Around the world, people are gearing up for holiday houseguests. Or to be a holiday houseguest. In the U.S., we have Thanksgiving this month, traditionally a time when families gather around a feast and give thanks to God for their blessings.
Unfortunately, blending in the relatives by marriage can be tricky navigating. Comedians, cartoons, movies, books- for years we’ve seen them depict the mother-in-law, in particular, as a thorn– about as welcome as the plague.
Thankfully, if we study our scriptures, we know better. One of the greatest love stories in the entire standard works comes from the Book of Ruth, in the Old Testament. But it’s not a story of romantic love; it’s a story of love between a mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law. And it’s the perfect recipe for all of us, as we build a relationship with an in-law.
Naomi, as you recall, has lost not only her husband, but her two cherished sons while living in the land of Moab. She decides to go home and live with her people. She bids her daughters-in-law to go home to their mothers, with her blessing. Neither one wants to leave this loving woman, but eventually Orpah agrees to go home. Ruth, however, will not sever ties and leave Naomi. She vows to stay with Naomi, and utters the famous lines, “… thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest I will die…” (Ruth 1:16-17).
Even though converted, Ruth knows that, as a Moabitess, she will not be accepted by many. But her love of Naomi triumphs over fears of prejudice, and they travel to Judah.
Ruth’s love for Naomi is incredible. But just as awesome is Naomi’s love for Ruth. Naomi knows Ruth is young and wants her to have a joyous life, a life in marriage. So she sets right about matchmaking. She engineers the entire opportunity for Ruth to meet and impress Boaz, a kinsman of Naomi’s husband. It’s harvest time, and Ruth is allowed to glean in the fields of Boaz (pick up the scraps in the corners, where the sickles can’t reach), and builds a solid, moral reputation. She does, indeed, impress Boaz, but not only because she’s a hard worker and a virtuous woman. He admires the sacrifice she made for Naomi, and knows she converted, left her homeland and family, and came to a strange land where she might not find acceptance.
Boaz tells his men to let her glean more than the usual amount, and when Naomi sees the ephah of barley Ruth brings back, she knows Boaz is helping her. Step by step, Naomi advises Ruth on how to secure her future. Ruth even proposes to Boaz, in effect. Boaz does the honorable thing and asks Naomi’s nearer kinsmen if they wish to marry Ruth instead. No one wishes to step ahead of him, so Boaz makes his claim official with ten elders of the city witnessing his pledge.
And so they marry. Not only has Naomi helped her devoted daughter-in-law to have a wonderful, happy life, but this is the union from which King David, and ultimately Christ himself, descends. Both Naomi and Ruth have been blessed beyond measure for embracing one another and putting the other first. Even an actual mother and daughter could not be closer, more loving, or more self- sacrificing than these two heroic women.
No wonder, from time to time, you hear an LDS man or woman speak of their “Mother-in-Love,” rather than “Mother-in-Law.” It’s a term that warms our hearts. This Thanksgiving I will be blessed to have my first “Daughter-in-Love” at our home. My gratitude knows no bounds.
Just in time for Christmas shopping-order Hilton’s new book, “Wishes for an LDS Child” (http://bit.ly/1g7YXYj)
Joni Hilton is also “Your YouTube Mom” and shares short videos that teach easy household tips and life skills at http://bit.ly/YourYouTubeMom
Be sure to read her blog at jonihilton.blogspot.com.