Ask Mormon Girl: Why do we not talk about Heavenly Mother?

Two—count ‘em—two questions about Heavenly Mother materialized in my mailbox this week.  And I realized with a start that in more than two years of Ask Mormon Girl columns, I had never written about this unique and inspiring aspect of Mormon doctrine here.

So here’s question number one:

I have a question for you about Heavenly Mother and why we don’t talk about her. Do you think that the church really does it to “keep women in their place”? Why can’t we pray to her? Why isn’t she worshipped like our heavenly Father. This has been something that I have been wondering for a long time and if you have any ideas on reading or anything like that I would love to hear!! Thanks!

Stacey

And number two:

As a lifelong, 52-year-old member of the LDS Church, I surprised myself yesterday by having a rather basic question occur to me for the first time. It occurred to me that perhaps part of the reason that we talk little of our Heavenly Mother in the church is that she is one of many. That is, perhaps God the Father has polygamous (read polygynous) relationships. Maybe my heavenly mother is not your heavenly mother. What do you think, and what do you think church leaders think? Are there some sources on this subject, or must we simply speculate?

Wendy

Yes, world, it is Mormon doctrine that God is not only a Heavenly Father but a Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother.  The idea proceeds very logically from Doctrine & Covenants 132: 19 – 20, which teaches that marriage in an LDS temple is a requirement for attaining the highest levels of heaven, or “exaltation.”  Those who do, the scripture states, “shall be gods.”

If doctrine holds that only the married are exalted to godhood, then it follows quite rationally that God is a married couple.  This beautiful, symmetrical idea found an early articulation by the LDS leader Eliza R. Snow in her hymn, “O My Father”:  “In the heavens, are parents single? / No, the thought makes reason stare. / Truth is reason, truth eternal, / Tells me I’ve a mother there.”  This hymn is in the official LDS hymnbook and is regularly sung in Mormon congregations around the world.  And the 1995 “Proclamation on the Family” refers to our “Heavenly Parents.” Clearly, our Mother is no secret.

But she sure feels like a secret.  You could listen in on a year’s worth of Mormon meetings and scarcely hear her named.  What gives?

The silence around Heavenly Mother is not doctrinal. A far-reaching study published in the journal BYU Studies last year located more than six hundred references to Heavenly Mother in the writings and speeches of LDS Church leaders.  It’s really an important read—please download it for free here–and the authors find that there is absolutely no doctrinal basis for the prohibition of discussion of Heavenly Mother. And that’s the journal BYU Studies, for crying out loud.

The silence around Heavenly Mother, then, is cultural.  It’s just a human tradition—a habit that fell into place and has become difficult to dislodge. We don’t find her as the object of discussion or even mention in General Conference speeches.  Little inquiry is made into her attributes, character, or contributions, as if such concerns were marginal or even fringe.  And thus for many decades there was a virtual vacuum of substantive reflection on Heavenly Mother.

Just as folk doctrine—some of it quite cruel–crept in to rationalize Mormonism’s century-plus ban on Black priesthood ordination, a good deal of folk doctrine has also crept in to rationalize our lack of discussion about our Mother.  I grew up in the 1980s hearing from my seminary teacher that Heavenly Father himself prohibits discussion of our Mother because he wants to protect her from the abuse of the world—from regular mortals taking her name in vain, and the like—a story that always sounded utterly preposterous to me.  As if God Herself were too fragile!

One sometimes also hears in Mormon circles the hushed speculation that we don’t talk about Heavenly Mother because there are in fact plural Heavenly Mothers.  This is a bit of theological speculation we can trace to the nineteenth-century LDS theologian Orson Pratt’s The Seer, which was in its own day disclaimed by LDS authorities as a speculative rather than a doctrinal text.  I have also met contemporary polygamous Mormon fundamentalist women who do believe that Heavenly Father has many exalted wives—many Heavenly Mothers for the whole human family.  (I spent a memorable evening a few years ago, gathered around the dining room table of a—and they were utterly scandalized by the fact that talking about Heavenly Mother was so scandalized in the mainstream LDS Church.)  The residual speculative idea that there are plural Heavenly Mothers is substantiated in some mainstream Mormon minds by the polygamous facets of D&C 132, plus current LDS temple sealing policies that permit living husbands to be sealed to more than one wife for the eternities (but not wives to husbands), as well as an ultra-literal projection of human procreation onto Heavenly Parents.  Yes, it’s true that some LDS people today imagine that our Parents in Heaven create the spirits of humankind in a manner similar to the means through which the bodies of humankind are created on earth.  That’s a lot of spiritual procreation, the story goes, hence the need for so many Heavenly Mothers.  Again, none of this is doctrine, but it is the kind of storytelling we hear in the absence of doctrine.  And just for the record, I’ll say it again, I know plenty of women who would firmly disagree that eternal pregnancy in the company of a gaggle of eternally pregnant wives is no heaven.

But again, these are non-doctrinal, folkoric reasons assigned for the lack of official discourse on Heavenly Mother.  There is no doctrinal reason for not talking about Her.

And there was a moment two decades ago when our Mother was once again making a resurgence in Mormon talk and thought, thanks to Mormon feminists like Carol Lynn Pearson, whose marvelous play Mother Wove the Morning has given us some of our best imaging of her power and presence.  Then, in 1991, President Gordon B. Hinckley gave a talk instructing LDS Church members that it was inappropriate to pray to Heavenly Mother.  And Mormon feminist theologian Janice Allred, whose best-known work is a book entitled God the Mother, was excommunicated.  And in 1996, Professor Gail Houston was fired from Brigham Young University for publicly describing her personal relationship with her Mother in Heaven, including her use of “meditation” and “visualization” to deepen that relationship.  All of these events, I think, led to a renewed stigma around even talking about our Mother. On a day-to-day basis, she is bracketed in speech, again and again and again.

Who is responsible for perpetuating the silence? And who is responsible for the improper value attached to that silence—as if refusing to acknowledge Her or perpetuating some spooky sense of mystery about Her were a sublimely virtuous act.  Who is responsible?  We are.

A few weeks ago, I was in a group of LDS women, when one of the women related a story of a friend who had given a talk on Heavenly Mother on Mother’s Day in his LDS congregation in the western U.S.  He was extremely cautious, crafting his talk only from on-the-record statements by high-ranking LDS leaders. Why not, after all, talk about Heavenly Mother on Mother’s Day?  But as soon as he finished his talk, he was followed at the pulpit by his bishop, who denounced the talk and shamed the man.  Within a few weeks, his Stake Presidency issued a statement asserting that talk of Heavenly Mother was prohibited.

“That was wrong,” I said to the women in the group. “That’s not doctrinal.”

“How do you know?” the woman looked at me with big fearful eyes, stunned.

“Because I know,” I said.  It’s not a mystery.  The official statements are available for everyone to study. We need to take responsibility for knowing our own religion, right?

It’s a refusal to know and act on our own doctrine that keeps Heavenly Mother in silence.  And that refusal is rooted in culture. Gender-conservative Mormon culture often privileges polite demurral and passivity in women over intellectual curiosity and authority.  Perhaps the quiescence we assign to Heavenly Mother is a reflection of what Mormon culture at its most conservative values in women.

I certainly don’t think LDS Church leaders are plotting to keep Heavenly Mother out of the conversation. Not at all.  I think they’re preoccupied with the many challenges of running a worldwide church, and Mother in Heaven simply doesn’t occur to them except as a fringe theological speculation.  So it may be up to those of us for whom she is not a fringe concern—perhaps because she looks like us or someone we love—to take responsibility for knowing the doctrine.

And don’t blame God for the silence.  After all, why would God prohibit discussion of the truth that women are partners in Godhood, that God looks not only like the husbands, brothers, and sons we cherish but also like us, our sisters, and our daughters?  That she has parts and passions like ours, as Mormon doctrine teaches.  We live in a world where women’s bodies are exploited, shamed, abused and distorted beyond recognition in popular culture, with serious spiritual consequences for men, women, boys, and girls. So many women—including (especially?) Mormon women–have issues with food, size, and embodiment that are tremendously costly to our spiritual lives and the lives of our families.  Understanding the embodiment of God in female form calls us to emancipation from distorted and distorting relationships to our bodies.

I appreciate all the Mormon women and men who are making an effort to bring Heavenly Mother steadily and politely back into everyday speech and thought.  (And readers, if you’d like to see some truly beautiful art and writing on Motherhood—including divine motherhood—do yourself a favor and get the latest issue of Sunstone magazine, a special issue dedicated entirely to the subject.)

I’ll get back into my silence now, and turn the space over to you, readers.  How do you experience the silence around Heavenly Mother, and are you ready to end it for yourself?

Send your query to askmormongirl@gmail.com, or follow @askmormongirl on Twitter.

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139 Comments

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139 responses to “Ask Mormon Girl: Why do we not talk about Heavenly Mother?

  1. Allan

    Something about the way Wendy phrased the end of her question caught my attention, the part about “are we left to speculate?” Would I be wrong to assume that speculation has a negative connotation in its usage here? I know I’ve connected the two for a long time. I’m glad sometimes Sunday school lessons are less inclined to calculate our distance from kolob and Joanna mentioned instances of folk theology which has not always been savory. But don’t we have the powerful concept of a heavenly mother because of speculation? Isn’t it the willingness to not just search for doctrine but rather struggle to create with God the revelation AND the substance of doctrine? Is the silence both the ignoring of what has been said and the decision not to speak the Truth of Her into existence by walking in the dark by faith to find Her.

    In my limited experience, I’ve decided to pray to God in un-gendered terms when I’m at church. Given the training in patriarchal language it makes for some stilted enunciations but I’m getting better. It’s my way on honoring the feelings of people who are less comfortable at this point and don’t yet know my desires or me. I think there’s more groundwork I’d need to make with my ward before I begin invoking our Mother in Heaven when I speak for the group but maybe it would not be an inappropriate practice to mention the next time Sunday school lessons ask about improving the quality of prayers.

  2. i disagree that the church leaders are “plotting” to keep us silent on the matter. what more proof do you need than excommunications, firings & public shaming? Sunstone is not “church approved” and could easily be seen as a threat to church doctrine. While BYU may have published something recently, it is ONE article and if pressed the Q12 and 1st Pres would distance themselves from scholastic intellectuals as though it was just some random persons passing fancy and not The Lords One True College. When feminists are ex’d for exploring a relationship with HM and daring to talk about it openly, that sets a standard for future women in the church to feel that it is allowed. In the end we are all at the mercy of our male church leaders and they have NO INTEREST in honoring a female deity. PERIOD.

    • Amber

      I do agree with this. The threat of what could happen (and I hope it doesn’t happen to you for having written this article, AMG) is what keeps us silent and tells us all that we’re not to talk of Her.

      That said, personally, I would enjoy having Her become a part of our discussions in church. As a child of divorce and an on again, off again relationship with my stepfather, who also divorced my mother, I have always felt closer to my own mother than to my father figures. I’m so not a Daddy’s Girl. Swapping out Father for Mother feels comforting to me, in a way. “Heavenly Mother, are you really there, and do you hear and answer every child’s prayer?” Tell me that doesn’t make more sense to you? Heavenly Father to protect and provide, Heavenly Mother to comfort and nurture, just like our Earthly parents. You call on daddy when you need help, you call on mommy when you need a hug. Why not?

      I also spent a good portion of my life out of the church (we left when I was 12, thanks a lot, anti-LDS propaganda) and did spend some time as a Catholic (can we combine LDS sensibilities with Catholic ephemera?! I love the candles and the statues and the rosaries and all that, but the Catholic congregation itself feels so COLD to me, whereas I love LDS congregations, you feel like it’s a family, people there really care and you know who they are, but the clean lines and white walls of the churches themselves feel cold, so can we just mix the two? /dreamer), and I really really loved having Mary to look up to, to pray to. I still say Hail Marys on a regular basis. It’s just… it’s IN me, it’s a fixation, it’s easy to say, and, for me, it gets results. It feels so natural, to me, having the background that I do, to pray to or look up to a Heavenly Mother.

      I think, as a recent traveler back towards LDS from being everything else under the sun, it’s going to be hard for me, especially after reading this article and thinking about it, to NOT talk to Heavenly Mother. And to not picture her walking in a blue hooded dress with a halo of stars, just like Mary.

      • Robert

        Amber,
        Have you ever considered attending an Orthodox Christian church? I think you might find what you are looking for there. May God guide your search for Truth!

    • jace

      I disagree with some of the comments. “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. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” Proclamation to the Family.
      I gave a talk with the stake presidency in attendance and mentioned my own relationship with heavenly mother and was praised for it after. I’ve been in many wards and we didn’t talk about heavenly mother often but it surely wasn’t frowned upon so I’m sadden by these remarks.
      Like AMG I was also taught the reason why talk of Heavenly Mother is sacred is to keep her name untarnished from the world. I don’t at all think it’s because she’s to fragile, of course it’s the opposite, I think it’s simply because God has such a high respect for his wife. I was taught that she is just so divine and special that we should have more respect for her than anything else in this world. That doesn’t mean we keep quiet about her, we just make sure we protect and honor her.
      If Eve was made from Adams rib so that they would be seen side by side, why would it be any different in the relationship of our heavenly parents.
      I think it’s also important to note, that in some of the instances cited the reason for excommunication wasn’t only for the comments made about heavenly mother but for other things said also.
      Thanks to the ladies who posed these questions and opened this discussion, I will see to it that I will do my part to help my young women know of their heavenly mothers divine importance and love for them.

      • Rachel

        I am so happy to hear that you do testify of your personal relationship with Heavenly Mother. I strive to do the same.

        I just have one note, that the BYU Studies article mentioned by Joanna, directly addresses the point that Heavenly Mother has widely been thought of as “too sacred to talk about.” I was one of the primary researchers for that paper, and we found no evidence that any General Authority, Apostle, or Prophet ever taught that. To the contrary, we saw hundreds of instances where General Authorities, Apostles, and Prophets spoke of Heavenly Mother–sometimes quite openly and quite often. For instance, President Kimball directly spoke of Her in at least 6 conference talks.

        I forget who Paulsen’s article attributes the idea that she is too sacred to talk about too, but remember that Linda Wilcox’s important historical article on Heavenly Mother places it in the mouth of a 19th century seminary teacher. Which is somewhat ironic, since a seminary teacher is who Joanna heard it from as well. (This is not even to say that seminary teachers are bad, as I quite loved my own, just that they do not have authority to determine Church doctrine.)

      • Sunny

        The thing I wonder would be….How would a mother feel being apart from her children? The thought of that would be quite sad.

        Also, pretty much talking about HM has been a no-no in my experience, which is really kind of sad.

    • Donna tagliaferri

      I am amazed at this……no interest in a female deity is soooo wrong. There is NO male god without a female god. We are not at the mercy of any church leader. We are at the mercy of god. And in the temple the plan is clear. Men and women rock this together

      • Rachel

        Amen, sister!

      • ReNee McDonald

        There could be one Donna Tagliaferri! …and you were the yw leader in LV that made such a wonderful impression on me that I often hear your lessons and sayings when I am pondering things!!! I hope all is well in your neck of the woods….and if you read this, you’ll contact me!!!

        And as for Heavenly Mother…this has never been a taboo subject for me…of course we have a mother in heaven who loves us and presence can be felt. How else would we feel the divineness of being a woman without one preceeding our existence. Here again we have a cultural mormonism interjecting into our doctrinal beliefs.

        Much love

        ReNee
        mrmcd07@hotmail.com

    • Rachel

      I disagree with your statement, if only because I have personal connection to the BYU Studies article, as one of the researchers and original co-author when it was first presented at BYU in February 2009 (approximately two years before it was published). Not only did it go through many drafts, authors and editors worked closely with General Authorities, including Apostles. They were very much aware of the project, and sanctioned it.

      Also, David Paulsen is not a ‘random person passing fancy.’ He is one of the most sincere, kind, wise persons I have ever met, was friends with Elder Maxwell, and has been listed in conference talks by Elder Holland at least twice.

      I encourage you to read the article, because it has many, many quotes by past Presidents of the Church and other leaders precisely honoring the Female Deity. Early General Authorities were especially apt to bear testimony of Her just as simply as we bear testimony of the Father and the Son today. Current General Authorities are more likely to honor her Together with the Father, by using the phrase “Heavenly Parents.” (This becomes quickly apparent when searching on lds.org.) I think there are multiple reasons for this favored term by them, but the most notable seems to be because it parallels the language of the quasi-cannonical proclamation on the Family, which most members are likely to be familiar with, when they may not be familiar with Eliza’s hymn, or a 1909 authoritative statement (from the then First Presidency) that also mentioned Heavenly Mother.

  3. ijustlookedup

    The God in heaven I know would surely speak and share the beauty of His companion. Sadly, the culture changes that and misdirects such a beautiful notion of having a warm, gentle set of feminine hands that hold us too.
    I can only imagine the touch “She” added to the world, its colors, smells, sounds, and emotions. I personally will never hold back speaking about a Mother in Heaven; I feel her as much as I feel Him there in every waking hour. Perhaps “She” is just another faceted extension of His love. In fact, I am sure that is true.
    All I have to do is look at my children as the rush of affection flows through me, and I find myself sure that She is there. I find it incredibly sweet knowing that I have two kind, loving sets of hands leading and guiding me, cradling me through life.

  4. Shelly

    She is not talked about in the bible either.

    Gordon B. Hinckley reasoned the following in General Conference:
    “Logic and reason would certainly suggest that if we have a Father in Heaven, we have a Mother in Heaven. That doctrine rests well with me. However, in light of the instruction we have received from the Lord Himself, I regard it as inappropriate for anyone in the Church to pray to our Mother in Heaven” (Gordon Hinckley, “Daughters of God,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 1991, p.100. See also The Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p.257 [which came out when he was president]).

    I imagine the reason that official church doctrine would steer clear from encouraging prayers to Heavenly Mother has much to do with Jeremiah 44. You asked why God would prohibit the discussion, it has to do with humility.

    • daughter of the queen of heaven

      She is not talked about in the bible either.

      A strong case can be made that she is. Kevin Barney published an essay in Dialogue in 2008 called “How to Worship Heavenly Mother (without getting excommunicated) and Ryan Thomas published an essay in Exponent II in 2010 called “My Search for the Divine Feminine.” Both discuss a female deity linked to god and speculate that she is Heavenly Mother. I would link to them but comments with links too often end up in spam filters, but you can find them by googling them.

      Janice Allred, of course, did much the same thing and was excommunicated for it, so it seems that one thing that helps Mormons worshipping Heavenly Mother without punishment is to be male.

      Gordon B. Hinckley reasoned the following in General Conference:

      and then there’s all this stuff about how a son can forbid his siblings to speak to their mother and can instead tell them that he is their envoy to their father, and they can speak to Dad only through Big Brother.

      Yeah. That makes sense. That’s totally admirable and something earthly families should emulate. I wonder that we don’t do it already.

      the reason that official church doctrine would steer clear from encouraging prayers to Heavenly Mother has much to do with Jeremiah 44.

      You do realize, right, that Jeremiah 44 discusses worship of the “queen of heaven”?

      In the old testament, burning incense, slaughtering and burning animal carcasses–that’s right worship, if it’s directed to god the father, the king of heaven. But burning incense, making cakes to worship god the mother, the queen of heaven, that’s idolatry?

      Well, maybe it is. Maybe God the father is so insecure that worship of his wife just makes him NUTS.

      Or maybe he’s not married to the queen of heaven. Maybe she divorced him because he was such a jerk. Or maybe he’s an illegitimate usurper who murdered her and assumed her throne.

      Or maybe the queen of heaven is not quite a goddess, and Mormon women will not be goddesses in heaven either, not quite, but will instead by sexual rewards, one of many wives given to righteous men who become gods. Men and women will NOT be equal in the next life, and our leaders are lying when they tell us we will be. Instead, women in Mormonism are one step above the 72 virgins martyrs in Islam are promised will be waiting for them in heaven.

      there’s nothing that makes OK the silence about her or the injunction against praying to Heavenly Mother. If women are going to have equal status with men in the next life, then Heavenly Mother is and always has been a legitimate being to pray to and to worship. And if Heavenly Mother is somehow unworthy of prayer but Heavenly Father is worthy of it, then the stuff in LDS rhetoric about how OF COURSE men and women are equal and will be equal for all eternity is just a big fat lie.

      But in any event, you can’t argue that there’s no mention of heavenly mother in the OT, because there the queen of heaven IS, right there, in Jeremiah 44, a chapter you invoke. People always knew that they needed a mother goddess to worship, and sought to find her as they could.

      And don’t try to say that this figure is somehow a false goddess. If God is God, no matter what people call him or how they misinterpret his presence and manifestations, then the Queen of Heaven is still Goddess, no matter what people call her or how they misinterpret her presence or manifestations.

      So, everyone, let’s thank Shelly, who has directed us to a passage that shows that we have a definite, genuine goddess figure in the Old Testament, and that even then, there were prophets just like Gordon B. Hinckley trying to tell us what so many of us instinctively know is wrong: we can’t worship our mother.

      Of course we can. And it’s up to us to lead the church where it needs to go, and let the leaders follow.

      • Shelly

        Queen of Heaven was not referring Elohim, the God of Israel’s wife. Jeremiah does talk about a Goddess and it is your choice whether or not to worship her. Jeremiah was giving the people guidance as to that practice.

        The Queen of Heaven was a high goddess worshiped by some Jews living in Jerusalem and Egypt in the time of Jeremiah (late seventh-early sixth centuries B.C.; Jer. 7:18; 44:17-19, 25). Jeremiah rejected this worship as idolatry and interpreted the fall of Jerusalem as punishment for such worship. In the first century A.D., the mother goddess of Ephesus, called Artemis by the Greeks, the Syrian goddess Atargatis, and the Egyptian Isis were all worshiped as Queen of Heaven. Venus; called Ashtoreth by the Phoenicians and other Canaanites; regarded as the sister or consort of Baal was also referred to as Queen of Heaven. Together they were looked upon as symbolizing the generative powers of nature – idols.

        The command, 2 Kings 17:35–41

        When the LORD made a covenant with the Israelites, he commanded them: “Do not worship any other gods or bow down to them, serve them or sacrifice to them. But the LORD, who brought you up out of Egypt with mighty power and outstretched arm, is the one you must worship. To him you shall bow down and to him offer sacrifices. You must always be careful to keep the decrees and regulations, the laws and commands he wrote for you. Do not worship other gods. Do not forget the covenant I have made with you, and do not worship other gods. Rather, worship the LORD your God; it is he who will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.”
        They would not listen, however, but persisted in their former practices. Even while these people were worshiping the LORD, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their ancestors did.

        In Lamentations, all the warnings Jeremiah declared to the people about Jerusalem came true. The Babylonians invaded the nation, burned God’s temple, destroyed the city and took away the people.

        Then Ezekiel gave the people a new message of hope and restoration: God would gather the Israelites from the ends of the earth and reestablish them in their own land.

        To address your comment:
        and then there’s all this stuff about how a son can forbid his siblings to speak to their mother and can instead tell them that he is their envoy to their father, and they can speak to Dad only through Big Brother.

        Yeah. That makes sense. That’s totally admirable and something earthly families should emulate. I wonder that we don’t do it already.

        Are you saying you don’t believe that what Jesus said (below) in John 14:5–14 is true? Or you don’t believe John who wrote the account?

        Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

      • daughter of the queen of heaven

        To address your comment:
        and then there’s all this stuff about how a son can forbid his siblings to speak to their mother and can instead tell them that he is their envoy to their father, and they can speak to Dad only through Big Brother.

        Yeah. That makes sense. That’s totally admirable and something earthly families should emulate. I wonder that we don’t do it already.

        Are you saying you don’t believe that what Jesus said (below) in John 14:5–14 is true? Or you don’t believe John who wrote the account?

        Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

        I am saying that it is ethically and emotionally objectionable for a son to dictate the terms by which a father’s other children can interact with their father, and that it is even more reprehensible for a father and son to forbid children to have any interaction or communication with their mother.

        We are told that God and Jesus should be our role models. But imagine the condemnation that would accrue to a family that operated that way.

        the bible is not a viable basis for what Mormons consider a righteous life, and this is one more example of its profound moral failings. it’s so funny to watch people go through the mental gymnastics necessary to pretend that it’s anything but a collection of fairly conventional myths from pretty unevolved human beings.

        Mother in Heaven, however, is at least an interesting character, and a figure through which we might develop a more enlightened approach to both humanity and divinity.

  5. Thank you for this subject, Joanna. I can’t believe I’ve never given it much, and now definitely enough, thought. And now that I’m a mother myself, your words are really hitting me.

  6. Paul

    I must start with a disclaimer: i am no believer.

    With some distance from questions about Heavenly Mother, comments made in the thread regarding direct answers to prayer seem significant: “For us, it’s about what works. Irrigation canals. Food storage. Indexing genealogical records. Hands-on stuff. We’re not even supposed to look into the mysteries. Ours is an intelligible God.”

    Nothing makes God unintelligible or mysterious more quickly than uncovering questions that resonate so deeply. If being eternally pregnant seems more like hell than eternal bliss, what else God manipulating me with? If I can’t identify the mother part and differentiate from the father part, what, in the end, do I know of God? If earthly children can talk (pray) to the father, but not the mother, does this not presume that gender difference equates an insurmountable death–after all,outer darkness is the profound separation from God.

    Mother in Heaven runs much deeper than simple sexism–the stories undo certainty. How can we claim to know anything of God if we can’t even acknowledge any certainty about someone we presume has such intimacy with Him? Mormon culture nor its doctrine can tolerate the revelation of that much un-knowing or uncertainty.

    But it has always been so compelling that the pragmatic and literal impulse so central to the Mormon identity also shakes that identity to the core.

  7. Julie

    I’m a woman, a mother, a liberal feminist and a devout Mormon, and I don’t believe in Heavenly Mother. More specifically, I don’t believe we know whether or not she’s there. I believe she emerged in our Mormon consciousness imaginatively, largely thanks to Eliza Snow’s hymn, and to extrapolations of scripture, and that discussion of her has been amplified by others who’ve seized hold of the idea and run with it. In fact I see it as the ultimate expression of patriarchy to decide that God is a married man, the head of a household, who delegates the female parts of godhood to a wife (or, much worse, to wives). I understand that for many people she’s an idea of inexpressible comfort, and that for many feminists she makes Mormonism palatable, and I respect and honor that and have no wish to pick a fight with anyone. But I would like to create space in the world for people who don’t believe in her — who in fact, find the idea of her toxic to their notion of God, and who are deeply uncomfortable with the LDS’s tacit embrace of the idea of her. Just as there’s room in our theology to believe in her, there’s room in our theology not to. Since she is not an article of absolute creed or faith, and she appears nowhere in the scriptures, I would argue that there’s enough ambiguity on the subject for beliefs to go either way. To me, the idea of HM bifurcates God, and I see God as so wonderfully whole and complete, as the author of my femininity just as fully as he’s the author of my sons’ masculinity. But I can respect and understand why others feel differently.

    • Holly

      But I would like to create space in the world for people who don’t believe in her — who in fact, find the idea of her toxic to their notion of God, and who are deeply uncomfortable with the LDS’s tacit embrace of the idea of her.

      Frankly I would like to create that space too. I just don’t see it as logically possible with the emphasis on celestial families. If marriage is eternal and a condition of salvation, then you have to deal with the question of the role of women who are also resurrected, perfected beings.

      In fact I see it as the ultimate expression of patriarchy to decide that God is a married man, the head of a household, who delegates the female parts of godhood to a wife (or, much worse, to wives).

      Absolutely. That’s why Mormonism is more patriarchal than any other branch of Christianity.

      The easiest, simplest thing to do is to reject the notion of a gendered god. But that undoes pretty much all of Mormonism.

      I would really love to see us get to the point where we admit that everything we believe about god–that he’s a he, that he’s married, that he finds homosexuality somehow repulsive, that he has a body, that he cares which church we belong to–is a human idea someone dropped into a hymn or a prayer that other amplified and someone else ran with, until here we are, with this whole complicated creed that we’re supposed to believe reflects not just how things are but how things are supposed to be.

      We can believe what we want. We can tell ourselves whatever ordered or disordered stories we want about the way the universe works if it helps us live our lives. But ultimately they’re all just stories about a mystery none of us can comprehend. God is both male and female; god is both married and unmarried; God is both exquisitely cruel and lastingly loving. It’s all true and none of it’s true.

      None of it matters, because none of it really reflects the truth about God. But ALL OF IT MATTERS, because all of it reflects the truth about US. Do we create a just theology? Do we treat men and women equally? Do we value the feminine as much as the masculine?

      No, we don’t.

      So let’s fix that.

      • Rachel

        Thank you Julie and Holly for your comments. I’m a (very) recent convert to the church and I have to admit that the idea of a Holy Mother has been very difficult for me. I’ve always grown up with the idea that God is beyond human definition and has no gender. While I have accepted most of the tenants of the LDS faith, this is one that I’ve really struggled with, even though I realize it’s pretty central. I have no problem with God appearing in the form of a man, I just can’t force the idea of a gendered God with a wife into my head. I appreciate your comments so much because they help to reassure me that there’s a place for me in the church, even if I don’t believe everything perfectly.

    • M

      My first instinct was to disagree with you, Julie, but Holly’s additions added clarity (maybe you weren’t going in that direction but it worked for me). I think maybe the important distinction for me is the duality of Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother and the duality of divine feminine and divine masculine. They’re not the same.

      One of the things that bothers me about the Mother/Father duality is the propensity to assign “feminine” and “masculine” traits to one or the other, i.e. Mother = nurturer and Father = provider, and my own parents didn’t adhere to those roles and I don’t find them comfortable either because when viewed in the context of the world around us they seem really arbitrary, and that’s where it’s toxic for me. Both of your statements seem to erase those boundaries, take them out of the context of the divine and place them within the context of “what humans say it means,” and I think that’s profound. If God could encompass all of it, not be divided up or bound by our expectations of identity, that has profound implications on women who fight in wars, women who nurture, men who nurture, men who love men, etc etc etc. That makes it easier for me to understand how God could love all of us as his own, because otherwise, how are we all not aberrations? And then, even male/female starts to seem like such a small dichotomy and maybe it’s a distraction.

      I had a major crisis of faith a few years ago. I didn’t think any explanation but athiesm made sense, but it was catastrophically depressing after all of the promises of Mormonism. So I did some desperate soul searching and I managed to find a loophole. You can’t prove it’s there, but you can’t prove it’s not there either. And I’ve come as far as liking the idea that we are made of the same materials as the Earth and the Earth is part of the universe, so transitively, we’re part of the Universe and that’s also profound. And that’s where I see the mystery that none of us can comprehend, and that’s where I see faith. I’m simplifying, and I know that’s a bit of a digression, but it sort of clicked for me in this thread, so I thought I’d share it.

      • Julie

        Thank you both, Holly and M, for your thoughts. A few more of my own that have rattled around since I posted my first comment. 1. The idea that God needs a female to gestate spirits somehow runs counter to our doctrine that our spirits are also eternal and infinite, that we became the spirit children of God through a sort of organizing or adopting process, and 2. Even if there did need to be some sort of male-female co-creation of spirits, again, why would there be one male deity but many female deities involved? As in, the spiritual fertility of the male god is limitless, but the capacity and fertility of the female god must, obviously, be limited, so we need lots of them to crank out billions of spirits? This underscores female insufficiency, which makes me nuts. Imposing polygamy on heaven just makes no sense whatsoever. If there’s a female deity, why not only one, since being ONE seems to be very important to God’s nature and identity? But, as I said before, I am not wild about the idea of HM, though I trust that if I reach heaven and learn I was wrong, nobody divine will hold a grudge. I agree with those who have posted saying, in effect, that HM is more a product of asserting God’s masculinity than unfolding a balanced theology.

      • Ishtar/Astarte

        Amen and amen!

    • Rachel

      Hi. I’m a woman, daughter, sister, wife, liberal feminist, and a devout Mormon and I do believe in her, and I’ll tell you (part of) why. Firstly, for full disclosure, I was one of the primary researchers on the BYU Studies article Joanna cited. Secondly, as part of that research, I read about Heavenly Mother for approximately 8 hours a day for four months, with more resources than the average member knows about, or has time to study.

      There is compelling (albeit secondary and tertiary) evidence that the doctrine of Heavenly Mother originated not with Eliza as many (presumably even Gordon B. Hinckley based on his 1991 conference talk) believe, but with Joseph Smith. There are multiple journal accounts from members (Zebedee Coltrin and/or Sidney Rigdon come to mind) who wrote of a vision they experienced with the Prophet of Heavenly Mother, Father, and Son. Brigham Young’s daughter, Suza Young Gates, recorded in her journal that Joseph comforted a sister who had just lost her mother by telling her that she would see her mother again. And then he said something like, “Not only that, but you’ll see your Heavenly Mother!”

      It is also important to note that Eliza’s well-known hymn was not the first hymn about Heavenly Mother. The first was in one of the hymn books, but (obviously) no longer is. It was written by W.W. Phelps for the dedication of a new conference hall for the 70′s and was published 9-10 months before Eliza’s. This leads me (and many others) to believe that Joseph Smith taught the doctrine and that it was readily known, since it was not only Eliza who wrote about Her.

      On your last comment about God being whole-I believe that also. I simply believe (as Erastus Snow and Eugene England) that whenever the scriptures say “God” it means Heavenly Mother AND Heavenly Father combined in a unity more perfect than even the unity of the Godhead. It feels true to me. But I can understand and respect why you may feel differently.

    • SG

      could you clarify what you mean when you say you don’t believe in her? from all that I have studied about Mormonism the existence of Heavenly Mother seems like it is understood. If you believe that one day a married couple (sealed in the temple) will become gods and create spirits, then by extension you would have to believe that your HF has a wife who is your HM… is this correct or am I missing something?

  8. marthur L

    I find it ironic that the concept of heavenly mother is called a “beautiful, symmetrical doctrine” when nearly the entire first 100 years of mormonism the common and nearly unanimous belief was that God the Father was a polygamist.

    I think it is more likely that this unique doctrine was born out of showcasing the “powers and dominions” of the male Gods than highlighting the egalitarian ways of heaven or God’s *only* true church.

    • Rachel

      Hmmm. Interesting point. There is a great article on the history of this doctrine by a woman named Linda Wilcox. She talks about how the doctrine of Heavenly Mother really was used for different purposes at different times. Like you said, early General Authorities frequently spoke of her while talking about polygamy, while others (nearer to our day) have spoken of her to espouse one man and one wife. I have done a lot of research on Heavenly Mother (and was formerly paid full time by BYU to research her) and feel that there is only one, though I cannot confirm it.

    • RT

      This characterization of the doctrine is incorrect. The earliest references to the idea of a Heavenly Mother (from W W Phelps and Eliza R. Snow) are all in the singular, not to plural Mothers in Heaven. For more, see Sam Brown’s, In Heaven as it is on Earth, 274-277.

  9. Anonymous

    OK. Pure and absolute speculation on my part, and Paul sparked me with Mormon practicality even if I am a believer. But what if there are plural Heavenly Mothers? Which one do we worship? Our own, of course. But if She is not identified or revealed to us, how do we know which one She is? Well, obviously She’s mine, but She may not be yours. So deeply personal spiritual connection may be appropriate, but not public worship or advocacy. Sister Snow’s personal wording, “tells me I’ve a mother there,” “Father, Mother, may I meet you,” and, “With your mutual approbation/Let me come and dwell with you” works for this even if sung together in a public setting. Praying to your Mother doesn’t work in public if She’s not mine.

    • I consider this issue of “i dont know which mom is mine so i just dont say anything in public” to be resolved with the same dogma that the Church uses to justify unworthy men using the priesthood to solemnize covenants: God honors the concept of the priesthood as incorruptible and therefore honors the covenant made under it by the believers faith in the power of it over the priesthood holders worthiness. If i pray to HM, i highly doubt there is a fit of confusion in the Heavens as to who is supposed to be listening and answering the prayers….it doesnt matter. Also, the manner in which polygamy “should” be lived is that all the mothers help raise the children and all the wives are considered mothers….so once again: it doesnt matter, IMO.

    • Annetta

      I can see your point, and of course public praying. I am sure would get you excommunicated rather quickly, but what about a private relationship? the need for comfort in which we would turn to a mother for would be a very private and raw place. Are we allowed that?
      Truthfully I don’t know, people become afraid when it is brought up, as with other subjects. Is it taboo? And why? If Father is administering the test is mother not allowed to interfere and help us? Why not? The test? Maybe. Some days we do need the positive role model and better understanding of our celestial goal we have less understanding of what we will be, but it seems more responsibilities at times.
      And some horrible times we just want our Mother. *sigh*
      How can we walk that line without being chastised?

      • Jillian

        I was asked to speak at a Stake RS Conference about a wonderful spiritual experience of comfort I received from HM after a horrible emergency birth. Many women in the stake came and thanked me for being willing, and the presidency initiated it. This was only 4 years ago. So, I suppose it isn’t completely taboo…maybe it depends on local leadership’s comfort level? And if that is the case, perhaps it needs to be addressed more often so that people become more comfortable.

    • jace

      “Praying to your mother doesn’t work in public if she’s not mine.” I LOVE that, never would have thought of that!!!

    • Rachel

      Eliza titled her poem, “Invocation: or the Eternal Father and Mother,” clarifying that she herself viewed it as a prayer. When it was first published in “Times and Seasons” it was published without a title. Later it took on the title that we now know, which is also the first line of the song.

      You do raise interesting points though.

    • Sunny

      See, what I figure if I can pray to Heavenly Father, and He can hear it, don’t you think HM could tell the diff, too? I mean, I’d imagine She’d have us tuned in or something. And, even if there’s multiple, I’d imagine that the right one could figure it out well enough.

  10. mpaigestevens

    I was discussing this with a BYU Women’s Studies professor and she simply said, “the church will talk about Heavenly Mother when the women of the church are ready to hear about her. Right now the women are being given watered down milk when what they need is meat.” Being a member of the LDS faith I’m a strong believer in personal revelation and I don’t believe Heavenly Mother is a mystery to those who pray to come to know her. I think of the marriage between Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father as the same as many other LDS marriage; in the same way that our mothers and fathers discuss their children and their lives so do our Heavenly Parents. I believe our Heavenly Mother is deeply involved in our lives at a level we may not comprehend. I believe those who feel confused or misinformed about our Heavenly Mother have simply failed to ask.

    • daughter of the queen of heaven

      “BYU Women’s Studies professor and she simply said, “the church will talk about Heavenly Mother when the women of the church are ready to hear about her. Right now the women are being given watered down milk when what they need is meat.”

      Nice move: blame it on the women and their inadequacy. The reason women don’t have a female deity is not that the church is lacking, or the doctrine is lacking, or that the leaders are lacking. It’s that the women themselves are lacking. No need for the church or the doctrine or the leaders to change or feel at all bad about the current state of affairs. Nope. It’s the women who have to change, do more of this, less of that, some else entirely on Tuesdays.

      I hope you alerted this BYU women’s studies professor to the flaws in her logic.

      • M

        The “women oppressing women” theme is well-documented and thoroughly discussed in the field of women’s studies and in feminism in general. So this isn’t a surprising thing to read, and it’s not flawed logic. You just need to recognize the assumptions of the paradigm. And, of course, if you reject feminist discourse, this is a moot point.

        The idea is that when a woman comes to power by virtue of a patriarchal grant, it’s not really her power. She is still ultimately an oppressor of women, because she’s been co-opted by the patriarchy. So, I’m guessing the more general issue here is that as long as women adhere to the strict patriarchal doctrine of the Mormon church, speaking of the divine feminine will always be taboo. It’s up to women to vote with their feet, so to speak, to affect change in the religion that, at present, is oppressively patriarchal. As long as women stay, and adhere to the terms, they are complicit in the opression of women and the silencing of the divine feminine voice.

        How you slide up whether divine feminine and divine masculine are embodied in one or more beings is another issue entirely.

      • M

        by “slide up” I meant “slice up.”

      • Holly

        the more general issue here is that as long as women adhere to the strict patriarchal doctrine of the Mormon church, speaking of the divine feminine will always be taboo. It’s up to women to vote with their feet, so to speak, to affect change in the religion that, at present, is oppressively patriarchal. As long as women stay, and adhere to the terms, they are complicit in the opression of women and the silencing of the divine feminine voice.

        Since I just edited an issue of Sunstone dedicated to Mother in Heaven, and since I have organized a session at this year’s symposium where women and men will read letters to Heavenly Mother (since we can’t flat-out pray to her) and since I try to attend to conversations about MiH when I find them, I am confident that there are plenty of women who speak about her regardless of whether the topic is taboo within the more mainstream church.

        LDS women ARE talking about the goddess. They ARE ready to hear about her. They were ready 20 years ago, when the brethren excommunicated Janice. So the claim that “the church will talk about Heavenly Mother when the women of the church are ready to hear about her” is not just flawed logic but factually inaccurate at this point. The events of the past year and past two decades demonstrate that “the church” will talk about Heavenly Mother when it has absolutely no alternative, because they have lost complete control of the discourse, and/or because so many women have indeed already voted with their feet.

      • M

        Me again… :) I have been mulling this over and have a few things to add. First, apologies that I leapt ahead of myself. I should clarify: I do think that the church discourages women from being more active in defining their own relationship to God. More often than not, we are given watered-down milk, not meat. And holding women accountable is complicated by the fact that they’ve often been complicit in the weakening of their position of power in the patriarchy. That’s what I understood the original statement to mean – women in the church are weak, and they’re kept that way. And if we’re in the dangerous business of woman-blaming, we gotta talk about patriarchy.

        So, the reason I jumped all over the invisible argument of who was doing the oppressing is because there’s an implication that because it’s a patriarchal religion it necessarily follows that men do all the oppressing. But that’s not entirely right. Women in the church, in my experience, are far more likely to keep a girl down. That has to change before we can really come into our own.

      • M

        @Holly, I’m a refresh behind the comment thread, and your comments are really interesting. I left the church a few years ago, and honestly, I didn’t want to look back. But here I am at AMG’s surprised that there is a thriving community of people with alternative viewpoints.

        I’ve never heard of the Sunstone, but I’m going to google that as soon as I tell you your rebuttal is awesome. I actually did a paper for a class in grad school on how the decision to allow Black men to hold the priesthood was made (specifically the political factors and strategy) and how there had to be a critical mass of support before the decision passed through the church presidency. They were about 20 years behind the times on that one, so it makes sense they would be 20 years in the stew pot on feminist discourse as well. Hm…

      • Marcus

        I don’t agree with the ‘women are not ready’ argument as much as I don’t agree with the ‘blacks aren’t ready’ argument. In general though, I do believe that God gives knowledge to the world as it is ready to receive it. This is discussed more later in this discussion as well. One example I would use is that the church is ready to receive more of the BoM (sealed portions), but the rest of the world isn’t, therefore, it won’t happen yet.

      • Rachel

        As one who cares deeply about Heavenly Mother (and overturning the idea that she is “too sacred to talk about”), I have chosen to vote with my voice.

        By this I mean that I bear my testimony of Heavenly Mother in Sacrament Meetings, and in the gospel doctrine lessons I teach in my Downtown LA ward, and in Relief Society, and in private conversations, and in comments such as this one.

        I do agree with Holly though, that women are ready to receive her. Our hearts our turned to our Mother, and many of us feel that Her heart is turned to us. (I desperately wish I could read a letter to Her there.)

      • daughter of the queen of heaven

        I don’t agree with the ‘women are not ready’ argument as much as I don’t agree with the ‘blacks aren’t ready’ argument. In general though, I do believe that God gives knowledge to the world as it is ready to receive it.

        This basic argument that “things happen when you’re ready for them, and if they haven’t happened, you’re not ready” argument is insulting and is not really borne out by the history of the world or of the church or of individuals. Did god reveal polygamy because the world was ready to receive it? Did he withdraw it because he realized he was wrong about the world’s readiness? If so, he’s neither perfect no omniscient.

        The world was ready for the idea of racial equality long before the church was. The church did not lead on one of the great moral issues it has faced–it followed, clumsily and resentfully.

        The church rarely leads. It usually follows. it is typically a few decades behind the world’s zeitgeist.

        Things change not when the members of the church are ready, but when our leaders, who are old (and often infirm in body and mind, in just the way octogenarians often are–one of the dangers of a gerontocracy) and coddled by their status as all but infallible leaders and protected from the reality of the world, are ready to change.

        the fact that the leadership of God’s supposedly true church is so reactionary, out of touch, and slow is an embarrassment to both humanity and god. It’s what brings us fiascoes like the opposition to Prop 8.

      • daughter of the queen of heaven

        @M

        You just need to recognize the assumptions of the paradigm.

        ahem.

        the statement from the BYU women’s studies professor is indeed a prime example of ‘the “women oppressing women” theme.’

        She is still ultimately an oppressor of women, because she’s been co-opted by the patriarchy.

        If there is anyone who, despite any ostensible embrace of feminism, is still ultimately an oppressor of women because she’s been co-opted by the patriarchy, it would be a women’s studies professor at BYU.

        At some point, it’s important to point this out to her. Calling her on the fact that she’s justifying the oppression of women is a reasonable place to start.

        It’s a bit rich to have to spell this out to someone who presumes to school others on things like this:

        And if we’re in the dangerous business of woman-blaming, we gotta talk about patriarchy.

        You do realize, right, that Joanna’s column is cross-posted at Feminist Mormon Housewives?

        Plenty of readers of Joanna’s column are not just willing but anxious to talk about patriarchy–and have been doing it for decades.

        Some people read Ask Mormon Girl here instead of on fmh because fmh is too radical for them.

        But some people read AMG here instead of on fmh because fmh is too conservative and elementary.

        You might keep that in mind for future conversations.

      • Holly

        My primary objection to this facile, meaningless claim that “women will get–
        the right to sue abusive husbands for divorce
        the right to go to college
        the right to vote
        the priesthood
        meaningful discourse about heavenly mother
        equal work for equal pay
        the right to plan their families without Republican legislators trying to ban birth control
        –when they’re ready for it”
        is that it ignores and erases the vision, dedication, and hard work of the women (and, god bless ‘em, men) who protest, agitate, write letters, write articles, write books, educate, file lawsuits, go to prison, lose their families, are beaten, are raped, are excommunicated, die to make other women and the rest of the world ready for a “privilege” that men enjoy as a right.

        It erases not just the hope and suffering of these women but the women themselves, as if the causes they worked for were inevitabilities that would have happened sooner or later, regardless of their valiant efforts.

        Please don’t do that, and please don’t repeat such statements as if they are wisdom instead of cruelty and error.

  11. Mark

    Great article Joanna. I really appreciate how you tackle subject that LDS members think about but are afraid to talk about.

    There’s one possible reason for the silence you didn’t mention and that is how scandalous this doctrine is to the Christian world. We’re no strangers to scandal, but I think this goes beyond non-trinitarianism, beyond the corporeal, anthropomorphic nature of God. The idea that God has a Wife who is His equal and opposite is truly heretical and would attract an unprecedented amount of criticism from our enemies.

    I think another possibility is that we are following tradition in that the BoM never mentions Her. The Bible, D&C and PoGP maybe hints at Her. Joseph Smith never mentioned Her publicly.

    The Old Testament possibly mentions a wife for Eloheim, Asherah. Whether worship of Asherah was a legitimate rite for Israel to do is highly debatable and Biblical scholars are sharply divided over. It’s interesting, but I don’t think we should automatically associate Asherah with Heavenly Mother.

    As far as the not praying thing, I don’t have a problem with that. We don’t pray to Jesus and we still have strong relationships with Him.

    • melodynew

      I like this, Mark. Thanks.

      • Mark

        You’re welcome.

        I should add that it shouldn’t matter what our critics think. We shouldn’t be defined by people outside our Church. If it’s true that She is our Mother in Heaven, She deserves our respect at the very least. That’s why I use the capital pronoun in reference to Her. If you think about it, the Church could have renounced the doctrine of Heavenly Mother and swept it away just like the doctrine of Adam-God. The Church has not and I think that says something. In fact, we sang all four verses of “O My Father” in sacrament meeting at my ward last Sunday.

        “All men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity.”

        -from The Origin of Man, an official statement by the First Presidency in 1909.

        I don’t know why we haven’t really talked about Her. For that matter, I don’t know why Moses, Nephi, Alma, Isaiah or even the mortal Jesus never mentioned her. I imagine they had a good reason. I don’t know what it was.

    • Holly

      There’s one possible reason for the silence you didn’t mention and that is how scandalous this doctrine is to the Christian world. We’re no strangers to scandal, but I think this goes beyond non-trinitarianism, beyond the corporeal, anthropomorphic nature of God. The idea that God has a Wife who is His equal and opposite is truly heretical and would attract an unprecedented amount of criticism from our enemies.

      I hate this argument, which I have heard before. Practicing polygamy certainly invited scandal and criticism; denying access to the temple to black Latter-day Saints invited scandal and criticism; funding the right against Prop 8 invited scandal and criticism–but proclaiming our belief in Heavenly Mother is somehow just TOO, TOO DANGEROUS for us to attempt it? We have this amazing, transformative truth that the rest of the world lacks, but we’re too cowardly to share it with them? That’s bogus and shameful.

    • Rachel

      Mark, I think you are spot on.

      We say that we are a unique people (and are), but as a body often try to downplay it, to fit in better with the mainstream. A friend of mine, who is opposed to this, made bumper stickers that say, “Keep Mormonism Weird.”

      I agree with him, and wish we would cling to this precious doctrine, and even hold it up to others as a beautiful and inspiring thing. Women are hungry for a deity with a female body, whose image they are really created in.

  12. I was on a girl’s night out in my early 20′s when one of good friends asked everyone at the table what their thoughts were on our Heavenly Mother. I felt a seizure of openness as the entire table lowered their heads and averted their eyes in silence. Every one of us at that table were students at the University and supporting our husbands in the same efforts- but we were obviously very far from exploring the truly personal doctrine that “looks” and “acts” like us. I remember lying in my bed that night feeling overcome with embarrassment that I could not at least engage in some form of conversation- and completely ashamed that I had caused my friend to feel so uncomfortable.

    That was the beginning of my quest to figure out why I was so uncomfortable with the idea, why I couldn’t even talk about it- because I had no idea why. That can be a very creepy feeling, when you realize you think and act a certain way because you are programmed and you can’t even identify the source.

    My first three babies have been girls and, as I attempt to see the world through their eyes, I want more for them. Don’t we all? I want them to feel so comfortable with their own feminine divinity that they wouldn’t even question the Feminine Divine, in whatever form it takes. However, this has been one of the most challenging aspects of my religious reinforcement. No form exists. Every picture of anything divine or “heavenly” is male. Every person who ever thought about us, created us, suffered for us, suffers with us, will be there upon our return, will judge us, who KNOWS us- is male.

    There is always a way to think of these things differently in our own minds, right? To massage the idea until it suits our purposes- to expand our doctrines metaphorically. This is not always an easy process for little girls. They look at pictures. They look at people. They hear stories. They sing songs. What are they looking at? What do they hear? What do they sing?
    Of course, I am their Mother. I teach them what I know and what I believe. I try to live and teach with the Spirit (another male figure.) Sometimes, it just feels like swimming upstream.

    • Ella F

      I’ve always had a secret hope that perhaps the Holy Ghost was my Heavenly Mother. She, the Spirit, gives me comfort in my mark needful hour. Of course, this is not founded in any sort of doctrine. Rather, it is a hope that I am loved.

      • I love H.M.

        Ella, I have always felt the same. She is the comforter.

      • Neil Brady

        A few years ago I read a book by Margaret Barker (not Mormon) titled “Temple Theology: An Introduction.” On p. 7 I quote: “In the more ancient names for the deities, however, we glimpse the Father (God the Most High), the Son (Yahweh, the One who appeared in human form), and the Mother (El Shaddai, whose name means the God with breasts).” On pp. 78-84 Barker also presents some interesting material regarding lost forms of femininity in the Bible. I don’t speak Hebrew and I am no biblical scholar, but I have long felt that talk of a “Holy Family” is almost required by the Church’s doctrine regarding the eternal nature, and primacy, of the family.

    • Rachel

      There was one year where I cried ever Sunday, because I wanted this doctrine to be spoken of so desperately. It wasn’t enough to sing Eliza’s song about Her. That could actually make me cry even more. After a time I realized that I could be the one to speak about Her. And so I did. I bravely and nervously bore my testimony with my Boston ward about Heavenly Mother. And I sat down, shaking. Afterwards, someone came up to me and hugged me, for my specific testimony and became my best friend. Since that time, and especially now as I am the Gospel Doctrine teacher in my downtown LA ward, I make a point to speak openly and easily about Her. A few woman have thanked me. No one has said anything negative.

      Start small. You will be able to do it too, and it will make a difference.

  13. Mike R

    Some LDS feminists argued in the 1980s, at the same time they were empowering others to pray to Mother in Heaven, that Joseph Smith was egalitarian in terms of gender because he gave women the priesthood through the Temple ceremonies. My own reading of Joseph and his contemporaries in Nauvoo, however, lead me to conclude they were closer to the rhetoric of the “cult of domesticity” language of the famous Evangelical Charles Finney, than contemporaries like Theodore Parker who actually did pray publicly to God as female. So, if you believe we are all truly created in the image of God and His true church reflects that image, then the Mormon Mother in Heaven’s role in the Godhead might have been to feed manna to Moses and his wandering proto-Hebrew companions, but not much more…

  14. mountaingirl

    Julie, I think you have brought up a very interesting alternative to consider. Honestly, I don’t have what you would call a real “testimony” of whether or not there is a Heavenly Mother, but I do like the idea of a feminine God to try to emulate. I have always assumed that there is a Heavenly Mother for the reasons AMG stated. I am almost as comfortable with the idea that we may wrongly assign gender-based characteristics to God the Father. Might ‘he’ singularly encompass all that is good and desirable in humanity and therefore be an example and a pattern to all his children, male and female? Of course, the doctrine of eternal, celestial marriage makes a single God tricky for me… but there are a lot of other things that are tricky to me on that subject… I don’t know. Hanging around pregnant for eternity with a bunch of other pregnant gods certainly doesn’t sound like heaven to me – that I do know.

    I do love this from AMG, “Understanding the embodiment of God in female form calls us to emancipation from distorted…” well, lots of distortion. Good discussion.

  15. Ed

    When I would pray in college–at BYU–I used to ask Heavenly Father to “pass the phone” to Heavenly Mother so that I could talk to her. After doing this for a while, I had an impression (heard a voice?) that said, “Don’t worry; I’m always listening.” For *years* after that I couldn’t hear any mention of Heavenly Mother without breaking down in tears. Today, my daughter is so glad to know that she has a Heavenly Mother.

    • Annetta

      Okay, Ed. You made me cry. Thank you.

    • Rachel

      So beautiful. I lived in Austria last Fall/Winter and spent my time there interviewing LDS women as per Claremont Graduate University’s Mormon Women Oral History Project. The most beautiful thing I have ever heard about Heavenly Mother came in one of those interviews. A dear sister told me about a time when she was young and newly married and furious with her husband. She was at the temple, and heard a voice. A male voice. God. She said, “No, I don’t want to talk to you! I want to talk to Mother.” She had never heard His voice before, and had definitely never been so rude in her conversation to Him, but then something beautiful happened. She heard something again. A simple sentence: “She’s here.” Like when your Mom and Dad are on the line together, similarly to what you talked about. And because she knew They were both there, she could talk openly and honestly with them. I started bawling on the spot, and felt the Spirit so powerfully.

    • Heidi

      I believe this and have had similar experiences. I believe that she is there with HF, loving us, missing us, and waiting for our return.

    • Renee

      That’s really beautiful. I’ve also tried the “pass the phone” bit with Jesus. Sometimes I struggle to understand how I’m supposed to build a friendship with Christ without directly communicating with Him. Your comment has not only helped me understand better how to build my relationship with my Heavenly Mother, but also Jesus Christ.
      Thank you.

  16. melodynew

    Thank you, Joanna. Your insight and scholarship are invaluable. (Plus, I just plain like you.) I’ll add my two-cents-worth as an active Latter-day Saint.

    I am no religious scholar, nor a zealot, nor do I feel a need to proclaim my personal understanding of the nature of God. But I’ll share what I feel for the benefit of this very valuable discussion.

    For myself, I ended silence surrounding heavenly mother many years ago (by asking questions similar to Stacey and Wendy). She has become as much a part of my view of heaven as heavenly father and Jesus Christ. When a divine female becomes a real part of our understanding of the nature of God then we talk about her more–which I do.

    So far as I can tell, God the father and God the mother are equal in purpose, power, might and glory. This understanding has come over time and as a result of study, meditation/prayer and a willingness to step aside from the limits of cultural and gender biases of my upbringing and, frankly, of the current human race. I believe that each person has the right and responsibility to develop her own relationship not only with Jesus Christ, but with her heavenly parents. Both of them.

    It seems to me that fostering one’s relationship with Jesus Christ and with all truth will naturally lead to greater understanding of the nature of God. So, my own advice to the women who pose these questions is simple: keep asking questions and be willing to hear the answers. Even if it makes you a little uncomfortable. And I agree with JoAnna that the silence surrounding heavenly mother’s existence and her presence in our lives is likely multi-faceted. I also agree that we each have a part to play in making her less of a “fringe theological speculation” and more of a mother.

    [I should add that I have never held to the idea that polygamy was a commandment of God or an inspired practice within the LDS church (or anywhere else for that matter) so for me the idea of multiple heavenly mothers makes no sense whatsoever.]

    • I love H.M.

      I agree with you about Polygamy. It was never a commandment of God, nor an eternal concept.
      I also don’t understand why people think that creating spirit children requires pregnancy in heaven. Why would our exalted bodies need to gestate a spirit?

    • Rachel

      “When a divine female becomes a real part of our understanding of the nature of God then we talk about her more–which I do.” So perfect. Thank you.

      I talk about Her too. Often and openly. I also disbelieve in plural Heavenly Mothers.

  17. Meidi

    My grandmother once wrote a poem comparing Priesthood to Motherhood; she asserted that the two powers are equal in strength and importance. My mother taught me that the power of motherhood is something that women can have even before they have children, even if they never have children. It is a power to nurture and strengthen others, to heal hurts and to bring light into other’s lives. To extend the analogy, the Priesthood is the power of God, conferred to worthy men to act in His stead here on earth. Perhaps Motherhood comes from our Heavenly Mother in a similar fashion. I know this is just more speculation, but it makes sense to me.

    • Rachel

      Many people do hold Motherhood as a binary with Priesthood, but I (and others) reject that, because Fatherhood is a binary with Motherhood. Also, being a mother does not depend on worthiness, as the Priesthood does.

      I do believe, however, that there IS great power in motherhood and mothering.

      • Tal

        Motherhood is not equal to fatherhood. The power of a mother surpasses that of a father. A mother’s influence on her children is greater than a father’s. One of a woman’s divine traits is that of divine inspiration and intuitiveness that men do not posses for their children.

    • Mieke

      Hi all,
      I’ve just found this thread and have been fascinated by the responses. In reference to the question of whether/how the Priesthood relates to motherhood, there are two scriptures in the Old Testament that deal with the possible roles played by a Mother in Israel– Deborah the Judge and the wise woman of Beth-Shaarah (I think- don’t want to look it up right now to make sure of the spelling). Deborah’s claim to authority- her right to act as Judge over all of Israel- derived through her status as a Mother in Israel. Reading through those women of the early church who were given that title publicly (Lucy Mack Smith, Emma Smith) and later talks that give this title to all women in the church, I tentatively suggest that the priesthood and motherhood (or the divine feminine) are at least ideologically equivalent.

  18. Penny

    Joanna,
    I would be curious to know what the Jewish faith teaches about Heavenly Mother. Could you provide any details?

  19. Thank you very much for the article and the link to the “statements” paper.

  20. katherine

    I love this topic! I’m so happy it was brought up because I have also forgotten about my Heavenly Mother. I have not taken this time to read through all the comments because I am reading this to give my mind a break from spread sheets at work (shhh…), so I appologize if anything I say is a repeat.

    My theory for the silence – missionary work. The Church has always been pushing missionary work but in the past few years it has seemed a bit more forceful. I served my mission in the Bible Belt at the time they started airing the “I’m a Mormom” commercials to help us all appear ‘normal’. Serving in the Bible Belt I faced a lot of people who still confused us with the Fundemental – LDS Church and even some that joked about horns. The point I want to make with those references is that there is a lot about Mormon dogma that is still “out there” for most of the world. Am I saying that the doctrine of a Heavenly Mother “out there”? No. But I remember trying to explain to people that Heavenly Father has a body and that Jesus is a compeletly seperate body from His Father. They couldn’t (or wouldn’t) wrap their minds around that concept. I can imagine some of the reactions I got if we spoke about a Heavenly Mother; and it did come up sometimes when taught the prinicple of Eternal Marriage. Even Bishops and our Mission President encouraged us to give “Christ centered testimonies” in order to avoid ‘deep doctrine’ that often times would turn people away. Thus, as missionaries we focused on the ideals and doctrinces of the Mormon religion that invited people in. “Line upon line” right?

    Perhaps it isn’t that the church is stamping out the ‘Feminine Goddess’ but maybe the time isn’t right. Line upon line. I say feminie goddess to reference history because at one point people did worship the feminine or the matriarch. Although this was and still is considered Pagan there may have been some truth to it. Then Christianity came and religious focus turned to Christ, who is male. I could go into a huge history of mythology and the apostasy but just keep in mind that society has been living under patriarchle principles and ideals for thousands of years and we still are not ready for a lot of the knowldge that Heavenly Father wants us to have.

    • Rachel

      I was one of the primary researchers for the BYU Studies article Joanna cited, and in my 2008 research I read account after account of converts who actually felt great comfort in learning about Heavenly Mother. For many of them, it was something they had felt or known all along, and made great sense to them. I think teaching it could only improve the Church’s missionary efforts.

      But, with that said, I do think you hit part of it exactly, that the Church is trying to make us look less strange to others. This may be so more others begin to look at us as Christian, or for any number of reasons, but I am with a dear friend who made bumper stickers that said, “Keep Mormonism Weird,” and who wants us to be a peculiar people, and let our light shine and our salt be salty.

      In that same slew of research, I came across a great quote by Elder Maxwell said that the teaching of Heavenly Mother was “particularly important for our day.” Go Elder Maxwell!

  21. Well, some interesting thoughts here and I’ve enjoyed reading the comments. If you think about the temple, Heavenly Mother is not mentioned or protrayed once. Sound odd to you? I think the LDS church needs to make a lot of cultural shifts. Talking about our HM is just one of them. I have to say, it bothers me so much when people confuse culture for doctrine. Seems to happen often in our church. It’s anti-intellectualism.

    p.s. I never knew the church excommunicated some intellectuals. Seems to be a scare tactic. I bet it silences many people.

  22. I think that we have taken the church’s stance about not praying to Her as a sign that we ought to talk about Her (or Them, whichever. I accept polygamy as a possibility). Like someone mentioned before me, I’m fine not praying to Her, as I don’t pray to Jesus and still cherish my relationship with him. But, it does bother me that if I bring her up people nod and smile and back away as gracefully as they can. There is no reason for that. And just as most members would say that they cherish their relationship with Jesus, who they don’t pray to, it is sad to me that they are missing out on another relationship that they could cherish, and that could strengthen them.

  23. young-er

    How would knowing about Her and worshiping Her make a difference? We can’t seem to get it together with one God, let alone 2. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter and if she in fact our true Spirit Mother, she’s probably tired and would like to be left alone.

  24. Zac

    The whole idea of the Church of Jesus Christ is to accept the Atonement and work toward becoming exalted parents. For those who choose to remain separate and single there are plenty of other glories and kingdoms to attain. I believe that many of the plants and animals of this world were created by exalted men and women who chose to remain single but populate the eternities with their unique life creations from the dust. They are artists and creationists of the highest order.

    It’s very possible we ALL have different exalted parents in the eternities. We all have different parents here so it makes sense that exalted parents are without number in heaven and populating the eternities. Perhaps, the one we pray to is the Most High Parent in the order of the Kingdom of God. A Great Grandfather….even the Greatest. He’s the one who appeared to Joseph Smith. But, who are HIS parents?

    So, a Mother in Heaven? For many of us, it’s a simple truth. She’s there and I’ve always known it, but why we don’t mention her is not known to me. It’s not in the curriculum of the culture. I think we are scared to include her and certainly we cannot mention her to others outside the Church. It’s a ‘shush’ thing. And there’s plenty of ‘shush’ in the Church. In my quiet moments of thought about her, I’ve always concluded that we should keep her sacred such as our Patriarchal Blessings and Temple experiences.

    But, I do know this world is filled with blind mindedness. We were born with a veil but it’s our choice to become knowledgeable — line upon line. The blacks were given the Priesthood because someone finally asked. We must ask in order to receive. We should ask that we can include our Mother in Heaven as part of our open religious teachings…and stand back for the added assault from the blind minded.

  25. Irwin

    I’ve never felt like the doctrine of Heavenly Mother is taboo. My experience has been the opposite. The doctrine is well-known, sung about regularly, and in my experience treasured by most Mormons. But we know very little about Her particulars, so I would be uncomfortable if someone were to give a talk or sunday school lesson on her particulars … just as I would with any other topic that is heavy on speculation. It is the speculation that makes me uncomfortable, not some fear that talking about Heavenly Mother will somehow dilute the priesthood or reverence owed to Heavenly Father. I support anyone who wants to explore the nature of and develop a relationship with Heavenly Mother through prayer, study, and meditation, as some of the folks who posted above have done.

    • Rachel

      I was one of the primary researchers on the BYU Studies article Joanna cited, and was paid by BYU as a full-time research staff for four months, purely to research Heavenly Mother, and I can tell you that there are A LOT of resources out there, and lots and lots of General Authorities (especially early authorities, yes, but also more recent ones) have testified and/or revealed real things about her. There is doctrine there. The real shame is that it isn’t known by the average member.

  26. Steph

    A few thoughts come to me when I read this and the thread of comments:

    Think about the concept of excommunication and consider how it could have anything to do with God. He will always be in contact “communication” with anyone who seeks him. To claim otherwise is really evil.

    Anyone can be saved through Christ alone. There is no other way. It can’t be earned.

    There is one God. He created man in his image. We will not be gods someday, because there is one God and we are blessed by his grace and mercy to be adopted into his family in first place. He has one son and that is Jesus.

    There’s no biblical indications that souls have gender, and I think it’s worth considering that it’s just a biological construct of the human experience.

    • Donna tagliaferri

      I will never understand why evangelicals insist we believe we earn our way to heaven. We do not believe that. After all we can do we are saved by grace alone. Grace rocks….it is the whole thing

      • WGC

        Donna, I think it stems from two things.

        1) Evangelicals do not believe there can be any works of salvation. For them Salvation is an act of Grace, independent of any act we can perform. To have to DO something to get saved is, to them, earning it, since it then is a reward instead of a free offering from God. They deny that any works can contribute to salvation. Even baptism. They believe there are good works, but those works are fruits from those who ARE saved, not a condition OF salvation.

        2) In the 19th century and through to the mid 20th century there are many references to “meriting” salvation. This language is coming from covenantal theology. When one makes a covenant with God, the mortal promises certain things and God makes an oath that He will bestow eternal life. If the mortal lives up to his part, God lives up to his. Thus the mortal “merits” salvation by fulfilling the terms of the covenant. Grace is what make the covenant possible. It makes forgiveness of sins a reality, it motivates us in our righteous desires (the desires of the heart the
        Scriptures say we are judged by). It allows those with a repentant heart to be forgiven of the sins we have not specifically repented of because we are not aware of them or we have forgotten they were committed, it allows the Sacrament (communion) to renew our covenants. So if one
        “merits” salvation, one might call that “earning” salvation, but it only makes sense through the constraints of the covenant.

    • Rachel

      There IS one God, but that God, Elohim, we know is plural. It is important to remember that male AND female were created in the image of God. Former Prophet Spencer W. Kimball specifically said that women were created in the image of Heavenly Mother and another former Prophet, Harold B. Lee said even more specifically that Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother created us in Their image.

      God has many sons and many daughters. Just only one First Son.

    • WGC

      Steph, Ex-communication does not mean there is no communication. It means that one is removed from the covenants he/she took. Since Evangelicals believe that there is only one act, or moment, of salvation after which you are eternally saved and you can’t change it, this can be confusing. To those who are part of covenant—or sacrament—based churches this is not at all confusing. But remember that even the New Testament tells us there is a sin from which there no forgiveness, for which there is or pardon. and it can be interpreted that it is reserved for Christians, not non-Christians. The results of the Sin against the Holy Ghost would certainly result in an “ex-communication” in the sense you speak of.

  27. Boy did this notion spark some strong emotions! I am 58 years old and a convert since I was 21. When I first read Eliza R. Snow’s words about “I’ve a mother there…” it made sense to me. It seems the scriptures and the Gospel are full of patterns for us to follow. Adam and Eve were commanded to multiply and replenish the earth, thus forming families. We are told of the importance of the pattern of celestial marriage and family. Why would God give us the pattern of families if we don’t have one likewise in Heaven? I have heard the comments that we don’t mention HM in public out of respect for Her. When I consider all the daily swearing that take the name of God in vain as well as the name of Jesus Christ, I certainly would not want to hear the name of our HM disrespected like that. Personally I do believe I have a Mother in Heaven, but does it shake my faith that we don’t pray to her in public or worship her like the Virgin Mary, etc.? No. Do I think the “bretheren” are trying to hold me down as a woman somehow? No. I have a simple faith that I will find out all about this when I get back to my Heavenly Parents. I have no evidence that God has anything but my happiness and peace and best interest at heart. I have lived with and without the LDS church in my life and have found more happiness in my life with it. Do I have issues with some doctrine occasionally which causes me to pause and do some serious study, pondering, praying and temple attendance? Sure I do. I don’t take everything at face value. Are there some issues within the LDS church which I may not even completely resolve while in this life? Yes there are. Sometimes I simply have to have faith . Do I think I would be better off without the LDS church because I don’t completely understand everything? Absolutely not. I have been a member of or an attender of many different churches while growing up. When I found the LDS church, however, I felt the Holy Spirit was testifying to me that this was where I belonged and where I could serve Jesus the best. Thirty-seven years of life has not changed that opinion.

  28. “Understanding the embodiment of God in female form calls us to emancipation from distorted and distorting relationships to our bodies.”
    Wow. Yes. I am a non-Mormon, and I love this. This was a killer post. Thank you, Joanna.

  29. Saddened

    While the original post and many comments were thought provoking, I’m disheartened by the willingness of so many to discard truth the church teaches in hopes of justifying their speculation.

    When we believe we are smarter and more inspired than Gods prophet we have crossed a line to apostasy. I’m sure I’ll get pummeled for saying that but I take comfort in living and learning the doctrine that is revealed thru Gods appointed servants.

    • Rachel

      While I am uncertain precisely which comments or speculations you felt crossed the line, I am actually a firm believer not only in the Gospel (which I am) but in speculation. It is what Joseph Smith set out as one of the key ways to receive revelation. He learned all he could through the scriptures, thought about everything he learned and was puzzling over, and then asked questions, including and especially speculative questions. Answers may not always be correct, but the questions are important.

      And: many, MANY General Authorities have testified of Heavenly Mother, including saying very specific things about Her. I am in a unique (and lucky) position as I was one of the primary researchers on the BYU Studies article Joanna cited. It was presented fully two years before it was published, and one of the reasons for the slowness was because they were working closely with General Authorities. The Apostles knew this article was being written and approved it.

      • saddened

        It is not the issue of mentioning or accepting the concept of a Heavenly Mother that is the problem. The pattern of sealing relationships indicates to me that Heavenly Mother exists and I would be comfortable saying so in a Sacrament Meeting. The trouble lies in the desire of so many to take what is known and mingle it with their own speculation. Many of the reader comments on this post are a good example of that.

        Asking questions is good. We need to find our own answers but in that quest we should not dismiss what has already been taught. Joseph Smith sought is own answers- True. But he didn’t thumb his nose at God first, choose only the doctrine he wanted to accept, and then proceed from there. The apostacy lies in the refusal to accept God’s chosen prophets as the source of doctrine. Discussion, academic pursuit and ranting reader comments on a blog will not change the church. The belief that it can, shows a fundamental misunderstanding or deliberate refusal to accept God’s pattern for revealing truth.

        Describing our Father in Heaven as an insecure man who needs to subjugate women to make himself feel more important is a good example of crossing a line of apostacy.

        There is not some deep conspiracy to hide the truth of a Heavenly Mother. I’ve heard her mentioned in meetings before without causing any trouble. It’s when our own personal ideas or agendas mingle with doctrine that we get into trouble and can have negative impact on the testimonies of others. Study what is out there. Know what the prophets have taught. That is good, but don’t discard doctrine to advance your own agenda. Focusing on the saving doctrines will do more to bring happiness and understanding of God’s plan than speculating about what we don’t know or discarding what we do.

  30. Violet W

    Heavenly Mother. I love the idea of Her. She inspires me by her existence and by her grace. I don’t know anything about Her with my head; hardly anything at all. But my heart seems to know Her. If I need guidance as a woman, I think of Her and try to do as She would do. In the meantime, I trust Her and I trust Heavenly Father to lead me. I pray to Him only, because I trust Jesus also, and that’s what he told me to do. When I feel far away from Her, though, sometimes I ask Him to give Her my love and my message.
    Maybe this is an overly simplistic way to look at it. It seems to work, though, and I am at peace as I worship this way. It feels a lot like faith.

  31. courtney

    If Heavenly Mother were a true equal to Heavenly Father (equal in value and equal in importance), wouldn’t she have also appeared to Joseph Smith in the First Vision? Granted this is under the assumption the First Vision is factual (and there are many different accounts, so we can’t be 100% sure how it all went down).
    Seems like that would have been the ideal setting to introduce Joseph to the eternal nature and importance of families. If God the Father has multiple wives, it would not have been practical, perhaps, to have so many people there, unless, of course, only Joseph’s spirit Mother was present. I, for one, do not believe polygamy was ever inspired, so I do not believe it is an eternal principle.
    Of course nothing is ever this simple, but it leads me to think either Heavenly Mother (and therefore women) are not equally and eternally valued, or the First Vision never happened. I know which explanation I prefer.

    • Violet W

      Courtney, while I appreciate what you said, I think there is at least one other option that you haven’t considered. We don’t know what Eternity looks like, or what Heavenly Mother was doing that day. We don’t know what she does, or how she looks, or what her responsibilities are. We don’t know if she was there, and we don’t know who decided whether or not she should be revealed at that time. We also do not know the mind of God.
      While I agree it could have been a good time to teach Joseph about the eternal nature of the family (a fascinating idea I had not considered), I think there is too little information to draw either of the conclusions you presented.

  32. Anonymous

    I think that the reason we don’t discuss Heavenly Mother is because we really know nothing about her. We know she exists but beyond that all is speculation. It seems to me the silence is due to a lack of revelation. Despite our great desire to know more God controls the flow of revelation not us. Perhaps it is one of the great and important things yet to be revealed in Article of Faith 9.

    One of the interesting things about Mormons is they think that because they have additional scriptural insight that they know more than they do. Despite additional insights what we actually know about the eternities is small compared to the eternities.

    • RT

      God controls the flow of revelation? That statement flies in the face of everything we know about Joseph Smith and every prophet that has led the church since then. God doesn’t control revelation; we do, by what we seek and ask for. Go look in the D&C and peruse the historical circumstances of each and every section

      • WGC

        If God doesn’t reveal it, it isn’t revealed. That is the ultimate control. We can ask forever, but if it isn’t time to be revealed then it won’t be.

        We may be told it isn’t time and we will feel a comfort and confirmation of the Spirit that all is right. Or we may be given the full revelation, but be forbidden to share it with others, as only those who are ready are blessed with that revelation and God makes the determination of who is ready.

  33. Ryan Thomas

    Thanks for the post Joanna. You have a gift for speaking wisely and yet forcefully about difficult subjects.

    I believe that we do need to end the silence surrounding HM. It is quintessential Mormonism to recognize (with Joseph Smith) that if we do not understand God then we do not understand ourselves. How can anyone say that trying to understand one half of our Heavenly Parents is unnecessary or doctrinally misguided? As I see it, the effort to make greater use of the knowledge about HM that we have and the desire to seek for more knowledge actually could not be more true to the deep spiritual impulses that characterize Mormon belief and theology.

    For those that are interested, I have written a piece on HM based on knowledge that can be gleaned about her from the Old Testament in the fall 2010 issue of Exponent II called “My Search for the Divine Feminine” (you can google it). In short, I believe that a significant amount of biblical evidence suggests that the Holy Spirit was originally a name for the Heavenly Mother of the Israelite pantheon and that this knowledge may have been kept alive even into New Testament times.

    Thus HM may have been there all the time and we just didn’t know it.

  34. Steve

    because for some reason we desperately want acceptance into mainstream christianity

  35. Nellie Moser

    This is my first time visiting this blog, and I have to say that I have been very enriched by this conversation about Heavenly Mother. I didn’t read every comment, but I did read quite a few, and I noticed a theme emerging. It seems to me that the difficulty of thinking about or understanding Heavenly Mother is tangled tightly with the following question: “If she exists, how does she exist/what role(s) does she have relative to Heavenly Father?” People seem to fall along two sides of this line: HF and HM are more “one” than even the Godhead is traditionally defined (= the same???); or HF and HM have certain gender roles or influences in our lives.

    But I would suggest a third option. What if her existence and status as a woman have nothing whatever to do with how she behaves relative to HF? What if the two are simply a unit, made of two individuals with personality and agency, who merely go about their business dividing things up/complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses however works best for that particular couple? After all, isn’t that the model most of us reading this blog prefer in our own concept of a good marriage?

    Think of it like this. If the concept of eternal gender equality is to be edifying, then drawing lines about how each of them ought to behave once they get there would negate that. So maybe it’s a blank box to give us couples still in mortality the option to decide for ourselves what we want, rather than drawing out a proscribed path and calling it “the RIGHT way.”

    My concept of a happy eternity is one where I am able to explore who I am and how my life and actions can become ever more meaningful to others. So I think we should be explicit about understanding the connection between WHO and HOW we interpret Heavenly Mother to be, and what such interpretations imply for our and our children’s ability to craft, mold, discover, and define ourselves eternally.

  36. William Clayton

    I think the answer to the question “Why do we not talk about Heavenly Mother?” is much simpler than has been expressed in the comments here – especially those comments that insinuate that suppression of discussion regarding a Heavenly Mother is the result of sexism among church leaders. I think there are three reasons why many LDS are uncomfortable with the topic:
    1. We don’t know anything about Her. The scriptures are overwhelmingly mute on the subject. Thus, virtually all that could be said about Her would be purely speculative.
    2. It is a unique doctrine that puts us at odds with mainstream “Christian” theology, but unlike other unique LDS doctrines we do not have the scriptural resources to back it up (see #1).
    3. Whatever Her role in the heavens is, apparently Her role is not to be looked upon by us as a source of salvation from sin. That, of course, is the role of Christ, the Savior of all Mankind (male and female). That is really where our attention should rest. The gospel is very simple: faith, repentance, baptism, obedience and service. Everything else is a potential distraction. I believe focusing on these pure and simple core truths is why modern church leaders distance themselves from so many of the romantic “mysteries” of which earlier church leaders often indulged.

    How much do we really know about God the Father? He has made very few appearances to Mankind: He created Adam, He spoke at Jesus’ baptism, Stephen saw Him, and He introduced His Son to Joseph Smith. Virtually all that we know about God the Father is through our relationship with His Son (Jehovah/Jesus), who taught us that He and His father are perfectly alike. If not for that vicarious relationship, we would know precious little more of Him than we presently know of our Mother in Heaven.

  37. Scott

    I’m an active LDS man, and I think often of the doctrine of our Mother in Heaven. I avoid talking about my ideas at church, because I suppose it would ruin my reputation as a stalwart, or something.

    It seems logical to me that the Holy Ghost is actually our Mother in Heaven in disguise. The fruits of the spirit outlined in Galatians (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, tempreance) seem to embody all that is feminine. The Holy Ghost is also described as the Comforter, a motherly role. When I try to visualize my Mother in Heaven, I think of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost makes no sense as a man.

    • WGC

      I have seen this in a few other posts here. I like the concept, but one of the few things we know about the Holy Ghost is that he is a spirit. That would seem to be at odds with a resurrected Mother in Heaven.

  38. Jonathan Green’s response to “A Mother There” in Times and Seasons ultimately sums up what I’ve felt while reading and thinking about this:

    “Heavenly Mother is ultimately a doctrine based on speculation and analogy that lacks a foundation in scripture or in Joseph Smith’s recorded teachings or in revelation to any modern prophet. At the moment, Heavenly Mother appears to have bright prospects for the future, but not all doctrines born of nineteenth-century speculation have had a continued existence into modern Mormonism.”

    I agree with a William Clayton’s post where he points out how very little we actually know about God the Father, either. The vast body of knowledge contained in the Gospel has do to with the Savior, and for good reason.

  39. Dissappointed first time visitor

    Dear Joanna, your article is interesting, full of much hear-say and speculation, mixed with truths. Your words are very flattering, and your pride is also vey apparent. And judging from the comments, it appears you have emassed quite the following, as if people look to you for correct answers. But I believe your article begs the question, and please, I would actually like an answer. What is the doctrine on Heavenly Mother? You seem to be preaching that we all should know it. So Besides knowing the fact She exists, what prophetic statements exist to give us anything more to discuss? Because if there isn’t much actual doctrine about Her, as in, what her characteristics are like, what she has revealed to prophets, or anything else, as is revealed about Heavenly Father, how can you call others out for not “openly discussing Her?” because other than acknowledging Her existence, any further speech would be purely speculation. Speculation in itself is not only ok, but encouraged in God’s church, but it has no place to be passed as doctrine and discussed on a pulpit, in a classroom, or any other forum unless specifically identified as such. You might as well be discussing kolob or the origin of Gods, both of which also have very little doctrine which warrants any real discussion.
    Also,I don’t understand comments like, “I certainly don’t think LDS Church leaders are plotting… I think they’re preoccupied.”Please, if you do not believe these men are called of God as prophets to give us correct and full doctrine, please leave, and certainly stop blogging as a Mormon, as you do not represent Mormonism, and your words only drag others down with you.
    And ” don’t blame God for the silence.” Don’t you think if God (singular) wanted us to worship or know anything else more about Her than we do, that he would have said so? You know, because this church believes this is the fullness of times, and anything necessary for a successful life on earth and our exaltation has been revealed. So if you, or any of your followers believes She is really that necessary, than please, start your own church, or become an atheist, because either God or his prophets are liers. To follow up on your women equality rift, you could even give each other the priesthood….
    Oh, and @ Daughter of the Queen of Heaven, please, study the scriptures, particularly the D&C, then ask yourself these questions- Was Joseph a prophet? We’re all the prophets since then true prophets? Was there a break in the line somewhere? If so, where? And if you think God is no longer at the head, or if you don’t believe in God, as your posts seem to show, please find your truths elsewhere, as you are living a lie by staying affiliated with the church. If however, you find that indeed you do believe God lives, and that all prophets at anytime are his mouth piece as the scriptures teach, then repent, and fly right. Either way, you are currently a paradox full of contradiction, which is no way to live.

    Blog posts like this are not simply expressions of your personal beliefs that people can read and be uplifted by, blogs like this are nests of apostasy and breeders of falsehood. Where the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture, are tossed about like the waves of the sea to rip away the unkowing from their anchors of truth. How many people are better off for your half truths and supposition? What is your purpose? True knowledge is uplifting, as in you want to help others because you are happy. It doesn’t breed feelings of empowerment like “daughter queen bee” when she comments “it is up to us to lead the church and the leaders to follow.” That is not truth, it is vainity and being puffed up, and it is encouraged by posts such as this. If you want your blog to be an open forum of discussion than make it so. Aknowledge what you know and what you don’t. Don’t post stories of a friend of a friend who knew this happened, then write it off as proof, and show your prideful heart by saying things like “that was wrong…because I know!” or ” she asked with big fearful eyes, stunned.” Don’t write garbage posts like this that assume too much, and then relish in the praise your followers give while they stumble, conspire and think evil in their hearts.

    • Steve

      Mate – you truly think the followers of this blog “think evil in their hearts?” People genuinely longing to understand the nature of Deity and the role of a figure clearly referenced in our hymnal and in talks by our leaders…that’s what you call stumbling, conspiring, and thinking evil? Seriously?

    • Dear Disappointed,

      I have been a member of the church all my life, served a full time mission, married in the temple, held callings in Primary, and Sunday School, and currently teach Gospel Essentials. I love the church, the gospel and Jesus Christ. Yesterday I baptized and confirmed my oldest daughter. I am telling you this because I want you to understand that I am about as conservative of a Mormon as they come, so I understand the basis for the concerns you have expressed. As your friend and brother (and as one who has read nearly every AMG posting, not just this one) I would like to suggest a few rules of the road when posting on this or any blog dealing with spritual matters.

      First, be respectful of other’s beliefs, especially if you do not agree with them. I am am alarmed at the sarcasm and negativity in your blog post. The Savior taught us to avoid contention. It was the first thing he emphasized among the Nephites after He appeared and they were baptized (3 Ne 11:29-30). Be careful, then that in defending your beliefs, you do so in a way that He will approve (D&C 50:17-23).

      Second, be open to new knowledge, including from unlikely sources. Remember the Lord teaches us line upon line (2 Ne 28:30). If you have been guided to this discussion at this time, isn’t it possible you have something to learn that the Lord can teach you here more easily than by providing a revelation on the subject? Did you read, for example, the BYU Studies publication Joanna provided? I did, and I learned rather a lot.

      Finally, and most especially, NEVER suggest to anyone that they ought to leave the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because they do not fit with your idea of what a church member ought to be, do or say. The Savior made it clear that he has commanded all to come unto Him and told none to leave (2Ne 26:25). To do so in private would be an epic mistake with potentially eternal consequences. To do so in public only makes you look foolish and uncouth. It undermines the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood that should exist in the “bloggernacle” and It compounds the problem of trying to reclaim others to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And finally – and I’m saying this with love – it just sounds hypocritical to accuse others of pride while telling them to get out. Remember what Joseph Smith said about the professors of religion who should have been more concerned for him and less for the threat he posed to them? (JSH 1:21-23)

      • Hi Disappointed,

        Me again – follow up to the above. I want to apologize if anything I said in response to your post came across negatively as well. Sometimes it is difficult to gauge tone in a blog post so I just want to make sure that doesn’t get in the way of understanding. I respect the strength of your beliefs and appreciate you standing firm in your testimony.

        Also, since Joanna rarely replies to reader comments (she usually lets the audience have the last word), I thought I would try to reply to your question about the purpose of her blog. To me, one purpose of the blog, and why I read it, is thoughtful and considerate discussion from all, including those who are struggling with their testimonies, not members of our faith, or just learning a few things about the church. Another is factul information about the beliefs and history of the church, with a liberal-minded view to it. Granted these views are Joanna’s and not necessarily reflective of all members of the church, but Joanna is right up front that she is an “unorthodox” mormon and an “imperfect source” so even though I disagree with some of what she and other readers write, I do find great value in understanding it, if only to help me think things through from another perspective.

        If you agree that seems valuable, I hope you’ll continue reading and contributing to the blog. Your passionate call to follow chuch leaders is an important element that we can all benefit from.

    • Ishtar/Astarte

      A call to repentance! If this is how people’s thoughts and feelings are received, it’s no wonder no one dares speak of HM in Church.

  40. Kristi

    Thank you Joanna for your blog and the tough questions presented, and the great thoughts and insights from you and all the readers.

    Shortly after adopting our daughter, my husband and I began to question many things about the culture of the church. We became preoccupied for some time with the question around women in the church, our role on earth, our place in eternity, and whether or not women were considered equal to our husbands in the eyes of church members.

    It seems that many of our thoughts and opinions are driven out of personal experiences with teachers, bishops, and personal revelation, but none the less, this topic is very interesting to me because of my experience with the church’s culture around women.

    I have always felt that God held an equal regard for men and women, and did not specifically generalize our roles as humans so specifically as commonly thought. Perhaps that is why I’ve always felt that our Heavenly Mother was real and active in our happiness, and works in a way similar to to how an earthly mother and father both care and love for their children, both willing to listen and answer our prayers.

    Prayer is a significant and powerful tool capable of answering any and all questions. A question like this often warrants a sincere prayer, and although the answer does not come in a form that can be useful in a debate or intelligent and rational conversation, it can bring a great deal of peace and comfort to individuals, and for this I am very grateful.

    Again, thank you everyone for your insight and thoughts.

  41. Anonymous

    In my opinion we actually revere, respect and honour our Heavenly Mother the less we talk of her. If this doctrine and her existence were widely known her name would be blasphemed and dragged through the mud as Jesus and God’s names have been.

    Some things are sacred and should be spoken of with care. We do not cast pearls before swine.

    It seems that many here have pondered her existence and perhaps she is revealed best in moments of quite contemplation. But we also need to realize that just because we have personal thoughts and feelings relating to her existence they do not speak for the church, the do not constitute doctrine, and are for our personal edification only.

    To the modern liberated women this kind of silent role might seem diminutive and the less public role might seem subservient but to a celestial mind it might be something different. I don’t think celestial society is exactly like this lone and dreary world and so to compare her roles using the 21st century post enlighenment, post modernist critiques might be too assuming and not expansive enough. Let us also have faith that God is perfect, and loving and the kind of being we worship that all will be well for the women of this world as they assume their celestial roles. Let us also have faith to believe that God is the perfect being he is because he is supported and upheld by a women.

  42. Rick

    Interesting topic. I’m a convert since high school and have been active since then (35 or so years), and I have no question that HM exists, just about any real detail. I think Irwin was the first to suggest, and a few others have since, that the reason we generally don’t discuss is that we really have little knowledge. And yes, Rachel, I recognize that you were in a unique position to research the article to identify lots of stuff about Her, but in reality we really have little doctrinal information, and little real scriptural evidence other than oblique references. And keep in mind, we’ve been encouraged from the Gen Conference pulpits not to spend too much effort talking about God the Father extensively as well – primarily from a sacredness issue, and also from a lack of knowledge issue.
    I think one of the reasons that we are so cultural worried about the topic is that any discussion is fraught with speculation of all sorts – similar to the posts so far. Most people would be uncomfortable sharing this discussion in person, but online where we feel anonymous we can share all the little thoughts that come into our heads without fear. And people will overlay their personal concerns, interests and motivations onto the doctrine, and soon we are off as one person put it, “measuring the distance to Kolob” (BTW, that was good – I hadn’t heard that one before). This topic is oe that is ripe for speculation. That leads to dangerous water for many. Unfortunately, in the Church, there are masses of folks who have little idea what they really believe in, they just know they’ve felt the Holy Ghost confirmation. Then they get some tidbit of fact or seculation and it becomes sand under the oysters shell, and it grows and grows. Often it is over some simple issue. Go listen to a few of the “I’m an Ex Mormon” ads (in response to the “I’m a Mormon” ads). I’ve watched a number of them and most share the point where their belief failed them. Ideally, we’d all be mature enough to recognize speculation, and would go to the Lord for the answer. But oftentimes, it sends us off in strange waters and if not careful can lead us astray. I’m a strong proponent of open discussion, but make sure you can deal with the discussion before going there.
    I expect that is what’s underlying the discipline that folks get relating to this topic. Gail Houston was really getting into public dissension – I suggest that’s why she was disciplined rather than the specific topic. On the gentleman who spoke and was countermanded from the pulpit, I can’t say. It could be either that, or often local Priesthood leaders (who are just men – and may not have the education and depth on the topic) are well-meaning but not knowledgable may react out of ignorance. There’s a share of that as well. After all, “Many are called, few are chosen.”
    I suspect that there’s some concern as well as closet feminists (I use the term as a political label than the definition of someone supporting womens causes) who have some disgruntlement with what they see as a male-dominated leadership, try to use the HM to champion their frustration rather than try to understand why the order is the way it is. That discussion is all over the bloggernacle.
    To finish, I’ll just say that I believe the prophets and that we have a Heavenly Mother, but that Jesus Christ gave us the order to prayer, and that’s through him (as the Atoning one – not just because He’s our eldest brother) to our Heavenly Father.

  43. Anonymous

    Is it possible that the less we talk about our Mother in Heaven the more we honour her. Her precise role is one of the mysteries of the Kingdom God has chosen not to reaveal. Perhaps we need to trust His wisdom and not seek to counsel the Lord.

    It has always been my understanding that out of our Heavenly Father’s great love, respect for our Mother He has chosen not to reveal Her because Her sacred and holy name would be dragged through the mud and taken in vain as the Father and the Son’s names have been.

    It is God not casting His pearl and Her name before dogs and swine.

    In our motral world where we crave honour and recognition perhaps we fail to realize that quiet, selfless service without broad acknowledgement has it’s own rewards. Our Eternal Mother probably does not think in the very limited terms of feminism, post modern social critiques or the many ideologies we would like to thrust upon her.

    If She is to be know it is probably in quiet, humble, reflective moments the kind that don’t occur in the limelight.

  44. I found it interesting to read this article and the discussion that followed. I think my ideas are very mainstream. I believe men and women are not supposed to be alone, as was said of Adam and Eve and as we so often see in daily experience where the women and men around us provide different essential ingredients.

    The church does teach that we have a heavenly mother. It teaches this even in the primary manuals. It is something I’ve always thought true- developing my relationship with my Heavenly Father will also bring me closer to her. We don’t pray to Jesus, the Holy Ghost or Heavenly Mother but they all have a role and a closeness in our experiences. I believe that through discovering the divine attributes in the scriptures- and particularly reading Proverbs 31, we learn about our mother. I look forward to meeting her one day.

  45. Michael

    Amidst these comments, all of which I do not deny their sincerity, I would like to remark on a few things. I believe we are children of Heavenly Parents; there ought to be no doubt to anybody in the world that we all have a Heavenly Mother. I do not abbreviate Her to two letters when referring to Her, nor do I believe She is too frail to be referred to. I do not speak of Her often because I love Her and hold Her sacred. With so many people taking the name of God in vain, it is no wonder He has not revealed to us her sacred name, nor given us much canonical instruction about Her. If there was a book in the Holy Bible all about Heavenly Mother, how much more would our Father’s precious Wife (or Wives for sake of the universality of this thread) be degraded because of the wickedness of His children’s hearts?

    I do not worship my Heavenly Mother because I have not been commanded to. I do not seek to have a personal relationship with Her because I have not been commanded to. I do not pray to Her because I have been commanded to pray to the Father in Jesus’ name. I do sing “O My Father” every night to my sweet baby and I try to be mindful to have special reverence when singing about my Heavenly Mother during the latter part of the hymn. Our Church leaders, namely the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, do know the Savior and instruct us on how to worship and lead us to Him, leaving nothing in the shadows to speculate. As I use my time in worship and adoration, I do my best to follow Elder Oaks’ instruction when he said, “As we consider various choices, we should remember that it is not enough that something is good. Other choices are better, and still others are best. Even though a particular choice is more costly, its far greater value may make it the best choice of all.” Surely the best choice, in terms of developing a relationship with Deity, is with our Heavenly Father. Elder Holland declared, “Not often but over the years some sources have suggested that the Brethren are out of touch in their declarations, that they don’t know the issues, that some of their policies and practices are out-of-date, not relevant to our times” (I interject to say that the Church Leaders’ references, or supposed lack thereof according to comments made in this thread, to Heavenly Mother qualify here). “… I testify that the grasp this body of men and women have of moral and societal issues exceeds that of any think tank or brain trust of comparable endeavor of which I know anywhere on the earth.” I have no right to speak wickedly of the Lord’s anointed, except if I were to lead myself to be cut off from the Grace of Jesus Christ. These men embrace intellectuals in the Church, most are themselves intellectuals. I do not know God and Jesus Christ as the Apostles do, but I do believe their words. “As one who knows,” proclaims Elder Oaks, “I invite you to believe on my words.”

    I have a testimony that God is our Father, that Jesus Christ is His Only Begotten Son, that the Book of Mormon is true and President Monson is the Lord’s hand-chosen Prophet today. My Father in Heaven lives, as does my Mother in Heaven.

    • RT

      Michael, I’m glad you believe Heavenly Mother is not too frail to be referred to. However, I have a few questions:

      “I do not speak of Her often because I love Her and hold Her sacred”
      Do you love Heavenly Father and hold Him sacred? Does that keep you from speaking about Him?

      “With so many people taking the name of God in vain, it is no wonder He has not revealed to us her sacred name, nor given us much canonical instruction about Her”
      Do you have any evidence at all that Heavenly Father has intentionally kept information back about Heavenly Mother in order to protect her? Can you show that our lack of information is not a result of our own unwillingness to seek for further knowledge?

      “I do not worship my Heavenly Mother because I have not been commanded to”
      Do we truly worship Heavenly Father and Jesus only because we have been commanded to? I thought we worshipped Heavenly Father and Jesus because of what we believe they have done for us. We love (and worship) them because they loved us first (1 John 4:19). So the question is: has Heavenly Mother done anything deserving of our love and worship?

      “I do not pray to Her because I have been commanded to pray to the Father in Jesus’ name.”
      Have we in fact been commanded to pray only to the Father? I frequently hear the Our Father prayer of the New Testament cited as evidence that we should pray only to Heavenly Father, but was not this prayer merely given as a model for his disciples? The scriptures furnish several examples of people praying to Jesus (1 Cor 1:1-2; 2 Thes 2:16-17; Acts 7:59; 3 Nephi 19:18). Jesus teaches that we “must always pray unto the Father in my name” (3 Nephi 18:19), but I don’t see this necessarily as a commandment not to pray to Heavenly Mother. It all goes back to the reasons why we pray in the first place. Do we pray to Heavenly Father merely because we have been commanded to? Or do we pray to Him because He is our ground and source of strength and well-being? Which again leads to the question, Has Heavenly Mother done anything deserving of our worship and prayer?

      “Surely the best choice, in terms of developing a relationship with Deity, is with our Heavenly Father.”
      That statement hardly makes any sense. Some people find it easier to get along with one parent or the other, but I have never heard someone say that it is intrinsically easier to develop a relationship with a male parent. How can you say that it is a better choice to focus on one parent to the exclusion of another?

      “I do not know God and Jesus Christ as the Apostles do, but I do believe their words”
      Do you believe that church leaders are infallible, that is, that everything they say comes directly from God? Do you believe that their views and perspectives are uninfluenced by the culture in which they were brought up? One need not believe that church leaders are wicked or evil and still see them as human beings who think and interpret religious knowledge based on their own experience and cultural background. If you don’t believe that church leaders are fallible, then it is mighty difficult to explain things like the former institutionalized racism of the priesthood ban and the Negro doctrine.

      • Michael

        RT,

        Using the word “however” completely negates the prior comment which you tried to make a compliment. I am sorry you have decided to question the testimony of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. May the Lord bless you with all His love.

  46. Kathy

    Your original blog mentioned that women are not sealed to multiple husbands in LDS temples. I’ve heard this before. But this is not true. As a “convert” and new member, we sealed our Grandmother to two different husbands; with no problems. Julia had been deeply in love with her first husband. They had several children, and he died. “M” loved and was married to his first wife, and they had several children and she died. Family history says that an orthodox priest introduced Julia and “M”, and suggested they get married so that the children could have the benefit of a father and a mother in the home. Julia and “M” married, and children were born from that union, one of whom is my husband’s father. At the temple, we sealed Julia and her true love, along with their children. We also sealed Julia and “M” since their union produced my husband’s father. God is great enough to work out His plan for all this knitting together of humanity into the eternities. I am looking forward to being sealed to several men: of course my husband, but also my father, my sons, and my brother.

    • Renee

      This is the first time I have ever heard an account of a woman being sealed to two men. Thank you. That is extremely interesting.

  47. Wondering if someone can help. Been trying to access the BYU article and it asks for $2 to do so. Joanna in her article said it was a free download. Would there be any reason, being from the UK, that is why I’m being asked to pay? I suppose $2 is not a huge cost, so maybe I should just pay up :) A few others above mentioned reading the article, so I wondered did they have to pay too? Mother in Heaven is a fascinating subject. Thanks.

  48. Kevin

    Amen to Anonymous above – casting our (greatest) pearl before the swine – especially in this world today – is exactly the similitude that occurred to me. As to why we don’t pray to HM – just as concerned parents discuss between themselves the needs of a child, you don’t think HM could hear those prayers and give parental input on how they’re answered?

  49. Becky

    I was very disappointed in your article. It seems just way too much thought and silly angles portrayed just to find answers. Why isn’t it enough to trust in God and just have faith. I have no doubt that we have a Heavenly Mother, but I’m so grateful that we don’t speak of her very often. There is so much cursing in the world of Heavenly Father’s name and our Saviors name. Wouldn’t it be an absolute shame to have people cursing her name as well?

  50. Cameron Forbes

    Wendy’s suggestion is plausible I suppose. Notice though how the conversation always comes back to sex because of the fall. In Ur of the Chaldees where Abraham came from there was a Feminine Diety called Tiamut. She (like other women) tends to be mocked and degraded throughout the Apostasy of mankind especially regarding sexuality. Think of the Oedipus Complex for example which as I understand was revealed to the world through Freudian Psychology within our dispensation.
    If it were expedient than it would be made known.

  51. i read a lot of the comments and realized that Rachel made some beautiful and amazing points. i just skimmed the whole thing looking for Rachel comments and then read every word of her comments. thank you for sharing, Rachel!

  52. Sunny

    You know, I am really glad you have this blog because I have these questions, too. I’m glad I’m not the only one going, “Well…”

    The prophets aren’t perfect. They are humans like the rest of us. But there’s that famine of the word, unless you look deeper. And people seem comfortable being sheeples and saying, “Well, we must…blahblah.” You know, it is what is is, you know?

    We NEED to learn about our Mother, or Mothers, in heaven. We need to grasp those insights from Her because if we’re supposed to be like both of’ em, it doesn’t make sense to learn about only one.

  53. Blake

    I could not continue reading after I read “as if ‘God herself were fragile’. It has nothing to do with being fragile. It’s respect. Take for example, (a worldy example) someone talks bad about a mans wife. What is that man to do? Defend his wife of course. It would be wrong otherwise. Our Heavenly Father is protecting our Mother. Not because she is fragile. He is outing her before himself.

  54. Stop Being Children

    Just saying, this all seems like a great excuse for feminist-extremists to rant and rave about how “oppressed” and “unfairly” they are being treated. Again…
    I’m sure there is a reason Heavenly Father does not want people other than His appointed individuals talking about His Wife. And to say that it is because the church leaders are trying to degrade women is just insulting. Stop moping that you are being treated unfairly when clearly you are not. Seriously, grow up.

  55. Robert J Collins

    Elohim (אֱלֹהִ֔ים) is a grammatically plural noun for “gods” in both modern and ancient Hebrew language. It is a feminine plural which suggest that the name Elohim represents both Heavenly Father and Mother as One Whole…

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