Tara Mickelsen: Women teach and nurture through priesthood power

Editor’s note: This narrative is part of a Church News series titled “Women of Covenant,” in which women of the Church discuss their personal experiences with priesthood power and share what they have learned through following President Russell M. Nelson’s counsel to “labor with the Spirit to understand God’s power — priesthood power” (“Spiritual Treasures,” general conference, October 2019).

Recently, while studying the Book of Mormon through “Come, Follow Me,” I was reading about the 2,000 stripling warriors, and I asked myself a question which I have asked many times while reading these chapters: “Why were these young men so valiant?” 

In Alma, it reads: “Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it” (Alma 56:47-48). 

Tara Lee Mickelsen, a member of the Primary general board.
Tara Lee Mickelsen, a member of the Primary general board. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Later, Helaman recounts to Moroni: “And as the remainder of our army were about to give way before the Lamanites, behold, those two thousand and sixty were firm and undaunted. Yea, and they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness; yea, and even according to their faith it was done unto them; and I did remember the words which they said unto me that their mothers had taught them” (Alma 57: 20-21). 

As I was pondering about the dedication and courage of these young men, it occurred to me that a good number of their mothers raised their sons alone because many of their husbands had been killed by the Lamanites after making a covenant not to fight. I wondered how, despite being alone, these mothers were able to instill in their sons such commitment and trust in God. 

I have come to the conclusion that those mothers drew on guidance from the Holy Ghost —  gained from making and keeping covenants — in order to teach their sons, despite many not having a priesthood holder in their homes. 

In his talk titled “Spiritual Treasures” from the October 2019 general conference, President Russell M. Nelson reminded us of the following: “The heavens are just as open to women who are endowed with God’s power flowing from their priesthood covenants as they are to men who bear the priesthood.”

When I was growing up, my mother went through more than one divorce. As a result, there were times when we were without a priesthood holder in our home. Yet, despite her challenges, my mother took seriously the responsibility to teach me and my siblings the gospel. 

Tara Mickelsen, left, with her mother, Anita Freeman Bennett, and her brother, Todd Nielsen.
Tara Mickelsen, left, with her mother, Anita Freeman Bennett, and her brother, Todd Nielsen. Credit: Courtesy Tara Mickelsen

I remember sitting at the kitchen table when I was around 8 years old to regularly study the scriptures with my mom. I particularly remember her working with us to memorize a list of often quoted scripture verses. To this day, I still have those scriptures memorized, and they have brought me insight and peace many times during my life. 

I believe my mother clung to her covenants and drew on priesthood power to lead and teach me and my siblings even though she was, at times, a single mother. 

President Nelson further instructed: “If you are endowed but not currently married to a man who bears the priesthood and someone says to you, ‘I’m sorry you don’t have the priesthood in your home,’ please understand that that statement is incorrect. You may not have a priesthood bearer in your home, but you have received and made sacred covenants with God in His temple. From those covenants flows an endowment of His priesthood power upon you” (“Spiritual Treasures,” October 2019 general conference). 

After my mother died in a car accident at age 54, each of my five siblings and I wrote a letter of gratitude to her, which our uncle read at her funeral. Every one of us expressed our appreciation for her devotion to prayer and scripture study during her life, stating that we had all made it a daily habit as a result of her example. 

I often think of the instruction in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” that states: “Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.” I do not believe the Lord would give such an important responsibility to women without providing them with access to priesthood power to direct this important work. 

Tara Mickelsen with her mother, Anita Freeman Bennett, on her wedding day.
Tara Mickelsen with her mother, Anita Freeman Bennett, on her wedding day. Credit: Courtesy Tara Mickelsen

I also believe this applies to all women. Whether you are a mother or not, all women nurture, minister and influence children. 

In her talk “An Especially Noble Calling,” Primary President Joy D. Jones said, “My personal admission today is that as a woman I didn’t realize, earlier in my life, that I had access, through my covenants, to the power of the priesthood. Sisters, I pray that we will recognize and cherish priesthood power as we ‘cleave unto [our] covenants,’ embrace the truths of the scriptures, and heed the words of our living prophets.” 

I must also admit with President Jones that it has only been in the recent years that I have begun to better understand priesthood power and my own access to its life-changing influence. I am grateful to my mother and the many other women in my life who have been an example of living up to their privileges and accessing God’s power as they fulfilled their responsibilities.