Having studied many religions, I had this idea that God manifested Herself/Himself/Themselves/Itself in many different forms, depending on what we could best connect to.
Just like a person could learn different things about me if they saw my business side, my student side, my friend side, or my lover side, I felt I could learn different things about God if I could experience different sides of God, if I could see how God is manifested in different cultures.
On my mission, I felt that perhaps the White-Haired-Man-God that appeared to Joseph Smith was the manifestation of God that Joseph Smith felt most able to connect with, the one that he would be most inspired by.
If Joseph Smith was a woman, I wondered, would God have came to him as a woman?
After my mission, I started hanging out with Mormon feminists that helped me rethink gender and my relationship with it. Some of them also prayed to Heavenly Mother. I decided I would try to approach this feminine aspect of God.
While praying to Her, I became aware of my own misogyny. I saw how I equated femininity with weakness, and how harmful that was.
There were moments of worship where I started seeing all women as potentially strong and awesome and beautiful. The more I prayed to Her, the more I became aware of feminine parts of my own self that I had tried to repress out of fear that people would think I was weak.
I felt like a son AND daughter of Heavenly Parents. I became aware of my own androgyny.
As I prayed to Heavenly Mother, I also became aware of my own doubts. Here I had spent the last two years telling people that I know this and that, but in reality, I didn’t really know anything.
Sure, I’ve had good experiences. I’ve felt good while reading the Book of Mormon and praying, but did that mean all the things I was claiming it meant?
I felt I was entering darkness as I embraced my skepticism and doubts. I was entering the unknown. And I’ve always thought darkness was bad. It can be scary to admit that you can’t see things, that you don’t know things. But it made me feel so human.
A mother’s womb is also dark. That’s what I felt I was entering. My Mother’s womb. I didn’t know what was real and what wasn’t, but I could feel myself transforming. And I realized life was constant transformation.
I now view religion and spirituality the same way I view theatre and art.
I might not believe that a painting is anything more than paint and a canvas, or that I really am playing Hamlet when I’m on stage. But that doesn’t mean I don’t see any value in it.
I might identify as an atheist, but that doesn’t mean you won’t catch me praying to Heavenly Mother or lighting a candle for Santa Muerte or chanting to Kali. I see value in these acts.
These rituals have a positive psychological impact on me, even if I doubt Kali or Santa Muerte or Heavenly Mother are out there influencing the physical world. I still feel connected to something beautiful inside of me that leads me and guides me towards peace and love and wholeness.