Finding My Heavenly Mother, Part 2

 The same drive which called art into being as a completion and consummation of existence, and as a guarantee of further existence, gave rise also to that Olympian realm which acted as a transfiguring mirror to the Hellenic “will.” The gods justified human life by living it themselves—the only satisfactory theodicy ever invented.  

 – Friedrich Nietzsche


During part 1 I described for you my personal awakening to the existence of Heavenly Mother. In this post, I’ll explore some of the implications that discovery had for the way I view God, religion, and myself. (Also see parts 3 and 4)

It’s funny, it wasn’t until I became experientially aware of the reality of Heavenly Mother that I realized there is a gigantic hole in the way I had been imagining God. All of a sudden, in the midst of a deluge of male pronouns in scripture and hymn and church discourse, all I could hear was a deafening silence about the feminine side of God.

As Man Now Is . . . 

Women and men of many religious traditions seek out and worship versions of the Divine Feminine. But Mormon doctrine contains certain points that render a female aspect of God peculiarly relevant.

Part of Joseph Smith’s departure from mainstream Protestantism was his unorthodox view of the Godhead as completely separate individuals, and the even more radical proposition that God the Father and Jesus Christ have glorified, perfected, and immortal physical bodies.

Joseph Smith described the spirits of human beings as the literal offspring of God who lived with Him before birth. He taught that God the Father had at one time lived a mortal life like Jesus, and like us. From this followed our ultimate goal to return home to live with God. We were to eventually be not only with Him, but also like Him. This doctrine was encapsulated by Lorenzo Snow’s celebrated epigram: “As man now is, God once was. As God now is, man may be.”

I’ve always found this idea inspiring. Just as our children look forward to growing up to be like us, we look forward to growing up to be like God. And the trials, pains, and joys of human life are the best possible preparation we could have in our progress toward that eternal goal. As Nietzsche once said (although he might be startled to find his philosophy wrested into the service of Mormon theology), “The gods justified human life by living it themselves—the only satisfactory theodicy ever invented.”

To continue my Mormonized version of Nietzsche’s words, when we view our life in light of Snow’s couplet, God really does become a “transfiguring mirror”; As we look deep into what He is, we see what we can become, and are transformed. In the words of Joseph Smith, “If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves.”

Only recently have I felt the irony of reading that statement as a woman. Who is this God I am to comprehend and someday become like? The Heavenly Father we worship is spiritually, physically, and in every other way male. What is the character of His shadowy female companion? Who am I really if my divine counterpart is a mysterious cipher?

Adventures in “Sacred Silence”

Over the past year or so, I have contemplated those questions over and over, mostly to myself and my husband, because as you may have noticed, we barely ever talk about Heavenly Mother at church. A few months ago, when the Relief Society President in my ward solicited anonymous questions for the Stake President to answer at a special meeting during Ward Conference, I thought I’d give it a shot. So on my little slip of paper I wrote, “Tell us everything you can about Heavenly Mother,” and then folded it up and dropped it in the box.

At the very least, I thought it might inspire an interesting class discussion. Sure enough, a few weeks later I sat in Relief Society listening as the Stake President answered a list of truly random questions. When he got to mine, he said he wished he’d had time to research the topic, but had been very busy.

Despite lack of research, he was able to repeat off the top of his head the oft-heard platitude that we don’t really talk about Her because “Heavenly Father has put her on a pedestal and wishes to protect her from anyone who might profane her name.” The woman sitting next to me chimed in that perhaps we don’t talk about Heavenly Mother because if we talked about Her too much, we might start worshiping Her, “like the Catholics have with Mary.”

I find both of the above-referenced ideas fascinating. Neither is a real doctrine of the Church, but both are widely held. The first, which is colloquially known in the Church as the principle of “sacred silence,” paints a sort of traditional Victorian portrait of an idealized woman. I suppose we could stretch the interpretation to mean that Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother agreed together that She should not be spoken of by Her children (although being a mother myself, I would find that an odd move for a divine mother to make). However, people putting forth this idea invariably cite the Father as the only actor, who has decided to protect Her by rendering Her invisible to Her children. No mention is ever made of how She might feel about the situation, let alone the idea that She might participate in decision making of this sort. It is odd to me that this is our picture of the essence of exalted womanhood.

Meanwhile, at the Pagan Fertility Cult

The second idea disturbed me even more, though. The underlying premise seems to be that there is something unthinkably wrong about anyone worthy of worship being female. I see no logical basis for this idea. It appears to be more of a visceral rejection than anything else. But if we worship our Father, what could be inappropriate about worshiping our Mother? Is there something inherent about being female that makes Her unworthy of worship? Is She a lesser being, not quite as divine as the Father, a sort of demi-goddess? Or not divine at all? Is She perhaps just some lucky woman who ended up married to God?

In conjunction with the horrified “but we might start worshiping her!” members sometimes bring up the pagan fertility cults (presumably involving worship of a divine female figure) that are roundly condemned in the Old Testament. I heard someone speculate the other day that perhaps the danger we’re trying to forestall when we avoid talking about Heavenly Mother is the impulse to turn her into a fertility cult. There seems to be a sense that worshiping a divine female figure tends automatically toward corruption and perversion.

This is disturbingly reminiscent of Medieval beliefs about the inherent impurity of women’s bodies and the supposed danger of their corrupting influence on men, just as Eve had, according to their theology, “ruined” Adam. In a church that honors Eve and views her decision to partake of the fruit as one of the most important and wonderful acts in the history of the world, I find it strange that we would retain these ideas about womanhood and our Divine Mother.

A Transfiguring Mirror

While the ideas that came up in that Relief Society meeting are not officially sanctioned by the Church, the functional silence about Heavenly Mother serves to reinforce them. This silence begins to seem much less “sacred” when I consider the devastating impact it has on many women of the Church, myself included. Consider again Joseph’s teachings about the nature of God and man. How can I possibly comprehend myself without comprehending the God(dess) who is my Eternal Mother? The connection between Her identity and my identity as a woman is too powerful to ignore.

When I look in that transfiguring mirror and find it empty, I wonder who my Mother really is. Is She tucked away in some lace-curtained corner of heaven, a shy sweet soul too busy gestating babies to hear Her grown-up children when they pray? Or is She omnipotent, omniscient, wonderful and terrible, and listening to my every cry with tender compassion and patient wisdom? Does she stand meekly in the background, nodding superfluous acquiescence to everything He says? Or do They stand side by side in counsel, power, and authority?

If gender is an eternal characteristic (which our Church vigorously affirms is the case), then presumably an exalted female is different from an exalted male. If those differences are in any way meaningful, then I need a divine female role model. When I stand in front of the transfiguring mirror of deity, nothing makes sense until I see Her looking back at me. Until I recognize the feminine as fully divine, it is impossible for me to recognize the feminine (myself!) as fully human.

photo credit: Venus de Milo

60 comments for “Finding My Heavenly Mother, Part 2

  1. Sarah, Paulsen and Palido’s article does a good job, I think, of taking apart the idea that Heavenly Mother should never be discussed. On the other hand, all the evidence they can muster suggests, at least to me, that we have almost nothing that we can call knowledge about her in the context of Mormonism. So the risk of attempting to worship a Heavenly Mother (apart from the first of ten commandments, and the inherent risks in attempting a form of worship outside of church sanction, and ignoring church counsel about not praying to Heavenly Mother) is that one would end up worshiping a divine being largely constructed in one’s own image. Worshiping a divine being constructed on the basis of non-authoritative nineteenth-century speculation doesn’t seem much better.

  2. Jonathan #1 Yes, I guess I should send my Stake President a copy of A Mother There.

    “we have almost nothing that we can call knowledge about her in the context of Mormonism.”

    My initial point was along those lines: our knowledge about her is limited. But here’s my question: Does it matter? Does it matter to us what she is like? Are we interested in finding out more? Is She important to us? My answer to all those questions is a resounding “yes,” and my post is about WHY my Heavenly Mother matters to me.

  3. As a male, I have never doubted for an instant that there is divinity in the feminine. (But there have been times I’ve doubted the divine potential of many males!) I would suggest that the Endowment and sealing ordinances reveal that divine potential within the feminine nature is truly revealed and exalted when sealed to the santified masculine nature. He needs she; she needs he. I spent many years as a single (late-blooming “menace to society”) and I felt the immense pain of the absence of the feminine. My wife and companion is my most human, better and most cherished portion.

    And perhaps the divine nature or exemplar we seek is already a portion of the Father. They are one. And without the power of the feminine at God’s side or at my side, we males are truly damned.

  4. The reasons alluded to by your stake president for not worshiping Heavenly Mother are silly.

    What about this theory – the real reason we don’t worship her is based on the possibility that there is more than one Heavenly Mother. IF our Father is polygamist, there are MANY mothers. And as a practical matter, we do not and (could not) know which of those women is our mother, respectively, and which one each of us should worship, absent some very specific and direct revelation on the matter.

  5. What do you think about the idea that Jesus Christ has been the stand-in for female divinity, at least as taught in Young Women/Relief Society (i.e. his loving arms waiting to hold you; his ability to feel all pain and sorrow, both male and female; being a window to his love; his aspects of love, comfort, understanding versus the more aloof and distant, but still loving, Heavenly Father.

    And if so, why the push now for an actual female divine? Is it in tandem with the push for the doctrine of the family? Or something else?

  6. htv #6 In his attempt to reconcile Platonic philosophy with Jewish scripture, Philo used “Logos” as his term for Holy Wisdom, which the Septuagint called “Sophia” (spoken of in the book of Proverbs and often identified as the feminine aspect of God). The first part of the Gospel of John (The so-called Hymn to the Word) definitely identifies Christ with the Logos, which in a way does link him to traditional conceptions of the divine feminine. As the exemplar on earth for all of us, Christ did exhibit many characteristics that are traditionally thought of as feminine, although his example can’t really tell us much about the characteristics of an ideal woman versus an ideal man. Others have speculated that the Holy Spirit is the feminine principle of God.

    But you are spot-on when you link the longing for the female divine with the doctrine of the family. I’ve grown up in a Church saturated with the Proclamation (it came out when I was fifteen). If we are destined for exaltation, what does that look like? For a man, it looks like Heavenly Father. For a woman, well . . . who knows?

  7. For a man, we know what Heavenly Father in part by reference to what being a mortal father is like. That’s the Mormon method, so I presume if one felt a particular need to contemplate the Mormon doctrine of a Heavenly Mother, one could proceed along the same lines.

    Also, the scriptures explicitly hold up Christ, and through him the Father, as an example for everyone. Perhaps we can’t sort out what about him was the ideal Man as opposed to the ideal Human, but he is nonetheless the Model that all the saints of every age have taught that if we follow Him, we will not go astray.

    Honestly we don’t know much about the Father. He only appears in the scriptures in set-piece ritual roles. It would be hard to model oneself on him. Most of what we know or infer about the Father comes from our knowledge of the Son. And I personally have found it hard in the details to model myself on the Son in the particulars of my 21st Century American life. Both as the universe-spanning Lord of Creation and the 1st C. Jewish rabbi he seems remote. What I have discovered is that other folks closer to me in time or space serve me as models of his model. I understand Christ better through them and at the same time, using them as models of him roots my admiration for them and prunes it.

    Without meaning to take away at all from your feeling that you need more beef on the bones of your ultimate divine model, I suggest you find mortal models that serve as stepping stones to the divine, starting with Mother Eve on down. Ultimately the LDS belief in a Heavenly Mother but without details may serve mainly to give you a way to tie your earthly heroines into your quest for heaven.

  8. Thanks for posting on this. I enjoyed both your entries on this topic.

    We always felt responsible to give three adopted children, as they inquired, answers to their questions to the degree we could concerning biological parents. Of course, we ourselves knew so little detailed information to give.

    My questions about Heavenly Mother abound, but the to-the-degree-we-could limitation doesn’t appear as applicable. Have we as children simply not thought to make concerted, ongoing, and consistent enquiries of their representatives/surrogates here?

  9. My wife has a semi-facetious theory about our lack of information regarding Heavenly Mother. When she and Father were mortal, the kids would always come running to Mom. “Mom! Where are my shoes?” “Mom! Frank said I was adopted!” “Mom! I forgot that I have a report on Denmark due today!” Where was Dad during that time? Probably at work or in a bishopric meeting. You know the drill.

    So, now that they are exalted and enjoying their blessings, Mother looked at Father and said, “It’s your turn, honey.” Right now, Heavenly Mother is enjoying a well-deserved, long soak in the tub.

    I know there’s no basis in scripture or, well, anything to justify this story. But it pleases me anyway. I like to imagine her as strong, confident, capable, and a little sassy. Who is to say I’m wrong?

  10. Whatever the reason for the silence regarding our heavenly mother(s), it seems as if (at least from our vantage point) that her/their role in connection with this earth and us (at least while we are here) is very limited. We do not worship her/them; do not communicate with her/them; she/they do not reveal herself/themselves to us; she/they do not appear to be directly involved in the work here; and our blessings come specifically from Father. Further, she/they are entirely absent from the creation account in the temple where the Father very specifically directs the Lord and Adam to organize the earth (although Abraham 4 does refer to “the Gods” organizing the heaven and the earth).

    Under what circumstances, and for what reasons, would any parent choose to be so disconnected from his or her child during the most critical time in that child’s eternal existence?

    Sarah looking forward to your future posts and I guess I need to read the article referenced above.

  11. jw, while your anectdote and others like it are clever, if superficial, and maybe even entertaining, don’t they deflect from seriousness? Try joking with an earnest adoptive inquiring after their biologicals and see what happens.

  12. Thank you for your article. It was very well written and insightful.
    I have never question whether or not there is a Heavenly Mother. I guess I have always assumed that it must be that way or there would be no children. I assume she is divine and perfect just like Heavenly Father.

  13. As someone who is not a member of the LDS faith I find this discussion fascinating. I’m currently reading a book titled Does God Have a Wife? where the author argues that (according to archaeological evidence) ancient Israel believed that they had both a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother both of whom deserved our worship. This was stamped out by the Patriarchal movement of Israel, and take-over of the canon by the monotheist movement within Israel. Although established religion in Israel was monotheistic the author argues that folk religion was polytheistic. The mention of Heavenly Mother was viewed as an affront on the (what eventually became) scriptural view that there is only one God in heaven. All information of the possibility needed to be excluded although references (though masked) remain.

    Anyhow, I’m not exactly sure why I felt inclined to post this… but I’ve enjoyed the post and the comments. Keep them coming!

  14. I want to second something Adam G. (#8) said: we really don’t know all that much about the Father either. Our interactions with the divine in mortality are all mediated by the Firstborn. (It seems kind of like when my wife and I go out on a date and leave the oldest child in charge.) Jesus is our model and our guide, at least at this stage of our existence.

  15. Pure and simple logic tell me I have a MOTHER. In light of the LDS emphasis on families in this generation ie. POF, I find it amusing and sad that so many Mormons refuse to entertain, much less, talk about our MOTHER, when we all know we have earthly mothers. Patterns are everywhere, in nature, in religion, yet most Mormons can’t make the leap to acknowledging our MOTHER. I know SHE is there but my soul would be more soothed if SHE was out in the open. Maybe after we totally accept gays she will come out too?

  16. In the absence of almost any concrete, official doctrine, asking speculative questions well is what we’re reduced to. And this statement in the OP knocks it out of the park:

    “If gender is an eternal characteristic (which our Church vigorously affirms is the case), then presumably an exalted female is different from an exalted male. If those differences are in any way meaningful, then I need a divine female role model. When I stand in front of the transfiguring mirror of deity, nothing makes sense until I see Her looking back at me.”

    This is succinct, distilling the problematic ideas so well you could almost embroider it on a sampler. For future generations to ponder.

    Also, the Venus de Milo illustration is inspired.

  17. wreddyornot, need we always be serious? I’ll avoid the loud laughter, but I’m not avoiding laughter altogether. To *everything* there is a time and a place under heaven.

    It’s a bad idea, generally speaking, to joke at disciplinary courts. Or while asking forgiveness to a child. Or while confessing your sins to Heavenly Father in prayer. There are plenty of times when joking is inappropriate, and discussing biological parentage with adopted children is probably one of those times. I did not see this as one of those times.

    God the Father loves us very much. He wants us to be happy. God the Mother also loves us very much. I’m confident of that because of the mortal examples in my life (cf. Adam G.). I don’t know why she isn’t very visible to us right now, and it is humorous (and, to be honest, quite believable) to imagine her talking to Father like a real person with real feelings who thinks that parenting is ideally a two-person job (on earth and in heaven), but that sometimes the best thing one parent can do is step out of the room and let the other one deal with it.

    My one abiding belief about Heavenly Mother is that she self-identifies first as a mother. I think that Heavenly Father is, likewise, a father first and foremost. Their identities begin with parenthood, with service and love and concern for the children. What do I know about Heavenly Mother? That she is a mother.

  18. Ganted, there is a time and place under heaven for fun and laughter. This is not it, not in my mind.

    If my father on earth had lauded my mother to me throughout my infancy, childhood, teenage years, and youth, but had never let me have anything whatsoever to do with her, including knowing where she was, what had happened, etc., then as a man he told me some semblance of the anecdote you told, jw, well . . . I hate to contemplate trying to keep my composure. And I guarantee you, it wouldn’t be from my laughing.

    Priesthood leaders need to finally stand up and ask: Where is my mother? Why am I to think she’s honored given the circumstances we experience. It is not a laughing matter. Not for me. Not for many members.

  19. I can’t help thinking that we know so little about Her because the limitations of mortality make it impossible for us to comprehend Her nature. We simply could not handle the truth. When we can, we will have it. She is something beyond the scope of human comprehension, and having us attempt to comprehend her in our current state would prove less than constructive. (Not to be anti-intelllectual, but there you go.)

    But I think the biggest error we make when we wonder in this direction is to superimpose our own angst and gender -based resentments on the personalities of our perfected Parents. I feel pretty confident that whatever they do, they are in complete unity about it. I feel confident that my Heavenly Father is not the least bit of a chauvinist, just as the Priesthood when properly functioning, is not the least bit conducive to chauvinism. But every context we have for understanding both our Heavenly Father and the Priesthood involve some involvement of very human, fallen men who have or had at least some gender-related blind spots in their paradigm and culture. God always uses imperfect people to imperfectly do perfect things, right?

    I feel like the lack of understanding and appreciation for the feminine is a part of the Fall. (For me this is strongly reinforced in the Endowment.) So long as we live in a fallen world, we will none of us truly understand the eternal role and potential of the feminine. Seeking to understand it is good, and leads to good things. Expecting to “arrive” at an understanding in this life? I don’t see it panning out.

  20. I love posts 8 and 21. Thank you. Especially 8. We’re thinking too hard about this. Heavenly Mother is everything every perfect mother ever was, and then a few notches beyond that, and the equal partner of Elohim. We don’t need official statements to figure this out. Like Adam said, we can extrapolate. That’s why we have earthly families.

  21. What you say, Emily, makes me curious.

    Do you think it was presumptuous of others to inquire of God? Of a human and fallen man like Joseph Smith to do so? Of prophets going back in time who did so before him? Of others, who made different inquiries after him? Like relative to polygamy or blacks and the priesthood?

    On the one hand, you suggest that we know so little about a mother in heaven because of the limitations of mortality, saying such things as you think we can’t comprehend Her nature. We couldn’t handle the truth (Where have I heard that line before?), you say. Yet, with all this doubt about it, you still express this confidence: “they are in complete unity” “my Heavenly Father is not the least bit of this chauvinist.” Where does that come from?

    And you express speculation: “the feminine as part of the Fall” “So long as we live in a fallen world, we will monitor was truly understand the terminal role and potential of the feminine.” “Expecting to ‘arrive’ at an understanding in this life? I don’t see it panning out.”

    Do you think it presumptuous of a member, of a man, in my case, to simply ask: Where is my mother in heaven? And to address that question on up the standard line of authority? In your mind, is it simply futile to do so? Or is it more than just futile? Blasphemous? Reaching too far?

  22. Sorry. Above

    “So long as we live in a fallen world, we will monitor was truly understand the terminal role and potential of the feminine.”

    should of course read

    “So long as we live in a fallen world, we will none of us truly understand the eternal role and potential of the feminine.”

  23. It’s not that there’s the danger of worshiping Heavenly Mother if we know more about her. I want my daughters to be just like her, and my sons to be just like Heavenly Father. If this is worship, so be it.

    The problem with holding up a hypothetical image of Heavenly Mother & Father is that it presents us with a message of Duality. The message THEY would rather us have is one of Unity. The nuanced doctrine that “Neither man without the woman nor woman without the man” can be communicated on the side. But “Be ye ONE” is the main doctrine we really need to focus on in order to be exalted. (Or in other words, we do fine at seeing our differences. It’s in finding unity that we need help.)

    This reminds me of a discussion I had with my wife once about why stories frequently have one parent killed off or absent as the story begins. “What’s with all the single parents in these fairy tales?”

    The answer that came to my mind had more to do with storytelling efficiency than anything else: If you are going to talk about the differences between the mom and dad (like in, say, The Incredibles) then have two parents. But if the parents are not going to have any tension or conflict with one another, kill one of them off and just have one voice. It’s better than having one parent do the talking, only to have the other simply nod, and then go back to knitting (or working on the car, or whatever).

    If our Heavenly Parents are as one as Christ is with the Father, then it does us no good to have depictions of their differences. This is probably why we lean on images (both in a doctrinal as well as an artistic sense) of only the Savior. On rare occasions, we have to depict the Father and the Son simultaneously, and so we see paintings of both personages. I personally find it a little weird when paintings of the First Vision depict two identical Gods, though apparently that is doctrinally correct.

    It’s better to simply look at one image: seek the face of Christ, and all else, the Father, the Mother, and more, will be added unto you.

  24. Sarah, wonderful post. Thank you. I especially appreciated your compelling articulation of questions at the end.

    The amazing, the undeniably damning, apostate reality is that we’ve gone from a culture that gloried, openly, publicly, loudly such things as anything that makes “reason stare” is an absurdity, that “truth is reason,” or that reason plays an integral role in our theology and also our experience of religion, to a culture wherein the use of reason, particularly in combination with our lived experience and revealed doctrine, is something questionable, perhaps dangerous, certainly not worth trusting or championing. Praise be not only to our Heavenly Mother, but to daughters like Eliza who were willing to champion the one attribute consistently linked to Her: wisdom.

    The second thing that is so amazing is how utterly corrosive our culture of silence has been. The unending stream of asinine, silly, offensive, and literally damaging ideas that have sprung up around our Heavenly Mother in order to justify a perceived sanctioning of silence (it’s certainly not official, as A Mother There makes clear) is rivaled only by the asinine, silly, offensive, and literally damaging ideas that have swirled around the priesthood ban.

    Truly, when we say we have enough, it is taken away, even that which we have.

  25. I have thought about this a lot over the years. In praying and listening for answers, I get little whisps of understanding. Ironically, it took a divorce, remarriage, divorce and third marriage, to find a truly basic answer. When I pray to know who I am, whether I have any worth, begging to know how to leave behind a past filled with abuse, the answers come to me in Heavenly Mother’s “voice.” It is hard to explain the difference, but when I pray for concrete answers, asking for choices to be affirmed, I hear the voice of my Father. When I am searching for a small spark of divinity, in a tattered and torn life, I hear the gentle reassurance of a Mother, stroking my heart, as if she was stroking my hair, soothing my body and soul.

    I realize that the distinction I feel is not a reasoned answer, or one I can give a repeatable formula to receive the same experiences. I don’t feel that Heavenly Mother could not answer more concrete questions, or that Heavenly Father could not comfort me. Indeed, my experiences suggest the complete opposite. They are not defined by a particular role, but my needs are the defining factor. Childhood abuse makes it difficult to accept comfort from anyone in a Father’s role. *I* would not be easily comforted by a male God. My Heavenly Parents know me intimately, and offer me Their compassion and love in a way I can accept.

    I don’t know why there is not more doctrine about our Heavenly Mother. I suspect that at some points in history there may have been more information available about Her, although I have no proof. I don’t believe that including Her, as well as our Father, when we pray is inappropriate or “worshipping a false God.” I have never felt any condemnation for including both of my Heavenly Parents as I plead for strength and guidance in my life. Just as we don’t have a great deal that explains each spiritual gift in detail, but we know that there are infinite combinations and degrees of spiritual gifts, I believe there are also an infinite number of ways to communicate with our Heavenly Parents.

    I don’t know if I can adequately express my feelings and experiences. I think that oftentimes we, as latter day saints spend too much time on following formulas for salvation. I am not sure that the absence of Heavenly Mother in the rote and ritual of LDS religious life, means that we don’t have access to personal revelation about Her.

    I do NOT mean to suggest that my thoughts and experiences are anything other than my own. I also am NOT saying that someone who searches, but does not find personal answers, is somehow less worthy or righteous than I am. Certainly no one would hold my life up as a pattern to follow. I would never wish my struggles and challenges on anyone else. Sometimes I think that it is when I am feeling farthest away from worthiness and acceptance, that moments of grace enter my life.

    Thank you for such a well articulated post. Your questions are much better articulations of my desperate pleas for peace and understanding.

  26. #26 “The problem with holding up a hypothetical image of Heavenly Mother & Father is that it presents us with a message of Duality. The message THEY would rather us have is one of Unity.”

    I don’t think this helps. Of course the message of the Father and the Son is one of unity. We know they are one and act as one. But we also know about each of them individually and know each of them have very specific and different roles in the plan of salvation. We also know the Holy Ghost is one with the Father and the Son, but again we at least know something about his role and mission is as it relates to us.

    Can you imagine how silly it would be for a husband on this earth to completely exclude his wife (or her to exclude herself) from any public appearances, any family photos, any direct communication with her children based, all based on the claim that the husband and wife act as one and are united and, as a result, her public and familial appearances and/or communications are unnecessary?

  27. It’s better to simply look at one image: seek the face of Christ, and all else, the Father, the Mother, and more, will be added unto you.

    Wise. I believe/suspect that creation is helmed by a number of angel-gods and have often wondered why we don’t know more about these beings and their wonderful diversity of characteristics and operations. You have answered the question.

  28. But that is not the way it works. We do not “seek the face of Christ” and hope that God will be added unto us. That view seems to subordinate God to Christ. Instead, we only worship God, nobody else.

    McConkie has a wonderful talk on this:

    “We worship the Father and him only and no one else.

    We do not worship the Son, and we do not worship the Holy Ghost. I know perfectly well what the scriptures say about worshipping Christ and Jehovah, but they are speaking in an entirely different sense—the sense of standing in awe and being reverentially grateful to him who has redeemed us. Worship in the true and saving sense is reserved for God the first, the Creator.

    Our revelations say that the Father “is infinite and eternal,” that he created “man, male and female,”

    And gave unto them commandments that they should love and serve him, the only living and true God, and that he should be the only being whom they should worship. [D&C 20:17–19]

    Jesus said:

    True worshippers shall [note that this is mandatory] worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him.

    For unto such hath God promised his Spirit. And they who worship him, must worship in spirit and in truth. [JST John 4:25–26]

    There is no other way, no other approved system of worship.”

  29. Shane (#32),

    I am puzzled by your definition of “worship.”

    If it is as narrow and targeted as I suppose, how do you explain the Third Nephi account? 19:18 “And behold, they began to pray; and they did pray unto Jesus, calling him their Lord and their God.”

    And even in BRM’s final testimony as a mortal apostle, he spoke of physically worshipping Jesus in the near future.

    Indeed, the New Testament and Book of Mormon are full of relationships developed with Jehovah/Jesus. Are we actually claiming that Old Testament worshippers focused on Yahweh/Jehovah and that modern LDS worhippers no longer do so?

    The Father has never said he is jealous of the role of the Son within the Godhead. Indeed his greatest expression of Love was introducing the Son. I seriously doubt that an appreciation for the eternal role of the feminine and a love felt for those who fulfill that role poses a threat to true worship.

  30. Agreed. I don’t think God is jealous of the role of the Son in the Godhead and don’t think he would be jealous of the worship of heavenly mother(s) either. To the contrary, I think that is a wonderful concept and find the silence on the matter frustrating.

    I just think Adam had the doctrine backwards as it pertains to matters of worship. We don’t start with a worship of Christ and hope that God will be added upon. We pray to and worship the Father. McConkie’s talk came in direct response to a wave of BYU students seeking to have “a personal relationship of Christ,” probably as a result of some of the concepts you refer to in your post. McConkie’s conclusion was explicit and unmistakable: we only worship God.

    Was McConkie wrong? I don’t know. I am just telling you what he said. Your cite to 3 Nephi 19 is interesting. I will have to think about it. But it is interesting that each time the multitude prayed to him in 3 Nephi 19, he left and prayed to the Father.

    What all of this means as it relates to the worship of heavenly mother, I don’t pretend to know.

  31. Have ye not read the scriptures? Do ye not remember my son Enoch?

    “And it came to pass that Enoch looked upon the earth; and he heard a voice from the bowels thereof, saying: Wo, wo is me, the mother of men; I am pained, I am weary, because of the wickedness of my children. When shall I rest, and be cleansed from the filthiness which is gone forth out of me? When will my Creator sanctify me, that I may rest, and righteousness for a season abide upon my face?” (Moses 7:48; also D&C 123:7)

  32. Mater Omnium… While the pedigree of our bodies would potentially list the Earth as our Mother (and therefore satisfying your scripture) I think the pedigree of our spirits is far removed from “mother earth”.


    Loved the post. Wanted to say something about the plurality of mothers, but someone else mentioned it and you said you would address it later, so I’ll hold off until then. Thanks for the posting, it will lead to a good discussion with my wife tonight I am sure.

  33. In D&C 132:19-20 it says:

    19 And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; . . . and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths—then shall it be written in the Lamb’s gBook of Life,. . . it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.

    20 Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.

    The ultimate blessing we are promised comes when we covenant, with our spouse, and with God, to qualify for the blessings of exaltation, and to “be gods, because they have all power.” If a man and woman can become gods together (and only if they are together), then both man and woman are gods. This appears to be the specific path by which God the Father became God, and this scripture tells us that this path is only open to husband and wife together. Therefore, there must be a wife who is sealed to the Father in eternal marriage, whose participation was essential to the Father attaining godhood, a wife who is, like her husband, a god.

    We don’t know what her personal appearance is, what kind of dresses she favors, what color her hair is, what her personal manner may be. For that matter, as has been said, we don’t know those personal details about the Father either. What we know about the Father and the Mother in heaven is the most important thing, their love for their children and their character and integrity, because they became recipients of all the blessings possible. And we know that, as Joseph Smith taught, if the veil were opened and we could see into yonder heaven, we would see that God is an exalted man. And we know from D&C 132 that a man cannot be exalted without his wife. How do we men picture the Father? In the few depictions of him, we mainly use the illustrations of the First Vision, the only time in scripture that the Father was seen. We reason that Christ is in the express image of the Father, so the Father looks like the Son. The couple kneeling at the marriage altar is the essential image of what the Father and the Mother mean to us. That is as close as any of us can get to imagining them, until it comes time for us to be resurrected, when the veil on our memories will be lifted, and we will remember in great detail all of our times with our Mother in Heaven, and hopefully, be worthy to be like our heavenly parents.

    The image we should seek to see in our mirrior when we imagine our Mother in Heaven is not the image of a woman, but the image of man and wife, Father and Mother, God and Goddess, Priest and Priestess, united in love for eternity. That image is available to us as we stand in the temple sealing rooms between the facing mirrors, and see that the most significant characteristic of our spouse is that he or she is an eternal person, stretching back to the beginning and forward into an endless future.

    Compare this image with the Aristotelian god of the creeds, who has NO body, NO parts, NO passions (including love). There is nothing in the creedal description of God that offers us any way to envision the Father. But because we know that our Father is essentially like us, we also know that our Mother is also like us, and like our mothers.

  34. So Raymond, why don’t we see that image, a couple at the podium speaking to us for example, staring back at us say at conference. Why didn’t a pair of couples, unities as you note, come to Joseph Smith in the first vision, not just the Father and Son? Don’t we still have to ask where our mother is? Where our mothers are in all this? This post poses the subject: finding my heavenly mother. It’s not that we, at least me, don’t believe what you say or aren’t aquainted with the text you quote or ideas you suggest. Isn’t it that we haven’t found her in our ecclesiatical lives, our experiences, on all levels? Men are there; women are more absent.

  35. I agree with Raymond; we find our Mother in the temple.

    President Kimball taught that the image of God is a man and a woman, not a separate man or a separate woman. I think that is a message also presented in the temple.

  36. I don’t think that’s what Raymond said, is it?

    I don’t disagree with the sentiment Raymond articulated, his observations.

    But in the way that I find men presiding wherever I go, standing at lecterns, giving talks, conducting meetings, saying prayers at conference, officiating in the majority of what happens in temples, I don’t find women included in many important and significant ways. Not in the way men do, and I especially do not see anything from a mother in heaven that I could say I think I should emulate. Absence? That is nothing to emulate in my experience.

    So how is a woman supposed to see the reflection of her mother in heaven? How is a son, such as I, supposed to see the reflection of his mother in heaven? Why are there these differences? Why shouldn’t I ask questions like I would if my earthly mother went missing from my life?

  37. #38 “We don’t know what her personal appearance is, what kind of dresses she favors, what color her hair is, what her personal manner may be. For that matter, as has been said, we don’t know those personal details about the Father either.”

    Raymond, I think this misses the point. I don’t think anybody cares about her actual “personal appearance” or the dresses she likes. What we care about is why she is absent from the gospel. She is there by implication as you have outlined above, but that only begs the question: why no specific references, principles, doctrines, etc.?

    Focusing on what we do know, it seems as if heavenly mothers can expect an exaltation somewhat different than fathers. We know for a fact that heavenly mothers are not directly involved in the portion of the plan involving our time on earth (however small that may be), not even the creation of the earth or our physical bodies from what we see in the temple. At least for this portion of the plan, mothers are completely silent and invisible. And we can only expect that pattern to continue, worlds without number.

    Also, I understand what you are saying about the couple at the altar, but that analogy is a bit strained for my taste. The couple at the altar represents each of us as if at the altar, not Father and Mother at the altar. I personally think of my wife and I when I think of the altar, not Heavenly Mother.

  38. My pet theory on why we know so little is simply because gender inequality has been so deeply ingrained in our social structures that it is a barrier to further light and truth. There is good evidence that the feminine deity was systematically attacked, disparaged and written out of the Old Testament and that the role of women was again systematically excluded from the NT by the scribes. We have inherited this tradition and because of the weakness of men we perpetrate it. It seems that Joseph Smith was on the verge of restoring/creating a equal theology for women when polygamy and his death killed the whole thing off. The new RS minutes seem to at very least hint at priesthood keys and roles for the women. The endowment ceremony was going that way. Women were healing and blessing. Then the fight over polygamy brought it all crashing down.

    My prediction/hope is that gender inequality in both temporal and spiritual affairs is one of the last necessary steps to creating a real Zion. It seems so clear to me that the same social forces that justified the ban on blacks and the priesthood are in play for gender and for some reason it is clear across the world that stigmas and discrimination in terms of race and religion are more easily overcome than those of gender.

    I feel deep in my spiritual bones that something is wrong about how we approach women and divine feminine in the church. Like the OP I feel a real hole. When I look around the world at the good and evil around me it is hard to find more systematic evil and wrong than what we have and do perpetrate on women. I wish we were leading on these issues. All the bare bones of the theology are there to make Mormonism the religion that can best and most seamlessly incorporate women. It would be so easy to take the first steps. The thirst and pressure to ask and know is growing. I hope I see it in my lifetime but I am beginning to doubt it. Maybe in my 7 year-old daughters.

  39. #42 Shane Godis, “We know for a fact that heavenly mothers are not directly involved in the portion of the plan involving our time on earth (however small that may be), not even the creation of the earth or our physical bodies from what we see in the temple.”

    #40 E, “we find our Mother in the temple.”

    I love this contrast. Two different and quite opposing extrapolations from what we find in the temple.

    Heavenly Mother is nowhere overtly in the temple in the capacity of a goddess, although Heavenly Father is very overtly there in the form of a god. This echoes everywhere else in the church. Even though, as some commentators have pointed out, we don’t know a whole lot about Heavenly Father personally, we nevertheless talk about Him constantly and pray to him directly. It’s great to say that the paradigm of husband and wife implies Heavenly Mother, and that women will eventually become heavenly mothers, but She is almost nowhere directly represented in our discourse, and when I do finally bring Her up (here or to my Stake President) we get all kinds of different theories about her. That, to me, constitutes a hole.

  40. So I am still not sure who you think is responsible for the “hole.” Is it the church, for covering up her nature? Is it mean ol’ HF who doesn’t want his wife stealing the thunder?

    Or is it our mother, herself? And if the latter, should we not respect that choice, rather than whining like ungrateful kids who wanted the green one, not the yellow one?

    What if it turns out that President Beck’s infamous MOTHERS WHO KNOW talk was inspired by Her, and did reflect her work and glory? But was roundly rejected by many.

  41. #43 – RAH, I agree with you completely. I have no doubt that “gender inequality has been so deeply ingrained in our social structures that it is a barrier to further light and truth.” The only way to balance out the power structure is to admit more parties to the decision making table. It is possible that back (not-so-long-ago) when african americans and women couldn’t vote in our country, that good/thoughtful white men would make decisions that were in EVERYONE’s best interests…but it is a whole lot more likely if the parties affected were actually asked to participate. The prophet and the twelve apostles do not wake up every morning with the in-boxes full of emails from God regarding which way to decide on important issues that day…much less, which important issues should be brought to their attention. I eagerly await the day when women will be genuinely included in the power structure and decision-making at ALL levels of the Church.

  42. I know Naismith addressed her question (Was that sarcasm?) to Sarah Familia’s reply. But the child in me thinks I’m responsible for the hole. I’ve not cared enough to ask until fairly recently. I shall seek, and hopefully I and others with me shall find.

    Enjoyed what you said rah.

  43. We don’t know who’s responsible for the hole, but we are free to speculate.

    We know She exists, through revelation to Joseph Smith. Beyond that we have nothing in the way of concrete, doctrinal information. The difference between what we know about our Father and what we know about our Mother is equal to the knowledge we have about Him. Of course we don’t (and can’t) know all about Him; coming to know Him is a big part of our experience here on earth. Maybe speculating about Her is part of that too. Who knows? We can only say with any certainty that the incomplete doctrine we are given about our Father, through revelation, in which we can communally exercise faith, is vastly more than what we are given about our Mother. And if gender matters, there will be some differences.

    It does leave a big hole, that some of her children notice more than others. We try to fill the void with our questions and speculative answers, it’s not terribly satisfying; to me it resembles the rather normal fretful longing of children for their mother. I think the “what-if” questions and answers are important; they aren’t quite a real answer but it can be a small comfort to ponder them. Or, like small children, we can use them against each other as an irritant.

  44. I widely agree with RAH, and I have had to find remnants of Heavenly Mother in the LDS world we live in. The early Israelite Goddess was represented in art as a tree, and that is quite a loaded image for a Latter-day Saint. If you apply that symbol, suddenly She is in evetywhere. And there are fruit trees on the grounds of every temple.

    As far as Heavenly Mother and Creation goes, given that what we see in the temple is highly symbolic, we don’t know how much of it is meant to be taken literally. We know from Abraham 3 that ‘The Noble and Great Ones’ all participated in creation, so that is at least more than are represented in the temple.

  45. @ #23 (glad somebody reminded me to come back and continue to discuss… )

    I don’t think it’ presumptuous at all to meditate and seek after more information regarding any doctrinal question for anybody, regardless of gender or question. Demanding information in one’s own timeframe is always problematic, but desiring it and seeking it are constructive, especially when done with the influence of the spirit. Granted, it reminds me of Grant Hardy’s interpretation of a Nephi who complicated the rest of his life immensely when his answer to “what seekest thou” was “to know the interpretation thereof” rather than “to partake of this awesome fruit that I hear makes people happy.” The curious are almost never the content. But both are good things to be in their own way.

    Also, my confidence in the Character of my Heavenly Parents comes from my confidence that Christ’s documented behavior is indicative of theirs. I feel that Christ’s unity with the Father is at least fundamentally similar to the unity between Them. I suppose it also comes from the impressions I’ve received as I’ve pondered and prayed about this very topic.

    I largely agree with the idea that information that may have been held by early Israelites about our Heavenly Father was ultimately wiped out by a Patriarchal culture. I suspect the beginnings of it’s erasure were due to the abundance of female idol and “false” goddess worship that were surrounding them. I take that very abundance as an indication that there was some socially known truth to base that misinterpretation on. But over years I think Satan decided that if the trick of twisting that truth was getting old, he’d just work on the trick of obliterating man’s access to that truth altogether. I think it’s interesting that we’re giving all the credit for this silence to either God or to Man and leaving Satan out of the picture.

    I’m hopeful that there will be more canonized information available about my Heavenly Father someday. I think for that to happen would require a notable maturation of the general population of the church. And a willingness to abandon “false traditions” and cultures that would be incompatible with whatever information we might receive. I think this is part of WHY the church has (worldwide) emphasized helping people adopt the “culture of the gospel” – to help members be willing to part with (and recognize) elements of their primary culture(s) that are not in harmony with the gospel. (I’ve especially noticed this trend in Worldwide Leadership Training broadcasts) If we’re honest I think we can all identify a couple in our own lives. Are we living up to the privileges we’ve already been promised? Are we ready for more? Are we asking for more? I daresay it’s still a tiny fraction of the church population who is asking for more revelation. (Both personal revelation and churchwide revelation.) If this thirst for knowledge becomes more widestream, I think we might become a more prepared (and worthy) people, and get just what we ask for. So – discussions like this one (so long as they remain congenial and kind) are fabulously productive.

  46. Thanks for your reply to my earlier reply, Emily. Like you, I think there is a lot of work to do, individually, in our families, and broader, as a religious family. I think your questions — are we living up to privileges promised, are we ready for more, and are we asking for more revelation — are key. Sometimes it seems our assessment of our “living up to privileges promised” mutes us. We tend to get stuck there, thinking we can never be worthy. Maybe. But anyone who’s read the history of Joseph Smith, for instance, knows that he was a rough stone and had a lot of living up to to do, but he was ready for more and asked for revelation.

  47. This post is fabulous and thoughtful. This was a favorite:

    However, people putting forth this idea invariably cite the Father as the only actor, who has decided to protect Her by rendering Her invisible to Her children. No mention is ever made of how She might feel about the situation, let alone the idea that She might participate in decision making of this sort. It is odd to me that this is our picture of the essence of exalted womanhood.

  48. But why would she decide to be invisible while an entire civilization worships solely her husband?

  49. Some resources on this topic:

    What Did King Josiah Reform? by Margaret Barker:

    Nephi & His Asherah by Daniel C. Peterson:

    Some of my speculations in a very interesting thread over at MD&DB (which is worth reading in full):

    Kevin Christensen, Hugh Nibley, and others have done important work on this theme as well; search for “Asherah” at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute.

    One of the central tensions in the Old Testament was between the elite priests who gradually reformed a polytheistic faith into conformity with philosophical monotheism and those who remembered the earlier Goddess. Our Old Testament text has been edited by scribes who denounce Asherah as a foreign contamination.

    To the contrary, however, it seems that the Goddess complex of Asherah/Shaddai/Qudsu/Hathor/Ma’at and others were more closely related and accepted than has been acknowledged in post-apostasy Christianity, despite the prominence of Lady Wisdom (a “Tree of Life to those who grasp Her”) in the tradition which Christ came to restore.

    (And if the masculine gender of the Holy Ghost in John is based on a mistranslation, as seems quite plausible, and Lady Wisdom = The Spirit of Wisdom, then we actually have far more information about the Mother than we might think. Wisdom was the Tree of Life, who gave the Anointing Oil to the Child, and aspects of her cult are retained in the ritual reverence for Sophia and Mary.)

    I disagree with McConkie’s analysis; I think we quite clearly worship the Christ, the Father, and the Holy Spirit of Wisdom as One God – One in intent, in purpose, a familial Trinity signifying the eternal life to be had in the At-One-Ment of all Uncreated Intelligences.

    And if this is the case, I find it very interesting that Joseph Smith prayed for Wisdom and was led to a Sacred Grove where he received a book of Scripture containing the words of Prophets who admonish us not to forsake the Spirit of Wisdom as we walk along Her paths towards the Tree of Life.

  50. Perhaps, Jeremy Orbe-Smith, you might speculate why, if this is so, it’s so much like a mystery? Or refer me to someone else’s speculations in that vein. You know, over against Christ and Heavenly Father and who and what they are. Of course, we speak often of the Holy Spirit, of its influence upon us, but not, in my experience, in this way, as a mother in heaven. Is this my answer to where my Mother is, in your estimation?

  51. Speculation alert! My thoughts are not fully developed, but here’s where I am right now:

    The unified divine couple used to be my model for our heavenly parents, but it doesn’t explain why half of that couple must be invisible, or why the feminine aspect is so hidden.
    Daniel Peterson’s writing about “Nephi and his Asherah” has helped my thoughts evolve. I have recently started thinking about Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother in terms of the two trees in the Garden of Eden. The Tree of Knowledge represents the Father to me, and the Tree of Life represents the Mother. (Nephi was told that the tree represents the love of God. I can see our Mother in that description.) Apparently, before the fall, the fruit on the Tree of Life was freely available. (“From EVERY tree … freely eat… EXCEPT for the tree of knowledge of good and evil …”). Once Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, their access to the Tree of Life was blocked. So maybe the process of becoming like BOTH of our Heavenly Parents means working on it in stages — in other words, one tree at a time. I think in the Garden (whatever that means for us) we had free access to our Heavenly Mother. Now we are learning to distinguish good from evil, and we must rely on our Heavenly Father. Eventually we will again freely partake of the Tree of Life, and joyfully know and associate with Her. That fruit that is most desirable and that filled Lehi with joy represents (to me) our yearning to know Her and the joy we will feel when that happens.

    Maybe “eternal lives” really refers to being like Her as well as being like our Heavenly Father.

  52. I didn’t start thinking about Heavenly Mother until I lost my mortal mother almost five years ago to cancer. Suddenly I was missing a mother’s influence and love. Now I talk to my mom (I guess you could call it praying) in my mind, but regard her now as more of guardian angel than a deity. Anyway, I’m enjoying reading about your journey and can’t wait to read more.

  53. Daniel Peterson will be giving a presentation as part of the TempleStudies Conference in Logan this month on “The Divine Mother in the Book of Mormon”. See

  54. Hi Sarah, I am pleased that you have found “Heavenly Mother”. I too have recognized her existence. for many I would like to chat with you and share insights about her. I am a temple worker here in Montreal, as well as a temple secretary and NFS consultant. My phone number is 450-465-5679 and my email address is [email protected]

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