Trenton J. Bowen, “A Mother’s Strength in the Home,” Selections from the Religious Education Student Symposium 2007 (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2007), 149–159.
A Mother’s Strength in the Home
Trenton J. Bowen
This past year I had two experiences that left opposite impressions on me. In February I attended the Church’s sixth worldwide leadership training meeting. The theme was marriage and the family. I felt such wonderful feelings of peace, safety, assurance, and contentment as I listened to the messages of the leaders of the Lord’s Church. The other experience happened while I was riding home on a bus and was reading the newspaper. The more I read, the more disheartened and disgusted I began to feel. I could scarcely believe some of the articles that reported so many unkind and careless acts of violence, hate, and immorality. I had to search to find something praiseworthy to read. My heart ached as I thought of these conditions so prevalent in the world and even in our own neighborhoods.
We face constant challenges and problems as the perplexing issues of society continue to grow. The world has increasingly become more violent and disrespectful. There are tragic cases of drug abuse and immorality all around us. There seems to be an ever-increasing lack of Christlike love. The family, instituted and ordained by our Father in Heaven, is being attacked. The forces of evil in the world are launching an assault on the home and family. In the midst of all this conflict, the traditional image of family—tied closely together with mother and father, brothers and sisters—is fast disappearing. We often ask, where do these problems start? Most, of course, have their origins in the home. President Gordon B. Hinckley has stated, “There is a reason for [these problems]. I feel it is simple to define. I believe our problems, almost every one, arise out of the homes of the people. If there is to be reformation, if there is to be a change, if there is to be a return to old and sacred values, it must begin in the home. It is here that truth is learned, that integrity is cultivated, that self-discipline is instilled, and that love is nurtured.”
To help us stand firmly against the onslaught of evil in our day, our Heavenly Father has revealed His mind and will through His living prophets, seers, and revelators in the inspired document “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” The following statement by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles helps to clarify the significance of the proclamation: “The proclamation is a prophetic document, not only because it was issued by prophets but because it was ahead of its time. It warns against many of the very things that have threatened and undermined families during the last decade and calls for the priority and the emphasis families need if they are to survive in an environment that seems ever more toxic to traditional marriage and to parent-child relationships.”
The proclamation teaches the importance of relationships between parents and their children. It states, “Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and their children. ‘Children are an heritage of the Lord’ (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live.”
When the proclamation is studied carefully and prayerfully, there can be no doubt as to the sacred trust the Lord places on parents. The Lord has made clear the primary roles of both father and mother. He has revealed that “fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.” Mothers are “primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.”
In light of these revealed truths from the proclamation, we may return to the question posed earlier, where do these problems start? In most cases, they start early, in the homes where the important principles and values related to the gospel of Jesus Christ are not taught. They start in homes where children feel in their hearts no peace, safety, or security. Certainly one reason behind these feelings is when Mother neglects her children in favor of working outside the home or anywhere else that would take her from her most precious of all possessions, her children. So much of evil and tragedy would be prevented if parents would teach, nurture, and protect their children from the evils of the world while they are young. In Proverbs we read, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). For some couples and for women who work, this can be a sensitive matter. By studying the words of modern-day prophets as pure doctrine and truth from our Heavenly Father, we can clear up confusion about this important matter. Their statements are the mind and will of the Lord to us today.
President Hinckley recognizes there are certain cases where the mother has to work out of necessity. He said:
Some years ago President Benson delivered a message to the women of the Church. He encouraged them to leave their employment and give their individual time to their children. I sustain the position which he took. Nevertheless, I recognize, as he recognized, that there are some women (it has become very many in fact) who have to work to provide for the needs of their families. To you I say, do the very best you can. I hope that if you are employed full-time you are doing it to ensure that basic needs are met and not simply to indulge a taste for an elaborate home, fancy cars, and other luxuries. The greatest job that any mother will ever do will be in nurturing, teaching, lifting, encouraging, and rearing her children in righteousness and truth. None other can adequately take her place.
The prophet’s counsel does not allow husbands and fathers to shift the burden of providing financially for the family to their wives. Rather than lightening the burden that a father has to provide, this statement by President Hinckley actually places a greater mandate on the father to do all within his power to fulfill his God-given role as provider so that the mother can fulfill her role as nurturer. As this important issue is discussed, let us consider the inspired words of the proclamation, that “by divine design, fathers . . . are responsible to provide the necessities of life . . . for their families.” Priesthood holders throughout the world would do well to follow the counsel given in general conference by Presidents Ezra Taft Benson and Howard W. Hunter, who were acting as Presidents of the Church when their statements were made. President Benson warned:
Brethren of the priesthood, I continue to emphasize the importance of mothers staying home to nurture, care for, and train their children in the principles of righteousness. As I travel throughout the Church, I feel that the great majority of Latter-day Saint mothers earnestly want to follow this counsel. But we know that sometimes the mother works outside of the home at the encouragement, or even insistence, of her husband. It is he who wants the items of convenience that the extra income can buy. Not only will the family suffer in such instances, brethren, but your own spiritual growth and progression will be hampered. I say to all of you, the Lord has charged men with the responsibility to provide for their families in such a way that the wife is allowed to fulfill her role as mother in the home.
President Hunter, standing as another witness of this important truth, counseled: “You who hold the priesthood have the responsibility, unless disabled, to provide temporal support for your wife and children. No man can shift the burden of responsibility to another, not even to his wife. The Lord has commanded that women and children have claim on their husbands and fathers for their maintenance (see D&C 83; 1 Tim. 5:8). . . . We urge you to do all in your power to allow your wife to remain in the home, caring for the children while you provide for the family the best you can.” From these teachings we can see that a mother’s strength truly lies in the home.
Four important points emphasize why a mother should be in the home:
1. Mothers should do all they can to protect their children from the evils of the world. President Hinckley has said:
Sisters, guard your children. They live in a world of evil. The forces are all about them. . . . Nothing is more precious to you as mothers, absolutely nothing. Your children are the most valuable thing you will have in time or all eternity. You will be fortunate indeed if, as you grow old and look at those you brought into the world, you find in them uprightness of life, virtue in living, and integrity in their behavior. . . . I do not hesitate to say that you who are mothers can do more than any other group to change this situation. All of these problems find their root in the homes of the people. It is broken homes that lead to a breakup in society. And so tonight, my beloved sisters, my message to you, my challenge to you, my prayer is that you will rededicate yourselves to the strengthening of your homes.
Great is the influence that a mother has on her children for good, especially in their early years. Then, later on, as challenges come in the teenage years, the mother can be there to help with problems or difficulties. President Harold B. Lee taught the following: “There is a great danger today of homes breaking down because of allurements to entice mothers to neglect their being at home as the family members are coming to or going from the home. . . . Today I feel that women are becoming victims of the speed of modern living. It is in building their motherly intuition and that marvelous closeness with their children that they are enabled to tune in upon the wavelengths of their children and to pick up the first signs of difficulty, of danger and distress, which if caught in time would save them from disaster.”
2. The relationship of a parent and child is the most sacred of all relationships next to that of husband and wife. Nothing is more important in life than the relationships we have with our spouses and children. It is sad that some mothers do not treasure those special relationships with their children. President Hinckley taught that someday our family relationships will be all that really matters to us. He taught, “To you young women with small children, yours is a tremendous challenge. . . . How blessed you are, my dear young mothers. You have children who will be yours forever. I hope that you have been sealed in the house of the Lord and that your family will be an everlasting family in the kingdom of our Father. . . . Nothing else you will ever own, no worldly thing you will ever acquire will be worth so much as the love of your children. God bless you, my dear, dear young mothers.”
In another general conference, President Hinckley said, “You have nothing in this world more precious than your children. When you grow old, when your hair turns white and your body grows weary, when you are prone to sit in a rocker and meditate on the things of your life, nothing will be so important as the question of how your children have turned out. It will not be the money you have made. It will not be the cars you have owned. It will not be the large house in which you live. The searing question that will cross your mind again and again will be, How well have my children done?” The early childhood years are crucial in assuring that children live their lives well because of the love and trust that has been received and established.
3. Heavenly Father entrusts us with His children. As we ponder and understand the Father’s plan of happiness for His children and the purpose for which we were sent here to earth, our children will become our most important priority in life. In Gospel Principles, it says, “President Brigham Young explained that our families are not yet ours. The Lord has committed them to us to see how we will treat them. Only if we are faithful will they be given to us forever. What we do on earth determines whether or not we will be worthy to become heavenly parents.”
President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles illustrated the importance of children to our Heavenly Father. When he was in a meeting in Peru on one occasion, a little orphan boy wandered into the room. He came running to President Packer and sat on his lap. When the meeting was over, he dashed away. President Spencer W. Kimball, deeply moved, heard of the experience from President Packer and said, “That experience has far greater meaning than you have yet come to know.” President Kimball later added, “You held a nation on your lap.” The great meaning of that statement causes us to ponder what little children mean to the Lord and to this world. President Packer also said, “Children are the past, the present, and the future all blended into one. They are consummately precious. Every time a child is born, the world is renewed in innocence. I constantly think about and pray for the children and youth and their parents.” Think about the wonderful impact of the statement, “the world is renewed in innocence.” We need to take care of our children in our homes, if we have any hope for the world becoming a more peaceful and righteous place. Jesus said, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). As He was asked by His disciples what kind of men they should be, He set a little child in front of them (see Matthew 18:1–2). If these little children are so precious to the Father and are so important to the peace of this world, how could they ever be anything less than our first priority in life?
President Benson taught of the influence the world can have on our priorities if we are not careful. He warned members of the Church that the world would try to convince women with the false idea that their place is out in the world, among the businesses and the marketplace. He said:
In the beginning, Adam was instructed to earn the bread by the sweat of his brow—not Eve. Contrary to conventional wisdom, a mother’s place is in the home! I recognize there are voices in our midst which would attempt to convince you that these truths are not applicable to our present-day conditions. If you listen and heed, you will be lured away from your principal obligations. Beguiling voices in the world cry out for ‘alternative life-styles’ for women. They maintain that some women are better suited for careers than for marriage and motherhood. These individuals spread their discontent by the propaganda that there are more exciting and self-fulfilling roles for women than homemaking. . . . How vital are mother’s influence and teaching in the home—and how apparent when neglected! I do not wish to wound any feelings, but all of us are aware of instances of active Latter-day Saint families who are experiencing difficulties with their children because mother is not where she ought to be—in the home. The seeds of divorce are often sown and the problems of children begin when mother works outside the home. You mothers should carefully count the cost before you decide to share breadwinning responsibilities with your husbands. It is a truism that children need more of mother than of money.
As we carefully and prayerfully study “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” and other words of the prophets, we will come to know and feel that the mother’s place in the home takes priority over anything else.
4. When a mother teaches and nurtures her children in the home, she is building the kingdom of God. Speaking about motherhood, President Spencer W. Kimball said: “Motherhood is a holy calling, a sacred dedication for carrying out the Lord’s work, a consecration and devotion to the rearing and fostering, the nurturing of body, mind, and spirit of those who kept their first estate and who came to this earth for their second estate to learn and be tested and to work toward godhood. The role of mother, then, is to help those children to keep their second estate, so that they might have glory added upon their heads forever and ever.”
When mothers teach their children to pray, read the scriptures, have faith, keep the commandments, work hard, and follow the prophet, they are doing more to strengthen their children’s testimonies and to prepare them for temple ordinances and exaltation than anything else. In years to come, as children go on missions, serve faithfully in the Church, and become parents, they will attribute most of what they have learned and who they have become to the teachings of their righteous mothers, just as the sons of Helaman did in the Book of Mormon (see Alma 56:47–48). President Harold B. Lee related an example of how a righteous mother influenced her children. When he was the visiting authority at a stake conference, he asked the stake president to point out to him an older mother in his stake who had raised children that had all been married in the temple. He did so, and President Lee asked the sister to come up and stand next to him as he spoke. He said:
“Would you take a lesson out of your book and tell us, what have you done to reach this most marvelous achievement?” And she replied, . . . “I might give you two suggestions. In the first place, when our family was growing up, I always was there at the crossroads of the home, when my children were coming to or going from the home. And second: whatever we did we did together as a family. We played together, we prayed together, we worked together, we did everything together. I guess that’s all I can think of.” I said to her, “Now you have preached two great sermons.” Keep the mother of your home at the “crossroads” of the home.
What a sacred trust and stewardship the mothers in Zion have been given. It becomes increasingly important to have the mother in the home to protect, strengthen, and spiritually fortify her sons and daughters. The Lord will help mothers to know by the Spirit how they can most effectively carry out this work, and one day they will be grateful that they made “a career of motherhood . . . [and] they . . . let nothing supersede that career.”
On one occasion, President Packer quoted an older sister in general conference about the great challenge of a mother taking care of her children. She said to his wife, “‘Your hands full now; your heart full later!’” In relation to this, President Hinckley gave a prophetic promise to mothers: “To the mothers of this Church, every mother who is here today, I want to say that as the years pass, you will become increasingly grateful for that which you did in molding the lives of your children in the direction of righteousness and goodness, integrity and faith. That is most likely to happen if you can spend adequate time with them.”
In conclusion, President Benson said, “Mothers in Zion, your God-given roles are so vital to your own exaltation and to the salvation and exaltation of your family. A child needs a mother more than all the things money can buy. Spending time with your children is the greatest gift of all.” He then promised, “Your children will remember your teachings forever, and when they are old, they will not depart from them. They will call you blessed—their truly angel mother. Mothers, this kind of heavenly, motherly teaching takes time—lots of time. It cannot be done effectively part-time. It must be done all the time in order to save and exalt your children. This is your divine calling. . . . I promise you the blessings of heaven and ‘all that the Father hath’ (see D&C 84:38) as you magnify the noblest calling of all—a mother in Zion.”
In the Book of Mormon, we read of the sacred account of the Savior’s visit to the Nephites on the ancient American continent. In this account, He calls their children unto Him. It states, “So they brought their little children and set them down upon the ground round about him, and Jesus stood in the midst; and the multitude gave way till they had all been brought unto him. . . . He wept, and the multitude bare record of it, and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed to the Father for them. And when he had done this, he wept again; and he spake unto the multitude and said unto them: Behold your little ones” (3 Nephi 17:12, 21–23).
May all mothers magnify their noblest calling of all, that they may receive “all that the Father hath” as they nurture and take care of their little ones.
 Gordon B. Hinckley, “Walking in the Light of the Lord,” Ensign, November 1998, 99.
 M. Russell Ballard, “What Matters Most Is What Matters Longest,” Ensign, November 2005, 41.
 The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, November 1995, 102.
 “The Family: A Proclamation,” 102.
 “The Family: A Proclamation,” 102.
 Gordon B. Hinckley, “Women of the Church,” Ensign, November 1996, 69.
 “The Family: A Proclamation,” 102.
 Ezra Taft Benson, “To the Fathers in Israel,” Ensign, November 1987, 49.
 Howard W. Hunter, “Being a Righteous Husband and Father,” Ensign, November 1994, 51.
 Hinckley, “Walking in the Light of the Lord,” 99–100.
 Harold B. Lee, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2000), 140–41.
 Gordon B. Hinckley, “To the Women of the Church,” Ensign, November 2003, 114.
 Gordon B. Hinckley, “Your Greatest Challenge, Mother,” Ensign, November 2000, 98.
 Gospel Principles (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1997), 231.
 Boyd K. Packer, “Children,” Ensign, May 2002, 7, 9.
 Packer, “Children,” 8.
 Ezra Taft Benson, “The Honored Place of Woman,” Ensign, November 1981, 105–6.
 Spencer W. Kimball, “The Blessings and Responsibilities of Womanhood,” Ensign, March 1976, 72–73.
 Lee, Teachings, 139–40.
 Lee, Teachings, 143.
 Boyd K. Packer, “The Golden Years,” Ensign, May 2003, 82.
 Hinckley, “Women of the Church,” 69.
 Ezra Taft Benson, “To the Mothers in Zion,” Eternal Marriage Student Manual (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1998), 264.
 Benson, “To the Mothers in Zion,” 265–66.