Is there a problem that a Dr. Mackay lecture can't solve? I submit that there is not. I took Dr. Mackay's Foundations of the Restoration class last semester, and there was an entire lecture devoted to Heavenly Mother.
Let me tell you, it was the best.
So, without further ado, here is an abbreviated list of points from that lecture, which I hope will help you out some:
- First: the concept you're describing (where we don't discuss Heavenly Mother because She is too sacred) is called "The Holy Hush," and it is kind of problematic. For one thing, it's just kind of untrue: a former BYU professor, Dr. David L. Paulsen, led a team of researchers to look into just how often Heavenly Mother has been referenced in the writings and speeches of Church leaders, and they found over 600 different citations throughout the course of Church history. They assembled their findings in this article (which, now that I read it, appears to be what Dr. Mackay based his entire lecture on, so if you want your info straight from the source and without paraphrasing, I suggest you go there. If you can't access the article for some reason, email me and I'll send you a copy).
So the "Holy Hush" is problematic firstly because Church leaders actually have been talking about her over the years. For the second reason, consider this: if talking about Heavenly Mother is taboo because of how sacred She is, then why is it okay for us to still talk about Heavenly Father, even respectfully? Is He somehow "less holy" or "less sacred" than She is? By implication, are all men inherently "less holy" or "less sacred" than all women? Supposing so about earthly men and women is wrong, and extending that to our Heavenly Parents is downright blasphemous. In general, it seems like maybe a well-intentioned idea on the surface, but the "Holy Hush" does not really stand up against reasonable arguments.
(If this is true, why was there a hush in the first place? Well, it could have to do with the fact that there was a significant movement of women in the early 90's that started praying to Heavenly Mother and that was very critical of the First Presidency. Since Heavenly Mother was so central to that movement, it became hard to mention Her without also mentioning them, so people may have started to shy away from the topic.)
- As far as official Church statements go, we have these:
-In 1845, Eliza R. Snow composed the Hymn "O My Father," which contains the following lyrics: "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" and "When I leave this frail existence—When I lay this mortal by—Father, mother, may I meet you In your royal courts on high?" There is nothing ambiguous about the wording here: they hymn clearly states that we have a Heavenly Mother. Just out of curiosity, I looked up the lyrics to this hymn in Spanish, French, German, and Portuguese, and the reference to Heavenly Mother is preserved in every edition.
-In 1909, the First Presidency published an article in the Improvement Era entitled "The Origin of Man," in which we find the following quotation: "All men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity."
-In 1991, President Hinckley said this: "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."
-Finally, in 1995, we received the Family Proclamation, which states that each human being is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents.
(There is also, of course, the Gospel Topics essay on Heavenly Mother.)
(It's possible that there are other official statements listed in Dr. Paulsen's article, but these are the only ones from the lecture.)
- Now, from the 600+ references found by Dr. Paulsen, what do we know about Her?
- She is a Heavenly Parent. Susa Young Gates, in the Young Woman's Journal, said that She was "the greater molder" of spirits such as Abraham in the pre-existence (distinguished as such because She nurtured them).
- She is a Heavenly Wife. Spencer W. Kimball said that God "made women in the image of his wife partner." B.H. Roberts sent out a challenge to Christianity in general to present a "conception of the nobility of woman and of motherhood and of wifehood—placing her side by side with the Divine Father."
- She is a Divine Person, meaning she advanced from womanhood to Godhood. Orson F. Whitney said that there was a time "when that being whom we now worship—that our eternal Father and Mother were once man and woman in mortality." She went through mortality and learned and grew and struggled like the rest of us. Said John A. Widstoe, "The glorious vision of life hereafter...is given radiant warmth by the thought that...[we have] a mother who possesses the attributes of Godhood."
- She is a Co-Creator with the Father. Eliza R. Snow and Edward Tullidge said that "eternal Mother is the partner with the Father in the creation of the Worlds," and Brigham Young said that Her "eternal daughters" will "be prepared to frame earths like unto ours and to people them in the same manner as we have been brought forth by our heavenly parents."
- She is a Co-framer of the Plan of Salvation. M. Russell Ballard taught that the Plan of Salvation was designed "by Heavenly Parents who love us." Elder Milton R. Hunter said that "Our Heavenly Parents have through aeons of time...applied in Their lives an untold number of...everlasting laws. As They learned these verities and how to operate them, these laws thereby became subject unto Elohim." (Which, if I'm understanding correctly, goes back to point #3: She and Heavenly Father learned these eternal laws in both their mortal and eternal lives and then used them to shape the Plan of Salvation.)
Lastly, we have my favorite point,
- She is An Involved Parent in our Mortality. Said Harold B. Lee, "Sometimes we think the whole job is up to us, forgetful that there are loved ones beyond our sight who are thinking about us and our children. 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."
Said Sister Chieko Okazaki, "when our rising love and joyful gratitude meet the shower of mercy and love from the Savior and from our heavenly parents, in that contact is the pure radiance and the brilliant light of glory."
Now, may I offer a couple of personal thoughts on the subject?
Firstly, I cannot tell you how happy I felt when I walked out of this lecture. I had an enduring feeling of goodness and truthfulness, like someone was saying "Yes, this is good. This is right." That feeling stuck with me as I went throughout the rest of my day.
Second, like I said, I love the point about Heavenly Mother being an involved parent in our mortality. When I first heard it, I started thinking about all of the things she might possibly be doing. Of course, all of what I was thinking falls squarely in the realm of folk doctrine (FOLK DOCTRINE WITH FRÈRE RUBIK *rushed banjo music*), but they're still nice to ponder:
-I first thought of my mission president and his wife, each of them up to their ears in things to do to help the mission run smoothly and to make sure the missionaries were alright. I specifically thought about how my president would block out large chunks of time just to read and respond to the weekly emails we sent him; in this context, it kind of reminded me of prayer. And, just like my president's wife would always handle the mission business while he was working on emails, I imagine that Heavenly Mother takes care of certain things while Heavenly Father is busy taking care of others.
(Yes, the concept of being busy kind of breaks down when we talk about eternity/immortality because you never run out of time in which to do things (not to mention the idea that God Himself is out of and therefore unaffected by time), but RELAX GUYS IT'S JUST A METAPHOR JUST SIT BACK AND ENJOY THE NICE THOUGHTS YEESH.)
-Going back to the quote about Abraham, have you thought about just how much the spirits outside of mortality outnumber the ones here on earth? We're talking every person who has ever died combined with all the people yet to be born. Now, one could argue about whether spirits in the spirit world are in contact with Heavenly Parents or not, but even if you count them out, it's a whole lot of people, guys. Could it be that all of these disembodied spirit children are Heavenly Mother's responsibility, while Heavenly Father takes major responsibility for all of us? It very well may be.
-Thinking on my earthly parents, I consider all of the different-but-equally-important responsibilities that they each took on in running our household. More than that, though, I think about them talking late at night, whether it be while lying in bed or sitting at the kitchen table. They talk about my siblings and I and how to best help us. They talk about how their days went and what was challenging for them. They talk about how much they love and support each other. I like to imagine our Heavenly Parents doing the same.
I hope I've been able to help with all of this. In the end, you could still argue that we don't know very much at all about Heavenly Mother. When I think about why that is, I come back to what Nephi said in 1 Nephi 11:17, except flipped: I don't know the meaning of all things, but I know that God loves His children, and everything that He does, has done, and will do is driven by that love.