This weekend Americans will honor the women who gave them life and/or the women who mothered them; they will honor other mothers in their lives including wives, grandmothers, and others who have influenced their lives. Mother’s Day is often a difficult day for mothers as well as for women who are not mothers. Those who are mothers feel guilty for not being better mothers, and those who have not yet had the opportunity to be mothers feel left out. It is only fitting that we honor all mothers, but I want to remember women in general today, with or without children, for we are all mothers.
I personally do not have a problem with Mother’s Day. Probably the main reason why I do not is the fact that I am a mother and grandmother; however, I experienced a few years of not knowing whether or not I would have children. I spent several years seeking medical reasons for why I could not get pregnant because I was anxious to become a mother. I know the heartache of not having children, especially when siblings and friends are busy having their families.
Another reason why Mother’s Day is an enjoyable day for me is the simple fact that my children have grown into well-adjusted and delightful adults. All six of them are married and are apparently happy in their marriages and family lives. I am very pleased with the men and women my babies have become, and yet I realize that none of them have reached perfection yet. They each have strengths and weaknesses, but they are capable adults who influence for good the people around them in big and wonderful ways.
I think that the main reason why I enjoy Mother’s Day is because I spend the day thinking about my own mother and how grateful I am for her influence and example in my life. My mother – along with her example - is the biggest reason why I wanted to have children. My mother gave birth to twelve healthy babies who all grew to adulthood, and she made many sacrifices for her children. I saw the joy she received from her children and grandchildren while also seeing her sacrifices. I had the desire to marry and become a mother from the time I was a little girl, and I had a difficult time waiting for those blessings. I was filled with joy when I learned that each of my children were on the way. I remember one Mother’s Day when my children were very young. I was so very grateful for the opportunity to be their mother that I made gifts for them! I thank them at appropriate times for allowing me to be their mother.
Since mothers are first women, I believe that we must honor women in general instead of only focusing on those who have children. In fact, all women are mothers at heart. I think of my oldest daughter who has no children and her interaction with the children of her siblings. She definitely “mothers” her nieces and nephews whenever she has the opportunity.
Sheri Dew is a woman who has not had the opportunity to marry and have children, but she mothers her nieces and nephews and other people. She is an author and publisher as well as the president and chief executive officer of the Deseret Book Company, headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah. She served for five years as a counselor in the general Relief Society presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As such, she traveled to many countries to meet with women of all ages. She has also represented the United States in international conferences about marriage and family. She is a popular and very capable speaker. She understands that motherhood is more than bearing children and is the essence of who we are as women. She gave a powerful address at General Conference entitled “Are We Not All Mothers?” I encourage you to listen to her remarks because she is a great example of how we can mother whether or not we bear or adopt children.
President Spencer W. Kimball prepared some remarks for a conference of the women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but could not deliver them because he was in the hospital; his wife, Sister Camilla Kimball, read her husband’s words while he listened from his hospital bed. President Kimball wanted the sisters to know of God’s great love for them as women and reminded us that “We had full equality as His spirit children.” He quoted the late Elder John A. Widtsoe who wrote: “The place of woman in the Church is to walk beside the man, neither in front of him nor behind him. In the Church there is full equality between man and woman. The gospel, which is the only concern of the Church, was devised by the Lord for men and women alike” (Improvement Era, March 1942, p. 161).
President Kimball continued with his talk: “Within those great assurances, however, our roles and assignments differ. These are eternal differences – with women being given many tremendous responsibilities of motherhood and sisterhood and men being given the tremendous responsibilities of fatherhood and the priesthood – but the man is not without the woman nor the woman without the man in the Lord (see 1 Cor. 11:11). Both a righteous man and a righteous woman are a blessing to all those their lives touch….
“How special it is for Latter-day Saint women to be given the lofty assignments they have been given by our Father in Heaven, especially those of you who have been privileged to be born in this part of this last dispensation. Let other women pursue heedlessly what they perceive as their selfish interests. You can be a much needed force for love and truth and righteousness on this planet. Let others selfishly pursue false values, but God has given to you the tremendous tasks of nurturing families, friends, and neighbors, just as men are to provide. But both husband and wife are to be parents!”
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about how LDS women are incredible. “Author and historian Wallace Stegner wrote about the Mormon migration and gathering to the Salt Lake Valley. He did not accept our faith and in many ways was critical; nevertheless, he was impressed with the devotion and heroism of our early Church members, especially the women. He stated, `Their women were incredible’ [The Gathering of Zion: The Story of the Mormon Trail (New York: McGraw-Hill, 164), 13]. I echo that sentiment. Our Latter-day Saint women are incredible! [I believe there are many women of other faiths who could be described as “incredible,” and I believe that Elder Cook would agree with me.]
“God placed within women divine qualities of strength, virtue, love, and the willingness to sacrifice to raise future generations of His spirit children.
“A recent United States study asserts that women of all faiths `believe more fervently in God’ and attend more religious services than men do. `By virtually every measure they are more religious’ [Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010), 233].
“I was not surprised by this result, particularly as I reflected on the preeminent role of families and women in our faith. Our doctrine is clear: Women are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves them. Wives are equal to their husbands. Marriage requires a full partnership where wives and husbands work side by side to meet the needs of the family” (“LDS Women Are Incredible,” Ensign, May 2011).
Women were created by our Father in Heaven to be “help meets” for our husbands. We have different attributes than men in order to complement them, rather than compete with them. President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “Men and women have complementary, not competing, responsibilities. There is difference but not inequity…. In the woman’s part, she is not equal to man; she is superior! She can do that which he can never do; not in all eternity can he do it” (Things of the Soul, 172, as quoted by Sister Dew).
Sister Dew declared, “As daughters of our Heavenly Father, and as daughters of Eve, we are all mothers and we have always been mothers. And we each have the responsibility and the privilege to love and to help lead the rising generation….
“Few of us will reach our potential without the nurturing of both the mother who bore us and the mothers who bear with us” (Pamphlet, “Are We Not All Mothers?” pp. 6, 8, 10).
I love the following story entitled “Women’s Tears” because it is very illustrative of what it means to be a woman.
A little boy asked his mother, “Why are you crying?” “Because I’m a woman,” she told him. “I don’t understand,” he said. His Mom just hugged him and said, “And you never will.”
Later the little boy asked his father, “Why does mother seem to cry for no reason?” “All women cry for no reason,” was all his dad could say. The little boy grew up and became a man, still wondering why women cry.
Finally he put in a call to God. When God got on the phone, he asked, “God, why do women cry so easily?” God said, “When I made the woman she had to be special. I made her shoulders strong enough to carry the weight of the world, yet gentle enough to give comfort. I gave her an inner strength to endure childbirth and the rejection that many times comes from her children. I gave her a hardness that allows her to keep going when everyone else gives up, and take care of her family through sickness and fatigue without complaining. I gave her the sensitivity to love her children under any and all circumstances, even when her child has hurt her very badly. I gave her strength to carry her husband through his faults and fashioned her from his rib to protect his heart. I gave her wisdom to know that a good husband never hurts his wife, but sometimes tests her strengths and her resolve to stand beside him unfalteringly. And finally, I gave her a tear to shed. This is hers exclusively to use whenever it is needed.”
“You see my son,” said God, “the beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman must be seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart – the place where love resides.” (Author Unknown)
I am very grateful for the opportunity to be a woman in these latter days. I know that all women are mothers in one way or another and can do much to “nurture” and to “heal the souls” of others. I encourage all women to rejoice in their womanhood and to “mother” other people!