Mothers Day Gift from Bishopric to Women?

by Chidi Okoye

Mothers Day is a hard day for a lot of Mormon women. I myself have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I think it’s refreshing to listen to talks and lessons that actually focus on women.  On the other hand, the exalted rhetoric on motherhood, the heroic accounts of utter maternal selflessness, the essentialization of women, the exclusion (and sometimes painful inclusion) of women who are not mothers…. well, as I said before, it can be a hard day.

One thing that made that day doubly difficult for me a couple of years ago was when the bishopric passed out their annual gift to the women of the ward. It was a booklet by Elder Packer called “Blessings on the Hand of Women.” It was given with the best of intentions, and I appreciated the spirit of the gesture, but I could not help finding the booklet upsetting, with its anti-evolution and anti-homosexual comments.

Since then I’ve been interested in giving constructive advice to the bishopric on what would be nice, uplifting, inoffensive gifts to the women. (As a caveat, I do question why the bishopric even gives the women a gift. As far as I know, we women don’t give the men gifts on Fathers Day.) My first choice would be to donate the hundreds of dollars to help the women of Haiti, rather than spend a couple of dollars on each of us women in the ward. But I know the bishopric wants to give something tangible to the women, so here are some ideas from friends that would cost a couple of dollars or less each.

  • a bookmark and a chocolate bar
  • handmade artisan soap from etsy
  • a packet of seeds
  • cookies from a foundation whose proceeds go to supporting philanthropic causes
  • a pen

Any other ideas? If you were going to receive a small gift from the bishopric, what would you like it to be? And how do you feel about the practice of the bishopric giving the women gifts?

Caroline has a PhD in religion and studies Mormon women.


  1. I’d be fine with no gift and have heard of wards (in my ward, it seems to be the EQ in charge of this) giving charitable donations. I favor a simple treat, like a few chocolates. Last year, my ward arranged for male subs for all women to be able to attend RS that day–I really liked that “break.”

    When I was in the RS presidency, I suggested we give men a candy bar on Father’s Day. It was a hit. I was not so much concerned with men’s need for a gift as with the equity of it.

  2. Please. DO NOT take me from Primary just because it is Mother’s Day. (Worse yet is the wards that ‘require’ it.) The assumption that I want out of where God has called me to be makes me sad, but I also know that not all women feel that way. What is offensive about group treatment for Mothers Day is that it treats all women as if they were exactly the same in hopes, desires, feelings, and experience.

    Dear Bishopric. No gift necessary. Save the money for the ward budget.

    • I feel a need to reply to your narrow mind also. A good percentage of bishops use their own money to fund a small gesture of gratitude for motherhood and womanhood on Mother’s Day, not the ward budget.

  3. I will happily accept chocolate as my reward for sitting through those mother’s day speeches. No potted plants please, out of mercy for the plant.

  4. I really like the idea of a charitable donation, especially if it’s one that benefits women or mothers (seems appropriate). If they want something tangible, a printed note or something to hand out that describes the donation would be a nice thing (maybe with a Lindt ball or something). If their gonna give chocolate, it really should be something better than Hersheys.

  5. Whatever you do, don’t make all the women stand up at the end of Sacrament Meeting while the Priests/Laurels make the gift delivery.

    If it has to be a gift, I’d prefer to see EQ/HP reps standing in the foyer with a basket of something not living (chocolates, cookies, bookmarks) for each woman to take as she so desires.

    If I had my preferences, I’d tell the bishop to take all the money allotted to Mother’s Day gifts and donate it to the local women’s shelter.

  6. I like Mother’s Day. I cringe a little at poor talks, but only because I worry for other Mothers’ feelings.
    I like receiving a gift. I don’t care what it is. We often have desserts served in RS and socialize the last few minutes.
    The donation thing sounds a little cold though. I like to donate, but I like eating a yummy dessert and socializing to celebrate my Mother’s Day. I have also liked getting flowers or candy bars. I don’t like the idea of someone taking it away and saying it isn’t worth giving me something.
    I am not big on presents, actually, and they often annoy me and generally don’t miss presents if they don’t happen. Usually it is the wasted expense (and poor gift buying), so something little or yummy is good. I do not like soaps, candles, or lotions so by all means donate rather than give me something that will clutter until I finally throw it away.
    I appreciate the gesture of church Mother’s Day gifts and view it as a kind of ritual which is important in society.
    Most wards I’ve been in do a Father’s Day thing too.

  7. Oh Coffinberry–you could handle a day of RS. It was the annual visiting teaching meeting thingy–surely you could at least appreciate doing it during the third hour rather than coming back for an evening meeting that night?

  8. I love the idea of giving the money to a good cause. In my experience, though, most members think that’s sort of a superfluous gesture, because the only charity you ever need to give to is tithing and fast offerings and the church will heal the world FOR you. Nothing against tithing and fast offerings, but there are other helpful charities out there, people!

    Anyway, my ward growing up always gave the fathers a gift on fathers’ day. Not sure if the RS handled that or just a couple of women coming together on their own to reciprocate…

  9. Our ward gives all the women Sees’ chocolate on Mother’s Day and all the men Sees’ chocolate on Father’s Day. I like that equality. (What always puzzles me are the parents who then give their treats to their kids. My kids ask, and I have to say, “Uh, no. This one is mine!”)

    Though I love my chocolate, I wouldn’t mind seeing a donation to a local charity. That seems the more Christlike thing to do.

  10. We always give cookies or candy bars to the men on Father’s Day. As for me, give me chocolate. Thankfully, they seem to be doing that more now, instead of the carnation that is dead before I get it home.

  11. Merciful heavens, is it that time of year again? The time when we get to listen to talks about how the speaker’s mother was the embodiment of holy womanhood because she worked herself to the bone, was walked all over, and was never thanked or appreciated? Except for today. Well, part of today.

    Speaking as a childless woman (so I know my vote hardly counts) a donation to a women’s shelter or other charity sounds fab. That being unacceptable, the fathers and mothers receive the same gift. And don’t give me one, because I haven’t earned it. Ovaries do not a mother make.

  12. My favorite year was when the EQ passed out lovely bookmarks and made a donation to the local women’s shelter in the name of the RS. Sadly, several women complained that they wanted more than a cheap bookmark, so the practice only lasted that one year. Next to the donation, my favorite treat was a little bowl of berries and good chocolates. Whatever the token, please, please, please put it on a table in the lobby or the cultural hall to be taken or not as each woman wishes. There is simply no good way to pass out the gifts without causing hurt and pain.

  13. how about we don’t celebrate mother’s day or father’s day at church. that’s my choice. let people actually honor their parents in their daily lives as they should. and if families want to celebrate, they can celebrate in their families. I *detest* (i wish there were a stronger word) how the church handles issues of gender and sex and motherhood. hate hate hate hate hate. nothing makes me angrier. and the nicest thing they could do for me as a woman would be to shut the hell up about it. so yeah. one sunday a year with absolutely nothing said that’s insulting to women would be kinda nice. but i realize that’s a pipe dream. so my vote is for a donation and a small chocolate (for those women who think they need to have something more than a “cheap” bookmark).

    and don’t insult those of us who are childless by trying to lump us into the group called “mothers.” because i may be equipped to give birth but i haven’t and i find it a major insult for people at church to try to reassure me that i still have value because somehow their mental gymnastics allow them to think about me as a mother anyway.

  14. Thanks for reminding me that MD is coming up! I’ll suffer in silence if they give me chocolate and leave plants where they belong – in the ground, not in a pot ready to die in my house! A donation would be ideal though – a great idea.

  15. I’ve been in a ward or two that just made a donation to a local women’s shelter. I thought it was fantastic. Hopefully it will catch on more.

  16. I love the idea of a donation to a local women’s shelter, and I totally second (third?) what Moniker Challenged and amelia said. I usually skip church on Mothers’ Day because it’s just easier for me. That way I don’t rain on the parade of people it’s intended to honor, and I don’t have to have an honor I didn’t earn foisted upon me merely by virtue of having a second x-chromosome.

    (Seriously, foisting Mothers’ Day honor on non-mothers cheapens the sacrifices of mothers by reducing motherhood to simply being female, and it cheapens the sacrifices of non-mothers by implying that everything we’ve done with our life is useless because we haven’t managed to reproduce.)

  17. I feel reassured that there are others who struggle with Mother’s Day too. About five years ago, after my youngest child left home, I just quit going to chruch on Mother’s Day. I have a nice quiet day at home, the best gift of all.

  18. Oh if only that donation idea would catch on. But yeah, I can think of a faction in every ward I’ve ever been in that would throw a hissy fit.

    My favorite was last MD when my Bishop and his delightful wife organized an ice cream sundae party for women to come by and partake as they wish.

    I spent nearly my entire adult life as a childless woman, and I always felt like such a buzzkill. The people in the ward who loved me rushed to make me feel included, and even their most well meaning platitudes just didn’t make things better. So then I just felt guilty for seemingly making their holiday about me.

    I think allowing the gift recipients to self select would solve a whole lot of that problem.

  19. I would prefer that we center our meetings on our Savior and less on the supposedly perfect mother/father/leader. I believe we would all find greater spiritual rest and comfort at Church if we sought in our words, worship and thoughts to come unto Christ.

    I would be pleased to see more of the expenditures in the Church going to help those in need, ie. fast offerings, humanitarian services, and community outreach.

    • What you might not know, because of your narrow minded attitude of ward ‘expenditures’ is a good percentage of bishops use their own money to pay for these tokens of appreciation of motherhood and womanhood.

  20. Ah, Mother’s Day. My husband is in charge of getting talks for May. I actually volunteered for the md talk because it’s often so incredibly painful.

    I hate the flowers, my kids always swing them around so I’m lucky to have a bud by the time I get home. I hate the pamphlets and end up chucking them each time I move (unread). I do like the chocolates. A donation would be nice.

    I actually feel quite a bit for my husband and the bishopric with regards to mother’s day. It’s so loaded. It’s like the “does this make me look fat?” question. They can’t win.

  21. I know a congregation that hands carnations to every adult in attendance. You get a red one to remind you of your mother if she is currently living and a white one to remind you of her if she is deceased.

    It turns the focus of the message from “how fabulous are the mothers among us” to “remember to honor your mother”, a commandment of the Lord.

    I would much rather have a flower to remember my mother by than one to ostensibly “honor” me.

  22. mb: that’s an awesome idea. Of course not everyone thinks fondly of their mothers, but that’s still an improvement over limiting the gifitng to the mothers in the ward. How do the men feel abt getting the carnations?

  23. Jana,
    The think that if you snap off the stem and tuck them in your lapel buttonhole they make good impromptu boutonnieres. 🙂

  24. So many gifts exclude people – some are allergic to flowers or chocolate, others could be offended by a particular quote on a bookmark. I like the idea of no gift. Although a donation to a charity or expansion of the ward budget does appeal to me. I don’t really like the celebration because all it really does it repeat the conference-esqe mother rhetoric.

  25. Mother’s Day is so difficult to navigate. I find it painful to think of my own abusive mother and how I really do not have a mother in my life. I like the idea of donations to remind us of our charitable duties to those less fortunate. It seems fitting.

  26. I love the idea of all the women getting to attend RS. I don’t care for knick knacks. If you give me something, give me chocolate or a flower.

  27. My husband is in charge of the Mother’s Day gifts each year for our ward. At first he did plants, but the next year he wanted to do something different. One year he did these cute books with nail files in them that we found through AVON. Another year, he went to Dollar Tree and found hand lotion that looked just like the ones from Bath and Body Works. They were only $1 each and were such a big hit! We tired each with a wired ribbon and wrote a clever poem to go with them. He didn’t ever want to do food items because there is always someone who is diabetic or has other dietary restrictions or allergies. 🙂

  28. I fell sorry for all of you that have notated that they are not mother’s who have not born a child. I grew up in a home where my “mom” was not a “mother” to me. My mother is and always will be all those who were and still are great examples to me in the gospel and in the world. Look around at all the people you are an example to by being who you are, a strong woman in the gospel, a strong woman with ethics, intelligence, talents and so forth. Who have you been a mother to today?! Thank you to all those who have mothered me and who have made me who I am today. Happy Mother’s Day to you!

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