Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Women in the Wilderness



Sorry, no Wednesday Woman today but instead I want to share with you what my cousin gave me for Christmas. It was this poster entitled "Daughters in the Wilderness" from the "Real Heroes" collection which has posters depicting various Book of Mormon heroes like Nephi, Ammon, Captain Moroni, Samuel the Lamanite, Mormon, etc... I think it is WONDERFUL that these women were included in a collection of heroes, because their courage, faith, and strength was equal to what many of the male Book of Mormon heroes endured. Ever since I got this poster I've been thinking ALOT about the 7 (at least) amazing women who traveled for over 8 years in the wilderness with Lehi and his family-- Sariah, Ishmael's wife and her five daughters, who married Zoram, Laman, Lemuel, Sam and Nephi. The Book of Mormon tells us that these women "...suffered all things, save it were death" (1 Ne. 17: 20) including toiling while big with child, bearing children in the wilderness, starving at times and not having enough to feed their children, loosing loved ones, and many other hardships. I wonder if the reason Nephi makes a big deal about the women finally getting meat and being able to "give plenty of suck for their children" (1 Ne. 17: 2) was because before they had not been able to due to starvation or sickness. Who knows how many children these women lost in the wilderness or what other heartaches they had to endure. We also have to remember that these were women from wealthy Jerusalem families and probably weren't use to physical labor of any sort. True, they all had their moments of murmuring and doubt when they wanted to return to Jerusalem, Sariah's came when she thought her sons were dead and the daughters of Ishmael's came when they lost their father. Yet despite all they suffered these women persuevered, endured to the end and as Nephi said of them, "...were strong, yea, even like unto the men." (1 Ne. 17: 2)

These women really were heroes and the more I think about all they endured and the amount of faith they showed in the Lord, the more I admire and respect them. I'm excited to hang this poster somewhere were I'll be able to remember them more often. I espceially love the fact that these women look so stunningly beautiful after wandering in the desert for years, being dressed in animal skins and carrying babies on their hips! Now that's my idea of a Real Heroine!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Anna


"Saint Anna The Prophetess" by Rembrandt

Luke 2: 36- 38

Background:

Forty days after the birth of Jesus, and at the end of her time of purification under the Mosaic law, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (Luke 2:22-23) and to offer a sacrifice to make her purification complete (Luke 2:24). While they were in the temple it was revealed by the Holy Ghost to Simeon, a man who had been promised by God he would live to see the Messiah, that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Simeon prophesied of Jesus' divine mission (Luke 2: 25-35) and told Mary that "a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (Luke 2:35).

Facts about her:
  • She was a prophetess (see the story of Huldah for more about the title of prophetess) (Luke 2:36);
  • Her name means "grace" in Hebrew;
  • She was a daughter of Phanuel, who was a member of the tribe of Asher. His name meant "Face of God" (Luke 2:36);
  • She was very, very old;
  • She was only married for seven years before her husband died and left her a widow (Luke 2:36);
  • She had been a widow for 84 years at the time Jesus came to the temple (Luke 2:37);
  • She "... departed not from the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day" (Luke 2:37);
  • She came into the temple at the exact moment when Simeon was proclaiming to Mary and Joseph that Jesus was the promised Messiah (Luke 2:38);
  • When she heard this news she believed what Simeon said and gave thanks to the Lord (Luke 2:38);
  • She prophesied of the babe Jesus to all "...them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem" (Luke 2:38).

"The Substance of Hope" by Elspeth Young

Speculations about her:
  • If she had been 14 when she got married (not an unusual age to get married at that time) she would have been widowed at 21 and then have been a widow for the next 84 years. That would have made her at least 105 years old when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple!
  • Perhaps she had received a promise similar to the one Simeon received-- that she would live long enough to see the promised Savior;
  • Also, like Simeon, she may have been promoted by the Holy Ghost to go the temple right when she did;
  • She may have had children, she was married for seven years, but seeing as she was so old she may have outlived them all;
  • We don't know how much longer she lived after the events in Luke 2, but one can speculate that she continued prophesying of Jesus to those who would listen until she died.
My Thoughts:

Eighty-four years is a long, long time to be alone. As I read the story of Anna I can't help but reflect back on what those 84 years must have been like for her. She became a widow so young, which meant that she probably would have returned to live with other members of her family. She probably never had a household of her own or many of the other social benefits and privileges that came from having a husband. Perhaps she had children, which she would have had to raise on her own and provide for. I can't help feeling that her life must have been just a bit lonely and hard. Yet despite how life treated her, she grew into a woman of immense faith and devotion. I think she must have learned very early one that by devoting herself to God He would take care of her and sustain her through her trials.

Anna impresses me because not only is she a wonderful example of hope and faith, but she exemplifies the meaning of "enduring to the end." Despite her amazing old age she continued to serve God to the best of her ability and to bear witness of the birth of the Savior. She didn't give up-- ever-- and she was dedicated to God to the very end. She inspires me, and I hope that if I ever live to be that old I will have as much spunk and devotion as she had!

What we can learn from her:
  • We are never too old to serve the Lord or to bear witness of Christ;
  • Being worthy to enter and serve in the Lord's temple entitles us to many blessings and privileges-- like the honor Anna had to behold the Christ child in the temple for the first time;
  • Just because a woman doesn't have a husband (or children) doesn't mean that she isn't entitled to the same blessings and privileges as other men and women;
  • God cares about women, especially widows;
  • Elderly women can find ways to participate in the gospel work, even if it is just fasting and praying;
  • God blesses those who serve him faithfully.


Questions to think about:
  • Here is a fact to think about-- Every time a significant event happens in Christ's life women are present and central to the event (Mary, Elisabeth, Anna, Mary Magdalene, etc...) Why do you think this is so?
  • Does Anna remind you of any old women (or men) you know who dedicate all of their time to serving in the temple?
  • Would you like to live as long as Anna did? Why or why not?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Damaris



Acts 17:34

Background: abt 55 AD

After being persecuted and chased out of Thessalonica (Acts 17: 1-9) Paul and Silas went to Berea and had much success among the Greeks there, men and women (Acts 17: 10-13). But when the Jews of Thessalonica heard that Paul was in Berea they came and made trouble for him. (Acts 17: 13). Paul fled to Athens while Silas and Timotheus remained in Berea. The plan was for them to meet up with him later. While Paul was waiting for them in Athens he was very troubled by the wickedness of the people and began to preach to them in the synagogues and in the market place (Acts. 17: 16-17). Some philosophers of the Epicurians and Stoicks found him and took him to Areopagus (Mar's Hill) where the civil council met (Acts 17: 18-21). Paul preached to them, and while most of them mocked him a few believed him and "clave unto him" (Acts 17: 22- 34).

Facts about her:
  • She lived in Athens, Greece;
  • She was present on Mar's Hill when Paul preached to the philosophers about the true nature of God;
  • She was one of the few people who believed what Paul preached;
  • She "clave" to Paul's word and after he left, she followed him in order to hear more of what he had to say;
  • She was not deterred from the truth by the fact that many others mocked Paul and his teachings;
  • She has been made a Catholic Saint, "Saint Damaris of Athens", and in the Eastern Orthodox Church, her day is celebrated on October 2nd and October 15th for Orthodox Christians.
A view of the Aeropagus (Mar's Hill) from the Acropolis

Speculations about her:
  • She was most likely a woman of high social status because only women with influence were allowed to participate in the Areopagus meetings;
  • Also Luke ( the writer of Acts) mentions her name specifically along with the name of Dionysius the Areopagite who was a prominent Athenian citizen. Perhaps Luke mentioned them to emphasis the fact that rich and prominent citizens were converting to the new faith;
  • Some speculate that she may have been the wife of Dionysius the Areopagite, who is later thought to have become the Bishop of Athens and that she was very influential in organizing the church in Athens;
  • As a participant in the Areopagus she would have been exposed to many different philosophies and ideas about God, the world and life. It is a credit to her that she was able to recognize truth when she heard it and had the faith to chase after it.
What we can learn from her:
  • If we patiently and faithfully search after truth, we will be able to recognize it and believe it when we find it;
  • All women should be seekers of the the truth;
  • When we find the truth we need to have the faith and courage to follow it, regardless of who is mocking or criticizing us;
  • Understanding the true nature of God is the basis for any strong testimony.
Questions to think about:
  • Women in Athens didn't have much opportunity for education or participation in civil life, I wonder why and how she seems to be more educated and was present at the conversations at the Areopagus?
  • How do you imagine that joining the Christian church changed her position or place in society? How would it have influenced her life?
  • How and where did you first gain a testimony of the true nature of God? How has this changed your life?
  • I wonder why Damaris isn't a more popular girl's name among Christian families? I think any woman would be proud to be named after her!