Often in the evenings I sit in the hallway and knit while my little kids fall asleep. This quiet (hopefully) time gives me a lot of time to think and reflect, and more than once I’ve found myself thinking about all the women in history who spent their evenings knitting or working on clothing for their families. One evening, I started thinking about how several times in The Book of Mormon it mentions women spinning and weaving cloth. So after my kids were finally asleep, I got out my scriptures and looked up the exact verses. Women making cloth is specifically mentioned in Helaman 6:13, Mosiah 10:5 and indirectly in Ether 10:24.
It really intrigued me that in all three scriptures (even though they are historically generations apart) almost the same wording was used to describe the work that the women were doing. Both scriptures state that 1) the women did toil, spin and weave fine-twined linen, 2) that the reason they made it was “that we might clothe our nakedness,” and 3) that immediately after mentioning women making cloth the author states “and thus” there was peace in the land, implying that cloth making somehow related to bringing peace to the land.
These verses got my scripture mind thinking and pondering and I did a scripture study on the words “linen,” “cloth,” “sew,” and “weave”. There really aren’t a ton of scriptures on those words so my study was short but very enlightening. The most significant thing learned was the spiritual significance of linen, which is made from flax.
Here are some of the verses about linen that I felt were illuminating:
- The veil of the tabernacle was made from linen. Exodus 26:31 instructs, “And thou shalt make a veil of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work.”
- Exodus 39:27- 29 it mentions that the temple robes that Aaron and his sons wore were made from linen.
Ezekiel 44:17 also specified that priests were only to wear linen in Solomon’s temple.
- In Revelation 19:8 the “Bride of the Lamb” is clothed in “fine linen” and it states “for the fine linen is the righteousness of the Saints.” Also it is specified that the armies of the Lord, mentioned in Revelation 19:14, will also be clothed in fine linen.
- In Mathew 27:59 we learn that when Christ was brought down from the cross he was wrapped in a linen cloth;
- John 19:40 specifies that Christ was wound and buried in linen clothes.
Almost all the references to “linen” in the scriptures had to do with temple worship or other spiritually significant events. Linen, though also worn for everyday use as well, seems to have been the fabric reserved for garments or objects with spiritual significance. This insight in to the use of linen made me wonder if there wasn’t a deeper reason why The Book of Mormon makes such a big deal about women making “fine twined linen” to “clothe our nakedness.” Personally I think that these women weren’t making just ordinary clothes.
We know from 2 Nephi 5:16 that the Nephites built temples which were constructed after the pattern of Solomon’s temple. We don’t know for sure what sort of work they did in those temples but seeing as the Nephites lived the law of Moses it was probably similar to the type of temple work that went on in the Old Testament temple. It is interesting to think that among the spinning and weaving these Nephite women did, they may have made garments similar to the linen ones Aaron and his sons wore to serve in the tabernacle to be used for service in their temple in Ancient America. If in deed these women were making linen to be used in the temple, it then make much more sense to me why, in all cases were it is mentioned, the author concludes by stating “and thus” there was peace in the land. Where ever there are men and women engaged in going to, serving, and working in the temple there often an out flowing of peace in the land.
In fact, the time period of Helaman 6 is one of the most prosperous peaceful times in The Book of Mormon. Not only are the Nephites and Lamanties not fighting but they had established free trade and free movement between each other’s lands and became “exceedingly rich, both the Nephites and the Lamanites.” (Helaman 6:9). In listing all the combined riches of the Nephites and Lamanites, Mormon listed that they had much gold, silver, crops, herds, and that “…their women did toil and spin, and did make all manner of cloth, of fine-twined linen and cloth of every kind, to clothe their nakedness. And thus the sixty and fourth year did pass away in peace” (Helaman 6:13).
From a purely economical or worldly stand point it would be easy to conclude that the reason the people were prosperous and had riches, like fine-twined linen, was because of the peace and the open trade agreement. Yet might it not also be true, that the peace and prosperity was a result of the fine-twined linen, and the accompanying temple work that might have gone along with it. Looking at it that way changes the story in Helaman from one about economic prosperity to a story in which women, through their spinning and weaving contributions, create sustained peace…one strand at a time.
Related Mormon Women Project Interviews
Dressed for Success, Athelia Woolley LeSueur
I think fashion is like music: it can be powerfully uplifting or it can tear one down. Fashion can make one feel beautiful, no matter what a person looks like. If one wears something that is both flattering and respectful, one acts like a respectful person. That’s why people at private schools often have their students wear uniforms. That’s why we dress up for church. You behave differently when you’re dressed better. In college, my Mormon friends and I talked about the idea of radical feminism. It’s a belief that states that women and men are coequal but inherently different. This is what the church teaches. I think clothing can celebrate that inherent femininity, without compromising self-respect. In the work place and in life, if we can’t respect ourselves it’s very hard to demand respect from others.
Dressed Like a Queen, Rosie Card
I also feel like temple work is part of the most important work that we can partake of in this earth. I always felt a little weird going to the temple in my temple dress because it was not as nice as anything that I would wear to church. It was this weird skirt and this poor quality lace that would ball up and cling to itself, and I thought it was so weird that I dress up more for a party essentially than I do to go to the house of the Lord. I wanted something where I felt like my ultimate best. I wanted something that said, “Here I am, doing the most important thing, and I’m dressing accordingly.” I couldn’t find anything that felt that way, and that was also comfortable and me, and I think it’s important for us to maintain who we are in our personal styles – kind of like when sister missionaries go on missions and they kind of turn into robots, “the perfect Mormon woman missionary.” I want to push against that, because Heavenly Father called you, and your style and yourquirks and your personality, and we should maintain that. I felt like I was putting on the temple costume that everyone wore and I didn’t like it at all and it didn’t feel comfortable and didn’t feel right, and I felt that someone needed to offer something that’s more me and girls like me, so that we can feel comfortable and we can feel like we’re wearing what we would want to in order to go and do the most important thing.