New exhibit puts the spotlight on LDS belief in Heavenly Parents

Curated by artist and author McArthur Krishna, the show runs throughout March at Provo’s Writ & Vision.

Becoming like one’s Heavenly Parents begins with understanding them.

That’s the philosophy that drives Latter-day Saint artist and author McArthur Krishna, the guest curator of the upcoming art exhibit “Be Like Them.”

Slated to run throughout March at Provo’s Writ & Vision, the show represents a “celebration,” she said, of the belief taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that all are children of a Heavenly Father and Mother.

(Fiona Phillips) "Firstborn" by Fiona Phillips shows Heavenly Mother and Father as a regal couple embracing an infant.

The gallery, which features some 50 artworks, kicks off with an open house March 1 from 6 to 9 p.m. According to Krishna, the artists are “predominantly” women, plus one nonbinary entrant, and range from the professional to the amateur.

This mix was “intentional,” she said, explaining she desired a “kaleidoscope of perspectives” displayed alongside one another.

(McArthur Krishna) Artist and author McArthur Krishna is the guest curator and driving force behind the Writ & Vision show, titled "Be Like Them."

Krishna got her wish, with imagery ranging from the literal to the highly abstract, each piece a distinct take on the teaching that has, in recent years, begun to receive more attention from official channels.

A spotlight on Heavenly Mother

(Jessica Day Smith) "Our Parents Are Gardeners" by Jessica Day Smith depicts Heavenly Mother and Father working side by side under the sun to care for their creation.

Included in that attention from higher-ups is a 2022 General Conference address delivered to a worldwide audience by apostle Dale G. Renlund. Some listeners mourned what they viewed as a rebuke of those seeking out an individual relationship with Heavenly Mother.

Krishna, on the other hand, cheered the talk.

“Having lived abroad for almost a decade,” she said, “I noticed how many members aren’t even aware this is our doctrine.”

By clearly citing belief in a Heavenly Mother as official teaching over the faith’s most vaulted pulpit, Renlund “opened the door,” Krishna said, “for everyone in our church to know and celebrate this knowledge that they have a Mother in Heaven.”

Another contemporary, official acknowledgment of the teaching includes the 2015 Gospel Topics essay on Heavenly Mother.

(Julia Blake) In "Purple Matter Unorganized," artist Julia Blake embraced an abstract style for her depiction of the relationship between Heavenly Mother and Father, writing in her artist's statement, that "I believe in their power, their love, their equal partnership. But I don’t know what that looks like."

“The doctrine of a Heavenly Mother,” the essay states, “is a cherished and distinctive belief among Latter-day Saints.”

The essay ends with a quote from apostle Dallin H. Oaks, the man next in line to lead the Utah-based faith, which reads: “Our theology begins with Heavenly Parents. Our highest aspiration is to be like them.”

Reading this, Krishna wondered, “What does that mean?”

This question cuts to the heart of the matter for Krishna.

For the author of 19 books, including six with the church-owned Deseret Book, belief in and an understanding of the female deity and her relationship to male deity go beyond the academic. Rather, they are imperative for illuminating “women’s destiny” and following the instruction to emulate the example set by both God and Goddess.

(James Rees) In "Eloah + Eloah," artist James Rees said he sought to convey "the creative force of a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother" and their "connection" to one another.

An ‘explosion’ in interest

The upcoming exhibit is one way she’s determined to engage with the all-important query, seeking visual responses from fellow Latter-day Saints all around the world.

Among her favorite submissions is a painting by artist Emily Fox King depicting a family dinner table from above.

(Emily Fox King) In “Bless the Hands that Prepared This Meal,” artist Emily Fox King uses a busy family dinner as an allegory for the Latter-day Saint teaching that all are children of Heavenly Parents. Said Fox, "This painting holds some of that energy, joy and stress of a big family gathering. Plus, look at that mom with her 'mom bob hairdo.' She’s exhausted!"

Recently, a friend of Krishna relayed a story in which the friend’s daughter was told she was not welcome at church because of her views on LGBTQ issues.

“This is the opposite of what Christ modeled for us,” Krishna said. “And I really appreciate this scene of a chaotic, boisterous table where all are welcome as representing our relationship with our Heavenly Parents.”

The images curated for the show represent a small portion of an “explosion” in art Krishna has witnessed the past five years or so in art depicting Heavenly Mother.

“We are happy,” she said, “to be part of that interest and excitement on the topic.”