I was asked to give a talk in Sacrament meeting on Mother's Day. So below is the text of my talk.
The concept of Mother's Day was first introduced in 1870 by Julia Ward Howe, the writer of "The Battle Hymn of The Republic." Julia Howe was frustrated with the suffering caused by war, so she wrote a "Mother's Day Proclamation." In her proclamation she asks the women of her time to commit to teaching their children charity, mercy and patience, and to promote peace over war. Her views may have been extreme for her time, but I think she would have fit right in with the mothers of the army of Helaman.
Several years later a woman named Ann Jarvis promoted the idea of a "Mother's Work Day" that emphasized peace and social activism amongst women. After her death in 1905 her daughter Anna Jarvis continued to promote the concept of "Mother's Day" as a day to honor mothers for all that they do. In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill making Mother's Day a national holiday.
So today we honor Mothers for all that they do for us. We need to be mindful that the "Mother's club" does not allow male members, but it is not exclusive to only those women who have borne children of their own.
Elder Boyd K. Packer spoke of this In his book titled "Mothers" he wrote: “When I speak of mothers, I speak not only of those women who have borne children, but also of those who have fostered children born to others, and of the many women who, without children of their own, have mothered the children of others” (Mothers, p. 8).
Also along this line of thought Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said the following in a conference address "To the women within the sound of my voice who dearly want to be mothers and are not, I say through your tears and ours on that subject, God will yet, in days that lie somewhere ahead, bring “hope to the desolate heart.” As prophets have repeatedly taught from this pulpit, ultimately “no blessing shall be withheld” from the faithful, even if those blessings do not come immediately. In the meantime we rejoice that the call to nurture is not limited to our own flesh and blood."
So we have it on good authority that women of all ages who have ever, or will someday nurture, care for, or counsel others are full members of the "Mother's Club."
In our pre-mortal existence faithful women were given certain assignments including motherhood, while faithful men were foreordained to certain priesthood tasks. This division of duties was deliberate and is very important in God's plan. We need to be mindful that while priesthood holders have a leadership roll in the church that tends to be highly visible, it in no way diminishes the importance of women or their role of nurturing and teaching as part of God's plan.
President David O. McKay affirmed this when he declared that "Motherhood is woman’s noblest calling." (see Treasures of Life, p. 54)
Motherhood is a sacred calling, a partnership with God in bringing his spirit children into the world. A mother’s most important responsibility is to bring children into the world and to care for and teach them. As I look out over the congregation I see so many mothers who fulfill this responsibility so well.
Both Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood holders have the responsibility to uplift and support the Mothers around us. We can do this by pitching in and helping with chores, cooking meals and obeying Mother's requests. If you ever don't know what to do to help, then at least stay out of the way! Mom has enough to do already.
The responsibilities of a mother come from God, and because of this divine relationship, there is no earthly standard to measure a Mother's success or failure against. Your friends, neighbors, and even Hollywood celebrities are unqualified to judge your performance as a mother. Your children or those you take care of have their agency, and their use of poor judgement does not mean you failed as a mother. A mother's level of success can only be determined by herself and the lord.
In a conference talk several years ago President Spencer W. Kimball talked about the role women will play in the church. He said: "Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world. … Thus it will be that female exemplars of the Church will be a significant force in both the numerical and the spiritual growth of the Church in the last days."
What I get from President Kimball's statement is that as Mothers fulfill their role they will be bringing souls unto Christ and strengthening the testimonies of those around them. That adds a little more significance to some of the every day tasks mothers perform like changing diapers, or buying groceries. I'm sure these things would be less tiring if the pay-off was more obvious every day.
Maybe with a little creative thinking we can come up with ideas to help make the rewards of motherhood seem more immediate. Here is one thought: There is nothing sacred about a dirty diaper but the act of changing it certainly helps build a mothers kingdom in Heaven. Or maybe: The number at the bottom of the receipt may not only reflect how much money you saved, but also how many testimonies you strengthened that day. OK, that is a bit of a stretch.
A better idea is for us to show gratitude to our Mothers. When expressed often, gratitude is a powerful motivator. Several years ago Thomas S. Monson gave a talk in which he addressed showing gratitude for our mothers, and he shared this poem written by Joy Allison;
“Which Loved Best?”
“I love you, Mother,” said little John;
Then, forgetting his work, his cap went on,
And he was off to the garden swing,
And left her the water and wood to bring.
“I love you, Mother,” said rosy Nell—
“I love you better than tongue can tell”;
Then she teased and pouted full half the day,
Till her mother rejoiced when she went to play.
“I love you, Mother,” said little Fan;
“Today I’ll help you all I can;
How glad I am that school doesn’t keep!”
So she rocked the babe till it fell asleep.
Then, stepping softly, she fetched the broom,
And swept the floor and tidied the room;
Busy and happy all day was she,
Helpful and happy as a child could be.
“I love you, Mother,” again they said,
Three little children going to bed.
How do you think that Mother guessed
Which of them really loved her best?
The best way to show gratitude is by taking action. In that light here are a few things you young people can do all year long to show mom you love and appreciate her:
Change a dirty diaper, or help watch the little ones so she can take a break.
Let Mom relax in the bath tub while you wash the dishes.
Have a good attitude when you are doing your chores. Be happy for the opportunity to help out.
Surprise her by cleaning your room.
Write her a note of appreciation.
Here are a few ideas for us older people:
Hand write a letter of thanks to your mom and mail it.
Write your spouse or mother a tribute poem.
Take a day off work and clean the house.
Share an experience with her where something she taught you helped you overcome a challenge.
I would like to express my appreciation to all the mothers of our ward. Thank you for all that you do. Your influence reaches far and wide.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
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