A Light In the Darkness

6383c15744e4469dc61721603cc8964fFall is a wonderful time of year. For many, it is a time of harvest and plenty, an opportunity to see the fruits of our labors. For those of the Jewish faith, fall means a time of celebration of many holy days, including Rosh Hashanah, or the Jewish New Year. Rosh Hashanah means “Head of the Year”. Just as our head (brain/mind) controls the rest of our body, Jews believe that their actions on this holy day will greatly impact the rest of the year. It is celebrated as a time of prayer, a time to ask God to grant a year of peace, prosperity, and blessings. It is also a time to celebrate and proclaim that God is King.

Tonight (Sept. 20, 2017), Jewish women and girls around the world will gather to light the candles to usher in Rosh Hashanah. As I have begun learning about Jewish holidays and mitzvot (commandments) associated with various holidays, I have discovered some beautiful symbolism and traditions that women of all faiths can learn from and appreciate.

Divinely Different

In an article titled, “Women and Mitzvot”, Rabbi Dov Lev wrote, “Success in life is predicated on two distinct undertakings: On one hand, an organism must advance and expand. On the other hand, it must protect and nurture. These two undertakings are opposites, but both are necessary for success. . . The same is true on every level of societal and personal existence. It was with this theme that God created two distinct genders, to work together in unison to accomplish their ultimate goals.

God, in His wisdom, created men and women differently, and “relationships can only be successful if gender distinctions are recognized and adhered to.” Men’s and women’s psychological and physiological needs are different, and because of that, a woman’s mitzvot are different from that of a man’s. Not only do those of the Jewish faith believe the idea that men and women are different by divine design, but the difference is embraced in every aspect of their faith. “Throughout the ages, Jewish women have imbued spirituality into the Jewish home. As such, certain mitzvot are set aside especially for women because of their special connection to the home.”

Women and the Mitzvah of Lighting Candles

The mitzvah of lighting candles has been given particularly to women. As soon as a young girl can understand the significance of Shabbat– the Jewish Sabbath– and can say the blessing (about the age of three), she should kindle her own candle. You may be wondering why females were given this specific mitzvah.

Rabbi Lev explained that women are the pillar of the family: “Since the beginning of mankind, all societies have recognized that a woman’s sensitivity and warmth are ideally suited for motherhood. Moreover, the extraordinary feeling that men can never experience – nurturing a baby inside them – puts women in the position of being the best, most loving caregivers for their children. For the preservation of the family structure, and by extension the overall health of society, the Torah encourages women to embrace this role.

4147965e32d7a1d571f06f2300819dedThe job of lighting the candles is given to the woman of the home because it is the woman who most influences the spirituality there. By encouraging the study of Torah (the law of God), the meticulous performance of mitzvot, and through her nurturing presence, a woman can transform her home into a place of holiness, peace, and tranquility. It is thus fitting that she be the one to bring the extra measure of light and holiness with the Shabbat candles.

A Light In The Home

Lighting the Shabbat candles brings not only a physical light but also a spiritual light into the home. It brings peace, harmony, serenity and spirituality into the home and to all its inhabitants. This powerful time of lighting the candles is also an opportunity to ask for blessings for the house and the family. Jewish women are admonished to especially pray for the welfare of their children when lighting Shabbat candles. Here is the text of a traditional prayer that is said when lighting the candles:

“May it be Your will, Lord my God and God of my fathers, to be gracious to me (and to my spouse, children, parents) and to all my family. Grant us and all Israel good and long life. Remember us for good and blessing. Consider us for salvation and compassion. Bless us with great blessings. Make our household complete, crowning our home with the feeling of Your Divine Presence dwelling among us.

“Make me worthy to raise learned children and grandchildren, who are wise and understanding, who love and fear God – people of truth, holy and attached to God, who will dazzle the world with Torah and goodness and service of God. Please hear our prayers, in the merit of our matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, and ensure that the glow of our lives will never be dimmed. Show us the glow of Your face and we will be saved. Amen.”

Oh, imagine the impact if EVERY woman in the world, regardless of religion, daily offered up a similar prayer such as this, invoking the power of heaven to be upon her family and loved ones. Imagine the change in the world, the light in the darkness.

A Light In The Darkness

8ba1c6411f73f4c09f94f5b25639f6a2Several years ago, while I was in college, my roommates and I decided it would be fun to take a tour of a popular nearby cave. At one point during the tour, the guide led us into a massive, cavernous room. He then did something that surprised everyone on the tour, and flipped the light switch, plunging us into immediate darkness. Have you ever been just a little afraid of the dark? Have you ever been in a place that was so dark that you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face, even with your eyes wide open? At that moment in time, my answer to both of those questions was yes, so at that point of the tour, I may just have screamed a little bit at the unexpected blackness. Fortunately, another guide was across the cavern and lit a small match. Though tiny, that little match’s light immediately dispelled the anxiety of all in the group. Then, one by one, the guides began to light candles along the path and told our little tour group a story I can’t remember now, but I will never forget the overwhelming darkness of that cave.

I share this experience because if you’ve ever been afraid of the dark, or been in a deep, dark cave, then you know how welcome a ray of light can be. Even a small light makes a big difference in a dark place. Today our world can seem very dark. There are many searching for light, for any gleam of hope that dispels anxiety, fear, or depression. As women, we have been blessed with the divine gift of being able to light a candle to help those in spiritual darkness.

In a beautiful article, Women & Shabbat Candles, Leah Kohn exquisitely details being a light in the darkness:

“One need only consider how much we depend on light – whether physical or spiritual – to understand the importance of a . . . woman’s role in this regard. Light fosters communication and interaction between people. It gives us the ability to relate properly to one another. In a sense, darkness erases distinctions between people, whereas light creates a separation between entities, clarifying their boundaries and bringing out their individuality. At the same time, light brings things together by conferring a sense of unity and shared space. Darkness on the other hand is often associated with chaos.
Light creates physical clarity and spiritual harmony. In a room without light we trip over the same things that, with light we realize are far from obstacles, but are there to make life easier and more comfortable. This is true with people as well. When there is light between people, we enhance each other’s experience. When two people see things the same way, empathize with each other or share similar values, they are said to see things in the same light. This convergence becomes a basis for peace and harmony in their relationship. It is these very qualities that a woman invokes on Friday evening when she lights candles and ushers into her home a feeling of almost palpable peace and tranquility.”

Light The Home, Light The World

As a Christian, I do not necessarily light physical candles. Rather, we Christians believe we were born with the Light of Christ, which we must nurture and grow. It is that light that we are commanded to share. John 8:12 says, “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” 3 Nephi 18:24 adds, “Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up—that which ye have seen me do.” The Light of Christ is divine energy, power, and influence that proceeds from God, through Christ, and gives life and light to all things, including to us.

Whether you are Jewish, Christian, or some other faith, we recognize the importance of having light in the darkness, and, more importantly, BEING a light in the darkness. President Thomas S. Monson pointed out, “If you want to give a light to others, you have to glow yourself.” (“For I Was Blind, but Now I See,” Ensign, May 1999, 56; Liahona, July 1999, 69.) As women, Daughters of Zion, we are bearers of light. We have more influence than we realize. As we keep the light in our hearts burning, we can, and do, shape and mold the world with our lights.



I can’t help but think of a song by Melanie Hoffman, “A Light in the Heart

A light in the heart is a light in the home,
A light in the home is a light in the town.
A light in the town is a light in the nation
And light in the nations is light in the world.

Keep the home lights burning bright.
Keep your light burning bright.
Shine your light.

Dear women of the world, please keep the home lights burning bright. Do not be afraid to share your beautiful light with those seeking it in an ever-darkening world.

To read more about Rosh Hashanah and Jewish traditions, check out these websites/articles:

By Wendi Mott
Gathering Families

Intentional Parenting: Raise a Family in the Lord

IMG_2496We are here, then, to be happy—each one of us—and to find real joy, but there is no real joy in this earth outside of fulfilling this great commandment of raising a family in the Lord. We are here to raise that family (not just raise a family, but raise a family in the Lord). That will take the very best that’s in us. Yes, it will take sacrifice and it will take obedience. . . .

Elder Hartman Rector Jr. said this as part of a talk in 1973 but I think it’s even more relevant today. And besides the sacrifice and obedience he mentions, it will take a lot of patience, time, energy, love, prayer, faith, and inspiration; just to name a few. But all those are possible if we rely on Christ and teach our children to rely on Him as well. It is only with His help that we can successfully “raise a family in the Lord.” These attributes come as we grow, stretch, and faithfully parent our children; all the while teaching them to follow the same course with our precious grandchildren. Elder Douglas W. Shumway of the Seventy taught:

“Loving, protecting, and nurturing our children are among the most sacred and eternally important things we will do. Worldly belongings will vanish, today’s number-one movie or song will be irrelevant tomorrow, but a son or a daughter is eternal.”

''Dear Lord Jesus Please'' by Emily Schultz

”Dear Lord Jesus Please” by Emily Schultz

What an awesome assignment we have been given to raise an eternal family! I know my husband and I can’t possibly live up to that responsibility by ourselves. Without the Lord’s help, I have no doubt we would fail. But we can get all the help we need if we’re willing to pray, listen to the Spirit, and follow His counsel. Our Heavenly Father is the best source for help. He knows each of our children individually, in fact much better than we do, and He is willing to help us if we ask. Rather than deciding for ourselves what to do, or what’s worse, just reacting in the moment, we can turn to the Lord for help. He will bless us with increased love, patience, understanding, or whatever it is we need at the time we need it most.

One day my daughter came home very upset, her anger increasing with every passing moment. Very quickly she was beyond listening or calming down. As I watched her, I felt like I was looking at an angry cat, back arched, claws bared, and ready to strike. After trying to talk with her but getting nowhere, my first impression was to send her to her room until she calmed down. I hate to admit it but I did not want to deal with her temper right then. As I continued to watch her, I distinctly felt the inspiration to hug her. I’m embarrassed to admit it but this was the last thing I wanted to do so I ignored the prompting. Thankfully He didn’t give up and I felt it again, “Hug her.” Very reluctantly I reached out and put my arms around my daughter and, rather than feeling the claws digging in as I was expecting, she melted in my arms and her anger turned to tears.

Finally, I was able to break through that seemingly impenetrable shell and find out what was really bothering her. We were able to work everything out. If I hadn’t followed that inspiration, this experience would have ended with her in her room where the issue would never have been resolved. Instead it ended in working through the problem with love and understanding that I really didn’t think I was capable of right then. This experience was an eye opener for me. It really helped me realize how much God knows and cares about His children, and if I listen to the Spirit, even when it seems crazy, the results will always be better.

There are many instances when we may have no idea what to do. Those are times when perhaps only God has the answer and we can only find it through His help. If we come to Him humbly and prayerfully, we may be out of plans, patience, or good humor, but He will inspire us. He knows and loves our children and will help us raise them if we listen to His promptings. We shouldn’t feel like we are alone in this sacred responsibility; He wants to help us raise His children.

Intentional Parenting would be nearly impossible without our Heavenly Father’s help. My family needs those blessings which mean faithful, purposeful decision-making can’t be ignored. I want God’s version of successful Intentional Parenting.

Behold, it came to pass that I, Enos, knowing my father that he was a just man—for he taught me in his language, and also in the nurture and admonition of the Lord—and blessed be the name of my God for it.

When I first read this, years ago, I thought Enos must have been the perfect child, but that’s not necessarily true. He might have acted like he was not paying much attention at all as a teen. It may have taken years for it to sink in while his father could have felt like giving up numerous times. Our children may be that same way. Jacob, Enos’ father, didn’t give up and neither can we. When we really trust God and believe He will help us, we need to take that step of faith into the darkness where there is seemingly no heavenly help. Once He sees we are willing to do the work to follow Him, He will send His Spirit with inspiration and guidance, but first we have to take that step of faith on our own.

Intentional Parents put their children first. It takes a lot of time, effort, and patience to raise good children. If parenting is way down on the list of priorities, then it won’t be intentional and it also probably won’t be as successful. President Spencer W. Kimball warned us of allowing other interests to replace parenting:

Do not, however, make the mistake of being drawn off into secondary tasks which will cause the neglect of your eternal assignments such as giving birth to and rearing the spirit children of our Father in Heaven. Pray carefully over all your decisions.

Illustration by Harry Anderson 1906-1996

Illustration by Harry Anderson 1906-1996

C. S. Lewis understood this same principle, “The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only—and that is to support the ultimate career.” Somehow we have turned it all backwards. Today, families are to support everything else rather than everything supporting our families. Imagine the difference if we could restore the home and the homemaker to their rightful place.

-Jennifer Jensen (Author of “Raising Intentional Parents“)

Dear Daughters of Zion

Dear Daughters of Zion,

We know you are busy. You always are. But we couldn’t let this month go by without pointing out something we have noticed….. we all share one, great concern….. How can we ready ourselves and carry out the work of Zion in these Last Days?

Instilling the love of the gospel in our family is very difficult to do lately. There are many of us who live with sorrow because of the very personal ways that the adversary is striking us. We have all felt this sorrow to one degree or another, haven’t we?

300-general womens meeting new 2It is interesting to note that the weekend of September 22-24th is going to be so centered on women. First of all, and most importantly, it is the weekend of our General Women’s Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. What a miraculous event! Women from all over the world, members of the church and non-members, will meet to get direction and strength from our leaders and a member of the First Presidency. There’s something powerful in gathering out the women of Zion to worship together!

Another gathering is happening this weekend…

The Mom’s March for America— is “a national gathering of mothers to WebImage-Passalong-300x206 shine the light on the powerful influence of mothers in our homes, communities, and nation; and raise the bar of decency, civility, and liberty in our culture. This is not a march walking down the street, shouting and carrying signs. This is a Cultural March; a celebration of the biggest cultural movement happening in America – the march that mothers make every day in their homes, neighborhoods, and businesses as they nurture their families, influence their communities and shape our nation.”

May I suggest reading the Declaration of Mothers. You will be inspired!

What an amazing gathering of mothers! And the best part is that we can participate from our very own homes!

“I believe that the moment we learn to unleash the full influence of converted, covenant-keeping women, the kingdom of God will change overnight.” -Sister Sheri Dew (Women and the Priesthood: What One Mormon Woman Believes (2013), 163

These two gatherings are not the only things happening this weekend…

Here’s a list of a few things to ponder……
– Important Jewish Holiday: The Feast of the Tabernacles, occurs on the 20th-22nd of September. In this Ensign article we read that The Feast of Tabernacles, “with its imagery of the blowing of trumpets, a call to regather and reawaken Israel. It is a time of renewal of true worship with new understanding.” The Feast of the Tabernacles occurs during the Jewish month of Elul. Elul is the month of repentance and re-turning to the Lord before the Day of Atonement. It’s interesting to note that the eclipse happened on the first day of Elul. The month of Elul ends with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.


“Christ and his prophets teach of a latter-day awakening and gathering of Israel—the beginning of their second and final harvest. And there are those who see Rosh Hashannah as prophetic of this event, though most of them see it only as prophecy of the gathering and renewal of Judah. Latter-day Saints believe in a larger gathering: the Jews to Israel and all of Israel to the gospel. Both gatherings have already begun. Coincidence or not, the gold plates, which in their translated form (the Book of Mormon) have spread throughout the world to begin to awaken and gather Israel, were delivered into the hands of Joseph Smith in the latter part of September, a time closely approximate to the beginning of the seventh month of the Jewish calendar. Coincidence or not, a statue of Moroni, their keeper and deliverer, now stands on temple spires, trumpet to his mouth, proclaiming to all Israel that it is time to awaken and gather.” Lenet Hadley Read (“Symbols of the Harvest”, Ensign, Jan. 1975)

– Signs in the Heavens: Remember John’s Prophecy in JST Revelations 12:1; “And there appeared a great sign in heaven, in the likeness of things on the earth; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.” This “sign” is found when the constellation of Virgo is seen with the moon below her feet. Stars and planets also align to make up her crown. This same, celestial alignment previously occurred on the Feast of Trumpets in 2 B.C. and 1832. It will occur again on September 23, 2017. The sign in 2 B.C. is considered to have come the autumn before Christ was born. The sign in 1832 occurred right as Joseph Smith, under the direction of the Lord, organized the Kingdom of God on this earth. We may not know if there is any significance to this year’s sign. But it is definitely something to ponder.

– Many religions will be fasting this weekend. Think of how many people of faith will gather together in prayer and fasting! What power and grace will we see?

Sing and Rejoice!

“Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord. And many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto thee.” (Zechariah 2:10-11)

We are not sure what the last of the last days will look like. It’s interesting that we are not fearful in spitemary-magdalene-saw-jesus-1103329-gallery of what is on the news. However, we are very keenly aware of the important role that the daughters of God will play in the winding down scene. Our homes must become sanctuaries, our arms must be outstretched with charity, and the words of God must always be on our lips. With this realization, we are even more grateful for the power of prayer and fasting as well as the peace of the temple. Can you imagine taking on this dispensation without it?

Dear Daughters of Zion, this coming weekend is obviously a time of gathering. Let’s each take upon ourselves the role of a gatherer in this last dispensation. As daughters of Zion, we can gather our families to the temples. We can invite our friends to join in prayer and fasting! We can reach out to our neighbors to rejoice together at Women’s Conference and at the Mom’s March. Together, we can petition the Lord for help in preparing ourselves and our children for the coming of the Lord. Can you imagine the power, blessings and joy that will result?

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee.” (Zechariah 9:9)


Jenny Baker, Michelle Boulter, JaKell Sullivan, Laureen Simper, Stephanie Gifford, Ai Eisenach, Alisa Ellis, Alyson Williams, Becky Foster, Emily Thornton, Jennifer Jensen, Julie Rae, Kristine Swarts, Kristine Wagner, Mandy Baker, Natalie Robison, Randi Gardner, Rhonda Hair, Shelby Rodgers, Susie Schnell, Wendi Mott, Antonia Ormston, Maggie Klaas, and the rest of the women of GatheringFamilies.com.
gathering families green logo

Increasing in Wisdom

man-person-school-headI had a conversation with a bright, energetic woman from Siera Leone, Africa, while attending the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women. She was an eloquent speaker who used her doctoral degree to bring modern farming equipment to her country. She was impressive, to say the least. But as we spoke of our children, she complained of the poor schooling in her area and how she worried that her children were not learning the way she thought best. I asked her if she would consider supplementing their education by teaching her children at home? She answered me with a quick…

I am not a teacher!”

I reminded her of her own great education and asked if there was something she had learned that she would like to share with her children and she replied again…

I am not a teacher!

I tried once more to explain that mothers teach their children all of the time! Our teaching is not limited to how to make a bed or brush teeth properly, but can be expanded to all areas of great knowledge. She replied, once more,

I am a mother, not a teacher!

What a tragedy! This brilliant woman feels that she must stand idly by and watch her children waste away in a failed education system. In the world’s eyes, the worth of the “professional” takes precedence over her worth as a maternal mother. Perhaps she has mistakenly prioritized education and career because that is where she has spent the majority of her time? Or perhaps she has never learned the divine nature of women? Or maybe she has yet to learn that she can count on the Lord to help her fulfill the role of motherhood?

The adversary has successfully redefined the role of motherhood to fit a very narrow role. And the worst part is… WE ARE FALLING FOR IT! It is no wonder that so many of the rising generation have a difficult time understanding the love and wisdom of our Father in Heaven. How can they learn this eternal wisdom and love if they are continually denied time with parents in a nurturing and growing capacity?

May each of us treasure this truth; one cannot forget mother and remember God. One cannot remember mother and forget God. Why? Because these two sacred persons, God and [our earthly] mother, partners in creation, in love, in sacrifice, in service, are as one.” –President Thomas S. Monson (“Behold Thy Mother”)

Eternal vs. Temporary Worth

It is far too easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day grind. We work hard to achieve goals that seem important, but are so overwhelmingly temporary in the grand scheme of things. Even good things such as career, higher education, and community service can blind our view of our eternal worth. Gathering our children within a family gives both parents and children time to reflect and remember our eternal natures.

Increase in Wisdom

Family life is the perfect way to increase in wisdom. It’s a simple idea, really. Whatever we attain in21272396_867247773441398_3232743472386661075_n this life will not only go with us to the next life, but it can go on with our children throughout their lives. If obedient, our children will not only receive the wisdom that was handed down to them, but they will add upon that wisdom and hand it down to their children.

“Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.” (D&C 130:18-19)

This eternal increase in wisdom won’t happen unless we make teaching our children a priority. Parents must follow the Savior and lead, guide, and walk beside their children… just as we would have the Savior do for us.

Gathering vs. Dispersing

The theme of gathering is found throughout the scriptures. We long to be “gathered in from [our] long dispersion,” (2 Nephi 10:8). The thought of being gathered in gives us a feeling of comfort and completion. We have felt this as our own family gathers together for prayer, meals, or fun.

The gathering of Zion begins at home. President Henry B. Eyring gives us insight into the principle of gathering families, “Families are the basic organizational unit of the eternal realms, and so He intends for them also to be the basic unit on earth. Though earthly families are far from perfect, they give God’s children the best chance to be welcomed to the world with the only love on earth that comes close to what we felt in heaven—parental love. Families are also the best way to preserve and pass on moral virtues and true principles that are most likely to lead us back to God’s presence.

Parents can make a conscious effort to gather their families in from the temporary world. This separation will allow for greater learning and peace to take root. Once the principles of the gospel are firmly established in the hearts of our children, they can go confidently out in the world to gather in other families. This pattern will be repeated over and over until all the families of the earth are gathered in.

Imagine the blessings that await future generations once our generation chooses to give up the temporary things of the world in order to focus on their own, eternal family.

“If we fail in our homes, we fail in our lives. No man is truly successful who has failed in his home. I ask you men, particularly, to pause and take stock of yourselves as husbands and fathers and heads of households. Pray for guidance, for help, for direction, and then follow the whisperings of the Spirit to guide you in the most serious of all responsibilities, for the consequences of your leadership in your home will be eternal and everlasting.” -President Gordon B. Hinckley (“Each a Better Person”)

IMG_2421Every mother is a teacher of the most eternal and everlasting nature. The “professionals” cannot have the eternal impact that we have. We don’t have to do this alone, we have the help of a loving Heavenly Father and our Savior who will guide us, through the Holy Ghost, to accomplish this perfect plan. Let’s move forward, with faith, to gather our families and increase in wisdom together.

By: Jenny Baker

The Idea of Intentional Parenting

IntentionalParentingOur Heavenly Father intentionally placed us in this mortal experience to give us the opportunities we need to return to Him. What an amazing idea he had for us to learn and grow! This life is full of hands-on experiences, consequences, and learning moments. On top of it all, we get to help some of God’s other children learn and grow as well: we get to be parents. We shouldn’t look at our role of helping with His work as any less important than He sees His own work. We are helping “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life” of ourselves, our children, and any other lives we may touch.

If this is true, the most important work of mothers and fathers is to bring our children to a knowledge of God and His Plan of Salvation, enabling them to return to their Heavenly Parents. As I think about this responsibility, several thoughts come to mind: if God is deliberate and intentional as he accomplishes His work, shouldn’t I be intentional in my own parenting work as well? And if my husband and I are to be successful in our parenting endeavors, shouldn’t our goals match His goals?

But there’s another side to our responsibility of raising good children: we as parents need to return to Him as well. Again, our Heavenly Father thought of everything. In all His wisdom, God made the benefits of parenting help both children and parents, allowing all of us to learn the most from our individual experiences. Helping God accomplish His goals for our children accomplishes His goals for us at the same time. No one learns better than when they are teaching it themselves. This means we, as parents, are enrolled in a sort of Parenting 101 class. We get our first taste or experience in parenting here which can continue into the next life if we are worthy.

The young men who were part of the Army of Helaman did not have the amazing spiritual experiences their parents had of being taught by Ammon, burying their weapons, and choosing to die rather than sin again. But somehow their parents were still able to pass on that knowledge to them. In other scripture stories this didn’t always happen.

What a difference between these young men and the ones who lived during the reign of King Benjamin who were too young to understand his great speech: many of that rising generation rejected his words. Of course there is no way to guarantee children’s testimonies will always grow the way we would like, but if parents couldn’t make a difference, then God wouldn’t bother designing parents and families into His plan. However, He did design it that way because parenting does make a difference and Intentional Parenting can make an even bigger difference.

Intentional Parenting can be defined as:

Deliberately choosing to raise children in an environment created to instill a desire for truth, a strong faith in Christ, and a determination to follow Him.

THUMBNAIL_IMAGEIntentional Parenting means children are the priority. I once heard a popular conservative radio host ask parents to find out what their children have learned from them by asking one simple question, “What do we, your parents, most want you to be: successful, smart, good, or happy?” How many children would answer “good”? As it turns out not very many. In fact, most children choose all the other answers before selecting good. This is an interesting impression of parenting today.

Good parenting means making goals and, typically, goals we make are measured in the length of time it takes before they can be achieved. This goal of raising children to successfully return to our Heavenly Father is just about the longest goal imaginable. Often long-range goals can fall through the cracks when there are pressing short-term goals that need addressing. But when it comes to parenting, sometimes those short-term goals can actually get in the way or even hurt the prospects of achieving the long-term goals.

When my children reached an age to begin helping with jobs around our home, many times I told myself it would be a lot easier to just do it myself. My three-year-old helping empty the garbage often meant I was picking up dropped pieces of trash; my six- or seven-year-old helping me clean the bathtub or vacuum the family room meant spending time with touch-ups, pulling toys and stray socks out of the vacuum, or even vacuuming again which felt very much like wasting valuable time already in such short supply.

Two of my short-term goals, accomplishing these tasks quickly and efficiently and having a clean house, were being undermined by little helping hands. But while I was despairing of ever reaching these goals, my big picture, long-term goal of helping my children return to God was working great! My children were learning the valuable skill of hard work and the satisfaction that comes from it. Depending on which goal I focused on, I could either feel very successful or an abject failure. As I tried patiently and lovingly to teach my children these various tasks, I could just imagine the patience and self-control it takes for our Heavenly Father to watch and wait for His work to be accomplished.**

IMG_2358We’re not only working out our own salvation by following Christ and His teachings; we’re also trying to make sure, as much as we can, that our children will also follow Him and our grandchildren as well. It is a multi-generational goal which only God can ensure. I can do my part but then my children have to do theirs—which means they have to understand the multi- generational aspect as well—and their children and so on. This means not only are parents teaching their children to be righteous people, they are also emphasizing how important it is for them to teach their children to be great people too.

We can’t fix the world or even our own communities, but we can choose to be Intentional Parents and raise our children with the long range goal of their becoming Intentional Parents themselves to continue the cycle another generation. Nothing else should matter as much. Then when my children (and their children) are asked if their parents want them to be successful, smart, good, or happy, their answer will be, “To be good; to gain eternal life and to pass this knowledge on to my children through my own Intentional Parenting.”

By: Jennifer Jensen, author of “Raising Intentional Parents”

* We will always discuss the God-ordained traditional nuclear family with His ideas of their various responsibilities. We might not all have this family form but we can work towards it and we can teach our children to aim for this as well.

1 Moses 1:39
2 Alma 53:21, 56:47-48, Book of Mormon, https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm?lang=eng. Accessed 11 Nov. 2016. 3 Mosiah 26:1-4, Book of Mormon.
4 Telushkin, Joseph. “What Did Your Parents Most Want You to Be?” YouTube, uploaded by PragerU, Mar 17, 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=5adJxEWLFKU. Accessed 11 Nov. 2016.
**story from anonymous contributions by parents of GatheringFamilies.com

Back to School Concerns: Ensuring Accurate History is Taught

usa-1779925_960_720The first article in this series discussed the absence of God in public schools. When belief in God is removed, another belief system must take its place, and secularism has done just that. A secular belief system posits that events have no religious or spiritual basis. This point of view is completely antithetical to the reality of our nation’s history and spiritual origins. Because of the domination of secular teachings, there is a significant concern that we are losing the divinely inspired founding principles of our country.

Consider the following quotes:

“I believe we are paying a very high price for our increasing secularism. Jefferson said, ‘God who gave us life, gave us liberty.’ Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are a gift of God?”
– President Gordon B. Hinckley, Address given at Provo Freedom Festival, 1997

“As a result of misunderstanding the importance of religious liberty in our Constitutional order, many citizens and even some educators have come to consider it bad taste or even illegal for public school teachers even to mention religious influences or commitments. No wonder we suffer an appalling ignorance of our political and cultural origins.”
– Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign, July 1990

When religious influence is not considered or discussed while teaching history in the classroom, fundamental truths are left out of our children’s education. God established this nation. He raised up the Founding Fathers for the purpose of writing our Constitution. His influence was seen throughout the Revolutionary War which was prophesied of in the Book of Mormon. Not only do we as Latter-day Saints believe this, but the Founding Fathers believed it! Prevailing wisdom today paints the Founders as wealthy, elitist slave owners who served their own interests by establishing our government. History books written by authors like self-proclaimed socialist Howard Zinn are widely used and rarely questioned. Much of the spiritual influence that the Founders felt and acted upon has been erased. History has been rewritten.

Character of the Founders
Fortunately for those seeking truth, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have said much about these great men. Here are just a few examples:

“I [look] upon the Founding Fathers as men who believed in God, as men who prayed to God, as men who recognized God and wished to do His will. What a singular and remarkable group they were! As I look across the world today, I search in vain for such a group as walked together across the stage of history when this nation was born.”
– President Gordon B. Hinckley, Address given at Provo Freedom Festival, 1997

“The Founding Fathers understood this country’s spiritual heritage. They frequently declared that God’s hand was upon this nation, and that He was working through them to create what Chesterton once called ‘a nation with the soul of a church.’ While they were influenced by history and their accumulated knowledge, the single most influential reference source for their work on the Constitution was the Holy Bible.”
– M. Russell Ballard, “Religion in a Free Society,” Ensign, October 1992

“Other nations might boast of their kings, but the King of America, proclaimed by the patriotic fathers who founded it and established it, is the great God of Heaven.”
– Melvin J. Ballard, Conference Report, October 1928, p. 109

“I have resolved to do all that is within my power to keep alive the same faith which existed in the hearts and souls of our early founding fathers. It was George Washington who declared, ‘The people know it is impossible to rightly govern without God and the Bible.’”
– L. Tom Perry, Conference Report, October 1975, p. 130

wilford-woodruff-82910-galleryIn the April 1898 General Conference, President Wilford Woodruff had this to say about the Founders: “Those men who laid the foundation of this American government and signed the Declaration of Independence were the best spirits the God of heaven could find on the face of the earth. They were choice spirits, not wicked men.” He then goes on to relate the occasion when many of the Founding Fathers appeared to him in the St. George temple and insisted that their temple work be done. Said he, “Would those spirits have called upon me, as an Elder in Israel, to perform that work if they had not been noble spirits before God? They would not.”

From these teachings of modern prophets and apostles we can be assured of the noble character of our Founders.

Why Our Country is Unique
The next question is – why does it matter? Why is our freedom so essential to understand and maintain? The answer is very simple and Elder Mark E. Petersen explains it this way:

“Free agency is part and parcel of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Hence, free agency was required here in America so that God’s work could move forward; and so it must, for the day of the Lord draweth nigh and the ultimate destiny of the United States is rapidly emerging.

“Here in the USA the Lord’s latter-day Zion has been established already. Here in the USA his latter-day New Jerusalem will yet be established. Here in the USA the Lord will preside during the Millennium” (BYU, 7/4/76).

This is not just one of many nations. Our Father in Heaven needed a free land to restore the gospel. Our country has a destiny to perform, and it is not finished yet. From this free land the gospel has gone forth to the world and must continue to go forth until the time when we again welcome our Savior. Freedom is essential to the spread of the gospel. Knowing this, we cannot fail to teach the rising generation the truths that they will need to carry on the Lord’s work.

Our Responsibility
It is up to us as parents to know the history of our nation, the Constitution, and how it relates to the gospel. It is our responsibility to make sure our children are taught these things. Ezra Taft Benson said:

“We must learn the principles of the Constitution in the tradition of the Founding Fathers.

“Have we read The Federalist Papers? Are we reading the Constitution and pondering it? Are we aware of its principles? Are we abiding by these principles and teaching them to others? Could we defend the Constitution? Can we recognize when a law is constitutionally unsound? Do we know what the prophets have said about the Constitution and the threats to it?

“As Jefferson said, ‘If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, . . . it expects what never was and never will be'” (October 1987 General Conference).

Abraham Lincoln declared at Gettysburg that ours is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. An apathetic and ignorant citizenry cannot possibly uphold the divinely-inspired Constitution and ensure that our freedoms are protected. We are incredibly blessed to live in this promised land, and we must remember that “unto whom much is given much is required” (D&C 82:3). The blessings of freedom come with the responsibility to preserve that freedom for future generations. We need to commit to teach our children the noble character of our Founding Fathers and the Biblical principles upon which our government is based. Most importantly, we need to teach them that our Father in Heaven was, is now, and will forever be blessing this land according to our righteousness.

Written by Stephanie Gifford
Stephanie Gifford lives in southeast Idaho with her wonderful husband, Jared, and their beautiful daughter. She enjoys horses, baseball, reading, and spending time with family.

Back to School Concerns: Addressing the Absence of God in Public Schools

School busesSummer is coming to a close and it’s almost time to send our children back to school. This is a perfect time to think about education and what it means for our children. What is true education? What do we want our children to know and to be by the time they leave our homes and go out on their own?

My favorite definition of education comes from Orson F. Whitney: “[Education] is the expansion of the soul – the body and the spirit – to the fullness of its capacity” (“What is Education,” 6/19/1885). What a beautiful way to look at it! This is education from an eternal perspective – allowing the mind and the spirit to expand in wisdom and knowledge to the fullness of their capacity. Education needs to include our whole soul.

What is the goal that we have for educating our children? Certainly we want them to learn and gain skills that will allow them to provide for their future temporal needs. Financial stability is important. However, there are other areas of life that deserve even greater attention. Isn’t the ultimate goal to give our children a strong spiritual foundation so that they can help grow the Kingdom of God in these latter days? All of our spiritual and temporal learning should work to serve that goal in some way.

Usually when we speak of education and learning, our minds go to the learning done in a classroom. Approximately 90% of school-aged children attend public schools – usually for about seven hours a day, five days a week, for nine months every year. That is a significant chunk of time to send our children anywhere, and parents should be keenly aware of how the time spent there can affect them. The public school system is not perfect and we need to take an honest and open look at it. This series of articles will examine some of the concerns of public school and how parents can deal with them.

The Absence of God in Public Education

The biggest concern I see is the absence of God in public school. Through Supreme Court decisions and the misapplied doctrine of separation of church and state, prayer, biblical teachings, and discussion of God are not allowed in school. How do we balance sending our children to school to learn the secular things they need to know with also ensuring that their spiritual needs are being met?

With God removed from education, a vacuum is created which must be filled by another belief system. Our schools now embrace a secular viewpoint which posits that God and his divine influence are of no consequence. Ezra Taft Benson explains why this is a concern: “I would have you consider soberly how this secular influence has affected the treatment of our nation’s history in the textbook in the classroom. Today, students are subjected in their textbooks and classroom lectures to a subtle propaganda that there is a ‘natural’ or a rational explanation to all causes and events. Such a position removes the need for a faith in God, or belief in His interposition in the affairs of men” (BYU, 3/28/76). The secular influence naturally extends beyond history to other subjects like science and philosophy.

Another caution on this subject comes from Bishop Keith B. McMullin: “Because secularism typically ignores the eternal perspective, it can in time lead to unbelief” (BYU, 11/5/06). This seems quite logical when you think about it. We teach our children at church and at home that God’s influence is seen in everything; that a sparrow cannot fall without his notice. We teach our children that their Father in Heaven knows us each intimately and has a grand plan for all of his children. Then they attend school and are taught nothing of God’s influence and instead given alternate secular explanations in all subjects. This will surely lead to confusion for some of our youth.

This dichotomy makes it critical that we examine what is being taught so that we can combat false philosophies and help our children find truth. Ezra Taft Benson said, “As a watchman on the tower, I feel to warn you that one of the chief means of misleading our youth and destroying the family unit is our educational institutions. President Joseph F. Smith referred to false educational ideas as one of the three threatening dangers among our Church members. . . It is important that you stay close to your children, daily review, if possible, what they have learned in school, and go over their textbooks” (October 1970 General Conference). We must be truly vigilant to ensure that the righteous goal of gaining an education doesn’t result in the negative consequence of having faith weakened or destroyed by those who teach theories as truth that are contrary to God’s laws.

In addition to monitoring what is taught, how can we give our children a strong spiritual foundation to support them through school? Here are some suggestions:

Pray for Discernment
Both we and our children need the gift of discernment. The adversary is subtle and cunning, but the light of the Holy Ghost will illuminate truth and allow us to navigate a world in turmoil.

LDS Seminary Class
Attend Seminary and Institute
These programs have been established to help our youth and young adults understand the teachings of Jesus Christ and how to apply them in daily life. Attendance will provide a daily source of spiritual strength for our children.

Make the Gospel a Priority
Family prayer is a wonderful way to begin our day and invite the Spirit to guide our actions. Reading and discussing the scriptures together each day will help our children learn true principles and how to apply them in their lives. Spending quality family time together is essential. We need to be available for our children when they’re home so that they can come to us with cares and concerns. It really is the basic things that can make all the difference.

Teach Children How to Recognize the Spirit
We often discuss the Holy Ghost and we know that he can communicate with us, but each person receives inspiration in different ways. We need to teach our children from a young age how it feels when the Holy Ghost is present in our lives. Point out times when you feel the Spirit. Teach them to pray to know how the Holy Ghost speaks to them. Teach them that the Holy Ghost sends feelings of peace and assurance that can help them know they are doing what is right.

Avoid Overscheduling
It is always wonderful to have hobbies and to participate in wholesome activities that build talent and character, but we have been warned against participating in these things at the expense of gospel learning and study and quality family time. In the October 2007 General Conference, Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave this counsel: “The amount of children-and-parent time absorbed in the good activities of private lessons, team sports, and other school and club activities also needs to be carefully regulated. Otherwise, children will be overscheduled, and parents will be frazzled and frustrated. Parents should act to preserve time for family prayer, family scripture study, family home evening, and the other precious togetherness and individual one-on-one time that binds a family together and fixes children’s values on things of eternal worth. Parents should teach gospel priorities through what they do with their children.”

Later in that talk he makes this clear statement: “Some young people are amusing themselves to death—spiritual death.” Keeping our families too busy (albeit with good things) and our priorities off-balance can certainly result in weakening the spiritual foundation of our families.

In an increasingly secular world where God is irrelevant and belief in absolute right and wrong is fading, our children need to be strengthened at home more than ever before. Kim B. Clark said, “Brothers and sisters, you and I need to be much better than we are now. The scriptures teach us that the world is now and will be in commotion. Wickedness and darkness will increase. Yet in that darkening world there will be increased divine light. The Lord Jesus Christ has a great work for us to do with the rising generation. It is a greater work than we have ever done before. The Lord is working in power to strengthen teaching and learning in His true and living Church. He is hastening His work, and He is preparing the earth and His kingdom and us for His return” (“Encircled About with Fire”, 8/4/15).

Our youth have a marvelous work to do on the earth and we have the critical role to prepare them. With so much of their time spent away from home and family, we need to do all we can to strengthen our children and provide a strong spiritual foundation so they may face the world with courage and faith.

Written by Stephanie Gifford
Stephanie Gifford lives in southeast Idaho with her wonderful husband, Jared, and their beautiful daughter. She has a passion for learning about God’s hand in American history and how it ties to the restoration of the Gospel. Stephanie enjoys horses, baseball, reading, and spending time with family.


We Will Raise a Sin-Resistant Generation

children-with-lantern_1430582_inl Raising a Sin-Resistant Generation in our era is not easy. So much of what is logical and true has been corrupted. Our children are left to sift through half-truths and confusing lines of reasoning to find their way in this world.

Covenant keeping mothers would love to remove all corruption from the path our children have to take, but we realize that we cannot do it alone. Gratefully, there have been three, recent General Conference talks from President Russell M. Nelson, Sister Bonnie Oscarson, and Sister Joy D. Jones that each lay out inspired directions that will help mothers raise their children as a Sin-Resistant Generation.

From President Nelson’s talk, we find this list (bullet points added):
1- “We need women who know how to make important things happen by their faith and
2- who are courageous defenders of morality and families in a sin-sick world.
3- We need women who are devoted to shepherding God’s children along the covenant path toward exaltation;
4- women who know how to receive personal revelation,
5- who understand the power and peace of the temple endowment;
6- women who know how to call upon the powers of heaven to protect and strengthen children and families;
7- women who teach fearlessly.”
8- “We need women who have a bedrock understanding of the doctrine of Christ and
9- who will use that understanding to teach and help raise a sin-resistant generation.
10- We need women who can detect deception in all of its forms.
11- We need women who know how to access the power that God makes available to covenant keepers and who express their beliefs with confidence and charity.
12- We need women who have the courage and vision of our Mother Eve.” adam-eve-teaching-children-82611-tablet

Sister Oscarson Added to the list when she taught,
“It will take concerted effort to be converted and to keep our covenants. To do so,
13-we need to be girls and women who study the essential doctrines of the gospel and have an unshakable testimony of their truthfulness.
14- we need to acknowledge the centrality of God our Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, to our faith and salvation. Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer.
15-We need to study and understand His Atonement and how to apply it daily; repentance is one of the greatest blessings each of us has to stay on course.
16- We need to see Jesus Christ as our primary role model and the example of who we need to become.
17- We need to continually teach our families and classes about our Father’s great plan of salvation, which includes the doctrine of Christ.
18- we need to understand the need for the restoration of the doctrine, organization, and keys of authority in these latter days.
19- We need to have a witness that the Prophet Joseph Smith was divinely chosen and appointed by the Lord to bring about this restoration and recognize that he organized the women of the Church after the organization that existed in Christ’s Church anciently.
20- we need to study and understand temple ordinances and covenants. The temple holds a place at the very center of our most sacred beliefs, and the Lord asks that we attend, ponder, study, and find personal meaning and application individually. We will come to understand that through the ordinances of the temple, the power of godliness is manifest in our lives and that because of temple ordinances, we can be armed with God’s power, and His name will be upon us, His glory round about us, and His angels have charge over us. I wonder if we are fully drawing upon the power of those promises.

999334aefabbf242152c127605d16899 In the talk by Sister Jones, she carefully discusses the true difficulty mothers have in raising a Sin-Resistant Generation: “there are children who struggle to stand “steadfast and immovable” and whose delicate minds are being wounded. They are being attacked on every side by “the fiery darts of the adversary” and are in need of reinforcement and support.” Sister Jones goes on to say what all mothers are feeling about the important generation that we are raising, “They are an overwhelming motivation for us to step up and wage a war against sin in our effort to bring our children unto Christ.”

We cannot let this be the generation that “dwindles in unbelief”. Gathering Families encourages all to become part of a movement of mothers and fathers who are dedicated to raising a Sin-Resistant Generation. We invite you to join with us.

-Jenny Baker: Gathering Families

(Art by Annie Henry, Del Parson and Minerva Tiechert)


A Call to Action for Latter-Day Saint Families

13166058_609409039221880_4996146699076551943_nThere is one area to which we as Latter-day Saints must pay greater attention – protecting religious freedom. Did you know the Church has a website (https://www.lds.org/religious-freedom) dedicated to teaching how we can stand for religious freedom? Did you know that members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speak multiple times per year all over the world on this critical topic? Why is this such a vitally important issue?

Let’s go straight to the Savior’s own words to find out more. He said that He established the Constitution and raised up wise men – the Founding Fathers – for that very purpose (see D&C 101:80). That alone shows us that we should revere the Constitution and the Founding Fathers because they were given to us by the Savior himself! Joseph Smith set an example for us all to follow when he said, “I am the greatest advocate of the Constitution of the United States there is on the earth” (Documentary History of the Church, 6:56).

We also learn in Doctrine and Covenants 101 why the Constitution was established. In verses 77-78, the Lord says that He suffered the Constitution to be established and maintained “for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles; That every man may act . . . according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.”

Agency is one of the greatest gifts we have from our Father in Heaven. We are here on Earth to prove our worthiness and character and we need our agency to do that. Oppressive governments have the power to severely limit our agency and our ability to practice our religion. When that happens, we lose the capacity to be fully responsible for our actions at the day of judgment. That is not what our Father wants for us! As Latter-day Saints, we understand the essential role of agency in the Plan of Salvation. Knowing that, why do we hesitate to become involved in governmental affairs in order to preserve maximum agency? Why do we let apathy get the best of us?

Let’s face it – in our world today, everything is a hot-button issue. Various political parties battle nonstop and it can be completely exhausting. Anyone who dares to speak up is immediately written off as being ‘political’. When did that label become a bad thing? Being involved in politics means being informed and involved in government. That should describe every one of us. The fact that we keep electing dishonest, corrupt officials that give politics a bad name is really our own fault. If we were more involved and sought for honorable men and women to fill public offices, we could be proud of our government instead of being largely ashamed of it and reluctant to be associated with it. Informed voting is key.

Since so many issues today are controversial, perhaps we are afraid to voice an opinion outside of the mainstream. Once you do, after all, the labels come fast and furious. Hater. Bigot. Out of touch. Religious zealot. Old-fashioned. Intolerant. When we are willing to stand up for our religious values – and our freedom to practice what we preach – in the public square, ridicule is a distinct possibility and no one would take pleasure in joining that firestorm. The good news is that we have comforting words from the Savior: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:18-19).

My goal is to be strong enough to choose the Savior’s side over the world’s side each and every chance I get.

Religion and freedom go hand in hand. We can’t expect to have full use of one without the other. Therefore, if religion is something we value, it is incumbent upon us to take an active role in defending our freedom. The first step is to understand the principles upon which our country is based. We are based on Judeo-Christian values! We need only read the Declaration of Independence to understand that. It talks about what we are entitled to by the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God. It affirms that we are given rights by our Creator which no earthly government can take away. Freedom is not given to us by man. It is given to us by God, and man, in turn, creates government to safeguard their freedom. How far removed we are from that principle!

In the coming weeks and months we will have posts on our Gathering Families Facebook page to teach about principles of religious freedom and actions we can take to be involved.
Ezra Taft Benson once said, “If America is destroyed, it may be by Americans who salute the flag, sing the national anthem, march in patriotic parades, cheer Fourth of July speakers. Normally good Americans, but Americans who fail to comprehend what is required to keep our country strong and free. Americans who have been lulled away into a false security.” May we be counted among the number who refuse to be lulled away into a false security! May we rise to the challenge of defending our freedom as we have been urged by leaders of the Church. May we worry less about being labeled ‘political’ or ‘controversial’ and worry more about being obedient. By doing the small and simple things of learning and working together, we can make great things come to pass in defending our religious freedom.

Embracing the Hood of Motherhood

My husband Shayne is a master falconer. When he wants to protect and settle the falcon, he covers the falcon’s head with a hood, which creates in the bird a feeling of safety from predators and threats.
We talk of Sisterhood and Brotherhood, of Fatherhood, Childhood and Motherhood. We live in a wonderful Neighborhoods. It means something to us to belong to these “hoods”—we feel a sense of belonging to something that is good and safe; and in return, we feel a sense of responsibility to uphold and contribute to it.

Sheri Dew said, “Motherhood is more than bearing children. … It is the essence of who we are as women.” All of creation requires the life-giving, nurturing, saving, protecting acts of MOTHERHOOD to reach its potential.

Rachel Janovic said, “Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in, it is what God gave you time for.” (blog post, Desiring God)
Mothers are not only women who have given birth, but also women who haven’t. I have numerous women in my life who understand what Motherhood means. Grandmothers, aunts, cousins, friends, and neighbors have mothered us.

Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in, it is what God gave you time for.

I’d like to share some personal stories:

· When I first learned to ride a bike, I thought I would ride it to school, which was just six blocks or so from home. On my way, my foot got caught in the spokes and I fell. Unable to untangle myself, this kind sister came from her home and rescued me. She cleaned and bandaged my foot and called my mom. She was not my mother, but she felt like it that day.

· In junior high, a teacher, who wasn’t married and didn’t have children, wore various colored wigs to class, which was quite a spectacle to me. Yet she instilled in me the power of poetry. She had us memorize poems and recite them in front of class. They had strong messages about character, motivation, and living well. She was not my mother, but her influence felt like it.

· A woman known as Grandma Hall would invite her primary class to her home for, what I would call, tea time. She would have pressed white linens, homemade lemonade, and fresh cookies. She was always old to me. She was not my mother, but her genuine smile and personal warmth made me feel there was more love to go around and the world was filled with good.

· Most of my vacations and summers were spent with extended family. So many hours, days, even weeks together have created a trail of loving memories for what I learned from my grandmothers, aunts, and cousins. I learned how to

* pick citrus and squeeze grapefruit juice,
* perform skits and music in front of others,
* plan reunions that bring us together,
* pitch in for family meals with cooking and washing dishes BY HAND, and
* have REAL conversations with REAL people, face-to-face.

These women smiled because of the goodness and truths they lived by. While they have faced challenges of every kind, they have held their ground and come through brighter and better. They were not my mother, but they increased my desire to be part of this Motherhood.

The Motherhood in my neighborhood has blessed our family for more than 25 years. They have saved our children from danger, fed them when they said they were hungry, invited them to join in your adventures, reminded them of their responsibilities, taught them how to serve others, shared your testimonies, and fasted and prayed for them. They live with mother hearts.

The world is shouting rather loudly now that Motherhood is of little importance, and even that there are more important things to spend our time on. It is quite distracting. While the noise has intensified, it isn’t new. It’s a battle that’s been going on since the beginning of time. Even then, Eve was called “The Mother of all Living” and approved by God before she birthed a child. (Moses 4:26)

The title of Mother belongs to every female–that’s every female who has or will ever live. It is our finest title, our finest work, and our finest blessing, and will ultimately bring us to our finest joy.

Motherhood is the basis of eternity—past, present, and future. Motherhood doesn’t put us on a pedestal, but it does put us in the presence of angels. Through it, we are partners with God. Through it, we have the right to be guided and helped, to feel love, peace, and safety, and to reach our potential. Through it, we have the responsibility to provide guidance and help, to create and share love, peace and safety, and to help others reach their unique potential.

· It means we are women who embrace all the good that Motherhood is—
* divinity,
* holiness,
* caregiving,
* suffering,
* forgiving,
* selflessness,
* teaching,
* leading,
* serving, and
* loving

No influence is of greater value and no title should be more acknowledged, adopted, and adored by women of every age.

Someone has said, “Life doesn’t come with a manual, it comes with a mother.” Giving life is a miraculous process— We learned this more deeply through our experience with our daughter Kristen and our granddaughter Sara Kate, whom we lost after 5 days of miraculous living.

This divine process of a woman giving life cannot, has not, and will not be usurped or changed by even the brightest scientists and doctors. It is worthy of every “Wow”, “Oooo” and “Awwww” we can say. There are no words to describe its wonder.

This is where we all begin—with a miracle. And then our days are spent in a home. My home was a true “hood” of faith, security, and peace. My mother embraced Motherhood. She fought for it during the 70’s. She withstood public pressure, even ridicule as the debate raged on. She went on to represent families and mothers in the national arena, where those pressures intensified. I know where she stands. I know she has a Mother Heart. I know she knows that Motherhood is divine.

Our very hearts teach us that Motherhood is the best in us, if we listen. Motherhood in all its forms is our most ennobling title, our holiest work, and our most cherished opportunity.

Now is the time to go back to the wells of truth and remember what we have always known. Then, we will have the power, the courage, and the resolve to live it and to stand up for it.

By JaLee Jackson Clarke

JaLee Jackson Clarke is a mother of 5, 17308710_10155051597362432_9133278721192595292_n grandmother of almost 11 and hopefully more,has her MBA and works as an HR Manager and Executive Administrator. Pursuing joy and knowledge, and opportunities to serve are her passions. She enjoys discussion, fabric, sunshine, fresh air, and long walks.