Sunday, May 15, 2005

Mothers as Redeemers and Saviors

This is the third installment of a talk entitled The Divine Role of Mothers.
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Next, consider mothers as redeemers and saviors. Is it blasphemous to compare any mortal role to the Savior’s atonement? It must not be, because we already do so, in connection with salvation for the dead. Drawing on a scriptural phrase, those performing ordinances for those beyond the veil are conceptualized as “saviors on mount Zion.”

The essence of the saving and redeeming aspect of temple work for the dead---as well as the saving and redeeming role of Jesus---is that it is vicarious service: Something is done for others that they cannot do for themselves.

Young children have much they cannot do for themselves: they cannot feed themselves, clothe themselves, bathe themselves, shelter themselves, comfort themselves, teach themselves---or clean up after themselves, at least at first. It's an exhausting list to read, let alone execute continually on a daily basis, without holidays or breaks on the weekends! Allow me the creative license to take the words of President J. Reuben Clark---who spoke of the relentlessness of interest on debt---and adapt it to parental responsibility:
[Responsibility for childrens' needs] never sleeps nor sickens nor dies; it never goes to the hospital; it works on Sundays and holidays; it never takes a vacation; it never visits nor travels; it takes no pleasure; it is never laid off work nor discharged from employment; it never works on reduced hours.... Once [a parent], [responsibility for your childrens' needs] is your companion every minute of the day and night; you cannot shun it or slip away from it; you cannot dismiss it; it yields neither to entreaties, demands, or orders; and whenever you get in its way or cross its course or fail to meet its demands, it crushes you. (CR, April 1938)
Now, President Clark was speaking of debt, with consequent interest payments, as something to be avoided; in contrast, we are to seek the responsibility of parenthood, to "multiply and replenish the earth." It is a commandment that "remains in force," according to the Proclamation on the Family, which adds that "Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children." Indeed, there can be little question that historically it has been mothers that have borne the overwhelming majority of the responsibility for caring for children, sacrificing their individual time, and often their talents, interests, and dreams in the process.

There are senses in which the burden of motherhood is like the burden of Gethsemane. These sacrifices seem more portentous in light of the Proclamation's additional assertion that "Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose." Like the sacrifice of the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world," the sacrifices of motherhood seem foreordained; there is no evasion, or getting around it; there is only "through." Drinking this sometimes-bitter cup not just once, but day in and day out, "Not my will, but thine, be done" becomes not only an isolated instance of submission to God, but a habitual response to the demands of family needs. And all too often, it is a wine-press trodden alone.

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