Motherhood in Mormon Families
By Rachael McKinnon.
Motherhood can be controversial. It is a delicate, sensitive subject that is personal to each woman on the earth. And while there is tremendous support for mothers today, there are also deeply held beliefs that motherhood can limit a woman’s potential, her identity and value. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently referred to as the “Mormon Church”), and I believe in motherhood.
Mormons sometimes have a reputation for having large families. Indeed, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints still believe God’s founding commandment to Adam and Eve to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:28). Mormons believe this law is still valid and in force today. Having large families is not the rule. Creating a strong family is key.
While Latter-day Saints believe and stand firm in their support of motherhood, they also acknowledge it is not easy. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has said, “The work of a mother is hard, too often unheralded work” (“Because She Is A Mother”, General Conference, May 1997). Julie B. Beck, a previous president of the Mormon women’s Relief Society has said, “Righteous motherhood will always stretch every reserve they have to meet the needs of their families” (“Unlocking the Door to the Blessings of Abraham,” CES Fireside for Young Adults, Mar. 2, 2008).
As any seasoned parent will tell you, advice on parenting is plentiful. Mormons see motherhood as a divine work, a partnership with God. Therefore, members of the LDS faith believe in personal revelation for their parenting in bringing up little ones as they instruct them to know God and draw closer to the Lord Jesus Christ. Because each child is different and has his own unique outlook on life, a strong relationship with God will helps mothers guide their children individually. Elder Holland goes on to say, “Heaven itself sends angels to watch over you and your little ones.”
Parenting is most successful when a strong marriage between a man and a woman precedes the introduction of children into the home. And while circumstances sometimes require dual incomes or innovative fixes for unusual situations, Mormon families are highly encouraged to sacrifice where needed so the mother can stay home with the children.
Some people might call this limiting to a woman’s potential. I call it a tremendous blessing. That doesn’t mean that I don’t recognize my own sacrifice of my graduate degree and career in a professional field. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have days where I fervently wish for conversation with people above the age of five. And it definitely doesn’t mean that my life’s goals include handling discipline, enduring tantrums, cleaning up high chairs five times a day or finding contentment in Candy Land.
As a Mormon woman of faith, I delight in sharing happiness with my children, in building relationships with them and loving them as much as possible. I have the chance to do that most, when I stay home with them. It is crucial for me to be at the ‘crossroads’ of my children’s day-to-day activities. Whenever they go out the door or come back in, I have found that a loving set of arms by the entrance mat can make all the difference in the world.
There is sacrifice. There is sometimes significant cost to motherhood. But sacrifice is what makes it sweet. It’s what makes it such a magnificent goal. It’s the loss of sleep, the stained baby-food clothes, the giving up of social activities, the seemingly never-ending tears that need comfort and the constant physical and emotional demands of ourselves that ultimately builds the lasting relationships every mother yearns for with their children. Without sacrifice, it wouldn’t mean the same in the end.
Elder Holland reminds mothers, “Yours is the work of salvation, and therefore you will be magnified, compensated, made more than you are and better than you have ever been as you try to make honest effort, however feeble you may sometimes feel that to be” (“Because She Is A Mother,” General Conference, May 1997). And many righteous, Mormon women will tell you that while that magnification, compensation, and betterment of ourselves may not seem very fast in coming when you’re up in the middle of the night nursing a newborn, it does come. I have been a mother for only nine years, and have already seen miraculous growth in myself that would not have occurred had I not had the blessings of motherhood within the framework Mormon families have of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I will be measured and judged by the world – for good and bad – with regard to my choices to become a mother. But I am more concerned about my eternal evaluation from my Heavenly Father, as well as a final exam sheet from four little ones. President Gordon B. Hinckley, a former head of the Latter-day Saint church has said,
You have nothing in this world more precious than your children. When you grow old, when your hair turns white and your body grows weary, when you are prone to sit in a rocker and meditate on the things of your life, nothing will be so important as the question of how your children have turned out. It will not be the money you have made. It will not be the cars you have owned. It will not be the large house in which you live. The searing question that will cross your mind again and again will be, How well have my children done?
If the answer is that they have done very well, then your happiness will be complete. If they have done less than well, then no other satisfaction can compensate for your loss (“Your Greatest Challenge, Mother”, General Conference, October 2000).
Here, surrounded by my four children, is where I shall make my deepest and most sincere investment.