Gospel Doctrine Lesson 38; 3 Nephi 12-14

As I read the Beatitudes, delivered again by Jesus in 3 Nephi 12, I think of eight women who exemplified or perfectly described these attributes in real life. All of the following stories are true. Some of the names have been changed.

3 Yea, blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

I think of Tara, whose family had just purchased brand new living room furniture for their home when she heard that a refugee family had moved in down the street — and that they had nothing. Tara wasted no time. She invited them into her home, and told them they could choose whatever they wanted from her furniture and keep it. Grateful for her offer, they took everything. This was not what she expected, but with a sense of humor she and her family sat on living room lawn chairs for quite some time. Tara was not poor in any material sense; she was poor in spirit — she didn’t see those couches and tables as belonging to her at all. She had no possessions that she believed were her own. Hers was the most humble richness, the most generous poverty.

4 And again, blessed are all they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.

I think of my friend Jody, who tirelessly offers love and nurture to young LGBT people, including her own son. She defines what it means to be a comforter and to share in mourning, as she writes, “There was a period of time when my son chose not to be with us, afraid of being rejected. And all we could do for years was pray for him, and text him, every day – I love you. We are here. Can we come see you? And I felt God there, loving him and all of us, at all times, feeling with him, feeling with us. Now, years further along our journey together, my son calls us every day, shares his day and his life with us. And when he is having a hard time, he turns to us, and trusts us to listen and be there and love him. And he asks me to help him breathe. And I talk him through a spiritual meditation, to look closely at all that is happening in his life, and acknowledge the pain, and the goodness and the love. And breathe in God, and love and strength, and release the pain. And as I hear his breath moving through him, and it becomes a part of me, all that we each know and see and touch reaches out and breathes together, connected, and all is one as we turn to the God we all come from. As we practice love of God, and love of one another, everything else falls away, and we experience a nurtured life.”

5 And blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

I think of Mary Karr, who taught me “Who the Meek Are Not”:

Not the bristle-bearded Igors bent
under burlap sacks, not peasants knee-deep
in the rice-paddy muck,
nor the serfs whose quarter-moon sickles
make the wheat fall in waves
they don’t get to eat. My friend the Franciscan
nun says we misread
that word meek in the Bible verse that blesses them.
To understand the meek
(she says) picture a great stallion at full gallop
in a meadow, who—
at his master’s voice—seizes up to a stunned
but instant halt.
So with the strain of holding that great power
in check, the muscles
along the arched neck keep eddying,
and only the velvet ears
prick forward, awaiting the next order. [1]

6 And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.

I think of my great-great-great-great grandmother, Ann Quayle Cannon. She joined the church in England with her husband and young children. Their family prepared to leave everything behind — their home, their work, and all their dear friends and family who begged them to stay — to join the Saints in America. Though her husband was broken-hearted about leaving, and wavered on their departure plans, Ann “urged the journey.” She had a strong spiritual impression that she would not survive the voyage, but she knew if she died beforehand that her grief-stricken husband might not ever leave his home without her. She died aboard the ship to America, and was buried at sea along with her unborn seventh child. Ann hungered to be righteous, but she hungered as much for her husband’s and her children’s righteousness. She sacrificed her life for it. [2]

7 And blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

I think of Corrie Ten Boom, of Holland, whose family sheltered Jews from the Nazis in their home. When they were betrayed and arrested, Corrie and her sister Betsie were sent to the infamous Ravensbruck Concentration Camp in Germany. Betsie died there. Corrie survived, unbelievably resilient, and began a global ministry to spread the message that “there is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.” After preaching in Germany about God’s forgiveness, a man approached her. When she saw him, “It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor; the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!” Her old guard approached her, thanked her for the sermon, and asked for her forgiveness.

“And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

“It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

“For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’

“I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.

“And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘… Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’

“And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“ ‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’

“For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then.” [3]

Corrie’s ability to be merciful to this man, of all men, stills me.

8 And blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

I think of Alice. We were going to an event together, and in the car she realized her stockings were mismatched. While at that time in my life I would have felt mortified to be in public in mismatched stockings — would have taken care to keep my legs tucked under the white linen tablecloth — she brushed it off with a laugh and said, “Well I’ll just make everyone else feel better about their appearance!” I could tell she really meant it. Purity of heart is going into a room with the intent to make everyone else feel more comfortable, more loved, more interesting. Purity of heart is not caring what people think of you, except that they think you love them.

9 And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.

I think of Sahar, who forgave the soldiers she watched confine or kill her friends and neighbors. Sahar has made peace in her own heart, even while she is surrounded by conflict. I was Sahar’s visiting teacher in Bethlehem for a time during graduate school, and learned from her and her family that one can stand opposed to an injustice, and can still be a peacemaker. “By joining the church I had become a different person and saw things through different eyes. I was able to forgive and love the Israeli soldiers and that feeling was liberating. I was able to let go of anger and hate and thus was able to have personal peace. I believe that this is the only way to peace in this country, forgiveness, love and respect for others.” [4]

10 And blessed are all they who are persecuted for my name’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 And blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake;
12 For ye shall have great joy and be exceedingly glad, for great shall be your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you.

I think of Lucy Mack Smith, who watched her people pass through measureless terrors, including the martyrdom of her two beloved sons. While she was in Missouri, several armed men came to Lucy’s home looking for the Prophet with the intent to kill him, and threatened Lucy’s life as well. “Very well,” she said, “I want you to act the gentleman about it, and do the job quick. Just shoot me down at once, then I shall be at rest; but I should not like to be murdered by inches.” “There it is again,” said her assailant. “You tell a ‘Mormon’ that you will kill him, and they will always tell you, ‘that is nothing—if you kill us, we shall be happy.’” [5]

When I think of my Mormon foremothers, including Lucy who is my 5x-great grandmother, I pray deeply that they now know the promised “joy and gladness.” They are blessed, blessed, blessed, forever in my heart, for their sacrifices, their creations, and their resilience.

1. http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2013/05/30
2. https://familysearch.org/photos/artifacts/8062255
3. http://www.familylifeeducation.org/gilliland/procgroup/CorrieTenBoom.htm
4. http://saharqumsiyeh.blogspot.com/2014/07/being-lds-woman-in-palestine.html
5. Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith By His Mother, (Bookcraft, 1954), 255

Other Related Women’s Voices

Rejoice in Every Good Thing, Chieko N. Okazaki

“We don’t need a bishop’s assignment to be kind. We don’t need to sign up to be thoughtful. We don’t need to be sustained by our wards to be sensitive. Rejoice in the power you have within you from Christ to be a nucleus of love, forgiveness, and compassion.”

That We May All Sit Down in Heaven Together, Kathleen H. Hughes

“All of us long to possess Christ’s pure love, called charity, but our humanness—the ‘natural woman’ in us—gets in our way. We get angry, we become frustrated, we berate ourselves and others—and when we do, we cannot be the conduit of love we need to be if we are to become an instrument in Heavenly Father’s hands. Being willing to forgive ourselves and others becomes an integral part of our ability to have the love of the Lord in our lives and to do His work.”

Looking for additional perspectives on this lesson? We recommend Mormon Sunday School, Meridian Magazine and LDSLiving.