Sunday, May 08, 2016

My Talk in Church Today

I spoke in church today. I speak a lot so it shouldn't have been a big deal but somehow it was. I knew I was in trouble when I kept finding myself in tears as I prepared my talk - motherhood is a topic that is so near and dear to my heart! Then as I sat up on the stand waiting for my turn to talk, I looked at my wonderful mom and my beautiful children sitting there on the second row and I had a pretty strong feeling that I would have a hard time getting through my talk.

Sure enough. I was pretty darn emotional as I delivered my talk. But I think people could understand me despite my somewhat shaky and halting delivery. And I hope people took away whatever message they were supposed to get.

Anyway, here's my talk:

I was asked to talk today about what modern day revelation teaches us about motherhood and instructed to weave in a lot of personal stories.

There are SO many beautiful and important ideas that have been presented by our church leaders in General Conference and in lesson manuals. And of course, the Proclamation on the Family offers powerful and helpful principles to help guide mothers. Plus each mother can receive her own modern day revelation as she strives to take great care of the precious children God has entrusted her with.

But today I want to focus on the talk that Elder Holland gave in General Conference last month. His talk is called "Behold Your Mother."

Throughout my life, I've heard that motherhood is supposed to bring us closer to Christ than just about anything else we can do. And when I think of those with Christ-like qualities that I want to emulate, my first thoughts are of my own mother and grandmothers as well as my mother-in-law and other great moms that I know.  But in Elder Holland's talk during conference last month, he helped me to more clearly how beautifully connected motherhood is to the life and work of the Savior.

In Elder Holland's talk, he said:
Prophesying of the Savior’s Atonement, Isaiah wrote, “He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.”1 “[Jesus] came into the world … to bear the sins of the world.”2 Both ancient and modern scripture testify that “Christ redeemed them, and bore them, and carried them all the days of old.”3 A favorite hymn pleads with us to “hear your great Deliv’rer’s voice!”4
Bear, borne, carry, deliver. These are powerful, heartening messianic words. They convey help and hope for safe movement from where we are to where we need to be—but cannot get without assistance. These words also connote burden, struggle, and fatigue—words most appropriate in describing the mission of Him who, at unspeakable cost, lifts us up when we have fallen, carries us forward when strength is gone, delivers us safely home when safety seems far beyond our reach.
But can you hear in this language another arena of human endeavor in which we use words like bear and borne,carry and lift,labor and deliver? As Jesus said to John while in the very act of Atonement, so He says to us all, “Behold thy mother!”6
Today I declare from this pulpit what has been said here before: that no love in mortality comes closer to approximating the pure love of Jesus Christ than the selfless love a devoted mother has for her child. When Isaiah, speaking messianically, wanted to convey Jehovah’s love, he invoked the image of a mother’s devotion. “Can a woman forget her sucking child?” he asks. How absurd, he implies, though not as absurd as thinking Christ will ever forget us.7
This kind of resolute love “suffereth long, and is kind, … seeketh not her own, … but … beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”8 Most encouraging of all, such fidelity “never faileth.”9 “For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed,” Jehovah said, “but my kindness shall not depart from thee.”10 So too say our mothers.
Certainly no mother is perfect. I know that there are many here who did not have mothers who fully grasped the divine nature of motherhood or who didn't have the experience or ability to be a really effective or Christ-like mother. I run a website for mothers and in my work, I've met mothers from every walk of life. Some seem to quite naturally embrace the sacrifices and burdens of motherhood and find joy in motherhood quite readily (my mother is like this). Some have more of a need for "me-time" that can make the sacrifices motherhood requires of them feel somewhat more burdensome (I’m one of those). Some have other important pursuits that are hard to balance just right and feel pretty overwhelmed (I’m in this boat as well). Others find that they feel so stretched by motherhood that it's hard to find the joy (sometimes I feel this). But the vast majority of mothers in this world love their children dearly and, almost without thinking, make big and little sacrifices for them every day without hardly batting an eye. Simply bearing and delivering a child involves discomfort, pain and sacrifice that goes way beyond what most any person on earth would experience on behalf of another person.

When our twins were born, I was able to deliver Oliver relatively quickly and easily - he was so small compared to the other children I'd delivered. As I held tiny and perfect Oliver in my arms, I was filled with that unique and gorgeous joy of meeting your own precious child for the first time and felt this wonderful adreneline as I thought about delivering and meeting his brother in a few moments. But it turns out that Silas was stuck and they had to quickly take Oliver away from me, put him in Jared's arms, send the two of them out of the room, and prep me for an emergency c-section. I've never been so scared - not for my own life, but for the life of my precious baby who was in distress. They quickly put me under and next thing I knew, I was waking up in the recovery room. I woke up in an amazing amount of pain as I'd come around before they had the morphine fully set up. But all I could think of was my babies. Was the second one OK? Where was he? When could I see them?  In the midst of the greatest pain I've ever felt, I had concern only for others. God gives us these opportunities as mothers to feel the intense mixture of sacrifice and love that helps our souls progress and brings us closer to our Savior. As we bear and deliver our babies and then go through those sleepless nights and that rough time trying to balance our needs with their needs, we become more Christlike in a deeply meaningful way.

Then, as our babies grow up, we continue to have so many opportunities to learn to understand and rely on the Lord and his Atonement. As Elder Holland said:

"You see, it is not only that [mothers] bear us, but they continue bearing with us. It is not only the prenatal carrying but the lifelong carrying that makes mothering such a staggering feat."

I'm the oldest of nine children and my amazing mother bore with me and my siblings through SO much as we were growing up. She is seriously the most self-less and Christlike person I know. She's the first to admit that she was not perfect (she actually wrote a book called "I Didn't Plan to be a Witch" that offers great insight to those of us who often struggle with patience as we face overwhelming situations as moms!). But her constant and unconditional love was something that gave each of us so much comfort and her deep love for and emulation of Jesus helped us to all develop unshakable testimonies. She didn't preach to us. She showed us through word and deed how a true disciple of Christ should act.

When I started high school, my mom bore with me as I went through a really rough time. I didn't feel like I had any friends. I would wander the hallways of the school at lunch time because I didn't want to sit alone the cafeteria. Somehow in the midst of the babies and toddlers she was taking care of and the books she was writing and the amazing amount of cooking and cleaning and carpools that ruled her life, my mom found time to come pick me up at lunch time at school for a time so that I wouldn't have to be alone at lunch. And she told me a story about herself when she was my age. She hadn't felt like she had any friends. Her mom, my wonderful grandmother, taught told her to look for someone who looked much more miserable than she was and to step outside herself and show love and friendship for that person. She was sure there could be no one more miserable than herself. But once she really looked around, sure enough, she found a girl who seemed truly lonely and miserable, reached out to this girl, and they become good friends. She showed me Christ-like compassion while teaching me to show the same to others. Again and again, as I've been through hard things, my mom has followed Christ's example by offering me comfort and respite from my hard times while empowering me to step up and do my part to solve my own problems.

My dear grandmothers have also followed the patterns of sacrificing and bearing and delivering and empowering that Christ set forth for us.

My dad's mother, Ruth, lost her dear husband Dean when their five children ranged in age from 5 to 15. She figured out how to support her family on the combination of her meager salary and the rent she brought in from renting out a couple small apartments in her home. She sacrificed a great deal to provide a good life for her children and empowered them to get a solid education and become the best that they could be. She served a mission and served as a Relief Society president and helped to mother thousands of children in the fabulous preschool that she ran for many years. She has born with her children through many choices they've made that proved to be challenging. Through her example, she taught all her posterity how to interact with little children in fun ways while teaching them important lessons (many of you have seen her influence in the way my children act with the little children in this ward). She bore over 50 years of widow-hood and many years of dementia before she was finally delivered from this life to go to Heaven and be with her beloved Dean.

My mom's mother, Hazel, had a life full of sacrifice and bearing and delivering. She wasn't sure if she'd ever be able to bear her own children. She taught school and helped mother many children through her school teaching but she didn't find her husband, Roy, until she was almost forty and he'd already raised a family with his first wife who has passed away. When Grandma Hazel married Grandpa Roy, they didn't think they'd be able to have children of their own so they adopted a 5-year-old little boy named Lloyd who'd been born into very rough circumstances and offered him a loving home. Then they were surprised and thrilled when they were able to have two little girls born to them in quick succession - my mom and her sister, Lena. A little while later, my grandpa Roy's daughter from his previous marriage passed away shortly after giving birth and Hazel took over raising that baby, Roger, alongside her children. After several years of raising baby Roger, his father remarried and took Roger back to live with him. My dear grandmother felt like she had lost a child. At nearly the same time, their adopted son, Lloyd ran away to return to his abusive birth father. My heart-broken grandmother Hazel bore all this with all the love and patience she could muster. Through all this, Grandma Hazel was helping to support her family through teaching school full-time and teaching piano lessons to scores of students while helping her children excel in music themselves. Sacrifice and hard work were expected parts of life for Grandma Hazel. She didn't expect to be delivered from the hard stuff in life. She simply expected to bear it well and to help others discover the importance and joy of working hard and accomplishing their potential. Through her example, Grandma Hazel taught us that we shouldn’t expect to be delivered from our problems but should bear them well and that Christ would always be there to lift us up.

As my mom's posterity has expanded to over 45 people, she is still sacrificing and bearing and delivering every day as she helps each of her children through hard times, makes every family gathering wonderful, makes everyone who walks in her door feel special and doted upon (whether they are family members or someone she just barely met), and holds yearly "Grammie Camps" for her grandchildren where she teaches them about their ancestors and about art and music in a fun way, and writes books and gives speeches to help moms all over the world bear and enjoy motherhood in a more beautiful and Christlike way.

As these examples illustrate, whether we are on the inside or the outside of motherhood, motherhood offers us abundant opportunities to see what it really means to be Christlike.

I'll end with this beautiful letter from a young mother that Elder Holland shared.

“How is it that a human being can love a child so deeply that you willingly give up a major portion of your freedom for it? How can mortal love be so strong that you voluntarily subject yourself to responsibility, vulnerability, anxiety, and heartache and just keep coming back for more of the same? What kind of mortal love can make you feel, once you have a child, that your life is never, ever your own again? Maternal love has to be divine. There is no other explanation for it. What mothers do is an essential element of Christ’s work. Knowing that should be enough to tell us the impact of such love will range between unbearable and transcendent, over and over again, until with the safety and salvation of the very last child on earth, we can [then] say with Jesus, ‘[Father!] I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.’11
On this special day, I hope that we can all reflect upon the sacrifices and examples of our mothers and grandmothers and the other great women whose examples and actions have benefited us in various ways. I hope we can try a little harder to be a little more like them as we each strive to sacrifice and bear our burdens with a more willing heart and as we attempt to be saviors in the lives of those who need us. And for those of us who are mothers, I hope we can find greater joy and meaning in the sacrifices and bearing of burdens that motherhood asks of us as we realize how these experiences bring us closer to Christ and lead us towards becoming the joyful deliverers and saviors on Mount Zion that God means for us to be.

10 comments:

Dani said...

Absolutely beautiful and inspiring! Thank you for sharing this.

Jenny (also) said...

Saren, Do you believe this kinds of mother's love is more divine than the love father's have for their children? You quote "no love in mortality comes closer to approximating the pure love of Jesus Christ than the selfless love a devoted mother has for her child" Why does this quote not read "a devoted parent?"

If we tell Dads (and future dads like your sons) that mother's love is somehow more holy or important than their own we are diminishing a great gift, opportunity, and blessing of love and responsibility to and for these men.

If only moms can supply this "super holy" love it seems like the implication is that is moms should not be pursuing other opportunities while the Dads or others loved ones do the divine work of nurturing children. Is this putting a "mother love" on a pedestal a way of limiting both men and women? It sounds pretty, divine, and amazing but your are not addressing the pratical implications this has onto men's and women's lives.

I am a mom who loves mothering and feels it to be my calling. I encourage you to think about the practical message you are giving to moms and dads in your ward who look up to you so much.

Saren Loosli said...

Jenny(also):

Thanks for your thought-provoking comment!

As this talk was given on Mother's Day, I focused on the beauty and power of motherhood. I feel that fatherhood is equally powerful. I stand by what I quoted from Elder Holland - that "no love in mortality comes closer to approximating the pure love of Jesus Christ than the selfless love a devoted mother has for her child." I don't believe that a father's love or anyone else's love would generally come CLOSER to approximating the pure love of Christ than the love of a mother - but it could certainly come as close. Elder Holland's topic was mothers as was my topic, so that is why there is such an emphasis on the beauty and power of motherhood in his talk and in mine.

I'm blessed with an amazing father as well as an amazing mother. And I talk just as much to my sons as to my daughter about the importance and beauty of their hoped-for future roles as parents. But on Mother's Day, we focus more on motherhood than on general parenthood or fatherhood.

cheryl cardall said...

Beautiful talk Saren!

Ingrid said...

Saren this is positively beautiful! Thanks for sharing it!

Jenny (also) said...

I understand what you're saying about writing about just moms on Mother's Day. However, the issue of the strict cultural expectations/pressures in the LDS community are very real especially for moms. I think you and your sisters have all mentioned this in one way or another in your blogs. My main point is that as you are well aware you are a well educated role model in your ward. You were given the chance to speak about the FULL potential of mother's lives and contributions on Mother's Day in a way both men and women could hear but you chose not to take that opportunity.

Yin-keng Partington said...

Beautiful talk, Saren. Thank you for sharing. I don't know you personally Saren .. but I feel I do (I read your blogs) I feel I know your heart and soul..as one who loves her family, one who loves her children, one who is an amazing mom and cares for all moms and one who loves her husband. Thank you for inspiring me!

Yin-keng Partington said...

Beautiful talk, Saren. Thank you for sharing. I don't know you personally Saren .. but I feel I do (I read your blogs) I feel I know your heart and soul..as one who loves her family, one who loves her children, one who is an amazing mom and cares for all moms and one who loves her husband. Thank you for inspiring me!

MaurLo said...

That was beautifully written. Thank you for sharing. I would also say that in my opinion how kind it was of you to speak on Mother's Day about mothers. In our ward, we are so careful not to offend anyone...that the subject of mother was never mentioned...nor is it usually at all in general. I understand why in so many ways, and I think that Jenny's comment was thoughtful and something to think about, but sometimes it is hard to say anything of value when we are being so careful to make everyone happy. Honoring motherhood does nothing to diminish fatherhood and vice versa.

Eyrealm said...

I was sitting on the front row when you gave this talk and felt the spirit too strongly! Thanks for your kind words about me and especially for reminding the audience that there were days when I turned into a "witch" :;). It was so fun to read because I caught things the second time that I didn't remember from the first. This is such a well-thought out talk which included so much about the true meaning of motherhood...warts and all!

I love you and think you are a marvel! I am so blessed to be your mother!

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