To where does a mother turn?

Family, Marriage, Mormonism, Talks and Lessons

This year, I spoke in church on Mother’s Day. As one would expect, I focused on the sacred calling that motherhood is; however, since I’m not a mother, I looked at this topic from the perspective of a mother who has experienced much in her life — my mother.

To Where Does a Mother Turn?

On Mother’s Day, one reflects on his or her mother and I’d like to briefly talk about mine and an important lessons she has taught me. I am one of six children to a mother who should be bald now from pulling out her hair (but isn’t) given all the adventures we had while growing up.

Easter Sunday 1975 (Mom with the 6 kids)

My mother was not born into the LDS faith. She was raised in a close-knit family by parents who loved the Lord and her family attended church on Sundays. It was assumed that my mother’s path would follow that of her older siblings and parents. She’d marry a nice Christian boy and settle down so her parents could see them (and future grandchildren) weekly. However, my mother did not choose this path.

In college, she was befriended by a LDS woman who had standards my mother admired. This friend did not drink nor smoke, but was chaste and virtuous. My mother admired the strength of character this friend had and began to ask questions about the restored Gospel. My mother had faith in God, but the plan of salvation provided her with answers about who she was, what her purpose here on earth was, and where she was going after this life. My mom was insistent to meet with the missionaries, and her friend took her to the local institute to find them. That’s where my parents met.

Mom and I in 2010

My mother’s family was shocked that she converted to the Gospel and subsequently married a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, AKA a Mormon. This caused a rift in her family, so much so that some did not attend my parents’ wedding at the very institute where my parents met. My mother gave up the strong support of her family because of her unwavering faith in the restored Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Not only did she stay strong in the Gospel, but several members of her immediate family followed her example and converted to the gospel. But that came later.

There was a key time in her life when she was a newly married woman, soon-to-be mother and without the support of others she loved since my father’s career would force my family to move often. To whom would she turn to for answers to her many, many questions? My mother turned to stories about women in the scriptures for support since these “friends” would always be with her.

Doctrine & Covenants

When she first got married, my mother took comfort in Emma Hale Smith’s story. Emma was ostracized by her family for dating Joseph Smith. In January 1827, she eloped with Joseph and she clung to the advice from the Old Testament that a wife “should leave [her] mother and father and shall cleave unto [her husband]” (Gen. 2:24). Their marriage was fraught with trials – illnesses, attacks, bankruptcy, imprisonments, legal hearings, constant moves and children dying—but there was also great love. The correspondence between Emma and Joseph proves of their continued devotion to one another with loving words and concern about each other’s welfare. Emma’s love for her husband is reminiscent of a quote shared by President Thomas S. Monson, “Choose your love, love your choice.” (Monson, “Priesthood Power”, April 2011)

New Testament

Mary's Visit to Elisabeth by Carl Heinrich Bloch

Mary’s Visit to Elisabeth by Carl Heinrich Bloch

A friendship between two woman, Mary and Elisabeth, was also inspirational to my mother. Mary, a young unwed mother, needed the support of a friend and she found refuge in the home of her cousin, Elisabeth. The hostess had hidden herself away in preparation for the arrival of the birth of her son, John, yet welcomed another woman in desperate need of a safe place to stay. Their friendship is often seen as more helpful to Mary than to Elisabeth, but this friendship was not one-sided. What is clear is both women were given what they needed during a time of great trial and blessing. Elisabeth was sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. In Luke, we learn that when Mary arrived at Elisabeth’s home and she “heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost. … [then Elisabeth said to Mary,] Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? (Luke 1:41–43). The Holy Ghost filled Elisabeth with the knowledge that Mary carried the Savior of the World; Mary did not tell her of her pregnancy, the Holy Ghost did.

Another remarkable aspect about Elisabeth is that she showed no malice that the announcement of her child was given to her husband rather than receiving it as Mary did. Elisabeth was humbled enough to play a part in the Lord’s plan. She relays this to Mary when she says regarding herself, “blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:45). Elisabeth craved the voice of the Lord more than anything else and she gave Mary that which she needed: solace and love. This briefly described friendship provides instruction for women who are both young and more seasoned – there are ways in which the Saints need to and can provide support for one another through being faithful and responsive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

Old Testament

"For This Child I Prayed" by Elspeth Young

“For This Child I Prayed” by Elspeth Young

When my mother became a mother, she was far from her family and had many questions. There were other mothers in the neighborhood and ward to help, but my mother looked to the story of Hannah in the Old Testament in how to approach being a mother. Hannah was a wife without any children and was ridiculed by others. Hannah was saddened by this, but did not blame the Lord for this challenge she faced. She saw it as an opportunity to turn to the Lord. She went to the temple and prayed to the Lord regarding her current “affliction”. In her prayer, she covenanted with the Lord that if he would remember her and bless her with a child, she would “give him unto the Lord all the days of his life” (1 Samuel 1:11). Shortly after, Hannah did get pregnant and bore Samuel, a great prophet of the Old Testament. The faith that Samuel’s mother exhibited is a wonderful example of one’s faith and potential because the Lord recognized Hannah was able to be a “righteous, conscientious, persistent, daily [mother which] is far more lasting, far more powerful, far more influential than any earthly position or institution invented by man.” (Beck, “A Mother Heart”, April 2004)

Book of Mormon

As my mother continued her adventures in motherhood, she stumbled into situations she did not expect and blindsided by ones she had not prepared for. This was especially true when it came to the choices her children sometimes made. She stayed up late nights waiting for her teen and young adult children to come home and these dark hours led her to questioning where she had gone wrong. At this time, she turned to the Book of Mormon and the example of Sariah, the mother of Nephi as well as Laman and Lemuel. In the first verse of the Book of Mormon, we learn that Sariah is viewed as a “goodly parent” (1 Nephi 1:1) who was raising a family during a time of affliction.

“Sariah was obligated to move with her husband; there is no evidence that she was less than supportive during the move, but neither is there evidence that she received visions. She seems to have given up her comfortable surroundings and, more important, her kinfolk, without complaint—but giving up her sons was more than she thought she could bear.

The trip back to get the brass plates may have taken more than a week. During the absence of her sons, Sariah mourned for them. Despairing that they were lost, she complained against her husband, saying, “My sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness.” (1 Ne. 5:2.)

Lehi and Sariah must have known something about the unrighteousness of their kinsman Laban. Surely Sariah had good cause to worry for the safety of her sons. Lehi comforted her, not by promising that they would not face difficulties in their journeys, but by pointing out that those who stayed in Jerusalem would perish. Then he bore testimony that God would deliver his sons “out of the hands of Laban.” (1 Ne. 5:5.)

It takes great faith to trust not only the Lord, but also those through whom he speaks. Most of us are not prophets but are called upon to recognize the prophets and their messages from God. Sariah bore strong testimony of Lehi’s calling after her sons’ return: “Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness [NOTE that she fled with him before her knowledge was sure]; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them.” (1 Ne. 5:8.) (Williams & Bowen, “Ordinary People in the Book of Mormon”, Ensign, January 1992)

This mother of six boys raised two prophets to her descendents, but also raised two leaders who denied the importance of the gospel in their lives and lead many children away from the church. There is evidence that Sariah was not a perfect mother, but a human one. She had faults – she would question her husband and sometimes her fears would get the best of her. She also loved the gospel, repented and tried to improve her efforts.

Although Sariah’s words are not chronicled in the Book of Mormon, it is possible to hear her concerns in words of another mother. This woman corresponded with Elder Jeffery R. Holland in our times to express the fears she felt that she didn’t measure up and often made the wrong decision, but her fears were calmed with one thought:

My sister-in-law walking with her two daughters. Her daughters cling to her hands and trust she is leading them down the correct path.

My sister-in-law walking with her two daughters. Her daughters cling to her hands and trust she is leading them down the correct path.

“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 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 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. 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.” (Holland, “Because She Is a Mother”, May 1997).

Whether we are parents or not, may we realize that we are not alone in doing the Lord’s work – raising children that are precious to our Heavenly Father. The responsibilities of being a parent “do not provide economic compensation but do provide satisfaction and are eternally significant.” (Cook, “LDS Women Are Incredible”, May 2011). May we use the gospel tools the Lord has provided us with – prayer, scriptures, the temple, a modern-day prophet of God and the gift of the Holy Ghost – to do that which is most precious to Him.

No Comments

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.