Heavenly Mother had many children and is married to my Father in Heaven, both qualities I do love and respect, but I am not sufficed there. It’s true, we don’t have many details, but is that the final say?
I spent half a year in Sweden, which was actually half a year of me wandering in forest paths with my two small children for most of our days, and there, I found a Mother in Heaven I had not known before. There were days when my husband would leave for work and I would cry for loneliness in a very new place, and my children would cry because they are children and their mother was crying. It was these times when we went into the forests to be taken care of. It was there I began to understand that I could ask not simply for more knowledge, but for more experiences to know and interact with a Heavenly Mother. I started to keep a notebook of times when I sensed her presence or what she might be feeling or articulating to me.
One night, back in the states, my home teachers came and stood over my daughter’s crib and gave her a blessing because she was sick and my husband was out of town. I note that I could have also blessed her, but I love home teachers and I love that they offered to come on a busy night because they felt they should. After they left, I went to my room and wrote in the notebook that our Heavenly Mother was so proud of those men, her sons. The next week in Elder’s quorum I was asked to talk on my experiences with home teaching and I relayed the experience. I sensed in that room that many of the men had not considered a Heavenly Mother taking note of their actions, of being proud of them. When I finished two men even called out, “Amen!”
My point is this then, we don’t have sufficient knowledge, but I think we can in time. I hope we are not complacent to simply accept the idea that somewhere, somehow, there is a mother who we believe loves us. We get more sufficient knowledge as we speak of her in relief society lessons about motherhood–I was recently in one that asked repeatedly what we could learn about motherhood from Heavenly Father, and while there are many valid and wonderful things, couldn’t we most likely learn a thing or two about motherhood from Heavenly Mother? She did more than create us, I assume that she helped raise us.
I think the essay is a wonderful opening up to the topic and it would be a shame to close it back down with a simple phrase that proclaims that “sufficiency” is enough. I would hope that someday “sufficient” and “appreciate” can be replaced by “remember”, “know” and “love”. My hope is that in years to come this essay on Heavenly Mother will be much longer because we have made it so by speaking of her, by study and prayer, by hard work and hard conversations, teaching our children about her in primary and in the home, asking her to be near us. We have a responsibility to take hold of the theology we want to account to. I need more than a pattern to follow, I need a mother.