Saturday, May 12, 2012

Happy Mothers' Day, Mamas!

This mothers' day I get the chance to sing praises to mamas in church. My mom is so cool that I didn't want to limit her praises to the 200 people who will hear me at church, so I'm posting my talk here. Happy mothers' day!




Faith is the first principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It is a principle of action and of power.  We believe in God, the eternal Father, and in his son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.   As we learn the gospel and allow that belief in Jesus Christ, and the knowledge of the love and mercy of our Heavenly Father, become the driving force behind all of our actions, we become individuals of faith and integrity.  No move can be taken in the gospel without faith.  Repentance without faith could not be effective.  Charity without faith could not even exist.  

Conversely, the strongest conviction of the love of God and the divine mission of Jesus Christ is useless, and will soon fade if we do not follow the example of Jesus Christ in observing the ordinances of the gospel, having charity, and living with integrity.  In Alma 34:28 Amulek taught,

if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need—I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith.

Brigham Young also taught, in October 1856 General Conference, as he called for assistance for the Willie and Martin Handcart companies who were stranded in early winter storms,

“Your faith, religion, and profession of religion will never save one soul of you in the celestial kingdom of our God, unless you carry out just such principles as I am now teaching you.  Go and bring in those people now on the plains, and attend strictly to those things which we call temporal, or temporal duties, otherwise your faith will be in vain.”

I don’t think that could be stated more simply or clearly.  Professions of faith are just words until our faith governs our actions, leading us to sacrifice and serve selflessly.  

Mother’s day is a particularly appropriate day to be talking about faith.  Women in the church in modern and ancient times, have been noted for their actions of great faith.  The Savior honored humble and faithful women throughout his mortal ministry, and, significantly, as his last act upon the cross, as he committed his faithful mother to the care of a beloved disciple, and as his first act after his resurrection, appearing to Mary before any other disciple, even before ascending to his Father.  

One of my favorite examples of faith in the time of the Savior comes from the New Testament.  Mary and Martha were sisters, and faithful followers of Jesus Christ. He had taught them in their home, and was close to their family.  When their brother, Lazarus, became sick, they sent for the Savior, with absolute faith in his ability to heal their brother.  Lazarus died before Jesus arrived.  When Jesus came, Martha rushed out to meet him. We read the account in John 11:20-27

21 Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
22 But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.
23 Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.
24 Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
27 She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.

Martha’s understanding was not perfect, but her faith and humility were exemplary.  When the Savior asked her, “Believest thou this?” She replied with a pure and simple, “Yea, Lord: I believe.”  
I hope that when I am faced with challenges to my faith, or gospel truths that may seem hard, I have the courage and faith to give such an answer.  

In the Book of Mormon we learn of a group of young men who, when faced with the possibility of bodily harm and even death, stood with unflinching faith.  Two thousand young men took up arms under the leadership of their faithful captain, Helaman, to defend their homes and families.  They were described in Alma 53: 20-21

20 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 thing they were entrusted.
21 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.

Helaman recounted their courage and faith in a letter to Moroni, the commander of the Nephite armies:

47 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.
48 And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it.

Their actions were a beautiful and fitting tribute to the faith of their mothers.  They fought valiantly, and through their faith, and, no doubt, the faith and prayers of their humble mothers, all were injured, but none were killed.  

In the first Presidency message in the April, 1998 Ensign, President Thomas S. Monson counseled that the greatest tribute we can give to our faithful mothers is in following their examples of faith and service.  Every act of kindness or compassion or faith gives honor to our mothers.  He concluded with this remark:   

May each of us treasure this truth: One cannot forget mother and remember God. One cannot remember mother and forget God. Why? Because these two sacred persons, God and mother, partners in creation, in love, in sacrifice, in service, are as one.

I hope to do appropriate honor to my mother through my actions.  

One great example of faithful womanhood and motherhood in modern times is Emma Smith, wife of the prophet Joseph Smith. She experienced hardship and loss beyond anything I can imagine, but she was always willing to give of what little she had, and serve wherever she was able.  Because of her faith and service, she was honored in the revelation found in D&C 25, with the title of an “elect lady.”  Emma Smith would later serve as the first president of the Relief Society.  In Doctrine and Covenants 29:7, the term “elect” is expounded upon.

mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts;

I am certain that many of us have known elect ladies, after the pattern of Emma Smith, and other women in the early days of the church, who hear the voice of the Lord in hardship and loss, and seek opportunities to build and strengthen others, even when their own suffering is great.  

I am sure that my own mother is one of the elect ladies of the earth today.  

My mother had a lot of struggles during her teenage and young adult years.  She finally married in the temple at the age of 30, but her marriage was fraught with difficulties.  After twelve years of marriage, she found herself betrayed by her husband and abandoned with five young children between the ages of four and eleven.  She felt the burden of single parenthood acutely.  I know she was often lonely.  I learned many great lessons from my mother in the years of poverty and uncertainty that followed.  Perhaps the most important lesson was the one she demonstrated over and over- When trials beset us, it is the fool’s way to turn from a loving Heavenly Father.  She turned to prayer, fasting, temple attendance, and scripture study constantly.  We saw her pay her tithing when she could not pay all of the bills, and we knew that we were blessed because we were never hungry or cold.  Our family participated in every ward or stake activity because she wanted us to be surrounded by strong families and righteous influences.  When we struggled to define our relationship with our father, knowing the pain that he had caused to our family, she taught us Heavenly Father’s plan for families so that we could love and pray for our dad, but we could know that his choices were wrong.  She was constantly alert for an opportunity to serve our neighbors, and she was a faithful visiting teacher.

My mother told us many times that ours was not a broken home, and she was right.  Our healing from my parents’ divorce, guided by our prayerful mother, drove us closer together.  There were many changes and challenges in the following years, but there were two things that I never questioned: everything my mother did was for the benefit of her children, and the ONLY way to come unscathed and stronger through trials is the way of faith and reliance on Heavenly Father.  This week, the fourth of my mother’s children is getting sealed in the temple.   These four temple marriages, and four grandchildren born in the covenant, being raised in the gospel, are the expanding fruits of my mom’s tireless faith.  (Moroni 9:6)

My mom is a great example of living the counsel in 2 Nephi 31:19-20
19 And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.
20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

When I talked to my mom a couple of days ago, and told her that I would be talking about her on mothers’ day, she said, “I hope that you will say that I always tried to keep an eternal perspective.”  I was glad that she said that because that is one thing that I know she tried very hard to teach me as a self absorbed teenager- that eternal perspective; in other words, putting faith in God behind every choice and action.  I hope that I have learned that lesson, and that I can be as steadfast in my faith in Christ as my mother always has been.  

As a mother myself, even as one of imperfect faith, I have a strong testimony that Heavenly Father hears the prayers of mothers for their children.  Childhood is treacherous.  Watching my small children fall and get up and fall again, even as they seek for more and more independence makes the constant prayer of my mother heart that my children will be protected from dangers that I can’t foresee or prevent.  I have been a mother for less than three years, but I have seen this prayer answered countless times in small and large ways.  Once, when going up a flight of wooden steps to our apartment with a newborn Eloise in my arms and a one and a half year old Jared behind me, I reached the top to turn around and see him lose his balance and start falling hard and fast toward the concrete stair at the bottom.  There was nothing but gravity between him and unavoidable serious injury. As I watched him, unable to do anything, I saw him stop, suddenly, as if he was caught in a net, only three or four steps lower than he started.  He came out of the experience with nothing more serious than a bruised arm, but I came away with a strengthened testimony that Heavenly Father hears our prayers, particularly the prayers of mothers for their children.
Through this experience, and many others, I have gained a greater appreciation for my own mother and for all mothers who do all they can for their children, and rely on their  faith that a loving Father in Heaven will make up for their weaknesses and limitations.  My own weaknesses and limitations are far greater than my abilities and skills.  When it comes to my precious children, I am dependent on that shield of faith as a protection for them and for our family; protection from outside dangers, but also from my own folly.  

I am thankful for the example of my mother and other men and women who have left us a legacy of steadfast faith and selfless service.

As each of us strive to live with greater faith, I would encourage each of you to heed the words of the Savior upon the cross, and “behold thy mother.” Look to the great women of the scriptures and the elect ladies in your own life, and seek to follow their examples of faith, sacrifice, and courage.  
As we look to these examples, and to our own mothers, and other men and women of faith in our lives, may we find the courage to live with greater faith, that our contributions to our families and to the kingdom of God may be as great as theirs, and that our lives may honor our faithful mothers.

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