Soul Food: Happy Mother’s Day by Celebrating Womanhood!

Happy Mother’s Day!  On this very special day, I wanted to share a talk I gave in church a few years ago celebrating the divinity of womanhood and mothers.  So for those subscribed to my email list and are receiving this “Soul Food” automatically, (thank you by the way!),  feel free to either read or skip and look for more “belly food” coming this week :).   Again, Happy Mother’s Day!

Celebrating my Mom, 1986
Celebrating my Mom, 1986

I love being a woman and so I am grateful to be given this time to celebrate womanhood with you!

Since the beginning of time, woman have always been central to the Lord’s plan of happiness.  Yet today, more than ever, the important role of woman and mother’s is under attack.   As we look at womanhood today, it is interesting to also look at the past. In 1916, every female over the age of 14 had a possible 374 requirements to earn her Young Woman Recognition Award [(an award earned today in my church by young woman (12-19) by following the commandments, serving others, and developing and sharing their talents)].

Some of the optional requirements included:

1. “Care successfully for a hive of bees for one season [and] know their habits.”

2. “Cover 25 miles on snowshoes on any six days.”

3. “During two weeks keep the house free from flies, or destroy at least 25 flies daily.”

4. “Without help or advice care for and harness a team of horses at least five times [and] drive 50 miles during one season.”

5.  “Clear sage-brush, etc., off of one-half acre of land.”…

In 1916, the challenges of life involved an entirely different focus than ours of today. Challenges such as killing flies, clearing sagebrush, and learning to harness horses. So much has changed since 1916!   Today our physical needs are met much more easily, and instead our spiritual armor requires constant care as our divinely appointed roles are constantly under siege.

In his talk, the “Sanctity of Womanhood, Richard G. Scott stated,  “Satan has unleashed a seductive campaign to undermine the sanctity of womanhood, to deceive the daughters of God and divert them from their divine destiny.  He well knows women are the compassionate, self-sacrificing, loving power that binds together the human family. He would focus their interests solely on their physical attributes and rob them of their exalting roles as wives and mothers. He has convinced many of the lie that they are third-class citizens in the kingdom of God. That falsehood has led some to trade their divinely given femininity for male coarseness.”

In short, the adversary often portrays the message posed by Professor Higgins In the movie My Fair Lady, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?”  When instead, we should embrace our divine qualities such as tenderness and compassion.

As Margaret D. Nadauld states, “The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind.  There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity.”  (The Joy of Womanhood,” Ensign, Nov 2000, 14–16)

When you think of the women you admire the most, are they not tender, kind, good, pure woman? I think of my mom who is the most unworldly, selfless, giving person I know. And that’s who I want to be like. When I die, I don’t want to be thought of as coarse, rude, or vane. I don’t want to be thought of as a woman of the world, I want to be thought of as a woman of God.  In essence, we need to act more like how daughters of God would act – because this is exactly who we are! As daughters of God, we have divine qualities that are irreplaceable.

Our inner beauty and uniquely feminine qualities help is in our divinely appointed roles.  As stated in the Relief Society Declaration reads: “We are beloved spirit daughters of God, and our lives have meaning, purpose and direction.”

What a profound statement. I want to briefly touch on our identity as daughters of God and then on our  “meaning,” “purpose,” and “direction” as women.

First, we are beloved spirit daughters of God.  

By realizing who we truly are – beloved daughters of our Heavenly Father – our lives take on an entirely different purpose.  We must always remember what President Hinckley said, “Only after the earth had been formed, after the day had been separated from the night, after the waters had been divided from the land, after vegetation and animal life had been created, and after man had been placed on the earth, was woman created; and only then was the work pronounced complete and good.” (Our Responsibility to Our Young WomanRegional Representatives’ Seminar, April 1988)

George Q Cannon repeatedly taught that God reserved his noblest spirits to come forth in the last dispensations. “God has chosen us out of the world and has given us great mission. I do not entertain a doubt myself but that we were selected and fore-ordained for the mission before the world was, that we had our part allotted to us in this mortal state of existence as our Savior had his assigned to him.”  He also declared that the lord saved for now those spirits who would have the “courage and determination to face the world, and all the powers of the evil one and who would “build up the Zion of our God, fearless of all consequences.”   [Gospel Truth, vol. 1 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1974), p.22]

President Spencer W. Kimball gave this insight:  ‘Remember in the world before we came here, faithful women were given certain assignments while faithful men were foreordained to certain priesthood tasks. While we do not now remember the particulars, he does not alter the glorious reality of what we once agreed to do.”  (The Role of Righteous Woman)

That is all of us. God who “knows us perfectly,” reserved us to come now, when the opposition would be strongest- when he would need fearless woman who would fulfill their divine callings as woman and mothers.  On the other hand, Satan, the master of deceit, will do everything he can to keep us from comprehending the majesty of who we are. As Sheri Dew states “He offers an array of seductive but sorry substitutes—every thing from labels and logos—titles and status—hoping to preoccupy us with the world’s artificial identifiers.”   (No Doubt About It)

I think it is so sad that woman feel like they have to “buy” their confidence, and to “buy” their love for themselves. One of my favorite stores is Marshalls because I know I am priceless in our Heavenly Fathers eyes. Cheesy, yet true.

I was in Kinkos this past week and I saw a card. On it there was a fluffy cute little kitten looking in the mirror and staring back in the kitten’s reflection was a lion with a gorgeous full main. The caption read, “What matters most is how we see ourselves.” I truly believe that if we could even glimpse our premortal valor and see our divine nature and our divine roles as our Heavenly Father does, we would be so proud of ourselves! And we would be kicking ourselves for being preoccupied with things that don’t matter and never will!  I believe we will never be happy or feel peace…and we will definitely never live up to who we are as women of God until we overcome our “mortal identity” crisis by understanding who we are.

Our sense of identity affects everything we do. In speaking about the way we see ourselves, Sheri Dew stated, “It affects the way we behave, the way we respond to uncertainty, the way we see others, the way we handle pressure and disappointment, the way we feel about ourselves, and the way we make choices. In short, it determines how we live our lives. So the question we might all do well to ponder is not only who we are but who we have always been.” (No Doubt About It)

The second part of the RS theme I want to focus on, is Our Lives have Meaning, Purpose and Direction

As stated in the Family Proclamation, our Heavenly Father expects us as woman to be nurturers.  To nurture is to teach, to foster development, to promote growth, to feed, and to nourish. I echo Sister Tanner who exclaims, “Who would not shout for joy at being given such a blessed role?” As nurturers, our primary concerns are not recognition, fame, status, approval or power. Satan, however would have us see ourselves as the world sees us, not as the Lord see’s us. The world would tell us that our roles as women and nurturers are not enough. That we have to do more, be more, have more, juggle more. That we have to be smarter, thinner, prettier just to feel a little bit good about ourselves. If we live by the world’s standards, we will NEVER be enough.

Sheri Dew States, “The world’s mirror is like a circus mirror in which five foot, ten inch woman appears two feet tall, distorted and minimized. Satan wants us to believe there is no status or significance in being a mother. He wants us to believe that the influence of women is inherently inferior. And that is a lie. That is an evil lie.” (No Doubt About It)

In the premortal world, we agreed to lead the war against Satan. We agreed to lead the war, by nurturing those around us, by being wives, mothers and leaders. We have unique and vital roles to play in protecting and defending the family. This is our lives’ meaning, this is our purpose.  President Gordon. B. Hinckley was speaking to us when he declared, that “The home us under siege. So many families are being destroyed…if anyone can change the dismal situation into which we are sliding , it is you. Rise up women of Zion, rise to the great challenge which faces you… my challenge to you …is that you will rededicate yourselves to the strengthening of your homes.” (Walking In the Light of the Lord, October 1998)

In order to rise up to this challenge we need to gain testimonies of our own divinity and of our divine roles. We do this by daily nourishment, simply by reading our scriptures, praying, serving others and inviting the spirit to whisper to our hearts and minds who we really are. Because the world bombards us almost every second of who they think we are and should be, we can’t have the spirit testify to us just once of our divinity, we need to seek the spirit constantly. The spirit will also testify to us of our own divine mission. We then need to trust, be obedient and be content in the knowledge that we have been placed where we can have the most impact.

We’re not here to impress the world, but to simply do the best we can in the arena in which we have been placed. While the world tells us to seek our own glory, we need to be as Christ, and seek to glory our father in Heaven.  Our days may seem simple and monotonous at times, but I know that our actions will have profound effects upon generations to come.  The Lord needs us now. We need to fulfill our callings as exemplary woman who live the gospel every day – standing steadfast and immovable against all the lies and temptations Satan would challenge us with. We should celebrate our divine womanhood everyday as simple as it may seem.

I will forever be grateful for my own mother who persevered every single day in faith, hope and kindness as she fulfilled the divine role as our mother – whether it was teaching us to pray,  making our homemade lunches and dinner day after day after day, reigning us in for family home evening and piano practice, giving us advice on lonely days, or helping to administer my brother and my never ending aerosol treatments, chest physical therapy and IV doses [(due to cystic fibrosis)].

At the time, these seemingly mundane and inconsequential acts must have not seemed like much, but they have made me who I am today.  I shudder to think of where I would be without my mother’s seemingly mundane and inconsequential acts.

Just as my mom’s daily ministering and nurturing must have seemed monotonous at times, it is our small and seemingly inconsequential actions and our steadfast examples as woman of God that will have profound effects upon generations to come.

To close, I would like to share how womanhood can be celebrated numerous ways. She may, as Elder Neal A. Maxwell so eloquently stated:

“ …be rock a sobbing child without wondering if today’s world is passing [her] by, because [she knows she holds] tomorrow tightly in [her] arms.” (The Woman of God, Ensign, May 1978, p. 10.)

And Sister Marie K. Hafen adds:

“She is a Primary teacher who tastes the magic of childhood when she greets a proud seven-year-old wearer of a CTR [“choose the right”) ring who thrusts his fist forward and exclaims with happy courage, “See this CTR ring? It throws out an invisible shield of protection all around me, and no evil force can break through!

“She is educated and able, preparing for her day of marriage that has not come, fully engaged in a professional world that needs the talent and training she offers. Added to these gifts, her caring touch can soothe and heal, for “Charity Never Faileth,” even in the corporate business world.

“She watches as her teenage daughter is not asked to the prom, which brings back her own memories of not having been asked. Her heart aches, but she tells her daughter, “My dear, not everyone in the world needs to fall in love with you. It only takes one.”

“She works patiently as a volunteer committed to nurturing the homeless; she cares lovingly for ten years for an invalid mother-in-law; she accepts the confidence shown by friends and neighbors to run for the state legislature. “Look what you did for our school through the PTA,” they say. “We need you.”

“She watches her son kneel across the altar from his bride in a temple sealing room and thinks of her own marriage in such a room, celebrating the sealing of eternal love.

“She enters a hospital room where her first daughter-in-law gingerly sits up and, holding up her own first baby, greets her: “Isn’t she beautiful? Would you like to hold her—Grandma?”

“She rejoices in the seasons of a woman’s life, for each time and each season is worth its own celebration. Spread over a lifetime, celebrating womanhood is a celebration of life.”  (Celebrating Womanhood)

I pray that we won’t forget who we really are and the divinity of our roles. If we get lost or side-tracted along the way, we are like the baby 1 month old whale I just read about off the shores of Sydney who was separated from its mother and confused a yacht for its mom. The exhausted baby whale repeatedly tried to feed from the yacht, and obviously came up empty handed. Wildlife rescuers commented, “”The outlook is not good. We can’t feed it…”  Like the whale, If we mistakenly look to the world to feed our identity, we will spiritually starve. we will never be enough. When we come to a knowledge of our true identity and what God expects us to be, we can have true peace and happiness in fulfilling our divine roles.

I have a testimony as Heber J. Grant stated, “Woman hold the highest place of honor in human life.”

In the name of Jesus name, Amen

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  1. marcia says

    I absolutely adore this picture of all of you!!!

  2. Jen says

    Thank you Marcia! Love the picture too, it brings back precious memories!

  3. Balquis says

    Dearest Jen,

    I am so thankful to have stumbled upon your beautiful website. This marks my very first “comment” I have ever written on somebody’s page. You are a remarkable woman with such an effervescent personality, undying strength, magnificent love and light. Your words are so pure, so gentle and raw. I cannot peel myself away from the laptop as I am captivated by your journey, the adoration you have for Patrick and all those dear to you; I am moved beyond words by your perspectives and outlook, and am so honoured to be one of hundreds that follow you.

    Thank you for being such an extraordinary example to all of us out here, and for touching my heart so deeply.

    With all my love,

    • Jen says

      Hi Balquis so nice to meet you! I am SO happy you took the time to comment. I have reread it again and again – you are a beautiful writer and your words are so powerful and humbling. Nothing means more to me than hearing my family and their story has somehow impacted another. I am so honored you would take the time to read about my journey and deeply touched by your beautiful comment. Thank you for reaching out! My God bless you and yours! XOXOXO!!