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Friday, May 07, 2010

Review: Women of the Book of Mormon by Heather Moore

I remember, years ago, realizing that only three women were mentioned by name in the Book of Mormon. Sariah, Abish, and Isabelle. One is the wife of a prophet, one is a servant, and the third is a hooker. All these amazing stories are told, but it seemed that women played such a small role in those events. My semi-feminist heart took exception to this because part of my journey on this earth has been a continual quest for proof that I mattered. It is a testimony to my belief that I do matter when I see that other women did too. It's why I love the story of Esther and Ruth and Naomi from the Old Testiment--they mattered enough to have their stories told and continue to be my favorite stories. I want to be inspired by strong women, I want to see myself in them, and I need that reminder that having trials does not mean I've done something wrong.

A few years ago I came to what was, for me, a rather amazing discovery in regard to the righteousness=ease debate that always takes place in my mind. I can only hope others of you have had the same battle play out "But I read my scriptures every day this week and a kid still pooped in the tub?" or "I paid my tithing, how can I be out of money?" but I realized that the GREAT people from the scriptures didn't have it easy. The great women were no exception.

Mary, the mother of Christ, was labeled an adulteress, her life spared by her betrothed who married her despite the fact that she was pregnant months before the wedding. She fled to Egypt when her young son's life was threatened, then back again when things were safe. She was married to a carpenter and lived a simple life. She lost God's son during Passover for three days and 20 years later watched her oldest child, the son of God, tortured to death. Ruth was widowed as a young woman living in a foreign land. She had learned too much about her husband's culture and religion to find peace with her own people and lived in poverty, caring for her mother in law, until she married Boaz. Esther was one wife of many to a king who nearly destroyed her people. The wife of Nephi watched her husband be beaten, bound, and nearly killed by his brother's more than once. She bore children in the desert even though she'd been raised with ease. Once they finally arrived in the Promised land, they had to flee in the night and find somewhere else. Yet, these women could be called 'choice'. They had huge responsibility, often times the responsibility of nations and generations, placed upon their shoulders and within their wombs--it was a hard journey. Their righteousness did not equal ease, so why do I assume mine should?

I came to this realization, but it still bothered me that their stories were usually sidelines. I want to know them because I am one of them--a woman with great responsibility. I want to see how they succeeded and learn from them. But how do I do that when their stories are not available except in snippets?

Thus enter Heather Moore's book, Women of the Book of Mormon. As I said there are only three women mentioned by name who lived during the course of time covered by the Book of Mormon. However, there are other women mentioned--like Eve and Mary--and others referenced, like the Daughter of Jared. Heather found them all, and then she hunted for details. The result is a beautifully written account of their stories, put into context with the cultures they lived within. Heather has combed articles and other books, then compiled the information in a format that is easy to read and focuses on those elements that helps me know these women better than I ever have. When I heard about the book I was excited at the prospect, when I read it I was humbled by many things. Chief among them was the realization that these women were a product of their culture just like I am. They did not live in my time, therefore they had far less by way of rights and opportunity. This was huge to me because it wasn't that the prophets were ignoring them when they wrote the scriptures, it was that they were bound by the time in which they lived. I guess you could say that none of them, men or women, knew any better. But these women were important, which is why there is any mention of them at all. Heather brings them to life, puts meat on the bones of who they were and how they lived. After gaining an understanding of their cultures, I went from wondering why so little was written to realizing how much was written. We have whole sermons that we don't read in the Book of Mormon, but Mormon took the time to tell us of Sariah's heart ache and of the brother of Jared's daughters treachery. Now, Heather Moore has taken the time to tell us the rest of their stories.

In the process of reading this book I was edified by my role in the lives of my family. A lot of what I do is background and foundational--but it matters. Both for their growth and mine. I can't wait until I need to give a lesson where I can pull this information from her book. I can't wait until my daughters ask why there is so little mention of women in the Book of Mormon. This book is a powerful witness to the fact that life is hard for everyone--that is how we become strong, it is how we learn to carry the yoke of being a daughter of God.

You can find this book wherever LDS books are sold, specifically at DESERET BOOK ONLINE. Also, Heather will be signing with me at the South Jordan Seagull (11573 So. Main District Drive, South Jordan) tomorrow, May 8th--just in time for Mother's day :-)


Heather Moore said...

Josi, thanks so much for the review! I loved reading your insights.

Annette Lyon said...

I love everything you've said here--and I love Heather's new book! (I've bought 3 copies: one for me, and the others for my mom and MIL.)

Melissa Cunningham said...

What a beautiful post and an even more beautiful tribute. I haven't read the book yet but fully intend to. You make it sound even better!

Amy said...

I saw this book in a catalog and was intrigued. Now I'm dying to read it! thanks for the review!

Anna Maria Junus said...

I've always wondered why women weren't a larger part of the Book of Mormon. We know Nephi had sisters, yet we don't know they're names. Nephi never even tells us the name of his wife!

I've felt cheated by it, as if women didn't matter.

So this book sounds like something I need to read.

Hadley Family said...

I have of late, become intrigued by all women of scripture. I am currently reading "Daugters of God: Scriptural Portraits" by S. Michael Wilcox. These women were incredible!!! Thanks for the review.

L.T. Elliot said...

I never viewed it like this before and it's further proof to me of how smart and insightful you are. I've been wanting this book for a while now but your thoughts on this have cemented it for me. Thank you, Josi.

Unknown said...

I am reading your book English Trifle for review, i am really enjoying it so far. Keep up the good work.


Cannwin said...

Really... just three? How did I not know that?

Now I'm curious. I'll have to pay more attention during my studies. Hmm.

I'm writing a Wish-List review on you Lemon Tart book (wish-list meaning I haven't read them but want to) and thought I'd give you a heads up.

It's scheduled to be posted tomorrow (7/16/10) @

::wanders off to find Book of Mormon::