Mother’s Day

May 4, 2004 | 69 comments
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It’s almost Mother’s Day. I don’t like Mothers’ Day. You might expect to hear that from a woman who is childless, or who has strained relations with her children. I’m a married, at-home mom, and I enjoy being a mom. But I still don’t like Mothers’ Day.

Here’s why: the kind of motherhood that we celebrate on Mothers’ Day is the pastel, soft-focus, floral kind. In other words, Mothers’ Day is brought to you by Kodak and Hallmark. I think I can speak for a lot of mothers when I say that, while I occasionally have Kodak moments, I have a lot more Pampers and Lysol moments. I want to celebrate a motherhood that is gritty, real, messy, tough, and unsentimental.

When I think about motherhood, I don’t think about fluff.

I do think about Eve. We always talk about her as a prototypical woman and as a model wife. She is. But remember that her name means “mother of all living.” We don’t think about her as a mother very often. Here’s what I have learned about motherhood from Eve:

(1) Be reflective. Reflecting on the Fall, Eve says, “Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient” (Moses 5:11). Eve didn’t allow the Fall to be ‘water under the bridge,’ she pondered to determine what it meant for her. My greatest improvements as a parent (and in other areas) have come when I have asked, “Why exactly was this the day from hell?” or “What can I do to make more days like this one?” Good parenthood is reflective.

(2) Moses 5 is a veritable gold mine for information about motherhood, following Eve’s example. Some thoughts: mothers labor alongside their husbands (verse 1), mothers maintain a close relationship with God (verse 4), mothers teach their children (verse 12), mothers hope for the best for their children (verse 16), mothers mourn at their children’s failures (verse 27).

I also think about Kitty deRuyter’s mother. Living in Indonesia during World War II, she and her mother were in an internment camp run by the Japanese. Her family was (non-LDS) Christian. Her mother was regarded as a leader of the women. One day, a Japanese officer came to her and asked her to pick out about a dozen young girls for the Japanese officers to abuse. Her mother prayed about what to do. (Sidenote: this was a revelation to me. Maybe this sounds naïve, but my first response was to think, “She can’t pray about which girls should be raped! That’s too sordid.” It took me awhile to internalize the idea that you really can pray about anything. God can handle it.)

She decided which girls to send, and prepared them by shaving their heads and spreading their bodies with bitter, stinky herbs. The girls were spared. She, however, was tortured for what she had done, and it is a miracle that she survived.

Maybe I’m weird, but this is one of the few stories about motherhood that has ever really resonated with me. And it isn’t really even about motherhood. Maybe I like it because it reiterates the common theme of mothers as self-sacrificing, but in the stories I don’t like, the self-sacrifice usually strikes me as . . . somehow inappropriate (“And, after having kids, my mother devoted herself so totally to her family that she not only gave up her aspirations to be a professional violinist, but she never played the violin again.” I mean, really, was that necessary?). It seems that we often value the concept of self-sacrifice as a good in itself, whether the content of the sacrifice was legitimate, necessary, or even reasonable. In this story, I see self-sacrifice, and I see that it was necessary.

When I think about motherhood, I think about President Harold B. Lee. Helen Lee Goates, daughter of Harold B. Lee, wrote:

“While I was serving as the chorister in our ward Relief Society when our first two sons were about two and a half and four years of age, I had arranged with Mother to come and tend my little boys while I attended a Friday afternoon stake leadership meeting. [But Mother had a cold and couldn’t come.] Sometime mid-morning, the phone rang again. This time it was my father, calling from his office in the Quorum of the Twelve. He said, ‘Dear, you plan to do to your meeting and I’ll come tend the boys.’ I was appalled at such an idea and strongly protested. But he persisted and asked, teasingly, ‘Don’t you think I’d be an acceptable babysitter?’ ‘Of course’ I replied, ‘but–well–I just couldn’t have you do that! I’d feel like I was thwarting the word of the Lord to have you leave your important work at the office just to come and tend my babies!’ His reply was sobering and taught me important lessons: ‘Why, my dear, who is to say which is the most important work of the Lord–to stay at my desk at the Church Office Building, or to tend two choice little grandsons while their mommy goes to her Relief Society meeting?’”

It has been noted that President Hinckley’s recent comments about his wife at the close of General Conference were worth more to the Saints than ten hours of talks about the roles of men and women. Similarly, I think then-Elder Lee’s attitude is worth more to the Saints than hours of jabbering on motherhood.

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69 Responses to Mother’s Day

  1. Kim Siever on May 5, 2004 at 1:19 am

    .

  2. Randy on May 5, 2004 at 11:20 am

    I think this criticism, at its most general level, can be said of most holidays. For example, I happen to not like some (indeed many) of the ways that society celebrates Christmas. But Christmas is still one of my favorite holidays of the year. Similarly, one could criticize the way society celebrates Easter, Thanksgiving, or even the 4th of July–not to mention Father’s Day. But I still enjoy all of these holidays. Why should Mother’s Day be any different?

    I can sympathize with the frustration over the picture of motherhood that is sometimes painted on Mother’s Day. The Hallmark cards available at the grocery store just don’t jive with what motherhood is all about. The talks given in sacrament meeting sometimes suffer from the same problem. But these attempts to celebrate motherhood don’t (or at least don’t have to) define what Mother’s Day means to each of us.

    Moreover, I am not sure I’m convinced that the kind of motherhood generally celebrated on Mother’s Day is inconsistent with the stories you mention of Eve, Kitty deRuyter’s mother, President Hinckley, or Elder Lee. Mother’s Day talks at church often do focus on the sunny side of mothering, but this is not always so. A couple of years ago, a young mother gave a talk in our sacrament meeting about what she had learned about the Savior from being a mother. Her talk focused on the “gritty, real, messy, tough, and unsentimental” challenges she faced on a daily basis. I thought her talk was profound and moving. Further, I don’t think anyone thought that her talk was out of step with what Mother’s Day is all about.

    Holiday cards, TV specials, and talks in sacrament meeting often miss the mark–not just on Mother’s Day. I don’t see that as a particularly good reason for not liking the holiday.

  3. Adam Greenwood on May 5, 2004 at 11:33 am

    That story is moving, and so are your hard and gritty mothers. I understand what you’re admiring, but I don’t understand what you’re rejecting.

    It’s a cause of some sorrow to me that I seem to have so little in common with most of the smart Mormons I know. I like Mother’s Day. I like the speakers talking about their mothers and getting all choked up and the deacons passing around flowers and all that daffy ‘kiss-and-make-it-better’ and ‘the-secret-ingredient-is-love’ motherhood and mother thinking thankless thoughts about the dishes and the dinner are taken off her hands this one day, but little help she recieves the others, but being moved despite herself. I don’t know what I’m not seeing, that I keep thinking like this.

    I guess I’ll just have to stick with my guns.
    Sentiment has more value than you acknowledge, and motherhood is not to be thought unworthy because it is sometimes floral and pastel. Give me the jabbering.

  4. Kim Siever on May 5, 2004 at 12:16 pm

    Interesting post, Julie.

    It reminds me of a talk I gave as a priest on Mother’s Day. The premise was that I wanted to show the sacrifices my mother made for me. I talked about the endless nights she spent trying to console me annual bouts with bronchitis. I talked about the time she interrupted my playing on the tracks to rescue me from an oncoming train. I talked about the times she took me to the hospital with all my broken bones. I talked about her getting pregnant as a teenager and giving up a full university scholarship so she could raise me.

  5. Adam Greenwood on May 5, 2004 at 12:19 pm

    Now that I’ve mulled it over, I have concluded that Julie in A. is a mother herself and has every right to wish her motherhood celebrated in one way and not another. I offer my contrition.

  6. Kim Siever on May 5, 2004 at 12:28 pm

    On another note, I abhor Mothers Day. For the same reason I abhor Valentine’s Day. I see no reason why I should be expected to express my love and appreciation for my wife on a specific day of the year. I attempt to show my love and appreciation throughout the year, so I do not see why one specific day should be singled out.

    The sad part is that mothers expect—despite some receiving adoration throughout the year—to be honoured on this specific day. If they are admired not, all other admonition from the year is forgotten and they get upset they were “missed” on Mother’s Day. The fact they were acknowledged 100 other days with as much fanfare (cards, flowers, presents, breakfast in bed, etc) ends up being irrelevant.

    I understand the sentiment behind the day, and it’s useful for those mothers whose husbands are inconsiderate or forgetful enough not to admire them at any other time of the year. However, it does not maker sense for those of us who do remember. In fact, the weaker of us men often find Mothers Day an excuse NOT to recognise their wives any other time.

  7. Kristine on May 5, 2004 at 12:29 pm

    I dislike some of the things that Julie mentions, too, but here’s what I really dislike about Mother’s Day: in my ward there will be about 45-50 women present on Sunday. 10 of them are single, have never had the opportunity to be mothers; 4 are currently struggling with infertility; 5 have children who are in varying degrees of serious trouble with drugs, alcohol, and the law, while another 7 or 8 have children whose inactivity in the church is painful to them; another dozen or so were abandoned or failed by their mothers in variously grievous ways, or feel that they have deeply failed their own children; a few have children who have moved to other states, gotten busy and not really stayed in touch with them. By my count, that doesn’t leave all that many women who will be uplifted and cheered by a lot of talk about the joys of motherhood. They come to church seeking salve for their wounds in the sacrament and the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we pelt them with rock salt instead.

  8. Russell Arben Fox on May 5, 2004 at 12:35 pm

    “I talked about the endless nights she spent trying to console me annual bouts with bronchitis. I talked about the time she interrupted my playing on the tracks to rescue me from an oncoming train. I talked about the times she took me to the hospital with all my broken bones. I talked about her getting pregnant as a teenager and giving up a full university scholarship so she could raise me.”

    I think I’ve mentioned this pet peeve of mine before, but I’ll bring it up again: the frequency with which, in my experience, priesthood lessons on Mother’s Day end up being a parade of men talking about how good, how long-suffering, how righteous, how superior their wives are in comparison to them, and how amazed and humbled and embarrassed they are by the devotion and abasement and decency their wives show in the face of their husbands’ manifest failings. “I’d never make it to the celestial kingdom without my wife.” “I’d never be able to devote my life to our children the way my wife does.” “I don’t know the first thing about making a happy home; I owe everything to my wife.” “The only reason we get along as well as we do is because my wife is a superb peacemaker.” Eventually, it turns into a weird kind of contest of displaced martyrology: “If I or our children amount to anything in this life, it’s because my wife has given up everything for our sake.” “I can’t imagine what kind of an example of service our children would grow up with if my wife wasn’t there to compensate for my failings.” Etc., etc. Someday, I’m going to make some comment along the lines of, “Why, if it hadn’t been for the work and fasting and prayers of the saintly woman I married, I’d have probably long since sold the kids off for scientific experiments to support my drug habit.” I bet I’d win.

  9. cooper on May 5, 2004 at 12:36 pm

    I ditto Kim’s comment.

  10. Randy on May 5, 2004 at 12:46 pm

    Kim (and cooper),

    Couldn’t the same be said of Easter? Shouldn’t we express our appreciation for the atoning sacrifice of the Savior every day? And yet isn’t it entirely appropriate to celebrate his resurrection and what it means for us?

    Throwing out a holiday merely because it reminds us of something we should be doing everyday seems a bit extreme to me.

  11. Adam Greenwood on May 5, 2004 at 12:53 pm

    Kristine,
    The church simply doesn’t paint motherhood as a series of joys, any more than we’re inclined to think Christ enjoyed the atonement because he was aware that we would all immediately rush around repenting like good little Christians. Mothering is like Christing–the sacrifice is worth it even if it leads to nothing because it was an act of love done in the hope that it might lead to something.

    It’s the wayward children that caused the wounds, not the Church, and it seems that its the wayward children that are responsible for the rock salt, not the Church. Your version of salving those wounds is to pretend that they don’t exist by never referring to the healthy body. That’s just wrong, as if Jacob had decided to tolerate concubinage rather than speak out.

    I have a daughter who is very sick, but I’m never offended when people are thankful and happy for their own children’s health. No amount of them pretending otherwise would improve our daughter’s lot a jot.

  12. Ryan Bell on May 5, 2004 at 12:57 pm

    Russell, I had the same thought while watching a local news interview with Michael Young, after it was announced he would become the next president of the University of Utah.

    The interviewer asked him what he’d told the search committee, in all those interviews, was his greatest strength, that he’d bring to the job of presiding over the state’s flagship university.

    “Well, I firmly believe my greatest strength is my wife. She has such an ability to include people, to make everyone feel wanted, that I could never achieve. . . ” followed by another few minutes of extolling his wife’s virtues.

    This struck me as a non-sequitur of the most annoying kind. First, it’s spin. Second, it’s completely random and unnecessary, to spin a question like that. Third, what are the chances he really told the search committee that was the greatest strength he would bring to the U? Fourth, it comes off ultimately as patronizing, as he exhibits his desperation to throw in a complement to his wife at any possible opening. This kind of thing is more frequent than we at first might think, and it says much more to me about the pride of the extoller than the virtue of the extolled.

  13. Kim Siever on May 5, 2004 at 1:28 pm

    The difference, Randy, is that Easter is supposedly the day when Christ was resurrected. We celebrate an event on the day it apparently occurred.

    I have no problem with this. I have no problem celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, commemorations, and the like.

  14. MDS on May 5, 2004 at 1:36 pm

    Slightly off topic, but worth asking nonetheless:

    How does one get a wife/mother to stop being so self-sacrificing (at least with respect to the unreasonable self-sacrificing referenced by Julie) and do something for herself and her own development? I think many husbands recognize this trait in their wives and attempt to discourage it, but to no avail.

  15. lyle on May 5, 2004 at 1:43 pm

    Ryan: Have you met Dean/President Young? You might want to be more careful about your comments…as many here have met him or know him personally. Basically, at the worst…you are calling him a liar. At the best, you are questioning his motives about what is most important in his life, i.e. his family. If he says his wife is his greatest strength…why not just take his word for it?

  16. Ryan Bell on May 5, 2004 at 2:08 pm

    Oh, come on, Lyle. On this site there’s plenty of taking someone’s statement and breaking it down to illustrate some irritating or irrational tendency. The last thing I meant to do was challenge Brother Young’s honesty. But I definitely don’t think it’s out of bounds to highlight a statement made in a public interview and point out some problems with it, if we’re on the topic that I’m attempting to illustrate.

    But let it here be said that I am a fan of Michael Young’s. I like the guy, and was cheering for him to be hired. Still, I think it would be a strange answer to a question about one’s job qualifications in a high-level job intereview, to start with one’s wife. Maybe that’s just me.

    And let’s be honest. . . it would be really, really hard to torture my post above so badly that it ends up as something calling into question Brother Young’s love for his family. I’ll do my best to defend what I said, but not what I didn’t say.

  17. Randy on May 5, 2004 at 2:12 pm

    Kristine raises what seems to me to be the most troublesome issue. Still, I find myself in agreement with Adam on this, for the reasons he has stated. I would make just one other point. Society will celebrate Mother’s Day whether or not the deacons pass out flowers on Sunday. Ignoring the existence of Mother’s Day at church hardly seems the right answer–talk about the elephant in the room. Given that the celebration of Mother’s Day at church is, for all practical purposes, inevitable, I would be interested in what suggestions Kristine, Julie, and others might have for making Mother’s Day at church more enjoyable for all concerned. It has been my experience those who speak or who otherwise make arrangements for flowers, etc., on Mother’s Day face attack on all sides. What guidance should we give to them?

  18. Kingsley on May 5, 2004 at 2:14 pm

    Ryan:

    No, it’s really, really easy to “torture your post” into an implication that Pres. Young was lying. You start off with: Pres. Young said x. This is followed by: “what are the chances he really” said x?

  19. lyle on May 5, 2004 at 2:31 pm

    Ok, rather than argue re: who said what…I’ll take your argument as what you present it as Ryan; fair enough. [thanks though Kingsley :) ]

    in your opinion, it seems like an odd answer to the question. IMO, it doesn’t. it would seem to me that when ‘entertaining,’ ‘pressing palms,’ making friends/contacts, etc…doing diplomatic things that a spouse can either sink or great increase one’s capacity to do so. I guess it seems natural that he would say such. However, even if he were in a different profession that didn’t require the ‘socializing,’…the answer still makes sense to me. Spouses compliment & complement each other…hopefully, and create a type of synergy that allows both to do more than either could do individually, whether together or individually.

    If Pres. Hinckley had used the exact same words, to talk of Sis. Hinckely, would they inspire the same doubt?

  20. Ryan Bell on May 5, 2004 at 2:34 pm

    Hmm. Not sure how long a debate about the meanings of my trivial post will remain interesting, so let’s make this my last comment on the topic.

    Actually, Kingsley, I said my post can’t be tortured to cast doubt on Brother Young’s priorities and love for his family. You’ve just distorted my second post. Another reason I’m hesitant to post again on the issue.

    Further, as to the honesty issue, I don’t think Brother Young was lying. I called it spin. In the end, you’re right that I can’t prove he actually didn’t tell the search committee his wife was his greatest strength. But it doesn’t matter. His answer to the question just told the interviewer he thought his wife was his greatest strength– he didn’t say that’s what he told the search committee. I assume (perhaps wrongly) that this was a statement to the public of his respect for his wife, rather than a declaration meant to quote exactly what he told the search committee. So even if he didn’t tell the search committee that, it’s not a lie to tell the interviewer his greatest strength is his wife. It’s a non-sequitur.

    Again, this is a man I admire. I don’t think it does him some great injustice for me to express annoyance at a single comment that I found awkward, and illustrative of a larger trend.

    So…er… anyway, Happy Mother’s Day everyone!

  21. Kristine on May 5, 2004 at 2:35 pm

    Randy,

    One practical suggestion: since there is no way to distribute flowers without hurting people’s feelings (do you give them to just mothers? all women? what about the teenager who gave up her baby for adoption a few weeks ago?) I think we should just make an announcement that the ward has donated the flower money to a local women’s shelter or parent education network or mother-focused charity of one’s choosing.

  22. Kaimi on May 5, 2004 at 2:50 pm

    Ryan,

    I’ll agree with you. I don’t do a lot of interviewing, but I do remember interviewing potential law clerks. If I had asked, “Why should we hire you as a law clerk?” and someone had answered “Because of my wife,” I don’t think I would have been particularly impressed. No one said anything like that, that I recall.

    (Besides, to the extent it is reciprocated, it becomes tautological:
    “Brother Z, why should we hire you?”
    “My greatest strength is my wife.”
    Hmm, well, what’s so great about her. Let’s ask,
    “Sister Z, what aspect about you suggests that we should we hire your husband?”
    “Well, my greatest strength is my husband.”
    etc.)

  23. Kaimi on May 5, 2004 at 2:53 pm

    I should add, “My greatest strength is my wife” is also a way of saying, “I’m humble and not self-aggrandizing.” This may or may not be true; to the extent someone values that statement, the value may not come from the perceived strengths of the wife at all.

  24. William Morris on May 5, 2004 at 2:56 pm

    I gave a Mother’s Day talk a couple of years ago on motherhood and sorrow.

    I read a few poems, including “To Eve—with Empathy across the Years” by Shirley Adwena Harvey. I’m trying to remember exactly what I said. I think that I essentially just wanted to acknowledge that sorrow is an aspect of motherhood. I didn’t talk about it nobility of suffering or anything like that. Just that there is pain and sorrow and that mothers experience it — I used examples from the scriptures — and that ultimately it is only Christ who can bind those wounds.


    I also gave a Mother’s Talk several years ago [mid 90s] where I used imagery from the story of Ruth. I talked about her gleaning Boaz’s wheat fields and talked about those women who do work on the ‘margins.’ I talked about my mother who never was one of the “in” crowd when I was growing up in southern Utah, but who was there for women, including young women, who felt they were on the outskirts of the ward. I also mentioned Ruth’s reminder to Boaz of his priesthood duty and how we should be grateful for and listen to Ruth-like women who do the same.
    —-
    I found it very difficult to prepare these talks because I have some of the same views of Mother’s Day as Julie. And at the same time, I didn’t want to make it sound like I was trying to bring everybody down or be all preachy and self-rightous.

    I received positive comments from several women after each talk so I guess they worked.

    Anyway — here’s my point: there’s some great material in the scriptures and in church history about women [with, admittedly, an emphasis on *some*]. The problem with the phenomenon that Julie and Russell describe is that in keeping things on the personal [my mom or wife is so great], we weaken Mormon discourse on women and motherhood. If someone gives a talk on “the priesthood,” there may be comments about one’s father or grandfather, but there’s usually also stuff from the D&C or talk about Abraham and Melchizadek or Peter and the keys or….

  25. Kingsley on May 5, 2004 at 3:05 pm

    Ryan: You’re right, that was quite a distortion. Sloppy on my part. Sorry.

  26. Randy on May 5, 2004 at 3:09 pm

    Kristine,

    That is a very interesting suggestion. It is one that I had never considered. What should we do about the women who get mad they didn’t receive the flower they expected? Tell them to suck it up and get over it? I also have some doubt as to whether Bishop’s are authorized to spend ward funds on charities of their own choosing (I don’t think they are, but I don’t have my handbook with me).

    You are right, though. There is no way to distribute flowers without making someone mad. I have seen it tried in several different ways, none of them perfect. The way that seems to work the best (though it is certainly not without flaws) is to have the missionaries distribute flowers after church as people are leaving. All women (even the teenager who just had a baby) are asked whether they would like a flower.

    Putting aside the flower issue, what about sacrament meeting talks. We don’t have the luxury (or burden) of writing people’s talks for them. We give them a topic and they write it themselves. What guidance should we give those who are asked to speak? Don’t talk about mothers?

  27. Julie in Austin on May 5, 2004 at 3:33 pm

    MDS– That’s one of the most interesting question that I have heard all day. One start would be to knock off the ‘my-wife’s-more-self-sacrificing-than-your-wife’ rhetoric that Russell brought up. An interesting study is to look at our ultimate example of self-sacrifice, Jesus Christ, and pick out the many times when he got away from people (see Mark 1:35) to recharge his own batteries, or taught others to do the same (see Luke 10:38-42).

    And, as a general note, I wasn’t suggesting throwing out Mother’s Day. I’d just like to see less flowery sacrament talks, the end result of which is the imposition of guilt on the mothers they are intended to uplift. (Unless that was the goal? Hm.)

    Randy– excellent question. Again, celebration of *real* motherhood, warts and all, might be nice. In a ward like Kristine’s, if I were talking, I would probably try something like an exploration of how one might ‘mother’ fellow saints and everyone else, for that matter, regardless of biological relationships. I’d probably use scriptural models of mothering, like Eve’s, and apply them to all sorts of non-mothering situations. I’d drop the token flower or candy (altho I was in a ward that did chocolate covered strawberries, and for no mere political or ideological reasons will I ever turn down a chocolate covered strawberry). How about a ward service project for battered mothers? Homeless mothers? etc.

    William Morris–excellent observation. We usually don’t personalize priesthood, but we do motherhood.

  28. Greg Call on May 5, 2004 at 3:37 pm

    Just a plug as to the practicability of Kristine’s suggestion: the Manhattan 1st ward did exactly what Kristine suggests at least a few of the Mother’s Days I spent there. I don’t recall any complaints, though that doesn’t mean there weren’t a few.

  29. Kingsley on May 5, 2004 at 3:43 pm

    Is this turning into one of those things where the presence of two Jewish students means two hundred Christian students don’t get to sing Christmas carols this year? It’s an interesting phenomenon, this frenzy to purge every tradition of every element that could possibly offend someone in some situation at some point. Rather than take that chance, let’s turn Mother’s Day into a dirge, etc. I’ve not yet sat in on these meetings where bouncy people bounce up and spout streams of overly idealistic clichés about motherhood which speed like bullets into the already lacerated hearts of the *real* mothers present. Generally there is a mix of the good and the bad, the banal and the new, etc., followed by the amusing and oddly touching sight of red-faced boys trying to balance armloads of flowers. What is that line from Shadowlands? “It’s pagan, it’s vulgar, and I can’t quite see the point of it, but somehow it works.” Or something like that.

  30. Ryan Bell on May 5, 2004 at 3:45 pm

    Randy, that’s exactly what many wards are doing. In fact, it’s not just “don’t talk about mothers.” It’s “We’re not going to acknowledge mother’s day at all anymore. (sadly, in my old ward, this policy was prompted by a mother’s day speech by my younger brother in which he stated that he loved his mother as much as his dog. Given how much he *really* loved his dog, and the somewhat ‘troubled’ phase he was in, my mom took it as a touching expression. But most other people, understandably, didn’t.)

    I just wonder if the trend of watering down or abandoning mother’s day messages in the church is the right way to go. First of all, if guilt is the thing we’re trying avoid, why do we have talks in church at all? It’s obvious that there are many people who will feel guilty if we discuss tithing or chastity, and yet we persist. We’re a church of ideals, which means that most of our messages rise higher than we do. Isn’t that meant to motivate us to be better tithers, more chaste, etc.? Would it be heretical to suggest that an idealistic message on motherhood could inspire people to be better mothers? Or have we accepted that all mothers are as good as they could possibly be?

    I do not wish to be glib about this, because I know the guilt that pervades the lives of so many women, which I think is very sad. Perhaps motherhood is a protected topic because, as opposed to tithing or chastity, one’s motherhood is nearly synonymous with her identity. So if one is made to feel like she lacks something as a mother, she must be a bad person in general.

    These are just speculations. I would be interested to see what other people might say to explain why mothers are a guilt-protected class while everyone else is subjected to it all the time.

  31. Randy on May 5, 2004 at 3:55 pm

    Julie,

    I really like the service project idea. If anyone has something specific in mind I’d love to hear their ideas. I think I’ll actually suggest this next year in my ward.

    As for sacrament meeting talks, I like your thoughts, but I’m somewhat sceptical that this type of talk would be any better received. If I recall correctly (a big if), it seems to me that Sis. Beck hit upon several of these same themes in her talk in General Conference, yet there were many in the bloggernacle who seemed dissatisfied or unhappy with at least some of what she had to say. Perhaps it is just a function of not being able to make everyone happy all the time.

  32. William Morris on May 5, 2004 at 4:04 pm

    Again: I think the answer is not to abandon Mother’s Day, but to root our discussion of motherhood and women in the scriptures, LDS history, and ‘secular’ history as well as personal history.

    It’s not a purging, but a deepening, IMNSHO.

    Personally, I think that instead of limiting it to motherhood, we should include it in a larger celebration of the women in our lives and celebrate International Women’s Day in March.

    There’s a great tradition in Romania where people [especially men, but also women] give “Martsishori” [splg. is transliterated and problem wrong even in Romanian] to all of the important women in their lives — mom, moms-in-law, grandmothers, spouses, teachers, friends, co-workers, nieces, etc. as a token of appreciation and honor. These M- are little plastic rectangles with flowers or religious iconography or other symbols emblazoned on them with a red and white braided ribbon/thread attached. You buy them from M- vendors/makers that spring up in the market plazas and near public transport stations in late February.

    They are totally cool – great examples of folk art. And it was a fun, meaningful tradition to participate in.

  33. Randy on May 5, 2004 at 4:06 pm

    Ryan,

    What do you mean by “many” (i.e., “that’s exactly what many wards are doing”)? How many ward out there are doing this? I find it hard to believe that this is anything more than an aberation.

    Anyone else seen this?

  34. Ryan Bell on May 5, 2004 at 4:13 pm

    Sorry– I take the two wards I know of that are doing this, and I extrapolate that there must be others like them. I would never guess that it’s anything like a majority, but I think it’s definitely a trend to watch.

  35. Jordan on May 5, 2004 at 4:41 pm

    I have never met any woman who actually DOES like mother’s day. Mother’s day (and most other holidays) are commercial scams geared to make us spend money on our mothers.

    It is great to appreciate mothers, but we really don’t need a “day” for this.

  36. Julie in Austin on May 5, 2004 at 5:05 pm

    Kingsley–No, political correctness isn’t quite what I had in mind here. It’s the purging of fluffy messages about motherhood, not all reference to motherhood.

    Ryan–I think you almost answered your own question. A talk that included three things to do to be a better mother (even if it inspired guilt) is not something I would have a problem with. It’s this general pubilc sainting of mothers (how the heck do you emulate that, anyway?). It’s the vague, unfocused guilt. I have noticed that, as a Church, we have no problem guilting priesthood holders into action, but we rarely (and I think President Hinckley in some of his talks to the women is the exception) seriously encourage mothers to do better by suggesting specific things they should do or not do. Again, a general ‘my mother is so perfect blah blah blah’ doesn’t give me much idea as to what to improve.

    Randy–As someone who had a very hard time with Sister Beck’s talk, I am not sure I see the comparison. I felt her talk was describing what mothers should be in terms not entirely consistent with the gospel (i.e., spend your best efforts determining what to cook for dinner), although after further reflection, I think she was probably trying to uplift those women who have sacrificed professional pursuits by suggesting that if all they think about that day is dinner, they haven’t failed. Or something. I’m still not sure, really. What I was getting at was using scriptural mothers as exampels of virtues that we could all emulate.

  37. Jedd on May 5, 2004 at 5:19 pm

    It’s interesting to note that Anna Jarvis, the founder of Mother’s Day as we now celebrate it, spent her later years fighting its commercialization (“I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit”). She called greeting cards, “a poor excuse for the letter you are too lazy to write” and even filed suit against the governor of New York over a Mother’s Day celebration (after the suit was thrown out, she protested publicly and was arrested).

  38. Kingsley on May 5, 2004 at 5:48 pm

    We are talking about one day here, a day traditionally set apart to *celebrate* motherhood in the same way we *celebrate* a birthday. Cards, gifts, silly songs, an excuse for the family to come together—this stuff seems basically fun and basically harmless. It’s not as if the 30 minutes of sacrament meeting talks on Mother’s Day represent our sole chance to discuss motherhood for the year—better get every nuance in, better cover every base, this is it! The subject of fatherhood/motherhood comes up in Priesthood all the time, and I assume it’s the same for Relief Society. As a Church we’re obsessed with these topics, and rightfully so. Why treat Mother’s Day as if it’s some sort of ultimate forum on the issue? Why not treat it as a sort of birthday—you suffer a slice of cake, blush through the lighthearted praise of your loved ones, and leave the exploration of your complexities for the 364 days that *aren’t* set apart for something light, something sweet, something else.

  39. Jim F. on May 5, 2004 at 5:51 pm

    In my experience, Jordan is right: women almost universally dislike Mothers Day. But if women don’t like it, who is it for? Of course a large part of the day is for the greeting card and jewelry companies. But it is also for we men. Mothers Day gives us an opportunity to pat ourselves on the back for having “recognized” our wives, mothers, daughters, etc. It is an exercise in the sentimental expiation of guilt.

  40. Jordan on May 5, 2004 at 5:52 pm

    The only solution I can come up with is that women are gullible when it comes to Mother’s Day. Mother’s come in all shapes and sizes, but many women seem to get some sort of guilt complex if they aren’t a particular shape and size. It is ridiculous- where is strong inner confidence that most of these people show in other areas? Why can’t they apply it to motherhood? Why be so pathetically thin-skinned?

    My wife always feels guilty for some reason on Mother’s Day, even though she is an awesom mother to our children. And despite my gargantuan efforts to make her feel otherwise.

    Why are people so attracted to crappy, gutter thoughts and feelings? Don’t we have any willpower to resist those untrue feelings not based in any semblance of reality?

  41. Jordan on May 5, 2004 at 5:52 pm

    The only solution I can come up with is that women are gullible when it comes to Mother’s Day. Mother’s come in all shapes and sizes, but many women seem to get some sort of guilt complex if they aren’t a particular shape and size. It is ridiculous- where is strong inner confidence that most of these people show in other areas? Why can’t they apply it to motherhood? Why be so pathetically thin-skinned?

    My wife always feels guilty for some reason on Mother’s Day, even though she is an awesome mother to our children. And despite my gargantuan efforts to make her feel otherwise.

    Why are people so attracted to crappy, gutter thoughts and feelings? Don’t we have any willpower to resist those untrue feelings not based in any semblance of reality?

  42. Kaimi on May 5, 2004 at 5:54 pm

    I don’t know about all of the Mother’s Day dislike among women — but I do know (from sad experience, alas)that, if I forget Mother’s Day, I’m in the doghouse.

  43. Jim F. on May 5, 2004 at 5:54 pm

    Kingsley, the fact that we do all of the things you mention for Mothers Day and few, if any, of them for Fathers Day, suggests that there is more going on than just the light-hearted celebration of our mothers.

  44. Randy on May 5, 2004 at 6:05 pm

    Julie,

    Some points of comparison between your suggested sacrament meeting ideas and Sis. Beck’s talk:

    Your suggestion: “In a ward like Kristine’s, if I were talking, I would probably try something like an exploration of how one might ‘mother’ fellow saints and everyone else, for that matter, regardless of biological relationships.”

    Sis. Beck: “In my experience I have seen that some of the truest mother hearts beat in the breasts of women who will not rear their own children in this life, but they know that ‘all things must come to pass in their time” and that they “are laying the foundation of a great work’ (D&C 64:32–33). As they keep their covenants, they are investing in a grand, prestigious future because they know that ‘they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever’ (Abraham 3:26).”

    You also suggested: “I’d probably use scriptural models of mothering, like Eve’s, and apply them to all sorts of non-mothering situations.”

    Sis. Beck: “Every girl and woman who makes and keeps sacred covenants can have a mother heart. There is no limit to what a woman with a mother heart can accomplish. Righteous women have changed the course of history and will continue to do so, and their influence will spread and grow exponentially throughout the eternities. How grateful I am to the Lord for trusting women with the divine mission of motherhood. Like Mother Eve I am ‘glad’ (see Moses 5:11) to know these things.”

    Again Sis. Beck: “She knows that the influence of righteous, conscientious, persistent, daily mothering is far more lasting, far more powerful, far more influential than any earthly position or institution invented by man. She has the vision that, if worthy, she has the potential to be blessed as Rebekah of old to be ‘the mother of thousands of millions’ (Genesis 24:60).”

    Perhaps Sis. Beck’s talk would have resonated more with you if she had engaged in a more substantive discussion of these “scriptural mothers” (Eve and Rebekah). Still, I think there is much in Sis. Beck’s talk that is not all that far off from what you had suggested.

    Also, I don’t read the potion of Sis. Beck’s talk where she describes her conversations with young, highly educated mothers who now have to worry about “planning dinner” as prescribing that mothers should be dinner planners extraordinare. Instead, she describes what mothers should be in these terms: “A woman with a mother heart has a testimony of the restored gospel, and she teaches the principles of the gospel without equivocation. She is keeping sacred covenants made in holy temples. Her talents and skills are shared unselfishly. She gains as much education as her circumstances will allow, improving her mind and spirit with the desire to teach what she learns to the generations who follow her.”

    My point is this: For some reason, you had a very different reaction to hearing Sis. Beck’s talk than I did. I think the likelihood of this type of thing happening is even more heightened on Mother’s Day.

  45. Jordan on May 5, 2004 at 6:11 pm

    Julie’s suggested sacrament meeting ideas would make mothers feel just as bad. “Why am I not mothering all the Saints better?” and similar questions would rage through their minds.

    I think there is nothing we can do about this other than be sympathetic to our wives and mothers on this horrible day of reckoning for women.

  46. Kingsley on May 5, 2004 at 6:11 pm

    Jim F: Something dark, perhaps? Something Freudian? Or does it come down to the fact that it generally feels more natural (and more fun) to pamper your mother than your father, perhaps because your mother spent so much time pampering you.

  47. cooper on May 5, 2004 at 6:20 pm

    I still ditto Kim’s comment and response.

    And we made a donation istead of the flowers thing in our ward one year at my suggestion. Man, it was like I told them I had smallpox and that they had all been exposed. It’s amazing how the whole thing gets spoiled. That’s what I don’t like about this holiday.

    Another reason: we don’t do anything AT ALL on father’s day.

  48. Kingsley on May 5, 2004 at 6:24 pm

    Jordan: your “horrible day of reckoning for women,” i.e. Mother’s day, is a great parody of the P.C. tendency to give anything even remotely Leave it to Beaver-ish the darkest interpretation possible. A “Racism, Sexism, and Homophobia in Charles Schultz’s Peanuts”-type thing.

  49. Kingsley on May 5, 2004 at 6:31 pm

    Cooper wrote: “And we made a donation istead of the flowers thing in our ward one year at my suggestion. Man, it was like I told them I had smallpox and that they had all been exposed. It’s amazing how the whole thing gets spoiled. That’s what I don’t like about this holiday.” Is it possible that they thought you were spoiling something by taking away their flowers?

  50. Adam Greenwood on May 5, 2004 at 6:31 pm

    Taling about ‘mothering’ the church instead of mothering one’s own children is watering down. It exchanges the specific for the abstract. ‘Mothering’ the church is profound, beautiful, necessary, and a shadow of the real thing.

    I wonder if the real problem here is that Mother’s Day is tied in with old ideas that a woman’s best role was at home raising children, and that other roles weren’t quite as good. I wonder if any recognition for mothers that doesn’t explicitly disavow this view can avoid giving offense.

  51. Scott on May 5, 2004 at 6:43 pm

    Last Sunday in elders’ quorum, a sign-up sheet made the rounds. When it landed in my lap, I glanced down expecting one of the usual suspects (e.g., missionary meals, volleyball tournament, choir, ward potluck, help with a move, etc.). Instead, it was a sign-up sheet for volunteers to teach Primary on Mothers’ Day, so the sweet sisters in our ward can attend Sunday School. Their selfless service in teaching and uplifting our children week after week, often without recognition, humbles me. I signed up at once, grateful for the opportunity to put them on a pedestal, at least for this one day. I know I won’t do particularly well as a stand-in Primary teacher. After all, as a man, I don’t have the same capacity for nurturing children that women do. But I’ll prayerfully do what I can, comforted in the knowledge that the sisters will be back on duty the following week to continue their silent sacrifice.

    Happy Mothers’ Day!

    Scott

  52. Julie in Austin on May 5, 2004 at 7:17 pm

    Kingsley–I think you may have hit the nail on my head. Never once on a birthday have I felt guilty, misunderstood, or made to feel that I didn’t meet up with someone else’s ideal version of me. But I think that’s how many mothers feel on Mothers’ Day.

    Jordan–It may be the context. If I see a woman in soft-focused light, every hair in place, smiling children gathered round her, wearing an apron and baking cookies in her miraculously clean kitchen on a Hallmark commercial, I roll my eyes. If I hear similar sentiments in Church, I may wonder: is this who I am supposed to be?

    Another thought, Jordan: I don’t know what kind of work you do, but most people who are employed have some way of knowing how their job performance compares with their peers (sales results, whatever, imperfect tho such metrics may be). Mothers, on the other hand, don’t see much of what other mothers do on a daily basis and are left to construe what is expected of them on the basis of . . . well, all sorts of silly things, including people’s wacky descriptions of their mothers in sacrament meeting talks and glimpses of each other’s lives.(homechooling joke that’s a little too true in our house: Q: What does the homeschooled kid say when s/he sees a vaccuum cleaner? A: “Who’s coming over, Mom?”).

    Randy: Your comparison was very interesting. This may be a topic for another thread, but I think that most of the problems people have with conference or other church talks occur because:

    –the speaker described something that is true, in an effort to make those whose lives reflect that truth feel good about what they do (i.e., hypereducated women’s best efforts going to cooking dinner)

    –part of the audience, who doesn’t fit that model, takes comments that were meant to *describe* and assumes that they were meant to *prescribe* behavior. Hence, my first response: why on earth is Sr. Beck criticizing me for thinking about something deeper than dinner?

    I didn’t hate the talk; what you quoted, I liked. But, as I have mentioned before here, I feel that my identity involves about a half dozen hats (mom, wife, homeschooler, institute teacher, writer, etc.), and when I think that someone is trying to yank my hats off, I don’t respond well.

    Adam, I don’t have a problem *at all* with saying that a mother’s best efforts should be directed toward her children. I have a problem saying that *all* her effort should be directed that way. Or with equating that best effort with a focus on flowery, fluffy, silly things (see baking cookies above) instead of the tough, unsentimental vision of motherhood that I started this topic with.

  53. Ryan Bell on May 5, 2004 at 7:25 pm

    By the way, Julie, I understand what you mean by “gritty,” “real,” and “tough,” but for the life of me I don’t know why you insist on “unsentimental.” I think “sentimental” describes every parent I know, including myself, and without that side of parenting, it might be harder to see how parenting is worth it.

    I understand that when we conjure images of mothers doing what they do, those images ought not be overly Norman Rockwelled, but as a statement of how a mother or father might (or should?) feel about their parenthood, I think “sentimental” fits perfectly. Even though there are all those other moments of different interactions with our kids, aren’t the sentimental ones– the ones where real feelings become evident, or love is made visible– the ones a parent really survives on? If so, it seems natural that we might speak of those moments often, in keeping with our inborn Mormon optimism.

  54. Jim F. on May 5, 2004 at 8:25 pm

    Kingsley, nothing darker than the fact that I think we use Mothers Day to prove to ourselves more than we may have a right to prove. I love my mother, my wife, my daughters, and daughters-in-law. I recognize them on Mothers Day because I do love them. But I also understand why none of them likes the day–particularly not Church on that day–for all the kinds of reasons that Julie has mentioned: insincere praise, false models of what it means to be a mother, merely sentimental affection (the word “merely” is important), pain to those who are not mothers.

    I don’t know of any of them who object to the children “fixing breakfast” or the cards they create or expressions of love from their husbands. That’s not what they find difficult. I think that the women I know dislike Mothers Day celebrations in Church because they so often are more judgmental and hypocritical than either sincere or sentimental.

  55. Julie in Austin on May 5, 2004 at 10:26 pm

    Two more general thoughts:

    (1) I’m no anthropologist, but I understand a number of societies have a day of class inversion, such as when peasants could go into the noble’s house and eat anything they could find. The purpose here was actually not to honor the peasants but to reiterate the roles and cement them (YOU are the peasant and we know it because of what you are doing today and I am the NOBLEMAN.) Sometimes, I think Mothers Day, for some (not all) people functions this way.

    (2) Just to clarify, my intent was never to attack motherhood or Mothers’ Day, just the *style* of motherhood most often celebrated commercially and in Church.

    As far as sentimental, yea, you have a point. You should see this shmoopy expression I get on my face whenever my boys hug each other. But, I think emphasizing this aspect on Mothers Day is (1) an unnecessary knife in the side of childless women and (2) sometimes painful to mothers, because these moments can be so few and far between the moments (hours) when you hope for a passing gypsy caravan so you can sell the children to them. (“I hope they call you on a mission . . . within the next day or two . . .”)

  56. Mike on May 6, 2004 at 8:52 am

    I guess I missed the discussion of Sister Beck’s talk right after conference- I remembered it more along the lines of what Randy quoted. Before reading his post I got out my journal to look at the notes I took, and the things he quoted were in there. And that was about all that was in there- except of course for her comment in the begining about her mother taking longer to find an eternal companion than what she hoped or many around her felt was appropriate but that in her time being single she was able to grow and serve and devoted her single time to progress, and that after she was married was still able to have children and enjoy the blessings of having a family. I suppose that being 25 and single that resonated with me a bit mroe than it would with Randy.

    The message I got from sister Beck’s talk was that it doesn’t matter who you are or what your background is, you can have a “mother’s heart”
    That those who do not have children can have mother’s hearts. Those who do have children despite having great deal of education and ability to do things outside of the home if they desired should not feel guilty for having their time filled with things that seem of less importance because they are not of less importance.

    Basically that
    1.those who do not have children should not let the church community (or their perception of the church community in their mind) tell them that the work they do is not of value or important- that they can give service as great as those who do have children.
    and
    2. Those who do have children should not let the world (or their perception of the world) tell them that the work they have chosen to do is not of value and that their talents are wasted.

    Basically that every woman who desires to serve God and is serving His children in whatever capacity they have been blessed to do so is of value. And that all people should strive to increase their skills as mothers and develop a mother’s heart by strengthening their testimony of the gospel, teaching the gospel unequivicably, honoring temple covenants, and gaining education and improving ourselves as much as we can.

  57. Randy on May 6, 2004 at 10:16 am

    This discussion has been helpful. I have (I think) a better understanding of some of the reasons why at least some people don’t like Mother’s Day. I still don’t understand, though, why these criticisms are more than pet peeves. To reference back to something I mentioned at the outset, there are lots of things I don’t like about Christmas. Many of them are quite similar to the criticisms leveled here–commercialism, drippy sentimentality about mythical acts of a parent’s, or a child’s, or a neighbor’s kindness, etc., etc. Yet I suspect most of us still enjoy Christmas. We take the part of Christmas we like and reject the part we don’t. We create family traditions to emphasize the weighter matters and take efforts to counterbalance the less important things. Some people, it is true, have a hard time at Christmas, but no one raises the criticism that we are pelting them with “rock salt” by having a Christmas program in sacrament meeting.

    The analogy is not perfect, I know. But I still don’t understand the intense handwringing over Mother’s Day. Perhaps a better analogy is Father’s Day. The talks given on Father’s Day always paint an ideal that every father falls short of. (And let’s face it, the conference talks directed at men are far more critical and direct than the talks directed at women.) Fertility problems involve both men and women, as do the pains caused by wayward children. There are single men in sacrament meeting just as there are single women. Yet why do we not see the same handwringing on Father’s Day?

    I suppose the answer lies in part in the power structure between men and women, both in and out of the church. I wonder if that is the real criticism underlying this discussion–that Mother’s Day (and Father’s Day) reinforces this power structure.

    (I apologize in advance for this hit and run post. I’m tied up the rest of the day and won’t be able to check back in until later tonight.)

  58. Juliann Reynolds on May 7, 2004 at 3:46 am

    Randy said: It has been my experience those who speak or who otherwise make arrangements for flowers, etc., on Mother’s Day face attack on all sides. What guidance should we give to them?

    To let the Relief Society make the decisions and take the heat?

    My husband died and left me with a four year old daughter. I spent about eight years staying away from church on Father’s Day. There was always a family event somewhere to go to instead. I didn’t spend the day in self-pity, I simply chose to let the others enjoy their day. The only thing that did annoy me was when my daughter finally told me about having to sing “I’m so glad when Daddy comes home” for weeks in advance of the children’s program. But I just pointed out to the leaders that that really was expecting a bit too much tolerance at such a young age and it stopped.

    The moral of the story is–we survived. I could write a book on stupid things well-meaning people say or do when someone dies. But so what. They were not being malicious. In what way is my life enhanced by limiting someone else’s expression of gratitude and meaning in their own life?

    Our ward has the Young Women hand out the whatevers following sacrament meeting. Every woman then gets the goodie no matter what her age or status. If anyone has difficulty with an established tradition such as this, I highly recommend quietly finding something else to do on that day as a sort of Mother’s Day gift to those women who do enjoy the annual event.

  59. Randy on May 7, 2004 at 5:23 am

    Juliann,

    Thanks for sharing your story. It is a good reminder to all of us to be more thoughtful and considerate. Along these same lines, you might be interested in a related (at least somewhat) post by Jennifer on Bcc awhile back. http://rameumptom.blogspot.com/2004_04_18_rameumptom_archive.html

    As to your suggestion, I would be happy to leave Mother’s Day decisions up to the Relief Society, but I don’t know that doing so would eliminate conflict–unless Jim is right that the vast majority of women really do hate Mother’s Day. My personal, and certainly limited, experience is that women are rather conflicted about what they want Mother’s Day to look like. I think that several of the comments here support that view.

  60. Sheri Lynn on May 7, 2004 at 7:16 am

    I appreciate these comments and the lovely and thoughtful essay that preceded them. I’m with Kristin. The pain some women have on Mother’s Day at church is so palpable and so obvious that I cannot bear to be there then. The day’s events just spread misery around for everybody but the completely oblivious. For some reason, the women whose pain is greatest seem most motivated to attend that day.

    I also think that if we want a marigold plant it’s easy to get them in six packs for sixty-nine cents, or flats for three bucks, on weekdays. Then we wouldn’t have to carry the thing around while searching out our children who were released at random into the chattering mob that packs the halls after meetings.

    If they really honored motherhood, maybe they could relieve us of the terror of wondering where our kids are every Sunday, unless we leave our own (usually late-running) meetings early to catch them as they’re released. It’s so much fun trying to break through the crowd to round up the lost lambs. I’ve thought it could actually be a reality show–the kids could hide in a crowd of people who all want to talk to their mother, and the moms could be rated on their ability to suppress panic as the minutes pass by.

  61. Juliann Reynolds on May 7, 2004 at 12:39 pm

    Randy, thanks for the link. I have seen the answer to concern about eternal families in General Conference addresses since ’92 but it takes a member to shove it through in church lessons…I guess because it is counterintuitive to free will at first blush. However, it is coming from speakers like Packer who quote a series of prophets saying that if *we* keep our temple covenants we will have the ability to pull our children back. (Remember that we are all the children as well as parents and the whole thing falls into place.) The same thing was blurted out in the last conference as well. It’s not like they aren’t trying to tell us.

    Sheri, my concern with this sensitivity thing is that everytime I want something for my particular situation it will end up restricting or placing demands on someone else. For instance, although I *now* understand your example about others being responsible for your children brought back the resentment I used to feel as a single person (I’ve been about everything now…mostly single but also divorced, finally mother of one child with nonmember husband and now widowed). I don’t like dealing with other people’s children (except professionally). I hated babysitting as a teenager and refuse to watch other people’s children to this day. I put out the edict that I will not spend my weekends doing that at church and all my bishops have been obedient.

    Anyway, it bugged the heck out of me…as a single person…to be told in church how it was my responsibility to help out the harried mothers on my free time after a week of punching a time clock and dealing with “single” issues of no emotional or physical support 24/7. Now *that* is insensitive to those women who may never be married and never have families of their own. Why do we think that we can turn them into cheap labor for those who have had the very opportunity we singles usually yearn for?

    I’m sure it’s obvious where I am going here. It’s a no win situation when we start this “my pain is greater than your pain” stuff. I think where we get into trouble in LDS culture is that we often do not allow people to quietly retreat and to not do that is to refuse to acknowledge them as an individual. We bully them into coming to events..as if missing a church event is a death sentence. One great lesson I learned from widowhood was to say *no!* when well-meaning women would tell me that it would just be so good for me to come to that ward dinner and that I could sit with *their* husband. I laugh about this stuff now. Now I can sit back, bite my tongue and just know that I will be eventually chuckling with the victims over the next thing we goofy Mormons will come up with to torment the unaware. It’s just hard to stay perpetually mad at a group of obsessive do-gooders.

  62. Kristine on May 7, 2004 at 12:47 pm

    “It’s just hard to stay perpetually mad at a group of obsessive do-gooders.”

    Not *that* hard, really. ;>)

  63. Sheri Lynn on May 8, 2004 at 12:39 pm

    “I think where we get into trouble in LDS culture is that we often do not allow people to quietly retreat and to not do that is to refuse to acknowledge them as an individual. We bully them into coming to events..as if missing a church event is a death sentence.” –Juliann

    Gosh, yes. (A whole lot of ark-steadying murmering self-pitying commentary deleted.) Let’s just say that despite my strong testimony, I am at the moment inactive and can’t find my way back. I had major surgery two weeks ago, after months of infections almost killed me, and finally got desperate enough to ask for help, and got screamed at for not attending meetings, and having “hurt feelings.” (It’s called panic attacks, but nevermind.)

    I never thought that single people were there to be servants at church for those of us with families. I’ve always tried hard to take care of my own kids. But if they want my kids to go to meetings without me, they could do me the courtesy of putting them all in one place after meetings, especially since primary always lets out first, so I don’t have to be afraid of one getting run over in the parking lot or abducted by a stranger. It may seem a small thing to most people but I know (at secondhand) a family who has forever lost a daughter. She was 6 when she was abducted at a little league game, and she’d be 14 or 15 now. Morgan Nick is her name and even though there were a lot of people around who knew her, and witnesses who saw the man who took her, nobody knows what happened to her. Her mother runs a website for her and they will never give up.

    A little perspective for Mother’s Day, I think. Lots of moms out there whose children are missing or dead, but we know that those children are still theirs if they can only win the celestial kingdom to be with them.

    And it’s good that nobody need be alone in the celestial kingdom. I think of the conventional Christian heaven and everybody sitting alone harping on their own little cloud, circling and singing to some distant throne, and I’m very grateful I know that Heavenly Father would not give us such a sterile, lonely eternity.

  64. Juliann Reynolds on May 9, 2004 at 12:58 am

    Bless your heart, Sheri. I can relate to most of what you are saying. I have some fairly blood curdling stories (such as suing a ward member who was embezzling from me as part of her professional services after my husband died and managed to make me into the villain for suing.) So I know what people can say and do.

    And I guess that sums up why I think it’s actually important that we have these devastating experiences. When we rebound we do it with a vengence. When you do get back on your feet, you will be in a position to make sure that this never happens to anyone else. I am sure many wards need educating when it comes to issues such as depression and what you are going through.

    Now have a joyous Mother’s Day wherever you decide to spend it!

  65. Sheri Lynn on May 9, 2004 at 12:15 pm

    Thank you Sister Juliann and the same to you. Just home recovering. The kids gave me leftover key lime bars for breakfast.

    I am also contemplating the letter we must write to the GA asking to change wards. It’s a terrible challenge. I am fearful of steadying the ark. I do not wish to murmur or whine. I also think of the hardships we will cause others–visiting teachers and home teachers who must go out of their way, for instance. Yet I cannot heal where I am. My children cannot learn to be Saints in a ward where they see little kindness and little fellowship for them or their parents.

    I am online trying to find some substitute for the ward I do not now have. This site has some wonderful minds, but there is no blessed bread here, no consecrated water. I need a bishop who is a righteous judge in Zion. I need some role in which I can serve, even if bedridden. Must chronic illness mean no calling?

    All of us need these things, and they cannot be found online!

    Still Nephi on the waters had brothers, and those who persecuted him as well as those who sustained him. I’m sure he did not let his heart break for the cruel ones, but counted his blessings in the righteous ones, and that is what I am trying to do.

    I am also reminded that Lehi and his wife exercised no effective restraing on Laman and Lemuel. A mother powerful enough spiritually to raise Nephi nevertheless bore and raised his older brothers, even as Eve the mother of all living birthed Cain. They were permitted to harm their other son, even to the point where it threatened to kill them all. Lehi’s was the authority carried out through his stronger, younger son. Still the righteous one was allowed to be beaten and bound. Did Nephi need that experience–no, I don’t think so, no more than Jesus needed to be crucified for his own spiritual growth. But we needed to hear about it and ponder these sacrifices. Nephi could have stopped it, but probably only by the deaths of his brothers, which was obviously not the will of God.

    Did Laman and Lemuel need the opportunities to overcome their cruel impulses? I wish we had more of their story. What made them so prideful, so resistant? Could I hear an angel reprove me, and slip again into sin? I hope not but I don’t know. Did they ever repent? How could the Lord have let them take control of Nephi’s ship? Is that what is happening to so many wards right now? For most of my faraway friends tell me their wards are troubled too.

  66. Michelle on May 10, 2004 at 1:24 pm

    Scott,

    Your ward should be ashamed that all your Primary teachers are women.

    Everyone else,

    I was in the Manhattan First Ward on Sunday, and yes, a donation was made in lieu of flowers. I was impressed, and glad, and thought it was a great idea. And I can’t imagine a woman in the ward being upset that she didn’t get a carnation.

    I don’t have a problem with Mother’s Day now, and I didn’t have a problem with it when I was single either. For me, it’s a day to reflect on life, the gospel, my family, and my God. It promotes quiet meditation, as Pres. Hinckley continually admonishes us. And it’s an excuse to horde the remote control.

    I also don’t see why “bad” mother experiences or situations need to be ignored or avoided. Our negative experiences in life are just as important, and often more helpful, than our rosy ones. Reflection is always good. And church, on these particularly sensitive days, is an opportunity to succor those that need succor. The fact is, everyone has a mother. Taking a day to remember that, and to contemplate how it fits into the plan of salvation, is appropriate.

  67. patty on May 8, 2005 at 8:37 am

    this is my first mother,s day and it,s a joke! i thought my husband would,ve fed the baby and let me have my coffee. HAH! he points the the baby food and bottle and says”here you go.” so i sat feeding the baby feeling ” oh wow. gee thanks honey. youer so thoughtful!” on top of all that, he proceeds to tell me there is no cookout this afternoon because we,re broke and cant afford the food. my dad and his wife are coming today. what the %^74 $ am i supposed to tell them? my dad offered acouple of ,months ago to take me and my husband and the baby out for dinner. the cook out was my husband,s idea. so therefore…………..my dad thinks he,s coming to a cook out. so husbands out there,make this your wife,s day. she has earned it! really spoil and pamper her. this is her day. she only gets one day out of the year to feel special. it doesnt take much or alot of money. any little thing would be great.

  68. Anon on May 8, 2005 at 10:48 am

    I have been sorry to read many of these comments and see so much angst and over Mother’s Day. I have lived most of my married life outside the U.S. and my experience is that most LDS mothers in foreign countries quite enjoy Mother’s Day. They don’t take it too seriously, but are happy to hear positive things about their role as mothers, and delighted with the extra attention they might receive. Maybe in the U.S. we tend to over-analyze things. The only times I have seen extremely negative reactions like many of those in this thread have been when we were living in the States between overseas stays. And I remember being very careful to reach out to those feeling guilt and pain when I was asked to give a Sacrament Meeting talk in honor of mothers on that holiday. Now that I’m old, I wish I could help some people to just lighten up, not take so many things personally, and find at least some little positive thing about Mother’s Day. We can’t change the fact that it will keep returning every year; but we can consciously change our attitude so that we, and those around us, will welcome rather than dread it.

  69. annegb on May 8, 2005 at 5:34 pm

    Russell, I’d like to be there when you give that talk.

    It’s funny that most of the posters on this thread are men, discussing mother’s day.

    Mother’s Day is a day I tolerate, because I don’t like fuss, it all seems gratuitous and an excuse to make Hallmark richer. I try to find things my family can do for me that are really meaningful, like rub my feet.

    We got plants today at church. I said, “I don’t want something I have to take home and plant. I want a massage.” Nobody went for it, but it’s a plan. Boy, would that make me feel special.

    It would be impossible to ignore Mother’s Day anymore, I think, because it would not be a good message to the youth. But I wish that lady had never invented it.

    Oh, PS, I think often of that lady, Kitty De—-’s mother. I’ve read that book and I admire her so tremendously for how she prepared for that and how she stood it. It comes to mind when I contemplate WWIII and all the implications.

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