The Mormon conception of God encompasses both a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother. However, we almost never talk about our Heavenly Mother. In this series, I’ll give you a peek into my own personal journey toward learning to know my Heavenly Mother.
Like many Mormons, I grew up always knowing about Heavenly Mother, but never really talking about Her. And honestly, the relative absence of my Heavenly Mother didn’t ever bother me much. In fact, when I thought of Her at all, I thought of Her as a sort of special, beautiful secret, or an esoteric doctrine I found aesthetically pleasing. To me, She was more of an idea than a real person; certainly She didn’t seem as “real” as God the Father or Jesus Christ, whom I heard about every week at church, and with whom I was encouraged to develop a personal relationship.
Fast forward to approximately a year ago. We’d had a serious marital shakeup, then a couple of difficult financial years, and several international moves. I was emotionally and physically exhausted. What I really needed was to drop off the face of the earth for a sabbatical on some sun-drenched desert island. So we did the next best thing. Since we were already on that side of the world, and it was the closest reasonable approximation to otherworldly escape, we moved to a sleepy beach town in the balmy little North African nation of Tunisia. And for the next few months, every morning I would walk down to the beautiful Hammamet beach, sit on the shore above the waterline, look out at the brilliantly blue sea and sky, and just be still.
After a while, I started to bring along a notebook so I could set down my feelings and try to sort through them. And then one day I began to write poetry. Poetry has always been both cathartic and enlightening for me. In a philosophy class once, my professor explained that the Greeks believed poets had a kind of madness sent from the gods, which enabled them to write things that they did not know or understand themselves. That made sense to me, since I find that reading my own poems is essentially a similar experience to reading other people’s. The oddest, and sometimes the most profound things pop up in poetry without ever passing through the conscious mind.
Much of the poetry I began to write on the beach in Hammamet dwelt on religious and Biblical (or Book of Mormon) themes. Among others, I wrote about Eve, Mary, Jesus, Noah, Lehi, and Sarah (with whom, for obvious reasons, I’ve always felt a kinship). I explored how their struggles and triumphs mirrored and illuminated mine, and found solace and understanding in their stories. And then one day it happened. Heavenly Mother appeared in one of my poems.
After I’d written it down, and then polished up the rhyme, meter, and internal assonance and consonance till every word was perfect, I just sat and stared at it. There She was, unaccountably, but undeniably. I hadn’t set out to write a poem about Her. She had just appeared, unbidden, like a rare pearl unexpectedly washed up on the sand at my feet.
It was a strange experience for me. The absence of discussion about Heavenly Mother at church is nearly absolute, and many members believe the subject to be actually taboo. I felt I’d done something unwittingly subversive. I mean, we have this one hymn we sometimes sing (called, ironically, O My Father) that mentions Her, and occasionally a speaker in Conference will throw out the phrase “heavenly parents.” But a cursory search for “heavenly mother” on lds.org yields exactly 16 results. For perspective, a similar search for “heavenly father” comes up with 14,625.
This is the climate I was raised in, and I think it’s a fairly typical experience for Mormons. Who writes poems about Heavenly Mother? Those edgy people who run Sunstone Magazine, and complain that women never pray in General Conference, and agitate for the removal of the “gender ban” on the Priesthood, that’s who. Not I.
But somehow, I had done it. And I hadn’t just done it. I had read it, and I had felt it, and there She was, no longer just an idea, but suddenly as disconcertingly real as God the Father, as if She had somehow breathed life into Herself.
That first poem was like the opening of a floodgate. It was followed by several more, and then by a ravenous quest to learn more about Her, and find a place for Her in my mind and heart. I didn’t quite realize it then, but my life changed that day, on the beach under the sun with my notebook open on the sand. My eyes were opened to a ravishing new world.
Ten years ago, I spent a year and a half as a missionary doing nothing but teaching people about God, and watching them awaken to the delight of knowing Him. But I never knew how it felt to really yearn and wonder if God was there, until the truth sank deep into my heart that “God” means not only my much-loved Father, but also a Mother I was only beginning to know. That awakening has been the beginning of a journey that has changed not only the way I see God, but the way I see myself and everything else.
I talked of God to men who knew Him not,
Described His wondrous father’s love, and taught
Brave knees to bend, strong hands to clasp, and eyes
To close against the dark, rough voice to rise
Towards heaven; saw their faces lifted, whole,
A childlike passion kindled in the soul.
And I, who from my early, earnest days
Harked to His words, and walked in all His ways,
Talked with Him, told Him all my childish thought,
Poured forth my tender joys to Him, and brought
My sorrows to His feet, and left refreshed,
And never felt His lack, nor went unblessed,
I never ached or yearned for Heaven’s care
Until I learned I had a Mother there.
I have not been to this site much. The poem was beautiful. When I read the last line I started to cry. Maybe because I miss my mother? Maybe because it is true that we have a Heavenly Mother? I have read many, many articles about other cultures and ancient cultures and ancient traditions of cultures, etc.. and some believe in a higher female being who works with and alongside the higher male being. Thank you.
Poetry is a special kind of madness that reshapes reality and reveals truth is what the Greeks believed, a holy thing.
My reaction is to ask you for another poem like that, please.
Thank you for writing about Heavenly Mother. I would like to read more about what we imagine Her to be, just as we do with the myriad of paintings of Jesus and God. Searching for Her is more important to women than we recognize ourselves, I think.
I echo Rob’s comment: More like this, please! It was beautiful, and the last two lines have been echoing in my head since I first read them yesterday.
The “Part 1” in the title gives me hope that more is coming. :)
It has been my feeling for some time now that there is a call going out to those who are ready and willing to hear. A general awakening, if you will, to Her presence and reality. I look forward to the rest of the series.
I’m not sure how you “fast forward” into the past. I think you meant “rewind”. Nevertheless, your story is touching. I think women, more than men, relate to the concept of a Heavenly Mother. I, myself, have had a problem relating to men, because the men in my life have been weak, disappointing characters. I had trouble relating to bishops and stake presidents, etc., because of this this. I’m sure that when we had questions, concerns or problems in the pre-mortal existence, we didn’t solely pour our hearts out to our Heavenly Father. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if we went to our Mother more often. I’m looking forward to the time when I will be re-united with both parents. I’m sure the memories will flood back of our associations we held dear in a prior time. Thanks for your lovely poem!
This is a lovely post. Thank you so much for sharing. I’d like to share something that came to me (also unexpectedly, also while I was alone in nature, also a poem) more than a decade ago. . .
I don’t remember
in the mountains
I think I hear
an echo of
That was a really nice poem. I think the poem expresses the truth that the more we learn about heaven, the more we yearn. Or, the more we know, the less we know. Simple heaven/hell monotheism satisfies many people, and they are content within it.
I was very touched by this. Thank you.
Thank you for the beautiful poem appropriate for a delicate subject.
Wonderful poem. Thank you. Yours is, too, melodynew.
Thank you! I always felt it was taboo as well. I learned at an early age that not everything that came out of the mouth of a priesthood holder was the word of God. My mother finally broke down one day when I was sick and we had noone we could trust for blessing of the healing of the sick. My mother told me, “I have been thru the temple and they named me a priestess. I see no reason why as a priestess and a mother that I can’t give my own child a blessing that God will hear.” I trusted only her blessings after that.
I’m a new visitor to this site and just found this post. I’ve loved all these comments. My thoughts:
Thank you. So many of us yearn and ache to know our Heavenly Mother. If what we learn in the Temple is true, then we are to become co-gods (if you will) with our spouses. And if that is the eternal way of things, then our Heavenly Mother IS god! I had a moment of revelation last night- my husband and I knelt to pray before slipping under the covers for some much-needed rest, and before I knew it, as my mouth opened to begin the prayer, the words, “Dear Heavenly Father, and Mother” just spilled out. Immediately my husband stopped me and said he didn’t want to do that. I waited a few moments, continued on, then closed my prayer. Afterward, my husband shared his feelings with me that She may be there, but we don’t pray to her, just as we don’t pray to Jesus or Mary. A valid point to be sure, but once he rolled over I tried my best to stifle my sobs. “But she is God, too!”, my mind screamed. Never in my life had a ached to know her more than at that very moment. Your poem resonates within me. And although I will respect my husband’s logic and desire to limit our joint prayers to our Heavenly Father, I will not be so restrictive in my own prayers.
Your poem is beautiful. Thank you for sharing it.