390–392: Mormon Women Gaining Spiritual Confidence within a Patriarchal Church

The title of this three-part episode says quite a bit about it. Several weeks ago, Mormon Matters released a conversation, “Gaining Spiritual Confidence,” featuring three men sharing their journeys toward and insights about a strong sense of their own spiritual connection with God/Spirit. It was terrific—but as a listener pointed out, if featured three men and wondered how the conversation might have been different if it had also featured women’s voices. Hence this conversation was born. Three powerful women, activists, seekers, thinkers, and Mormons—Julie de Azevedo HanksBryndis Roberts, and Jenne Alderks—join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon for a deep and far-ranging discussion about their personal spiritual odysseys and the various obstacles that often arise in the path toward spiritual confidence that are specific to women. And Mormon women, especially. They discuss the dual messaging women receive about being confident and yet, within Mormonism, always falling under the stewardship of men, the problem of embodied Gods who are all male (though Mormon leaders are nodding more and more toward a Heavenly Mother, or the use of “Heavenly Parents” when speaking about God, it’s not anywhere close to sufficient), about the way many LDS men prefer women to speak softly and in less-than-direct ways (think “Primary” voice).

Whereas the earlier episode on spiritual confidence focused primarily on personal confidence, this conversation spends a good amount of time on confidence within “communities,” including discussions of how to speak up, act, prepare for, and what to keep in mind, when we find ourselves in conflict with others. It also includes a section on the importance of spiritual confidence—a strong and clear connection with God and/or our sense of “calling”—when we step into an activist’s shoes.

You will not be able to stop listening to this conversation. It’s truly terrific, with great energy and diversity of life paths and perspectives. Tune in!



Julie de Azevedo Hanks,The Assertiveness Guide for Women (New Harbinger Press, 2016)

Julie de Azevedo Hanks, The Burnout Cure: An Emotional Survival Guide for Overwhelmed Women (Covenant, 2013)



8 comments for “390–392: Mormon Women Gaining Spiritual Confidence within a Patriarchal Church

  1. May 30, 2017 at 7:29 pm

    I’ve listened to most of the first hour, and I plan to listen to it again before moving on to listening to the other segments. This is one of my most favorite Mormon Matters podcasts ever, because I am learning deep and profound thoughts from Mormon women in a way that is not often facilitated in the Church (but which we are generally getting better at). I much admire all of the guests in this episode–for your authenticity, and for your continued striving to make the Church a better place through your insights.

    I’ll have more comments in this regard, but I wanted quickly to opine that Heavenly Mother IS depicted in the temple. Heavenly Mother is the tree of life who, after Eve and Adam partook of the fruit, became “veiled” from us as cherubim and a flaming sword stood between her and us for the duration of our mortality. That women are veiled in the temple directly reminds me of this poignant and yearning thought.

    When any veil is lifted, we gaze into the eyes of one who is made in the image of her heavenly mother. When the final veil is lifted (or passed through) we will gaze once again into the eyes–and embrace the person/the mother–that we have been alone without for far too long.

  2. Jenne
    May 31, 2017 at 1:33 am

    That’s a beautifully poignant description of Heavenly Mother in the temple, Frank. There have been a couple of things I had wished I could have gotten in the discussion and one of them is that I believe we are symbolically in the presence of Heavenly Mother when we enter the celestial room, which is the parallel to the Holy of Holies in the ancient Israelite temple. I have come to view the matrons standing watch in the celestial room to symbolically represent Her there, and sometimes, I can help but approach the women there and ask for a hug.

    • Jenne
      May 31, 2017 at 1:34 am

      *can’t help.

  3. clh
    June 1, 2017 at 8:00 am

    “The Perfect Union of Man and Woman”: Reclamation and Collaboration in Joseph Smith’s Theology Making, an article by Fiona Givens in Dialogue Spring 2016, talks about God the Mother as Holy Spirit and the Tree of Life, Asherah and other names. Also an interesting account of the statue in the celestial room of the Salt Lake temple above the veil on the west wall as being Asherah and the symbology of other carvings around her. Well worth the meager $1.99 to download it. Also includes insights on female priesthood participation.

    Very worthwhile, excellent discussion, there are many of us working on and understanding these things. I think it is for us women to come to know Her for ourselves, not for men nor the organization to reveal her to us. That is one way we gain our spiritual confidence.

    Thank you.❤️

    • Jenne
      June 1, 2017 at 6:11 pm

      I greatly enjoyed reading Fiona’s essay when it first came out. I definitely recommend it as well. The thought that Heavenly Mother is the Spirit is going to be hard for most Mormons to wrap their heads around and it will be hard to square it with teachings of Joseph Smith in his lifetime, but I am drawn to the concept, especially when remembering that entering the presence Asherah/Heavenly Mother was considered the culmination for a lifetime pursuit of Wisdom. Who better to guide us than Wisdom herself?

      How do you feel about Heavenly Mother not being in embodied form? To be the Spirit, she would have to lay aside her resurrected body.

      That said, if she did leave her celestial home to strive in the hearts of people on the earth, does that make her a working outside the home mother?

      I completely agree that it is in the realm of women’s responsibility to reveal Heavenly Mother to the world. I hope for that day.

  4. Lch
    July 14, 2017 at 10:23 pm

    I loved this. I particularly appreciated the discussion of the feminine divine. This is a huge stumbling block for me — it blocks me from prayer, from scriptures. Because there is no model of how our heavenly parents work together, and we know nothing about what heavenly mother actually does, it’s hard to know what I’m aiming for. I appreciate hearing you all talk.

  5. Katie Lewis
    September 2, 2017 at 8:12 am

    Loved loved loved these episodes! Thank you.

    I believe Dan made the comment that the church is STILL being restored, which I completely agree with. This makes sense based on revelations that have happened since 1830 which amend or disagree with original revelations. Were you quoting a church leader when you said it? I would love the quote.

    I also love the idea of changing the YW theme to say, we are daughters of Heavenly Parents, instead of only naming Heavenly Father. Even if the church won’t change it, I plan to express this idea to my YW group.

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      September 2, 2017 at 11:16 am

      I’ve heard it several times and also like that idea. Here is a recent piece by President Uchtdorf with this as a theme: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/04/are-you-sleeping-through-the-restoration?lang=eng

      The main one I think of when considering the ongoing restoration, however, is this quote from B.H. Roberts back in 1906 in the Improvement Era:

      I believe “Mormonism” affords opportunity…for thoughtful disciples who will not be content with merely repeating some of its truths, but will develop its truths..,.Not half–not one-hundredth part–not a thousandth part of that which Joseph Smith revealed to the Church has yet been unfolded, either to the Church or to the world, The work of the expounder has scarcely begun. The Prophet planted by teaching the germ-truths of the great dispensation of the fullness of times….The disciples of “Mormonism,” growing discontented with the necessarily primitive methods which have hitherto prevailed in sustaining the doctrine, will yet take profounder and broader views of the great doctrines committed to the Church; and, departing from mere repetition, will cast them in new
      formulas…until they help to give to the truths received a more forceful expression, and carry it beyond the earlier and cruder stages of its development.

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