Mother’s Day Talk from 2011by Jim

11 May 2014
11:05 pm

The pain is still too close to write something about my mom today.  Even still, I wanted to share something, so I thought I would post this talk that I gave in church three years ago on Mother’s Day.  I’d like to dedicate these words to the remarkable woman I call Mom.

Mother’s Day Talk    May 8, 2011

Good afternoon, brothers and sisters.  I’m honored to be speaking to you today.  As a bishopric, we typically spend some time each week talking about our upcoming sacrament meeting topics and speakers.  Under these circumstances, you’d think that I would have been part of the conversation deciding today’s speaking assignments.  I’m sure many of you are familiar with the feeling of surprise I felt when Bishop looked over to me during a recent bishopric meeting and said, “We’d like you to speak in sacrament meeting on Mother’s day.”  In all seriousness, I’m grateful for the opportunity to share with you today some of my thoughts and more importantly to give honor and respect to some of the most important people in our lives: women, sisters, daughters, and mothers.

President Hinckley said,

Woman is God’s supreme creation. Only after the earth had been formed, after the day had been separated from the night, after the waters had been divided from the land, after vegetation and animal life had been created, and after man had been placed on the earth, was woman created; and only then was the work pronounced complete and good.

Of all the creations of the Almighty, there is none more beautiful, none more inspiring than a lovely daughter of God who walks in virtue with an understanding of why she should do so, who honors and respects her body as a thing sacred and divine, who cultivates her mind and constantly enlarges the horizon of her understanding, who nurtures her spirit with everlasting truth.

Sisters, you have been blessed with special characteristics that make you who you are.  President Hinckley also said,

God planted within women something divine.”  That something is the gift and the gifts of motherhood.  But motherhood is more than just bearing children.  In Genesis, we read that Adam called his wife Eve because she was the mother of all living, though she had yet to birth a child.  Elder Matthew Cowley taught that “men have to have something given to them [in this life] to make them saviors of men, but not mothers, not women.  [They] are born with an inherent right, an inherent authority, to be the saviors of human souls … and the regenerating force in the lives of God’s children.”  Sheri Dew said, “Motherhood is not what was left over after our Father blessed His sons with priesthood ordination.  It was the most ennobling endowment he could give His daughters, a sacred trust that gave women an unparalleled role in helping His children keep their second estate.

Speaking to the young women of the church, President James E. Faust said,

I wonder if you sisters fully understand the greatness of your gifts and talents and how all of you can achieve the “highest place of honor” in the Church and in the world. One of your unique, precious, and sublime gifts is your femininity, with its natural grace, goodness, and divinity. Femininity is not just lipstick, stylish hairdos, and trendy clothes. It is the divine adornment of humanity. It finds expression in your qualities of your capacity to love, your spirituality, delicacy, radiance, sensitivity, creativity, charm, graciousness, gentleness, dignity, and quiet strength. It is manifest differently in each girl or woman, but each of you possesses it. Femininity is part of your inner beauty.

One of your particular gifts is your feminine intuition. Do not limit yourselves. As you seek to know the will of our Heavenly Father in your life and become more spiritual, you will be far more attractive, even irresistible. You can use your smiling loveliness to bless those you love and all you meet, and spread great joy. Femininity is part of the God-given divinity within each of you. It is your incomparable power and influence to do good. You can, through your supernal gifts, bless the lives of children, women, and men. Be proud of your womanhood. Enhance it. Use it to serve others.

Young women, you have great potential for influencing others.  These gifts you have are real.  Elder Quentin L. Cook in the most recent General Conference shared this story about one influential young woman:

When I was recently assigned to a conference in the Mission Viejo California Stake, I was touched by an account of their four-stake New Year’s Eve youth dance. Following the dance, a purse was found with no outside identification. I share with you part of what Sister Monica Sedgwick, the Young Women president in the Laguna Niguel stake, recorded: “We didn’t want to pry; this was someone’s personal stuff! So we gingerly opened it and grabbed the first thing that was on top—hopefully, it would identify her. It did, but in another way—it was a For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. Wow! This told us something about her. Then we reached in for the next item, a little notebook. Surely this would give us answers, but not the kind we were expecting. The first page was a list of favorite scriptures. There were five more pages of carefully written scriptures and personal notes.”

The sisters immediately wanted to meet this stalwart young woman. They returned to that purse to identify its owner. They pulled out some breath mints, soap, lotion, and a brush. I loved their comments: “Oh, good things come out of her mouth; she has clean and soft hands; and she takes care of herself.”

They eagerly awaited the next treasure. Out came a clever little homemade coin purse made from a cardboard juice carton, and there was some money in a zippered pocket. They exclaimed, “Ahh, she’s creative and prepared!” They felt like little children on Christmas morning. What they pulled out next surprised them even more: a recipe for Black Forest chocolate cake and a note to make the cake for a friend’s birthday. They almost screamed, “She’s a HOMEMAKER! Thoughtful and service minded.” Then, yes, finally some identification. The youth leaders said they felt greatly blessed “to observe the quiet example of a young lady living the gospel.”

We as leaders have an obligation to help and encourage young women, like the one this story, to find and develop the attributes of womanhood.  I love the words of Elder Russell M. Nelson on this subject:

A worthy woman personifies the truly noble and worthwhile attributes of life. A faithful woman can become a devoted daughter of God—more concerned with being righteous than with being selfish, more anxious to exercise compassion than to exercise dominion, more committed to integrity than to notoriety. And she knows of her own infinite worth.

As brethren and holders of the Priesthood, it is our responsibility to show the proper respect to women.  All of us here today, with no exception, are here today because of the sacrifice of a woman.  I believe the reason there is a special bond between a mother and a child is because of the great sacrifice a woman goes through to bring a child into this world.  We sacrifice for those we love and we love those for whom we sacrifice.  If we look to He who sacrificed the most for all of us, we will also find He who loves us more than any other.  Our Savior endured pain and ridicule and paid the ultimate price because of His love for each of us.

All the primary children know how much I like stories, especially from the scriptures.  I would like to share a few stories with you today; the first from the scriptures.  Like for so many things, the Savior provides us with an example of showing respect to the woman who gave Him life.  Persecuted, ridiculed, scourged, crowned with thorns, the Savior hung on the cross while the soldiers cast lots for his coat.  Under these entirely undeserved circumstances, the Savior’s heart went out to His mother.

26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!

27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

It astounds me that while suffering, which caused the greatest of all to shrink, He still sought to honor and protect His mother.  What an example of love and respect.  Some of the very last words the Savior spoke as a mortal man were words seeking the well-being of His mother.

This is not the only example the Savior gave us of respecting and honoring women.  Jesus taught some of His most important doctrines to women.  It was to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well that he first acknowledged Himself to be the Messiah.  He taught her of the living water and said, “I … am he.”  To Martha he said “I am the resurrection, and the life. … And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”  On the third day after his death, the Savior found Mary weeping outside the sepulcher.

15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.

16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

It is no surprise to me that Jesus first appeared to a woman.  I believe it was Mary’s great faith and love for the Savior that qualified her to have this sacred experience.  It was also she who was entrusted to deliver the first glorious and divine message of His resurrection.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson shared a story a few years back about how his father showed love and respect to his mother.

Years ago, when my brothers and I were boys, our mother had radical cancer surgery. She came very close to death. Much of the tissue in her neck and shoulder had to be removed, and for a long time it was very painful for her to use her right arm.

One morning about a year after the surgery, my father took Mother to an appliance store and asked the manager to show her how to use a machine he had for ironing clothes. The machine was called an Ironrite. It was operated from a chair by pressing pedals with one’s knees to lower a padded roller against a heated metal surface and turn the roller, feeding in shirts, pants, dresses, and other articles. You can see that this would make ironing (of which there was a great deal in our family of five boys) much easier, especially for a woman with limited use of her arm. Mother was shocked when Dad told the manager they would buy the machine and then paid cash for it. Despite my father’s good income as a veterinarian, Mother’s surgery and medications had left them in a difficult financial situation.

On the way home, my mother was upset: “How can we afford it? Where did the money come from? How will we get along now?” Finally Dad told her that he had gone without lunches for nearly a year to save enough money. “Now when you iron,” he said, “you won’t have to stop and go into the bedroom and cry until the pain in your arm stops.” She didn’t know he knew about that. I was not aware of my father’s sacrifice and act of love for my mother at the time, but now that I know, I say to myself, “There is a man.”

Women have the potential to have such a powerful and significant influence in all our lives.  Mothers, sisters, daughters, friends; all these relationships with womankind have the potential to touch lives in a way men simply cannot.  The gifts you sisters possess and the power you wield is real.  I was touched as I read this story retold by Elder Nelson:

The influence of your mother will bless you throughout life, especially when you serve as a missionary. Long years ago, Elder Frank Croft was serving in the state of Alabama. While preaching to the people, he was forcefully abducted by a vicious gang, to be whipped and lashed across his bare back. Elder Croft was ordered to remove his coat and shirt before he was tied to a tree. As he did so, a letter he had recently received from his mother fell to the ground. The vile leader of the gang picked up the letter. Elder Croft closed his eyes and uttered a silent prayer. The attacker read the letter from Elder Croft’s mother. From a copy of that letter, I quote:

“My beloved son, … remember the words of the Savior when He said, … ‘Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my name’s sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for you will have your reward in Heaven for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.’ Also remember the Savior upon the cross suffering from the sins of the world when He had uttered these immortal words, ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ Surely, my boy, they who are mistreating you … know not what they do or they would not do it. Sometime, somewhere, they will understand and then they will regret their action and they will honor you for the glorious work you are doing. So be patient, my son, love those who mistreat you and say all manner of evil against you and the Lord will bless you and magnify you. … Remember also, my son, that day and night, your mother is praying for you.”

Elder Croft watched the hateful man as he studied the letter. He would read a line or two, then sit and ponder. He arose to approach his captive. The man said: “Feller, you must have a wonderful mother. You see, I once had one, too.” Then, addressing the mob, he said: “Men, after reading this Mormon’s mother’s letter, I just can’t go ahead with the job. Maybe we had better let him go.” Elder Croft was released without harm.

We are deeply grateful for the faithful mothers and fathers of our wonderful missionaries. The love they bear for their children is sublime.

As I try to find the words to express my gratitude for the women in my life, I am humbled by the love shown and sacrifices made on my behalf.  I consider myself blessed beyond description.  Brethren, I implore you to take time to tell the women in your lives how much you appreciate and love them.  Tell them by word and perhaps more importantly by how you treat them.  Sisters, cultivate the gifts God has given you so you may find the joys of motherhood: yours is a divine gift and calling.  This is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.


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