Relief Society Special Teaching for our Times
Mother’s Day Sunday: A Mother Heart based on an April, 2004 General Conference talk by Sister Julie B. Beck
May 10, 2009
The slides and notes from my lesson can be found on slideshare.net under the user name: Mormonmom
Sister Beck teaches us that one of our goals as women, not necessarily mothers, is to nurture and and feed children spiritually. To have a ”mother heart”, Sister Beck instructs us that it is more about keeping our covenants — that the role of motherhood is divine. Let me start with a disclaimer – I am not qualified as many of you wonderful mothers to teach about A Mother Heart. I *only* have 10 years experience as a mother. I *only* have 3 children. And I *only* have girls. So, using scriptures as my guide, just as Sister she offers us important principles that we can each apply to our lives as faithful women.
She opens with the words: “I have often heard my father describe my mother as a woman with a “mother heart,” and that is true. Her mothering influence has been felt by many hundreds, perhaps thousands of people, and she has refined the role of nurturer to an art form. Her testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and strong sense of identity and purpose have guided her life.”
Read Proverbs 31: 10-27.
So what is a mother heart? Is it just the bearing and/or rearing of children? Or does it go beyond that?
It’s about nurturing, leading, teaching, and loving.
Covenant-keeping, serving, and opening our hearts.
It’s about trusting in God and His individual plan for each of us.
Being trustworthy in caring for His children.
Helping Him do His work in whatever capacity may be ours.
Sister Beck says every girl and woman who makes and keeps sacred covenants can have a mother heart.
President David O. McKay said, Motherhood is the greatest potential influence either for good or ill in human life. Consider the angelic Lamanite mothers and their incredible faith. Their sons believed in the faith of their mothers. Two thousand stripling warriors, with no battle experience, but also with no fear of death, fought one of the most incredible battle victories in recorded history. Much of that good influence comes from simple words and acts that may at the time seem small or even mundane. And yet out of small things proceedeth that which is great. (D&C 64:33)
Do you think there is an equivalent ‘father heart”? Why or why not?
Does the priesthood instill a ‘father heart’? It could be said that a woman’s job is to nurture the children, the man’s job is to hold the priesthood and provide for the family. That’s what the proclamation says. But what about the relationship men have to their children? Is it the same relationship to kids like “mother heart” represents for women?
Do you have to be a mother to have a Mother Heart? Of course not. Women who are not mothers also show qualities of spirituality, love, and faithfulness.
Mary (of Mary and Martha fame) left the chores of the moment to listen to her Savior. With precious ointment, she knelt and washed Jesus’ feet. Both Mary and her sister Martha believed in Jesus before He raised Lazarus from the dead, stating, Yea, Lord I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.? (John 11:27). They represent the Mother Heart.
I thought this was an interesting perspective from a post on an archived forum: “I see the vantage point of encouraging mothers to excel, and as soon as I heard the talk I felt she was referring to the spiritual nurturing that moms do…yesterday for 6 hours, I helped other people’s kids to have fun at a community event. At that event, I was the first responder to help a mom locate her missing child. I helped clean up garbage so other people could go have fun with their families. This week I’ll prepare for activity days to do my part to help other people’s kids…A long time ago, I spent Christmas eve sitting with a young girl in the hospital- her own family wasn’t able to be there at that specific time.”
Sister Beck’s counsel: “Female roles did not begin on earth, and they do not end here. A woman who treasures motherhood on earth will treasure motherhood in the world to come, and “where [her] treasure is, there will [her] heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). By developing a mother heart, each girl and woman prepares for her divine, eternal mission of motherhood. “Whatever principle of intelligence [she] attain[s] unto in this life, it will rise with [her] in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through [her] diligence and obedience than another, [she] will have so much the advantage in the world to come” (D&C 130:18–19).”
Sister Beck shares a wonderful story where she met a group of young, covenant-keeping women with mother hearts They were teaching two-year-olds to be kind to one another. They were soothing babies, kissing bruised knees, and wiping tears.
“I asked one of those mothers how it came about that she could transfer her talents so cheerfully into the role of motherhood. She replied, “I know who I am, and I know what I am supposed to do. The rest just follows.” That young mother will build faith and character in the next generation one family prayer at a time, one scripture study session, one book read aloud, one song, one family meal after another. She is involved in a great work. She knows that “children are an heritage of the Lord” and “happy is the [woman] that hath [a] quiver full of them” (Psalm 127:3, 5). She knows that the influence of righteous, conscientious, persistent, daily mothering is far more lasting, far more powerful, far more influential than any earthly position or institution invented by man. She has the vision that, if worthy, she has the potential to be blessed as Rebekah of old to be “the mother of thousands of millions” (Genesis 24:60).”
Sister Beck tells us, “In my experience I have seen that some of the truest mother hearts beat in the breasts of women who will not rear their own children in this life, but they know that “all things must come to pass in their time” and that they “are laying the foundation of a great work” (D&C 64:32–33). As they keep their covenants, they are investing in a grand, prestigious future because they know that “they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever” (Abraham 3:26).
As someone who has struggled with infertility, Mother’s Day may be incredibly difficult. Women who are unable to have children and single women can energize their mother heart by working with children or giving of themselves in some way. Women who do such work can find joy in it and bring happiness and wholesome influence into the lives of children, especially those who have been denied a mother’s love.
By developing a mother heart, each girl and woman prepares for her divine, eternal mission of motherhood.
Why did the Lord give us families? My mother heart extends to teenagers, even though my eldest is not yet there. I think about our most recent nanny, who at the tender age of 19 helped my family truly learn the meaning of mother heart. Young men – teenagers – on their missions. Even Joseph Smith at the tender age of 14, seeing the First Vision. Lucy Mack Smith absolutely had a mother heart.
If Mother’s Day is not special for you because you don’t yet have kids or you can’t or your kids have all gone off the deep end or your own mother was crazy—or if your children and/or husband just don’t get that you should be cherished and celebrated just one Sunday a year—then change your focus.
Be happy for those who do have the blessings of children. Feel blessed for the great kids of our ward you come in contact with and with whom you influence in your callings or your work. Remember that you have a Mother in Heaven who loves you. Look around the room. Find someone worth celebrating and send your mother heart her way.
Enjoy Mother’s Day. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
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Over the last few months, I was asked by the Relief Society Enrichment leader to participate in an experiment. The focus was on Mary, Martha, & Betty Sue (the forgotten sister who was too busy to get around to helping Martha or sitting with Mary). Each sister focused on just one of these scripture sisters and I was asked to focus on Mary. At the quarterly Enrichment activity, we “reported” on what we learned over the past months. Here’s my talk…
It was a cold, crisp Sunday in October, 2008. Even though the conference center will filled with 22,000 visitors, you could hear a pin drop when President Monson arose, walked to the podium and began his General Conference talk. He started with the words
“I begin by mentioning one of the most inevitable aspects of our lives here upon the earth, and that is change. At one time or another we’ve all heard some form of the familiar adage: “Nothing is as constant as change.”
Throughout our lives, we must deal with change. Some changes are welcome; some are not. There are changes in our lives which are sudden, such as the unexpected passing of a loved one, an unforeseen illness, the loss of a possession we treasure.
Within days, the mortgage crisis struck our country. And the stock market crashed. My grandmother passed away. And my husband lost his job.
While this noise was going on in my life, Mary asked me to participate in this experiment. I was surprised she asked me to focus on Mary, specifically what is it like to be a Mary-like person. Because I’m usually Martha. Or at least Martha-like. I think. I do. A boss once wrote on my performance review that I was THE model of operational efficiency, which meant I got the same amount of work done as the rest of his team combined (who were 10 men, BTW).
So I read the stories about how Mary, Martha, and their brother, Lazarus, were faithful followers of Jesus, and Jesus loved them very much.
One day while Jesus was visiting them, Martha was busy cleaning the house and preparing food. She wanted to be sure that Jesus was well cared for. Instead of helping Martha, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him. The harder Martha worked, the more upset she became with Mary. Finally, Martha complained, “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me.”
Jesus understood Martha’s feelings, and He answered, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: “But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part.”
Jesus wanted Martha to know that it was important for her to serve others and that He appreciated all she had done for Him. But it was even more important to learn about God, have faith and to grow spiritually.
I know Martha. I can relate to Martha. Why Mary? What is it to be a Mary-like person? I must’ve asked myself that question at least a thousand times before the answer was revealed over the long, cold grey weeks of winter. I wrote down:
Mary is a dreamer. Martha runs things.
Mary is a Mac. Martha is a pc.
Mary would drive an SUV. Martha would drive a minivan.
Mary feels with her heart. Martha thinks with her head.
Mary is Facebook. Martha is Twitter.
President Uchtdorf also understood what it was like to be Martha. His talk “Happiness is your Heritage” that he delivered for the Relief Society Meeting was inspirational when I heard it back in October, just before everything in my world imploded. A couple of months later, I returned to find new counsel and wisdom in his words:
“We know that sometimes it can be difficult to keep our heads above water. In fact, in our world of change, challenges, and checklists, sometimes it can seem nearly impossible to avoid feeling overwhelmed by emotions of suffering and sorrow.
I am not suggesting that we can simply flip a switch and stop the negative feelings that distress us. This isn’t a pep talk or an attempt to encourage those sinking in quicksand to imagine instead they are relaxing on a beach. I recognize that in all of our lives there are real concerns. I know there are hearts here today that harbor deep sorrows. Others wrestle with fears that trouble the soul.”
But then – this is where I had the AHA! Moment about Mary. He goes onto say:
“I would like to speak about two principles that may help you find a path to peace, hope, and joy—even during times of trial and distress. I want to speak about God’s happiness and how each one of us can taste of it in spite of the burdens that beset us.”
President Uchdorf asks: what do you suppose is the greatest kind of happiness possible? It wasn’t so much the question as this notion of happiness that resonated for me. In the parable, Mary is happy. Martha is not. Mary is fulfilled. Martha is “encumbered with serving”. Mary is focused on the teachings and Martha seems to be distracted.
So in December, during what had to be one of the darkest moments, I prayed to understand what it was like to be Mary. And it was revealed to me that I have been Mary my whole life. When I was a little girl, I often observed rather than participated. My mother told me that I would spend days reading, writing stories and daydreaming. In high school, my friendships were scarce but meaningful. I was Mary in film school when I would spend hours, digging my toes in the sand, feeling the wind licking my face as I waited patiently for the sun to set over the Pacific ocean so I could capture ‘just the right shot’.
Since having my first child more than a decade ago, I seemed to have morphed into becoming Martha. Motherhood should have taught me to be more loving, more compassionate – more Mary-like, yet I feel like it taught me more about serving others first, more about time management and multi-tasking instead.
I resolved to become more Mary-like at the beginning of 2009, starting with my job. With my husband out of work, I couldn’t quit, but I did request a change in responsibilities. Now I find myself with many direct reports (again) meaning I spend less time focused on tasks and more time spent on the Mary-like qualities of compassion, teaching, learning and truly understanding human nature. I am also able to put Jesus Christ back at the center of my life rather than a series of never-ending to-do’s.
Although Mary and Martha are opposites, Christ was not comparing or chastising either one of them. He simply pointed out that each had chosen something different. Mary’s choice would have lasting value, but He also appreciated Martha’s service, even if it was selfishly motivated. I believe that is what I’ve been taught these last years – the principle of selfless service. I’ve learned to sacrifice my own dreams/wants/desires for the happiness of my family. I could be doing much more with my own career, yet I chose not to, which is impossible for many in my ambitious field to understand. Yet this is my true self, which is what, in essence, Mary was offering up to Jesus.
For the first time in years, my job is about creating something from nothing, which is what makes me happy. I had been burdened by all the ‘doing’, which left little time for creating. Signs that I was desperate to create were everywhere, yet so busy was I that I simply didn’t take notice. Now I have been placed in a position to use my creative “Mary-like” talents in order to serve others as well as my family. I am much happier than I ever thought possible, even though there is a lot of yuck to work through from the events of this past winter.
President Uchdorf teaches us:
The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something…
Creation brings deep satisfaction. We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty.
Now it is spring and I am listening to the birds chattering. I can smell the dewy earth. And I can see my three daughters – evidence of God and His work of creation through me. Which brings me back to where I began and our Heavenly Father began: Creation. Genesis, Change. Humanity.
I’d like to close with a short video clip called “Create” from the Relief Society web site about creation and happiness based on a talk given to the Relief Society General Conference by the oh-so-easy-on-the-eyes President Dieter Uchtdorf called “Happiness, Your Heritage”. It takes a little while to download, but it is well worth the wait!
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