This is adapted from a talk I gave as a farewell address when we moved from the Somerset Ward 2 years ago. I think it is an important concept in our perfectionast idealistic world, especially in Mormondom. (The pictures are of me and my mother)
Mother’s Day and The Refiner’s FireMother’s Day is often a very painful day for many of us who feel we should have or could have done a better job of mothering. Going to church and hearing all the super-mom stories is often difficult on that day.
I have come to understand that motherhood is the ultimate "Refiners Fire." Hell is not really where the fire will be ultimately, but in heaven: Isaiah 33:14, Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? The answer: v. 15: He that walketh righteously and speaketh uprightly...
The D&C says: 130:6 - The angels do not reside on a planet like this earth; But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire....
D&C 137:2-3 I saw the transcendent beauty of the gate through which the heirs of the kingdom will enter, which was like unto circling flames of fire; Also the blazing throne of God whereon was seated the Father and the Son.
Malachi 3:2-3 said it best:
But who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap; And he shall sit as a refiner of silver: and he shall purify the sons (and daughters) of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.
There is a story about a woman watching a silversmith refining silver in very intense heat. She asked him: "How do you know when the silver is fully refined?" His answer: "Oh, that’s easy—when I see my image in it."
Alma 5:14 Have ye received His image in your countenances?"
Carlfred Broderick, a renowned family therapist, told the following in his book "My Parents Married on a Dare." (Desseret Book) He was the Stake President and had just attended a program on Temple marriage put on by the Young Women. When it was over he was asked if there was anything he would like to add. He said:
"Yes, there is," and I don’t think the woman has ever forgiven me. What I said was this, "Girls, this has been a beautiful program. I commend the gospel with all of its auxiliaries and the temple to you, but I do not want you to believe for one minute that if you keep all the commandments and live as close to the Lord as you can and do everything right and fight off the entire priests quorum one by one and wait chastely for your missionary to return and pay your tithing and attend your meetings, accept calls from the bishop, and have a temple marriage, I do not want you to believe that bad things will not happen to you. And when that happens, I do not want you to say that God was not true. Or, to say, ‘They promised me in Primary, they promised me when I was a Mia Maid, they promised me from the pulpit that if I were very, very good, I would be blessed. But the boy I want doesn’t know I exist, or the missionary I’ve waited for and kept chaste so we both could go to the temple turned out to be a flake,’ or far worse things than any of the above. Sad things—children who are sick or developmentally handicapped, husbands who are not faithful, illnesses that can cripple, or violence, betrayals, hurts, deaths, losses—when those things happen, do not say God is not keeping His promises to me. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not insurance against pain. It is resource in event of pain, and when that pain comes (and it will come because we came here on earth to have pain among other things), when it comes, rejoice that you have resource to deal with your pain."
"Now, I do not want to suggest for a moment, nor do I believe, that God visits us with all that pain. I think that may occur in individual cases, but I think we fought a war in heaven for the privilege of coming to a place that was unjust. That was the idea of coming to earth—that it was unjust, that there would be sorrow. As Eve so eloquently said, it is better that we should suffer….I am persuaded that she had rare insight, more than her husband, into the necessity of pain, although none of us welcome it. " (p. 122-123)
My own mother made some bad choices in her younger days that put her in a very painful refiner’s fire. Some fires do come from our choices; some come as part of life in a fallen world, but we can be refined by both. When I was about 11 years old I saw my mother prayerfully quit smoking so she could go back to church. At this time she was married to an abusive alcoholic. I saw her develop many amazing humble qualities as she attempted to create a home for her children in a very chaotic atmosphere, with the help of the Lord. I saw the Gospel begin to purify her in the fire of her adversity. I wanted to be a part of this gospel that brought some hope and peace to our home life. Her fire was my salvation. She had to go into hiding, in fear for her life, when she finally left my dad after the children were gone. When she was 64 years old she died of a brain tumor that had caused her to suffer incredible pain for several years. This refined her even more. Carlfred Brodrerick told about the lingering suffering of his dad when he was dying. It made me think of my mother. He said:
"…I know he was refined by his pain, by his adversity. He needed to go through that suffering. He could have been embittered; he could have been destroyed. His faith could have soured and left him, but he chose to learn from his pain. I do not want you to think that is was the pain that was good. It was the man that was good and that made the pain work for him, as indeed our Savior did." (Ibid. P. 138)
This was true of my mother. She was good and the pain worked for her, and her mistakes worked for her as the refining process brought Christ’s image to her countenance as it will to all women as we go forward in faith even when we didn’t do everything perfect. "Though he were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which he suffered." (Hebrews 5:8) Motherhood is about learning from the things which we suffer. Christ is our example.