Two months ago, on one of our last Sundays living in Los Angeles, I spoke in church on Mother’s Day. It was right smack in the middle of our IVF cycle, two days after the egg retrieval and three days before the embryo transfer. We were hopeful that the IVF would work but still had no idea whether this would be my last Mother’s Day without children as I hoped it would be. The topic was up to me and I knew I wanted to talk about women and mothers, but I knew from my own experience that I wanted it to be a bit more than that.
As I wrote the talk, it morphed from one thing to another (as it seems these things tend to do when God is guiding them) and I ended up with a talk about divine nature and the divine gifts of women. This was one of those experiences where I felt so strongly that the end product was not of my own making, but God’s message for me and those who would hear it. Reading back on it, it seems to me like the most true thing I have ever learned through my years of infertility and I felt like I should share it here as well.
Over the last few years, I have had a special interest in learning about the role of women, especially women and their relationship to God, the world, the church, men, and each other. I still have lots of questions, but have found a few answers too. I’m excited to be speaking on Mother’s Day to be able to share some of what I’ve learned with you. I hope and believe that it is applicable to the men in the room as well.
Regardless of Roles
As we celebrate the mothers in our lives today, I am aware that Mother’s Day is not always an enjoyable occasion for some women. The reasons I have heard from my own loved ones include situations of infertility, coping with the loss of a child or mother, being single and wishing to be married, of struggling with a difficult relationship with one’s own mother, or a mother’s guilt at wishing she lived up to the expectations she has of herself.
Whether or not any of these situations apply to you, I think we all might struggle with the issue of identity from time to time.
So on that topic, I have a question: Are we (especially as women) searching for our identity within a role we currently may or may not have? Are we looking for validation of our worth in too-narrow parameters?
Throughout our lives, we will find ourselves in many roles, some temporary, some permanent. These roles might include student, employee, mother, bishop, teacher, father, etc. These roles are clearly important, some even imperative to our growth and learning experiences here on earth. But: we aren’t what we do, no matter how important those roles are.
So, Who Are We?
If we aren’t what we do, who are we? Where do we find our identity? This is a huge question, but for me, the answer comes in knowing my divine nature.
I testify that we can find our worth and base our identity in the truth that we are literal sons and daughters of Heavenly Parents, with potential to become like Them. This is our foundation. “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” states that “[each human being] is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.”
To build on that, if we are Their children, it makes sense that, just as with earthly parents, we have inherited some of their traits and qualities. A number of these are related to gender. Some are individual gifts. Others can be acquired and developed through “parkating of the divine nature,” as Peter says in 2 Peter 1:4, or in other words, taking on the characteristics of God to become more like Him.
Though the roles we hold and the things we do are important, very important, this defining relationship to God is the most lasting and true.
On a Personal Note
Though it might sound basic, this doctrine has had a profound effect on me recently.
Kenny and I have been married for six years. For the majority of that time, we have wanted to begin our family and have children, obviously without success. It’s been incredibly difficult for me and without a doubt, the most trying experience of my life so far.
As you might imagine, the question of roles and identity has weighed heavily on me as I have asked myself what I am, what my purpose is, if not a mother. I never wanted to necessarily be “defined” by motherhood, but it was certainly a very important part of what I hoped would make up my identity, not to mention it being a central gospel commandment. If being a mother was such a part of who I hoped to be and I didn’t have children, what did that say about me, my femininity, my worth?
I struggled with this for some time, and to be honest, still do at times. But peace comes when I remember who I really am and what I’m really sent here to do. I am a literal child of God. I am here to become like Him. To practice godly behavior by building meaningful relationships with those around me, by serving them, learning from them, and by loving them. This often happens through the roles we’ve talked about.
Today, in my life, those people are my wonderful husband, my parents, my siblings, my niece and nephews, the incredible children in Primary, my co-workers, my friends in the ward. I can “mother” as I develop all these relationships. In what I hope to be the near future, this will include my children. But at that time, I will not be more or less of a daughter of God, I will not be more or less loved by Him, I will not be more or less redeemed by Jesus Christ. These things are permanent, eternal, and unchanging.
The Divine Gifts of Women
To bring the focus back to Mother’s Day, I’d now like to talk about these gifts I mentioned earlier, particularly the divine gifts of women. Women have a unique set of divine gifts that help us fulfill the measure of our creation. (Obviously men do too — but we can talk about those on Father’s Day!)
Through my research and the words of modern-day prophets, here are a few of the gifts I have uncovered that are particularly manifest in women:
- a keen sensitivity to the Spirit
- a nurturing heart
- exceptional faith
- spiritual intellect
- great capacity to love
Add to this impressive list a woman’s unique personality and individual spiritual gifts and she will find she has more potential and power than she ever imagined.
Defending Our Influence
Sheri Dew said, “As mothers in Israel, we are the Lord’s secret weapon. Our influence comes from a divine endowment that has been in place from the beginning. In the premortal world, when our Father described our role, I wonder if we didn’t stand in wide-eyed wonder that He would bless us with a sacred trust so central to His plan and that He would endow us with gifts so vital to the loving and leading of His children. I wonder if we shouted for joy at least in part because of the ennobling stature He gave us in His kingdom. The world won’t tell you that, but the Spirit will.”
I add my testimony that the Spirit will communicate with us the paths we should take in our lives. As women, we often find ourselves feeling the need to defend our choices or explain our lifestyles. But I hope we can be confident in the witness we individually receive for the roles we have or hope to have, whether in our careers, as mothers, with children or without.
But I also hope that we remember our identities, gifts, and divine destiny that transcends even those most important roles. I hope we can remember and be confident in our individual worth, that we can work to put our gifts to good use, to develop in our divine natures in our path to becoming like God.
I am grateful for the women and men who exemplify these attributes in my life. I’m grateful for trials that test and strengthen us. I’m grateful for a Savior whose atonement is the vehicle for change and growth in our lives and whose love gives me peace and comfort. I testify that God loves us, that we can become like Him, and that this gospel is true.