Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, May 08, 2009

Moroni Had a Mother

by Kerry Blair

Moroni had a mother. Mormon had a mother. Despite the stripling warriors getting all the credit for a superior education, Helaman too had a mother.

I’ve thought a lot about these women over the past several years. I’ve tried to imagine how Moroni’s mother felt when he whipped out that Title of Liberty, prepared to take on Amalickiah—and all the hosts of hell, if need be. There was a time I would have guessed that her heart filled with righteous pride, but now I know better. Most likely, she smiled when Moroni came home on leave, but the minute he returned to the front lines she cried, Why you? There are men everywhere! Why don’t they go? Why can’t you till the earth, tend the flocks, preach the gospel . . . weave baskets . . . do anything but risk your heart and soul in battle?

I think it’s even harder to send a son off to war in this dispensation. After all, the Nephites knew their sons were fighting for their lives. As Americans and Latter-day Saints, we support our government and cherish our freedom, but we prefer to do it from a safe distance. “Good” little Mormon boys are not groomed for the military. Primary and Mutual are designed to prepare our kids for marriage, college, and missions—not boot camp. Think about it. Who hopes to be called on the kind of mission where they’ll carry a gun with their Book of Mormon? It is not surprising then that when a bright, active LDS kid from a good family turns nineteen and enters not the MTC but the USMC, nobody knows what to say. Nobody knows what to think. This, of course, includes the guy’s mother.

Even living in one of the most supportive wards in the Church doesn’t help as much as you’d think it would. While not a single week passes without a public prayer offered for the men and women in the military, it is done at the request of the bishop—who means it—and uttered by rote by people who mostly do not. My husband and I are often asked for an account of our sons’ well-being, but the people who ask often do so in low voices, as if it shames us to have sons in the service “instead” of serving the Lord. (The Lord Himself does not consider the two mutually exclusive.) Indisputably, a young person’s willingness to live or die for his country is not as admirable in our culture as it is curious. Unfortunately, the way some people react to it is even curious-er. Another of my favorite examples: since his enlistment, my youngest son has received a monthly ward letter that is always addressed Dear Elders (and Matt). That Matt is also an elder never occurred to its author; perhaps because his name badge was of the desert-camouflage variety.

This is not meant as criticism. I don’t know what to make of those boys of mine, either. The only thing that surprised me more than my youngest son’s determination to become a Marine was my eldest son’s enlistment in the Army after a two-year mission for the Church. I swear we used the same Family Home Evening manual and attended the same meetings as the rest of you. Curious and curious-er, say Alice and I. Sure, I’ve always believed that a well-trained, well-equipped, all-volunteer military must be maintained to ensure the rest of us continuing our lives, liberties, and pursuits of happiness, but I also assumed somebody else’s kids would take the job.

Even though it didn’t work out that way, I am here to report that it is all behind us now—as of this very morning, in fact. After half a decade of viewing life through an olive-drab looking-glass, we have returned to the somewhat less-surreal world of civilians. My youngest returned from Okinawa a few weeks ago, and my eldest left White Sands last night. They will both be home for Mother’s Day. They are alive. Healthy. Whole. As holy as they ever were—which is pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.

I can’t contain the gratitude that fills my heart, but I know that when I have my children all together for the first time in years, not every tear I shed will be for joy. I will never be able to forget other women who are not so blessed. As I celebrate Mothers Day, other mothers all over the country (world) will wait by the phone for their children to report in from life-missions foreign, domestic, religious, and military. Some military moms will not hear a loved one’s voice because their sons are too deep within Iraq, Afghanistan, or South America to reach a phone. These women are blessed, and they know it. (The phrase “no news is good news” was coined in time of war.) They recognize their good fortune because every one of them knows of a mother who will spend her special day at the bedside of a hurt or maimed child. Even these latter count themselves fortunate because what mother in our country does not know of another whose beloved never came home at all?

God bless us, every one.

Moroni was a man who did not delight in bloodshed but whose soul did joy in the freedom of his country. He pledged his life to the welfare of his people because his heart swelled with thanksgiving to God for the privileges and blessings bestowed upon them. No doubt his mother’s heart was also swollen with many emotions; surely she carried equal parts fear and longing side-by-side with hope and faith. Moroni was not young when he left the service, but I like to imagine that his mother reached an exceedingly old age. (If I were even half as talented as David or Heather, I would write a book to make it so, if only in fiction.) I truly hope she lived long enough to see her beloved son retire to his own house to spend the remainder of his days in peace.

My sons’ service was not as remarkable as Moroni’s, but the remainder of their days are hopefully much, much longer. (I expect more prayerful preparation, leadership, and service from them both.) In the meantime, they have dedicated a portion of their youth to serving their country while remaining true to their God. I appreciate and admire them for that. How well I remember the Family Home Evening we hung a brass “Return with Honor” sign on our front door and discussed its meaning. My sons did not go where I thought they would go, or do what I thought they would do, but I know beyond doubt they served well, magnified their priesthood, and righteously impacted countless lives. I know I am blessed beyond measure to see them return safely home . . . and with honor.

Not even Moroni’s mother would ask for anything more.


At 5/08/2009 2:06 PM, Blogger Mary Campbell said...

My cheeks are wet - need I say more? God bless you and your sons.

At 5/08/2009 2:30 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

This was beautiful. You're an inspiration, Kerry.

At 5/08/2009 3:01 PM, Blogger Kimberly said...

What a rare gift, to help people to understand and be touched by something outside the realm of their own experience. My cheeks are wet as well. This was beautiful, Kerry.

At 5/08/2009 3:12 PM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

What a wonderful, post, Kerry! I'm so glad that both of your sons are doing well and you'll have them home for Mother's Day.

Funny thing is that I just finished writing a chapter on Moroni's mother today. We'll see what my critique group thinks about it next week :)

At 5/08/2009 4:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My only brother was a Marine. Two of my uncles were Marines in Viet Nam, while another served as a Submariner a few years after that war ended. My family served proudly in the military going back to the Civil War (both north and south,) all the way back to the Revolutionary War.

After deep soul searching, my nephew joined the Navy to serve our country instead of serving a mission. He'd already sent off his papers to Salt Lake. He was a walking example of the goodness of the gospel to his submarine mates.

I appreciate the prayers for our service men and women. I know they need the blessings as well as their family.

I'm glad your boys are home, Kerry, and I can't wait until you feel that wonderful desire to kick them out again.


At 5/08/2009 4:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


The battle for freedom started before this earth life and thank heaven your sons recgonize that it isn't over in this life. Little wonder Satan would have us believe that choosing a military mission to maintain our freedoms is an oddity to be shunned, not a mission to be celebrated with a huge gospel homecoming. Welcome home boys! And well done.

Without freedom there would be very little gospel preaching, less baptizing, and no Dear Elders (and Matt) letters to be written.

What's amazing to me is how Satan has convinced so many of us that our Founding Fathers were naive in their belief that a successful republic can only be founded on personal freedoms, old fashioned in their idea that government should be limited, and foolish to think that any constitution could insure individual liberty for any enduring amount of time. They were right. And thank heavens there are soldiers like your sons who understand the difference between self reliance and selfishness. They've risked their lives to give us and so many across the globe the ability to be self reliant by tearing down the selfishness of tyrants.

Any awkwardness toward them is, sadly, an outgrowth of the loathing Satan has for personal freedom and he spews his twisted message in the media and poop culture daily.

I salute your sons for serving a mission to defend one of the gospel's most foundational and absolutely necessary principles. Free agency. Without freedom and without your sons as its guardian, there would be little free agency left over for the rest of us, and none of the other fruits of the gospel we assume will always be with us without making the "Moroni" sacrifice to maintain them under the title of precious liberty.

Thanks Elder Matt. Welcome home. And Happy Mother's Day to all the Blairs.

At 5/08/2009 4:31 PM, Blogger Sandra said...


Thank you so much for this post. One of my sons baptized 2 people while he was at MCRD and both my boys wear the desert-camouflage name badge, and wear it proudly.

This mother's day I will spend my first mother's day with both of my boys in Iraq. I knew from the day my oldest was born that my boys would serve in the military, I only did not know how hard it would be to have them engaged in war. When I heard a new report the other day about Marines that had died, I did not realize that I was holding my breath until the reporter said the name of the city and I started breathing again.

I miss my boys and wish they were here for me to hold, but I would not have them any where else.

Welcome home Blair boys and job well done. Thank you.

Happy Mother's day, Kerry.

At 5/08/2009 11:19 PM, Blogger Jennie said...

Happy Mothers' Day, Kerry. I salute you and your sons. Your blog touched my heart as did the comments of your readers.

At 5/09/2009 1:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My heart is too overwhelmed for me to be able to express my thoughts but let me say at least that I am deeply greatful for those who serve and those who wait at home, fearfully. Will I be thought wicked if I admit that when I repeat those words I was raised with in our prayers during WWII, "bless those serving on missions and in the armed forces," my heart is stirred more, my mind reaches just a little further, for those in eminent danger in fields that seem not quite so close--but maybe, in truth, closer--to the giver of peace and life. Thanks you to those who serve and those who can only stand and wait. And Happy Mother's day to all.


At 5/09/2009 3:01 AM, Blogger LexiconLuvr said...

My beloved friend and brother is a Marine. For years we have watched him serve, waited anxiously for news, and tearfully got on our knees to offer up our gratitude each time he's returned. I know that each time someone blesses our service men & women I am grateful. Each time someone waves their flag proudly or has a bumper sticker on their car, I am filled with thankfulness. Each time I see a yellow ribbon wrapped around bark, I am moved to speechlessness.

I do not know your sons but please know that I'm grateful for the service they're rendering. I'm proud of the sentinels they are--the voice of freedom they proclaim to the world. They are honorable, worthy men and I respect them. Happiest of Mothers Day's to you. Please give all my regards to your sons. Thank you, on behalf of all of my family.

At 5/09/2009 1:38 PM, Blogger Charlie Moore said...

My heart is full. In January 2009 my mother passed to the other side of the veil. This will be my first Mother's Day without her. Since my father passed away when I was a boy, mom and I were very close. It will be with a heavy heart and perhaps a few tears that I pass through the upcoming weekend.

I believe Moroni's mother experienced the emotions any mother would when her son left home (for whatever reason, the reason not being as important as the simple fact that a child is gone), but she knew that her son was doing what the Lord had commanded him to do. A mother's faith goes a long way in helping her cope with absences.

To every LDS mother within the LDS writing community, whether you're a mom or not, I hope you have a wonderful day tomorrow.

Happy Mother's Day.


At 5/12/2009 10:20 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

After reading your post, I had to comment. A dear friend of mine recently reminded one mother she serves in the temple with that "serving a mission is not a requirement for the celestial kingdom." There are many honorable missions in life. Thank goodness for your sons and others like them who protect freedom for all of us!

At 5/14/2009 2:49 PM, Anonymous Chas Hathaway said...

Great post. It makes me wonder what Nephite mothers thought about their sons and husbands going to war. Did they really know how cut and dry it was?

We know. We can see the bigger picture. But they had civil war at times because of the depth of the controversy of whether or not the cause was just. Did they know that Moroni knew very well what was going on? Did they trust him like the Lord did? Who knows.

That idea sure sounds familiar.

One thing is for sure - they, like us, had to put their trust in the Lord, knowing that their son's and husband's motives were good. Certainly those who so serve their country will be blessed beyond anything we know for their service.

- Chas


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