Libby’s Thoughts on Mothers’ Day: Mothers in Israel
For the first time in about a decade, my husband and I are planning to go to church on Mothers’ Day. It’s always been too painful until now, and I never liked either 1) being given a flower just because I have ovaries or 2) not getting the stupid flower and feeling like a failure in life. It took me a long time to feel comfortable with the idea that perhaps I “mother” other people’s children. I always thought, “I’m an aunt, a teacher, and a friend; I’m not a mother.” Over the past few years, though, I have come to embrace my nurturing nature and consider myself a mother in Israel—whether or not others see me that way.
There are many instances of the title “Mother in Israel” referring to women who did not have children and may not even have been married. Sister Patricia Holland’s 1987 article “One Thing Needful: Becoming Women of Great Faith in Christ” really helped change my perspective on what it means to be a mother. She points out that Eve was called “the mother of all living” even before she bore children. The title “Mother in Israel” was first used in the Old Testament with Deborah, a prophetess and judge, yet we have no record of her bearing children. In modern times, Eliza R. Snow was also called a “Mother in Israel” although she also never bore children. Many of us who are childless may wonder about phrases in our patriarchal blessings that indicate we are somehow mothers when all the evidence seems to suggest otherwise. Perhaps the definition of “Mother in Israel” for the Encyclopedia of Mormonism might help:
“Every worthy woman who lives a virtuous life and who promotes righteousness in her family and in the Church is entitled both to the designation ‘mother in Israel’ and to the promises given to Sarah and other biblical mothers in Israel.”
In our fallen world with our imperfect languages, I believe that “mother” doesn’t quite describe what we do. But perhaps it’s the closest term we have to describing the divine and eternal role of women.