Friday, May 25, 2018

Mother's Day

I was recently privileged to read a talk that my Aunt gave in church on Mother's Day this year.  There is so much about this wonderful woman that I look up to.  She had her own years on infertility that she battled with and I loved everything she had to share in this talk.  I hope it brings you the same joy and peace it brought to me:

(Written by Nancy Nielsen for Mother's Day 2018)

When I first learned that I would be speaking on Mother’s Day I feel bad that my initial reaction was something like, (xx groan xx). But my reaction wasn’t because I don’t think mothers should be honored -- we definitely should be! And it wasn’t because I don’t think being a mom is important – I believe it’s the most important thing we can do! Prophets have taught that Motherhood is“the highest, holiest service … assumed by mankind.”1   I believe that this is true doctrine and as such it should be taught and talked about. The reason I had that initial reaction was because I understand on a very personal level that Mothers’ Day can be hard for a lot of women for a variety of reasons. There were years when going to church on Mother’s day was too painful for me; I would go and take the sacrament then quietly slip out the doors. 

So I don’t know if there’s anyone here today that might be struggling, but if there is, I hope you know that you aren’t alone. And not just because there are other women who have experienced similar trials but more importantly because our Savior knows what you’re feeling –not in some generalized way – he knows exactly what you’re feeling and He can heal your pain. Even if your circumstances don’t change, He can make it all ok. I know this is true.

Ever since I was a little girl I always wanted to be a mom. I would take care of my dolls and stuffed animals and any stray animals I found in the neighborhood (which my mom didn’t really appreciate). Then when I was almost 7 I got a little sister – I got to change real diapers and help feed her and play with her. As we grew I got to help teach her cool things like how to color and skate. And as we got older, more important things like to never be afraid of being herself or to always stand up for what’s right.

When I was in high school, while a lot of my friends would talk about the big careers they hoped to have, I would say I wanted to be a mom and stay home with my kids -- and I was going to have lots of kids!

When I was still in high school my older siblings started getting married and having children. I thought being an aunt was about the best thing ever! I loved spending time with my nieces and nephews and taking care of them. One of my sisters would sometimes ask me, only half-jokingly, to tell her children such and such, because they would listen to their aunt better than their parents sometimes.  And now that I have kids, I know there’s a lot of truth to that – sometimes they will listen to other people better. I’m grateful that my children have aunts who love them and are good examples.  

When I went to college, I eventually chose to be a teacher because I loved working with children, but also because I figured it would be conducive to being a mom if I needed to work once I got married and had kids. I started teaching and loved working with my students; I genuinely cared about them. It was fulfilling watching them grow and gain knowledge but it was especially gratifying watching them learn to be kind, good people and thinking that maybe I had a small part in that.

While I was still in my 20’s my mom passed away somewhat unexpectedly. I was grief stricken for a period of time and I was grateful for my sisters that stepped in to fill that void for me especially at times when I really needed a mother’s wisdom and guidance. 

About 4 years after my mom passed away Todd & I got married and I was excited to start our family but the years went by and no children came … and my heart broke. Each year that went by, I broke a little more. I knew that being a mom was a righteous desire, and didn’t understand why I was being denied this blessing.  I spent many years praying and pleading with Heavenly Father, trying to understand. I even pleaded with him to take that yearning for Motherhood away from me – but my longing only grew stronger as the years passed.

And then finally a miracle occurred. No, I didn’t have a baby, but my heart was healed.  As I laid my pain and sorrow at my Savior’s feet, He healed my broken heart. I finally felt peace. I knew that if I never had children in this life, that it would be OK. I knew that I would still have opportunities to serve and teach and love and lead and nurture. That I would still be able to mother.   Now I can look back on my life and see that I actually HAD been a mother all along. When I loved and cared for and taught my little sister, I was a mother. When I loved and spent time with my nieces and nephews, I was a mother. When I loved and taught my students in school, when I served in Primary and Young Women callings, I was a mother. Even with my own friends, as I taught them gospel truths either verbally or simply through the way I lived my life, I was a mother.

Sheri Dew, in a talk entitled Are We Not All Mothers, said:  “while we tend to equate motherhood solely with maternity, in the Lord’s language, the word mother has layers of meaning. Of all the words they could have chosen to define her role and her essence, both God the Father and Adam called Eve “the mother of all living”3—and they did so before she ever bore a child… Motherhood is more than bearing children, though it is certainly that. It is the essence of who we are as women. It defines our very identity, our divine stature and nature, and the unique traits our Father gave us.”

She later continued:   “…we are all mothers and we have always been mothers. And we each have the responsibility to love and help lead the rising generation.


I think of my friend Susan, in CA whose children were grown and out of the house. Another sister in our ward was called to serve as the Primary chorister but she had a young child who wasn’t old enough to go to Nursery yet. Susan stepped in and offered to take care of Analiese while her mother fulfilled her calling. She faithfully took care of her week after week, for years and I saw a special bond developed between them.

Another friend Amy, loved and helped raise a step-daughter. It was really hard at times and things did not always go smoothly, but recently her step-daughter, sent her a note saying “Thank you for being a rock in my childhood. You will always be a woman that can’t be celebrated enough.”   Amy sets a quiet example of righteousness every day by the way she lives and loves. My kids love their Auntie Amy and I’m certainly grateful for the influence she has on them.

Three years ago one of my sisters, after several miscarriages, found out she was expecting another daughter. She had one daughter and 3 sons at the time.  During her pregnancy, she was told that her baby had some problems and would not live long past birth, if she was born alive at all. It was recommended that the pregnancy be aborted. My sister and her husband, however, were told very clearly by the spirit that this daughter was to come and receive a body but that they were not to do anything to try to prolong her life. She didn’t need this probationary time on earth and had a mission to fulfill elsewhere.  As difficult as this experience was, my sister bravely carried her baby to term, then held her as she passed away in her arms after living for only an hour.  My sister’s testimony of the Plan of Salvation and of her Savior and the faith and courage she displayed was an example to her other children and to all who know her.   

This same sister has a close friend who never married but has become like an aunt to her children. Kids naturally love her and she’s touched many children’s lives as she’s served in various callings and has been a blessing to my sister and her family.

Several years after I experienced that miracle of having my heart healed, Todd & I were able to adopt our son. As I came to know and love Aaron’s birth mother, I was humbled by her strength and her unselfish love for her child. I witnessed true Mother Love as I watched her bravely make difficult choices that she felt would be best for her baby rather than doing what she wanted for herself. 

I think of my own mother, who, while raising 6 children, still loved and cared for countless other children. Our house was always full of people. Mom had a way of making everyone feel welcome and because of this was able to have a tremendous impact on so many people, both in and out of the church.

I can think of so many stories of women from all walks of life who truly are mothers. And I’m sure that each of you could as well.

I hope that we will expand our idea of Motherhood and remember that we ALL have a role to play.  So if we’re single, if we’re married but don’t have children, if we’re down in the trenches - in the midst of raising children now, if our children are already grown, if we’re grandmothers, if we serve in Primary or Young Women, if we’re aunts, if we’re teachers, THE FACT THAT WE ARE WOMEN – THAT WE ARE FEMALE – MEANS THAT WE HAVE A DIVINELY APPOINTED RESPONSIBILITY TO LEAD AND LOVE AND NURTURE HEAVENLY FATHER’S CHILDREN. None of us is exempt!

WE ARE ALL MOTHERS. IT IS THE ESSENCE OF WHO WE ARE AS WOMEN.  I hope that every sister here today, whatever your circumstances are, will feel honored today and every day. That we will feel the weight of the gifts that we’ve been given and of the responsibilities that we have.

A couple years ago, one of the Young Women that I grew to love like a daughter, posted on FB “Happy Mothers’ Day to all the moms that have helped raise me…”   She gets it!

I’m grateful for ALL the women in MY life that have mothered me. I’m grateful for all the women who have loved and influenced my children and pray that they’ll continue to have valiant, righteous women to help mother them throughout their lives!

We know that we are living in the last days. Satan is waging a terrible war. We ALL need to do our part.

I’ll close with one more quote by Sister Dew:   As mothers in Israel, we are the Lord’s secret weapon. Our influence comes from a divine endowment that has been in place from the beginning….Every time we build the faith or reinforce the nobility of a young woman or man, every time we love or lead anyone even one small step along the path, we are true to our endowment and calling as mothers and in the process we build the kingdom of God.”