A few years ago, my mother gifted me one of our favorite books for Mother’s Day. She inscribed it, “For Rachel, my traveling companion.” When I began my own travels away from her as a young adult, she would often stuff a card for me in my suitcase that I would discover later. It helped me feel close to her, and like I was brave enough to have my own adventures knowing she was still with me. When I was a missionary in Sicily, she told me that she had prayed diligently (Mosiah-like) to know that I would be OK.[1] She said emphatically, “The Spirit told me you’re coming home; you’re coming home!”

Constellations by Brian Kershisnik. 2009. Used with permission.

I imagine that our Heavenly Mother with her perfect love likewise eagerly awaits our return and is doing all she can to support us during our mortal journey. While much about Her nature remains veiled, I believe that through scripture study and prayer we can come to an understanding of Her that is greater than mere speculation. Christ is the manifestation of the divine we follow on earth, and we can apply scriptures about Him and His love to gain an understanding of our Mother. The following verses reference the Savior, and as He reflects the nature and love of our Heavenly Parents, I have changed the pronouns and nouns (with the capital nouns designating Heavenly Mother) to consider the Mother’s relationship with Her daughters: [2]

Behold, what manner of love the Mother hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the daughters of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Her not.

Beloved, now are we the daughters of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when She shall appear, we shall be like Her; for we shall see Her as She is.

And every woman that hath this hope in Her purifieth herself, even as She is pure.

When I first tried this exercise, I felt the power of these words otherwise missing from our standard works about our Heavenly Mother and Her daughters. The nature of our being rests in Her and is defined by Her. When we come to know Her we will see the divine manifested in ourselves in powerful ways. If the world demonstrates significant confusion regarding the nature of women, it is because they too have not known Her.

I’ve been recognizing the effect this dearth of knowledge about Heavenly Mother has had on me. It is as if after having the sweet relationship with my mother that has defined my life in significant ways, I suffered amnesia when I left on my mission. I knew I must have had a mother back home and that some day I could return to Her. Knowing virtually nothing about Her and unaware of any evidence of Her care for me, I felt abandoned by Her.

For me this sense of estrangement manifests itself as a pervading malaise, a longing I sometimes feel when I am still enough to listen. As I fulfill my daily responsibilities and share love with my husband and family, this lingering sense of separation floats softly like subtle clouds of depression through my heart’s sky.

I started to become aware of these sensations when I felt impressed to pay attention to the feelings and circumstances behind my seemingly incurable snacking habit. I consider myself a healthy eater and enjoy cooking for my family. However, especially when I am alone or caring for my baby during the day, I frequently find myself reaching for the chocolate or some other kind of “comfort food.” When I stop mid-reach for the snack and tune in, I notice how strong the pull is to dull my discomfort. It’s often when the “to-do list” keeps growing, when I’m tired after being up with the baby during the night, or otherwise feeling like too much depends on me. If I listen long enough, I find that the overwhelm is a mask for loneliness and a deep sense of loss. I miss the peaceful presence of heavenly connection, and I need to share the burden of caring for my home and family with a Mother who can take me in Her arms and tell me everything is going to be OK. I sense this yearning for Her even during calm, bright moments when the evening light dances on the tulips about to bloom before shining through the window in a spring-green glow. I want to share the beauty of my life as much as the pain. While I treasure my relationship with family, their presence cannot abide with me always. Once I hang up the phone or say goodbye to a friend, the ache eventually re-emerges.

For a while I wondered how I could have so much connection and still feel moments of acute loneliness. When I read a devotional by M. Catherine Thomas[3], I was a little relieved that this condition was part of our mortal experience. She notes that when we left the presence of our Heavenly Parents and came to earth, we died spiritually; their presence was veiled from us and we were essentially orphaned. I miss my Heavenly Parents equally, but the separation seems greater from Heavenly Mother because we know no stories about her from the scriptures and sing no songs[4]. We seek to assuage this “intrinsic pain and alienation” through incessant or neurotic thought and comforts that provide only temporary satisfaction[5]. However, the satisfaction of my fancy dark chocolate is ephemeral at best, because the only enduring comfort can come through Christ. He promises us as He did His disciples, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come unto you.” She reflects in the devotional on this verse, “The English word comfortless translates the Greek word for ‘orphans’: ‘I will not leave you orphaned.’”

Our Heavenly Mother and Father did not leave us orphaned. They arranged a way home through Christ. In the meantime, the unquenchable longing we feel for them in quiet moments is meant to call us home, to recall to our hearts the source of our being in them. When our inner seed of divinity begins to sprout and all other addictions and pursuits pale in light of the true source of the loss we feel, our hearts will be drawn to Her. And as we seek Her, we will find Her even here. The layers of veil amnesia and grief will fall away, and we will feel Her embrace. I feel more connected to the Savior and His love as my longing for our heavenly home draws me closer to Him in every thought. There are also moments I hold sacred, my pearls, when I have seen our Mother’s response to my seeking[6].

That they should seek Heavenly Mother, if haply they might feel after Her, and find Her, though She be not far from every one of us: For in Her we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also Her offspring. [7]

[1] See Mosiah 28:6-7 and Alma 17:35
[2] See 1 John 3:1-3
[3] “The Doer of Our Deeds and the Speaker of Our Words” Devotional by M. Catherine Thomas
[4] The exception to this would be the hymn “O My Father”
[5] The Godseed by M. Catherine Thomas (page 151)
[6] See Matthew 13:45 and 7:6
[7] Pronouns/nouns again changed in Acts 17:27-28