Henry B. Eyring: Societies of Caregivers
President Eyring found an elegant solution to the potentially awkward task of being a man giving a sermon to women about their womanly duties: he began his talk by quoting a great female Mormon heroine and centered the rest of his talk around her admonitions.
“We must cherish one another, watch over one another, comfort one another, and gain instruction that we may all sit down in heaven together.” –Lucy Mack Smith
As an example of how pioneer women heeded Lucy Mack Smith’s counsel, he recounted the oft-told story of how Mormon pioneers rescued the Willie and Martin handcart companies, with particular emphasis on the cooperative nature of the rescue. He quoted a pioneer woman who appreciated the “unanimity of feeling” they enjoyed as they worked together and who wondered, “What comes next for willing hands to do?”
President Eyring observed that modern women also wonder about their future lives of service. When he hinted that he would talk about future service, I anticipated that he would address organized Relief Society service projects, but he placed greater emphasis on caregiving. I liked this choice of topic; it is a practical concern, since, statistically, many women are likely to become caregivers in their own, individual futures. Long-term caregiving, whether to an elderly parent, a spouse, a disabled child or other loved one, is a spiritually challenging endeavor that is often overlooked, perhaps because of the emphasis on parenting children. During his talk, President Eyring focused on how caregiving could be enhanced by sharing duties. Traditionally, women often do the time-consuming and emotionally draining work of caregiving alone. I appreciated that President Eyring encouraged women to formulate plans to involve others in this important work, reducing the strain on primary caregivers.
He told a personal story about his daughter Elisabeth, who recently experienced pre-term labor. Before she could call an ambulance, her visiting teaching companion, guided by spiritual prompting, unexpectedly arrived at her door just in time to take her to the hospital. (Ironically, this is just the kind of prompting I admitted that I never personally receive in a recent post. It is fortunate that other women do receive such promptings during emergencies like this.)
President Eyring praised his daughter’s visiting teaching companion as an example of fulfillment of Lucy Mack Smith’s call to action. Thanks to her help, Elisabeth made it to the hospital in time to save the baby’s life, but she has many challenges ahead as she cares for a baby resulting from a preterm birth.
Eyring got a laugh out of his female audience when he quoted Elisabeth’s bishop saying, “The Relief Society President has everything under control.”
He described how Elisabeth’s ward members had made plans to assist Elisabeth during this difficult time by caring for her other children so that she could make the many trips to the hospital that would be necessary until her newborn can come home.
Eyring reminded the audience that the good Samaritan did not only render aid, he also put a specific plan into play for others to continue the aid over the long term. He predicted that as we keep the faith, we will also be called to come to the aid of those in need, and helping may require long-term care: more than one person can do alone.
He recommended that modern caregivers also implement plans to involve others as a caregiving team. As we care for those in need, our love for them grows, but frustration and fatigue can grow as well. “Societies of caregivers” distribute the burden so it is easier to bear. He encouraged caregivers to be aware of their physical and financial limits, and paraphrased scripture:
And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a [caregiver] should run faster than [she] has strength. Mosiah 4:27
We can help tired caregivers by gently urging them to rest and accept help, by celebrating their worth and by organizing ourselves to lighten their load. Elder Eyring gave a nod of approval to local leaders who look outside the Handbook to creatively meet the unique needs of their congregations, when he smilingly related the story of witnessing a woman called as assistant visiting teaching coordinator, “a calling I didn’t know existed.”