My dear sisters, I want you to know that I rejoice in being a woman, especially a Latter-day Saint woman. I am so grateful to live in this day when our Father in Heaven has made known the divine role of women and his plan for our salvation, this day of abundant opportunities for our personal growth and individual expression.
I am grateful to be the wife of a noble son of our Heavenly Father, one who loves the Lord, who honors his priesthood, who presides as patriarch in our home. What a joy it has been throughout our life together to follow his righteous leadership!
I rejoice in being a mother, and a grandmother. There has been entrusted to my care a dozen of Heavenly Father’s special children—so choice, so intelligent, so capable that I am awed by the privilege of associating with them in this most precious relationship.
I am a woman of the family circle because I choose to be. A few years ago I was invited to speak to a class of honors students in a university setting. I could see that some were frankly amazed when I told them that in the early years of my marriage I had been offered a job teaching English in a university and had chosen, instead, to be a full-time home-maker. I have never been sorry for that choice.
This was no great debate or even a difficult choice for me. I come from a long line of women who have found great happiness and personal satisfaction in being wives and mothers and grandmothers, neighbors, Relief Society workers—bakers of bread and makers of homes—believers in God and builders of his kingdom. What a legacy of faith and courage and sacrifice these women have left me! And what a responsibility I have to pass on to my children and grandchildren the wonderful heritage that is mine.
When I read or hear about those who condemn homemaking as a constant round of unrewarding drudgery—monotonous, dull, without challenge, confining—I wonder if they’re talking about the same things I do every day. I have found that it takes every ounce of skill and energy and imagination I possess to keep my home running as I’d like it—and, even at my best, there’s always room for improvement. I have found homemaking very satisfying, exciting, creative, interesting, challenging, uplifting.
I admit it isn’t always sweetness and light. There have certainly been times when I’ve been in the very depths of discouragement as I’ve looked about me at wonderful, talented, successful women who’ve had beautiful, uncluttered homes, beautiful figures, beautiful clothes. At these times I’ve felt that all I’d ever done was squeeze thousands of peaches and pears into quart jars, fold millions of diapers, and iron several thousand shirts—not to mention the ruffled dresses, in those pre-wash-and-wear days, that my daughters wore to school every day. There were times when I thought I would never be caught up with the washing.
Yes, discouragement, failure, frustration, despair—I’ve known them all. But those were the exceptions. I have also found great satisfaction in trying to create a physical environment that would make my home a warm, welcoming place, a place where love, harmony, joy, and contentment could flourish. Even in my lowest ebb, my Father in Heaven has not left me comfortless. He has given me faith and hope, a knowledge that life is meant to have difficulties and problems—that it’s necessary to taste the bitter and experience the challenges in order to more fully appreciate the sweet, to increase our awareness of what is truly of value in our lives, and to help us be sensitive to the blessings we do enjoy.
I’ve discovered, too, that while my hands are busy with chores around my house, my mind can be doing exciting, creative things. And I find that by the time I’ve finished the washing, folding, cleaning, and mending, my thoughts have been soaring, and the Lord may have helped me think of possible solutions to some of my most challenging problems. But what about my personal growth? Haven’t I felt intellectually stifled within the confining boundaries of that family circle? Is there room within that circle of home and family for developing my talents?
I’ll admit that for the past several years I’ve been extremely busy. But that isn’t necessarily because of the demands of my home and family upon my time. I have found great joy and fulfillment in my callings in the Church and in community service. Then, too, I have so many projects of my own that I don’t have to do but that I find very satisfying: making scrapbooks which are illustrated life stories of my parents; labeling and organizing thousands of slides into a picture history of our family; keeping in touch through letters with my missionary, my married children, my extended family, and my special friends; writing in my journal; reading some of my favorite books to a dear neighbor who is almost blind; helping plan and plant a garden every spring that delights us throughout the summer with its beauty and its utility. My family and I also enjoy doing our own decorating—paper-hanging, painting, making drapes, and a beautiful quilt or two. We’re terribly proud of the lovely bed tables we made from the double-bed-sized headboard and footboard of grandpa and grandma’s bed when we inherited their beautiful cherry-wood bedroom set and couldn’t find tables anywhere to match. Not to mention the fantastic linoleum job we did in the kitchen!
I tell you these things to point out that there’s no limit to the variety of interests and opportunities available to a woman of the family circle. Let me say that I don’t necessarily have the answers for your family, but I would like to share some of the things that have brought much joy to ours.
First of all, we love one another. Our children know that they are wanted, appreciated, and cherished. Expressions of love and encouragement around our house are frequent and sincere. My husband and I have tried to let our children know, through time spent with them and by our support and attendance at their innumerable activities, that we are intensely interested in their welfare and in everything they do. We’ve tried to teach them to love the Lord, pray to him, and walk uprightly before him.
We have always been a together family. We’ve worked together, played together, studied the gospel and the scriptures together, prayed together, gone to church and worshiped together. Long before the Church began the present Monday night family home evening program, we had regular home nights where we played games, took turns telling stories from the scriptures or the Church magazines, or performed on the piano, violin, cello, clarinet, trumpet, or guitar. We have many family traditions which make holidays and birthdays special family times.
Certainly, one of the joys of our family has been reading aloud together. From the time our first child was a toddler we’ve been regular patrons of the public library. For many years we’d make monthly pilgrimages to return an apple box full of books to the children’s library and fill it up again with a new batch. We’d read nap-time and bedtime stories together—can’t you just picture me with a child on each knee, one or two on each side, two or three on the floor in front, one in the most coveted place of all—on the back of the couch behind me, brushing my hair. I would read such tales as Black Beauty, Tom Sawyer, and The Prince and the Pauper to the children who were a little older to make the task of doing dishes more enticing, and I have tried to always have many, many good books around to satisfy the children’s own insatiable appetites for individual reading.
For several summers we had the wonderful fun of spending a couple of weeks at an Arizona dude ranch where my husband would take a turn at being ranch physician. Although our cabin was crowded and rustic, the children loved it. They loved the horses, the baby pigs, the homemade ice cream, the rodeos, and the huge campfires where we’d all sit around on logs and sing cowboy songs. My children even loved that good old Arizona dirt. The first summer we went, I struggled valiantly to keep us clean; after that I just relaxed and got dirty with the rest of them.
Last summer was an exciting first as we held our first official Elliott Richards family reunion in the Uintah Mountains of Utah. For a week we camped out, hiking, fishing, and canoeing. We had nature walks, took pictures of cousins playing together, and ate the fabulous food prepared by different families for their assigned meals. In the evenings we had talent shows, genealogy quizzes about the lives of our ancestors, and square dances; we shared spiritual experiences; and we ate huge sacks of popcorn as we watched the movies dad had rented from the county library. Altogether forty-four of our potential fifty-four family members attended. Not bad for a beginning.
I’ve talked a great deal about the joy and rejoicing in our posterity. I feel that I should mention, too, the sorrow, the heartbreak, the anguish over a child who for the past several years has rejected the Church and many of our values, whose friends are nonbelievers. At first I blamed myself. I felt like such a failure as a mother. I blamed my husband: after all, he was head of our family and ought to be able to do something. I blamed my son’s quorum advisers and his Sunday School and seminary teachers for failing to reach and inspire him. I guess I even blamed Heavenly Father for what I saw as failure to answer my constant and earnest prayers in his behalf. This was the darkest time in my life.
I’ve come a long way since then, and so has my son. Gradually, I’ve come to understand and appreciate many important gospel principles to a degree I hadn’t dreamed of before. I’ve learned so much from this son about the significance of free agency. I’ve learned patience, long-suffering, and compassion for others whose problems are even greater than my own. I’ve learned not to judge others. And I’ve learned we can find much good in each individual if we really look for it. I’ve learned that guilt and blame are crippling emotions that accomplish nothing. And most importantly, I’ve learned that there is great power in unconditional love—that we’re most in need of love when we’re the least lovable.
I will never give up hope that this basically fine young man will come back into full fellowship in the Church as he has begun to do in the family circle. Who knows? Perhaps I’m praying for another Alma.
Supporting me and guiding me through all my efforts as a mother has been my beloved husband. Through the thirty-nine years of our marriage, not only has he been an exemplary father, breadwinner, handyman, gardener, and spiritual adviser, he has been my dearest friend. Always appreciative of my efforts, understanding of my problems, patient with my weaknesses, supportive of my interests and activities, he has never belittled, never ridiculed or embarrassed me. Certainly one of the greatest incentives I have had for personal growth, intellectually and spiritually, has been to try to keep up with him, to try to live up to his expectations. And certainly one of the greatest incentives for me to live the gospel to the fullest of my capacity is the promised blessing of his eternal companionship.
In closing, may I summarize with a statement by President Henry D. Moyle, formerly of the First Presidency of the Church: “The whole process of raising a family is one of perfecting our own lives. That which we transmit consciously and unconsciously to our children in their rearing in the home and in the community must be the best within us.”
That we may learn of perfection in this manner is my prayer.