How does one learn to be a good, loving mother?
April 1977

“How does one learn to be a good, loving mother?” Ensign, Apr. 1977, 33

How does one learn to be a good, loving mother?

Mollie H. Sorensen, mother of eight, Napa, California First, I think that question is not at all rare among mothers—far from it. I’ve felt the same way and I know many other mothers have too, and I understand how discouraging and even frightening it is to realize that the feelings of love you expect to accompany motherhood simply aren’t there all the time. Our careers as mothers are founded upon the premise that we love.

Yet we all experience times when our supply of love seems to wane. One mother I know put it this way, “Everyone acts as if it comes naturally—but sometimes I just don’t have very much love to give.” I think we all have these feelings, but how can we fill our reservoirs of love when they seem to drain out at the bottom?

Let me share an idea with you. It’s simple, even though it’s not easy. It’s an hour of my day, set aside for reading the scriptures and praying.

How can a mother of young children take that time? Well, as one of my friends puts it, “When you read the scriptures, you don’t take time—you add time.”

I think that’s true, because devoting time each day for the Lord is actually saying to him, “I will put you first in my life—before the washing and ironing—since I know that by doing this I will be blessed to be a better mother, wife, and homemaker.”

And such great blessings are in store for the woman who does it! When we seek the Lord first, he in return pours out gifts upon us, especially the gift of the Holy Ghost, which, as Elder Parley P. Pratt said, “quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands and purifies all the natural passions and affections; and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. … It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness and charity. It develops beauty of person, form and features. … In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being.” (Key to Theology, 10th ed., Deseret Book Co., 1966, p. 101.)

Who needs these attributes more than mothers?

One sister with six children takes twenty minutes or so right after the last child goes to school.

Another sister, a night owl, loves to stay up for her study and meditation. She has seven children; her husband serves in the stake presidency.

Whatever the time, it is important that these moments every day be dedicated for this purpose. And expect some opposition. I noticed the following thoughts in my mind the first week I seriously tried to study the scriptures:

“What if someone saw my kitchen? I’d be so embarrassed!”

“I’ll have to answer that phone. It might be something important.”

“I’m so tired! I think I’m falling asleeeeee …”

Fight back with determination! It’s worth it. One woman recently confided that after her seventh baby’s birth, she felt miserable, alone, vulnerable, constantly irritated by her children’s play.

Then after several months, she put her finger on the cause of her depression: illness during her pregnancy had changed her habit of getting up early to study and pray. “Oh, I prayed, but never with the same feeling I had after an hour with the scriptures or conference talks. And I felt justified in skipping it—after all, I was so sick. Nevertheless, I had gradually become spiritually weak. Now, after several weeks of having my early morning study, I feet strong and able to care for my family again. I enjoy my children now!”

To nourish our hungry spirits we must, for a brief time daily, be a Mary first, a Martha second. (See Luke 10:38–42.) We cannot sit at the Savior’s feet as Mary did, but we can kneel with his words to show that we need him in our lives. And we can converse with him in prayer—pleading that we will catch the vision of our call as mothers in Zion. How can we teach our children the gospel if we do not know it? And how can we instill a love of the scriptures in their hearts if our own behavior communicates that the scriptures are too hard to understand?

President Joseph Fielding Smith stressed: “Our first concern should be our own salvation. We should seek every gospel blessing for ourselves.

“Then we should be concerned about our families, our children and our ancestors.” (Church News, January 16, 1971.)

It is not an easy challenge for most mothers—to care for these kinds of needs first—but my own experience proves to me that it’s worth its weight in love.