By Rachel Galli Fleming
As the Relief Society chorister, I had chosen “O My Father” as the opening hymn for Mother’s Day because it is the only hymn that mentions Heavenly Mother. When a collection of Eliza R. Snow’s poems was first published in 1856, the text of “O My Father,” later paired with an existing hymn setting, was entitled “Invocation, or The Eternal Father and Mother.” On Mother’s Day, I played prelude music while the Relief Society president asked someone else to direct the music since the pianist had not yet arrived. The Relief Society president requested that we sing only the first three verses, but the sister directing stopped after the second verse. The final two verses are those having to do with Heavenly Mother, but especially verse three. As the meeting continued, I intended to recommend that we sing the last two verses at the end in lieu of the closing hymn, but the lesson ran long and we left without singing.
While I was stewing about this, the thought came to me that this is how I feel about my experience in the church sometimes. I believe our doctrine, am humbled by the sacredness of our temples and ordinances, and am grateful for our leaders. However, sometimes it seems that we fall short of singing the verse about women—not just about our role as mothers and sisters, but the divine role of womanhood. We don’t sing about what it means to have a Heavenly Mother and how we can model ourselves after Her. It isn’t that the knowledge isn’t part of our doctrine, because it is there as surely as the verse is part of the hymn. It’s that it is largely unsung and unknown, and we grope around somewhat blindly in the ambiguity seeking to comprehend our role in the Church and what it means to be a woman eternally. Much of this lack of understanding seems an innocent oversight, like forgetting to sing the third verse. Some may not believe there is a third verse and find that the first two verses are unsatisfactory to help them feel valued and supported in the church. Others may feel content with the verses they are familiar with.
I am among the many who believe there is a third verse that has largely been forgotten. I hear the first strains of it carried on the wind. I feel strength and support from the bond of covenant keeping women around the world who are embracing their spiritual gifts and don’t feel they need express ecclesiastical permission to become who they feel called to be. I feel that it won’t be long before we will all sing the third verse together.