Understanding the divine role of mothersby Flint Stephens on 05/08/14
A few years ago, I was assigned to speak in church on Mother’s Day. Coincidently, the previous time I spoke in church was on Father’s Day. Rather than come up with an entirely new talk, I decided I would just take that talk and substitute the word “mother” for every previous reference to father.
As I read through the talk, I realized I could not do that because most of it would not make sense. The irony is that in today’s world, many people believe that the roles of mothers and fathers are interchangeable.
To suggest that a woman can fulfill the role of father or that a man can substitute for a mother is to imply that God somehow did not know what he was doing when he created specific genders.
There has never been a doubt in my mind that my mother understands her divinely appointed calling. She always loved and nurtured my siblings and me no matter the circumstance. I especially appreciated her willingness to forgive me no matter my transgressions.
As a boy I enjoyed wildlife. I enjoyed it so much that I used to like to capture various types of wildlife and bring them home to live in my house. This was against my mother’s rules and so I had to conceal what I was doing. Occasionally I would hear my mother scream when she opened a container that was under my bed, or in a closet, or in the refrigerator. After the scream, my mother usually shouted my full given name. That was a signal that I needed to come immediately and release the snake or the turtle or the frog, or whatever else it might be back into the wild.
In spite of the fact that I was warned repeatedly never to do this again, I always did and each time she quickly forgave me. She even eventually learned to call me before she opened any suspicious containers.
Most of those reading this are probably too young to remember, but the 1970s was a time of economic hardship. My mother was a gifted seamstress and she went to work to make certain there was enough money for things like school fees, music lessons and missions.
As the oldest child, I was expected to do more to help because Mom was not always available. My mother taught me how to make dinner for the family. She also tried to teach me to be kind and loving toward my younger brother and sisters even when they were being annoying or were getting into things that were mine.
In addition to my mother going to work, my family saved money by having a large garden where we raised almost all of the vegetables we would eat during the year. Much of it had to be canned or preserved in some other fashion so I spent many hours picking, peeling, and slicing vegetables and fruits under the direct supervision of my mother. We grew and preserved almost any fruit or vegetable you can imagine. We grew more than 100 tomato plants and we even made our own ketchup and spaghetti sauce.
Most of this work took place after my mother came home from a long day of sewing. When fruit or vegetables are ripe, they won’t wait until a later time to be taken care of. So my mother would work until late at night without complaining.
Like my mother, my beautiful wife understands her divine role. In addition to loving and nurturing our own children, she has nurtured hundreds of other children in her career as an educator.
For many years the large school class sizes in Utah has been a topic of legislative discussion. The conversation usually focuses on money and on test scores. But like most teachers, Anette is truly concerned about the temporal welfare and emotional needs of each child in her care. She has an innate love for every child. When there are 30 children in a classroom, that creates worry and stress that goes far beyond the challenge of teaching a child to read or to do math.
I like children, but I would rather gut an elk or fillet a cooler full of fish than to change a dirty diaper. And baby barf is almost as bad. But when Anette sees a child in need, she never balks at doing whatever has to be done to provide for that child’s security and welfare.
Throughout the years, many of her students have not enjoyed the blessing of a traditional family where both a mother and father provide a home environment of love and support. At times I might have grumbled when she bought shoes for a child who was lacking. I might have murmured when she made time in a busy schedule to attend a student’s baptism or a Little League game.
But her support for these young souls never wavers. And as their teacher, she often provides their most stable and consistent adult model. At the same time, she provides an example of Christ-like charity.
In the Savior’s example of love toward little children, I’m certain he was reflecting the lessons he learned from a caring Mother.
Like many of us, sometimes his mother asked him to do something he did not want to do. And yet again like us, he would go ahead and do it. I’m sure that sometime in his life his mortal or Heavenly Father explained that if his Mother asked him to do something, he should do it without question.
It is appropriate that of the many miracles Christ performed for others during his ministry, the first was for his mother.
“And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there. And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.”
We can only assume that this was the marriage of a relative or close friend of the family and Jesus’ mother obviously felt some concern and obligation. Whoever it was, the lack of wine would have been a serious breach of etiquette and a source of embarrassment for the family.
Notice that Mary did not ask Jesus directly to perform this miracle. She merely pointed out the obvious. It is a technique that many mothers still use:
“The garbage is overflowing.”
“Have you noticed how long the grass is?”
“I can’t see the floor in your room.”
“They have no wine.”
Although not directly stated, the message in each instance is loud and clear. Jesus obviously knew what Mary wanted. He replied:
“Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.”
Mary, knowing that her son would not deny her, went to the servants and said: “Whatsover he saith unto you, do it.”
We all know how the story ends. Jesus had the servants fill the waterpots with water. But when they drew the water out of the pots, it had turned to fine wine.
And then in verses 11 and 12, John explains: “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him. After this he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples:”
Although Jesus had said that the time had not yet come for him to begin his work, I wonder if perhaps Mary somehow knew that this miracle was needed. In the verse just mentioned perhaps the key phrase is “and his disciples believed on him.” Maybe Mary realized that the miracle of turning water to wine would solidify the disciples’ commitment as the Savior prepared to embark on his ministry.
Like most mothers, Mary saw what her son could become. She knew of his divine role and she understood it was her calling to help Jesus fulfill his. As he began his ministry, she traveled alongside him, along with his brethren and his disciples.
I know that God has given all mothers the ability to see the spark of divinity that exists within each soul that they bear. I am grateful for the inspiration my mother provided to me and for the inspiration my wife has given to our children.