Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Mother's Day Farewell Talk

Sister Sheri L. Dew in her talk titled “Are we not all Mothers?” spoke on the divine role of motherhood, but not just in the manner that we have defined it, as a woman with at least one child, but also through the definition of our Heavenly Father. Motherhood is more than bearing children. It is the essence of who women are. It defines our identity, our divine stature and nature, and the unique traits our Father gives us. 

We are taught that in the preexistence, before we were born, our Father blessed his sons with priesthood ordination. Women were not left as an afterthought, nor were we forgotten. Our Loving Heavenly Father gave us an unparalleled role in helping His children keep their second estate. As President J. Reuben Clark Jr. declared, motherhood is “as divinely called, as eternally important in its place as the priesthood itself.”

Sometimes for reasons only known to the Lord, motherhood in the traditional sense is delayed, but that does not mean we cannot find another way to mother. While my own mother has been a huge and constant part of my daily life, in nurturing me and teaching me as I grow, I have had other women do the same for me as well. The leaders I had in Young Women’s being the prime example, but not the only ones.

Sister Watson for example, is definitely a mother figure in my life. In fact last year, a few weeks before I graduated high school, the missionaries from the Young Single Adult Ward found out I was graduating, and every week would say hi to me and ask me when I was going to come to the YSA Ward. Sister Watson overheard once as she was walking by and basically told them they couldn’t have me because she wanted to keep me forever. I smiled gave her a hug and she walked on. The missionaries then asked me if that was my mother. I laughed, and explained to them she was my Young Women’s leader, and didn’t want me to leave the Young Women’s program, because she would miss seeing me all the time. While she is not my biological mother, she still has been a mother not just to me, but to all the young women she has been over. When I needed help, she was there. She was the driving instructor I had for my permit driving, and sometimes she would sacrifice her days off to teach me how to drive because I was too excited to wait.

It’s not just the current Young Women leaders either. The ones I have had in the past have been an example to me as well. Sister Tolboe, Sister Smith, and Sister Boothe, Sister Anderson, and so many others have each had such a great impact on me, that every time I see them, I don’t worry about how long it has been since I have seen them, I go up to them and give them a hug, because I know that they care about me.  

Women outside of church have also been like mothers to me even though they may not know it. People like my teachers and my martial arts instructor have had an influence on my life, because I spent so much time with them and their goal was to teach me, to help me learn something important. Each one of them cared about me as a person, and not just as a number or a check on a list, but as me. 

My math teacher of three of my four years in high school Mrs. Gaines taught me to find the joys in life, even during something that might be tedious and boring. She everyday would push me to do my best, but to have fun while doing it. My freshman and junior science teacher, Mrs. Merenda taught me to see the worth of things that might be otherwise seen as trash. My martial arts instructor, Mrs. Vanbelle taught me the meaning of honor and respect. 

I could go on and on naming all the women who have had an impact on my life, but it would take too much time. Suffice it to say, that as wonderful and loving my own mother is, there are many others who have adopted that role in my life, and once adopted, it never really goes away.

This is what motherhood is about. It is being there for someone, being someone a child or youth can look up to and follow her example. Each of these women is such a great example to me, and each has given something for me to emulate to improve my life.

That is another way each and every woman can be a mother, through her example. Sisters of the Relief Society, one of your responsibilities as mothers preordained by God, is to help the youth in your ward. This means that instead of waiting until they turn 18 to talk with them, talk to them when they are children, and continue to be a part, either small or large, in their life. Be an example they can follow when they struggle. Be the one they can turn to when life threatens to destroy their peace. As amazing as our own biological mothers each individually are, there will be times in which they cannot help their child because their child refuses to listen to them. It is in those times that the example and teachings of other women can help that child understand where something went wrong. Sometimes, that other woman could be a leader, sometimes it’s an aunt, maybe even a sister, or even just a friend. Every good relationship we as women have with others fulfills the sacred trust God gave women as mothers.

This does not mean we are supposed to mother everyone we know. Motherhood is more than just that. A mother’s role in their child’s life has so many facets that they cannot be completely listed, but some of the main roles a mother plays is not just a mother, but a referee, taxi, cook, maid, friend, teacher. Each of these roles can be played by one person or many people, but one of the most important is the role of friend. Every time a woman makes a friend, or continues a friendship, our divine nature is magnified. 

My own mother has played each of these roles in my life. She will forever be teaching me, and she will forever be my friend, but some of her roles will be done when I leave. She won’t be there to cook for me, or dive me places when I can’t, but she can and will be there when I need someone to talk to about my day, or advice on an issue I might be having with someone else. She doesn’t always sugarcoat things either. 

When I was at college, I split teaching my gospel doctrine class with one of the other women in my ward. As with any calling, (especially in a ward of college freshmen) there were sometimes that this other teacher and I conflicted. One of these times was such that we ended up “nicely” arguing. Frustrated, and feeling that I was right, I had called my mom to vent my frustration and confusion as to why the other person wasn’t understanding what I was saying or what I was feeling. My mom after listening to me told me that it didn’t really matter who was supposed to teach, and while she understood why I felt the way I did, the contentious feelings that the argument had caused would make whoever taught the class unable to have the spirit as strongly because there would still be resentment and pride on both sides. She told me that I had to put my pride aside and apologize to the other teacher. She reminded me that my calling wasn’t about me teaching, but rather about my class learning. It didn’t matter who taught the class, as long as the spirit was there to touch the hearts of the class. After I hung up with my mom, I grabbed a few cookies my roommates and I had just made and walked over to the apartment of the other teacher. Previously most of our communication had mostly been through texting, and it was the first time I had been over to her apartment. I apologized, and she apologized, and what a relief it was to have fixed the problem. Had I not called my mother, or had my mother said what I had wanted to hear and validated my frustration, I would have been left to my pride and potentially ruined my class with all the negativity. 

My mother has also taught me the most important thing she could have ever taught me. She has taught me about my Savior. She through her example has taught me the importance of reading my scriptures on a daily basis, praying regularly, and leaning on Christ when I needed strength. Her testimony, and the testimonies of all the women in my life, has made it so that I have had the foundation on which I have built my testimony of my Savior and the sacrifices He has given for me. My mother taught me the value of the atonement in my life, and has taught me to cherish the relationship that I have with my Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. 

On Wednesday, I leave to report to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, where I will stay to learn and prepare for two or so weeks for the rest of my mission in Georgia. 

While I am in Georgia, I will be a representative of Christ and his plan for our Happiness. It is a full time responsibility, and while I am there, I have promised that I will dedicate all my time to bringing others closer to Christ. I am not going to be paid any money, but am rather going to pay to have this opportunity. I am putting off my schooling and my future family to help others have eternal families. I will not be calling my mother or father everyday like I did at school, but will only email once a week with a phone call on Mother’s Day and Christmas. 

Throughout my life, I was never 100% about my wanting to go on a mission, but I prepared for the possibility. When the age for women to go on a mission dropped from 21 to 19 a few years ago, it became a more prevalent choice. Before, if anyone ever asked me if I were going to go, I said I might, but I seriously doubted I would because I had hoped to be married before then, or at least in a serious relationship at the very least. So it was a possibility, but never a goal. 

If my mother hadn’t been the example that she was in her testimony and her faithfulness, I may have not been prepared for this moment in my life. When I did finally decide to start my papers for my mission, I was glad my mother had raised me in a manner that left me prepared for whatever I wanted to do.

Elder M. Russell Ballard gave this advice for daughters in his talk in the April 2010 General Conference, “And so, my dear young women, with all my heart I urge you not to look to contemporary culture for your role models and mentors. Please look to your faithful mothers for a pattern to follow. Model yourselves after them, not after celebrities whose standards are not the Lord’s standards and whose values may not reflect an eternal perspective. Look to your mother. Learn from her strengths, her courage, and her faithfulness. Listen to her. She may not be a whiz at texting; she may not even have a Facebook page. But when it comes to matters of the heart and the things of the Lord, she has a wealth of knowledge. As you approach the time for marriage and young motherhood, she will be your greatest source of wisdom. No other person on earth loves you in the same way or is willing to sacrifice as much to encourage you and help you find happiness—in this life and forever.”

He later then followed that with advice to mothers, “Now may I share a few thoughts with you mothers about the special role you play in your daughters’ lives. We have a family friend who travels often with members of her extended family. Her primary observation after each trip is how much the young women behave like their mothers. If the mothers are thrifty, so are their daughters. If the mothers are modest, so are the girls. If the mothers wear flip-flops and other casual clothing to sacrament meeting, so do their daughters. Mothers, your example is extremely important to your daughters—even if they don’t acknowledge it.”

This is truer than I can say. The influence of a mother is immeasurable. In fact I was even discussing this with my own mother in that the places that she would shop at for clothes, like Target, or thrift stores, are where I like to shop, even though many of my friends will go to the mall to buy their clothes. 

I love my mother. I appreciate all that she has done for me in my life. I love and appreciate everyone who has had an influence in my life. I cannot reiterate enough how much their influence has gotten me to the point that I am at. I would not be the same person without them. Brothers and Sisters, I hope each of you remember your mothers today, and if possible have talked to them today. 

Remember the things they have done and sacrificed for you. Today is the day specifically set aside to for the honoring of mothers, but it shouldn’t keep you from honoring her everyday of the year. Love them, love your children, and do not forget that it was the Savior’s sacrifice in Gethsemane and on the cross that allows us to be together forever as a family after we have died. 

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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