Doctrine and Covenants Section 64, verse 33 reads: Wherefore be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.
This scripture has come to my mind many times over the past several weeks. It was made even more meaningful as I listened to general conference two weekends ago. I was particularly touched by the talks about womanhood and motherhood. This verse is so fitting for those roles, don’t you think?
The daily realities of being a woman or a mother can cause weariness, but what a great work both of them are. And some days we may wonder if the small, everyday things we do really make a difference. The answer is a resounding YES. I haven’t always been able to say that, but as I’ve watched my daughters leave the nest for college and a mission, and as I’ve watched my son grow from an ornery, but very lovable little boy into a sometimes polite and caring young man, I’ve been offered that beautiful gift of seeing that, yes, it was all worth it. And it gives me courage and a will to keep doing those everyday little things.
Elder Jeffrey R Holland stated in his recent conference address:
Today I declare from this pulpit what has been said here before: that no love in mortality comes closer to approximating the pure love of Jesus Christ than the selfless love a devoted mother has for her child. When Isaiah, speaking messianically, wanted to convey Jehovah’s love, he invoked the image of a mother’s devotion. ‘Can a woman forget her sucking child?’ he asks. How absurd, he implies, though not as absurd as thinking Christ will ever forget us.7
This kind of resolute love ‘suffereth long, and is kind, … seeketh not her own, … but … beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.’8 Most encouraging of all, such fidelity ‘never faileth.’9 ‘For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed,’ Jehovah said, ‘but my kindness shall not depart from thee.’10 So too say our mothers. You see, it is not only that they bear us, but they continue bearing with us. It is not only the prenatal carrying but the lifelong carrying that makes mothering such a staggering feat. Of course, there are heartbreaking exceptions, but most mothers know intuitively, instinctively that this is a sacred trust of the highest order. The weight of that realization, especially on young maternal shoulders, can be very daunting.
A wonderful young mother recently wrote to me: ‘How is it that a human being can love a child so deeply that you willingly give up a major portion of your freedom for it? How can mortal love be so strong that you voluntarily subject yourself to responsibility, vulnerability, anxiety, and heartache and just keep coming back for more of the same? What kind of mortal love can make you feel, once you have a child, that your life is never, ever your own again? Maternal love has to be divine. There is no other explanation for it. What mothers do is an essential element of Christ’s work. Knowing that should be enough to tell us the impact of such love will range between unbearable and transcendent, over and over again, until with the safety and salvation of the very last child on earth, we can [then] say with Jesus, ‘[Father!] I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.’
Those are heavy words, I know that I have felt those unbearable and transcendent moments. I’ve never felt love so strong until I became a mother. I didn’t even know such a love existed until my first child was laid in my arms. It made me an absolute believer in love at first sight. I think we have such strong feelings for our children because that is what carries us through those days that we are so mentally and physically exhausted that we wonder how we even make it through without losing our minds or collapsing.
I remember a day when my daughters were four and two. They had both been very ill for a few days. I had cleaned up more vomit than I want to remember. At one point, my oldest threw up in her bed, for the umpteenth time it seemed, and it was all over her pajamas. The thought of cleaning them was just too much for me, so I threw them away. It was just one more thing I couldn’t deal with. Of course, I fell ill the next day. I had been exhausted for days and then I felt like I couldn’t move. It’s not very conducive when you have two little ones to care for. And two little ones who were now feeling better. I remembered lying on the couch and thinking, how am I going to survive this day? How will I take care of my babies? I felt like I couldn’t call on anyone, as I didn’t want to expose them to the germs we had going on and my husband couldn’t miss work. And, as we know, moms don’t get sick days. I turned to the only person I could, my Father in Heaven. I pleaded with him that I would have the strength to take care of my children. In one of those moments of tender mercy, my children took more naps that day than I ever remembered them taking before. Though that was sixteen years ago, I still feel immense gratitude for that little miracle in my life.
Thankfully, not all days are like those, even though when children are small, it seems like someone is always sick.
And if it was only those sick days that we had to stress and worry over, it might not be so bad, but there’s so much more. Doesn’t it seem like just when you think you’ve worried over everything you can think of, some new dreaded, previously unseen or un-thought of problem rears its ugly head? Of course, that isn’t exclusive to raising children. But it is why those everyday little things like prayer and scripture study become so vital. And it’s even why struggling through taking your small children to church each Sunday, even though you may not feel like you’re getting one dang thing out of it, is important. Each of those little acts, and moments, are laying a foundation. A foundation on which a multi-generational eternal family can be built.
I was reminded this past spring how small things can make a difference. I, like I’m sure many of you, or at least I hope some of you, because misery loves company, have really not enjoyed the concept of family home evening. It has been something I’ve always struggled with as a wife and a mother. Believe me, I’ve tried. I made all the charts and even bought the packets. I colored handouts and made paper puppets, all while pretty much loathing it. And then, Monday night would come and someone always ended up in tears, usually me. I mean, isn’t family home evening the only fight that starts and ends with a prayer? So, for years we trudged along. Not that there weren’t some good lessons in there, but for the most part, it was pure drudgery.
So this past year, as my family has gotten older and busier, it was something I just let fall by the wayside. I’m not proud of it, and I’m not even sure it was a conscious decision, but regardless, it was forgotten. Then … this past spring, we started experiencing some of those new dreaded and previously unseen experiences with my son. I was scared and frightened for him. I felt lost and confused about how I could help him. I turned to pray and to the temple. I pleaded with my Heavenly Father to know how to help my son. My answer did not come immediately, or in the temple, but several days after I had attended, I was sitting quietly in my room pondering what I should do. The Spirit whispered, you need to have family home evening.
I smiled to myself. I really think the Lord has a sense of humor. Though the situation wasn’t humorous. Believe me, though I did not delay, because I love my son and I know that Heavenly Father loves my son. We don’t miss family home evening anymore. And yes, things have improved. I don’t know why exactly or how. I can’t point to a family home evening that was life changing, but this I do know, by small and simple things, great things are brought to pass. And obedience brings blessings.
I will end with the beautiful words of Jeffrey R Holland:
To all of our mothers everywhere, past, present, or future, I say, ‘Thank you. Thank you for giving birth, for shaping souls, for forming character, and for demonstrating the pure love of Christ.’ To Mother Eve, to Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel, to Mary of Nazareth, and to a Mother in Heaven, I say, ‘Thank you for your crucial role in fulfilling the purposes of eternity.’ To all mothers in every circumstance, including those who struggle—and all will—I say, ‘Be peaceful. Believe in God and yourself. You are doing better than you think you are. In fact, you are saviors on Mount Zion, and like the Master you follow, your love never faileth. I can pay no higher tribute to anyone.’