When Bethany and I were writing Girls Who Choose God: Stories of Strong Women from the Book of Mormon, we talked about the story of the stripling warriors a lot. Three main ideas kept percolating for us:
1- From the mother’s side:
It is one of the “go to” stories that we use in lessons and talks to refer to the power of a mother’s role. And that’s true… mother’s teachings are powerful messages in this world. I see my children reference my phrases and perspectives. I still quote my mother… often to my children. When my children are heading out the door to school I often call out “Be a sponge!” as my mother did to me most days. I think if I raised my children as my mother did then I will have done a fabulous job… but I also know I am not my mother and will need to do things in my own way. For example, my husband and I both believe in being involved in charitable acts… and we both got this belief from not only watching our mothers but also participating as a family. And, yet, we each go about this activity in very different ways.
And I think that’s one of the powers of this story… all 2,060 boys did not have the same mother. And while the mothers were women of great faith… they were women who the sons said of “we do not doubt our mother’s knew it”… but they could not have possibly taught their children in the exact same way.
And, there are plenty of us that are not currently mothers. It was not until I was 37. However, I can still be a teaching woman to children I come in contact with… I served in YW, seminary, primary.
So, yes, we need to teach our and others’ children… but we can each do that in the way that makes sense for us and our children.
2- From the “thwarted” mother’s side:
I am sure we all do our best to teach our children. However, there are always going to be times we cannot be with our children. Children go off to school and friend’s houses and even have the audacity to grow up and move out. And sometimes even with our children are with us we cannot, for various reasons, teach them all we would want. Perhaps our children hit a time when they do not want to listen or perhaps we are in a situation where we cannot speak.
However, the story of these mothers’ faiths still gives me hope. We are taught by the scriptures that the sons were preserved, “because of their exceeding faith…” I am sure this is true. However, the scripture goes on to say their faith was in “that which they had been taught to believe.” The mothers were people of great faith who taught their sons. And, I am QUITE certain that if my son were in battle I would have been praying my heart out. While the boys’ faith sustained them I am also certain that powerful prayers of preservation were being sent up on their behalf as well.
So, if for some reason we are “thwarted” from teaching our children at some point, we can still pray our guts out for them.
3- From the sister’s side:
And then there are the sisters. We never hear of them in the Book of Mormon text, but they must have been there. I am sure they were also taught by their mothers. What role did they have in all this? We don’t know. But, the fact I had never considered them before, made me want to stop and pay attention. Who else needs nurturing that I am overlooking? To me, this question applies within my own family and then an ever-widening circle of concern and influence. Bethany and her husband meet once a week to discuss their children’s current needs and how to meet them. She also teaches her children to spot needs in front of them in their neighborhood and ward, and be aware of needs far beyond in other places in the world. Whatever else we can manage physically and emotionally to give, we can always call on heaven to help.
So, let us not forget those who are not mentioned.
Watch our interview with McArthur and Bethany about Girls Who Choose God: Stories of Strong Women from the Book of Mormon.
Related Mormon Women Project Interviews
Saving Lives, One Mother at a Time, Dana Allison
I started to see a common thread: If the mother is there, the child isn’t orphaned. If the mother is there, the economic input increases in the family. If the mother is there, the education, health and nutrition of the family improves. That’s when I decided that if you really want to help, you focus on keeping the mother alive and well.
The Mind of A Mother, Lia Colling
I was never a little girl who was really looking forward to doing the mom thing. But if our goal here is to become godlike and to root out all of those weeds, all those bad plants I was talking about earlier, motherhood is the way. Everything that bothers me in my children they got from me, even little things. I never thought of myself as a dramatic person, but my children are all really dramatic. I am realizing that I am dramatic. Even mannerisms – these little plants grow without our realizing it, and motherhood is a really effective way to bring it to our attention. If the point is to be godlike, if “making it” means becoming godlike, then the little primary song, “God gave us families to help us become who he wants us to be” is totally true.
Other Related Women’s Voices
Love Her Mother, Elaine S. Dalton
In the Book of Mormon, Abish was converted by her father’s sharing with her his remarkable vision. For many years thereafter, she kept her testimony in her heart and lived righteously in a very wicked society. Then the time came when she could no longer be still, and she ran from house to house to share her testimony and the miracles she had witnessed in the king’s court. The power of Abish’s conversion and testimony was instrumental in changing an entire society. The people who heard her testify became a people who “were converted unto the Lord, [and] never did fall away,” and their sons became the stripling warriors!