An Obscure Heavenly Mother Reference

I was doing some reading recently and came across a surprising moment where early Latter-day Saint John D. Lee casually included a reference to Heavenly Mother.  

On September 27, 1857, Lee visited a ward in Provo and was invited to speak.  He did so, and at the conclusion of his remarks, he said that: “He was trying to live near unto the Lord”, and encouraged the congregation “that we all might have an interest in the Kingdom that we might be permitted too return too our father & mother in peace.” (Provo Utah Central Stake general minutes, 1849-1977; Volume 10, 1855-1860; Church History Library,  [accessed: February 9, 2023].)

It was striking to me how casual and normal it seemed for him to include returning to both Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother in his remarks, given the reluctance to openly talk about Her in Latter-day Saint congregations today.

(Of course, being John D. Lee, the circumstances and individual delivering the message are less than ideal – Lee had just been one of the main instigators of the Mountain Meadows Massacre about two weeks beforehand and was on his way to Salt Lake City to pawn off blame for the whole ordeal on Paiutes while reporting to President Brigham Young.  This makes his statement that he was trying to live close to the Lord ring hollow.)

That context notwithstanding, I appreciate the encouragement he gave to “have an interest in the Kingdom that we might be permitted too return too our father & mother in peace.”  While obscure, it is something that can be added to a collection of quotes about Heavenly Mother

20 comments for “An Obscure Heavenly Mother Reference

  1. Any chance it can be read as a reference to our early Fathers and mothers that we will reunited with in heaven?

  2. It is possible, I suppose. The full quote is there, so without actually gong back in time, it’s going to be impossible to read much more into it.

  3. I’ve always thought the best and earliest scriptural reference was, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”

    You can look at that as an external narrator breaking the 4th wall and suddenly speaking to the audience.

    But at the time, Adam had no children. He did just leave his father to be joined with his wife. Stands to reason he also left his mother too.

    Speaks directly to our earthly journey and the point of mortality. We are to leave our mother and father in heaven to come to earth, become one with a wife or husband and carry on the process.

  4. I think we dont talk about mother in heaven because there are a million of them. And from my studies, JDL was doing what he was told to do by his church and military leaders. I believe they were also the ones to tell him to go talk to BY because they knew that JDL was sealed to BY as a son for eternity. A practice very few LDS are aware that we did. The leaders responsible for the tragedy were hoping that BY would be more understanding if it came from Lee.

  5. On JDL, sure, it’s accurate that he was following orders from Haight, etc., but at what point is killing 5+ innocent people at point-blank range something for which you won’t be culpable at judgements regardless of whether your stake president said to do it or not?

    Elder Christofferson indicated that we always have a choice, regardless of whether Church leaders say to do something:
    Free Forever, to Act for Themselves

  6. The strong likelihood is that John D. Lee is speaking of an earthly father and mother — it is a funeral with family present during his sermon. Moreover, the reason that we don’t speak much of a Heavenly Mother is pellucidly clear. There is not a single scripture or revelation that addresses the Heavenly Mother. Those scriptures that do address a female deity (in the Old Testament) condemn any worship or even acknowledgement of her existence as a real deity.

  7. Where are you getting that the meeting is a funeral, Blake Ostler? I’m struggling to find anything to indicate that it’s not just a Sunday morning meeting.

  8. @Chad
    The problem is that the church leaders were the military leaders. If JDL did not follow military orders, his own life would have been on the line. (per JDL in his biography) I am in no way saying JDL is innocent, but he should not have been the only one that paid the price for this huge mistake.

    What a current leader says today does not apply to what JDL dealt with and experienced. JDL actually tried to stop the Indians but things just escalated way too fast.

    One of the hardest church history topics I have ever studied in depth. So sad that this happened. Perfect storm.

  9. I agree that he should not have been the only one to have been charged with the massacre (though I disagree on a couple points with your assessment – his life being on the line as an excuse and his claims that he tried to stop the Paiutes are lies in my eyes that he told to cover what he did and gloried in at the time). Isaac Haight, in particular should have also been charged, though he lived out the last few years of his life as a fugitive, since they had every intent to charge him as well.

  10. To the point of it possibly being earthly parents, it is still possible, but with the document we have, it doesn’t seem to fit the context. As far as I can see, it is a Sunday morning meeting in a Provo ward that Lee visited when he was passing through and was invited to speak as a person of note. So, using “our” instead of “my” followed by singular nouns father and mother would seem odd in referring to earthly parents, given that it’s unlikely he had many, if any, siblings there.

  11. 27 Sepbember 1857 was a Sunday. Sacrament meetings were held on Thursdays at the time. Funerals were held on Sudays.

  12. The record book is pretty consistent at recording 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. meetings on Sundays and doesn’t mention Thursday meetings.

  13. Sacrament Meetings were held on Sunday.

    Fast Meetings were generally held on Thursday. The change to Sunday was made very late in the 19th century (1896, I think?) because so many working men (especially in England but also in Utah once the economy had shifted away from home industry and men were working for employers who weren’t necessarily LDS) couldn’t leave their jobs on Thursday.

    There wasn’t a fixed day for funerals, because burials could not usually be postponed for more than a day or two, depending on weather. (Some funerals did take place on Sunday, unlike today’s general practice, but also on any other day of the week; funeral sermons might not always have been preached on the day someone was buried but generally were.)

  14. Not to hijack this from mother in heaven, JDL was, in my opinion, not a liar. The fact that the indians called him cry baby after he pleaded with them to stop the fight tells me his heart was in the right place. His mistake was following orders and taking the fall for it all. He also honored his prayer circle promise with others involved to never reveal what happened. He kept this by not publishing his side of the story until after his death. Honor and word were taken very serious in those days and there is no doubt to me the JDL was an honorable man of his word. The fact that in his first trial, BY made sure he was found innocent only to make sure he was found guilty in the second trial is telling as well. My opinion is based on the following books. Will we ever know the truth, probably not.
    Mormonism Unveiled – Lee
    Massacre At Mountain Meadows – Turley, Walker, Leonard
    John D. Lee – Brooks

  15. @Ardis E. Parshall, thank you for the clarification. I was starting to get worried about the mortality rates in Provo in 1857.

    @REC911, like you say, we’re unlikely to ever know the truth. There are a lot of contradictory accounts of the massacre out there, so it is difficult to really know. I suspect that this is a situation where we will have to agree to disagree as a difference in what conclusions we draw from the information available. I’m familiar with the books you’ve shared and appreciate what they had to say on the subject. Oxford is also publishing another book in April (the sequel to Massacre at Mountain Meadows) that will also add more data points to the discussion.

  16. John D. Lee also went around bragging about having sex with his wife twenty times a night. Which is a dumb thing to brag about. And probably a lie.

  17. @Sam
    Are we sure he didn’t mean/say wives? I am not familiar with the quote you shared but I would not be surprised he meant wives and not wife. BY took his “favorite wife” to St. George for the winters. Pretty bold to openly declare you have a fav wife too but times were very different back then and there is a reason our church (if you are a member) has always had a “man in charge” culture. BY set the tone and he didn’t hold back.

    I think that is why church history can be hard for some. We are relying on quotes/stories that we really dont know are accurate. The 3 books I read all had reason to be bias on the subject. I picked these 3 on purpose thinking the entire truth would be a combination of the 3. I am also bias as I know some direct descendance of JDL and I find them very honorable, good people who feel their ancestor got the shaft. (also bias) I do appreciate your opinions and your views. Thanks for sharing! I would love to have these discussions with you, and others with different opinions, in Sunday School. Best class ever!

  18. “Best class ever!”

    I think Chad would be a great teacher. And I’d hope you’d invite Ardis to teach as well. I don’t think anyone knows more about church history than she does.

    Re: The OP: It seems (to me) that if J. D. Lee were talking to a congregation about our mortal parents he would have said “fathers and mothers” rather than the singular “father and mother.” I could be wrong–but the latter sounds like heavenly parents to me.

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