When I was a little girl of six or seven I was playing a game with my sister at the kitchen table. We were laughing and joking around as we played and when she made a move that put her ahead of me, I laughed and called her a name. As soon as it was out of my mouth I heard my mother’s voice, “What did you say?” Oh no! I knew I wasn’t supposed to call names and I was in trouble now. I repeated what I’d said and waited for her reminder that we don’t call each other unkind names. Instead she took me by the hand and led me into my father’s office and shut the door.
There she asked me if I knew what the name I’d used meant. I thought I did. I thought it meant something like silly goose or stupid. My mother opened the dictionary and read to me the definition of the word I’d used. Frankly, I didn’t even know what the definition meant, but our discussion led me to understand that it meant something very different from what I’d thought. Consequently, I never called my sister or anyone else that name again.
Little children often use words they don’t understand. We smile at their mistakes and help them understand what those words mean. I sometimes wonder if we aren’t like our little children at times and don’t fully understand some of the words we use. The Lord told us, “Ye are little children and ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath in his own hands and prepared for you (Doctrine and Covenants 78:17).” Some of those great blessings are wrapped up in a name that we use often to define each other and ourselves. It is a name that I don’t think we fully comprehend. It is the name of mother.
To fully understand what the name Mother means we must understand who we are. That understanding begins with an eternal view of things. The Family: A Proclamation to the World states: All human beings – male and female – are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose. Who we are as women began before we were born and arrives with us here on earth. Sister Sheri Dew reminded us,
“Our motherhood began before we were born. Just as worthy men were foreordained to hold the priesthood in mortality, righteous women were endowed premortally with the privilege of motherhood. Motherhood is more than bearing children, though it is certainly that. It is the essence of who we are as women. It defines our very identity, our divine stature and nature and the unique traits our Father gave us.
President Gordon B. Hinckley stated that “God planted within women something divine.” That something is the gift and the gifts of motherhood. Elder Matthew Cowley taught that, “men have to have something given to them (in mortality) to make them saviors of men, but not mothers, not women. They are born with an inherent right, an inherent authority, to be the saviors of human souls . . . and the regenerating force in the lives of God’s children.” (Are We Not All Mothers?, October 2001 General Conference.”
When we begin to understand that motherhood is not something that began the day our first baby was born we begin to see ourselves in a different light. A baby defines us as mothers in earthly terms, but our Father in Heaven saw us as mothers before we ever gave birth. He created women as an essential part of his plan. To men He gave the power to act in his name. To women he gave his creative power to bring forth new life. Both are as Elder Cowley said, “saviors of men.” But for women it is an “inherent right, an inherent authority.” We don’t need the bestowal of any earthly gift to be mothers it was given to us long ago.
When we realize that we are “saviors of human souls .
Our understanding of who we are as women and mothers grows as we draw near to the One who gave us the gift of motherhood. Like my mother who taught me the meaning of names and words, He will teach us the meaning of the most important name we will ever carry. He will help us to see purpose in the mundane as well as the meaningful aspects of our work and then we will truly know what it means to be called Mother.
Kimberli Robison is a wife and mother to six children. She has a degree in Family and Human Development from Utah State University.