Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Life in a Motherless House

This week I received my tape of Carol Lynn Pearson's talk, "Mary Poppins and the Return of God the Mother" from the 1998 Sunstone Symposium. In the talk she speaks of the Church as a "motherless house." Carol Lynn says that she has found that the longing for a Divine mother is a universal hunger which pops up in the collective unconscious often. To illustrate this she mentions several well known films which speak of the transforming of the patriarchal family through the receiving of the divine magical woman. I plan to outline Carol Lynn's conclusions about these films, but first I would like to ask a question of any males that happen across this blog. Do you feel the lack of a mother figure in our Church? We have a Heavenly Father, and we have a "father of the ward" (bishop), both of whom are heavily involved in our daily lives. It is to the Heavenly Father that we pray several times a day. It is the Bishop who gives us the callings which often define us and take up so much of our time. We are told that we have a Heavenly Mother, but that we need not strive to know her personally. We have women who affect us and teach us in Primary, but after the age of 12, males have no further contact with women in the Church as authority figures nor are women Church leaders available to them for guidance or counsel (as men are available to women in the Church). Do you feel that this constitutes a "motherless house?" Do you ever feel longings for a spiritual feminine?

More about Carol Lynn's talk to come!


Mark IV said...


"Do you ever feel longings for a spiritual feminine?"

My short, quick, answer is "yes".

My considered response is "I don't know". I don't think I, or anybody else can answer that without first defining what "feminine" means, and good luck with that. If we even made an attempt here, the thread would descend into acrimony and recrimination no later than comment # 2.

I'm not sure Pearson's divine magical woman is any more helpful the the church's silence about MiH. She is still unknown or unknowable.

I wrote my senior paper on the topic of the "ewig-weibliche" around which Part I of Goethe's Faust is built. I've been glad more than once that it was in the day of typewritten pages rather than electronic media and hence cannot be retrieved. I'm absolutely certain that my conclusions were idiotic and embarrassing.

By the way, I drove through Vernal last week. What a lovely place!

Kullervo said...

I don't know if I ever did when I was still in the church. Maybe I just never really thought about it.

I know my father did, though.

Mags said...

YES! Absolutely, but do I find it missing in Church. No, not so much. I would love to know more about MiH. I think that it is fantastic that there is even mention of her as mother versus her other architypical forms. The Great Mother. Who knew. Certainly no other main-stream patriarchal protestant religion that I know of has even mentioned her in doctrine or in passing, certainly not in print, even if it is just in a song book.
Now, why do I not find her missing in Church at least not so much? Well, it would be the enormous emphasis that the Church places on family. According to the teachings, ie. the Proclamation, there can not be a family without a father and a "mother". Motherhood is revered. When I asked about MiH, I was told by a very knowledgeable brother (yes, not a sister) that we hold MiH so sacred and does HF that there is no mention of her. If we take HF's name in vain what on earth (no pun intended) would we do with HM's names? Am I brain-washed...I like to think that I am not. I am a convert as an adult and well aware of the ways of the world and the peculiarity of being a Mormon. Now to address the movement of males from Primary to Young Men. Here again lets talk about archetypes. Males in the Church start out within the circles of Motherhood. Primary is an extension of motherhood. The children are taught the fundamentals of religion and character in Primary and it is supported in the home by Family Home Evenings and other activities lead by Mom. Yes, Dads are there but the rearing of the children is mainly left to Mom. At least according to Church teachings which is another example of the importance of motherhood. So young males are nurtured and reared by motherhood and must then at age 12 move to the Brotherhood.
This move to the Brotherhood or Patriarchal society lasts until the age of 18. At age 18 or 19 there abouts the Rite of Passage is then concluded in the form of a mission for the church. After successful completion of the mission as the terminus of the Rite of Passage, the cycle starts again with marriage and a family. The brother then must be supportive of his wife and her role of motherhood. Thus is the great cycle of life: from motherhood to brotherhood to motherhood again. This pattern is taught by doctrine and condoned of the Church. It is a subtle representation of one aspect of the feminine.
And to answer mark iv: The definition of feminine is not so difficult to comprehend when you realize that it is vast. Every woman is the definition of the feminine. Think of every woman you have ever known. Now think of what part of the feminine do each of those women represent. Got it? Now realize that you haven't even touched a fraction of the definition of the feminine. Once you realize this, there's no problem!! :-)

Not Male but had to answer anyway.

Bored in Vernal said...

Mags, thank you for your comment. I liked what you had to say about the cycle of life for the brotherhood.

Many people wonder why reverencing a Heavenly Mother would mean not knowing her at all. Do you ever wonder if HM is a "Goddess" why she would need HF to shield her from her children taking her name in vain?

If HM has a role similar to that of women on earth as described in the Proclamation, is it not her responsibility to teach and nurture us? Don't you think she would want to do so during this most important sojourn on earth?

Kullervo said...

I'm thinking more about this, by the way.

Bored in Vernal said...

Good, Kullervo--let me know what you come up with. And I think it's interesting that your father wondered about this issue. What were his thoughts?

Mags said...

"Many people wonder why reverencing a Heavenly Mother would mean not knowing her at all. Do you ever wonder if HM is a "Goddess" why she would need HF to shield her from her children taking her name in vain?

If HM has a role similar to that of women on earth as described in the Proclamation, is it not her responsibility to teach and nurture us? Don't you think she would want to do so during this most important sojourn on earth?"

Fantastic questions! Do I think she is a Goddess, yes. She must needs be an equal. :-) Accordingly, the Church teaches that we are equal in the sight of God with our eternal partners. I think that we do not know her because there are only a few really strong people out there that would say "uh, I knew that." The rest would freak out. It has been too many centuries since it was apropos for the Goddess to rule. She is also too natural for the mainstream. Then there would be those that demand their equality in the church government and would demand priesthood authority. Is the demand for equality of priesthood authority good, bad, or indifferent? The greatest ideal that I have learned as a feminist is that I choose what I want to do and don't want to do. With that said, I allow for women to do what they want. I personally would not want the demands on my time nor the responsibility of the flock! As it is in many wards that I have lived in, the brethren defer to RS when establishing needs and welfare of the members. I have not served in RS so I don't know if this is the norm or just par for the course. The few times that I have been asked to substitute in RS for a lesson, the Presidency runs the other way screaming that I get too doctrinal for everyone's comfort. (I am a meat and potatoes kinda gal. I am also the one that fights the inner dialog that happens when we get stuck on the same silly questions like is chocolate WoW? and I usually loose, when my hand shoots up in the air and plead to move along to more important issues)
Would I like to see others demand and succeed? That I am not sure of. Call me a creature of habit, but at this, not in the current construct. It's like my view on MLB, NFL, and all other sports. I am a Braves fan. I don't want to see women on my favorite team. In the NFL, I don't want to see women crushed and abused by men two and three times their size. I don't see it as equality in these situation as more of stupidity. Let's face it, in these machismo arenas the males are not going to give equality over anyway. I think that in the construct of the church, the priesthood leaders would think it an outright abomination and would be resentful. This of course would lead to more descension and more hurt feelings. I for one don't want to have to deal with the power-plays.

As for the status-quo. The church does well in making women feel like they belong in the patriarchy. The RS and Primary are lead by women. Even in the temples, the matron has her authority, albeit, out of necessity but still there is authority there.

I do think that if the Goddess emerged that she would want to take care of us and nurture us during this time. There would be much more insight with Her. When studying all of the archetypes, I have never looked upon the Goddess as anything but the Great Mother or the Wise Woman never the spiteful, jealous witch. Those personifications seem too fabricated and lead to a misunderstanding of the feminine. Yes, woman can be jealous and spiteful but that is human emotion not divine knowledge.

Again, I do feel longings for a spiritual feminine. I love the church for even mentioning HM and giving us all a bit of hope. I for one can not wait for the day to finally meet her...I have lots of questions so I hope that she has poster sessions for us all.

Nita said...

yes, i miss my Heavenly Mother. i have always felt sure that she lives and have wondered why more is not said of her...i've heard it is because she is held sacred and is protected from being profaned. i understand that concept. i have no problem with the concept of "Goddess". it is just logical to me. i have just become aware of Carol Pearson's work and find it fascinating. i've enjoyed reading all the posts here.thanks!