In Part 3 of Motherhood, Josie discusses the importance of earthly and celestial mothers with Amber Richardson of On Sovereign Wings and noted poet and author of Mother’s Milk and I Gave Her A Name, Rachel Hunt Steenblik.
Our Church emphasizes motherhood as a woman’s highest calling. “The Family: A Proclamation” is read out during General Conference and Sunday school meetings (and likely was during a lesson on the same date this episode published). But the rest of the world increasingly gauges value based off of a person’s career, which also hardly defines everything about you. So how can a mother feel valued, regardless of which role she chooses for her life?
Amber is crowdsourcing a book, Woman, Crowned. You can learn more below.
Rachel’s poetry can be found on Amazon:
[0:00] Hey TWiM this is Josie leave again here to introduce the final episode of the series and ask a question and the role of a mother how can a woman truly feel valued.
This is motherhood part 3 a conclusion.
[0:25] I remember a YSA devotional in back in 2011 or Kristen Oaks spoke.
It was the first time I heard her and I thought she was animated and funny and probably the first person I’ve ever heard talk to the single adults who have been single for most of her life.
I’ve never forgotten one phrase she said it was this.
I can sincerely say that no matter how exciting or fulfilling a career you should never sabotage your Eternal Happiness by sacrificing marriage for a job opportunity.
She almost laughed at the word job to exaggerate how little it mattered in comparison to the ideal plan of getting married and having kids.
[1:08] I had no intention of sabotaging my chances of getting married and I understood her point of emphasizing that marriage and family can bring Eternal happiness.
But at the time I was also excited to be starting out on my own career path and not just as a backup if my future husband struggles and his unscripted duty to financially provide.
Even now I along with many women enjoy the work we do and Dana’s in the Valley from it.
[1:38] There are two competing ideas at church we are wonderful words about how valued women are and that their highest calling is to be mothers.
While our working culture ranks job titles above child-rearing abilities between these ideologies are a whole lot of women who feel guilty.
Working mothers feel guilt for not being at home with our kids more for being judged as a mother who has chosen other priorities about her most important role.
[2:08] Say all mothers worry about missing out on career opportunities or even being pushed out of conversations because what
could a person out of the workforce have to say about cryptocurrencies or climate change as if giving birth suddenly enables a woman incapable of talking about anything except potty training tactics.
Wasn’t the whole point of a woman being able to choose whether or not she returned to work,
so that she not feel guilty that she can make a decision with her family of what suits them best.
I also wondered why is it always work that we come back to that gauges r value,
Derek Thompson a staff writer at the Atlantic going to the term orgasm in an article called orgasm is making Americans miserable,
he defines the term as the idea that work is the center of our lives at our culture now believes that the meaning of life can be found in our work,
a job used to just be a job but now we have careers of progression of titles our work is how our value is measured.
He then pointed out that a society that idolizes success at the office is almost destined to undercount work that doesn’t take place in the office meaning parent.
[3:28] Whether a woman has a killer career or not it can be hard to want to devote years of your life to the thankless job of motherhood.
Maybe some people would say it’s just your pride that wants recognition sure probably but I do think we all need to feel validated in the role we are playing.
Especially when terms like Domestic Goddess fill degrading as they don’t Encompass all of what motherhood can be.
While our world may be making steps towards supporting mothers at home or in the workplace I’m often confused if we are moving in the right direction towards valuing their role in sacrifice.
Beyond the battle between work and staying at home how can she fill value within herself.
[4:16] Ly answer I kept coming back to was heavily mother as someone who is new to thinking about her and seeing her out.
I turned it to other women if you speak and write about heavily mother and the role of women in the church.
Amber Richardson is from Idaho and moved to Utah to study at BYU in the theater program,
since graduating she has produced a short film a YouTube series and a podcast the letter is called on Sovereign wings and it’s for survivors of sexual assault.
She is currently launching a book of Photography and prose called woman crowned about Queens in the scriptures her artistic work Endeavors to expand and explore the role of women.
[5:21] I listen to your beautiful podcast episode on Rosemary cards showed you more I think it was the Christmas episode and you talk about Mary’s experience becoming pregnant and
giving birth to Jesus Christ,
very end final line when you referring to this miracle Christ I mean to Earth you say the phrase Heaven came through a woman
at the time I felt that sentiment so strongly but
and I was reading a book by Sheila Heti called Motherhood and there’s this particular paragraphs I’ve been wondering about in comparison to your phrase and I’ll just read that to you now and so she wrote.
[6:09] A woman is not an end in herself she is a means to a man who will grow up to be an end in himself and do something in the world,
while a woman is a passageway through which a man may come I’ve always felt like an ending myself doesn’t everyone,
but perhaps my doubt that being an end in myself is enough,
comes from the Steep lineage of women not being seen as ends but as passageways through which a man might come.
If you refuse to be a passageway then there’s something wrong you must at least try,
I don’t want to be a passageway through which a man might come then manifest himself in the world however he likes without anyone doubting his bride.
[6:53] I thought that this was two contrasting perspectives and I’ve been trying to figure out which one is correct.
[7:03] Neither of them is more correct than the other and it’s in the meeting place between the two where we can find a whole and healthy perspectives.
[7:14] I recently have.
I have glommed onto this new vocab word sovereignty it’s something that,
has been pretty radically Shifting the way that I’ve approached,
Choice making in my life have slowly been coming to understand that as a woman I was designed to be the Sovereign over my life
and that every choice that I can make in my life was,
intended for me to make I was designed to.
Not only have the ability to make choices but I was designed to take ownership of those choices.
And for so many reasons that we probably don’t have time to go into.
Women have kind of been stripped of that sensibility particularly in our culture.
I think we’re told from a very young age that the highest fulfillment of our life,
will come in the acts of becoming a mother.
I don’t have all of the answers especially as someone who has not entered motherhood yet.
[8:36] I think so the problem isn’t as much the Paradigm as it is the pressure.
And I’ve always been keenly aware of a double standard there
if you want to go looking for theological authoritative support for motherhood is the highest calling a woman can,
participate in you will find scores of quotes and sermons but on the flip side.
There’s a very little that suggest to men the same thing I think that’s an important.
Sasa to take into consideration because women tend to.
I don’t know if I think witch hunter respond to that pressure if if you truly believe that the god that you love and are devoted to that God expected you to,
become a mother to achieve your highest Destiny you,
Woodland in shape your life to that idea and women have before and they continue to do that I believe that wow a dimension of that might be true right,
anytime we make a sacrifice however big or small I think those are,
movements that are really valued by God and motherhood is one of the greatest sacrifices that we can be called upon to make.
[10:04] When we strip away our ability to make that choice in to own a choice we also strip away our intentional ability to own the sacrifice I really feel strongly that,
God does not want women to,
he acted upon in this manner he and she do not desire their daughters to unconsciously move through their lives and.
I think that
when we can step into our sovereignty and our power we simultaneously connect with God and we can receive Revelation about the season that were in our lives and the opportunities that we have and how we can
best fulfill our Human Experience no matter what the external circumstances might be.
[10:56] So the idea of sovereignty into our own hands and take control of the students that were,
we’re making that correct.
[11:13] Yeah and I think in addition to the culture and sometimes to man,
we also have a tendency to relegate a lot of our agency to God we just think like I don’t know that there’s a certain degree of righteousness in that,
I think there is.
Giving God that much trust and being willing to sacrifice anything to God to take on whatever God has in mind for you.
Certainly seems like a really.
Beautiful offering I think it is and it has its place at least what I’m learning is that was good and it’s time and now I want you to,
step up even further on this ladder and I want you to instead,
bring your agency and your desires to me,
kind of sit at the head of the table of your life and almost bring me on as a consultant what is it that you want.
And how can I help you as your father and your mother how can we help you design this experience that you want.
[12:27] I like that image you certified a little board meeting with heavenly father and heavenly mother.
So I do want to talk about heavenly mother.
How do we understand the value of women and of Mother’s if we don’t see her and her role.
[12:49] My best answer to this question actually comes back to our buzzword of the episode sovereignty.
[12:59] In our religious tradition we’re very accustomed to a top-down approach regarding truth and light,
kind of expect the man who said the top of our church too,
commune with God to split the sky and to bottle up and package the life that they receive and disseminate it down to us I think that that does happen but I think it’s not the only.
Mechanism through which we can receive light and knowledge,
I’m so while there is a collection of official statements that’s available through BYU studies,
that paper and other official statements from church leadership are really valuable to us
we also are sovereign beings and we can commune directly with God to.
Receive light and knowledge about any topic or question that’s burdening us.
So that’s been my process with heavenly mother I got to the point where I had expended all of the,
authoritative information available to me and it still wasn’t enough it wasn’t meeting the.
[14:21] Pain in the desire in the Hunger eventually I came to a point where I realized.
I don’t actually need to have someone in a position of authority someone who I sustained and admire and love give me the answers I can go get some myself.
[14:41] So do you think then that the best way that we can teach a woman to understand her role here on Earth and then also eternally is a mother is really.
Gosh it really sounds like the way that you’re fighting at those kind of the answer to all of these questions like is a woman a vessel or is she and ends to our own is she
I’m at Eternal mother happiness be everything seems to just be.
We can actually make these decisions on our own and they’re unique to each each and every woman.
[15:21] I think so and I think that paired with that is a more refined and better understanding of God and the truth I’m not suggesting that God and Truth
suddenly air fly out the window and
we are each left to our own Sovereign devices to make meaning out of our lives but I am suggesting that.
[15:48] There are a lot of Notions in each of us surrounding who got is that are,
the products of our lives here on this following planet and.
We can allow our questions about anything whether that’s Amiya passageway or a mine and then myself.
What is heavenly mother like do I want to be like heavenly mother do I want to become a mother or do I not want to be a mother all of these questions and their Associated pain can Propel us into a deeper communion with God,
and they can Propel us into greater Revelation about who God is if we choose for them to.
I think that’s the message that I would share predominantly about heavenly mother.
It has been my experience that when I have stepped into my own power as her daughter with all due humility towards her station as my mother and as a goddess.
It took that turning points for me to be able to.
Recognize that I have everything I need inside of me to find her and to comprehend her and to relate to her.
[17:10] It wasn’t until I made that Discovery and it’s commiserate Discovery namely that heavenly mother.
Is also Sovereign that she.
Has her own voice she makes her own decisions and somehow miraculously and unfathomably she’s reached a point where she can do that in total Union in harmony with.
Her partner our heavenly father there’s no Pride or enmity between the two of them but even still she does,
it’s our own person your own Eternal person I don’t know there’s been a lot of things that I picked out about Womanhood over the years that have had to slowly break down,
in order for me to begin to comprehend heavenly mother as she is as I do that I’m able to comprehend comprehend,
myself as I am and it feels like the channel between us grows stronger and stronger.
[18:19] The initial question that led me to reach out to Amber was this idea of a woman is a passageway that her value is her body’s ability to give birth instead of being valued.
[18:33] Sometimes I feel stuck in between these conflicting ideas of a woman’s Eternal nature is motherhood and yet motherhood seems to hold a woman.
[18:45] Amber pointed out to me that really we are getting ahead of ourselves if we encourage women to become mothers before teaching them to have a Divine sense of themselves before this interview she wrote to me and said.
[18:58] Instructing or pressuring women to become passageways without teaching them that their bodies belong to them and them alone is akin to robbing a woman of her own agency if robbing a woman sound.
[19:12] Lining a woman to her agency is a better phrase I have off.
Easier to accept motherhood for all of its Joys and sacrifice if I could see heavenly mother in her role as an example to show me the way to remind me that I am no less value.
[19:33] By Amber saying that the problem is not so much the Paradigm of motherhood as the heist calling as much as the pressure.
[19:41] Form that role perfectly and that as women for some reason we gladly take on this pressure as another confirmation that we are not enough I also appreciate it Amber’s View.
[19:56] For her Revelation and a relationship with God is like a consultation with heavenly father and have Lima.
[20:05] Sometimes within religion it can feel as though Believers are asked to follow with Blind Faith but in reality our Heavenly parents want to be in conversation with us importantly there are.
[20:21] In our conversation Amber reference to paper about heavenly mother from BYU studies the second person I spoke to Rachel hunt steenblik was one of the researcher.
[20:34] Rachel is from Oregon she studied philosophy at BYU a masters of Library science in Boston and began a PhD focusing on theology two letter is currently on hold.
[20:48] 5 and 2 years old with a third baby on the way she has to return and complete her PhD in the future.
Rachel research heavenly mother full time for the BYU studies article a mother there which gathered every record of heavenly mother mentioned by church leaders she has co-edited a book of Mormon women’s riding called Mormon.
And her second and.
[21:12] First Mother’s Milk and her most recent publication I gave her a name Explorer motherhood in search of our heavenly.
[21:35] Feel that it would be easier to grasp the Eternal nature of motherhood.
If we had more visibility or understanding of our heavenly mother and Eve to use as exam.
[21:50] If mother had his eternal then I have Ali mother must have a crucial role to play what do we know of her role.
Rachel Hunt Steenblik:
[22:00] So when I was doing the BYU studies research
some of the quotes that I Came Upon. And she’s not doing my very favorite where those by General church leaders cuz that’s will be focused on for the BYU studies article like you just wanted to look at what has been satisfied cigarettes in the past and present
and I was always really grateful for the one that intimated were explicitly suggested that she still have the wall in my life now,
like rather than just having one when we lived with her or informal a friend,
a future life but just a lake she still mother’s Us Now is really meaningful to me and I
found a few them today that I wanted to share one is by President Harold B Lee.
He said their forces that work beyond our sight some help you think the whole job is up what.
Forgetful that their loved ones beyonder they were thinking about us and our children.
You forget that we have a heavenly father and a heavenly mother for even more concerned probably than our Earthly father and mother,
and that influences from Beyond are constantly working to try to help us when we do all we can.
I love that you just said like me forget that we have his other resources right and even each other parents who care about us even more than Earthly parents.
[23:17] And just suggest that they are some of the influences from Beyond are constantly working to try to help us.
And then Spencer W Kimball another Prophet earlier prophet of the church.
Thought I was Groot I who said the Eternal feminine draws us on finally when we sing. Doctrinal head and anthem of affection all my father you get a sense of the ultimate and maternal modesty,
are there restraints creamy Elegance of our heavenly mother and knowing how profoundly are mortal Mothership Shakespeare.
It was supposed to influence by Massive individuals to be last if we live so it’s registering there.
[23:55] I’m so again from you just said the part about her influence will so important to me.
This wasn’t a quote that I sang the share talk about another of my favorites was by a researcher and I think I asked for your name Catherine shirt she talks about how.
The scripture where one of Jesus’s disciples ask me a question then he says.
[24:17] I like everything he does is what the father with you that that’s like how we learn as a father through hands,
and she pointed out that we actually don’t know so much explicit detail. Heavenly father either except for what we know of Christ and she said they couldn’t have said the same thing like,
that we learn as the mother through head and stole for me thinking about it and that way was also really helpful,
a son has inherited from both of his parents right like weathered up physical attributes like the color of his hair or his eyes or his nose shape,
North Oconee High,
different kinds of characteristics that he would get him his parents that makes sense I like we can look to Christ as an example as well that you just both have how many father and Howling with her that’s really helpful for me to think about like that I think she has one son Jesus and I think she isn’t going summer,
and then Patricia Holland where she talks about you and us being all of us being Eve’s daughter,
whatever circumstances and how we need these maternal prototypes for each other and we can actually get them to each other,
I made it to the something super important that we also learn about my mother not by just looking at Jesus but like by looking at myself for looking at my sisters or my mom or my friend so she tends to talk by sang I testify our desires are righteous.
Car over rules are good and I have my parents will tenderly attention ringing and so for me like all of those quotes for his so comforting and reassuring to have hope.
[25:42] And not only did he have a mother there he loves us and cares about us but we have a mother she’s working for scared like she still is the whereabouts in still hopes that and she still has the power silverwolf are good.
[25:55] One of the thoughts that I had was that okay if we don’t know much about her and we don’t pray to her then maybe she’s
is he bothering unborn Spirits maybe that’s her role I mean obviously we don’t know,
all the answers but it would be nice to know exactly how she has a hand in our lives and maybe that’s more of where
personal revelation comes in to be able to try and better understand that for yourself as an individual.
Rachel Hunt Steenblik:
[26:29] Yeah I do love like I love thinking of her taking care of the spirits are about to come to Earth though or those that are there,
Raven just thinking of like a mother father here you might have children like some at home and some that are in college or that are working but aren’t quite empty nesters.
Is she still a mother to both sets of her kids even the ones that are younger and somehow some ones that are gone.
I didn’t like it is hard because you don’t know exactly what it looks like but even just for me cuz I feel like I felt the spirit I felt like I was gone help from Heavenly help maybe sometimes that’s her,
but she’s part of this stuff like on my team to try to help me is for the truly helpful even though I know it’s still day.
[27:11] But you sound like it’s it’s a very feminine touch that’s helping you out.
Rachel Hunt Steenblik:
[27:18] Yeah it looks so like I think I’m in a distinct position because people know the work that I do I guess somehow I’ve even had priesthood blessing
but I need it for Comfort or for other times I can wear my work on heavenly mother is like come off clothes and blessings to my husband but even like other church leaders are friends are people that are even for the stranger
and in one of them specifically said like heavenly mother is your truest friend she’s always walked with you and always will and then I’ve had like other priesthood blessing.
They say that she’s grateful for the work that I’m doing.
And I was like I’m not trying to brag in any sense by saying this liquid I felt spiritual witness at this is accurate that she wants to be known with both of my projects I felt like a real urgency and it felt very much like a Kimbo,
for myself and my own desires but also from something more Something Heavenly and greater than me.
[28:13] Is it just trendy that people like want to chat about heavenly mother right now,
you’re not supposed to pray to her maybe she’s kind of wanting to stay in the shadows a little bit like I almost I’ve almost wondered sometimes is it wrong to be trying to figure out.
Rachel Hunt Steenblik:
[28:31] Yeah I think that’s like a normal question but I don’t think it’s wrong at all and partly because of the BYU work that I did that literally like the most important and interesting thing we said is just that it’s a mess. She’s too sacred to talk about.
[28:45] We found one of the first instances of someone publishing that idea and not was a seminary teacher so I think I think it’s like in some ways it makes sense cuz we’re humans and we’re mini makers and we want there to be reasons for things
can you give us easy to stay like we don’t have a lot on her so like why would that be inside think that he like was trying to come up with a reason for it,
and it works for a lot of people for a long time.
But I think I’ll be found is that no General Authority ever repeated it and has ever published it no profit no Apostle no like any level general authorities ever repeated that idea
pain in stomach sound like lots and lots of instances other than talking about her,
Spencer W Kimball was the most like I think he had 68 general conference talks or he explicitly talks about heavenly mother
but even like early early church leaders that just talked about her super naturally like if they’re talking about the Plan of Salvation they bring her.
Instead of just angry lives with Heavenly Father and Jesus before it did say we lived with heavenly father and heavenly mother and Jesus or if they’re talking about how we can become like them
the one of the most beautiful quotes by Orson F Whitney there talks about her like no suffering that we experience on Earth has wasted so that if we let it be like if we bear with patience and these other things,
all of these trials and tribulations to meet work at it and then the ends by saying make us more like our father and mother in heaven.
[30:10] So it’s just like so much of the early where they talked about it like was not at all as if it was a deeper starts Doctrine but it’s like such a natural extension of so many of us are their beliefs.
[30:20] So formulaic just because I have read so many of these things like we’re I know for sure that it’s okay to talk about her,
that it’s not wrong to seek route when I think that’s the least the people that I’ve talked to who share these desires but I share like I don’t think it’s from a place to like try to be cool or try to be edgy but like feels like summer released in Fairplay
I like that these desires and his fingers are real when I was still get active graduate student in my Ph.D program,
medicine classes like I read a lot of feminist theologians of other fees and we’re Catholic summer Protestant reformer waters different tradition
Pisces woman who they also yearn for a feminine Divine and like that this hunger was so Universal that it felt even more important in our tradition because we believe that gender is eternal on because we believe God has a body
all the sudden like that when other Christian faith talk about God is a male our God is here as a father like for most of them,
they still kind of needed in this metaphorical sense like but when we say we actually mean it literally like you think he’s our little father he literally has a male body and soul like it just felt so much more important to me and our tradition and partly like,
I love Joseph Smith teachings I think there’s so much that he said that’s so valuable even today but he use the scripture in John 17:3 in the Bible about how like.
[31:42] This is life eternal to know the only true God and Jesus Christ you know sent but then you paired it with the statements about how we can’t even know ourselves if we don’t know God in an accurate way so he points out and knowing god,
is both a matter of identity but also salvation but it’s the way we get eternal life and so when I just think about like.
[32:03] That for women who we don’t always know what our eternal life will look like when we don’t know very much about how many mother how she spends her time or what her creative powers are exactly like,
so for me it feels like a matter of identity and salvation for me to know God as mother and to know that part of God because I think that they’re that they’re both really important,
ignoring how many father and heavenly mother together feels so essential to me and even like the balance like you said like we are like Christ is the way like that we get to them and that we get home and so I feel like there has to be the balance of like not only focusing on one.
But I think that it’s the righteous desire and I think the hunger is real.
When I feel like eyes after my heart telling mother I actually have but her heart turned towards me as well.
And it felt very much like something she’s pleased with that I like she wants to be known within like she wants us to be ready.
[32:56] Even one of my favorite quotes is by other Maxwell when he was still alive,
this is the quote he said truth concerning our heavenly mother are among the truth that are most relevant and most needed in the times in which he lives and this was from like a church manual
Ricki Lake kind of talks about some truths that are important were held back.
He Westin heavenly mother specifically as one of these true stuff like the most needed and RJ but I feel like the time is really right and it’s not just a popular thing but it’s for a really good reason.
[33:41] Heavenly mother wants to be known it’s a myth that she wants to be hidden or is too sacred to talk about.
This is a natural extension of our Doctrine and perhaps most important message Rachel share.
Maybe I’ve been too caught up in what we don’t know and haven’t taken the opportunity to seek her out in a personal way Christ is the way the examples of women and mothers around us are the way.
This is how we get to know her.
I began my conversation with Rachel by asking a question I have often heard and even been asked by others who are not members of our church it is always been a question that bothered me because I had no explanation it was this.
How can you search claim men and women are equal when only men have the priesthood.
[34:31] Usually the responses women can give birth I don’t think that that has satisfied one woman who struggled with this question so I asked Rachel.
To my great relief she believes the comparison is not only to satisfy mine but it’s problematic.
A 12 year old boy after all can get the priesthood but it’s 12 year old girl while she may be able to get pregnant isn’t exactly a good scene in any circumstance.
The comparison also hurts women who are single or struggle with infertility.
[35:02] Ultimately men have the priesthood and women give birth isn’t comparing Apples to Apples Rachel said the correct pairing is men have the priesthood women are recesses.
We only talk about priesthood a little in the temple but I’m hopeful that role will become more clear in the future.
Additionally the correct comparison is motherhood and fatherhood to forget the ladder is to disregard the importance of fatherhood.
I gave a sigh of relief after Rachel explain this to me.
I am so ready to let that comparison die and move on to better discussions like this one.
To have or not to have kids when how many how to raise them or where are all personal choices that we estar and beans can make,
together with our spouses and both our heavenly father and heavenly mother sitting at the board table of Our Lives.
[36:01] I don’t know if we can change the cultural trends that place emphasis on priorities than what we personally believe.
But no matter what our current mother or non motherhood State maybe we can find our own sense of value within ourselves.
Our choices are our own and our value is from God.
[36:28] This is the end of this series I want to say thank you again to all of the incredible women who spoke to me and we’re willing to be vulnerable thank you Maureen Sarah Sam Kristin Amber and Rachel.
A special thank you as well to Jeff who is given lots of his time to make this series possible.