Making Mothers’ Day Better at Church

As many people know, Mothers’ Day at church can be a hard day for women.

Women might feel inadequate and depressed when speakers’ over-the-top rhetoric about mothers’ selflessness, goodness, and spirituality don’t feel achievable, realistic, or healthy. Also, women who have had difficult relationships with their own mothers or children might feel alienated by this discourse. And of course, the very many women who never have had and never will have children might feel painfully excluded if rhetoric in talks emphases motherhood as the most important role/duty/relationship in a woman’s life.

Nevertheless, I do see potential for Mothers’ Day as an opportunity to honor women more generally and to focus on their strength and wisdom. I know some women think that the best solution is just to treat Mothers’ Day like any other Sunday, apart from a brief “Happy Mothers’ Day” from the person conducting. But given that most Sundays lean heavily towards male voices and experiences (quotes from male leaders, scripture stories focusing on men, etc.), I prefer to see a Mothers’ Day meeting that meaningfully focuses on women.

So here are my suggestions for Mothers’ Day meetings. Hopefully, this list will help guide leaders and members away from the biggest Mothers’ Day landmines and towards a meeting that honors women (without pedestalizing them).


  • Ironically, perhaps the best Mothers’ Day song is “O My Father.” The original title of Eliza R. Snow’s poem-turned-song gives us a better indication as to why it’s the best: “Invocation, or The Eternal Father and Mother.” How often do our hymns acknowledge Heavenly Mother? Basically never, except for this one.
  • “All Creatures of our God and King:” Another male-focused title, but that last verse which addresses Mother Earth is gold. I also love the focus throughout on nature.


I suggest the following as strong possible topics on Mothers’ Day. I prefer women speakers, but one man and one woman is acceptable. Speakers do not need to emphasize motherhood.

  • Women of strength and vision. Speakers can pick a woman from the scriptures and talk about what they admire about her or what the biblical story means to them. They can also talk about a woman or two in their lives or in the world that they admire. No need for pedestalization, of course. Discussion of women as complicated, flawed humans is welcome. This is my favorite topic and can be used year after year in a given ward.
  • Jesus and the women of the New Testament. Jesus broke a lot of norms of his time in his radical attention to and inclusion of women in his ministry. There are also various female-associated words, images and actions associated with Jesus. Speakers should reflect on what these stories mean to them.
  • Heavenly Mother. It’s a brave ward that would assign this topic, but this could be a great topic in the hands of the right person. Obviously, the speaker would want to avoid facile and nonsensical explanations of why we don’t speak about Heavenly Mother more, as well as essentialist rhetoric about women. The article, “A Mother There: A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven” could be a great place to get some ideas about Heavenly Mother in Mormon thought, as well as the very brief Gospel Topics essay on her.


I don’t know how your wards work, but it’s common in mine for the women to get some kind of little gift. I suggest a piece of high-quality chocolate.

Second Hour:

If possible, a time for women to just get together to talk and eat is ideal. Bonus points for wards that have the men take over Primary callings for women for the day.

If you have other ideas for Mothers’ Day church meetings, please share.

The featured artwork is “Mother Earth” by Caitlin Connolly.

Caroline has a PhD in religion and studies Mormon women.


  1. Well written! Thank you. For me, as a lifelong single with no children and no hope of having them, Mother’s Day is a painfully depressing day for me. I like your idea of focusing on the strength of women and the women of Jesus’ time.

    I have wished that we would focus on discipleship with Christ in the center, then motherhood as a ray of that discipleship. Or someone like me, who’s work life or community service is a main way of serving, as another ray of discipleship.

    Year after year of going to church on other’s Day is painful, as it triggers so much of unfulfilled lifelong wishes and hopes. Every year, it is the one Sunday I debate whether or not I will attend. I have always attended but it is a internal debate.

    I wish we would at least get an idea of who the speakers are in advance to help mentally prepare. I strive to have empathy for those who have lost a parent or a child or have other mom -related pain.

    I want so much to support people in their own motherhood yet I usually feel unsupported and devalued in my own struggles as a childless sister.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience, Juanita. It’s such an important perspective to be heard and considered. I too would love for other aspects of women’s lives–like community service, work, sisterhood, etc. to be talked about as rays of discipleship, as you said. I love that image.

  2. Unpopular opinion:
    Eating and talking isn’t my favorite thing to do for 2nd hour….in fact, I kind of dread it. If I’m not going to be doing my primary calling (which i actually like), I’d rather just go home. I think it’s partly because I often don’t feel like I fit in very well in RS, so being forced to socialize there feels like torture. Whenever I’ve been in wards that do this, I get the awful pit in my stomach as I walk in and wonder where I’ll sit and I feel like I’m back in middle school.
    Am i the only one with this unpopular opinion?

    • That’s totally fair. I don’t have many friends in RS, but I have a few people I can talk to for several minutes, so I lean toward the socializing idea. I feel like one thing Relief Societies often lack to some degree is a feeling of sisterhood and friendship, so designated time to talk to one another casually feels important to me. But I would totally feel different if I had not a single person to sit next to or talk to. I’m sure you’re not alone in feeling as you do.

    • You just reminded me of an experience from a few years ago. I’d moved into a new ward and was called very quickly into primary (it’s okay, I enjoy primary and my 9-year-olds were smart and unintentionally funny and completely unfiltered) but on Mother’s Day somebody else took over all our classes so we could venture to the other side of the building and join RS. I got my little plate of treats and glass of water and went in to sit down in the middle of a group I didn’t really know, and the woman next to me looked at me very sharply and asked me even more sharply who I was and why I was there, and then the woman on my other side kicked over my water glass.

      It was so clearly not what the experience was meant to be that I had to laugh (a little helplessly), although I also remember that when I went back to the food table, I loaded up another plate with far more than my fair share of Costco mini cream puffs and just went on home.

  3. I love your ideas but I would much rather see them on International Women’s Day in March. Mother’s Day is so U.S.-specific and as another commenter pointed out it can be so painful depending on one’s relationships to mothers, children, and motherhood.

    • Good point!! I’d love to see all this on International Women’s Day–and sacrament meetings like this on various other Sundays of the year. No reason why we can’t honor women multiple times a year in our meetings.

  4. I would love to see at least Mother’s Day pass the Bechtdel test. Talking about women’s strengths not in relation to how they gave birth, cared for men, or learned to care for/prioritize men would be a lovely gift. They could keep the chocolate if they’d do that.

  5. Because women are not the same, even those who happen to be mothers, I hear so many conflicting opinions about Mothers Day, and making everyone happy is impossible. Some women think women should get the day off on Mothers Day so they are upset when women are asked to give talks. Others want women’s perspectives on Mothers Day and are upset when men speak. Some women hate getting cheap gifts and want the ward to pool the gift money for a charitable donation. Others are disappointed if they don’t get the individual gift. And speaking of that gift, some women without children feel excluded when only mothers are offered gifts, and others are frustrated by the woman=mother attitude implied in wards where all women receive Mothers Day gifts. I feel like it’s a no win situation and would almost prefer to skip it, but I know many other women would be hurt if we did.

    • I’d definitely be annoyed if only men spoke on Mothers’ Day (or International Women’s Day, as Nicole suggested). Yeah, there are a lot of conflicting opinions, even among feminists. I know my single feminist friend just wanted the day to be like any other–and hated that gifts on Mothers’ Day were offered to her. I get why she hated that implied woman=mother idea. I don’t think gifts are necessary, but if a ward is determined to do it, I think it’s a good idea to have youth stand at the doors of the chapel afterwards with the gift on a table and women can choose to pick one up or not.

      The landmines are many on Mothers’ Day, for sure. But I still vote for hearing about women (and by women, ideally) on that day and many others too.

  6. Mother’s Day is a secular holiday. Since we are adding secular holiday’s to our list of Sunday meetings, I propose we add Halloween.

    Seriously, as a never-married childless women, I just take the day off and have for YEARS. So feel free to get up and say that the only real women are mothers.

    • I know a lot of women who take that Sunday off. Even a ward’s best efforts can’t always prevent people from getting up there and saying comments that equate womanhood with motherhood or other things that are bound to hurt people.

  7. This year I was able to choose the hymns for Mother’s Day and I immediately rejected “O My Father.” Although it mentions Heavenly Mother, I still don’t like it as a Mother’s Day song since it is still focuses on Heavenly Father. I chose “Each Life that Touches Ours for Good” (usually sung at funerals, but it is about Christ-like friends) and “Love at Home” (I imagine the One smiling on high is Heavenly Mother).

    • While I don’t love the sing-songy melody of “O My Father,” I do love that the last verse actually addresses Heavenly Mother — so basically it’s a prayer to her. If only the whole hymn was about her! Thanks for those other suggestions. I especially like the idea of “Each Life That Touches Ours For Good.”

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