By Annmarie Worthington
Some of my precious souls having fun.
When a bishop in the novel Les Miserables was warned that by traveling to visit an isolated part of his flock he would be taking his life in his hands, he had the most delightful response. “I’m not in this world to take care of my life. I’m here to take care of souls.” I think this should be the battle call of every mother. We have been given a beautiful responsibility and privilege that goes far beyond anything the world calls important. If we could but catch a small glimpse of the vast importance of our job as mothers I really believe it would change the way we go about our lives.
Think about Heavenly Father taking one of His precious spirit children. He’s about to send them away into a world where they will forget most of what they knew in their pre-mortal existence. A world fraught with danger and temptation. A world where Lucifer, who hates both Him and His children, will try to destroy them and keep them from returning home. He has to place them in the care of someone. He chose you.
What an awesome responsibility! Many of you will remember the immense love that welled up inside you at the first glimpse of your child. You would take on the world for that precious child. Unfortunately, there are occasions in the midst of our everyday existence we forget what our role is. We get frustrated when they don’t care about our guidance and instruction. We get hurt when they ignore us, or argue. We get tired with our daily, monotonous responsibilities. Sometimes, we just get distracted. Something else catches our attention and tries to draw our heart away. Maybe it is the prestige of a promising, respected career. Maybe it is the thought of a beautifully decorated home. Or maybe we’re just exhausted from our many responsibilities. Whatever it is, and it is different for all of us, I really believe the thoughts and distractions are cunningly placed there by the enemy of our souls.
There is much expected of mothers, even without the burden of our Heavenly responsibility. We are expected to know how to nurse a wound and comfort a child simultaneously. We need to brush up on our fractions and algebra to help with math assignments, and know how to sew a costume for a play or recital. We have to be a negotiator between warring children, and a psychologist for our children in need of counsel. We need to help with music practice, teach them to ride bicycles, and decide with wisdom which of the four million extra-curricular activities available to them fits their needs and gifting. We’re to do all that while cheerfully keeping up with laundry, meals, housekeeping, and loving our spouses, if we are fortunate enough to have one. I haven’t even gotten to the spiritual responsibilities.
No wonder it is easy to get distracted. We don’t even have to be doing anything wrong to be led away from our real mission. It is hard remembering we are here to do more than raise productive citizens. We are here to take care of souls. Our children, like us, are eternal beings. If valiant, they will one day rule worlds of their own. Let’s do more than care about if they get a 4.0 grade point average, or a 30 on the ACT. Let’s train them to be valiant in their testimony of Christ. Let’s raise them to care about eternal matters.
Some ways to nurture souls
What a daunting task! How do we go about it? Well, I am navigating these responsibilities just like the rest of you, but some thoughts keep coming to my mind regarding the topic. First, we have to strive to be valiant ourselves. It will be much easier for our children to desire righteousness if they see it in us. Do they see us read our scriptures? Do they see us in personal prayer? Do they hear us talk about the commandments and how we are striving to fulfill them? It is impossible for us to be perfect, and believe me my children know I am not. But, when we do sin, we can be honest about it and show them what real repentance looks like.
When you are striving to be valiant, conversation about their lives and the gospel will be natural. It will just be who you are. They’ll expect that to be what comes out of your mouth. Deuteronomy teaches this. “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Deut. 6:7
I do know that when you have a passel of both children and responsibilities to deal with that just to carve out time to read your scriptures takes real commitment. And we’ll never be valiant without a commitment to reading our Scriptures. I’m right there with you in that struggle. I used to think it was a choice between my children seeing me read my Scriptures and really getting to read them without interruption, so I could have a complete thought. I came up with a solution that works for my life. The Spirit will tell you what will work for you.
I always keep a Scripture journal. In it I write down the chapters I read that day and any thoughts I had about my reading. I have some days I read while the children are awake and they see me reading and writing in my journal. Other days I’ve reserved for private reading that I am free to do before they are awake. But on those days, I will talk to my children throughout the day about what I’ve read and written in my journal. This way they know it is important enough for me to do it every day.
Secondly, we need to really know our children. What are the special gifts Heavenly Father has endowed unto them? How does He want them to use them? What are their personalities? Are they fearful and reserved, or bold and head-strong? Each spirit is different and learns differently. Each child has their own goals, dreams, and fears. Each of them has a task they were sent here to do. Our job is to help them both realize what that is and help them qualify. There is no short cut to such a proposition. What it takes the most of is time. Time spent talking to them, and especially listening to them.
They need to know we value their thoughts. When my oldest was young, he was completely into Bionicles. He would spend hours talking about them, what their powers were, what battles he set up in his room. He’d even quiz me on their powers. It didn’t bother him that I’d fail the quiz. He was just happy I would take it. If we don’t listen to them when they’re young and willing, they’ll quickly learn to not talk to us. When they know you’re truly interested, they’ll keep talking, even in their teen years.
Our time should also be spent researching their strengths and gifts. Time invested in helping them develop their talents. We have no idea what callings Heavenly Father has in mind for them. But, we can get glimpses of their path with the talents He’s given to them. The more they learn and develop their gifts, the more useful they can be to His kingdom.
Thirdly, we need to diligently seek to fulfill the brethren’s guidance for families. That means family prayer, daily Scripture study, family home evenings, parent-child interviews… everything the apostles have reiterated for us over and over in their conference talks. I’m not saying it is easy. These things won’t always be fulfilled in an ideal setting. I’m a single mom. I work four part time jobs and homeschool my children. Time is a precious commodity at our house. I don’t always get the freedom to determine how much time I have. I do, however, have the freedom to decide how to use the time that is allotted to me.
Family Home Evenings are hard for me. To set aside that much time on Monday evenings in a lesson and fun activity means staying up much later that night working one of my jobs. It means I will not get much sleep. But, I get do get to nurture souls. How lucky is that? Isn’t that worth a few hours less sleep? I think the key to that is the thought the bishop of Les Miserables had. Let us not be selfish with our time, our life, and desires. Let’s try to remember that we are not just here for ourselves, but to take care of souls. How great is the worth of a soul in the eyes of God.