Mormonism and the nature of God/Heavenly Mother

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    Do Latter-day Saints believe in a female divine person, a "Heavenly Mother"?

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QUESTIONS


  • Do Latter-day Saints believe in a female divine person, a "Heavenly Mother" as counterpart to God, the Heavenly Father?
  • Are we allowed to pray to our "Heavenly Mother?"
  • Is belief in a "queen of heaven" a "pagan" belief?
  • It is claimed that the concept of a "Heavenly Mother" has no support in LDS scripture.

To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here

THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS RESPONDS TO THESE QUESTIONS

"Becoming Like God," Gospel Topics on LDS.org, (February 25, 2014)


Eliza R. Snow, a Church leader and poet, rejoiced over the doctrine that we are, in a full and absolute sense, children of God. “I had learned to call thee Father, / Thru thy Spirit from on high,” she wrote, “But, until the key of knowledge / Was restored, I knew not why.” Latter-day Saints have also been moved by the knowledge that their divine parentage includes a Heavenly Mother as well as a Heavenly Father. Expressing that truth, Eliza R. Snow asked, “In the heav’ns are parents single?” and answered with a resounding no: “Truth eternal / Tells me I’ve a mother there.”45 That knowledge plays an important role in Latter-day Saint belief. As Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote, “Our theology begins with heavenly parents. Our highest aspiration is to be like them.”
(Click here for full article)


DETAILED QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Latter-day Saints infer the existence of a Heavenly Mother through scripture and modern revelation. Because LDS theology rejects the doctrine of creation out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo) as a post-Biblical addition to Christian belief, and because they see God as embodied in human form while rejecting creedal Trinitarianism, having a female counterpart to Our Heavenly Father seems logical and almost inevitable. This is especially true given the LDS embrace of the doctrine of theosis, or human deification. Thus, the Heavenly Mother shares parenthood with the Father, and shares His attributes of perfection, holiness, and glory.

There is evidence for this doctrine in ancient Israel,[1] and within the Book of Mormon.[2]

As early as 1839, Joseph Smith taught the idea of a Heavenly Mother.[3] Eliza R. Snow composed a poem (later set to music) which provides the most well-known expression of this doctrine:[4]

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?

In 1909 the First Presidency, under Joseph F. Smith, wrote that

man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father [as an] offspring of celestial parentage...all men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother, and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity...[5]

The 1995 statement issued by the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles, entitled The Family: A Proclamation to the World, states that all men and women are children of heavenly parents (plural), which implies the existence of a Mother in Heaven.[6]

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.

Despite these beliefs, Mother in Heaven plays virtually no role in LDS worship or teaching beyond that outlined above. It is not considered proper for members to pray to Mother in Heaven, since there are no prophetic or scriptural examples encouraging such a practice. Members of the Church pray as taught by the Savior, "Our Father, who art in heaven...." (Matthew 6:9, 3 Nephi 13:9, 3 Nephi 17:15, 3 Nephi 18:21, 3 Nephi 19:19-21, (italics added).)

As President Gordon B. Hinckley observed:

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. However, in light of the instruction we have received from the Lord Himself, I regard it as inappropriate for anyone in the Church to pray to our Mother in Heaven...The fact that we do not pray to our Mother in Heaven in no way belittles or denigrates her...none of us can add to or diminish the glory of her of whom we have no revealed knowledge.[7]

The Encyclopedia of Mormonism notes:

Latter-day Saints infer from authoritative sources of scripture and modern prophecy that there is a Heavenly Mother as well as a Heavenly Father.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rejects the idea found in some religions that the spirits or souls of individual human beings are created ex nihilo. Rather it accepts literally the vital scriptural teaching as worded by Paul: "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." This and other scriptures underscore not only spiritual sibling relationships but heirship with God, and a destiny of joint heirship with Christ (Romans 8:16-18; cf. Malachi 2:10).
Latter-day Saints believe that all the people of earth who lived or will live are actual spiritual offspring of God the Eternal Father (Numbers 16:22; Hebrews 12:9). In this perspective, parenthood requires both father and mother, whether for the creation of spirits in the premortal life or of physical tabernacles on earth. A Heavenly Mother shares parenthood with the Heavenly Father. This concept leads Latter-day Saints to believe that she is like him in glory, perfection, compassion, wisdom, and holiness.
Elohim, the name-title for God, suggests the plural of the Caananite El or the Hebrew Eloah. It is used in various Hebrew combinations to describe the highest God. It is the majestic title of the ultimate deity. Genesis 1:27 reads, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them" (emphasis added), which may be read to mean that "God" is plural.
For Latter-day Saints, the concept of eternal family is more than a firm belief; it governs their way of life. It is the eternal plan of life, stretching from life before through life beyond mortality.
As early as 1839 the Prophet Joseph Smith taught the concept of an eternal mother, as reported in several accounts from that period. Out of his teaching came a hymn that Latter-day Saints learn, sing, quote, and cherish, "O My Father," by Eliza R. Snow. President Wilford Woodruff called it a revelation (Woodruff, p. 62). 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? [Hymn no. 292]
In 1909 the First Presidency, under Joseph F. Smith, issued a statement on the origin of man that teaches that "man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father," as an "offspring of celestial parentage," and further teaches that "all men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother, and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity" (Smith, pp. 199-205).
Belief that there is a Mother in Heaven who is a partner with God in creation and procreation is not the same as the heavy emphasis on Mariology in the Roman tradition.
Today the belief in a living Mother in Heaven is implicit in Latter-day Saint thought. Though the scriptures contain only hints, statements from presidents of the church over the years indicate that human beings have a Heavenly Mother as well as a Heavenly Father.[8]

Is Little Known About Heavenly Mother Because She Is "Protected?"

In trying to fathom why there are only scant and vague references to a Heavenly Mother in LDS theology, Church members who might have had good intentions but no inspiration or authority to speak on the matter have arrived at false conclusions. Perhaps the most common bad explanation for our lack of information on Heavenly Mother is the idea that she is being "protected" by our Heavenly Father from the blasphemy he and the Son endure. This is an old-fashioned bit of folk-wisdom steeped in the benevolent sexism of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It's a misapplication of the "courtly love" and romantic notions that were once important in Western literature, manners, and sexual politics. These kinds of protective ideals were well-rooted in Western culture centuries before the Church was restored.

We have found no evidence of a Church leader, male or female, talking about Heavenly Mother being "protected" by her own obscurity in LDS doctrine. Though this was once a widely spread idea it appears to be little more than speculative folk-wisdom unsupported by prophetic revelation.

If, as President Hinckley is quoted saying above, a prayer to Heavenly Mother cannot "add to or diminish her glory" then certainly blaspheming against her cannot harm her either. She needs no protection from us.

BYU STUDIES

David L. Paulsen and Martin Pulido,""A Mother There": A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven", BYU Studies, 50/1 (2011)


Since the 1840s, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) have taught that in addition to a Father in Heaven, we have a Mother in Heaven. This cherished doctrine has been an important, although relatively obscure, part of the Latter-day Saint understanding of the premortal origins and divine nature of humankind. The authors, a professor and a student of philosophy at Brigham Young University, present historical statements by Mormon leaders about Mother in Heaven. Contrary to criticism in some quarters, Church leaders have not relegated this deity to a confined role. Statements from the late 1840s onward show that leaders and influential Latter-day Saints have explored her roles as a fully divine being, a creator of worlds with the Father, a coframer of the plan of salvation, and a concerned and involved parent of her children on earth.
(Click here for full article)


Endnotes

  1. [note]  Alyson Skabelund Von Feldt, "Does God Have a Wife? Review of Did God Have a Wife? Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel," FARMS Review 19/1 (2007): 81–118. off-site wiki
  2. [note]  See Daniel C. Peterson, "Nephi and His Asherah: A Note on 1 Nephi 11:8–23," in Mormons, Scripture, and the Ancient World: Studies in Honor of John L. Sorenson, edited by Davis Bitton, (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1998). ISBN 0934893314. ISBN 978-0934893312. off-site [191-243] direct off-site A shorter version of this article is also available in Daniel C. Peterson, "Nephi and His Asherah," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 9/2 (2000): 16–25. off-site wiki
  3. [note]  Elaine Anderson Cannon, "Mother in Heaven," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), :961. off-site off-site off-site
  4. [note]  This is Hymn #292 in the current LDS hymnal ("O My Father"). Written at Joseph Smith's death, the poem was originally published as Eliza R. Snow, "Invocation," Times and Seasons 6 no. 17 (15 November 1845), 1039. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.) (See Terryl L. Givens, People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture (Oxford University Press, 2007), 168. ISBN 0195167112. ISBN 978-0195167115.)
  5. [note]  Messages of the First Presidency, edited by James R. Clark, Vol. 4, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1970), 205–206. GL direct link (italics added). Originally in First Presidency, "The Origin of Man," Improvement Era 13 (November 1909), 61–75.GL direct link FAIRWiki link
  6. [note]  The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "The Family: A Proclamation to the World," Ensign (November 1995), 102. (Statement issued by President Gordon B. Hinckley on 23 September 1995.) off-site
  7. [note]  Gordon B. Hinckley, "Daughters of God," Ensign (November 1991), 97. off-site
  8. [note]  Elaine Anderson Cannon, "Mother in Heaven," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 2:961. off-site off-site

Best articles to read next

The best article(s) to read next on this topic is/are:

  1. Kevin L. Barney, "Do We Have a Mother in Heaven?," (Mesa, Arizona: FAIR, 27 June 2001). PDF link
  2. Elaine Anderson Cannon, "Mother in Heaven," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), :961. off-site off-site off-site
  3. Gordon B. Hinckley, "Daughters of God," Ensign (November 1991), 97. off-site
  4. Alyson Skabelund Von Feldt, "Does God Have a Wife? Review of Did God Have a Wife? Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel," FARMS Review 19/1 (2007): 81–118. off-site wiki


Further reading and additional sources responding to these claims

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