Friday, November 20, 2009

Praise for "Women of the Old Testament"

Camille Fronk Olsen was the professor I took a course on "Women in the Scriptures" from at BYU. The semester I was in her class she was just starting her research for a book on women in the scriptures. She recruited us, her students, to help her do research on different women. I chose to research Deborah. It was an incredible assignment and is what really lit my passion for women in the scriptures. Without that class I probably wouldn't be writing this blog.

So imagine my excitement when I saw that her book "Women of the Old Testament" has just been published by Deseret Book! Not to mention my glee when I saw that my name is in the acknowledgments as one of the students who helped with her research. Seeing your name in print is always a bit exhilarating.

I know I am biased but I think this book is wonderful. It has in-depth insights, facts, maps and time lines for about 20 women from the Old Testament. Even though it is written by an LDS author and has some LDS perspectives I think that it would be a great book for anyone, of any religion, who wants to know more about the lives and the history of the women in the Old Testament. It would make a great companion book for personal scripture study or for use in a Sunday school class. From what I've heard I think she is planning on publishing a book on women in the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, and LDS Church History, to go along with what the LDS curriculum for Sunday school is each year. Hopefully this means that more and more classes will be including examples from these incredible women.

The book also has beautiful pictures of women from the scriptures painted by Elspeth Young. I've used several of Young's paintings for women featured on this blog and I can't praise her work enough. I love it that she paints women who are rarely, if never, painted. Women like the little maid, Hannah, the daughters of Zelophehad, Huldah, Eunice, Abigail and Anna. Deseret Book is also selling a companion calender to the book that has many of the paintings from the book.

These would be great Christmas gifts... hint, hint to my hubby...

And don't forget to read the chapter on Deborah, it is my favorite ;)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Noah's Wife

Genesis 6: 18
Genesis 7: 7, 13
Genesis 8: 16, 18
Moses 8:12


Only nine generations after Adam's death the world had become "corrupt before God" and it was filled with violence (Genesis 6:11). It was so wicked that the Lord "repented... that he had made man on the earth" and vowed to "...destroy... from the face of the earth; both man, and beast and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air." (Genesis 6:6-7) Amidst all this wickedness Noah remained faithful and found "grace in the eyes of the Lord." (Genesis 6: 8) God makes a covenant with him that he will save him, his wife, his sons, and his son's wives from the destruction. He provides Noah with instructions on how to build and ark that will carry him, his family and all the creations of the earth to safety (Genesis 6: 13-22).

Facts About Her:
  • She was married to the prophet Noah, who was a "... just man and perfect in his generation." (Genesis 6:9);
  • She was the mother of three sons: Japeth, Shem and Ham. They were also righteous men who walked with God (Moses 8:13);
  • She went into the ark with her husband, sons, three daughter-in-laws, and all the animals and fowls of the earth (Genesis 7: 7, 13);
  • Her granddaughters married men of the world, became wicked, and were destroyed in the flood along with everyone else (Moses 8:14-15);
  • She and her family stayed in the ark for almost a whole year (Genesis 7:11, 8:4, 13-14) ;
  • God made a covenant with her husband and her sons that He would never destroy the earth by flood again (Genesis 9:12-17);
  • She was a "second Eve" in that all the children of the earth born after the flood came through her;
  • It is through her son Shem's posterity that the Jews came, and eventually the Savior Jesus Christ.
Speculations About Her:
  • In the apocryphal Book of Jasher (5:15) it says that her name was "Naamah", the daughter of Enoch.
  • Jewish tradition also says her name was Naamah but that she was the Naamah mentioned in Genesis 4:22, the daughter of Lamech and Zilah and sister of Tubal-Cain.
  • The Greeks called her "Doris" the wife of Nereus (Noah), the "wet one".
  • She probably would have had to help take care of all the animals that were on the ark. God commanded Noah to take 7 male/female pairs of all the clean animals and fowls (14 total of each animal) and 2 (one male, one female) of the unclean animals (Genesis 7:2-3). That would have been a whole lot of animals to be cooped up with for almost a whole year!
  • God also commanded them to take all the food they would need for the animals and themselves onto the ark (Genesis 6: 21). I read one story that claimed Noah's wife was the one to gather all the plants and preserved the ancient wisdom of the earth.
My Thoughts:

Even though we don't know her name, or know much about her, this woman was one of the most important and influential women in the history of the world. She, like Eve, was the mother of the human race. It is through her that all the nations of the earth after the flood were born. In fact, her and Noah's story is very similar to the story of Adam and Eve-- just a bit backward.

Here is the sequence of events in the Adam and Eve story:
  1. God covered the world in water, "... there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground." (Genesis 2:6);
  2. God formed man from the dust of the earth and "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.." (Genesis 2:7);
  3. The animals and fowls of the air are named (Genesis 2:19-20);
  4. Adam and Eve were commanded to multiply and replenish the earth (Genesis 1:28);
  5. Because of their sins Adam and Eve are removed from a pure, perfect, new world and taken to a corrupt, fallen and wicked world.
Compare this to the story of Noah and his wife.
  1. Because of their righteousness they were saved from a corrupt, violent and wicked world and removed to a clean, perfect and new world;
  2. They went into the ark "... two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life." (Genesis 7: 15);
  3. They took with them all the animals and fowls of the earth (Genesis 7:9);
  4. Once the flood was over they were commanded to "... be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth." (Genesis 8:17)
In a way she and Noah were a second Adam and Eve being reborn into a clean and pure world. I think there story represents the potential that all of God's creations have for rebirth and redemption. Each of us is living in a fallen, wicked and corrupt world but through our righteousness God promises us that we will be able to be "reborn" into his kingdom where we will inherit eternal glory (Moses 6:59).

The story of Noah and his wife illustrates how God will redeem his righteous people from the fall, how he will deliver them and how he will provide for them a world that is pure and clean. It is also significant to note that it isn't just the animals that go into the ark "two by two" but that the humans also go into the ark in husband and wife pairs. I think that this teaches us that God's work is done by pairs, a husband and a wife, and that it His desire that we come unto him "two by two".

Another thought I've had about this story is that the ark is representative of the temples we now have on the earth. Inside the temple a man and woman are sealed together, "two by two", and given great promises which are dependent upon their faithfulness. The temple is a place of safety and peace amidst a world that is filled with violence, wickedness and corruption. In a way the temple is our modern day ark, which carries us through this through this fallen world and gives us a glimpse of the clean and pure one we will enter one day.

Noah's wife must have been an incredible woman. Her example gives me hope and strength as I too am attempting to raise a family and be a righteous wife and woman in a wicked and violent world.

What We Can Learn From Her:
  • Women can remain faithful and raise righteous families even in a world that is full of violence and wickedness;
  • If we remain faithful God will always provide a means of deliverance from the wickedness that surrounds us;
  • Great work can be accomplished when men and women support each other;
  • God intends for all his creations to come unto him "two by two."
Questions to Think About:
  • How did she raise righteous son's amidst all that wickedness? How did she keep them unspoiled by what was happening around them?
  • In what ways did she help with the creation of the Ark? Did she help build it? Care for the animals?
  • Was she always supportive of Noah or did she ever doubt him?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Save the WRI

Did you hear that BYU is closing the Women's Research Institute (WRI)?

This makes me want to cry.

The WRI was my haven at BYU and I owe much of the peace I feel now about being an active LDS woman and a mother to the women and experiences I had there. I wrote more of my feelings here.

BYU needs the Women's Research Institute because LDS women need it. There are many LDS women who never struggle with questions of gender inequality, but for those of us who do the WRI represents hope. Hope that there will always be an open dialogue between LDS men and women on gender. Hope that if we keep searching we will find answers to our hard Gospel questions. Hope that one day men and women will be able to live together with out violence or inequality. And hope that our daughters will inherit a world that is safer and kinder to women.

I don't want to give up that hope.

If you don't either you can join the facebook group "Save the Women's Research Institute" , join the protest at BYU (oh how I wish I was there), write a letter, and pray... a lot.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Baby Blessing

Last Sunday we blessed our daughter.

Ever since she was born my mind and heart have been filled with worries about this little girl's future. The world is getting increasingly darker and and it scares me to send my perfect, pure and beautiful daughter out into a world that will hurt her. I know how hard it is to be a girl and what a rocky road it is towards womanhood, especially towards becoming a righteous woman. I know that because she is a girl the world will be a more dangerous place for her than it is for my son. I know there will be trials and challenges that she will have to face because of her gender; my heart breaks when I think I think about all the possible ways that she can be hurt, belittled, or mistreated just because she is a girl.

All these worries and thoughts were swirling around in my soul on Sunday when my husband took our little daughter in his arms to give her a name and a blessing. I had my eyes open during he blessing because I was rapidly trying to write down everything that was said. At one point I looked up towards the front of the chapel and saw our daughter held in her father's arms and surrounded in a circle by her grandfathers, her uncles and other men who cared deeply about her. As I looked at that circle it was as if I saw a big bubble wrapped around my little daughter, a big bubble of priesthood protection. It wasn't just that the men in that circle would protect and care for her the rest of their lives, but it was that they represented God's great love for her and the power of His protection. I knew that God loves this little girl as much as I do and that He worries about her too. She is His daughter, more than she is mine, and He did not send her into the world alone. He has sent angels to guide and protect her, has given her a loving family, and has surrounded her in the protection of His priesthood.

I've often struggled with baby blessings, feeling that it was somehow unfair that men were the ones to bless the baby and present it to the congregation, while the women who did all the work bringing the baby into the world didn't get any recognition at all. Yet each time I've watched my husband take our children in his arms and bless them I've heard the Spirit whispering to my soul that God loves each of his children equally whether male or female. God is not unjust or he would cease to be God (Morm. 9:15, 19). He provides each of his children with the same "bubble" of priesthood power and protection. It doesn't matter if you are male or female, black or white, if you hold the priesthood or if you don't hold the priesthood, His love is the same.

I know that there will be times when neither I, her father or any of those men in that circle will be able to keep this precious little girl safe and untouched by the evil of the world. Yet what peace it brings me as a mother, as a woman, to know that at those times God will watch over her, keep her safe, answer her questions, and heal her soul.