I'm so grateful to be here today. I am Sister Whitney Whetten and I am leaving for my mission in California in a little bit over a week.
I really have tender feelings toward this topic of mothers because I have been blessed with a wonderful mother. I'm not going to try to tell you that my mother is perfect because she is definitely not perfect. She raises her voice sometimes, she gets frustrated, sometimes she uses words that maybe she shouldn't use, she has missed some of my performances, and I personally believe that sometimes she sacrifices too much. So she is definitely not a perfect mother. The term I like to use instead is evolving. She is an evolving mother. And it is such a wonderful gift for me that I don't have a perfect mother because it shows me that, like her, I'm allowed to make mistakes sometimes too. I'm allowed to take the baby steps necessary to slowly repent and become more perfect every day. I am so grateful for that wonderful example of my mom not being perfect.
My mommy on the right with her grandbaby, Max
What I really love about my mother is how she loved me no matter what. She loved me when I was born. She loved me when I was five years old and I took a nap with gum (which I wasn't supposed to do) and I woke up with gum stuck in my hair. I didn't want her to find out and so I cut off my bangs. She still loved me when that happened. She loved me when I was eight years old and I refused to wear matching clothes. She me when (actually, this next one she got really mad about) I got homemade tootsie roll stuck on the wood frame of my bed. She loved me no matter what I did and that is what I love about my mom. I didn't have to be the valedictorian for her to love me. I didn't have to win all these awards and be this perfect person for her to love me. She loved me regardless.
That love has been an extremely powerful knowledge for me because if you never learn that you are worthy of unconditional love, it is hard to believe you could ever get it and it is even harder to believe in heavenly parents and a savior who would love you unconditionally as well. You struggle to even imagine that a love like that could apply to you. My mom made it clear that all I had to do for her to love me was simply to exist and I am grateful for that example from her.
Motherhood is an interesting term because I always thought that it applied exclusively to bearing children, which it definitely does apply to. But if you think about it, in the scriptures, God the Father and Adam called Eve "the Mother of all living" before she ever bore children. That teaches me that motherhood is something sort of like priesthood that was ordained in heaven. There is a wonderful quote I have by Sheri Dew about this. She said:
Like Eve, our motherhood began before we were born. Just as worthy men were foreordained to hold the priesthood in mortality, righteous women were endowed premortally with the privilege of motherhood. 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.
I love that quote because it teaches us that that is who we are. Women really are special. Sometimes it is easy to forget because guys actually get ordained with the priesthood but just like that, women were foreordained.
It is hard to believe sometimes how important women and mothers really are because Satan has waged a war against motherhood and women. He tries to make us believe that we have to be on the cover of whatever magazine in order to be successful and many the other things like that. But I have a story to try to illustrate the true role that women really play on the world.
Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work. One day he was walking along the shore. As he looked down at the beach, he saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself to think of someone who would dance to the day. So he began to walk faster to catch up. As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man and the young man wasn't dancing, but instead he was reaching down to the shore, picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean.
As he got closer, he called out, "Good morning! What are you doing?" The young man paused, looked up and replied, "Throwing starfish into the ocean."
I guess I should have asked, "Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?"
"The sun is up and the tide is going out. And if I don't throw them in they'll die."
"But young man, don't you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it? You can't possibly make a difference!"
The young man listened politely then bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves. "It made a difference for that one!"
Isn't that what it is all about? There is a scripture that talks about the ninety-nine and then the one... about leaving the ninety-nine to go after the one. That is what motherhood is all about. You might not make a difference to all of society by raising a child (and maybe you will) but you made a difference to that one child. Even if you're not a mother (like me, I'm not a mother) you can still make a difference to that one person and that is what it is all about.
For some people, mother's day is extremely difficult and I found a quote for anybody who may be in that situation. There are many situations for which that may be the case, but I found this next quote by Chieko Okazaki for anyone who may be like that. I just love this quote. It says:
We know that Jesus experienced the totality of mortal existence in Gethsemane. It's our faith that he experienced everything-- absolutely everything. Sometimes we don't think through the implications of that belief.
We talk in great generalities about the sins of all humankind, about the suffering of the entire human family. But we don't experience pain in generalities. We experience it individually.
That means he knows what it felt like when your mother died of cancer- how it was for your mother, how it still is for you. He knows what it felt like to lose the student body election. He knows that moment when the brakes locked and the car started to skid. He experienced the slave ship sailing from Ghana toward Virginia. He experienced the gas chambers at Dachau. He experienced napalm in Vietnam. He knows about drug addiction and alcoholism.
Let me go further. There is nothing you have experienced as a woman that he does not know and recognize.
On a profound level, he understands the hunger to hold your baby that sustains you through pregnancy. He understands both the physical pain of giving birth and the immense joy. He knows about PMS and cramps and menopause. He understands about rape and infertility and abortion.
His last recorded words to his disciples were, "And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." (Matthew 28:20)
He understands your mother-pain when your five-year-old leaves for kindergarten, when a bully picks on your fifth-grader, when your daughter calls to say that the new baby has Down's Syndrome. He knows your mother-rage when a trusted babysitter sexually abuses your two-year-old, when someone gives your thirteen-year-old drugs, when someone seduces your seventeen-year-old. He knows the pain you live with when you come home to a quiet apartment where the only visitors are children, when you hear that your former husband and his new wife were sealed in the temple last week, when your fiftieth wedding anniversary rolls around and your husband has been dead for two years.
He knows all that.He's been there.He's been lower than all that.
He's not waiting for us to be perfect. Perfect people don't need a Savior. He came to save his people in their imperfections. He is the Lord of the living, and the living make mistakes. He's not embarrassed by us, angry at us, or shocked. He wants us in our brokenness, in our unhappiness, in our guilt and our grief.
I was able to start forming a relationship with my Heavenly Father many years ago and that is what I've come to learn about him. He knows you and he understands you no matter what. Just like I was talking about earlier, you're going to make mistakes, but Christ is there for you no matter what.
In conclusion, I just want to say thank you. There is a quote that says that it takes a village to raise one child. This ward has definitely been like that for me. Thank you all for everything you've done to teach me about everything and for working with me. I'm definitely a better person because of you.
I'm extremely lucky to have been born to a family with such a wonderful heritage. It is relatively rare to have a sister missionary go out, but I found out from talking to my grandma this week that I will be the fourth generation of female missionaries in my family (on my mom's side). I am so blessed to have such a great heritage.
Isaac Newton said that, "If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."
I know that that is definitely true for me. I am grateful for the giants like my family, definitely like my mother, and like all of you who have helped bring me to where I am today. I also want to say thank you to my mother for everything she has done for me. She is definitely not perfect, but she did everything she could and more. She used to wake up super early to read scriptures with me before she drove me off to seminary, she would pick me up every day after marching band in high school, and she was brave enough to sit with me in a car when I was learning how to drive. I am so grateful for her and for everything. She will probably never realize how great her influence was on me. She taught me to become a better person and to love people more completely.
I am so grateful for all of you and that I was able to grow up in this wonderful ward. These things I say in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.