Magnificent mothers

Amid unspeakable torment and pain, the Savior of the world gazed down from the cross upon His sorrowing mother and His apostle, John, who more than once characterized himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." (See John 19:26; 20:2.)

At that moment occurred one of the most poignant scenes in scripture.

To His cherished mother in mortality, who had borne Him in the humblest of circumstances and nurtured Him to manhood with an abiding consciousness of the supernal mission He was to fulfill, the Son of God said simply, "Woman, behold thy son!" and to His beloved apostle, "Behold thy mother!" (See John 19:26-27.)

The message, so eloquently expressed in so few words, must have carried great power, for the scripture informs us, "From that hour that disciple took her unto his own home" (verse 27) and, we may assume, cared for her as the Lord Himself would have done.

Though there is much about the suffering of Christ that we will never be able to fathom, we can empathize with Him in this instance, for we each have a mother. We can feel the tenderness He felt; we can love our mothers as He loved His.

Some among us have beheld their mothers in grief or distress and, as did He, longed to dry their tears and soothe their pain.

Conscious that we can never fully repay them for all they have done for us, we nonetheless join much of the rest of the world in setting aside a special day to honor them.

Yet it is a sad irony that on this day of all days, some mothers don't feel very honorable. They dread the day for the sense of guilt and inadequacy it imposes upon them. Hearing the lionization of so many whose maternal prowess seemingly approaches super-human dimensions, they wonder how they can possibly measure up.

It was to such women that Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve addressed these words in his sermon at April 1997 general conference:

"May I say to mothers collectively, in the name of the Lord, you are magnificent. You are doing terrifically well. The very fact that you have been given such a responsibility is everlasting evidence of the trust your Father in Heaven has in you. He knows that your giving birth to a child does not immediately propel you into the circle of the omniscient. If you and your husband will strive to love God and live the gospel yourselves; if you will plead for that guidance and comfort of the Holy Spirit promised to the faithful; if you will go to the temple to both make and claim the promises of the most sacred covenants a woman or man can make in this world; if you will show others, including your children, the same caring, compassionate, forgiving heart you want heaven to show you; if you try your best to be the best parent you can be, you will have done all that a human being can do and all that God expects you to do."

Indeed, the propensity toward humility, even self-effacement, is one of the qualities that lends even greater luster to the magnificence of mothers.

It may have been that quality that led an LDS mother of seven in a Midwestern city to decline an award a few years ago because it was contingent on her making a televised acceptance speech on Sunday at an hour that conflicted with her family's attendance at sacrament meeting.

Her circumstances were less than idyllic, her husband having died not long before, just two days after the wedding of their eldest son. In his absence, she was striving to bring up the young ones in light and truth while providing for their basic needs. Hearing of the award, and without the mother's knowledge, her teenage daughter had nominated her for the honor.

After she was notified that she had been selected to receive the honor, the mother struggled with the decision about whether to accept it. But she drew guidance from prayer, the scriptures and the inscribed words on a ring her husband had left her: "Return with honor."

How did those words apply in her present circumstance? She said simply, "To me, it meant I can't return with honor if I'm not where I'm supposed to be."

She attended fast and testimony meeting with her children that day; the award went to someone else.

Perhaps such "magnificent" mothers, as Elder Holland characterized them, so conscious of their own limitations and failings, will be among the first to hear the blessed words of the Master: "Well done, thou good and faithful [daughter]: . . . enter thou into the joy of thy lord." (Matthew 25:21)