Ruth Ruth 1
The classic Old Testament tale of service. When all the men in her family died and she had no means to support her daughters-in-law, Naomi told Orpah and Ruth to leave her so they could have a chance to remarry. Orpah tearfully left, but Ruth, seeing that Naomi would have no means to take care of herself, decided to stay. Ruth knew that this would mean that she would likely never remarry. She knew she would live in squalor for the rest of her life. She knew that she would be shunned by society for being a Moabitess. But she stayed anyway because she loved Naomi. And as we see later in her story, Ruth is immensely blessed for her act of kindness and charity. God will do the same for us. Perhaps he won’t send us a knight in shining armor, but He will reward us for serving His children.
Rahab Joshua 2, James 2:25
Talk about a dramatic story. You are living a less-than-respectable life to support your family. An infamous wandering nation is closing in on the city and two spies decide to stop by your house. You could turn them in and save your own skin, or you could hide them and help them. What a predicament. But Rahab knew that these were good men and that some Supreme Being was with them and their people. Even though there would be dire consequences if she were caught (and she almost was, they knew she had spies in her home), she helped the Jews achieve victory over Jericho. She is a great example to modern-day women of courage and compassion, and also that no matter our background, we can still do the work of the Lord.
Eve Moses 5:11, Genesis 1:26-27
Eve does not get nearly as much credit as she deserves. The whole eating the apple thing, yeah I get it. But here is the thing: She was created in the image of God, she was the culminating act of creation, and she was filled with the desire to live up to her divine potential. Living in the glorious presence of God on a daily basis, Eve likely wanted what every child wants: to become like her Parents. One of the main points in Satan’s pitch was that in eating the fruit Eve would become wise like unto her Father. I don’t think Eve partook of the fruit out of stupidity or rebellion – I think she ate the fruit so that she could become wise like her Father. Though she was instrumental in the fall of man from God’s presence, Eve exemplifies humanity’s innate connection to our Heavenly Father in that each one of us, male and female, was created in His likeness. Because of her, we each possess yet another spark of divinity within us: agency and knowledge. Thanks to Eve, we now have the ability to grow and choose for ourselves to follow our Savior and become more like Him.
Mary Luke 1:28, 46-55
Mary the mother of Jesus is one of the most beloved Biblical figures. What we can glean from her story is that she was a thoughtful, faithful, devoted, and virtuous young woman, and therefore highly favored of the Lord. Of all young women, God chose her to be the vessel through which the Son of God would enter the world. Mary, among her many other qualities, exemplifies the divine power that all women innately possess – the power to create. She brought into the world the One who would make it possible for each of us to harness and achieve our divine identity – our Savior. She also demonstrates how we – as imperfect and lowly as we are – can be molded and shaped by celestial hands to magnify the great potential that lies within us.
Huldah 2 Chronicles 34
Now here is an obscure figure for you. In the Old Testament, King Josiah found some troubling prophecies in scripture and was desperate to have them interpreted. So his servants sought out the prophetess, Huldah. She read the scriptures and explained them to the king, adding in further inspiration that she received from the Lord. What makes her story so cool, other than the fact that the King sought out the help of a woman to educate him on the meaning of scripture, is that she used the gifts of intelligence that God had given her and then relied on the Lord for further guidance. When we seek knowledge, we should follow the pattern set forth by Huldah: use our gifts, but do not forget from whom those gifts come.
Mothers of the Stripling Warriors Alma 56:45-48, 57:21
This group of women was not always righteous. They used to be part of a fallen and ruthless people. But when the gospel entered their lives thanks to the missionary work of Ammon and his brothers, these women forsook their sins and lived the teachings of Christ. They treasured the light they had received and made sure they taught their children everything they knew. So great were their teachings and examples that their sons were exactly obedient and had iron-clad faith in God which led them to victory. The mothers of the stripling warriors valued the knowledge of Christ and made sure that their children grew up in and were strengthened by that knowledge. May we treasure the knowledge we have and then spread that knowledge to benefit those around us.
Faith was tough to choose for, in that virtually every woman in the scriptures is an exemplar of faith. In the end, I settled on these strong women whose stories reflect a very intense trust in the Lord.
The Widow of Zarephath 1 Kings 17:9-16
Like many women in the scriptures, (including many women in this list) the Widow of Zarephath goes unnamed, but this in no way diminishes her importance. She lived in a time of drought, a single mother with no means of supporting her family. One day, the food ran out and hope ran out with it. In this dire moment, she met a man – whom she recognized immediately as a holy man – who asked her for the unthinkable. He asked her to feed him first instead of her own son. Even with the promise of food thereafter, I am mesmerized by her ability to agree to his terms and use all of the ingredients she had left to make him a small cake. Through her faith in the prophet and promises of the Lord, despite not having any proof that food would arrive thereafter, she and her son did receive and endless supply of meal and oil, and thus survived the drought.
King Lamoni’s Wife Alma 19
There are not a whole lot of women mentioned in the Book of Mormon, but the ones that we do have are incredible, and King Lamoni’s wife is one of my favorites. She lived in troubling times – her kingdom was divided against itself with rebellious men stealing her husband’s sheep on a regular basis. Then a mysterious, enemy Nephite prince arrives and starts working as a servant. Matters only get worse when one day after having an extended conversation with this Nephite, her husband the king dies. We see from a later account with Lamoni’s father that it would have been easy for her to execute the man supposedly responsible for Lamoni’s death. But instead she does something interesting – she listens to her servants’ side of the story. She seeks out information from those of lower status than her. Then she ultimately decides to confer with the possible murderer of her husband. When Ammon arrives, she does not accuse. She does not rail on him. She asks him for help. When Ammon tells her that her husband is not dead, she has no one to confirm his claims – but all the same she humbly submits to his advice and believes his words. “There [had] not been such great faith among all the people of the Nephites” (Alma 19:10). This queen stands as a wonderful example of the humility and grace of faith.
Hannah 1 Samuel 1, 2
In the Old Testament, those women who could not bear children carried a heavy weight of shame. Hannah was one of these women. She sought divine aid many times, but it was not until she made a promise to the Lord that she would give her son to Him that her pleas to have a child were answered. Here comes the tricky part: you finally have the son you have always wanted. You could easily make excuses to keep him. Plead with the Lord again, ask Him for more time, another child. But Hannah didn’t do this. She kept the covenant she made to the Lord, even though giving up her only child was the likely most difficult thing she had ever done. She stayed true to her word when the stakes were high, just as we should always stay true to our values and promises no matter the circumstance.
Shiphrah and Puah Exodus 1:15-21
These women are hidden gems. In their story, Pharaoh had just decided to slaughter every newborn Jewish boy in order to halt insurrection. One of his extermination methods was to recruit Jewish midwives as undercover executioners. Pharaoh demanded the following: if Shiphrah and Puah helped birth a baby boy, they were to immediately and discreetly kill the baby. For obvious reasons, Shiphrah and Puah were not too keen on this task. So they straight up lied to Pharaoh’s face in order to save these children. They explained that the Jewish women gave birth so fast that the kids were already born before they could get there in time. Under this excuse, they were able to continue to save the lives of many male infants. Shiphrah and Puah demonstrated the higher virtue that nothing is more precious than life, and it should be protected at all costs. They held true to what they knew was the most important, even when this put their own lives in danger. Dang cool ladies.
*A note on Virtue: Here is where I think Mormons get a little confused. Whenever we hear the word “virtue,” our minds immediately scream CHASTITY. This is not an inaccurate association – chastity would not exist without virtue, but I think that there is a better definition for this principle. Virtue is the purity and mastery of thought. Virtue is seeking out the good things, or the things of worth in life instead of the bad things. Call it optimism of a higher order. This isn’t just seeking out the happy things, but things that will bring us light, intelligence, and growth even in times when things seem dark. Virtue is the mastery of our mind, to focus on and seek out the good.
Mary and Martha Luke 10:38-42
You might be thinking Mary and Martha? That is a long shot… but hear me out.
So Jesus comes to chill out at Mary and Martha’s place. These sisters have very different reactions to the Savior’s arrival. Martha goes straight into service mode, clearing the house and making food. Mary, on the other hand, sits at Christ’s feet and listens to Him teaching. At some point, Martha gets a bit miffed that she is the only one doing anything good and helpful to prepare the house, and so she tells Jesus to make Mary help her. Jesus, at this point, gently chides Martha for not seeing the good in what Mary was doing. Mary was putting aside worldly things for a moment to hear the gospel. Don’t get me wrong – Martha was doing good in her own form of service for the Savior. But instead of focusing on the negative thoughts against her sister, Martha should have seen the merits of Mary’s actions. In the same way, we need to have virtue in our minds by not focusing on the negative aspects of people’s actions or the circumstances in our lives but instead choose to see the silver lining. Try to find the lesson, the light in the darkness. In doing so, our thoughts become pure, and our hearts are filled with joy.
Emma D&C 25:2, 10
In keeping with our definition of virtue, I would say that Emma Smith is the woman who exemplifies virtue in our modern times. Of all women in the scriptures, she is the one whom we know the most about. We know she lived through some of the most horrible trials imaginable. Early on, the Lord gave her a bit of advice that would serve her throughout her life. “A revelation I give unto you concerning my will; and if thou art faithful and walk in the paths of virtue before me, I will preserve thy life, and thou shalt receive an inheritance in Zion… And verily I say unto thee that thou shalt lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better.” Even in dark times, Emma followed this counsel. She would manage to keep her head up and focus on the joy that comes with living the gospel despite the horrors that surrounded her. There could have been so many moments when she could have succumbed to the darkness – but she did not. She held her ground and chose to look to the light of Christ instead.
Esther Esther 4:14-16
This woman is incredible. She grew up as the persecuted minority in her besieged homeland. Miraculous circumstances brought her into the court and favor of the king, and thus into a position to save her people, the Jews, from being destroyed by royal decree. Despite the danger of the situation before her, Esther entered the court of the king to beg for her people’s lives. No doubt that Esther was preserved for “such a time as this” – to save her people. God needed her at this very moment to save hundreds of thousands of His other sons and daughters. Esther’s story shows us that one person has infinite worth, for one person can save an entire nation. We may not ever be in circumstances quite like Esther, but we do have the power to have an enormous influence on the world around us. We are precious to our Father, He knows our potential, and He will use us where He sees fit to make the biggest difference.
Woman at the Well John 4:5-42
A Samaritan. An adulteress. A woman. Any other Jewish man would have ignored or even berated her. But not the Savior. As the woman drew water at a well, Christ took time to talk to her and teach her as if she were an equal. Because Christ showed her that she had value and taught her truth, she believed and was able to spread the good word to help convert many others. Through her story, we learn that no matter our circumstances, background, or past mistakes, we are all loved individually by our Father in Heaven and His Son. No sin can bar us from their love. Through Christ, we can overcome any setback and we can all make a difference.