For many women, Mother’s Day is associated with deeply unpleasant feelings. Some mourn for the children they are unable to bear, weep for a child lost, feel guilty about not living up to the standards of perfection for motherhood, struggle with frustration at the ingratitude of family members who don’t value their selfless and lonely work, feel regret and failure over a child who has left the gospel, and on and on. Others struggle because they are mourning good mothers who have passed on and that they miss desperately, or because they did not have good mothering themselves and do not have a loving mother to celebrate.

All this can leave some people feeling like Mother’s Day is a minefield. “What do I say?” “What do I not say?” “Who might I offend if I talk about motherhood?”

One of the interesting blessings of my life is that my personal Mother’s Day experiences have run the gamut from awful to really awful, with very few good ones mixed in. Mother’s Day was difficult when I was a clueless teenage single mother. It was difficult when, after I remarried, Mother’s Day was just another day I had to take care of a brood of children too young to appreciate my efforts. Many years when I desperately wanted another baby and couldn’t have one, Mother’s Day made me feel guilty for being so sad when I already had children (who am I to complain?) and agonized over the child I wanted and didn’t have. Mother’s Day made me feel like a complete and utter failure after we discovered that a treasured child had abandoned the standards and teachings of the Church. Worst of all, one year I delivered a stillborn baby on Mother’s Day weekend. To this day, the sorrow of that time colors every Mother’s Day season for me.

And yet, I love it.

Because as members of the Church of Jesus Christ, we have the tools to navigate this minefield.

We know, no matter what our culture says, that motherhood matters. We know that bearing and raising children is divine, that it puts us in company with our own Heavenly Mother as creators of life. We know that the mothers around us deserve a day of recognition and celebration, not out of guilt or pressure but out of recognition of the sacred and eternal work they are doing. We know that Mother’s Day honors the single most important role a human being can attain. We know that this is worth defending.

And we know the one thing that unites all women, with or without children, happy and unhappy, in celebration of motherhood: it is the closest thing any of us will experience to the life and sacrifice of our Savior.

When we bear children, we sacrifice our bodies and risk our lives for our spirit siblings, just as He did.

When we devote our energies and our whole hearts to caring for those who do not appreciate us—who disobey, talk back, or simply ignore our heartfelt efforts—we are struggling no more than our Savior did, who was executed by the very people He came to save.

When we mourn the loss of our own mothers or our treasured children, we do no more than He did, weeping for Lazarus, whom he loved.

When we fail in our mothering responsibilities, in ways large or small, we are blessed with repentance, our most intimate communication with Him.

When we adopt children because we cannot bear them, we are like the Savior, who adopts the Gentiles into the family of Israel and invites all the faithful to become his sons and daughters.

When we yearn to become mothers, but cannot, we join in sorrow with many of the great Biblical matriarchs, whose prayers for children were not heard—or heard only after much sorrow. The celebration of motherhood is not an accusation against those who cannot have children! It is validation of their sorrow, acknowledgment that what they long for is worthy and beautiful.

When we face this loss, we are, like the Savior, acquainted with grief. We are outcasts from the typical course of life. As outcasts, we join the Samaritans, the sinners, the publicans, the sick, the lepers, as those He seeks out most earnestly.

When our children reject our sincere teachings, when they even turn their backs on us in pursuit of the pleasures and lies of the world, we are yet more entwined with Him. For he devoted a sinless life to nothing but teaching the gospel of joy and redemption to His little ones. Yet when His hour was come, His own disciples joined in the cry: “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

The restored gospel of Jesus Christ is our path through the minefield.

He has walked every road, and knows where the footing is safe. He has left the map in the words of the prophets, and in our hearts as we prayerfully seek Him. He has shown us that it is safe to proclaim the divinity of women and the sanctity of motherhood; it is safe to herald the faithful examples of righteous women and mothers. It is safe to mourn with those that mourn. It is safe to forgive those who have hurt us, and to repent of our own sins. It is safe to point others to the Savior for help with their struggles.

It is not safe to distort our sacred doctrine in fear of those who see motherhood as a minimization of women. It is not safe to criticize the Lord’s anointed. It is not safe to condemn well-meaning others who, in imperfection, say the wrong thing. It is not safe to over-emphasize difficulties and pain and forget that the Lord can make our burdens light, that He gives us weakness that we may be humble, and that our trials will be for our own good.

It is a lovely weekend of celebration and sorrow, and our gospel is rich enough to contain both. By turning toward the Savior in our sorrows, disappointments, and joys, we will always be going in the right direction.