----- Forwarded Message -----
From: Francis Harper
Francis Harper Message for 5/8/2020
The Career of Motherhood
During our first trip to Israel, we were privileged to meet Kent Sahlstrom, a young American doctor who had graduated from the University of Iowa Medical School. It was a Divine Appointment. Perhaps he had seen our names and address on the guest list at our hotel. As we entered the lobby, he seemed to be expecting our arrival. He approached us, and asked: “Are you people from Iowa?” When we confirmed his suspicion, he introduced himself and told us he had graduated from the University at Iowa City, Iowa. Imagine meeting an Iowan in Jerusalem!
Kent volunteered to serve as our personal tour guide while we were in Jerusalem; at no charge. He spent two days with us directing our taxi driver to the sacred sites in Jerusalem and explaining their spiritual significance in “Iowa English.” Kent was doing his residency in the maternity section of a Jerusalem hospital.
He described one of the happiest births he had ever witnessed. The young parents were Jewish Americans living in Israel. When the new-born was placed in the mother’s arms, her first words to their baby were, “Oh little one, I am so happy to see you! You don’t know how long we have waited and how anxious we have been to see you! I can hardly wait to start feeding you and teaching you the Torah. The Torah is the first five books of the Bible and is the foundation of Judaism and Christianity. This young mother had accepted her God-given career, with joy.
Who is fit to be a mother? My grandmother Harper had four daughters. One daughter had a cat she called her own. It was a mother cat because she soon had a litter of kittens. She watched her mother cat care for her babies; the feeding, the washing with her tongue, the tender nurturing, had all measured up to her expectations of what a good mother should do for her family. Then one day the mother cat decided to move her kittens to a new location, carrying them one by one by their necks! Grandma Harper heard her daughter scolding her mother cat; “You aren’t fit to be a mother! You aren’t hardly fit to be a father!”
Evidently her expectations of a father were less than they were for a mother! This true story has been told in our family for many years.
The future of communities, nations and the world will always be deeply affected by the fitness of our mothers. It has been aptly stated in a poem by William Ross Wallace (1819-1881), that The Hand That Rocks the Cradle Rules the World. The Emperor Napoleon was once asked what made a nation or empire strong? He answered: “A good mother in every cottage.”
What are we doing to ensure that the mothers of our generation will be fit to be mothers? According to the Scriptures, the older women are to teach what is good, and to train the young women to love their husbands and their children; to be sensible, chaste, keepers of the home, kind, obedient to their husbands, that the word of God may not be discredited. See Titus 2:3-5.
What is the job description of a mother?
She is to bear and care for heaven’s progeny, to love as God has loved, wisely, well and tenderly.
Where there is pain she is God’s intern bringing health again.
When there is doubt, she is the wisdom of all ages speaking out.
This is Mother’s work to stand upon the earth and place the hands of children in the hands of God.
We are blessed when we keep the commandments of God. Paul emphasized the importance of keeping “the first commandment with promise.” Children, obey your parents in the Lord; for this is right. Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” (Ephesians 6:1-3).
I was blessed with two good parents. It was never difficult to obey them because I always knew the things they were asking me to do, or change in my behavior, was appropriate.
Perhaps by sharing some of the many memories I have of my mother, you will be encouraged to remember yours. I will never forget my mother washing my ears. I sometimes wonder if my slightly deformed and enlarged ears may have been the result of her endeavors to get the dirt out of them. Her “ear washing” soon gave me the incentive to wash my own.
I vividly recall the day my brother, Allen, was born. My sister Hattie and I witnessed much of the pain which accompanies childbirth, as we waited for the doctor to arrive. This was in 1937 when the doctors came to the homes to deliver the babies. We were invited to the bedroom soon after our brother was born. I can still see his pink skin and dark hair. I remember saying, “It wasn’t too bad, was it Mama?” We had been given a partial understanding of the pain of child-bearing.
The smell of bread as it came from the oven is a memory that lingers. The smell was nearly as good as the taste. Our mother told us that Grandma Minnie Harper had taught her how to bake bread. My Grandmother Whitney had died in less than a year after my parents were married. My mother had a good mother-in-law who was always willing to help her.
My Grandmother Hattie Whitney became pregnant after she was diagnosed with cancer. She refused surgery to protect her unborn baby. She gave birth to a healthy baby girl just months before her death. I recall my mother telling us how much she missed the love and counsel of her mother. One day as she was doing dishes at her sink, she kept saying, with tears, “Poor Mama. Poor Mama,” then the still small voice whispered, “No, not poor Mama, poor you.” Those who precede us in death, who have accepted Jesus, are in the “far better” place. See Philippians 1:23.
My mother always fulfilled the scriptural injunction to be a “help-meet” and support to her husband (Genesis 2:18). She helped with the planting in the spring and the harvesting in the fall. She was there whenever and wherever the family needed her.
We have seen her shed tears for us many times. She cried whenever we had to leave for awhile; for college, or for service in the military of our country. There were tears of joy upon our safe return. In her tears we have seen her love; genuine, real and never-failing.
On Dec. 7, 1998, my mother; everyone called her “Grandma Bessie,” made the necessary move to the Rose Vista Nursing Home. On July 16, 2001, I received a call from the head nurse, at the nursing home. I was assisting with the teaching at a youth camp. We had instructed the nursing staff not to give Grandma any sedative drugs. The message was: We are going to have to do something with your mother. She is too much for us to handle. A decision will have to be made. She will have to go to the Heritage House in Omaha, or we will have to give her drugs to keep her comfortable and let nature take its course. Which do you want? I told the nurse I would be home in two days and my sister Hattie and I would come and discuss the situation at that time. She said, “We will keep her two more days.”
I went to my cabin and prayed: “Lord, we are doing all we can to assist with your work at the camps and reunions this year. I am trusting you to take care of our mother.” My prayer was answered. When we visited with the nurse in charge, after our return from camp, she said, your mother is her old self again! My mother had been refusing to take a bath. She had been physically resisting the efforts of those who were caring for her.
On the following Monday, I took ice cream with me and visited with my mother at Rose Vista. Her long-term memory was good. She was eating again and she said she felt quite well. Everyone could see the marvelous change that had taken place in her in less than a week. We talked of how she fed the harvest crew nineteen times one summer due to the persistent occurrence of rains that season. She recalled it took 3-4 chickens to feed the crew each time! The chickens had to be caught, slaughtered, the feathers removed, dressed (cut into edible pieces) and fried. The potatoes had to be peeled, boiled, and the gravy made on the kitchen stove, fired by wood!
During our conversation she said, “We don’t have to be ornery do we?” I agreed, we have a choice. We can choose to be ornery or we can choose to be good and obedient. After my prayer at the youth camp, the Holy Spirit had firmly planted the thought, “We don’t have to be ornery,” in her mind. My mother repeated this statement many times during the remaining days of her life.
Grandma Bessie passed away about two months later, on September 9, 2001. She died on her 91st birthday. At 3:00 A.M., a nurse checked on her and said, “Bessie, we are going to spank you 91 times today. She responded, “If you spank me, I will spank you back.” I received a call at 3:55 A.M., less than an hour later, that Grandma Bessie was peacefully fading away. I knew at that moment she was celebrating her birthday in heaven with her loved ones! “. . . those that die in me shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them . . .” (Doctrine and Covenants 42:12-f). Surely she was greeted with the words: “Well done, good and faithful servant; . . . enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matthew 25:23).
My Love to All,
High Priest Francis Harper