Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Influence of a Righteous Woman

Hi! Welcome to my blog! Today I am posting a talk I gave on Mother's Day a few years ago. It was based on a talk given by M. Russell Ballard titled, Mother's and Daughter's.  The quote art is inspired by a quote in this talk.

My talk today is based on M. Russell Ballard’s talk from the April Conference – Mother’s and Daughters.  It has been said that when a child is born so is a mother. I grew up on a cattle ranch and had the privilege of witnessing “birth” often – the birth of babies, and birth of mother’s. It was an awesome experience to witness cows nurture their young. Once in a while a calf would be orphaned due to the mother dying, or other circumstances. One orphan that comes to mind is Twinkie. I was so excited to be her surrogate mother. I think I was eight, and completely in mothering mode. I got to bottle feed her. I gave her baths and I did her hair. Needless to say, this poor calf did not grow up to be normal. It is not normal to go out in a field full of cattle and have a cow run up to greet you when you don’t have food. When it came time for Twinkie to be a mother – she did not know what to do. She did not have good mothering instincts. Could it be that the influence of a mother is critical for the daughters future role as a mother? Elder Ballard has said his “dear wife Barbara, has had an eternally significant influence on (their) daughters and granddaughters- and they in turn, on her. Mothers and daughters play a critical role in helping each other explore their infinite possibilities, despite the undermining influences of a world in which womanhood and motherhood are being corrupted and manipulated.” Elder Ballard goes on to say “Sisters, we, your brethren, cannot do what you were divinely designated to do from before the foundation of the world. We may try, but we cannot ever hope to replicate your unique gifts. There is nothing in this world as personal, as nurturing, or as life changing as the influence of a righteous woman.” Of course Elder Ballard points out that not all girls have mothers with whom they can discuss these issues, and many women may not presently have daughters, but, Elder Ballard continues, “all women have within their divine nature both the inherent talent and the stewardship to mother”…and so he addressed his talk to all women who have opportunities to influence the younger generation, be it grandmothers, leaders, aunts, friends and other mentors.  In his talk Elder Ballard reminded us, quote “... I’ve been speaking to parents and their children for three general conferences in a row. Last April I encouraged the youth to “learn the lessons of the past. Quoting from that talk he said, “When you are willing to listen and learn, some of life’s most meaningful teachings come from those who have gone before you…how much better your life will be if you will follow the noble example of the faithful followers of Christ.” Last October, Elder Ballard spoke to fathers and sons, and then his most recent talk, Mothers and daughters. “In each case” Elder Ballard said, “my message has been different but similar. I hope you are listening and see a pattern and hear a steady message that in these last days it is essential – even critical – that parents and children listen to and learn from one another. REPEAT . When I looked up “listening” in the topical guide, it said “see communication, learning and understanding” Listening is a form of communication. Listening is more than just hearing. It is a life skill that we are commanded to learn. The Lord admonished “Those who have ears to hear, let him hear”. Listening is a prerequisite to learning – and essential in gaining a testimony of Jesus Christ and His gospel. Harold B. Lee has said that Heavenly Father wants each of us to cultivate ears to listen…Since it is critical that parents and children listen to and learn from each other, we need to teach how to do that. We are unlikely to teach what we have not learned ourselves. Research has indicated the average individual listens for only seventeen seconds before interrupting and interjecting his own ideas. Listening plays an important part in all relationships – Parent –child relationship, sibling relationship, husband and wife relationship, friendship, and so on.
In a book called “The Five Love Languages of Teenagers” it discusses how to have a quality conversation:
  1. maintain eye contact. Refrain from rolling eyes in disgust, closing them etc., even if the conversation is intense.
  2. do not listen and do something else at the same time. If you cannot give your undivided attention, say so in a polite manner, but express that you are interested in what they have to say, but that you want to give them your full attention. Then agree on a time to talk. 
  3. Listen for feelings. What emotions is the other person experiencing? When you think you have the answer confirm it by saying something like – it sounds like your are feeling disappointed because I ……….
  4. Observe body language: tears, clenched fists, etc. Again ask for verification to make sure you know what the other person is feeling.
  5. Refuse to interrupt – your objective is not to defend yourself or set the other person straight; it is to understand thoughts, feelings, desires.
  6. Ask reflective questions. When you think you know what the other person is feeling, check it out by reflecting a statement back as you understand it. Eg. What I hear you saying is …….. Then ask: Is that correct?
  7. Express understanding. Others should know that they have been heard and understood. 
  8. Ask permission to share your perspective. 

In his talk, Elder Ballard urges daughters to “look to your faithful mothers for a pattern to follow. Model yourselves after them not after celebrities whose standards are not the Lords and whose values may not reflect an eternal perspective. Look to your mother. Learn from her strengths, her courage. Her faithfulness. Listen to her.”

To mother’s, Elder Ballard admonished mother’s to 
  1. teach by example
  2. teach your daughters to find joy in nurturing children. A mother-daughter relationship is where a daughter learns how to nurture by being nurtured.
  3. Teach your daughters to avoid the temptation to gossip or judge one another. 
  4. Teach your daughters the importance of making covenants, and then show them how to keep those covenants is such a way they will desire to live worthy to go to the temple.
  5. Teach your daughters about things of the Spirit. Point them to the scriptures. Give them experiences that will help them cherish the blessing of priesthood power in their lives. 

In order to teach these principles, the skill of listening is extremely important to recognize teaching moments and even in creating them. In the book :Preach my Gospel: under the heading  - improving my teaching skills, a quote from Jeffrey R. Holland to missionaries and member missionaries alike can be applied to when parents teach their children : “More important than speaking is listening. These people are not lifeless objects disguised as a baptismal statistic. They are children of God, our brothers and sisters, and they need what we have. Be genuine. Reach out sincerely. Ask these friends what matters most to them. What do they cherish? And what do they hold dear? And then listen. If the setting is right you might ask them what their fears are, what they yearn for, or what they feel is missing in their lives. I promise you that something in what they say will always highlight a truth of the gospel about which you can bear testimony and about which you can then offer more…if we listen with love, we won’t need to wonder what to say. It will be given to us – by the Spirit and by our friends.”

This talk was close to my heart. I am a mother. My daughter is very dear to me. When I gave this talk she was a teenager and our communication seemed to be lacking and so it seemed was our relationship. She is twenty now and things are all good. I still strive to be a good influence in her life. We often discuss the importance of being a caring and nurturing person and an influence for good in the lives of others. I thank all women who strive to make the world a better place by nurturing and loving others. The world needs that tender loving care that we can abundantly offer.

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