When I stand in the most sacred spaces of the temple, I feel my Heavenly Mother all around me, surrounding and embracing me with a celestial love that my mortal body cannot contain or comprehend. I ache to hold onto that love, to disappear within it, but those moments of heaven meeting earth are brief, though soul-shaping.
In those moments, I understand a portion of what Elder Glenn L. Pace meant when he said:
“Sisters, I testify that when you stand in front of your Heavenly Parents in those royal courts on high and look into Her eyes and behold Her countenance, any question you ever had about the role of women in the kingdom will evaporate into the rich, celestial air, because at that moment you will see standing directly in front of you, your divine nature and destiny.”
But how do we create those moments with more regularity? How can we feel and connect to our Heavenly Mother in the temple? Here are a few things that have fundamentally changed my understanding of the endowment and helped me experience my Mother in Heaven while in holy places:
1. Take a deeper look at the meaning of Elohim.
Elder Erastus Snow testified:
“If I believe anything that God has ever said about himself . . . I must believe that deity consists of the man and woman. . . . There can be no God except he is composed of the man and woman united, and there is not in all the eternities that exist, or ever will be a God in any other way” (Journal of Discourses, 19:272-73, March 3, 1878).
One of the most sacred titles of God is that of Elohim. But what does Elohim truly mean? Is it the literal name of God? Is it a title? Andrew C. Skinner, former dean of religious education at Brigham Young University, shared some fascinating insight into the meaning of Elohim in To Become Like God: Witnesses of Our Divine Potential:
“A few modern scholars of towering reputation have taken a different stance on the meaning of ’elohim, specifically when found in combination with the divine name Yahweh (English, ‘Jehovah’) in the text of the Hebrew Bible.
“Yahweh is thought to be a causative form of the verb meaning ‘to be, to exist’ and meaning literally, ‘he will cause to be.’ Thus the phrase Yahweh Elohim (translated as Lord God in the King James Version) would mean, literally, ‘he will cause gods to be.’ Professor William H. Brownlee, one of the early authorities on the Dead Sea Scrolls, asserts that the biblical phrase customarily rendered as ‘Lord God’ can be translated as ‘He creates gods,’ i.e., ‘He creates the members of the divine assembly.’”
The interesting thing about Elohim, which is not reflected in the above passage, is that it is a plural noun. So, couldn’t we render this translation “They create gods” or “They will create gods to be”? There is no place more fitting than in the temple to realize that Elohim, our Eternal Parents, are molding us into more and are shaping us into gods and goddesses.
But what do we make of the fact that Elohim is a masculine noun? Does that truly incorporate Heavenly Mother? As Martin Pulido, co-author of the BYU Studies essay “’A Mother There’: A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven” and editor of Dove Song, has noted, “If you look in the Bible, you find verses like 1 Kings 11:5, where it describes Solomon following ‘Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians.’ Now, the word for the goddess in that verse is Elohim, and Ashtoreth, as many know, was a female fertility goddess, so Elohim can be used to reference the female. I think that is demonstrated well again in the Abrahamic creation account in the Pearl of Great Price, where, in the image of Gods, male and female are formed. And that mirrors the Genesis account where the term for the Gods is Elohim. So I am asking myself, why is it that Elohim cannot apply as much to Heavenly Mother as to Heavenly Father?”
Isn’t it beautiful that, unlike mythological gods and goddesses, our Heavenly Parents are so united in love and purpose that they share the title Elohim, they share the title of God?
2. Understand Her role in the Creation.
In Abraham 4:27 we read, “So the Gods went down to organize man in their own image, in the image of the Gods to form they him, male and female to form they them.”
Gods created the world, not a singular entity. In fact, we read Gods created humankind “in their image . . . male and female,” demonstrating that the divine feminine was included at this moment of creation—that our Heavenly Mother as well as the Father and the Son shaped this world, our bodies, and our natures.
Brigham Young attested to this fact in his 1876 semiannual general conference address:
“Then will they become gods, even the sons of God; then will they become eternal fathers, eternal mothers, eternal sons and eternal daughters; being eternal in their organization, they go from glory to glory, from power to power; they will never cease to increase and to multiply worlds without end. When they receive their crowns, their dominions, they then will be prepared to frame earth’s like unto ours and to people them in the same manner as we have been brought forth by our [heavenly] parents” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 18:259, October 8, 1876).
As we understand that, the endowment can take on new meaning.
3. Think of how She shaped the world, nature, and your soul.
Knowing that our Heavenly Mother played a key role in directing and orchestrating the Creation, we can think of Her role in shaping nature, mountains, heavens, light, earth, and breathing creatures of all shapes and sizes while we are in the temple. Heavenly Mother’s fingerprints are manifested in all the unfathomable diversity that surround us.
But most importantly, Her fingerprints are etched on our souls. Not only did She play an important role in our physical creation, She is the literal Mother of our spirits. Our mortal births echo our divine immortal birth, a beginning of infinite and eternal possibilities. That is an incomprehensible gift.
4. Speak to Her.
While in the temple, angels and the celestial surround you. A temple sealer once told me that if I wanted to improve my temple experience, the next time I attended I should hold a conversation with the person for whom I was vicariously receiving ordinances. These conversations had such a powerful effect of rooting me in the moment and pulling heaven near, I began to wonder if I could converse with my Savior and Heavenly Mother and Father in the same way. The answer is an exquisite and effusive yes. You can not only feel but speak directly to your Heavenly Parents within the temple.
5. Ask if She loves you.
In those personal conversations with heaven, ask your Heavenly Mother how She feels about you. President Russell M. Nelson promised the youth of the Church:
“Ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, how He feels about you and your mission here on earth. If you ask with real intent, over time the Spirit will whisper the life-changing truth to you. Record those impressions and review them often, and follow through with exactness.
“I promise you that when you begin to catch even a glimpse of how your Heavenly Father sees you and what He is counting on you to do for Him, your life will never be the same!”
The same is true of coming to know our Heavenly Mother and Her love for us. Our Heavenly Parents are unified in heart and purpose, yet their relationships with us can be richer and more individualized than our relationships here on earth.
6. Think of what it meant for Her to sacrifice Her son for you.
If, at the end of your conversations and questions, you still doubt your Heavenly Mother’s love for you, remember that She sacrificed Her Firstborn for you. But more than sacrificing His life, which brought Him back to Her eternal embrace, know that She let Her son live for you. She let Him suffer, love, bleed, and fall into a world of corruption. She watched Him shudder under the sins of the world. She watched His body mutilated and hung on a cross. But She endured it because of Her love of Him and of us. She endures watching our own suffering and the way we murder and scar our own brothers and sisters because She loves us enough the weep. To whatever degree we love we open ourselves to pain of the same degree. Can you imagine how fiercely, how deeply She must love us to be willing to endure so much pain in creating us, in helping us reach for the divine?
This knowledge can help us endure our own heartbreaks. Elder Orson F. Whitney shared:
“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God . . . and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven” (Faith Precedes the Miracle, 98).
7. See Her as an ultimate role model, an eternal possibility inherent in your divine nature.
The height, breadth, width, and depth of the divine we can obtain is embodied in Her, our Heavenly Mother. While we might cry out and wonder if this life is worth the agony, if love is worth the vulnerability, we can look to our own glorious Heavenly Mother to know it is not only worth it but it is possible.
President Dallin H. Oaks taught: “Our theology begins with heavenly parents. Our highest aspiration is to be like them” (“Becoming Like God“).
8. Show gratitude for all She has given you and for all you know of Her.
As you sit in the temple, pause for a moment to give thanks for the ennobling, unique knowledge you have about your Heavenly Mother. We know that our Heavenly Mother is equal in glory, intelligence, and power to our Heavenly Father, and as we grow closer to Her and seek revelation, we can come to better know Her.
Elder Melvin J. Ballard shared:
“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).
9. Study temple symbolism and pay attention to how She is reflected there.
At the heart of our meetinghouses and temples are baptismal fonts—a womb that ushers in our rebirth to a new, holier life. In fact, every sacred building and ordinance in our faith can be compared or connected to the female divine and rebirth. From the floral and nature motifs to the geometric, intertwining shapes in temples, our Heavenly Mother is represented in startling and beautiful symbolism. As you learn more about what each gesture, word, and symbol means, you will find unavoidable connections to our Heavenly Mother.
10. Think of how the ordinances connect you to Her in visceral, beautiful ways.
The temple is not a house of individual worship but a place where barriers dissolve so that heaven and earth, mortals and angels meet to build an eternal, ever-connected family. Every ordinance in the temple seals and binds us to our Heavenly Mother, and, on a deeper level, every ordinance allows us to emulate Her as we begin building eternal families of our own.
11. Think of what it means to Her that you are there doing work for one of Her children.
While we can never repay our Heavenly Mother for all She has given to and for us, we can help Her children. Though none of us can ever travel outside the embrace of Her immutable love, we can help others return to Her presence. No mother could ever forget the love and kindness you show toward Her child.
12. See Her in the light of the temple.
What I love most about temple chandeliers, in all their glorious array of crystalline prisms, is the color that they produce. Pure, white light, as most of us learned in our high school physics class, contains every possible spectrum of color. It is not devoid of color, as many would think, but a balance and encompassing of them all. This has always been a subtle and comforting reminder to me that all belong in the temple. What makes the celestial celestial is infinite variety coming together in exquisite unity. It’s not monotony. It’s not extinguishing differences but illuminating them through light to create more light.
That radiance, that diversity, that unity encompasses our Heavenly Mother. When I see light in the temple, I often think of this quote from Elder John A. Widtsoe:
“The glorious vision of life hereafter . . . is given radiant warmth by the thought that . . . [we have] a mother who possesses the attributes of Godhood” (“Everlasting Motherhood,” Millennial Star 90, May 10, 1928).
Whether you are struggling to feel your Mother close or you want to deepen your relationship with Her, go to the temple. I know you will find Her there.