Sunday, May 12, 2013


Today my Elder's quorum president complained that in talking about motherhood in church meetings he had attended earlier, the atonement of Christ failed to be connected to the discussion in any way, making the meeting not centered on worshiping Christ.  He invited us to bring up ways in which we could connect these subjects.  These were some of the thoughts I had in response to his question.

I've heard a lot of talk about how motherhood is inherently Christlike because of the service given as it is performed in daily tasks.  I think this praise is essentially good, but lacking nuance.  Today while in church I started pondering what the doctrines Christ taught about love had to say about whether mothering was essentially Christlike.  One in particular came to mind. 

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

Getting up with a sleepless child over and over again is an act of service, and can be a very selfless one.  But the full essence of the kind of love Jesus is teaching us to have here isn't just serving people, its serving people who actually pretty much hate your guts and are intentionally mean to you.  While serving children can often by physically and emotionally demanding, you can easily argue that there are many times when performing the service is no particular virtue because the children you are serving love you in return.  On the other hand, loving and serving a child with a disobedient streak who seems to love to make your life hard or serving a teenager who is rebelling as hard as they can against you instead of just becoming angry and self serving, well now, that is something unusual and an excellent example of something Christ would hold up as an example of particular virtue.

This isn't to say that sometimes the love that a newborn gives you just doesn't really pay you back for being up every 2 hours in the night with them when they just won't seem to gain weight and you have to push feed them.  And honestly, the love and service a 2 year old gives back to you often doesn't seem to add up to all the work you put in to them.  Its an inherently unbalanced relationship where you give much more than you receive because it isn't possible for it to be any other way.  Children simply cannot contribute as much to the relationship as you can.  Christ also said

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
When there is access to reasonable medical care etc, it is not common for a woman to have to give up her life for her children, but she often gives up a lot of sleep, time to spend with friends, personal development opportunities, and countless other things.  So it can't be said there is nothing Christlike about the sacrifices mothers make.  But when a child looks up at you with those pleading eyes and ask if you can read them another book, serving them by reading often might just mean you are an average decent human being.  How you love them if they grow up into teenagers who tell you that they hate you just might tell you a lot more about how Christlike you are.

I'm not trying to say motherhood isn't Christlike.  But I'd rather that instead of talking about mothers being inherently wonderful that we talked about what it is about parenting that can be Christlike and what Christ actually said about love that matters regarding motherhood.  For example,

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

This scripture suggests that if we parade our parental sacrifices about to show off our love, that our efforts don't help to sanctify us.  Not that women don't need to be able to talk about their daily frustrations and work or that they don't occasionally need praise for the often thankless work they put in.  But if the discussion shifts into showing off and one upping other people or talking about how real righteous women would change their parenting or housekeeping methods, something is wrong.

I appreciate that we celebrate the service of women and mothers, but it feels to me as if church should be a place for the celebration of the sanctification of still imperfect sinners, and a place of reflection on what we might lack in our seeking of additional purification.  So if we described how many mothers were an excellent example of the teachings of Jesus instead of just saying that motherhood itself is Christlike, that would help answer the question of how to have a Christ centered mothers day at church.

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