It seems like very General Conference I have my ears and heart open to, and searching for, messages about birth, womanhood and motherhood. They are topics that I can always rest assured will get addressed in some way during General Conference. This time my heart was especially touched by Elder Henry B. Eyring’s talk entitled “Continuing Revelation”. He spoke about the privilege we have of being able to receive revelation for ourselves and those within our stewardship. He gave several examples of how revelation can be received but I was especially moved by his story about his mother, and how she was able to receive revelation for him. He said:
” The revelation of a parent has its lasting effect in the personal revelation that continues in the child. My mother must have understood that principle of revelation. As a young man, I would close the back door very quietly when I came home late in the evening. I had to pass my mother’s bedroom on the way to mine. However quietly I tiptoed, just as I got to her half-opened door, I would hear my name, ever so quietly, “Hal. Come in for a moment.” I would go in and sit on the edge of her bed. The room would be dark. If you had listened, you would have thought it was only friendly talk about life. But to this day, what she said comes back to my mind with the same power I feel when I read the transcript of my patriarchal blessing.
I don’t know what she was asking for in prayer as she waited for me those nights. I suppose it would have been in part for my safety. But I am sure that she prayed as a patriarch does before he gives a blessing. He prays that his words will come to the recipient as the words of God, not his. My mother’s prayers for that blessing were answered on my head. She is in the spirit world and has been for more than 40 years. I am sure she has been exceedingly glad that I was blessed, as she asked, to hear in her counsel the commands of God. And I have tried to go and do as she hoped I would.”
He got incredibly emotional as he spoke these words about his mother. So much that I was worried for a moment that he might break down into sobs entirely and not be able to continue with his message. He didn’t, and pulled it together to finish his address, but I was very moved by the image of an adult man– and apostle of Jesus Christ nonetheless– sobbing as he spoke about the influence his mother had on his life.
I have been feeling discouraged in my motherhood lately, wondering if anything I am doing really matters. I yearn to change the world in big ways, and sometimes feel so limited the walls of my home and the needs of my children. Yet, as I watched Elder Eyring speak about his mother I had a powerful realization that what I am doing as a mother is one of the most important things I will ever do, and that I am exactly where I need to be.
In his talk Elder Eyring compared the guidance and direction his mother gave him, in those quiet moments on her bed, as important and powerful as the promises given him in his Patriarchal blessing. He said that his mother prayed with the type of power that a patriarch does before he gives a blessing, and that she received revelation and spoke words that came directly from God. That is a powerful comparison and a reminder to me that motherhood is a calling that comes with real spiritual power and authority.
Elder Eyring’s words about the power of his mother’s words in shaping and directing his life reminded me of a story about Rebekah (the mother of Esau and Jacob) told in the the pseudepigraphal book of Jubilees. In Jubilees Rebekah is a main character who was instrumental in preserving the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant by ensuring that her son Jacob received the birthright blessing. When his older brother Esau found out what had happened Rebekah and Issac send Jacob away to find a wife, and to avoid his brothers anger. In Genesis 28: 1-4 we read how when Jacob was preparing to leave his father Issac gave him a father’s blessing saying, “And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people. And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham.”
In the Jubilees account it also tells how before Jacob left his mother also gave him a blessing. Jubilees 25:1 says that Rebekah “lifted up her face to heaven and extended the fingers of her hands, and opened her mouth and blessed the Most High God” and then that, “when the spirit of righteousness descended into her mouth, she placed both her hands on the head of Jacob”. It is important to note here that Rebekah was not performing a priesthood blessing. She had been moved by the spirit of the Lord to speak words of truth with power and authority, and was exercising the spiritual gift of prophecy. She spoke to her son like Elder Eyring’s mother did, receiving revelation to guide his life. This type of revelation is something that all mothers are entitled to receive for their children, because mother’s have a divine stewardship over their children before they are born, while they are within their home, and even as they grow to adulthood.
Rebekah used this spiritual gift and promised her son many of the same things Issac had also promised him. She said:
“Blessed art thou, Lord of righteousness and God of the age. And may He bless thee beyond all the generations of men. May He give thee, my Son, the path of righteousness, And reveal righteousness to thy seed. And may He make thy sons many during thy life, And may they arise according to the number of the months of the year. And may their sons become many and great beyond the stars of heaven, And their numbers be more than the sand of the sea. And may He give them this goodly land -as He said He would give it to Abraham and to his seed after him alway- And may they hold it as a possession for ever. And may I see (born) unto thee, my son, blessed children during my life, And a blessed and holy seed may all thy seed be. And as thou hast refreshed thy mother’s spirit during her life, The womb of her that bare thee blesses thee thus, [My affection] and my breasts bless thee And my mouth and my tongue praise thee greatly. Increase and spread over the earth, And may thy seed be perfect in the joy of heaven and earth for ever; And may thy seed rejoice, And on the great day of peace may it have peace. And may thy name and thy seed endure to all the ages, And may the Most High God be their God, And may the God of righteousness dwell with them, And by them may His sanctuary be built unto all the ages. Blessed be he that blesseth thee, And all flesh that curseth thee falsely, may it be cursed.’
After she ended her blessing she kissed him, and told him, “May the Lord of the world love thee, As the heart of thy mother and her affection rejoice in thee and bless thee.”
This was probably the last time that Rebekah ever saw her son, as he didn’t return to his homeland again until he was an old man. Yet, I can imagine that he never forgot this blessing from his mother, nor how her words and actions influenced and shaped his life. Through Jacob would come the twelve tribes of Israel and the carrying forth of the Abrahamic covenant to the whole world… and Rebekah’s choices and influence had a big part in making that happen.
As I watched Elder Eyring’s display of emotion about his mother and the power of her words in his life, I was reminded just what a powerful calling motherhood is . It is more than giving life to a child, it is more than cooking, cleaning, feeding, and nurturing that life into existence. It is about shaping and molding individuals into the spiritual giants they are inside. It is about receiving revelation and direction from God that will influence and bless your posterity. It is about serving others with power and authority. It is about influencing the course of history and it is about changing the world.
So don’t be afraid to open your mouth and help guide your children with power and authority. It is your birthright and your privilege as a mother. You never know what great work God is working through you or how your words and actions will shape generations.
And don’t ever doubt that what you do matters, because it does. More than you will ever realize.