Emulate the Examples of Righteous Women
What a great place to be, and what beautiful music and a sweet spirit I feel today. We have a little bit of a connection here, because our daughter Mary Katherine came here a year ago. She graduated from high school a little bit early and decided she wanted to continue with school, so she came here to LDS Business College, and what a great place and a great time, great teachers—she had a wonderful time.
I have been asked today to speak on the critical roles of mother. I immediately think of my own mother and her example of motherhood. It’s hard to speak of my mother, though, without my father; so men, I want you to know that fatherhood is every bit as important, and without you, we would not be mothers. It’s a partnership.
My mother is a young 88-year-old. She laughs as she tells us, “I’m the mother of nine senior citizens.” And if not yet, we will be soon. Her posterity is in the 100s, she knows each grandchild and great-grandchild by name; she is now serving a three-year mission as a guide at the Church Office Building. She uses a computer, she drives to church around the corner, she keeps abreast of current events, she exchanges recipes with her 95-year-old visiting teaching companion—which I must mention, they never miss a month. And she has a good laugh over emails that she receives from dear friends. I’d like to share one of these with you:
“One day when a seamstress was sewing while sitting close to the river, her thimble fell into the river. When she cried out, the Lord appeared and asked, ‘My dear child, why are you crying?’
“The seamstress replied that her thimble had fallen into the water, and that she needed to help her husband in making a living for their family. The Lord dipped His hand into the water and pulled out a golden thimble set with sapphires.
“‘Is this your thimble?’ the Lord asked. The seamstress replied, ‘No.’ The Lord again dipped his hand into the river. He held a golden thimble studded with rubies.
“‘Is this your thimble?’ the Lord asked. Again she replied, ‘No.’
“The Lord reached down the third time and came up with a leather thimble. ‘Is this your thimble?’ The seamstress replied, ‘Yes.’ The Lord was pleased with the woman’s honesty and gave her all three thimbles to keep, and the seamstress went home very happy.
“Some years later, the seamstress was walking with her husband along the riverbank, and her husband fell into the river and disappeared. When she cried out, the Lord again appeared and asked her, ‘Why are you crying?’
“‘Oh, my husband has fallen into the river.’ The Lord went down into the water and came up with George Clooney.
“‘Is this your husband?’ the Lord asked.
“‘Yes, yes,’ cried the seamstress.
“‘That is an untruth.’
“‘Oh, forgive me,’ the seamstress cried. ‘It is a misunderstanding. You see, if I would have said no to George Clooney, then you would have brought up Brad Pitt. Then, if I had said no to him, you would have come up with my husband, and if I had said yes, you would have given me all three. I am not in the best of health, and would not be able to take care of all three husbands. So that is why I said yes to George Clooney.’”
Laughter is the best medicine, and when things get tough, my mother will say things like, “Oh, it’s not so bad,” or “This too will pass,” or “Worry about it tomorrow.” I must give thanks to my mother for teaching and training and nurturing me as well as teaching me how to laugh at myself. So when our 18-month-old daughter decided to take over the painting and was confused as to where to paint, and painted the carpet instead—or when our 5-year-old son let the emergency brake off of our car and it rolled into a brand-new truck—I don’t really remember laughing, but I can still hear my mother saying, “Oh, don’t worry about it. It’s just money.”
I rejoice in the fact that I am the daughter of a righteous father and mother who raised me in the ways of our Savior. How blessed I am to know that I am a daughter of God. I am thankful to Him in His great wisdom for assigning me to be a woman. I love being a woman, and I love being a mother.
In these modern times, many roles of motherhood have been challenged by the world. The adversary is constantly attacking the family. We know by just turning on the TV or picking up a magazine, Satan and his minions tell us evil is good and good is evil. They are working overtime to confuse us and to tear our families apart. However, we have reinforcements because we have the gospel of Jesus Christ, which teaches us about the sacred nature of family and the roles that each of us have in the family unit.
Nothing has changed since the beginning of time. In both modern and ancient times, a mother’s role has been that of teaching, nurturing, and unconditional love. For these have been the building blocks or foundation of having a strong family unit. They have withstood the test of time in today’s culture, where everything is accepted, and even expected—where evil is good, and good is evil.
A few weeks ago I attended a women's conference in New York. There was a panel of women answering questions, and one young, very attractive panelist was asked why women in Italy were not getting married and starting families. Boy, before the question was even out of the moderator’s mouth, the young woman snapped, “You don’t have to be married to start a family.”
Neal Maxwell expressed it this way: “As parenting declines, the need for policing increases. There will always be a shortage of police if there is a shortage of effective parents! Likewise, there will not be enough prisons if there are not enough good homes” (“Take Especial Care of Your Family,” Ensign, May 1994, 88).
We can do what we have been sent to earth to do because we have Heavenly Father on our side. Heavenly Father has given us a plan and has prepared a way for us to accomplish it. I would like you to read or re-read “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” It is the divine plan of happiness, if we live by it. It tells what the roles of parents are. A “husband and a wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and their children…. Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, [and] to teach them to love and to serve one another, to observe the commandments of God…. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.” It is up to us as Latter-day Saints to keep the family unit strong. Who else will do it if we don’t? The Lord is counting on us.
Throughout the history of time, mothers have recognized the problems of the world, but [have chosen] to accept the divine responsibility for nurturing of their children. Now, this is the tricky part. I want to share with you how love has changed the world. For purposes of this talk, I have selected six women that have magnified their callings as mothers, and the critical roles they played in their children’s lives. Each mother represents many noble and righteous qualities, but I have selected only one for each mother.
We know that Satan has always been a force to be reckoned with, right from the beginning, even for the first woman on earth, Eve. She knew what it was like to be tempted by Satan. However, we also know that Eve did what she was sent to do. In Moses, we read about the creation of the world, and on the sixth day, man was made in the image of God. “And I, the Lord God, said unto mine Only Begotten that it was not good for man to be alone (Moses 3:18).” The Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and from the rib “which I, the Lord God, had taken from man, made I a woman” (v. 22). And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.
We know that Adam and Eve had it pretty good in the Garden of Eden—a beautiful garden with no weeds, and animals that behaved. I could have that. Can you imagine talking face to face with Deity? And yet, they were willing to give all of this up for a greater cause—mankind. It was Eve who first partook of the fruit and “did eat, and [she] also gave[ it] unto her husband…and he did eat (Moses 4:12).” By doing so, they knew that they would have to leave the comforts of the garden. They also knew that by partaking of the fruit that it was eternal necessity and a blessing, so that sons and daughters could be born to this earth.
We should rejoice in Eve’s decision. I believe that it was an act of love for the family of all the earth. It was a part of Father’s plan. We had to come to earth to receive bodies. There was no other way to be able to return to our Father in Heaven, and to become as He is.
I would like you to think about the next mother—Mary, the mother of Jesus. The faith that she showed—how faithful she must have been, to have been assigned the privilege of raising the Son of God. How beautifully she shows us of her faith and willingness to follow Heavenly Father’s will. In the New Testament, in the gospel of Luke, we read how the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her, “Blessed art thou among women (Luke 1:28).” And then he tells her to “fear not…for thou hast found favor with God (v. 30).” Gabriel gives her a description of her special assignment of being the mother of the Son of God. Being the kind of woman that she was, we know that she didn’t say, “Hmm, let me think about it. I’ve got a wedding to plan, and I’ll get back with you.” But through her faith and courage and willingness to follow Heavenly Father’s plan, I am sure that she also recognized the prophecies foretold her.
This is how she responds: “And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word (v. 38).” Can you imagine the feelings of love and joy as Mary held her newborn baby, realizing that He was the Son of God, the Savior of the World—and then feeling the concern and protection, fleeing from Herod’s decree [that] all the firstborn children under the age of two must be destroyed?
Do you think that Satan was working overtime? Do you think that the adversary was trying his best to thwart and to lead astray Eve, the mother of all living, and Mary, the mother of Christ? The whole plan of salvation rested upon these mothers.
Let us look to these mothers as our example, because we too can overcome the adversary and live up to our potential and the plan that Heavenly Father has for each of us. Many times we have been counseled by our religious leaders that we live in the world, but we don’t have to be of the world.
I’m reminded of a story in the Book of Mormon about a group of 2,000 young men who were led by the prophet Helaman [and] who had never before gone into battle. The following scripture passage tells us how many mothers had taught their sons, even in times of peril. They stayed true to the faith and taught their sons to trust in God.
In Alma 53:20-21 it reads: “And they were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever things they were entrusted.
“Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God, and to walk uprightly before him.”
In Alma 56:47-48 it reads: “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 [had] rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it.”
What a powerful reminder to us all to trust in God. But when you are put in a tight spot, sometimes it’s hard to remember that. It was, in the early morning hours of June 5, 2002, when our 9-year-old daughter came into our room and, in a frightened voice, said, “Elizabeth is gone.” Not fully understanding the impact of these words at the time, Ed got out of bed to check. Mary Katherine proceeded to tell me, “You’re not going to find her. A man took her.”
When I saw the kitchen window screen cut, I knew she was gone. I was reeling in the fact that she was gone and trying to make sense of it all—who took her, and why? Within hours, a search had been organized. It grew until a community and a nation was looking for Elizabeth. She no longer was just our daughter, she was everybody’s daughter. What a turning point in my life. Our family would never be the same.
We rejoiced when Eve partook of the fruit. We now could receive bodies and choose who we would follow. What a turn our lives had taken. Who would we follow? Would it be Satan? Could we withstand the strain on our marriage? Could we hold our family together? Did we have faith enough to trust and know that our Heavenly Father would bless us and our daughter and see us through this?
We had to choose. Should we blame God and become bitter, or would we trust in God and His goodness? We chose the latter. Our marriage became stronger. We depended on each other. Our family became closer and more united, our prayers more fervent. We fasted with meaning, and temple attendance became more frequent.
Did we grow from this trial? You bet we did. Did a loving, kind Heavenly Father know of our grief? We know He did. The bottom line was, though, where was Elizabeth, and would we ever see her again?
If the gospel is true—which it is—and everything that I’d ever been taught, I knew I would see her again, whether in this life or in the next. It wasn’t easy, and sometimes it was just too hard to face another day. One particular Sunday, I got the children ready and off to church but couldn’t muster the strength or courage to get myself ready. I lay down on the bed, in tears, pleading with Heavenly Father to help me through this, to understand why this was happening. Could I endure to the end and trust in God’s will? Did I have what it took to carry on and help my family through their grief and that of missing a sister?
I received an answer to my prayers. In my mind and heart, I heard a clear voice tell me to be of good cheer—another turning point for me. I got out of bed, I got dressed, and went to church. I knew that Heavenly Father loved Elizabeth more than I could comprehend, and I had to leave this in His hands, and trust in Him. And whatever was going to be, He was fully aware of it.
We didn’t stop praying, and we encouraged the searches to go on for nine long months. And we continually probed our minds of anything that could help the detectives. But now we knew who was in charge. It was easier to follow the Lord’s way than to go down the path of destruction. Through love, faith, trust in God, our ordeal became bearable—not easy, by any means, but bearable. We witnessed a miracle.
Teach by example is what Lucy Mack Smith did, the mother of the Prophet Joseph Smith. In the early years of her marriage, Lucy experienced a serious illness and was told by the doctors that they had done everything that they could and she was going to die. She had a husband and two young sons that counted on her—Alvin and Hyrum. That night, she pleaded with the Lord to spare her life so that she might bring comfort to her children and husband. She made a solemn covenant with God, and I quote: “That if He would let me live, I would endeavor to serve Him according to the best of my ability. Shortly after this, I heard a voice say to me, ‘Seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Let your heart be comforted; ye believe in God, believe also in me.’
“In a few moments, my mother came in. Looking upon me, she said, “Lucy, you are better!’ I replied, as my speech returned, ‘Yes, mother, the Lord will let me live, if I am faithful to the promise which I made to him, to be a comfort to…my husband, and…children.’” ( History of Joseph Smith , Bookcraft, 1958, p. 34-35)
It was through Lucy’s experience and example and encouragement that she taught her children religious precepts. They read the Bible together and pondered upon the words. It was through reading the Bible that Joseph came upon the words of James 1:5: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”
Did Lucy know that she would be the mother of the latter-day prophet who would restore Jesus Christ’s Church here upon the earth? How could she know? Satan was doing everything in his power to stop the restoration of the gospel, from the moment Joseph knelt down to pray. Lucy kept her sacred responsibility of being a mother by being an example, by looking for the truthfulness of the gospel, and by teaching her children to do the same.
Lucy’s feelings about her responsibilities as a mother are noted in the minutes of a church conference held October 8, 1845, in Nauvoo, Illinois. On that day, Lucy made the following remarks: “I raised eleven children, seven boys. We raised them in the fear and love of God, and when they were two or three years old, I told them I wanted them to love God with all their hearts. . . . I want all of you to do the same.” God gives us children, and we are accountable.
We must do the same. We must listen and learn from our mothers and grandmothers, young adult leaders and righteous women in the Church. They have much to teach us. And it is also their responsibility to have the next generation—so let’s help them do their job.
President [Thomas S.] Monson reflects back on his childhood. “All of us remember the home of our childhood,” he says. “Interestingly,” though, “our thoughts do not dwell on whether the house was large or small, the neighborhood fashionable or downtrodden. Rather, we delight in the experiences we shared as a family…what we learn there largely determines what we will do when we leave there….The thoughts we think, the deeds we do, the lives we live influence not only the success of our earthly journey, they also mark the way to our eternal goals.” (“Hallmarks of a Happy Home,” Ensign, Nov. 1988)
“Every Sunday, [President Monson’s mother,] Gladys, [prepared] a plate of food for Old Bob; before the family sat down to dinner, she would send Tommy off with a plate. One Sunday he asked, ‘Why don’t I take it down later?’
“His mother responded, ‘You do what I say, and your food will taste better.’
“He wasn’t sure what she meant, but he headed off for Old Bob’s, waiting anxiously as aged feet brought his neighbor to the door. Bob reached for a dime to reward the delivery boy. ‘Oh, Mr. Dicks,” said Tommy, ‘I wouldn’t want to take your money. My mother would tan my hide.’
“‘My boy, you have a wonderful mother.’
“…When Tommy got back, his dinner did taste better. ‘I didn’t realize,’ he recalls, ‘I was learning a most powerful and important lesson about caring for those less fortunate’” (Heidi S. Swinton, To the Rescue, Deseret Book, 2010, p. 30). Tommy’s parents gave to him what money could not buy—compassion and service to others.
It is in the home where we must teach the gospel by precept and example. Have you heard these words before? Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I’ll remember; involve me and I will understand.
The next one is to be prayerful. I love how James E. Faust explains prayer. He says that “access to our Creator through our Savior is surely one of the great privileges and blessings of our lives. I have learned through countless personal experiences that great is the power of prayer. No earthly authority can separate us from direct access to our Creator. There can never be a mechanical or electronic failure when we pray. There’s no limit on the number of times or how long we can pray each day. There is no quota of how many needs we wish to pray for in each prayer. We do not need to go through secretaries or make an appointment to reach the [heavenly] throne of grace. He is reachable at any time and [in] any place” (“The Lifeline of Prayer,” Ensign, May 2002).
As far back as I can remember, prayer has always been a part of my life. My mother taught each of her nine children to pray. We would pray over the food, when somebody was ill, or when we had a test. And yes, even when we ran out of gas. When I was about 7 years old, this incident changed my life. I knew that it was important to say your prayers every day, but this experience cemented it deep within my soul.
Every year we took a family vacation, all 11—Dad, Mom, and nine children would pile into a Chevrolet station wagon. We didn’t have DVDs or CDs, or even AC, for that matter. For entertainment, we read out loud and sang Primary songs. These family trips were the best of times, and the worst of times. There was never enough room, never enough time spent at the beach, and a day at Disneyland was never long enough.
For all the family trips taken, there is one that stands out even more than the others. Once again, we headed to California—this time a quick stop at Lake Mead. It was very hot, with the temperature reaching into the 100s. We were tired and restless and couldn’t wait to go swimming. Between the heat and the mosquitoes, our smiles soon faded. Sleeping that night was next to impossible. We couldn’t wait to be out of that inferno. We were up at the crack of dawn and on our way—my dad behind the wheel, my mother with her trusty map, and all the children packed in. We were off.
As my dad mentioned to my mother that the gas gauge was low, she turned to the map and said, “Oh, there’s a town not far; we can fill up there.” Somewhere, somehow, we took the wrong turn and ended up in the middle of nowhere—desert and more desert, and not a car in sight. Where was that town at, anyway? By this time, the gas gauge read “empty.” My brothers and sisters became very quiet. We didn’t want to die in the middle of nowhere, and we could feel the urgency of the situation. My dad said that we probably had just enough gas to make it up the next hill, and then we’d have to coast. It was looking very bleak, even at the top of the next hill—still no other cars.
It was at this point my mother said, “I think that we should say a prayer and ask Heavenly Father to help us,” which we did. And you can bet that every eye was closed and every arm was folded, and we all said “Amen” in unison. My dad proceeded to put the car in neutral, and we coasted down the hill and around the bend. As the car lurched to a stop, there on the side of the road was a white truck, just sitting there with a man inside. It was as though he was waiting for us. It was a strange sight to see a truck in the middle of nowhere, with no construction going on and no road closures. That is strange.
On the back of the truck was a big tank with a nozzle, which was filled with gas. He graciously filled our tank and would not accept any money. Wow. We were finally on our way. Our hearts lifted in knowing that we truly had a direct line to heaven. As a young 7-year-old, I knew for sure that Heavenly Father answered prayers.
Spencer W. Kimball states that “there is knowledge that our Father in Heaven wants each of us to have, and that is personal knowledge that He hears and answers our prayers.” Elder Richard G. Scott explains it beautifully when he says, “Heavenly Father is our perfect Father. He loves us beyond our capacity to understand. He knows what is best for us. He sees the end from the beginning. He wants us to act and to gain needed experience. When He answers yes, it is to give us confidence. And when He answers no, it is to prevent error. When He withholds an answer, it is to have us grow through faith in Him, obedience to His commandments, and a willingness to act on truth.”
It fills my soul when I hear my children pray, asking for help and guidance and protection. I know that their testimonies are growing, and that they, too, know the importance of prayer. A mother’s example will speak louder than words. Live your life in such a way that it is crystal clear to those watching you that you love the Lord, and the only way for true happiness is living the gospel of Jesus Christ. Be clear on the roles you choose. Study the scriptures. Pray. Attend your Church meetings. Make it a part of your life now. If the gospel principles are so engrained in your very fiber, you will not have to keep making those decisions over and over again.
Let us show an outpouring of love, as Eve, the mother of all living, did. Let us have faith and be faithful like Mary, the mother of Christ. And let us trust in God, as the mothers of the 2,000 stripling warriors did. Teach by example, as Lucy Mack Smith did, and show compassion by serving, like Gladys Monson did. Be prayerful. Always be prayerful.
And last, have a sense of humor. I know these things have helped me in my life. I’m grateful for my mother and her example, and if anybody ever wanted to pay me a compliment of the highest order it would be, “You are turning into your mother.”
I am very grateful for the opportunity to be here today, and I want you to know that I have a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that we have a loving Heavenly Father, who loves us and wants to be in the details of our lives. I am grateful for His Son, our Elder Brother, Jesus Christ, for the atoning sacrifice that He has made for us. And I’m so grateful for a living prophet today who leads and guides us, President Monson. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.