I gave a talk in church yesterday. I don’t really mind giving talks – it gives me a chance to really study something out, put my thoughts together, and share them.. I especially love thinking and talking about the challenges of mothers and women. I would like to share a slightly modified version of my talk because even though a lot of you weren’t sitting in the congregation yesterday, I was still thinking of you when I wrote it. I am going to break it up because it is long, so here is Part I.
11 The heart of her husband doth safely atrust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with herahands.
20 She stretcheth out her hand to the apoor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
25 Strength and honour are her aclothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of akindness.
27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of aidleness.
When I hear these verses from Proverbs 31, I immediately think of one woman – my mother. Her example of virtue is one that I have been blessed to see firsthand over and over again. She raised eight children like the mothers of the Stripling Warriors – we had no doubt that our mother knew the gospel and tried to live it. Her love for us, and for her Savior was evident in every aspect of her life. I saw her serve as Relief Society President, Young Women’s President, Camp Director, Seminary Teacher, and bishop’s wife (all time and service-intensive volunteer positions in our church). I have memories of the needy sleeping in our home, of truckers eating dinner at our table, and countless teenagers riding in our van to church activities. When my oldest brother and sister served missions at the same time, my mom added part time work to her already bursting schedule of service to help support the cost.
And now, as she struggles with her health and is limited in her abilities to keep up with her tireless dedication to the Lord’s work, I have to chance as her daughter to arise up, and call her blessed. That is truly what she is. Virtuous and blessed.
Here is thing about my mom though, that I want you know, and that will lead to what I really want to say to all of you.
My mom hated Mother’s Day. She hated it because there was always someone who stood up and read a very sweet poem about their perfect mother, and then tearfully recalled that they had never heard their mother raise their voice. She hated it because she was currently living the very hard and hectic reality of trying to serve the Lord as an imperfect person, and on Mother’s Day she always felt like she fell short. She did sometimes yell at us. Our Family Home Evenings sometimes did meet the description of “The only fight that begins and ends with a prayer.” She did try to teach us reverence in church, over and over again, and there were still moments of pinching and teasing and walking the halls. There were plenty of moments of “I can’t do this anymore” and “These kids don’t appreciate anything I do!”
Unfortunately, these feelings of exhaustion and of always falling short, are not just reserved for mothers, they seem to infect the hearts of all women. We are never good enough and this message comes rushing at us from every direction…from magazines with airbrushed supermodels on the front, to Pinterest boards filled with chevron-patterned homemade maxi skirts, 30 minute ab workouts that will give you back your pre-baby belly and FHE lessons with laminated object lessons for every chapter of the Book of Mormon, with matching refreshments and activities !
So I want to talk to all of the women, even the young women, about those feelings of never being good enough.
First, I want to talk to you about who you really are. In church’s last General Conference, Elaine Dalton (who recently served as the head of our organization for girls ages 12-18) spoke about this. She said,
“Every week young women all over the world repeat the Young Women theme. No matter the language, each time I hear these words, “We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him, the Spirit affirms to my soul that they are true.
It is not only an affirmation of our identity –who we are- but also an acknowledgement of whose we are. We are daughters of an exalted being!
In every country and on every continent, I have met confident, articulate young women, filled with light, refined by hard work and trial, possessing pure and simple faith. They are virtuous. They are covenant keepers. They know who they are and that they have a significant role to play in building the kingdom of God.”
I look around my life, and I see the same thing – daughters of a King. I see women who dedicate their lives their families. I see women who work long hours as nurses, caring patiently and carefully for people who are sick and vulnerable. I see young women who are confidently holding to standards that seem outdated and just plain weird to their classmates. Women who teach diligently. Women who are never ever idle. I see women who share words of wisdom and guidance with people who are lost and confused. All around me, I see women of virture , and yet I wonder how many of us would actually describe ourselves as virtuous women. I have even heard some of these wonderful women I described saying that talking about virtuous women makes them feel guilty and that they HOPE to be virtuous women “someday.”
Tomorrow, I want to talk to you about that guilt and what it means to be a virtuous woman, but in the meantime, can you tell me what or who you think of when you think about virtuous women? Especially those of you who don’t share my religion, I would love to hear about virtue means to you.