What I first learned about Heavenly Mother.

A Mother There

Detail of “Star of Wonder,” by Annie Henrie, 2010

Once 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.

  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 []


Rachel is a PhD student in Philosophy of Religion and Theology at Claremont Graduate University. She co-edited _Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings_ with Joanna Brooks and Hannah Wheelwright. She is also a lover of all things books and bikes.

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149 Responses

  1. liz johnson says:

    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.

    • Rachel says:

      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!

      • Bethany says:

        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.

      • Rachel says:

        Bethany, you are very welcome.

      • Tiff says:

        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?!

      • SR says:

        Just as faithful living can eventually lead to meeting our Savior (whether in person or simply learning to recognize his presence and personality), so – as promised – the Savior will introduce us to The Father. While I know of no scripture that this also applies to The Mother, I know from my own experience that it does, and I ASSURE YOU that what you say is true! She is strong! Her gentleness is POWERFUL. She is creative, nurturing, adoring of her children, alive, peaceful, and other traits I can’t quite find the right word for. Enthusiastic is almost right; it shows her energy but, to me, implies too much masculine-type active force. Intensity is another good word for that much glory, but a calm intensity. I’m feel SO blessed and grateful to have been introduced and am eager to get even better acquainted. So there’s *my* testimony, which I hope serves, and which I invite anyone interested to seek to learn for themselves, though I’m glad to be able to give it anonymously here :).
        P.S. If you accept my invitation, please don’t feel bad if it takes a very long time – it certainly did for me!! This doesn’t seem the type of thing you can experience quickly just to satisfy your curiosity or like a basic testimony of the Book of Mormon.

      • SR says:

        Playful. That’s another excellent attribute She possesses.

        Also, I could be wrong about it taking a long time to seek her, so don’t take my experience as necessarily the norm.

        And here are a few references to support my first claim that faithfulness may lead to meeting God:
        Joseph Smith, regarding the Second Comforter (Jesus): “When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints, as is recorded in the testimony of St. John, in the 14th chapter, from the 12th to the 27th verses.” [History of the Church, 3:379-381; emphasis added] Find the more complete quote at http://emp.byui.edu/satterfieldb/quotes/All%20Must%20Be%20Tested%20as%20Abraham.html
        John 14:21, 23 “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him…Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”
        DC 84: 23 “Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God;”

    • Toby Dillon says:

      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?

    • Rachel says:

      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. Alisa Mercer says:

    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.

    • Rachel says:

      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. Deja says:

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

  4. Shelley says:

    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.

    • Rachel says:

      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.

      • Lyz says:

        Yay!! I was a Philosophy undergrad before I switched majors and I TAed for Carter for several years, too. Hi Shelley!

        Rachel, this has been a wonderful article to read and I’m so excited to look into the sources linked to here in the comments. I’ve been searching for more knowledge about Heavenly Mother for a long time, and I feel like this is part of an answer to those prayers. Thank you.

      • Rachel says:

        Lyz, you are so, so welcome.

  5. Richard_K says:

    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. 😉

    • Rachel says:

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

      • Richard_K says:

        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.

  7. Melody says:

    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. Kimberly says:

    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.

  9. Dobro says:

    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.

    • Rachel says:

      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. hayn says:

    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.

    • Rachel says:

      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. Michael says:

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

    • isabelle says:

      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..

    • Rachel says:

      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.

      • Michael says:

        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…

      • Janet says:

        It just could be that the “sacred taboo” in this instance, is avoiding giving too much of the “meat of the gospel” which upsets those (in and outside of the Church) who can only digest the milk presently. The “meat” comes as a result of a spirit-guided journey down the straight and narrow path, at the appropriate rate, with which one can digest what is taught.

        Many times, when a person understands (and is okay with) the doctrines of the Church in theory (but not by experience) they may not be able to emotionally deal with the reality of that doctrine. For instance, we all have been taught that there is such a thing as the Spirit World, but when one talks about an experience they had in the Spirit World, it can really upset another person. Many members of the Church can understand something on a intellectual level just as long as it is a “system of belief” but when it is presented as a reality, they cannot deal with it emotionally.

        For someone who is not prepared for new information—-it can cause them to go off-course. To the unprepared mind, the idea of having a “heavenly mother” may bring up images of a pantheon of pagan gods and goddesses involved in polytheism. It may also encourage the idea of praying and/or worshipping other saints and deities (which aided in the apostasy of the Roman Catholic Church). Both of these ideas would be a deal breaker, in continuing down the path that they are currently on. That is why the Master Teacher taught spiritual lessons by parable—concealing the meat from those who were not ready to digest it.

      • SR says:

        I’m more concerned now that we don’t provide enough meat to keep some people in the church. The youth, for example, are starving for spiritual substance. Many don’t find it without a hand to point the way and show how far they can go.
        On one hand, we have “sufficient” instructions, like Nephi said: ‘It grieves me that I must speak more. Don’t you get it that the Holy Ghost will show you everything you need to know?’
        On the other hand, it’s hard work to find out the will of God all on your own! Many faithful members go all their lives without learning how to receive all the blessings awaiting them if they simply ask. I would have appreciated more instructions so I could have learned much, much faster.
        So I’m grateful that articles like this are helping to propel us forward. Thanks for your research and for sharing, Rachel & everyone!

    • Brent says:

      I think it got wrapped up in the Mormon feminist movement a couple decades ago, and became taboo by association. Lynn Whitesides, one of the six public intellectuals disciplined by the church in September 1993, had Heavenly Mother as one of her central themes. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/September_Six#Lynne_Kanavel_Whitesides

  12. Spencer says:

    Always wonderful to read such beautiful words!

  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.

      • Rachel says:

        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.

      • Rachel says:

        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.

    • Rachel says:

      Welcome, welcome, welcome.

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

  14. Leilani says:

    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.

    • Rachel says:

      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.

      • Jenny says:

        But our teaching is that Jesus Christ created the Earth. The Hebrew is clear that multiple Gods(goddesses) are meant by the term here, yet it seems to conflict with other teachings.

  15. Jennifer says:

    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.

    • Rachel says:

      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.

    • Rachel says:

      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. Ben Gessel says:

    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. Jean says:

    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?

    • Rachel says:

      “…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.

  18. Sharlee says:

    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/

    • Rachel says:

      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?

    • Joanne says:

      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.

  19. Emily U says:

    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.

  20. Heather says:

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

  21. Joanne says:

    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.

    • Rachel says:

      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. lyz says:

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

  23. Kelly says:

    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.

    • Rachel says:

      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

  24. Hanna says:

    A few days ago, I was reading to my children about when Jesus blessed the Nephite children and the things he said could not be written. I wondered at the time what might have been so sacred that it could not be written. As I was reading your article, this blessing was again brought to mind. I thought who else would have been more interested in the children than their Heavenly Mother? Kind of a cool thought.

  25. Alece says:

    Thank you for this lovely article and the references to additional material to study.

    I have received many blessings from my husband over the 47 years of our marriage which have mentioned my Mother in Heaven and her concern and love for me. Also, because my own parents weren’t able to attend my Temple wedding, I mourned for years about the fact that my Mother and Father had not been able to be there to witness that sacred ordinance, UNTIL, I realized one day that I did have a Mother and Father there that day to witness that ordinance — my Heavenly Mother and Father! That inspired knowledge was such a comfort to me. And, I also have wondered whether the entity of “wisdom” in the scriptures wasn’t a reference to our Eternal Mother — as well as the words which describe one of the creators “brooding” over the waters during the creation of the world. That language always makes me think of the divine feminine.

  26. Alma says:

    We do have a heavenly mother! 🙂
    We were created in the image and likeness of god, the male image would be god the father and female image would be god the mother! It is actually a bible prophecy that she would be revealed in the last days! In the last chapters of revelation it speaks about the spirit(father) and the bride(mother) giving out the water of life! Also in Galatians 4:26 “but the Jerusalem that is above is free and she is our mother.” Revelation 21:2 “I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from god, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” And revelation 19:7 let us rejoice and be glad for the wedding of the lamb has come and his bride has made herself ready.” Which means now she is ready to be revealed to us. And now that she is we have to receive her and gods teachings in the bible to inherit the everlasting kingdom of heaven! 🙂 please receive her so you can be saved! We have a website that explains furthermore! It is truly amazing, we follow all teachings of the bible & follow our mothers teachings which is it is better to give love then to receive as god always gives love ..a beautiful mind has no hate and brings forth the perfect soul.. Etc. We have over 2700 branches all over the world! And we are all united and love one another! Our mother is the head of the church & sacrifices SO much! She knows and loves each and everyone of us so much! Please receive so you can be saved from the last disaster and go to the kingdom of heaven! The website is http://www.watv.org 🙂 god bless you!

  27. Great post here. I’m glad this is being talked about more and addressed more formally. We know we have a Heavenly Mother, and it may surprise some how much she actually IS mentioned in scripture and throughout history and by prophets. I approach the mention of our Heavenly Mother through the scriptures in my book DIVINITY OF WOMEN (published by Covenant Communications), in reference to the word Wisdom, which is ascribed as a feminine characteristic (see Proverbs 1–3).

    Quoted from DIVINITY OF WOMEN: “On one level, the term seems to be answering the question, “With whom is God speaking when he mentions ‘us’ in Genesis 1:26?” On another, it clarifies the notion that wisdom is God’s companion in creation.

    “The Book of Mormon is also connected with this stream of thought in Mosiah 8:20, where wisdom is portrayed as a feminine divine ruler—one the children of men do not “desire that she should rule over them!” In this connotation, wisdom is the blazer and keeper of the paths that mortals should walk in their lives (see Mosiah 2:36; Helaman 12:5). Moreover, she acts as an agent of God in accomplishing His will (see 2 Nephi 20:13, quoting Isaiah 10:13).

    From the Endnotes:
    “In Proverb 8:22–36, Wisdom appears from the beginning as a heavenly created personality who participates in the Creation and then aids in setting bounds and limits both to the earth itself and to God’s children. See the comments of John Marsh, St John, 97, 99–100, 103.”

    • Rachel says:

      Thank you for the comment, Heather. Wisdom/Heavenly Mother doctrine is some of my favorite. It is so, so beautiful to me. I wonder if you’re familiar with the work of Margaret Barker? She is an Old Testament scholar, who has linked the divine feminine to the Book of Mormon. I wrote a bit about my first experience learning about it, here: http://ministry.mormonwomen.com/bom-lesson-3/

  28. Wendy says:

    In your research, did you ever come across anything that took you down the rabbit trail of the Holy Ghost possibly being our Heavenly Mother? I’ve been enjoying myself in tracking down any validity to this idea:


    • Rachel says:

      Wendy, I have! Including from a very thoughtful article here, http://www.exponentii.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Fall-2010.pdf, called “My Search For the Divine Feminine.” It was written by a former Harvard divinity school student. Fiona Givens is also doing extensive research on Heavenly Mother, and has found many references to the Holy Ghost as female in the Catholic tradition, but I believe also hints of this in the early Mormon tradition.

      I think my first introduction to the idea might have been from Margaret Toscano, Janice Allred, or both. I am also pretty sure that I’ve learned more about it from an Old Testament scholar named Margaret Barker who gave a beautiful address at a conference honoring Joseph Smith on the divine feminine as Wisdom, in places like Proverbs, and also as the Tree of Life, in places like Nephi and Lehi’s vision. I wrote a bit more about that here: http://ministry.mormonwomen.com/bom-lesson-3/

  29. Adam Evans says:

    Enjoyed your article. I know she’s real. Had a few experiences too sacred to share here.

    I can share this. I was listening to this song one day and got the distinct impression She was whispering to me. Listen to the whole thing and see if you have a similar experience. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COLTUWYm6Fs

  30. Lindsey says:

    This is purely my speculation, but I am betting there are multiple mothers in heaven.

    • Andrea says:

      I have a hard time believing there are multiple mothers in heaven when the principle of one man and one woman as the ideal is taught so clearly in scripture. That God’s people have periodically been asked to do something different from the ideal doesn’t change the ideal. Think Nephi killing Laban.

      • Roger says:

        I agree with you Lindsey and this is why I believe it’s nonsensical to attempt to delve too deeply into the topic. One must accept that Joseph and Brigham and a host of early Saints are polygamists, and God the Father is not. For me that’s a bridge too far. I am grateful to know that Eternal families have Mom’s, how wonderful!

      • Mjd73 says:

        Yeah, it is nonsensical to try and explain to over half the church what their role is in the eternities. Women should just be happy knowing that the the men know about men’s roles in the eternities and hope for a quick celestial lobotomy that makes polygamy okey-dokey!

      • Roger says:

        Mjd73: I disagree with your characterization of women in the church and the eternities. Nor do I believe everyone will, or must, practice polygamy in the hereafter.

    • Rachel says:

      Hi Lindsey. You are not alone in thinking this. Some of the early church leaders who spoke about Heavenly Mother, including Orson Pratt, believed this, too. Now when Heavenly Mother is taught about, the phrase “Heavenly Parents” is most commonly employed, which does leave that possibility open. I suspect, however, that when today’s General Authorities use “Heavenly Parents,” they are emphasizing the unity of the Eternal Father and Mother, and hearkening to the familiar language in the Family Proclamation: “All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.” The same document emphasizes that marriage is between one man and one woman.

      If there Are multiple mothers in heaven, I would love to learn about all of them. It would be so helpful for me as a Mormon woman to have many examples of what it means to be a woman of God.

  31. Kevin Barney says:

    I remember once on my mission (Colorado, late 70s) an elderly woman stood at the pulpit during testimony meeting and bore her testimony of Heavenly Mother. I could tell she thought she was doing something subversive, but so far as I could tell no one in the audience took it that way, nor did I. For me belief in a Mother in Heaven has always been just bedrock Mormonism. Thank you for all the research you have done on this subject helping to counter the misconception that mention of Her is a taboo.

    • Rachel says:

      Kevin, thank you for sharing this story. I suspect that there are still some wards today where testifying of Heavenly Mother would be seen as a bit subversive, but have hope that it would more commonly be viewed the way the Colorado ward viewed it then: as normal, and bedrock. Because it is. It aligns so closely with so many of our core doctrines, and is beautiful to me.

      You are welcome.

  32. Andrea says:

    I have thought often of my Heavenly Mother and what her role is exactly. I have found, now, that it doesn’t really matter to me. When my husband and I were struggling in our marriage, the entire temple experience soured and I was resentful of many, many principles of the Gospel. Now that my husband and I are doing really well and have learned a lot together about unity, the temple brings me only peace and no doctrines of the Gospel bother me. When my husband and I are unified it doesn’t matter what each of us are doing–we’re doing what needs done together. Our marriage doesn’t look the same as anyone else’s because we allocate tasks based on interests and talents that are individual–not necessarily gender specific. I can only believe that our Heavenly Parents marriage/division of labor is similarly specific to them and won’t necessarily be exactly how my eternal marriage will operate. What will be the same is the perfect unity between my husband and myself. Thus, roles are less relevant than my becoming a person who can be unified enough with my spouse and fellow members to create Zion in my home and ward.

    That being said–I do think that the feminine divine nature is distinct and different from the male divine nature in the same way that the mortal male is clearly distinguishable from the mortal female. The current cultural trend to devalue gender is profoundly problematic and wrong.

    • Rachel says:

      Andrea, thank you for your comment. It was so interesting to read. While it still feels important for me to know what Heavenly Mother’s role was in our creation and salvation, I appreciate your suggestion that because our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother are unique beings, their marriage and partnership, formed together, will be unique, and won’t necessarily reflect what other’s exact roles will be in eternity.

  33. Sharreen Touchet says:

    I used to subscribe to BYU Studies. Often there would be an article that would catch my heart’s attention. I will order the 2011 issue to read your research. Reason caused me many years ago at a young adult conference where a guest speaker sang O My Father. After she elaborated a bit on Heavenly Mother. I thought then ans have ever since that the Prophet Joseph Smith taught Eliza R. Snow and the earliest latter-day saints that we have a Heavenly Mother. Further I have always been hushed that ‘we’ do not talk of Her. I agree speaking of and abour Heavenly Mother within the walls of the temple would be appropriate and seek further light and knowledge of our Heavenly Parents.

  34. Roger says:

    An old idiom says that “familiarity breeds contempt” and I think that’s one really good reason, in addition to my personal views regarding God the Father and polygamy, to tread lightly on this topic. A few of the most vile and vulgar obscenities contain the name(s) and/or title(s) of deity; what a shame. I am a husband, a father to five daughters. I am comforted, and instructed, by the idea that God is shielding his most precious creations and companions from not only common or repetitive treatment but also from the vile minds and mouths of mortals.

    • Mjd73 says:

      From the article above:
      “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.)”

      • Roger says:

        Yes, I read it. If God has multiple wives then it’s impossible to clearly expound upon the doctrine as these Eternal beings would be as unique and diverse as you and me. Any exploration of the matter implies in my mind the question: which Heavenly Mother? Interesting. Melvin R. Brooks and I apparently share the same idea regarding the matter though I’d never heard of him before tonight… The good author, Rachel, is no more the final authority on whether this is incorrect, or not, than me. Like you, I have my own experiences and insight from which to draw my conclusions.

      • Rachel says:

        Mjd73, thank you for sharing this quotation. It was one of the most remarkable realizations I had during that full-time research period, because not only did General Authorities not repeat the otherwise oft-repeated idea that Heavenly Mother is too sacred to talk about, they talked about Her(!). Some of them quite often. This is true from fairly early days of the Church, and extends now, though present General Authorities Are more likely to refer to the Eternal Mother in unity with the Father, as “Heavenly Parents.” Elder Holland spoke lovingly about our Mother in Heaven in his last General Conference talk.

        Roger, my many hours (and years!) of research have led me to believe that we have one Heavenly Mother. But, if God the Father does have multiple wives, I would love to learn about each of them, because as you said, they “would be as unique and diverse as you and me.” As a woman, I would especially love seeing a variety of examples of what it means to be a righteous woman. And, in the OP, I am not claiming to be a final authority of any sort. Instead, I share just some of the evidence, from General Authority after General Authority who suggest that Heavenly Mother is not too sacred to speak about, by speaking about Her. The BYU Studies article I helped research for (https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/mother-there-survey-historical-teachings-about-mother-heaven), and the recent Gospel Topic essay on Mother in Heaven (https://www.lds.org/topics/mother-in-heaven?lang=eng), available on the lds.org, citing that BYU Studies Article, do the same.

  35. Tin says:

    Hi.. Is this the full article? If not where can i find it or get it? I know in my heart that there is a Heavenly Mother but no one talks about her and theres no acct of Her in any book that i have read i been waiting for this im so excited when i came to this link pls let me know where can i read the whole article.

  36. John Harris says:

    I remember reading once that there was a time when The Holy Ghost was regularly regarded as being a female entity. Has your research ever lead you to that idea?

  37. Christine says:

    If Heavenly Father has multiple wives then I feel that the Heavenly Mother that we can all collectively refer too as our Heavenly Mother, is the Mother of all us Spirit Children who have, are and will come to this planet.

  38. Robin DeSpain says:

    I know this is an old article, but I want to share.
    When I was about 13 the Church introduced the YW theme. You know the “We are daughters of a Heavenly Father who loves us and we love him.” I remember how wrong that felt to me – even at that age. I was confused as to why, in a church that taught “I’ve a Mother there”, that in the Young Women’s theme we didn’t reference HER? We’re girls after all. Why didn’t it say “Heavenly Parents”? I have parents here. It was the first spiritual wound I ever experienced and it shaped the way I viewed all Sunday lessons from that point on. (I’m in my mid 40s now)
    Heavenly Mother and her place/role became my personally crusade so to speak.
    I searched for information about the sacred feminine anywhere I could find it – and I’ve found more outside the church than in. In fact, many of your references I have never seen before! I have also found more acceptance out side than in. I have experienced many instances of negativity because I embrace the truth of a Heavenly Mother openly.
    I was taught by my parents that we need to seek after more information; that we have to ask in order to receive. No revelation is given without our asking first. “Ask and ye shall receive.” If we want to know more (and I feel the women of the world of all ages NEED more) understanding of Her we must pray, ask, & even demand it.
    I think it’s wonderful that others have had such positive experiences with Heavenly Mother lessons. I have had the opposite and know that there are still far too many women in the church who want to remain ignorant. They like the “too sacred*” idea because it means they don’t have to know, they don’t have to be responsible for the knowledge. I would gladly risk judgement for ANY knowledge about Her and by extension my place in the here after.

    *FYI if anyone ever blocked my access to my children or my children’s access to me because they thought I needed “protection” they’d find themselves on the receiving end of a mama bear in furry. They don’t get motherhood. And a Goddess can surely handle a few of her kids acting like spoiled teens. Seriously who hasn’t had a kid/ teen say something like “I hate you” or “you suck” because that mother was being a good parent. Ya, “protection” is a horrible excuse for wanting to remain ignorant.

    The many positive responses here has given me hope that maybe we aren’t as far away from a revelation on Her than I’ve long believed.

    • Rachel says:

      Thank you for your comment, Robin. I have long wanted Heavenly Mother to be included in the Young Woman’s theme as well, and believe it would be wholly, wholly appropriate (and more theologically sound!) I even wrote a post about it, here: http://rationalfaiths.com/i-am-a-daughter/

      I have hope, too. The more I talk and share about my research on Heavenly Mother, the more women (and men) who tell me that they are hungry, that they are ready. Something is turning right now. I can feel it.

    • Dyami says:

      Robin! It’s fun to run into you on here! I miss you brilliant mind and you wealth of knowledge.

      I agree with your thoughts on the “for her protection and sacredness” idea. I was given that answer once and I remember hating the way it made me feel.

      In my own mind, Heavenly Mother is assumed into every mention of God and I don’t think she’s taboo to discuss. However, she’s hardly mentioned and rarely, if ever mentioned separated from Heavenly Father within common Sunday discussion. IMO, as we follow the patriarchal/priesthood organization in things, and we pray to only our Father (I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone address “God” in opening a prayer at an LDS church) we unintentionally disregard Mother and therefore people feel a void and have confusion.

      But I do think things are shifting and answer are coming.

  39. Madge says:

    Had an experience once after taking a nap. Never knew that could happen. Couple years later told my husband, He said, “THAT CAN’T HAPPEN!” Always bugged me cuz I knew what I had heard. Had I been deceived? It really bugged me. I really wanted the truth. First year they let 8 and up go to the Women’s Conference I sat by a stranger. Near the end heard her make a comment bout having a Heavenly Mother also. End of conference, was hesitant, but asked her if she had heard Heavenly Mother’s voice too. She had and so had her friend. Heavenly Father gave me my answer.

  40. Lindsay says:

    Every time I recite the 9th article of faith with my young children, I tell them “we will learn more about Heavenly Mother someday! That is one example of something He will yet reveal!” I cling to that hope- that one day when I go to the temple, I will see my Father AND Mother creating worlds and bodies and working together. For now, I am trying to be patient. For now, I’m trying to have faith that Elohim truly is plural and that means mother and father. Faith is not easy. And this topic is a big wrestle for me.

  41. Loretta says:

    In case, no one has noticed in CTR A manual lesson3 page 12 it states “We also lived with heavenly mother….” My 5-year-olds were a little amazed at this doctrine but they heard it from me, and they have been exposed to the reality of a heavenly mother.

    • Rachel says:

      Hi Loretta, just this week I have been reading the words about Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Parents in all of the LDS Manuals. It has been so nice. I love that young children are learning this beautiful doctrine. Thank you for teaching it to them. 🙂

  42. Les Powrie says:

    In about 1970 I had one of those ‘moments of pure intelligence’ while I was pondering the scriptures. I guess I was thinking about Mother in Heaven because I realized, in essence, ‘Of course, I must have a mother there because Heavenly Father has said that we cannot enter the Celestial Kingdom without being sealed to a wife, so He must have a wife.’

    I used the hymn O My Father (https://www.lds.org/music/library/hymns/o-my-father?lang=eng) as the poetry that I quoted in my oral examination for graduation year at high school in South Africa (1971). I love the reasoning presented that ‘In the heav’ns are parents single? No, the thought makes reason stare!’ I have no idea what the examining teacher thought of the words of the hymn, but I love them!

    I love this personal witness that I have of a Mother in Heaven, the power of pondering and personal revelation, and I have used it to teach many over the years about the value of pondering, the truth of personal revelation, and that we have a Mother there.

    Thanks for sharing your research, Rachel – far more than my simple single-phrase witness.

  43. SL says:

    Thank you for this. Teaching Sharing time one week I mentioned Heavenly Mother and some attributes of hers and was later questioned by one of the teachers as to the appropriateness of it. I try to follow the spirit when I am teaching and go where it leads me. I have often looked back on that lesson and wondered if I overstepped or gave too much info (it was only to the Sr. Primary) This article made me feel confident that I really was following where I was being led by the spirit and that our kids do need to know about our Heavenly Mother as well as our Heavenly Father. This has made me desire to study and find out more about Her!

    • Rachel says:

      SL, you are very welcome. Thank you for striving to follow the spirit, in this and other instances, and for teaching the children truths about the one we all share as Mother. They do need to know about Her, as we all do.

  44. It’s interesting because I’ve never had an issue with knowing and relating to my Heavenly Mother. But a few weeks ago, as I taught about Nephi and Asherah in relation to the Tree of Life vision, someone asked me why we didn’t talk more about Heavenly Mother and it totally caught me off guard. I think I even spewed what you’ve revealed to be the teachings of a seminary teacher! I was wondering whether you have more information and articles available about this topic that I could read. I would love to know more, and go back in next week with my loins girded better able to teach about this!

    • Rachel says:

      Hello, Sariah! I just wrote something (small) on Heavenly Mother and the tree of life for The Mormon Women Project’s Sunday School commentaries, “Our Cooperative Ministry”: http://ministry.mormonwomen.com/bom-lesson-3/

      It is mostly about my first introduction to the Old Testament scholar, Margaret Barker, and some of her work on the divine feminine, that she was surprised to find connect to the Book of Mormon. I know that Daniel Peterson has also done work on Nephi and Asherah (but maybe you are already familiar with that).

      As for general writings on Heavenly Mother, I really would suggest the BYU Studies article, “‘A Mother There’: A Survey of Historical Teachings About Mother in Heaven” (https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/mother-there-survey-historical-teachings-about-mother-heaven), if you haven’t already read it.

      • Thanks Rachel – I’m already familiar with Margaret Barker and her work (and Peterson’s work), and I’m in the middle of reading the BYU Studies article. Thanks so much for the references! 🙂

  45. Sheridan says:

    I am a co-author of a book about the Spirituality of pregnancy and birth, The Gift of Giving Life and we have a chapter dedicated to Heavenly Mother, along with personal experiences women have had with her during birth.
    I loved reading others experiences and learning of the sacredness of Her role.
    I love one story that Lani shared about her father learning of other cultures belief in Heavenly Mother while on his mission to Panama region. http://thegiftofgivinglife.com/god-is-not-a-single-parent/

    • Rachel says:

      Sheridan, thank you for the link. I have had your book sitting on my bookshelf for a long time, but haven’t read it yet! I am expecting my second babe, and so even before your message, it has moved pretty near the top of my reading list. 🙂 I am really looking forward to reading the Heavenly Mother chapter, and the whole book.

  46. Suz says:

    I got my Patriarchal blessing when I was twelve and the patriarch only talked about my H. Parents and how their love for me has been strengthened thru my mortal experiences. Also, in the temple Elohim means multiple Gods. If they wanted to just say HF they’d have called Him El. In the temple we are shown it is those two at the helm directing everything. I wonder why we don’t talk about stuff like that. She’s really been there the whole time. I think we will realize the same thing when we die.

    • Rachel says:

      “She’s really been there the whole time. I think we will realize the same thing when we die.” Amen and amen. A few months ago I was taking a shower while my toddler daughter played with water in the sink nearby. She was happy, until she wasn’t, and started crying for me. I said something simple to her, like, “I’m right here. I’m so close.” I was suddenly overcome that that was what it was like. Heavenly Mother (and Heavenly Father) are right there, just on the other side of the veil.

    • Andrea says:

      Suz, thank you for your comment. That is how I feel. People talk about knowing more about Her and Her role, but I feel like we already know as much about Her as we do Heavenly Father. We know that the Plan of Salvation was created by both Parents. We know that Jesus is both of their child, we know that during the creation the noble and great ones who helped out were male and female–so we know that in our Heavenly Mother’s premortal life she would have helped with the creation of her earth and that she had all the knowledge and power and experience necessary to create as an exalted being. As an equal partner with equal spiritual capacity She was there for everything, in a leadership role equal to her spouses. The afterlife isn’t set up like our patriarchal church–Elder Holland made that clear. It is set up like a family with spouses being equal partners. I feel very tender about Her and would love to hear Her referenced more and just as casually as we reference the Father. I don’t mind not praying to Her because whenever I want to tell her something I just ask the Father to pass along the message and I’ve always felt like She was listening already. I guess my point is that maybe people are overshooting the mark waiting for more revelation about Her when we already know so much. Everything we know about the Father is the same for Her–only with a more maternal, feminine nature.

      • Andrea says:

        I should have proofread. I meant to say equal to her spouse’s spiritual capacity–didn’t mean to imply she has multiple spouses.

  47. T. Reid Blackburn says:

    Our doctrine (The cannonized doctrines in the standard works of the Restored Gospel) fix our Eternal quest, eternal focus, and eternal goal as EXALTATION (predicated upon the New and Eternal Covenant of Sealed Marriage of husband and wife); with anticipations of becoming not only GODS, but GODDESSES; and, not only KINGS, but QUEENS; and, not only PRIESTS, but PRIESTESSES; and, to have a promise of ENDLESS PROPAGATION of SEED, as HEAVENLY PARENTS of such seeds.

  48. Julieann says:

    One interesting/surprising answer Ive gotten from my personal prayers on the subject is to turn to my husband and strengthen our relationship. As I become one with him, I will understand better what heavenly marriage is like. I sometimes think it would be more helpful to have an example to follow, but I do know enough to make my marriage much better than it is now. (I think we have a pretty great marriage, but I also know theres plenty room for improvement) This answer is certainly not the same for everyone, just thought I would share my experience. Definitely enjoyed the article.

  49. Brett says:

    In a Fathers interview with my son a few years ago, he shared an experience he had. One that changed the course of his life. He was about 17. In prayer, for some reason he stated, ” please tell Mother I love her.” I cannot write adequate words here to describe what happened next, but it effected him to the core and cemented both the testimony of the Father and His eternal companion. He looked with sharper vision upon women ever after, and has tried to become worthy of one who possesses that potential. He has since returned from His mission and is eyeing just such a woman… made in the image and likeness of her eternal mother.

  50. Phyllis White says:

    A poem I wrote about our Mother in Heaven.


    “It needs a woman’s touch,”
    they say.
    And as I consider earth,
    its beauty, form and line
    I wonder…
    did our Mother up in Heaven
    have a hand in its design?
    Did her role extend
    beyond the realm
    of giving spirits birth?
    Did she have a voice
    in planning for her
    children’s home on earth?

    Might one suppose
    the pattern
    for a woman’s mortal life,
    including that of mother,
    sister, friend and loving wife,
    of artist and of teacher,
    of nurturer, of grace,
    began in Heaven’s realm
    as we beheld
    our Mother’s face?

    Did we model her integrity,
    make going home our goal?
    Did her gentleness and meekness
    leave an imprint on our soul?
    Did we bring her love of beauty,
    and her power to create
    an atmosphere celestial,
    into our present state?

    Our spirits sing resoundingly,
    Ah, yes, it must be true,
    that a loving Heavenly Mother
    showed her daughters
    what to do.
    We love and serve and comfort,
    we create and we refine.
    And women of faith
    add that special touch,
    for our natures are divine.

    • Lyz says:

      Beautiful. Made me cry. I have a feeling I’ll want to use it in the future. Do you mind? I’ll credit, of course. Although I only know your name (which I assume is not simply a screen name).

      • Phyllis White says:

        Thank you, Lyz. Please contact me (Phyllis White) through Facebook messages. I live in Farr West UT. Do you have a blog?

  51. Uaint Down says:

    Interesting quotes. My only concern is that the politics of feminism doesn’t cloud our desire to learn more about Heavenly Mother from the right perspective, which seems to be a driving force in today’s world. Great article.

  52. Shelly says:

    I remember my mom explaining to me as a very young child, that the reason we don’t talk much of our Heavenly Mother is because the Lord loved her so much and didn’t want her name to be taken in vain as His and the Savior’s name are, sadly, so often taken in vain by the world.

    Sometimes, even as members of the church, we do the same. Not in the same context that the world might but perhaps we address their names, roles, and divinity too casually or with little thought? I know I am guilty of this at times.

    Rachel, you did a terrific job writing this article. It was written so respectfully and with so much love towards our Heavenly Mother. I feel she would be very pleased with the insight and beauty and loving care you have expressed of her.

    She is someone I love and respect and reverence so much that the only time I want to talk of her is only in times I feel it is appropriate to speak of her. I don’t ever want to get to the point where I talk about her so often that her divinity is ever taken in vain.

    I do believe it is very important that we think of and remember her often and at times even talk of her. I want to do so carefully though so I don’t accidentally “cast” this great and beautiful truth to the “swine.”

    I was taught that reverence is one of the highest and most noble virtues each of us can learn. Perhaps this “taboo topic” is not taboo at all. Perhaps for many of us it is our way of showing just how much we love, care, and reverence our Heavenly Parents by not speaking of her too often? I know it is that way for me.

    I appreciate all of your very respectful comments in regards to this article. It has been a beautiful and uplifting discussion. Thank you.

    Rachel, thank you so much for writing this beautiful article. I respect you greatly and this article helped me remember a very large part of who I am.

    Kindest Regards,

    • Melissa says:

      We are to be reverent at times, but heaven is not a reverent place only. Heaven is a place of excitement, and intensity. Reverence doesn’t cut it all the time for all of the joy, and excellence there will be. Don’t you think? When I feel the fire of the gospel in my bones, or think of “cloven tongues of fire”, that is not a reverent feeling. It is energetic and exciting. Heavenly Mother encompasses those feelings as well.

  53. When I was in high school (mid 70’s), my mother quit working outside the home and started getting into “mormon housewife” types of things…particularly baking bread! For a few years, I would use her recipe, but just couldn’t grow to ‘love’ it! One day, a few years after I had been married and was raising a family of my own, this bread recipe just popped into my head! Simple, easy and so yummy that I KNEW it came from Heavenly Mother! So, I willingly shared and continue to share the recipe. I’ve never had anyone chastise or berate me for naming Her as the author of this recipe. In fact, when my middle son was at BYU-I, word got around to his bishop about the wonderful bread he made…and my son was called as the bread-baker for the sacrament. I use this for bread, rolls, cinnamon rolls, pizza crust, bread sticks, bread bowls…At higher altitudes, you may want to cut down a tad bit on the yeast, though!

    6 C warm water
    3 T yeast
    2 T salt
    2/3 C olive oil
    2/3 C honey
    flour…which I’ve tried to measure, but because I’ve almost always made my bread by hand…is difficult to do so. This recipe works equally well with whole wheat flour or white. I usually use about 2/3 whole wheat to 1/3 white. I’ve also thrown a couple of cups of various kinds of dried beans in my grinder while grinding the wheat. Just another way to use my dried beans!

    Once I’ve found out that a new package/jar of yeast is viable, I don’t bother letting it sit in the warm water alone or with honey. I just dump everything in and start mixing. Depending on how big of a hurry I’m in, I also sometimes will put it straight into bread pans or make it into whatever I’m needing it for w/o letting it rise more than once. It doesn’t seem to need to rise twice.
    Makes 6-7 loaves of bread
    Bake @ 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes

    One caveat: You ONLY use REAL BUTTER for these… 😉 …Remember to thank HEAVENLY MOTHER, and ENJOY!

  54. Zander says:

    This is an awesome article about Asherah and the Virgin Mary

  55. Scott Roskelley says:

    Can you flesh out the context or provide the source for the maxwell footnote [10]? I have seen you use this a number of times, but cannot find the direct quote.

  56. Elizabeth Meade says:

    I’ve always assumed there are Heavenly Mothers, and there is polygamy in Heaven.

  57. Carrie says:

    I love the idea of a Heavenly Mother. But what bothers me is the polygamy. Why more women to one man? What purpose than to have more children? And if that is the case then there aren’t equal partners. It just doesn’t make sense to me. Why would it be godly to have more than one wife if men and women are equal?

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