Summary: In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it is the men who hold the priesthood, which allows them the right to preside, or to govern, in the affairs of the church. This has led some to believe that this is discriminatory and demeaning towards women and treats them as being inferior to men. However, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints considers the role of a mother as a more exalted position to that of the priesthood. Since the family is the most important unit in the church and in eternity, it is the mother who more often is the glue that holds the family together. This article takes a look at the divine role of motherhood.
In speaking about the 2,000 stripling warriors under his command, Helaman wrote to Captain Moroni saying, “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. And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it” (Alma 58:47,48).
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it is the men who hold the priesthood, which priesthood allows them the right to preside, or to govern, in the affairs of the church. This has led some to believe that this is discriminatory and demeaning towards women and treats them as being inferior to men.
However, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints considers the role of a mother as a more exalted position to that of the priesthood. It has been repeatedly taught from the pulpit at the highest level of the Church, that women have been endowed with talents for nurturing and caring for children that men don’t possess. Therefore, when they are acting in the capacity of a mother, they are fulfilling their God-given talents which often is the glue that holds the family together. And it is the woman, much more so than the man, who can turn a house into a loving home.
For this reason, Latter-day Saint wives and mothers often feel under tremendous pressure to live up to what they think is expected of them. They feel as though they’re supposed to be the perfect homemaker, providing an abundance of love and patience, always giving tender care to every member of the family, while being well-manner and well-dressed at all times, being skilled in resolving a myriad of problems, and having an inexhaustible amount of energy. On top of this, they are supposed to read and study their scriptures every day, have both personal and family prayer every day, plan lessons for their weekly Family Home Evening, along with fulfilling their church and civic responsibilities with enthusiasm, diligence, and full-hearted dedication.
Of course, the reality is that no woman can live up to such an impossibly demanding view of motherhood, and the church has never said that they must. Yet, because of this misperception of what the church expects of mothers, many people have the idea that the LDS view of a wife and mother is that of a glorified slave, who is expected to do all the mundane and labor intensive dirty jobs around the house while the husband and father sits like the king of his castle, giving instructions (or orders) to their wives of what they need to do.
In most families, whether the wife works away from the home or is a full-time mother, she is the one who most often cooks the meals for the family, does the laundry, changes the messy diapers, does the shopping for both food and clothing, dresses the children, and cleans the house from top to bottom. It is usually the mother who teaches her children how to walk, how to talk, how to dress, how to tie their shoes, and helps them with their school work.
And because it is the men who preside at church, on Sundays it is the mother who has to sit alone with all of her children during Sacrament meeting, trying in vain to keep them quiet and well-behaved, while her husband sits comfortably on the stand with nothing else to do but to listen intently to the messages coming from the pulpit. Thus, while he is being spiritually uplifted and edified, the mother is getting nothing out of the meeting except becoming frustrated and exhausted as she tries to keep her children from annoying those around her. And when the meeting is over, she then has to attend to their own church callings, and during all of this, she has to pretend (or at least look like) she’s happy.
But when all the church meetings are over, it is the mother who then goes home alone with all of her children and tries to keep them occupied while the husband is still at church attending to his administrative duties. In situations such as this, Sundays are anything but a day of rest for the mother.
Under conditions such as these, this has led to quite a few women feeling that they can’t do what is expected of them, and the harder they try the more drained they become of both physical, emotional, and spiritual energy. Unless they get some relief, they will eventually stop trying to be what they think the church expects of them and either become disillusioned with the church or think of themselves as failures in the eyes of God. This condition is further brought about when women who are struggling to keep up with just their basic responsibilities see other women who seem to be doing everything right, and apparently doing it with ease.
The reason for women feeling this way is because of an incorrect attitude that both they and men have concerning the role of a mother. When we focus on the here and now we lose the perspective of the hereafter. It’s no different than when we look down at the ground. All we will see is dirt. But when we cast our gaze upward what we see instead is a beautiful, clear, sunny sky. Therefore, the solution to helping women find joy in being a mother, is to look at their work from a different perspective.
Some will say that this is not as easy to do as it sounds, or that such an attitude is merely a mask that hides reality, but both arguments are flawed. We can choose to see the rain in our life as something to complain about, or we can choose to understand how necessary rain is to our very existence. Both views are true. In the same way, it is when we choose to change the way we look at the role of mothers that our attitude towards this profession suddenly changes, and we see it in a positive, rather than in a negative way.
There are three ways that motherhood can be seen in a different light. The first is physical.
The role of the man is to be the protector of the family, which includes the responsibility to provide for the needs of his family. To do this he goes to work to earn money to buy food, clothing, and housing, along with other family necessity and wants. Men usually start working right after high school, if not before then, and they will continue working to earn a living as long as they are able, until they are at least sixty-six years old. That means, for nearly fifty years they will need to work as much as they can in order to support their family.
Although women also work away from their home, often to help supplement their husband’s income, their most important work is as a mother. For this reason, many women stop working outside of their home once they start having children. Most women have two or three children, but let’s take the case of a woman who has six children, and let’s say that she has one every three years, and we’ll say that she has her first child when she is twenty-one years old.
The first five years of a child’s life is the most hectic for a mother because at that age their child needs the most attention, especially once they start walking and their curiosity leads them to get into all sorts of things. By the time the first child is three years old, the second child arrives, which doubles the mother’s duties. By the time the third child arrives, the first child is now six years old and is going to school, where they will be out of the house for about seven hours, five days a week. By the time the fourth child arrives, the second child will be in school and the first child will be nine years old. By then this child will be mature enough to be of some help around the house. They should be able to help wash the dishes, clean their own room, help pick up things around the house, and take clothes to the laundry room. By the time the fifth child is born, the first child and second child will be old enough to help out with taking care of their siblings, thereby reducing the mother’s workload.
By the time the sixth child is starting school at age five, the first child will be twenty years old and living as an adult, very possibly outside of the house. The second child will be 17 years old and just about ready to graduate high school, and the third and fourth child will be mature enough to continue helping with family chores, including watching over their two younger siblings. Under this scenario, when the sixth child is eighteen years old the mother will be 54 years old and will have become an empty nester, or at least have children living at home who are adults and fully capable of taking care of themselves.
Of course, each age group has its own set of challenges but generally speaking, those challenges become physically less demanding the older the child becomes. For example, between the ages of 5 and 10 children are still immature but are able to do many things on their own. As a child goes into their teenage years, there are more activities that involves taking and picking up the children, but also at this age children are much more capable of doing many things on their own without supervision, and they have the developing maturity to assist more wisely with the more difficult tasks around the house.
Therefore, a woman who becomes a mother at age 21 and has six children, will have worked at that profession for 33 years, which is when her last child will have turned 18 years old. And with each year her work load became increasingly a little less difficult the older her children become. For women who have only 2 or 3 children, her time working as a full-time mother will be much shorter.
In the meantime, her husband will need to continue working for another 12 years before he can retire from his profession, not to mention the time he had to work before he could afford to get married. Most men do not stay at the same job for 30 years, therefore they must continue working until much later in life before being able to retire. More than that, the higher a man advances in his line of work, the more demanding his workload becomes.
When viewed from this perspective, mothers who sit in Sacrament meetings alone with a brood of small children, may not be getting much out of the service at that moment, but that situation will not last forever. As her children get older, she will be able to devote less attention to their needs and more of it to what is being said at the pulpit.
On the other hand, most presiding priesthood holders, look forward to the time when they are released so they can enjoy sitting with their wife and children during Sacrament meetings, and they almost envy the freedom their wives have when sitting in the pews while they are stuck sitting up on the stand where everyone in the congregation can see what they’re doing.
The second way to look at motherhood is from its perspective of importance.
In the days when there were kings, the royal tutors were people of great importance because they were tasked with preparing the king’s children to help their father rule over his kingdom. In many cases, these tutors had the freedom to do their job without interference from the king even though they were entrusted with the king’s most precious possession – his children. Although it is said that the man is the king of his castle, it is the mother who has control over the king’s children.
The influence that a mother has on her children cannot be over emphasized. In nearly all cases, it is much greater than that of the father. She is the one who tends to instill more of the values that will shape their life and prepare them to be successful living on their own. She is the one who will nurture, nourish, and turn them into the kind of person they will eventually become. In most cases, children tend to have more affection towards their mothers than they do their fathers. Even among the General Authorities of the Church, although they speak highly of their fathers, they speak more affectionally about their mothers. This was the case of the stripling warriors who fought under Helaman’s command.
There is no doubt that a mother’s work is hard and demanding, but a righteous mother has the opportunity and the means to turn a rebellious child into a man of God. Changing messy diapers, cleaning up after sick children, washing clothes, and fixing meals may seem like a boring, mundane, thankless job, but those are the things that are necessary to change a baby into an adult. These tasks may be tiring and at times frustrating, but the Lord has told us, “Wherefore, be not weary in well doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33).
The mother who sits in Sacrament meeting spending her time watching over her over-active children may not be getting much out the talks, but she is nonetheless engaged in doing God’s work by giving his children – that he has entrusted to her care – the guidance and love he wants them to have. She is providing her children with the kind of pure love that is building a solid foundation on which their entire life will rest. This act of selfless service is the true essence of what the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about.
The third way to look at motherhood is from its eternal perspective.
The Lord has told us, “And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!” (D&C 18:15,16).
When we read these words we usually think of them as pertaining to doing missionary work, wherein we bring our friends, acquaintances, or strangers to a knowledge of God’s plan of salvation to the point where they become baptized and become members of Christ’s church. But as parents, we do exactly the same thing with our children.
In our home we teach them the principles of the gospel as they are growing up so that by the time they are eight years old they have a desire to become a baptized member of Christ’s true church, and the person who has more influence in instilling this desire in their children is the mother. And after baptism, parents continue to help their children gain a deeper conversion to Jesus Christ and a greater desire to follow him. And once again, it is the mother who does more in providing that training than anyone else.
Being a mother is not an easy job. It is often a very tiring and thankless duty that sometimes can be frustrating, irritating, and heart breaking. But following the Lord is often not an easy thing to do and what he requires of his followers can sometimes be very difficult to accomplish. Take for example, when God commanded the sons of Lehi to go get the brass plates from Laban. Some of them complained, saying it was a hard thing that was being asked of them (1 Nephi 3:5), and indeed, it cost them all of their gold and silver and nearly cost them their lives.
When the Lord asked Noah to build a four-story high ark that was one and a half football fields long, and fill it with every kind of animal, that was not something Noah could easily do, especially while everyone else was mocking him. And when Jesus told his apostles to preach the gospel to the whole world, that must have seemed like an impossible task to them, yet they were willing to endure all kinds of hardships, persecution, and even death in an attempt to fulfill that commandment.
If, because of all her hard efforts, a mother is able to bring just one of her children to Christ, how great will be her joy in the kingdom of God. But if she is able to help bring more of her children unto Christ, her joy will so much greater. Growing a garden takes a lot of hard work but in the end the farmer will be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor. In the same way, although a mother’s work is hard, arduous, and demanding, her labor will only last a short while, but during that time. what she is doing is sowing the seeds that will blossom into the fruit of eternal joy that she will partake of forever. It’s when a woman chooses to see only the earthly aspect of motherhood, that she fails to see the heavenly beauty that comes from doing the Lord’s work.
But there are two other things that need to be kept in mind. The first is, that God doesn’t expect a woman to be the perfect mother. He understands that, as mortals, we tend to get irritable when we become tired or frustrated, and that learning to raise children often comes slowly through the process of much trial and error. This is why grandparents are much better at knowing how to raise children than when they were parents.
Furthermore, although mothers and fathers should continually strive to improve their parenting skills, very often children turn out to be good adults despite the many failings of their parents. We have to remember, that as long as we are trying to bring our children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, he will bless our efforts and make up for our deficiencies.
The second thing that needs to be kept in mind is that fathers have as much of a responsibility for their children’s care as do mothers. The scriptures tell us to “bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Although mothers have more of an opportunity to work with their children than do fathers, if a man truly loves his wife, his children, and the Lord, he will do all he can to help ease his wife’s burdens, and make sure that her physical, emotional, and spiritual needs are being met.
It’s been said that motherhood is the closest thing to being like God, and the reason why is because righteous mothers have more influence in saving God’s children than anyone else. As such, those who are truly doing God’s work on earth are not so much the priesthood holders but mothers.
Related articles can be found at The Nature of Marriage