“The doctrine of a Heavenly Mother is a cherished and distinctive belief among Latter-day Saints,” the Church’s gospel topics essay “Mother in Heaven” reads.
Although Latter-day Saints know the topic of our Heavenly Mother is sacred and that She is crucial to the plan of salvation, many might wonder why we don’t know more about our divine Mother. In fact, many misconceptions and myths have been circulated about our Mother in Heaven because of the relative silence that surrounds Her.
But Latter-day Saints do have access to many revealed truths about Heavenly Mother, thanks in large part to the Church’s efforts to make historical records, scripture, and documents more accessible than ever before. These truths can help us understand our Mother in Heaven, feel nearer to Her, and understand our own potential in an elevated, clearer way.
To help us draw nearer to our Heavenly Parents, here are some myths and truths regarding our Heavenly Mother it is important for Latter-day Saints to understand.
1. Truth—Heavenly Mother shaped who we are before this life, and She will continue to shape and mentor us through eternity.
The love of our Heavenly Mother has been a constant stream of strength and comfort since premortality. As “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” reveals, “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.”
Knowing our spiritual history and makeup alters everything we know about ourselves and our future possibilities. As Sister Kathy Kipp Clayton said in a 2015 Worldwide Devotional, “We have [Heavenly Father’s] spiritual DNA coursing through our veins” (“A Regal Identity”). Because of the revealed doctrine of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” we know that we also have the divine DNA of our Heavenly Mother filling our veins and our souls, allowing us to become like our divine Parents.
Sister Susa Young Gates, daughter of Brigham Young and editor of the Church’s Young Woman’s Journal and Relief Society Magazine, wrote that our Heavenly Mother’s “watchful care” and “careful training” helped shape our souls and prepared us for mortal life and eternal life to come (“Editor’s Department,” Young Woman’s Journal 2). In fact, she stated “our great heavenly Mother was the greater molder” of the prophet Abraham’s nature, “greater than his genetics, his prenatal impressions, his cultural or natural environment, or even his earthly mother’s nurturing” the BYU Studies article “A Mother There” clarifies.
That knowledge of how influential our Heavenly Mother is in each of our lives and destinies can help us each “rise to the stature of the divine” within us (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Rise to the Stature of the Divine within You,” October 1989). And it can help us realize stunning celestial truths.
“There is an exalted woman, the Mother of your spirit, who cares, instructs, and watches over you, who is helping govern the universe. There is someone on your side, urging you to become all you can be, who sent Her son along with the Father to help show you the way,” says Martin Pulido, co-author of the BYU Studies essay “A Mother There” and editor of Dove Song. “That is probably the most important thing for us to grasp. Recognizing there is someone who has had a tremendous influence on us before we came here, who is no doubt thinking about you all the time while you are here and helping you get where you need to be—it is overwhelming. That’s power.”
2. Myth—There is a “sacred silence” surrounding our Heavenly Mother that keeps us from speaking about Her.
Myths have circulated in our culture that have left some Latter-day Saints believing the topic of Heavenly Mother is taboo or deserves a “sacred silence.” While we might not have as much revealed about our Mother in Heaven as we do our Father, much of the silence that surrounds Her stems from our own discomfort or lack of knowledge, not from a Church mandate.
About the myth that Church members must remain quiet about our Heavenly Mother to protect her sacredness, Pulido asks, “How is the temple or God the Father any less sacred” of a topic, or how can any statement from mortal men and women on these topics change their holiness, glory, or nature?
“I had qualms with that [reasoning], and that is partly why Professor Paulson and I wrote the BYU Studies article about Heavenly Mother, to turn that notion on its head and say that’s not really the case,” Pulido says.
If the “sacred silence” theory surrounding Heavenly Mother is a myth, why don’t we talk about her more?
Pulido shares a few insights. “For some, I think it is cultural habits are hard to break. . . . It’s still an entrenched view of having this sacred silence about her, so I think time will just have to heal that wound. I believe the article I wrote and the Church’s article on the topic that followed create a space in which we can speak of her more often. . . and what we do with that space and how we fill that up, I think that is on each of us, in how we choose to speak about Her in our talks, our lessons, our meetings, our conversations, and so on.”
He continues, “I will say here, there are many distinctive parts of our LDS doctrine that we don’t vocalize frequently from the pulpit.” One example Pulido gives is the King Follett Sermon, which revealed the truths that “God was once a man possessing a body of flesh and bone, that God cannot and did not create the world out of nothing, and that the spirit of man is intelligence co-equal with God—these are incredibly distinctive and illuminating doctrines as to what Mormons believe about man’s nature and potential, including the nature of the God they worship,” Pulido says. However, these truths are not mentioned regularly over the pulpit or in our hymns. Pulido continues, “My point is to question whether we can draw an inference between the importance of a topic and the frequency with which it is mentioned over the pulpit.”
One of the main reasons Pulido thinks Mormons do not speak often about Heavenly Mother and doctrines found in the King Follett Sermon is because we are still learning about those truths and how to communicate them with people outside our religion. “We need to remember how young our religion is,” Pulido says. “We are still getting comfortable with and coming to grips with our theology. We are still creating vocabulary and are very self-conscious about beliefs that conflict with mainstream Christian beliefs . . . we're trying to find ways to talk about them intelligently and persuasively. Early Christianity took centuries to codify its texts and symbols in art and theology.”
Latter-day Saints might also shy away from topics like Heavenly Mother because it highlights where our doctrines diverge from the rest of Christianity. While it is good to build common ground, Pulido says, “We need to be comfortable with our peculiar doctrines, like our belief in Heavenly Mother. We’ll get better at explaining and articulating ourselves, even if it takes a while for us to master our mother tongue—pun intended. But we can get there. We should also remember that as a global Church, we proselyte far more than mainstream Christians and that other faiths will be far more amenable to the notion of a Heavenly Mother.”
3. Truth—Heavenly Mother played a vital part in our creation and the plan of salvation.
Elder Melvin J. Ballard taught:
"No matter to what heights God has attained or may attain, he does not stand alone; for side by side with him, in all her glory, a glory like unto his, stands a companion, the Mother of his children. For as we have a Father in heaven, so also we have a Mother there, a glorified, exalted, ennobled Mother. That is a startling doctrine, I recognize, to some folk, and yet we ought to be governed by reason in giving consideration to this doctrine which is a revelation from God" (Sermons and Mission Services of Melvin Joseph Ballard, 205).
Many Church leaders have taught that our Heavenly Parents were both vital not only in the creation of our spirits but of our bodies as well. As Elder M. Russell Ballard taught, “We are part of a divine plan designed by Heavenly Parents who love us” (When Thou Art Converted, 62).
Our Heavenly Mother is a creator of universes, a framer of worlds without end, a God over limitless creations, and our eternal Mother working in perfect partnership with our Heavenly Father. And our Heavenly Mother continues to influence and shape our life.
As Patricia Holland shared in a BYU devotional, “In the ongoing process of creation—our creation and the creation of all that surrounds us—our heavenly parents are preparing a lovely tapestry with exquisite colors and patterns and hues. They are doing so lovingly and carefully and masterfully. And each of us is playing a part—our part—in the creation of that magnificent, eternal piece of art” (“Filling the Measure of Creation”).
4. Truth—We know more about our Heavenly Mother’s nature than many might realize.
Since our Heavenly Mother stands as an equal partner side by side with our Heavenly Father, much of what we know about our Father can illuminate our understanding of our Mother. As the Encyclopedia of Mormonism states, “A Heavenly Mother shares parenthood with the Heavenly Father. This concept leads Latter-day Saints to believe that she is like him in glory, perfection, compassion, wisdom, and holiness.” Her unending love, Her glory, Her majesty, the sacrifice of Her Son, Her patient and constant arms reaching out for us, comforting us—many of these eternal truths are equally applicable to our Heavenly Mother and Father.
And the ultimate embodiment of both of our Heavenly Parents’ attributes can be found through their divine Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. As Pulido says, “We can all strive for the same virtues that our Heavenly Mother possesses to the maximal degree, which I believe were shown to us through the ministry and life of Her Son, who can be viewed as the image of both Father and Mother. He is the way.”
Lead image by Cailtin Connolly
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