One of the most exciting things about moving here was that we finally expected to be in a permanent location. Since we were married three years ago, we have moved eight times. The moves have all been my fault as I have worked my way through internships, graduate school, research assignments, and post doc positions, and I am particularly grateful for my wife’s constant support.
One example of how supportive my wife is occurred just after one of these many moves. Part of my research in grad school required me to travel the Netherlands for three months to collect some data and evaluate some new equipment developed by a company there. This was my first time ever being out of the country and I was terrified of not being able to talk with anybody.
We arrived on a Sunday, and my supervisor picked us up from the airport. When he dropped us off at our new apartment, he told me that he would take me to work the following day, but after that I should take the bus. Tuesday came, and I was really nervous about getting on the bus by myself. I did not know how much money it cost and whether they would give me change. I didn’t know if I needed a pass, or if I could pay when I got on. I didn’t know if I should pay when I got on or when I got off. Amy could sense my anxiety, and offered to take the bus with me. The ride there went off without a hitch, and I got to work on time.
Once I had settled into work for the day, I realized what I had done. I had sent my wife that was 5 months pregnant at the time on a bus by herself in a foreign country without any way of contacting anyone if something went wrong. I worried about her all day long. When I got home I learned what had happened.
She had gotten on the same bus going back toward our home, except unbeknownst to us, on the half hour, the bus takes a different route. We lived on the same street that I worked on, so it was 10 miles straight down the same road. As Amy neared home, she suddenly felt the bus turning. I think she panicked in horror, and did not think to pull the cord to stop the bus. It continued on for about 2 miles before it finally stopped for someone else to get off. Amy climbed off the bus, and walked home, which turned out to be about a 3 mile walk. Luckily she was able to find her way. This story stands out in my mind as a great example of how selfless my wife is.
The scriptures contain other examples of selfless women. One particularly interesting example is Sariah, Lehi’s wife. In 1 Nephi chapter 2, we read, “And it came to pass that the Lord commanded my father [Lehi], even in a dream, that he should take his family and depart into the wilderness. And it came to pass that he was obedient unto the word of the Lord, wherefore he did as the Lord commanded him. And it came to pass that he departed into the wilderness. And he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness. … and he did travel in the wilderness with his family, which consisted of my mother, Sariah, and my elder brothers, who were Laman, Lemuel, and Sam.”
This scriptural passage focuses on Lehi, but what if we read between the lines at what Sariah must have been thinking? She gave up all of the comforts that are mentioned, too – gold, precious things, the comfort of her home – and accompanied her husband into the wilderness. This was a young mother – her children were probably teenagers; and we know that she had other children – Jacob and Joseph – in the wilderness. Can you imagine if she had refused to go with her husband into the wilderness? The most obvious consequence is that Jacob would not have been born, and we know that he was an important Nephite prophet that continued the writings that make up the Book of Mormon today.
Sariah, indeed, must have been a strong woman – yet she certainly does not receive a lot of credit in the scriptures for her sacrifices. On the contrary, we might infer that she is not a strong woman, because only a few short chapters after we read about her leaving Jerusalem with her husband, she is “complaining”. If you remember, Lehi had to send his sons back to Jerusalem to retrieve the Brass Plates from Laban. After they had been gone for longer than both Lehi and Sariah had anticipated, we read that she had “complained against [Lehi], telling him that he was a visionary man; saying: Behold thou hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness.”
We might conclude from this that Sariah is not a strong woman, but what is she complaining about? She is not complaining that her life is too hard, or that she has to sleep on rocks, or that she no longer has a decent stove. She is genuinely worried about the safety of her children; displaying her great love for her children. As a choice daughter of God, she has a unique capacity to love and nurture that is being tested here. In Elder Holland’s most recent talk from General Conference, he said, “Sisters, we, your brethren, cannot do what you were divinely designated to do from before the foundation of the world. We may try, but we cannot ever hope to replicate you unique gifts. There is nothing in this world as personal, as nurturing, or as life changing as the influence of a righteous woman.”
I have seen numerous examples of this unique ability to love and nurture in my wife. For about the past month, we have been trying to get our oldest daughter to sleep in her “big girl bed”, instead of her crib. Typically, the routine goes like this: after getting her all ready for bed, we say good night, turn out the light, and close the door. Hallie instantly hops up out of bed and reopens the door. We tell her that it is time for bed, and one of us stays with her in her room to keep her from getting up out of bed. Over the next 2 – 3 hours we continue to put her back in bed until it is finally our bed time and we end up putting her in her crib for the night (where, by the way, she instantly falls asleep).
It is at the point of putting her in her crib that Amy and I differ significantly. I tend to, for lack of a better word, “throw” her in her bed and close her door, without worrying about tucking her in. I am usually seething at the time. When my wife does it, she will gently lay Hallie in her crib, carefully tuck the covers around her, and whisper to her “good night, we’ll try again later”.
I know for a fact that we are both equally frustrated that, after fighting with her for 3 hours, Hallie still ends up in her crib, but Amy has the ability to still be nurturing and patient. She says that she does this because she wants Hallie to know that no matter what, her mother will always treat her with love and kindness.
This story not only displays women’s unique ability to nurture, but also patience. I know that everybody would do well to have more patience, but I think it is significant that in our most recent General Conference, President Uchdorf decided to give his talk on patience to the brethren in the Priesthood Session and not to everyone in a General session.
Another attribute of a selfless woman that Elder Ballard mentions is the ability to listen. So often we focus on what we have to say, and not what others are saying. My favorite example of this, among many, goes back way before my wife and I were even dating. We were friends, and she had invited me to her family’s house for Easter, since I was not going to be able to see my family for Easter. At some point during the 6 hour drive there, I mentioned that I needed fingernail clippers because I had a hang nail that was driving me crazy. When we arrived, things were busy as they often are during holidays, and Amy’s mom put us in charge of making dinner. Before we started, however, Amy asked her mom where the fingernail clippers were because she remembered that I still needed them. This seemingly trivial act had a profound influence on me – demonstrating Amy’s ability to both nurture and listen.
H. Burke Peterson, in the April 1990 General Conference stated, “As you develop your capacity to love unconditionally, remember that listening is a part of showing love. If your home is a home where children are listened to, even when what they say doesn’t seem important or you don’t feel you have time, then you are preparing hearts. Can we listen openly to a shocking experience without going into a state of shock ourselves, or without an immediate verbal overreaction? We all know there is a time to talk and a time to listen. To listen with patience to a young person’s reasons for getting home late will bring you undying gratitude. Remember, you can listen to understand, not necessarily to agree. Ofttimes we do our best teaching when we listen.”
These characteristics of women that I have described – selflessness, the ability to nurture, listen, and have patience, are divine attributes that we should all work toward improving in our own lives. These qualities, however, do not bring a lot of fame. Unfortunately in the world today, we, and especially women, are encouraged to abandon these gifts in favor of fame, career, or other pursuits. In Elder Holland’s talk that I referenced earlier, he says that we should “teach [our] daughters to find joy in nurturing children”.
Sometimes it is difficult to find the joy in nurturing children when they cry all day, or they keep getting into something they’re not supposed to, or they make incorrect choices. I know – I have seen the haggard look on my wife’s face when I come home from work after a particularly difficult day at home.
Is there joy in nurturing children? After being kicked out the the Garden of Eden, Eve thought back on the choices she made. In Moses 5:11, she exclaims, “Were it not for our transgressions, we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the Eternal Life which God given unto all the obedient”.
I was not the easiest child to raise. During my teenage years, I can remember causing my parents a lot of anguish. Just this past week, however, my mom sent me a letter. In it she wrote, “I thought you would like to know how grateful I am to be your mother! I have learned many things about God from the experience of being your mother. One of the most important one was how much Heavenly Father loves you and how closely he watches over you. I am very grateful for the spiritual journey that I have had and the knowledge I have received that he loves me also. Being your mother is one of the greatest things I have or will ever do!”
I hope you will forgive me for using so many personal stories in my talk today. My goal was not to brag about the wonderful women in my life, but to illustrate some of the divine attributes of women that make them so important to our Heavenly Father’s plan for us. I am quite certain that without the righteous influence of our mothers, many of us would not stand a chance at making it back to the Celestial Kingdom. I am grateful for my mother and my wife. I am grateful that my wife is willing to stay home with our daughters and put off having a career that I know she would enjoy. I am humbled that Heavenly Father has entrusted two of His daughters to my wife and I to raise and to teach these divine attributes to. I pray that I will be able to help them fulfill the roles that Heavenly Father has in store for them here on this Earth.