Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day Musings (or soapbox, depending on how you look at it)

Mother's Day. It's arguably the most controversial, angst-filled, sometimes-even-anger-inducing days of the year in Mormondom. People ban church on this day. Numerous blog posts show up explaining why Mother's Day is so awful, or why church on this day is so difficult. Talks and programs and songs are mocked to assuage the pain. I watch year after year as people feel on pins and needles as they try not to offend. But year after year, people get offended.

Now let me say that I understand and sympathize (and even empathize) with some of the pain. I mean, there is perhaps nothing that brings more intense feelings than motherhood -- whether that means being a mother, or not being a mother and wanting to be, or not being a mother and secretly being relieved, or not having a good relationship with your mother, or not feeling like a good enough mother.

I don't know that there are any tears more shed than for reasons like the above.

And yet....

And yet!

There has to be more than this. I think there is something missing in this. (Remember, I've already warned you that I'm sorta in soapbox mode. And I write this knowing that not everyone is upset on Mother's Day (e.g., see here and here), so this is not a complete post about the topic.)

In my view, ultimately, whether that missing piece comes is not ultimately up to the speakers or the planners of Mother's Day programs or the writers of music or the gift givers or anyone else. It's not the bishop's fault or the culture's fault that Mother's Day is not perfect. It's not the leaders' fault that every talk given in General Conference doesn't suit every woman perfectly.

The peace we seek has to come from within us, as women -- and can only be found, I believe, as we really turn to Christ and let Him help us know what to do with all our imperfections and the imperfectness of our world.

Christ is the missing link in our pain. The Atonement is the balm we seek at these times. We come to these moments sometimes with such high expectations that no mortal will truly be able to fill them.

Nor should they.

The scriptures tell us that "All things must fail." I find that phrase interesting. Why must they fail? That could be interpreted as simply meaning that they will fail. But I take it to mean more. I think we have to come to grips with the fact that all things must fail so we can find that one thing that never faileth -- Christ's charity, evidenced through His Atonement. He is willing to help us.

But do we let Him? Really let Him?

I think too often we don't. We give way for the enemy of our soul by being angry about this or that talk, feeling depressed about this or that weakness, wanting this or that whatever to change around us in order for us not to be upset about this or that. The internet has made it easier to look for validation of these things from others, which often, imo, pushes His peace further and further away.

There is a continued insistence that the solution is 'out there' -- and as long as we think that, then we are really only there to be acted upon, to stay stuck in our misery. I'm not saying 'the culture' doesn't have ways to improve, but honestly, I think the best improvement to LDS culture would come not from better talks or most of the things people complain about, but from us all individually seeking more to follow Sister Beck's recent counsel about leaning hard on God and needing less validation from mortal sources.

I know from personal experience that this is much, MUCH easier said than done. But I feel strongly about it. I think we need to really trust more in the True Solution to our pain and insecurity. Let's stop insisting that the problem is 'out there.' It's not. Deep down, we know that God doesn't want us to be depressed and paralyzed by insecurity and weakness. That doesn't feel right, does it? So when those feelings come (which are different from God's invitations to repent) let's choose to let His light and hope in. When we hear something that hurts, rather than complain or criticize or curl up in a ball, let's learn to go to God and ask what He would have us do, now, given all our particulars. For many of us, this will take retraining from the usual knee-jerk reactions to things that touch on tender topics. The answers will be a little (or sometimes a lot) different for all of us. Let's do more of what Sister Beck counseled and seek personal revelation. And seek hard.

The power is in us to choose to let the Atonement Christ carry us over our valleys of sorrow and pain, and to find more peace in the journey, regardless of what goes on around us.

Even on Mother's Day.

p.s. See my other blog for how my day went. It was lovely.


  1. A couple years ago, my husband (then ward clerk) volunteered us for the Mother's day talks because I write a blog on finding fulfillment in motherhood. The bishopric was very concerned about some of these things you mention (to the point where some years, we haven't even had motherhood talks. How is that better?).

    As I read up for the talk, I came to the same conclusion, I think. I realized that I'm not a perfect mom, and I never will be—and that's okay. Just like being a perfect person, being a perfect mom is impossible on my own. But if I come unto Christ, He can make up for all my short comings. (There's a really great quote from Jeffrey R. Holland on this in the whole talk: )

    (Incidentally, the reason most mothers I know complain about Mother's Day is because their day goes like my Sacrament meeting. Hooray for a child who refuses to sing to you, and then throws a tantrum because he *does* want to go on the stand--to sit with his father. Hooray for dragging two fighting children out, just like every other week. But hey, at least this week I could laugh, instead of hiding in the cultural hall bawling for the next two hours again.)

  2. Every year my mother polls her children to see what they did in their wards for MD. Her ward has kind of banned MD for years and she, the wonderful mother of 8 children, resents it. I have been one to sit in church and feel resentful with regards to something someone has said in a talk (never MD) but later, when that particular issue in my life has been resolved and healed, someone can say the exact same thing and it doesn't bother me one whit. There have even been times, a few glorious hours, at least, when I have been so full of gratitude for all the good in my life that absolutely nothing can offend me. Allowing the atonement to work in our lives, to make up the difference for those things we lack in our own character, in our lives, etc.,fills us with gratitude and eradicates pain. I have a long way to go with those hurts in my life that are being consistently thrust into my life by people who are supposed to love me, but I hope I have moved past feeling bad about something someone says in a talk at church, regardless of the subject.

  3. Jordan, thanks for your comment. That was a great talk. I love Pres. Faust's quote, too, about how parenthood requires the best of ourselves. I think you pulled together a wealth of wonderful truth about the eternal importance of motherhood. I also really do believe in the notion of nurturing the rising generation as being something we ALL do -- whether we have our own children or not. I feel that need to nurture other children and youth that cross my path as well. The more I seek to do that, the stronger that felt need becomes...I feel the Spirit confirming that reality.

    I have a long way to go, too (!!) -- but this is part of why I write things like this - to remind me for those times when I'm not seeing as clearly that the truth of the Atonement can set me free from the traps I get caught in. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here.

  4. Hear, hear! I think you hit this one just right.