Hunger. Hunger is a funny thing. Do you ever get busy doing something for a long time and you just forget to eat? You’re so consumed in the task at hand, then suddenly, BOOM, it hits you. It comes in pangs, physically painful. All of a sudden it’s right there in the forefront demanding your attention, even though your stomach was just as empty 10 minutes ago.
That’s how my experience has been with Heavenly Mother. I was going along busy with my life, focusing on my tasks until BOOM. It was just right there. A hunger for a relationship with my divine Mother. The pangs were palpable. Painful. And I gave them my attention.
I gave a talk in this ward a few years ago. I was preparing notes on my phone, typing the scripture in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son…” only, my phone auto-corrected “he” to “she”. For God so loved the world, that SHE
It halted me. It healed me. It reminded me that Jesus Christ has a mother, too. A Heavenly Mother. And She must have been in favor of the Plan that brought Him here, too.
Since then, I’ve gone on a quest of likening the scriptures to me, inserting myself into the verses where that applies, for example, 2 Nephi 2:25, “Eve fell that women might be, and women are that they might have joy”, and adding Heavenly Mother into verses where, if She and the Father truly are equal as the Family Proclamation suggests, Her presence is only logical as well. In fact, the Hebrew word for Elohim that was often translated to “God” in the ancient text we read today as scripture, is actually plural. El was the male God, Elah the female. Elohim, then, can be read as both of them, together.
From prophets to poets, Heavenly Mother has been preached and praised and sung about since the beginning of the restoration.
The Church-published Gospel Topics Essay “Mother in Heaven” states, “The doctrine of a Heavenly Mother is a cherished and distinctive belief among Latter day Saints.” Yet, at a broader, more local level, we rarely hear about Her today. Why is this?
Have you ever heard that Heavenly Mother is too sacred to talk about? Or, being protected by Father? Me too. There has been a “sacred silence” surrounding Her for decades upon decades. Would you rejoice to learn that those notions are actually just a myth?
A BYU Studies Article titled “A Mother There”, analyzed “over six hundred sources of all types referencing a Heavenly Mother since 1844”. In it, we read this report:
“we have found no public record of a General Authority advising us to be silent about our Heavenly Mother; indeed. . . many General Authorities have openly taught about her.”
The Gospel Topics Essay “Mother in Heaven” also states:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that all human beings, male and female, are beloved spirit children of heavenly parents, a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother. This understanding is rooted in scriptural and prophetic teachings about the nature of God, our relationship to Deity, and the godly potential of men and women.
In 1909, the First Presidency of the Church wrote: “All men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity.” In 1995, the Church officially reaffirmed the doctrine of a Heavenly Mother in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”, quote, “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.”
In the Come Follow Me reading just a few weeks ago, we read D&C 42:61: “If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.”
For me, Heavenly Mother has always felt a bit like a mystery. She seemed to only be found in poems, like Eliza R. Snow’s poem “Invocation, or the Eternal Father and Mother”, which became the beloved hymn “O My Father”,
I had learned to call thee Father,
Thru thy Spirit from on high,
But, until the key of knowledge
Was restored, I knew not why.
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?
Then, at length, when I’ve completed
All you sent me forth to do,
With your mutual approbation
Let me come and dwell with you.
Or W.W. Phelp’s poem “Come to Me” published around the same time:
Come to me where the truth and the virtues prevail;
Where the union is one, and the years never fail;
Where a heart can’t conceive, nor a nat’ral eye see,
What the Lord has prepar’d for the just: Come to me.
Come to me, will ye come to the mansion above,
Where the bliss and the knowledge, the light, and the love, And the glory of God, do eternally be?
Death, the wages of sin, is not here: Come to me.
Come to me, here are Adam and Eve at the head
Of a multitude, quicken’d and rais’d from the dead;
Here’s the knowledge that was, or that is, or will be–
In the gen’ral assembly of worlds: Come to me.
Come to me, here’s the myst’ry that man hath not seen; Here’s our Father in heaven, and Mother, the Queen;
Here are worlds that have been, and the worlds yet to be, Here’s eternity,–endless; amen: Come to me.
It wasn’t until very recently, like, yesterday, after a conversation with my husband in which we established that She definitely is not explicitly mentioned in the scriptures, that I learned that she actually is!
Jeremiah 44 documents a conversation between the Israealite people who have just become refugees and Jeremiah the prophet, in which they try to tell Jeremiah that the reason they are being punished is that they have not been performing sacrifices to Her. In verses 17 and 18 they say:
17 But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil.
18 But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine.
Jeremiah tells them that it is because of their wickedness rather than their lack of obeisance that they are being punished, but I love this little glimpse into the rituals and religious practices of their day, and I couldn’t believe that our Bible specifically mentions ancient worship of the Queen of Heaven!
Then there is also Wisdom personified, referred to in the book of Proverbs and others, which scholars suggest could be another reference to Heavenly Mother. One of those scholars, Margaret Barker, a Methodist scholar and archaeologist. writes,
The wise one who wrote the first section of the Book of Proverbs clearly knew who Wisdom was, and there is good reason to believe that the other writers of the Old Testament knew her too. In Proverbs 8, for example, there is a wonderful poem about the Second Person present at the creation – a female Second Person present at the creation!- assisting the Creator as the world is brought into being.
When he established the heaven I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above…
I was beside him, like… (Proverbs 8. 27-8, 30)
Like what? Here there is a word which does not appear anywhere else in the Hebrew Scriptures, but is related to the word meaning craftsman. When this passage was translated into Greek, the word chosen was ‘the woman who holds things together’ harmozousa, which can also mean ‘the woman who keeps things in tune’. Wisdom, then, was understood to be the female figure who joined things together, kept things harmonious. If I tell you now that the word for devil, diabolos, means the one who deceives and creates discord, you may begin to glimpse the importance of Wisdom, and what the neglect of Wisdom has brought upon us. The Book of Enoch, which is not in our Old Testament but was Scripture for the early Christians, teaches a great deal about Wisdom. Most significant, perhaps, is the information that just before the first temple was destroyed, at the end of the seventh century BCE, she was rejected by the priests in Jerusalem, and as a result, they lost their vision. The spiritual eyes of the priests were closed.
To put things into perspective, Lehi and his family left just before these events. In the same article, titled “Wisdom and the Stewardship of Knowledge”, Margaret says,
Those who first heard the story of the Garden of Eden knew the Tree of Life as the symbol of Wisdom, and its fruits as her gifts: true riches, spiritual sight, everlasting life, and peace. Peace, the Hebrew word shalom, means far more than ‘absence of war or discord’. It was one of the key concepts of the Wisdom tradition, and included ideas of harmony, wholeness, integrity – the creation as it was on the sixth day, when God saw that everything was very good. The fruit of the Tree of Life held all things together in harmony.
President Rudger Clawson, former President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “It doesn’t take from our worship of the Eternal Father, to adore our Eternal Mother, any more than it diminishes the love we bear our earthly fathers, to include our earthly mothers in our affections.” Rather, “we honor woman when we acknowledge Godhood in her eternal prototype.”
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and his wife, Patricia, have taught that our Mother and our Father are involved in the ongoing process of creating everything around us, and “are doing so lovingly and carefully and masterfully.”
Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said, “Our theology begins with heavenly parents. Our highest aspiration is to be like them.”
Another quote from the BYU studies article referenced in the Church’s Gospel Topics Essay says, “The Heavenly Mother portrayed in the teachings we have examined is a procreator and parent, a divine person, a co-creator, a co-framer of the plan of salvation, and is involved in this life and the next.”
The article concludes with this powerful quote by Elder Glenn L. Pace from the First Quorum of the Seventy given in 2010, “Sisters, I testify that when you stand in front of your heavenly parents in those royal courts on high and you 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.”
When Christ was on the earth, he talked a lot about his father, and when Philip asked to be shown the Father, Jesus replied that the Father was made manifest through the Son. In John 14:9 he says, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me…? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?”
In her article “Women in the Image of the Son: Being Female and Being Like Christ,” Kathryn H. Shirt writes that just as the best way to get to know our Heavenly Father is through the son, it may also be the best way to get to know our Heavenly Mother. She says, “When we ask about the Mother, might not the Lord give us a similar reply? ‘He that hath seen me hath seen the Mother.’ We think of the Godhead as united in purpose and similar in character. If we. . . are going to assert the existence of a female Deity, shouldn’t we assume that her Son mirrors her perfection as well as that of the Father?”
Christ is the perfect embodiment of our Heavenly Parents. When we get to know him, we will get to know them both, Father and Mother.
In my personal study of Heavenly Mother over the last year or so, this has definitely been the case for me. Teachings about Her often come to me as poetry, so I hope you’ll indulge me as I share 2 of my poems here now.
Like Mother, Like Son
Who taught the Son of giving life
Of waters pure, of blood and strife
Of sacrificing body
To bring from darkness into light?
Surely He has Bourne our grief
Who better than my Mother knows
How He must be feeling; felt
For did She not herself bear all?
At the urging of our prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, in his October 2019 General Conference talk, “Spiritual Treasures”, I have made a greater effort to learn what my rights and privileges are in the priesthood as a woman. The more I study, the more drawn I feel to my Heavenly Mother. If this doctrine feels uncomfortable to you, I invite you to do as Christ invites us to do with all doctrine, and try it. Think about Her. Ask the Father about Her. Talk about Her with others.
If you, like me, find yourself hungering, I hope you will find manna in the doctrine of our Heavenly Mother. As you let it distill upon your soul, I hope you will find comfort and healing.
The more I learn, the more central She becomes. Just as the Father sent His Son, so too did the Mother. She bore Him. If Christ is the fruit of the Tree of Life, then she is the Tree. If The Father and the Son are one in purpose, then so is She. And if She matters in the great Plan of Salvation, then so do I.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
by Jessica Burdette