I approach the subject of mothers from a different perspective today. I recommend that mothers, and by extension women, are types and shadows of the perfect Christlike love. First I would like to talk about what types and shadows are then I would like to demonstrate how mothers are such fitting examples as types and shadows of Christlike love. And finally, I would like to address the continuing need for the women of the Church to seek to improve on those gifts that are naturally theirs.
Types and shadows
A shadow is a faint representation of something. If you go outside and look at your shadow, you can tell it resembles you, but without any of the detail that defines the whole person that makes up your being. A shadow is a subtle representation. And sometimes when we read about events in the scriptures we are told they are shadows of things to come. If we hadn’t been told they were hints of future events we might have missed their connection all together. Shadows can also be objects that represent other things.
For example, when Alma was talking to Helaman about the Liahona, the compass used by Lehi to guide his way through the desert, he says (Alma 37:43):
And now, my son, I would that ye should understand that these things are not without a shadow; for as our fathers were slothful to give heed to this compass (now these things were temporal) they did not prosper; even so it is with things which are spiritual.
Alma was teaching Helaman that the compass used by Lehi was just like our conscience that guides us through life. When we pay attention to the promptings and feelings we receive we find our way. When we ignore what we are told by our conscience or by the Spirit, we get into trouble.
A type is a thing or person that represents perfectly or in the best way a class or category; a model. If I were to ask who in your life has been the most constant influence for good, most of you would say it is your mother. If I were to ask who your greatest critic and supporter is, it would probably be either your wife or your mother. If I were to ask who taught you how to pray, it would probably be your mother.
This list of examples could become very long, and each of them would most likely have your mother as the answer. So what does this have to do with being a type?
One of the examples of a mother’s love is to compare her to a hen who follows her chicks around and gathers them under her wings when she feels they are threatened. But didn’t the Savior say that about the house of Israel? In 3 Nephi 10:5 the Savior says this:
And again, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, who have fallen; yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, ye that dwell at Jerusalem, as ye that have fallen; yea, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not.
How often does the Savior refer to himself as the bridegroom and the members of the Church as his bride? When the Savior discusses his love for his people it is by comparing his love to that of a mother. Isaiah 49:15:
Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.
The Lord speaks to His people with the tenderness of a mother in D&C 35:27 the Lord says: “Fear not, little flock, the kingdom is yours until I come.”
Time and time again the Lord talks to us in a manner that is already familiar to us. He talks to us like our mothers do. Sometimes his criticism is harsh, but his love is always present in all that he does. The moral power or force that comes from the women in our lives is the closest thing most of us will ever get to the divine personality. Even with their flaws, women come naturally equipped with capabilities that soften the dispositions of men and encourage young people to follow them.
Women come endowed with abilities that are different, but complementary to those given by God to men. We cannot become celestial people without combining these two sets of skills. Whether we achieve that in this life or the next, we will need to have a spouse before we can enter the celestial kingdom. All those entering the highest degree of the celestial kingdom will be there as couples.
So I repeat sisters, you who have such great moral influence on those around you, your ability to love unconditionally, to inspire and uplift, and to encourage and nurture, are as close to the divine personality as we have available to us in mortality.
Please note that I did not say you do it all perfectly. When anyone of us are called to positions in the ward we haven’t done before, we are weak, and we worry we won’t be able to live up to our new responsibilities. That is natural. When we become parents, none of us has any idea what will be required of us before our first child walks out the front door for the last time. We all make mistakes, but the Lord is able to take our best efforts and create miracles from our weakness. So don’t fret if you haven’t mastered being the perfect parent yet. You have all of eternity to practice.
I remember telling our eldest child, Eleanor, how sorry I was that we were such clumsy parents to her. I told there that because children don’t come with an owner’s manual, we just did our best and guessed at a lot of things. Fortunately, we learned a lot along the way, and we were much better parents to the younger children.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson gave a talk entitled, “The Moral Force of Women.” In that talk he said:
Women bring with them into the world a certain virtue, a divine gift that makes them adept at instilling such qualities as faith, courage, empathy, and refinement in relationships and in cultures. When praising the “unfeigned faith” he found in Timothy, Paul noted that this faith “dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice.”
In that same talk he goes on to talk about the power of women to influence not just individuals, but all of society as well.
As grandmothers, mothers, and role models, women have been the guardians of the wellspring of life, teaching each generation the importance of sexual purity—of chastity before marriage and fidelity within marriage. In this way, they have been a civilizing influence in society; they have brought out the best in men; they have perpetuated wholesome environments in which to raise secure and healthy children.
A pernicious philosophy that undermines women’s moral influence is the devaluation of marriage and of motherhood and homemaking as a career. Some view homemaking with outright contempt, arguing it demeans women and that the relentless demands of raising children are a form of exploitation. They ridicule what they call “the mommy track” as a career. This is not fair or right. We do not diminish the value of what women or men achieve in any worthy endeavor or career—we all benefit from those achievements—but we still recognize there is not a higher good than motherhood and fatherhood in marriage. There is no superior career, and no amount of money, authority, or public acclaim can exceed the ultimate rewards of family. Whatever else a woman may accomplish, her moral influence is no more optimally employed than here.
Sisters, of all your associations, it is your relationship with God, your Heavenly Father, who is the source of your moral power, that you must always put first in your life. Remember that Jesus’s power came through His single-minded devotion to the will of the Father. He never varied from that which pleased His Father. Strive to be that kind of disciple of the Father and the Son, and your influence will never fade.
In these exhortations to women, let no one willfully misunderstand. By praising and encouraging the moral force in women, I am not saying that men and boys are somehow excused from their own duty to stand for truth and righteousness, that their responsibility to serve, sacrifice, and minister is somehow less than that of women or can be left to women. Brethren, let us stand with women, share their burdens, and cultivate our own companion moral authority.
Sister Margaret D. Nadauld, the Young Women’s General President gave a great talk in the October 2000 General Conference about the need for women to develop those characteristics that strengthen them as a type of the Christlike character. She refers to it as developing a divine attribute.
Daughters of God know that it is the nurturing nature of women that can bring everlasting blessings, and they live to cultivate this divine attribute. Surely when a woman reverences motherhood, her children will arise up and call her blessed (see Prov. 31:28).
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.
The women of the Church have a tough balancing act to perform in this life. The world would have you place your personal prosperity and reputations above that of your families, but the Lord would have you strengthen the next generation and support your husbands in their callings that the kingdom might prosper so the Lord can more richly shower us with His blessings.
May I express my personal gratitude for the women of this Church and the women in my life. All that there is in my life that I hold most dear I have because of the women who have nurtured me, cared for me, watched over me, taught me, and loved me. I am especially grateful to my wife for her tolerance and patience. She is a model of inventiveness and through marriage to me has been learning to have the patience of Job. I am eternally blessed to have her in my life.
This was a talk given in Sacrament meeting of the Hauula 1st Ward, May, 2016.
The Joy of Womanhood
Margaret D. Nadauld
Young Women General President
The Moral Force of Women
By Elder D. Todd Christofferson
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles