Being a man, perhaps I should not even touch this subject (I’m cautious enough to have waited 60 days past Mother’s Day to write this). A woman could more effectively go where this brief essay is about to go. But perhaps the following may strike chords and promote dialogue.
From a leadership perspective, Mother’s Day is the most challenging sacrament meeting of the year to plan. I know that from having served in three bishoprics. Many women in Relief Society presidencies have drawn similar conclusions relative to their general ministries and plans for lessons that day. It is complex for a variety of reasons (to give a pansy or a daisy or chocolate to each sister may be the least of the issues (give no gift is always part of the discussion as well). My own mother, who is faithful to the core, hesitates to attend church on Mother’s Day. She literally cringes at the thought because she sees herself as a failure at motherhood. Two of her four children left the church decades ago and she defines the quality of her motherhood (and the way God views her as a mother) by the fact that not all her children have remained active in the church. Unfortunate but true.
Well, there is nothing but love between me and my brothers and sister. We come together often, we eat together, pray together, laugh (really hard) together, and really (I mean really) love each other. And yet my mom views herself as a despicable parent. As her son it is difficult for me to fathom her perspective but I do not question her feelings. Even so, we have had hundreds of conversations where I attempted to shore her up and validate the high quality of her example.
So, the last thing my mother, and a host of other mothers, need to hear over the pulpit on Mother’s Day is what I’ll call “My Mama is the Ultimate Rockstar” sermon. A son, daughter, husband, are assigned to talk about the virtues and strengths of their own mother or the mother of his children. It is unsurprising that in such talks mom is epic . . . no, she is a Greek goddess. This mom is everything that my mother is convinced she is not. I did not attend my own ward this most recent Mother’s Day. I visited a ward out of state and the Ultimate Rockstar Sermon was preached with vigor. I have every reason to believe that some women left that meeting in pain.
Can this be avoided? Yes, if we can just discipline ourselves to speak in ways that we may legitimately end “In the name of Jesus Christ” because the sermon merits His approbation as well as the Father. Our sermons must clearly bring congregants to Christ through spirit of worship and content and tone. Mention your mom, no problem, but that can be done without causing harm to women in the room who can barely bring themselves to be in the pews in that meeting that day. This demands sensitivity that perhaps in lacking on Mother’s Day and the rest of the year as well.
In the Fall of 2015, a Gospel Topics Essay was published on lds.org under the direction of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The title of the essay is “Mother in Heaven.” It is the most direct and formal statement affirming the divinity of Mother in Heaven that I know of in the contemporary Church. The essay opened the gates to talk openly about our Divine Mother—who is a Goddess! About ten days after this essay was published I had the opportunity to personally ask Elder M. Russell Ballard how I should use this essay as a teacher in Seminaries & Institutes. He told me (and the rest of the faculty at the Orem Institute of Religion adjacent to Utah Valley University) that we should know that essay backward and forward and that it has the full support of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. He told us to have discussions about Mother in Heaven with the essay as our guide. I followed up with a general question about using the essay with younger students including freshmen in college and high school students. He explained that we should use the essay in those teaching settings and throughout the Church. I have carefully followed Elder Ballard’s instructions in my professional teaching and in my callings in the Church. It has led to excellent discussions. It has been an edifying road to travel.
Back to Mother’s Day. Two Mother’s Days have come and gone since this essay was published. I have yet to hear even one reference to Mother in Heaven in sacrament meeting, Sunday School, Priesthood, combined adult meetings. Not one reference. Of course I don’t attend Relief Society and there’s plenty that happens behind the scenes of which I am thoroughly unaware. Even so, to have Mother’s Day the theme of sacrament meeting and have no reference to Mother in Heaven is a missed opportunity and recommends that the mainstream population of the Church is almost entirely unaware of the essay. We can do better. Mother in Heaven is a Priestess, Queen, and Goddess that possess all the powers and authorities possessed by Heavenly Father. Talking about Her more will not harm my own mom who struggles with Mother’s day.
Simply put, we need to talk more about her glory, splendor, and especially her power! Here’s to next Mother’s day and every LDS meeting between now and then.
Again, I’m not a woman and if I have missed the mark in this post I welcome female readers to comment and clarify. If my observations are accurate your affirmations in the comments would also be appreciated.
Here is a link to the Gospel Topics Essay, “Mother in Heaven.” Enjoy the read and review.