Judy Nelson Ward, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church), was recently named Arizona Mother of the Year at the American Mothers, Inc., convention held in New York City. The organization recognizes mothers each year and selects a national winner during the convention. Women are selected based on nominations by the community.
Ward, who lives in Mesa, Arizona, is the mother of seven children and grandmother to 34 grandchildren. She was a little embarrassed by the award, but said she is thankful to “stand up for motherhood.”
How Mormons View Mothers
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ respect motherhood and the role of women to nurture children. They believe that motherhood is part of a woman’s divine nature and designation, even if she does not bear children during her life on earth. They believe that motherhood is a divine role given by God to all women.
There is nothing in this world as personal, as nurturing, or as life changing as the influence of a righteous woman. . . . All women have within their divine nature both the inherent talent and the stewardship to mother.1
Society can undervalue or demean the role of mothers, but Mormon women defend their influence.
She who gives the child life is first and foremost the one to give it a way of life, teaching the child what it should or should not do. . . . The ultimate responsibility of a mother, then, is to lead her child lovingly through its personal development and toward its divine destiny.2
Mormons also believe that women share a parenting partnership with men.
Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.3
Ward’s Work at Home and in the Community
Judy Ward majored in elementary education and minored in fine arts at Utah State University. She said her degree helped prepare her for motherhood. “To be a mother you have to be a well-rounded person,” she said, “and that kept me well-rounded.”
Ward and a friend ran a preschool in Ward’s home, at first for her own children. They gradually added other children to the school. “We loved it because of the wonderful spirit these children bring,” Ward said.
“Teaching taught me that you have to love children,” she said. “They can see that even though you’re making a lot of mistakes that you love them.”
She reached out to teach adults as well by teaching adult literacy courses through Deseret Industries for many years. Deseret Industries is a nonprofit business enterprise owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, designed to provide employment and to aid in the economic rehabilitation of disadvantaged persons.
Her Mother Is Her Mentor
Ward said she learned about motherhood from her own mother. “I’m the child who came from school and said I have to have 60 chocolate éclairs tomorrow, and she would do it.”
American Mothers, Inc. is an interfaith, nonpolitical, nonprofit organization that continues to recognize the invaluable contribution mothers make to the future success and happiness of children and society.
Resource: Lucy Schouten, “Arizona ‘Mother of the Year’ Teaches with Love,” Deseret News, June 22, 2013
1. M. Russell Ballard, in Daughters in My Kingdom, https://www.lds.org/relief-society/daughters-in-my-kingdom/manual/guardians-of-the-hearth-establishing-nurturing-and-defending-the-family?lang=eng
Paula Hicken was an editor with the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship from 2000 to 2013. She earned her BA degree in English from Brigham Young University. She edited Insights, the Maxwell Institute newsletter, and was the production editor for Faith, Philosophy, Scripture, Hebrew Law in Biblical Times (2nd ed.), Third Nephi: An Incomparable Scripture, and was one of the copy editors for Analysis of the Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon. She also helped manage the Maxwell Institute intellectual property and oversaw rights and permissions. She has published in the Ensign, the Liahona, the LDS Church News, and the FARMS Review.