This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Mormonism's "heavenly parents" are getting more earthly mentions from top LDS leaders, especially since the Utah-based faith published an essay last year affirming its belief in a divine mother.
LDS researcher Christian Anderson has been tracking the number of times twice-yearly General Conference speakers refer to heavenly parents.
Among his findings: Conference sermons this year used the term a record 15 times. That's 67 percent higher than the previous mark of nine set in 2013 and 2015.
"Clearly something new is going on," Anderson writes in a blog at the Zelophehad's Daughters website.
LDS theology teaches the existence not only of a God the Father but also a God the Mother a doctrine the religion touts as "cherished and distinctive."
Anderson notes that few conference addresses ever mentioned these heavenly parents before The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" in 1995. That document prominently declares that every human being is a "beloved son or daughter of heavenly parents."
Even so, conference speakers almost always drawn from the church's all-male apostles and other general authorities along with some female officers referenced heavenly parents only seven times that year.
The term appeared more frequently in the wake of the proclamation, but not until 2016 after the essay about Mother in Heaven did the number break into double digits.
"Half of the 56 talks that mention Heavenly Parents," Anderson adds, "have been delivered in the last four years."
In his October 2015 conference address, for instance, apostle Jeffrey R. Holland gave poignant praise to biblical moms and Mormonism's Heavenly Mother.
"To mother Eve, to Sarah, Rebecca and Rachel, to Mary of Nazareth and to a Mother in Heaven," he remarked, "I say, 'Thank you for your crucial role in fulfilling the purposes of eternity.' "
Some Mormon feminists advocate that leaders alter the Young Women theme which is recited by teenage girls throughout the LDS Church from "We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us ... " to "We are daughters of our Heavenly Parents ..."
There is a lot of ground to make up in the gap between LDS conference mentions of heavenly parents (and Heavenly Mother) and those of Heavenly Father.
"The 74 references to Heavenly Parents (and two to Heavenly Mother)," Anderson points out, "are dwarfed by the 4,415 references to Heavenly Father over the same period."