While I served my mission, I came in contact with a lot of women who were given the trial of infertility. Many of them handled it fairly well, though they definitely have their moments of wondering why this was happening to them. Some struggled a lot more than others but still didn’t give up hope of being a mother one day, whether it meant adoption or a miracle. Others struggled even more, to the point where I was completely shocked at their reaction – they resented any celebration of mothers and were very bitter towards anyone who mentioned or asked about their role as a mother. Those were the people I prayed about and for the most. I couldn’t understand why they were so bitter. Granted, I’ve never dealt with the issue of not being able to have my own children and I hope that I never have to, but what saddened me the most was that these wonderful women were so upset that they couldn’t see the fact that they were being amazing mothers to the people around them, young and old.
The experiences I had with these women made me ponder about what I would do if I am blessed with such a challenge in my own life. Yes, I said blessed in describing a trial. My life is not my own to direct. It’s all in God’s hands, so I know that trials are for me to be strengthened and to find ways to strengthen others. One persistent thought that came to mind as a solution for finding joy in such a trial as being unable to bear children is that I would love to open a children’s home, especially for older children. Even if infertility isn’t a trial I ever have I still want to do that. There are so many kids in the world who have no parents, and I can only imagine how they struggle to feel loved, wanted and important. Nobody, especially children, should ever be made to feel that way. Even if all I can do is adopt or open my home to just one foster child, then I know I’ll have made at least one child happier and feel like they have worth.
Sheri Dew is one of my favorite advocates for womanhood. In one talk she gave at the October 2001 General Conference, she said “For reasons known to the Lord, some women are required to wait to have children. This delay is not easy for any righteous woman. But the Lord’s timetable for each of us does not negate our nature. Some of us, then, must simply find other ways to mother. And all around us are those who need to be loved and led. Eve set the pattern… She set an example of womanhood for men to respect and women to follow, modeling the characteristics with which we as women have been endowed: heroic faith, a keen sensitivity to the Spirit, an abhorrence of evil, and complete selflessness.” How many of you women (and men, too!) feel like you have those characteristics? Well, you as a woman have been endowed or provided with these things! That means they are in your nature! So whether you feel like you have these characteristics or not, I tell you that you DO have them! What will you do to uncover it and bring them to the surface of who you are?
Sister Dew continues: “Like the Savior, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,” Eve, for the joy of helping initiate the human family, endured the Fall. She loved us enough to help lead us. As daughters of our Heavenly Father, and as daughters of Eve, we are all mothers and we have always been mothers. And we each have the responsibility to love and help lead the rising generation. How will our young women learn to live as women of God unless they see what women of God look like, meaning what we wear, watch, and read; how we fill our time and our minds; how we face temptation and uncertainty; where we find true joy; and why modesty and femininity are hallmarks of righteous women? How will our young men learn to value women of God if we don’t show them the virtue of our virtues?”
What makes mothers so special? In my opinion, it’s the way that they unconditionally love their children. When a woman becomes a mother, suddenly her whole world shifts and becomes all about that child or children. She sacrifices everything she has – time, sleep, talents, her own desires and sometimes goals simply so that her child can be happy and have what they need. That’s got to be a lot of love, so much that I will never understand until I have my own children. Every now and then, I get a glimpse of it while I spend almost every day as a nanny with two adorable children – a two year old and a six month old – who teach me a lot about myself but also give me confidence and a stronger testimony that being a mother is just about the greatest thing I could ever do. I may not be these two kids’ mother, especially since their own mom is very much a part of their lives, but I sure do love them immensely and I know that as I share that love with them, they, young as they are, come to love me and look up to me, too. Love, especially a mother’s love, opens up a multitude of opportunities. For one thing, it helps me to better understand the way Heavenly Father loves me. He might be disappointed in some of the choices we make, but He never stops loving us and because of that, He will always forgive us and let us try again.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson gave a talk in the October 2013 General Conference entitled “The Moral Force of Women“. Now this is one of my absolute favorite talks because it made me want to be better at my role as a woman. This talk helped me to remember and realize that being feminine is absolutely NOT a bad thing. It made me realize that I am most definitely NOT a feminist in the way the world is defining it these days. I believe that women are strong and can do what they put their minds to. I believe that women should be allowed to give their opinions freely both in public and in private. I believe that women should be allowed to show emotion without being accused of being “soft” or “weak”. It’s insulting to me that the world thinks that women are “the weaker sex” and is now trying everything to make women stronger than, or at least, the same as men. Women are the people who influence and inspire the rising generation the most BECAUSE they show emotion and BECAUSE they are softer and gentle. I believe that a woman’s role in the world is more important than anything else. Of this, Elder Christofferson said:
“My grandmother Adena Warnick Swenson taught me to be conscientious in priesthood service. She encouraged me to memorize the sacramental blessings on the bread and water, explaining that in this way I could express them with greater understanding and feeling. Observing how she sustained my grandfather, a stake patriarch, engendered in me a reverence for sacred things. Grandma Swenson never learned how to drive a car, but she knew how to help boys become priesthood men. A woman’s moral influence is nowhere more powerfully felt or more beneficially employed than in the home. There is no better setting for rearing the rising generation than the traditional family, where a father and a mother work in harmony to provide for, teach, and nurture their children. Where this ideal does not exist, people strive to duplicate its benefits as best they can in their particular circumstances. In all events, a mother can exert an influence unequaled by any other person in any other relationship. By the power of her example and teaching, her sons learn to respect womanhood and to incorporate discipline and high moral standards in their own lives. Her daughters learn to cultivate their own virtue and to stand up for what is right, again and again, however unpopular. A mother’s love and high expectations lead her children to act responsibly without excuses, to be serious about education and personal development, and to make ongoing contributions to the well-being of all around them. Elder Neal A. Maxwell once asked: “When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sound of lullabies? The great armistices made by military men or the peacemaking of women in homes and in neighborhoods? Will what happened in cradles and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses?”
Former Young Women general president Margaret D. Nadauld taught: “The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity.”
Proverbs 31 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. It teaches about the characteristics of a virtuous woman. I often forget about it, but it’s days like today where I am reminded of the things I can do to be better, to continue preparing myself for womanhood in the future. I am a Daughter of loving Heavenly (and earthly) Parents who is trying to live up to my divine potential. I am a mother, though I don’t yet have children of my own. I have great power and influence in my home, my community and the world, and I have divine qualities instilled in me because I am a woman.
Being a woman is a great privilege and a wonderful blessing. It is something I love and am so thankful for. But more importantly, I’m thankful for two groups of people: First, I’m thankful for the women in my own life who have influenced me for good. These beautiful women have taught me what it means to love and they have showed me through their examples how to love. They have shown me what it is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and why it’s so important to have a testimony and be converted to His teachings. The second group I’m thankful for are the men who love and support the women in their lives. They respect women and protect the sacred calling we have to teach, strengthen and nourish the incoming generation. I love those men who honor and revere their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, wives, daughters and friends. These men are examples to me of how I should raise my own sons, whether I bear them myself, adopt them, or simply have them in my home for whatever reason.
To my own mother: Happy Mother’s Day! Thank you for teaching me, for helping and letting me grow. Thank you for allowing me to get hurt so I can be stronger. Thank you for your strength, but also for admitting your weaknesses. Thank you for your diligence and perseverance in those things that you want to be better at. Thank you most of all for your daily example of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.