"Our Mothers' Love": Reflections on Our Heavenly Mother

In the spring Exponent II issue of 1981, Susan Howe wrote an editorial called “Our Mother’s Love.” In the following excerpt, she begins by talking about her own relationship with her mother – how her mother often “extended love to me that I needed and was thankful for, but I couldn’t return it. Something in me hunkered down inside… I was inert. I certainly felt deeply, but I was incapable of voicing or extending that love. Incapable of receiving it.”

These thoughts about her earthly mother lead to some interesting reflections on Heavenly Mother. I am particularly struck by her optimism about receiving answers to her questions, by her belief that it is the members’ apathy that has stagnated revelations concerning Her.

What do you think? Do you also believe that we will only receive more knowledge of her when we actively reach out to learn more? Other than praying to Heavenly Mother, what are ways we can individually stretch ourselves to learn more about Her and honor Her? Any other responses to Howe’s ideas?

Excerpt:
I sometimes think that we behave towards our Heavenly Mother much as I have behaved towards my earthly mother. I’m sure that She extends Her love to us and that we accept and are blessed by it. But when it comes to knowing Her or acknowledging and accepting who She is and how She feels for us, we hunker down inside ourselves and turn away.

I suppose that it is not so much that we are hurt (though we are) as that we are not willing to be responsible — eiteher for the relationship with both our Heavenly Parents or for the changes that knowing Them would require. If we don’t learn more about Them, we won’t have to become more like Them. We won’t have to grow.

So, ignoring the ninth Article of Faith (“…we believe that H will yet reveal many great and important things…”) we don’t ask for greater blessings, we don’t prepare ourselves for greater knowledge, we don’t fast, and we don’t pray. We keep our eyes straight ahead and never look up so that we won’t have to climb up.

We justify our lack of interest in our Eternal Mother with such excuses as “Oh, that just hasn’t been revealed.” But the doctrine has been revealed. It was revealed to Joseph Smith over a hundred years ago. We have received the doctrine. Isn’t it our responsibility to seek a confirming witness of this revelation, to strive for a testimony of our own?

And another excuse: “Heavenly Father must not want us to know about that right now. If He did, He’d reveal it to the prophet.” Can we honestly think that Heavenly Father would not want us to know about his eternal companion and the role She has played in our existence? Can we really imagine that He would feel diminished rather than enlarged, that He would want to keep this knowledge from us? Can we really imagine that He woul hesitate to reveal — if we were righteous and prepared and willing to learn — the glory of what a celestial union is really like? God would reveal it to the prophet, if we were worthy and prepared to accept the revelation.

I think that we can trust in the goodness of God. He is not sexist or demeaning. He would only want the greatest potential and the highest fulfillment for His daughters and His sons. God would want us to understand the glory possible for both sexes as we learn to live and love by celestial laws. I sense that both our Mother and Father yearn to lead us to a higher plane, and they would if we would stop hunkering down inside ourselves, afraid to seek more knowledge, afraid to ask.

Caroline

Caroline is a PhD student in Women's Studies in Religion and mother of three.

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  1. Proud Daughter of Eve says:

    Wow. I hadn’t thought of it that way before. Exciting and intimidating to think She’s just there on the other side of the veil and all we have to do is reach back.

    I’ve been toying on and off recently with the idea that it’s a developmental stage, similar to the one I feel I’m in right now. I love my mother but I just feel I need her to be less central in my life now. I’m married and living in another country. I’m sure I’ll be rushing back to her when we start a family but right now I need to do my things my way. Conversely, I’m taking more of an interest in my father. He’s been there all the time of course but it’s like it’s just recently dawned on me that he’s a person and that I can get to know him. A lot of that’s probably family dynamic and so I’m probably just extending things a bit far. However, I’ve wondered if, in the early days of Adam and Enoch, they had a relationship with Heavenly Mother and that at some point, we as a race reached a spiritural stage where we needed Him more than Her and that hopefully we’re moving to another place where we can acknowledge that we need them both equally.

  2. Caroline says:

    Thanks for your input, Proud D. I personally am inclined to believe Her silencing and disappearance is a result of a religious system that was consciously trying to remove from itself any taint of paganism (i.e. multiple gods or female god(s)). But I hope that perhaps there will soon be a shift so that people will be ready to explore and more openly acknowledge Her existence.

    I think I was so struck by this post because, I’m ashamed to say, what Howe describes is very applicable to me. I talk a lot about wishing we could focus more on Her in church and get to know Her. But I really don’t spend that much time reaching out to God to ask about Her and to beg God to reveal more about Her. I’m not sure what’s stopping me. Maybe it is that fear that if I do receive some sort of confirmation, I am indeed responsible in a way I never have been before. (Also, I’ve never been one to receive any kind of response through prayer, so no doubt that also makes me reluctant.)

    Perhaps one way we can reach out to Heavenly Mother and make her more a part of our lives is to consciously try to see Her attributes in the people around us. (I was going to say “women around us”, but hey, why can’t men also reflect Her divine qualities?)

  3. Patti says:

    Here are some thoughts I have regarding our Heavenly parents.

    Since it has been revealed that we have both a Heavenly Father and Mother, it is natural to wonder – Why isn’t more known about Her? Why hasn’t She shown Herself?

    I think the answer to that may lay in part by looking to Heavenly Father’s example. In each scriptural instance where Heavenly Father makes an appearance, he turns the focus away from Himself and points to Christ saying, “This is my Beloved Son, Hear Him!” (Jesus baptism, appearance of Christ to the Nephites, Joseph Smith’s First Vision)

    The plan of salvation centers on the atonement of Jesus Christ. He is our intercessor at the throne of God. It is through him that we can return to our Heavenly parents.

    Jeffrey Holland taught that it is through Christ that we come to know our Father in Heaven.

    “In word and in deed Jesus was trying to reveal and make personal to us the true nature of His Father in Heaven. He did this at least in part because then and now all of us need to know God more fully in order to love Him more deeply and obey Him more completely.” (Ensign Nov. 2003)

    I believe that it is through Christ that we come to know our Heavenly Mother as well. And by striving to have the Spirit – which testifies of all truthfullness – we can receive answers to our questions.

    For me, I believe that Heavenly Mother also wants Her children here on earth to turn their attention not to Her, but to Her Beloved Son, Jesus Christ – who makes it possible to return to Her again.

  4. Tam says:

    I very much like the excerpt from Susan Howe’s writings – thanks for sharing it. I have had similar thoughts. I sometimes wonder if we don’t know more about Mother in Heaven because we rejected knowledge of her when the church began to be restored. Perhaps it is a scenario similar to the law of consecration. God tried to institute the higher law of consecration and the early saints rejected it. So now we live by the lower law of tithing until such a time that we, as a people, are ready for the higher law.

    When I look at the things restored to women in the early days of the church, and see the power, authority, and voice they were beginning to acquire, it seems to me that we were well on our way to embracing the divine feminine. But apparently the momentum from Joseph Smith’s vision for the sisters couldn’t carry us very far past his death and we seem to have digressed back into what was familiar – the historical tradition of male domination of women. In essence, I wonder if we rejected the higher law for families (patriarchal order) and reverted to the lower law (male dominion).

    Another scenario might be that it was simply too soon to have certain higher laws take hold because not many people would be able to join the church and stick with it. The lower laws of tithing and word of wisdom already prove too difficult for many. Often I see the church as a ship waiting to sail. If it sails too soon, it will leave too many behind. So we have to stay at port to collect all the passengers. Maybe what little knowledge we were given of higher laws was to teach us what to strive for – a star to steer by, so to speak. Thus, those already on the ship don’t have to just sit and wait. They can gain knowledge of the voyage ahead. I believe it is possible for individuals to know more and live by higher laws within their hearts, even if the church as a whole is not ready for the higher law.

    I look forward to a time when knowledge of Mother in Heaven is both more abundant and accepted within the church. Regardless of the reason(s) why we don’t know more, I don’t think that greater knowledge will come until many individuals are actively seeking for it. Knowledge seems to come on the heels of a question, e.g., Joseph’s query, Enos’ prayer, the Brother of Jared asking for light, and many more examples. If we’re not asking and if we don’t want to know anything further, why should God tell us anything more?

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