I gave a talk in church on Mother’s Day. I just put a video version on YouTube here. I wanted to share it in text form too for those who prefer to read super fast. Here you go:
Have you ever noticed that in the Bible, for many of the prophets and rulers, we are told their mother’s name? Like in Jeremiah 52:1 we read that Zedekiah was 21 when he began to reign, which is really something, and his mother’s name was Hamutal. It seems like wise people have known for a very long time that there is much credit due to mothers for people who accomplish important things. Today is a good day to be reminded of that.
Historically, Mother’s Day has been a hard thing for me. I knew who my mother was from a very early age, but never had much of a relationship with her. Only as Annemarie and I have been raising children have I truly understood what a child’s relationship with their mother ought to be, because our kids love her. They have fun with her and talk non-stop and she is generous with her heart and hugs and ears. I see that and am frankly jealous and feel somewhat robbed. But because the Lord’s hand and grace are available in every moment, I get to lean into the beauty of our relationship with our kids and away from the truly bad example of my own childhood.
Now, it’s possible that by sharing that personal note, there are those here who start to compare themselves. Maybe some are already listing areas they could be better with and weaknesses they know they have. I know I do that when people talk about fathers and how to be better men. This is a common trap that many of us experience. Comparing ourselves to others is usually something to avoid, and it’s easy to get caught up in the cycle of finding fault with ourselves rather than prayerfully selecting an area we want to work on. What’s so frustrating is that society, through Satan’s lies and manipulations, is constantly showing that in the eyes of this mortal culture – women just cannot win. Motherhood is disparaged. Women with careers are disparaged. Having kids and making use of daycare to have a career is disparaged. The way women dress and talk and walk are constantly being judged. And there’s so much more and in all of this – there are noisy voices that clamor for attention and seek to confuse, break down, and destroy God’s daughters.
Because Satan wants to destroy you and drag you down to join him in misery. He sees you as his adversary – of whom he is very, very jealous.
But how does God see you?
Well, we read in Ezekiel 19:2 “What is thy mother? A lioness.” That’s kind of fun! But what if you don’t feel like a lioness? That’s all right too. I’m sure I could list a couple of scenarios right now that would prompt you to react as a lioness – protecting those who need protecting – because that’s the goodness of your heart. God knows your potential for awesome.
Both women and men are in the scriptures – albeit men more. It was mostly men who translated and compiled – so that shouldn’t surprise anyone, even though it isn’t great. That said, throughout scripture and history, we see that both men and women make mistakes, repent, serve, prophecy, witness of Christ, teach, and in many other ways bring to pass the work of God – each in their own way.
We are individuals. God knows each of us and has known each of you and me for literally eternities.
It’s easy to treat any easily distinguished group as a monolith – all the same. “Men do so and so. Women are this and this. Americans love burgers. Utahns are bad drivers.” But God doesn’t do that. If we were supposed to be identical to others, He would have made us so.
How did he make us? We read in Moses 3:5 “For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth. And I, the Lord God, had created all the children of men; and not yet a man to till the ground; for in heaven created I them;”
The doctrinal fact is that He made each us in His Godly image – with our own brains and thoughts, our individual personalities. He makes Spiritual gifts available to all – with none being greater than others – and we each get to be born with some, develop those and others, and move through life doing our best – in the way that we EACH will do. Each of us on a path to God, working hard to become disciples of Jesus Christ. This requires ever-improving obedience to commandments and determined repentance. It does not require conformity with some ethereal idea of homogenous culture.
Revealed doctrine teaches that men and women are different, even in the pre-mortal existence. We have different capabilities and skills and gifts. Some attributes might even be in general more common to one gender than the other. Certainly, there are physical differences that mean I never had to fear the discomfort of pregnancy and the pain of giving birth. President Nelson described these many differences as “distinct and different in happy ways.”
This is a beautiful truth that reminds us that we all have a unique reason to be here. As we live the life we are given, we can each become the person we are each meant to be and we can bless the lives of those we encounter.
We each have gifts that are specific to us, along with talents and blessings and a strong feeling of being called to certain types of work and labor. Women and men alike! And it is the work of the Lord for each of us to focus on developing our talents, skills, gifts, and interests. As we strive to become who we know we want to be and who we know the Lord wants us to be, we become more effective in our discipleship of Christ.
Indeed, when we’re told to cry over our flocks – that means all the labor we perform. Be it at home, in our community, in our workplace, or some other stewardship. Our Heavenly Father knows what’s important to us and knows our righteous desires and He wants us to prayerfully develop our talents and interests so we can become closer to how He sees us.
One thing that seems to dim our Godly vision of ourselves and others is the use of labels. Labels are a way to categorize and understand the world. But when used with people, even for ourselves, they’re missing the mark. They are not God’s way. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ call people by name. They call us by name because they see us and know us. They don’t call us by labels because they see us as individual children of Heavenly Parents. We can bless our lives and others by trying to do the same.
Let’s strive to see people as individuals – just as God does. As we try to do this, we’ll get better at it. That’s the way of this existence – improvement. Working hard and doing better.
Because we all know that much is expected of all of us. This isn’t because of our gender or role – it is because of the Law of the Harvest. This is found in Galatians 6:7 “Whatsoever a man (or woman) soweth, that shall he also reap.”
In us has been sown the Light of Christ, the gift of the knowledge of our Savior and His Atonement, and so much more. So, there is much expected of us and we can reap the joy that comes from doing our best! And at the same time, we are reminded that it is not meet that man should run faster than he has strength.
I don’t have the formula to find the balance between working hard to be better but not burning out – other than to remember that our God’s expectations take precedence over all others. And that we would do well to not, directly or indirectly, force our expectations of women and men onto them. God the Father knows each of our hearts and He knows the whole story of the experiences and challenges and history of each person. He, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, are the only beings who know the whole story.
The rest of us do not know the whole story of anyone, and we should behave accordingly. How? With compassion, love unfeigned, and by striving to always see people the way God sees them and make a place for them in our lives, our hearts, and on the pew next to us.
Now, I’d like to share a few things, directly related to families and mothers and women, that I hope we can reconsider in the light of what we do know about how God sees us and how our families can be most effective:
- The phrases ‘Happy wife, happy life’ and ‘If Mom’s not happy, nobody’s happy.’ We are, each of us, responsible for our emotional state. We should absolutely do our best to serve and take care of our spouse – but not to forestall some kind of unhealthy outburst and not to manage the emotional state of our spouse. But because we love them and we are each fully invested in making our marriage and home one of love, affection, and joy. This is Christ-like love.
- This one is a personal one because I’ve heard something very odd. Any notion that mission ages were lowered in order to make ‘better mothers’ out of our sisters is false. Here is what President Nelson said about the change after President Monson announced it: “We are expanding our efforts to give more young men and women an opportunity to participate in that divine commission.” Elder Holland said: “Personally, I am absolutely delighted if this change in policy allows many, many more young women to serve.”
- A phrase I might be a little sensitive to because of my own experience is ‘angel mother.’ ‘Angel mother’ is a sweet phrase that comes from a good place, but unless your mother has passed on – she’s probably not an angel. If you don’t recall a sharp word or tone, that is so wonderful! Women – and of course men – are not infallible. Mothers and fathers are not perfect beings. We are trying, always trying, to be better. We do our best to control our tongue and our tone. But the implication or even expectation that women and mothers are to suffer in silence, or put forth a façade of always happy and never sad or going through hard things so their spouse, family, or coworkers can have a smooth existence is wrong and not Christ-like. Life can be hard. We don’t have to hide the hardship – becoming a community of saints happens as we share our own difficulty and accept Christ-like help from others.
- And may we finally end the notion that dad is babysitting or playing mom when he is nurturing, spending time with, and taking care of the home and/or kids. Similarly, that mom is playing dad when she performs home maintenance or works outside the home. This language encourages comparison and propagates incorrect ideas about home and family labors – far too often setting women in a subjugated position. President Nelson has described married sisters as ‘full partners’ in the decision-making and governing of the home. Mother and father work together. Comparison and inequality lead to adversarial relationships and if this exists between a couple, it will be reflected in the relationships between parents and children and siblings. A family is a team and it’s high time for Latter-day Saints to be known for that as a key part of our commitment to discipleship.
In Micah 7 the Lord lists the evils of a rebelling Israel. Verse 6 tells us what a home that is not in harmony with the Spirit of the Lord looks like: “For the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house.”
We MUST guard against an adversarial spirit in our home and family. We must see each person as a vital member of the family effort, and mother and father must lead the way and teach how to disagree and still show love and respect to each other. 3 Nephi 11:29 is clear and unmistakable: “For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil.” Resentment, bitterness, spite, harsh words, unhealthy and unkind expressions of anger – these are all forms of contention and we must fight to eradicate them from our hearts and our homes.
Fathers, do not wait for your wife to take the lead on these things. Mothers, do not wait for your husband to take the lead on these things. Let’s each be all-in on making our homes a special, love-filled haven focused on the Savior and drawing closer to Him.
So now it’s time for the scripture story we all know to expect in a talk on Mother’s Day! But I am going to use this story to illustrate what I just pointed out – that marriage and parenting are a team effort. In the Book of Mormon, we read the story of the stripling warriors who didn’t doubt because their mothers taught them.
But what does it mean that the mothers taught them? We can safely assume, since these are real people with real families, that they taught through faithful example, as well as through direct instruction. And fathers were there too, sustaining the teaching of the mothers and showing respect and support for what the mothers taught.
Now, for Mother’s Day, it’s become the trend to celebrate all women so we don’t exclude anybody. This is lovely, as we want to make sure all feel seen, welcome, and included in the gospel and the fellowship of the saints. We know that not all women will be mothers, for myriad reasons. God knows the reasons so I don’t need to know them. As for me and my house, we will choose the Lord’s way – and that is to spread our arms wide in love and welcome. We celebrate all of our sisters today, with love and respect and the firm commitment to be your brothers and sisters on your journey.
And at the same time and without diminishing the other choices and paths women choose, we pay particular homage, respect, honor, and reverence to mothers on this Mother’s Day. Your effort, education, gifts, energy, lack of sleep, worry, concern, technical and other skills learned on the job, unstoppable love, getting out of bed every day to what sometimes seems so Sisyphean, time management and so much more are everything. Thank you for giving so much of yourself. Thank you for consecrating your might, mind, and strength in the mission of motherhood. Thank you for braving the anxiety and stress and pressures that this world and society throw at you.
Sisters, as your brother in Christ, I commit to doing all I can to support you, to hear you, to serve you, and to help you do the work you feel the call to do. I am your brother and friend. This congregation is full of your brothers and sisters and friends.
President Nelson encouraged sisters to “rise to your full stature, to fulfill the measure of your creation as we walk arm in arm in this sacred work.” I am so delighted to see so many here feeling deep in your souls what that stature and measure are and seeking your best with so much energy and determination. I’ll walk arm in arm with you. We all will.