Mormon women tend to spend a lot of time thinking about motherhood, not just on Mother’s Day, but always. It is considered an essential part of our identity, whether or not we have children. Mormons (a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) believe that family life can last forever. In addition to that, Mormons believe we lived before this life as well, as spirits with God. These two pieces of information give motherhood a very powerful meaning that reaches further than it does for many people.
Mormons believe women, as a gender, were assigned to the role of motherhood before their births, when they still lived with God. This role is considered the most sacred one God can offer His children because He is entrusting His littlest ones to the mothers of the world.
Motherhood isn’t, as former Mormon leader Sheri L. Dew, who has not had the opportunity to marry or have children in this life, taught, just about childbirth:
When we understand the magnitude of motherhood, it becomes clear why prophets have been so protective of woman’s most sacred role. While we tend to equate motherhood solely with maternity, in the Lord’s language, the word mother has layers of meaning. Of all the words they could have chosen to define her role and her essence, both God the Father and Adam called Eve “the mother of all living” —and they did so before she ever bore a child. Like Eve, our motherhood began before we were born. Just as worthy men were foreordained to hold the priesthood in mortality, righteous women were endowed premortally with the privilege of motherhood. Motherhood is more than bearing children, though it is certainly that. It is the essence of who we are as women. It defines our very identity, our divine stature and nature, and the unique traits our Father gave us (Sheri Dew, Are We Not All Mothers?, Ensign, October 2001).
Mormons believe all worthy women will have the opportunity to become a mother, either here or in Heaven. In the meantime, before those children come to us, we have a responsibility to all children, not just our own. In fact, even adults often find themselves needing mothering.
Mothers are, then, all women of all religions. There are children all over the world who need worthy examples, a loving teacher or friend, or an available relative.
For those Mormon women currently serving as mothers, however, there are special responsibilities for the parenting years. They have had a child of God placed in their care and they are expected to live up to such a great opportunity. Mothering is more than changing diapers or dispensing meals. It is more than cleaning up toys and mastering bedtimes. While it can seem that is mostly what there is to parenting some days, there is so much more.
With all my children grown up now I can look back on those times with some objectivity because I know how things turned out. People used to tell me to appreciate this time when the children were little because it wouldn’t last long. I’m not sure I believed them. It seemed to go on and on, particularly when the nights involved very little sleep. But those people were right. It seems short now, and none of the things I wished I had time for seem as important as the family time.
For a Mormon mom, eternity is never far from her mind. When she plans her parenting day, she has to think not just about getting through today, but about building for eternity. What can she teach her child, model for him, or do with him that will help him become more Christ-like and better prepared for eternity? Education, social skills, spiritual testimony…all these matter. How can she help him love his family more and to know he is loved? Is she making her family worthy of eternity?
No mother is perfect. It can be easy to look at the perfect family sitting in church with spotlessly dressed children in beautiful homemade clothes, perfectly behaved, and knowing all the answers in class and feel inferior. A Mormon mother knows, or is often reminded, that everyone has trials, even that seemingly perfect family. No mom gets through parenthood without some mistakes, both small and large. No one always gets it right.
A friend of mine says when she finds herself focused on past mistakes she reminds herself she did the best she could with what she knew at the time. Mostly, that’s what we all do. We do our best and hope for the best. There are no guarantees. As we read the scriptures, we see how many great parents had problem children because there are many influences in the world, not just ours. Satan wants our children and sometimes he wins…at least for a little while. Then we turn to a higher power for help getting our children back.
We have God on our side and a Mormon mom knows that with God on her side, she can never give up. She may not be perfect, but God knows she can be good enough—so she keeps moving through eternity with a prayer in her heart and faith in God.
Happy Mother’s Day—whether or not you are at this very moment a mother. Mother’s Day is really a day to celebrate the sacred natures of womanhood and that makes it a day to honor all women.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.