Today we seem to be living in an age of criticism and controversy. On every hand we see dissidents arise to oppose programs new and old, or to attack long-existing organizations or proposed new ones; and often their demonstrations are simply for the purpose of attracting attention. Even in the Church we have differing factions working against each other to accomplish various ends, and while we believe strongly in the principle of free agency and encourage freedom of thought and action, there are some basic fundamentals in the gospel of Jesus Christ which should be upheld by a unified church. These fundamental principles are designed for the peace and happiness of mankind.
As I observe and contemplate the unrest so prevalent around us, I find one subject upon which everyone seems to be in agreement, and that is that there is trouble in the world. No one disputes that fact. How to reverse the alarming trends and try to restore a semblance of peace and order is another source of controversy which could be quickly solved through an understanding and application of the principles of the gospel.
In considering the changing life-styles in the home which have occurred in the past few years while these rebellions have been increasing in number and intensity, it seems obvious that there must be some connection. We have heard much about the deterioration of family life, and lack of discipline and training in the home. These changing life-styles, where fathers and mothers are more concerned with their social and business interests than with their home and family responsibilities, cannot help but have an adverse affect upon the members of those households. Parents cannot hope to leave all of the spiritual and general education to others, without some evidence of neglect. It is their responsibility to teach their children who they are—that they are spirit children of God, and he expects them to live so that they may be worthy to return to him.
It is the parents who can give children the kind of love and security which can come from no other source. A child who understands who he is, and who has the kind of home where he feels wanted and loved, has no need to go wandering off to try to find his identity and to search for a happiness he will not find outside the so-called “establishment.”
The happiest people I know are those whose life-style centers around the home. Work is very important, and success in one’s profession or business is also essential to happiness, but remember what we say so often: “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.” (David O. McKay.)
The happiest women I know are those whose families would rather be home than any place else; whose children come bounding in after school to look for Mother to tell her about their activities of the day; who share the sorrows and joys and successes of those children and rejoice in their accomplishments; who glow with pride as their children take their places of leadership in political, business, and community life; and eventually share their love with grandchildren, whose response opens up a whole new world of rewarding satisfaction.
These are the kind of children who should be carefully trained and prepared to be good citizens and to take over the positions of leadership in our cities, states, and countries. We have all heard, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” A woman can find no greater challenge than to rear children to be worthy leaders in their communities, and to prepare her sons to hold the priesthood of God and be faithful husbands and fathers, and her daughters to be clean and pure and worthy wives and mothers.
If the trouble in the world is to be corrected, it will have to begin in the home where the future leaders are trained. What greater contribution can be made than for women to bear children who, through the mother’s influence, can be instrumental in righting some of the wrongs in the world.
Those women who for one reason or another do not have children may likewise wield great influence and find their places in society, as many have by working with the children of others or by entering into some field of activity where their talents lie. Let me remind those who discountenance motherhood that they owe much to the mothers who gave them birth, without whose tender loving care and early training in the home they would not be in a position to give worthwhile service to others. We recognize the many, many women who are not mothers who give invaluable service in the auxiliary organizations and in many other fields of endeavor.
A few years ago Ohio’s historic Western College for Women bestowed a doctorate of laws degree upon Otelia Compton. Honorary degrees are usually bestowed for achievement in the sciences or the arts, but this recipient, at age seventy-four, was awarded the LL.D. “for outstanding achievement as wife and mother of Comptons.”
The account tells us that “four of the men to whom she is wife or mother occupy a whole page in Who’s Who in America, but the larger achievement of a middle western farm girl is unrecorded.” Her ancestry was from simple farm folk, but her achievements as a wife and mother brought her fame she did not seek.
In an interview a reporter asked for her formula, and then recorded: “Her recipe is so old it is new, so orthodox it is radical, so commonplace that we have forgotten it and it startles us. ‘We used the Bible and common sense,’ she told me.” When he asked her about heredity, she replied:
“If you mean the principle that worth is handed down in the bloodstream, I don’t think much of it. Lincoln’s ‘heredity’ was nil. The dissolute kings of history and the worthless sons and daughters of some of the ‘best families’ in our country are pretty good evidence that blood can run awfully thin. No, I’ve seen too many extraordinary men and women who were children of the common people to put much stock in heredity.
“Don’t misunderstand me. There is a kind of heredity that is all-important. That is the heredity of training. A child isn’t likely to learn good habits from his parents unless they learned them from their parents. Call that environment if you want to, or environmental heredity, but it is something that is handed down from generation to generation.”
The reporter asked: “If heredity is not the answer, what is?”
“The home. The tragedy of American life is that the home is becoming incidental at a time when it is needed as never before. Parents forget that neither school nor the world can reform the finished product of a bad home. They forget that their children are their first responsibility. Today servants are hired to take care of children. In my day, no matter how many servants a mother could afford, she took care of her children herself. The first thing parents must remember is that their children are not likely to be any better than they are themselves. Mothers and fathers who wrangle and dissipate need not be surprised if their observant young ones take after them.”
After discussing other facets of raising children, including the value of the right kind of hard work, the reporter asked, “And what is the ‘right kind’ of hard work?”
Her reply: “The kind of work that is good in itself.” He asked, “What’s wrong with working for money?”
The mother of Comptons exploded. “Everything! To teach a child that money-making for the sake of money is worthy is to teach him that the only thing worthwhile is what the world calls success. That kind of success has nothing to do either with usefulness or happiness. Parents teach it and the schools teach it, and the result is an age that thinks that money means happiness. The man who lives for money never gets enough, and he thinks that is why he isn’t happy. The real reason is that he has had the wrong goal of life set before him.” (From Out of the Best Books, Bruce B. Clark and Robert K. Thomas, 5:198–202.)
This points out another important responsibility of parents—to help their children in their goals in life, not only to set them but to reach them. Mothers who spend so much time with the children in the home can be especially influential through being available and interested in the activities of their children.
Now all of this does not mean that a woman cannot discharge her responsibilities in the home and at the same time pursue her interests in education and cultural refinement or any hobby she may enjoy. In fact, a mother who so organizes her work that she can broaden her scope of knowledge and widen her horizons is in that much better position to train and inspire her children. We see all around such mothers who have accomplished this without neglecting their household duties.
Our women in the Church have many provisions for such expansion of their learning. Participation in the auxiliary organizations, particularly the Relief Society, with a wide variety of subject matter in lessons designed for this very purpose will give contact and experiences outside the home, while at the same time furthering the work of the Lord. Communities are strengthened when mothers engage in spiritual activities and teach their children their relationship to their Father in heaven and what he expects of them.
In a tribute to mothers on one occasion, President David O. McKay said: “She who can paint a masterpiece or write a book that will influence millions deserves the plaudits and admiration of mankind. But she who would willingly and anxiously rear successfully a family of beautiful healthy sons and daughters whose lives reflect the teachings of the gospel, deserves the highest honors that man can give, and the choicest blessings of God. In fact, in her high duty and service to humanity, endowing with mortality eternal spirits, she is a co-partner with the Great Creator himself.”
Women have great challenge and tremendous opportunity in the influence they can wield on the men with whom they associate. There are numerous accounts of the influence a girl can have on a boy if she will be stalwart and cherish her virtue and stand by her convictions. Mothers can sometimes make all the difference in the sanctity of the home as they encourage and inspire their husbands to do their duty. It is sometimes difficult, but as a faithful mother seeks the help of the Lord she will find great strength and comfort.
For those who are looking for great challenge, for opportunity of service, for a chance to make a mark in the world, I would commend a thoughtful reading of the following lines of verse from the pen of Joaquin Miller:
The Bravest Battle
The bravest battle that ever was fought!
Shall I tell you where and when?
On the maps of the world you will find it not;
’Twas fought by the mothers of men.
Nay, not with cannon or battle-shot,
With a sword or noble pen;
Nay, not with eloquent words or thought
From mouths of wonderful men!
But deep in a walled-up woman’s heart—
Of a woman that would not yield,
But bravely, silently bore her part—
Lo, there is that battlefield!
No marshalling troops, no bivouac song,
No banner to gleam and wave;
But oh! these battles, they last so long—
From babyhood to the grave.
Yet, faithful still as a bridge of stars,
She fights in her walled-up town—
Fights on and on in the endless wars,
Then, silent, unseen, goes down.
Oh, ye with banners and battle-shot,
And soldiers to shout and praise!
I tell you the kingliest victories fought
Were fought in those silent ways.
O spotless woman in a world of shame,
With splendid and silent scorn,
Go back to God as white as you came—
The kingliest warrior born!
(Taken from Heart Throbs, Joe Mitchell Chapple, ed., New York, 1947, pp. 229–30.)