Riley Risto: It's our great pleasure to welcome LDS counselor and coach Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife. Jennifer, we're so glad to have you on the program. Jennifer specializes in fostering couples in their intimate relationships.
We've been talking about doing an episode on the Divine Feminine. But one thing always slowed us down. What is that?
Christopher Hertado: We needed a feminine guest, a female guest. We just don't have the authority to talk about this. It's just not how it works.
Riley Risto: Just having the input and perspective of a female is really important for us, and we've talked a while about who that might be. Dr. Finlayson-Fife, I've been a fan a long time of your coaching and I'm on your Facebook page and there's great input there, great stuff for relationships. And so I thought, what the heck I'm going to reach out to you. And I'm so gratified that you would accept. So thanks and welcome to the program.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Thanks for having me.
Riley Risto: So today, as I mentioned, we're going to talk a little bit about the divine feminine. And this is a topic that has been pretty popular lately. I would say there are a lot of people talking about this. I'm not sure what spurred this groundswell of interest in the divine feminine. There's probably some overlap or carry over from those interested in this topic of Heavenly Mother, which is more heavily discussed in Latter-day Saint circles these days. In your view, what are the dominant attributes of this idea of the divine feminine?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Well, first of all, in Daoism and other philosophies, there's a recognition of a kind of fundamental tension or of fundamental differences in approach to life. And I think it has something to do with our biology, like the right and left brain and different tendencies in how we process information and how we act and engage in the world. And I think because women tend to be more towards the feminine intelligence or what is in Daoism called yin, and men more towards the masculine or what is called yang, there is this central tension. It's often a part of attraction and it's often a part of desire. We're drawn to that opposite energy or the energy where we're not as strong. So what divine yin is, or divine feminine, is this sort of expressive, compassionate, collaborative, reflective, accepting tendency, receptive, intuitive, free-flowing. Just as a contrast, divine masculine is more about structure, logic, action, firmness, loyalty. The divine masculine is more the constant and the divine feminine is more the expressive or the moving elements of our intelligence and of our humanity.
And then one thing I would say is that there are immature versions of feminine and mature versions of feminine energy. Just as there's the same with masculine, there's immature masculine and mature masculine. And so I think it's interesting that there is a renewed interest. I think in some ways that has a lot to do with, like in the 1950s for example, there was a lot of focus on what men are supposed to be and what women are supposed to be. There were very rigid ideas around masculine and feminine, very gender determined ideas that really limit men and women. They're immature ideas. And then I think in the 70s with feminism and just more anti-authoritarianism, which has been part of our culture in the last few decades. I think it's been much more open and fluid and so on. But I think that while there's strength in challenging that rigidity, I think that to not acknowledge these differences or tend to pathologize those differences, we lose something that's also fundamental to who we are and therefore undermines our strength. So I wonder if part of the renewed interest is that we're looking for something that we've overcorrected, that we've lost something that we need in order to be true to our individual strengths.
Christopher Hertado: The pendulum has swung the other way.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yes, exactly.
Riley Risto: And you talk about the individual nature of these archetypal characteristics where I think a lot of people get tripped up or hung up on is this idea that if I develop any of these characteristics as a man of the divine feminine or vice versa, as a woman of the divine masculine, that somehow I'm betraying myself and my nature.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Right. And I think that's not the right idea. In fact, I sometimes prefer to use yin and yang because you don't get this idea that as a woman I must embody only the feminine or that somehow I'm being like a man if I have masculine traits. I think that's not helpful.
If you think about Christ, he captures the divine masculine and the divine feminine. It is ideal to develop qualities and strengths from both intelligences or proclivities, while I think we can still favor our natural preferred energy. And I think some research suggests that about 80 percent of women and 80 percent of men are stronger towards their natural energies—the feminine for the female, the masculine for a male. But as you develop, you want these to be additive. This is not about you can only have one set of characteristics. You want to be able, if you're a man, to be assertive and strong and determined, but you also are going to be lacking in your life if you don't develop those feminine qualities of being compassionate and receptive and thoughtful and reflective on your life. Just as with a woman, you want to also be capable of fluidity and flexibility. But you want to also be able to be determined in your life or create a mission in your life. And you often see as men and women get older that they start to develop more of the qualities on the other side. My dad became more compassionate, open-hearted, more emotional, and more thoughtful, and he would cry more easily as he got older. And as my mother got older, she started her own business. She'd never done anything like that before raising children. But then my dad was supporting her in what she was doing. And so they kind of took on opposite elements and they were both stronger and better for having done that.
Christopher Hertado: Do you think that there's any relation between the idea of incorporating both the masculine and feminine or the yin and yang and Christ in relation to his perfection? Is that what perfection means?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: So I talk quite a bit about perfectionism in some of my podcasts and courses, and a lot of us have this limited idea that it means being flawless. In Christ's time, perfection actually meant whole. And I think Christ and our LDS theology is very much around growing into a developed being. It's about becoming whole, developing our intelligence, and becoming capable. After the industrial revolution, "perfect" started to take on the meaning of flawless. Perfect wasn't like an artisan who completes their art, but more like a machine that has produced something that's without flaw. And so tapped into a lot of our immature thinking is that in order to be worthy or to have value, we must be without flaw or imperfection, which I don't think we'll ever be. But to be whole is our goal, not to be without vulnerability or limitation.
Riley Risto: It's actually a teaching that's gaining some traction from the leadership of the church as well. I mean, someone in a recent general conference talk talked about the meaning of telos as complete rather than perfect, right? And so this idea is gaining some traction and it has a lot of validity. Now you mentioned something that I love, that maybe replacing feminine and masculine, although we're going to continue to refer to them in this episode as the divine feminine, with yin and yang. That really points to this idea that these symbols that we've chosen, for feminine and masculine to represent these yin yang energies, are fairly arbitrary. They happen to correspond to something that we all experience because of the qualities that we are imbued with from each of those sides or archetypes, but they're sort of arbitrary. I mean, I don't know what yin and yang mean, literally. To me, they're Chinese words that have no meaning outside of just symbolizing something, right? And so that's almost better for me to have a meaningless word that just represents a set of attributes.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yes. Yeah, exactly. I just think because we have these ideas such as, "Well, I shouldn't be masculine, that would make me less of a woman or something." So it can make us resist those ideas as opposed to thinking “I want to be a developed person. I want to be capable of being assertive or analytical because those are good human qualities. I want to develop those aspects of myself, but I also want to have these more yin qualities because it makes life easier when you can pull from a range of attributes.”
One of the things I talk about a lot in my work is that we are beings in development. And when you're growing from immaturity into maturity, you develop into a solid and flexible self and you become truer to who you are at the same time. It seems paradoxical that you have more flexibility and you have more expansiveness in your ability to respond to things in life because you've developed more capacity and skill. And I see this even in that Daoist symbol, the masculine and feminine come together. I don't know if people can pull that image up in their minds, but within the yang, there is an element of yin, and within the yin, there's an element of yang. I know in my husband he has elements of yin that are so desirable to me that I love—the compassion, the open-heartedness. There's masculine in me or Yang in me. In many ways, I'm more assertive than my husband in different aspects. And so those are qualities that are fundamental to wholeness and also to collaborative couplehood.
Christopher Hertado: There's something you said that I really loved. You said that these are human qualities. I'm reminded of Terrence who said, "Nothing human is alien to me." If you're human, then whether they're masculine or feminine or yin and yang qualities, they're human qualities and you should incorporate all of them to be perfect, right? To be whole.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah. And I do think there's a part of attraction where you're drawn to what you haven't yet developed, and that's good to have a range of capacities. But I think it's also about the elements of self that we want to develop where we're trying to figure out, and so we're drawn to it. What a lot of us do is then go on to resent those differences and dislike it ourselves, you know, even though we found it attractive and compelling at first. But I think to better understand that as a functional idea to reach for those capacities that are mysterious to us still that are out of reach but that compels us, and to embrace that tension, that's a part of marriage or a part of ourselves in development, these aspects of self that we haven't yet mastered within ourselves.
Riley Risto: I love that. It really points to the immature versus mature approach to relationships. It seems like when young couples are initially attracted to each other, a lot of times the attraction is based on how it makes me feel. So I have almost this selfishness where I'm with this person because they always tell me how pretty I look or how smart I am. And it makes me feel good. And so it's almost like a reflection of my own ego.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Absolutely.
Riley Risto: But at a certain point, to become a more mature player in this relationship, I have to not only be in it for how it makes me feel but for what it offers me down the road. And that's drawing off the energy of the other person because this "opposites attract" thing is real.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yes, and to be in a relationship not out of an entitled position, I think just as you're saying, but more out of an embracing position. You're embracing the divine nature of this relationship because it drives your development. So you're in that fundamental tension that pressures your development into a more whole person. So when we're immature, we're looking to find someone that will reinforce our sense of our desirability and of our legitimacy, and then we're hoping to lock that in. And then they have to love us because they promised God they would. So that's the immature version. And we can talk about it in terms of immature masculine and feminine in a minute if that would be helpful. But it's need-based. It's like, I need you to legitimize me and I want. And then what happens is that breeds resentment because that won't legitimize you. And when your partner does things differently than you and they don't legitimize or like the way that you're different than them, you can think something's wrong with the marriage or wrong with your spouse or wrong with you, and resent it. As opposed to recognizing that “I am locked in a system that will pressure my development to understand what I don't yet understand, to develop more flexibility, to develop more compassion, to develop more ability to hold my own in the best sense in a partnership.” These are things that in order for that partnership to thrive, a kind of development must happen within the individual for the collective to thrive. And so if you can move into a position of embracing those differences and choosing and valuing that other person, even though they don't validate you, those are the couples that really come to understand a kind of freedom in marriage and in intimacy.
Riley Risto: This is a road I want to go down that I haven't planned on. But you know, when most of us enter into a relationship, we don't have any of this in mind. It's not like we're thinking, I'm really going to lock myself into a development track with a person who is going to challenge me at every level. No one thinks about that. I mean, if they do, they're like freaks, honestly, because that has got to be so rare. And so how do we go about this. I've got a 21-year-old daughter who's unmarried and a son who's on a mission right now, who's been in a relationship for the last couple of years with his girlfriend. And so for me, wanting to teach my daughter and son about how to approach on the front end a relationship that's going to be healthy for years to come, how would I say it?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Well, I think one of the things I have said to my kids is that the most important thing is to be capable within yourself of repentance. And what I mean is the ability to self confront, to recognize your limitations, and not make other people pay for your limitations or punish them for seeing them in you. And allow that to develop yourself to be in an honest relationship with who you are and who you are not yet, and to marry someone who can do the same. I think that's the single most important variable to growing into a real friendship. When you will not self confront, won't look at yourself, and demand that the other person feeds you the picture of yourself that you want, or you're married to someone who won't do that, it really undermines the ability for that process to happen that marriage can create in people. And I would talk to my daughter or son about the idea that this is a developmental process. And there's nothing wrong with the fact that in the beginning, it feels so good to be loved by them, to be desired by them, to feel chosen by them. Those are wonderful things. But when they start to break down, nothing is going wrong. It's starting to reveal some of the limitations that need to be revealed, and you can either resent that revelation or you can utilize it to keep growing in your capacity to love and be loved.
Riley Risto: I recognized a few years back that usually when I get mad in my household, like mad at my kids or mad at my wife, it's coming from a place of my own limitation. Like, I'm mad that I don't myself do that very well. And so I'm getting mad at someone else about the same thing. It's a weird dynamic.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: They're pointing it out that they don't like it. And then it's like, Shoot the messenger and get rid of the evidence. Yes, very tempting.
Christopher Hertado: I've noticed the same thing.
Riley Risto: Have you? I'm glad I'm not the only one. So are we fundamentally out of balance speaking like more meta now, back to culture and religion and Christianity at large, or maybe within our own church? Are we fundamentally out of balance at this moment in one or the other set of attributes?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Probably. I mean, I have to say I don't know. There's research that was done by Sandra Bem, for example, and there was a category of participants that would come up as androgynous. That is to say, she looked to see what culturally was defined as more masculine attributes and what was culturally defined as more feminine, and who scored high on both. And there is, I can't remember what it was, 20 percent of her study tended to score as more androgynous. So some of that may be natural. There may be some people who naturally have some elements of both. Some are more strictly yin and some are more strictly yang. But I think that most people tend to favor an energy, and all of us have room for development. So that is to say, everybody, whatever you favor, has elements to become either more mature in your preferred energy and or to develop aspects of the other energy that you need for a life that's more balanced and flexible.
Christopher Hertado: What does the energy look like when it's immature?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Well, let me start with a kind of global idea. Immaturity is more dependency-based. So some of our cultural ideas around what men should be, what women should be are very dependent. That is to say, when the immature masculine needs to be needed, he needs to be seen as strong even if he isn't. And so immature masculine wants to sort of dominate, own, act more intelligent than one is, more competent than one is. It's very much like trying to demonstrate that you're on top, even if you are not. And it wants to control, not just oneself but also others, to feel strong. Immature feminine is also dependent because it's more needy. So to need to be needed is a needy position. And being explicitly needy, of course, is a needy position. But it's more like, "I want you to take care of me. I want you to give me a life. I want you to make me feel good about me because I'm insecure and uncertain. And if I can just slide underneath you, I'll make you feel like a man, and then you can make me feel like I'm a desirable woman." And that's inherently dependent. I don't know that there's another way to do it in the beginning, because it's where we start. We're looking outside of ourselves to manage the question of who we are and whether or not we're sufficient. And a lot of us are taught to do that in these archetypal immature masculine and feminine ways. So many couples start out that way, and then they come to see me about the time that the resentment is just breaking the sense of friendship and partnership because the immature masculine doesn't feel reinforced, doesn't feel desired, admired, doesn't feel sufficient gratitude for all he provides. I'm just explaining it in the kind of stereotypical way. And the immature feminine is like, “Look, I don't feel good about myself. You don't make me feel desirable. You don't make me feel good about me. And what have you done for me lately? I've kind of capitulated to you, and I don't feel good about me. And it's your job." That's immature feminine. It is hiding in that place of dependency. And so when people come to me, I'm helping them start to see that dependent system. The immaturity and neediness in both positions, even though immature masculine is pseudo strong, it looks to appear strong, but it isn't. It's highly dependent. It's highly rigid. It's highly terrified of being exposed for vulnerability. Sometimes immature feminine is afraid of her own strength, of her own autonomy, and of her own ability to expose her own gifts and capacities. And so I'm working to help people see how they are co-creating the misery they're in and how they're trying to utilize the other to manage a responsibility that resides within them to their own development to their own strength, and to help them start to grow into stronger capacity within themselves in whatever variation that may mean for who they each individually are.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: When you're more mature you're able to really create a partnership that's out of choice, not out of need, that's out of a desire for another person and not seeking reinforcement. I talk about desire out of immaturity and desire out of maturity. Desire out of immaturity is, "I want you to reinforce me, make me feel good, make me feel desirable, reinforce my sense of self." Versus desire out of maturity is, "I choose you even though you don't reinforce me oftentimes, and that you're different than me, and that I know who you are and I want you, and I want to be close to you. I want you in my life. You are my friend. Not because I need you to reinforce me, but because I want to bring my best to you and I want to share a life with you and share my sexuality with you." That's a desire that comes out of the capacity to really embrace another person and the inherent tension that comes through doing that. But most people do that in the middle of marriage if they ever do it.
Riley Risto: Something that you highlighted that's really interesting to me is that you can take any of these characteristics and by themselves, they're sort of neutral or androgynous. But it's the approach to that capacity or to that attribute that constitutes the masculine or feminine. So you highlighted, for instance, I've got X amount of capacity on the masculine side. The immature masculine side is overestimating our capacity, believing we're more than we actually are at the moment. And on the feminine side, it's underestimating our capacity. And so to become more whole or complete is just to move to the reality of who we are, right?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Absolutely.
Christopher Hertado: That's why you call it repentance, right? It's about turning and seeing things the way they are in a new way, right? In this case, it's seeing the way that they are more realistically.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: If I had a kind of mantra that captured the work I do with couples is that the truth sets you free. The part that got edited out is the truth makes you miserable first, then it sets you free.
Christopher Hertado: They didn't want to lose readers.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: And so it's like you have to wake up to who you are and who you are not. You have to wake up to reality. And that stretches us. And you know, a lot of times feminism has highlighted the abuses of immature masculine, which is absolutely true and on point on something we need to see. But also, I think sometimes what it's under articulated is the upside of the immature feminine. I don't mean it's a true upside. It's like there's a reason why women have sometimes been collusive in that arrangement because you don't have to grow into your strength, you don't have to be exposed. When Christ talks about the parable of the talents, it's easier to not develop, to not grow, to hide that capacity. And the immature feminine learned that you should be small to be desirable. I certainly remember that idea and the fear that if I really were to show my strength, maybe a man would not want me because I'd be a threat to his sense of capacity. And I had to say that I would rather not be partnered if I had to be small to be in a partnership. I'd rather be who I am and be true to myself and find somebody who that is not threatening to. And I'm really glad I went that route because that's the only way you can have a marriage that's really happy. Because the happiest people feel free to be themselves and to expand themselves in the context of marriage. One of our vulnerabilities is the prioritization of the masculine over the feminine, and I think this has happened in church culture, but it's also happened in the larger culture. It's certainly there in Western culture. It's a danger in marriage if there is a hierarchy of whose vote counts most. Because if we really put it as we are truly equal with differences and with different qualities, there's a fundamental tension to that. That's where I see true goodness and development emerging. It's when you try to handle the anxiety of that fundamental tension by creating hierarchy within the couple that you really damn the progress of that couple. You really interfere with that marriage thriving, or that community thriving.
Christopher Hertado: There's damnation as we usually talk about it. As this actual epistemological concept, something that's happening to you that isn't this metaphysical or logical thing that comes from God, but something that you're actually experiencing and creating for yourself.
Riley Risto: Christopher, in preparing for this show, we reached out to several of our followers on our Facebook page with Latter-day Peace Studies. We reached out to friends and neighbors because we felt like this was an opportunity for us to really stretch the boundaries and open our minds about this with you. And we got some interesting feedback, and I don't know if this is a great time to do it. But Christopher, what do you think about introducing what your sister shared with you?
Christopher Hertado: So when I asked my sisters if they might have any questions for you, Jennifer, one of them said, "I love how that sounds, the divine feminine, but I don't know anything about it. Maybe a question would be why? Why don't I know anything about that? It seems, being a woman, that I probably should."
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yes, we need more of that divine feminine. I think it's a way that we are damning ourselves, to use that idea, as a group by not making those qualities more explicit and more elevated within our communal thinking of the divine. Of course, it's in our theology, right? The Mother God, Mother and Father-in-Heaven, that we have these parents, that they are an intimate couple for lack of a better way of saying it. And yet, Mother is the background and silenced. We don't know enough about this divine feminine and I think this is very hard on the souls and psyches of many women that I work with. They're looking for themselves. For example, in the temple many women are looking for themselves in the ritual and see so much masculine, don't see enough of the feminine, the archetypal feminine, don't see enough of the feminine, even in as God is represented, right? So I think that this is a way that our theology can evolve and in my view, needs to evolve because we do embrace the divine feminine, we have room to develop this more explicitly. I talked about this recently, but I was in a BYU class when I was a student, and the professor brought some hymns and I can't remember the origin of these hymns. I can't remember if they were early LDS hymns, but they were about Mother in Heaven, and they were written by women or a woman I can't remember, but we just sang them in the class and I started to cry. I didn't even know how much I needed that connection to my divine mother. And it's like my soul only knew it as I started to experience it and express it. And I think that we are looking for her. I think culturally women are looking for her. We all need that understanding of what that strength is. I grew up hearing ideas that obviously were not revealed ideas, but rather these were cultural attempts to make sense of the silence around the divine feminine. Ideas such as she's so sacred that we have to protect her, that Father in Heaven has got her locked in the back. And which suggests that the most high form of feminine is still weak or dependent or can't handle herself or can't be knowable. And I don't think those are very helpful ideas when as a female you're trying to figure out and identify with it as a version of strength.
Christopher Hertado: This reminds me of a poem that I shared with both my sisters and others who I texted about this opportunity to ask questions, and it's from Carolyn Pearson. I'd like to read that:
To Our Mother
Remembering that Jesus named his Father
from the cross and said:
“Abba, Abba, why hast thou forsaken me?”
and remembering too that on the kibbutz I learned
that even today children speaking Hebrew
call their father “Abba”
and their mother “Ema”
I am amazed to find in my balancing hands
two balancing words
and the first speaking of the new word is this:
“Ema, Ema, why have we forsaken thee?”
Christopher Hertado: And so that leads me to this other question that is, and you spoke to this already a little bit Jennifer, but if you could maybe answer this question from one of our listeners who asks, "Is there a difference between the title God and the title Goddess? Will I, as a woman, ever be a God? Or is it goddess? Are the titles like Man and Woman, each having different biology and gifts? Having just read Section 137, I wonder at the description from the Prophet Joseph. He said that he saw God on his throne and Christ next to him. Then he mentions male prophets, et cetera. Since I've read this book of poetry, (she was referring to Carolyn Pearson's book) it was glaringly obvious that there was no mention of Heavenly Mother. Why is she absent from all of our recorded accounts of heavenly visions?" I don't know if you can speak to that.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah. Well, these are questions I've certainly had for a long time and have cared very much about. The hopeful part is that we are a faith of ongoing revelation and ongoing development, and we are also individually immature, but we are also institutionally immature, in my opinion. And as Joseph Smith talked about, and many church leaders have said, we need to keep our hearts open to be able to receive greater wisdom. But I think we are often limited by the cultural immersion in which we exist because we can't change what we can't see, and when we can't see it because we're so accustomed to a way of thinking, we limit what we can really understand about divinity. And so I wonder if part of our interest in the divine feminine is about our own evolution as people, we know what questions to be asking, we know where to seek. It's already in our theology. So much of the work I do is looking at our theology that provides for so much and yet we often are interpreting it at an immature level. And yet there's so much there to provide for our ongoing spiritual, relational, and sexual development even. And so I think we have forsaken our mother. I think it's going to come from our ability to see that she's there, but can we see to bring her into our psyches and into our hearts? A lot of the work I do with women in the courses I teach and in the workshops that I do is helping women to embrace their strength, unapologetically embrace their capacity, embrace their wisdom, embrace their sensuality, embrace their sexuality. I've talked to women about being a female goddess, a sexual, sensual, emotive, earthy creature, which the divine feminine is, and to embrace the goodness that's in that. I think so often women have been taught to hide it, to press it down, to be afraid of it, to our shared weakness. When women are not able to embrace their own strength and their own capacity and their own wisdom, the marriage suffers. Men suffer for this as well. Sometimes we get the idea that patriarchy allows men to thrive and women not to, well, everybody's suffering, because it's not whole. And so there's too much fear and pretense and not enough strength and wholeness in the couple. And we all need that.
Christopher Hertado: Jennifer, what would you say to anyone, whether a man or woman, who feels threatened by this image that you've given us of the divine feminine? I think of some of the things you said, speak in terms of tropes that have been associated with witches and both in antiquity and modernity because of the threat that they pose to the established order, which has been patriarchal.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Well, what I would say is that that's a pretty natural response. I think that it's also an immature response in the sense that a strong man does not need a weak woman in order to be strong. So that is to say, strength begets strength, weakness begets weakness. And so it may feel threatening, but what we want is the capacity to be strong enough to handle that natural tension. If the feminine is about fluidity and expression and sensuality, there's often an inherent unease with it because it represents change. It represents uncertainty, it represents what we don't yet know, and what we haven't yet mastered. And part of spiritual capacity is to tolerate uncertainty better. We think of spirituality as having all the answers, we've got it all nailed down. We love that idea. I mean, who doesn't? Because it makes us feel less insecure. But really, I think it's more about the ability to tolerate what we don't yet know and what we can't control.
As a parent, so much of loving is tolerating what you can't control because that allows you to love and to care, even though it may put you up against disappointment or loss, or uncertainty. And so it's developing the ability to handle growth. I talk about discomfort for growth a lot. Faith is about reaching into the dark and tolerating what you don't yet know and what you haven't yet mastered. You have to handle that uncertainty to grow into deeper knowledge and wisdom. And the feminine often represents that uncertainty or change and shift. For us to be a robust faith community, we have to tolerate that inherent tension without trying to dominate it, snuff it out, push it away from us. It doesn't mean we just rush to every critique, of course, because there is a tension between the wisdom of conservatism and liberalism. There's wisdom in both. I listened to a podcast by Malcolm Gladwell several years ago called Generous Orthodoxy, and he talks about, in a couple of different stories, this fundamental tension between holding onto tradition but also allowing it to evolve and the flexibility that we need to stay relevant to keep thriving. Growth is always uncomfortable, growth periods are uncomfortable, but they give us the capacity we need to thrive in those periods of more stasis. And so it's learning to develop the capacity to embrace that tension and that uncertainty.
Christopher Hertado: To back up to something else you said, Jennifer. You hinted at the idea that we have to seek Heavenly Mother to find her, and as Carolyn Pearson has said, we have forsaken her. We just finished a study of the Doctrine and Covenants as a church and here at Latter-day Peace Studies, we podcasted all year on the Doctrine and Covenants. And all of these revelations that we have come from questions. We have so many examples of how the heavens are open to us when we ask questions. So keep asking those questions.
Riley Risto: Yeah. And one thing you mentioned also is that we're in this immature phase, and that's not necessarily a critique as much as it's just a chronological reality that we've only been around for 200 years. There are churches that have already worked through some of the bugs that we're kind of still working through. The beautiful thing about what we have is we've been bequeathed, so to speak, with this endowment of continuing revelation. I can't even imagine Joseph Smith, who was famously railing against the creeds and the orthodoxy of his time, just going forth and instituting a new orthodoxy and saying, "Your orthodoxy is wrong, so we're going to institute this orthodoxy instead." That wasn't the model. That wasn't what he was trying to communicate. And in Doctrine and Covenants, Chris and I have talked about this extensively, it wasn't so much what came out of his exploration that was so revolutionary. It was the exploration itself. It's teaching us that we can do the same thing. We can ask, we can learn, we can explore and have new revelations, just like he did. I mean, he's a person. We're people, there's not much different there.
Christopher Hertado: And our last episode was on perennialism. And so considering that we are in this in this phase or the stage where others, among Christians, have been through this phase or stage are ready and matured and worked through it and passed it, we can actually turn to those other traditions and we can take the best because this is the fullness of times, right? We can take all of what has come down to us from God in all ages and incorporate it.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: And we also have this tension of, here are the rules, obedience has a virtue in it has a value in it, but then personal revelation. So here's the structure, but you must be a seeker. You must pursue what is true for you. You must take responsibility for your morality. And that's something I think we underemphasize to our detriment because we need that diversity. We need that wisdom that's coming from all of the different individuals in pursuit of truth for us to be strong. That will develop us. You know, whenever you have someone who starts subjugating their view out of fear, whether that's in a marriage and a family, you start to handicap the vitality or the growth capacity of that organism. And so if you're dissenting from an honest and earnest place to create a stronger reality, it's a virtue even if you're wrong. It doesn't mean you have to have everything right, because even that dissenting view allows others to consider what they think is right to refine their thinking, to think about the aspects that they hadn't accounted for well enough to be in a prayerful seeking. I think is so much a part of our faith is this pursuit of knowledge, which is how it began. I think that one of the aspects of my faith, as I took it in during my earliest years, was this idea that the truth mattered and pursuing it was good and that it was a process. So for me, and maybe it was partly my family's style, I really saw that as really fundamental to being a Latter-day Saint and not about just landing at the right answer and getting in a static rigid position, but to stay open and pursuing true wisdom.
Riley Risto: Well, Jennifer, this has been a fascinating conversation. We really appreciate you coming on. I've learned a lot from this conversation, just in the exploration we've gone through. We're rounding up to about an hour right now. Is there anything you'd like to close with any thoughts that you've had that have come to you during this discussion that you think would kind of sum up your feelings about the divine feminine?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Well, I don't know. This is kind of an undeveloped thought. It's just sort of coming into my mind. I think we're in a period of transition in the church that's a little bit scary. To go back to how change can feel frightening, I think there's a shift in how we access information, there's been a lot of challenge to what have been ideas that have been held for a long time. And I think that it's something that, out of fear, could push us either into rigidity or departure. And I'm just hoping that we can stay in that tension to keep evolving as a faith community that we can embrace the uncertainty, that we can allow it to inform us, to allow us to keep growing and evolving and becoming more divine to becoming more Zion like, becoming wiser as individuals and collectively. There's so much good here and so much room for us to grow. And so I do hope that we can stay invested in our individual ways in continuing to develop and contributing to the development through our honest engagement as a community.
Christopher Hertado: Amen and amen.
Riley Risto: I love that, and it really points to some of the work you're doing. Especially being engaged in this work is another form and expression of leadership that this church desperately needs, and has always been there and is now starting to really come to the fore. We really appreciate the work you're doing. I know there are many couples out there that appreciate what you're doing for them in trying to counter some of the narratives that have been dominant over the last, however many decades. Saying that we appreciate the work that the leaders at the top are contributing to the church and to the world. And I too am in for the ride on the tension between the balance of grassroots and hierarchical leadership. And I think that we all have space to change in that work together. So again, I appreciate the conversation. Chris, anything you want to close with
Christopher Hertado: Just amen and amen. I agree with you, Riley, and thank you Jennifer for being with us. It's been a pleasure.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Thank you. I've really enjoyed it.