Mother in Heaven
    Footnotes

    “Mother in Heaven,” Church History Topics

    “Mother in Heaven”

    Mother in Heaven

    The doctrine of a Heavenly Mother is a cherished and distinctive belief among Latter-day Saints.1 As Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said, “Our theology begins with heavenly parents. Our highest aspiration is to be like them.”2 While there is no record of a formal revelation to Joseph Smith on this doctrine, some early Latter-day Saint women recalled that he personally taught them about a Mother in Heaven.3 The earliest published references to the doctrine appeared shortly after Joseph Smith’s death in 1844, in documents written by his close associates.4 The most notable expression of the idea is found in a poem by Eliza R. Snow entitled “My Father in Heaven” and now known as the hymn “O My Father.” This text declares: “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.”5

    Subsequent Church leaders have affirmed the existence of a Mother in Heaven. In 1909, the First Presidency taught that “all men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother, and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity.”6 Susa Young Gates, a prominent leader in the Church, wrote in 1920 that Joseph Smith’s visions and teachings revealed the truth that “the divine Mother, [is] side by side with the divine Father.”7 And in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” issued in 1995, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles declared, “Each [person] is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.”8

    Notes

    1. See “Becoming Like God,” Gospel Topics, topics.lds.org; see also Elaine Anderson Cannon, “Mother in Heaven,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow, 5 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 2:961. For an extensive survey of these teachings, see David L. Paulsen and Martin Pulido, “‘A Mother There’: A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven,” BYU Studies, vol. 50, no. 1 (2011), 70–97.

    2. Dallin H. Oaks, “Apostasy and Restoration,” Ensign, May 1995, 84.

    3. Zina Diantha Huntington Young recalled that when her mother died in 1839, Joseph Smith consoled her by telling her that in heaven she would see her own mother again and become acquainted with her eternal Mother (Susa Young Gates, History of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints [Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1911], 15–16).

    4. See W. W. Phelps, “Come to Me,” in “Poetry, for the Times and Seasons,” Times and Seasons, vol. 6 (Jan. 15, 1845), 783.

    5. “My Father in Heaven,” in “Poetry, for the Times and Seasons,” Times and Seasons, vol. 6 (Nov. 15, 1845), 1039; “O My Father,” Hymns, no. 292; see also Jill Mulvay Derr, “The Significance of ‘O My Father’ in the Personal Journey of Eliza R. Snow,” BYU Studies, vol. 36, no. 1 (1996–97), 84–126.

    6. “The Origin of Man,” Improvement Era, vol. 13, no. 1 (Nov. 1909), 78.

    7. “The Vision Beautiful,” Improvement Era, vol. 23, no. 6 (Apr. 1920), 542. At this time, Gates was the recording secretary of the Relief Society General Presidency.

    8. “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2017, inside back cover.