Myth or Fact

Here are some of the common false myths about Heavenly Mother and responses to them.
Myth: Church leaders don’t talk about Heavenly Mother because She is too sacred to talk about.
Fact: Many Church leaders, from Joseph Smith to Russel M. Nelson, have taught of Heavenly Mother.

After the death of Zina Huntington Young’s mother, Joseph Smith taught Zina that she had a Mother in Heaven, as well as a Father in Heaven (1). Other prophets, including Brigham Young, Lorenzo Snow, Spencer W. Kimball, and Howard W. Hunter, have also taught of Heavenly Mother.

In more recent years, prophets and apostles have testified of Heavenly Mother or our Heavenly Parents. For example, President Gordon B. Hinkley taught, “Logic and reason would certainly suggest that if we have a Father in Heaven, we have a Mother in Heaven. That doctrine rests well with me.” (2). In 2015, Elder Jeffery R. Holland thanked Heavenly Mother for Her “crucial role in fulfilling the purposes of eternity” (3). At the October 2016 general conference, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf proclaimed, “We are the literal spirit children of divine, immortal, and omnipotent Heavenly Parents!” (4). And at the April 2019 general conference, President Russel M. Nelson invited all to “take the covenant path back home to our Heavenly Parents” (5).

If many prophets and apostles have publicly taught of Heavenly Mother, where did the idea that She is too sacred to talk about come from? Scholars David L. Paulsen and Martin Pulido examined over 600 public statements about Heavenly Mother by Church authorities from 1844 to 2011 and found “no public record of a General Authority advising us to be silent about our Heavenly Mother; indeed, as we have amply demonstrated, many General Authorities have openly taught about her” (6). They also found that the first record of this myth being taught was by a well-meaning seminary teacher named Melvin R. Brooks (7). However, as previously stated, this is one man’s personal opinion and it has not been repeated by general authorities. Thus, we should feel no need to curb joyful discussions of our Heavenly Mother.

Sources

  1. Joseph Smith, secondhand account (Susa Young Gates, “History of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” from November 1869 to June 1910 (Salt Lake City: General Board of the Y.L.M.I.A., 1911), p. 16, footnote).
  2. Hinkley, Gordon B., “Daughters of God,” October 1991 General Conference.
  3. Holland, Jeffery R., “Behold Thy Mother,” October 2015 General Conference. 
  4. Uchtdorf, Dieter F., “O How Great the Plan of  Our God!”  October 2016 General Conference.
  5. Nelson, Russel M., “Come, Follow Me,” April 2019 General Conference. 
  6. Paulsen, David A, and Martin Pulido, “‘A Mother There:’ A Survey of Historical Teachings About Mother in Heaven.” BYU Studies Quarterly, vol. 50 no.1.
  7. Brooks, Melvin R., LDS Reference Encyclopedia, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1960, 309-310.
Myth: We don’t talk about Heavenly Mother because She isn’t important to understanding the Plan of Salvation.
Fact: The Plan of Salvation is not just the plan of the Father, it is also the plan of our Heavenly Mother.

Elder M. Russel Ballard testified that “we are part of a divine plan designed by Heavenly Parents who love us” (1). Other Church leaders have taught of Heavenly Mother’s involvement in the various stages of the Plan of Salvation.

Both Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother parented us in the premortal life. Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught that, “We were born as the spirit children of Celestial Parents long before the foundations of this world were laid” (2). Similarly, President Joseph F. Smith taught that “man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father, prior to coming upon the earth in a temporal [physical] body” (3). Boyd K. Packer suggested that in the development of our characters in the premortal existence, “our Heavenly Mother was perhaps particularly nurturing” (4).

Together Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father created this world. The Women of Mormondom, edited by Sister Eliza R. Snow, proclaims that the “eternal Mother [is] the partner with the Father in the creation of worlds” (5). More recently Sister Patricia T. Holland, wife of Elder Jeffery R. Holland, taught that together our Heavenly Parents are involved in “our creation and the creation of all that surrounds us” (6).

Now as we go about our life on earth, Heavenly Mother still cares and watches over us. President Harold B. Lee taught, “Sometimes we think the whole job is up to us, forgetful that there are loved ones beyond our sight who are thinking about us and our children. We forget that we have a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother who are even more concerned, probably, than our earthly father and mother, and that influences from beyond are constantly working to try to help us when we do all we can” (7).

When we finally return to our Heavenly Parents after our life on earth is finished, Heavenly Mother will be there to welcome us. Harold B. Lee taught that in heaven “we will find beauty such as mortal ‘eye hath not seen’; we will hear sounds of surpassing music which mortal ‘ear hath not heard.’ Could such a regal homecoming be possible without the anticipatory arrangements of a Heavenly Mother?” (8)

Heavenly Mother designed the Plan of Salvation with Heavenly Father, and She has been and will be involved every step of the way. 

Sources

  1. Russell Ballard, When Thou Art Converted: Continuing Our Search for Happiness (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2001), 62.
  2. McConkie, Bruce R., Mormon Doctrine, p.516-517.
  3. As quoted by Elder Douglas L. Callister in “Our Refined Heavenly Home,” Ensign, June 2009. See footnote 1.
  4. As quoted in “‘A Mother There:’ A Survey of Historical Teachings About Mother in Heaven.” by David A. Paulsen and Martin Pulido, BYU Studies Quarterly, vol. 50 no.1.
  5. As quoted in “‘A Mother There:’ A Survey of Historical Teachings About Mother in Heaven.” by David A. Paulsen and Martin Pulido, BYU Studies Quarterly, vol. 50 no.1.
  6. Holland, Patricia T. “Filling the Measure of Your Creation,” Brigham Young University Devotional, January 17, 1989.
  7. Lee, Harold B, as quoted in “Mother in Heaven,” Gospel Topics Essay, churchofjesuschrist.org.
  8. Maxwell, Neal A. “The Women of God,” April 1978 General Conference.
Myth: Knowledge about Heavenly Mother is not essential for our salvation.
Fact: Because knowledge of Heavenly Mother is essential to our understanding of the Plan of Salvation and our divine potential, knowledge of Her is essential to our salvation and exaltation.

This is a complicated question because members of the Church commonly use the word “salvation” to mean different things. Let’s work through several different definitions of salvation, as explained in True to the Faith.

The first definition of salvation is salvation from physical death. Because of Christ’s Atonement, all people who live, have lived, or will live on the earth will be resurrected. There are no prerequisites or required actions for resurrection. Therefore, not only is knowledge of Heavenly Mother not necessary for this salvation, knowledge of Jesus Christ isn’t either. 

The second definition of salvation is a cleansing from sin. The scriptures teach that in order to be cleansed from sin we must “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (1). Because knowledge of Heavenly Mother is not essential to repentance, baptism, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, knowledge of Her isn’t necessary for receiving salvation from sin.

The third way the word salvation is used is in reference to salvation from ignorance. Ignorance is not knowing the nature of God, Jesus Christ, the purpose of life, the plan of salvation, and humankind’s eternal potential. Knowledge of Heavenly Mother is essential to understanding the nature of God, the Plan of Salvation, and our divine potential. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God” (2). Because Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother together make up God, it is essential to know not just God the Father but also God the Mother. As then-Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught, “The purpose of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to help all of the children of God understand their potential and achieve their highest destiny. . . . Our theology begins with heavenly parents. Our highest aspiration is to be like them.” (3) Knowledge of both Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother is essential to understanding our potential as Their children and becoming like Them.

The fourth way salvation is used is to mean eternal life or exaltation. Exaltation is to know our Heavenly Parents and Jesus Christ, to live with Them, and to become like our Heavenly Parents. Because it is impossible to become like someone we don’t know, we must have knowledge of not just God the Father but also God the Mother to gain salvation and exaltation. 

Sources

  1. Bible, Acts 2:38.
  2. Smith Jr., Joseph. “The King Follett Sermon,” Ensign, April 1971.
  3. Oaks, Dallin H. “Apostasy and Restoration,” April 1995 General Conference.
Myth: Heavenly Mother isn’t core doctrine.
Fact: The teaching that we have a Heavenly Mother is a core doctrine. Some other teachings about Her are supporting doctrine.

In May of 2007, the Church Newsroom (then called Mormon Newsroom) released an article titled “Approaching Mormon Doctrine” (1). This article describes two requirements for core doctrines. First, core doctrines are taught by the First Presidency, the Apostles, and in Church publications. Second, core doctrines are the most important and central to the Church’s purpose. Based on extensive research and experience teaching religion at Brigham Young University, Anthony R. Sweat, Michael Hubbard MacKay, and Gerrit J. Dirkmaat created four categories of doctrine and provided definitions to make it easier to determine if a teaching is a core doctrine or not. The four categories are core doctrines (unchanging truths of salvation), supporting doctrines (elaborative, descriptive, timely expansions on core doctrines), policy teachings/doctrine (timely statements related to applications of supportive and core doctrines), and esoteric doctrines (only partially revealed, interesting, but non-essential) (2). Similarly, Apostle David A. Bednar defined core doctrines as “gospel doctrines [that] are eternal, do not change, and pertain to the eternal progression and exaltation of Heavenly Father’s sons and daughters” (3).

The doctrine that we have a Heavenly Mother is a core doctrine. Because Heavenly Mother’s existence has been repeatedly taught by prophets, by united statements of the First Presidency and apostles, by other general authorities, and in Church publications, it meets the first requirement in “Approaching Mormon Doctrine.” The existence of a Heavenly Mother is also an unchanging truth of salvation.

Other teachings about Heavenly Mother, such as Her role in the Creation or our life on earth, may not be considered supporting doctrine. However, they are still important because they enrich our understanding of Heavenly Mother. 

Sources

  1. “Approaching Mormon Doctrine,” Church Newsroom, May 2007.
  2. Sweat, Anthony R., Michael Hubbard MacKay, and Gerrit J. Dirkmaat. “Evaluating Latter-day Saint Doctrine.”
  3. Bednar, David A. Increase in Learning (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book 2011), 151.
Myth: We don’t talk about or worship Heavenly Mother because we don’t know if we all have the same one.
Fact: The vast majority of authoritative statements teach that the Lord’s standard is monogamy, which suggests only one Heavenly Mother.

The Lord’s standard is monogamy. This is clearly taught in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon. Deuteronomy 17:17 instructs, “Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away.” When describing the qualifications for a bishop, Timothy of the New Testament included, “the husband of one wife.” Jacob of the Book of Mormon taught, “Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none.” If the Lord’s standard is monogamy, then it would make sense for God the Father to only be married to one God the Mother.

While the purpose of this website is not to discuss polygamy, if you are interested in reading more on this topic, two excellent resources are Carol Lynn Pearson’s book The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy and Valerie Hudson’s essay “Polygamy.” 

Sources

  1. Bible, Deuteronomy 17:17
  2. Bible, 1 Timothy 3:2
  3. The Book of Mormon, Jacob 2:27.
Myth: We don’t talk about Heavenly Mother much because the only thing we know is that She exists.
Fact: Prophets, apostles, and other Church leaders have actually taught quite a bit about Heavenly Mother.

What we know about Heavenly Mother includes the following:

  • Heavenly Mother is Heavenly Father’s wife and the mother of all humans. 
  • Heavenly Mother is a God.
  • Heavenly Mother loves us.
  • Heavenly Mother was involved in the creation.
  • Heavenly Mother influences our life on earth.
  • Heavenly Mother framed the Plan of Salvation in partnership with Heavenly Father.
  • Heavenly Mother will welcome us back to Her after our deaths.
  • Heavenly Mother is equal to Heavenly Father in glory, power, and intelligence.

For a good summary of the most common things Church leaders have taught about Heavenly Mother, see David L. Paulsen and Martin Pulido’s article titled “‘A Mother There’: A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven.”