Drawing from modern and ancient examples of motherhood, John Hilton III, a part-time BYU professor, and his wife, Lani, shared during the Sperry Symposium at BYU Oct. 31 how motherhood reaches far more than in one's own home.
"Countless people today believe that … motherhood is a burden, and there are better areas for women to pursue," Brother Hilton said. "But many mothers in the Old Testament would disagree.
"These women offer several lessons for modern-day matriarchs. In contrast to some current philosophies, the Old Testament teaches the importance of motherhood by establishing the significance of posterity and the influence and blessings that come from raising children. It provides several accounts of sacrifices mothers make and shows how those sacrifices changed history."
The Old Testament also teaches the powerful influence mothers have not only on their children, but also on entire nations and future generations.
The Old Testament references the word "mother," or one of its derivatives, 232 times, which is 50 percent more than all of the other standard works combined, Sister Hilton said. This shows the importance of mothers in the Old Testament.
Whether it was keeping a home in order, caring for children, working in the garden or with their small animals, the workloads of mothers in the Old Testament are the same as mothers in today's society. Although the technical processes may be different, the same duties and responsibilities of mothers who lived anciently still exist today.
"Though we have many conveniences, our lives have become increasingly complicated," Sister Hilton said. "But for modern-day mothers our most important duty is the same that was given to mothers anciently."
Not only was motherhood the most important role of women in the Old Testament, it is also perhaps the deepest desire of women in the Old Testament, Brother Hilton said.
Old Testament matriarchs offer several lessons for modern-day mothers. Beginning with the example of the first mother on earth, Eve, the mother of all living, Brother and Sister Hilton shared how her example of teaching children the gospel not only blessed their posterity, but it also brought great joy to Eve's life.
Although Eve was blessed to be able to physically bear children, she was named the mother of all living before she had children. Motherhood is more than just bearing children — it is teaching the gospel and making all things known to children, said Sister Hilton. Regardless of having mortal children or not, motherhood is at the essence of being a woman.
Other lessons of the divine role of motherhood can be found through looking at other mothers' examples in the Old Testament. Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel are all women who honored God, were true to their covenants and continually strove to be faithful.
"Many people throughout the world today are descendants of Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel, each of whom was deeply committed to motherhood," Brother Hilton said. "The faith of these great matriarchs is evidenced in their desire to honor God, be true to their covenants and raise righteous posterity. Although each struggled to bear children, their consecrated service as mothers truly has blessed thousands of millions."
Other examples of motherhood in the Old Testament include Deborah, Rizpah and Hannah, each of whom were courageous mothers who were able to teach their children in righteousness and, in some instances, save nations.
Regardless of what the world teaches, motherhood is a faith-based work that is crucial to future generations and nations, the Hiltons explained.
"The examples and lessons from the Old Testament of mothers that we have discussed are only a few among many," Brother Hilton said. "Beginning with the mother of all living, mothers have a supremely important role in the Old Testament and this role continues to the present day."
"Although it may not be popular today for women to choose to be mothers," Sister Hilton said, "Old Testament matriarchs reach out across the centuries to affirm the value of motherhood. Their sacrifices alter the course of human history as we read of mothers in the Old Testament and throughout the scriptures. We should contemplate the sacrifices they made. Their lives testify to us of the importance of posterity and the vital role mothers play in shaping the future of the world."