I am disturbed by the view that there even is such a thing as the divine feminine, and presumably it’s counterpart, the divine masculine. If our Heavenly Mother embodies the divine feminine, then presumably our Heavenly Father embodies the divine masculine. If they are then our role models, are we to become like them, divinely masculine or feminine? And this is where I scream.
The divine feminine is getting a lot of online attention. Julia has an ongoing project over at Poetry Sans Onions. Kimberly is running a series on connecting to Heavenly Mother over on fMh. And there’s an art competition. Then there have been numerous individual posts and comments in favour of learning more about the divine feminine.
As LDS we worship a very much embodied God, whom we describe as our Father, who has a Son. And we are taught that we are His sons and daughters too. Eliza R Snow spoke of a Heavenly Mother recognised in the words of the hymn ‘O My Father‘, which she wrote. And that is pretty much all we think we know, though there has been plenty of speculation in the early church and now about whether there is more than one, and an image of eternal spirit-child bearing. We hear rumour and myth that we shouldn’t pray to Her, that Heavenly Father is protecting Her from us, her children.
There’s an idea of the divine feminine having been hidden in our scripture, described as Sophia or as Wisdom, and depicted by trees. That the purges of Josiah were not as at all as depicted in our CES Seminary & Institute and Sunday School courses, but served to eliminate worship of Her, as Asherah.
The current theme in our church materials would appear to be an emphasis on ‘separate but equal’ when it comes to discussing men and women. Many use the Proclamation on the Family to emphasize just that. The concept of the divine feminine as I’ve seen it discussed, even amongst those who otherwise complain about the proclamation, mostly plays right into this. The ideas that surface regularly are these:
- Men have a much better picture of their eternal future. They have male role models to follow.
- If we knew more about our Heavenly Mother, women would have a role model. We would know what our eternal future holds. (In other words, we would know our place!)
I am disturbed by the view that there even is such a thing as the divine feminine, and presumably it’s counterpart, the divine masculine. If our Heavenly Mother embodies the divine feminine, then presumably our Heavenly Father embodies the divine masculine. If They are then, as so defined, our role models, are we to become like them, divinely masculine or feminine? And this is where I scream.
The family proclamation describes gender as an essential and eternal characteristic. But if I’m asked to define gender I wouldn’t go along strict male-female biological lines. Elisothel had been running series of interesting posts exploring the subject on fMh.
I am a woman. I can’t say I feel any special affinity to my biology. But neither do I feel an affinity to anything else. I do have a tendency to distance myself from my body in favour of my mind, insofar as it possible to divorce the two. And my perception is one of my mind at times battling, not embracing, those female hormones. From time to time my husband will ask if I am glad to be a woman, and my answer has ever been: only because he is man.
In my ward Relief Society (which I am now attending after a lengthy break serving in primary) someone is assigned to read the Relief Society declaration most weeks*. And every time I baulk at the lines: “We are women”, “Find nobility in motherhood and joy in womanhood.” and “Sustain the priesthood as the authority of God on earth.” Yes, I’m a woman. It doesn’t define me. What do they mean by womanhood? Yes, I’m a mother. I love my children. Motherhood? That whole nobility and joy bit – visceral reaction. It isn’t that I think being a mother ignoble or being a woman joyless, not at all. Just the idea that they have become conceptualised, elevated. And that one ‘should’ feel those things about such concepts. I believe that the priesthood is the power of God, but “sustain the priesthood as the authority”? I thought priesthood ≠ men, or so they like to tell us, yet this reads like a woman’s role is to support a church priesthood leadership structure that excludes women.
The declaration in it’s entirety smacks of forcing women into a uniform straight-jacket. I haven’t been asked to read it yet, and I don’t think I could. Couldn’t we just have stuck with the motto “Charity never faileth”?
I can only see the introduction of the divine feminine making things worse. I’m terrified of potential theological developments that could forever divide us into masculine and feminine. How is this anything other than ‘separate but equal’ on steroids? I have a permanent mental image in which I am running far far in the other direction. I want a universe where my sex or gender really does not matter, and does not define me.
I have found only a faint glimmer of light in any discussion of the divine feminine, in a podcast interview with Julene, who believes the suppression of the divine feminine was a necessary part of human development and that “the purpose of our day is to bring Her back into our consciousness”. The faint glimmer for me was this:
“Each of us have within us a male side and a female side… If we are actually engendered as a woman it is easier for us to identify with our female side. [For most people maybe.] If we are male we identify with our male side. But the task of our spiritual progress is to bring those two sides together… We are to consider ourselves both Adam and Eve. We have both of that inside ourselves. And we have the male role that needs to take precedence in certain circumstances and a female side that needs to take precedence in certain circumstances and we need to bring those together in unity and consensus.”
Faint because I had great difficulty in following her logic. It was quite a leap to get there.
In speaking of herself and her husband, Julene speaks of a necklace she wears with two overlapping circles, in which she as the feminine is one circle, and her husband as the masculine is the other circle:
“…you have one side that’s male, and one side that’s female. We have these different roles… that middle [the overlap] as we progress will get bigger and bigger until the circle is superimposed on top of eachother. That our roles are so identical there’s no difference.”
From her perspective, it would seem we need to dig up the divine feminine before we can progress beyond the masculine-feminine division.
- Do you think the current discussions are helping or hindering?
- Do you favour an eternal separate but equal division? If you feel this is correct, why?
- How do you feel about the idea that we can come to find that whole for each of us, combining both masculine and feminine attributes? Is it really necessary to go through the ‘seperate but equal’ state first?
*The Young Women attend for the opening exercises on a fast Sunday, so then we are all expected to recite the YW theme instead. I’ve had a strong aversion to that since the theme was first introduced when I was a YW.