Speaking on Mother’s Day

I have been asked to speak in Sacrament meeting on Mother’s Day. I figured I’d avoid that particular invitation for life. It’s on my list of nightmares. This is how the person conducting the meeting introduces me in my nightmare: “Well, brothers and sisters, we usually have our ideal mothers tell us about the joys of keeping their husbands’ shirts neatly pressed, or the wonders of scrapbooking, all about their missionary children, and every splendid thing an outstanding mother can share. We’ve had the oldest mother in the ward address us; the youngest mother; the mother with the most children; the mother with the best-kept yard. But we’ve realized we’ve neglected one group: Incompetent mothers. Mothers who are organizationally challenged. Mothers who have managed to burn holes in their husbands’ ties by setting the iron too hot. Mothers who lose their keys or reading glasses as often as they drink water. Mothers who have a strange fear of Resurrection day when all our losses will be made up, because they envision tons of previously lost socks falling directly onto their graves. Mothers who quit cooking the day they discovered the Stouffers outlet had pre-cooked family entrees. Mothers who (*shudder*) work. We are fortunate to have Sister Margaret Young represent this group. Sister Young, we know your talk will make us all feel better.”

And so I have been called to talk for Mother’s Day. In all seriousness, I have long learned what my particular gifts are as I mother my children–and I also know what they’re not. I have learned something about waiting on the Lord and trusting my own instincts (particularly the loving ones). I have learned that if I focus too much on my failings and flailings, I can diminish the most important aspect of motherhood: simply loving my children.

I have learned to judge myself and other mothers with a very large measure of grace. I have learned that the most important gift I can give my children, besides the gospel, is a firm sense that I believe in them and in their futures; that I actually like them; that I’m excited about their lives. And even if they choose not to participate in the faith I’ve raised them in, their name is safe in our house, and there’s always a seat at the table.

Last year, I gave my daughter (herself a mother of three) the collection of essays and poems edited by Kathryn Soper called _The Mother in Me_. I recommend it. http://deseretbook.com/store/product/5008956


  1. Peter LLC says:

    Sounds like your talk is off to a good start.

  2. Sounds like the beginning of a wonderful talk. I wish I was in your ward to hear it!

    I like the idea of my name being safe in someone’s house. I feel like I’ve heard that phrase somewhere before.

  3. Mark Brown says:

    Second the recommendation for The Mother in Me.

    Margaret, I would pay good money to listen to you speak on just about anything, but especially on this topic. You have a gift for keeping it real while also conveying encouragement and hope.

  4. To hear you speak would be a wonderful treat, Margaret.

    This is the beginning of a fantastic talk!

  5. Emily–the phrase “Your name is safe in our home” is from Elder Kofford’s talk:

  6. hold on a sec….

    Didn’t you post a few weeks ago about how your husband is the Bishop now? Seems to me like that bit of info gives a whole different dynamic to your being assigned the Mother’s Day talk, no?

  7. Mac–My husband is indeed the bishop. His second counselor was in charge of the talk assignments. The real truth is that he (the counselor) specifically wanted me to talk because our family has been through some hard stuff with our kids and he knew I could give a talk which wouldn’t be all “sweetness and light.” My husband simply went along with the idea. At least in our ward, there is a recognition that Mother’s Day is really hard for some mothers who feel condemned by every detail of how well others are doing, or who are meeting the challenges of single parenting. My own mother hated Mother’s Day. And now that Bruce is a bishop, I have some idea (no details) that there’s some anguish in our ward regarding parenting. I love the sign I saw at a wedding reception on Saturday: EXCELLENCE THROUGH GUILT.

  8. I spoke last year, and talked about Eve and Mary–went over well!

  9. Julie M. Smith says:

    Margaret, pu-leeeeze use the first paragraph of this post in your talk. The part about the socks made me laugh out loud.

    And, please post the talk here when you are done.

  10. charlene says:

    I had this blessed assignment a few years ago. I recall with fondness speaking to a small congregation about three mothers that I admire: Naomi-the mother-in-law of Ruth, Emma Smith-the real one not the sacchrine version we get lately, and my daughter who is loving and giving though wounded and antagonistic toward the church organization. I agree that hearing you speak would be a wonderful treat.

  11. Nameless says:

    “And, please post the talk here when you are done.”


  12. Mommie Dearest says:

    I used to be an enthusiastic mother, before I went through my kid’s being teenagers. I survived them, and they survived us both. Now, as an empty-nester (is there a better term for that?), I have to work at not being a cynic. Especially on Mother’s Day. My kids didn’t go on missions or marry in the temple or graduate from BYU. My non-member in-laws are thrilled that they are college students and not on drugs, and not active in their mother’s wierd church. I love them to pieces, and wouldn’t have any others for my kids but them. It’s not hard at all to put on a smile and take a gift to all their peers’ wedding receptions and baby showers, but it is hard to go to church and get the Gospel of Eternal Families. I’d much prefer the Gospel of Christ.

    I don’t envy you the minefield you get to navigate, and I look forward to seing how you manage it. I’m sure it will be enlightening. Please post a report at least.

  13. FMaxwell says:

    I’ve spoken on Mother’s Day twice in my California ward, though of course my take on it, as a man, would be different than yours. Here, on Mother’s Days, there are always some faces we don’t normally see in church: some nonmember husbands coming to support their wives, or inactive adult children coming for their mothers. I tried to make my remarks interesting for them as well as for the regular attendees – a combination of a non-church tribute-to-moms speech and a sacrament meeting talk. Last time, I related some of my own mom’s experiences as a teenager in the Philippines during the Japanese occupation of WW2.

    However, shouldn’t mothers have the day off on Mother’s Day? I don’t think giving a sacrament meeting talk is taking the day off. In my ward, often the Young Women will take over all of the Primary classes that day, so that the mothers who are Primary teachers can attend Gospel Doctrine and Relief Society instead.

  14. Hunter says:

    Yes, you have to post the talk after you’ve given it. We are, after all, part of your ward, too.

  15. Looking forward to reading your talk. Between guilt and judgment, mothers frequently have a rough time on Mother’s Day. You are the perfect mother to preach “the pleasing aword of God, yea, the word which healeth the wounded soul.”

  16. Mark B. says:

    Why is it that Easter can come and go without a single nod towards the resurrection of Christ, but we can never escape the second Sunday in May without paeans to mothers?

    I’d skip that topic altogether, and preach Christ, and him crucified.

  17. I spoke once on mother’s day. I really dislike the holiday, so it was hard. I talked about all the women in my life and how they helped me grow. I was nervous, but I thought it went well. My mom later mentioned how one of the bishopric was surprised I didn’t mention her. I had been so nervous I skipped over the most influential woman in my life on mother’s day.
    I wish you better luck than I on such a holiday.

  18. Hmmm, Mark B–hard to get away from mothers even in the scriptures. John 19:26-27.

    I don’t usually write my talks down, folks. Sorry. And I’m planning on sharing a story I rarely share and have not shared on the blogs. If I say anything really good, I’ll report. I’d say there’s a 60/40 chance. But thanks for your enthusiasm! Much appreciated!

  19. Thanks for the nod to The Mother in Me :-). And I, too, wish I could be in your ward and listen.

    I’ve always wanted to speak on Mother’s Day, actually; I have a lot to say about it, and I would like to see how the Spirit would take what I want to say and help me change it to what God wants me to say. It would be an interesting process.

  20. St Albatross says:

    It seems to me that your personality and experience are very valuable, but also givens that will emerge in any case. The more you foreground receiving personal revelation in your preparation, the more things will be given to you that will be healing to folks in the congregation. That is _always_ my experience. I think we sometimes assume that revelation may or may not happen, so will get on with the business of prepping and maybe something inspired will sink in – but isn’t so. The number one item in my preparation every every every time is a plea for my ego to be effaced so that I can hear the thing that will heal and fortify. Then I go over material, then I be quiet and listen listen listen, then I go over material, then I listen, and that direction _always_ comes. ~

  21. Being the bishop’s wife puts you on the radar to get called to talk. I have only talked once in sac. mtg. in the last 12 years (after dropping a very large hint to someone they asked me to speak 3 years ago…otherwise I might be 12 years with zero speaking). Apparently, I am not on the radar. Our bishop’s wife, my friend, speaks at least yearly.

  22. Molly Bennion says:

    Margaret, one of your most endearing qualities is that you judge not only yourself “and other mothers with a very large measure of grace” but that you judge everyone that way. Please post whatever you can of your talk.

    Remember the bestselling book “Our Mothers, Our Selves” of 25 years ago? It ruminated in me for quite awhile before I, daughter of the women’s movement, realized I was not just my father’s child, my father the more intellectually inclined, the professional. I had two very worthy parents. My mother’s Christianity far surpasses that of any of us in the family and her thinking, more global and less detailed than Dad’s, is equally worthy of our esteem.

  23. queuno says:

    I love the sign I saw at a wedding reception on Saturday: EXCELLENCE THROUGH GUILT.

    You buried the lede… Do tell…

  24. Floyd the Wonderdog says:

    Our regular High Council speaking assignment always falls on Mother’s Day/ So, we have to call the bish and ask if they would rather we speak on the following Sunday. I was getting off the hook until I was assigned to speak in one of the student wards. My wife proofed and gave some major input. Stuff like, “We don’t want to hear all about your perfect angel mother. I knew your mother. The sound of my gagging would disrupt the meeting.”

    My son spoke on our ward on Mother’s Day and refused to let my wife proof it. He started off with, “Sixteen years ago a beautiful woman gave birth to a handsome baby boy. (pause) I was also born on that day.”

  25. Allison says:

    “I have learned to judge myself and other mothers with a very large measure of grace. I have learned that the most important gift I can give my children, besides the gospel, is a firm sense that I believe in them and in their futures; that I actually like them; that I’m excited about their lives. And even if they choose not to participate in the faith I’ve raised them in, their name is safe in our house, and there’s always a seat at the table.”

    That sounds like the basis for the best, most inspiring Mother’s Day talk ever.

  26. gillsyk says:

    #20 St Albatross — thanks; good words

  27. I think one of the most useful Mother’s Day talks would need to be given by a bishop, who would talk about the reasons why women loathe the Mother’s Day Sacrament meeting, having to do with the competitiveness and meanness that women and Mormon women mistreat each other with over the politicization of lifestyle issues like working outside the home and using birth control to push others down in the pecking order. There could be a discussion of how this has hurt everybody involved, and how this is yet another example of where we need to humble ourselves and apply the love of Christ to ourselves and each other. Contention is still of the devil, even when it puts on a skirt and lipstick (even when it doesn’t too).

    The bishop should do that in his fifth year in the calling, to limit how long he’ll be taking shots from the women who don’t like him singling them out for criticism.

    Not sure how much (if any) of that you can use, but it’s what’s been on my mind.

  28. my perspective says:

    will share my perspective for this mother’s day, as a single w/o kids. We do need to be aware of the other situations- those who do motherlike things but aren’t moms. I think it is important to realize it is necessary to strive to be a faithful, covenant-keeping daughter of Heavenly Father no matter what.

    this mother’s day the mother I’m most aware of is an awesome young mother in our congregation, she passed away recently. This mom won’t get to raise her sweet children. The other day I was watching the kids of another church member and reading their kids a book, and I started to cry (of course the kids probably thought I was nuts), realizing this other sis won’t ever be able to read to her precious children. I’ve been thinking a lot how the mom who passed away won’t be able to see her kids and help them in their life- ie first day of kindergarten, high school/seminary, homework, sports, missions, marriages,etc.. and that we can now only hope they can cling to and remember what they’ve learned from her so far.

    I think all moms are competent when they strive to love,serve and teach their kids. I think there are ones who are incompetent- ie the moms who abuse their kids,etc

    Saying this, I tolerate Mother’s Day. But it is a hard day for selfish purposes, as I allow myself to feel “less” of a person and of less value than those who are moms.

  29. mehzzdup says:

    The only Mother’s Day message that has ever stayed with me was given from the pulpit by a man with a less than perfect mother, and a wife prone to depression. He was honest, straightforward, told some endearingly ‘real’ stories, and left us with this powerful message: PLEASE DO NOT COMPARE YOUR WORST WITH SOMEONE ELSES BEST. He challenged everyone present to recognize and celebrate the best in themselves. It was fabulous.

    Based on your post, your talk will be fabulous as well.

  30. Margaret, I wish I could be there to hear your talk. I love talks where the reality of motherhood is embraced in all its messiness and grit and joys. Of course, I can’t complain too much, I think it was last year we got a High Councilman who mentioned mothers in passing and then got on to the assignment.

  31. Mother’s day is a day of ambiguity and existential nausea.

    We all are grateful, and want to express it, to our mothers, wives and daughters for the obvious self-sacrifice which being a mother entails. Just birthing a child, alone, can be worthy of praise. So, we overdo it. We also get it wrong on many counts and praise and appreciate the wrong things. (Anything can wrong for the any given person!)

    How much praise can we heap on someone before they start reflecting on their own imperfections? (I guess lots if you are a politician.) But most people see themselves in that mirror as less than worthy. Or praised for the wrong thing. Or not admired for what they see as their best quality.

    Two things can reduce the nausea: We can offer love and unconditional appreciation in return for the obvious sacrifices. (This should be on-going, anyway.) The praised can say thank you and try to ignore all of the negatives which are aroused by this.

    The next day is Monday, isn’t it?

  32. A few years ago, my son was asked to speak on Mother’s Day. Talk about a nerve-wracking Sunday. Then we moved and the next year he was asked to do it AGAIN.

  33. Matt Thurston says:


    I’m speaking this Sunday for Mother’s Day too. Wanna combine our talks? You write the first half, I’ll write the second.

  34. Cory Thompson says:

    I just got a call from my Bishop asking me to speak. He wants a mans point of View.

  35. Single Sister says:

    I haven’t attended a Mother’s Day Sunday at church in about twenty years. I got tired of being bashed over the head for the “sin” of being single and childless, and spending hours after Sacrament meeting year after year sobbing. Usually someone throws in the obligatory “single sisters will be blessed, too”, but that almost makes it worse. So now I stay home, think of my own mother and my grandmother and take calls and messages from my legion nieces and nephews who love the fact that I’m single and so can spoil them to pieces. Mother’s Day at church? Not if I want to stay sane and active.

  36. First time caller… I was actually looking around for some help on my topic. I had to work at the hospital last Sunday, and a member of the bishopric, one of my “friends” called me during church, while I was at work, to “invite” me to speak on Mother’s Day. I guess the long arm of the Lord found me playing hooky again! Margaret, I hope you don’t mind but I’m going to steal some quotes from your intro above (as I’m not so pithy)–and also, thank you for the Elder Cofford reference. A great talk that can be applied so well to Mother’s Day.

  37. re: 33
    Matt, when you and Margaret are done, please send a copy of your talk. I just got the call tonight…

  38. Margaret – My husband is an ardent fan of this site and occassionally sends me a link that “I HAVE TO READ!” He was absolutely right this time – I really needed to read what you wrote and I KNOW that there will be someone in that congregation who has those same needs. I am the woman you described – one of the Incompetents. (They don’t let me use glue guns or sewing machines in RS anymore :) )
    I haven’t been asked to speak – but I would love to read your talk.
    Best of luck!!!

  39. A few years ago I was asked to speak on Mother’s Day. As a married 20-something with a small family, I had been somewhat clueless about Mother’s Day (maybe I still am) until I sat in ward council and recognized the dread many women, including the Bishop’s wife, felt during Mother’s Day sacrament meeting. I decided to switch the topic around, and instead of the usual talk about all the wonderful things mothers do, I talked about the wonderful things we can and should do for our mothers and for all women in our lives. I was surprised when numerous sisters in the ward told me it was the best Mother’s Day talk they had ever heard. It wasn’t that I’m such an eloquent speaker (I’ve never had that reception to a talk before or since), but I think people were responding to this change in emphasis.

    Yesterday, one of our speakers took a similar approach with a little bit of hard-edged humor that shook people up and made them think. His more soothing main point about how to truly honor mothers echoed Garrison Keillor: “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”

    The other speaker also did an outstanding job, focusing on the atonement and how it relates to mothers. I have heard some Mother’s Day talks that made me cringe in the past, but I really enjoyed what the sacrament meeting speakers had to say yesterday.

  40. kerbearrn says:

    Thank you all for your posts, they were balm to my soul. I have a love/hate relationship with Mother’s Day. I too am one of The Incompetents (I DON’T scrapbook, I “scrapbox”–throw it all in a box and hope it organizes itself! My house is perpetually cluttered, my children are lucky if their clothes match and are clean, I personally don’t find a lot of joy in playing the Mother Bus, my kids aren’t super-achievers, etc. Oh, and I…ahem…Work Outside the Home…full time…). And this year we are dealing with stubborn teenager angst, evil middle school girls angst, and potty-training angst (uh–those are all in different kids…). Yesterday I bemoaned to my husband that I didn’t WANT to be celebrated because “I SUCK at being a mother!!”. I actually welcomed the migraine that kept me home from church. I suspect I’m a far better nurse than I am a mother. But Monday intervened and my loving husband sent me some links, hoping to make me feel better. I guess my initial feeling was probably not too wide of the mark, way back when I was a new mother and thought I actually knew something about the topic. In spite of their very imperfect, cranky, silly, and disorganized mother, my kids know they are loved, and they know I LIKE them. We talk. Sometimes they actually want my opinion on spiritual, political, or social issues. Actually, we talk a lot. I know they will come to me when they need help. My oldest (a son) actually asked me how to kiss his first girlfriend, my daughter asked how to deal with her snarky “friends.” My two littlest still come to me at bedtime and want to “snuggle”. I guess ultimately the other stuff won’t matter. Right? Still, being a HUMAN and imperfect mother has made me stop sniping about my own mother, and we have arrived at understanding and peace. (and humor. My husband and brothers and I gave her goats for mother’s day…to eat her weeds. She is thrilled.) So even imperfect motherhood has its purposes.

  41. kerbearrn says:

    sorry, that was SOOOOOOO long and so, oh, I don’t know, self-serving and not mother-like. Bad mommie, no biscuit!

  42. Kerbearm–I think you’re amazing–and I don’t even know you. But your delightful post says so much about you. Your children are LUCKY, and they’ll know it someday, if they don’t yet.
    “My kids know they are loved.” That’s it. That’s the essence of what we do. My sister-in-law died of MS and was unable to do anything physically for her children for the final years of her life. But oh the power of love!
    Go buy yourself a gardenia, wear it in your hair, and treat yourself to some chocolate. It’s on sale now, since Mother’s Day is over.

  43. gillsyk says:

    Margaret, how did the talk go? Apologies if I missed something already posted — I’m curious if it came out as you hoped, and what you felt about it afterwards.

  44. The mere subject of Mother’s Day talks remind me of a talk a friend of mine gave in Sacrament Meeting one Mother’s Day about 15 years ago. He used the occasion to launch into a talk that amounted to a chastisement of working women in the church. That was not a peripheral point he was making (which would have been bad enough); it was the main subject of his talk.

    Needless to say many were livid, and he was not asked to speak again for a long time, perhaps in fear of what would come out of his mouth.

    I still shake my head in disbelief at what he did.

  45. I remember a Relief Society Birthday Party where I was asked to speak on the challenges of being a Working Mother – the RS president thought that if we all understood where we were coming from – we would be more compassionate. So – I told about the unique challenges and heartaches that working moms have, as well as, I believe, the tender mercies that Heavenly Father sends us. The next woman on the program (a stay-at-home mom) didn’t get the right memo. Her talk was basically about how all of the children of working moms would grow up to be juvenile delinquents and that because we were more concerned about worldly things ( you know, like food and the mortgage) we didn’t have faith. Wow!!! I felt like I was literally punched in the stomach. I sat there, with my RS smiley face on and looked for an EXIT. After the program, many of the women in RS came up to me and asked me if I was okay. I smiled and said, “Well, of course,” and I was proud of myself for waiting until I got home to cry.
    Fast forward, gosh, twenty-five years and lots of soul-searching, crying, prayer, mistakes, repentance, growing, maturing, and doing my best to live the gospel. I have seven adorable children who are the lights of my life. (I also have seven even more adorable grand-children.) Two of my children have been on missions, two have been married in the Temple, two are serving their country (One son is now in Afghanistan and one is newly trained Air Force.) I have two daughters at BYU-I who are an example to me on faith and devotion. And one son, who at fourteen, loves the Lord and is strong in his faith.
    My son who is in Afghanistan decided that he didn’t want to be Mormon after he graduated high school. But there was no anger – simply choice – I told him that I would be a hypocrite if I said that I believed in agency, but denied him his own. Just before leaving to Afghanistan, he showed me his new dog tags, as his religion he now had chosen LDS.
    I KNOW that my Heavenly Father loves me – because of who I am. He has put His loving arms around me when members of my ward did not. He has shown me tender mercies that prove to me that I am loved and He is proud of me.
    We can allow others to hurt us and to make us feel less than we are – or we can try and see ourselves the way that Heavenly Father sees us – one of his beautiful daughters, blessed with special and unique talents, distinct in our challenges and our perspectives, privy to personal revelations and the powers of Heaven and allowed to bloom in our own way and in our own place. I just wish that as women, we could support each other and not feel the need to judge. I wish we could feel good enough about ourselves that we could have compassion for others.

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