I’ve been thinking about the female divine recently, although I can’t remember what prompted these thoughts.
In Mormonism, we often refer to the female divine as “Mother in Heaven” or “Heavenly Mother”. We know little about her, but we know that she is apparently equal to God. Well, except in one important way:
We don’t pray to Heavenly Mother.
This prohibition was most recently defended by Gordon B. Hinckley in October 1991—then a member of the First Presidency—in the women’s session of General Conference, quoting an address he gave earlier that year to regional representatives:
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.
While certainly the cultural norm, this proscription makes little sense when one contemplates it. Consider your own family.
If you are a woman, imagine your child never addressing you during their entire life, always going through your husband. If you are a man, imagine your child only ever addressing you, never asking your wife anything, never sharing their concerns and struggles with her, never pleading to her for help.
Imagine having never addressed your own mother while you were growing up, not speaking to her now, and never talking to her for as long as she continues to live. Imagine only ever going through your father.
Doesn’t that seem odd? Yet that is precisely what we do when we prohibit people from praying to Heavenly Mother.
Rudger Clawson, once president of the Quorum of the Twelve, agrees. Well, perhaps not explicitly.
“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. . . . we honor woman when we acknowledge Godhood in her eternal prototype.” “Our Mother in Heaven,” Millennial Star 72 (September
29, 1910): 619–20.
Hinckley continues on the topic in his address by reference multiple scriptures where Jesus prayed to God, emphasizing the fact that Jesus used the term “Father” in his prayers. These scriptures act, in his mind, as justification for the exclusion of Heavenly Mother from our prayers.
This is a weak connection, however. Erastus Snow, formerly of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, proposed that “God” includes both Father and Mother”
“There can be no God except he is composed of the man and woman united, and there is not in all the eternities that exist, or ever will be a God in any other way. We may never hope to attain unto the eternal power and the Godhead upon any other principle . . . this Godhead composing two parts, male and female.” (Journal of Discourses, 19:269–73, March 3, 1878.)
Related to this is a statement from Harold B. Lee, spoken in the October 1963 General Conference and as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles:
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.
Likewise, Chieko N. Okazaki, formerly of the General Relief Society Presidency, in her book Sanctuary (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1997, 59), stated “that our heavenly parents are cosufferers with us in our mortal trials ”.
Russell M. Ballard, currently in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught that “Our Heavenly Parents’ love and concern for us continues to this very moment.” (Our Search for Happiness (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993), 70)
Jeffrey R. Holland, also in the Twelve Apostles, wrote while president of BYU, “On a particularly difficult day, . . . what would this world’s inhabitants pay to know that heavenly parents are reaching across those same streams and mountains and deserts, anxious to hold them close?” (However Long and Hard the Road (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985), 47)
If both of our Heavenly Parents influence us, cosuffer with us, love us, are concerned for us, reach for us, and are anxious to hold us close, why should we not acknowledge that through prayer?