Women and the Scriptures

Marianne C. Sharp

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    “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39.)

    The question may be asked: Is it as necessary for a woman to be a student of the scriptures as it is for a man? Why should a woman know the scriptures? What will this mean to her here and now?

    The answers seem rather obvious. A daughter of the Lord is as precious in his sight as is one of his sons; moreover, the divine role of woman in mortality is not only to be responsible for her own salvation, but to be also a helpmate to her husband and a guiding example to her children, hourly and daily. This requires that she be a student of the scriptures.

    There are many women who make it a practice to read the scriptures, but there are also many who have not seen the need for it. If one can live no better than according to that which one knows, then every mother needs to know section 68 of the Doctrine and Covenants. This section contains the commandment the Lord has given to fathers and mothers as to the things they are responsible for teaching to their children before they are eight years old. A mother needs to teach the doctrines of repentance, faith in Christ, the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands. She must also teach her children to pray and to walk uprightly before the Lord. (See D&C 68:25, 28.)

    President George Albert Smith’s mother knew the Lord’s will; he told this touching incident of being taught to pray: “I was trained at the knee of a Latter-day Saint mother. One of the first things I remember was when she took me by the hand and led me upstairs to the bedroom. In the room there were two beds, the bed in which my parents slept, and a little trundle bed over on the other side. I can remember it as if it were yesterday. When we got upstairs she sat down by my little trundle bed. She had me kneel in front of her. She folded my hands and took them in hers and taught me my first prayers. I shall never forget it. I do not want to forget it. It is one of the loveliest memories that I have in life: an angelic mother sitting down by my bedside and teaching me to pray … That prayer opened for me the window of heaven. That prayer extended to me the hand of my Father in Heaven, for she had explained to me what it all meant, as far as a little child could understand …” (Sharing the Gospel with Others (Deseret Book Co., 1950) pp. 147–48.)

    President Wilford Woodruff has advised: “I consider that the mother has a greater influence over her posterity than any other person can have. And the question has arisen some time: ‘When does this education begin?’ Our prophets have said, ‘When the spirit life from God enters into the tabernacle.’ The condition of the mother at that time will have its effect upon the fruit of her womb; and from the birth of the child, and all through life, the teachings and the example of the mother govern and control, in a great measure that child, and her influence is felt by it through time and eternity.” (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, 1st Ed., Bookcraft, 1946, p. 269.)

    This quotation from President Woodruff has added significance today in view of the way many pregnant women are abusing their bodies. It is recognized that babies born of mothers who have been on drugs have the same withdrawal symptoms as the mothers. If the unborn baby is so influenced, how very vital is a mother’s influence after birth when the child can see, hear, feel, and imitate the mother’s actions! A woman who knows her God-given responsibilities and has prepared herself to train her child has a great advantage over the mother who is ignorant of her spiritual duties. The knowledgeable mother will carefully consider any suggestion that she and her child be separated during the first 8 years of a child’s life.

    One is impressed by the truth that in facing and overcoming daily temptations, it is not enough to read only the scriptures contained in the Bible and the Book of Mormon; a woman also needs to be guided and directed by the scriptures that have come through the Lord to his prophets in this dispensation. These scriptures are not placed in unfamiliar phrases or abstruse meanings; they are in the language and vernacular of the present.

    With Satan’s frenzied efforts to pull down the righteous, as the second coming of the Savior draws near, the Latter-day Saint woman needs to fortify herself with an understanding of the sanctity of the marriage covenant and the basic eternal element of the family unit. She must heed the words of modern prophets.

    If a woman feels uncertain on the current, conflicting, viewpoints about woman’s place in the world, the uncertainty will be resolved as she seeks counsel in the words of the prophets. Instructions on the role of woman in the gospel plan have never deviated from the days of Adam to the present. As an individual, a woman will cultivate and nourish a testimony founded on revealed truth. As she grows strong in spirit, she will be prepared to fulfill her preordained work. As an individual, she must keep the commandments; and as a wife and mother, she must heed inspired counsel. In order to live the commandments, she must know them.

    The scriptures teach the glorious destiny of woman. The prophets extol her.

    President Joseph F. Smith declared: “There are people fond of saying that women are the weaker vessels. I don’t believe it. Physically, they may be, but spiritually, morally, religiously and in faith what man can match a woman who is really convinced? Daniel had faith to sustain him in the lion’s den, but women have seen their sons torn limb from limb, and endured every torture satanic cruelty could invent because they believed. They are always more willing to make sacrifices, and are the peers of men in stability, Godliness, morality, and faith.” (Gospel Doctrine, 12th ed., Deseret Book Co., 1961, Chapter 19, sub-heading II, p. 352.)

    As a woman reads, studies, and lives the truths in her own life, she will be blessed and guided as the Holy Spirit whispers truth to her spirit. The pathway straight and narrow before her will beckon and lead her on to eternal life.

    “Woman Learning ‘Yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom …’—D&C 88:118

    “Teaching with love. ‘Seek ye earnestly the best gifts …’—D&C 46:8

    Joseph and Emma Smith

    “In the maturing years of a woman’s life, she will find herself with new perspectives and opportunities.”—Sister Barbara B. Smith

    “Woman. ‘Strength and honor are her clothing and she shall rejoice in time to come.’—Prov. 31:25