Truth Eternal Tells Me I’ve a Mother There
From our Separating Culture from Doctrine series, an ongoing series addressing culture and policy in our LDS communities that stem from doctrine but may not necessarily be doctrine. If you have a question to ask or an essay to submit, please do so using our Contact or Submit form.
We received this question from a reader:
My question rests with Heavenly Mother. We talk as though she exists but practice though she does not and give (no) explanation as to why (i.e. we don’t talk about her out of respect?? When I die, I sure hope my children talk about me, share stories, etc. that seems very respectful.)
So where does Heavenly Mother sit in the triangle? Doctrine, policy or culture??
In 2011, David L. Paulsen and Martin Pulido published an excellent overview of this very topic, titled “A Mother There” A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven. It is an excellent (though long) read, including the footnotes, and I encourage everyone who has an interest in Heavenly Mother to study that article.
The article begins with the following stanzas from the hymn O, My Father which read
In the heav’ns are parents single?
No, the thought makes reason stare!
Truth is reason; truth eternal
Tells me I’ve a mother there.
When I leave this frail existence,
When I lay this mortal by,
Father, Mother, may I meet you
In your royal courts on high?
I remember the first time I really heard the words from this hymn. It was a stake conference when I was very young, either still in Primary or just in Young Women. My aunt was the stake choir director, and I don’t remember if I actually sang with my mother in the choir, or if I simply attended the rehearsals. Either way, I remember that they sang an arrangement of this hymn, and I remember loving the part that talked about having a Mother in Heaven. It just felt right, and I don’t think I have ever doubted her existence since.
I also don’t remember feeling as though I shouldn’t talk about her, although I do remember my parents giving the same explanation as to why we don’t talk about her, something about her being too sacred and Heavenly Father wanting to protect her from the disrespect He received from us mortal beings. That always seemed like hogwash, but I was young and naive and I didn’t really mind not talking about her at Church as long as I knew that everyone else knew that she was real.
In their article, Paulsen and Pulido immediately state that the existence of a Heavenly Mother is doctrine. I think that much is clear, that we have a Mother in Heaven. Sometimes it seems a little obscure, because she has never really been a topic of a General Conference talk (although she has been mentioned either directly or indirectly by referencing our “heavenly parents” in probably most General Conferences). However, I am confident in asserting that Heavenly Mother exists and is an important part of our eternal identity, and you would be hard-pressed to find a Mormon leader who would argue against that.
Now comes the harder part: why she doesn’t have a more prominent place in our everyday gospel discussions.
In their article, Paulsen and Pulido mention,
Because the Saints are instructed to pray to the Father, and, as President Hinckley pointed out, nothing has been authoritatively revealed about Heavenly Mother, some Latter-day Saints have thought that any mention of her is discouraged by the Church.
This probably answers your question of why no one talks about her. Because there is so little officially revealed doctrine about Heavenly Mother, I believe people have a hard time wanting to bring her up in, say, Gospel Doctrine class, and open the door to all sorts of speculation and possible false doctrine. I love to discuss the things we do know, and I think it is good to use what we do know to help us understand what we don’t know.
If we never talk about something just because we don’t know anything about it, then we are stuck. If no one ever talks about Heavenly Mother, then no one will ever talk about Heavenly Mother, by this logic.
Anath sepulchral stela, Encyclopaedia Britannica
I think that it is beneficial to discuss what we do know about Heavenly Mother, and this article by Paulsen and Pulido really helped me to realize that many prophets and apostles have taught about Heavenly Mother.
They basically asked the same question that you are asking, and according to their research, this is what they found:
Our investigation has led us to conclude that such claims—that the Church mandates silence or gives only simplistic portrayals of Mother in Heaven—are mostly false. In this paper, we will share important historical accounts that cast serious doubt on the specific claims that, first, a sacred silence has always surrounded this treasured Mormon doctrine and that, second, Heavenly Mother’s ascribed roles have been marginalized or trivialized. With respect to the second claim, we will share historical portrayals of Heavenly Mother as procreator and parent, as a divine person, as co-creator of worlds, as coframer of the plan of salvation with the Father, and as a concerned and loving parent involved in our mortal probation.
The authors also mention that their research is not exhaustive, and they only presented a handful of the over 600 quotes relating to Heavenly Mother! So, as you can see, people do talk about her.
To sum up the answer to your question – the existence of Heavenly Mother is doctrine. Beyond her existence, not much has been revealed, but that doesn’t mean the other things leaders have said about her are not possibly true; they are simply not official doctrine. The idea that we shouldn’t speak about Heavenly Mother is definitely cultural. There is no official policy about whether or not we should speak of her, and I would have a hard time believing there is a doctrinal reason why we should not speak of her.
- When was the first time you heard of Heavenly Mother?
- Do you believe that the existence of Heavenly Mother is doctrinal?
- Do you think we should or should not speak of her? Why or why not?
About BeccaBecca is just a woman, mother, daughter of God, trying to figure things out. She blogs at My Soul Delighteth and Real Intent.
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