Throughout history we find many examples of a mother’s love and how women have literally changed the world with their influence. As we look into our own lives, most of us have memories of the great love and sacrifice of our own mothers. and other women who taught and mentored us. I have recently been reading inspiring stories of women, particularly mother’s throughout history, mother’s who, because of their influence, made a difference in the world through their children.
There is a part of me that is leary to write this because I know as women, we often feel pressure to be a “supermom” (see the recent talk in BYU Women’s Conference by LDS general relief society presidency) and guilt if our children make choices that are not in their best interest. I also am aware of several friends of mine who have not had the opportunity to be mothers here on earth. Despite those concerns, I think we can all agree that as women, we have the opportunity to make a great influence on the world in our brief time here. Whether that be through the children we raise, loving and supporting husbands who need us, being an influence for good in our community or workplace, influencing others through our speaking or teaching. We can make a difference but we must focus on what the Spirit tells us to do and keep things simple. We don’t have to do everything but we can do something.
All of us have a mother or we wouldn’t be here. I am not naive in the fact that every person did not grow up with an amazing mother like mine but we all have the opportunity to take the divine gift of womanhood and leave an impression on our world.
I recently read an article in LDS Living by Dustin Phelps of Happiness Seekers that many of you have probably seen and read. It gave me great desire to study more about Eve and other mother’s in the scriptures. In the article, “God’s Tribute To Mother Eve: This Will Change The Way You See Womanhood”, he studies Eve and in particular Genesis 2:18-“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; [so] I will make him an help meet for him.” He was particularly interested in the Hebrew word for “meet” because of it’s complex meaning. As he searched it he found the word “Ezer.” As he continued to search the Hebrew definition and etymology he found a combination of two source words; one which means strength and another which refers to rescuing, saving and defending. He explains that the word “Ezer” is used 12 times in the old testament, always in a military context except for when referring to Eve. Almost every time it is used to describe God as the Divine Helper and Protector of Israel. He goes on to state, “Eve is described with a word that everywhere else in the Old Testament is only used for virtually two purposes 1) to describe God when He is coming to stand with Israel against its enemies or 2) when other nations come to march with the soldiers of Israel as they face their foes…So “Ezer” the word used to describe Mother Eve as a “help” to Adam has nothing to do with the role of an inferior or domestic servant…And so it is with Eve. Eve is referred to as an “Ezer” when God sees that Adam cannot do it alone. Eve is referred to as an “Ezer” because she was Adam’s first ally and friend, his partner in doing battle with evil and bringing about the purposes of God on the earth.”
I spent several hours yesterday, studying women in the scriptures and found some interesting things. In the Old Testament, women were acknowledged and respected in their roles as wives (Abigail), keepers of the home (Ruth, Naomi), mothers (Hannah) and in some cases even prophetesses (Deborah). The love and respect of parenthood was paramount to the society, even to the point of being punishable by death (Exodus 20:12). In Genesis 20:7 we are reminded that Rachel (Jacob’s mother, Abraham’s wife) was even a “chief counselor to Jacob.” Women participated in every aspect of society from commerce to real estate to temple worship, though they did not participate in temple priesthood ordinances they did participate in temple worship.
Something changed between the Old and New testament as far as the level of respect for women. The role of women changed and their rights declined. They stayed much more private and were rarely seen outside the home. If they were on the streets they were heavily veiled and could not converse with men outside the home. Some believe that his was brought on by the Greek influence as they saw women as less of a person than men.
When Christ came to preach, He changed the view of women in those around Him. He was a revolutionary of sorts as he spoke to, healed, taught, blessed, took water from women who truly listened and had faith in who He was. It was a woman who he first appeared to in His resurrected state and a women (his mother) who was one of the last people he referred to while on the cross, as he said to John, “Behold thy mother.” Women were some of his closest and loyalest allies while on the earth.
This last week, I had the opportunity to witness the birth of our sweet new granddaughter. As I watched my daughter deliver this baby naturally (something I could not have done!) I was once again reminded of the physical, emotional and spiritual strength that we have been given as women. The ability to love without judgement, to teach all that is required, to nurture, read to, heal hearts, bless lives, serve and minister through many means, are just a few gifts that we as women have been divinely given. As we take these gifts and make the most of them, God will multiply our efforts to “strengthen the feeble knees and lift up the hands which hang down” (D&C 81:5), whether that be a child, a husband, a sister or a neighbor.
As I am a mother and truly feel a deep, unconditional love for my children, I will also say that I have been disappointed with some choices they have made. They are not perfect but neither am I. As a mother, I strive to show them my unconditional love while also trying to teach and admonish in the way that God would have me do. I found several quotes from people who have made a HUGE difference in this world and these are about the mothers who raised them. Reading these has given me more motivation to try harder in my role as mother, wife, sister and daughter, friend, neighbor and minister to others.
George Washington- “My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother.I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.”
Wilma Rudolf (3 time gold olympian who as a child was stricken with pneumonia, scarlet fever and polio and had to wear a leg brace most of her childhood )- “The doctors told me I would never walk again. My mother told me I would. I believed my mother-“
Thomas Edison- “My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me; and I felt I had something to live for, someone I must not disappoint.”
Pablo Picasso- “My mother said to me, If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general; if you become a monk you’ll end up as the pope. Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.”
What will be said of us as women and as mothers? What role will we play in this world? What legacy will we leave? How will you make a difference? Remember the story of the man who was walking on the beach and saw another man attempting to throw all the washed up star fish back into the water. He said, “You cannot possibly make a difference by trying to save all these starfish. It is a waste of time.” To which the man throwing responded (as he threw a starfish back into the ocean, “Made a difference in that one!” Remember, we can’t do everything but we can do something. Take the time today to ask God what He needs of you this day. It may be playing a game with a child, making a phone call to a friend, watching someone’s children. Be that woman, mother, sister and friend who makes a difference!