Mother in Zion: A Unifying Calling

By Krista Ralston Oakes

As daughters of a loving Heavenly Father, we are anxious to understand and realize our divine nature. We believe that this divine nature includes the sacred calling of motherhood. But what does this mean for someone who cannot bear children?

Limiting this calling to the simple act of procreation can be frustrating and miserable because it creates feelings of worthlessness if one is unable to perform that function.

The restored gospel gives us a greater understanding of what it really means to be a mother in Zion. We know that Eve was given the title of “mother of all living” in the Garden of Eden before she ever bore a child (see Moses 4:26). I have discovered that the plan of salvation involves two crucial periods: getting Heavenly Father’s children here to earth (which takes a mother) and helping them prepare to return home to Him (which can also take a mother). Even if we do not bear or adopt children in this life, all women can participate in mothering, and all of us can do so with joyful anticipation. Here are some other lessons I have learned about being a mother in Zion:

A mother in Zion knows that she is a daughter of God. She consecrates herself through making and keeping sacred covenants. She magnifies her talents and stewardships and fills the measure of her creation by living to bring herself and others safely home to Heavenly Father.

A mother in Zion can realize the unifying traits of all motherhood, regardless of her reproductive status. I learned this concept as I was preparing a Sunday lesson for my Laurel class during the peak of my struggle to have children. I groaned as I opened the Young Women manual and read the lesson objective, which was to help young women appreciate their divine roles as wives and mothers. I could appreciate being a wife. But how could I help my Laurel class appreciate motherhood when I didn’t have any children?

An answer to my prayer for help came quickly. This lesson wasn’t for people who already had children—it was for young women who were not yet in that season of life. It was a lesson about appreciating who we are and preparing ourselves to fulfill divine roles according to Heavenly Father’s plan. Regardless of when or how we would ultimately have children of our own, the Laurels and I were united as daughters of God, who can teach and nurture and love using the divine gifts within us. The lesson united us in our resolve to rise to that calling by developing talents and testimonies, putting aside worldly attitudes, and learning to make and keep sacred covenants.

A mother in Zion is not constrained by a biological clock. Her role is fulfilled in accordance with the Lord’s timetable. When this timetable delays the opportunity for children in the home, a mother in Zion can help others—not just her own biological children—in their eternal progress. Indeed, I remember savoring my own “motherhood moments” long before children came into our home, especially when former seminary students called me with exciting news: “Sister Oakes, I am getting married [or going on a mission], and I am coming to the temple for my endowment! Please be there with me.”

A mother in Zion is a leader, forging a path that brings others to Christ. In all of our conduct, we create an example for others to follow. As we strive to answer the divine calling of being a mother in Zion, we feel a yearning to reach out, to lead, and to share. And as we do, we feel great satisfaction and fulfillment.

A mother in Zion seeks to do the work of motherhood in its many forms. Although we instinctively yearn for children, when that opportunity is denied or deferred, we do not need nine months of pregnancy in order to develop selflessness. We do not need a labor room drama in order to learn sacrifice. We do not need to share DNA with someone in order to learn love. These attributes of motherhood—selflessness, sacrifice, and love—can be developed and manifested in all daughters of God as we follow the ultimate example of these attributes, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

As we come unto Christ, we are given many opportunities to love and serve others. As we strive to emulate our Savior, we become selfless. We sacrifice ourselves as we consecrate our lives to the Lord. And for those whom we serve, we develop great love. A mother in Zion has infinite opportunities to be a righteous influence on others and establish a grand posterity.

It is joyful to realize that we can all answer and magnify the calling of a mother in Zion. This is a unifying calling and a glorious potential that has been planted in the heart of every daughter of our loving Heavenly Father.

Sister Oakes passed away in December 2010 as this article was being prepared for publication.