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Four generations of women in a family. Susan Evans McCloud writes that women carry the physical and spiritual life force within them and we all have a rich heritage of mothers to draw upon.

Each man and woman born into this mortal world of ours came through a mother. Some mothers have been warm and gentle, some young, some old, some wise, some willful. But each has been willing to give of herself that another might live.

And life and birth began with Eve, the mother of all living (Moses 4:26). In Hebrew the name Eve means “life,” according to the Guide to the Scriptures on lds.org.

All women carry within them the seeds of life, and their own sprinkling of the characteristics of the life-giver. As Sister Barbara B. Smith, former general president of the Relief Society, said and is noted in "Treasures of Womanhood," “There are unnumbered women who have ‘mothered’ children who are not their own. … Mother is a title that belongs to every woman by lineage from our earliest mother, Eve — and also by eternal destiny.”

Lucy Mack Smith was mother of the Prophet Joseph Smith, who organized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Her courage, tenderness, patience and wisdom won the love and confidence of the entire church. According to accounts, both men and women came to her for counsel, for comfort, and for guidance. When she was placed in charge of an entire boatload of Saints heading from the Waterloo Branch in New York to the new gathering place in Kirtland, Ohio, she gave to the task all the energies and convictions of her soul. She organized prayer and hymn-singing twice daily. When many of the mothers neglected their children she did not hesitate to warn and scold them. “We cannot get our children to mind,” the women complained.

Church History Library
A painting of Lucy Mack Smith by Sutcliffe Maudsley was on display at the Church History Library in fall 2011.

“I could make them mind me easily enough,” Lucy responded, as is shared in "Stories of Lucy Mack Smith: Mother of the Restoration." “And since you will not control them, I shall.”

She established little ways and patterns for them to follow in responding to her, and took their words of promise, which they were eager to give and keep. She gathered them around her to hear stories and to sing the little ditties of childhood that made the days pass more pleasantly for them (see "Stories of Lucy Mack Smith," by Susan Evans McCloud, pages 44-45).

When the boat became encased in ice, and there seemed no means of going forward, the discouraged group faced possible weeks of waiting until the ice could be broken through. With the beauty of her own spirit shining as a standard before them, Lucy told the brethren and sisters, “Where is your confidence in God? Do you not know that all things are in his hands, that he made all things and overrules them? If every Saint here would just lift their desires to him in prayer, that the way might be opened before us, how easy it would be for God to cause the ice to break away, and in a moment’s time we could be off on our journey. But how can you expect the Lord to prosper you when you are continually murmuring against him?”

And it happened according to her words. Suddenly, to the captain’s amazement, everyone on the boat could hear the ice shifting and parting, leaving a pathway so narrow that the boat could scarcely fit through. Then the ice literally closed behind them (see "Stories of Lucy Mack Smith," pages 47-48).

Again, while many of the Saints were in temporary homes in Quincy, Illinois, Brother Lamoreaux had been sent on a journey to discover the exact whereabouts of the Prophet and his brother Hyrum. He returned discouraged, with no word at all.

Edward Partridge heard Brother Lamoreaux's report and became very despondent and full of doubt, according to the account in "History of Joseph Smith by His Mother."

Lucy records that "at last an assurance entered my heart that my sons would be home by the following night, and it filled my heart with such joy that I exclaimed aloud with tears, "Brother Partridge, I shall see my sons again before tomorrow night."

"No, Mother Smith," he responded. "I don't know as we shall ever see them again in the world." When the brothers did show up the following afternoon, this is when Lucy asked if he now believed what she had told him. And she recorded that he responded "that he would forever after that time acknowledge me as a true prophet."

Lucy was known throughout the church as Mother Smith. Brigham Young, the second church president, wrote to her tenderly from Winter Quarters, saying: “We felt that we could not take our leave without addressing a line to Mother Smith, to let her know that her children in the gospel have not forgotten her … may the choicest blessings abide with you forever, is the prayer of your beloved children in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen” (Brigham Young's Letter to Lucy Mack Smith, as found in "A Treasury of LDS Letters," pages 132-135. Original source: BYU Papers, pages 81-82, archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, handwritten by Willard Richards).

There are, throughout the genealogy of the earth, countless lines of noble women, who bind hearts and families together as no one else can. Bryan Sykes, in his groundbreaking book on mitochondrial DNA, "The Seven Daughters of Eve," draws a compelling picture:

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“… Before me, in the dim light, all the people who have ever lived are lined up, rank upon rank, stretching far into the distance. … I have in my hand the end of the thread which connects me to my ancestral mother way at the back. I pull on the thread and one woman’s face in every generation, feeling the tug, looks up at me. Their faces stand out from the crowd, and they are illuminated by a strange light. These are my ancestors. I recognize my grandmother in the front row … these are all my mothers, who passed this precious messenger from one to another through a thousand births … a thousand embraces of a thousand newborn babies. The thread becomes an umbilical cord” (as quoted in “Eve and the Choice Made in Eden,” Beverly Campbell, pages 47-48).

There is power, beauty, and eternal purpose in the unfolding of the remarkable individual lives our mothers have helped to give us. Each of us carries a rich heritage of mothers. In the words commonly attributed to C.S. Lewis:

“A housewife’s work … is surely, in reality, the most important work in the world … your job is the one for which all others exist.”