What I first learned about Heavenly Mother.

Posted by on September 25, 2013 in female divine, Relief Society, women | 63 comments

A Mother ThereOnce upon a time, I had the rich opportunity to research Heavenly Mother full-time. For BYU. I had just finished my BA in philosophy, when one of my professors invited me to work for him that Spring and Summer before I headed East for grad school. He had received a grant from the Women’s Research Institute. My answer was a resounding, “Yes.” I remain sincerely glad that it was, despite the fact that the thing that I remember most from that period was that I was exhausted–spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. This may be because the thing that I remember second most, is that I was also full–spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. It was beautiful to read and read about our Eternal Mother, as it was beautiful to learn that there were things to read and read. Much of my research contributed to the 2011 BYU Studies article, “‘A Mother There’: A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven.” 

Just the other day, I was given another rich opportunity: to talk about the things I learned during that time with my Relief Society sisters. It felt sacred (as did the conversation that followed). The first things I shared were the things I remember feeling very new to me then. The second things I shared were a few of my very favorite themes, threading throughout many of the writings and discourses. I share both with you now.

New to me in 2008:

  • The hymn, “O My Father,” was initially titled, “Invocation, or the Eternal Father and Mother,” suggesting that Eliza herself viewed her words as a prayer to both Heavenly Parents.1
  • Eliza’s poem was not the first recorded expression of LDS belief in an Eternal Mother. W.W. Phelps published a hymn ten months before that he had written for the dedication of a Seventies Hall. It was titled, “A Voice From the Prophet: Come to Me.” The relevant lyric says, “Come to me; here’s the myst’ry that man hath not seen; Here’s our Father in heaven, and Mother; the Queen, Here are worlds that have been, and the worlds yet to be, Here’s eternity,–endless; amen; Come to me.”2
  • This suggests that the doctrine did not stem with Eliza, but was common knowledge at that time. Eliza explained, “I got my inspiration from the Prophet’s teaching. All that I was required to do was use my Poetical gift and give that Eternal principal in Poetry.”3 There is additional evidence that Joseph Smith taught it. When Zina D. Huntington Young’s mother passed away, she asked Joseph, “Will I know my mother as my mother when I get over on the Other Side?” He responded, “Certainly you will. More than that, you will meet and become acquainted with your eternal Mother, the wife of your Father in Heaven.”4 Abraham H. Cannon recorded in his journal that Joseph Smith invited Sidney Rigdon and Zebedee Coltrin to “accompany him into the woods to pray,” where they experienced a succession of four visions–two of which included Heavenly Mother.5
  • The earliest recorded expression intimating that Heavenly Mother is too sacred to talk about was written by a 20th Century seminary teacher, named Melvin R. Brooks: “Considering the way man has profaned the name of God, the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, is it any wonder that the name of our Mother in Heaven has been withheld, not to mention the fact that the mention of Her is practically nil in scripture?”6 It has not been repeated by any Church President, Apostle, or other General Authority. (Before sharing this truth, I first asked the sisters to raise their hands if they had ever been taught this well meaning, but incorrect conjecture. Every single woman had.)
  • President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “How uplifting, comforting, is this thought, that the Father of Jesus Christ is in very deed our Father—that we are in very deed his offspring, and this is the doctrine of the Bible…And A Mother in Heaven! Latter-day Saints believe that not only have we a Father in heaven, but a mother there. Why not have a mother as well as a Father? Is there any blasphemy in this teaching?”7
  • It was extremely common for early leaders to testify of Heavenly Mother. In fact, they would do so as simply and easily as we might stand on Fast Sunday and say, “I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love me.” Whatever they were talking about, they included Her. Talking about the pre-mortal existence? Include Her! Talking about adversity? Include Her! For instance, on one occasion, Apostle, Orson F. Whitney, said, “We are taught that men and women, the sons and daughters of God, who were spirits in his presence, were sent here to take mortal tabernacles and undergo experiences that would in due time exalt them to the plane occupied by their Father and Mother in heaven.”8 On another, “All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven.”9
  • Almost every Church President has spoken specifically of Heavenly Mother, but none did so more often than Spencer W. Kimball.
  • Apostle Neal A. Maxwell referred to truths concerning our Heavenly Mother as one of the “truths that [is] most relevant and most needed in the times in which [we] live.”10
  • Most General Authorities today verbally pair Heavenly Father and Mother together with the phrase, “Heavenly Parents.” This may be because it mirrors the well known language of the Family Proclamation, but it also might be to emphasize the closeness and unity of the Father and Mother. An earlier Apostle, Erastus Snow, said, “If I believe anything that God has ever said about himself, and anything pertaining to the creation and organization of man upon the earth, I must believe that deity consists of man and woman…there can be no God except he is composed of the man and woman united, and there is not in all the eternities that exist, or ever will be a God in any other way.”11

A few of my favorite themes:

  • Women are created in the image of Heavenly Mother.
    • President Spencer W. Kimball instructed a group of women, “You are daughters of God. … You are made in the image of our heavenly mother.”12 At another time he said, “God made man in his own image and certainly he made woman in the image of his wife-partner…. You [women] are daughters of God. You are precious. You are made in the image of our heavenly Mother.”13
    • From President Harold B. Lee, “Could there have been a Father in Heaven without a Mother? With a similar question in her mind the poetess penned [the] verse of a well-known hymn…While still keeping that question in mind, think of the significant statement contained in the scriptures describing the creation of man. ‘And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.’14 If you consider carefully those in whose image and likeness male and female were created, I wonder if you will not also discover the organizers of intelligences in the world of spirits.”15 This is meaningful to me, because I want to know that Heavenly Mother had a role.
  • Heavenly Mother is like the Father in perfection, glory, and attributes.
    • Elder Melvin J. Ballard taught, “No matter to what heights God has attained or may attain, he does not stand alone; for side by side with him, in all her glory, a glory like unto his, stands a companion, the Mother of his children. For as we have a Father in heaven, so also we have a Mother there, a glorified, exalted, ennobled Mother.”16
  • Heavenly Mother’s influence on us here.
    • In a 1978 General Conference address, President Spencer W. Kimball spoke, “It was Goethe who said, ‘The Eternal Feminine draws us on.’ Finally, when we sing that doctrinal hymn and anthem of affection, ‘O My Father,’ we get a sense of the ultimate in maternal modesty, of the restrained, queenly elegance of our Heavenly Mother, and knowing how profoundly our mortal mothers have shaped us here, do we suppose her influence on us as individuals to be less if we live so as to return there?”17
    • President Harold B. Lee once said, “There are forces that work beyond our sight. Sometimes we think the whole job is up to us, forgetful that there are loved ones beyond our sight who are thinking about us and our children. We forget that we have a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother who are even more concerned, probably, than our earthly father and mother, and that influences from beyond are constantly working to try to help us when we do all we can.”18

(The third thing I shared was the sadness I felt for a long time afterward, because I knew that we could talk about our Heavenly Mother, but did not hear that speech when I went to church on Sunday. After one particular Relief Society lesson, I understood 1) how desperately I needed to hear someone talk about Heavenly Mother, and 2) that I was someone, and that could talk about Her. I did, out loud, in front of my entire ward during the very next Fast and Testimony meeting. It took all of the courage I could muster, and even when I walked away from the podium and found my seat, my body shook. Thankfully, when the meeting ended an individual I hadn’t met yet gave me a tight hug and thanked me for my “non-traditional testimony.” I didn’t know it then, but he would soon become one of my truest friends. Something else I didn’t know then, is that reclaiming my voice and reclaiming my Mother would change everything for me. Above all, it would make me feel calmer in the Church that I (still) love, and would make it easier for me to continue claiming my voice years into the future.)

What have you learned about Heavenly Mother?

What would you like to learn about Heavenly Mother?

Have you had any experiences sharing your feelings on Heavenly Mother in public?

*And please, oh please, remember the Heavenly Mother Art and Poetry Contest.

Related posts:

  1. Jill Mulvay Derr, “The Significance of ‘O My Father’ in the Personal Journey of Eliza R. Snow,” BYU Studies, vol. 36, 1996-97. []
  2. The History of the Church, vol. 7, Chapter XXVI; Times and Seasons, February 4, 1845. []
  3. Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, Janath Russell Cannon, Jill Mulvay Derr’s Women of Covenant: The Story of Relief Society. []
  4. Suza Young Gates, History of the Young Ladies MIA, 16. []
  5. Abraham H. Cannon Journal, Aug. 25, 1880, LDS Archives, cited in Linda Wilcox’s The Mormon Concept of a Mother in Heaven, 10. []
  6. Melvin R. Brooks, LDS Reference Encyclopedia, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1960, 309-310. []
  7. “The Eternity of the Family,” Ch. 26, Address delivered Sunday, December 3, 1944. []
  8. “The Apocalypse.” In Collected Discourses 1886-1898, vol. 5, edited by Brian H. Stuy. Woodland Hills, Utah: B.H.S. Publishing. []
  9. Cited in Howard W. Hunter’s, “The Opening and Closing of Doors,” Ensign, Nov 1987, 54 []
  10. “Things as They Really Are,” Chapter 4 Living Prophets []
  11. Journal of Discourses 19:269-270, March 3, 1878, cited in Linda Wilcox’s The Mormon Concept of a Mother in Heaven, 11 []
  12. Conference Report, Mexico City and Central America Area Conference 1973, 108 []
  13. The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982, 24-25 []
  14. Genesis 1:26-27. []
  15. “Plan of Salvation,” ch. 2, Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 45-14; 124-25 []
  16. Bryant S. Hinckley, Sermons and Mission Services of Melvin Joseph Ballard, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1949, 205 []
  17. “The True Way of Life and Salvation,” Ensign, May 1978, 4 []
  18. A Sure Trumpet Sound: Quotations from President Lee,” Ensign, Feb 1974, 77 []

63 Comments

  1. I dream of an expanded vision of Her. I would love to have Her incorporated in our worship more – how easy would it be to change the YW Theme to “We are daughters of Heavenly Parents” or “We are daughters of a Heavenly Mother and Father who love us, and we love Them.” I would love to see Her depicted in our temple worship, standing along side the Father.

    That said, I’m wary of people speculating about Her, or projecting their own “ideal mother” onto Her and claiming it to be Her true character.

    • Liz, I once wrote a blog post for Rational Faiths about that very Young Women theme idea (http://rationalfaiths.com/i-am-a-daughter/), and I want to write an expanded version for The Exponent blog.

      I have mixed feelings about the “people speculating about Her, or projecting their own ‘ideal mother’ onto Her.” Linda Wilcox closed her important historical look at Heavenly Mother in the LDS faith by saying, “For the moment, Mother in Heaven can be almost whatever an individual Mormon envisions her to be. Perhaps, ironically, we thus set her up, despite herself, to fill the most basic maternal role of all—that of meeting the deepest needs of her children, whatever they might be.” There is something at least mildly nice about that.

      But, on the other hand, it is easy for some (including some prophets) to talk about Heavenly Mother using very idealized Victorian characteristics. She might be gentle, and She might be modest, but She might also be strong, brave, and wise!

      • There is so much meaning and comfort just in the idea that my Heavenly Mother, “might also be strong, brave and wise!” These are things I want so badly to be apart of my identity as a woman, and look to my heavenly parents to guide me in developing. Thank you for this.

      • Bethany, you are very welcome.

      • If she is an exalted being, I would think she MUST be all of the above. Gentle and modest but ALSO strong, brave and wise?!

    • Indeed. I love “O My Father” for just the same reasons as stated above, but the doctrine of our Heavenly Mother (aside from we have one) is scarce–or rather, the doctrine of God includes our Heavenly Mother in all of those divine attributes, and there’s not much doctrine singling her out as an individual. No division of roles or responsibilities, as say, the ancient Greeks ascribed to their gods.

      Since most the world tends to view “God” as a male figure, it’s easy for us, as Saints, to go along with that (see, e.g. “Building on common beliefs”) and then simply neglect to reference our Divine Mother. Perhaps this is also to emphasize the role of Christ as our savior, as opposed to the Catholic practice of praying to His mother, Mary, for blessings.

      None of what Rachel posts here is news to me, raised in the church my whole life and always willing to dive deeply into the mysteries of heaven, as I am. But it’s not something I’d shout from the rooftops, either. Maybe this is because I’m a man?

    • Toby, I wonder if you could explain more about what you mean by “Maybe because I am a man?” I ask this, because while I do think knowing more of Heavenly Mother’s character and attributes has special relevance for women, I know several men who have expressed a desire to know more of their Mother, and who feel they would also be benefitted by increased discourse and revelation concerning Her. One male friend movingly inquired, “Cannot a son also long for his mother?”

  2. Thank you so much for this! I’ve felt recently that if I want others to feel comfortable speaking about Heavenly Mother than I need to be the one who starts. Thank you for your beautiful quotes, historical background and your personal experiences.

    • You are welcome, Alisa. It was really brave for me, when I came to that same realization. If it is brave for you to be the one who starts in your area, or your conversations, I sincerely hope that you are blessed with all of the courage that you need. For me, it has gotten easier, especially because every time I share my faith, hope, or hunger for Heavenly Mother, I meet others like yourselves who feel it too. There are so many of us, I promise. Again, you are welcome.

  3. Thank you for this. Thank you so much. Would that we all had a chance to study Her full-time.

    • Deja, you are welcome for this. That would be a real, real beautiful gift. :)

  4. 1) I love this. Thanks for the collection of quotes and insights.

    2) I have a BA in Philosophy from BYU, too! Graduated in 2o12. I was a TA for Dr. Carter’s logic classes for 3 years. I look back on my time in the Philosophy department as faith-promoting and happy.

    • Shelley, 1) You are welcome. 2) I love a fellow female philosopher! Carter’s logic classes were quite hard for me, but I loved his dry humor. BYU’s philosophy department was a wonderful place for me, too. I am glad your experience was similarly happy.

  5. I always felt that the “Heavenly Mother is too sacred to talk about” idea was nothing more than a bad joke, but I must admit that attributing its origin to “Mel Brooks” was a punchline I never saw coming. ;-)

    • The idea is unfortunate to be sure, and for me (and many others like me), not very compelling.

      • I too count myself among the “many others like [you]” … at the very least in regards to the idea that “Heavenly Mother is too sacred to talk about.”

        The temple liturgy is full of things too sacred to talk about outside of the temple, but at least within the temple there is a space and a forum in which to commune and engage with the most sacred — not only meditatively, but vocally, as well. Many a time have I been present in the temple when questions even on the mysteries of Godliness were encouraged in the Celestial Room. If the taboo on Heavenly Mother dialogue were really an issue of sacredness, then it would seem to me to be not only appropriate to discuss Her in the temple, but that She would be central to the “further light and knowledge” promised to those who receive their endowment. Since such is not the case, “too sacred” is not very compelling to me, either.

        For those who find affinity for the “Heavenly Mother is too sacred to talk about” philosophy, I ask one question: “How is it God managed to even let the cat out of the bag on that one if he had no intention of letting us know more about Her other than, to paraphrase the hymn: The thought that He is a single parent makes reason stare.”

        Instead, He could have just pulled an Abraham on us all, thinking to himself:

        “Sure, Heavenly Mother is a fair woman to look upon; therefore, it shall come to pass that when my children shall see her, that they shall say, This is His wife: and they will no longer worship me, but they will pray to Her instead. So I will tell them, thou art my sister; and my soul shall have their honor, because of thee.”

        I don’t have the answer, but neither did “Mel Brooks.”

  6. Thanks for posting! I think the Paulsen & Pulido article is so important, and it was great to read insights from someone who actually worked on the project. Thank you so much for your work and your thoughts.

    • You are welcome, Sarah. I agree that that article is very important (and believe I would even if I wasn’t involved).

  7. This is beautiful and informative. Thank you for sharing your experiences and insights with us, Rachel.

    [advance apology for my lengthy comment]
    My relationship with Heavenly Mother has been quietly developing over several decades. I suspect the same is true for many women (and men) in the church – and possibly elsewhere. I feel the reason there is greater open conversation about her lately is because many of us have been carrying on private conversations for a long, long time.

    Until the past few months I hadn’t turned to scripture or read past church leaders’ or religious scholars’ commentary about her. For me, learning about God the Mother has been an almost entirely internal process. Carol Lynn Pearson helped this process along with Mother Wove the Morning. But, I’ve found that my clearest understanding of divine feminine comes not from external sources, but from unexpected personal experiences. I wish I could articulate this better. . .

    Anyway, as for what I’ve learned about her: She’s there. She’s female. Her Godly qualities are indistinguishable from those of her male counterpart for me. She is powerful, angry, compassionate, engulfing, loving, intimately aware.

    Last week we sang “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” in sacrament meeting. This is a wonderful place to see her. This is how I see Her.

    1. God moves in a mysterious way
    Her wonders to perform;
    She plants her footsteps in the sea
    And rides upon the storm.

    2. Ye fearful Saints, fresh courage take;
    The clouds ye so much dread
    Are big with mercy and shall break
    In blessings on your head.

    3. Her purposes will ripen fast,
    Unfolding ev’ry hour;
    The bud may have a bitter taste,
    But sweet will be the flower.

    4. Blind unbelief is sure to err
    And scan her works in vain;
    God is her own interpreter,
    And she will make it plain.

  8. I really love this. I also am in love with the art at the top. Could you please tell me what it is? I would really love to have it in my home. :) Thank you.

    • Thank you, Kimberly. I love the art too. It is a detail of Star of Wonder, by Annie Henrie, 2010.

  9. Thank you for the post. My older sister, who is now 43, has instructions in her patriarchal blessing to pray to her Heavenly Mother. It has always been meaningful for me and for my wife. We are hoping to instill the same love and respect in our son as well.

    • 1) That would be very meaningful to me as well. 2) I love that your son will grow up knowing intimately that he has a Mother in Heaven who loves him. I hope to instill the same things in my soon-to-be-born daughter.

  10. In all my life, I have noticed that adult children are far more critical of their mothers than that of their fathers, even years after whatever offense the mother visited on their children.

    I have never questioned Her existence, yet have never questioned why we don’t speak of Her with as much regularity. This article makes me think that perhaps if we knew more of Her, we, too, would be far more critical of Her than we are of our Heavenly Father.

    Is it not coincidental that we as spirit sisters are complaining and criticizing and bickering with our spirit brothers over the matter? Much like I do even as an adult with my own mortal brothers. Sad.

    • Hayn, I’m not sure I understand what in the article makes you believe that we would be more critical of our Mother in Heaven if we knew more of Her. Everything I have learned about Her is beautiful and powerful.

      I’m also not sure I understand what you mean when you write that “we as spirit sisters are complaining and criticizing and bickering with our spirit brothers over the matter,” but that may be because I know many men who similarly long for their Eternal Mother, and desire to know Her more intimately.

      Do I hope that current LDS leaders will seek out greater light and knowledge concerning our Heavenly Mother? Absolutely. Does that mean that I am fostering a spirit of contention? I’m not so sure.

  11. Hi Rachel this was wonderful. Thank you very much. A question: I’m still not clear on why discussing it is so taboo?

    • im really terrible at recognizing taboos :) I didnt realize either, though my ward tend to be pretty awesome at accepting me and my crazy bunch…
      I really really enjoyed reading this, quite emotional for me..

      • Hi Isabelle. I’m grateful that you enjoyed reading this, and that it resonated with you.

    • Hi Michael. Thank you for reading, and also for chiming in. One of the primary things I learned is that discussing Heavenly Mother is Not taboo. But, for various reasons, many members do not know that, and continue to promulgate the incorrect principle. This means that those who feel comfortable talking about Heavenly Mother are sometimes met with those who don’t, and who believe they are going beyond the mark. It can create fear, feelings of unwelcome, or unkind remarks.

      In the very early stages of my research, I had some individuals tell me that they were worried I might be excommunicated (in part because there was a period of time when some members Were excommunicated for their speech, writings, or actions regarding Heavenly Mother). Still another individual told me that I was on the road to apostasy. That comment hurt quite deeply, even though I knew what I was doing was not wrong.

      • Thank you that really clarifies for me. Oh my gosh I am so sorry you had to endure that, how frustrating. Thanks again for sharing with everyone! I really appreciate it. Lots of lessons to be learned here…

  12. Always wonderful to read such beautiful words!

    • Thank you.

  13. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    I just had a coworker ask me this morning about the whole OW movement, and it moved on to the changes we’ve had since the start of the Church, especially regarding HM and the Relief Society. I’d also thought Eliza was the one who put forward the idea of HM, but I think it’s better to know that it was general knowledge of the time, and that there were visions of Her.

    I so look forward to the future regarding this, as we have been moving back toward an acceptance and even aknowledgement of Her in recent years. There is so much to look forward to!

    • Oh, and do you have, or know of, the primary reference for the Abraham Cannon journal (reference 5)? I’d loke to look it up and read the source, if I can.

      • I was first introduced by the passage in Linda Wilcox’s work. The first part of reference 5 (Abraham H. Cannon Journal, Aug. 25, 1880,* LDS Archives) is what she listed as the primary source. I apologize that I do not have more details than that.

        What I can offer is that the account was related to Abraham Hoagland Cannon (an apostle, and the son of George Q. Cannon), by Zebedee Coltrin, who himself was an apostle.

        Cannon recorded, “One day the Prophet Joseph asked him [Zebedee Coltrin] and Sidney Rigdon to accompany him into the woods to pray. When they had reached a secluded spot Joseph laid down on his back and stretched out his arms. He told the brethren to lie on each arm, and then shut their eyes. After they had prayed he told them to open their eyes. They did so and saw a brilliant light surrounding a pedestal which seemed to rest on the earth. They closed their eyes and again prayed. They then saw, on opening them, the Father seated upon a throne; they prayed again and on looking saw the Mother also; after praying and looking the fourth time they saw the Savior added to the group.”

        *I originally, and incorrectly, wrote 1980.

      • Ok, found the source. It was the 1980 that threw me off. The source reference is from “The diaries of Abraham Cannon, 1889-1895″, entry August 25, 1890. It starts with “Pres. Petersen told me of an incident which he often heard Zebedee Coltrin relate.” then continues as you’ve quoted. I’ll do more research to see if I can find a firsthand accounting, though I doubt I’ll come up with more if Linda Wilcox could not. I’m just an ametuer, after all.

        At the end it gives a brief description of the Savior, “He had auburn-brown, rather long, wavy hair and appeared quite young. ” but nothing of the Father or the Mother. If it was something that Coltrin “often” related, why can’t we find more and other instances of visions of the Mother?

        I just think it’s exciting to hear of them at all.

      • Frank, thanks for the source correction/addition. I just went back to look at Linda Wilcox’s article itself, and I did type it wrong. She has “1880″ listed, which is still not as complete as yours.

        I have tried to do a little more digging as well, and learned that there is a place in Coltrin’s own journal or writings where he talks about receiving a vision of Jesus Christ and Father Adam and Mother Eve (https://devotional.byuh.edu/node/160). Some wonder if Cannon’s account is referencing that same experience (which would then have some tie ins to Adam/God theory).

        It is hard to say for sure, but I don’t think it necessarily has to be that, as Coltrin is reported to have been an Extremely visionary man, and could presumably have had a vision of Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother, and separately a vision of Adam and Eve. Coltrin also names Oliver Cowdery as the other in attendance in the Adam and Eve revelation, rather than Cannon’s Sidney Rigdon.

    • Welcome, welcome, welcome.

      I so look forward to the future regarding this, too!

  14. Hi Rachel! Thank you for sharing your research and experiences. I would like to ask, in your opinion and through your research, did you find any reasons why or when church leaders and members predominantly stopped talking about Her? I have some ideas, and I’m really curious what you think.

    I’ve wondered why She is not directly discussed in scripture, and also wondered if She is, but with different language or symbolism than we expect. For example, I now read ‘God’ as Heavenly Father AND Mother. Although I haven’t done any study on this, it makes more sense to my mind that ‘God’ has masculine and feminine qualities, in a fullness, rather than only the Father.

    I believe the knowledge we are meant to gain in life is centered around relationships, and that’s why I desire to know Her better. I really hope that collectively as children of Heavenly Parents we can request and receive knowledge of Her. I don’t really follow how we’ve come to this point of not discussing Her and feeling we know so little of Her, so I hope you could share more insight on this.

    • Hi Leilani. Thank you for reading my research and experiences. One of the many things I did while researching Heavenly Mother full-time was create a timeline, placing quotations by General Authorities in chronological order. I wanted to know who was talking about Heavenly Mother, when, in part to answer the same question you posed of “when church leaders and members predominantly stopped talking about Her.” Unfortunately, I cannot remember where in my notes (or on my computer) this timeline currently exists, so cannot give you specific information.

      What I can reemphasize is that Heavenly Mother discourse was very, very common early on, and even somewhat common again when Spencer W. Kimball was prophet (though he was certainly not the only leader in this dispensation to speak of Her).

      I have a few feelings of why speech concerning Her slowed down. One is that some early leaders spoke about plural Heavenly Mothers during the time of polygamy, to support their view of the goodness of that cause. As the church’s focus has shifted to defining marriage between one woman and one man, language employed about Heavenly Mother has also shifted. As mentioned in the OP, “Heavenly Parents” is now the phrase most frequently used. I suppose it is vague enough to allow for the possibility of numerous Heavenly Mothers, while ostensibly lending support to monogamy. (I personally feel that there is only one Heavenly Mother, but it is only a feeling.)

      Two, since the end of polygamy (and also since the introduction of correlation), our church has sometimes focused on the milk, rather than the meat of our theology. One purpose in this may be to emphasize the commonalities we share with the Christian faiths around us. While there might be gains in this approach, there are also losses. Among those are some of the most beautiful, but also most unique truths, such as those concerning Heavenly Mother. This pattern has led a friend of mine to make a bumper sticker reading, “Keep Mormonism Weird.”

      Jennifer, the commenter directly below you, mentions Proverbs as a place where Heavenly Mother may be spoken of. There is (to me) fairly compelling evidence that this is the case. I encourage you to read Proverbs 8, considering the possibility that Wisdom might be referencing our Eternal Mother. I also encourage you to read a greater explanation why, found here: http://www.joehunt.org/joseph-smith-margaret-barker-talk.html. (It also ties in Lehi’s and Nephi’s tree of life vision to Heavenly Mother.)

      I also read “God” as referring to both Heavenly Father and Mother, partially because of the quotation I shared in the OP by Elder Erastus Snow stating that “there can be no God except he is composed of the man and woman united,” and also partially because of a quotation by Eugene England, that tasted good to me when I first read it, and each time I read it now:

      …modern scriptures and revelations suggest quite plainly that we would more accurately and profitably read the scriptural references to ‘God’ as meaning God the eternal partnership of Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. They have a more perfect unity even than that of God and Christ and the Holy Ghost, and so the word God implies both of them, at least as much as it denotes the three beings in the classical Christian trinity called ‘God.’

      Such a more correct identification of ‘God’ might help us better comprehend the direct role our Heavenly Mother played in our creation and salvation. When we read in Genesis that God said, ‘Let us create man in our image,’ it makes most sense to read it as God the Father and God the Mother speaking as One. When we read in John that God sent His only begotten Son to save us, it would be better to understand, as it certainly makes more sense, that our Heavenly Parents sent Their only begotten Son.

      (I wrote a tiny bit more on my feelings about this here: http://rationalfaiths.com/the-perfect-unity-of-heavenly-father-and-heavenly-mother/)

      Like you, I hope that we can collectively and individually receive greater light and knowledge concerning our Heavenly Mother, and on the best days, I believe very strongly that we can.

  15. Rachel,
    I also gave a Relief Society lesson on Mother in Heaven. I did not have all the information you did. I used some of Margret Barkers work and suggested to the sisters that information about our Heavenly Mother is part of the plain and precious truths taken out of scripture but the one place it is left is in the music and poetry of Psalms and Proverbs. Her name is translated into English as “Wisdom” The Hebrew meaning has no English counterpart but the meaning was closer to “She who holds things together”.
    Wisdom is personified in scripture and is referred to as “She” and “Her” “Her ways are ways of gentleness her paths are paths are paths of peace”. (I know that is a quote form a modern hymn but is paraphrases the wisdom Proverbs)
    This understanding adds meaning to the question “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?” and Proverbs 8: 23…… Chapter 8 is all about Wisdom speaking to us. “I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was…..When he prepared the heavens, I was there.” read the whole chapter “for whoso findeth me findeth life”
    My RS lesson about Mother in Heaven was well received by the wonderful sisters in my ward. The spirit was strong and the sisters are Hungary to know more about our mother.
    Perhaps you might read Proverbs chapter 8 and other scriptures on Wisdom and see what the spirit whispers to your heart. It tells me… I’ve a Mother there.
    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and study on this wonderful doctrine.

    • I have loved Margaret Barker since I first watched her presentation given at “The World’s of Joseph Smith” conference at the Library of Congress in 2005 (http://www.joehunt.org/joseph-smith-margaret-barker-talk.html). That also marked the first time I learned of the rich tradition of Wisdom doctrine, particularly exemplified in Proverbs 8, as you mentioned. :)

      I really love that you were able to share such beautiful things with the Sisters in your ward. I keep finding over and over that people are hungry. People are ready.

      • Thanks for posting the link. I had not read that article.

    • You are welcome, Jean. And maybe you can guide Me to books or writings by Margaret Barker. What else should I be looking at?

  16. This is an extremely good article. I think that quite a bit of the hesitancy to bring up Heavenly Mother (in the church), has to do with: 1.) A fear of the concept of worshipping her (especially exclusively or solely), or Heavenly Mother becoming the focal point of our prayers, and not Heavenly Father (consider the worship of Mary among many of the Catholic Faith), 2.) A general feeling that it is best to not talk about her as much (out of respect, etc.), as the scriptures are largely silent regarding Heavenly Mother, and 3.) A fear of not wanting to be socially ostracized, or misunderstood, by other members of the church. Personally, this is one of the doctrines of the church that is dearest to me, and solidly reinforces the very definition and identity of male and female, husband and wife, etc.

  17. Thank you so much for this article especially the quotes from the prophets. Some 30 years ago I had a great desire & need to learn more about my Heavenly Mother. I had several meetings with my bishop about it but didn’t really get any satisfying answers. Then one day I received just a sweet assurance that she was there, that she was involved & that she cared. It filled my heart with joy & peace. I remember thinking of the poem (paraphrasing) ” the year’s at the spring, the spring’s at the morn, Mother’s in heaven. All’s right with the world. ”

    I was looking forward to sharing my experience with my bishop but when I came for my appointment he “counseled” me to just not think about it any more. I didn’t share my experience with him but I was so glad I had received it before his dismissive counsel. A few years later we were instructed in relief society not to pray to Heavenly Mother (this was in a different ward). I thought that instruction was church wide. Has that changed?

    • “…one day I received just a sweet assurance that she was there, that she was involved & that she cared.” That is my feeling on the matter too, and it is heart filling.

      I am sorry that you received the particular counsel that you did, particularly at a time when you were so clearly yearning for your Mother. My suspicion is that your bishop was one of the many individuals who out of the best intentions believed the incorrect principle that we are not to speak (or even think!) about our Mother in Heaven.

      In 1991, the then First Counselor in the First Presidency, Gordon B. Hinckley, did state, “I regard it as inappropriate for anyone in the Church to pray to our Mother in Heaven” (http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1991/10/daughters-of-god?lang=eng). He gave as his reasoning Christ’s recorded prayers to the Father.

      I address my own prayers either to “Heavenly Father” or to “God.” Among other things, I frequently plead to know my Heavenly Mother and Her love. I pray to feel Her presence, and to see Her in the world around me. Very recently I have begun praying to hear Her voice.

      • Thank you, Rachel.

  18. What a beautiful post, Rachel. Thank you.

    Many of you might be interested in this upcoming conference on Examining the Divine Feminine in the Judeo-Christian Tradition. It will be held on the campus of Utah State University on October 23, 2013. Margaret Barker is one of the featured presenters. You can find more information here: http://www.templestudies.org/home/2013-the-lady-of-the-temple-conference/

    • Sharlee, you are welcome. Thank You for your kind words.

      Thank you too for sharing that information here. I wish I wish I could go, but will have just had a new babe. Do you know if the proceedings will be posted online anywhere?

    • Thank you for posting this link, otherwise I would not have known about such a wonderful opportunity. I attended the conference and came away with so much to consider and ponder. Thank you, again.

      • Rachel, yes– the entire conference will be available on their website.

      • My dad was able to go, too! He said it was wonderful. I’m so grateful that it will be available.

  19. Rachel, I’ve been saving reading this post for a time when I knew I wouldn’t be interrupted. It was worth waiting so I could savor it. Thanks.

    • Thank you, Emily U., for your kind words. And, you are very welcome. :)

  20. I also hunger for Heavenly Mother. Thank you for giving me a small taste.

    • You are welcome. (Oh how I wish we could all be filled.)

  21. I just want to thank you for this blog post. I have recently learned about the BYU study, and really loved reading your additional comments and thoughts regarding it. Bumping in to the BYU Study, this post, along with the many comments were all answers to my personal prayers in two ways. 1) Wanting to learn more about my Heavenly Mother and 2) trying to zone in on a topic for my upcoming Relief Society lesson– in which I have the liberty to choose. I hope you don’t mind– I plan on referencing many of the facts and quotes that you have included here. Thank you for sharing the fruits of your rich study and research. And thank you for planting a thought into my brain ‘maybe *I* could do my lesson on Heavenly Mother.’ At first I was SURE that I wasn’t brave enough….but after much prayer, I’ve decided that I need to be. Thank you, sincerely.

    • Joanne, you are more than welcome. And I loved those types of answered prayers. I am so excited for you and for your Relief Society! From experience, I have found that being that brave and vulnerable often has lovely rewards. Please let us know how your lesson goes.

  22. Is thereca source for the top picture used? I must have it in my home! Lovely article too. Thank you.

    • Hi Lyz. I love the art as well. It is a detail of Star of Wonder, by Annie Henrie, 2010.

  23. When I was a youth I asked my bishop about Heavenly Mother and he said that there were several as plural marriage is a principal taught in the bible and that we are half spirit siblings with other races. I was a little confused and upset by this as I was sure there was only one Father and Mother. In my years of researching / soul searching I have found nothing that support this Nan’s theory. I was wondering if in your research you have heard anything similar? I really wish the bishop would have said something else to me, encouraged me to find out for myself instead of giving me this answer. It has puzzled me for years.

    • I wish that same wish for you, and am sorry to hear that your bishop lacked that wisdom. I Have heard at least one member suggest that multiple Heavenly Mothers explains the different races on earth, so it may be an old folk doctrine. I did not read it anywhere in my own search, and also believe that there is only one Heavenly Mother.

      With that said, there was a time when some leaders implicitly or explictly taught that there were more. This happened during the time when polygamy was sanctioned by the Church. If I am remembering correctly, Linda Wilcox’s article on Heavenly Mother briefly mentions this (as well as the other ways She has been talked about during different times): https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/pdf/115-6-78-87.pdf

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