Saturday, April 10, 2010

Bearing Children in the Wilderness: Sariah, Nehi's Sisters, and Ishmael's Daughters

There were 9 (at least) amazing women who traveled for over 8 years in the wilderness with Lehi and his family-- Sariah, Nephi's sisters (2 Nephi 5:6 ), Ishmael's wife, and her five daughters who married Zoram, Laman, Lemuel, Sam and Nephi. Nephi tells us that these women "...suffered all things, save it were death" (1 Ne. 17: 20) which included toiling while big and heavy with child, bearing children in the wilderness, starving, not having enough to feed their children, loosing loved ones, and many other hardships. It is important to remember that these women weren't the pioneering, live in a tent, cook outdoors, kill your own food, and wear animal skins type of women. They were rich, pampered Jerusalem ladies who had probably never had to lift a finger most of their lives. We know that Lehi was a man of wealth and substance in Jerusalem and it is likely that Ishmael was as well. Before leaving Jerusalem these women would have had very comfortable lives with lots of servants, nice houses, fancy clothes, and expensive foods. I'm sure that when they envisioned their futures they didn't see themselves trekking across the wilderness nine months pregnant and eating raw meat.

Yet because they had faith in God and in His chosen prophet they left their homes, family, friends behind in Jerusalem and took a leap of faith into the wilderness. In the wilderness God pushed them to their utmost limits spiritually and physically. At one point or another they all had their moments of weakness and doubt but they clung firmly to their faith and in the end.... they did it. They overcame their doubts and became spiritually stronger. Yet maybe even more significantly, they were able to endure their physical trials and they became physically stronger; so strong that Nephi wrote this about them, "... our women...were strong, yea, even like unto the men." (1 Ne. 17: 2)

"Daughters in the Wilderness" from

I think that one of the most beautiful things that these women's birth stories teach us is that women are strong... spiritually and physically. In my post "Appreciating the Physicality of Birth" I wrote this which I think fits beautifully in with these Book of Mormon women's experiences:

"For most women pregnancy, labor and birth are the hardest things they will ever do physically. Carrying and giving birth to a child requires a great deal of endurance, faith in your body's ability, listening to and trusting your body, learning how to handle pain, learning to let go, sheer strength and willpower. Most women wouldn't ever stretch their bodies and their souls in that sort of physical way (I make an exception for marathoners and other athletes) unless they were asked to. God didn't have to design childbirth to be physically hard, but he did. I think it is because He knew that his spiritually minded daughters needed to learn eternal lessons that could only be learned by learning to listen to their physical selves and learning to trust their bodies."

The process of becoming a mother often pushes us to the limits of what we think we can endure; it strips us down to what we are at the core. What we learn by suffering, enduring and overcoming in our mortal bodies is important to our eternal souls. These women's stories teach us that we shouldn't shy away from or be scared of challenges which push us physically because they are often a catalyst for spiritual growth. When women learn to trust to God, put their faith in him, and take a leap out of their comfort zone they often discover their inner strength and realize that they can do anything...even give birth to babies in the wilderness.

Questions to think about:

  • Take a second to imagine what it would be like walking across the desert nine months pregnant. Think about where these women would have given birth, who they would have been surrounded by, and who would have delivered their babies? What would their labors and births would have looked like? Imagine them holding their babies for the first time. Imagine them strapping their babies onto their backs and continuing on their journey. What sort of strength can you gain from their experiences and stories?
  • Did your birth experiences take you out of your "comfort level"? Did they strengthen you physically? Spiritually?
  • Why is motherhood a physically demanding calling? Why didn't God make it easy and pain free?


  1. Wonderful post! I love anything that reminds me of the strength we women have. Thank you!

  2. I love this: "What we learn by suffering, enduring and overcoming in our mortal bodies is important to our eternal souls." And the whole post, of course. These are all going in the book, right? :-)

  3. I love this post! It is so nice to read of the positive influence that women had in the scriptures. I like this poster too. I might need to get it for my girls!

  4. Thanks for this post! I'm using it in Relief Society this Sunday!