I realized I never did the second half that I had promised from my post in December. Who coined the phrase “Fierce Mormon Mother”?
In my 40’s, living in Provo around my mother and Aunt Elsie who was the oldest of my mother’s sisters, I asked them one day where that phrase came from. Aunt Elsie said, “It came from my mother’s funeral. One of the speakers talked about how your Grandma Adams was a “Fierce Mormon Mother.” My curiosity was piqued, and I did a little digging. As it turns out, the speaker was William Dyer, who was my father’s dear friend. This is what he said:
“After I returned from my mission, my best friend Bob married June and for many years each summer the Adams home was the center of our reunions together. As I knew Sister Adams better, there was with her a familiar spirit because I recognized in her that kind of fierce Mormon mother that was characteristic of my mother. Ada Dyer and Lila Adams were cut from the same cloth and you would have to have been reared by that fierce matriarchal orientation of a Mormon mother to appreciate that upbringing. I use “fierce” in the finest sense of the term; fierce in their devotion and faith—a kind of complete integrity of one’s life experience. Fierce in their insistence that their children look honestly at their behavior and its consequences, fierce in the sense that one should develop a commitment to one’s goals, and put ideals and values above self. Fierce in the sense of a consistent and abiding concern for the well being of every family member, fierce in the pride of one’s carriage and fierce in the love of truth as expressed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Sister Adams was a fierce, Mormon mother.” ( page 433, 434 From “ Our Goodly Parents…)
From that discussion with my aunt and my mother, and Aunt Elsie’s book that she wrote about my Grandparents, I finally had the source and definition.
- “Fierce” meant committed.
- “Fierce” meant a strong testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- “Fierce” meant sticking to goals and high ideals.
- “Fierce” meant a consistent and loving concern for family members.
Throughout the years of teaching my children, I leaned on that phrase and Grandma Adam’s valiant, Depression Era example. In my own family, when no one wanted to help, or when the sun was too hot in the garden or the whining got too bad, I would reach down deep in my roots and say to myself, “I’m a Fierce, Mormon mother!” That phrase helped me not to give up and fold. I could muster up a little more patience, distract the cranky child, or tell a funny story. I knew of the sacrifices my Grandma Adams had made for her family and how she pulled them through the worst economic time our country had ever seen. Her fierceness, was the kind I was determined to model. The word ‘fierce’ to me, did not have the controlling, aggressive, negative definition of Attila the Hun. It meant to me, a determination to teach children the life skills they would need, to prepare them spiritually and to help them be self-reliant. It was my rallying cry to bring in those pioneer qualities that are always extolled over the pulpit at my church. I mustered myself to not give up and to keep on trying, in a culture that was rapidly encouraging excess, laziness, indifference and narcissism.
However, as I launch into what I have learned I want to say loud and clear that I am not perfect. I do not have the perfect family and my children have done things that I am not proud of. I am not holding my family up as amazing or as the only way to do things. As I have shared my thoughts with different mothers, a commonality has emerged: Aren’t we all searching for ways to mitigate the “me” generation and the lack of discipline our children are falling prey to? I am still finding in my parenting the challenge of teaching my children to work. I still will have children that moan and groan on a Saturday, after years of the same weekly pattern, “Today we have Saturday Jobs? Really? Do we have to?” Or, “Scripture reading? Right now?”
We, as parents, are combating so much: outside cultural pressures, the ease of our lives, and a standard of living many previous generations did not enjoy. The biggest deterrent maybe the fact that it takes a lot of time and commitment to do this. Our children are sensing our weakening as parents. And they are wearing us down.
Fierce Mormon Mother in Bill Dyer’s words meant…
- Fierce in the love of truth as expressed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
- Fierce in knowing who you are and what your values are, and that one should develop a commitment to one’s goals that reflect those values.
- Fierce in the sense of a deep and loving concern for the well being of every family member and showing that love for them often.
And I am adding this last one–
- Fierce in creating and guarding your home to protect it from the tidal wave of negative or harmful media and cultural influences.
Truly, you could substitute the word “filter” for “Fierce”, because there is so much to protect our children from. Too much media, too much junk food, too much leisure time, too much exposure to immoral images and examples—there is so much more I have to do to be a sentinel than my Grandma Adams did.
These times call for us to be fierce and resolute about our role in being a mother. Not mean and hard and tough but unyielding in our commitment to raising our children righteously. I really like the words “loving, firm, tenacious, steadfast, purposeful, persevering, and patient.” Such strong words are necessary to help us shape our righteous desires for our families. We will need them in our minds as we work with our children. Children sense their parent’s loving commitment to them when they learn, teach and work side by side together doing all of the wonderful things that help them grow. What an amazing opportunities we have. What a privilege! I now look back and treasure those Familywork moments as some of my best memories together.
Next post—What is “Familywork”?