As Mother's Day approaches, Elder and Sister Holland remind us that the influence of a righteous mother in the lives of her children is more important than ever. Here is what they have to say in their new book, To Mothers: Carrying the Torch of Faith and Family, about the sacred responsibility of mothers in the latter days:
SISTER HOLLAND: As Latter-day Saints, the way we can make things better and better for our children—and for everyone—is to share our love and share the principles, covenants, and promises of the gospel of Jesus Christ. To have had the gospel restored in our time, for our benefit and that of our children and our grandchildren, is the greatest of all the blessings of our time. We have so much to share.
Sisters, we especially want you to hear our great desire to pass the blessings of the gospel—and especially the love of the gospel—on to the next generation—our children and grandchildren and yours. In that spirit, may I share a very personal story with you? My great-grandmother on my mother’s side of the family came from the Bern-Interlaken area of Switzerland. Surely it is among the most beautiful locations on the face of the earth—green and majestic nature at its loveliest.
After joining the Church and emigrating to join the Saints moving west, those great-grandparents were called to settle the little community of Enterprise in southern Utah. It was hot in the summer and cold in the winter, the wind blew constantly, and it was barren. What a test of faith it must have been for these Swiss ancestors to be called to such an area so totally opposite to that green land of lakes and alpine beauty they had left behind!
My great-grandmother decided she would do something about it. With her two hands and a shovel, she harvested some small pine tree seedlings from the mountains not far away and planted them around the small church building that had just been erected. Then every day, she would carry two buckets of water from her home nearly three blocks away, one bucket in each hand, to water those trees and keep them growing. It was arduous work for a little woman bent over with osteoporosis, but she made every drop count in a daily ritual that over time gave each tree a regular, if meager, drink of moisture.
ELDER HOLLAND: In this exercise, Pat’s great-grandmother often took her little 10-year-old granddaughter with her, telling stories and reminiscing about her life in Switzerland as she carried her two precious buckets of water. One day, one of the brethren of the community stopped her and said, with something of a dismissive tone, “Oh, Sister Barlocker, why do you make this useless journey each day to water those scrubby little pine trees? They will never survive in this harsh climate and difficult soil, and even if they did, they will never grow to any size in your lifetime. Why don’t you just give up and forget your high Swiss hopes in this matter?”
Well, little Sister Barlocker rose to the full four feet eight inches of her stature, looked this good brother in the eye, and said, “I know these trees will not grow very large in my lifetime. But if I stay with it, they will live and they will grow. And although I will not enjoy their beauty and their shade, this little girl will. I am doing this for her.”
SISTER HOLLAND: That 10-year-old grandchild was my mother. And my mother, with all of her siblings, and cousins, and everyone else in Enterprise did live to see those trees reach an impressive height and give off lovely, much-needed shade from the desert sun. Then I grew up enjoying those trees, playing under their branches, and seeing them frame the church I attended as a young woman. And now I have lived to see not only my children but also my grandchildren play, have picnics, laugh, and hold 24th of July relay races all through and in and around those beautiful trees, which now literally tower over the community—and over the pioneer heritage—of little windblown, once-barren Enterprise, Utah.
I pray we will all live with this sense of linked generations. In a very real way, my grandmother did what she did for me, and that helps me want to do what I do for my children and grandchildren, for generations yet to come, so that they will be blessed in the gospel and have privileges in their lives that I may not see but that they will.
ELDER HOLLAND: Dear Sisters, this truly is a time for mothers—a time when a mother’s righteous influence becomes ever more necessary. May I plead with you never to underestimate or undervalue your divine role both as personal, powerful contributors to the kingdom of God and as the nurturers and benefactors of His “little ones,” who will yet have such a divine impact on the unfolding of this work.
As President Russell M. Nelson has said, “We need women who know how to make important things happen by their faith and who are courageous defenders of morality and families in a sin-sick world. We need women who are devoted to shepherding God’s children along the covenant path toward exaltation; women who know how to receive personal revelation, who understand the power and peace of the temple endowment; women who know how to call upon the powers of heaven to protect and strengthen children and families; women who teach fearlessly” (Ensign, Nov. 2015, 96).
I fear that virtually nothing—or at least not much—that the world says to you acknowledges your divine role as women. I am reminded that throughout the Creation sequence of Genesis, God viewed His work, including the creation of man, and called it “good.” But for the one and only time in that Creation story, He then said something was “not good.” He said it was not good that man should be alone. In short the Creation, even with Adam, was incomplete. Here I invoke President Gordon B. Hinckley’s language:
“As His final creation, the crowning of His glorious work, He created woman. I like to regard Eve as His masterpiece after all that had gone before, the final [great] work before He rested from His labors” (Ensign, Nov. 1991, 97). I join my testimony to President Hinckley’s in that assessment. Surely it must have been at this point, with so much that was “good” having been done and having remedied the one thing that was “not good,” He could say after Eve’s arrival it was all “very good” (Genesis 1:31).
In this great, eternal work, mothers have carried the torch of faith and family from the beginning. The need for that torch to burn brightly and dispel darkness has never been greater than “in this time.” Little wonder that the Prophet Joseph said, “If you live up to your privileges, the angels cannot be restrained from being your associates” (History of the Church, 4:605). The scriptures speak of women being “elect.” What a powerful doctrinal and covenantal term! And who “elects” you? You do!—and so does God Himself, who has all the joy and delight of a father in you as His daughter, you who pass on light and hope, pass on life itself and a glorious gospel legacy until the work is finished.
Give your mom a boost of inspiration or pick up your own copy of To Mothers: Carrying the Torch of Faith and Family by Elder and Sister Holland today at Deseret Book or deseretbook.com.