I am ashamed to say that I had read the Book of Mormon a number of times and still managed to miss most of the women. We could examine my psychology to figure why that is, but frankly, I think it is more interesting to talk about the women I discovered when I finally read while paying attention. Here are just a few powerful moments I found involving women in the Book of Mormon.
The Lamanite Queen of Great Faith
The Lamanite king had collapsed after hearing Ammon teach great truths and had been in a coma for three days. People were telling the queen her husband was dead. "He stinketh," they said (in one of the great scriptural lines). But the queen didn't think he was dead and went to consult Ammon, who assured her that the king would rise again. She believed him—with no evidence. What did this woman experience that gave her such a powerful assurance? We will never know. But we DO know that Ammon said she had greater faith than all the Nephites.
There are two reasons I love this story.
First, I am never very comfortable with drawing firm lines about who are the "good guys" in life and who are the "bad guys." Years ago I traveled through the Middle East and I found that the Arabic people were extremely warm and welcoming. I drank the best smoothies of my life in Damascas. I saw the Palmyra city that Palmyra, New York, was named after. I saw the lavender neon sign of Dunkin' Donuts at the border between Lebanon and Syria— the axis of evil didn't look very scary when you could get it powdered, glazed, or sprinkled. In this story, we have a woman from a group of people that were usually the "bad guys"—and she has more faith than all the "good guys." I think it is an important moment that reminds us that we cannot label groups of people with our assumptions.
Second, I also love this story because it is about a woman who had to find her own path despite the counsel of the people around her. She turned to the servant of God and then trusted her own confirmation of what he said. She was a woman who was willing to believe.
The Women Who Clapped for Joy
After Alma taught the people at the Waters of Mormon, he challenged them to be baptized . . . and the people clapped for joy. As a result, 204 souls were baptized, men and women who found joy in taking that step to dedicate their life to God.
I have always loved this story (and now love it even more with Kathy Peterson's art bringing it to life)— because when was the last time I clapped for joy when I learned or was reminded of a gospel principle? When I remembered the joy my family brings me—did I clap? When I felt the truth of being loved by both a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother—did I clap? When I met a new person and was reminded that we are all children of deity—did I clap? I think sometimes it is easy to think of the negative when, truly, we should be clapping for joy.
The Heroic Daughters
King Noah and his people have fled in the face of a ferocious army attack. He saw they were likely to die, and so he encouraged his men to leave their families and escape with him—and some did (the same guys who cause a lot of trouble later on). However, some fathers stayed but realized that their families were going to be killed unless the army could be stopped. Then the fathers "caused" their daughters to stand forth and beg for the lives of the people. The girls do and save their families' lives. Can you imagine all you love behind you while you step forward to meet a murdering army? That took stunning courage.
The reason I love this story is that my family is the most important thing on earth to me. And while I am known to be an exaggerator, this is actually true. If I were called to step forward to save my family's life, I would hope I would have the courage to do so. However, in my American world, that is not likely to happen. Our family motto is "Ride for the Brand"—and while that doesn't mean I have to beg an army not to kill my people, it does mean I can choose every day to act like my family is important. I can choose to listen, to prioritize, to look for ways to tend to their bodies and souls. I can care, regardless of the threat of an army or not.
The Book of Mormon has rich experiences we can learn from—if we just pay attention. As Elder Ballard said, "As we look for and find women in our scriptures and our history, we will see far better the power and influence women have. . . . We need to develop the skill to find their influence." I hope our book, Girls Who Choose God: Stories of Strong Women from the Book of Mormon can help all of us—children and adults—to see the women with new eyes. Enjoy!
For more stories about women in the Book of Mormon, check out Girls Who Choose God: Stories of Strong Women from the Book of Mormon.