Our Heavenly Mother

I would like to know how each of you envision Heavenly Mother. Please take a moment to write a brief description of how you imagine her appearance and her behavior.

If you don’t mind, please write your comment before reading those previous, then go back and read the others and re-comment if you’d like. I’m asking you to do this because I’m curious if we all have similar visions of Mother.

Jana

Jana is university administrator and History professor. Her soloblog is http://janaremy.com/pilgrimsteps/

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44 Responses

  1. Starfoxy says:

    This might be a Nanny McPhee spoiler so stop reading now. I imagine her to act very much as Nanny McPhee did during the wedding scene at the very end. Supremely calm, effortlessly in charge (because by that point everyone recognized that she was much wiser than they), and naturally she will look like Emma Thompson. 🙂

  2. madhousewife says:

    I honestly have no vision of Heavenly Mother. It is one of my biggest problems with Mormon theology. Supposedly she exists, and yet we know nothing about her. To me she is like a parent who abandons you at a young age, whom you don’t remember anything about, but you fantasize about how cool she’s going to be when you finally meet her–until you get mature enough to realize that someone who abandons her kid couldn’t be all that cool. It’s an unfair assessment, I suppose. But I honestly have a really hard time assigning a personality to Heavenly Mother when I can hardly get a handle on what Heavenly Father is like. It seems like I’m refusing to participate in this conversation, but I’m curious if anyone else feels the same way I do.

  3. madhousewife says:

    I guess I do have some vague theory that HM did the heavy lifting parenting us in the pre-existence and now HF is taking the kids while she soaks in a tub. That would explain a lot.

  4. Rusty says:

    Kinda like my mom. Just a little less crazy.

  5. Tanya says:

    I picture my Heavenly Mother as an older, comforting type. She is kind and comforting. She is someone who listens with compassion and love, and dispenses her wisdom freely to those who truly want to partake. She is like the friend that you want to talk to when things are bad because you know she will understand and want to help in anyway she can. She is competent and self sufficient, and at the same time is not afraid to ask for help. Physically, I picture her to have white hair and a healthy body.

    To me, she embodies all things that a woman should be-in all the roles of life.

  6. AmyB says:

    This is a difficult one for me to answer. I had been thinking about this precise question recently, and came to the realization that I have no image for Heavenly Mother. It was a painful realization and highlighted for me the lack of relationship with the divine feminine that I have. So in short, I have no answer. I am excited to go back and read what others wrote, though.

  7. jana says:

    When I picture my Heavenly Mother, I generally imagine the face of the woman who helped with my temple initiatory ordinance when I went through it for the first time. She had a broad face w/ clear eyes and her skin was tan, weathered and wrinkled. She had high cheekbones and a rather unruly mass of fine grey-white hair worn in a bun. She was about my height and wore a long white dress.

    When she smiled her eyes sparkled. Her voice was soft yet firm and loving. She was very gentle with me as I was rather scared and confused by the experience.

    I saw this woman many times after that first incident when I returned to the temple for ordinances. Each time I saw her something in my felt relief and comfort. To this day, when I see someone whose features are similar, I am immediately drawn to them.

    It hurts me that our Mother is so distant from us, her children. I just don’t understand it, and at times I feel quite betrayed, even angry. I try to imagine myself in her shoes, and I feel the anguish of not having a relatsionship with my children. It’s just not something that I can understand at all.

  8. Caroline says:

    A couple of years ago, after reading The Secret Life of Bees (fabulous book!) I composed a poem for our Mormon women’s reading/writing group about Heavenly Mother. A lot of the ideas and images I used are meant to be an antithesis to traditional ideas about God the Father. (i.e. many of us think of him as white clothed, white haired. I make my Goddess colorful. Many of us think of God as unchanging, I make Goddess fluid and evolving.)

    Here’s the poem:
    The Goddess

    Her eyes the green of growth,
    Her robe the red of blood,
    Her hair the black of night.

    She is earth, air, fire, and water.
    Waxing and waning,
    She is the power of transformation and change,
    the elements of life.

    Patroness of prophecy, inspiration and power,
    She is wisdom, independence, personal strength, and self.
    Passion and emotion emanate,
    As she savors imagination, creativity, and experimentation.

    A beneficent and autonomous power,
    She gives just law, heals, writes and takes action.

    As giver and nurturer of life
    Dispenser of wholeness and happiness,
    healing love and service to all
    She is Goddess.

  9. Kaimi says:

    I’m not really sure. My conception of God is sufficiently inchoate that at times I’m not sure I can say where one entity ends and the other begins, or if it even makes sense to conceive of God as entities.

    But the Heavenly Father / Heavenly Mother model is a good one, and I think allows us to see some attributes of divinity. I think that Heavenly Mother may well be much like she is envisioned by Janice Allred — manifesting through the Holy Ghost. Heavenly Mother loves us, and brings feelings of love and peace and comfort and acceptance and serenity.

    I’m not sure how to envision her all of the time, but I like to think that a mother’s love for her children outweighs all other considerations. Because of that, she is the mercy element in the justice-and-mercy combination of God.

    But as I said, this is all relatively tenative and unsure. I’m not at all confident that we realyl have the ability to very well perceive and understand the attributes of our heavenly parents.

  10. Kaimi says:

    Speaking of Janice Allred, I do like her idea of reading “God” and “the Father” in scripture as meaning “the divine couple.” Thus, many attributes that we see and traditionally attribute to the Father may actually be attributes of the Mother, and we just don’t realize it.

  11. Deborah says:

    In my limited mind, the feminine divine takes hold less as a personage and more as an energy — a pure and powerful healing soul, surrounding us when we cry, playing with our hair in the wind, urging us to embrace compassion. More a presence than a person.

    When I feel an unexpected moment of warmth or peace, I think of her. Because we’ve been saturated with (hokey) images of Christ and God the Father, I tend to find my mental images of them much too pedestrian for sacred moments. I *really* hope we don’t start painting her as a blond woman in a MoTab robe.

    Now I get to go back and read what the rest of you wrote!

  12. Ardis says:

    I hadn’t consciously thought about this before, so I had to ask myself some questions.

    I wondered at first if I saw Her as a feminine form of Heavenly Father — more Heavenly Grandmother than mother. But that doesn’t feel right. She isn’t matronly or white-haired or stooped.

    After trying on several other possibilities, I realized that I envision her best almost as my earthly mother, but younger and straighter and more dark-haired than I ever knew my own mother except in early pictures. She’s smiling, but not like she just pulled a pan of cookies from the oven, more, again, like my earthly mother, who loved me even when she knew I hadn’t made my bed that morning and that I probably would be in tears over something mean someone said to me before the day was over. I also see her in colors — bright lips and green eyes and dark hair. Funny, but I always imagine Father in shades of white — wonder why Mother seems so different?

    Now what have the rest of you said?

  13. Dora says:

    Hmmm … much as LDS doctrine paints our deity as corporeal, I can’t seem to come up with a phyical representation of either Heavenly mother or father. The temple portrayals of deity as ghostly white seem far removed from beings who would actually be interested in mortal activity.

    Heavenly Mother. I’ve only recently started thinking about her, but here are a few of the words I would use to describe how I hope she is. Intelligent. Graceful. Powerful. Active. Loving. Empathetic. Benevolent.

  14. AmyB says:

    Caroline,

    I love, love, love your poem. I love the idea of a colorful, dancing, earthy goddess. Something in it just feels . . . right. It speaks to my soul and is something I can connect with. Thank you for your imagery.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I have no idea. I think that says a lot in and of itself.

  16. EmilyCC says:

    I don’t really have a real physical description of Heavenly Mother in my mind, but then again, I don’t have one of Heavenly Father, either. Maybe because I’ve only felt their (Their?) presence in my life?

  17. Anonymous says:

    Heavenly mother is surely strong willed and is in charge of everything — including running the heavenly home. (After all, we all know men only think they are in charge…)

  18. Mark N says:

    Just picture Mother Eve, and there you are.

  19. meems says:

    That’s funny; I’ve never imagined her face. I’ve just felt her “being”- warm, gentle, full of patience and love. Very very wise, and yet young. Sounds a lot like wish fulfillment, but there you go. I suppose she’ll have long white hair.

    I haven’t read any of the others yet, so I’m curious if everyone else has a more concrete physical impression of her!

  20. Lois says:

    I have struggled with this image for many years, but on one occasion I had a very clear image in my mind of a phenomonally gorgeous woman dressed in flowing red/orange gown (kind of blowing in the wind). She had amazing long wavy red hair with piercing green eyes. She was brandishing a sword. Is this my HM–I don’t know, but it was an amazing and wonderful image!

  21. Coventry says:

    I don’t really believe in a Heavenly Mother. I hope I am not too heretical in not being at all convinced of the existence or the necessity of the existence of such a being. If there is one, she is mentioned to infrequently and too abstractly for me to form any kind of opinion of her. I think of motherhood as a social relationship. I currently have no relationship to such a being, so I don’t see that there is any mothering going on. Parenting by my Father in Heaven, yes, but that’s all I have experience with.

  22. Coventry says:

    Reading other’s comments was exciting. I love Lois’s image of “Flaming June” with a weapon. I’d make her a Glamazon woman, too: well over six feet tall.

  23. Coventry says:

    I don’t really believe in a Heavenly Mother. I hope I am not too heretical in not being at all convinced of the existence or the necessity of the existence of such a being. If there is one, she is mentioned to infrequently and too abstractly for me to form any kind of opinion of her. I think of motherhood as a social relationship. I currently have no relationship to such a being, so I don’t see that there is any mothering going on. Parenting by my Father in Heaven, yes, but that’s all I have experience with.

  24. Paula says:

    I think of her as looking like Carol Lynn Pearson. I haven’t ever seen “Mother Wove the Morning” so I don’t think it’s an artifact of that. I think I’m more focussing on the bright lively intelligent look, and the fact that she’s a beautiful older woman. Here’s what she looks like:
    http://www.clpearson.com/PhotoGal.html

  25. Mark Butler says:

    I do not believe viviparous spirit birth is a tenable concept. So if you ask me about my heavenly mother(s) I think of Eve, and Sarah, and Rebekah, and Rachel, and Asenath, not to mention several much temporally closer to me than they.

    I tend to think of heavenly motherhood as following the type of Sarah – being a mother to (and having a divinely sanctioned ministry unto) an endless lineal and adopted posterity. Isaiah 54 is a good account of the adoption part. That is spiritual motherhood.

    That is also similar to the way that all women can be mothers, even if they are not yet married or do not have biological children. Viviparous birth isn’t everything.

    [I should of course acknowledge that if there is no viviparous birth then our heavenly father is not necessarily a viviparous father at all, certainly not in the beginning. Adam (the first man Adam – not necessarily the one we know), was the first man of all men (Moses 1:34).]

  26. Mark Butler says:

    Note also Mosiah 5:7:

    “And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.”

    That is a better account of what spiritual (re)birth is like than the notion of viviparous spirit birth. There are many other scriptures, especially the statements of Jesus in the book of John. We should not forget the true implications of taking upon ourselves the name of Christ either. (cf. Hebrews 2:11)

  27. Anonymous says:

    Everybody guess Mark Butler’s favorite new word! 🙂

  28. Mark Butler says:

    What other word am I supposed to use to clarify the difference between the concept of viviparous spirit birth and the concept of a spiritual relationship akin to the one we have with Christ? “Biological spirit birth” will not do. I am open to suggestions though.

  29. John says:

    Here’s something I wrote for a Sunstone session a couple of years ago. I hope you all don’t mind if I share it here:

    I picture a young mother, in a student apartment. Her husband is always away, studying for medical school and working nights as a security guard. All day long she carries the newborn girl while chasing her 2-year-old boy around. She is away from extended family, spends Sundays in the nursery, and has very little social life. She hasn’t felt the spirit for a long time. What she feels is tired, alone, numb. She doesn’t know it, but she is also struggling with post-partum depression.

    One night she nearly snaps. Her husband has been gone since breakfast, and won’t be back for hours. Her girl is colicky and her boy spent two hours throwing a tantrum. She is afraid that her neighbors think she’s abusing her children and are going to call the police. She kneels by the bed, begins to pray in desperation, and falls asleep.

    She looks up and realizes that there is a light next to her, hovering near the nightstand. It grows brighter and brighter, filling the whole room. There is a curvy silhouette in the middle of the light, a woman. The light leaves the corners and coalesces about this glorified being. Her hair and robe are so white that they appear to be glowing softly.

    The heavenly woman eases her strong hips upon the edge of the bed. She cradles the young mother’s chin in her fingertips and says, “You are my beloved daughter. I will hear you.” The young mother says nothing, but embraces her Mother, burying her face in her breasts and crying, crying until there’s nothing left to give. Mother strokes her young daughter’s hair, and tells her how she had carried her and the toddler and the newborn in her belly and nursed them and taught them before sending them into this harsh world. She tells the young woman that she’s experienced all of this before, the dread and excitement when she her missed period, weeks of nausea and not keeping anything down, the ugly, bloated feeling of pregnancy, the tired, disinterested husband, the pains of childbirth, and so much more. She understands.

    The young woman looks up into the royal, careworn face of her Mother, and sees a tired smile, the wrinkles just beginning. She knows now that she has someone she can turn to, that the days will be difficult, but that she sees that like her Mother, she too has been anointed by sanctified women to someday rule as a queen and priestess. She falls asleep there, at peace for a couple of hours.

  30. Mark Butler says:

    In case someone thinks I am being unfair I should also note I would enumerate my heavenly fathers (note plural) the same way, and say that the concert of all our heavenly fathers and mothers is Elohim.

    The presiding authority of this concert does seem indeed to be a man, but the concert is certainly half (or possibly more than half) female. Consider the legislative implications of that.

    Motherhood prefigures the divine authority of females, which is heavenly motherhood. A wonderful thing if you ask me.

  31. Brooke says:

    I cheated and read all the comments first, but only because I don’t have a real tangible idea of Heavenly Mother. But I really appreciate all of your comments on the matter. Especially Caroline’s poem and Mark’s thoughts.

  32. Téa says:

    I picture Her with braids very similar to those my Grandmother wore. Loving & wise eyes that reflect personal experiences of sorrow & joy. Dressed in white with open arms.

  33. VirtualM says:

    I have very little idea of what she is really like, but I hope that she has a powerful speaking voice rather than the ‘primary whisper’ that many women give over the pulpit.
    I shouls spend some more time thinking about this.

  34. Kristy says:

    I have firmly adopted Terry Tempest William’s belief that the Holy Ghost is, in fact, our Heavenly Mother. After all, how often are men the “comforters” who use a “still, small voice”?

    So, I guess I envision her to have all of the attributes of the Holy Ghost, being comforting, kind, giving warmth, testifying of truth, leading you always in the direction you should go, being the constant companion in the struggles of life.

    However, I have never put a physical face or body to these attributes (maybe because the H.G. is supposed to be without a body–the only way Her Spirit could be with us always). In any case, I just focus on how She feels, not on how she looks.

    However, I relate to what others have said about the void created due to lack of information/discussion about a Mother in Heaven. I think not knowing more of Her is a travesty. If a mother on this earth is to be the primary nurturer of her children, then I would really like my Mother in Heaven to remain my primary nurturer and I want to know Her in far more concrete terms.

  35. Lindsey says:

    I don’t so much envision a physical form for Heavenly Mother, except for the whiteness that we associate with all ressurected beings. I do, however, imagine a kindness and mercy in her eyes–the kind of look that you see when a new mother holds her child for the first time. I think she always has that look on her face. I think I imagine a personality more than any physical form. I think she’s always kind and never raises her voice, yet she always directs and sets a perfect example. I do imagine our Heavenly Father consults with her often, and that she is fully his partner and in no way inferior to him. Ultimately, as she is the perfect example to us as to what a wife and mother should be, her relationship with Heavenly Father is an example of the perfect relationship we should strive for with our spouses.

  36. yddy42 says:

    There have been hints (in the other comments), but nobody has outright asked the question (not that it matters in the least): “Do we, perhaps, have different Heavenly Mothers (but the same Heavenly Father)?”

  37. jana says:

    Or do we, perhaps have different Heavenly Fathers _and_ Mothers? What do you think yddy42?

    FWIW, I don’t buy the notion that the reason we don’t know anything about Mother is because we all have different ones. To me it’s superemely odd that we seem to be a ‘Mother-less’ human family (meaning that we have no relationship with Mother), when church leaders promote the idea that our most important value as women is as a nurturer of our children.

  38. VirtualM says:

    It was interesting that as I pondered this question more deeply, I found myself crying out last night for the first time to a Heavenly Mother as, exhausted, I tried to deal with an infant who wanted to nurse for over 2 1/2 hours straight. If there is a divine feminine, where is she? Heavenly Father surely has not gone through this…a Mother’s comfort would go a long way. I agree, Jana, that if my value comes from nurturing my child, and if that is supposedly woman’s lot (not that I agree with this necessarily, mind you – I’m terribly equipped to deal with kids), a feminine presence would be most appreciated.

  39. Dave says:

    “Heavenly Father surely has not gone through this…”

    The Savior experienced all the pain and difficulty that any human ever has. I find the above statement very presumptuous.

  40. Deborah says:

    Dave: Perhaps, and yet . . . .

    While we are taught that a male diety understands each emotion, men and women might have moments where we yearn to connect with a feminine presence called God — because it simply feels more comfortable or makes more “sense” (especially in a theology that celebrates a certain gender essentialism . . . ). I imagine this feeling is magnified for some women when faced with an experience (such as breastfeeding) that seems difficult for a man to understand with perfect empathy. With the veil drawn, the experience of God does rely on the imagination – the ability to visualize or give voice to hopes, sacred teachings, and sacred feelings. If we really believe in a unity of the Godhead — and include a mother is such a unity — then why not use her “face,” however we see her, when we seek a certain kind of comfort from God?

  41. VirtualM says:

    I was alluding to the actual experience of breastfeeding. My personal understanding of the atonement is that Christ understands the pains and emotions we suffer, but it would be nice to turn to a female personage who actually has dealt with this, since we’re told she’s there in the most veiled terms. If we have a divine female to turn to, why shouldn’t we have the *option* of turning to her when struggling with things unique to woman’s experience? I’m not trying to deny the atonement; rather I am eternally grateful for it. However, to speak in analogies, I would never contact my earthly father or brother for breastfeeding advice. It makes more sense to my unenlightened mind to have the support of a mother. I’m sorry that you find me presumptuous.

  42. Tam says:

    Given the fairly recent thread over at Feminist Mormon Housewives regarding polyandry (sorry – I don’t yet know how to do the link thing), I think there may be something to Jana’s comment about our heavenly family actually consisting of multiple Fathers and Mothers in Heaven. But, also given the responses in the thread, it seems that most people would rather not contemplate that possibility.

    Maybe even more difficult to contemplate would be the possibility that while gender may be eternal, it may not necessarily be constant, i.e., perhaps omnipotent beings can change gender when it suits them to do so. That idea has some interesting implications for alleviating certain feminist concerns and for resolving some doctrinal contradictions.

    Regarding the original post, I tried to sort out my ideas regarding Mother in Heaven before reading any comments, but realized that I really don’t have any concrete notion as to what She is like. There’s little information available and trying to get to know Her through the avenue of prayer seems to be in conflict with prophetic counsel. It’s a bit of a dilemma for someone who feels drawn to learn more of the sacred, divine feminine. It seems to come down to an either/or decision – to either follow the Spirit or follow the prophet on this issue, which is not a comfortable position for me.

    Thanks for the comments, everyone – I’ve enjoyed reading them. I especially loved the poem, Caroline (and congrats on the new baby).

  43. Simeon's Peep Stone says:

    Don’t you mean “Heavenly Mothers”? Out of the 42 responses here, the likelyhood that we all have the same Heavenly Mother is not high. Who knows what our personal Heavenly Mother is like. Does it matter? The pre mortal existence was probably like one long episode of Big Love.

  1. February 13, 2016

    […] “Our Heavenly Mother” by Jana: In this post, Jana asks our readers to comment on how they envision Heavenly Mother. These comments are beautiful. […]

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