In October 1991, Gordon B. Hinckley, then First Counselor in the LDS First Presidency, delivered a General Women’s Meeting talk entitled “Daughters of God” in which he made the following declaration, “’However, in light of the instruction we have received from the Lord Himself, I regard it as inappropriate for anyone in the Church to pray to our Mother in Heaven.’”  Other than for some generic scriptural and historical support listed by Hinckley, along with the admission that there is currently “no revealed knowledge”  of Heavenly Mother, there is no detailed explanation—theological or otherwise – given for why it is inappropriate to pray to Heavenly Mother or why he would feel the need to interject this theological issue into a General Women’s Meeting talk on women and worthiness.
His declaration seems out of place, especially considering his admission that he is drawing on a previous talk delivered to church leaders. Nevertheless, Hinckley does credit the “’activities of a few who evidently are seeking to lead others in the paths which they are following.’”  Shortly thereafter in 1993, six prominent LDS scholars, known as the ‘September Six’ were excommunicated for speaking out on feminist issues in the Mormon church. Subsequently, Janice Allred was excommunicated in 1995 for her writings on the topic of Heavenly Mother, although after having read her book God the Mother (Signature Books, 1997), I don’t find any of her statements that shocking, or even unscriptural, for that matter.
Curiously enough, Hinckley’s statement does not forbid prayer to Her; only he states that prayer to her is ‘inappropriate.’ My observation remains that there is more to the story than meets the eye. It is important to understand that the topic of Heavenly Mother was gaining momentum in Mormon circles due to a wider strand of goddess-based spirituality that was taking hold in the late 80’s/early 90’s known as New Age spirituality, having its roots in Theosophy and ‘pagan’ forms of spirituality, much of which has resurfaced in recent times through neo-Gnostic groups. I also believe there are biblical considerations that concern ties to ancient Israel and their idolatrous practices, but that would take too long to explain here.
From this talk alone, it remains unclear whether or not Hinckley was aware of this trend or its perceived inconsistencies with a Mormon scriptural worldview; he remains strangely silent on these matters. However, there must have been some awareness of these trends on his part. Interestingly, Carol Lynn Pearson once admitted in an interview that she had been influenced by New Age thought in penning down “Mother Wove the Morning.” 
The question I would like to entertain is given this wider context, does his statement leave open the possibility of prayer to Heavenly Mother for one who seeks to avoid these trends and keeps the right spiritual perspective? Could this possibly have wider implications that would discourage a ‘neo-pagan’ worldview and open the possibility for a ‘biblical’ view of the Goddess that would be consistent with Mormon, and therefore Christian, ideology? Again, it remains my observation that if one takes what Hinckley says literally, there is room of speak of praying to Heavenly Mother as a deity in her own right; the key is to proceed with caution.
For those who have read my previous posts, you know about my sacred experiences, which for me were very real. Given those experiences, it makes it very difficult for me not to talk to my Mother in Heaven who I know sees and hears me and who I feel I know personally. She has answered my prayers on more than one occasion!
Interestingly, in my past interaction with neo-pagan and Gnostic groups, the question has been raised as to why I will not pay homage to other “pagan” goddesses, or even why I cannot equate Heavenly Mother with them. I do not – will not- engage in neo-pagan/”New Age” practices, and I am not into “Gaia consciousness.” My answer is simple: if I were into these things, I would be giving up my Mormon, and thus my Christian faith; I cannot go down that slippery slope. I am very careful to protect my Heavenly Mother’s integrity in that way; I keep Her scriptural. Thus, I am considered “too Christian” for neo-pagan “New Agers”, even in my goddess worship! I’ve been told as much.
There’s something else that bears mentioning. Gordon B. Hinckley is a distant cousin of mine through my Grandfather, who was a Southern Baptist preacher. In fact, they looked a lot alike. We had no prior knowledge of this family connection until after I joined the LDS church. But as my Grandfather would attest, I was always one to question authority when it came to religious issues. It must be in the Bitner genes.
I do believe there is a way to pray to Heavenly Mother with integrity. I pray to Her all the time because I know She’s been revealed to me.
 Gordon B. Hinckley. “Daughters of God.” General Women’s Meeting: October, 1991.
 Gordon B. Hinckley. “Daughters of God.”
 Gordon B. Hinckley. “Daughters of God.”
 Carol Lynn Pearson. “Early Career and Gerald’s Final Coming Out (Part 2)” Mormon Stories #174.
I suspect that whatever source that is in place to answer prayers and provide us with loving comfort really isn’t concerned about how we imagine that source: Mrs. God, God herself, Mary, the mother of Jesus, etc. In the movie “The Shack”, God is portrayed initially as a female and later as a Native American in order to best meet the needs of the main character in the movie at different times and under different circumstances. I personally find most comfort in imagining my Source as pure consciousness who can reveal itself to us in this material world in whatever form is most meaningful to us at the time. For most Mormons, this is a white male, but that is probably not the true essence of who God is. If the true essence of God is not a white male human, then what need is there for a female goddess? What is important is that there is available to us a Source to which we can turn for comfort, enlightenment, and help in meeting the challenges of mortality.
Actually, in all of my sacred experiences, She appeared as Hispanic. I would encourage you to see my post from two years ago entitled “On Yom Kippur.”
Thank you for referring me to your previous post, “On Yom Kippur,” where you described your profound spiritual experience. I think it is a good example of how we, especially Mormons, can become confused by spiritual experiences, not knowing, when an apparent spiritual being appears to us in physical form, whether we are seeing a resurrected being or a spirit being. Does the being who appears to us have a fixed physical appearance (such as a white male) or can the being take on any one of a number of physical appearances (male or female, any race), depending on who we are and our particular need at the time? I suggest your experiences support the latter. In my opinion, advanced spirit beings have the ability to take on any appearance that is appropriate for a particular circumstance. For Joseph Smith, as a young man, it was two personages who he assumed were real physical beings, for the witnesses it was an angel, for you it was a Hispanic woman. We interpret our experiences based on our expectation of what is reality. For some there is only a material reality, for some there is only a spirit reality, for others both realities are a possibility. Again, it is the spiritual experience that is important and spirit beings allow us to interpret the experience as we will.
I wish you had continued your post to include what your thoughts are of “appropriately” praying to Heavenly Mother…
For me, I feel that she hears all my prayers and always has–that God is Elohim who is comprised of Mother and Father. The fact that Mormons pray to Heavenly Father is an unfortunate and long standing mistranslation. We can thank the Romans and Greeks for that. How humans misconstrue and misconceptualize God does not change who or what God fundamentally is. We have to be humble and curious enough to consider seeking to know God through revelation and personal gnosis. Clinging to falsehoods enshrined in tradition will continue to limit our understanding and in many cases prevent us from fully experiencing the Divine.