Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful mothers out there all around the world. Please know that your hard work is not in vain, that it is recognized, and that it is the greatest work in the world. You are engaged in the lofty task of bearing, nurturing, and raising the children of Father in Heaven. Your posterity, as well as Almighty God, will honor you for eternity for your selfless service and humble sacrifices in the home as mothers. This holiday, I want to offer words of general encouragement and praise to mothers and to remind you how valuable and essential your calling really is.
I first turn to the holy scriptures. From Eve, the mother of all living, to Jochebed, the mother of Moses, to Mary, the mother of Jesus, good mothers have always been praised by the Lord and His prophets. Their good deeds, valor, uprightness, humility, and service have been highlighted and noted. Virtuous women generally, and mothers specifically, are held up high by the Bible as examples.
In both the Old and New Testaments, women are designated as mothers whom we are to honor (Leviticus 19:3) and who should multiply and replenish the earth (Genesis 1:28), as wives who should cleave to their husbands (Genesis 2:24), and as “keepers at home” (Titus 2:5) who should help raise their children in righteousness (Deuteronomy 6:1-9). We are taught that virtuous women have a value “far above rubies” (Proverbs 31:10).
Though they are usually the side characters throughout the scriptures, think of all the great things that could not have happened without good women and mothers. Without Jochebed’s quick action to save her son Moses, and her extreme faith that the Lord would preserve her son, Pharaoh would have killed him. However, her faith was honored and Moses was found and taken in by Pharaoh’s daughter.
What’s more, Moses’ sister, Miriam, watched as little Moses was discovered. She interjected herself into the situation, asking Pharoah’s daughter if she could help by getting a Hebrew woman to nurse the crying child. Pharaoh’s daughter agreed and Miriam got her mother Jochebed to nurse Moses, for which she was paid. It is amazing how the Lord blesses the faithful actions of His people – and even more abundantly than they expect.
We all know of faithful Father Abraham who was promised that his posterity would be as numerous “as the sand which is upon the sea shore” (Genesis 22:17). The chosen house of Israel, through which came most of the prophets and the Savior of the world, came through Abraham’s lineage. However, Abraham could not have fulfilled his part in this covenant alone. His wife, Sarah, was by his side the whole time. She bore Abraham a child in her old age, Isaac, who was the father of Jacob, renamed Israel, who was the father of the tribes of Israel. Without Sarah’s part in this story, the great Abrahamic covenant would have come to nothing.
Many take offense when I honor Mother Eve for her sacrifice and goodness. She, with Adam, chose to fall so that the could bring about God’s higher purposes – the peopling of the earth and the redemption of the world through Jesus Christ. In an inspired text that is sadly not considered worthwhile by most Christians, Adam and Eve were visited by an angel, taught of the coming of the Redeemer, and made joint pronouncements that give precious insight into their noble souls:
“And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth.
“Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore.
“And in that day the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam, which beareth record of the Father and the Son, saying: I am the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning, henceforth and forever, that as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will.
“And in that day Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.
“And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.
“And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters” (Moses 5:7-12).
We should likewise make these things known to our children, teaching them of the goodness of Adam and Eve and their blessed souls. They should be honored as our first parents. Mother Eve was imperfect, like all of us, but she helped complete a crucial mission and did her part in fulfilling God’s higher purposes. Without her decision to become more like God in knowing good and evil, she and Adam would have never had children, which includes the Holy One, Jesus Christ.
And that brings us to Mary, the mother of the Son of God. No doubt she was a special woman for the Lord to have chosen her to be His earthly mother. We know that the angel Gabriel came to her, explaining that she had a unique mission, praising her in these words: “Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women” (Luke 1:28).
Two additional Hebrew prophets likewise described her as a “virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white,” a “virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins” (1 Nephi 11:13,15), and as “a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel,” (Alma 7:10).
The thing that is most remarkable is not that she was a virgin or that she was apparently beautiful or that she was highly favored. The most special thing about Mary is how willing and quick she was to obey the will of God. A true willingness to do the will of God is somewhat rare in this fallen world of ours. It is also the hallmark of a true disciple of Christ and follower of the Almighty.
Good mothers are those who unbegrudgingly embrace the will of the Lord for their life and for their family. When circumstances allow, they happily embrace life in the home. When the Father favors them with children, they happily raise them, understanding the great trust that has been placed in them. They live virtuously, teach their children in the ways of God, and try as best as imperfect mortals can to lead by example. These types of mothers are cherished by right-thinking people and have earned the honor of future generations.
Many modern servants of Christ have raised their prophetic voices to honor mothers and exalt motherhood. I share just a few of them. The eloquent Elder Neal A. Maxwell once stated:
“Just as certain men were foreordained from before the foundations of the world, so were certain women appointed to certain tasks. Divine design—not chance—brought Mary forward to be the mother of Jesus. . . .
“When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sound of lullabies? The great armistices made by military men or the peacemaking of women in homes and in neighborhoods? Will what happened in cradles and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses? When the surf of the centuries has made the great pyramids so much sand, the everlasting family will still be standing, because it is a celestial institution, formed outside telestial time. The women of God know this.
“No wonder the men of God support and sustain you sisters in your unique roles, for the act of deserting home in order to shape society is like thoughtlessly removing crucial fingers from an imperiled dike in order to teach people to swim.
“We men love you for meeting inconsiderateness with consideration and selfishness with selflessness. We are touched by the eloquence of your example. We are deeply grateful for your enduring us as men when we are not at our best because—like God—you love us not only for what we are, but for what we have the power to become” (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “The Women of God,” General Conference, April, 1978).
Sister Sheri L. Dew once discoursed on motherhood, sharing these thoughts:
“Prophets have repeatedly answered this question, as did the First Presidency six decades ago when they called motherhood “the highest, holiest service . . . assumed by mankind.”
“Have you ever wondered why prophets have taught the doctrine of motherhood—and it is doctrine—again and again? I have. I have thought long and hard about the work of women of God. And I have wrestled with what the doctrine of motherhood means for all of us. This issue has driven me to my knees, to the scriptures, and to the temple—all of which teach an ennobling doctrine regarding our most crucial role as women. It is a doctrine about which we must be clear if we hope to stand “steadfast and immovable” regarding the issues that swirl around our gender. For 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. While we tend to equate motherhood solely with maternity, in the Lord’s language, the word mother has layers of meaning. Of all the words 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 of motherhood. Motherhood is more than bearing children, though it is certainly 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 our Father gave us.
“President Gordon B. Hinckley stated that “God planted within women something divine.”6 That something is the gift and the gifts of motherhood” (Sister Sheri L. Dew, “Are We Not All Mothers?” General Conference, October, 2001).
President Ezra Taft Benson emphatically declared the importance of homemaking and motherhood in God’s Plan and to the salvation of women:
“Before the world was created, in heavenly councils the pattern and role of women were prescribed. You were elected by God to be wives and mothers in Zion. Exaltation in the celestial kingdom is predicated on faithfulness to that calling.
“Since the beginning, a woman’s first and most important role has been ushering into mortality spirit sons and daughters of our Father in Heaven.
“Since the beginning, her role has been to teach her children eternal gospel principles. She is to provide for her children a haven of security and love—regardless of how modest her circumstances might be.
“In the beginning, Adam was instructed to earn the bread by the sweat of his brow—not Eve. Contrary to conventional wisdom, a mother’s place is in the home!
“I recognize there are voices in our midst which would attempt to convince you that these truths are not applicable to our present-day conditions. If you listen and heed, you will be lured away from your principal obligations.
“Beguiling voices in the world cry out for “alternative life-styles” for women. They maintain that some women are better suited for careers than for marriage and motherhood.
“These individuals spread their discontent by the propaganda that there are more exciting and self-fulfilling roles for women than homemaking. . . .
“It is a fundamental truth that the responsibilities of motherhood cannot be successfully delegated. No, not to day-care centers, not to schools, not to nurseries, not to babysitters.
“We become enamored with men’s theories such as the idea of preschool training outside the home for young children. Not only does this put added pressure on the budget, but it places young children in an environment away from mother’s influence. . . .
“It is mother’s influence during the crucial formative years that forms a child’s basic character.
“Home is the place where a child learns faith, feels love, and thereby learns from mother’s loving example to choose righteousness.
“How vital are mother’s influence and teaching in the home—and how apparent when neglected!” (President Ezra Taft Benson, “The Honored Place of Woman,” General Conference, October, 1981).
A powerful advocate for mothers, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland once remarked:
“Today I declare from this pulpit what has been said here before: that no love in mortality comes closer to approximating the pure love of Jesus Christ than the selfless love a devoted mother has for her child. When Isaiah, speaking messianically, wanted to convey Jehovah’s love, he invoked the image of a mother’s devotion. “Can a woman forget her sucking child?” he asks. How absurd, he implies, though not as absurd as thinking Christ will ever forget us.
“This kind of resolute love “suffereth long, and is kind, . . . seeketh not her own, . . . but . . . beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” Most encouraging of all, such fidelity “never faileth.” “For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed,” Jehovah said, “but my kindness shall not depart from thee.” So too say our mothers.
“You see, it is not only that they bear us, but they continue bearing with us. It is not only the prenatal carrying but the lifelong carrying that makes mothering such a staggering feat. Of course, there are heartbreaking exceptions, but most mothers know intuitively, instinctively that this is a sacred trust of the highest order. The weight of that realization, especially on young maternal shoulders, can be very daunting” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “Behold Thy Mother,” General Conference, October, 2015).
Elder L. Tom Perry said:
“Please allow me to reminisce for a few moments and share a few of the lessons I learned from my mother about teaching the gospel in the home. My mother understood the value of teaching her children about standards, values, and doctrine while they were young. While she was grateful to others who taught her children outside the home at either school or church, she recognized that parents are entrusted with the education of their children and, ultimately, parents must ensure that their children are being taught what their Heavenly Father would have them learn. My siblings and I were quizzed very carefully by our mother after we had been taught away from the home to be certain the correct lessons were reaching our ears and shaping our minds.
“I used to think some days as I ran home from school that I was through learning for the day, but this illusion was quickly destroyed when I saw my mother standing at the door waiting for me. When we were young, we each had a desk in the kitchen where we could continue to be taught by her as she performed household duties and prepared supper. She was a natural teacher and far more demanding of us than our teachers at school and church.
“The scope of Mother’s teaching included both secular and spiritual lessons. She made sure none of us were falling behind in our schoolwork, which she would often supplement. She also would practice her Relief Society lessons with us. We, of course, received the unabridged versions found in her notebooks, not the abridged versions that had to fit in a single class period.
“Part of our learning at home also involved memorizing scriptures, including the Articles of Faith, and the words of prophets, seers, and revelators. My mother was someone who believed a mind would become weak if it was not constantly exercised. She taught us as we would wash the dishes, churn the butter, and help in many other ways. She did not believe in letting idle thoughts enter her children’s minds, even when they were engaged in physical labor.
“I am not using my mother as a role model for parents in today’s world. Times are very different today, but while times may change, a parent’s teaching must never be devalued. Many activities link the values of one generation to the next, but perhaps the most central of these activities is parents teaching children in the home. . . .
“According to “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” the principles I have taught about teaching in the home apply to both parents, but they are especially crucial to the role of a mother. Fathers most often spend much of their day away from home in their employment. That is one of the many reasons so much of the responsibility for teaching the child in the home falls on mothers. While circumstances do vary and the ideal isn’t always possible, I believe it is by divine design that the role of motherhood emphasizes the nurturing and teaching of the next generation” (Elder L. Tom Perry, “Mothers Teaching Children in the Home,” General Conference, April, 2010).
President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., gave these lofty thoughts about the eternal scope of motherhood:
“[T]he greatest glory of true womanhood has been motherhood.
“What a miracle is motherhood; how nearly infinite is mother. She fashions in her womb the most complex structure known to man. . . .
“This is wife’s and mother’s task and opportunity; and did she fail . . . then the great plan would fail and God’s purposes would come to naught. . . . This must never change. . . .
“But the full glory of motherhood is not yet reached when her child comes forth into this world of trial. . . . She feeds not only, but clothes it. She cares for it by day and watches over it by night. . . . She gently leads its faltering steps, till it walks alone. . . .
“Thus to the full stature of manhood and womanhood, mother guides, . . . instructs, directs . . . the soul for which she built the earthly home, in its march onward to exaltation. God gives the soul its destiny, but mother leads it along the way.
“When the souls shall return to the presence of the Father of all, the worthy mothers will be there to welcome their worthy children” (President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., Immortality and Eternal Life: Melchizedek Priesthood Course of Study, 1969–70, Vol. 2, 24–28).
Finally, I quote only one more modern statement, once again from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. After reading from a letter written by a young mother, he editorialized thus:
“In light of that kind of expression, it is clear that some of those Rhode Island–sized shadows come not just from diapers and carpooling but from at least a few sleepless nights spent searching the soul, seeking earnestly for the capacity to raise these children to be what God wants them to be. Moved by that kind of devotion and determination, may I say to mothers collectively, in the name of the Lord, you are magnificent. You are doing terrifically well. The very fact that you have been given such a responsibility is everlasting evidence of the trust your Father in Heaven has in you. He knows that your giving birth to a child does not immediately propel you into the circle of the omniscient. If you and your husband will strive to love God and live the gospel yourselves; if you will plead for that guidance and comfort of the Holy Spirit promised to the faithful; if you will go to the temple to both make and claim the promises of the most sacred covenants a woman or man can make in this world; if you will show others, including your children, the same caring, compassionate, forgiving heart you want heaven to show you; if you try your best to be the best parent you can be, you will have done all that a human being can do and all that God expects you to do.
“Sometimes the decision of a child or a grandchild will break your heart. Sometimes expectations won’t immediately be met. Every mother and father worries about that. Even that beloved and wonderfully successful parent President Joseph F. Smith pled, “Oh! God, let me not lose my own.”8 That is every parent’s cry, and in it is something of every parent’s fear. But no one has failed who keeps trying and keeps praying. You have every right to receive encouragement and to know in the end your children will call your name blessed, just like those generations of foremothers before you who hoped your same hopes and felt your same fears.
“Yours is the grand tradition of Eve, the mother of all the human family, the one who understood that she and Adam had to fall in order that “men [and women] might be”9 and that there would be joy. Yours is the grand tradition of Sarah and Rebekah and Rachel, without whom there could not have been those magnificent patriarchal promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob which bless us all. Yours is the grand tradition of Lois and Eunice and the mothers of the 2,000 stripling warriors. Yours is the grand tradition of Mary, chosen and foreordained from before this world was, to conceive, carry, and bear the Son of God Himself. We thank all of you, including our own mothers, and tell you there is nothing more important in this world than participating so directly in the work and glory of God, in bringing to pass the mortality and earthly life of His daughters and sons, so that immortality and eternal life can come in those celestial realms on high. . . .
“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.”
“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.” 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.” And it will make your children whole as well” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “Because She is a Mother,” General Conference, April, 1997).
I can’t add much to those glowing words of praise, comfort, encouragement, honor, and conviction. Mothers have a special place in God’s economy. Mothers have a unique role, calling, and destiny. Mothers are “highly favored” of the Lord. There are definitely bad mothers, but there are also millions who are so very good and whose deeds and hard work and teaching and loving goes unsung and unnoticed by the crass world. But these motherly deeds don’t go unnoticed by your Father in Heaven, by godly people everywhere, or by your family who will cherish your name and memory forever.
I want to close by paying tribute to the two mothers in my life – my own Mom and my wife. My mother is the most selfless, caring, loving person I know. She taught me the best she could in the ways of the Lord. She gave me a shining example of Christian living. She was a person of passion in her principles. She always did and does stand up for what she believes is right, even if it requires her to turn around in a crowded stadium to tell a group of rabble-rousers in no uncertain terms to stop using profanity in public and around her children. She is also always there when I need someone to talk to about mundane things or about the things that afflict my soul. I love you, Mom!
As for my wife, she is, to quote Archie Bunker’s comment about his wife Edith, “something else.” I love her. She birthed my daughter – my precious little thing that gives me such rapturous joy! I have watched and noticed as she suffered through a hard pregnancy and through tough medical challenges caused by that pregnancy and by nursing. Our daughter sleeps well at night, yet, when she needed to nurse, my wife was there willing to slake her hunger. I have watched as they have fallen to sleep together, bathed together, played and laughed together, cleaned together, surprised me with food together, and every other type of activity. My wife adores our daughter and lives for her. I respect, honor, and thank my wife for always putting our little girl first, always going above and beyond to make her happy, and always giving of herself. Thank you, Emma. I love you.
Motherhood is a blessed calling and the greatest work in the world. Happy Mother’s Day, Mothers. You are loved. God bless each of you!
May 8, 2022