Last year on Mother’s Day I did something others might consider crazy. I went to the Bishop of our congregation two weeks in advance and asked him if I could be a speaker in Sacrament Meeting on Mother’s Day. I felt that words needed to be said that addressed the needs, desires and concerns of all women. After much prayer, editing, and definite guidance from the Lord, this is the talk that I gave:
I would like to speak today to the women of the church regardless of your current status as a Mother. First, to those for whom Mother’s day brings much joy. Sticky kisses, homemade gifts, that anxiously-awaited call home from your missionary, or thoughts of your own mother and the sacrifices she made for you. 2 years ago I humorously watched an edible Mother’s day gift made 2 weeks in advance and tucked carefully away in my child’s sock drawer slowly reduce in size. The temptation to eat it rather than save it for Mom was just too great. There is much to be thankful for on Mother’s day. But I wish to speak also to those for whom the words “Mother’s Day” might bring pain.
Perhaps you have recently or even long ago lost your own beloved Mother and yearn for the ability to pick up the phone and call her for advice. Perhaps you struggle with infertility and like one of my dear friends would rather sit out in the car during sacrament mtg than endure yet another Mother’s day talk, or are not yet married and like my dear own sister have tolerated painful comments from others such as “What are you waiting for?” You might wonder if this holiday will ever relate to you and your life situation.
Others may feel pain on Mother’s day related to their children’s actions. Perhaps they have strayed far from the gospel and you doubt your abilities as a mother. Or maybe you just feel that you don’t measure up to those idealistic women presented through word and song on Mother’s day.
Some of you already know that I was not a fan of Mother’s day for many years. In our early marriage as we struggled with fertility issues, Mother’s day was just a reminder to me that I was not yet a mother.
Other times I have struggled as a speaker declared a list of everything their mother had done perfectly and I left feeling “not good enough.” In speaking to many sisters over the years, I found that I was not alone in my feelings. How could a day designed to give joy and honor to women as a whole bring heartache to so many?
And then I read “Are we not all Mothers?” by Sister Sheri Dew who originally gave her talk while she was serving as a counselor in the General Relief Society Presidency. I would like to base much of my talk today on her inspired words.
In my role as a foster parent, I am asked to participate in something called “shared parenting” with the biological parents of the children we foster. It might involve writing letters to them letting them know how their child is doing, sending pictures, or even modeling appropriate parenting skills.
I would submit that our Heavenly Father also participates in “shared parenting” which is resounding evidence of his faith and trust in us. Just as I sometimes have fearfully returned foster children to homes where I feel parenting standards are lacking, our Heavenly Father sends his children down to us to raise even though our parenting abilities don’t come close to measuring up to His. He too writes letters—through the scriptures; sends pictures – more than once as I have knelt in prayer with or concerning my children, he has given me glimpses of personal revelation of who my children really are and what they can become. He also models appropriate parenting which we most clearly can see through the example of the perfect life of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
The Lord stated that his work and his glory are to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. (Moses 1:39) We have the divine role as daughters of God to participate with Him in this work as he has entrusted us as women with his children.
Sister Sheri Dew stated: “While we tend to equate motherhood solely with maternity and in effect limit it to that definition, in the Lord’s language, the word mother has layers of meaning. Of all the words or titles they could have chosen to define her role and her essence, both God the Father and Adam called Eve ‘the mother of all living’ …and they did so before she ever bore a child. Like Eve, our motherhood began before we were born. Just as worthy men were foreordained to hold the priesthood in mortality, righteous women were endowed premortally with the privilege and responsibility of motherhood. Motherhood is more than bearing children, though it is certainly and definitely that. It is the essence of who we are as women. It defines our very identity, our divine stature and nature, and the unique traits, talents and tendencies our Father gave us.”
Elder Matthew Cowley taught that “Men have to have something given to them (namely the priesthood) in mortality to make them saviors of men, but not mothers, not women. They are born with an inherent right, an inherent authority, to be the saviors of human souls and the regenerating force in the lives of God’s children.”
“Nevertheless”, Sister Dew continues, “the subject of motherhood is a very tender one, for it evokes some of our greatest joys and heartaches. Some mothers experience pain because of the children they have borne; others feel pain because they do not bear children here. For reasons known to the Lord, some women are required to wait to have children. This delay is not easy for any righteous woman. But the Lord’s timetable does not negate our nature. Some of us then, must simply find other ways to mother. And all around us are those who need to be loved, led, nurtured and mentored.”
In the words of Elder Holland, “We rejoice that the call to nurture is not limited to our own flesh and blood.”
Whether that means leading and nurturing in your role as a school teacher, Primary leader or Young Women’s leader, you are fulfilling your role as a mother as you nurture the children and youth of today. I would challenge you today to look around you. Who needs you and your influence? Who needs someone to understand them and believe in them?
I am grateful to all of the Mothers I have had over the years. I am grateful for my own mother who gave birth to me and has nurtured me for many years, but I am grateful to many others as well. Who said you could only have one mother?
I am thankful for:
— A seminary teacher who inspired me to gain a testimony by daily reminding us at the end of our class, “You have to find out for yourself if the gospel is true. You cannot live on borrowed light.”
–for Young Women advisors who had faith in me when I didn’t have faith in myself. For Sunday school teachers and seminary teachers who came to my high school softball and basketball games and left me feeling loved from their support.
–Visiting teachers who used to think that I would not want them as my visiting teachers because they were from my mother’s generation and yet as a young mother I so appreciated their example, their love for me, and most especially their wisdom.
I am thankful for women in this very ward who have loved, nurtured, and taught my children. Who have attended my children’s: dance performances, gone to football games to watch the band perform, sewed a wedding dress for my daughter, struggled in a sign language class because she was in the Primary Presidency and wanted to be able to converse with my son. Those efforts have not gone unnoticed. It may not take a village to raise a child, but it sure doesn’t hurt to have a ward family to do so.
If you are not yet married or do not have children, the Lord may have a different timetable for your life, but you ARE a mother in Zion. My sister has often nurtured my children much better than I as not a birthday or holiday goes by without a package in the mail or a visit from her letting them know that they are special to her.
Last, if the children you have borne cause you pain on this Mother’s day, please know that your Heavenly Father is aware of your situation and recognizes you as a valiant mother. Eve was glad after the fall realizing that without it she would never have had children. Yet imagine her anguish and sorrow over one son who killed another. Our children have their free agency. 1/3 of our Heavenly Father’s children chose not to keep their first estate in the premortal existence as they chose to follow Satan instead of our Father’s plan. Yet we would NEVER doubt our Heavenly Father’s parenting skills. The Lord is aware of your children. He knows them, he loves them. They were his before they were ever yours and he will never give up on them. As it says in Isaiah 9:12, “His hand is stretched out still.”
As an aside to those who see others’ children make unwise choices and say, “My children would never do that,” you probably ought not to say it in front of any witnesses. If you have never struggled with any choices that your children made you are probably the mother of a newborn.
As Sister Dew so aptly stated, “As daughters of our Heavenly Father and as daughters of Eve, we are ALL mothers in Israel and we have always been mothers. And we each have the responsibility and the privilege to love and help lead the rising generation. How will our young women learn to live as women of God unless they see what women of God look like, meaning what we wear, watch, and read; how we fill our time and our minds; how we face temptation and uncertainty; where we find true joy; and why modesty and femininity are hallmarks of righteous women? Every one of us has an overarching obligation to model righteous womanhood because our youth may not see it anywhere else. ”
Elder Holland declared, “You can’t possibly do this alone, but you do have help. The Master of Heaven and Earth is there to bless you. [As mothers and women] yours is the work of salvation and therefore you will be magnified, compensated, made more than you are and better than you have ever been. Rely on him heavily. Rely on Him forever. And “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope. You are doing God’s work. You are doing it wonderfully well.”
May we rise to the challenge that the Lord has placed before us. May we recognize our sacred role and stewardship that our Father has entrusted us with as mothers in Zion and may we always remember that regardless of our current mortal circumstances, that we are ALL mothers for it is a divinely appointed, and eternal role.