“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.

Saved by the Gift of Tongues

Goose berries on the vine. Canva.com

I recently found this story from the life of Jane Grover Stewart (1830–1873):

“As an instance in which the gift of tongues proved of decided practical value, we transcribe the follow incident, which occurred near Council Bluffs, [Iowa] in the history of a girl of seventeen . . . from her journal [about 1847]:

‘One morning we thought we would go and gather gooseberries. Father Tanner (as we familiarly called the good, patriarchal Elder Nathan Tanner) harnessed a span of horses to a light wagon, and, with two sisters by the name of Lyman, his little granddaughter and me started out.

‘When we reached the woods, we told the old gentleman to go to a house in sight and rest himself while we picked the berries. It was not long before the little girl and I strayed some distance from the rest, when suddenly we heard shouts. The little girl thought it was her grandfather and was about to answer, but I restrained her, thinking it might be Indians.

‘We walked forward until well within sight of Father Tanner when we saw he was running his team around. We thought nothing strange at first, but as we approached, we saw Indians gathering around the wagon whooping and yelling as others came and joined them. We got into the wagon to start when four of the Indians took hold of the wagon wheels to stop the wagon and the other two held the horses by the bits and another came to take me out of the wagon.

‘I then began to be afraid as well as vexed and asked Father Tanner to let me get out of the wagon and run for assistance. He said, “No poor child. It is too late.”

‘I told him they should not take me alive. His face was as white as a sheet. The Indians had commenced to strip him—had taken his watch and handkerchief—and while stripping him were trying to pull me out of the wagon. I began silently to appeal to my Heavenly Father. While praying and struggling, the Spirit of the Almighty fell upon me and I arose with great power; and no tongue can tell my feelings. I was happy as I could be.

‘A few moments before, I saw worse than death staring me in the face, and now my hand was raised by the power of God, and I talked to those Indians in their own language. They let go of the horses and wagon and all stood in front of me while I talked to them by the power of God. They bowed their heads and answered ‘Yes’ in a way that made me know what they meant.

‘The little girl and Father Tanner looked on in speechless amazement. I realized our situation; their calculation was to kill Father Tanner, burn the wagon, and take us women prisoners. This was plainly shown me. When I stopped talking, they shook hands with all three of us and returned all they had taken from Father Tanner who gave them back the handkerchief and I gave them berries and crackers. By this time the other two women came up and we hastened home.

‘The Lord gave me a portion of the interpretation of what I had said, which was as follows:

I suppose you Indian warriors think you are going to kill us? Don’t you know the Great Spirit is watching you and knows everything in your heart? We have come out here to gather some of our Father’s fruit. We have not come to injure you and if you harm us or injure one hair of our heads, the Great Spirit shall smite you to the earth and you shall not have power to breathe another breath.

We have been driven from our homes and so have you; we have come out here to do you good and not to injure you. We are the Lord’s people and so are you; but you must cease your murders and wickedness. The Lord is displeased with it and will not prosper you if you continue in it. You think you own all this land, this timber, this water, all the horses: Why you do not own one thing on earth, not even the air you breathe—it all belongs to the Great Spirit.

(Edward William Tullige, The Women of Mormondom [New York; Tullige and Crandall, 1877], 475–477.)

Mormon Pioneers: “A Shoe Came Flying at Me”

https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/wagon-wheel-760412?lang=eng

I found this little pioneer story in an article by Stanley B. Kimball in the Nauvoo Journal (now Mormon Historical Studies).

In 1866, near the Platte River, a pioneer named Robert L. Overseen lost one of his shoes. He was not allowed to ride in a wagon at the time, so he was in a pretty tough spot.

“The foremost quality of our pioneers was faith. With faith in God, they did what every pioneer does—they stepped forward into the unknown.”—Elder Dallin H. Oaks

He offered a prayer from the heart, the only kind of prayer a pioneer in need could offer. This is what happened: “As soon as I had uttered the prayer, a shoe came flying at me. Someone had thrown it out of a passing wagon.”

He said the shoe was a little on the small side but he could still use it. What a blessing. Imagine how grateful he must have been. The greater the need, often the greater and more genuine your faith.

P.S. Drat. I couldn’t find Robert on the Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel site.