[Zina D. Huntington] when only fifteen years old was baptized by the Patriarch Hyrum Smith, August 14th, 1835, and soon after went to Kirtland with her father’s family. In this year she received the gift of tongues. On one occasion in the Kirtland Temple she heard a whole invisible choir of angels singing, till the house seemed filled with numberless voices. At Kirtland she received the gift of interpretation. She was also at the memorable Pentecost when the spirit of God filled the house like a mighty, rushing wind.

Alternative spiritual paths for Mormon women fascinate me. In light of the connection of early Mormonism and esotericism, I’m not surprised when I encounter members of the Church who are drawn to the Goddess movement, eastern forms of spirituality, healing, divination, and even folk magic. Since I seem to be drawn to people who are just a bit different that the mainstream in their approach to spirituality, I have been able to observe how some of them interact with the Church. Alternative forms of spirituality which might have been welcomed in the early Church are plainly discouraged today. Church leaders are uncomfortable with women who desire to use spiritual gifts such as healing, tongues, prophecy, and others.

I have seen a few different paths taken by women who feel a strong inclination toward alternative spirituality. Those who remain in the Church often go “underground” with their practices, muting or hiding them. Although they see their spiritualism as compatible with Mormon teaching, there is a danger in its public expression.

I’m dismayed that more and more of these women eventually leave the Church. From my associations with them, I can’t believe that there was anything intrinsically wrong in their practices that would have caused this disassociation. Rather, as they become stronger and more confident with their gifts there develops an incompatibility with their fellow members and with Church leadership.

As the Church has sought legitimacy, it has moved closer to the trend of Western spirituality to be influenced by secularism. Self-oriented forms of spirituality, issues of the divine feminine and Gnostic conceptions of wisdom were all important in early Mormonism but suppressed today. This suppression tends to reinforce the patriarchal Church. Esoteric spiritual gifts manifest themselves throughout the population and promote equality. As these have been discouraged, male spirituality has expressed itself as priesthood leadership and female spirituality is recognized primarily when used in self-subjugating service and home-based connections.

Do any of you bloggers feel drawn toward alternative expressions of your spirituality? Do you feel constrained by your Church membership? Do you see this as a feminist issue?