How to Read the Scriptures and Not Miss the Women

1. Look for the References to Women “Too often words like sister, wife, mother, etc, are missed. But if we take note, such references to women will complete the scriptural cast, giving us a rounder, fuller picture. We discover that Nephi had sisters as well as brothers (2 Ne 5:6), that the role Pharaoh’s daughter played in preserving the baby Moses was foretold (JST Gen 50:29), and that Noah’s granddaughters were partly responsible for the evil that preceded the flood (Gen 6:1-4; Moses 8:14-15).” Aside: some women are in the text of the scriptures but may be missing from the index, topical guide or Bible Dictionary, such as the prophetess Huldah (2 Kings 22:14 and 2 Chron 34:22). Such references to women are truly hidden & require some sleuthing. 2. Ask Why a Particular Reference Has Been Included “Considering how many times the Bible has been edited and condensed, I have to assume that the surviving references to women must have been considered important.” 3. Pull the Parts of Stories Together “One woman, Eve, is mentioned in all four standard works, including a quote from her testimony (Moses 5:11-12). In fact a complete understanding of [her] requires knowing the scriptures restored by Joseph Smith.” Aside: this is made a lot easier using the e-text of the scriptures on, where you can quickly search a name across all 4 standard works. 4. Understand Sacred Titles Such as… Prophetess (Deborah, Huldah, Miriam, Anna, daughters of Philip, Eliza R. Snow) Wise Woman (the WW of Abel in 2 Sam 20; the WW of Tekoah in 2 Sam 14) Handmaiden of the Lord (Mary, Ruth, Hannah, Abigail, King David’s mother, Emma Smith, Vienna Jacques) Mother in Israel (Deborah, Tamar, WW of Abel) Elect Lady (Emma Smith, woman of 2 John, Mary) 5. Be Aware that Some Passages are not Flattering to Women Work to understand the cultural context in which they were written and why feminine imagery might be used to scold or instruct men (the scriptures’ presumed readers for many centuries). Sometimes restored scripture helps to put troublesome passages in proper perspective. 6. Take Time to Figure Out Difficult Passages This is the “study” part of scripture study. Some passages only give up their meaning when you work at them for a while using other resources, such as scriptural commentaries, encyclopedias, scholarly works. 7. Don’t Underestimate the Value of General Information “Descriptions of how women dressed, where they lived (Ezekiel’s wife built a mud-brick hut on the banks of a canal), the festivals they enjoyed, their occupations (everything from dancers to diplomats)… can add interest to your reading. General information helps enliven the reading, creating pictures of women doing everyday things…. The bonus is that general information can yield some surprising gems of insight. For example, the nameless groups of women that followed Jesus create a composite picture of the kind of women the Savior liked to have around him. I find that useful.” 8. Read With the Spirit “First give thanks you can read the scriptures. Throughout history few women have been literate, and even those who could read were often denied access to sacred texts… A true appreciation of what it means to be a woman in the latter-days needs to begin with an understanding of the privilege it is to have scriptures. No other women, today or in times past, ever had the amount and diversity of scriptures now available to LDS women.” “In the end, spiritual matters can be understood only by spiritual means. But be assured that no one who desires to understand will be denied that understanding.”

Excerpted from Jerrie Hurd, Leaven: 150 Women in Scripture Whose Lives Lift Ours (Murray, UT: Aspen Books: 1995)