Sunday, June 1, 2014

Motherhood and the Atonement

I've been meaning to write this post for quite awhile. In my head it's wonderfully profound, beautifully written, and is something I can look back on time and time again to lift me up during the hard moments in motherhood. This is probably not going to be like that post in my head. But if I keep waiting for the chance to write that post, it's never going to happen.  At least not until all my kids have left for college in roughly 19 years, so here I go, and please pardon my clumsy way of expressing all this.

The other day I was thinking about Sariah from the Book of Mormon. To understand what I'm going to say about her you really need to be familiar with all of her story from the Book of Mormon, but to sum her up, she was a faithful woman of God, a mother to the first prophet we meet in the Book of Mormon, Nephi, and wife to the prophet Lehi. She endured all kinds of hardships in her life, from leaving her home and traveling through the wilderness where she gave birth to at least two children, to sometimes violent relationships between her sons. She was one of the few women mentioned by name in the Book of Mormon, and to my knowledge, the only one mentioned by name that we know was also a mother. And so during my personal study the other day I was looking at her life to find insight into motherhood. Here is what I learned:

Sariah was half of the "goodly parents" Nephi talked about. She was a good woman, and good parent, but she knew what it was like to have her children misbehave. She knew what it was like to have her children not get along. She made mistakes, such as when she murmered against Lehi. And yet she was the mother of not one, but two prophets. She was the mother (and perhaps the surrogate mother, in Zoram's case) of some wonderfully righteous, steadfast men.  Clearly, despite any shortcomings she may have had, the Lord made up the difference.

Of all the lessons we learn in our families, perhaps the most important and often repeated lesson is that of repentence and forgiveness. And maybe one of the major ways our children will learn those principles is to watch how we deal with our mistakes and shortcomings. Do we stubbornly refuse to admit we were wrong or do we acknowledge our fault, ask forgiveness, and allow the Savior to change us into something better? How can our children learn how to use the power of the Atonement of Christ if they never see us using it in our lives? And we can't forget that forgiveness also applies to us forgiving ourselves from being less than the parent we always dreamed we would be. We are all still learning to be that parent, and we learn to do by doing. To paraphrase H. Burke Peterson in "Mother, Catch the Vision of Your Call" from the April 1974 General Conference, motherhood is an art that isn't easy to learn, but you can learn to do it.

Not one of us will be perfect.  We haven't been made mothers because we are angels.  We are fallible humans in the midst of a blessed and joyous, but still fiery furnace--that of a family.  And like ceramic in a fiery furnace, we can either crack and become overwhelmed, stressed out, and bitter, or we can let it refine us into more Christlike beings who rely more on the Savior to get through the day, and less on parenting books and Pinterest.

Jeffery R. Holland, in his talk "Because She Is a Mother" from the April 1997 General Conference, said:  "If you try your best to be the best parent you can be, you will have done all that a human being can do and all that God expects you to do."

It's late and I need to get to bed, so I will probably edit this in the morning, but I just wanted to get my thoughts out there.  Goodnight, everyone.  May I be a better mom tomorrow than I was today.


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