Mother’s Day: The Manliest Day of the Year


Sunday was Mother’s Day. As it sometimes can, it brought up feelings of frustration for me. While we pay lip service to mothers and may give them breakfast in bed or a chocolate bar at church, we do almost nothing to recognize any of their power, authority, or divinity. We tell moms that their hard work on earth is seen and appreciated, yet we continue to absolutely ignore them in the eternities.

The first thing I saw on my social media newsfeed Sunday morning was a Mother’s Day message from Russel M. Nelson, already shared, liked and commented on by several of my good friends. I read the first paragraph, and what he said jumped out to me. It read, “I never cease to be amazed that when Heavenly Father created women, He not only gave them the capacity to bring life into the world, but He also endowed them with the gifts required to shape and teach all of us.”



There was no mention of Heavenly Mother, whatsoever, in this thought. What if I had posted something similar, ON MOTHER’S DAY, about my own family?

Me, with a picture of my dad: “I never cease to be amazed by my incredible father, and how when he created me and my sister, he gave us so many of his gifts and talents.”

I know what would happen next. Everyone would say, “Actually, Abby – your MOTHER did a whole lot more work creating you than he did, and it’s literally Mother’s Day, so maybe you should talk about her instead of him right now.” I would sound ungrateful to my mom, and very out of touch with the reality of how childbearing actually works. Dads are great, but they rightfully get almost no credit in the creation of their child, because their part (while critical) is infinitely less demanding physically, emotionally, and mentally than what mothers do.

And yet, President Nelson only talks of Heavenly Father and how he created all of us, apparently all on his own, on Mother’s Day, and many LDS mothers are sharing his words and thanking him for saying them. I honestly don’t understand why we are all okay with this. If we have a Heavenly Mother, then she deserves so much more, especially on the one day set aside each year to honor motherhood.

Later in the morning, I received the card below with two small chocolates from my ward. For a Mother’s Day message, the quote on it felt overwhelmingly masculine. It was from a man (President Gordon B. Hinckley), and said, “You are very precious, each of you, regardless of your circumstances. You occupy a high and sacred space in the eternal plan of God, our Father in Heaven. You are his daughters, precious to him, loved by him, and very important to him. His grand design cannot succeed without you.”




There was also a copy of a painting of a young woman kneeling in communion with her Heavenly Father.


Once again, the message was about Heavenly Father and His eternal plan, and His relationship to the daughters that HE created, with no mention of Heavenly Mother, or Her connection or hopes for Her daughters. And it’s on Mother’s Day – how is this not seen as strange? And why do I often feel like I am the only one around noticing these things?

Several years ago, my ward’s relief society lesson on Mother’s Day was about Joseph and Hyrum Smith. On the one day set aside to honor women specifically, in the women’s organization’s meeting of just women studying the official Relief Society message – it was a lesson about two men. I pointed this out to my bishop in the hallway afterwards, and he said, “Oh. I guess that is kind of weird, isn’t it?” I was so glad that he recognized the strangeness of what had just happened, but it didn’t mean much. We didn’t make the men study the words of two prominent Latter-day Saint women the next month on Father’s Day to balance it out or anything.

The very next year in Sacrament Meeting, we sang, “Oh, My Father” as the closing hymn in Sacrament Meeting. This isn’t unusual, as it’s one of the very few places Heavenly Mother is mentioned explicitly and is thus a popular choice for Mother’s Day services. However, it struck me as frustrating that the hymn we most immediately jump to as being about mothers is literally named after a father. The majority of the song is about our Father in Heaven – being nurtured by Him, learning to pray to Him, learning that you came from His presence, and then at the very end of the third verse Heavenly Mother is mentioned for the very first time.  And she’s only first mentioned as someone in connection with her husband – because Heavenly Father couldn’t be single. That’s not to downplay the importance and beauty of Her being sung about in beautiful lyrics in a worship setting, but it’s to point out how tiny the crumbs are that we’ve come to live off of as women looking for our exalted place in the afterlife. We will happily sing a song about Heavenly Father and call it a Mother’s Day song because Heavenly Mother is mentioned at the very end of it. Where is the song called, “Oh, My Mother”, that actually talks about Her (and Her power and glory and ability to create) for all of the verses? That would be a real Mother’s Day song.

I’ve spent years coming to understand the role that these hidden and almost invisible messages played in determining how I saw myself and other women. If every time a little girl learns about God she’s told it means Heavenly Father, and Heavenly Father alone, she won’t see Heavenly Mother as God-like or powerful. If every time she hears Heavenly Mother discussed at all, it’s whispered and hidden, she’ll see that her intended place is to someday shrink into nothingness and disappear. The way we teach about Mother in Heaven isn’t empowering to any girl. It’s damaging and teaches her that her worth as a female is to be praised with breakfast in bed once a year, then forgotten about for the rest of eternity. Meanwhile, her male peers look forward to becoming Gods and creating universes with numberless children they will have a meaningful relationship with.

I see this clearly every Mother’s Day, and it makes the whole holiday depressing, even if I like being a mom. I have maybe 40 or 50 more Mother’s Days left, where I’ll get a gift or meal, but then after that I’ll become a Heavenly Mother who will basically cease to exist. Every time my children talk about me, they’ll omit me from the story and say that Dad created them (with no help from me, it would seem). It makes me think Mother’s Day is actually just another holiday for the men, not me.

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27 Responses

  1. johal521 says:

    I have struggled over this past year with feelings that the church is no longer right for me, mainly as patriarchal issues have become more and more apparent. I have loved this time of “no meetings” because it’s given me the chance to study and pray at home.
    I had come to the conclusion I wouldn’t go back to in-person meetings although my husband is. This past Sunday, not thinking it was Mother’s Day, I had a strong impression to go to sacrament with him. And I sat there and heard a man give a talk–the only talk–about how women should appreciate themselves for all that they do in the home, housework and raising children. He told the MEN how they should appreciate women and maybe help them a little bit around the house.
    I walked out of that meetinghouse probably never to return with a considerably lighter heart. I know now that this is no longer the church for me. The impression I felt? I think that was God answering me as I had prayed for guidance about whether I was right in thinking I no longer belonged.

    • Abby Hansen says:

      I think that if there is a higher power, that higher power spoke to your heart and soul and you should remember this Mother’s Day forever as the time God talked and you listened! ❤

      • Johal521 says:

        Bless you! It’s a lonely decision to make. It’s good to have a place where there is understanding!

  2. Mary says:

    You’re not alone. Patriarchy is unnatural and lies about the value of women. Actions speak louder than empty platitudes. The messaging from the LDS church regarding women is damaging. There is no reason we should not worship, pray to, and receive revelation and blessings from Heavenly Mother. The church leaders refuse to engage with the nature of God seriously. They pay minimal lip service to Heavenly Mother because if they treated Her like the God She is, their entirely patriarchal structure would crumble. There would no longer be a reason to deny women priesthood offices and decision making power. There would be no excuse for men to preside. It’s insanity in one breath to say that because we have the Lord’s prayer, it means Jesus never wanted us to pray to Heavenly Mother, and in the next breath to dismiss Jesus’s teachings that there will be no marriage after death, in favor of modern revelation. Mormons are not beholden to biblical teachings that modern revelation can correct. The church engages in the most egregious hypocrisy about women and girls. It is horribly wrong.

    • Abby Hansen says:

      I agree so much! How can we say, “Well, this is the only written recording we still have of one of Jesus’ prayers he offered one time, so I guess that’s the only way anyone else can ever do it, for the rest of all time and forever”, and shrug and walk away?! We have expanded our understanding of so many other biblical ideas, like you pointed out. It seems crazy to stop on this subject and say “no more revelation allowed”.

      • johal521 says:

        Speaking of prayer: what confuses me about the church’s customs is how we can on one side say that our prayers aren’t supposed to be repetitive (taking the quote from Matthew 6:7 about heathen vain repetition and extrapolating that to the liturgy that is said/sung–often so beautifully–in traditional churches) and on the other that we are supposed to come up with an inspirational, heart felt prayer on the spur of the moment at the “invitation” (sometimes it feels like a command) of a bishopric member or a class leader.

        One thing that made me very uncomfortable when I joined the church 29 years ago was that we were forced to pray out loud with no script. It wasn’t something I was used to and I have never liked it. To be put on the spot, to be told to get up in front of people and to “offer a prayer” (and not use traditional prayers like Our Father or [perish the thought] Hail Mary) ugh. I truly admire people who can give that kind of inspirational prayer to a room full of semi strangers but it’s not me.

  3. Em says:

    It is awful but it isn’t strange. Out of 365 days we have one where we make a gesture at honoring unpaid unthanked unsupported mother labor. Out of over 300 hymns we make one little gesture at honoring a divine mother. It’s all of a piece. And you’re right- we would be shocked by a gender flip – a talk where there are an overwhelming number of references to the female divine and earthly experience with one “heavenly parents” as the sop to the menfolk.

    • Abby Hansen says:

      I don’t think men would ever put up with what women have been conditioned our whole lives to put up with. That’s why we don’t object to 95 percent of our lessons and conference talks being from men (in a women’s organization), but in reverse I’d imagine a lot of pushback and confusion if the men were given manuals that were the Teachings of General Relief Society Presidents.

      • Tina says:

        Yep, I agree. Women have been conditioned. I recently listened to a new podcast called At Last She Said It. An episode called For the Men in the Room asks men to do exactly that — imagine walking into a sacrament meeting, going through a typical church service but with all the genders reversed to get a feeling what the experience is like for women.

      • Abby Hansen says:

        That’s a great podcast! I love both of the ladies who put it together.

  4. Cate says:

    I get what you’re saying, and I agree with it, but maybe there’s change on the horizon. Maybe? I was visiting somebody over the weekend, so this didn’t happen in my town, but Saturday was their stake women’s conference, topic Heavenly Mother, with guest presenters Rachel Hunt Steenblik and Carol Lynn Pearson. The following day, Mother’s Day, the first talk in sacrament meeting was about Heavenly Mother. It’s a start.

    • Mary says:

      Unfortunately, positive change is possible in wards and stakes in more politically liberal areas, but isn’t happening the same way at the institutional level. I believe what you’re referring to happened in Oregon. Likewise in areas of California, there are more progressive themes at times in meetings. But I wouldn’t be surprised if a run of the mill general authority attended such a meeting and thought it was inappropriate. Didn’t Fiona Givens recently have to resign from the Maxwell Institute because of Heavenly Mother comments she made at a fireside?

      • Johal521 says:

        Givens made a statement that she was shifting emphasis, not resigning, but I wondered. I also wondered why Sister Bingham has never spoken in the General Conferences since she gave the talk in April 2020 about men and women. Oakes came right after her and reading the two talks side by side I felt he was “reminding” her who held the priesthood.

  5. Tina says:

    You aren’t the only one noticing these things. It’s tough. For me, the challenge is figuring out when to speak up and when I need to disengage mentally so that I don’t burn out.

    On what platform was Pres. Nelson’s quote? I’m laughing because it’s just so ….ew….!!! I can’t help but think of any other reaction than to laugh. It’s like someone finding a really cool rock or other object that they didn’t have any idea it existed and being completely amazed by the discovery of this fascinating thing they can’t believe was created. Sigh. Objectification and of women and idealization of motherhood takes many forms both in and outside of the church.

    • Abby Hansen says:

      I saw this posted on both President Nelson’s Facebook page and Instagram feed, but it might very well have been other places as well.

      • johal521 says:

        My paraphrase of the highlighted part of the quote: “I never cease to be amazed that when God created man, they realized that they were only halfway done.” Proves to me the great wisdom of God [plural].

  6. Warren aston says:

    Abby, several years ago in a Meridian article I offered a verse “O My Mother” to “complete Eliza Snow’s hymn: https://latterdaysaintmag.com/article-1-14243/

    O MY FATHER

    O my Father, thou that dwellest
    In the high and glorious place,
    When shall I regain thy presence
    And again behold thy face?
    In thy holy habitation,
    Did my spirit once reside?
    In my first primeval childhood
    Was I nurtured near thy side?

    For a wise and glorious purpose
    Thou hast placed me here on earth
    And withheld the recollection
    Of my former friends and birth;
    Yet oft times a secret something
    Whispered, “You’re a stranger here,”
    And I felt that I had wandered
    From a more exalted sphere.

    I had learned to call thee Father,
    Through thy Spirit from on high,
    But, until the key of knowledge
    Was restored, I knew not why.
    In the heav’ns are parents single?
    No, the thought makes reason stare!
    Truth is reason; truth eternal
    Tells me I’ve a mother there!

    O my Mother, thou who dwellest
    with my Father up on high,
    There beside Him, not behind Him,
    Now revealed to thy children’s eyes.
    Shall we know then thou wast nearby?
    See the Pattern for our race?
    As thou standest there, together
    We gaze at last into thy face.

    When I leave this frail existence,
    When I lay this mortal by,
    Father, Mother, may I meet you
    In your royal courts on high?
    Then, at length, when I’ve completed
    All you sent me forth to do,
    With your mutual approbation
    Let me come and dwell with you.

    Verses 1, 2, 3 and 5 by Eliza R. Snow.

    Verse 4 by Warren P. Aston.

    I have been trying ever since to find someone, or some choir, to perform the hymn with this additional verse.

    This article followed a Meridian article article, “The Other Half of Heaven: Debunking Myths about Heavenly Mother” about the cultural myths prevalent in the church that justify our neglect of our Mother in Heaven.

    As for the concept that she may be the “Holy Ghost” see the comments posted last year at

    https://www.the-exponent.com/dear-heavenly-mother/comment-page-1/#comment-1579816

    and http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleColemanLostFound.html

    Warren

    • Chiaroscuro says:

      This is a beautiful verse Warren, thanks for sharing

    • Abby Hansen says:

      Warren, I read this the day you posted it and didn’t have time then to comment. I love the verse you added! Thank you so much for sharing.

  7. Chiaroscuro says:

    Thanks for saying what needed to be said Abby!

  8. Ziff says:

    Outstanding post and points, Abby!

  9. Dani says:

    I’m glad you talked about this! When you put it that way it clearly shows how strange it is that we don’t talk about Heavenly Mother. As I recall, the original title of Eliza R Snow’s poem, did mention Heavenly Mother. I don’t know why they didn’t keep the same title for the hymn.

    I am reminded of how many things that are considered “normal” (in the church) are actually very strange when you think about it. For example, in the bible, when they only listed men’s names in the genealogies. Almost as if only a man was required to beget children. Your article reminded me of that. This strangeness is so true and I hope it changes soon! I think everyone would benefit from learning more about Heavenly Mother.

  10. Becky says:

    I resonate with this so much!! The first time I went to the temple I was so disappointed that Heavenly Mother was NOWHERE to be found. That really blew my mind. Surely we could learn about and get to know our Heavenly Mother in the temple, where we talk about sacred things we don’t mention outside of it.
    If Heavenly Mother exists, I want to know HER. I NEED to know Her. I want to feel her divine feminine influence in my life.
    When I read Fiona Givens’ thoughts about the possibility of the Holy Ghost being our Heavenly Mother, I got chills all over my body. That would make perfect sense. A perfect Godhead ~ Father, Mother and Son.
    The Holy Ghost is the Comforter, one who warns of danger, and one who confirms truth.
    Makes perfect sense to me, mothers do those things.
    About a year ago, I decided I would pray to Her (something that warranted excommunication in church history), ask for connection with Her.
    I feel quite certain I have been guided through some really hard things and times by a female influence. I have come to know more of my divine feminine self by leaving the male part of heaven completely out. It feels so sweet, so refreshing and so right.

    • Abby Hansen says:

      I also assumed Heavenly Mother was going to be part of the temple ceremony! She was always hush hush and so sacred, and the temple was where we’d learn the complete plan and all the sacred things we couldn’t talk about in regular church. I was so surprised to go to the temple and learn that two men (Heavenly Father and Jesus) were actually the ones who created the earth and all life, with no help from anyone female. It seemed so confusing and unlikely, but it was also the temple, so I didn’t know what to think. It was supposed to be the highest and holiest explanation of doctrine!

      I think a lot of women yearn for a divine feminine guidance, even if they don’t quite register consciously what’s missing from their spiritual life yet.

      • johal521 says:

        I have been reading a very interesting book called “A most peculiar book: the inherent strangeness of the Bible” by Kristin Swenson, an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. She points out, quoting from the Hebrew Bible, the inconsistencies between the Creation/Garden of Eden stories in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. Really interesting, as well as the research that the word elohim is the masculine plural of the singular eloah. And this is further confirmed by God saying “let us go down and adam (which according to Swenson’s research is a term that can refer to the gender neutral “human being,”) She points out that Hebrew The book is fascinating, confirming that Genesis refers to a council of Gods (which the LDS faith has stated, and that was groundbreaking in its revelation) but, as well, giving much more nuance and background to the whole Garden of Eden and the serpent story.
        Also, the story in the Bible of the promise made to Hagar in the desert,
        Genesis 16:10 Then the Angel of the Lord said to her, “I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.” Why do we never hear of THAT when the Abraham story is told?
        And that she replied, Genesis 16:13 Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are-[e]the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, “Have I also here [f]seen Him who sees me?”

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