Utah Young Mother of the Year Puts Family First

  By Ryan McDonald, Church News staff writer

  • 20 August 2013

Michelle Lehnardt, 2013 Utah Young Mother of the Year.  Photo by Michelle Lehnardt.

Article Highlights

  • Aspirations of becoming a writer were once higher on Michelle Lehnardt’s to-do list than raising children.
  • Through the words of a prophet and her patriarchal blessing, she realized that becoming a mother was what she needed to do.
  • She pursues her interests, but being home with her children is where she wants to be.

“Being a mother is the best way to define her. She’s really devoted to being a good mother and doing the best for our kids that she can.” —Erik Lehnardt

According to her 11-year-old son, Gabe, Michelle Lehnardt is a good mother “for someone who didn’t want to be a mom.”

A bright student who was encouraged by teachers to enter the professional workforce, such was her thought process as a teenager in the 1980s. Aspirations of becoming a writer were higher on her to-do list than raising children.

Those plans took a 180-degree turn, however, as two monumental experiences took place in her life. As President Ezra Taft Benson spoke in the October 1981 general conference about the role of women, she recognized becoming a mother was something she needed to do. Her patriarchal blessing confirmed the idea. She is now the mother of six children—five boys and a girl.

“I’m just the sort of person that I never really questioned it,” she said.

So instead of learning for the sake of career advancement, she felt that receiving an education would help her become a better mother. While pursuing her bachelor’s degree in history at Brigham Young University, she married Erik Lehnardt. She graduated as valedictorian.

It was when her first son, Ben, was born that she recognized the potential each of her children would have because of their divine heritage.

“I needed to treat him as a child of God all the time,” she remembers thinking.

“She thinks so highly of us,” Ben said. “She loves us and thinks that we are capable of amazing things. She’s always pushing me to be better—not for her own gain, but she just thinks that I can do great things. A lot of times I do better things than I realized I could, thanks to her.”

Still, the first years of parenthood were not easy for Sister Lehnhardt, and she questioned whether or not she made the right decision by foregoing her career plans. As time has gone on, however, she has come to recognize the impact of her role as a mother. Now a member of the East Millcreek 12th Ward in the Salt Lake East Millcreek North Stake, she was honored as the 2013 Young Mother of the Year for the state of Utah.

“Being a mother is the best way to define her,” said her husband, Erik. “She’s really devoted to being a good mother and doing the best for our kids that she can.”

A capable woman and avid learner, she still finds time to pursue an interest in photography and finds it interesting that she has been able to write for numerous outlets, just as she planned to do as a teenager.

But, as Ben observed, the home is where she ultimately wants to be.

“She’s very fierce in defending the fact that we are where she wants to be,” he said, “that despite being able to be in other places, the place she wants to be is at home with us.”