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OPINION It’s Time to Stop Mother’s-Day-themed Church Meetings

 

By: Andrew Knaupp


On May 11, 2018, two days before Mother’s Day, Sharon Eubank, then First Counselor in the General Relief Society Presidency, wrote an article that appeared on the homepage of the church website titled: “The Idea of ‘Mothers in Zion’ Made Me Mad—Until I Learned What It Meant.”


In the article, she said: “I truly feel sorry for men on Mother’s Day. This holiday—meant to honor and celebrate—is more often an emotional and spiritual minefield for almost everyone: Women who have no children, or who wanted more children, or maybe different children. Women who feel they are failing, or that someone failed them, or that failure is around the corner. Women who wished they were free to mother, or feel cut off from their mothers, or never had the mother they wanted, or can’t be the mother they want to be. Sometimes it seems like there is no way to win here.”


She then openly admitted that Mother’s Day programs had, in the past, become so uncomfortable that “I couldn’t bear to have everyone gauging my expression, so I skipped church.”


When a member of the General Relief Society Presidency describes an official church meeting as something she would rather skip than attend, you would think there would have been quite a response. Perhaps a new guideline in the handbook of instructions advising Bishoprics to avoid such practices?


Instead, nothing official happened.


Perhaps this was because at the end of the article, Sister Eubank sounded resigned to the fate of this tradition and decided to modify the definition of Mother to include all women.


Perhaps it was because the handbook doesn’t even mention the term “Mother’s Day,” let alone recommend Mother’s Day programs. For whatever reason, the important conversation about why we do this in church and whether we should keep doing it never happened.


We need to stop Mother’s Day-themed programs at church. I don’t think themed meetings are a good idea generally, including Father’s Day, but Mother’s Day has become by far the worst offender.


Now before you get out your torches and pitchforks, hear me out. I’m not talking about the Bishopric member conducting saying “Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there.” Just like saying “Happy Veterans Day to all the veterans out there” isn’t the same as an entire program about Veterans. I’m talking about the kind of meeting where the opening prayer goes like this: “We’re grateful to be gathered here for this special Mother’s Day program.” When the Bishopric member conducting welcomes you to the “special Mother’s Day program,” where all the speakers are assigned to talk about their mothers, the musical numbers are about mothers, and after the meeting, gifts are handed out to all the women. Then there’s substituting for all the classes the women teach so they can all attend a special Mother’s Day Relief Society meeting and canceling all leadership meetings before or after church.


The purpose of Sacrament meeting is to “Remember Jesus Christ by partaking of the sacrament, worshiping, building faith and testimony, and conducting ward business” (Handbook of Instructions 29.2.1).


How is having this type of Mother’s Day program doing any of these things?

Instead, what we end up doing is:

  1. Make people who would otherwise be at church not want to come (like Sister Eubank).

  2. Create an environment of comparison where many women feel inadequate when compared to the “greatest hits” of motherhood shared from the pulpit.

  3. Modify the definition of mother so that it loses its meaning.

  4. Spend sacred tithing funds on Mother’s Day gifts. Nothing in the handbook says ward funds can be used for this.

  5. Ask members to donate money or time towards creating gifts for a holiday meant to be celebrated at home.

  6. Cause businesses to be open on Sunday. Like the time my ward ordered 200 chocolate cupcakes from the local bakery for Mother’s Day gifts. When the Bishopric member went to pick them up Sunday morning, the order had been misplaced, so the manager made all his employees come in (they were all home with their families) to make them so our ward could still hand them out that day.


I’m not against Mother’s Day. Let’s just leave it to families to celebrate Mother’s Day at home in their own way. They can still honor their mothers and we can leave the “emotional and spiritual minefield” out of our church meetings. Instead of dreading church on Mother’s Day, wouldn’t it be a wonderful gift to all members if they knew church would just be focused on the truths of the gospel? We won’t be anti-Mother’s Day if we leave the celebrating to the individuals and families at home and just let church be church.

 

Ward Radio News is not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Church) and does not officially represent the Church. The views expressed by contributors do not necessarily represent the position of Ward Radio News.

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10 Comments


Agree!


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A woman's bitterness of not able to have children is a long time complaint at church. Everybody has a brick wall to climb in life. So, what else is new? I definitely would have passed-by Sharon at a young adult dance. Not my type.

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One thing I love about our Bishopric and Stake Leaders where we live, they too shy away from any type of theme of this sort. We do have themes for a month and we try to stick to those general Christ center themes. I love Sister Eubank's perspective.

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I agree it should be dumped. Same for Father’s Day. But, it will never happen because a riot would happen. So we will all have to endure it until time ends.

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Well, someone had to start this fire.😂 I agree with the author's sentiments, though I think a complete whitewash of the custom would ruffle a lot of feathers. I will say I am tired of feeling unappreciated by comparing what Dad's are gifted on Father's Day at church in comparison to the fatted calf that is killed for our women. That's a "me problem", but still. Eliminating the gifts would be a step in the right direction.

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