This was originally posted last year for Mother’s Day. I hope you all had a wonderful Mother’s day filled with relaxation and appreciation!
Happy Mother’s Day! I got beautiful flowers, delicious chocolates and breakfast, dinner and dessert made for me.
I hope all of your Mother’s days have been good; feel free to share how your family celebrated!
Here is the talk I’m giving today in church. (Guess how long it took me to say all this, plus a little extra I added as I spoke.)
I’ve come to develop a deep testimony about motherhood since I’ve become a mother. I don’t want the nonmothers in the congregation to feel left out because they haven’t had this blessing in their lives—or because they’re men. I believe that anyone who nurtures another person is in some way a parent. Sheri Dew, a former member of the Relief Society General Presidency, gave a talk entitled “Are We Not All Mothers?” in General Relief Society Meeting in September 2001. In it, she stated that “we each have the responsibility to love and help lead the rising generation.” Although Sister Dew has not been blessed with children in this life, she has nurtured many people personally through her extended family and church service. To be a mother is to give of yourself.
And to be a mother is hard. I had no idea how hard it would be before I had Hayden. I don’t remember receiving that warning from anyone. On the other hand, I had some idea how difficult it would be to be a mother in today’s society.
Today’s society sends women mixed messages about motherhood. On the one hand, there is a lot of pressure to have children. On the other hand, there is also a lot of pressure to “do more” with your life. We’re told that we should leave our young children at home because the only way for us to feel “fulfilled” is to receive promotions, praise and paychecks in the labor force. We’re told that it’s impossible to live on one income these days by a society that makes more money than ever before—and incurs more debt. One recent book, which I’m told was very well researched, says that it’s actually better for children, specifically daughters, for mothers to go back into the workplace.
Mothers today are told that we can have it all at once, and that we need to have it all right now. In the world of instant gratification, you must be a mom, a career woman, a good wife and your own person all at once. The world of instant gratification offers little gratification at all.
Unfortunately, to our society, motherhood doesn’t offer much gratification, either. Sometimes, it’s very easy to believe the messages that we hear from the world. After all, we don’t get recognition for changing dirty diapers, buckling seat belts and scrubbing dishes. We don’t get pay, appreciation or prizes in the line of duty. If we give up a job or career to become a mother, we may even receive ridicule and derision.
I’m not immune to the pressures of the world. When I first became a mother, I was simultaneously over- and underwhelmed. I felt like I was going to die—literally, I would be physically incapable of making it through the oft-interrupted night. On the other hand, I had a lot of down time. While Hayden woke up several times a night, he also slept several hours a day and I just couldn’t make myself slow down enough to sleep that much. I felt like I should be “doing more” with my life—and not just because I had some free time. (As if being a mother weren’t enough!)
Sheri Dew reminds us who is the author of the messages the world sends us:
It’s no wonder that Satan has declared war on motherhood. He knows that those who rock the cradle can rock his earthly empire. And he knows that without righteous mothers loving and leading the next generation, the kingdom of God will fail. When we understand the magnitude of motherhood, it becomes clear why prophets have been so protective of woman’s most sacred role. (Sept 2001 General Relief Society Meeting)
We can’t let the world dictate our worth. The fullness of the restored gospel teaches us the truth about parenthood: it is central to God’s eternal plan. J. Reuben Clark, then a counselor speaking for the First Presidency, wrote, “Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind.” The Relief Society Declaration proudly proclaims that “We are beloved spirit daughters of God, and our lives have meaning, purpose, and direction. . . . We are women of faith, virtue, vision, and charity who . . . Find nobility in motherhood.”
I think that not only the importance of the work mothers do but the sacrifices and service that motherhood entails, while challenging, are what makes this calling the highest and holiest service.
President David O. McKay said,
She who rears successfully a family of healthy, beautiful sons and daughters, whose influence will be felt through generations to come, deserves the highest honor that man can give, and the choicest blessings of God. In her high duty and service to humanity . . . , she is co-partner with the Creator himself. (Gospel Ideals, 453-454)
We are co-partners with the Creator himself as we raise up children unto the Lord. Jane Clayson Johnson describes a moment when she received a confirmation of this statement: “The feeling came over me so strongly that as a mother, the Lord needed me” (I Am a Mother, 16). Just as the Lord needs us to serve one another here on the earth, He needs us to raise our children in righteousness.
Motherhood is central to God’s eternal plan for his children. As a new mother, I found reassurance in knowing that, even if I wasn’t always sure of myself and my role as a mother, God was. God wanted me to be doing what I was doing right then. The plan of happiness hinges upon parenthood.
Heavenly Father’s work and His glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man—of us, of His children. Truly, one of the great purposes of this life is for us to take part in a parallel process of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of our children, to become like Heavenly Father by teaching our children to become like Him. Motherhood is near to divinity.
A mother’s duty is to bring her children up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). That’s a tall order. The Topical Guide lists more than 30 scriptures under “Family Responsibilities toward Children.” Highlighted in almost every excerpt listed there are the verbs in the phrases—words like chasten, train, teach, exhort, command, and remember. Little wonder, then, that President James E. Faust called good parenting the greatest challenge in the world. He summed up some of parents’ responsibilities:
The scriptures tell us that parents are to teach their children “faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost,” and “the doctrine of repentance.” (D&C 68:25.) (October 1990 Conference)
In my opinion, the teaching, rearing, and training of children requires more intelligence, intuitive understanding, humility, strength, wisdom, spirituality, perseverance, and hard work than any other challenge we might have in life.
The Lord has directed, “Bring up your children in light and truth.” (D&C 93:40.) To me, there is no more important human effort.
We scarcely need to be reminded of how important that effort is. We know that, as Neal A. Maxwell said, “When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, . . . what happened in cradles and kitchens [may] prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses” (April 1978 Conference). I know that there are so many forces working on our children today and I’m often afraid that I won’t succeed at instilling the values which are most important into the heart of my son. I’m afraid I won’t sufficiently train him up in the way that he should go, and that he may depart from it.
As I was preparing this talk, I was thinking about the standard of perfection that the world requires of women and mothers, and I suddenly remembered that one most difficult commandment—be ye therefore perfect.
I am not perfect. Had I waited until I was, I would have never become a parent. But I try, just like every mother here tries, to be a good mother. But I still worry that my trying will not be enough, that I will fall short—that I cannot be a perfect parent.
As soon as I remembered the words “Be ye therefore perfect,” another phrase from scripture came into my mind—”Come unto Christ and be perfected in him.”
I know that motherhood is the most important calling on earth. I also know that I cannot be a perfect parent all by myself. When motherhood is its hardest, I realize that I have been trying to do it all, all by myself. I am constantly reminded that I am a joint heir and CO-partner with Christ. I can turn to the One who has offered to take upon Him my burdens, my sorrows and my sins. He will justify and sanctify me and my efforts as an individual and a mother.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland came to the same conclusion in General Conference, April 1996:
When you have come to the Lord in meekness and lowliness of heart and, as one mother said, “pounded on the doors of heaven to ask for, to plead for, to demand guidance and wisdom and help for this wondrous task,” that door is thrown open to provide you the influence and the help of all eternity. Claim the promises of the Savior of the world. Ask for the healing balm of the Atonement for whatever may be troubling you or your children. Know that in faith things will be made right in spite of you, or more correctly, because of you.
You can’t possibly do this alone, but you do have help. The Master of Heaven and Earth is there to bless you—He who resolutely goes after the lost sheep, sweeps thoroughly to find the lost coin, waits everlastingly for the return of the prodigal son. 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 as you try to make honest effort, however feeble you may sometimes feel that to be.
Remember, remember all the days of your motherhood: “Ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save” (2 Ne 31:19).
Rely on Him. Rely on Him heavily. Rely on Him forever. And “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope” (2 Ne 31:20). You are doing God’s work. You are doing it wonderfully well. He is blessing you and He will bless you, even—no, especially—when your days and your nights may be the most challenging. Like the woman who anonymously, meekly, perhaps even with hesitation and some embarrassment, fought her way through the crowd just to touch the hem of the Master’s garment, so Christ will say to the women who worry and wonder and sometimes weep over their responsibility as mothers, “Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole” (Matt 9:22). And it will make your children whole as well.
I know that I still have to try, and work very hard to teach my children that which they must do, but I testify that after all that we can do, it is by grace that we are saved. I believe that this applies not just to our eternal salvation, but to our efforts as parents in this life. I will always fall short of the standard of perfection by myself, but if I can rely upon the Lord and trust in Him in faith, I believe that He will justify me—He will compensate for my shortcomings. He will make up the difference. And if we have been true and faithful, He will sanctify me and my family to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life.