24 May 2005

"Where Are All the Women in the Scriptures?"

Originally posted at Conversation

I'm sure that you've heard people say this- either as a concern, or possibly a complaint, or just wondering why. It's easy to see why people come to this conclusion.

There are fewer women than men mentioned in the scriptures, and of the ones who are, we often don’t know their names. It's much easier to say (and remember!) Nephi than the Shunnamite women. We also seem to use men as examples more than women- you don’t hear about the woman of Samaria changing her heart and becoming a missionary nearly as often as you hear about Alma, Ammon, Aaron, Omner, and Himni doing so.

Of course there are a few women we talk about often- great women like, Eve, Mary, Ruth, Esther, and Hannah. But I think we can do more to bring the women of the scriptures into our lives. All of their stories are valuable.

I've made it a priority to use scriptural examples of lesser-known women when I give a talk or a lesson, or when I am teaching my children. If I'm talking about courage, I could run through the typical list of courageous men- men like Joshua, Ammon, and Peter, or bring up the standard female example of Esther. But instead, I bring up Morianton's maidservant, Shiphrah and Puah, and the daughters of Onitah. When learning about faith, I talk about the women with an issue of blood, the widow of Zarephath, and Vienna Jacques in addition to Daniel, Paul, and Amulek.

They might be hard to find sometimes, but the women are there. I'd like to briefly highlight a few women that we don’t hear about as often. (I’m hoping to continue doing this every so often.) I've linked to their stories in the scriptures so you can read more about them if you'd like. Hopefully these women are familiar, but if they're not, it might be worth learning more about them:

Huldah was a prophetess at the time of King Josiah, just before the Babylonians conquered the kingdom of Judah. We often don't seem to know what to do with Huldah since she is called a prophetess (can we call a woman that?), but it is clear that the gift of prophecy is a spiritual gift and not one that is reserved for Priesthood holders.

Another women who is blessed with gifts of the Spirit is Lamoni's wife. Ammon's missionary work to the Lamanites and Lamoni's actions are familiar, but we don’t talk about Lamoni’s wife’s faith as often. When Ammon asks her if she believes that her husband the king is not dead, she relies, "I have had no witness save thy word, and the word of our servants; nevertheless I believe that it shall be according as thou hast said."

Ammon replied, "Blessed art thou because of thy exceeding faith; I say unto thee, women, there has not been such great faith among all the people of the Nephites." High praise indeed. Lamoni's wife goes on to speak in tongues and her touch raises her husband. She clearly is a tremendous example of faith.

One of my favorite stories in the Gospels is that of the women with the issue of blood. She shows both faith and courage by working through the crowd surrounding Jesus with the simple desire of touching his robe. When she is healed, the Lord asks who touched him and she admits to doing so. Jesus responds by praising her and saying that her faith healed her. She only merits a few verses, but I think of her often.

Finally, the daughters of Onitah only have a brief mention in Abraham 1:11 where we learn that there were offered as sacrifices by a wicked priest because they would not worship idols. We might talk about Daniel’s faith in continuing to worship only the Lord, but the daughters of Onitah sacrificed much more than Daniel did to do the same. Sometimes we focus more on the miraculous stories like Daniel's and forget that there are times that the righteous are not spared.

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