Still the most important work
(Painting: Plate 2 of ‘Urizen’: ‘Teach these Souls to Fly’ ?1796 William Blake 1757-1827 Purchased 1922 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N03696)
I was watching the video below (of a recent UNICEF meeting) as I got ready this morning, and the thought that came to me is that the most important work in all the world is still lovingly nurturing our own children. I listened to all the problems enumerated by members of the panel and thought how the things we teach our children have the power to solve these problems. Motherhood still has the greatest impact on the world.
How can that be true?
When you look at the emergencies that the world is facing today, we see that the problems are complex. And this suggests that we need complex solutions. But in my own very small experience, I have seen how being a mother has an influence upon the world in a significant way, and when you add up all those little yet powerful ways, you understand how motherhood is the most influential and most important work in all the world. It is more powerful than the solutions even proposed by governments and world organizations, though their action matters and impacts so many!
When I returned to Montreal to visit the temple that had been built ten years after my mission, I had the realization: I helped! In my very, very small way, I helped with the construction of this temple, even though I didn’t lay a single stone or design any of the gorgeous stained-glass windows or nail in any piece of wood. I didn’t lay any carpet or arrange for public affairs events. Instead, I taught people and encouraged people who helped pay for this temple when I was there and it was freezing cold and I was depressed. I strengthened members who serve in this temple. My service was so small, but it counted. It mattered! And if my mom hadn’t prepared me to be a missionary in a hundred million small ways, I wouldn’t have served a mission. But I DID serve. And it mattered. And that temple, like every temple built around the globe by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, influences for good every person who serves there and who visits there by adding to the beauty and property values of the homes and lives of the people there. There will be added peace in the families whose parents attend regularly. The youth who go will make better choices and be more prone to bless the lives of other youth around them. It will benefit that entire community for good as temples always do. It is such a small sliver of my life, but my service had an impact. It was a drop that mattered.
When we do our best to nurture our children with the resources we each have, then we give our child faith in themselves, hope in their future, and charity towards all those around them, wherever our children may go. Our children will look to God, to themselves and to their families to provide for their own needs before ever going to the government.
When a child is raised in love and safety, it is not the typical tendency for them to lash out violently against anyone. It goes against what they know and love and want for themselves and others! They desire peace! This is why mothers are critical: when we see killing all around our world, we need to take our children in our arms and remind them that we love them, that they are safe at home, and that God is still watching over them.
I heard Neil L. Anderson say, in a talk I was listening to last week called “Overcoming the World,”
Overcoming the world is not one defining moment in a lifetime, but a lifetime of moments that define an eternity. It can begin as a child learns to pray and reverently sings, “I’m trying to be like Jesus.”9
All the small and simple things we do for a child, like teaching them to pray at night and in the morning at their bedside, helping them brush their teeth before bed or wash their hands after going to the bathroom and before a meal, or going outside to run and play, or reading with them and patiently helping them learn to read, or gently correcting them if they treat another child or an animal with unkindness, helping them learn how to speak softly and kindly to others, or making them a lunch that is fresh and healthy–all of these kinds of mothering acts build, step upon step, a healthy and happy children who know not only how to care for themselves, but also for others.
People are powerful. Children who are raised in love and truth are those people, and children are a powerful for good in their world. Mothers who arm children with love and truth every day in the hundreds of tiny acts they perform for and with their children are the ones who are preparing these children to make a difference.
It begins at home.
Notice the painting at the beginning of this post, “Teaching Souls to Fly” by William Blake. I learned about this painting this week as I read an article written by my wonderful friend Lia Collings. Lia compiled a book entitled Choosing Motherhood: Stories of Successful Women Who Put Family First.
On a train in Germany, Lia’s sister asked her why would anyone want to be a mom. She continued, “What do you have to look forward to every day? How do you bear the monotony? Why do you even get up in the morning when no matter what you try to do, you have these kids in the way?” (“Lia Collings: Motherhood is about teaching souls to fly,” May 7 2013, Deseret News)
Lia thought about her sister’s questions for months. It wasn’t until she saw the painting at the beginning of this post on a book her husband brought home one day that she discovered the sum of her answer: she was teaching souls to fly. She writes, “I couldn’t provide my children better protection against darkness than to teach their souls to fly above it, to teach them to rise above the middling, the tawdry, the base and follow me into the beautiful, the exalting the holy” (ibid.)
When children learn, under our care, that there is something higher, holier, and more delicious in life than the violence and terror and sickness and poverty that so many suffer from, then they will find a way to help rid the world of it. As doctors and pilots and construction managers and accountants and teachers and lawyers and CEOs and technical support experts and every other contributing employ–but more important than any other, as parents!, they will change our world.
It begins at home. It begins with mothers who know.