Mother's Day and Mary's Work

In several places the scriptures note that Mary was a thoughtful, reflective person: as she watched her firstborn son grow, she kept the things she saw and heard in her heart and pondered them (Lk. 2:19).

And as her response to the angel Gabriel demonstrates, Mary was a person of great faith. Joseph Smith taught that Jesus' birth was an "effect of faith," the faith of Mary: Jesus could not have been born had it not been for her faith (Lectures on Faith, Lecture 7).

The question becomes "How should we honor Mary?" Perhaps first by recognizing the honor that has already been given to her: according to Mormon belief, she was chosen before the creation of the world to be the mother of the Son of God. Also, our Father in Heaven honored Mary by including her name in one of Christ's titles: "Son of Mary." And he honored her by making her the first person to know of the actual coming of the Savior to the world.

To understand better the honor given Mary, consider Luke's account of her encounter with the angel Gabriel, when she learned that she would be the Savior's mother (Lk. 1:28-38): "And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women."

Gabriel tells her to rejoice ("Hail") because she has received special favor from God, a point that he repeats when, not surprisingly, she is afraid of him. The angel of the Lord tells her, twice, that she has received special grace from God.

Gabriel's message is:

Thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end (Lk. 1:31-33).

Though Mary is no rebel, she does not mindlessly accept what Gabriel says; she wants to know how what he says is possible: "Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" (Lk. 1:34).

Gabriel confirms what he has said: by God's miraculous power, she will conceive and bear the Son of God. And Mary responds with the full expression of her faith, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word" (Lk. 1:38), a faith that serves as a model for our own.

After the angel's heavenly honor, Mary's cousin, Elisabeth, gives human honor to Mary: "And she [Elisabeth] spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb" (Lk. 1:42). Mary, she says, is a person to be praised and spoken well of.

So as we honor mothers, perhaps we ought also to honor Mary, the mother of God. We can do so, first of all, by honoring her Son, Jesus. But we can also honor her by recognizing the great service she has performed for all humankind and praising her for that service. Like Elisabeth, we too can praise Mary. Finally, we can honor her by emulating her patience, devotion, long-suffering endurance, obedience, humility, faith, devotion, and thoughtful profundity.

We can honor her, too, by honoring our own mothers, not as romantic versions of women on pedestals, but as servants of God who have done the work of God in giving us birth and raising us. We can honor our mothers as inheritors of the work of Mary.

5/9/2012 4:00:00 AM