There isn't an exact mold for a mother.
As Gary Toyn gathered essays from more than 70 people — including religious leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, politicians, sports figures, writers and bloggers, artists and entertainers, business leaders and educators — about their mothers for "Life Lessons from Mothers of Faith" (Covenant Communications, $29.99), he saw stories reflect the diversity of motherhood.
"Every story is different," Toyn said of the essays included in the companion to "Life Lessons from Fathers of Faith." "Everyone has a unique take on motherhood."
And there are more than 70 essays and more than 70 unique takes.
Some of the women are divorced. Others were widowed. Some are consistent and faithful in their chosen religion, while others are not. Some shared funny stories. And all had trials in their lives.
But they are all incredible in their own way, Toyn said.
Susan Easton Black, a professor of church history at Brigham Young University, shares how her mother, Ethelyn "Dolly" Lindsay Ward, was called to be the Young Women president in her ward when she was 78. At the time, she was a widow and wondered how she could relate to the youths.
"The legacy my mother left me is one of moving forward in each phase of life," Black wrote.
NBA basketball player Jimmer Fredette tells of the love and devotion of his mother, who is Catholic.
Elder Richard Hinckley shares feelings about his mother, Marjorie Pay Hinckley, wife of the late President Gordon B. Hinckley, and Robert L. McKay tells about his mother, Emma Ray Riggs McKay, the wife of the late President David O. McKay.
NFL football player Steve Young and Olympic gymnast Peter Vidmar write about their mothers.
And not every story shows mothers in their best light, Toyn said.
Take Toyn's own mother, whom he credits with an ability to endure to the end.
She and his father's activity in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was periodic, and they couldn't attend the temple when he was married. However, later they served an LDS mission in Nauvoo.
U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) mentions how his parents smoked and drank too much, but that he never doubted his mother's confidence, optimism and love for her boys.
Maren Rosemarie Slover Mazzeo, a blogger from Provo, Utah, writes how her mother struggled to balance family life with her career as an anesthesiologist.
"I want to show mothers that they are doing a good job and to just keep going," Toyn said.
And U.S. Air Force Col. Mark Allred, the chief trial judge of the U.S. Air Force, points out how his mother's "nobility lies in the war she wages with her own shortcomings" and that she "was not the great angelic caricature."
For Toyn, the variety of stories shows something about motherhood.
"It proves the point that there are many ways to be a mother," he said.
In the back of "Life Lessons from Mother's of Faith" is a template for people to write a tribute to their own mothers.
Excerpts from "Life's Lessons from Mothers of Faith":
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- Mormon-raised Paul Walker remembered... 63
- Cardinal Dolan says Catholic church... 38
- Notre Dame sues over health care law's... 31
- BYU's linebacker Kyle Van Noy engaged... 28
- Seeing is believing: Doctor, family say... 25
- LDS Church alters Christmas devotional... 21
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- Defending the Faith: 'Pleased as man... 18