05) MOTHER: What is the role of a mother?

Prophetic Statements

First Presidency

By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. 1

Brigham Young

JOD, 1:66 – Education


Mothers, let your minds be sanctified before the Lord, for this is the commencement, the true foundation of a proper education in your children, the beginning point to form a disposition in your offspring, that will bring honor, glory, comfort, and satisfaction to you all your lifetime.  2


The duty of the mother is to watch over her children and give them their early education, for impressions received in infancy are lasting. You know, yourselves, by experience, that the impressions you have received in the dawn of your mortal existence, bear, to this day, with the greatest weight upon your mind. The child reposes implicit confidence in the mother, you behold in him a natural attachment, no matter what her appearance may be, that makes him think his mother is the best and handsomest mother in the world. I speak for myself. Children have all confidence in their mothers; and if mothers would take proper pains, they can instill into the hearts of their children what they please. You will, no doubt, recollect reading, in the Book of Mormon, of two thousand young men, who were brought up to believe that, if they put their whole trust in God, and served him, no power would overcome them. You also recollect reading of them going out to fight, and so bold were they, and so mighty their faith, that it was impossible for their enemies to slay them. This power and faith they obtained through the teachings of their mothers.

These duties and responsibilities devolve upon mothers far more than upon fathers, for you know the latter are often in the field or canyon, and are frequently away from home, sometimes for several days together, attending to labors which compel them to be absent from home. But the mother is at home with the children continually; and if they are taught lessons of usefulness it depends upon her.  3


It is the calling of the wife and mother to know what to do with everything that is brought into the house, laboring to make her home desirable to her husband and children, making herself an Eve in the midst of a little paradise of her own creating, securing her husband’s love and confidence, and tying her offspring to herself, with a love that is stronger than death, for an everlasting inheritance.  4


There is not a person in the world that cannot do good; even the mother who is too feeble to work; she can teach her daughters to work instead of permitting them to patrol these streets; she can teach her children to refrain from drinking tea and coffee, to take care of their clothing. Instead of our girls walking the streets or playing, instead of sliding on the carpets or climbing the peach trees and fences and tearing their clothes they should learn to make their frocks, their aprons, and all their clothing, and to knit their stockings; and when they have cloth to make up, instead of hiring help into the house and getting all the sewing machines that are peddled off in the United States, why not they sit down and make it up themselves? This would be far more economical than to hire women to work your sewing machines when you have them. ‘But,’ says one, ‘I must have a woman to knit my stockings, to make my underclothing and my children’s clothing, and I must have a woman to wash and iron for me.’

. . . Is good beyond your reach, sisters? You say, ‘We want to do good.’ No; there are many who do not; they want to waste everything they put their hands upon. It is the great ignorance which is among the people that prevents their doing better. . . .I will ask—is doing good out of the reach of any person living who is able to talk? No; it is not.  Every woman in this Church can be useful to the Church if she has a mind to be. There are none but what can do good, not one, as long as they can talk to their neighbors or to their children, and teach them how to be saving, and set them an example worthy of imitation.” 5


It is the right of the mother who labors in the kitchen, with her little prattling children around, to enjoy the Spirit of Christ, and to know her duty with regard to those children; but it is not her duty and privilege to dictate to her husband in his duties and business. If that mother or wife enjoys the gift and power of the Holy Ghost, she will never intrude upon the rights of her husband. It is the right and privilege of the husband to know his duty with regard to his wives and children, his flocks and his herds, his fields and his possessions; though I have seen women who, I thought, actually knew more about the business of life than their husbands themselves did, and were really more capable of directing a farm, the building of a house, and the management of flocks and herds, etc., than the men were; but if men were to live up to their privileges this would not be the case; for it is their right to claim the light of truth and that intelligence and knowledge necessary to enable them to carry on every branch of their business successfully.  6


We see the infant in its mother’s arms. What is this infant here for? What is the design in the creation of this little infant child? It lies here in its mother’s arms; it would not resist, in the least, if it were dropped into a cauldron of boiling oil; if it were thrown into fire it would not know it until it felt the flames; it might be laid down here, and the wolf might come and lick its face, and it would not know but that its mother was soothing it. You see this foundation, the starting point, the germ of intelligence embodied in this infant, calculated to grow and expand into manhood, then to the capacity of an angel, and so onward to eternal exaltation. But here is the foundation. Sent to school, the child learns to read, and continues to improve as long as it lives. Is this the end of the knowledge of man? No. It is only the beginning. It is the first stage of all the intelligence that the philosopher in his reflections, taking the starry world before him, and looking into the immensity of the creations of God, can imagine. Here is the first place where we learn, this is the foot of the hill.  7


When children are old enough to labor in the field, then the father will take them in charge. If children are not taught by their mothers, in the days of their youth, to revere and follow the counsels of their fathers, it will be hard indeed for the father ever to control them.  8


Let mothers commence to teach their children while in their laps, there do you teach them to love the Lord, and keep his commandments. Teach them to keep your commandments, and you will teach them to keep the commandments of your husbands. It is not the prerogative of a child to dictate to his mother, or his father; and it is not the prerogative of the father to rise up and dictate to his God whom he serves. 1:68.  9


If you mothers, will live your religion, then in the love and fear of God teach your children constantly and thoroughly in the way of life and salvation, training them up in the way they should go, when they are old they will not depart from it. I promise you this, it is as true as the shining sun, it is an eternal truth. In this duty we fail; we do not bring up our children in the way they should go, or there would be no turning away, wandering here and there from the society of the Saints. We let our children do too much as they have a mind to; if they want this or that their wishes must be gratified.  10


If a mother wishes to control her child, in the first place let her learn to control herself, then she may be successful in bringing the child into perfect subjection to her will. 11


The first thing that is taught by the mother to the child should be true; we should never allow ourselves to teach our children one thing and practice another.  12


I have often thought and said, “How necessary it is for mothers, who are the first teachers of their children and who make the first impressions on their young minds, to be strict.” How careful they should be never to impress a false idea on the mind of a child! They should never teach them anything unless they know it is correct in every respect. They should never say a word, especially in the hearing of a child, that is improper. How natural it is for women to talk baby talk to their children; and it seems just as natural for the men to do so. It is just as natural for me as to draw my breath to talk nonsense to a child on my lap, and yet I have been trying to break myself of it ever since I began to have a family.   13


The mothers are the moving instruments in the hands of Providence to guide the destinies of nations. Let the mothers of any nation teach their children not to make war, the children would grow up and never enter into it. Let the mothers teach their children, “War, war upon your enemies, yes, war to the hilt!” and they will be filled with this spirit. Consequently, you see at once what I wish to impress upon your minds is, that the mothers are the machinery that gives zest to the whole man, and guide the destinies and lives of men upon the earth.  14


Are they playing in the streets, or are they visiting? In going to Sunday school they have done their duty so far; but they ought to be here. In their youth they ought to learn the principles and doctrines of their faith, the arguments for truth, and the advantages of truth, for we can say with one of old, “Bring up a child in the way it should go, and when it is old it will not depart from it.” If we are capable of bringing up a child in the way it should go, I will assure you that it will never depart from that way. Many persons think they do bring up their children in the way they should go, but in my lifetime I have seen very few, if any, parents, perfectly capable of bringing up a child in the way it should go; still most of us know better than we do, and if we will bring up our children according to the best of our knowledge, very few of them will ever forsake the truth. 15


Mothers really and verily have very great influence, from the commencement, in forming the leading temperaments and feelings of their offspring. I have not time, neither do I here wish to fully explain this subject. When a father is abusive in any way—is a drunkard, a swearer, &c., if the mother is humble and looks to her God, beyond her earthly lord, as it is her right under such circumstances, the influence that would otherwise operate upon her has little or no power to affect her offspring. If she secretly prays and lifts her desires to her Father in heaven, beyond her miserable, drinking, swearing husband, the sacred, peaceful, trusting, happifying influence she enjoys, when thus living near to her God, produces its impression upon the earthly tabernacle—upon the course in life of her prospective offspring.

The father should be full of kindness, and endeavor to happify and cheer the mother, that her heart may be comforted and her affections unimpaired in her earthly protector, that her love for God and righteousness may vibrate throughout her whole being, that she may bear and bring forth offspring impressed and endowed with all the qualities necessary to a being designed to reign king of kings and lord of lords.

But few women have a realizing sense of the immortal, invisible, and powerful influence they exert in their sphere. A mother may inquire, “What is to be done?” Break off, by faith, and in the name of Jesus Christ, from every false principle, from every hurtful practice, and overcome every appetite that tends to injure and destroy the tabernacle you wear. Take a course that will produce life, that children may be born full of life and vigor.

And during the period of nursing, let the mother be faithful and prayerful, that her infant may enjoy a powerful, Godlike, and happy influence. Do mothers so act? Or do they prefer to run here and there, and to desire this and fret for that, to gratify their appetites?

Look to it, mothers, that you desire only that which will most promote the health and life of your offspring; and ask the Father, in the name of
Jesus Christ, to enable you to resist every depraved appetite; and let fathers be full of the power of God, to lead, guide, direct, and influence mothers, that they may have no desires but those which are prompted by the influence of the Almighty. I make these few remarks upon life, that you may know how we ought to begin to conduct ourselves relative to the rising generation, that the days of the children of men may begin to return to them. 16

David O. McKay


The noblest calling in the world is that of mother.  True motherhood is the most beautiful of all arts, the greatest of all professions.  She who can paint a masterpiece or who can write a book that will influence millions deserves the plaudits and admiration of mankind; but she who rears successfully a family of healthy, beautiful sons and daughters whose immortal souls will be exerting an influence throughout the ages long after painting shall have faded, and books and statues shall have been destroyed, deserves the highest honor that man can give.  17


It was mother who taught me that motherhood is the greatest potential influence for either good or evil in human life.  The mother’s image is the first to impress itself on the unwritten page of the young child’s mind.  It is her caress that first awakens a sense of security; her kiss the first realization of affection; her sympathy and tenderness, the first assurance that there is love in the world.  . . .  that everdirecting and restraining influence implanted during the first years of childhood lingers with him . . . permeates his thoughts and memory throughout life.  In more than one instance in the days of fiery youth, this lingering has proved a safeguard in the hour of temptation–an influence greater in its restraining power than the threat of the law of the land, ostracism of society, or the fear of violating a command of God.  In a moment of recklessness, the youth might defy any or all of these restraints, and do what his hot blood bade him, but at the critical moment the thought of a mother’s confiding trust, the realization of her sorrow if he fail to be true to it, gives him power to refrain from wrong-doing that might blight his entire career. 18


I cannot think of a womanly virtue that my mother did not possess. . . .  I say this in the maturity of manhood when calm judgment should weigh facts dispassionately.  . . .  She was beautiful and dignified.  Though high-spirited, she was even-tempered and self-possessed.  Her dark brown eyes immediately expressed any rising emotion which, however, she always held under perfect control. . . .  To make home the most pleasant place in the world for her husband and children was her constant aim.  . . .  Though unselfishly devoted to her family, she tactfully taught each one to reciprocate in little acts of service.  . . .  the realization of her love and confidence gave me power more than once during fiery youth to keep my name untarnished.

Among my most precious soul treasures is the memory of mother’s prayers by the bedside, of her affectionate touch as she tucked the bedclothes around me and gave a loving, goodnight kiss . . . to know that mother loved us.19


If I were asked to name the world’s greatest need, I should say unhesitatingly wise mothers; and the second greatest, exemplary fathers.

If mother love were but half rightly directed, and if fatherhood were but half what it should be in example and honor, much of the sorrow in the world would indeed be overcome.

The home is the source of our national life.  If we keep the spring pure, we shall have less difficulty in protecting the stream from pollution.  20


We should give to woman the highest place of honor in human life.  To maintain and to merit this high dignity she must possess those virtues which have always, and which will ever, demand the respect and love of mankind.  . . .  ‘a beautiful and chaste woman is the perfect workmanship of God.’

Women possess power to ennoble or to degrade.  It is she who gives life to the babe, who wields gradually and constantly the impress of character to childhood and youth, who inspires manhood to noble ambition or entices and ensnares it to defeat and degradation, who makes home a haven of bliss or a den of discontent, who at her best gives to life its sweetest hopes and choicest blessings.

Anything, therefore, is to be most highly commended and encouraged which has as its motive the ennoblement of womankind.  Beauty, modesty, sincerity, sympathy, cheerfulness, reverence, and many other sublime virtues must be hers whose subtle and benign influence is such a potent factor in the progress and destiny of the human race.  21


One of the greatest needs in the world today is intelligent, conscientious motherhood, and it is to the home that we must look for the inculcation of the fundamental virtues which contribute to human welfare and happiness.  Womanhood should be intelligent and pure, because it is the living life-fountain from which flows the stream of humanity.  She who would pollute that stream is untrue to her sex and an enemy to the strength and perpetuity of the race.

The laws of life place upon motherhood, and fatherhood, the responsibility of giving to children not only an unshackled birth but also training in uprightness.  There seems to be sweeping over the nation a wave of disbelief in God, or disregard for agreements, of dishonesty in personal as well as in civil and international affairs.  Political poison is being administered to many of the youth of America by advocates of Communism.  There is one very effective source which can counter-act such teaching, and that is the influence of an intelligent mother.  22

Supporting Statements

Susanna Wesley

“The writing anything about my way of education I am much adverse to. It cannot, I think, be of service to anyone to know how I, who have lived such a retired life for so many years, used to employ my time and care in bringing up my own children. No one can, without renouncing the world, in the most literal sense, observe my methods; and there are few, if any, that would entirely devote above twenty years of the prime of life in hopes to save souls of their children,which they think may be saved without so much ado; for that was my principal intention, however unskillfully and unsuccessfully managed.” 23


Bruce R. McConkie

“A married woman’s place is in the home, where she sustains and supports her husband; a woman’s place is in the Church, where she expounds scripture, writes wise documents, and learns much; a woman’s place is out rendering compassionate service to her fellow beings, in and out of the Church; a woman’s place is in preaching the gospel and doing missionary work; her calling is to do good and work righteousness in every place and under all circumstances.”  24

Neil Andersen

Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling.  . . .  It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in.  It is what God gave you time for. 25

  1. The Proclamation on the Family, First Presidency 1995
  2. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], p. 198; Journal of Discourses 1:69
  3. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], p. 201; Journal of Discourses 14:105
  4. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], p. 199; Journal of Discourses 10:28
  5. Brigham Young, “How the Sisters Can Help to Build Up the Kingdom“, Journal of Discourses, vol. 11, pp. 350-353, April 6, 1867.
  6. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], p. 200; Journal of Discourses 11:135
  7. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], p. 205-206; Journal of Discourses 19:46
  8. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], p. 206; Journal of Discourses 1:68
  9. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], p. 206; Journal of Discourses 1:68
  10. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], p. 206; Journal of Discourses 19:92
  11. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], p. 206; Journal of Discourses 14:277
  12. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], p. 206; Journal of Discourses 13:244
  13. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], p. 206-207; Journal of Discourses 14:105
  14. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], p. 199-200; Journal of Discourses 19:72
  15. JOD, Brigham Young. “Observe the Sabbath Day,” pg. 83
  16. JOD, 8:61-2
  17. David O. McKay, Secrets of a Happy Life, p. 3-4
  18. David O. McKay, Secrets of a Happy Life, p. 5
  19. David O. McKay, Secrets of a Happy Life, p. 2
  20. David O. McKay, Secrets of a Happy Life, p. 2
  21. David O. McKay, Secrets of a Happy Life, p. 6
  22. David O. McKay, Secrets of a Happy Life, p. 8-9
  23. Franklin Wilder,Immortal Mother, New York: Vantage Press, 1966, p. 43;
  24. Bruce R. McConkie, Our Sisters from the Beginning, Ensign, Jan 1979
  25. Neil L. Andersen, Quorum of the Twelve, General Conference October 2011
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