The One Perfect Mother


She Will Find What is Lost. Brian Kershisnik.

As the oldest child in my family, my mother refers to me as the first pancake—you always mess it up when you try to flip it over, but the rest usually turn out okay. And so it goes with children.

Well, this pancake doesn’t give up without a fight, and I nearly drove my mother crazy in the process. There was the Great Lettuce War of 1997—when my mother, determined to make me finish a salad, forced me to sit at the table for an hour until I did so. A stupid salad in a stupid pink plastic bowl! I chewed and chewed until my chipmunk cheeks were full of mush. Disgusted, my mother let me spit it out. (For the record, I still have that bowl—I keep it as a symbol of defiance.)

There were other battles. In elementary school, my mother French-braided my hair every morning because I refused to brush it. You don’t need brushed hair when you’re playing Mowgli at recess (and in fact, brushed hair is counterproductive to this cause). My friend Dawn, however, put her hair in ponytails, buns, braids—barrettes and elastics didn’t intimidate her like they did me. “Why can’t you do your hair like Dawn?” my mother lamented. The answer was that Dawn had taught herself out of necessity—there was no one to do French braids for her at home. Her mother was dead. She died of breast cancer when Dawn was six.

Because of my friendship with Dawn, I have always been acutely aware that Mother’s Day can be painful for some. Not everyone can say that they knew their mother or that their mother was kind and loving. There are women whose lives are upended by infertility. There are women who struggle to find a spouse. There are mothers who have lost children. I don’t mean to cast a pall over the day, only to acknowledge the different experiences we’ve had.

So on this Mother’s Day, I would like to talk about something we all have in common. Or, rather, someone. I would like to talk about our Heavenly Mother, and I pray that the Spirit will be with me as I do so.

A Mother There

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.

Eliza R. Snow—sister of Lorenzo Snow and wife of Brigham Young—wrote these words in 1845. They were originally published as a poem titled "Invocation, or The Eternal Father and Mother", and eventually became the lyrics to the hymn “O My Father” in 1845. Wilford Woodruff called the hymn a revelation. (1) Indeed it was. Eliza’s words were one of the first direct references to Heavenly Mother in Church materials.

Several accounts from the Church’s early years indicate that Joseph Smith taught the doctrine of a Heavenly Mother as early as 1839. (2)  History tells us that ancient Israelites believed in a goddess-mother, a belief that—like so many others—was lost until the Restoration. Since then, many Church leaders have spoken of Heavenly Mother in official capacities. In 1909, the First Presidency of the Church wrote: “All men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity.” (3) In 1995, the Church reaffirmed the existence of a Heavenly Mother in The Family: A Proclamation to the World, saying: “All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents”. (4)

Yet there are only hints of Heavenly Mother in the scriptures. Her involvement in the Creation, the Plan of Salvation, and the very formation of our souls is not yet clear. In a broader sense, we acknowledge Her existence as implicit to the doctrines of eternal progression, marriage, and families. President Gordon B. Hinckley said “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.” (5)

It rests well with me, too. But I will admit that seeking Heavenly Mother made me uncomfortable at first. I wasn’t sure if it was okay to talk about Her. I have a friend with an 11-year old daughter. A few weeks ago, her Sunday School teacher explained that we don’t talk about Heavenly Mother because She is too sacred—that Heavenly Father is trying to protect Her. To this, my friend’s daughter replied: “But Heavenly Mother can handle it. She’s a god, not a wimp!” 11-year olds aren’t the only ones skeptical of the alleged “sacred silence” surrounding Heavenly Mother. And rightfully so! For the past 165 years, dozens of Church officials have acknowledged Heavenly Mother as a divine person, a co-creator of worlds, a co-framer of the Plan of Salvation, and a loving parent involved in our mortal probation. (6) The idea that discussion of Her is inappropriate is a myth. The veil o’er the Earth is beginning to burst, and as it does, I believe we will receive more light and knowledge about our Mother in Heaven and Her relationship with us.

Even the best earthly mothers are far from perfect. Each one differs in her mistakes and weaknesses. But we can take heart in knowing that a Heavenly Mother with perfect empathy is tenderly watching over us in Her royal courts on high. She is there to fill in the gaps that our earthly mothers may have. As I ponder the sacred sphere She occupies, the Spirit whispers that in addition to having perfect empathy, She works in perfect unity with the Father, and in perfect humility.

Perfect Empathy

One of the few things I know for sure about Heavenly Mother is that She is faultless. The same cannot be said of my earthly mother (otherwise, she wouldn’t have tortured me with lettuce and French braids). I love my mom dearly, but like all mothers, she has spent many nights crying over her frustrations and failures. We’ve all had those nights, haven’t we? Perhaps we’re not crying because parenting is hard, but because life is hard, loving is hard, faith is hard.

My mother often tells me how she loves watching me grow. She says “I look at your life right now and I know almost exactly what it’s like. It feels like I’m watching a movie of who I used to be.” I am sure my Heavenly Mother feels the same. Elder Orson F. Whitney said: “There was a time when that Being whom we now worship—that our eternal Father and Mother were once man and woman in mortality.” (7) My experiences as a woman, wife, daughter, and sister are unique. If gender is central to our identity (as stated in The Proclamation on the Family) and if the point of mortality is to become like gods, it gives me hope to know that there is a goddess who once walked my mortal path and triumphed!

Christ too gives me hope. His Atonement lends itself to perfect empathy—even if I am a woman and He is a man. Heavenly Mother shares that perfect empathy, but not because She volunteered for it. Not because it was required to in order to fulfill the Plan of Salvation. Christ’s empathy stems from the relationship of Redeemer to redeemed, Heavenly Mother’s from that of mother to child. This bond is distinctive and sacred.

Perfect Unity with the Father

Our relationship with Heavenly Mother has roots in our very souls. But what of Her relationship with the Father? Speaking on this subject, Elder Melvin J. Ballard once said “No matter to what heights God has attained or may attain, He does not stand alone; for side by side with Him, in all Her glory, a glory like unto His, stands a companion, the Mother of His children . . . a glorified, exalted, ennobled Mother.” (8) Likewise, the teachings of Elder Bruce R. McConkie proclaim that “An exalted and glorified Man of Holiness could not be a Father unless a Woman of like glory, perfection, and holiness was associated with Him as a Mother.” (9) Heavenly Mother is not a sidekick, She is essential. She works in perfect unity with the Father to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of Their children.

This divine unity underscores the importance of eternal marriage. In fact, we may find that unity in the very name-title of God: Elohim. Elohim is derived from the Hebrew name for God, Eloah. Elohim is simply the plural version of that name. What a beautiful concept! Two people so united in holiness and purpose that we worship them as one: Elohim. God.

This perfect, divine unity is the objective of temple marriages. Exaltation cannot be achieved without it. Henry B. Eyring said “At the creation of man and woman, unity for them in marriage was not given as hope; it was a command! ‘Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh (Genesis 2:24). . . That union in love is not simply an ideal. It is a necessity.” (10) I am so grateful for two Heavenly Parents to serve as an example of this.

Perfect Humility

A final impression I have about Heavenly Mother is that She embodies perfect humility. Not submissiveness, mind you. In accordance with prophetic teachings, I believe She is Heavenly Father's equal in majesty, power, and authority. But in all this, She strikes me as exceedingly humble. Humility is knowing that there is a higher way, a higher purpose, and placing your desires as secondary to it.

Despite 165 years of doctrinal references to Heavenly Mother, we know very little about Her. We know Her Son as the god of the Old and New Testaments. We know Her Husband as the Organizer of the universe. How She must yearn for Her children to know Her, too! And yet She allows that revelation to unfold in due course. I can't help but think of Her as I reflect on the Ninth Article of Faith: "We believe that God will yet reveal many great and important things" . . . what could be greater or more important than knowledge of the Woman who carried our souls in Her womb? I believe more revelation is coming, and I am in awe of how Heavenly Mother humbly waits on it.

Finally, who but a god with utmost selflessness could allow their Son to be sacrificed for the sins of the world? We read in the Old Testament the story of King Solomon and two women--each of whom claims to be the mother of the same child. In 1 Kings 3:

24 And the king said, Bring me a sword. And they brought a sword before the king.
25 And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.
26 Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it.

The son's true mother was willing to sacrifice everything to spare his life--even her very claim to him. Why? Because her bowels yearned upon him. Her gut, her heart, her breath. Surely, our Heavenly Mother had this same rush of emotion as She watched Christ walk the streets of Jerusalem with a cross upon His shoulders. Yet together with the Father, She stayed Her holy hand and fought every maternal instinct inside Her. In humility our Savior died, and in humility His Mother gave Him up for us.

In closing, I would like to turn to Matthew 7, wherein we read "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them." Our Mother is indeed a good tree, and Christ is the fruit by which we may come to know Her. It is no fluke that perfect empathy, unity with the Father, and humility are traits They both share. How else could Christ have come to learn them if not through His Eternal Mother? Our Eternal Mother.

I believe She was central to Christ's mortal sojourn, and I believe She is central in ours. President Kimball said, “knowing how profoundly our mortal mothers have shaped us here, do we suppose [Heavenly Mother’s] influence . . . to be less?” (11)

I bear testimony that it is not. As we stumble through the foggy mists of mortality, She will never leave our side. I take heart in knowing that one day we will know Her perfectly as She knows us perfectly.

When I leave this frail existence
When I lay this mortal by
Father, Mother, may I meet you
In your royal courts on high?
Then, at length, when I've completed
All you sent me forth to do
With your mutual approbation
Let me come and dwell with you

I look forward to that holy, joyous reunion. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


1. Elaine Anderson Cannon. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism. "Mother in Heaven." BYU, 1992.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
5. Gordon B. Hinckley. "Daughters of God." General Conference, October 1991. Context: This address was given just one month after the September Six had been excommunicated. 1991 was not the Church's best year. 
6. David L. Paulsen and Martin Pulido. "A Mother There: Historical Teachings and Sacred Silence." BYU Studies. Vol. 50 No. 1: 70-126. 2011. This is an absolute must-read for anyone interested in Heavenly Mother. Be sure to read the footnotes, too!
7. Orson F. Whitney, "Bishop O. F. Whitney." Woman’s Exponent 24 (June 15, 1895): 9.
8. Melvin J. Ballard, cited in Bryant S. Hinckley's Sermons and Missionary Services of Melvin Joseph Ballard. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1949, p. 205
9. Bruce R. McConkie. Mormon Doctrine, p.517
10. Henry B. Eyring. "That We May Be One." General Conference, April 1998.
11. Spencer W. Kimball. "The True Way to Life and Salvation." General Conference, April  1978.


  1. seriously awesome. good work, kristi!

  2. Love this. My daughter Ann and her husband Ryan told me about your talk. Thank you for it.

  3. This talk is BEAUTIFUL, Kristi. I absolutely love it. It felt amazing to see so many of my own deepest feelings and thoughts written in anothers' words, but I also learned some new things and loved your perspective. Particularly enjoyed your comments about the distinction in the relation between Redeemer and Redeemed vs. Mother and Child. I also loved "by their fruits ye shall know them" being applied to Christ as Heavenly Mother's fruit and the explanation of Elohim being a plural name for God. (Never knew that and I am excited to go back to the temple with that understanding). Basically I loved this and I assume you gave this talk in Sacrament meeting, which I also love b/c it went against the myth that talking about Heavenly Mother is somehow taboo. Love love love. Thank you for posting! --Your freshman roommate's sister. :)


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