Mother in Heaven – Heavenly Mother


I have a mother in heaven. By that I mean my earthly mother, who died a few years ago, and now resides in the spirit world, awaiting my father and the resurrection. As I write this on Mother’s day, I think of her, how much I love and appreciate her, and how much she influenced my life.

But I’ll bet you clicked on this link or found this essay because you were interested in reading about Heavenly Mother, a controversial Mormon doctrine, and not in learning about my mother, although I think her life, conversion and falling away from the church is extremely interesting.

I won’t disappoint you. Do you recognize this beautiful image from the cover of Sunstone Magazine a few years back? This is not the issue that contained the essay from Margaret Toscano on Heavenly Mother that got her excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in November of 2000.

This is from an early issue in the history of Sunstone Magazine that contains several other enlightening essays on the subject. I bring up Margaret Toscano because her name comes to mind more than anyone else when I think of Heavenly Mother. What? You say you’ve never heard of Margaret Toscano? Well, you have missed out. Go watch her interviews on YouTube (Thank you John Dehlin).

Sources for information on Heavenly Mother

You may be thinking, “I don’t want to have anything to do with that Sunstone crowd. I hear they’re nothing but trouble. In fact, I might get in trouble just for reading Sunstone articles.” Well, I have news for you. You won’t learn much about Heavenly Mother unless you do. It just isn’t something that is talked about in the official channels and sources of the church. Oh, there is another source: Feminist Mormon Housewives, a very popular blog for Mormon women.

About the only thing most members of the church know about Heavenly Mother comes from the hymnbook. I just sang the song today. It’s not called, “O My Mother.” It is a beautiful hymn entitled, “O My Father,” written by Eliza R. Snow. It is a favorite in the church and for good reason. It is a beautiful melody and one of the only hymns where a Mother in Heaven is mentioned. The other one is “Oh, What Songs of the Heart” (#286).

I take that back. There is a Newsroom response to a Newsweek article back in 2001 that reads, “‘The Mother’ is not a term that is used among Church members, in Church meetings, classes or lesson manuals. While the official Proclamation on the Family affirms that each human being is a beloved son or daughter of heavenly parents, there are no teachings about a Heavenly Mother in Latter-day Saint scripture.”

Why is this controversial?

While there may be no scriptural references to a Mother in Heaven, it simply seems to be common knowledge among long-time members of the church or those with a pioneer heritage. This knowledge has been passed down within these well-established pioneer families. The problem is that the doctrine is not officially set down in writing anywhere that you can read it in a format that helps you to understand it. Thus, there are several misunderstandings.

For example, it is not clear if there is one Heavenly Mother or many. It stands to reason that if polygamy is still an officially accepted doctrine of the church (and it is), then why wouldn’t God have more than one wife? I know, this is shocking to some to contemplate. In my experience with some new converts, the whole idea of a Mother in Heaven is shocking. I personally believe that the family of man does come though many different spiritual mothers.

I think that’s why the Church is not more forthcoming about the doctrine and setting it in some sort of official format that can be relied upon as authoritative. Either they just don’t know enough about it because it hasn’t been revealed or it is considered something that is too difficult for most members of the church to understand. Maybe early church leaders like Brigham Young understood it better because they heard it directly from Joseph. Who knows?

We pray to Heavenly Father

Some members of the church who have misunderstood the concept of Heavenly Mother began to suggest that we could pray to her, whereupon the church denounced the practice in General Conference. A BYU professor who had advocated the practice lost her teaching position because of it. I have never understood or considered the idea of praying to a Heavenly Mother but then maybe that’s because I am a man. I have read writings of many women who feel otherwise.

A companion controversy to the idea of Mother in Heaven is the concept of shared priesthood. You can find a lot of material published by members of the church about the subject but not as much from official sources. Just how much of a right does an endowed and sealed sister in the church have to exercise the priesthood with her husband, if any? We read stories in the early days of the church it was common for women to assist their husbands in priesthood blessings.

We know that women officiate in the priesthood in the temple. It would be very inappropriate to have it otherwise if you know anything about washings and anointings that are performed there. If women officiate in the priesthood there, why not in the home? Why not in the church? The Brethren have directed that it is not to be done. We do not confer the priesthood upon women and do not ordain them to offices within that priesthood, so how could they preside?

Summary and Conclusion

I have been trying to write the posts on my blog in such a way that an individual who is not a member of our church wanting to know more could understand the material I present. I also have several friends who are recent converts who read my blog and I keep them in mind as I write. Unfortunately, this subject is not one that is easy to explain or understand because it is so vague in the minds of most members of the church, who do not think or talk about it very often.

Do the leaders know more than they share? I don’t know. Do they perhaps simply not know much about Mother in Heaven? I wonder. Does it matter to my eternal salvation? No. I am only concerned about living in accordance to the knowledge that has been revealed. In other words, if God wanted me to know more about Heavenly Mother, then he would reveal it to me, through the authorized priesthood channels. Any other source is speculative and questionable.

I know, that bugs some people who feel that they are entitled to their own revelation on the subject. Maybe so, but keep it sacred within your own bosom. I do not have a problem with not knowing much about Mother in Heaven. When I get to heaven I’ll learn more. For now, I’m content to remember my own mother who is now in heaven and look forward to seeing her again. I know I also have a Heavenly Mother and will someday be with her again as well.

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9 Responses

  1. Tim,Polygamy is a trigger issue for me. So, I hope you don’t mind if I take a slightly opposite position. ;) In your section “Why is this Controversial?” you imply that polygamy is still a doctrine of the Church. I hear different people say this idea from time to time.The Church’s Newsroom recently posted the following statement: “the practice [of polygamy] is outlawed in the Church, and no person can practice plural marriage and remain a member.” See the official: LDS Newsroom.It is QUITE confusing to refer to something as “doctrinal” when the practice is against the rules of the Church and leads to excommunication. Does the Church really say in its official documents anywhere that we consider polygamy to be a doctrine? I am just asking (not preaching). My Mormon ancestors on both sides were polygamists, and I am grateful for their sacrifices. On the other hand, I do NOT aspire to their marital practices in this life or in the next. I must admit that part of me just wants to leave polygamy behind and have it done and gone. I am sure I don’t have to convince you that I believe in temple sealings. I suppose it is possible for a man to be sealed to a second wife if the first dies. But, I know of no instances where a LDS man, having been born in the 20th century and having a living wife, has been sealed to multiple women, living or dead.I agree that there is much to heavenly family organization that we do not know. The concept of “Heavenly Mother” is definitely doctrine, but that is about the beginning and end of our knowledge, at least until some President of the Church provides for us some elaboration.It was Wilford Woodruff who taught us that “Celestial Marriage” could also be mongamous. My polygamous ancestors did not believe that. Consequently, I am ever so grateful for continuous revelation. Do we modern LDS consider polygamy a “suspended” principle or a “terminated” principle? My guess is that it is more terminated than suspended, but I know some others would argue with me. I cannot see polygamy ever returning (and I would NOT want it to). But… maybe I have a limited vision… hmmm.Just a friendly comment from your blogging neighbor,S.Faux

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  2. Oh, by the way, I just want to thank you for your very thoughtful postings, which I always enjoy reading and thinking about.There are few blogs I consistently read, and yours is definitely on my list.

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  3. Hi S.Faux,As always, thank you for visiting my blog and for your insightful comments. You have great Mormon Insights. I have been so impressed with your prolific writings over the past few months. I can’t imagine how you found the time to post almost every day. Thank you for your insights. I only wish I could respond to your comments in a more timely manner. I have pondered them deeply.I knew this would be a somewhat controversial post. It is now receiving more hits than my “Mothers who know” post. I only wrote about it because I want to understand it more. I still don’t. A few points in the post deserve to be broken out and examined in their own light. That will happen with time and according to more light that I receive on the subject.Of course, none of us can be experts on something about which God has chosen to be largely silent. So much is speculation and that is not helpful to anyone. I’m referring to Mother in Heaven of course. I’ll get to Polygamy in just a moment. I have stated what I believe – that I have a Mother in Heaven and that there are multiple spiritual mothers of the human race. I have no authoritative source to which I can turn so for now, those are my opinions only.Now to Polygamy. I’m going to be blunt. It is only the practice that has been suspended. I have no problem with defining it as terminated as you suggest because I do not believe it will be resumed before the Savior comes. However, the principle or the doctrine is eternal. I don’t know how else to explain it. Unless the Lord reveals that it is to be resumed (to the prophet of course), I will never practice polygamy in this life. I do not want to. I could not afford it!I do not know what the Lord has in mind for us in regards to this principle when we return as resurrected beings. I do know that it requires consent of the first wife. Carol and I have had many conversations about this subject. Her ancestors also practiced polygamy. The spirit passed down from mother to daughter in her family about this practice is not a good one. Her great grandmother did not do well with the practice.I concur with your emphasis on the Newsroom article about the practice of polygamy. I totally agree with it. As a Church, we do not practice polygamy and excommunicate anyone who does. It is sad and unfortunate that so many still confuse us with the FLDS church and other polygamous groups that practice the principle of plural marriage. Modern Mormons are not polygamists. It is against the law and contrary to the word of the Lord to the living prophet.The only document that I can point to off the top of my head about the doctrine of plural marriage still being valid is found in the D&C. Section 132, of course, verse 61. The true practice of plural marriage always require that the first wife give her consent. The revelation uses the language, “given to him,” in referring to additional wives. By whom are they give – by God or by the first wife?Anyway, what does it matter? The practice is not going to be resumed in this life, or at least I don’t believe it will happen in my life. But yes, I am a true believer that the doctrine is eternal and that the practice will be resumed in the resurrection. Oh, and as many have pointed out, we actually do still practice plural marriage when the wife dies and a man is sealed to a second wife in the temple.

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  4. Tim,Thanks for taking the time to give a thoughtful response. I really do appreciate it.By the way, I have been able to post often, because I have written literally hundreds of essays over the years. I have been posting both new and olds ones on Mormon Insights. I had never thought of posting those essays on a blog until Elder Ballard made his famous comment. Then, as I explored different blogs, yours was one of the first I ran into. I saw how tastefully you had organized your blog, and frankly I thought your blog was the example to follow. There is too much junk out there, of course (and I may be adding to it on occasion, but I try not to).Your response to my polygamy question is excellent, and you are probably more in-line with traditional thinking than I am. (I can be a little too skeptical at times).I do wish the Church would clarify the “polygamy as doctrine” issue. Most Church manuals systematically avoid the topic, as you know. I do much appreciate that the new Joseph Smith manual (I have “taught” the HPs in my ward for years) which says (p. xii), “The Church … no longer practices plural marriage.” But, I honestly do not know if that means suspended, terminated, latent, covert, or what.I would love to go to one of those rare Solemn Assemblies where you can ask any question you want of some high ranking General Authority. I would be tempted to raise this issue, although there certainly are much more important issues.As a missionary I attended one such session ran by Elder ElRay L. Christiansen in the Salt Lake Temple in about 1972. It was an amazing 90 minutes or so. Unfortunately, half of it was questions from other missionaries about Masonry and other red herrings.In between grading I have been writing a piece on the FLDS and polygamy. I will post it in a couple of weeks. And, of course, I hope you will teach me where I have gone wrong if you happen to read it. ;)

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  5. I have only recently come upon your blog. I was very favorably impressed. then I followed a link in this “Mother in Heaven – Heavenly Mother” and found that you “footnoted” or “proved” you statement, “I have only recently come upon your blog. I was very favorably impressed. Then I followed a link in “Mother in Heaven – Heavenly Mother” and found that you “footnoted” or “proved” your statement “the Church denounced the practice [of praying to Heavenly Mother] in General Conference” by sending us to a talk by Elder L. Edward Brown, entitled “Pray Unto the Father in My Name.” The only mention made of any “mother“ in that article is “The prayer of a child had been heard. I thank the Lord for his mother, who had taught him to find keys in moments of crises.” I do not consider that the statement telling us to “Pray unto the Father…” is DENOUNCING anything. This one weak flimsy link has lessened to me your reliability, your veracity, your trustworthiness. This is exceptionally disappointing to me because, of course, your premise is true: we do not pray to Heavenly Mother.

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  6. Hi jstme,You are correct. The link I had provided was not the one I intended. Thank you so much for catching that and pointing it out. I have corrected the link. It now points to President Hinckley’s address in the Women’s General meeting of 1991, which I consider to be a part of General Conference.Perhaps denounced was too strong of a word. President Hinckley was correcting a misguided practice that some were advocating. I think the direction provided is clear. We do not pray to our Mother in Heaven. There is no scriptural evidence to support that practice.Please accept my apologies for the less than perfect footnoting. I will be more careful in the future to provide accurate quotes from which I base my statements. I appreciate you visiting and reading my blog and especially appreciate your corrective comment.

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  7. Tim,I have always felt that this is one of those subjects that are extremely sacred, and that is actually the primary reason members of the church do not discuss it. My feeling is that our Father in Heaven has designed it to be this way, to protect someone most holy from any degree of blasphemy. We have become a society that discusses everything and anything, and as the phrase goes “nothing is sacred anymore”. I do not belive that your post is meant in any way to be disrespectful, and it is thought provoking and well written. (although, I suspect you could not resist creating a “hot topic” item for increased traffic.) ;) Be that as it may, your concluding paragraph is the most important statement on this subject matter. As I have mentioned several times on my own site, I truly believe God operates on the “need to know” principle. This is one of those interesting little mysteries that we can ponder for a moment, but then it’s best to move on. We all have a lot to learn once we get to the other side – it is exciting to know our education has just begun. But I for one am perfectly happy to wait my turn and enjoy the marvels of THIS life! – All the best

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  8. Hi Mormon Soprano,How delightful to have you stop by and visit my blog. I enjoyed visiting yours and especially listening to some of the musical selections there. Thank you for sharing the beauty of what can e found there. I am curious though as to what caused you to almost suspend your blogging activities.Your observations about my essay on this subject were very astute. Let me reiterate that my purpose in writing about Mother in Heaven was not to obtain more visits, but to provide a resource to which I could point my friends and new members to read more about the subject from a believing and faithful point of view instead of the profane that is found so often on the internet.You are correct in that this is a sacred subject. I also agree that our Heavenly Father has revealed little on the concept for the very reason you mentioned – to protect someone most holy from any degree of blasphemy. However, as you pointed out, we live in an age when anything and everything is discussed on the internet, including Mother in Heaven.I hope I was clear in the essay that there are no scriptures on the subject – ancient or modern. I think we are indebted to Eliza R Snow for her beautiful poem and hymn which every prophet has endorsed by allowing it to remain in our hymnbooks over the years. I love to hear the Tabernacle Choir sing this particular number.I so much appreciate your last paragraph which has given me a lot to think about. Yes, I concur that our Heavenly father works on a need to know basis. I had never considered that particular phrase before in reference to sacred things. It is so applicable in regards to this particular subject. I too am looking forward to the joys of renewed knowledge that await me in the spirit world.And yes, let us enjoy this life and the exercise of faith that will give us so much the advantage in the world to come. There are so many things that I take on faith which I fully expect to have revealed to me when I am ready, perhaps in mortality but more likely in the spirit world. Thank you for your wonderful and uplifting comments. Cheers!

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  9. FYIThe original title of the poem thaq became the hymn ‘O My Father’ was, “Invocation, or The Eternal Father and Mother.”

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