A Mother in Heaven Sighting

April 17, 2006 | 58 comments
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Mother in Heaven recently made a cameo appearance in correlated materials. As I was preparing my Elder’s Quorum lesson for yesterday, I read the following passage in chapter 8 of Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff. Speaking about the place in the resurrection of those who die as children, Wilford taught:

Our children will be restored to us as they are laid down if we, their parents, keep faith and prove ourselves worthy to obtain eternal life; and if we do no so prove ourselves worthy to obtain eternal life; and if we do not so prove ourselves our children will still be preserved, and will inherit celestial glory. This is my view in regard to all infants who dies, whether they are born to Jew or Gentile, righteous or wicked. They come from their eternal father and their eternal mother unto whom they were born in the eternal world, and they will be restored to their eternal parentage… (Id. at 85, emphasis added).

One might argue that the eternal mother and eternal father referred to are the earthly mother and father, but I don’t think this is correct. First, Wilford is clearly addressing his remarks to parents who live when their children die, so it doesn’t make sense to read him as referring to children who die returning to their earthly parents. Second, such a reading would require that we think that parents are also the parents of their children’s spirits. The doctrine of spirit birth is somewhat debatable, but I have never hear it suggested that earthly parents are the parents of their children’s spirits.

I think it is fitting that we get a Mother in Heaven reference from Wilford Woodruff. The most common citation for this doctrine is Eliza R. Snow’s poem/hymn “Oh My Father,” which Wilford Woodruff declared to have been written under inspiration. I don’t know if it makes much sense to read the tea leaves on the inclusion of this passage as a prelude to anything else from the Church on the topic of Mother in Heaven. Probably not. On the other hand, it is nice to see her showing up from time to time.

58 Responses to A Mother in Heaven Sighting

  1. Wacky Hermit on April 17, 2006 at 6:54 am

    I think we long for our Mother in Heaven, but like all children we sometimes have to deal only with our father, and our earth life is one of those times.

    (I want my mommy! But my daddy loves me too.)

  2. Chad too on April 17, 2006 at 7:44 am

    I noticed that yesterday too. No one in the HP group said anything, which means that a) they didn’t catch it, b) it didn’t even faze them, or c) they were asleep. Even odds on any of those three.

  3. Jed on April 17, 2006 at 7:54 am

    Heavenly Mother makes an official, though slightly less direct, appearance all time–through the phrase “heavenly parents” used in General Conference prayers and talks. The most recent usage came a few weeks ago.

  4. Coffinberry on April 17, 2006 at 8:06 am

    Studying up last night for a sacrament meeting talk next week (on the family… on, of all things, our anniversary, and of all weeks, the one I’m studying Roe v. Wade, Casey, Bowers v. Hardwick, and Lawrence), I read again the Family Proclamation, and started in on the transcripts of the latest world-wide broadcast. Elder Bednar’s “Compelling Doctrinal Reason” #1 struck me as relevant to this conversation: “The natures of male and female spirits complete and perfect each other….” I couldn’t help but stop a moment at the point and ponder the perfection of the Father, and realize that therefore, he was not perfect without Mother.

  5. Lamonte on April 17, 2006 at 8:09 am

    An institute instructor I had once suggested that the reason we don’t hear much about a Mother in Heaven is because the Father wants to protect her from the ridicule of the world that sometimes accompanies such a position. I thought it was a nice image and not at all chauvinistic. He offered no doctinal proof of that suggestion but I have personally chosen to agree with him.

  6. queuno on April 17, 2006 at 8:10 am

    I noticed it when I was preparing the lesson (I taught it in EQ yesterday), but the passage got left on the editing floor during the actual lesson.

  7. Mike on April 17, 2006 at 8:40 am

    Everything in the manual got left on the editing floor at our ward this week. A discussion on the mother in heaven would have been positively mainstream in comparison. We had a couple of guys who just would not shut up. One is a new member and I think he has some mild learning disability and he loves to hear himself repeat what has just been said. Another is a reformed drug addict, rather articulate and intense, but his thought processes are extremely illogical, bizarre and non-linear. Possibly a little schizo-affective stuff going on too, I’m no shrink. At one point another intelligent member raised his hand and sarcastically asked what page are we were on now, which made everyone laugh at the idea that we were actually on any page. After the lesson the instructor told me it was by far the worst lesson he had ever taught.

    I had this thought, perhaps grossly distorted. It seems that when the lesson material is vanilla bland and boring, the intelligent people sleep. The nut cases come out of the wood work and run wild and ruin the lesson. I guess that is better than the high priests who all just sleep.

    I also don’t know if I am one of the intelligent people or just a slightly better read nut case. I like to liven the lessons up, but in a good way. It doesn’t always work.

  8. Wilfried on April 17, 2006 at 8:59 am

    “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” does acknowledge our Mother in Heaven in the phrase “heavenly parents” Jed (3) also pointed out. The fact that it appears in such a recent, central, and widely quoted document is not insignificant:

    “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.”

    But, at the same time, I think no need to probe deeper into it than what our Church leaders feel fit to state.

  9. Loyd on April 17, 2006 at 9:09 am

    I was talking with a co-worker last week about the possibility of a future time when desires by the Church to appear more mainstream were discarded and our hidden Mother in Heaven was able to be discussed and worshipped more openly, and the liberating affect it can have on women (Jill Derr gave a wonderful talk last year at UVSC about Eliza Snow’s liberating relationship with God the Mother). My co-worker replied, “How would the men in the church be able to handle the change in power that a female deity could elicit?” I think that well answered the reason why She is absent from our discussions and worship.

  10. a random John on April 17, 2006 at 10:34 am

    You mean you guys don’t just watch videos in EQ?

  11. Bryce I on April 17, 2006 at 10:37 am

    Some of my musings on why we might not speak of Heavenly Mother more than we do, based on my own experiences as a parent.

  12. gst on April 17, 2006 at 11:00 am

    Try Chapter 2 of “Gospel Principles,” which we use as a text for our Gospel Essentials Sunday School class for new members, investigators, and Gospel Doctrine refugees. It’s titled “Our Heavenly Family.”

  13. Loyd on April 17, 2006 at 12:10 pm

    #12 – Imagine a child getting up in sacrament meeting and giving a talk about her family. She talks about her dad. And then she talks about her dad. Then she talks about her brothers and sisters. She talks about her dad again. She ends with a little more about her dad, and closes her talk.

    Her mom sitting in the chapel breaks out into tears and feels unloved and absent.

  14. Anon on April 17, 2006 at 12:42 pm

    I have my own theories about why the mention of HM is semi-taboo, and never occurs except alongside HF. To our knowledge, she plays absolutely no role in creation. She’s inaccessible to would-be worshippers. I think it’s clear she’s an appendage to her more powerful, infinitely more important Husband, the One with the personality and the competence. After all, HF is the supreme member of the Godhead. HM is not a part of the Godhead at all. So it makes sense for us not to bother interacting with her.

    This would also explain why HF is allowed to make decisions for HM (keeping her hidden to protect her delicate sensibilities), whereas the reverse would be unthinkable.

  15. Jim F on April 17, 2006 at 1:01 pm

    I’m pleased to see that the teaching that we have a Heavenly Mother isn’t being ignored, but I don’t know how we could say anything more about Heavenly Mother except that she exists. We have some speculation by various members–mostly, it seems, speculation about why we don’t know more–but nothing else has been revealed. Perhaps more will be revealed. Perhaps we should ask for more to be revealed. But right now, nothing has been revealed, so there’s nothing to say.

    It isn’t like President Hinckley knows more but just won’t tell us.

  16. mullingandmusing (m&m) on April 17, 2006 at 1:54 pm

    #13
    I think that’s a little extreme. Do you really envision Heavenly Mother weeping because we don’t talk about her? That borders on the ridiculous. There are those in the audience who wish they could have heard more about the mother in your little story (as there are some who are bothered by a lack of open mentioning of Her), but I am convinced that She is completely fine with the way things are.

    I also feel very strongly that, as exemplified in #4, we can learn about Her as we ponder and study what we already have. I would submit that we really don’t know that much about Heavenly Father except in the abstract. Anything we do know about Him in terms of character traits I think can be extended to Heavenly Mother as well — they are one (we can know that because even in mortality husband and wife are commanded to be one). I wonder if perhaps there is more in the earthly patterns that are taught that are similar in some way in the next life….
    D&C 130:1-2
    1 WHEN the Savior shall appear we shall see him as he is. We shall see that he is a man like ourselves.
    2 And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy.

    I wonder what “the same sociality which exists among us here” will look like when “coupled with eternal glory”…. Is there something there we could learn about our heavenly parentage?

    I tend to think perhaps the prophets have given us more than we think. Look at the scriptures such as the above and the Pearl of Great Price (which refers to what the Gods did in the premortal). Look at the Proclamation and talks to which Jed referred (3) (and lessons that have cameo appearances, like this one Nate brought out). I also think there are things to learn in the temple as well regarding the order of things in the next (or other) sphere. Perhaps in wanting to know more, we should keep our eyes (physical and spiritual) more open for other “cameo” appearances and let the Spirit teach us more about our heavenly parentage instead of expecting the prophets to give us specifics. Maybe She is one of those “mysteries” (those things understood through the Spirit) that we won’t ever get specifics on over the pulpit. (As a possible parallel….we don’t hear a lot over the pulpit about what the temple ordinances really mean, but that doesn’t mean such information is not available to us (or that we should wait to hear about things over the pulpit to understand them!))

    I think we should also assume there is a reason for all of this, although speculation about such reasons gets a little risky because I don’t anyone really knows why (and if they do, perhaps it’s something that should be left unsaid)….

    Alma 12:9
    …It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.

    It is my opinion that perhaps we would each learn more about Her if we expected less to come from the prophets directly and pondered more and sought to give more “heed and diligence” to what we already have. Either we would then have more “grant[ed] unto” us collectively through our prophets because we receive well (collectively) what we have been given and thus are found ready for more (see 2 Ne. 28:30), or we would be more in a position to receive inspiration individually on the mysteries of the kingdom.

    On a related note, I get the feeling (from other conversations I have had and read) that very often, those who are frustrated that we don’t hear more about Heavenly Mother blatantly don’t much care for what we have already been given (e.g., the Proclamation). I’m hard pressed to think we (as a church, anyway) will receive any more until and unless we receive what has already been given. I think that applies to the individual level as well. I would imagine that any revelation on Heavenly Mother would very likely be an “eternal glory” version of the Proclamation. (Consider, for example, the concept that “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual pre-mortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” Is there something in there that can help us learn about Heavenly Mother?)

    “Blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more….” (2 Ne. 28:30) That’s an awesome promise!

  17. mullingandmusing (m&m) on April 17, 2006 at 1:55 pm

    #14
    So men here are told not to dominate their wives, but Heavenly Father does? Please.

  18. StealthBomber on April 17, 2006 at 2:25 pm

    First of all, when we reference God in the abstract, it is important to note that God is not a man. God is a man and a woman. (Neither one without the other). Secondly, although we pray to Heavenly Father His direct contacts with mortals is also extremely sparse. Thirdly, it may be very possible that the omission of references to a Heavenly Mother is because there are many Heavenly Mothers. Heavenly Father may be the only God that we share in common.

  19. mullingandmusing (m&m) on April 17, 2006 at 2:52 pm

    #17
    …which possibility is perhaps an illustration of why we don’t hear more. Obviously, if it were essential to our salvation, and/or if we were ready for more, we might hear more. But, it’s not essential to salvation to know more and perhaps we wouldn’t be able to understand if we did know more — and perhaps it would just raise more questions that can’t be answered in this sphere.

  20. mullingandmusing (m&m) on April 17, 2006 at 3:58 pm

    oops…my #19 should have referred to #18. sorry.

  21. Heather O. on April 17, 2006 at 4:20 pm

    Anon said “I think it’s clear she’s an appendage to her more powerful, infinitely more important Husband, the One with the personality and the competence.”

    Is that a joke? I mean, was that a serious statement? You are saying that Heavenly Mother is weak, unimportant, has no personality, and is incompetent? I don’t think that’s clear at all. Yours is an offensive statement about a doctrine that is not fully articulated by the church, and certainly well beyond the bounds of what has been revealed. Well, it adds some clarity about what you think about women and marriage, I guess.

  22. Heather O. on April 17, 2006 at 4:31 pm

    Also, the whole, “It’s not essential for our salvation, if it were, we would hear more” argument isn’t all that compelling either. Is it possible that the Saints today are not faithful enough to handle certain doctrines of the eternities, and THAT’s why we haven’t heard about them yet? Certainly there are several examples of times when God has taken away or withheld powerful doctrines and laws from a people who were incapable of understanding or unwilling to obey that were, in fact, necessary for salvation.

    I think Jim F. is spot on. We don’t know very much about her, and so there isn’t much more to say than it has been revealed that she exists. Still, just because God has chosen to keep us largely ignorant about our Heavenly Mother shouldn’t translate into “she’s not that important.” THAT’s a thought that makes reason stare.

  23. Heather O. on April 17, 2006 at 4:36 pm

    Oh, I just read Mulling and musing #16. Excellent comment, thanks.

  24. Kevin Barney on April 17, 2006 at 4:58 pm

    I think there is an interesting possible angle to gaining more knowledge about her that hasn’t really been explored in a thorough way yet.

    We assume that revealed knowledge about her would have to come from a modern source. But there is actually a fair bit about her in ancient scripture. Now, what is there is obscured and requires scholarship to dig it out. But it is also part of a scholarly picture that really meshes well with the LDS understanding of God generally. You can see some tentative comments in this direction in my article, “Do We Have a Mother in Heaven?”, here:

    http://www.fairlds.org/pubs/MotherInHeaven.pdf

    I have thought about writing an article for Sunstone or wherever trying to catalog what we can know or infer about our Mother in Heaven from ancient scriptural sources. It wouldn’t be a huge catalog, but it would definitely be more than nothing.

  25. lief on April 17, 2006 at 5:34 pm

    There is a seldom sung hymn that makes another oblique reference to “heavenly parents” – I think it is called “Oh What Songs of the Heart” The hymn is sung much more frequently in Japan, where the translation breaks it out into “heavenly father and mother” to get more syllables where needed.

  26. RoAnn on April 17, 2006 at 7:33 pm

    Bravo, mulling&musing (#14). Bravo, and amen!

  27. RoAnn on April 17, 2006 at 7:36 pm

    Oops, I can’t type straight. I was referring to M&M’s post #16!
    As to Anon’s #14, I fear I cannot agree at all.

  28. Melinda on April 17, 2006 at 10:24 pm

    Lamonte in #5 said: “An institute instructor I had once suggested that the reason we don’t hear much about a Mother in Heaven is because the Father wants to protect her from the ridicule of the world that sometimes accompanies such a position. I thought it was a nice image and not at all chauvinistic. He offered no doctinal proof of that suggestion but I have personally chosen to agree with him.”

    I can understand the appeal this rationale might have, but examined from the woman’s point of view, it is lacking. Can you imagine telling your wife that, in order to protect her from the disrespect and ridicule that teenage children might inflict upon her, you’ve decided she should simply disappear from their lives. You’ll never tell the children anything more than that she exists and that you love her. Would your wife be content with such an arrangement in mortality? Seriously – to have her children cut off from her completely to protect her husband from the pain of seeing her ridiculed and disrespected? If she knows children can cause pain, and she still wants to mother them, would you keep her from that?

    Personally, I think an exalted heavenly being would be strong enough and dedicated enough to handle any amount of ridicule from her children. If motherhood is truly the most divine calling a woman can have, then the most Divine Woman of all surely doesn’t shrink from it because her husband fears disrespect from the children.

    The image of Heavenly Mother locked in an ivory tower to protect her form her own children does not square with the idea that she is equal to her Exalted Husband. It also pays no attention at all to whether or not HM wants to be protected from her children. I assume HM agrees with God’s reasons for not revealing more about her. I can’t imagine she agrees with the idea that she’s too holy and sacred to raise her own children. And I can’t imagine that she’s afraid of us.

  29. Mark N. on April 17, 2006 at 11:20 pm

    With regard to http://www.fairlds.org/pubs/MotherInHeaven.pdf, it seems to me that an article that attempts to discuss the topic of “Mother in Heaven” without addressing the content of Edward Tullidge’s “Women of Mormondom” (the relevant chapters have been conveniently removed from GospeLink) has done its readers a disservice.

  30. Loyd on April 18, 2006 at 1:07 am

    #16, M&M, much of the dissatisfaction with current discussion of HM is because of disregard for the tokenism offered in the Proc and other current places, but with the suppression of discussion that was prevalent in the latter 19th century of the Church. Women who have been just as open as Eliza Snow was are now told to stop and disciplined for continuing. Last year Jill Derr and Margaret Toscano gave almost identical papers at UVSC. Derr spoke about Snow’s relationship with HM, Toscano talked about her own. The former is allowed today if done in a historical sense, the latter is condemned and punishable by our patriarchal leadership.

  31. mullingandmusing (m&m) on April 18, 2006 at 3:14 am

    #30
    I appreciate you explaining some of this to me. Why are your thoughts on the why? I sense some level of frustration that this is so. But I am idealistic enough to think that there are reasons why this is so. I wonder, for example, intent and heart behind what happened in history might be different with what happens in our modern-day culture (with the pervasiveness of feminism and such).

    Or maybe things weren’t so “rosy” back then either. Consider the following from Encyclopedia of Mormonism:

    “In 1854, she [Eliza] and her brother Lorenzo founded a Polysophical Society, where a select group of friends met regularly to perform for and address one another. Some of her most thoughtful writings were composed for those occasions. The assembly displeased some Church authorities, and so was discontinued in 1856.

    Sometimes I hear people complain that our history is whitewashed by the Church today. On the other hand, I have seen more than once when our history is also wrongly held up as “the better time.” I wonder if this might fall into that category.

    From my experience, this is a loaded issue that also often (not always, but often) includes some level of contempt for priesthood and prophetic leadership and counsel (at least I have seen that attitude rear its head in various cases that I can think of). Rarely is the situation (esp. in a public setting) where focusing heavily on Mother in Heaven isn’t also tied with some sort of defiance toward the way things are (again, at least that is the feeling that I get)…pushing the envelope (and then being surprised when called on it). I do not understand this approach, because I firmly believe that this can be akin to the “spirit of contention” that the Savior condemns. I also believe the best way for us to maximize our gaining of knowledge is to accept the prophets’ words and the Way Things Are…and ponder what we have to learn more about what we don’t have.

    Please do not misunderstand me. I think it’s wonderful to try, on a personal level, to understand more about our heavenly parentage. But if Heavenly Mother is so deliberately veiled from our general knowledge, I have a very difficult time feeling comfortable with extensive public discourse about Her. Such public discourse seems to me to be against the order of things. Any revelation or inspiration that might come in this regard should be kept personal. Doctrine relative to the nature of God that is applicable generally needs to come through the right channels (or at least validated by them). It also be in line with revealed doctrine and practice. (I’m not advocating at all, for example, even personal prayers to Heavenly Mother because that is against what the prophets (and the Savior) have taught. And surely any public encouraging of this is out of line.)

    In general, I have a strong belief that the best way to maximize our learning is to be in line with the prophets, because that allows the Spirit to flow most freely — and puts us in a place where we have the correct doctrinal foundations upon which to build as we learn more. Fighting against such foundations is counter-productive, and is what I find most ironic about topics such as this. The frustration just serves as a distraction from the very thing that is sought (more insight and knowledge).

    Forgive if I read too much into your specific post…this is more a general thought pattern here, not necessarily directed at your comment. I have seen this time and time again and am becoming more and more convinced of the power and knowledge that can come when we accept and receive what we have been given, and seek to understand instead of seeking to change what IS.

  32. sophia*rising on April 18, 2006 at 7:13 am

    #14, Anon. I read your post three times. I am hoping you are being sarcastic, and trying to illustrate how ludicrous such a position is. If so, it is effective, because the blatant disrespect is obvious. I am not a member, but my understanding is that men and women are exalted as a couple, as a result of taking out endowments, being sealed to one another, and living righteously, fulfilling their covenants to Heavenly Parents and to one another. How can we say that men and women are equally beloved of Heavenly Parents, and then say that Heavenly Mother is nothing more than an appendage, an unimportant, uninteresting non-entity. In order to have become Heavenly Mother, she started off as a mortal woman, who lived righteously, and progressed from glory to glory to get to her exalted state. At one point she was a woman just like your mother, or sisters, or friends, or, if you are a male, your wife. I think people tend to forget that, in the same line that “as man is God once was” so “as woman is God once was”. Heavenly Mothers do not simply appear out of nowhere. They diligently kept their covenants to their Heavenly Parents in the mortal realm, and strove for light and understanding.
    In reference to Heavenly Mother’s not actually having a hand in the Creation (someone mentioned this, I have to run to work, sorry for no reference) I would IMPLORE everyone to read “Eve and the Choice Made in the Garden”. I devoured it. It was such a testament to the importance of women in our Heavenly Parent’s great plan.
    Please, let’s all just try and remember that, regardless of if you think She should be spoken of or not, she had to have been every single bit as righteous as Him to get to where she is, and he couldn’t have done it without her. If we are to strengthen each other as iron sharpens iron, and rejoice in the righteous living of our brothers and sisters, and support them, I don’t see how we can downplay Her, as she represents the goal, right? The hightest reward for our endeavors, being entrusted to overseeing our own mortal realm, populated with our much loved children. I mean, I’m not a member, so maybe I don’t know. It just makes me wonder how any woman can really feel equal when, if Heavenly Mother is mentioned at all, it is as an “appendage”. How can you be equal as a mortal, with flaws and so little understanding, and then, in the Celestial Kingdom and beyond, as a resurrected being with a perfect body and limitless understanding of the great mysteries of this life, suddenly you are reduced to an appendage?? Like “wow, thanks honey for helping me get here…it’s been cool and all but uh…well, you know the ropes.” If, when She is spoken of at all, it is only with derision as she is relegated to a less than category, I don’t think a woman would think “Wow, that’s something I’m looking forward to! An eternity as nothing more than a nameless spirit child factory! Yay!” If this is what people believe, I wish they would come clean with it now, instead of giving lip service to the claim that women and men are equal, equally loved, equally important, and equally exalted as a couple. It makes no sense to go backwards in status and equality as you progress through the eternities.

  33. Kristine Haglund Harris on April 18, 2006 at 8:18 am

    “From my experience, this is a loaded issue that also often (not always, but often) includes some level of contempt for priesthood and prophetic leadership and counsel (at least I have seen that attitude rear its head in various cases that I can think of). Rarely is the situation (esp. in a public setting) where focusing heavily on Mother in Heaven isn’t also tied with some sort of defiance toward the way things are (again, at least that is the feeling that I get)…pushing the envelope (and then being surprised when called on it).”

    m&m, those are some pretty serious accusations. Do you have anything to back them up, besides just “the feeling [you] get”? The fact that people want to know more than what prophets have said publicly, or are unsatisfied by the answers we have doesn’t translate to contempt for prophetic authority–it’s exactly because people respect that authority that they want the prophets to say more.

    Your attitude of resigned contentment, while perfectly admirable, is not the only righteous approach to prophetic authority and counsel. (See, for instance, Miriam, the daughters of Zelophehad, Sarah Granger Kimball, Emma Smith, Aurelia Rogers, Susa Young Gates, Amy Brown Lyman, Belle Spafford,etc., etc. for examples of women who were unsatisfied with the solutions offered by priesthood leaders and vocally, publicly offered different ideas which were eventually adopted by priesthood leadership). There’s nothing inherently disrespectful about disagreeing, and especially not about hoping and asking for further light and knowledge.

  34. Dan Y. on April 18, 2006 at 8:28 am

    I guess one can never be completely sure, but I’ll go out on a limb and state that I’m fairly confident that #14, Anon was indeed intended to be sarcastic.

    On another aspect of this discussion, I’m don’t put too much stock in the notion that protection from ridicule is the primary motive behind the infrequency of HM mentions. After all, I would think that a perfected being such as Herself would be pained more by ridicule of her spouse than by ridicule of herself. For HF to allow ridicule of Himself but not of Her would, in a way, to be letting Himself off easy.

    My guess is that if HF really wanted to prevent discussion of HM, He could do so. After all, for as little as we know (and as infrequently as we talk) about HM, we know even less about the (possible) wives of the other two members of the Godhead.

  35. JA Benson on April 18, 2006 at 9:03 am

    I am not sure where I heard this theory, but I am intrigued at the notion, that MH is the Holy Ghost. I thought about this when I first heard this theory and it seemed right to me. The HG has feminine traits like being a “comforter�. The HG (to my knowledge) is not referred to as a “he� in the scriptures. I think that humans just assume that the HG is a “he� because HF and Jesus are of course male. So the notion that there is a female member of the Godhead loving and working in our behalf… well I really like it.

  36. Kevin Barney on April 18, 2006 at 11:24 am

    Mark N. #29, as author of that article I respectfully disagree with you. The article is a brief introduction to the topic, not an expansive historical or theological treatment. I don’t think this particular article would be strengthened by attention to Tullidge.

  37. Starfoxy on April 18, 2006 at 12:14 pm

    {disclaimer: I have absolutely no scriptural, or doctrinal basis for any of this, and it is all stricly my opinion.}
    Okay, most of us here would agree that, the world over, and all throughout history women have, in general gotten a bum deal (there are exceptions, but we’re not dealing with those). I refuse to believe that something so obviously unfair (if one accepts that women are not inferior to men) would not have escaped Heavenly Father’s notice, and yet the dialogue about treating women fairly is a rather recent development. (this has a point that relates to the discussion, I swear!)
    I refuse to believe that poor treatment of women could be so pervasive and so poorly addressed unless it had a specific purpose. In other words, Heavenly Father wouldn’t let women suffer like he did unless there was a very good reason to let them suffer. I believe that something about the fallen world required women to be subordinate in order to ensure that the plan of salvation would actually work out.
    So if one accepts that there is a valid reason to give women a bum deal, then there must be a reason to get women to *accept* the bum deal. I believe that if we had known anything substantial about Heavenly Mother then women wouldn’t have put up with being treated poorly. The woman who knew the most about Heavenly Mother (Sister Snow) has often been hailed as a strong and powerful woman. The men couldn’t keep her “in line,” if you will. I also think that as the proverbial end gets nearer more and more will be revealed about Heavenly Mother.

  38. mullingandmusing (m&m) on April 18, 2006 at 12:19 pm

    #35
    I need to find the reference, but the Holy Ghost is, I believe, indeed a He.

    #33
    Kristine,
    My reference was not meant to be a sweeping generalization, but it is not just a gut feeling. I have seen this kind of attitude (some level of contempt for leaders and their teachings) more than once. I didn’t mean to sound condemning of every woman who is interested in knowing more about Heavenly Mother and wondering if we might receive anything through our prophets. I’m sorry if I did. But there is a subset of women who seem to “demand” more information, while not accepting what the prophets have already given (for example, the Proclamation). I also was thinking about public situations where women have advocated praying to Mother in Heaven, which is clearly against scripture and prophetic guidance, and thus shows some level of contempt for priesthood leadership.

    Your attitude of resigned contentment….
    Do I sound “resigned”? I think perhaps you misunderstand me. I just think we underestimate what we already HAVE been given, and I think we should perhaps expect less of our prophets and more of ourselves. Al. 12:9-10 says we can know the mysteries of God in full, but the mysteries that are not given generally come to individuals. For example, we don’t demand more public discourse about temple symbolism, because we understand this is sacred and left for personal revelation based on readiness. But I have had personal experience with how I realized after receiving very clear revelation about the temple as I was studying that we had already been given keys to understanding the things I had learned — by an apostle of God. I have begun to realize more and more that if we have eyes to see and ears to hear, we could learn a lot more than we think we can. So, sure, there is nothing wrong with hoping for more knowledge. But maybe we ought not to expect all of that to come through the prophets as specifically as seems to be demanded at times.

    So, what if information about Heavenly Mother is similar to the sacredness of the temple? (Although, I would still argue that we really know very little about Heavenly Father, so I’m not sure what we expect to “receive” about Heavenly Mother. That said, I do feel strongly there are things we can learn about our heavenly parentage by pondering what we already have been given.) This is not simply resigned contentment. This is a desire to spend my time with what we already have been given, rather than thinking that somehow I can change the order of things. I don’t think we can necessarily look at the past and think that we can all be like the women you mentioned. I think we live in a time where we need to do more listening and less disagreeing, simply because I think, in the end, such disagreement will probably end up just being an energy drain and distraction. Wish if you will, but I really don’t think finding out more about Heavenly Mother is high on the prophets’ lists…so perhaps it’s not really worth wishing it was. Again, I don’t want to minimize how important it is to many people (esp. women). But I fail to see how internet discussions or public discourse would be expected to influence anything or anyone.

    There’s nothing inherently disrespectful about disagreeing, and especially not about hoping and asking for further light and knowledge.

    I think that depends. If one uses proper channels to do so, that’s one thing (although I am not recommending any specific action on this point…just speaking in generalities here). If disagreement is approached with a critical spirit, then that is another. Criticism of leaders is simply wrong. Hoping for more knowledge is one thing, but holding current revelations at bay until that more knowledge is received is another (e.g., “I will believe that we are equal in the sight of God when I hear more about Heavenly Mother” …one example of such an attitude I have seen.). Basically all the examples you gave were either women who had direct connections with leadership because of their callings (and/or because of the size of the Church), or those who used proper channels to make suggestions. But I don’t see this always happening today. Instead, there is ongoing discussion with no appropriate, orderly action taken. (I have seen this with other topics as well.) If action has been taken, then obviously the answer is no, so at what point do you think we should just accept what is and get on with life?

    I think there is sometimes an impression that the Church leadership is more lobby-able than it is, and I think we ought to spend more time figuring out what we have been given. But to each his or her own, I guess.

    Once again, apologies if I sounded like I was making sweeping generalizations. Just because I don’t feel a burning need to have prophetic revelation received about Mother in Heaven doesn’t mean I don’t understand that some people do. But I guess what I don’t understand is when a lot of energy is spent worrying about something that may not change for a long time (or sometimes, at all). It just seems counterproductive to me.

  39. mullingandmusing (m&m) on April 18, 2006 at 12:21 pm

    #37
    Very interesting thoughts, Starfoxy.

  40. William Morris on April 18, 2006 at 12:50 pm

    I’m fairly certain that #14 is satirical and meant to provoke a reaction. It’s not bad as a parody of some Mormon views; but it doesn’t do much to faciliate and further discussion. Which is the problem with satire generally.

  41. Kirke (Kiskilili) on April 18, 2006 at 1:19 pm

    m&m: Thanks for interesting and thorough comments. I hope I don’t sound like I’m making a sweeping generalization of my own, but my impression is that a certain contingent of church members becomes extremely nervous when topics such as HM come up and attempt to shut down all discussion. I’m not sure I understand exactly why.

    For my part, I think there is sometimes an impression that the Church leadership is more transcendent than it is, to the degree that it is absolutely above and beyond the changeable whims culture, and that nothing anyone but God says will have an effect any effect on our leaders.

    Could you cite your source for scriptural prohibition against praying to HM? I assume you’re referring to Jeremiah’s references to the “queen of heaven”??? (I’m not at all convinced this has anything to do with HM, so I don’t take the biblical authors’ animosity toward her worship as normative or binding with respect to our own attitudes toward HM.)

    I can’t find President Hinckley’s statement about this–someone help me out here–but if memory serves, he said essentially that we don’t pray to HM because he can’t find reference to her in the scriptures. (Am I imagining having heard such a statement?) I’m going way out on a limb here, but if he did actually make such a statement, it’s worth examining his epistemology. As I remember it, he did not say he had received a revelation that we should not pray to HM. He said he had read the scriptures and drawn conclusions from what they say, and more specifically, from what they fail to say.

    To me, this hardly sounds like the final word. After all, the scriptures have very little to say about motherhood of any type, a topic the church has nevertheless begun to emphasize in the last few decades. (I apologize in advance if I dreamed this entire statement up. :))

  42. Melissa Proctor on April 18, 2006 at 1:37 pm

    Kiskilili,

    This reference comes from President Hinckley’s
    “Cornerstones of Responsibility,” a talk he gave at a regional rep. meeting in April 1991.

    He said that had not found “in the Standard Works an account of where Jesus prayed other than to HIs Father in Heaven. . . I have looked in vain for any instance of a prayer to our Mother in Heaven. He said that he considers it “inappropriate for anyone in the church to pray to our Mother in Heaven,” and instructed those in his hearing to “counsel priesthood leaders to be on the alert for the use of this expression and to make correction when necessary. Such correction can be handled in a discreet and inoffensive way. But it shold be firm and without equivocation.”

    —Linda Wilcox “The Mormon Concept of a Mother in Heaven”

  43. Dan Richards on April 18, 2006 at 3:26 pm

    JA Benson (#35)

    I think Janice Allred took the view that the Holy Ghost is our Heavenly Mother.

  44. Melinda on April 18, 2006 at 3:31 pm

    President Hinckley recapped that talk to the regional representatives in the 1991 General Women’s meeting. It’s published in the Nov 1991 Ensign at p. 97.

    And I was disappointed with his statements about praying to HM. Essentially, he says he didn’t find anyone praying to her in the scriptures, so we shouldn’t pray to her either. I could have told him that everyone in the scriptures prays to Heavenly Father. He didn’t say he prayed about the issue, just that he looked at what’s been done throughout the ages and that should be good enough for us. I wish he’d asked God about it.

  45. A Lady on April 19, 2006 at 12:19 am

    I joined this church because I found out that I have a Heavenly Father AND a Heavenly Mother. That struck me as so true I could not turn away. And the missionary who baptized me said when I asked about her that she is more involved in my life than I can possibly understand now. And I felt that to be true.

    I have tentatively prayed to her in the name of Jesus Christ, and realized that this is not what I’m instructed to do, so I desisted. I did not feel chastened when I did so. Only re-directed.

    I think there is more than one Heavenly Mother and we occasionally meet full spirit-siblings. These people are special to us in ways we can’t understand. They are not necessarily found in the same birth-families.

    I know these things aren’t doctrine by any means. So I do not teach them. I am holding them out as thought-experiments.

    Why can’t we assume that those righteous spirits yet unborn are still receiving succor and companionship from their Spirit Mothers, who have plenty of worthy work with which to occupy themselves there, as our Heavenly Father and Savior work on the parts of the Plan that concern mortality and the post-mortal world?

  46. mullingandmusing (m&m) on April 19, 2006 at 1:12 am

    lovely thought-experiments, A Lady. I like the idea that perhaps we “bond” or “click” with those of our common spiritual birth families. Very interesting thought indeed.

    I can easily picture Heavenly Mother(s) doing just what you have described. This is a perfect example of how we might gain insight into things like this by pondering what we already have (e.g., earthly patterns, prophetic counsel on our roles, etc). Love it. I like thought experiments like that.

    I also loved your comment that you were “redirected” but not chastened…an example of the love of our Heavenly Parents — and of a humble, contrite child simply wanting to do what has been asked…and possibly learning along the way in quiet ways.

    Maybe you are one of my spirit birth-sisters. :) :) :)

  47. queuno on April 19, 2006 at 1:16 am

    Re #14 – Yawn. An obvious troll (especially since he signed it “Anon”).

  48. mullingandmusing (m&m) on April 19, 2006 at 2:23 am

    #46: It hit me as I was getting ready for bed that the positioning of my last sentence made it sound like I was tooting my own horn based on comments I made in the previous paragraph. That was not what I meant to do…all I was saying was that what A Lady said really clicked with me, so it made me feel a little kinship with her. Just wanted to clarify that….

  49. Aletheia on April 19, 2006 at 7:44 pm

    A really interesting discussion and one that I hadn’t seen on this board before. As an outsider, I hope I might be permitted a question or two.

    1. I recognize that the HF and the HM occupy a different theological universe but, do the LDS have any sort of Mariology, however attenuated? I’m assuming the doctrine is pretty close to the Protestant stuff on Mary but, what’s the view and what connection might you make between the Heavenly Mother and Mary (an analogy in their character, function?)

    2. Do those of you out there attribute the reticence to speak about the Heavenly Mother doctrinally – at least to non-members, perhaps – to an apologetics that takes itself to be dealing mostly with American Protestants? I know this can be a factor with Catholics and Orthodox when confronted by our Protestant peers. We sometimes just avoid talking about Mary because, well, you have to waid through so many misconceptions and misplaced accusations (idolatry is a big one) that it’s not worth the bother on first contact.

  50. Kevin Barney on April 19, 2006 at 8:53 pm

    Aletheia,

    I. I view Mariology and HM as theological cousins of sorts. To me, they spring from a common source. Although in general our view of Mary is probably very Protestant, I do think there is at least an analogy there, as you suggest.

    2. I hadn’t thought about it before, but I think you might be on to something as to at least one of the reasons for our reticence to fully embrace the doctrine of a HM.

  51. Wilfried on April 19, 2006 at 9:12 pm

    Interesting questions and suggestions, Aletheia. You made me think. As a former Catholic having grown up in a strong culture of Mary-devotion (Flanders, 1950s), I never sensed a relation between the Mormon concept of HM and Mariology. From my background and my conversion perspective — and I recognize this is personal –the difference seems enormous. I perceived Mariology, as I had known it in my childhood years in liturgy and folklore, as part of apostate traditions (sorry if this offends). Also, the Mariology I knew seemed to stand on its own, unrelated to God and the adult Christ. The Mormon concept of HM, on the contrary, became part of the revealed understanding of the Godhead, very closely related to it.

    Again, I speak from personal perspective. It may well be that Kevin (50) is right and that there are both appealing and rejecting factors, because of a deeper relation between Mary and HM.

  52. Loyd on April 20, 2006 at 1:31 pm

    Alethia, Keven, etc.

    I think a very textual reading of Lehi and Nephi’s vision of the tree of life advocates a Maryology of sorts, where Mary (white, beautiful, virgin) is represented by the tree (white, beautiful, precious above all- see Moroni 9:9).

  53. greenman on April 24, 2006 at 4:02 pm

    In that same vision of the tree of life (1 Nephi 11), Nephi actually sees the Holy Spirit and states unequivocally that “he was in the form of a man.” So the notion that HM is the Holy Ghost (#35) seems most certainly to be false.

    It is also interesting to notice the prevalence of the veil as a symbol incorporated into the cultures and mythologies all throughout the world, most significantly as it is used to adorn a woman. One could even go so far as to say it is an archetypal image inherent in our collective psyche. We see it in our own LDS ceremonies. Beyond the fact that our Heavenly Mother exists, we know nothing about her. She is, so to speak, behind a veil.

    Perhaps another symbol employed by the Church could shed some additional light on the subject of our Heavenly Mother. I speak of the beehive. For anyone familiar with the nature of bees, you will know of their distinct social organization and behavior. Female members of the hive far outnumber the males, just like they would in a polygamous society. Firstly, there is a queen. Secondly, there are workers who are all female. And in the minority, there are the drones, the male inhabitants of the hive who are of little use beyond providing seed. Perhaps the metaphorical meaning of the hive as perceived within the Church goes beyond the standard interpretation of “industry”. I’m not at all saying that there is actually some queen of the universal hive, but perhaps there is some deeper connection between the beehive symbol and the nature of the ideal society that we as Church members should be striving to build.

  54. Heidi Ann M on April 25, 2006 at 9:35 pm

    I laugh when I think of a talk I heard by one of the apostles (I think, it could’ve been Pres. Hinckley) once. He described how when their kids would call the house, if he answered, they’d say, “Oh, hi Dad. Is Mom there?” He said something about being chop liver or something. Everybody laughed. For myself, I don’t feel like I’m ignoring HM by not praying to her. When I think of her and ponder about her, I feel like she knows that I am, and that I long for her and love her as much as HF.

  55. grego on April 26, 2006 at 9:56 am

    #53 “And in the minority, there are the drones, the male inhabitants of the hive who are of little use beyond providing seed.”

    my pleasure, my pleasure, to have one small part in this all. :)

  56. grego on April 26, 2006 at 10:03 am

    #52 “I think a very textual reading of Lehi and Nephi’s vision of the tree of life advocates a Maryology of sorts, where Mary (white, beautiful, virgin) is represented by the tree (white, beautiful, precious above all- see Moroni 9:9).”

    Brought this up in class years ago as we were discussing “people as trees” (Dante?). Raised some eyebrows, but I though it very cool. There is definitely a reverence for her–how could there not be?

    #32 “Heavenly Mothers do not simply appear out of nowhere. They diligently kept their covenants to their Heavenly Parents in the mortal realm, and strove for light and understanding.”

    Brought tears to my eyes. Thanks.

  57. Steve on April 26, 2006 at 8:27 pm

    “The doctrine of spirit birth is somewhat debatable, but I have never hear it suggested that earthly parents are the parents of their children’s spirits.”

    I don’t personally believe it, but I have heard it suggested. My first stake president spoke at a priesthood meeting once and asked “Have any of you brethren ever wondered how many children you had in the pre-existence? I know I had at least 10.” He and his wife had 10 children at that time.

  58. mullingandmusing (m&m) on April 26, 2006 at 11:44 pm

    #57
    Couldn’t that have just been referring to being “assigned” children in the premortal? (Still not doctrinal (unless you consider Saturday’s Warrior doctrine- hee hee), but possible.)