Monday, May 14, 2012

Mothers Day Talk

This year I was asked to speak in Sacrament Meeting on Mothers Day.  I had several reactions to it within a short amount of time.  First there was "Ugh, seriously?! I have to work on Mothers Day?" then "Good, after my rant last year, better I get to do it this year, so I know it will be done right," (humble, I know), then "I don't even get to be with my kids on Mothers Day?  Whine!" then "Wait!!  That means I will actually get to listen to the talks and not have to be dealing with noisy, cranky children."  I went through all of those thoughts in about 3 seconds.  ;-)  I agreed to give the talk and then when I got my topic I was excited as well.  The topic was "Example of righteous mothers in the scriptures".  I thought this was a simple and good way to approach Mothers Day in the church.  

I didn't stress much about it during the week, because I knew I would just be telling stories and I would be one of three speakers, so if I ran short, it would be someone else's problem to fill the time.  Then it came to Saturday, the day before I was to speak, and I hadn't done anything about the talk.  Shoot.  I had compiled my own list of mothers in the scriptures and I started looking up the scriptures about them.  It turned out there was remarkably little information about these women!  It was hard to glean much from the stories, but I did what I could.  I was helped out immensely by a friend who spoke in her ward last year on Mothers Day and had saved her talk.  She generously offered me any part of it to use, and I ended up using some of it.  I had been pretty sure the talk wouldn't be very long but figured oh well, that's the closing speaker's problem.  When I got to church, I saw in the program that there was no youth speaker, just me, the Primary children singing, and the closing speaker.  Uh oh.  But when I actually got up to speak, it ended up taking longer than I originally thought.  It ended up being a nice talk.  I enjoyed preparing for it and delivering it (once I stopped my nervous hand wringing ;-)).  I am glad I was asked to give it.  Here is the text of it, for those who want to read it.

Good morning and Happy Mothers Day. What wonderful beings mothers are. I know we have all felt the influence of righteous mothers in our lives, whether they are our own mothers or those who has exerted a motherly influence upon us. I personally feel blessed and privileged to have had many examples of beautiful mothering in my life. I especially delight in reading about mothers in the scriptures and learning about their trials of faith and how they rose to the challenges given to them.

In the Old Testament, Hannah was a righteous woman. She wanted to be a mother very intensely. She went to the temple, year after year, praying to be given a child. One particular time, she was pouring her heart out to the Lord, weeping and begging. She was covenanting that if she could be given a child, she would raise that child in righteousness, teaching him all that she could, and would dedicate his life to the Lord. The high priest, Eli, saw her, and after an initial misunderstanding, told her that she would be given her heart's desire and would bear a child. Hannah conceived and bore Samuel and for the first few years of his life, she raised him just as she promised. Then it came time for Samuel to dedicate his whole life to the Lord. Hannah brought him back to the temple and gave him to Eli, the same high priest who had promised her this child years before. Eli taught and trained Samuel in the ways of the Lord. Samuel went on to become an important prophet. His mother Hannah returned home and bore more children. Throughout her trials, she remained faithful to the Lord, continually asking for his help and trusting that he would answer her prayers. As she was letting him go to a life of service to the Lord, Hannah was joyful and grateful,  

1 Samuel 2:1-2
1 And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the Lord, mine horn in exalted in the Lord: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation.
2 There is none holy as the Lord: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.

Another example in the scriptures is found in Judges chapeters 4 and 5 where we read about a judge in Israel, Deborah, who is the first woman to have been called a "mother in Israel."

Deborah had many roles.  She was a poet, Prophetess, Judge, and Leader of military action.  As a prophetess and judge, she received instruction from God that Barak should raise an Israelite army and move against the Canaanites who held them captive.  Even after Deborah assured Barak that God would deliver the leader of the opposing army into their hands, Barak insisted that he would not go to war unless Deborah accompanied him.  Barak lead the army; Deborah, in her role as prophetess and judge, led Barak, making possible through revelation, his military victory.

While Barak's army, with God's divine assistance, defeated the much more powerful Canaanite army, Deborah advised him that "the Lord shall sell Sisera [the leader of the Canaanite army] into the hand of a woman."  True to this prophecy, Sisera fled sure destruction on the battle field and took refuge in the tent of Jael, the wife of an Arab chief allied with the Israelites.  Having made Sisera comfortable and promised to hide him, Jael waited for him to sleep and then killed him.

After the Israelites' victory over the Canaanites, Deborah sings in praise of God that "the inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel."  How is it that she arose "a mother in Israel" as she first revealed Gods plan and then accompanied the army into battle as it fulfilled God's plan?  At the end of her song of praise, Deborah sings: "So let all thine enemies perish O Lord; but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might.  And the land had rest forty years."  Deborah's efforts, Jael's actions, and the Israelites' obedience to God's commands resulted in forty years of peace.  While we do not know if Deborah actually had children, her righteousness fostered the spiritual life of her community.

Rebekah, who eventually became the wife of Isaac and the mother Jacob and Esau, is an example of a woman who exercised charity.  In the normal pattern of her daily tasks, she was kind to Abraham's servant who was visiting her village on the dramatic mission to secure a wife for Isaac.

The Lord knew Rebekah's heart; he knew how she would respond when she observed a need.  He answered the servant's prayer that the young woman who was to become Isaac's wife would offer him water.

In Genesis 24:15 we read, "Behold, Rebekah came out...with her pitcher upon her shoulder" and went down to the well.  The servant asked for a drink.  Whole family trees hung in the balance of her answer.

In verses 18-20:
18 And she said, drink, my lord: and she hasted, and let down her pitcher up on her hand, and gave him drink.
19 And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for their camels also, until they have done drinking.
20 And she hasted, and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again unto the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels.

Her brother Laban invited him to lodge, and not until the servant was introduced did she discover he was the servant of her uncle.  Her charitable response to this stranger was automatic.  She did not stop to think, I am giving service, nor did she consider the station of the one in need.  She hastened to serve water--even to camels.

Respectfully, she offered an act of service, a simple one, and from that act was born a family of great influence for whole dispensations.  Rebekah loved with worthiness and willingness as a daughter of God.

Elisabeth was righteous before God, “walking in all the commandments and ordinances”. She and her husband Zacharias followed the Lord and obeyed his word. They didn't have children and in their old age, Zacharias served as a high priest in the temple. One day the angel Gabriel appeared to him, prophesying that Elisabeth would conceive and bare a son and his name would be John. Zacharias was incredulous that such a thing could come to pass because of their advanced age. The angel rebuked him and struck him dumb. When he returned home, Elisabeth did conceive and was 6 months pregnant when her young cousin Mary came to visit. As the cousins embraced upon Mary's arrival, the baby in Elisabeth's womb leaped with joy and Elisabeth was filled with the Spirit. Mary stayed with her for a few months before journeying home right before Elisabeth gave birth. The baby boy arrived and his parents named him John, fulfilling the angel's prophesy and restoring Zacharias' powers of speech. That baby boy grew up to become John the Baptist. Because of his parents' loving guidance and teaching, he was able to teach and prepare the way for his cousin Jesus Christ, eventually baptizing the Savior.

Mary was a pure and clean. She was a precious daughter of our Heavenly Father and one he trusted with the ultimate calling, to be the mother of Christ. In Luke 1:28-38, the angel Gabriel appeared to her and said:

28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
36 And, behold, the cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
37 For with God, nothing shall be impossible.
38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

She carried and bore the Only Begotten Son of our Heavenly Father. She loved him, raised him, guided him. At the end of his life, she was still there, caring for him. As he hung on the cross, he asked his disciples to take care of his mother. I think that may be one of the most beautiful tributes to motherhood. What better expression of love, than that of concern for his mother, while he was suffering and dying himself.

Sariah is one of the mothers we get to know the most in the scriptures. She is Lehi's wife and Nephi's mother. She is asked to give up her comfortable life and home in Jerusalem and venture into the wilderness with her husband and four sons, based on a dream. That's a lot to ask. But she did it, because of the faith she had in her husband and the Lord. They traveled in the wilderness for three days before Lehi informs them the boys need to return to Jerusalem to get the brass plates, the sacred records of their family and the gospel. Her sons are gone for a long time, on a dangerous errand. Sariah begins to murmur and complain against her husband, because she figures her sons have been killed and it's all Lehi's fault.

1 Nephi 5:2-9 reads:
2 For she had supposed the we had perished in the wilderness; and she also had complained against my father, telling him that he was a visionary man; saying: Behold thou hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness.
3 And after this manner of language has my mother complained against my father.
4 And it had come to pass that my father spake unto her, saying: I know that I am a visionary man; for if I had not seen the things of God in a vision I should not have known the goodness of God, but had tarried at Jerusalem, and had perished with my brethren.
5 But behold, I have obtained a land of promise, in the which things I do rejoice; yea, and I know that the Lord will deliver my sons out of the hands of Laban, and bring them down again unto us in the wilderness.
6 And after this manner of language did my father, Lehi, comfort my mother, Sariah, concerning us while we journeyed in the wilderness up to the land of Jerusalem, to obtain the record of the Jews.
7 And when we had returned to the tent of my father, behold their joy was full, and my mother was comforted.
8 And she spake, saying: Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them powers whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them. And after this manner of language did she speak.
9 And it came to pass that they did rejoice exceedingly, and did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings unto the Lord; and they gave thanks unto the God of Israel.

Sariah faltered in her faith temporarily, but after being comforted tenderly by her husband, she is bolstered up and renews her faith and commitment to the gospel. The strength of her testimony increases greatly and she changes from just believing to knowing. And with that greater knowledge, also comes humility and gratitude as they offer sacrifices unto the Lord.
Later in the Book of Mormon, Helaman was fighting a war and had an army of 2,000 brave warriors. They were young and had no experience as soldiers, but they wanted to defend their people and had faith in Heavenly Father. During a fierce battle, some of them were wounded, but not a single one died. All 2,000 were preserved and saved, through the grace of God. Helaman called these young men his sons. He was amazed, impressed, and incredibly heartened to hear them show their faith.

Alma 56: 46-48 reads:
46 For as I had ever called them my sons (for they were all of them very young) even so they said unto me: Father, behold our God is with us, and he will not suffer that we should fall; then let us go forth; we would not slay our brethren if they would let us alone; therefore let us go, lest they should overpower the army of Antipus.
47 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.
48 And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it.

They did not doubt their mothers knew it. Their mothers had taught them from their youth to believe in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Their mothers showed an amazing example, through words and actions. We don't learn of these mothers by name, we don't know all the details of how they raised their sons, but the important part comes through. Look at the effect these mothers had on their young children. Their sons had no doubt, just utter faith and peace that the Lord would take care of them.

Eve is the mother of all living. She was the first mother on this earth. After the Fall, she worked, struggled, and suffered to return to our Heavenly Father. She made new covenants with him and obeyed his commandments. She taught her children what they should do. I am sure she was grieved when they disobeyed and gloried and praised when they followed her teachings. To me, she is the ultimate example of someone who made a grievous mistake but then spent the rest of her life making sure to obey and teach others. Eve certainly did not shirk her duty.

In Moses 5:11-12 we learn:
11 And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.
12 And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters.

Motherhood is certainly no easy task; but the fruits of the labor are worth it. The influence of righteous mothering can be felt not just for years, but for generations. The exact means through which that influence is exerted varies from woman to woman. We each have a different lot in life, regardless of the number of children we bear, whether none or many, we can all have a motherly influence on those around us. We can be strong examples of righteousness and uphold the responsibilities given to us by the Lord.

I bear my testimony that the Lord knows and loves each one of us, individually and deeply. He has set up this life, with the exact trials and opportunities we need to grow to our greatest potential. We absolutely have the choice of how to deal with those opportunities, but I know that no matter what is given to us, we can always learn from it. As we strive to live the commandments, we will grow closer to him. We will see miracles wrought before us. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

No comments: