Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Spirit of Moonlight


How do you feel, if you believe in a religion where this is true, to only have a MALE god to relate to? Have you ever been worried about it? How do you feel having your Savior be a male? Do you wonder if he can really, possibly, truly know your innermost thoughts and ideas and struggles as a woman? Am I alone in wondering why the world shuns the idea of a FEMALE Divine?

In the LDS religion, though it is never voiced very loudly, most members believe in a Heavenly Mother...someone married to the Heavenly Father that they pray to and seek guidance from. But nothing is really taught or known or even talked about....just this vague idea that she is there, quiet, in the background, not really playing any part that I can see. These vague ideas made me imagine a Mother who was always soft-spoken and dripping with sentimentality and all the saccharine rhetoric that goes on about her existence has simply turned me off the idea for much of my life. I didn't want to identify with THAT kind of a female deity.

I know many people would think it sacrilelgious to even WANT to know if a female counterpart to God exists--let alone if I desire to pray to her, which I don't, not at this point. Here is why--the explanations of why we can't pray to her disturb me...like Heavenly Mother is too special to talk to? Heavenly Father is protecting her from the evil things her children would say about her? Or maybe, worshipping a woman is just one step away from leading followers in the direction of pagan fertility rites? Each argument, which I have indeed heard several times in my life time, seems sillier than the last.

Many LDS feminists have advocated giving a more prominent place to Heavenly Mother in their basic religious doctrine. I don't really know how I feel about this either. I understand the argument completely. Worshipping a male God without a female counterpart puts males in a privileged position, doesn't it? God is like them in a fundamental way that God is not like women. I think this is where some of the root of my issues with religion are growing...I cannot believe that an environment, any environment which conceptualizes the divine in exclusively males terms does not to some extent influence the ways in which that said environment is going to think about men and women and their capabilities.


Lynnette at Zelophad's Daughters voiced this issue with words I could have written myself: "If we have no Heavenly Mother, women have no divine role model which pertains to their gender, and that is indeed a challenge. But if Heavenly Mother exists, what we have is a divine role model for women which may be more disturbing than no role model at all--one in which women are silenced to the point of invisibility, in which they seem to disappear altogether into the idenity of their husbands. Though I find the idea that God is a married couple to be appealing, I am unsettled by speculations that the Father in some way represents both of them, or that she is listening or involved despite the fact that we are permitted to address him and him alone. Some suggest that this setup exists because the two are so perfectly unified. But why, I wonder, does unity seem to require that women (but not men) sacrifice their individual identity--in this case, to the point where we can only guess as the whether a female is even present in the relationship."


Please forgive the long post, but this has been weighing on me recently. Two things have happened lately that I have tried to process and take into account when sharing my ideas.

1. An old friend has recently learned of my disassociation with the LDS church. After several long emails of me stating all of my reasons, because he wanted to know, he was able to sum it up. He believes that I am simply mad at God and that I am not a Feminist at all...that my reasons of feeling lesser in the church (a church that he has decided is the one true faith to follow) is because I am a boycrazy girl who didn't get a husband. Yes, you heard me right. Because God didn't give me this husband and family I wanted, then I got angry and decided to act the part of a petulant child and just go out and "sin" because I am hurt over it. Hmmm, this has made me very tired and a bit reticent to even blog anymore. And this friend is probably reading these words right now thinking, "That's not what I meant!" But, I am quoting word for word, so yes, I think it is exactly what you meant. And while I promised not to get offended when he told me what he thought about my situation, I do feel a bit degraded that someone would think I was using my ideas of equality and justice as a cloak for feeling sad that God didn't give me the white picket fence that I was brainwashed into believing was the one thing I should seek after in my life because it was where my WORTH would lie. I have never really thought that that was God's responsibility. I have always believed it was mine. God did not force me to not marry men who have been interested in marrying me. It's not God's job magically put a man in front of me with a shinning halo and a big arrow pointing to him saying "He's the one." The truth is, we are all just acting on faith here...plain and simple. You could be wrong. You could be right. We really DON'T know...and I am SO tired of people making me feel like I DO know what they know and what they KNOW is the ONE truth and because I secretly DO know it and am not acting upon it then I will be punished in the hereafter...are you confused too? Yep. But this week especially, I have been wondering if God is going to condemn my soul, a soul that is trying so hard to do what is right for my life, to hell. If that is the God that you believe is going to judge me, then I'd really rather not believe in that God.

2. Another friend gently chastised me for expressing my concerns for my religion on my blog. She told me that I was influencing a lot of people. However, what she meant was, "Hey, you are not painting a pretty picture of this religion that I believe in and I am mad at that and you will be judged for this if you are leading people away from the truth with your words." This seemed crazy for me, and addresses another issue I have with religion. This ENDLESS need to convert the world to your beliefs. I am not a representative for the LDS church. I am not here to speak ill of any religion. If you believe in Jesus, but a man on the street is preaching against Jesus...will you believe him? If your convictions are firm, they you possess the capability to read and reason on your own. To me this is the food of life. To think, to guess, to ponder, to discuss. What do we have if we don't have this? In fact, I know many old friends who refuse to even read my blog anymore as they feel it has been full of evil, wrong ideas that they shouldn't entertain. And that is their prerogative.

Please note that I don't want the discussion on this blog to be about addressing these two people or my response to them. That's not the point, that's just where I have been at this week. I'd really rather have a discussion on deity and how you define him or her. I've been researching it and finding some interesting ideas, but I'd like to hear yours. Do you believe in a female counterpart to God? Is she Mother Earth, Gaia? Have you thought of this?

There are numerous Jewish and Christian groups who see the Holy Spirit as being our heavenly Mother. They base their thinking regarding the gender of the Holy Spirit on the fact that the Hebrew word for Spirit is Ruach, which is feminine. I thought this was an interesting idea...not one that works for me, but I love that other religions have tried to work the female into their fundamental belief system.


The Umbanda or in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil the Candomble religion worship Iemanja as one of the Seven orixas of the African Pantheon. She is the Queen of the Ocean, the feminine principle of creation and the spirit of moonlight. (Much like the Catholic Our lady of the Seafaring). I feel connected with her for a very real reason. When I was studying in Brazil our group of 40 students went the home of a Candomble Priestess and ate African food while she told us about her religion. They identify with three Gods and four Goddesses. As you grow, the Priestess will assign you a patron God or Goddess to identify with. Someone asked her how she assigned them. She said that often, the God or Goddess was simply shinning through so brightly, it was impossible to deny. So, that girl asked again, "Well, can you see any of them in us?" The Priestess, beautiful in her white clothing, regal in her manner, spiritual in her nature looked around the room and said, "Yes, there are three here who shine bright with their God." The girl pressed her, "Won't you tell us?!" I was quiet, knowing that when she had scanned the room, her eyes had lingered just a bit longer on me then they had on the girl next to me. She pointed to two girls and told them, then she pointed to me. "You, with the blonde, your Goddess is as clear as the blue sea on our coasts. Your Goddess is Iemanja."

Research Iemanja--you'll see why it was so special for me. The mother goddess, the patron deity of women, especially pregnant women...

The feeling inside, this idea that a female goddess was shinning through me was one of the most spiritual moments in my life. Even more than that was realizing that I hold within myself endless possibilities. However, it has taken me a long time to get to where I am, and I still wonder about these male Gods. I still wonder what life would have been like for an innocent, blonde, rosy cheeked girl to grow up with a strong female divine letting her know that she was just as good as the men who were allowed to lead her just because that's how it's always been done.

34 comments:

HappyWifeHappyLife said...

D'Arcy, this is a very good post, and very well written.

God gave you your amazing intellect and tremendous sense of wonder, curiosity and "seeker's spirit". I think the LAST thing you should do is squash that, or let any friend (current or former) attempt to squash that.

I really wish you could come experience my church... not because I'm trying to sway you, but because Kevin (my pastor) has such a heart for those on the "spiritual quest". He realizes (unlike SO many pastors) what a tremendously PERSONAL part of life the spiritual journy is, and what a tremendously INTIMATE and IMPORTANT part of life it is as well.

As far as the "male-ness" of God, that is an attribute we humans have given to God. Personally, I have never had any concern over the "gender" issue. After all, God created man AND woman.... he came up with the idea for BOTH of us. There is nothing that I can experience in the entire human realm that God can be surprised by. Nothing. At all! He is the author of it all. I find that very reassuring, and very comforting.

I would urge you to go out and get a copy of The Shack. It will help you to view the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) in a very different light.

And keep seeking, D'Arcy. God didn't give us "inquiring brains" on accident, you know....
:-)

He WANTS us to use them, and come to him FULLY engaged...

I love you, my friend!
T.

Rowena said...

What do I believe? What do I believe? I have a very different perspective than most, being a girl who was raised a Buddhist in a Christian society, but one who didn't pursue Buddhist study in adulthood. I was open to learn about different religions and came up with my own concepts and live a kind of hybrid spirituality, which combines Buddhism and Christianity and Judaism and Paganism and common sense.

I think that the reason why most major religions today are so sexist is because they are reacting to the previously feminine gods. They had to squash the feminine to find their masculine strength.

As for if I think god/the spirit or whatever is male or female? I think it's neither. It's spirit, which is not the body, so it doesn't have a gender, or it encompasses all gender. All that gender stuff is us making meaning of the mystery.

I think the problem with religion is that flawed humans use it to control other humans who are also flawed. And for thousands of years, religion seems to have been used to oppress and control women. It's not god that does that, it's politics and men who want power.

D'Arcy said...

HWHL--thank you for your offer. Your pastor sounds wonderful, though I admit...in my current state I have NO desire to hear any preaching from a man...sorry. Maybe this will change one day.

I am going to try the Quaker church though...as no one really leads those meetings. I think they sound interesting.

D'Arcy said...

And I will try and get that book.

D'Arcy said...

Rowena--you always have beautiful ideas... for me, I have a hard time believing in a God with no gender. I think it rests in the idea that God created me, and i truly believe that I am in his images, which means there must be a female counterpart...who are heavenly parents? For some reason I can't abandon this way that I was raised, it has always made sense to me.

Do you think things are lost when we chalk God up to a mystery instead of something comprehensible, in a way? Or do you think that we are just small humans making up silly ideas about this stuff?

Michelle said...

So, do you want to go to church on Sunday? :)

This was very well written D'arcy and I'm glad you've found happiness.

I still want to hang out sometime. I know we keep saying this but I mean it. How about dinner sometime soon?

Dottie said...

Oooh let me know how the Quaker meeting goes! That is one awesome group of people.

There's a website called greaterthings.com that I used to go to every now and then. I too pondered on this issue and on that site I found the idea that Heavenly Mother does speak to us in the scriptures. It was interesting to read the different points of views:

http://www.greaterthings.com/MormonGoddess/index.html

Ruahines said...

Kia ora D'Arcy,
You leave me sitting here contemplating and staring. I am out of my depth trying to discuss religous doctrine and belief so I will not. Why is God related to a male figure, and all that is wild and pure around us as Mother Nature? Personally, I will go with Her.
Rangimarie,
Robb

Kate Lord Brown said...

I'd never really known much about Quakerism until reading Patrick Gale's most recent novel 'Notes on an Exhibitiion' - which is brilliant. The artist mother never formally joins the church but she finds great peace and spiritual strength in the silence of the meetings.

I'm high Church of England - love the 'smells and bells' but am 100% behind the ordination of women and women bishops (in fact both our children were christened by women). These are tough theological questions - my own way of reconciling the lack of emphasis on the duality of everyone let alone God (celebrating the male and female traits in each of us), has been to find great female spriritual role models - Mary, St Teresa for example. In my very simple mind it takes male and female, yin and yang - and from a very early age I never bought into God being a guy as we understand it.

Alisa said...

Congratulations, D'Arcy! You have successfully posted the first artist's depiction of Mother in Heaven I have ever seen. And I've been active in a church who believes in her so deeply, but is afraid to show her, though they show her husband and her son all the time.

This is not an easy thing for the LDS/Mormon faithful. I sometimes wonder if the organizational church is ashamed of its feminist roots and the female divine, and wishes to align itself with more patriarchal Christian churches. I don't know. The more I read the history from faithful LDS scholars, the sadder I become at the direction things seem to go.

I don't have answers. All I can say is that I validate your concerns. And they are important. From God's identity we find our own. One of the most eternal questions is, Who am I? And right behind it, Who is God? Don't let someone dismiss that for you by pointing to wordly things like your marital status that are not essential to your eternal essence. It's good to seek for these answers, and I wish you luck.

Sugar said...

One thing (among many things) that is ignored is the fact that God (who only shows up as a flame to anyone in the Old Testament) created Adam AND Eve in "his" image. We represent our Creator in the duality of nature. We are the two sides of God. The strengths of male and female combined in perfection. Also, the Hebrew word for the word that is now "his" in the Bible is an ambiguous possessive noun. Jesus came to earth as a man, I suppose, because women were treated like crap in the time (still?). But the way he elevated women, the fact that the first people he appeared to were women... all of that seems to be ignored. I'm one of those rebellious Christians that likes to remind others, both men and women, of those little forgotten tidbits. I also like to remind women that although the Bible says to submit to your husbands, the next verse basically tells that same man that he must die for his woman. They usually sit there in stunned silence as they recall that oft forgotten verse.

I'm reading Women of Wisdom: A Journey of Enlightenment by Women of Vision Through the Ages ( by Paula Marvelly). There are a lot of forgotten women in these pages; some of them devoted followers of Jesus Christ. They had a lot to say both in words and actions.

This is the Age of Aquarius, is it not? The stars and the Universe (which I believe God created) have lined up to bring us a new era in time when male and female work together... cooperating for the better good of each other and the world. How amazing to be alive right now.

Thanks for your brave writing, D'Arcy. I wonder what (if any) fears you might be feeling when you go to hit "publish" but do it anyway. Being raised in such a strict religious environment must have been some tough chains to break. Coming from a recovering Catholic, I can totally empathize.

HUGS, FRIEND!

mapelba said...

You certainly have every right to feel the way you do about being told you're angry at God over not having a man--as if having one of them ever solved anger.

To be honest, I'm not a believer, but I do believe that if everyone could respect each individual journey, we'd be a lot better of.

And my mother always said that if you are strong in your beliefs, you don't have to go around being frightened by anyone else's.

Kate Lord Brown said...

Just checked in to see how you are doing, and couldn't agree more with Mapelba. I've done a lot of soul searching over the last year, including plenty of moments when I've thought s/he wasn't listening. We're all grown ups - if you listen to your heart the answer is there. Ignore dufusses (sp?) who say you are 'boycrazy' - I'm sorry, are we in prep school? From your posts you are a beautiful, intelligent, spritual woman and if what you want is a husband and family (though as Mapelba wisely said that can just be the start of a whole new ballgame), once you reach a point where you are happy *not* to have that, strangely it often comes. Seen it time and time again with friends - books, husbands, babies .. funny how a little lightness always works.

Torrey Jayne said...

Here on earth it is impossible to create human life without both a woman and a man. It only seems logical to me that there MUST have been a woman Deity to help create this world. I can't imagine anyone BUT a woman creating beautiful sunsets, the overwhelming perfume of flowers, the sound of a river rolling past smooth stones, can you?

D'Arcy said...

Michelle...as soon as I get back from BA we will get together, eat good South American food and tell our tales of adventure!!

I am going up to my sister's house this Sunday to see my niece be blessed. Sometime soon though!

D'Arcy said...

Dottie--I just looked up that website and I am totally excited to read it!! Wow-wee! We will discuss over dinner soon? Yes!

D'Arcy said...

Robb, I have always felt more at home in a natural setting, taking everything in with my senses, then in the walls of a church. I do love Mother Nature.

D'Arcy said...

Kate, I really want to read that book. I have been very fascinated with the Quaker doctrine and their silent meetings, I can't wait to attend.

I also agree about having a woman role model. That was something that seriously lacked in my upbringing and in the Bible in general. Very few women are mentioned, but I know that many must have been faithful.

jomama said...

d'arcy,
most of your post could have come straight from my mouth/pen/fingers about a year and a half ago. i was struggling with depression, issues with motherhood and children and womanhood, especially the LDS concepts of these things. i was aching for contact with my Mother in Heaven. i felt like i needed to talk to her so much. i remember talking to my mom and sobbing and sobbing to her because i didn't understand why we couldn't pray to our Heavenly Mother. i remember saying, "i need to talk to a woman about this."
i still haven't figured these things out. and they still trouble me deeply. i thought your post was really well-thought out and brings up a lot of good points. these are things that i have thought many many times but never been able to express as eloquently as you.
i love you and i'm glad that you are seeking for answers with integrity and perseverance. i don't think any loving God would condemn you for that (or any true friend, either.) :)

Adam MacLean said...

What the hell happened to you! How do you still have a brain after swirling that may thoughts through it. You need to do more housework and less thinking. Is that Gaston enough for you? Sorry, with four kids, my references are limited to crappy Disney movies.

But seriously, I am not sure which LDS church you grew up in. I never saw the oppression you were exposed to - my mother was as outspoken as they come and was quick to point out any jackass that thought he might have a leg up on women - to which I wholeheartedly agree. But enough of that crap - you wanted to hear ideas about a Mother in Heaven. So here is mine.

The way I see it is that Heavenly mother and father are equals - Period. They pretty much do everything together, but just like men and women here, there are differences in talents, capabilities and points of view.

As to why she is not mentioned all the time - your guess is as good as mine. However, it is an esential part of what I believe in.

I guess I just don't understand what you are getting hung up on.

Anyway - I have always regreted not kissing you in that Provo apartment. :)

Adam MacLean

D'Arcy said...

Alisa--I know that you always validate, you always listen, you always are there, and you share many of my thoughts and ideas. Your presence in my life this year has enriched each day.

Thank you friend!

D'Arcy said...

Sugar, I agree...those moments in the Bible where women and Jesus interact with one another are powerful, powerful moments.

I do love reading them and they do feel good in my heart.

D'Arcy said...

Sugar--also, I think a post on the Age of Aquarius is necessary...I'll get on that sometime soon.

I did hestiate pushing the post button in this post, but only because I feel I am rehashing many things I have already said. This topic has been covered, it's time for me to move on.

However, I really do LOVE my world. I LOVE the equality I find in my daily life right now. I love so many things about people and men and women and Iam sorry if I have seemed at all negative to either gender...that is not my intent.

Life is good.

It is beautiful.

I am grateful for each day and for people who are brave enough to discuss the intricacies with me.

D'Arcy said...

mapelba--your mother had it right. Whether discussing politics or religion or shampoo...it seems the need to bring others to our same ideas is a natural tendency...one that has baffled me, and one I am trying to move away from.

D'Arcy said...

Kate---thanks for stopping by again. I agree with you about following your heart, or instinct, or the universe, or the spirit, whatever we call it, there is definitely an inner force within each of us...that light, that guides people on their journeys.

D'Arcy said...

Torrey!

Your ideas about Heavenly Mother are so beautiful! I love thinking that perhaps she created the sunset and the scents and the attention to the senses...I'm going to think about this thought much, much more.

It means so much that you read my blog. Thank you!

D'Arcy said...

Jo--I have complete faith that we will both figure things out for ourselves, that God loves us, that we will go through these struggles, but we will always learn something important about ourselves in the process.

D'Arcy said...

Adam (thanks for using your last name, because I TOTALLY wouldn't have known who it was otherwise! :)...I had to read your post a few times, and then I had to remember you and Stacey's senses of humor, and when I did remember, I realized that I didn't need to go to Texas and punch the *%$#! out of you....

I love that when I first met you, you were this rough and tough rebel with Scottish heritage and now you are a father of four quoting Beauty and the Beast to me...that Gaston has some GOOD lines.

I like your ideas of the combined oneness of Father and Mother gods. It's always so nice to hear different ideas and perspectives. I could say other things about your comment (you know, why I think too much and why I am "hung up" on the inequality...), but I am too tired and I am going to leave it at this for the evening.....

And yes, there was that afternoon when we were seriously going to kiss, I was totally game, but as I recall, you never went through with it!

Rowena said...

D'arcy, as usual, half the fun of your posts is in the comments, and sometimes I forget to check back on them. I'm too busy trying to keep up with my google reader.

But to your question about wondering if we lose something when we see god as only a mystery... I don't know. The closest to embodiment that the divine took in my religion growing up was as "the music of the universe," which I think I kind of like, as it does seem to make less of a mystery of it seen like that. Even Buddha was thought of as a teacher, not a god, in my practice.

But I have to say that in the intervening years, I have sought out female images of divine power, from Mary, Eve and Lilith to Yemaya, Bridgid, and Corn Woman. Actually, I even use an oracle deck full of goddesses. It's not that I don't believe in god or the goddess, it's that I believe in all of them. Not in their literal presence, but in the idea of them. But then, I'm a total heathen. ;)

The Goddess deck I use can be found over on mydailygoddess.blogspot.com I don't have a direct link, but she does.

HappyWifeHappyLife said...

Totally off topic, but reading Adam's comments made me think....

"Kisses that 'almost were', but never happened"

.... now THAT is definitely blog-worthy content for a future post, D'Arcy. :-)

I think all of us have some of those in our past that we wonder.... "what if..." about. (I know I do, anyway.) ;-)

Gustav said...

D'Arcy

You have courage to challenge convention and that is admirable.

Your beliefs are yours and yours alone so do not worry of they don't correspond to what others what you to believe.

Be you. Be beautiful.

Steve and Jenn Fletcher said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
D'Arcy said...

Jenn....thank you for commenting on my blog. I LOVE your ideas. I really, really do. They are awesome. I am going to think about them some more.

THANK YOU!!!

D'Arcy said...

this is Jenn Fletcher's comment:


Well, here I am, ready to go completely in the opposite direction of everyone else.

So since we all agree that imagination is a good thing...

I would have to say that I like to use my imagination when I ponder this particular idea. I mean...who's to say that there haven't been many, many worlds created by our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother and they've had to divvy them up: some are run by HF and the rest are run by HM. So while HM is busy dealing with all the worlds that she has stewardship over, we're all down here on one of the worlds run by HF thinking "Geez, since we don't ever discuss HM in Sunday School, she must have nothing to do up there...she must not be considered very important to this religion." And then at the end of the day HF and HM have a good laugh over all the angst going on, when the REALITY is so much different than anything we mere mortals can ever wrap our brains around, and THAT is why it hasn't ever been spoken of...

Truth is, we have a difficult time wrapping our brains around much simpler issues. Like honesty. THAT particular virtue (though taught) still elludes most of us. Maybe HF and HM are waiting for us to grasp those simple concepts and put them into practice before they share their more complex little secrets.