The Gospel Doctrine Lesson 19 objective is: “To encourage class members to renew their determination to honor their baptismal covenants and trust in the Lord.”
To examine the feminine nature and influence in Mosiah 18-24
My heart did a little leap when I realized my particular assignment for this week: the chapters of Mosiah 18 – 24 are some of my favorite in the scriptures. They are what I would describe as the chapters most imbued with female sensibilities in the Book of Mormon. That’s not really saying much because the Book of Mormon is so masculine in its character and characters, but here we get a brief respite with both female characters and an exposition on peace instead of war.
Let’s start with Mosiah 18, a beautiful chapter which includes the verses most often associated in modern church rhetoric with the treasured offerings of women, and specifically our Young Women as they are quoted in the Young Women theme: the people who joined Alma at the Waters of Mormon were “willing to bear one another’s burdens” and “mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places…” (Mosiah 18: 8-9) This passage is kind of like our women’s equivalent of what Doctrine & Covenants Section 20 is for men: a call to action and a delineation of behaviors and priorities that constitute commitment to God. But as women sometimes write off Section 20 as something only Priesthood holders need to take to heart, so too may men face the temptation to leave Mosiah 18 to the women and girls. Let’s realize that even though this is part of the Young Women theme, it is also a description of the covenant every one of us takes on at baptism. Just as women are full participants in Priesthood ordinances and exercise the rights of the priesthood whenever they act in God’s name, so too do men exercise these “feminine” qualities whenever living up to their baptismal covenants.
It is interesting to contrast the description of this crowd of people to the description of the crowd that gathered to hear King Benjamin several chapters earlier. King Benjamin routinely addresses “My brethren,” and the people are organized and communicated to through the men of the group. In contrast, the Waters of Mormon depict a scene of individual commitment, without a single reference to “brethren” or “men”. Rather, chapter 18 refers to “the people” and “every one”, and it numbers those who are baptized as “souls,” rather than counting them by the men at the heads of the families.
Of course some of the most distinct female characters of the Book of Mormon appear in Chapter 20 in the form of the Lamanite daughters, who “sing, dance and make themselves merry.” Happily, we’ve already had Nephi’s mother, sisters and wife several hundred years earlier to remind us that women in the Book of Mormon do do more than just sing and dance! But what is touching about this chapter is that it is the love of these girls that motivates the Lamanites to wage war on Limhi and his people, eventually leading to a happy ending of the scene. In a verse of great passion and imagery, we are told that the Lamanites “fought for their lives, and for their wives, and for their children; therefore they exerted themselves and like dragons did they fight.” (Mosiah 20: 11) The language here reminds us of the words of Moroni’s Title of Liberty later in the book, and we can see from both examples that while female characters in the Book of Mormon may be rare, the love for the women is the undercurrent that drives much of the book’s passion and action.
Related Mormon Women Project Interviews
Global Mom, Melissa Dalton-Bradford
We believe in and hold as our model a Jesus Christ who was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. And the God who revealed himself to Enoch was a God who wept openly. At the same time in Primary, we learn that “no one likes a frowny face.” Perhaps we’ve absorbed conflicting messages, and subsequently feel shame (or worse, we shame others) for feeling genuine, even bone-crushing sorrow. Maybe we get Alma’s exhortation in Mosiah 18 wrong where he talks to the people who want to enter the fold of Christ. It’s striking to reread his words. He doesn’t say, “Here is a strict list of dos and don’ts.” He says you need to – number one, top of the list – be ready to bear one another’s burdens, to suffer with others. You need to be open to sorrow, to others’ sorrow. You need to learn to actively mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. But here’s the core of it: Alma says we are to mourn first and comfort second. I think that we might too often jump over the mourning. We want to rush in and comfort things away, in the sense that we want to make everything better, back to normal, and quickly. Mourning, though, real mourning takes energy, sympathy, focus and time. Much more time than anyone imagines. A lot of time. For some injuries, a whole life full of time.
Other Related Women’s Voices
We Have a Great Reason to Rejoice, Carole M. Stephens
“You quietly stand as witnesses of God, mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those who stand in need of comfort without realizing that you are keeping your covenants—the covenants you made in the waters of baptism and in the temple. When you love, watch over, and serve others in small and simple ways, you are actively participating in the work of salvation, God’s work ‘to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.’”
Relief Society: A Sacred Work, Julie B. Beck
“We [Relief Society] operate in the manner of the priesthood—which means that we seek, receive, and act on revelation; make decisions in councils; and concern ourselves with caring for individuals one by one. Ours is the priesthood purpose to prepare ourselves for the blessings of eternal life by making and keeping covenants. Therefore, like our brethren who hold the priesthood, ours is a work of salvation, service, and becoming a holy people.”