Do you know how sometimes you can read things a gazillion times and they don’t mean much and then, for some unexplained reason, you will read it again and something will just click? The past couple of weeks there have been two things mulling around in my head, two experiences I’ve read, that just came together to make me realize how important a mother’s words are to her children. Not just any words but particularly written words. I’ve read or heard of both accounts before but for some reason never thought much about them other than they were nice stories. Then both accounts came to my attention in my various studies within a couple of days of one another and BOOM! It made an impact on me.
The first account comes from President Henry B. Eyring. He related this story in a BYU devotional back in 1980 called Gifts of Love. He said:
I was teaching from section 25 of the Doctrine and Covenants. In that section Emma Smith is told that she should give her time to “writing and to learning much” (verse 8). About three rows back sat a blonde girl whose brow wrinkled as I urged the class to be diligent in developing writing skills. She raised her hand and said, “That doesn’t seem reasonable to me. All I’ll ever write are letters to my children.” That brought laughter all around the class. I felt chagrined to have applied that scripture to her. Just looking at her I could imagine a full quiver of children around her, and I could even see the letters she’d write in purple ink, with handwriting slanting backwards; neat, round loops; and circles for the tops of the i’s. Maybe writing powerfully wouldn’t matter to her.
Then a young man stood up, near the back. He’d said little during the term; I’m not sure he’d ever spoken before. He was older than the other students, and he was shy. He asked if he could speak. He told in a quiet voice of having been a soldier in Vietnam. One day, in what he thought would be a lull, he had left his rifle and walked across his fortified compound to mail call. Just as he got a letter in his hand, he heard a bugle blowing and shouts and mortar and rifle fire coming ahead of the swarming enemy. He fought his way back to his rifle, using his hands as weapons. With the men who survived, he drove the enemy out. The wounded were evacuated. Then he sat down among the living, and some of the dead, and he opened his letter. It was from his mother. She wrote that she’d had a spiritual experience that assured her that he would live to come home if he were righteous. In my class, the boy said quietly, “That letter was scripture to me. I kept it.” And he sat down. (emphasis added by me)
The second account we read as a family in “Faith of our Pioneer Fathers” written by Bryant S. Hinckley.
Elder Frank Croft was a missionary in the state of Alabama. Because he persisted in his legal rights guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States in preaching righteousness unto the people, he was forcefully taken to a secluded spot of the backwoods for the purpose of receiving lashings across his bare back at the hands of armed and vicious men. Having arrived at the place where they had concluded to administer the torture, Elder Croft was commanded to remove his coat and shirt and bare his back. He was then tied to a tree to prevent his moving while he received his lashing until the blood would flow.
Having no alternative, he complied with the demands of the mob, but in so doing, a letter he had recently received from his mother fell from his coat. A short time before, he had written his parents a letter, condemning mob violence and mistreatment of the elders. In his mother’s letter she counseled: “My beloved son, you must remember the words of the Savior when He said, ‘Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my name’s sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for you will have your reward in Heaven for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.’ Also remember the Savior upon the cross suffering for the sins of the world when He uttered these immortal words, ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ Surely my boy, they who are mistreating you Elders know not what they do or they would not do it. Sometime, somewhere they will understand and then they will regret their action and they will honor you for the glorious work you are doing. So be patient, my son; love those who mistreat you and say all manner of evil against you and the Lord will bless you and magnify you in their eyes and your mission will be gloriously successful. Remember also, my son, that day and night, your mother is praying for you always.”
Elder Croft, tied to the tree, was so situated that he could see the leader of the mob, who had picked up the fallen letter and had decided to read it before giving word to his men to start the lashing. The elder observed the hardness of his features, the cruelty in his eyes.
He then realized that no sympathy could be expected from him. He closed his eyes while waiting the moment when the beating would begin. He thought of home and loved ones and in particular, of his beloved mother. Then he uttered a silent prayer in her behalf. Opening his eyes, a moment or two later, feeling that the leader had had time to finish reading the letter, he was amazed to see that the man had retired to a nearby tree stump and having seated himself, was apparently re-reading the letter; but what was more amazing to the elder was the change in the man’s countenance. He would read a line or two or a paragraph and then sit and ponder. Deep down in the elder’s conscience was the hope that the man’s heart had been touched by the loveliness and beauty of his mother’s letter.
To Elder Croft, it seemed an interminable time had elapsed when the mob leader arose and approaching the helpless elder said: “Feller, you must have a wonderful mother. You see, I once had one too.” Then, addressing the mob he said, “Men, after reading this Mormon’s mother’s letter, I just can’t go ahead with the job. Maybe we had better let him go.” Elder Croft was released and went his way. The loving influence of his mother seemed very near in his heart and mind.
Now I don’t know about you but for me reading these two accounts together is powerful. You know those two sons treasured those letters they received from their mothers. Did their mothers know at the time they wrote those letters the impact their words would have on their sons? I doubt it. I doubt they sat down and thought, “What can I write that will be treasured for ever and always?” These probably weren’t the first letters to their children nor were they probably the last.
The point is they wrote.
We mothers are usually the ones to keep records for our children. We take pictures. We scrapbook. We blog. Do we take the time to let them know how we feel about them? We talk to our children and offer advice and sometimes that doesn’t go too well. How about writing them a letter instead? Letters are less confrontational and can be saved to be reread over and over again.
Waiting until our children are gone from home to write them letters may be too late. There are things they need to hear from us now!
I don’t even know where I’m going with this. I just know I feel like I need to start writing letters to my children, all of them. Now is as good a time as any to start.