Elder L. Tom Perry’s talk in this most recent conference focused on the need to center our families on the teachings of the Savior, to seek to emulate Him and to build our lives on the foundation of His Gospel. He noted that “the most powerful teaching a child will ever receive will come from concerned and righteous fathers and mothers.” Elder Perry then went on to describe the roles of mother and father.

The topic of gender roles in the family and church is deeply sensitive to many members, but for sometimes opposite reasons. This is because none of our lives or families fit the same mold. It is important for each person to focus prayerfully on the ways in which the apostle’s message can benefit their personal or family life.

Elder Perry’s attention to the role of mother is contained in a single quote from President Hinckley’s book, Standing for Something:

Rachel Chinn

Rachel Chinn

“Women who make the house a home make a far greater contribution to society than those who command large armies or stand at the head of impressive corporations. Who can put a pricetag on the influence of a mother? Particularly that influence that she has on her children, a grandmother on her posterity, or aunts and sisters on their extended family? We cannot begin to measure or calculate the influence of women who in their own way build stable family lives and nurture for the everlasting good the generations of the future. The decisions made by women of this generation will be eternal in their consequences. May I suggest that the mothers of today have no greater opportunity and no more serious challenge than to do all they can to strengthen the home” (Gordon B. Hinckley. Standing for Something. Random House, 2000. 177).

Many faithful women who do not have children or who do work outside of the home might be taken aback by the first (and widely-quoted) sentence, as though it is meant to diminish the importance of their undertakings. But we must examine the context of the statement. In President Hinckley’s book, the quote is directly preceded by this sentence, “Although the contributions of women in all walks of life are respected, I hope we will never look down on a homemaker.” His point is that all women, including homemakers, are deserving of respect, and he seeks to comfort and encourage mothers who sometimes face society’s derision. Although none could deny the incomparable impact of wise motherhood on society, President Hinckley emphasizes that “the contributions of women in all walks of life are respected,” and he doesn’t qualify it.

Elder Perry’s discussion of “the role of the mother” is limited to this quote. It is striking how unspecific it is (especially in comparison to his later attention to the father’s role). The quote emphasizes the value of a mother’s influence, and urges women to “build stable family lives,” “nurture the generations of the future,” and “strengthen the home.” But it does not specify how this is to be done. It is left to each of us to determine for ourselves, in the context of our own lives. It feels natural to picture a stay-at-home mother fulfilling the role described, but we must ask, how can it be filled by women “in all walks of life?”

Could a working mother build a stable family life? Could a childless woman nurture the generations of the future? Their ability to do so does not diminish the value of the mother who chooses to stay at home with her children, just as her contribution to society does not diminish the value of their work. Rather, we all together enhance the wisdom and beauty of Zion by honoring our personal callings, our righteous desires, and the paths of our hearts.

    • In what ways could you apply Elder Perry’s message to better your life?
    • How do you honor your personal callings, your righteous desires, and the paths of your heart?
    • What are your challenges in doing so?