Images of motherhood

Through the years, society seems to constantly change its perceptions of motherhood. Motherhood and its associated images have changed - from hard-working pioneers to efficient homemakers to today's "Super Mom" with many hats to wear.

Were there ever the perfect situations: mothers by a warm hearth, surrounded by quiet obedient children and happy husbands? We all bring to our minds an image of what mother means to each of us. What we see in reality may differ markedly from what others see - even if we are of the same generation.The Latter-day Saint women of today are striving just as their foremothers did decades ago to keep families together and to prepare a new generation of young women and young men for their places in Church service and in creating their own homes of love. Our images of mother in the 1990s may differ from those of the 1890s, but the elements that make up motherhood do not.

The word "mother" is not just a noun; it is also a verb. To mother means to care for, to cuddle, to fawn over and to direct - even when the individual may not want to hear the directions. To mother also means to love, to find the good in a bad situation, to never, never, never give up when eternal values are at stake. These are godly attributes as much as they are earthly ones.

President David O. McKay paid this tribute to his mother:

"I cannot think of a womanly virtue that my mother did not possess. Undoubtedly, many a youth, in affectionate appreciation of his mother's love and unselfish devotion, can pay his mother the same tribute. But I say this in the maturity of manhood when calm judgment should weigh facts dispassionately.

"To her children, and all others who knew her well, she was beautiful and dignified . . . . In the management of her household she was frugal yet surprisingly generous. . . . Though unselfishly devoted to her family, she tactfully taught each one to reciprocate in little acts of service. In tenderness, watchful care, loving patience, loyalty to home and to right, she seemed to me in boyhood, and she seems to me now after these years, to have been supreme. . . . If I were asked to name the world's greatest need, I should say unhesitatingly wise mothers . . . and the second greatest, exemplary fathers." (Secrets of a Happy Life, pp. 1-2.)

President McKay did not wait till the middle chapters of his book to pay tribute to his mother; his praise for her was in the first chapter. His first thoughts, when he commented on home life, turned to his mother's love.

There is practically no venue of life where women do not take their places and play their parts with heroism and courage. But there is no place where they fit more perfectly and contribute more completely than in that haven we call home.

In an address to the priesthood holders of the Church, President Spencer W. Kimball said: "Our sisters do not wish to be indulged or to be treated condescendingly; they desire to be respected and revered as our sisters and our equals. I mention all these things, my brethren, not because the doctrines or the teachings of the Church regarding women are in doubt, but because in some situations our behavior is of doubtful quality. These things are not mentioned because of any sense of alarm, but because of a general concern that our people in the kingdom will need to become even more different from the people of the world. . . ." (1979 October general conference.)

Latter-day Saint women who are or who hope to be mothers would do well to ask these questions of themselves:

Do I understand the sacred role of motherhood?

Do I find joy in the calling of a mother?

Do I fully appreciate what it means to be a partner with God in the creative process?

Do I strive to fulfill my responsibilities as a mother righteously?

In what ways can I nurture my children during the various stages of their lives?

The many responsibilities of motherhood are demanding of talent, ability and skill. The Latter-day Saint woman who understands the eternal nature of intelligence, learning and family relationships will find challenge, excitement and fulfillment in using her best efforts to help children realize their talents and grow to reach their fullest potential.

President Ezra Taft Benson, in a fireside address in 1987, said: "God bless our wonderful mothers. We pray for you. We sustain you. We honor you as you bear, nourish, train, teach and love for eternity. I promise you the blessing of heaven and `all the Father hath' (see D&C 84:38) as you magnify the noblest calling of all - a mother in Zion."

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