“In this talk I have from BYU Women’s conference… it includes my feelings and testimony and hopefully some insight that might help others.”
We are thankful to Sister Kapp for giving us a previously unpublished talk, to help us learn and grow from her testimony and experiences.
FAITH TO BELIEVE WHEN DREAMS HAVE TO WAIT
The theme of the conference this year, Thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this (Esther 4:4), invited thoughtful reflection for each one of us. Maybe a “remembering” if you will. Bishop Keith McMullin of the Presiding Bishopric, in a temple president’s training some time ago, suggested that we might go out some clear moonlit night, look up into the starry sky and contemplate: “Why me, why now, and why here?” When you do this, some interesting pondering will take place. Maybe just one question will be enough to prompt an answer – What am I doing here?
At this remarkable time in the history of the church and the world it is, in fact, “The best of times and the worst of times” and we each have a vital part to play as a result of our being reserved to come forth at this time. The Lord is counting on each one of us to rise to all the possibilities within our sphere of influence to make a difference. I smiled the other day when I read the comment of a child in the Family Circus cartoon. He asked his mother, “Do caterpillars know they are going to become butterflies or does God want to surprise them?” There is no question in my mind that each of us has come to the kingdom at this particular time with greater possibilities than we realise. Yes, with wings to fly! And in many ways we will be called upon even as Esther, to develop those attributes of courage, dedication, selflessness, and unwavering faith if we are to save our people and especially our children from the escalating evils of our day.
At this time I earnestly pray for the spirit as I share some eternal truths and speak of the joy of our journey. The journey in which we come to understand the doctrine, gain faith to believe and become aware of the grand opportunities and responsibilities that are available to us in our time and place. As we gain an eternal perspective trusting in the Lord’s timeline we live with a sense of anticipation. Anticipation is what you feel in your heart, your mind, the back of your neck, your arms and your whole soul when you know that something is forthcoming, when you commit to the Lord, the provider of your fondest dreams. You become future oriented and full of faith, dedication and commitment as you begin to see the big picture and your part in it.
As you are aware, the title for this session comes from the powerful and inspiring address given by Sister Sheri Dew while she was serving as a councillor in the Relief Society General Presidency. “Motherhood is more than bearing children… it is the essence of who we are as women.” I wish to quote at least one paragraph from Sister Dew’s powerful address. She shared precious doctrinal insights inviting wonderful thought provoking truths. I quote, “When we understand the magnitude of motherhood it becomes very clear why prophets have been so protective of women’s most sacred role. While we tend to equate motherhood solely with maternity, in the Lords language, the word mother has layers of meaning. Of all the words they could have chosen to define her role and her essence, both God the Father and Adam called Eve “the mother of all living” (Moses 4:26) and they did so before she ever bore a child. Like Eve, our motherhood is more than bearing children; though it is certainly that. It is the essence of who we are as women. It defines our very identity, our divine stature and nature and the unique traits our Father gave us.”
With unwavering faith in the Lord’s promises, we can taste the joy even while we ache for blessings delayed. With faith in Christ’s promises you can turn ache into hope and be filled with peace while finding many, many ways to let your mother heart find fulfilment as you work to nurture the children of God no matter who gave them birth.
Sisters, I have not lived so long that I have forgotten the challenges of living in a Mormon culture with the knowledge that everything important is focused on the family. It is at the very heart of our mortal life. Families become our identity, the focus of our attention; the purpose of our existence; the basis for our values and our happiness. And we, without children in this life, do not ever want to lose the desire for children, yes the yearning for children of our own. Except maybe for just a moment on an early Saturday morning after six of the most precious children under age 12 who call you “Grandma” wave goodbye. It’s after several days of wonderful time together exploring and enjoying Grandmas house, with never ending activities inside, including breakfast, lunch and dinner. But when they leave, you are reluctant to wipe the finger marks off the windows. Just evidence that they were there warms your home and your heart in a special way. Oh yes, Mother’s Day will come every year, there will be weddings (you didn’t have to pay for) and missionary farewells and Christmas cards from friends whose families have more and more posterity every year. Then there is the inevitable question that is asked early in the conversation when meeting members of the church for the first time – How many children do you have?
Years ago it was uncomfortable to address those questions, but not anymore. I just say with a smile – not any children yet. Considering my obvious age they return the smile maybe thinking I’m still hoping, like Elizabeth did after her many prayers in her old age.
We who have not been blessed with children in this life can wallow in self-pity or we can experience “birth pains” as we struggle to open the passageway to eternal life for ourselves and others. President David O. McKay gave a perspective that is simply beautiful, “The noblest aim in life is to strive… to make other lives happier.”
My husband and I have come to realize you need not possess children to love them. Loving is not synonymous with possessing and possessing is not necessarily loving. The world is filled with people who need to be loved, guided, taught, lifted and inspired.
One day in years past when I had set our dinner table with two plates only, in my mind I could see my sister Shirley setting her dinner table with 13 plates for 11 children and a mom and dad. I could see her well-worn scriptures on the kitchen cupboard which she used to guide her in her mothering responsibilities. These are the times when you have a question burning deep within – Why? Why the difference? I have come to know that these are also the times when answers come in unexpected ways. I like to think of my scriptures as my letters from home. On a day when I was feeling maybe like a caterpillar, not aware of the promise of the future butterfly, I opened my scriptures and read what felt to me like a letter, a personal letter from a loving Father in Heaven.
The message comes from Paul’s writing to the Corinthians. Consider the opportunity to be in partnership with God as Paul councils, “blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all tribulations, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort where with we ourselves are comforted of God. (2 Cor, 1:3, 4) How validating is it when, from your own experience, you can comfort a brother or sister in times of their disappointment, discouragement, heartache or tragedy, you might say, “I think I have some idea of how you feel.” And then, guided by the Spirit, proceed to help bear one another’s burdens, as we agree to in our baptismal covenant.
Do we have the faith to believe with an assurance of all the Lord has promised, and that no blessing will be denied when we choose to stay on the path and follow Him, reaching out to others along the way? I have been inspired by the words of Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “So often our sisters (and I would add brothers) comfort others when their own needs are greater than those being comforted. That quality is like the generosity of Jesus on the cross. Empathy during agony is a portion of divinity! They do not withhold their blessings simply because some blessings are (for now at least) withheld from them.” (Ensign, May 1978)
Knowing that this life is not the beginning of the end, and that we have a great plan of eternal happiness, we can learn to live in anticipation as we enjoy the opportunities that are before us each day of our lives. There are many voices in the world today that attack the sacred role of motherhood and minimize the profound influence of good women. These same voices negatively impact the strength of the family unit and the attention given to children. We, who do not have the responsibility of motherhood at this time in our lives, can be a strong force for good as we assume some responsibility to articulate our values and defend the role of mothers and the importance of children and family because we know the plan and what the future holds. I’m not suggesting that we see the entire plan. In this life, we grow line upon line as we seek answers to life’s questions. Maybe we even remember, in some cases, things we have known for eons of time.
One of the powerful messages that provides daily guidance comes from the proverb: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) When we truly trust in our Father in Heaven, knowing of his unconditional love for us individually and seek to be guided by the Spirit, we can feel the power of the Comforter in our hearts and feel peace as many opportunities to be an instrument in the Lords hands open up.
There are times when we are allowed to be in partnership with the Lord, in answer to someone’s earnest prayer. When we take the opportunity to let our influence, our voice and our values be known in a world that is shouting conflicting messages, we are on the Lord’s errand.
It may seem like something small but I am in agreement with the words of Emily Dickenson: “Sometimes when I consider the tremendous consequences from the little things, a chance word, a tap on the shoulder or a wink of an eye, I am tempted to think there are not little things.”
I’m reminded of an occasion when my sister, Sharon, heard of a broken-hearted mother who had just lost two of her children in a terrible motorcycle accident. She felt prompted immediately to go to this sister’s home. She went in empty handed, no brownies or pie just a heart full of compassion with the feet of an angel and a message of hope. The sister opened the door. Sharon asked what she might do to help. This heart-broken sister just shook her head. As they embraced each other Sharon felt prompted to ask if they might pray together. They knelt by the couch and a prayer was offered. As you know there is a great power in prayer. Later the sister, speaking to Sharon, testified that the Lord had comforted her broken heart at the very moment, saying it was the best help she had received. On that occasion there were three involved in the healing as is so often the case when we reach out in love and service.
In 1916 the Relief Society magazine published a series of articles entitled Mothers in Israel. One prominent women honored was Sister Eliza R. Snow. Though childless, she was called “mother of mothers in Israel” and praised for her leadership among women for her intelligence, and for her faithful support of the church and its leaders. President Joseph Fielding Smith said: “To be a mother in Israel in the full gospel sense is the highest reward that can come into the life of a woman.” It is a promise open to all faithful sisters who love and serve the Lord and keep His commandments, including those who do not have the opportunity to bear children in this life… We should never feel like one sister expressed saying she felt overlooked or that she doesn’t belong, like being skipped over on the playground when the motherhood team was being chosen. We have each been chosen at this time in our current status to be a part of the motherhood team to help protect, defend, and guard the home and family in our troubled society.
I’ve often said we can all rejoice in the sacred calling of motherhood. To give birth is a glorious blessing, a sacred mission, the miracle of life in partnership with the Lord but to help another gain eternal life is a privilege that is neither denied or delayed any worthy woman. To be a mother in Israel is within reach even now.
Make no mistake, we each have a vital part to play at this critical time in the history of this church. The Lord is counting on us. Every one of us. On occasion we may feel like another mother who expressed a feeling of being a bit overwhelmed when she said: “I know God will never give me more than I can handle, though I sometimes wish He didn’t trust me to handle so much.” The enemy is real and the Lord’s chosen are the target. We must be strong in defending our values, as we agreed to in our pre-earth life experience.
I am reminded of the insight I gained when asked by our church to participate in a religious coalition with a common cause in Washington D.C a number of years ago while serving as the Young Women’s General President. There were women from all walks of life, different cultures, educational backgrounds, experience, language and more. After the opening prayer one woman spontaneously stood before the group and stressed the importance of us all singing off the same song sheet if we were going to make a difference in fighting the battle that could threaten our values and the very foundation that makes America great. She then shared her perspective on the power of unity. One woman can be helpful, she said, ten women influential, one hundred women powerful, and one thousand women invincible. Sisters, there is a great power in unity whether you have children or whether you don’t. We must all take a stand in defence of our values centered on the family. During the three years while my husband and I were called to serve in the Cardston, Alberta temple we had an opportunity to have our eyes opened and our understanding increased as never before. Today I have a deeper understanding with more of an eternal perspective regarding the Great Plan of Happiness, and the ultimate purpose of our earthly journey with or without children. It is through the covenants made in the House of the Lord that we learn more about who we are and who we are to become. It is in the Temple we find our greatest source of light and knowledge and hope and promises as we seek answers to difficult questions, are taught by the Spirit, and learn to walk by faith.
I have wondered, could the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth be a responsibility we all can participate in one way or another as we strive to fill the measure of our creation? By definition, to multiply is to increase in numbers or enlarge or make something increase by a considerable amount. To replenish is to nourish, to fill somebody or something with needed energy or nourishment. I testify from personal experience that we can all take part in multiplying and replenishing as we use the gifts and talents the Lord has given us to help build the kingdom at this time and place. Recently I received a little note from a young woman who lives in Kingman, Arizona. She wrote, “Thank you so much for your speech!!! I’m not very active right now, your talk gave me the little push I needed.” And one more, “Thanks for helping me remember how much worth I have and how much the Lord loves me. Thank you.” I don’t know what these sisters heard, but they felt the spirit. They looked at life and themselves differently. Would that not qualify as helping to multiply and replenish the heart of a young woman? The impact of our motherly influence cannot be overestimated. We don’t need a podium to bear our testimony and express love. In fact, some of the Savior’s most powerful and effective teaching was done one-on-one. Usually the most memorable lessons come at unexpected times, often in our homes.
A few weeks ago when I thought I was very busy, my husband answered the doorbell to find two little boys in our neighborhood who come to our door frequently to “visit”. I greeted them as they walked right past me on their way to the cookie drawer where they made their selection – one in each hand – then headed for the library, selected from a whole shelf of children’s books, one of their favorite stores, called “Dinner Time”. They followed their established pattern, placed the book in the center of my desk, opened it, and took their places standing on each side of the desk, waiting for me to sit down between them. Had it been the little girls who come by, they would have gathered around the big chair on the floor at my feet. The boys didn’t seem at all sensitive to the urgency I felt for the things I had on my agenda that day. When the “little visit” was over and I ushered them to the door, as they left one of the boys put his arm around his friends shoulder and spoke in a tone loud enough for me to hear, “She’s like a grandma.”
Those sweet words brought back an echo from more than fifty years ago, when on another day, a little boy knocked on my door. He was new in the area and asked if my children could come out and play. When I painfully looked into his bright eyes and explained that I didn’t have any children, he asked the question I had not dared to put into words, “If you’re not a mother, what are you?”
I wish I could talk to that little boy who would be a grown man by now, because I am prepared to give him an answer. I would tell him of the joy of the journey when I was taught by the Spirit that we can all be mothers. I believe it is in our mothering moments when we are nurturing others that we feel the joy that helps clarify our true identity and our divine nature.
The Relief Society message in the March and April Ensign this year poses this soul searching question: “How can the Spirit magnify me to be an instrument in the Lord’s hands?” Then included the following: Sister Eliza R. Snow, who served as the Relief Society General President in the early history of the church shared this inspiring insight, applicable to each one of us today, “When you are filled with the Spirit of God that spirit satisfies and fills up every longing of the human heart… When I am filled with that Spirit, my soul is satisfied… The Spirit of God will impart instruction to your minds, and you will impart it to each other… Remember you are Saints of God and you have important works to perform in Zion.” (Women’s Exponent, Sept 15, 1873). There are many Eliza R. Snows among us here today and you are instruments in God’s hands in ever so many ways. We with or without children – can identify with the desire expressed in the last verse of the hymn, “O My Father” written by Eliza R Snow,
“Then at length, when I’ve completed,
All you sent me forth to do.
With your mutual approbation,
Let me come and dwell with you.” (Hymn 292)
By way of personal testimony, I would like to share with you one of my most tender mother experience that continues to warm my heart every day.
I was in Arizona where my niece Shelly had just given birth to her fourth child, giving her four precious little boys. I got to be a grandma that weekend because Shelly’s mom, Sharon, was away on an assignment for the church to some far off place. At about one o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon the three little boys were waiting anxiously in anticipation for the moment when their mom, dad and new baby brother would arrive home from the hospital. To help pass the time we sat at the kitchen table with rocks and paints I had brought with me in hopes of providing a fun learning activity. With their very creative minds they were busily painting bugs and bees and butterflies and many unidentifiable objects, when the front door opened. Mom and Dad and a baby brother were immediately surrounded by excited brothers anxious to take their turn holding this precious little spirit that had just made his entry to begin his mortal journey. As Trevor looked into the eyes of his little brother, I had the strong impression they had known each other before. It was a precious moment. When each had taken his turn, it was time to let their mom take over and the boys returned to their rock painting. After only a minute Josh, with brush in hand, looked at me in all seriousness and asked, “Nana Ardie, how many birthdays do you have left?” With a smile I said, “I don’t know Josh, why do you ask?” He laid he brush down, put his arms around me and said, “Because I love you and I don’t want you to ever die.” “Oh Josh,” I said “I have something wonderful to tell you.” I then explained to him that because Jesus came to earth and did everything His Father had asked Him to do while He was here, He made it possible so that we don’t have to worry about birthdays. I explained that when I go back to Utah, we will keep thinking about each other and loving each other and look forward to when we will be together again. That’s how it is when we run out of birthdays. As though he understood more than I had said, he eagerly picked up his brush and went back to his painting.
Now if the children had been a bit older, I would have expanded on the lesson. I would have picked up the largest rock on the side table and I would testify in the words of Helaman to his sons, “And now my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build our foundations; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannon fall.” (Helaman 5:12)
My dear sisters, I truly believe with all of my heart that we are in partnership with the Lord when we strive to know His will and endeavour to carry it out. As we honor our covenants and take upon us Christ’s name and keep His commandments we can always have His Spirit to be with us to comfort, guide, encourage and help us remember. Yes, remember that there is a divine plan and we each have a significant part to play in filling the purpose of our earth life mission. It is through our covenants made in the temple that we gain an eternal perspective of the very purpose of life and live with greater anticipation of all the blessing our Father had promised, even to becoming joint heirs with Jesus Christ. With the mothering skills that we practice here we will be better prepared for increased responsibilities when some will be raising our children during the millennium when Satan is bound. I testify that as we honor covenants that bind us to the Lord we have power to fill the measure of our creation and live with anticipation and joy.
To find out more about Sister Ardeth Kapp you can visit: LDS Living – Just Asking Ardeth Kapp
Any mistakes in the talk are the responsibilty of the website admin, not Sister Kapp.