On the Subject of My Highest and Holiest Calling

Posted by on May 8, 2014 in Gender, Gender roles, motherhood, women | 92 comments

Dear Church leaders,

I’ve seen the new page at motherhood.mormon.org. You know which one: the one that celebrates mothers by saying that parenting (specifically, motherhood) is our “highest, holiest calling.”

First, thank you. I know you’re trying to pay me a compliment, and I should receive it graciously.

Second, I’d like to gently remind you that what you’ve said isn’t quite true, and I can’t honestly receive a compliment that is a lie.

Telling women that parenting is our highest and holiest calling—while failing to say the same to men—displays a freakishly bad double standard.

Linking LDS women’s worth to motherhood may sound like a good idea, but the truth is that it demeans our other very real contributions to the building up of Zion. It also sends the wrong message to LDS men: that their contributions to family life are less important than their wives’.

There are many, many women in the Church who simply can’t or don’t become mothers. And there are many men in the Church who are not fathers. When this is by choice and not by a fact of biology, it’s often because they are living chaste lives, and I really hope you aren’t criticizing them for that. When it’s by biological fact, I hope you aren’t intentionally saying that they are failures.

I’m not the most diligent student of the scriptures, but I believe—and please tell me if I’m not theologically sound here—that the highest and holiest thing we can do in mortality is choose to follow Christ. I don’t remember Him telling me to make babies. I do remember Him saying, “Come, follow me.” And that’s what I’m trying to do. (I hope, while I’m trying to follow Him, that I’m leading my kids in the right direction, because they’re watching what I do and say very closely, but to be quite honest, I’m a little more concerned about my choices than theirs.)

I really do understand that you are trying to honor women, and that you’re doing it in the way that you were taught when you were young. I appreciate that you are supportive of what I do as a parent. But the specific message you’ve given isn’t the prophetic guidance that I expect to hear from you. I just can’t believe that the very most important thing I can possibly do in this life is get pregnant and produce offspring. That’s a biological function that happens (or doesn’t happen) regardless of faith and repentance, regardless of baptism, and regardless of whether or not the people involved lead Christlike lives.

The message that you’ve written implies that my ability to produce children is more valuable than the conscious choices I make as a human being and a child of God. It tells me that my body, not my mind, is the most important thing about me.

That’s what Boko Haram has said to the kidnapped schoolgirls in Nigeria: that they have worth only as wives and mothers, not as the students and thinkers they want to be.

I believe Jesus asks much more of me than a fertile womb. He asks me to be His disciple and to build Zion. And Mothers Day or not, I hope you change your new website to reflect that.

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92 Comments

  1. Yes. Yes yes yes. Thank you for writing this.

  2. I screaming with thunderous applause, Libby. This is TRUTH. Thank you.

    AMEN and AMEN!!!!

  3. I had these EXACT SAME THOUGHTS last night as I looked over that website. Thank you for articulating it, Libby.

  4. This was lovely; thank you.

  5. Today, for me, motherhood feels like a calling in the worst possible sense of that parallel. I want to serve in a capacity, but I don’t have the choice of doing that. I have to wait until, by some happy chance, what I want aligns with what the universe/bishop/my body/whatever intends. Like a calling, I have the power to say no. I can turn down a calling, I can take birth control. But I (seemingly) can’t say yes to motherhood, at least not right now. Thanks for the reminder that my calling is to follow Christ. It is nice to feel less powerless, and like my great choices have value.

  6. Thank you! This beautiful essay reminded me of important truths, and how not to let lazy platitudes obscure our true beliefs. I’ll wait though to criticize the matching http://fatherhood.mormon.org site until there’s something there. The title of that page says “Father’s Day”, so I expect something will appear next month.

  7. That fatherhood link had me laughing and shaking my head. Your post is brilliant, Libby, but that url says it all in one stroke.

  8. This is perfect. Thank you.

  9. As long as we’re in critique mode, I would also like a non pink color to represent females more often. But obviously the points mentioned above are more important. Being a mom is awesome. Its just not the only thing we are, and it feels like often the other aspects of our diversity are not even encouraged, taught or acknowledged. Or allowed…

  10. Thank you for this, Libby!

  11. Thanks for sharing this. I find it hard a single gal in the church to hear that our greatest calling is a mother. When I mention that it is a little too late for me I am told that it will all be taken care of in the next life. Well quite frankly that does not help me here when I hear this over and over especially as Mother’s day approaches.

  12. While I agree with most of this post, it does the writer no good to reduce what the church leaders are saying to “get pregnant and produce offspring.” Even mothers whose children are removed by social services do this, so I think that what church leaders are saying is that raising babies into conscientious, kind, effectual adults is the highest and holiest calling. And while it might not be number one, I do think it should be at least tied with others for number one. Caring for humans, whether as a nurse, a teacher, an orphanage worker, or as a military member rescuing Nigerian girls from evil, have all got to be pretty holy.

    • Natasha, I agree with you–teaching my children about Jesus and encouraging them to be disciples (which in my house is usually reduced to the questions “Was it kind?” and “Was it honest?”) is a high and holy calling indeed. But I see that as a part of my discipleship and stewardship, not as something else entirely. Why can’t we talk about following Christ and then let that distill down into individual circumstances, rather than glorifying motherhood per se?

    • Amen, Natasha! Well said.

    • I believe this point was covered in her concern about demeaning fathers. What you describe, parenting beyond childbirth, is something that both mothers and fathers are capable of, and do.

    • “Caring for humans” is what I strive to do in both my individual and professional life. I have broken my heart many times over caring for abused and neglected children, but I’ve never birthed a child and it is unlikely I ever will. This “highest, holiest calling” business feels like a sucker punch. I am erased and dismissed. The quickest pathway to acceptance would be getting myself knocked up out of wedlock. Sure there would be the disciplinary court, but that would be temporary. For the rest of my life I’d belong to the exclusive society of those with the ability to magnify the highest and holiest calling. Forty years of virginity and trying to be like Jesus don’t count. Get me to a spermbank so I can be infused with holiness, stat.

  13. As a single woman in the Church, reading the new motherhood site leaves me with two thoughts: “What have I been doing with my life?” and “Am I not good enough already?”

    And those are not good thoughts.

    Also, I just looked at the websites of other major Christian denominations. No mention of Mother’s Day. But I did find links to mental health awareness, disaster response, statements from church leaders on the Nigerian schoolgirl situation, ending poverty and hunger, etc.

    I think the Church should just treat Mother’s Day as a wonderful tribute to wonderful mothers (like most other religions/people), instead of treating it like a high holy day where we’re encouraged to borderline worship mothers (from the video, LDS homemaking mothers specifically) and where our mothering abilities are tied to our spirituality. Or maybe I’m just too secular?

    • I’m with you, East River Lady. I like that there is ONE day when women are discussed at church, but making it all about motherhood is more demeaning than if there were NO church discussions about womanhood, IMO.

      • I agree with you two totally, and I think that what you’re saying speaks to the broader problem in the church: we conflate motherhood and womanhood. We tend to treat them as the same thing when they really aren’t.

  14. I love being a mom. It’s awesome and messy and freaking hard and adventurous and trying.

    But this new website just feels like more brainwashing. I want to squash that pedestal with all my might.

    I’m especially mad/sad for what this message says loudly and clearly to all my single and/or childless LDS friends when they see this site. “You are not enough until you are a mom….”

    Enough already.

  15. The Quorum of the 12 all have twitter accounts. You should send this link to each and every one of them.

    • I second the motion.

  16. Thank you for this. I find myself getting more and more angry about the limits the church places on women. I am not a mother after over 3 years of trying, but I am many, many other things that I think make me a preet good human being and disciple of Christ.

    Also, those things listed in the first paragraph of the motherhood essay that are what moms do? In my family, it was my dad who taught me my first piano piece and my dad who ran to the store and helped me with projects. I guess my family was doing it wrong.

  17. Thank you so much for explaining so clearly why the designation of motherhood as “the” highest and noblest calling is simply not correct. As a childless woman in the church I am finally to the point where I can let such statements roll off my back, but I have seen the fallout from that last line of text in what otherwise was a beautifully made video in some of my childless sisters, ranging from tears to dry heaves to a slide back into depression. I particularly appreciate that you and some of your commenters are mothers, because you can say what I cannot without sounding bitter, or attempting to justify my life as equally acceptable to Heavenly Father without trying to twist and mold it into the frame of motherhood. Thank you, so much.

  18. I wish we could pay respect to our own Mother’s on an individual basis on Mother’s Day. I have always found it incredibly awkward and problematic to focus the entire ward level Sunday meetings on motherhood (and then fatherhood next month). This website pushes it way beyond what I consider appropriate, because just as you said our highest calling as humans and Christians and covenant people is to follow Christ. Being loving, involved parents will then come naturally and without fanfare. You cannot leave anyone feeling sad, left out, or less worthy if the focus is one of redemption and transformation through Christ. I think it’s time to leave the other stuff behind.

    • Thank you so much for this comment (and Libby, for this post). This is what I have been trying to say for so many years–let us focus on being more like Jesus, and stop paying so much attention to what, at the end of the day, are rather uncontrollable circumstances. If all mothers and fathers were more like Jesus, then our parenting would be sanctified through the kind of Christlike love they embody. But the opposite is not true–there is nothing inherent in becoming a parent that automatically makes you more like Christ. Which is so clearly seen when we look at some of the tragedies around us.

      At the end of the day, we should be focused on and preaching the gospel of Jesus, not the gospel of family.

      • Hey Amelia, thanks for the comment. I just want to share some good news from my Mother’s Day sacrament meeting. The first speaker today was a sister who was asked to give a mothers day talk, but not really given a specific topic. She chose to speak about the love of God and our ultimate goal of learning to love like that and she largely drew on the life of Christ for text and examples. It was so illuminating and beautiful, I just couldn’t believe it was mothers day. Miracles happen.

  19. Thought provoking as always! I do like the one image in the video of the working mom in a suit with her child on her lap while she tries to work. I’ve done that so many times. And the tiny acknowledgement of working motherhood feels good even if it’s not enough and even if the fundamental message of the video is flawed.

  20. The page says, in part, “[M]otherhood is the ‘highest, holiest service . . . given to mankind.’” Mankind is the key word I want to focus on. Mankind, as a whole, has been given a service, a calling if you will, and that calling is the same one he gave to Jacob, or Israel: “And God appeared unto Jacob again…and said, I am God Almighty: Be fruitful and multiply.” Gen. 35:9,11. It’s the first commandment to mankind, too.

    Just because God credits mothers with this service and is silent about fathers doesn’t mean, as the author stated, that God doesn’t also credit fathers with the same service.

    This same crediting thing happens with Christ. He gives us credit for what HE does so long as we participate a little: “Unto such [unworthy people] shall ye continue to minister for ye know not but what they shall return and repent and come unto me with full purpose of heart and I shall heal them and YOU shall be the means of bringing salvation unto them.” 3 Ne. 18:32 (I think if I remember right–I wrote this from memory, so, don’t fault me too much for misquoting it).

    YOU didn’t bring any salvation to anyone one. Christ did, yet He credits you for being the means. All you were was a tool for Him. I like, though, His optimistic and encouraging ways. He’s not “lying,” as the author accuses the Church website, when He gives more credit than we really deserve. He’s giving us grace. He’s empowering us to be partners with Him. Hopefully, with the optimistic outlook He has on us, we’ll try our best to then deserve it.

    His work and His glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. That’s elementary. What better work is there than God’s work? Don’t parents do the same on a small scale? Of course they do and so they should rightly be attributed the high accolades of doing the highest and holiest service to mankind, even if they don’t come unto Christ.

    God tries to point out the good in humanity, even when they choose not to follow Christ, because they’re still doing one of the greatest goods by populating the earth. If they didn’t, the Plan of Salvation would fail. If it fails, then there’s no bigger failure. Therefore, the highest and holiest calling, in an abstract sense, and not in an exactly accurate sense, is motherhood (and fatherhood).

    So, while I think the author has good points, I still think she’s off by seeing the negative in God crediting people (mothers) for so much good in a merciful way. Those are great virtues that the author demeans by being so critical. At least, that’s my two cents. I hope I don’t offend anyone by it. If I do, I’m sorry and don’t mean to be offensive or rude.

    • I fail to see how the author is demeaning Jesus and Christ-like virtues by admonishing us to be careful about the rhetoric we use that had a long and documented history of hurting peoples.

  21. Not to be too curmudgeonly, as I think you make a good point, but I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told that my highest calling and duty is to be a father. It has been repeatedly pointed out to me that Heavenly Father could have us address him by any number of titles, but he chooses to be called Father above all else. The idea that the church does not acknowledge the importance of fatherhood as being a man’s greatest responsibility really doesn’t hold water.

    That said, the condescension from the pulpit every Mother’s Day, where self-righteous smirking men acknowledge the little women by their side who help them do all the important priesthoody stuff, is enough to make anyone throw up.

    • Good points. Thanks for the insights and constructive criticism about those kinds of guys

    • I think you’re right, Curmudgeon. I have also heard fatherhood lauded as important. I think the difference lies in the fact that women are told from girlhood that their sole role is to be a mother in Zion. Men are also tile to have children but they are allowed a greater sphere of influence. So when motherhood doesn’t happen or doesn’t fit it can be incredibly painful and can make many feel as if they aren’t worthy in the sight of God. This is why I think Libby’s suggestion of having our focus switch to being disciple of Christ, which can include mothering and fathering, has less potential for collateral damage and the added bonus of being more in keeping with doctrine.

      • That’s a good point, too. I think you’ve captured the right perspective on what the criticism should focus on

  22. I’ve avoided even looking at the website, even though my Facebook friends keep posting it to their walls, because I knew how awful it would make me feel as a single woman. So today I finally looked. That huge pink banner, the schmaltzy sentiment–it’s like a particularly nauseating Hallmark card exploded in there! And, predictably, the consolations offered to childless women still leave us feeling worthless in the face of “the highest and holiest calling.”

    The thing that really bothers me, though, is how American-centric it is. Piano lessons? Science projects? Magical Christmases? Toys? When are we going to remember that we have a large portion of our brothers and sisters living in dire poverty, and mothers in the church who watched their children die of starvation last year? The only things about motherhood that crosses cultural and socio-economic borders are the same things that the OP brought up that apply to every human being on this planet: Christlike love and service.

    I know how easy it is to develop blind spots. I think I noticed that today because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about those girls taken by Boko Haram. I had a day of fasting for one of them yesterday, and at the end of the day, I was so overwhelmed with a sense of shame. I’d been moaning for weeks as Mother’s Day was ramping up on Facebook and at Church how unworthy and pointless and forgotten I felt. Yesterday I was reminded powerfully that I have food for my body, a safe place to sleep at night, and an education. I need to hold on to that. I need to focus on what I can give the world because of the gifts I have been given. I need to set my heart upon what the scriptures say are my obligations as a disciple of Christ, and not get the culture of the church drag me down into despair.

    • In addition, not all nations of the world honor mothers on the second Sunday in May. It is the US Mother’s day, but it isn’t the international Mother’s day. I have been grateful for the movement to fast for the girls taken in Nigeria because it gives me something meaningful and participatory to do, a way to feel connected to mothers and involved spiritually in this weekend in a way that I usually am not. Instead of plotting how I can successfully skip church and the pain I often feel, I am looking forward to it as a sacred day in which I hope to connect to other women who are fasting for the same thing. I normally don’t care for fasting or feel like it has any meaning for me so I hope this will be different. I’m not saying mother’s day should be a day of fasting routinely, but I would love it if in the month of may we participated as women in something bigger than our individual experiences, and if that were an integral part of this celebration.

  23. Wow! Let’s be real here…nothing the church does or releases will ever be good enough until the authorities say women can “have the priesthood”, which will never happen because this is part of God’s plan since before we existed.

    I am so sick and tired of reading about “gender equality”. There are particular roles that are designed for specific genders. Some roles are better performed by women and some better by men.
    As for the video released by the church, it was beautifully done. A well paid compliment to women of the world. I believe our Heavenly Father holds his daughters in high esteem and it shows in the video.

    I am married with two children. My husband does not go to church, so I take my children to church every Sunday. When my kids are sick or in need of father’s blessings, my husband refuses to give them blessings, even when they ask. It hurts. It sucks! But never once have I thought “Gee, if only I had the priesthood..,” because I know that my Heavenly Father is always nigh. I can call upon his help and ask him to bless my children with the power that he holds in the priesthood and through my faith, I know my children are healed. And though I wish our situation was a little different, I express my gratitude daily for my husband, who is kind, loving, and patient with my weaknesses.

    I also work full time as a nurse midwife, providing care to women of all ages. I feel the Lord has led me to this occupation to help those in need, LDS or not, single mothers or not, drug addicts, prostitutes, ex-prisoners, etc. As I sit with these women, hearing their horrible lives of abuse and neglect, I can not help but feel love for them and feel an even stronger love from our Savior directed towards them.

    My perspective is very different from yours. I yearn to raise my daughter to be a strong, confident, independent woman, who cares for people of all backgrounds. That is why motherhood is so important, because the women I see on a daily basis, most likely did not have motherly [and fatherly] examples as this. By raising strong confident children, we are building up Zion. It all starts in the home.

    • Yes . Well-said. Thank you for your position and the amazing good you do, the love you feel, and the compassion of Christ that you share to all those women!

    • Carlie, I specifically disagree with your first and second paragraphs, as follows.

      1. “Nothing the church says or releases will ever be good enough” implies that you know what’s going on inside my head. I assure you that if you knew me personally you would retract that statement. Suffice it to say that I want the Church I love to represent itself clearly and honestly, and saying that motherhood is the most important part of our lives detracts from the central message of the gospel, which is that Christ is our savior and that He asks us to become like Him.

      2. “Some roles are better performed by women and some better by men.” Patently untrue, and extremely dismissive of the nurturing my husband (and indeed, most fathers) do in the home.

      I commend you on your chosen profession, and completely agree with your final paragraph.

    • Wait, wha?? How does this have anything to do with women holding the priesthood?

      I generally disagree that women are better at certain things than men and vice versa. I think we can see that Christ (a man) held qualities that are more traditionally “female” in today’s society – He was nurturing, empathetic, and even compared himself to a mother hen. I think we would all do well to develop the divine attributes of Christ within ourselves, regardless of whether today’s society tells us that they’re “for men” or “for women.” This means we all need to be strong, and be nurturing, and be powerful. We all have strengths in some areas and weaknesses in others. But drawing them along male/female lines does more harm than good, in my opinion.

    • I think you are making some unfair assumptions about Libby. What in the world gave you the idea that Libby doesn’t want to raise confident, strong daughters who understand the importance of motherhood and have a desire to build up Zion? Any mother in her right mind wants those things. And this has nothing to do with priesthood or gender equality. It has everything to do with treating everybody humanely , allowing everybody to fulfill their potential and encouraging people to be disciples of Jesus Christ, no matter what that looks like.

  24. “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” – Jesus (God of the Old Testament).

    • Amen. I agree

    • Sure, Art, but which one is the more important of the two?

  25. I am 40+, married, LDS working woman and not a biological mother. Mother’s Day is difficult for me at church, but reading articles like this are just a difficult. My childless path in life is a result of my seeking to do what is right, praying about every major life decision, and following the path I believe Heavenly Father has for me. I do not feel less-than anyone else in the church because I am not a mother. I do not feel what Heavenly Father has called me to do is insignificant. I do, however, believe that motherhood is the greatest calling any woman can have. I don’t feel like it trivializes my contribution in any way for me or any church leader to acknowledge that. I am a fabulous aunt, great YW leader, and step-mother. None of these will have the power or influence over any child as much as their mother will. One of the most difficult things for me as a childless LDS woman is hearing LDS mothers trivialize their role as a mother. Do you understand how blessed you are to have that calling? Do you want to trade? Saying motherhood is the holiest calling isn’t saying being a mother is the only thing you contribute or your single identity, and it isn’t saying fathers aren’t important. It in no way diminishes what I am called to do. You are making that leap of meaning, not the church leaders. Since I am not a mother, I cannot understand the pressure you may feel when leaders talk about motherhood and how important it is. I don’t think that is the fault of the leaders, rather our lack of understanding of the atonement and inability to see that Christ accepts our imperfect offerings in all aspects of our lives. Saying you have the highest and holiest calling does not mean you are expected to be a perfect mother or that is all you are capable of being. It’s acknowledging that you are raising the next generation, and the power you wield because of it. Rejoice.

    • I agree.

    • AMEN!!!
      President Eyring “It’s not going to be the big sins that keep most of us from entering His kingdom, but the distractions.”

      The adversary is doing a very good job.

      Bruce R. McConkie “The biggest secret in the church – is the gospel of Jesus Christ, Because to often members have feelings of inadequacy or that their not measuring up instead of understanding the healing, peace and strength that the atonement affords us.”

      So you put these two amazing quotes together and what do you get? If the adversary can distract us from the atonement, only of the littlest bit, he is being successful. He is gaining power, power that we are freely handing to him. Power that generates his bag full of tools that are only used to hurt us, tear us down, demean our ‘highest callings’ , and ultimately keep us from our Heavenly Father and His kingdom.

      Elaine Dalton talks about how Satans main attack is on the young women, more than anyone else. He knows that if he can stop one of these these young women, then he’s affecting generations.

      I have many friends and family – women like Kris that have not had the opportunity to bear children but understand that this does not negate His plan. They very much have a purpose are are still apart of this beautiful plan and find themselves happy and successful because their testimonies of the Savior and understands the healing power of the atonement.

      From what I can tell, the writer of this article is a mother and has a testimony of the Savior, but I do feel she is ‘distracted’ and forgetting that through the atonement all is made whole. We all have heartaches, we all have pain, I dont think anyone of us – mother or not- are ignorant to the fact that life doesnt always go as planned but all that is apart of the plan. so that we ‘WILL come unto Christ’
      It’s not the church that gave motherhood the title “highest and holiest calling” but our Heavenly Father and I have faith that the leaders of His church know what they are doing.

      My last thought.. If anyone is aware of the public affairs of the church, they are very good and are working very hard to keep good values on the Internet. I could choose a thousand other things on the World Wide Web to be offended at.

      Again, like what pres Eyring said – dont get distracted!! You are giving the adversary your power.

      • Thank you for this, it says exactly the thoughts I have, but am not eloquent enough to express.

      • The implication that the author is writing what Satan would want her to write, or that somehow her opinions and experience are a product of Satan’s plan is in violation of our comment policy. While we appreciate and encourage the expression of a variety of opinions, we ask everyone to refrain from attacks on personal righteousness. Disagreement does not mean someone is in league with the devil or that Libby has somehow been misled by Lucifer. Her experience has led her to the conclusion she draws here. If you disagree, please say so civilly without casting aspersion on her righteousness, testimony or understanding of the Gospel.

    • Kris, thank you for sharing your experience here. It sounds like you have done a lot of good spiritual work and developed a great understanding of God’s plan for you.

      However, comments like this make me uncomfortable, “Do you understand how blessed you are to have that calling? Do you want to trade?”

      Just because Libby has a different take on this message than you (or I or anyone else) does, doesn’t mean she doesn’t think she’s blessed or would want to trade situations. I think she’s explaining the concerns she has with this new webpage and our understanding of the gospel.

  26. YES. When I saw that website, my first thought was that it felt like a shiny, pink pedestal. Just not my favorite.

    Motherhood is wonderful. I honor my mother for the selfless service she gave. I have four children, and being a mother to them has helped me be a better person. It is sanctifying service. But it’s not the ONLY sanctifying service, and it’s not the BEST sanctifying service, and it’s certainly not the pinnacle of existence for any woman. It’s wonderful, but I feel like this kind of rhetoric is limiting. Women have a much more expansive role in this world, and we should claim each and every corner of it, not just focus on one piece.

  27. Some “freakishly bad” assumptions in this post. While this topic is worthy of discussion it certainly feels as though Libby’s conclusions about what is presented are the definitive interpretation. I find that somewhat odd given that most of those conclusions are not really based on explicit messaging contained in the video. It’s just as easy to make other conclusions. Libby’s conclusions (and those that agree with her) are totally valid just as other women’s conclusions and men’s conclusions are just as valid. I think however, they reflect much more what is going on with Libby, Sarah, Jane, Curmudgeon, Bob, Jill, Dan, Steve, Rick and whoever than they do this very general message. I think it’s fairly obvious given the timing of this moment (Mother’s Day) the intent behind the messaging. The idea that men and fathers of all sorts are not mentioned in a Mother’s Day video celebrating all the mothers in our lives is somewhat unfair and kind of ludicrous. Father’s Day is around the corner and I somewhat doubt that mother’s will be celebrated on a holiday designed to celebrate fathers. Arguments for equality that center around making things exactly the same for men and women are frustrating for these reasons. They generally seem to make it so that nothing is special at anytime because everything is the same all the time. I guess I feel that way because I enjoy holidays. I recognize others might not feel that way.

    • Our comment policy includes an expectation of civil language. Certainly disagreement and sharing opposing opinions is welcome and an important part of a discussion, but using words like “freakishly bad” or “ludicrous” are demeaning without saying anything new or important. Of course this is Libby’s opinion, and of course there are other possible interpretations. The fact that she stated her opinion authoritatively and without equivocation is testament to her strength as a woman and as an author. It does not mean that nobody could possibly read the website differently, but she is under no obligation to apologize and temporize, undermining her own point, simply because others may see things differently. That is why we have a comment section.

      • So “freakishly bad” is against the comment policy when J uses it but not when Libby did? That’s odd.

      • I didn’t notice it in the original post. You’re right, it presents a hostile tone in both places. It doesn’t change the fact that J’s comment was phrased aggressively and in a way that came across as belittling.

    • J, in my experience, I have seen Father’s Day ignored entirely. When it’s not, it’s still be significantly downplayed compared to what we do for Mother’s Day. I sincerely hope that we’ll see fatherhood.mormon.org rolled out next month, but I worry that we won’t.

  28. Very articulate and insightful! I’ve been exploring these same ideas recently and have come to an interesting conclusion: that as our church continues to “pedestalize” motherhood above all other things a woman can ever do or be, they go a little too far and deify it. Motherhood is deified to the point that it seems equal and on par with Godhood, and as you point out, sometimes at the expense of eclipsing becoming more Christlike. Rather than having developing Christlike or Godlike attributes at the top of the pyramid, with motherhood and wifehood as the potential steps leading a woman toward being more like God (selfless sacrifice, service, etc), motherhood seems to be a parallel path to the highest a woman can achieve, almost in place of Godhood! I fear that many members and leaders see motherhood and exhalted Godhood as one in the same…that it will be our eternal blessing and destiny to bear children for the remainder of our immortal existences, to say nothing of the other attributes (creation, justice, judgement, truth, mercy, love) we may strive to develop in this life or the next.

    I wish motherhood could be seen as one of the ways we progress toward being more like God rather than the end goal itself.

    • “I wish motherhood could be seen as one of the ways we progress toward being more like God rather than the end goal itself.”

      I love this, Violadiva. Thank you for sharing.

  29. I think that the point of this video is simply to give moms a pat on the back for all the good they do. Is it wrong for the Church to honor moms for the work they do? The service they do? This message wasn’t to say women who aren’t mothers aren’t important, it isn’t to say fathers aren’t important. This Sunday is Mother’s Day, a day designated by American society to celebrate mothers. The church is joining in the celebration with a well produced video, and a supplemental website. I don’t see anything wrong with it. Nobody complains when Oreo or American Greetings tributes mom. I’m not saying the Church is the same as these corporations, but I just think it’s funny that everything they put out has to have such a polarizing response. Can’t we just enjoy the tribute? I prefer to see the church active, sharing its voice, and participating in cultural holidays rather than sitting behind closed doors. The messages they’ve put out for Easter and Mother’s Day are a huge step in the right direction.

    Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a similar video being released for Father’s Day. Although there isn’t any content, the link you provided only suggests to me that they are planning something.

    • Libby is being unfairly taken to task for something she did not say. No where did she say mothers should not be honored on Mother’s Day. She instead pointed out that saying motherhood is the “highest, holiest calling” is problematic for a myriad of reasons. It is not news to anybody that the church’s rhetoric surrounding motherhood is hurtful to many people who do not fit the idealized version of the church’s ‘righteous mother’, so the criticism Libby is getting is unwarranted and more than a little ridiculous.

  30. Thank you so much for this. I want my daughter to believe that her goodness is so much more important than her ability or choice to bear children.

  31. I believe that there is great significance to the fact that the first commandment given to Adam and Eve was to multiply and replenish the earth. This was not just a commandment to guide them in mortality. I believe this was an invitation to be like our Heavenly Parents. God (meaning both Heavenly Parents) has all power, and all intelligence, but the essence of Godhood is not found in His abilities alone, but in what He does with those abilities–His work: “To bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” This is a wonderful way of saying that God’s most important labor is not creating universes, but exalting His children. I believe that Heavenly Mother has all intelligence and power also with the Father. But when all is said and done, Her work and glory is the same: to exalt Her children.

    When we look at God’s eternal plan, we realize that Motherhood (and Fatherhood) truly are the Highest and Holiest callings any of us can obtain. This does not discredit or diminish any of the other important things we do. But it does give us vision about who God truly wants us to be.

    If we look only at this mortal probation, we are left with many questions, and all of us can feel cheated. I can understand how many women would feel very discouraged or frustrated when they hear that the best thing they can do is to be a mom, but are denied such opportunities in this life. But the spirit of motherhood should be fostered by every woman. The spirit of fatherhood should be fostered by every man. This is the essence of eternal life. To follow Christ, is to seek to do the work of the Father. Family is central to God’s plan. Family is the purpose. The purpose of the atonement, faith in Christ, repentance, baptism, etc. is to make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and to be like Him, and to unite families eternally.

    I am grateful for living prophets, seers, and revelators who speak for the Lord, and who can remind us of our divine purpose, potential, and destinies as heirs of eternal life. I agree whole-heartedly with both the content, and the intent of http://motherhood.mormon.org/?cid=HPTH050814094

    • And once again, there are ways to honor motherhood and fatherhood without needlessly injuring those who don’t fit into the mold. We have also been commanded to love our neighbor, to mourn with those who mourn. Do the feelings of these good men and women matter less than our insistence in repeating how important parenthood is? We all know how important it is, we can read it for ourselves in the scriptures. We do not have to repeat it over and over again when we have sisters and brothers telling us that it hurts them, deeply. It is condescending for us to believe that people won’t know unless we are a broken record on this point. Part of being a disciple of Christ is to know what we have been commanded and practice Christ-like love. Luckily in this case we can do both.

    • But Christ himself was not a parent. His love for us is brotherly, rather than fatherly. To choose only the role of parents as emblematic of our divine destiny still seems problematic to me. There are other roles in a family that are important and essential, and which need special individual skills and strengths to fill them. God chose his divinely begotten son to sacrifice on our behalf. So the role of brother, and sister, is as important as a parent, and in extension the roles of Grandparent, Aunt, Uncle, Niece, Nephew, Grandchild, Cousin, are also essential for the cohesion and success of families in this world and the next. In the human and spiritual family, we are all important and will have opportunities to grow more God-like, even if one of those ways is not through the role of being a parent. There is room in Christ’s gospel for every individual and every shape and size of family. I agree with Libby’s point that we should each be encouraged to be a better, more Christ-like individual, regardless of what role we fill in this life, because every role is important, even that of being the child.

  32. Sorry, I have a little more to say. I’ve never commented before and now you can’t shut me up. :)

    I understand that this video doesn’t speak to you and how you live your life as a faithful LDS woman. It does not speak to me either. I have had many friends post it on FB because it touched and inspired them. I think that is wonderful. One thing I love about our church is that we are extremely diverse. We are married, singled, mothers, childless, feminist or not. It is impossible for everything the Church puts out to speak to everyone’s specific needs and individual circumstances. The great thing is that never in a temple recommend interview am I going to be asked if I have found all the videos by the church inspiring.

    Just because this video doesn’t speak to my individual circumstance or need, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be put out by the church. Many woman have loved it and been validated by it. I would not rob them of that or tell them that if they buy into this message they are somehow misled. Just as I want my views and needs respected, I respect theirs.

    I was single until I was 40. I was always bothered by all the firesides and talks for single people expressing how much Heavenly Father loves single people and how we are not less than anyone else in the church (or telling us how to have healthy relationships- ugh). I heard some talk (Wendy Watson?? Sherri Dew??) saying if someone doesn’t have big ears, but we keep telling them that their ears aren’t big they will soon start questioning the size of their ears. I related to that. If being single is no less respectable then why do you have to keep telling us that? Hearing it over and over only made me doubt it. However, many of my single friends felt differently. They needed to hear they were loved and that their contributions were important. Just because that didn’t sit well with me, I would never deny it for them. I would simply politely decline the invitation to attend the fireside with them.

    Why can’t we just be happy that this message validated so many of our sisters? Church videos rarely inspire me. I know that about myself, and I don’t usually watch them. I prefer to focus on other messages from my scriptures or talks that I find uplifting. It is a beautiful and necessary part of our diverse church that it encompasses so many ways to speak to people, while not every method or message works for everyone, everyone will find some method that works for them. Let’s not tear down others by criticizing what inspires them, instead let’s share with others what inspires us.

    • Kris, my issue isn’t with the fact that the video validates many women. My critique is that the sprcific language used is doctrinally incorrect.

      • It’s not doctrinally incorrect. The first commandment given to Adam and Eve was to multiply and replenish the earth. Eve made motherhood possible, and it is the highest calling.

      • Adam and Eve represent the Fall. God did give them a commandment *as a couple* to have children. For those who are not in a position to produce offspring, the commandment is not in effect. Christ taught us that our highest calling is to follow Him, not to “multiply and replenish the earth.”

      • I don’t have any problem with the doctrine. We all see life through our own filters. For instance, I read your article through my filter of the pain of infertility and miscarriage. Parts of it offended me. I’m sure that wasn’t your intent, quite the opposite. It was just my perception of it that was offensive. From reading all of these comments, you can see how everyone views the original video and your comments differently based on their life experiences and personal filters. Perhaps what you view as “doctrinally incorrect” is merely the filters from your life experience putting meaning on those words that may not really be there.

  33. I have a dear friend who is a member of a lay order of Catholics; some women and men in this order (including my friend) feel called lead a single life. They have discerned that their vocation lies in being in sanctifying their “ordinary” daily life. She is a principal and another friend in the same order is a gynecologist, both devoting countless hours to their discerned vocation.

    Vocation is a powerful idea — “voc”: the voice of God calling you. With this framework, parenthood might resonate as one’s highest vocation (at least for a season). Others, by choice or circumstance, will discern another — not lesser — path. Others still will find ways to sanctify the myriad of ways paid work, community work, and parenting intertwine. At each juncture, the task would be to ask: As a disciple of Christ, where should I devote my time right now.

  34. I think there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the word “motherhood” going on in this post. There is a major difference between “getting pregnant pregnant and producing offspring” and actual mothering. The type of motherhood where a woman who gets accidently pregnant and reluctantly has the baby, only to neglect or abuse the child is no more a mother than the sperm donor who contributed his half of the child’s DNA. I have four children and one on the way, but I “mothered” way before I had children. I served and taught children at church and in school. I loved my nephews with all my heart. And I know I “mothered” my brother way more than he liked. Being a mother was who I was, way before I had children of my own. And it would have continued to be, even had I never been able to “produce offspring” of my own. This video by the church in no way reduces me to a womb, it acknowledges who I have always been, eternally.

    • Yes, but not all women have this same blessing and that is hurtful. Being a disciple of Christ can look different for different people. Why is one way more high and more holy than another?

  35. Gez REALLY! I thought it was a beautiful presentation. In my opinion on the topic of parenthood. The calling of Father is also the highest and most noble calling and our brethren are taught that. ie “No success can compensate for failure in the home.” The Saviour when he cried out in the Garden of Gethsemane used the Hebrew term of endearment. Just read a couple of talks on fatherhood. All the scientific research indicates that ideal environment for a child to grow up in is in a loving home with both genders.

    As far as mother’s being honoured. I think it is WONDERFUL. Just because not all woman are Mothers that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate this roll. It is not a national holiday after all. I don’t get my nose our of joint that we honour veterans and I’m not one. I don’t get depressed that some of my friends are grandparents I’m not one yet. I haven’t hit that chapter of my life yet. I wouldn’t pressure my children to have kids and if they chose not to then I will find foster grandkids to fill that experience in my life.

    For those that haven’t married and or haven’t given birth or experience fertility issues and wanted to I’m sorry that your dream hasn’t become reality. I would encourage you to prayerfully consider how you can create a relationship with children if you have a need to “Mother” ie a big sister to an at risk child or become a foster parent. There are also millions of children in the world that want a forever family and adoption is an option.

    As far a sexual equality. We are pretty blessed to have options of choices to gain and education, work , mother and any combination or deletion of these experiences. I think it is time to be grateful and focus on what we have not what we are lacking. Kenyan woman would LOVE to have the options that you have.

    Even if you are at a stage in your life by choice or circumstance you have been blessed to have come into this world by a “Mother” giving life is one of the most honourable and holy things we can do with our bodies and for that I thank the woman I call “mother” and the generations that have gone before her. I also honor the women that gave life to the children we have adopted. The gift of life they gave the children that I was blessed to take on the stewardship of from where they felt they needed to turn that responsibility over to another person either by choice or judicial decision.

    Let’s not turn this special day into a political issue and take the message as a gift of honour rather than an a front to sexual inequality. ” He who takes offence when offence was none was intended is a fool. He who takes offence when offence was intended is a greater fool.

    • I love celebrating rolls! For verily, they are delicious.

    • Well said Denise, well said.

  36. I think the Church has gotten itself into a bind, not because it openly promotes motherhood, but because it has in effect made motherhood the IDEAL for womanhood. And those who don’t fit the image in the Proclamation (and few of us do) wonder where they fit. You’re right Libby that this it made messier in that there is no a corresponding “glory of manhood”=fatherhood. It’s tricky for the Church to find a way to really validate the many women who have made huge sacrifices to have motherhood as their primary identity (and let’s be clear, the world is not exactly validating of stay at home moms with 5 kids) while also promoting those on a different path. There’s no easy answer, and clearly our IDEAL is too narrow to be a “one size fits all” for the good women of the Church.

    • Thank you for writing my feelings.

  37. Thank you for this post, Libby. I think that this is really important. I think it’s important to call a spade a spade. Calling motherhood the highest and most holy is putting a bandaid on a large wound. I do believe that there is holiness in parents dedicating their lives to nurturing and sustaining and teaching their children. However, without more clarity on the role of Mother in Heaven, the rhetoric falls flat.

    In terms of more telestial concerns, I think that motherhood and fatherhood are important, but they are only a portion of the ordinary life span. Women and men, when given the opportunity, may actively mother or father children for 20-25 years. However, there are decades (at least one, right?) before, and hopefully after, to fill with a good life. The value of learning to be a Christ-like person, learning to value and love others, being kind, being charitable, serving, mourning with those that mourn, comforting those that stand in need of comfort, forgiving … these are tasks that need to be done throughout the lifetime. I think that if we focus on the latter set, then hopefully that will make the parenting flow more easily.

  38. I think it’s important to consider the context in which this was put together, Mother’s Day. This is a time to celebrate our Mothers and all they have done for us. Celebrating Mothers does not lessen the importance of men in the lives of our children. Those women who are unable to have children still contain those “motherly” attributes which are important to our society.Within the article it addresses those who are unable to have children stating:

    “The divine role of motherhood is exhibited in all women, whether they’ve born children or not. It is important to remember that the call to nurture is not limited to our own flesh and blood. Whether it’s an aunt, a teacher, a friend, or a community leader, we are all deeply indebted to the moral, steadying influence of good women in our lives.”

    Women are given the attributes of motherhood and those attributes are to be used to better serve our fellowmen. I struggle to understand why we must spin this so negatively. Being a righteous disciple of Christ and being a mother or someone who displays her motherly attributes are not mutually exclusive. They are one in the same.

    • While I do believe that, “we are all deeply indebted to the moral, steadying influence of good women in our lives,” I do not believe that ““The divine role of motherhood is exhibited in all women.” I think that there are plenty of terrible mothers in the world today. There are mothers who neglect their children, abuse their children, and abandon their children. To equate their horrible actions with mothers who thoughtfully and lovingly care for their children is a gross error. We should celebrate mothers for what they do, and not simply because they exist.

      Huh, maybe it should be called Womanhood Day, and then we could celebrate divine Womanhood?

  39. Thank you for this post, Libby. I agree that following Christ and becoming more like Him should be our highest and holiest calling.

    I think this kind of language stems from the church’s desire to fight the general tendency in the rest of American society to largely ignore or dismiss motherhood. But the church has swung to the opposite extreme, painting motherhood as the ONE MOST BEST ONLY IMPORTANT THING, rather than a very important part of many women’s lives among their many other important contributions.

    And to those jumping on Libby for attacking motherhood, that’s not what she is doing. She is criticizing one very specific phrase used in the website and video. Being a mother is very important, but following Christ is most important, and it universally applicable.

  40. Yes! I like what Jesus had to say on the topic:

    Luke 11:27-28:

    27 ¶And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked.

    28 But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.

  41. I’m with Denise on this. Mother’s Day is about honoring the mother figures in our own lives. Not about what motherhood-related blessings or opportunities that we personally desire or lack or enjoy.

    As for “highest,” I guess I don’t automatically see that as a zero-sum game that leaves all others in the dust. I work with a fair number of MD/PhDs and DMD/PhDs. Which is considered their highest degree? Both of them. And which is higher, an MD or DMD? Nobody would try to choose. They are each highest in their sphere.

    And really, that designation seems an answer to the charge that only men serve in the church’s “highest” callings.

    There are some serious concerns in the OP, but all credibility was lost at the penultimate paragraph. Boko Haram, really, and you want folks to take you seriously? This church, which promotes education among women at every turn. Which runs BYU, a university that gave me multiple scholarships to take distance learning courses when I explained that I was a mom at home fulltime. This church, in which the YW leaders ensured that my daughters had enough service hours to qualify for scholarships? This church, which established the Perpetual Education Fund which benefits mothers around the globe? This church, in which mostly male returned missionaries who had served in Indonesia (the most populist Muslim nation on the globe) took the time and effort to found a non-profit to assist LDS schoolkids so that girls could continue in school even if their parents could not afford the fees and books? Sorry, does not sound the least like Boko Haram.

    While of course there are many ways to become a mother, there is something unique about the physical act of sharing one’s body and risking one’s life to bring a new person into this world. As LDS, we know that a soul is both the spirit and body. The consequence of the 1/3 host in the pre-existence in making a bad choice was that they could not get a body. So it would be nice if there was some way to celebrate this physical act without hurting others who have not had the opportunity to perform it.

    Should we never celebrate anyone else’s contributions because others do not have the same blessings? Should we stop having returned missionaries speak at church, since some of us cannot go?

    • Naismith, are you really suggesting that any recent Church rhetoric opined that women have a “highest, holiest calling” that did not involve motherhood? I would love to see examples.

    • “This church, which promotes education among women at every turn. Which runs BYU, a university that gave me multiple scholarships to take distance learning courses when I explained that I was a mom at home fulltime. This church, in which the YW leaders ensured that my daughters had enough service hours to qualify for scholarships? This church, which established the Perpetual Education Fund which benefits mothers around the globe? This church, in which mostly male returned missionaries who had served in Indonesia (the most populist Muslim nation on the globe) took the time and effort to found a non-profit to assist LDS schoolkids so that girls could continue in school even if their parents could not afford the fees and books?”

      Naismith, it’s great that’s your experience of the church. I wish we could all have that experience. I haven’t seen any of this where I am. Growing up, the prevailing attitude amongst my local male leaders was opposed to further education, and in favour of going out to work (for the males), and getting married young and producing kids (for the girls). I went against that ‘norm’. (Most of my contemporaries who went along with that are now divorced, so it didn’t serve them well.) For the generation a decade later it would seem to have been conceded (as per a general conference talk) that nursing and teaching were appropriate occupations for women, so the vast majority of YW going on to further education are either training as nurses or teachers even now. Got to ask if I occupy a particularly conservative enclave outside Utah and the US?
      The perpetual education fund is described as something available to returning missionaries in poorer countries, I’ve never seen or read anything that would indicate a specific benefit to mothers. Neither have I heard of the non-profit you mention that allows girls to continue in school, though many of us make donations to other organisations that support education for both sexes in poorer countries. There’s no service hours clocking up for university scholarships (I don’t think we even know about such a program, though a very few do get into BYU), and no subsidised education for fulltime mums.

      • The PEF does not offer a specific benefit to mothers, but neither does it exclude them based on a cultural bias, and it is not just for returned missionaries.

        There are lots of moms, including single and married, who are awarded these loans. See for example
        http://pef.lds.org/pef/chile_carolina?locale=eng

        Okay, I guess that one is easy to dismiss because she was becoming a nurse (which is a great profession, and in my part of the US has a good number of men, but just to avoid the stereotype). Here’s a woman who received PEF support for law school.
        http://pef.lds.org/pef/colombia_carolina?locale=eng

  42. I love this post, Libby. Mother’s Day is hard for me. I had hoped after a few years of infertility that once I became a mother, Mother’s Day would feel easier.

    Discussions like this help me feel less alone and less inadequate. Thank you.

  43. We should be focusing on the one thing that is common to every single one of us male or female. Mother’s day is primarily about being grateful for the woman who gave you life!

    It has also became a time for celebrating those who have given birth or not and are wonderful women who touch lives and are a positive influences in this hard to take world! Surely we can celebrate both!

    Good on the church for celebrating motherhood – so few do!! My heart is heavy for those who physically are not able to be mothers. I also feel compassion for those who no longer have their mothers with them in this life. I hope those in these circumstances will seek and find the comfort and peace that the Savior can offer. The church should stand up for motherhood! They should honor the woman who do treat it as the highest, noblest calling and work at it! We owe it to our children and to our Heavenly Parents to have that as our ideal, our standard!

    • Ouch. So those of us have physical scars from our mother’s hands should celebrate as well? No thanks.

      If I am forced to recognize anything on Mother’s Day as a mother figure, I would prefer to recognize the women who loved me because of who I am, and not because they gave birth to me.

      Better yet, I’d love the focus to be on Heavenly Mother — the only mother who never hurts us or anyone. Your comment, absent of Her, and reminding me I *should* be grateful for being whipped with sticks and rulers, or burnt with irons, for something like dropping a fork at breakfast– does not compute for me. Your comment makes me feel physically ill.

  44. Great post, Libby! Sorry you’ve gotten so much pushback.

  45. As far as I can remember I have never been taught that my role as a father is any less important than that of my wife being a mother. I didn’t get married until I was 32–I can’t tell you how many time I was called (well meant I’m sure) a menace to society, etc. “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.” “The most important of the Lord’s work you will ever do will be the work you do within the walls of your own home.” These and other teachings were reinforced time and time again to me as a priesthood holder. I even have a line in my patriarchal blessing that tells me my most important calling in life is to be a righteous husband and father.

    I have a few other issues though – first, “calling” is equated with “worth”:
    “Linking LDS women’s worth to motherhood may sound like a good idea, but the truth is that it demeans our other very real contributions to the building up of Zion.”

    A woman’s worth is not defined by her being a mother. Her worth (and any one else’s for that matter) is eternally linked to them being a child of God. The church as never taught that a single woman’s worth is diminished because she is not a mother. “Calling” is very different than “worth”.

    This article also seems to define motherhood as simply the act of getting pregnant and giving birth. The Family a Proclamation to the World states that “Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children” which is far more encompassing than simply giving birth. Motherhood is not being the family secretary or ‘go-fer”–shuttling kids to daycare, soccer games , go for this, go for that, or whatever, although those may be parts (hopefully not daycare). Motherhood is nurturing–something that single women (and men for that matter) can certainly do. It is stated that our highest and holiest calling is to become like Christ. How exactly to you do best do that? That’s what parenting is all about–Moses 1:39–everything God and Christ do is to help their children (all of us) become like them. Our job is to do likewise. That is why to enter the highest degree of the celestial kingdom you have to be sealed–you can’t become like God if you don’t want or like or want to do anything more than raise kids.

  46. Well, Libby, looks like you got what you wanted: to be noticed by someone. I think this document speaks for itself: http://www.millennialstar.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Context-Missing-From-Womens-Discussion-May-29-2014.pdf

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