Heavenly Mother

Is there a Heavenly Mother?[BIO]

Yes. We have both a Heavenly Mother as well as a Heavenly Father.[BIO][1] The concept of "heavenly parents" is a fundamental concept to Latter-day Saint theology.[2]

Does the Church teach doctrine about Heavenly Mother?

No, not very often.[3] There is no specific canonized revelation that refers to Heavenly Mother, but prophets and apostles have acknowledged Her existence since the early days of the Church.[4] More recently, The Family: A Proclamation to the World states that each person is the son or daughter of heavenly parents.[5] The Church website also has an essay on "Mother in Heaven"[6] and General Authorities have mentioned Her in conference talks.[7]

Where did the "Heavenly Mother" idea in LDS theology come from?

It's unclear. In February 1844, The first recorded reference to Heavenly Mother was possibly in a poem written by W. W. Phelps[BIO] published in the Times and Seasons that referenced a "queen of heaven."[8] In January 1845, Phelps referred directly to Heavenly Mother when he wrote "Thy father is God, thy mother is the Queen of heaven."[9]

Did Joseph Smith ever teach about Heavenly Mother?

Probably, but there are no firsthand historical records that indicate that Joseph Smith taught the concept, however people who were close to Joseph Smith wrote about Heavenly Mother. Eliza R. Snow,[BIO] one of Joseph Smith's[BIO] polygamous wives, used the concept of Heavenly Mother in an 1845 poem "My Father in Heaven," which became the basis for the popular hymn "O My Father."[10]

The most direct evidence that Joseph Smith taught about Heavenly Mother is a thirdhand report written over sixty years after Joseph's death. It stated that Joseph taught Zina D. Young[BIO] about Heavenly Mother in 1839.[11]

A watercolor painting by John Hafen for an illustrated 1909 booklet of Eliza R. Snow's lyrics to the hymn O My Father.

Do we know anything about the character of Heavenly Mother?

No, not much. When Church leaders and authors describe Heavenly Mother, they use words like divine,[12] immortal,[13] perfect,[14] glorified,[15] and wise.[16]

Has anyone seen or heard from Heavenly Mother?

Possibly, but probably not.

Abraham H. Cannon[BIO] recorded in his journal that Joseph Smith saw Heavenly Mother. He said that Zebedee Coltrin,[BIO] Sidney Rigdon,[BIO] and Joseph Smith saw a vision of the Father, the Mother, and a young Jesus.[BIO][17] However, there are two other accounts of this vision recorded elsewhere that say it was a vision of Adam[BIO] and Eve[BIO] instead of Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother.[18]

Are there scriptural supports for Heavenly Mother?

No, not directly. In 1885, Erastus Snow[BIO] acknowledged the lack of scriptural support for Heavenly Mother.[19]

Genesis 1:26-27 states, "God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." According to one interpretation, "God" could refer to plural divine beings, and perhaps a "plural God" could imply a male and a female deity.[20] Some scholars have speculated that a "plural God" and ancient Near Eastern symbolism could imply a male and female deity.[21]

Latter-day Saint scholar Daniel Peterson[BIO] has theorized that Asherah, the Canaanite goddess referenced in the Hebrew Bible, should be understood as Mother in Heaven.[22] He uses 1 Nephi 11 to support these claims. There are also Biblical references to a Queen in Heaven that some scholars think is Asherah.[23]

Why don't Latter-Day Saints talk about Heavenly Mother more?

Probably because there is very little established information about her.[24]

Some, like author Hoyt W. Brewster,[BIO] have supposed that Heavenly Mother is too sacred to discuss.[25] Others may think Heavenly Mother doctrine is strange or would distract from other gospel principles.[26]

Where did the "too sacred to talk about" idea come from?

Not from any authoritative source.[27] No statements from a General Authority that called for a "sacred hush" about Her has ever been found.[28] Church leaders seem comfortable bringing up Heavenly Mother.[29]

Does Heavenly Mother have a role to play in the Plan of Salvation?

According to Church leaders, Heavenly Mother shares goals and responsibilities with Heavenly Father[30] (though exact details are fuzzy). She, like Heavenly Father, raises, nurtures, and shapes souls.[31] Several times, Church leaders have suggested She has a central role in shaping the character and personality of Her children.[32]

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said in General Conference, "To a Mother in Heaven, I say, 'Thank you for your crucial role in fulfilling the purposes of eternity.'" [33]

Is She a god?

Yes, probably. Latter-day Saint leaders have taught that She stands "side by side" with God the Father.[34] Historically, Latter-day Saints have been conflicted on whether they recognize Her in the Godhead.[35]

Could Heavenly Mother be the Holy Ghost?

Probably not. This is not something that the Church, or its leaders, have ever taught. However, some Latter-day Saint scholars have speculated that it's possible that Heavenly Mother could be the Holy Ghost.[36]

Is it okay to pray to Heavenly Mother?

No. Christ and the scriptures teach that prayer is directed to Heavenly Father.[37] Church leaders have instructed members not to direct prayers to Heavenly Mother.[38] President Gordon B. Hinckley explained that “the fact that we do not pray to our Mother in Heaven in no way belittles or denigrates her.”[39]

Is Heavenly Mother a polygamous wife of Heavenly Father?

Possibly. Orson Pratt[BIO] seemed to think so.[40] John Taylor[BIO] also taught it.[41] But Church leaders have usually referred to Mother in Heaven as a single person.[42]

Do other Judeo-Christian religions believe in a Heavenly Mother?

Not really. Catholicism has a type of holy maternity in Mary,[BIO] mother of Jesus.[43] A mystic school of thought in Judaism recognizes Shekhinah, the female aspect of God.[44] Early Christian Gnostics saw Sophia[BIO] as a feminine divine.[45]But in general, Heavenly Mother is not a mainstream Christian belief.

The Facts

  • Heavenly Mother is an acknowledged doctrine of the Church.

  • The idea of Heavenly Mother can be traced back to the 1840s.

  • There is no contemporary evidence that Joseph Smith taught this doctrine.

  • Writers who were well-acquainted with Joseph Smith wrote about Heavenly Mother.

  • There are no specific scriptural references to Heavenly Mother.

  • The Church has instructed members not to pray to Heavenly Mother.

  • Some early Church leaders taught that Heavenly Mother was a polygamous wife of God.

Our Take

The idea of a Heavenly Mother can be both comforting and frustrating for some. Knowing of Her existence and purpose can help us understand more about our eternal progress. But the lack of information on Heavenly Mother can also feel like it diminishes Her role or value.

It’s not really clear why there is so little information about Her. Maybe the patriarchal nature of the Church just hasn't provided enough of a space for Her. Maybe God has decided it's best to not reveal too much about Her.

Whatever the reason, the Church still clearly accepts and supports the doctrine of Heavenly Mother, including Her divine characteristics and how Her shared goals and responsibilities with Heavenly Father.

As the Church that emphasizes the importance of continuing revelation, we may receive more information about Heavenly Mother in the future. Though sparse on detail, the doctrine of Heavenly Mother is a cherished truth of the restored gospel and pretty unique to our faith. Latter-day Saints can aspire to be like their Heavenly Parents, who we know love Their children.

What's Your Take?

280 characters remaining
These takes are curated for a general audience and may contain minor edits when posted.
  • C. F.
    I wondered too, but it made sense the way my husband explained it to me: It's likely for our own benefit that Heavenly Father hasn't revealed much about her. Imagine the righteous anger a mortal man has when someone disrespects his wife... Now imagine how furious God would be.
  • Stephen S.
    It's not such a big deal, if we use proper spiritual reasoning. However, if it's not in the scriptures, we cannot go beyond that and still not become speculative. So, all we have is the idea for now. So, we can let it rest.
  • Lucius
    Some are way too obsessed with the idea of Heavenly Mother (or possibly Heavenly Mothers) and it seems to distract them from the small and simple things they need to do while living the Gospel. We will meet her one day, but for now, I need to minister better and choose the right.
  • Phillip
    I've been looking up as much in her as I possibly can these past few months. I've had a yearning desire to learn more about her. As I was reading through this, the thought came to me, maybe we don't hear much because we may have one father, but there may be more than one mother.
  • Shelley
    I look forward to the continued “restoration of all things “ and further light and knowledge about our Mother in Heaven, whom I know and love.