Update on Holly Barrett

Holly Barrett. FamilySearch.com.

Over a decade ago, I wrote a blog post about Holly Barrett who died in 1969 at the age of 14, mysteriously until now. Here’s an update to that post.

After years of wondering, I heard from one of Holly’s nieces recently and learned of her sad ending. She was a special young woman who contracted leukemia—likely due to being a Nevada bomb-test downwinder. Chemotherapy in the 1960s was hard on her young body and she died of heart failure in a Salt Lake hospital. Her parents were in the grocery business and they named Holly’s Pantry, a convenience store in Salina, Utah, after her (the store is still running, though it’s no longer owned by the Barrett family). Holly is buried in Salina’s East Side Cemetery.

I’m grateful to have learned more of Holly’s story and I hope she knows that people still care about her many years after her passing. I also want to thank all the blog readers for their interest and for reaching out to me publicly and privately over the years.

“Have I Then a Mother in Heaven?”

Zina D. Huntington was bereft when her mother Zina Baker Huntington died of cholera in 1839:

For a time, [she] was inconsolable at her mother’s death. Then [a] spiritual experience confirmed her faith. As she paced the floor, almost brokenhearted in her loneliness, she heard her mother’s voice: “Zina, any sailor can steer on a smooth sea, when rocks appear, sail around them.” Zina cried out: “O Father in heaven, help me to be a good sailor, that my heart shall not break on the rocks of grief.” A sweet peace came over Zina’s soul, and never again did she give way to such heart-rending grief.

—From “Mother,” The Young Woman’s Journal, Jan. 1911, 45, as quoted in “Zina D Huntington Young: A Testimony in the Heart of a Girl.”)

Is there any more startling doctrine from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than the idea that we have a Mother in Heaven? Susa Young Gates records this vignette from Zina’s life:

Father [William] Huntington lost his wife [Zina Baker Huntington] under the most trying circumstances. Her children were left desolate. One day, when her daughter Zina was speaking with the Prophet Joseph Smith concerning the loss of her mother and her intense grief, she asked the question:

“Will I know my mother as my mother when I get over on the Other Side?”

“Certainly you will,” was the instant reply of the Prophet. “More than that, you will meet and become acquainted with your eternal Mother, the wife of your Father in Heaven.”

“And have I then a Mother in Heaven?” exclaimed the astonished girl.

“You assuredly have. How could a Father claim His title unless there were also a Mother to share that parenthood?”

Susa Young Gates, “History of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from November 1869 to June 1910″ (Salt Lake City: General Board of the Y.L.M.I.A., 1911), 16, footnote).

I was a little shocked to learn this as a teenager, with all it implied. But after pondering it for a few decades, though my understanding is incomplete, this doctrine has settled in my soul.

We know almost nothing about a Mother in Heaven. Isn’t this where we get in trouble with our doctrine and faith, when we use our logic, reason, and a very limited knowledge to fill in gaps? Patience, not presumption, is helpful if not essential. I’ve learned to let God fill in these gaps, not me or other wayfarers.

True is reason; truth eternal
tells me I’ve a Mother there.

Eliza R. Snow, “Oh My Father,” Hymns no. 292

I hold many things in my heart that I don’t fully understand and am not yet ready to accept, but I choose not to reject things outright. I’m not a skeptic. I don’t find it troubling to hold unanswered questions. I don’t mind waiting in faith. The more time I have to process new ideas, the better I understand them and the more peace I come to feel about them.

(I try to reject things that lead to sin. I mean, haven’t I committed enough sins already? Do I need to pile on? I’m a sinner—a repentant one—who has had too many knife fights with the devil. I’m tired.)

I believe I have a Mother in Heaven. Though I don’t fully understand Her relationship with our Father in Heaven, it must be the most wonderful relationship imaginable. I don’t need all the answers right now—and I am wary of anyone who rushes in and thinks they have them all.

I am grateful for the opportunity to patiently believe and the privilege to know what little I do (it’s probably for my own good). Even if I can’t grasp a concept fully, whatever the truth is, I want to learn it, no matter how long it takes, no matter how popular or unpopular it may be.

The truth is the the truth. They only thing we can change is our relationship to it.