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Sabbath Revival: “Condemn Me Not Because of Mine Imperfections”

By Julia Blue

Today’s Sabbath Revival was originally a guest post published March 23, 2007 by Emily M before she joined the staff of Segullah.  I enjoyed reading it, especially after having written about the children’s picture book series Girls Who Choose God  published by Deseret Books…the first volume is Stories of Courageous Women From the Bible, and they are in the process of publishing the next volume about women in the Book of Mormon. The lessons Emily points out can be applied in so many facets of our lives.

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The Book of Mormon mentions five women by name: Sariah, Abish, Isabel, Eve, and Mary. It refers, without naming, to various wives (of Nephi and his brothers, of King Lamoni, of Jacob’s philandering people); to an abused servant girl of a dissenting army leader; and to a conspiring, dancing daughter in Ether. We also have the wives who inspire the men to fight, and the mothers of Helaman’s army.

As a teenager I read the Book of Mormon. I knew it was true. The Spirit spoke to me through it. Still this lack of women bothered me. We can focus on the ones that are there, but so many of them aren’t, or don’t have names. And there are many men, minor characters, that do get named: Zeram, Amnor, Manti, and Limher, for example.

This all boiled inside me one day in a BYU religion class. The teacher encouraged us to ask gospel or missionary-related questions at the beginning of class. He would, he promised, answer them all either straight out of the scriptures or else using recent General Authority quotes.

This particular day a girl raised her hand and asked, “What if you’re on your mission teaching a feminist and she wants to know why there are so few women in the Book of Mormon?”

Well, the teacher went off on feminism. He quoted 2 Nephi 13:12: “And my people, children are their oppressors, and women shall rule over them,” as a sign of the evils of feminism. He ranted about how an LDS book publisher had forced him to use equal examples of males and females in his recent book. A student raised a hand and said, “This even happens at BYU! Here, at BYU, in a writing class, I couldn’t just use he!

And so went the discussion. I got more and more upset as I listened to it. I was angry that the teacher saw using gender-neutral pronouns, an obvious need to me, as this harbinger of evil. I was angry that he lumped all feminism together with the far-left crowd, when really there was much good feminism had accomplished (voting, owning land, wearing pants).

But mostly I was angry because, even though I knew the Book of Mormon was true, he had dismissed this question that was my question too: why are there so few women in the Book of Mormon?

I ranted over it to everyone I met that week. I was still ranting when Sunday dinner with my family rolled around. “It’s a legitimate question!” I said. “The worst thing you could do when an investigator asks a legitimate question is go off on the evils of feminism.”

“I agree,” my dad said. “It’s a real question.” Then he diffused my anger with Moroni’s words, in Mormon 9:31: “Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been.”

I thought about this a lot. Dad had the right words for me. I looked up the scripture and read it over and over. It brought me peace that day.

Since then, the more imperfectly I have served in the Church, the less inclined I am to condemn anyone because of their imperfections, especially not people I honor as much as I do Mormon and Moroni.

I hope that one day, in the scriptures yet-to-be-revealed, we will have more stories of Book of Mormon women. I want to read the words the wives prayed as their husbands fought to protect them. I want to know the faith-inspiring life stories that strengthened Helaman’s army. I want to find out about Mormon’s wife, who saw with him “a continual scene of wickedness and abomination”and yet stayed faithful, raising Moroni in righteousness while Mormon commanded the Nephite army.

Nephi and Moroni tell us that one day we will stand face to face with the authors of the Book of Mormon. I hope we get a chance to meet their wives, too. I need to thank Mormon’s wife for sustaining her husband, and her son, as they carved out the words in my Book of Mormon.

About Julia Blue

(Blog Team) married to a hunky Aussie cowboy carpenter farmer composer filmmaker, who has turned her world upside down (this is a good thing). For even more fun, she flies around the world serving snacks and drinks, checking that seat belts are fastened, occasionally providing medical attention and hoping to never be a firefighter.

5 thoughts on “Sabbath Revival: “Condemn Me Not Because of Mine Imperfections””

  1. Great post, Blue. I think the Lord tries us a little in this as women. We need patience and faith to wait for these stories and to know of our mother in heaven. And I will wait patiently and honor the priesthood as I do have faith the Lord hasn't forgotten us.

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  2. Thank you for this! I have been and am still bothered by how few women are mentioned by name in the Book of Mormon, despite my testimony and deep love for the Book of Mor o . I appreciate the verse you shared which reminds me to be more patient. I am grateful that the lessons and truths found in the Book of Mormon are not gender specific and can be applied universally.

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  3. It's interesting to me, as a Mormon feminist, that this bothers me a lot when I am not currently reading the Book of Mormon. I've read it numerous times, though, and every time, without fail, it inspires me and makes me a better Christian. So I just live the questions and forgive imperfections and wait with faith.

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  4. Thanks for this post.
    This is long, but when I discovered this it helped me a lot, so I thought others might like it. From some reading I've done, I think I know one of the reasons Mormon (or Nephi) included so few women by name – and it has made me simultaneously more aware of imperfections in the church today and more understanding of them. The Book of Mormon peoples, like all societies before c. 1000 AD, and like the vast majority of them even after that date, were early marriage societies. Early marriage societies are identified by early marriage for girls/women (before 20) and a separation of the genders once they passed childhood. So, in most homes, boys, girls, and women spent most of their time together, and spent very little time in public spaces. Once the boys left childhood (somewhere between 6 or 7 and 10 years old), they left the 'feminine' domestic spaces for the masculine spaces (some of them in the home, many of them away from home). Boys therefore socialized with adult men in business, religion, property, labor, and military endeavors. In times/places without systemic educational systems, this pattern educated and trained boys for the roles they were expected to play as adults (as leaving the girls at home did for them, as their primary social role was to be mothers of sons).

    So, when Mormon excluded women, or didn't name them, it wasn't because he personally hated women or thought they were useless – it was because since he was 10 years old, his day-to-day activities mostly involved other men – it was a homosocial world. He, and Nephi, knew women were saved by the Atonement just as men were, but women's day-to-day lives were largely invisible to them. They did not live the more integrated domestic life we are accustomed to in the modern West. So, it doesn't bother me that there aren't women there as much as it used to because I can recognize that as gifted and inspired as they were, the two principle writers of the Book of Mormon were also products of their culture and time. And, when I'm being particularly good, I manage to transfer this acceptance and viewpoint to the church today. To recognize that I and my fellow ward members may have the Holy Ghost, but we also have a lot of 'imperfections' that come from the time and place we live.

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  5. I agree with hh9. It appears that the Nephites developed into a society that was even more patriarchal than the one in the old world that they left behind. There are other clues as well. Jacob notes very early on that the Lamanites treat their wives better than the Nephites, and by the end of it the Nephites are feeding women POWs human flesh.

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