Sunday, November 14, 2010

What Matters Most

Today’s post is about a subject that has been on my mind almost constantly the last few months. My children are my treasure and a special blessing in my life, and it also my responsibility to use my time and energy to teach, guide and learn from them. I have felt how great that responsibility is even before I had children and it scared me.

My freshman year at BYU, right out of high school, I was pre-med. I took two classes from Dr. Bloxham who was the pre-med advisor. In the classes, he taught how important our eternal relationships and callings are no matter what our career or hobbies were. He would tell us how after this life, we will no longer be doctors or dentists or whatever other profession, but we will always be father or mother, wife or husband.

“Brethren, when we stand before the Lord to be judged, will He look upon the positions we have held in the world or even in the Church? Do you suppose that titles we have had other than ‘husband,’ ‘father,’ or ‘priesthood holder’ will mean much to Him? Do you think He will care how packed our schedule was or how many important meetings we attended? Do you suppose that our success in filling our days with appointments will serve as an excuse for failure to spend time with our wife and family?

“The Lord judges so very differently from the way we do. He is pleased with the noble servant, not with the self-serving noble.”
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Ensign, November 2008, 54-55 
I heard something else at a funeral before I had children. A mother died and in the eulogies, they talked about how much time she dedicated to her volunteer work in several organizations. I heard one of her daughters, sitting not far from me, say something about how she had so much time to volunteer and no time for her children. I’m sure that part of that was her intense grief, but I still remember that. I have always tried to give my children lots of time, attention and love so they never feel that anything is more important to me than my family.

It is easy to say, “I love you” and “You are the most important thing in my life”, but it is not as easy to show it day after day by your choices. Can our children tell by what we do what is most important to us?

“As we seek to balance the demands for our time and attention, as we are forced to make hard decisions or sacrifice activities or service that may be important but not imperative we will come to recognize that we have lost nothing essential but rather have gained in terms of rediscovering inner peace.”
Dean L. Larsen, “ The Peaceable Things of the Kingdom,” BYU 1984-1985 Devotional and Fireside Speeches, pp72,74

Some of the quotes I will include here say “mother” and others say “father”, but I know that both are important to children and are a part of Heavenly Father’s plan.

"Children are an heritage of the Lord" (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.
Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.”
The Family: A Proclamation to the World

One of the hardest things about my situation is knowing that I will soon have be out of the house during many of the “crossroads”, which has been so important for me to be at—when my children get home from school, when they go to bed, when they leave for school, and way too soon when they go on dates and come home.
"Mothers in Zion, your God-given roles are so vital to your own exaltation and to the salvation and exaltation of your family. A child needs a mother more than all the things money can buy. Spending time with your children is the greatest gift of all. With love in my heart for the mothers in Zion, I would now like to suggest ten specific ways our mothers may spend effective time with their children.

"Be at the crossroads. Take time to always be at the crossroads when your children are either coming or going.
Be a real friend. Read to your children. Pray with your children. Have weekly home evenings. Be together at mealtimes as often as possible. Read scriptures daily. Do things as a family. Teach your children. Truly love your children."
From an address given by President Ezra Taft Benson at a fireside for parents, Feb. 22, 1987, and reprinted in a Church pamphlet titled "To the Mothers in Zion".
I so admire mothers who work (single or married) and still find ways to do their most important calling and joy well. And I know there are stay-at-home mothers who don’t keep their family as a priority. It’s a challenge for us all. I am just worried about learning new ways to do it now that I have to study full-time and then work. I always want my children to see in my choices that they are eternally important to me.

“What matters most is what lasts longest, and our families are for eternity.”
Elder M. Russell Ballard, Conference Report, October 2005, 46

How can I find that balance? How can I do everything I need to do at school or work and in my callings and still give priority to my family? I obviously won't be called to be a bishop (like one of the quotes below mentions), but I could devote too much of my family time to my calling, whatever it may be, and it would not be pleasing to our Father.

“Even trying to do good and faithfully live gospel principles, especially amidst the challenges and complexities of modern society, can be carried to extremes and upset the delicate balance of our lives, painfully intruding upon our personal peace and family harmony.”

“Striking the proper balance is one of the keenest tests of our agency. Therefore, we need to ask regularly for inspiration in the use of our time and in the making of our daily decisions.”
Neal A. Maxwell, Notwithstanding My Weakness, p. 5

“It is imperative to personal peace and family harmony that we recognize that even our service in the church should never become a means of neglecting our more eternal personal and family responsibilities.”

“Satan doesn’t care whether you are in the bar or the bishop’s office if he can get you to neglect your family.”
J. Ballard Washburn, as quoted in Neal A. Maxwell, Notwithstanding My Weakness

I hope my children will someday see how I give them priority by making time, no matter what, for prayers, scripture study, fun time with them, time to sit and listen or talk, and know what is important to them.

"As parents and adult leaders of youth, we cannot expect our young people to take to heart the things the prophet says to them if we show a complacent attitude toward his counsel in our own lives."
M. Russell Ballard, "His Word Ye Shall Receive," Ensign, May 2001, 66

A large part of our responsibility is teaching our children about our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, their commandments and how we can obey them. Our children see what we do and notice when what we do doesn’t match what we teach. Anyone who has spent time with a child knows how eager they are to point out our shortcomings, even though, luckily, they are also quick to forgive. Will they think the words of our prophet and other leaders are important to us if we do not follow them ourselves? They do notice.

I know that I have to stay close to my Father and listen for the Spirit to guide me to know what I can do and how to do those things most essential, important and eternal with the energy and time I have. I was happy last week to have a teaching moment. I was tired and we were reading scriptures right before bed. After explaining something in one of the verses, Alex said, “Mom, you said you are tired. This would take a lot less time if you would stop commenting on every verse.” So I shared how important it is for us to understand the scriptures, not just quickly read them so we can get to sleep and that we will be blessed for our obedience. I don’t know if they will actually remember this, but I appreciated the opportunity to teach it. Then this morning Sabrina wanted to draw a picture to send to The Friend and was thinking about what to draw and quickly went to work. On the top of the picture she wrote, “Read your scriptures daily with your family”. I am glad that they have learned something from the time I take away from my studies for that which is of more worth, my children and my God. I hope to teach them so many more things in the short time I have them in my home.


  1. Valerie, I believe that the Lord blesses single mothers in a very special way. Somehow, what they do is enough. Just keep your thoughts turned toward Him. Pray often and listen to the answers that you receive. You will not be perfect, but then, none of us are. You will, however, be exactly the force for good that your children need. My biggest council to you is that you do not try and be too harsh on yourself. School is necessary so that you can eventually take care of yourself and your children. You will be able to do this. You are amazing.

  2. It is so wonderful to see such powerful quotes from amazing leaders, and hear such a strong testimony of another mother. I have a 2 year old daughter and one on the way, and I am learning that being a parent, and mother, is the hardest thing EVER! I struggled for a long time with my decision to go back to work after my daughter was born. We needed the money, but I wasn't sure if that was reason enough. I read through my patriarchial blessing, and although I had been told that "being a wife and mother would be the most important work I would do", I wouldn't be the ONLY work I did. I found some great solace in knowing that the Lord doesn't expect women to be at home ALL day EVERY day for EVERY moment. He understands that often we are better wives and mothers if we have the chance to serve elsewhere too, as long as we make sure our family is #1. I appreciate your comments on being a mom, it is lovely to hear. And, while I may not know the struggles you and your family face, I know the Lord will make up the difference of whatever we lack :)

  3. Beautiful thoughts Valerie. I believe that the Lord will bless you because of the righteous desires of your heart.
    He knows your heart.
    Your children know your heart and I think angels will be gathered at your home always.

  4. I really agree with all the great comments already made. I don't know how hard it is to be a single mother, or even a mother, but I know how much you have always worked to make sure they know and understand the gospel, especially since they were going to a Spanish speaking ward.

    I remember when Alex was 3 and I walked to the park with him. On the way back he lifted something and I said he was strong. He said, "Yeah, I'm strong like Nephi!" I was so impressed that he already knew about him, and he remembered, which is a true testament that you have always made your children's education of spiritual things a priority. They are blessed to have such a loving mom!

  5. Thank you for the reminder. It's difficult sometimes trying to juggle everything.

  6. how do you do it? well you keep doing exactly what you are doing, val!

    (we did years & years with my mom as a single-mom....3 times we did this growing up, each for varying lengths of time. currently she's just our mother and is a single-grandmother. does that make sense? anymore it doesn't really make a difference in her mothering as far as we kids are concerned, for she's always been diligent about us & God. so i guess it's more accurate to say that she is a mother AND a single-woman.)

    they way to keep doing what you're doing? never forget prayer. remember that where two or more are gathered in His name, there He is also. there is power in prayer to does all things that are expedient to the Lord, and raising a righteous posterity is definitely expedient to Him!


  7. Beautiful post Valerie. (Great blog too, 1st time here). I'm not a parent, but as a daughter, I've definitely had to change my perceptions of what is most important in my life as I've grown older because I did adopt my parents' ideas of what was important. Their perception of the world definitely influenced mine. As I built my relationship with God, my life's centre had to change because I was making all kinds of realizations about life.


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