Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Where are All the Women in the Book of Mormon?


One of the biggest complaints I hear about the women of the scriptures is that there very few women mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Some women feel frustrated or offended that in what Joseph Smith called " the most correct of any book on earth," God would have neglected to mention women. It is true that there aren't very many women mentioned by name, only three-- Sariah, Abish and Isabel (who happens to be a harlot). Yet as I've studied the Book of Mormon the last few months from the perspective of looking for women I have been AMAZED to find SO many women I didn't even know were there. In my study I found that there are over 87 references to specific women and that most of those references are to groups of women, like wives, daughters, children meaning that there are hundred and hundreds of women mentioned within in the pages of the book of Mormon! While we don't know a lot about them as individuals the scriptures give us lots of insight into what their lives may have been like and what type of women they were-- you just have to read between the lines a little bit.

It helps me to remember that the Book of Mormon is a spiritual history book and that it was written by ancient men who were concerned with preserving the significant historical and spiritual events of their people. Unfortunately much of what women did was not viewed as important enough to be engraved into the plates. In reality, this isn't too different from how our history books are today. It wouldn't surprise me if in a few hundred years another civilization gets hold of our history books and wonders "What were all the women doing?" This is why it is so important that women take the time to write down their own personal histories and spiritual experiences. No matter how "mundane" or "normal" a woman's life seems to be she has valuable experience and insights that WILL be interesting to future generations. It is all the "mundane" and "normal" things that I YEARN to know about these women from the Book of Mormon. I want to know what they thought, what they suffered, what they loved, what they feared, how they bore and raised their children, how they held it all together through years of war and famine, and how they kept their faith in Christ. Unfortunately those conversations will have to wait till heaven and right now I will have to content myself with the bits and pieces of their lives that I can piece together out of the Book or Mormon-- and you know I am SO grateful to even have that much!

I thought that I would make a list of all the women I found listed in the Book of Mormon (if you happen to know of one that I left out PLEASE let me know). I am not going to write explanations about who they are or what happened to them at this time (unless I already have and them I've made a link), but I'm sure if you keep reading my blog eventually I'll post on all of them someday! I've put them in chronological order by the books in the Book of Mormon. I hope that this helps you to start paying more attention to what is written "between the lines" and begin to put the pieces of these women's lives together.

1 Nephi

5 daughters of Ishmael 7:1,6, 19; 16: 7, 27, 35; 18:9
Wife of Ishmael 7:6, 19
Sariah 2:5; 5:1-9; 8:14; 17:55; 18:17-19
Nephi's wife 16:7; 18:19
Women who traveled with Lehi into the wilderness 17:1-2, 20; 18:6

2 Nephi

Daughters of Laman 4:3
Nephi's sisters 5:6

Jacob

Nephite wives who grieve because of the wickedness of their husbands 2:7-9, 31-33, 35
Extra wives and concubines of the wicked Nephite men
Wives of the Lamanites whose husbands love them 3:7

Mosiah
Wives and daughters who came to hear King Benjamin's speech 2:5; 4: 1-3; 5:2-5; 6:1-2
Wives of the men who went with Zeniff (the first time) 9:2 (also Omni 1:27-29)
Women of the people of Zeniff 10:5, 9
Wives and concubines of King Noah 11:2, 4, 14
Wives and concubines of King Noah's wicked priests 11:2, 4, 14; 20:3
Women of the people of Noah 19:9-15, 19-24; 20:11
Fair daughters of the people of Noah
24 daughters of the Lamanites abducted by King Noah's priests 20:1-5, 15, 18, 23; 21: 20-21; 23:33-34; 25:12
Widows among the people of Limhi 21:9-11,13-17; 22:2,8
Great number of women afflicted in the war between Limhi and the Lamanties 21:9-11,13-17; 22:2,8
Wives of the people who followed Alma 23:28; 24:22
Wives of the guards left to occupy the land of Helam 23:38

Alma

Wives of the people of Minon 2:25
Wives of the people of Nephi 2:26; 3:1-2
Ishmaelite women 3:7
Women of Gideon 7:27
Wife of Amulek 10:11
Women in Amulek's household 10:11
Wives and children of those who believe Alma and Amulek 14:8-11, 14; 15:2
Daughters of King Lamoni 17:24; 18:43
Wife of King Lamoni 18:43; 19:2-3, 17-18, 28-30
Abish 19:16-17, 28
Queen of the Lamanties (Mother of King Lamoni) 22:19-24
Widows and daughters of Nephites slain protecting the people of Ammon 28:5
Women led away by Korihor 30:18
Wives of the Zoramites who repented 35:14
Isabel 39:3-4
Wives of the Nephites 43:9, 45; 44:5; 4:12; 48:10, 24; 58:12
Lamanite queen who marries Amalakiah 47:32-35; 52:12
Maid servant of Morianton 50:30-31
Women of the City Bountiful 53:7
Women taken prisoner by the Lamanites 54:3; 55:17-24; 58:30-31; 60:17
Wives of the 10,000 Nephite soldiers at the City of Judea 56:28
Mothers of the stripling warriors 56:47-48; 57:21
Women and children carried off by the Lamanites 58: 30-31
Wives and daughters of the 5,400 Nephites who migrated northward 63: 4-10

Helaman

Women and children slaughtered by Coriantomer 1:27
Women who toiled and spun all manner of cloth 6:13
Women carried away by the Gaddianton robbers 11:33

3 Nephi

Women who united against the Gaddianton robbers 2:12-16; 3:13
Fair daughters who gathered together to be protected from the Gaddianton robbers 3:13
Mother sand fair daughters killed when the city of Moroniah was buried 8:25; 9:2
Women who heard Jesus pray and who were healed 17: 1-25; 19:1
Girls who were encircled about by fire and ministered to by angels 19:1

Mormon

Wives and children of the Nephites at the time of Mormon 2:23; 4:14-15, 21; 6:7,19

Ether

Wives of the families of Jared, Brother of Jared and their friends 1:33, 37, 41; 2:1; 6:3
Daughters of the brother of Jared 6:15, 20
Daughters of the friends of Jared and his brother 6:16-17
8 daughters of Jared 6:20
12 daughters of Orihah 7:1
Daughters of Corihor 7:4, 14
Daughters of Shule 7:12, 26
Daughters of Jared 8:1
Daughters of Omer 8:4; 9: 2-3
Wicked daughter of Jared 8:8-12, 17; 9:4
Daughters of Emer 9:21
Wife of Coriantum 9:24
Young maid Coriantum takes as his second wife 9:24
Daughters the young maid bears to Corianutm 9:24
Daughters of Com 9:25
Daughters of Shez 10:2
Many wives and concubines of Riplakish 10:5
Daughters of Kim 10:14
Daughters of Levi 10:16
Daughters of Com 10:17
Daughters of Lib 10:29
Fair daughters of Corinatumr 13:17-22
Fair daughters of Cohor 13:17-22
Fair daughters of Corihor 13:17-22
Wives of the Nephites at the time of Ether 14:2
Women and children who were slain by Shiz 14:17
Women killed in the final Jaradite battle 14:22, 31; 5:2
Women and children who take up arms for battle 15:12-25

Moroni

Nephite women from the tower of Sherrizah who were held captive by the Lamanites 9"7-8, 19
Daughters of the Lamanites held prisoner in Moriantum 9:9-10
Widows and their daughters who remained in Sherrizah 9:16, 19
Many old women who died in Sherrizah 9: 16, 19

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Deborah

"I Arose a Mother in Israel" By Elspeth Young

Judges 4-5

Background: 12 Century BC

Because of their wickedness the children of Israel had suffered continuous wars with the peoples that surrounded them and were in bondage in the land of Moab (Judges 3). The Lord sent a man named Ehud, who was left handed (Judges 3: 15), to deliver them. Ehud went before the King of Moab, Eglon, who was a very fat man and told him that he had a message for him from God. Ehud then took his dagger and thrust it into Eglon's belly, and the scriptures tell us that then "...the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly; and the dirt came out." (Judges 3:21-22) Ehud escaped and led the children of Israel in victory against the Moabites. They had peace in the land for fourscore years (Judges 3: 23-31). But after Ehud's death the children of Israel became wicked again and they get sold to Jabin king of Canaan, whose captain was named Sisera and who had nine hundred chariots of iron. They were in bondage to Jabin for twenty years (Judges 4:1-3).

Facts About Her:
  • She was the fourth judge to judge Israel and did so during Israel's bondage to Jabin the King of Canann;
  • She was the only woman to ever hold the position of judge over Israel;
  • She was a prophetess;
  • Her name means "bee" in Hebrew;
  • She was the wife of Lapidoth (which means "torches" in Hebrew)
  • She dwelt under a palm tree between Ramah and Beth-el in mount Ephraim;
  • The children of Israel went to her for judgment;
  • She called Barak out of refuge in the city of Kedesh-naphtali and told him that the Lord had commanded him to take an army and fight against Sisera's army at mount Tabor;
  • Barak told her that he would go to battle if she went forth with him;
  • She agreed to go but told him that, "...the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman." (Judges 4:9)
  • Barak and Deborah went forth with 10,000 men to mount Tabor and Sisera came to meet them. The Lord "discomfited" all of Sisera's chariots and hosts, which we later find out in Judges 5 that meant that it began to rain and the rivers overflowed (Judges 5:4, 21-22). The chariot wheels got stuck in the mud and were therefore useless, allowing allowing Barak and his men to fall upon them and slay them all. Sisera alone escaped and fled to the tent of Heber the Kenite whose wife Jael drove a nail through his head while he was sleeping, thus bringing victory to the children of Israel and freedom from bondage;
  • Chapter 5 of Judges is called the "Song of Deborah" and is the oldest known Hebrew poetry in the world. It is where we get the term "mother in Israel" from and is the only time it is used in the scriptures. In verse 7 of the psalm it says, "... The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel."
View of Mount Tabor where Barak and Deborah led their army

Speculations About Her:

  • There is a lot of disputations about whether Deborah was really married or not and if she had children. Some say that the phrase "the wife of Lapidoth (or torches)" meant that she had a fiery temperament. Some also think that it may have referred to the torches in the tabernacle, signifying that she worked in the tabernacle. Others find it reasonable to believe that she was probably married to a man named Lapidoth. As for children, we don't really know if she had any or not. She is called a "mother in Israel" but it is unclear if this is just referring to her role as a leader and judge over the children of Israel or if she also had physical children;
  • The phrase "mother in Israel" is only used this one time the scriptures, but several Later-day women have had the phrase applied to them, such as Eliza R. Snow who was called a "Mother in Israel" even though she never had children of her own;
  • Judges chapter 5 , the "Song of Deborah", may be from as early as the 8th century BC, making it older than the rest of the Old Testament which was written in about 1500 BC;
  • It is highly unusual that a woman should have been chosen to lead and the judge Israel and some people say that it was evidence of the great wickedness of the Israelites at that time. Saying that it indicates that there may have been no righteous men worthy to lead and so a woman had to fill the position.
My Thoughts:

There are so many parts of this story that I love but I think the real power in this story lies in the fact that Deborah and Barak worked together to do the Lord's will. I think that they are great examples of how the Lord wants all relationships and interactions between men and women to be-- based on respect, trust and cooperation. Barak respected and listened to Deborah and Deborah relied upon Barak's skill and judgement and together, with the Lord, they were able to be victorious and free their people from bondage. This wouldn't have happened if Barak had been unwilling to take counsel from Deborah or if Deborah hadn't had faith in Barak's ability to succeed. I think they both realized the power that comes when righteous men and women work together as partners in the Lord's work.

We don't really know why Barak wouldn't go forth to battle without Deborah, but I suspect it was because he respected her judgement and knew that if he relied upon the wisdom and guidance she gave him from the Lord then he would be safe and victorious. I think that Barak knew that he couldn't do what the Lord wanted Him to do without Deborah's help, and Deborah knew that she had a gift and a responsibility from the Lord to help Barak fulfill his task. It didn't even seem to bother Barak when Deborah told him that he would get none of the glory for the victory, but that it would all go to a woman. I assume that he probably thought she was speaking of herself, but in reality the real victory of the war was done by Jael the Kenite woman who slew Sisera and ended the battle. Even so, Barak seemed perfectly fine, right from the start, with letting a woman have the glory and the credit-- he was humble enough to accept direction from the Lord in whatever form it came.

I really believe that God's work is most successful when relationships between men and women are based on love, respect, trust, and cooperation rather than competition or control. God has given men and women divine gifts and when they are combined in righteousness God is able to work might miracles.

What We Can Learn From Her:
  • God calls women to hold positions of authority and leadership (but it is important to remember that Deborah held a political/social office as a judge and not a religious or priesthood office);
  • God gives women revelations and guidance to help direct and protect the people they have been given stewardship over;
  • Women can, and should, be sought out for their wisdom and judgement-- even by men;
  • Women can prophesy (see my post on Huldah to read more about what it means to be a "prophetess");
  • The Lord can work great miracles when men and women work together and respect each other's talents and abilities.
Questions to Think About:
  • Do you picture Deborah as young or as old? How does it change your perception of the story if she is a young woman or an old woman?
  • In what ways was Deborah a prophetess?
  • Why do you think that Barak wouldn't go to war with out her? What did she have to offer?
  • How have you seen miracles in your own life happen when men and women work together?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Adam's Rib

I love the story of Adam and Eve because within it there are SO many eternal truths about the role and purpose of women and interactions between the men and women. Yet, it saddens me that this beautiful story has also been the justification for so much of history's oppression and discrimination against women. One part of the story that some people have traditionally used to justify giving women a subservient and oppressive role in society is that fact that God made Eve from Adam's rib ( Gen. 2:22; Moses 3:22; Abr. 5:16)-- saying that this shows that God intended for Eve to be lower than than Adam.


Creation of Eve by Michelangelo Buonarroti.

I have to admit that I've often been confused by this part of the story as well. It has been hard for me to understand why Eve was created from Adam's rib. Why didn't God just create her out of the dust like He did Adam? Was it because she wasn't as important as Adam? Why was she made second and not first? Was it because God intended for woman to be subservient and lower than man? No, I don't think so and neither does Elder Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who said:

"When Eve was created—when her body was made by God—Adam exclaimed, “Bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man” (Moses 3:23).

From the rib of Adam, Eve was formed (see Gen. 2:22; Moses 3:22; Abr. 5:16). Interesting to me is the fact that animals fashioned by our Creator, such as dogs and cats, have thirteen pairs of ribs, but the human being has one less with only twelve. I presume another bone could have been used, but the rib, coming as it does from the side, seems to denote partnership. The rib signifies neither dominion nor subservience, but a lateral relationship as partners, to work and to live, side by side."

- Russell M. Nelson, “Lessons from Eve,Ensign, Nov 1987, 86

Eve was taken from Adam's rib because she was his equal and God intended for her to stand beside him-- not below him, not behind him and not above him. Adam and Eve were literally to be "of one flesh" and to be unified in all things. It is true that God did not give them the same responsibilities, but he did make them equal partners with talents, gifts and abilities to help each other fulfill those individual responsibilities. This symbolism of Eve being taken from Adam's rib is beautiful and bears testimony of the beautiful truth that God intended from the VERY beginning for men and women to be equal partners, working side by side in all things and supporting each other in the divine work that God has for them to do. How different the world would be (how different most marriages and relationships would be) if each man and each woman understood and believed this sacred truth !