Thursday, May 16, 2013

Motherhood: A Style of Our Own

On Sunday, May 12th, Mother's Day...and my Dad's birthday, I gave the following talk in church.  My parents were visiting us, which was a rare treat.  As usually happens, I wrote lots of notes, and stressed out about it, and then got up there and said stuff that came to me a few moments before I actually stood up.  I have tried to recreate it here.

There was a baby blessing right before I spoke, and since I was sitting next to my Dad, I was reminded of my own baby blessing.

So, I began my talk by telling the following story:

My mom recorded my baby blessing.  I have it on cassette tape.  I have had the tape for a while, and looked forward to listening to it with great curiosity.  I imagined it would be like listening to a patriarchal blessing.  When I finally listened to it, my Dad said the following, "Jocelyn, I bless you with all that you need to have a happy life."  (Interject me making a funny face here!)

That is sooo my Dad...straight to the point and to the most important things.  But I realized as I took the sacrament today, that the blessing had come true. 

I had been blessed with all I needed to have a happy life.  I had been blessed with a mom and a dad who love each other, who honor each other with complete fidelity, and who taught me the gospel of Jesus Christ.  That is all any child needs to discover a happy life.  And that has made all the difference for me.  (Steve, who spoke after me added something important to the meeting when he said, "Each of us are born with the parents we need to help us become who we need to become.")

My Dad likes to tell this story about me as a child.  I had watched a TV show about the ex-slave and abolitionist Sojourner Truth.  In one of her most famous speeches, she repeats the phrase, "Ain't I a woman?"  In my little girl interpretation, woman equaled mother.  So one day, as my Dad passed by my bedroom, he saw me with all my stuffed animals around me on the floor saying, "I'm a mother, ain't I?" Only it sounded like, "I'm a mudder, ain't I?!"  I'm sure my kids have heard me say that many times!

Sheri L. Dew formed the question this way when she said, "Aren't we all mothers?"  She said, "Motherhood is more than bearing children.  It is the essence of who we are as women."

If you are a woman, then you are a mother, whether or not you've born a child.  It is in your past, present and future.  Even little women, little girls playing with dolls are not just playing.  They are acting out their divine role as women.  They are doing a great work.

That motherhood is work, no woman would deny.  But one of the best things that motherhood has taught me is that you don't have to be perfect to be a good Mom.  My kids teach me that every day.  And you don't have to be perfect in order to experience the joy of motherhood.

The church recently produced a video in which this statement is made, "Every time a baby is born...a Mother born is too."  But is this really true?  Do we become mothers when our babies are born or are we born mothers?

Ezra Taft Benson taught, "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."

Sister Dew has said, "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 pre-mortally with the privilege of motherhood."

"We have made covenants.  We made them before we accepted our position here on earth...We committed ourselves to our Heavenly Father, that if He would send us to the earth and give us bodies, and give to us the priceless opportunities that earth life afforded, we would keep our lives clean and marry in the temple and would rear a family and teach them righteousness.  This was a solem oath.  A solem promise." (Spencer W. Kimball, 1975)

One might wonder:  Is motherhood a lesser role than the priesthood?

Sheri L. Dew (with the help of President J. Reuben Clark Jr.) answer this question:

"Motherhood is not what was left over after our Father blessed His sons with priesthood ordination.  It was the most ennobling endowment He could give His daughters, a sacred trust that gave women and unparalleled role in helping His children keep their second estate.  As President J. Reuben Clark Jr. declared, motherhood is "as divinely called, as eternally important in its place as the Priesthood itself."

As we study the Plan of Salvation, we see that there are two key things that every person needs to gain here on earth; First, a mortal body, in which to learn, grown, be tested, and proven worthy.  Second, all of the priesthood ordinances available in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Conveniently, women provide the first necessity and men provide the second.  One could not permanently return to our Father in Heaven without receiving these gifts from both a man and a woman.  Which is why motherhood and priesthood are equal and work in harmony...and that is why marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God.

Speaking to the women of the church in 1981, President Ezra Taft Benson said, "I recognize there are voices in our midst which would attempt to convince you that these truths are not applicable to our present-day condition.  If you listen and heed you will be lured away from your principle obligations."

He continued, "These individuals spread their discontent by the propaganda that there are more exciting and self-fulfilling roles for women than homemaking."

Homemaking is a quiet sport done away from the spotlight.  Perhaps that is why some of us struggle with it.  

We might think that making sandwiches or doing laundry is of no value, but I remember the time my mom made a sandwich and brought it to me at school for dinner.  I had started spending all day at school for my extra-curricular activities and I was starting to miss my family.  I started to wonder if they missed me.  Then one day, she showed up in the doorway of the gym holding a brown paper bag full of food.  Some people might think that making sandwiches is unimportant work.  But that day, that sandwich meant the world to me.

It is natural to desire positions that will bring recognition.  However, Spencer W. Kimball reminds us that, "Great women AND men are always more anxious to serve than to have dominion."

Ezra Taft Benson said, "Too often, I fear even women in the church use the world as their standard for success and basis for self worth."  He said, "President Kimball once said that Latter-day Saints need 'a style of our own' pertaining to clothing/modesty.  We must also have a style of our own pertaining to success and self-image."...and motherhood.

As mothers, how do we develop our own "style" independent of the world?

My own mother was good at this.  She did things according to her own style.

President Benson offered advice to help us...advice offered to him by mothers, but which he said he, as a prophet, he fully endorsed.  Here they are:

1.  Be proud to be a wife and a mother.  Apologize to no one for loving and enjoying your role.

Sheri L. Dew said, "No woman who understands the gospel would ever think that any other work is more important or would ever say, 'I am just a mother,' for mothers heal the souls of men."

2.  Keep away from influences that degrade your role, such as TV shows, magazine articles (online or otherwise), and speeches made by so-called 'experts."  (I added the online or otherwise part since blog posts didn't exist then.)

3.  Know that it is a fundamental truth that the responsibilities of motherhood cannot be successfully delegated.

When I was in elementary school, the principle used to paddle disobedient children.  All of us kids were scared of getting the paddle and urban legends about kids who had been paddled abounded.  My mom caught wind of this and she sent word to the principle that if any of her children required paddling, she was to be called in to be in the room while we received our punishment.  Strangely enough, the paddle soon fell out of use and was eventually removed from the principle's office.  I am so thankful that my mother did not delegate any part of her responsibilities to another.  And finding myself in the principle's office a time or two, I'm sure she literally saved my hide!

4.  Strive to be the temple matron within our own homes.

From Stephanie Sorensen's book Covenant Motherhood:

"We have the opportunity to create homes that are sacred, safe, and sanctified like the temple.  Can you think of anything more divine than that?  A mother is the temple matron in her own home, doing all she can to make it a place filled with the spirit of God.  A home is a temple because important eternal work takes place there.  The mother of the home plays a significant role in creating that environment and directs the work within."

Then I told about my experience being in the temple with the young women a few months ago and how while wringing out wet socks, I realized the importance of the same type of work that we do as women in our own homes. 

I've got to run, but here are the sources for the quotes used in my talk:


"The Role of Righteous Women," 1979, Spencer W. Kimball
"The Honored Place of Woman," 1981, Ezra Taft Benson
"Motherhood and the Family," 1980, Mary Foulger
"Are We Not All Mothers?" 2001 Sheri L. Dew
Covenant Motherhood, 2013, Stephanie Dibb Sorensen