As I considered what I could talk about that would be appropriate for Mother’s Day, I decided on these few things:
1. Help Mothers and motherly sisters in the ward feel the love Heavenly Father has for them for the divine work they do, and that they are appreciated by their families and by the ward.
2. Help educate those who support mothers on the magnitude of the motherly role, so their families can better appreciate and sustain them.
3. Prepare young women to be mothers.
I’d like to start then, with a statement issued by the First Presidency:
“Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind. It places her who honors its holy calling and service next to the angels.”
In James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. (1965–75), 6:178
When a woman chooses to become a mother, she chooses a course that will change her life permanently. My mom still spends time on the phone with my 32-year-old sister, and still raises my youngest sister at home who is just 13 who now is an “only child”. If my mom quit being a mom after my youngest sister reached 32 she would have been a mom for 51 years; but of course I know she’ll keep on serving her children for the rest of her life. She will be coming up from California with my sister to babysit our two kids while Cheryl and I take our first week-long vacation.
The March 1976 Ensign explains why motherhood is so important:
Motherhood is a holy calling, a sacred dedication for carrying out the Lord’s work, a consecration and devotion to the rearing and fostering, the nurturing of body, mind, and spirit of those who kept their first estate and who came to this earth for their second estate to learn and be tested and to work toward godhood.
Mar 1976 Ensign “Mothers Had Taught Them”
Elder N. Eldon Tanner in his article “No Greater Honor: The Woman’s Role” describes the impact mothers have on the family:
A mother has far greater influence on her children than anyone else, and she must realize that every word she speaks, every act, every response, her attitude, even her appearance and manner of dress affect the lives of her children and the whole family. It is while the child is in the home that he gains from his mother the attitudes, hopes, and beliefs that will determine the kind of life he will live and the contribution he will make to society.
I wonder how many Eagle scouts there would be in the Boy Scouts of America, if it had not been for mothers. I know my mother was critical to keeping me on the track to earning my Eagle. How fitting it is that with each rank advancement in scouting, that traditionally the mother also receives a pin alongside her son’s badge.
Biological mothers are not the only women who can fulfill their divine calling to nurture children. Cheryl has expressed to me repeatedly how nice it is to be in a ward with so many sisters that she feels comfortable leaving our children with. Our children adore them, and these women nurture our children.
And girls, don’t underestimate your influence on your brothers and your sweethearts. As you live worthy of their love and respect, you can help greatly to determine that they will be clean and virtuous, successful and happy. Always remember that you can go much further on respect than on popularity. I was reading the other day of a report of a conversation between two young prisoners of war in Vietnam. One said, “I am sick of war, bombers, destruction, prison camps, and everything and everybody.”
“I feel much like that myself,” said the other. “But there is a girl back home who is praying that I will come back. She cares, and it really helps me endure all these atrocities.”
Elder Holland said:
In speaking of mothers generally, I especially wish to praise and encourage young mothers. The work of a mother is hard, too often unheralded work. The young years are often those when either husband or wife—or both—may still be in school or in those earliest and leanest stages of developing the husband’s breadwinning capacities. Finances fluctuate daily between low and nonexistent. The apartment is usually decorated in one of two smart designs—Deseret Industries provincial or early Mother Hubbard. The car, if there is one, runs on smooth tires and an empty tank. But with night feedings and night teethings, often the greatest challenge of all for a young mother is simply fatigue. Through these years, mothers go longer on less sleep and give more to others with less personal renewal for themselves than any other group I know at any other time in life. It is not surprising when the shadows under their eyes sometimes vaguely resemble the state of Rhode Island.
Elder Holland, Ensign, May 1997
If you as a mother feel overwhelmed by raising your children, Elder Ballard has something that may help you:
…even as you try to cut out the extra commitments, sisters, find some time for yourself to cultivate your gifts and interests. Pick one or two things that you would like to learn or do that will enrich your life, and make time for them. Water cannot be drawn from an empty well, and if you are not setting aside a little time for what replenishes you, you will have less and less to give to others, even to your children. Avoid any kind of substance abuse, mistakenly thinking that it will help you accomplish more. And don’t allow yourself to be caught up in the time-wasting, mind-numbing things like television soap operas or surfing the Internet. Turn to the Lord in faith, and you will know what to do and how to do it.
I am grateful for mothers groups, which provide mothers with the much needed opportunities for mothers to chat with others at an adult level while children play together. An exchange of ideas on how to parent children often happens here and is often healthy to mother and family. Elder Ballard stresses that it’s important to keep advice from others in perspective though and not get caught up comparing yourself to other women, and to not push your advice on others too strongly:
There is no one perfect way to be a good mother. Each situation is unique. Each mother has different challenges, different skills and abilities, and certainly different children. The choice is different and unique for each mother and each family. Many are able to be “full-time moms,” at least during the most formative years of their children’s lives, and many others would like to be. Some may have to work part-or full-time; some may work at home; some may divide their lives into periods of home and family and work. What matters is that a mother loves her children deeply and, in keeping with the devotion she has for God and her husband, prioritizes them above all else.
While Heavenly Father and the brethren of the Church understand that circumstances sometimes require mothers to spend time outside the home, they also stress the importance and irreplaceability of mothers. President Spencer W. Kimball said:
“This divine service of motherhood can be rendered only by mothers. It may not be passed to others. Nurses cannot do it; public nurseries cannot do it. Hired help cannot do it; kind relatives cannot do it. Only by mother, aided as much as may be by a loving father, brothers and sisters, and other relatives, can the full needed measure of watchful care be given.”
I think the balance between President Kimball’s statement and Elder Ballard’s is the motivation behind a mother’s choice to delegate a portion of her divinely appointed calling to someone else. President Kimball continues…
The mother who entrusts her child to the care of others that she may do nonmotherly work, whether for gold, for fame, for civic service should remember that in Proverbs we read, “A child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” (Prov. 29:15.)
President Spencer W. Kimball
Author Anna Quindlen reminds us not to miss the joys of parents by getting lost in the work of it. She said:
The biggest mistake I made [as a parent] is the one that most of us make. … I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of [my three children] sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages six, four, and one. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less
Loud and Clear , 10–11
I’d like to close with a quote from Elder Ballard:
There is nothing in this world as personal, as nurturing, or as life changing as the influence of a righteous woman.
Elder Ballard, General Conference April 2010
I love and appreciate both mothers in my life: my mom and my wife.
Letter to Elder Holland:
One young mother wrote to me recently that her anxiety tended to come on three fronts. One was that whenever she heard talks on LDS motherhood, she worried because she felt she didn’t measure up or somehow wasn’t going to be equal to the task. Secondly, she felt like the world expected her to teach her children reading, writing, interior design, Latin, calculus, and the Internet—all before the baby said something terribly ordinary, like “goo goo.” Thirdly, she often felt people were sometimes patronizing, almost always without meaning to be, because the advice she got or even the compliments she received seemed to reflect nothing of the mental investment, the spiritual and emotional exertion, the long-night, long-day, stretched-to-the-limit demands that sometimes are required in trying to be and wanting to be the mother God hopes she will be.
But one thing, she said, keeps her going: “Through the thick and the thin of this, and through the occasional tears of it all, I know deep down inside I am doing God’s work. I know that in my motherhood I am in an eternal partnership with Him. I am deeply moved that God finds His ultimate purpose and meaning in being a parent, even if some of His children make Him weep.
“It is this realization,” she says, “that I try to recall on those inevitably difficult days when all of this can be a bit overwhelming. Maybe it is precisely our inability and anxiousness that urge us to reach out to Him and enhance His ability to reach back to us. Maybe He secretly hopes we will be anxious,” she said, “and will plead for His help. Then, I believe, He can teach these children directly, through us, but with no resistance offered. I like that idea,” she concludes. “It gives me hope. If I can be right before my Father in Heaven, perhaps His guidance to our children can be unimpeded. Maybe then it can be His work and His glory in a very literal sense.” 7
Elder Holland, Ensign, May 1997
To Young Men
Elder Nelson said:
You young men need to know that you can hardly achieve your highest potential without the influence of good women, particularly your mother and, in a few years, a good wife. Learn now to show respect and gratitude. Remember that your mother is your mother. She should not need to issue orders. Her wish, her hope, her hint should provide direction that you would honor. Thank her and express your love for her. And if she is struggling to rear you without your father, you have a double duty to honor her.
Ensign, May 1999
Chastity of Women
President Spencer W. Kimball stressed the importance of the chastity of women because it impacts their role as a mother:
Mothers have a sacred role. They are partners with God, as well as with their own husbands, first in giving birth to the Lord’s spirit children and then in rearing those children so they will serve the Lord and keep his commandments. Could there be a more sacred trust than to be a trustee for honorable, well-born, well-developed children? We affirm the Church’s strong, unalterable stand against innovations or any unchastity or breaking of the laws that could possibly reflect in the lives of the children.
President Spencer W. Kimball
Consider this quote and how applicable it is:
It is of great concern to all who understand this glorious concept that Satan and his cohorts are using scientific arguments and nefarious propaganda to lure women away from their primary responsibilities as wives, mothers, and homemakers. We hear so much about emancipation, independence, sexual liberation, birth control, abortion, and other insidious propaganda belittling the role of motherhood, all of which is Satan’s way of destroying woman, the home, and the family—the basic unit of society.
Some effective tools include the use of radio, television, and magazines where pornography abounds and where women are being debased and disgracefully used as sex symbols—sex-ploited, some call it. Immodest dress, drugs, and alcohol daily take a tremendous toll through the destruction of virtue and chastity and even lives. With modern electronic devices of communication and speedy transportation, much more is being heard throughout the world by many more people than would be possible otherwise, and it is having its degrading influence and effect.
When do you think this was said? … This quote was by N. Eldon Tanner—in 1977! If it was true then, how much more true must it be today?