Given in the Bentonville 1st ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Bentonville, Arkansas. Recording here:
Well, I knew coming into this, this was going to be a very daunting task. Mother's day is probably the most important day to prepare a good talk. And I will not measure up, I already know it, but I'm going to give it my best shot... I want to start my talk by reading a scripture from Mosiah:
I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants. -Mosiah 2:21
When you think about the magnitude of that. God, our creator, our heavenly father, and you think about the astronomical difference between Him and us, it's impossible to compute with mortal minds. But, there is a type that has been given to us that we all have experienced, that we can at least get an idea of the magnitude of how indebted we are to our heavenly father, and that is our mothers.
Just thinking about what my mom has done for me, I came up with a never-ending list. I would never be able to complete it, but thinking about what she had done for me and my six siblings: brushing our teeth, cooking our dinners, driving us to school and activities, enforcing piano practicing rules, packing up things for every [trip]... everything we had forgotten on trips, she always remembered all the little details, she'd keep things smooth [on our trips] - we'd be hopeful without that. She did the laundry. If there ever was a time that she did actually watch a movie for enjoyment, it was rare that she wasn't doing so without folding laundry at the same time. I mean... the degree of selflessness for three decades when she had kids [in] the home, it's beyond my level of selflessness, that's for sure. To think about, well, it's funny... The six boys in my family were eagle scouts, but no one really primarily attributes it to themselves. On the back of our [family] car there's this pyramid of eagle scout stickers - six [of them]. That just encapsulates what she had done. Not to mention, my sister who completed the personal progress program twice - another influence of my mom. On my mission there wasn't a single week that she failed to send me an email.
I'm going to reread that scripture and this time I'm going to replace references of heavenly father with mom: I say unto you that if ye should serve your mother who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve your mother with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
No wonder it's one of the ten commandments to honor your father and your mother... that thy days may be long upon the land, which the Lord they God giveth thee... There are two estates in the plan of happiness. One is one we've already passed - we've chosen to come to this world. We've chosen to follow Jesus and be tried in mortality. The second is to do so here. Is it not abundantly obvious that this plan would not work without our mothers?
I have a few stories to illustrate the kind of experiences she was blessed with from having six sons and a daughter (who was also kind of a boy).
One time when were in Mexico - oh man - we were just observing these Mayan ruins. Two of my brothers zoom by - no one knew why - but seeing a swarm of wasps follow shortly after it became clear what they had been up to. My poor mother, the one who deserved it least, was the one most unaware and she was the one to end up getting the sting by a wasp. I'm thinking of another brother who was basically homeless for four months as he hiked the entire Appalachian trail from Georgia to Maine... I mean, think about Cast Away, the movie. He had a huge beard, he never showered, he smelled horrible. He had an agreement with my mom that he would at least check in with her twice per week. One time he didn't do so - and this is the kind of guy who didn't have water for 26 straight miles... and yet he survives. That's the kind of person my mom's thinking about when she goes to bed. To get no update on where he is... one day at night she decided she was going to pack up and go to Connecticut, a few states away and see if she could find him. She did, laying on a park bench... And this is the same mom who had to endure the honor of being the mother of the sons who one night, for their senior prank, relocated all of the hundreds of cafeteria chairs to the roof of the school building... the same mother who had to endure the same honor with a principal of the sons who put a living room in his parking space - with a couch, light fixture, a carpet... the same mother who endured the honor of the son who got sent home early from scout camp for smuggling fireworks... I mean... I hope these illustrate the feeling of hopelessness of these children and the task at my mother's hand...
From birth to getting married, the greatest moral force guiding me to make my best decisions was my mother. How could I let that angel down? How could I not live up to something higher?
Coming home from my mission I approached wife hunting with the same zeal as I did finding converts in the mission field. I am the stereotypical BYU story. I averaged about four dates per week. One week I had eight. I was on a hunt to find anyone that could somehow measure up to my mom. I had a list of objective criteria, and if any of you has met my wife within the short two months we've been here, it's probably abundantly clear that I scored.
I called my mom this morning to talk about some of the stories I wanted to share today and she said, "watching the way your kids are turning out makes it all worth it" which makes me feel even more inadequate to speak to you today because anyone who knows my wife knows I was not up to 50% of the reason why that was the case.
Let me move a little more broadly. Motherhood is the essence of feminine beauty. Maternity, obviously, is being able to have children, but that doesn't give justice to the motherly influence that women - whether they are blessed with children in this life - it doesn't give them justice to only focus on mothers. I'm just thinking about... The happiest moments of my childhood were family reunions where I was surrounded by cousins that I saw every year.
On my mom's side I had 30+ cousins. On my dad's side I had 20+ cousins. The conditions between my mom's family and my dad's family are pretty good for an objective experiment. My mom and my dad were both the oldest of their families. They each had four siblings. My grandparents on both sides have ancestry back to the pioneers. Both came from happy families. For both [sides of my family], the cousins were spread across the mountain west, the west coast, the north west, the east, and yet, on my mom's side we had family reunions every year. That was [just] the family reunions - there were BYU camps, other events that other family members would get together for. So we were close with our cousins. On my dad's side everyone also had at least a couple same-age cousins and we saw each other about once every three years for a family reunion. They were great and we had special relationships on that side, but when you got together there was always this [need to] get caught up first. It was that kind of relationship. How is it that two families that are so comparable would have that kind of a difference? In thinking about it, it becomes more clear that my mom had two other sisters. Three of the five siblings were girls. On my dad's side, there were four boys and one girl. That had a huge effect on how seriously the families took it to get together every year. That's the influence of women.
Coincidentally I've been reading two books that when you juxtapose them together, they highlight the civilizing force of women. Both of these books merit the regard that they have internationally as some of the greatest works of literature. In Pride and Prejudice you explore a narrative in Victorian England where marriage and the family unit is so integral to the political and societal fabric of, at the time, the most prosperous and powerful nation on the earth. In Lord of the Flies you explore a thought experiment of sorts about what would happen if on a remote island there were only boys without the civilizing influence of adults, especially women. The difference is so stark. These books are so famous because they're so profound and they're so true. The ideas are pursued in a way that people find a lot of meaning [in] and... It's interesting, I didn't plan this but coincidentally in reading these two books it just highlighted the impact that women have in helping men rise to become better and keep society in order.
Margaret D. Nadauld, a previous young women general president said,
"Women of God can never be like women of the world. The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity."
This is the reason why the Relief Society is the most significant community of women in the world. Just look and admire the women surrounding you today. And admire the examples of beauty of women in this room. Think about how much support you can offer each other in supporting each other's desire of becoming greater women of God.
I want to end my talk by just reading the words of As Sister in Zion.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.