I have the opportunity to know many young and wonderful women who are accomplishing much good in the world by being exceptional mothers to their children. These young mothers impress me by the way they love and teach their children. Several of these young women have been chosen to represent Alaska in different years as either the Alaska Mother of the Year or as the Alaska Young Mother of the Year.
I have learned much from these young mothers, things that I wished I had understood when my own children were young. I have learned that the smallest of gestures leave great impressions. The following lines are attributed to Victor Hugo: "She broke the bread into two fragments and gave them to her children, who ate with eagerness. `She hath kept none for herself,' grumbled the sergeant. `Because she is not hungry,' said a soldier. `No,' said the sergeant, `because she is a mother.'"
I know that any of these young mothers of my acquaintance would react as did the mother in the following incidence in a concentration camp during World War II:
"One afternoon we had to stand in line to receive our food and water rations. Our mother could barely stand, let alone walk, but she … stood in line with us, in obvious pain, leaning heavily on a stick. Seeing my mother like that fueled the hatred in my heart for those responsible… When I passed one of the officers … I threw my cup … in his face and spat at him.
"Immediately a samurai sword was drawn toward me. Quickly my mother put her hands on the sword and pushed it away from me, cutting her hands…
"`Please pick up your cup, Kitty, and apologize,' she begged me softly….
"With great difficulty she bent and picked up the cup, then bowed deeply… She offered apologies in my name, telling him that I was only a child and had not acquired the discipline to master my emotions…. `If there must be a punishment,' she said, `I will take it for my child.'
"… The officer slowly put the sword back in its sheath, gently took the cup from my mother's hands, and filled it with water. `Woman, drink!' he said, and … my mother drank the water eagerly. He took the cup from her hands, filled it a second time, and offered it to my mother with both hands and a slight bow…
"`It is I who must apologize to you for not recognizing the majesty of your womanhood,' he said." (Kitty DeRuyter)
I think that mothers in general consider their efforts to be feeble when comparing themselves to others. I know that I usually feel that my works do not measure up to what they should be. For all those mothers who feel that they will never be chosen as "mother of the year," consider the following thoughts from prophets: "I have learned to place a high estimate upon the love of mother. I have often said, and will repeat it, that the love of a true mother comes nearer being like the love of God than any other kind of love" (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 315).
"Motherhood is the greatest potential influence, either for good or ill in human life. The mother's image is the first that stamps itself on the unwritten page of the young child's mind. It is her caress that first awakens a sense of security; her kiss, the first realization of affection; her sympathy and tenderness, the first assurance that there is love in the world" (David O. McKay, Gospel Ideals, 452).
"She who can paint a masterpiece or write a book that will influence millions deserves the admiration and the plaudits of mankind; but she who rears successfully a family of healthy, beautiful sons and daughters, whose influence will be felt through generations to come, whose immortal souls will exert an influence throughout the ages long after paintings shall have faded, and books and statues shall have decayed or shall have been destroyed, deserves the highest honor that man can give, and the choicest blessings of God" (David O. McKay, Gospel Ideals, 453-54).
The following story illustrates that motherhood is the noblest of all careers and the most important career for women. "Kristen was finishing a graduate degree and had recently given birth to her second child. She felt the other graduates had accomplished so much more and was reluctant to attend the graduation dinner. Her fears were confirmed when, at the dinner, the students were asked to list their professional accomplishments.
"Kristen recalled, `I suddenly felt embarrassed and ashamed. I had nothing to call myself, no lofty position, no impressive job title.' To make matters worse, the professor read the lists as he presented a diploma to each student. The woman ahead of Kristen had many accomplishments: she already had a PhD, was receiving a second master's degree, and she'd even been a mayor! The woman received grand applause.
"Then it was Kristen's turn. She handed the professor her blank sheet, trying to hold back the tears. The professor had been one of her teachers and had praised her performance. He looked at her blank paper. Without missing a beat he announced, `Kristen holds the most critical role in all of society.' He was quiet for a few seconds, then declared in a powerful voice, `She is the mother of her children.' Instead of a few courteous claps, people rose to their feet. There was just one standing ovation that night; it was for the mother in the room" (Bonnie D. Parkin, "Sweet Moments," Ensign, Nov. 2005, 107).
Fools may deride the women who choose to become mothers and spend their most productive years in nurturing their children. People with wisdom understand that mothers hold the most critical position in the world. The work done by mothers with their children will determine the type of society we have so never underestimate the importance of being a mother. Consider the words of the following poem:
The holiest words my tongue can frame,
The noblest thoughts my soul can claim,
Unworthy are to praise the name
More precious than all other.
An infant, when her love first came,
A man, I find it still the same,
Reverently I breathe her name,
The blessed name of mother.
George Griffith Fether, "The Name of Mother," in Best-Loved Poems of the LDS People, ed. Jack M. Lyon and others (1996), 218.
I wish a Happy Mother's Day to every woman. To those women who happen to have children, enjoy the attention given to you today because you deserve it. To those women who do not have children of their own yet, rejoice because you are a woman and are a mother in your heart. Every woman has a part to play in helping the children and youth of today to become the healthy, well-balanced adults of tomorrow.