Many years ago, I heard Sister Marilyn S. Bateman share her testimony of parenthood. I was holding my fourth child in my arms as I watched the BYU devotional broadcast from the comfort of my small home with three children playing nearby. Her words pierced my soul as I realized that my work as a mother is actually Heavenly Father’s work and glory! Sister Bateman shared the following:
For the last 42 years my major interest and focus have been the creation of an eternal family. I believe it is the most important mission a man or woman can pursue. When one realizes that Heavenly Father’s work and glory is to raise and educate children, one can understand why I believe that my work has been in partnership with Him and why it is the most exciting work on earth. If earthly parents are wise and desire a fullness of joy, they will strive to emulate our heavenly parents. Many of the lessons needed in this life and in the next are learned in the family setting.
I don’t know why this idea came as such a shock to me. I have always known that my role as mother was a partnership with the Lord, but it wasn’t until this day that the Spirit witnessed to me just how important my work truly was and how much Heavenly Father cares about my role as a nurturer. Over the past 14 years, I have managed to forget this great insight from time to time. It’s easy to do, especially when life gets busy. I tend to assume that going through the motions of parenting is enough, but in the process I miss out on the intentional parenting that will help me “strive to emulate our heavenly parents.” Sometimes I have to stop what I am doing and ask myself, “Is this the best thing I can do to raise and educate my children to the Lord?” Unfortunately, most of the time, my answer is no.
What do you do when you come to the realization that the good things you provide for your family are not what is best? As Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught; “We should begin by recognizing the reality that just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it….Some things are better than good, and these are the things that should command priority attention in our lives.” I quickly found that constant re-evaluation by study and prayer of even the most ordinary parenting decisions should be a priority in the life of every intentional parent.
This study and prayer has led me down paths that I never thought I would go. Perhaps the most surprising path was when I started to really understand that dangers to my children aren’t always obvious. Wolves really do dress up in sheep’s clothing and seek to lure my children away. This may be old news to most people, but I find that moms naturally see the best in others and we have a tendency to hesitate passing judgement, probably because we see, all too clearly, our own faults. But once I realized that not everyone has the same definition of right, wrong, family, gender, agency, education, health, equity, etc. that I do and that these re-definitions are not just a difference of opinion, but contrary to God’s designs, I inquired of the Lord to know what I could do to instill His truth in my children.
Perhaps God was talking to my family when He said, “The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh” (D&C 1:19) We definitely fit the description of “the weak things of the world”, but as we developed faith to inquire of the Lord and trust in His directions, we were lead to not only know what was right, but we were also strengthened to do what may seem against the wisdom of the world. Trusting in God gives us power that the arm of flesh could never deliver.
This past year has been hard for many faithful families. The definitions of marriage and the sanctity of life have been challenged unlike any time in history. We have had to stand firm for God’s plan even as some of our closest friends and family members have spoken out against us. We have learned how to stand for the right and still be kind and full of love for those who do not understand the doctrine of the family. We have seen a separation of those who trust in God and those who trust in the arm of flesh and it has turned our lives upside down.
Recent events have led us to wonder; How can our precious children hope to have a happy family life in this day and age? Surely our loving Father in Heaven would not deny our children the everlasting covenant of marriage and the opportunity to be a partner with Him in parenthood. But finding young adults who are willing to take on these eternal blessings seems to be harder than ever. Does this rising generation lack courage? Faith? Knowledge of the great plan of happiness? Are there intentional parents-to-be who will chose to “emulate our heavenly parents”?
The words of Elder Henry B. Eyring urge us to do better; “We can start now to “promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family.” I pray that we will. I pray that you will ask, “Father, how can I prepare?” Tell Him how much you want what He desires to give you. You will receive impressions, and if you act on them, I promise you the help of the powers of heaven.
I testify that our Heavenly Father lives, that we lived with Him as spirits, and that we would be lonely living anywhere but with Him in the world to come.”
I may not be a perfect mother, but I have learned that it is time for all of us, no matter how young or old, to be more intentional as we claim our part in the Father’s great plan of happiness. After all, is there anything more important?
Author Jenny Baker lives in St. George, Utah and is proudly married to Blake Baker. They are the parents of five, wonderful daughters. Jenny has recently traded in her life of directing and teaching music for a full time position as the primary educator in the lives of her children.
Jenny is one of the founding members of Gathering Families (www.GatheringFamilies.com) where she works with other women throughout the United States to promote the family and encourage moms and dads to become INTENTIONAL PARENTS in order to help safely guide and protect the rising generation through the challenges of this ever-changing world.