If you missed my General Conference Book Club post on Sunday, we read Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita’s talk, which made me think of Elder W. Christopher Waddell’s talk from Priesthood session, so I read them both.
This week while I was reading Elder Yamashita’s talk and Elder Waddell’s talk, I was struck with a more personal application, since I didn’t serve a proselyting mission. I was married when I was 19, and although I had always thought I would serve a mission it wasn’t a top priority for me. Marriage in the temple and starting a family were my priorities, and what I had been preparing myself for.
Studying these talks, I realized that motherhood is as much of a mission for me as any 18-month mission could have been, and I should treat it as such.
Now, I don’t want anyone who did serve a mission to think that I am minimizing their mission. I am so grateful for full time missionaries! As a missionary, your goal is to teach people (families) the gospel. As a mother, my goal is to teach little people (my family!) the gospel!
So, as a mother, I have been reading these talks about missionaries as if they were talking about mothers and motherhood.
I loved something Elder Yakashima said toward the end of his talk. He said that “through your love, you are imparting the love of God.” He was speaking to missionaries, but I just had this talk with both of my small children. At separate times in the past few days I sat with each child, snuggling in the rocking chair and I told them how much Heavenly Father loves them and that my job as a mother is to show them Heavenly Father’s love by loving them. I also admitted to them that I am not as perfect at showing love as our Father in Heaven is, but that I am doing the best I can, and I hope they will be patient with me. And of course, those precious children are so patient with me!
Elder Waddell said, “Your mission (motherhood) will become holy ground to you. You will witness the miracle of conversion as the Spirit works through you to touch the hearts of those you teach (your children).” I have been feeling motherhood become sacred ground to me. It is a holy work I am doing, although sometimes the drudgery distracts me from that holiness.
Then Elder Waddell went on to describe how to prepare to be a missionary (or mother). He said that “Becoming an effective servant of the Lord (i.e., mother) will require more than being set apart (married), putting on a name tag (getting pregnant), or entering a missionary training center (bearing children). It is a process that begins long before you are referred to as “Elder” (“Mother”).”
I was preparing for motherhood from the time I was about 11 or 12. I loved listening to General Conference talks about motherhood, I loved studying the mothers of the scriptures, the pioneer mothers, my own mothers, young mothers I knew (my Young Womens’ leaders and the moms of the kids I babysat). I read parenting books when I was still a kid (I was a little bit of a nerd – but I really wanted to know how to be the best mom since I knew that was what I wanted to do more than anything else in the world!). I read the part about teaching kids in Teaching, No Greater Call.
But I love the “prerequisites” Elder Waddell points out for missionaries, because I think they are more important than anything you could read in a parenting book.
“Arrive on your mission (in motherhood) with your own testimony of the Book of Mormon.” If you are going to be raising children who know, you have to be a mother who knows. A mother who knows that the Book of Mormon is true.
“Arrive on your mission (in motherhood) worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost.” There is nothing I can think of that has helped me be a better mother than that companionship. Nothing I have ever read or learned about motherhood has been as beneficial as having the Holy Ghost as my constant companion to teach me how to love and teach my children. Every day I fall to my knees asking the Father to give me the Holy Ghost to inspire me to say the right things, to have enough patience, to hug at the right times and to talk at the right times. I can’t do it alone. All of the books and articles and talks I have read (whether by General Authorities, LDS or secular authors) cannot even begin to fill the void that would be there if I didn’t have that companionship.
“Arrive on your mission (in motherhood) ready to work.” Well, this goes without saying. Motherhood is hard work. Before that baby arrives you have to be fully prepared to work. And I don’t mean just changing diapers and cleaning up messes. I mean the emotional, mental, and spiritual work that it takes to raise a child to the Lord. We have to be active parents, teaching our children the gospel and how to be functional human beings. And it is exhausting (and I only have two, and they are still young! I just don’t know how Susan and Monserrat feel – but I am sure it is more exhausted than I have ever felt!)
In case I didn’t say it already – I am extremely grateful for all the women I know who have served missions. They are amazing examples to me. I am also grateful for the opportunity I have to be a mother, and that I can know that I can prepare myself and serve a different kind of mission as a mother.
Did you serve a mission before you became a mother? How has it helped you be a better mother? If you didn’t serve a mission before motherhood – like me – how have you learned from the examples of other missionaries, or from the purpose of missionaries?