May 10, 2015

A Mother's Love

A talk I gave today in Church for Mother's Day.

I am honored today to speak about the importance of mothers in our lives. Each of us has life because a mother walked "through the valley of the shadow of death" (Psalms 23:4). They deserve our respect and our gratitude. I understand that we may not all have ideal mothers, but none the less, we all have been blessed in some degree by the sacrifice and love of a mother.

Without mothers, none of us would be here. Yet, despite this simple, yet factual statement, throughout the centuries, the importance of women and motherhood have for the most part been glossed over. History books are mostly filled with the stories of presidents, inventors, conquerors, doctors, tyrants, and religious figures, who for the most part, are all men. We are getting better today, but simply put, the history of women is most often told through the lives of men. Even in the Church, we often put more emphasis on priesthood keys, authority, and offices, such as Bishop, President, Apostle and Prophet, then on women and motherhood.

Yet when Christ taught during his earthly ministry, he rarely, if almost ever, spoke of priesthood or offices. Instead, he often spoke of women, such as the penitent woman, a widow's mite, the faith of an unclean woman, and the ceaseless prayers of a humble woman. Yes, Jesus did speak of men, but it seems that he held a special place in his heart for women. Of the over 100 stories in the four Gospels that refer to a woman, only six speak of a woman in a negative way. [1]

One of the most quoted verses in all scriptures states, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16) is actually couched within the context of a mother through the process of birth. The context of this verse is that Nicodemus came to Jesus to be taught of how the Master had such great power to perform so many amazing miracles [2]. The irony is that Jesus never really answers Nicodemus's question about his power, at least not directly. Instead he speaks of birth. Spiritual birth. John 3:5 reads, "Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." Only ten verses later Jesus teaches us that " God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son." Why would Jesus choose to teach about his power to perform miracles, and about the significance of baptism, the gate to salvation, by teaching of a mother? My hope is to give at least one possible explanation through the stories of three incredible women. Three women who have blessed the lives of each of us because they chose to be a mother.

First though, we need to speak of baptism and how it relates to mothers. Baptism by immersion, as taught by Jesus to Nicodemus, symbolizes a new birth. The Lord taught Adam and Eve that "inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory" (Moses 6:59).

Just as each of us were completely immersed in the amniotic fluid of our mother's womb, which helped to protect us and allowed us to grow, each of us too must be completely immersed in the waters of baptism, to allow us to spiritually grow, and be protected from the buffetings of Satan. Also, just as an incredible amount of pain, blood, and suffering was required for each of our physical births, the suffering and atoning sacrifice of the Savior was required for our spiritual birth. What better way to teach about the atonement, then to teach about the love of a mother.

The first woman I would like to speak of is Mary. Mary is, and always will be the first and one of the greatest disciples of Jesus Christ. She is also perhaps one of the most powerful witnesses of the Savior, because she knew Him like no other person on earth. She was there at His birth; she was there as He grew to a man; and she was there at His death and resurrection. She was always faithful to her Son, and she always believed in His divine mission. As a young girl of about 12 or 13 Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel and was told that she would bear a son who would be the literal Son of God. She had a choice. She could accept, which most likely would mean ridicule, estrangement from friends, and embarrassment, or she could choose not to accept the will of God, which would mean she would be able to live a normal life, a life like any other girl her age.

Yet, Mary chose the more difficult path; she chose to be the mother of the Son of God. Because of her decision, she most likely lost many friends who assumed she had broken the law of chastity; she also lost the chance of having a normal wedding, but instead was quickly married to Joseph in a small private setting. For the rest of her life she had to face the scorns of those who did not understand, of those who would not believe. Because Mary chose to give birth to the Savior of us all, each of us can be spiritually reborn through the atoning blood of the Savior. [3]

The second woman I would like to speak about is Eve. Like Mary, the story of Eve is misunderstand by much of the world. Most Christians regret the decision she made, and blame her for the suffering, pains, deaths, and misery that came into the world because of the Fall. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. One of the blessings of the restoration is the fact that we understand that the Fall was actually a great blessing. Without the Fall, Adam and Eve would still live in a paradisiacal world. A world without sin. A world without death. The irony is that without sin, there would be no need for a Savoir, and without death, there would be no birth or resurrection. Because Eve chose to partake of the forbid fruit, we are here. Because of her, the Savior was enabled to be born. Because of her, pain was allowed in to the world, which allowed for the Master to suffer, bleed, and die so that we might live. If it was not for Eve, both physical and spiritual birth would not be possible.

I can't help but wonder that if when our Heavenly Parents chose to send down Adam, knowing of his strict obedience to the letter of the law, knew they needed to send down Eve, because she more fully understood the spirit of the law. She knew that partaking of the fruit was wrong. But she also knew that it was the only way that the plan could be fulfilled. It was the only way that we could learn between good and evil. It was the only way for us to learn to become like our Heavenly Parents.

The last Woman I would like to speak about is our own eternal and glorious Heavenly Mother. The beautiful hymn "O My Father" states, "In the heavens are parents single? No, the thought makes reason stare. Truth is reason: truth eternal tells me I've a mother there." (Hymn 292).

"Logic and reason would certainly suggest" said President Gordon B. Hinckley, "that if we have a Father in Heaven, we have a Mother in Heaven. That doctrine rests well with me" [4]. What a wonderful blessing to know that we do not only have a loving Father in Heaven, but a Mother of equal power and glory, who loves and cares for each of us. Through our Father, with our eternal Mother at His side, the worlds were created, the plan of salvation was put in place, and exaltation was made available to all. I have no doubt that we could say of our Heavenly Mother, that She "so loved the world, that [she] gave [her] … Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." [5].

Perhaps the reason Jesus answered Nicodemus's question of the Savior's power to perform miracles, with a mother giving birth, is because no other sacrifice could come near to the Savior's atonement, than to the pain and anguish a mother must go through to bring us life. Perhaps, it is simply because there is no other way to describe the Savior's love, then to first describe the love of a mother.

How grateful I am for my own mother, who has taught me so much. Words cannot describe my love for her. She is wonderful. She is amazing. How grateful I am for these four amazing women, my earthy mother, Mary, Eve, and my Mother in Heaven. Because of their willingness to suffer, I am here. Because of them, I can have eternal life. Because of them, I can more fully understand my Savior. I love them. I honor them and I am eternally grateful to them for their examples and love towards me.

[1] Women in the Synoptic Gospels
[2] See John 3:1-2
[3] This portion about Mary is mostly taken from a Christmas program I wrote back in 2012
[4] Daughters of God by Gordon B. Hinckley (October 1991)
[5] For more on our Mother in Heaven, see Another Mother's Day by Amy Gordon, and A Mother There by David L. Paulsen and Martin Pulido

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