Latest from Mormon Land: Why the silent treatment for Heavenly Mother?

Also: Exclusive pre-General Conference coverage; missionary mental health challenges; the secret to true sacrifice; the First Presidency’s Easter message; and the Tabernacle Choir goes global.

(Illustration by Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

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Heavenly Mother, are you really there?

While the church’s six-paragraph essay on Heavenly Mother concedes that “our present knowledge about [her] is limited” and offers no explanation as to why so little is said or understood of her, that hasn’t stopped members from concocting reasons of their own for the relative silence.

To Exponent II blogger Abby Maxwell Hansen, though, many of these makeshift musings don’t add up.

One popular notion is that her eternal spouse, Heavenly Father, wants to “protect her.”

“Heavenly Mother couldn’t possibly be so weak and frail,” Hansen writes, “that she can’t handle her children talking about her and saying something mean.”

Another justification: Given the lack of a “formal” revelation to church founder Joseph Smith about Heavenly Mother, we should avoid teaching anything about her.

“We honestly don’t know a thing about Heavenly Father either, except that he exists and loves us,” Hansen counters. “How come it’s fine to chat about our feelings of connection and inspiration that we believe come from him all the time but can’t talk about inspiration we believe came from her?”

The blogger also tackles the polygamy question when members speculate that there are multiple Heavenly Mothers.

“There’s one guy, and a whole bunch more women … so we only talk about the man because there’s LESS of him?” she states. “If there are 10 moms, wouldn’t we talk about them 10 times as often?”

Apostle Dale Renlund flatly declared in last April’s General Conference that the “doctrine of a Heavenly Mother comes by revelation.” And while Renlund counseled members to “be cautious” when seeking greater understanding on the matter and warned that “speculation” can lead to “deception,” he did not say don’t talk about or think about the faith’s “distinctive belief” of a Mother in Heaven.

Pre-General Conference exclusives

As General Conference approaches, we again brought our readers a special section that covered a host of topics:

• Missionaries are increasingly encountering mental health challenges, and the church is increasingly responding.

(Illustration by Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Generation Zers who leave the faith are finding community on social apps like TikTok.

Faith-promoting stories are legion but which ones are fact and which are fiction?

• And columns exploring a delicious conference tradition; how to get more out of the sessions; the changing role of “prophets”; the loneliness faced by isolated Latter-day Saints; and what conference gets right or could improve.

(Pat Bagley | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Other conference and holiday notes

• Ten international members (three from Brazil, two from Mexico, two from the Philippines, and one each from Ghana, Malaysia and Taiwan) will sing with The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square during General Conference as part of a pilot program to widen the group’s mission.

• The governing First Presidency released its Easter message, stating that Jesus’ “great atoning sacrifice can give us hope for joy and peace not only in the life to come but also in the here and now as we face life’s inevitable challenges.”

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) For the first time in its 175-year history, The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square will welcome participants living outside the United States. They will sing with the choir at General Conference.

The latest ‘Mormon Land’ podcast: Missions and mental health

We discuss mental health challenges facing young proselytizers with two former missionaries. Listen to the podcast.

(Courtesy photos) Michael Skaggs and Cora Longhurst discuss the mental health challenges they faces on their missions.

True sacrifice

Baseball season is underway, so let’s go to our next life lesson from the diamond.

Sixth inning • Batters sacrifice to advance teammates.

The batter’s line in the box score may be most telling in what it doesn’t tell. It often shows the number of official at-bats, runs, hits and RBIs. But it doesn’t say when the batter lays a perfect dribbler down the third-base line — and purposely gets thrown out — to advance a teammate into scoring position. In fact, sacrifices aren’t even counted as an official at-bat. If not for entries buried deeper in box scores, sacrifice bunts and flies can go unnoted, unnoticed and unappreciated.

Like the sacrifice itself, life’s lesson here may be hidden. But it’s every bit as real, profound and even religious in nature:

True sacrifice requires no recognition.

If you hand over your paycheck to help a flood victim and then brag about it to your family and friends, did you make a sacrifice or merely a donation? If you give money to a church — banking on divine blessings in return — did you make a sacrifice or an investment?

In the New Testament, Matthew sheds more light on a truism about altruism: “When thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do . . . that they may have the glory of men.”

Sacrifice is selfless only when we care less about self and more about others.

Also from The Tribune

(The Salt Lake Tribune) Juanita Brooks, author of the acclaimed 1950 "Mountain Meadows Massacre."

• A look at a Latter-day Saint historian who took grief for telling the truth about the Mountain Meadows Massacre during her life but received nearly universal praise after her death.

• The church spent more than $1 billion worldwide helping those in need last year, eclipsing its 2021 outlay by more than $100 million amid intensified scrutiny of the Utah-based faith’s wealth.

• A deeper dive into the Pew poll about how Americans view various religions reveals some better — and worse — news for Latter-day Saints.

• A new poll shows how Latter-day Saints and members of other churches view LGBTQ rights.

• The completion date for the Salt Lake Temple renovation has been pushed back, again, this time until 2026, due to “unexpected challenges.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) A concrete slab is laid around the perimeter of the Salt Lake Temple in March 2023 to create a clean and level working surface during the multiyear renovation.