The Gospel Doctrine lesson #15 manual objective is “To increase class members’ understanding of their indebtedness to God and to encourage them to ‘[put] off the natural man … through the atonement of Christ the Lord’ (Mosiah 3:19).”
To practice “seeing” the women in The Book of Mormon and to learn how to put off the “natural [wo]man… through the atonement of Christ the Lord.”
This last week was General Conference. Like most LDS mothers I early herded my brood in front of the screen, hastily preparing the night before by printing off coloring pages and bingo cards to keep them engaged for at least a few hours of the 8 hour conference. And I won’t lie, it wasn’t easy. In fact, it would have been much easier to send them outside or put on a video for them instead. I probably would have heard much more of the conference, instead of constantly having to mediate arguments and get someone another snack. Yet, here is the thing. I want conference to be a family affair. I want my children to know that this is what we do as a family; that we listen to the prophet. It is something I want them to know, from the very start, even if it means a long, messy and noisy conference.
I was reminded of this when I read through the story of King Benjamin’s address in Mosiah 1-3. It is easy for us today to see parallels between what King Benjamin did, calling his people together for a message (even printing off copies of his words so that everyone could have them), to our modern day General Conference. Yet the part that stood out to me this time was this,
And it came to pass that when they came up to the temple, they pitched their tents round about, every man according to his family, consisting of his wife, and his sons, and his daughters, and their sons, and their daughters, from the eldest down to the youngest, every family being separate one from another (Mosiah 2:6)
Even back then conference was a family affair!
It makes me smile now to read through King Benjamin’s address and imagine the women there. The mothers, using all their ingenuity to keep the little ones quite and focused, the grandmothers and older women shepherding and spoiling the grandchildren, the sister-in-laws working together to feed the family and keep the tent tidy, the little girls playing and getting underfoot, and the young women eager to learn, but also secretly hoping that the boy in the neighboring tent might notice them. It is only one little verse but if you take a moment to set the scene in your mind it becomes rich and dynamic, and just bursting to the seems with women and children.
Remembering that women, lots of them of all ages, were attending King Benjamin’s address is important because they are only mentioned one other time. In fact in Mosiah 2:40 he addresses the crowd as “old men, and also ye young men, and you little children who can understand my words” completely omitting the women who would have been listening. I’m not sure why he addressed them like this, but it may have been indicative of Nephite culture, which makes it even more important that we use a bit of imagination and remember to “see” the women.
We know they were there, and that they were touched by his message, because later on in Mosiah 5:7, King Benjamin tells us about those who make a covenant with God and become,
the Children of Christ, his sons and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.
These women were changed by the message they heard, and like Mosiah urged, they desired to put off the “natural [wo]man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child…” These women, as evidenced by the covenant they made, had a desire to be better and to more fully committed to God’ work.
Mosiah 3 is also a powerful chapter for King Benjamin’s women listeners because it where we learn the name of Mary, the mother of Jesus. King Benjamin told his the people that he had been visited by an angel and that this angel had told him about the coming Savior, Jesus Christ. Can you imagine if the prophet stood up in General Conference and told us that he’d been visited by an angel who’d given him a message about the future! You bet we’d all be on the edge of our seats, and I expect it wasn’t much different for these women. This was life changing type of stuff.
Yet to me the most beautiful part of King Benjamin’s account of his visit by the angel is that he tells them the name of the mother of the Savior, Mary. Mary is unique in that she is the only woman in the scriptures whose name was known before her birth, and among the small group of men whose names were announced before they were born— Noah, Aaron, Moses, Jesus Christ, John the Baptist, and Joseph Smith. It is beautiful to me to think that hundreds of years before she was born these Nephite women knew her name. I can imagine them naming their daughters Mary, speaking of Mary, dreaming of Mary, and hoping for Mary… the mother of their Savior.
These Nephite women are great examples to us. I know that their example has impacted how I view my General Conference attendance. I imagine myself, like these women, assembling my family before the tower— as crazy and noisy as that may be— and eagerly soaking up the words of the prophet. Yet not just hearing them but letting them sink deep into my heart and into my soul, changing my desires and my very being– allowing myself to be born again.
Related Mormon Women Project Interviews
Choosing God and Abundance, McArthur Krishna
We used to think there weren’t enough women in the Book of Mormon to fill a book, but when I read and researched the Book of Mormon really thoroughly, specifically looking for women, I found over a hundred instances when women are mentioned—even though they’re not often mentioned by name. Our books—including the current Girls Who Choose God Bible stories—have both named and unnamed women. Even if women aren’t named, it’s important to understand that they were active participants.
For example, in the Book of Mormon, there were women being baptized at the Waters of Mormon and pitching their tent to listen to King Benjamin speak. There are the mothers of the Stripling Warriors, and the Nephite daughters who pled with the Lamanites for the lives of their families. There are so many women who are active participants in their faith.
Celebrating the Unseen Woman, Heather Farrell
It was the darkest point of my life up to that point. I was really low. My parents were getting divorced. I was surrounded by all this filth. I saw what it was like to have lots of money, and I thought, I don’t want it! I don’t want money! I don’t want fame! This is how your children turn out! This is what you have to deal with! I saw what the girls my age were into, and I thought, I don’t want any of that.
I realized that what I wanted was the gospel. It came back to that rock. Even though marriages fall apart, even though people lie, even though people don’t treat you right, you still have light. And even if those people treating you wrong are in your family, even if they’re in the Church, it doesn’t matter. You still have light. Someone else’s behavior doesn’t change any of that.
Other Related Women’s Voices
Motherhood and the Family, Mary F. Foulger
We stand in awe at Mary’s assignment to be the mother of the Lord, but we, too, have been called to mother gods.
Ripples, Virginia U. Jensen
As we think of women whose righteous influence ripples through eternity, let us consider Mary, the ‘precious and chosen vessel.’ Presented by an angel with an unprecedented, holy pronouncement, she graciously submitted to the will of the Lord: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.’ Her faith, obedience, and humility set a standard for all women.
With Holiness of Heart, Bonnie D. Parkin
For centuries, righteous women have been stepping forward to join the cause of Christ. Many of you have only recently been baptized; your covenants are fresh in your hearts, your sacrifices still tender. As I think about you, I am reminded of Priscilla Staines from Wiltshire, England. Nineteen-year-old Priscilla joined the Church in 1843. Alone. She had to steal away in the night to be baptized, because of the persecutions of her neighbors and the displeasure of her family. She wrote: ‘We waited until midnight … and then repaired to a stream of water a quarter of a mile away. Here we found the water … frozen over, and the elder had to chop a hole in the ice large enough for the purpose of baptism. … None but God and his angels, and the few witnesses who stood on the bank with us, heard my covenant; but in the solemnity of that midnight hour it seemed as though all nature were listening, and the recording angel writing our words in the book of the Lord.’
Her words ‘None but God and his angels … heard my covenant’ touch my soul, for like Priscilla—no matter our age, our gospel knowledge, our time in the Church—we are all women of covenant.