By Danielle Mooney
I remember the first time I stood and recited the Young Women Theme. I had heard it a few days before at the welcome activity my ward YW leadership had hosted for the few of us girls who had just turned twelve. When the older girls recited the theme from memory, with one rhythmic voice, I felt daunted by their self-assurance and ease with those words–too many words, it seemed, to learn in time to sound as confident as they did. And certainly that Sunday, when I stood with my class, I was grateful to see a poster with the words at the front of the room. I loved the sound our collective voices made lilting along together. And I loved the words. They made me feel special and inspired.
Except, some years later, after I had recited the theme Sunday after Sunday, I paused while speaking the words I knew so well. “Why just Father?” I wondered. Sometime around the age of ten, I had questioned my mother about the lines in the hymnal that referenced a Heavenly Mother. Since that conversation, I had held the knowledge that I had a Mother God close to my heart. I largely accepted Her absence from our discourse, lessons, and prayers as a matter of habit. But, for some reason, on that unexceptional Sunday, I missed Her as I stood in a little church room with my teenaged YW sisters and our leaders.
To this day, I still don’t have an answer for my younger self’s question: Why just Father? The Family: A Proclamation to the World speaks of our Heavenly Parents, as do numerous talks by our church leaders. Yet, She still remains almost entirely absent from our homes and our Sunday services. Even in those small church classrooms, where around the world young women are meeting to learn about their divine nature, eternal worth, and the pattern of exaltation, the ultimate example of female power and perfection is missing. God our Mother’s absence is no longer something I can ignore out of habit; I feel the void we have created acutely and often. Can we start to fill that space, for our sisters young and old (and for our brothers too)?
We are daughters of Heavenly Parents, who love us and we love Them.
With that goal in mind, the Mormon Feminist Action Board (MoFAB) is announcing the start of a project to re-imagine the Young Women Theme. To find out more about the project and to participate, visit the We Are Daughters project website. You can also find We Are Daughters on Facebook. Please *like* our page and share it with your friends and family.
Well done, Danielle. And others.
Danielle mooney: questioning things at the age of 12 that most adults never stop to think about. Good on ya. Great post!
This is such a beautiful idea.
If “we” in this context refers to Mormons, I don’t think Heavenly Mother’s absence is “void we have created.” That void has existed long before Mormons ever came around, and still exists far and beyond the Mormon circle. Most other Christian sects — heck, the majority of Christian and non-Christian religions worldwide — don’t even believe a Mother in Heaven exists at all and would find the very idea preposterous. The truth is “we” — Mormons, non-Mormons, Church leaders — just don’t know anything about her; within the Church, even those who lead us know nothing other than that She exists and, presumably, loves us and co-parents with the Father. All anyone has, including the prophets and apostles, are the little statements and tidbits here and there. There’s no suppression of existing knowledge about Her, no deliberate withholding of information from the women (or men) of the Church. They just don’t know any more than the rest of us. Can we start to fill that space? Since we’re all lacking in knowledge on this particular matter, what do we fill it with? Conjecture? Is this better than nothing? Better than the void? I suppose this would provide comfort to some, but I personally would find it only moderately reassuring, maybe just interesting, at best (unless the Spirit witnessed to me that it was true), knowing it represented, in many cases, only the hopes and conjectures of mortal men and women. But how can I place confidence in that as revealed truth, official doctrine? I am very sympathetic to the frustration over the absence of Heavenly Mother in our discourse, and to women’s issues in the Church in general, believe me, but I also get frustrated with our culture’s (meaning Mormon culture) inability to be able to admit and say, “We just don’t know.” We are not inerrant; even with restored truth, we do NOT have all the answers. Our leaders don’t know. As beloved and honorable and wonderful as they are, they still are not inerrant, and do not have all the answers, either. This is so hard for us to admit, because we are, after all, “the one, true Church!” We have the “fulness of the gospel!” But we are all still mere mortals that the Lord has to teach line upon line, precept upon precept. Even prophets have to learn this way. Why would He reveal deep and important truths about Heavenly Mother to a prophet, just because?? Revelation doesn’t work that way, and it never has. Even prophets and apostles have to wrestle and plead and question and wonder. This simple and humble admission that we, the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, don’t know everything and still have many unanswered questions would alleviate a tremendous amount of angst and heartache.