By Julie M. Smith

The Gospel Doctrine #21 manual objective is “to help class members recognize the signs that will precede the Savior’s Second Coming and to encourage members to prepare themselves for this great event.”

Our Objective

To highlight references to women in the Olivet Discourse.


Jesus’ words about the destruction of the temple and the last days are found in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. I will focus on the account in Mark 13. There are several references to women that are worth considering in this text, especially since many of them are found only in the Joseph Smith Translation or are obscured by the KJV translation.

In Mark 13:3, the audience for Jesus’ teachings is Peter, James, John, and Andrew. But there is a Joseph Smith Translation which changes the reference to “disciples,” which, in Mark’s context, includes women (compare Mark 3:31-35 and Mark 15:41). While it is not always the case that the JST restores the text to its original state, this JST gives LDS readers an opportunity to include women as part of the audience for this chapter. (Mark 13:17 may suggest that this is the best way to read the text as well.) This is significant because it means that such activities as testifying before the elite (Mark 13:9-11) will be experienced by women. Women are expected to be agents unto themselves who need to be watchful and discerning to be sure that they are not deceived. The important prophecies and teachings in this chapter were not restricted to a male-only audience and Jesus envisioned women occupying important roles in the early Christian church. Today, LDS women should read this text as if it were directly applicable to them.

Mark 13:8’s reference to the “beginnings of sorrows” should be translated as the “beginning of labor pains.” While there is scholarly debate as to whether Jesus is here describing the destruction of the temple or the end of days, in either case I find it significant that he chose to describe it in terms of a uniquely female experience—he required the male portion of his audience to contemplate the world through female eyes. Too often, even in modern society, we treat the male perspective as the default and women are required to adapt the message to themselves. But Jesus does precisely the opposite here when he employs a metaphor which would have been instantly familiar to his female disciples but required some thought on the part of his male followers. This metaphor also recognizes and honors the experience of women.

Mark 13:17 reads, “But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!” This woe showcases Jesus’ concern for women, especially women experiencing the vulnerability which accompanies pregnancy and breastfeeding. As unpleasant as it is to contemplate, pregnant women were often targets for disemboweling in ancient warfare (see Hosea 13:16). Jesus recognizes the unique dangers of warfare to women; once again, his perspective is not androcentric (=male focused), but rather models inclusion of all people.

Another JST changes “no man” to “no one” in Mark 13:32, implying that women are included among the angels of God. (The JST changes “he” and “young man” to “angels” in Mark 16:5 and 6, which makes the messengers at the tomb gender-neutral and, when read alongside JST Mark 13:32, opens the possibility that the angels were female.) This is a very significant teaching, especially given the paucity of information about women’s afterlives. But this verse attests that important assignments, including serving as messengers of God, are given to female angels.

In Mark 13:37, the JST adds “two shall be grinding at the mill; the one taken, and the other left.” Because grinding was generally women’s work, this adds a reference to women to the text. While all of these references to women are incidental to the main message of the chapter—which is how the disciples are to comport themselves in difficult times—they nonetheless serve to emphasize that women and women’s concerns were thoroughly interwoven into Jesus’ ministry and that he modeled inclusion.

Related Mormon Women Project Interviews

Life, By Design, Alyson Von Feldt

In the Wisdom poem in Proverbs 8, this woman stands beside God as he creates the world. Different translations treat it differently, but she rejoices as he does it, she is dancing before him, she is clearly anticipating the advent of mankind on Earth. She is interested and involved and enthusiastic about mankind. She loves us exuberantly. It makes me love her. I suppose the implications are about our roles as exalted women. That we can see our place in the heavens with other divine women who are with God. We have a place there that we are returning to, from which we came mothered by a heavenly mother and where perhaps some of us were great and noble intelligences, involved as Wisdom was in the creation and in the care and nurturing of God’s children. These women are our sisters here on Earth and they will also be exalted and become heavenly women. To some degree we can see the great Lady Wisdom in ourselves.

The Intimate Side of Marriage, Jennifer Finlayson-Fife

One of the chapters in Aaronic Priesthood Manual 3 is “Choosing an Eternal Companion” and the Young Women’s corollary lesson is “Preparing to Become an Eternal Companion.” It’s indicative of the way we talk about men and women—men are agentic, making choices, deciding what they want, while women are passive, preparing to be chosen, trying to be wanted, supportive of male roles, etc. That kind of language and ideology doesn’t prepare someone to have pleasure and desire in sex and life. It preps them to feel needless and wantless and depressed. To be clear, I don’t think it has anything to do with the gospel. I don’t. It’s a cultural thing. I believe there are natural differences between men and women, but we would do much better if we would express our uniqueness to one another rather than trying to live up to cultural dictates of who we are supposed to be.

Other Related Women’s Voices

Song of the Sisters of the Female Relief Society, Emily Hill

‘Tis the office of Angels, conferred upon woman;
And this is a Right that, as woman we claim;
To do whatsoever is gentle and human;
To cheer and to bless in humanity’s name.

In Covenant with Him, Kathleen H. Hughes

Yet I wonder whether we women have a full vision of what Relief Society is. When Joseph Smith read the first bylaws written by Eliza R. Snow, he said the document was the best he had ever seen, but he envisioned “something better.” He would “organize the women under the priesthood after the pattern of the priesthood.” When the Prophet Joseph “turned the key” and established the “Female Relief Society of Nauvoo,” he said that the Church itself had not been fully organized until that moment. Sisters, it’s important that we understand that statement. Relief Society was established by God, through a prophet, by the power of priesthood authority; its existence is a necessary part of the organization of the Church. Men and women stand together in priesthood and Relief Society as we strive to bring families to Christ. As women, we should never think that our role in the Church is a lesser role than that played by men. Just as we as righteous women honor the priesthood, we need to hold sacred our calling as women as well.

It Is Not Good for Man or Woman to Be Alone, Sheri Dew

Our Father knew exactly what He was doing when He created us. He made us enough alike to love each other, but enough different that we would need to unite our strengths and stewardships to create a whole. Neither man nor woman is perfect or complete without the other. Thus, no marriage or family, no ward or stake is likely to reach its full potential until husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, men and women work together in unity of purpose, respecting and relying upon each other’s strengths.

Sheri Dew "Not Bystanders"

Eliza R. Snow, "Rise Up"