“Our theology begins with heavenly parents. Our highest aspiration is to be like them.” wrote Latter-day Saint Apostle Dallin H. Oaks.
It’s worth pausing to reflect and celebrate. We belong to the one Christian faith that holds as fundamental the doctrine that we are children of a divine mother as well as a divine father. This doctrine is summarized in the Church’s Gospel Topics Essay on Heavenly Mother. (A detailed history of church statements and teachings on Heavenly Mother published in BYU Studies is included in the Church’s essay as a footnote. You can find that here.)
There has been an explosion of interest on this topic in recent years, inspiring books, visual art, poetry, conferences and a multitude of conversations on social media.
Recently, Elder Dale G. Renlund addressed the topic in a general conference address, confirming the importance of seeking greater understanding and revelation about her nature and role in our lives. Referring to the Church’s essay, he remarks,
“Once you have read what is there, you will know everything that I know about the subject. I wish I knew more. You too may still have questions and want to find more answers. Seeking greater understanding is an important part of our spiritual development, but please be cautious.”
Appropriately, Elder Renlund establishes some guardrails on how we engage this topic as we gather together as a church. He cautions against demanding institutional revelation and against excessive theological speculation.
So where does this leave us?
It leaves us with perhaps the most profound truth revealed in the Restoration: We are beloved sons and daughters of heavenly parents.
It leaves us with a yearning to understand this truth more fully.
It leaves us with no expectation that this understanding will come by way of declaration or pronouncement by church leaders. We should not expect some bullet-point list of who and what Heavenly Mother is.
And it leaves us with some wise counsel on a path forward. The path is through direct experience with the divine. Just as the most meaningful and powerful knowledge we have about our Heavenly Father comes from His very real felt presence in our lives, so perhaps should knowledge of our Heavenly Mother be revealed as we feel Her presence in our lives. Perhaps we need to visit our own sacred groves. And perhaps the ways in which so many Latter-day Saint artists, writers and poets are being inspired to express how they experience Her presence in their lives tells us something about the language through which she wants to be known.
In that spirit, we are pleased to introduce a profound and beautiful reflection on this topic by a young Latter-day Saint writer and poet. It is a book about her own personal experience on this journey to discover her Divine Mother. Not surprisingly, it becomes for Kathryn a journey of self-discovery as well as a woman and young mother.
Her new book is called The Mother Tree: Discovering the Love and Wisdom of Our Divine Mother, and was written by Kathryn Knight Sonntag.
We invited her to our podcast studio to talk about her book and share her experience.
Kathryn holds a master’s degree in landscape architecture and environmental planning, and works as a landscape architect and freelance writer in Salt Lake City. Kathryn’s book of poetry The Tree at the Center was a 2019 Association for Mormon Letters Awards finalist.