Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Mark of Motherhood (Elder Claypool's Farewell Address 13 May 2012)

In the words of a present day screenwriter: “If you’re a screenwriter, and you understand drama, and you want to lunge your characters into conflict, you have to lose the mom. Mothers go missing in movies b/c leaving them in the lives of characters in crisis makes sustaining conflict difficult. Mothers listen and resolve problems. They are selfless and love without conditions. You want to stir up trouble and make it believable? Better keep mom out of it!” Just think, if the Little Mermaid had her mom present, she likely would not have doubted her worth or circumstance and sold her voice for a more glamorous life. If Aladdin had lived with his mother he likely wouldn’t have had to steal food, having a home-cooked meal at the end of each day. And if the Beast had his mom in the picture he would have learned some manners and how to properly take a girl on a date.  

In today’s competitive society, we see the role of women being confused, contorted, and ‘revamped’ to seem more befitting and beneficial; as I go to serve in the Ukraine Donetsk Mission, I will be confronted with these ideals daily. Constantly, we are being bombarded with myths that corrupt the minds of the world and both the mothers and the soon to be; for example, while I was a reading an article by Sister Sheri Dew, she pointed out some of these common myths: “(1) men are more important and have all the power, so if women want to have influence they should be more like men, (2) A Woman’s value is based solely on size and shape, and (3) The only worthwhile validation comes from outside the home and thus motherhood is a waste of any talented woman’s time.” Thankfully, because of the doctrines of the Gospel of Jesus Christ I have the opportunity to teach for two years and throughout the rest of my life, we have comfort and clarity in seeing through the lies the adversary has placed in the world, as they are complete and total 

 To clarify the first myth, we read in The Family: A Proclamation to the World: “All Human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God,” and that “…fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” Or in other words, there are no second class citizens in the eyes of the Lord. For the second myth, we know that the Lord has said in 1 Samuel 16:7 “Look not on his [or her] countenance, or on the height of his [or her] stature…for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” And for the third, we know that greatness is not measured as the world would portray. In the words of President Hunter quoting President Joseph F Smith: “Those things which we call extraordinary, remarkable, or unusual may make history, but they do not make real life.” ‘After all, to do well those things which God ordained to be the common lot of all mankind, is the truest greatness. To be a successful father or a successful mother is greater than to be a successful general or a successful statesman.” We have the truth and correct perspectives to guide us through our

As part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we teach that the family is the central unit of the Church and that a family, formed in the bonds of lawful matrimony, is ordained of God and central to His eternal destiny for His children. And not only can our families be sealed together to perpetuate for all time and eternity, but within those roles and responsibilities, we can discover those eternal purposes and destinies the Lord has in store for us. Sons are to become Fathers, daughters to become mothers, and on this day of celebration, I am grateful to speak more specifically on the eternal role of mothers. To make sure I relate to all and make this talk applicable to each, I want to make sure you know just who qualifies to be a mother: the answer is every woman in the congregation today, both young and younger. Sister Sheri Dew has penned, “Mother is the word that best describes the essence of who we are as women. It defines our identity, our divine nature and the gifts with which we have been endowed. In reality, all women are mothers.” And to the fathers and sons, I would ask that you listen with the intent of finding how you can best help your wife and mom, support her,  best thank her, and most importantly how to be worthy of her. Though I am obviously lacking when it comes to teaching this subject being a 19 year old guy going on a mission, I’m grateful to have first been led by the Spirit who knows completely the triumphs, heartaches, perfections, and imperfections of motherhood as well as each of you individually, and then second, to have a mother who I would deem as the perfect example of what I can base my teachings off of. And so with the disintegrating teachings of the world, I would pray that the Holy Spirit be with me to convey the message to the best of my ability just what the attributes or mark of an eternal mother truly entails:

First, Eternal Mothers have a testimony in, and are founded upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As “happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ,” so is any success and happiness found in motherhood most likely to occur when the mother herself is founded upon the doctrines of Christ.  Before a mother can teach, before she can testify, and before she can nurture her children with any measure of true success, she needs to cultivate her testimony in and be founded upon Jesus Christ. Before any mother can be a sheltering tree, she must first plant and nourish her own seed.

Second, Eternal Mothers Teach by Lessons and Example.

In the same article I mentioned before by Sister Sheri Dew, she gives the account of a luncheon with an Egyptian Woman that took place following a school shooting here in the US. When the conversation turned to how the schools need to have better security, the Egyptian women clarified the real problem at hand:  she said “No, the problem is with our homes. Too many mothers have abdicated responsibility for teaching their children what is right. What happens in society all begins with mothers.” Mothers are needed teach both by Lesson and also by Example

Just as a mother must gain a testimony before finding true success and happiness, so must a mother learn before she can teach lessons to her children. Speaking to the women, President Gordon B. Hinckley, a mouthpiece of God, has declared: “You must get all of the education that you possibly can…Sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify yourselves to do the work of [this] world…Train your minds and hands to become an influence for good as you go forward with your lives.” While it is understood that many factors are taken into consideration in regards to receiving an education, thankfully in today’s world there are options for all, and regardless of circumstances, the brethren have gently command all women everywhere to receive an education whenever possible for this life and the life to come. The mothers of the sons of Helaman not could be described as “knowing it” unless first they actually learned it. As a wonderful example to me and recently married with funds as tight as they were, my mom couldn’t continue her education at that time; but, following the admonition of the prophets, she finished her degree in 2008 after 8 years in the independent study program, having had twins and being a full-time mom raising two boys simultaneously. What an example for me!

Let us not forget the powerful teaching method that comes from leading by example. Leading by example will have more of an effect on your children that any other lesson you could teach them regardless of however many number of times you teach it. In Ezekiel 16:44 we read: “As is the mother, so is her daughter.” (And I would add, as is the Father, so is his son) The best way to encourage confidence in your children is to be confident yourself. The best way to teach compassion, service, and love to your children is to be both compassionate, service oriented and loving towards all men yourself. As mothers, you have the supreme influence of influencing by example. To teach your children to say their evening prayers, they should know and see you doing the same. To teach your children to read their scriptures, they should see your love for them and how diligently you pour over them day and night seeking for answers and guidance to your problems. There is not a single lasting lesson you can teach your children if you do not first live those lessons. In regards to personal scripture study and prayer, these are not daily ways of life only for the youth and your children. So often in the church we focus on the youth developing these habits, but please do not forget parents to read your scriptures. Don’t forget that daily scripture study works for you too, and regardless of how old or young you are, it’s never too late to start. In the words of a memorable sign hung in the BYU Health Clinic where I received my mission immunizations: “Begin where you are,” and wherever you are, I would encourage you to begin. Moms and Dads: become an “example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (1 Tim 4:12)

Third, Eternal Mothers Bear Children and Desire to do so.

President Ezra Taft Benson declared: “in the eternal perspective, children—not possessions, not position, not prestige—are our greatest jewels,” and in The Family: A Proclamation to the World, we are reminded that the command to multiply and replenish the earth remains still and steadily in force. While all women here today are mothers but not all have children for various circumstances, we know that a major part of the Eternal Role of Motherhood is to bear children as they are foreordained to do so for all time and all eternity. Of course, there are some times and some in this life that do not have the opportunity to have children themselves, but this does not lessen their claim to the title of mother. Sister Julie B Beck has taught “Some women are not given the responsibility of bearing children in mortality, but just as Hannah of the Old Testament prayed fervently for her child, the value women place on motherhood in this life and the attributes of motherhood they attain here will rise with them in the Resurrection.” Unfortunately today, we find in the priorities of women that schooling, work, travel, and selfishness come in the way long before children, and how sad this is. To think that the Great Creator of all things has entrusted you, His mothers, to take part in the creation, bearing, rearing, and rendering of His precious sons and daughters is a beautiful blessing we should thank our Father for daily. Indeed the bearing and raising of children is a sacrifice, but let us not forget that Eve found joy only in the idea of being able to bear children, and sacrificed her immortal state and current dwelling place with God.

Fourth, Eternal Mothers Sacrifice.

There is no question in my mind that mothers, more so than any group of people, sacrifice all they are and all they have. Mothers sacrifice time, energy, and talent for the benefit of others. And one of the greatest sacrifices mothers can ever render is their love for all and especially their husband and children. While at BYU this last year, a newfound friend was going through a large questioning period in his life, and one such major question he found himself asking was, “MaKade, What is Love?” Through our discussions and searching of the scriptures, we defined love as this: as God loves us with perfect love, our model of emulation should be our Father and Savior themselves. In describing His love for us, the Savior declared: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” and “ye are my friends” (John 15:13-14). And so I repeat that the greatest sacrifice a mother can give is the purest giving of her love, as the purest giving of her love is the purest sacrifice and giving of her very life. And also I would like to repeat a quote I feel prompted to share. As mothers are so apt to sacrifice, you have to remember that the sacrifice of self is not the ultimatum of motherhood. M Russell Ballard included this for mothers when it comes to all the sacrifices they make: “Set aside time for yourself. Pick one or two things you would like to do or learn that will enrich your life. You cannot draw from an empty well, and if you do not replenish yourself you will have less and less to give of others, even your children. Avoid any kind of substance abuse, mistakenly thinking that it will help you accomplish more.” Now, I would like to make a little note and testify that if at times, regardless of what circumstances you’re in, if you feel like you can’t go on, I testify that that is what the Atonement is for. That the grace or the enabling power of the Atonement will give you more energy than anything that man can create; it will give you more spirit, more livelihood, and more vigor than anything in your life. The Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey were fleeing from a mob on the banks of the Susquehanna River, when Oliver couldn’t go any further. He collapsed and Joseph, who was also exhausted, tried to carry him along the banks of the river till he could not go any further, and it was finally then, somewhere between Colesville/South Bainbridge and Harmony, PA that Peter, James, and John appeared to them and restored the Melchizedek Priesthood. The Priesthood that I hold was restored to two men who couldn’t go any farther. So don’t allow yourself to feel like you can’t go on.

 Fifth, Eternal Mothers Endure to the End.

There is nowhere of which I know where someone has recorded that motherhood is easy. Like living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, living the life of an Eternal Mother requires sacrifice, refinement, and endurance. In Mosiah 4:27, mothers are reminded that it all things “are done in wisdom and order, for it is not requisite a [mother] should run faster than [she] has strength…[for] it is expedient that [she] be diligent, that thereby [she] might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.” We speak so often in the church about our eventual goal becoming as Heavenly Father is, but mothers, sacred mothers, do you realize that the ultimate goal of becoming as your Heavenly Father is one you practice daily? To become as your Heavenly Father, is to become an Eternal Mother. Just as you do not expect yourselves to become perfect as God is perfect in one day, do not forget that your eternal progression to become an eternal mother does not happen in one day, - but it will happen. It takes patience, mistakes, learning, and enduring to reach your eventual prize. And for those of you mothers who are trying your hardest, working till you collapse in bed because of exhaustion, and feel as though no one is listening or watching, remember the story of Mary Whittmer: When the Prophet Joseph and Oliver were finishing the translation of the Book of Mormon at the Whitmer Home, naturally there was a buzz of excitement around the house. They would all sit around the Prophet as he would tell of what they had translated for the day, what the Nephites looked like, lived like, and ate. And all the while, Mary Whitmer, the mother of the home, was left to pick up all the slack and do all the farm chores and house chores. One night, while all were congregated around the Prophet’s table, and she in the corner doing dishes feeling especially lonesome, left-out, and unappreciated, she had had enough and left to go milk the cows near the end of the day. During her chore when she felt unloved, alone, and unnoticed, an old man came to her, dressed in brown, and called her by name saying, “Mary, you have been very faithful and diligent in your labors, but you are tired because of the increase of your toil: It is proper therefore that you should receive a witness that your faith may be strengthened.” Following that, the old man showed her the very gold plates from which the Prophet Joseph had been translating that day. This man was the resurrected messenger Moroni. And in the words of the sister missionary who first related this story to me: “Just keep on Keeping on!” Just keep on keeping on! Mary Whitmer’s efforts were not unnoticed, and neither are yours.
I thank you all for coming today to worship this Sabbath and to partake of the sacrament, and on this day, please do not forget the mark of an Eternal Mother: first, eternal mothers have a testimony in and are founded upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ; second, Eternal Mothers teach by both lesson and also by example, including receiving an education and being an example of the believers; third, Eternal Mothers bear children and have the desire to do so – never forget that to become as Heavenly Father, is to become an Eternal Mother; fourth, Eternal Mothers sacrifice but also use grace or the enabling power of the Atonement to continue on; and fifth, Eternal Mothers endure to the end.

Fathers and Mothers, Daughters and Sons, if you have felt the tugs of the Spirit on your heartstrings, or guiltstrings, please head those promptings. Mothers, know that you are doing an incredible job. The youth ever amaze me, and I’m not much older than them! But to see their diligence and testimonies is a direct correlation to your efforts as mothers, and know that generations are being influenced as I speak, whether having children or not, whether a grandmother or 8-year-old newly baptized member of the Church, because of your silent and seemingly unnoticed life as an eternal mother. So to close, and as I am leaving for two years on my mission, I feel the following befitting: As Christ hung on the cross in His agony, in His heartache, and right before His departure, He loved His mother so much to make sure she was taken care of. He turned to that disciple whom He loved and said, “Woman, behold thy son!” and, as I leave for two years, I say to you my ward family: “Behold my Mother!” Take care of her for me because she is incredible. Take care of my family as I am going to do the Lord’s business. I have a testimony of this Gospel. I have a testimony of the Restoration of the Gospel. Today as we sit here and seem as a small congregation, and we may not seem we are strong and that we may be unnoticed, as it says in the hymn ‘The Spirit of God,’ “We’ll sing and we’ll shout with the armies of heaven,” and they do hear our cries and our prayers. And I testify of these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.  

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