Cover image by Caitlin Connolly.
Anyone who has children knows that parenting is the toughest thing we ever do! Sometimes during that difficult journey of child rearing, we have epiphanies that stop us in our tracks, and redirect our course. I’d like to share the striking experiences of four people…
Like a Ton of Bricks
Many years ago when my children were small I became very ill, and at one time I thought I might die. As I thought about that possibility I began to freak out, thinking about my kids and what would be best for them. I suddenly felt panicked to tell my husband, “If I die, you need to marry again! Make sure you find someone who will to read to them every night, play and sing frequently with them, give them regular baths, consistently study scriptures etc., etc., etc.! As I was sounding this long list of requirements, the voice of the spirit hit me like a ton of bricks: “Anne, YOU don’t even do all those things! How can you expect anyone else to do them? Whoa!
That epiphany shifted my world! It put me in a new, more enlightened space, to be the person I’d like someone else raising my kids to be like. Fortunately for me, I got better and could begin to practice my new awareness of conscious mothering…
Where are the Blessings?
Julia Pratt also had a life-altering experience that gave her the strength to parent her ten children. At the time, she had 5 little children and was expecting her 6th. She writes:
“It was the fall of 1985. I was expecting my 6th child on Christmas day. We were living in New York. Emron [her husband] was commuting by train to Grand Central Station and then on to his office. He had finished his 3-year night program at NYU and was now teaching early morning seminary and burning the candle at both ends. He was busy! I was busy too, and tired!
“One evening I was sitting on our dilapidated couch, thinking about our tiny house that we had long ago outgrown, and worrying about finances which were always tight, since we were still paying off school debts, and with Christmas coming, it would be another ‘Dollar Store’ Christmas! It was kind of a prayer, but I was really just sending up a question, “We are trying to do everything right. Where are the blessings?” And then came the whisper so clearly and loudly in my mind that I can never forget it. ‘THE CHILDREN ARE THE BLESSINGS!’” 
Julia received that heart-piercing realization that is surely for us all.
President Russell M. Nelson taught that, “No other work transcends that of righteous, intentional parenting!”  He knows a little about the blessings of children, having ten of his own. In the next epiphany, this becomes even clearer as celestial knowledge flows…
Angel Grandmother Came from the Other Side to Deliver Message
Bonnie Heidenreich was a very creative person and loved working on her exciting projects, but, like so many of us, was compelled to wash dishes, wipe noses, shop, clean up spills and do laundry instead. She writes:
“It had been almost two weeks and I had not been able to find even ten minutes to sit down and work on any of my projects. I was becoming increasingly frustrated. Finally, one afternoon, I decided the housework could wait. I was going to spend some time for me.
“As I began some writing and planning, my husband came in. I asked him his opinion on something, and he commented, “How can you get involved in something like that when there’s so much to do around the house?” His casual comment turned my life into a tailspin, and depression set in…
“Is that what I had been born to do? Was my whole life to be spent in tedious routine just to get my kids raised? Why did the Lord give me all this imagination if I could not use it? And why was I trying to help my children grow up to be creative individuals if when they were grown, they would spend all their time clearing the table, vacuuming and washing faces? It seemed such a waste. And this was life? Yuck!
“It was about 10:30 one night and I was in the laundry room folding my next to the last batch of clothes. I was very unhappy. I couldn’t seem to find a solution to my problems. Then the thought crossed my mind that I had not yet asked the One who has all the answers. I closed my eyes and offered a silent plea for help…
“Suddenly, I felt the presence of my Grandma Andersen, and I sensed she wanted to communicate with me. “Well, go ahead,” I thought, still somewhat bitterly, “if you can say anything that might help, I sure need it!”
The next few minutes are difficult to describe. It was a type of pure communication where thoughts and ideas are sent and understood instantly.
First, she said, “Bonnie, I speak to you with empathy and with authority because I have already lived through this life. I had ten children.” A brief view of her ten children and their beautiful lives flashed through my mind.
Then she said, “Bonnie, there is nothing that will bring you more joy, celestial joy, than your children. No creation, no book, no song, no job, no success can begin to touch the joy of children, properly raised. The things which concern you are mortal and will come to an end. Your children are eternal.”
Secondly, she said, “To the Lord, the most important work in this life is bringing His children to a knowledge of Him so that they might live with Him again; so that they might reach their full potential in the Celestial Kingdom. You can be a part of that great and glorious work, Bonnie, and you must start with your children!
“Again a picture of Grandma’s children flashed through my mind, with their children and grandchildren. They blessed many who in turn blessed others, who then went on to bless and serve more and MORE people…multiplying! Growing! Expanding! Exploding!…until there were millions of God’s children all over the world who could link their love of God and their desire to be faithful followers of Christ back to my one grandma; one mother in one little home.
“An ever-expanding feeling of awe began to envelope me, and then suddenly I was tasting, just briefly, the joy that she was feeling in the eternal worlds because of her work as a mother. The feeling was glorious beyond description! As long as I live, I shall never forget it!
“Grandma told me some other things, too. She said I must be patient, that there would be a time for doing the things I wanted to do, a time when my little ones weren’t so dependent upon me to fulfill their needs. I should work slowly and steadily on my own projects and the Lord would bless me if I made sure my home was running properly first.
“But most importantly, she told me that if I lived the valiant life and achieved the crown, an eternity would await me with opportunities for “creating” which I could not begin to imagine yet!
“She was gone, and I stood there alone, getting my clean laundry all wet with my tears. I don’t think the whole experience lasted more than a minute, but that’s all it took to turn me around and head me in the right direction. I thanked the Lord for answering my prayer.” 
Bonnie’s experience was magnificent! When we truly understand the principles taught by her angel grandmother, our perspective can shift to a new vantage point, and our parenting may become more intentional from a celestial point of view.
Brilliant View of the Plan of Salvation
My wonderful sister-in-law Vicki Hinton shared with me an enlightened moment that she had a few years ago. She had been lamenting the fact that now that her children were raised, she finally felt like she had a “handle” on parenting. She thought:
“It’s such a shame that I couldn’t have understood these principles while I was raising my kids.” While in that VERY thought, her understanding was opened and her soul enlightened as the voice of the Spirit poured through her mind, saying:
“It isn’t a shame, but a cause to rejoice! You have improved and grown. It is not the plan for children to be born to perfect parents, but that through parenting you learn important and true principles and experience personal growth. It is ok if your children aren’t perfect when they leave your home. Your children’s growth does not end after they are raised, but continues just like yours has, and as they parent their own children, they will continue to learn and grow. In fact, some lessons are better learned as a parent, than as a child. You have already had the experience of being raised by perfect parents in the pre-existence. Now this earth life is a new experience for you, and being a perfect parent is not in the plan.”
Stunning experience! Jeffrey R. Holland echoed this message when he said, “If you try your best to be the best parent you can be, you will have done all that a human being can do and all that God expects you to do.”
Glory of Parenting
The truth is, parenting is the hardest thing we ever do. Nothing else we can do compares. NOTHING!
Each of Julia’s, Bonnie’s and Vicki’s experiences opened up a spectrum of light from which we may each have our own epiphany. Do we realize what a dazzling honor and privilege it is to raise these divine beings entrusted to us? Even though we’re not perfect, our parenting is shaping worlds without end!
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 Julia Pratt, Christmas letter 2018. Story used with permission.
 Russell M. Nelson, “The Sabbath is a Delight,” April Conference 2015.
 Bonnie Heidenreich, personal correspondence. Story used with permission.
 Vicki Hinton, personal correspondence. Story used with permission.
 Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “Because She Is a Mother” April Conference, 1997.