The Eternal Nature of Mothers
Days and weeks went by and no statements were forthcoming from the church. I had a heavy heart and a thirst for the word of the Lord. I kept a prayer in my heart that the Lord would make his will clearly known concerning the issues the world found so troubling.
Tears of inexpressible gratitude fell as I sat in the chapel for the General Relief Society Broadcast on September 23, 1995 and listened to President Hinckley read: The Family - A Proclamation to the World. I knew the Lord had answered the deepest longings of my heart. Here was the bread of life for a world in the midst of a famine of the word of God; Living Water for a drought stricken people; a sword of truth to cut through the war of words.
We are so blessed to have pure, simple and true doctrine about the family, about men and women’s roles as husbands and wives, and as fathers and mothers. We learn that these roles are not temporary for earth life, but are part of an eternal continuum stretching from before we were born, through earth life and on into eternity after we die.
The family, beginning with a man and a woman married in a covenant relationship, is an eternal pattern. We are spirit children of a Heavenly Father, who obviously is not alone, but partnered with a glorified and perfected woman. The story of the creation in the book of Abraham refers to Gods, plural, who participated in creating this earth and all things on it.
“So the Gods went down to organize man in their own image, in the image of the Gods to form they him, male and female to form they them.” (Abr. 4:27)
Eliza R. Snow, sister to the Prophet Lorenzo Snow, penned these lines:
I had learned to call thee Father, Thru thy Spirit from on high,
But until the key of knowledge was restored, I knew not why.
In the heavens are parents single? No, the thought makes reason stare!
Truth is reason; truth eternal tells me I’ve a mother there.
Throughout the scriptures are stories of great mothers. They are not considered great because of their education, careers or other worldly attainments. Their greatness comes from their obedience to God and their faithfulness to the Plan of Happiness.
Eve was the very first mortal mother on this earth. She was given the ability to bear children when she partook of the forbidden fruit and was cast out of the Garden of Eden with Adam, her husband. She was given the name Eve “because she was the mother of all living.” (Genesis 3:20) In fact, Eve means “life” in Hebrew.
We know from the book of Moses that Adam and Eve had many more children than Cain, Abel and Seth. “And Adam knew his wife and she bare unto him sons and daughters, and they began to multiply and to replenish the earth.” (Moses 5:2) The Book of Moses also gives a deeper description of the type of woman Eve was. We learn that Eve labored with Adam; that she knew the Plan of Salvation for she says, “Were it not for our transgression we never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.” We learn that Eve taught her children all that she had learned. (Moses 5:12)
The scriptures do not record Eve’s reaction when Cain killed his brother, Abel, but I imagine that she was devastated. I also imagine that she still loved Cain with all her heart. She knew that Cain had the agency to make his own choices.
That is probably one of the hardest things about motherhood, letting our grown children make their own choices, even when we know the choices they are making are wrong and will bring sorrowful consequences. I expect that Eve continued to pray for Cain and love him every day for the rest of her life. I’ve no doubt that her righteous posterity brought her great joy.
What can we learn from Eve? We must work alongside our husbands in creating our homes and raising our children. We must have a clear understanding and a strong testimony of the Gospel. And we must teach our children the truths of the Gospel, and then allow them to make their own choices; but we never give up on our wayward children.
Jochebed, the Mother of Moses, is mentioned briefly in Chapter 2 of Exodus; and by name in chapter six. We can number her among the brave women of the Old Testament. Moses was born during a time when the Israelites were slaves to the Egyptians and the Pharaoh had commanded all newborn Hebrew sons to be killed. Jochebed did not allow that to happen to her son. First, she hid Moses for three months. At the point when she could no longer hide him, she made an ark to lay him in, and put the ark on the banks of the river. She then had her daughter watch over him. Pharaoh’s daughter found Moses and decided she wanted to raise him as her own son. Jochebed was then hired to nurse him until he was old enough to return to live with Pharaoh’s daughter.
It is unclear if either the servant who hired Jochebed or the Pharaoh’s daughter knew that she was his biological mother. Either way, it most certainly was not a coincidence for Moses to spend the first years of his life with his biological mother before being turned over to Pharaoh’s daughter.
What can we learn from Jochebed? We should physically protect our children from evil, and we sometimes need to make sacrifices in order to protect them. What can we learn from Pharaoh’s daughter? We can be mothers to other children as well, whether we adopt, foster, or simply act in motherly ways toward the children in our wards and neighborhoods.
The story of Naomi focuses on her relationship with her daughter-in-law, Ruth. This story is especially important because modern entertainment too often finds humor in portraying a negative relationship between mothers and daughters-in-law. It is disheartening to hear real-life stories about difficult relationships with in-laws; so Ruth and Naomi’s story can be beneficial for all of us whether we are the daughter-in-law, mother-in-law, or both.
When Naomi’s sons died, she told their wives, Orpah and Ruth, to return to their families as she was going to return to Bethlehem. Both women wanted to remain with Naomi because they loved her. She again advised them to return to their own families, which Orpah did, but Ruth refused to leave Naomi, so Naomi allowed Ruth to accompany her.
Naomi began calling Ruth “my daughter”, as she absolutely considered Ruth her family. Naomi encouraged Ruth to remarry and advised her to ask Boaz for help in finding a new husband. When no one would take Ruth as a wife, Boaz did. He and Ruth had a son, Obed, and Naomi helped take care of him.
Naomi could have been upset that Ruth moved on from her first husband, but instead she was the one who encouraged and planned it. She even cared for Ruth’s son with whom she had no biological connection, as Boaz was a relative of Naomi’s husband.
What can we learn from Naomi? We should love and respect our daughters-in-law. We should support them in their righteous endeavors, and help care for grandchildren. What can we learn from Ruth? We should love and respect our mothers-in-law. We should listen to their advice and guidance, and allow them to be a part of their grandchildren’s lives.
Mary, the Mother of Jesus
Mary, the mother of our Savior, answered God’s call to bear His son knowing that she would be condemned for being pregnant outside the bonds of marriage. She probably believed that her engagement to Joseph would end. But God with His greater wisdom followed the eternal pattern of family and sent an angel to tell Joseph that it was right to take Mary to wife, providing Jesus with an earthly father.
When the wicked King Herod set out to find and slay Jesus as a young child, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, being warned of God, fled to Egypt. Mary was willing to leave a land and culture where she had spent her entire life, and move to a new and strange place in order to protect her son.
Mary allowed Jesus to teach her. When Jesus was 12 years old, he stayed behind in Jerusalem, after the Passover feast. Joseph and Mary noticed he wasn’t in the company of travelers and went looking for him. It took them three days to find him. I know something of the fear and panic going on in Mary’s heart. When they found him Mary lectured Jesus, as Mother’s do, and Jesus answered that he was about his Father’s business. After that Luke writes that “[Mary] kept all these sayings in her heart.” (Luke 2:51)
When Jesus was grown, Mary knew that he had his own job to do. In fact, when wine ran short at a wedding, Mary came to Jesus for help. Jesus reminded her that his time had not yet come, but he would still help in his own way, and Mary allowed him to choose how he would help. (John 2:1-10)
At the end of Christ’s mortal ministry Mary had to go through one of the most excruciating experiences a woman can go through watching her son die. I have no doubt that she mourned him the rest of her life, but I also know that she knew she would see him again. She understood God’s plan, and believed in it.
What can we learn from Mary? We should follow Heavenly Father’s plan for our families and accept the children He sends us. As important as it is to teach our children, we should also be willing to learn from our children, and from our experiences parenting. I’ve often said that most of what I know and understand about Heavenly Father I’ve learned from being a parent myself. From Mary we also learn that if and when we are separated from our children, whether through missionary service, school, work, or death, we press forward with the knowledge that our temple covenanted family is forever and we will see them again.
Sariah was mother to Laman, Lemuel, Sam, Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph, as well as several daughters. She went from being a rich woman of society to a woman living in a tent in the wilderness. She watched her children argue and physically fight with each other. Her heart broke over the wickedness of her two oldest sons. But with all she went through, she remained faithful and loving.
In the first sentence of the Book of Mormon we learn from Nephi that Sariah – along with Lehi – was “goodly” and taught Nephi “somewhat in all the learning of [his] father”. (1 Nephi 1:1) Sariah knew that her husband was a prophet, and she went along with the family’s move into the wilderness. She did have a brief moment of weakness, as she went through her tests and trials, but it helped strengthen her testimony. She believed that her sons had been killed by Laban, and accused Lehi of being visionary. Instead of being angry, Lehi comforted her, and when their sons returned Sariah says:
“Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them.” (1 Nephi 5:8)
It was a mother’s love that caused this fear to come upon her. Her sons’ safe return was a testament to her that God will protect them and she can allow her sons to continue to do the work of the Lord. This is a great verse for missionary moms.
Sariah gave birth to Jacob and Joseph while in the wilderness. She didn’t let their difficult new life get in the way of her family’s growth. When Laman and Lemuel bound Nephi while traveling across the ocean, Sariah and Lehi become ill from the stress of the wickedness of their sons. Nephi writes that they almost died because of it. Sariah’s heart broke because of her sons’ wickedness, but she never sent them away; she continued to love them.
What can we learn from Sariah? We need to teach our children the gospel, and follow the Lord’s plan for our families. It’s normal to have moments of weakness, but we can learn from them, and use them to strengthen our resolve to keep our covenants. When our children choose wickedness, we continue loving them and praying for them; and we keep living the gospel so we can be examples to them.
These five women serve as wonderful examples of good and faithful mothers. The common threads in all the lives of these mothers are obedience to God’s commandments, keeping sacred covenants, and teaching their children these things.
Their stories teach great lessons about following God and caring for our children. If we apply these messages to our lives we can better follow the heavenly pattern of family life. These stories were recorded to teach us and future generations. I encourage you to study motherhood throughout the scriptures and apply what you learn in your own families. I know that with Heavenly Father’s help we can become great and wonderful mothers to his beloved spirit children, our earthly children.I know that God, our Father lives; he loves us more than we can understand. He sent his son to be our Savior and Redeemer. Jesus Christ lives! He stands ready to lift us, carry us, and help us as we repent and follow him. I testify that Jesus Christ’s spokesman on earth is Thomas S. Monson, prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the only true and living church on the face of the earth. The Book of Mormon is a true testament of the Savior and his mission. It was translated through the gift and power of God by Joseph Smith, the prophet of the Restoration.
I give my solemn and humble witness of these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.