Women’s Divine Roles Include Nurturing Others
Contributed By By Carole M. Stephens, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency
Mother, motherhood, and mothering are defined in many ways in today’s world, but in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the word mother encompasses a woman’s eternal roles, her divine identity, and it describes her nature as a nurturer. With this perspective, women mother not only by giving physical life to a child but also by nurturing those around them (see Daughters in My Kingdom, 156). To nurture is to provide love and influence, to care for, support, educate, encourage, to protect, and to teach. To nurture is to help someone to grow and develop.
Elder M. Russell Ballard taught: “Sisters, we, your brethren, cannot do what you were divinely designated to do from before the foundation of the world. … We cannot ever hope to replicate your unique gifts. There is nothing in this world as personal, as nurturing, or as life changing as the influence of a righteous woman. … All women have within their divine nature both the inherent talent and the stewardship to mother” (“Mothers and Daughters,” April 2010 general conference).
On September 23, 1995, President Gordon B. Hinckley expressed gratitude for the faithfulness and diligence of Latter-day Saint women—young and old, married and single, with children and without children. Then he read “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” Sister Barbara Thompson, who later served as a counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, was in the Tabernacle when the proclamation was read. She recalled: “I felt the significance of the message. I also found myself thinking, ‘This is a great guide for parents. It is also a big responsibility for parents.’ I thought for a moment that it really didn’t pertain too much to me since I wasn’t married and didn’t have any children. But almost as quickly I thought, ‘But it does pertain to me. I am a member of a family. I am a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, a niece, and a granddaughter. I do have responsibilities—and blessings—because I am a member of a family. Even if I were the only living member of my family, I am still a member of God’s family, and I have a responsibility to help strengthen other families” (“I Will Strengthen Thee; I Will Help Thee,” Sept. 2007 general Relief Society meeting).
Everyone belongs to a family, and every family needs to be strengthened, protected, and nurtured. No matter her current family situation, each woman has responsibility to strengthen families—her own and those she can influence.
It is a blessing and a responsibility to nurture and sustain the family, and “few of us will reach our potential without the nurturing of both the mother who bore us and the mothers who bear with us“ (Sheri Dew, ”Are We Not All Mothers?“ Sept. 2001 general Relief Society meeting).
Paul spoke of Timothy’s nurturing mother and the influence of a righteous woman when he said, “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also” (2 Timothy 1:5).
We remember with love and gratitude the righteous women who have influenced our lives. We remember first the love of our own mothers, those who bore us. We remember the righteous influence of grandmothers, aunts, sisters, Primary teachers, and Young Women leaders. All of these women of God bore with us. They cared for us and about us. They taught us, encouraged us, guided us, and protected us. They influenced our lives for good. They understood that “whenever a woman strengthens the faith of a child, she contributes to the strength of a family—now and in the future” (Daughters in My Kingdom, 159).
“Every sister who stands for truth and righteousness diminishes the influence of evil. Every sister who strengthens and protects her family is doing the work of God. Every sister who lives as a woman of God becomes a beacon for others to follow and plants seeds of righteous influence that will be harvested for decades to come. Every sister who makes and keeps sacred covenants becomes an instrument in the hands of God” (M. Russell Ballard, “Women of Righteousness,” Liahona, Dec. 2002, 39).
As disciples of Jesus Christ, every covenant daughter of God has the responsibility to understand, live, and defend the divine roles of women, which include that of wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend, and to establish, nurture, defend, and strengthen families and homes.
“You are now placed in a situation where you can act according to those sympathies which God has planted in your [hearts]. … If you live up to your privilege, the angels cannot be restrained from being your associates”(Joseph Smith, in Daughters in My Kingdom, 169).
“The errand of angels is given to women;
And this is a gift that, as sisters, we claim:
To do whatsoever is gentle and human,
To cheer and to bless in humanity’s name.
How vast is our purpose, how broad is our mission,
If we but fulfill it in spirit and deed.
Oh, naught but the Spirit’s divinest tuition
Can give us the wisdom to truly succeed.”
(“As Sisters in Zion,” Hymns, no. 309)