Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » “Our Mother in Heaven”

“Our Mother in Heaven”

By: Ardis E. Parshall - May 19, 2011

I sometimes joke – or maybe it isn’t a joke – that if any of my friends ever find me lying in the street, freshly hit by a truck, they should rescue my computer and only then call 911. First things first, you know. This little laptop is stuffed with so many good things, documents and images and data that could never be reconstructed, so much good stuff that even with a fairly good indexing system I can’t keep track of what’s on it.

Just over a year ago, a Keepa post, Oh, WHOSE Mother?, discussed this poem and its authorship:

O My Mother, thou that dwellest,
In thy mansions up on high,
Oft I think that I remember
How you bade your child goodbye.
How you pressed me to your bosom,
Bade me a true son to be,
Ere I left my home eternal,
To accept mortality.

How you gave me words of counsel,
Guides to help my straying feet:
How you taught by true example
All of Father’s laws to keep.
While I strive in this probation,
Well to live the Gospel truth,
May I merit your approval
As I did in early youth.

‘Tis recorded in your journal
How you stood by Father’s side,
When by power real, eternal,
Thou wast sealed a goddess bride.
When through love and truth and virtue,
Ere in time thou didst become,
In your high exalted station,
Mother of the souls of men.

When of evil I’ve repented,
And my work on earth is done,
Dearest Mother, loving Father,
Pray forgive your erring son.
When my pilgrimage is ended,
And the victor’s wreath I’ve won,
Dearest Mother, to your bosom,
Will you welcome back your son?

That post was sparked because I had run across a 1919 publication of the poem in the Millennial Star. During the course of investigating its authorship, I discovered that the poem’s apparent first publication was in 1892, in the Juvenile Instructor, where the author was identified as William C. Harrison. Despite other claims to authorship, I concluded that the author probably was Brother Harrison.

Well, this week I discovered that hiding in a corner of my laptop was a scan I had already made from the original Juvenile Instructor publication:



(The 1919 words printed at the top of this post are slightly different from the original 1892 words shown on the scan here, and smooth out a few rough places in the original.)

Then I discovered that not only had I forgotten I had that printed music, I had also forgotten that months earlier, Keepa’s own Phantom, who had recorded all our 2009 Advent Christmas music as well as some other wonderful Mormon musical relics for sharing on the blog, had recorded this song for us as well!

So now, a year after first posting that interesting and – I think – quite lovely hymn to Our Mother in Heaven, we can enjoy and even sing this bit of Mormon musical history. Ladies and gentlemen, the Phantom:

Our Mother in Heaven (audio file)



  1. Pretty nice for cultural over-belief. (grin)

    Awesome, as usual Ardis.

    Comment by WVS — May 19, 2011 @ 8:35 am

  2. Just like astronomy. Discover a new body, and then go through collections of old photos to see how many times before it was observed but not noticed.

    Comment by John Mansfield — May 19, 2011 @ 9:14 am

  3. Historically nifty, but personally I find myself a little miffed that this companion piece to the only firm mention we have of Heavenly Mother is male-centered. It’s not that men don’t have a right to Heavenly Mother too; it just feels like someone is trying to yank the beauty of the feminine divine back around to male control.

    I don’t accuse Brother Harrison of some nasty patriarchal conspiracy. She is his mother too; he has a right to think of her and sing to her. Maybe there is women’s poetry about Her out there and I just haven’t had the chance to see it. I hope so.

    Comment by proud daughter of eve — May 19, 2011 @ 9:14 am

  4. Cool!

    Comment by Howard — May 19, 2011 @ 9:24 am

  5. Great post! Ardis, this is your friendly reminder to backup all your data in at least 3 places.

    Your friend,


    Comment by Tod Robbins — May 19, 2011 @ 11:24 am

  6. I did that yesterday, Tod — two onsite, one offsite. Whew!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 19, 2011 @ 11:56 am

  7. Backup? I’ve been depending on someone copying all of my computer files in the blank pages of their old missionary journals for safekeeping. And Ardis, if you are ever hit by a truck in my presence, I’ll rescue your computer, tuck it under my arm and run away quickly, thinking of all those delicious files. I’ll call 911 on my way, too.

    Comment by kevinf — May 19, 2011 @ 12:14 pm

  8. That’s the spirit, kevinf! You’re a man with his priorities straight.

    WVS, is “cultural over-belief” a term you’ve made up, or one used in your field? Either way, it’s perfectly descriptive. Thanks.

    And John, that’s the perfect metaphor. (We’ll pretend not to notice the pun you could have made about “celestial body” instead of “new body.”)

    Thanks, Howard.

    And yes, PDOE, I agree with you in regretting that it isn’t a more female-centered poem, although I do think it’s positive that a man was identifying with his heavenly female parent. Other than referring to the singer as “son,” how do you think the poem would be different had it been written by a woman? Might it not refer to “straying feet,” or perhaps compare a woman’s earthly work with that of her Mother, or some other way?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 19, 2011 @ 12:41 pm

  9. It just makes so much sense….Mother in Heaven. We should talk about it more.

    Thanks for the audio

    Comment by Of the Sea — May 19, 2011 @ 1:25 pm

  10. It’s not that the poem couldn’t have been written by a woman, but some of the imagery and word choices – like “victor’s wreath” – strike me as typically male. I think a woman – and definitely a woman of 100 years ago – would have used a different image. The theme of the poem is very Campbell – the young hero sets out to win his place in the word – but that’s a typically male experience. For most of history, the young woman’s place was closer to home (I’m not going to say “in the home”) and their journey to their adult self was more likely to be an inner journey than an outer one.

    Comment by proud daughter of eve — May 19, 2011 @ 2:12 pm

  11. There’s a pretty good article in the last issue of BYU Studies that documents how much the concept of Mother in Heaven has been discussed, addressed in conference, or has shown up in official church publications. It kind of blows the whole “It’s too sacred to talk about” idea out of the water. It’s a good read, and surprised me with the quantity and quality of official discourse on this subject. Might make you feel a bit better, PDOE.

    Comment by kevinf — May 19, 2011 @ 2:33 pm

  12. Nice recording. Thanks, Phantom.

    Comment by Researcher — May 19, 2011 @ 2:44 pm

  13. I think it’s great to see a son’s perspective. Sons see the role of a mother differently. That’s important to understand to be a good mother.

    I’ve wondered why it’s always “sons of Adam” and “daughters of Eve”. I’m a daughter of Adam too. And, Eve obviously has sons. (In fact, here I am talking to a proud daughter of Eve, so I’ll ask: why did you pick that?)

    Comment by Carol — May 19, 2011 @ 3:11 pm

  14. Carol, it came to me at a time in my life where I was very interested in Eve and wrapped up in the way she is viewed in our church as opposed to the way she is viewed by other churches. I may have been influenced by a book I remember from my high school library, “Daughters of Eve,” which was about a bunch of girls being nasty, cruel and possibly actually evil. That kind of got up my nose. :)

    Comment by proud daughter of eve — May 19, 2011 @ 7:22 pm

  15. Ausgezeichnet, Ardis. This is great. Thanks

    Comment by reed russell — May 20, 2011 @ 12:53 am

  16. Ardis:

    Your computer is indeed important, because you have become such an important contributor to Mormon digital culture. And, be assured we would much rather keep reading you than dialing 911.

    Comment by S.Faux — May 20, 2011 @ 3:52 pm

  17. Thanks, Ess-dot … er … I think … Hey! Wait a minute!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 20, 2011 @ 3:57 pm

  18. Beautiful melody. Interesting text in verse 3.

    Glad you “found” this, Ardis.

    Comment by David Y. — May 24, 2011 @ 4:49 pm

  19. Ardis, please tell me that you’re using an online backup system of some kind for all these little gems. At least try DropBox for some of your stuff! Hope you have a great weekend.

    Comment by Chris Gordon — May 28, 2011 @ 8:18 pm

  20. Cultural over-belief (no. 1, WVS) — I like that term, too — I sometimes regret this practice among us, but now I have a term to better describe the phenomena.

    Comment by ji — May 30, 2011 @ 1:07 pm

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