Preparation For Motherhood

From the time my little girls are born, they are taught that they are mothers. We celebrate Mother’s Day with all the girls in the family–from babies to grandmothers. We believe that their identity as daughters of God is defined best by the word “mother.”

How do we prepare all of our girls (or ourselves, for that matter) for motherhood? How have I tried to understand what “mother” really means?

Sister Beck said of her own mother:

Though it was uncommon at the time, she was university educated and advancing in a career. Following her marriage, children arrived in quick succession; and in a short span of years, she was the mother of a large family. All the knowledge she had acquired, all her natural abilities and gifts, all her skills were channeled into an organization that had no earthly bounds. As a covenant-keeping daughter of God, she had prepared all her life for motherhood.

It seems that Sister Beck is explaining that as we keep covenants and develop our natural abilities and gifts, we are preparing for motherhood. In one life, it may be an advanced university degree and career.  In another, it could be a life of humanitarian work.  Still another could mean pursuing education and skills outside of the college arena.

When we do pursue our goals, whether it be moving to Uganda, fixing cars, or a university education and career, are we focused on what the “direct and immediate bidding of our Father in Heaven” is, or are we focused on our dreams, passions, and what we think are our talents?

Have we taken time to consider that while we think our dream in life might be to become a molecular biologist or a professional dancer, it may not be what Heavenly Father’s dream is for us. In our limited mortal understanding, our greatest passions may be just that–great mortal passions. A good choice. But, what about better or best?

Have we considered throughout our growing up years and consulted with the Holy Spirit on what our university education should include and/or career, if any?  After all, I would much rather bend my passions and will to God’s dream for me and then make it my own than try to convince God that my idea is best.

Have we taught our daughters that as mothers, we must trust God completely, that He is omniscient and all-loving, and knows precisely what we should study, and what would bring us the most happiness, regardless of where we assume our talents and passions lie?

Having A Mother Heart

She goes on to explain how to prepare for a “mother heart”:

A woman with a mother heart has a testimony of the restored gospel, and she teaches the principles of the gospel without equivocation. She is keeping sacred covenants made in holy temples. Her talents and skills are shared unselfishly. She gains as much education as her circumstances will allow, improving her mind and spirit with the desire to teach what she learns to the generations who follow her.If she has children, she is a “goodly parent” who lives and teaches standards of behavior exactly in line with the teachings of living prophets. She teaches her “children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord” . Rather than listening to the voices and partial truths of the world, she knows that gospel standards are based on eternal, unchangeable truths. She believes that to be “primarily responsible for the nurture of [her] children” is a vital, dignified, and “sacred responsibilit[y]” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” ). To nurture and feed them physically is as much an honor as to nurture and feed them spiritually. She is “not weary in well-doing” and delights to serve her family, because she knows that “out of small things proceedeth that which is great”.

Contrast that to the confusion, which apparently not only faces the world’s women, but is rampantly believed in our own Mormon culture. Elder M. Russell Ballard explains it well:

It is, unfortunately, all too easy to illustrate the confusion and distortion of womanhood in contemporary society. Immodest, immoral, intemperate women jam the airwaves, monopolize magazines, and slink across movie screens—all while being celebrated by the world. The Apostle Paul spoke prophetically of “perilous times” that will come in the last days and specifically referenced something that may have seemed particularly perilous to him: “silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts” (2 Timothy 3:1, 6). Popular culture today often makes women look silly, inconsequential, mindless, and powerless. It objectifies them and disrespects them and then suggests that they are able to leave their mark on mankind only by seduction—easily the most pervasively dangerous message the adversary sends to women about themselves.

And so, my dear young women, with all my heart I urge you not to look to contemporary culture for your role models and mentors.

It is so hard to see that some LDS/Mormon young women and older women, whether through actual seduction, or through the seductive power that comes with education, prominent career, and money…accept those peripheral roles as defining them as women. “Mother,” God’s ultimate title to woman, just doesn’t make sense or seem to be enough.

Those who embrace God’s definition of the essence of a woman know that:

the influence of righteous, conscientious, persistent, daily mothering is far more lasting, far more powerful, far more influential than any earthly position or institution invented by man. She has the vision that, if worthy, she has the potential to be blessed as Rebekah of old to be “the mother of thousands of millions.”

This does not mean childbearing, although that is part of it.  It means mothering, which can be done by any woman, regardless of circumstance.

In all of this, it is abundantly clear that mothering is the eternal glory of woman. There isn’t something else a woman needs to feel empowered or defined. In fact, in eternity, there is nothing else that will define her outside of the parameters of motherhood.

The pinnacle of womanhood is mother.  All of our other marvelous accomplishments can be a result of us embracing our power as mothers.

Because we are “a little lower than the angels”, we are also capable of doing many good things while still not understanding our motherhood.  If  we embraced our mothering nature and allowed it to define us instead of our works and accomplishments, we would be capable of so much more and better, regardless of our individual situations.  And we would feel less guilt, less fear, and less conflict and burnout in our lives.

The Errand of Angels

Elder Holland speaks of the ministry of angels when he states:

Usually such beings are not seen. Sometimes they are. But seen or unseen they are always near. Sometimes their assignments are very grand and have significance for the whole world. Sometimes the messages are more private. Occasionally the angelic purpose is to warn. But most often it is to comfort, to provide some form of merciful attention, guidance in difficult times.

Do we realize that in whatever capacity we are called, whatever our life circumstances may be, we can find ways to comfort, to provide some form of merciful attention, and guidance in difficult times for others? That is being a mother.

Elder Holland continues:

I have spoken here of heavenly help, of angels dispatched to bless us in time of need. But when we speak of those who are instruments in the hand of God, we are reminded that not all angels are from the other side of the veil. Some of them we walk with and talk with—here, now, every day. Some of them reside in our own neighborhoods. Some of them gave birth to us, and in my case, one of them consented to marry me. Indeed heaven never seems closer than when we see the love of God manifested in the kindness and devotion of people so good and so pure that angelic is the only word that comes to mind…

…In the process of praying for those angels to attend us, may we all try to be a little more angelic ourselves—with a kind word, a strong arm, a declaration of faith and “the covenant wherewith [we] have covenanted.”Perhaps then we can be emissaries sent from God…

He also speaks in another address about the tongue of angels–which, I imagine, should be the tongue of mother, as well:

In that same spirit we speak to the sisters as well, for the sin of verbal abuse knows no gender. Wives, what of the unbridled tongue in your mouth, of the power for good or ill in your words? How is it that such a lovely voice which by divine nature is so angelic, so close to the veil, so instinctively gentle and inherently kind could ever in a turn be so shrill, so biting, so acrid and untamed? A woman’s words can be more piercing than any dagger ever forged, and they can drive the people they love to retreat beyond a barrier more distant than anyone in the beginning of that exchange could ever have imagined. Sisters, there is no place in that magnificent spirit of yours for acerbic or abrasive expression of any kind, including gossip or backbiting or catty remarks. Let it never be said of our home or our ward or our neighborhood that “the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity … [burning] among our members.”

And finally, a simple reminder that the errand of angels is simply to do the immediate bidding of our Father in Heaven–quite a lofty goal, but worthy of implementing, no matter how tragic, difficult, or far from the ideal our circumstances may be.

In the end, it’s not about whether or not you have a doctorate from Harvard, your own catering business, or you make designer cupcakes for two year old birthday parties, or change dirty diapers–it’s about if everything you are doing is the Father’s direct and immediate bidding.

Are you pursuing your dream or His? Your will or His? Have you been deceived into thinking that your will is His will? Have you asked that question: “Where am I being deceived in my identity as a woman–as a mother?”

You will never lose your “identity” or sacrifice too much for your family if you are doing His will. You will not need “me” time in the sense that we understand it today…the Lord will always provide you with time to contemplate and drink from the well of His Spirit.

If we are doing anything less than the errand of angels, if we understand neither the doctrine of the family, nor our eternal role as mothers, then we are more than likely unhappy and looking for “something more,” and will eventually be led by divers lusts and become silly (and, I might add, somewhat depressed) women.

I close with the words attributed to Victor Hugo as quoted by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in his beautiful address, “Because She Is A Mother”:

“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 wonder if the our current culture understands this beautiful passage, or do they think the following:

  • Wow. That mother should have gotten her education, then she wouldn’t be in that predicament!
  • That mother should feed herself a little first. After all, if she’s not nourished and feeling good, how can she be at the top of her game to nourish her children?
  • Boy, that mother needs to go on a retreat to get some time to recharge.

Instead of seeing the beauty and godliness exhibited in this woman…the exemplification of the “mother heart” we should all desire.