On Mothers Day 2007 Jill and I spoke in Sacrament Meeting. I am publishing my words from two years ago to celebrate Mother’s Day this Sunday. Be sure to read Jill’s words also.
It is a great responsibility to speak on Mothers Day. My view of motherhood comes from observation which is not always accurate. Therefore I will include some quotes from the women in my life, the ones that raised me and had an influence in who I am.
After school my cousin Philip and I would go straight to grandmother’s house to eat. We would open a can of stewed tomatoes and eat them with bread that we dipped in the juice. After several weeks we switched to a can of baked beans (pork and beans) and bread. Later I got very sophisticated with my meals and would prepare beans on toast. Mother was often short of money and although grandmother had much less to live on she would give me a two pound bag of sugar and some cans of food to take home. Once, in despair she said,
I did not raise your mother that way. She then turned and looked at me and said words that are etched deep in my soul:
You first pay your rent, ‘lectric, and food.
Translated I understand it to mean first take care of your shelter, utilities, and food. Add to that tithes and offerings and you are set for life. Resilience will be your middle name.
I was interested in a toy and grandmother asked me if I wanted it. Thinking that she would buy the toy for me I replied,
Yes, I want that. She said,
This is how it is done. You save your pennies in this box and when you have enough we will purchase it. I didn’t want the toy that badly to have to save but I couldn’t back out now. This experience benefited me for life for I learned early grandmother’s law of acquisition—save.
When difficulties came to me I would sometimes talk to my grandmother (there were no grandfathers) and she would say,
It is always darkest before the dawn. (Thomas Fuller, Pisgah Sight , bk. II, ch. 2) As I experienced more of mortality I learned to apply that phrase when life was blackest by telling myself
Richard, you know that it will get better—and it always did.
At 21 I told grandmother that I was going to be baptized and she said,
Oh, the Mormons, they will never let you go! I was baptized and she was right and I am grateful that the Spirit of God will always move somebody to reclaim me to the Fold of Christ if I should wander from the safety of a Stake of Zion.
We never went to church as a family or individually but when I was very young I recall mother, who was a Catholic, telling me that there was
God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. She said I can pray to God the Father and ask for what I needed. I could understand asking for what I wanted, a young child knows how to do that. She then said that you have to have faith. I didn’t understand that, I said to myself, what’s faith?
Fast forward to age twelve and I am having a difficult time at school such that I felt I could not talk to anybody. I lay quietly in bed, tears in my eyes, no-one to turn to. I remembered my mother’s words from years ago and so I prayed as best I could to
God the Father. In my mind’s eye I pictured Him as a grandfather, a real person. I started the prayer something like this:
God, I don’t know if you exist but please help me…. I don’t think that was very good faith but I did have my prayer answered.
During the coal miners’ strikes of 1972 and 1974 the electrical power to our neighborhood was cut off for several hours. The power would be cycled on and off to save coal. Our home had a gas range but many people used electric ranges. In the winter evening when the power was cut, mother was immediately thinking of others. A single mother lived close by and mother exclaimed,
Valerie will be frightened in the dark, and she is all electric, I’ll fix her a meal and take it over.
When I was small, mother said,
The little baby birds in the nest, when they are grown, they leave their mother and fly away and start a family of their own. When you are grown, you will leave and have a wife and you will look after her and have a family. It is right that you do and I only ask that you remember me. In 1999 my mother died alone in an apartment in England. All her children were living in America. In 2001 Elder Jacob de Jager with my wife as proxy for my mother, my son as proxy for my father, and me as me, sealed my parents to me forever in the Bountiful temple. Now she will always be remembered.
Notwithstanding this preeminence given the creation of woman, she has so frequently through the ages been relegated to a secondary position. She has been put down. She has been denigrated. She has been enslaved. She has been abused. And yet some few of the greatest characters of scripture have been women of integrity, accomplishment, and faith.
We have Esther, Naomi, and Ruth of the Old Testament. We have Sariah of the Book of Mormon. We have Mary, the very mother of the Redeemer of the world. We have her as the chosen of God, described by Nephi asa virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins(1 Ne. 11:15).
She it was who carried the child Jesus into Egypt to save His life from the wrath of Herod. She it was who nurtured Him in His boyhood and young manhood. She stood before Him when His pain-wracked body hung upon the cross on Calvary’s hill. In His suffering He said to her,Woman, behold thy son!And to His disciple in a plea that he care for her, He said,Behold thy mother!(John 19:26–27). Gordon B. Hinckley,
I add my testimony that the most beautiful of all God’s creations is woman. Women have been an influence for good in my life and I am happy that Mothers Day is celebrated and women are honored. The Father of us all is pleased when His daughters are treated with kindness and respect.
In July 2003 I was arguing with my wife one evening, I cannot recall what about. Jill was calm as usual and I was annoyed. She remembered she had an appointment and went upstairs to leave. I sat down fuming. Let me describe fuming. Years ago I took a mandatory hazard materials class. I recall that the instructor was insistent that we know the difference between vapors and fumes. For example when I fill the gas tank I smell gasoline vapors and not fumes. Fumes denote burning, hence when I start the car engine I now smell gasoline fumes from the exhaust. Hence I say I was fuming about Jill.
At the very moment the kitchen door closed when Jill left, the phone rang. It was Sister Kelson who was on a Relief Society committee. Relief Society was spotlighting a sister and she asked,
What are the things you like most about Jill? Whoa, how that turned around my thinking! Try asking this question (but substitute the person’s name for Jill) when you are annoyed with someone and remember, if you fume, you will burn up inside. Extracts from what Sister Kelson wrote:
Her husband says,Along with her beauty, it was her brains that attracted me to her.
She has a Bachelor’s degree in computer science. She plays the piano and sings. She is always the first to say sorry if there is an argument. Her husband feels he does better at this now because of her example. Her husband feels that he is the one who is high strung and she is the one who is easy-going and calm. She is practical.
She has two brothers and a sister and she enjoys family get-togethers with them. She loves camping—she will camp in a tent. The guys at her husband’s work can’t believe he is that lucky. She enjoys going for walks with her husband so they can have time to talk.
Her favorite treats are red licorice, chocolate, cheesecake, cinnamon rolls.
I asked Jake to write something for me to use in my talk:
Feel free to quote as you need in your talk. Print the rest out, put it in an envelope to give to her just before the phone call on Sunday. The Bible says that we should honour our mothers and fathers that our days may be long. I would like to have more days, so it sounds like a good deal. There are various meanings of the verbhonor. One isto regard or treat with honor or respect,and another isto confer honor on.I think the scripture refers to the first, but right now I’ll settle with the second. My mother is a mother of five children. Not your average family size in the world. My mother maintained the home with four boys. Not your average number of rambunctious males.
My mother prepared me to serve my mission.
Together with my father, my mother patiently taught me to keep the commandments; that we have an Eternal Father in Heaven; that we must pray to Him frequently and keep His commandments; that we must study the scriptures; that we must keep the Sabbath Day holy, including partaking of the sacrament each week; that we must follow the prophet; that we must keep the ten commandments; that we must live the law of chastity; that we must obey the word of wisdom; that we must always pay a full tithing; that we must fast and pay fast offerings; that we must obey the law of the land. My mother helped me live and understand to keep the commandments by word and example.
My mother encouraged me to save my money for my mission—both by word and by helping me with other expenses. She has worked hard for many years to help support the family. The extra money allowed me to focus on saving for my mission.
My mission right now is what her mission was from the day I was born. My mother’s mission was to bring a child into the world and teach him to follow the example of Christ—both by word and by example. My mission is to invite others to come unto Christ—both by word and example. The success that I have in my life and in my mission is a tribute to the effectiveness of her life and her mission.
Thank you for your love, work, and sacrifice.
I love you.
Excerpts from her journal:
I was twelve years old when daddy gave consent for Dollie, Bessie and I to be baptized. Mamma had wanted to be baptized when we first came to live in Independence and she learned the gospel was true but daddy refused to give his consent. Mamma cried bitter tears but President Samuel O. Bennion said,No-o-o-o, a woman must have the consent of her husband.Mother and Minnie were baptized in 1921. We three sisters were baptized by Elder Given on 5 August 1923.
Across the street from our house the Stephenson family moved in; they are from the State of Tennessee and are members of the Re-Organized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Her church had its Headquarters in Independence, therefore most of the townspeople belonged to her church. My oh my, how we did fight over who’s church was right. Each time we always ended up screaming and pulling each others hair. I was taught at my church that it wasthe right church.Joseph Smith was the head of my church and Joseph Smith was the head of her church, too. It was many years later before I learned the Prophet was truly the head of both churches and the church in Independence were the Mormons who had not gone to Utah after the prophet’s death.
One day [Eli] ask[ed] me for a date which I accepted telling him there was a play at our church if he’d like to go with me. He said that was fine; my parents were agreeable; I am eighteen years old. I thought I was old enough to make my own decisions so when the play let out at 8:30 P.M. my date suggested a 9:00 P.M. movie at the theater a short distance away. I did not alert my parents of my theater treat so they became worried; by the time I got home it was 11:00 P.M. We went straight home but daddy had his old trusty double-barreled shot gun out. Dollie and Mamma rushed to meet us and got between me and my date so daddy couldn’t aim his gun at us.Now, Will, we don’t want any trouble!The young man hurriedly left and I was ordered into the house.
I was able to teach (by mail) the Gospel of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to a precious grandson whom I have never seen. He lives in Crewe, Cheshire, England. He is the only member of the family in Crewe to accept the gospel—so far. His name is Richard Jewel Willoughby, Jr. and is the son of an English mother married to my soldier Airman stationed in England during the Korean War. His mother chose her family in England instead of America and divorced my son, thus, I have never been able to see them. This precious spirit knew so much about the Gospel by the time the missionaries in England contacted him he was ready for baptism. He is an Elder now looking forward to filling a mission for the church. However, the Church authorities advised him tofind a girl and get marriedwhich he did—by visiting his grandmother in Salt Lake City, Utah [and in] 1980 was married to an American girl—Jill Holst—in the Ogden Temple. Jill is a very lovely girl.
I close, hoping that all women will enjoy this day, and that mothers everywhere will feel of the Spirit of God and know that He lives and that He most dearly loves His precious daughters. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.