Teaching the Mormon Heavenly Mother: “Women want to know her”

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Missy McConkie

Missy McConkie

A guest post by Missy McConkie

Last month I gathered with a group of wonderful women (and one brave man who came with his wife) in the home of my Relief Society President to discuss one of my favorite and most closely-held topics: our Heavenly Mother.

I’ll never forget that beautiful night.

I won’t say it was a seamless experience getting it off the ground. When the announcement was made, reactions ranged from opposed, to skeptical, to hesitant to elated. Fortunately I have a Relief Society president who was a great advocate for me, so we moved forward.

I made ten handouts, hoping that I wasn’t going to be guilty of wasting paper (especially here in environmentally-conscious Portland) if only my few closest friends showed up.

But based on the 30+ women who crammed into the living room, I realized what I already knew in my heart: women want to know Her. I am not alone in my yearning.

I have heard many times that we have enough to handle just sticking to the “basics” of the gospel; if God (Heavenly Father) wants us to know about our Mother, He’ll tell us.

But what if He — They — already have?

To me, Heavenly Mother is basic Plan of Salvation 101: where we came from, why we’re here, and who we can become. And if light and truth lead to more light and truth, line upon line, how can we expect more revelation if we do nothing with what we currently have?

We talk so much in this church about both God and motherhood, it seems strange to me that we skip over the obvious: God the Mother. (And by “Mother” I’m not just talking about an eternal womb.)

But there’s good reason for our discomfort. Though there has never been a church-mandated silence about Her, the lack of direct rhetoric regarding Her makes us uneasy to have these discussions.

My purpose was not to “prove” She exists any more than our church meetings are to prove Heavenly Father exists. I stayed on very safe ground. I tried to make the format familiar, passing out little pieces of paper with quotes (mostly from men, of course) for individuals to read aloud.

I wanted to show how much actually has been said about Her, point people toward resources, invite the Spirit to be with us, and let them form their own conclusions. (This handout is downloadable at the bottom of the post if you would like to use it in a Relief Society meeting or for your personal study.)

There wasn’t a golden-ticket quote or anything radically new, especially for those already familiar with David Paulsen’s BYU Studies article “A Mother There.”

On the other hand, that was exactly the beauty of the night. We may not have everything about Her spelled out and perfectly clear, but when you begin to compile the things we do know—things that have been explicitly said—a beautiful picture emerges.

The real success of the night was that we had this conversation at all. It wasn’t scary. The house didn’t get struck by lighting. We didn’t wander off into the mists of darkness and get lost.

In fact, the Spirit was there and I felt closer to these women. I looked around and saw literal daughters of our Heavenly Mother. I see pieces of Her in each one of us, and that view of my sisters has changed me.

So what’s the next step?

Of course I love the romantic notion of throngs of women and men suddenly coming to know our Heavenly Mother. Then I remember that the Savior’s ministry, though intended for all of humankind, was often brought about one on one.

It’s okay. We have time. We can’t push people to care about things the way we want them to. There may be some who find this heretical, others who find it interesting-but-not-compelling.

There will also be those who are deeply moved, both to know their Heavenly Mother exists and that there are others searching for Her. We are not alone.

Change is coming. She is returning. I see it in private conversation. I hear it in sacrament talks when people refer to Heavenly Parents and not just Heavenly Father. I feel the questions arising, and it’s the questions that lead to discoveries. They’re small changes, for now, but it’s a start. Line upon line.

As for me, I pray for Wisdom. I pray for an open heart. Not other people’s hearts, mind you. My heart. I want to be ready to meet my sisters where they are, and help them discover the path that has meant so much to me, and still does. I pray for unity and love. I pray for Wisdom in our midst.

We are daughters of our Heavenly Parents who love us, and we love Them.

Downloadable packet for use in lessons and talks: Heavenly Mother Handout

Missy McConkie lives in Portland with her husband and three children. She enjoys being outdoors, meditating and working with the charity Kenya Keys, a grassroots organization that helps provide educational opportunities for children in rural Kenya.

 

  • W

    “As for me, I pray for Wisdom.”

    As a fellow capital W, I might read this as an reference to a strain of thought about Wisdom as a who as well as a virtue. 🙂

    I’m intrigued by the phrase “It wasn’t scary.” That it needed to be said might mean that we’ve been mistakenly conditioned to assume discussion *would* be scary — or that we sense there are some tensions and perhaps even hazards that we’ll encounter if we do poke at the topic, maybe before we even know how to articulate them.

    We could be long enough on both that well-navigated discussion is nevertheless overdue, and your good experience seems to bear that out.

    But to give an example of hazard: beyond general *perfection* & concrete relationship to the human family, we don’t know much about Father or Mother, and specific revelations about either their masculinity or femininity might well function as a doubling down on gender essentialism we’re already pretty invested in.

    Go big and go home, I guess?

  • I love that you did this! And it’s great that it was so eagerly received!

  • Bagnon DuJour

    Since plural marriage is an eternal principle, there is probably more than one “Heavenly Mother” responsible to help create spirits.

    But I also wonder, who created the spirits of animals? Was it God? And if so, what role did a mother play, if any?

  • Rachel

    Hello, Missy! I was one of the primary researchers on that BYU Studies article, and once gave a lesson on Heavenly Mother to my Relief Society, too. It was one of the holiest experiences I have had. Notes from my meeting are here: http://www.the-exponent.com/what-i-first-learned-about-heavenly-mother/

    I am so glad that you did this, and that you had a similarly positive experience, as I am convinced (with you) that people are ready.

  • Anon

    When you say, “Was it God?, are you referring to God the Mother or God the Father? They are both Gods. That reminds me of a question someone asked me once. They asked if God was married. I said, “Yes, she most definitely has a husband!”

  • Anon

    Rachel – I was thrilled to read, “A Mother There,” (thank you for your hard work!) and was wondering if you know who changed the name of the hymn “Invocation, or the Eternal Father and Mother” to “O My Father,” and why the name was changed.

  • Anon

    Also, how wonderful it is to know that Joseph Smith and others saw two visions of our Mother in Heaven. I wonder why it wasn’t mentioned in “A Mother There.”

  • Jeff P

    As an outsider who read the Book of Mormon recently, I find this idea of a second, female Goddess very puzzling, because I found the Book of Mormon to be, like the bible, explicitly and stridently monotheistic. There are repeated statements by various prophets that there is only one God, and no mention of the possibility of God having peers. How does a second God (particularly a female goddess) come to be swimming in the minds and hearts of people who revere the Book of Mormon (not to mention the Hebrew and Christian Bibles)?

  • Hmm…We’re thinking along the same lines here,Jeff P.I can’t help but ask: What particular purpose the supposed existence of this”Heavenly Mother”serve? If,as you say Jeff (and the Scriptures concur),there is only “One True God”,what are we to make of this “goddess”whose supposed existence is admittedly vague,and possibly not real at all? In what way is Mormonism helped in any meaningful sense by this dubious doctrine? I await anyone who can shed some light on this issue.—PEACE IN CHRIST, ALWAYS !!

  • Fred

    You may be interested in the address by Margaret Barker at the FairMormon Conference in Provo on Thursday, August 6, on ” The Mother in Heaven and Her Children.” “There is clear evidence in the Bible for a heavenly Mother, and the first Christians saw themselves as her children. She had many names and titles. Much information about her has been overlooked due to inaccurate translations of the Bible.” Also of interest may be her 2012 book, The Mother of the Lord: Volume 1: The Lady in the Temple. Although several LDS scholars may not accept all her arguments, they are impressed by her work, as am I, a non-scholar.

  • I would argue she has always been there, even though we don’t realize it. Heavenly Mother is as real as our Heavenly Father and we worship her by worshiping Christ. We do not worship her outright and more than we worship the Father. We worship her in spirit – in the same way we worship the Father (John 4: 24). We reverence her in our treatment of women. She is not hidden, nor is she protected – as some Mormon Mythologies claim. But rather she is a living part of our worship and our lives and we should remember her as we pray through Christ and prepare to return to both of our Heavenly Parents and our Heavenly Family.

    http://learnaboutchrist.info/our-mother-who-art-in-heaven/

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  • trytoseeitmyway

    Boy, that’s an odd comment. What “purpose” does our Heavenly Mother serve? Maybe we should ask you what purpose your mother served. I don’t think it was required for her to serve a purpose, don’t you agree?

    The scriptures concur that there is only one true God, God the Father. That doesn’t mean that there can’t be a Son or a Spirit. And since you agree with that (even if you have to go through a series of logical contortions to get your math to come out right) I don’t see how or why you would deny the existence or role of Mother.

    See, what happens is, you pretend to believe in the Bible, but you discard inconvenient verses, passages and ideas. The Bible tells us that God is our Father, the literal Father of our spirits. We’re made in the image and likeness of the “elohim.” It says that in the Bible too. If you have a father and a son, how do you do away with the mother? Through misogynism?

  • If there is a heavenly mother (which Scripture doesn’t teach) she would be living an eternal polygamous life and be a very unhappy woman.

    A good place to go to learn about early Mormonism, polygamy, murders, blood atonement, theft and neglect is a book I recently discovered and am reading called “Wife No. 19,” by Ann Eliza Young (Brigham Young’s 19th wife).

  • Tom H

    It might help if you stop thinking about the Incomprehensible Omnipotent God of Plato that the Greeks corrupted Christianity with, and go back to the original God of Abraham. A God that created us in his likeness.

    This is the God that said in Genesis 1:

    26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
    27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

    So who was the “us” that created male and female in “our” likeness?

    Somebody was with God that related to the female side of “our”.

  • Old Guy

    @Tom H
    The “us” in Genesis is an example of pluralis majestatis. There is nothing incomprehensible about it.

  • Old Guy

    @Tom H
    Your theology is a bit mixed up. God in Judaism is strictly monotheistic, an absolute one, indivisible, and incomparable being who is the ultimate cause of all existence. This is the God who revealed himself to Abraham.

    Also, it is well known that Genesis stories are derivative of much older polytheistic religions, and that some components of these more ancient traditions remain in the Bible.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    Oh come on. You just figure God decided the pompous way that European monarchs would express themselves many centuries later was so cool that He would start doing it before the Creation.

    But elohim is a plural noun in Hebrew. That’s not “pluralis majestatis” – it’s just the word the Hebrews used to refer to “gods.” Sometimes the word had a singular meaning when joined with a verb specifying singular, but then it has a plural meaning in other uses. So for example in the phrase (as translated) “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness” (Gen. 1:26) there is no doubt it is used in the plural. On your textually unsupported theory, God was not only employing an odd affectation of speech, but He was doing so to no other audience than Himself, giving the whole scene a sort of comic feel that could scarcely represent the majesty of the occasion.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    No sorry there is a henotheistic history that you’re overlooking. Jesus then refers back to it in John 10:34.

  • Joseph M

    Just for Fun: Daniel C. Peterson on “A Divine Mother in the Book of Mormon?”
    https://youtu.be/_CYqCti5rQM

  • Old Guy

    “You just figure God decided the pompous way that European monarchs would express themselves”

    I never said that. Your words, not mine.

    “Elohim is a plural noun in Hebrew. That’s not “pluralis magistatis”…”

    So you are saying I won’t find any examples of professional theologians or religious scholars who disagree with your opinion?

  • Old Guy

    The original poster is talking about the God revealed to Abraham. In Jewish tradition, that God was a single, indivisible entity. Scholarship may vary around the issue of pluralis magistatis and Hebrew grammar, but the Jewish concept of God as revealed to Abraham is that of a single entity. That isn’t in dispute.

    On the other hand, if you believe God was once a human being and that men will become Gods and have spirit children with their wives in heaven, then you might as well believe in a heavenly mother. All bets are off.

  • Tom H

    @old guy
    From the earliest texts up until the Babylonian exile the Hebrews were clearly polytheistic. The use of Elohim being plural, or “Gods”. The distinction between Elohim and Jehovah. Even Jeremiah referred to the Queen in Heaven recognizing God’s wife or the deity Asherah who was worshiped during Jeremiah’s lifetime at Soloman’s Temple. Monotheism only shows up among the Israelite’s after their time in Babylon due to the huge influence of Zoroastrianism. Then God totally loses his identity and corporal sense thanks to the influence of the mid-Platonic school of thought amount the early Greek Christians. This is what Paul referred to in 1 Corinthians as the foolishness of the Greeks. The God of the Nicean Creed is totally incomprehensible and as far from the God of Abraham as you can get. IMHO

  • Old Guy

    Well, if Mormons don’t believe in the Nicene Creed, they disagree with the overwhelming majority of Christian faiths. On the other hand, it’s a free country, so if you want to believe there’s a “Heavenly Mother” and try to rationalize your beliefs, it’s fine by me.

  • Anon

    I like most of what you say, but I don’t know that it can be said that She is a living part of our worship when so many people (Mormons) don’t know or care that She exists. Also, the Brethren (General Authorities) reference the Father constantly in their daily communication, talks, publications, and almost never include the Mother. She isn’t hidden, just ignored.

  • Danny S

    How ironic. A bunch of men bloviating and taking over the conversation about heavenly mother. Notice how the ladies have left this conversation?

  • Old Guy

    @Danny S. Thanks for teaching me a new word “bloviate”. 🙂

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  • Holgrave

    Christians already have a Heavenly Mother—the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    Um, I agree that the God revealed to Abraham was single and indivisible. I just think you’re all wet in believing that the Hebrews didn’t appreciate that there could be more than just the one. I cited Genesis chapter 1 in support, and all you can do is mumble about how there is some conflicting scholarship or something. Sorry, but ehohim is a plural noun. Plural means “more than one.” (I mention that since apparently I can’t take anything for granted here.) The idea that God (single entity) referred to Himself in the plural when there was no one else around is risible. When God says “Let us make man in our image” He is addressing His remarks to Others in attendance; there is no other plausible reading of the text.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    Oh sure. You just figure that God’s truth is determined by popular vote. This is a fallacy. The fact that you don’t understand that undermines your credibility.

    But if you want to believe 5th century theologians and not the actual Bible, that’s fine by me.

  • Westy

    what if i said, Heavenly Mother is existed, and She is with us NOW?? i Mean by in flesh??
    She is here in this earth right now!! Did you know??

    God bless you!!!

  • Westy

    Heavenly Mother is not Mary, She is just a woman… She cannot give us life..

    But Bible said, Got the Mother can able to give us Eternal life with Father God.

    Do you know who she is??
    She is in this earth today! 🙂

  • Westly

    Heavenly Mother is here with us TODAY.. Actually She came down to this Earth as WOMAN. Just like 2,00- years ago, Jesus came as MAN.

    This age of Holy Spirit. Spirit and Bride will appear to give us LIFE

    Spirit, is God the Father, He is 2nd coming of Christ has come already as prophecy from the Bible, and His Bride also came as Woman too.

    They are here already to provide us Water of Life now. but its up to us to study more about this.

    She has come already. 🙂

  • Westly

    Mother is here with us today, She came as WOMAN.

    Also this teaching is NOT from Mormon, but Christian.

    It’s all based from the BIble. 🙂

    Heavenly Mother is with us as flesh.

  • Bart Burk

    It seems to me the Mormons are missing an obvious answer if they really believe in pre-existent spirits and Heavenly Mother. Mary was the pre-existent exalted spirit wife of God the Father and eternally pre-existent mother of Jesus Christ just as Christ was the eternally pre-existent exalted son of God the Father. She came to earth to gain a body just like Christ did and bring her Son into the world. This is really not too far a leap to make if you are a Mormon. I’m not, but it would make sense to me.