The many Mother ?s Day posts recently have reminded me of the talk I was asked to give last year and how much I struggled with preparing it. I did not want to send anyone (including myself) on a guilt trip and I also recognized that not every woman in our ward was a mother. But I also really believe and strive to adhere to my assigned topic when asked to speak in church.
In reading the thoughts and feelings we have about this holiday, I remembered how much my perspective and courage was strengthened as I prepared and gave this talk. My hope is that others will also find encouragement and consider methods and teachings of Christ that help them be better mothers (and parents, spouses, friends, and neighbors).
As a disclaimer, in re-reading my talk this afternoon, I find it is still a bit too sugar-coated. (I’m not always as good as it almost sounds in following the example and teachings of Christ as a parent.) And I edited as I spoke, as I would have run over my allotted time giving this as it is written.
HOW THE TEACHINGS OF CHRIST MAKE ME A BETTER MOTHER ?
SACRAMENT MEETING TALK SUN. MAY 13, 2007
I have been asked to speak on how the teachings of Christ make me a better mother. ? Lest any of you think I was asked to address this topic because I am a perfect, wonderful, ideal mother (you know: the type who has warm cookies waiting for her children when they get home from school, has an immaculately well-kept house, always has perfectly well-behaved children, and always has things under control) — I am sure my children would love to set you straight!
As a mother, I look to the examples of my own mom, Ray ?s mom, and to many women I know, including those in this ward. I appreciate all of the help and insights I gain from these women. My challenges and joys are different than yours, but I can learn from your examples of faith, dedication, and perseverance, and apply it to what works best for me and my family.
In my role as a mother, how do I balance being pulled in so many different directions? How do I positively handle the stress that is part of my life and my tendency to be impatient? Most importantly, how do I teach my children to be responsible, kind, faithful, steadfast, and to develop testimonies?
The only way I know how to deal with these issues — and so many others I face as a mother — is to rely on the Lord, and to turn to His teachings and His example. I try to emulate the things He did and taught — and when I stumble (which happens frequently!) I get back up and keep trying. I strive to focus on: What is He trying to teach me? How can I use this to help me as a mother and as a person?
The teachings of Christ transcend time, culture, and dispensation. They are found in the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, and in the words of latter-day prophets. I immediately think of the principles Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount (given to both the Jews in Jerusalem and to the Nephites in the land Bountiful), of the lessons taught in the temple, of the latter day teachings found in the Family Proclamation, and of teachings given to me personally in my patriarchal blessing. However, rather than give a laundry list of His teachings, I will offer a small list that is helpful to me as a mother — including love, kindness, repentance, forgiveness, service, prayer, being an example, going the extra mile, not judging, and patience. The list goes on and on. The Savior taught not only basic gospel principles, but He also taught virtues, attitudes, actions, and example. They are not just things to DO, but a way to BE.
I believe there is a reason the Bishopric asked for this topic to be given in the first-person how have Christ ?s teachings helped me and therefore I have chosen to focus on some of the specific lessons I have learned over my nearly 19 years as a mother, and how Christ ?s teachings helped, and continue to help, me learn those lessons. I hope that each of you will be able to apply some of these principles to your own lives. These basic principles apply to everyone, regardless of gender or circumstances.
JESUS CHRIST, MY PERSONAL SAVIOR: My answer to the question, What is the single-most important teaching that affects me as a mother and as a person? ? is in 3 Ne. 11;10-11, 14: Behold, I am Jesus Christ ? I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world ? Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world. ? Christ taught of His Divinity, His mission, His role as our Savior. He taught that we can know this for ourselves. My testimony of Christ as my personal Savior and Redeemer is the solid foundation I strive to build on and use in all of my relationships, but especially those with my husband and children. It is through Christ that I find the hope to go on when times are tough; through Him that I find the ability to rejoice and be grateful; and it is through Him that I find the peace that I so desperately need as a mother and as a person.
PATRIARCHAL BLESSING: My patriarchal blessing is my guiding light. I believe these words to be my own personal teachings of Christ. ? I have been given counsel that highlights my strengths and cautions me in how I handle my weaknesses. I would like to share two aspects that have affected my entire life — the choices I ?ve made, how I try to live, and especially how I parent. I need to be familiar with the plan of salvation. I will share more on this in a moment. I also need to remember that my most important role is being a mother. I tend to be a perfectionist, to have unrealistic expectations, and to be a little too critical. It has taken many, many years for the Lord and Ray to help me understand that this counsel doesn ?t necessarily mean that motherhood would come easily for me, just that it is important for me and worth it! I have to work on remembering this insight on a regular basis, but as I follow the personal counsel I have received, I am a better mother.
PLAN OF SALVATION: As I read, study, and understand the plan of salvation, I come to know the love of our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ. I know that I lived with Them in the pre-mortal world. I know that there is a reason I am here, a reason why my children are here. Knowing this gives me hope when I falter, when I get upset over the little things kids do, when I don ?t quite measure up to my good intentions. The atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ bridges the gap between where I am and what I can do, and where I want to be. It makes it possible for me and my children and all of us to return to the presence of our Father and Christ. Being a mother has given me a glimpse of the depth of the love our Heavenly Father and our Savior have for us, and that They want and know what is best for us. The plan of salvation helps me remember who I am and who my children are, and that I am helping Heavenly Father raise His spirit children. The teachings in the plan of salvation help me see my children as They see and know them, and I am a better mother for that remembrance and recognition.
COME UNTO ME: The Savior offers us the loving invitation to Come unto me. ? One of my favorite scriptures that I turn to again and again for help and comfort is found in Matt. 11:28–30. Vs. 28 says, Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. ? I learned this lesson even more forcefully a number of years ago through Russ Striebeck. He once said that Christ doesn ?t say Go to your room! ? He says Come unto me. ? When that was shared with me later, it hit me hard. I have tried to incorporate that principle into my dealings with others, but especially with my children. Children need to be taught correct principles. There are times when children need to be disciplined, when they need to be taught the difference between right and wrong, kindness and meanness, love and anger. But the words and actions I use myself teach a powerful lesson. The Lord teaches us how to help our children in D&C 121:43: Reproving betimes with sharpness; when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love ? ? Ray is very good at doing this. I try diligently to follow that example, and to invite my kids to come to me.
I have recently realized that a mother ?s come unto me ? sometimes means that the child is not the one who needs a time-out. There are times when the things my children do are not sins, are not intentional slights, and are not going to hurt anyone. These things don ?t need to be punished. Sometimes it is MY reaction to the little things they have done that deserves the time-out. I am the one who needs a chance to take a deep breath, to take a step back, to calm down. When I react the way Christ would react, I am a better mother and I better emulate the Savior ?s invitation to come unto me ? — and that is when I find the rest ? Christ has promised and I desire and need.
BE STILL; PEACE: One of the most important teachings of Christ for me personally is to Be still, and know that I am God ? ? (Ps. 46:10) A number of years ago, Linda Martin helped me truly understand the importance of the peace that Christ offers. At that time, I recognized how much I needed and craved to feel Christ ?s peace in my busy life as a mother, as a member of the Church, and with other roles and responsibilities I have. Particularly over the past few years, as I have prayed, contemplated, and counseled with the Lord about how to incorporate the ability to be still ? into my life, I have seen huge dividends and blessings. I am a much better mother when I take time to be still and feel the Spirit in my life on a daily basis. When I have personal scripture study, when I attend the temple, when I serve others, when I pray to understand Christ ?s teachings and how they apply to my life I am better able to love, serve, teach, help, and understand my children. I love the way this is worded in D&C 123:17 let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God. ?
PERSPECTIVE; BALANCE; GRATITUDE: Over the years, I have had some huge learning curves when it comes to perspective, balance, and gratitude. As a young mother with three young children, I looked at those around me and often thought, How do they do it? They seem to have it all figured out. They are doing so well. Look at their kids; they always know the right answer in Primary. They are having FHE and family prayer. Their kids memorize scriptures. They always seem happy. ? I felt I was still struggling to figure it out and teach my children the way I wanted to teach them. One day I admitted to one of these women (a mother of 10, including 2 sets of twins, who seemed to be able to do it all and do it well) how much I wished I was like her. I was astounded at her response: Oh, I wish I was more like you! ? We then discussed the dangers of comparison, and being grateful for the strengths (and weaknesses) we each had. During this same time period, I had a discussion with another friend. She had two very young children, was working part time at night as a nurse, and her husband was attending graduate school and also working part time. I asked her how she did it and told her I didn ?t think I could do all she was doing. She responded that she didn ?t see how I did what I had to do (working part time with 3 young children, with a husband in school and working) and that she didn ?t think she could do what I was doing, seemingly so easily. It ?s perspective!
Christ taught through King Benjamin: And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength ? it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize ? ? (Mos. 4:27) I had to learn not to compare myself and my mothering abilities to others, to say thank you ? on a regular basis, to balance my responsibilities, and especially not to run faster than I had strength. The ability to do all I can while not doing too much has changed over the years, and often even changes on a day-to-day basis. I assure you this balancing act is an ongoing process! Some days I feel I still haven ?t learned this lesson very well, but I keep trying and trust in Christ ?s willingness to help me. And I find it is easier when I strive to incorporate His teachings into my daily life.
ENDURE TO THE END: In Alma 37:6 we are taught: By small and simple things are great things brought to pass. As a mother, I find a great deal of encouragement and hope in this teaching. With Christ ?s help, my little effort is enough to bring about greatness! All of the teachings of Christ, and the characteristics these teachings inspire in me, and in all of us, apply to more than a single day. They provide constant support, guidance, and hope as I strive to endure to the end. ome days, months, and years are easier than others. Through Nephi, Christ taught ?ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life. ? (2 Ne 31:20) As I continue to press forward ? I can see progress, strength, and improvement gained over time. I am a little more patient. I am more quick to praise and to apologize. I am a better mother.
Many of Christ ?s teachings and characteristics are interwoven within me to create the mother I have become. Hopefully, all of the teachings of our Savior are intertwined in the way I strive to live and the lessons I have learned in my role as a mother, just as they hopefully are for each of us.
Is it easy? Only sometimes! There are days when I want to say, No more ?Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! ? No more ?Mom, I need money for such-and-such. ? No more ?Oh, Mom, I forgot to tell you I need to be at such-and-such place at such-and-such time. ? No more book bags, shoes, jackets, dishes, and toys left lying around all over the house! ?
But there are also the rewards of hugs and kisses, of immediate forgiveness for harsh or critical words, of watching my children do and say things that remind me of their father or of myself, of watching my children sing for Mother ?s Day or Primary programs, of being with them as teenagers doing baptisms for the dead in the temple, of hearing them bear their testimonies. Those are the moments I thank my Heavenly Father for His love and mercy, for His trust in me to be a mother to His spirit children, and for His Son, Jesus Christ, who has taught us so simply and so masterfully how to be better mothers, and how to be good and loving people. These are lessons for a lifetime!