Readers familiar with the Book of Mormon know that it was edited and compiled by a military man and prophet. Mormon had a cave full of Nephite records to comb through and choose to include in this compilation that was not meant for his fellow Nephites nor Lamanites, but for a day that the Lord showed him in visions:
“Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.”
We’ve recognized and often puzzled over what was kept and discarded, as well as the why.
So many war chapters! So few women!
At first glance it looks like a straight-forward setup: a male compiler, strong military background. His life experiences and gender seemed to have played a major role in his decisions.
But, when we do that, we miss the most important callings he had at that time as well: a prophet of God and a keeper of records (a calling in and of itself so sacred it had to be handed down to someone trustworthy and sober, one who is willing and ready to listen to the Lord as to keep up the record keeping and what to put in the history.)
Mormon’s task was probably the most difficult and dangerous in the end. The records had been hidden up before he gained access so they would be protected from destruction by wicked men. In that sense, all of those records were incredibly sacred, important, and powerful enough to cause Ammaron to even hide them, and to choose a successor who was only 10 years old.
This child grows up; sober, serious, and spiritual, immersed in an era of great wickedness and chaos. It was all he had known (Mormon 2:18) his entire life. He had lived with a sword longer than without, fighting for kin and kindred, against a losing battle, but giving it his all just the same.
When the time comes he uncovers the records and begins the task of condensing and compiling from the incredible stash of records into a smaller book, of which more than half was sealed so that Joseph Smith was forbidden to translate them.
With all of this in mind this prophet is tasked with a sacred task, choosing what to compress, what to include, and about whom.
Back to our original question: why all the war chapters and why so few women?
1) Mormon was a prophet first, and included things as he was spiritually impressed to do so
2) The fact that Mormon includes less women than war actually works in our favor. It gives us an incredible tool and insight into what messages and lessons he, and the Lord, are trying to send us.
Let’s skip the war question and jump right into the women question.
When Mormon does include narratives about women it is a blatant sign for us to sit up straight and take notice.
He wants us to ask why.
Why is this particular story or woman important enough to stand out among and make the cut out of all of those sacred records in that cave? There must be something very important and sacred that Mormon and the Lord would want us to take away from it, and a quick glance over the verses won’t suffice.
LDS scholars have discovered something else in the Book of Mormon.
The book is full of type-scenes.
What are type-scenes?
You’ve probably heard of or studied archetypes.
An archetype is a recurrent symbol or motif. So when we read about an experience or person in the scriptures, they are almost always a symbol for a larger principle.
A classic example is, of course, Abraham commanded to sacrifice his son, Isaac.
Abraham is about to lower the knife when a ram in the thicket is provided for that sacrifice in Isaac’s stead. We see the symbolism of Jesus Christ as an offering in our stead for our sins and heartaches.
With that in mind, all of the stories of women in the Book of Mormon become very, very exciting.
Let’s take Abish for example.
In Alma 18 and 19 we read of the story of King Lamoni, his queen, and Abish—a servant who had joined the church earlier because of a vision.
(This mention of a vision is, in and of itself, fascinating as the wording is such that she is the one who had the vision and it was of her father.)
Lamoni believes Ammon’s preaching, falls down into a trance. The queen, even after two days and nights, suspects the king is not really dead and sends for Ammon. He preaches and promises her husband will rise. She trusts in and believes Ammon. In response he says something that is our first signal for us to pay attention:
“Blesed art thou because of they exceeding faith; I say unto thee, woman, there has not been such great faith among all the people of the Nephites.” Alma 19:10
The king wakes up at the appointed time, bears his testimony of the birth of the messiah, reaches for his queen and they both fall into a trance.
As we read Alma 19:29-30 Abish raises the queen and the queen in turn raises her husband, the king.
This story of Abish and her queen is considered a “type-scene”, that, according to Kevin and Shauna Christensen, is “a prophetic prefiguring not only of the resurrection of Christ, but also of the role of women in that event.”
Think of the temple.
This type-scene attaches that particular moment to a larger theological meaning.
In almost every Near Eastern and ancient religions there is a strong motif of the goddess or consort having a strong and important role to play in the resurrection of her husband, the god.
Want a stronger example of this archetype and type-scene?
Look at the reunion of Jesus and Mary at the tomb the morning of the resurrection.
Before Christ even ascends to report to His Heavenly Father, the God and Father of all of us, he waits for Mary.
He does not wait to speak with one of His apostles.
He does not wait to speak with Peter who will now take His place as president of His church.
It was Mary, first and foremost, that He waits for before leaving to report to Heavenly Father.
Now in the Latter-day Saint culture we believe that Mary was more than just a very important woman/disciple to Christ. We believe they were actually married. There is no scriptural proof and it is not doctrinal. But this would make sense in this theme of a god needing the ministrations of his female half.
Stories like these attracted the attention of Mormon and he obviously saw larger theological patterns in them. Watching the roles of the women and men in this Abish story demonstrate not only patterns of a greater whole, but the partnership between men and women. Both are given great priesthood power and receive great revelations and spiritual experiences. We see independence and interdependence between the two sexes.
Women have an enormous part to play in this whole plan. We have a powerful role in the priesthood and it seems that the keys of resurrection, and possibly other keys that have not yet been given, will involve the women as well.
Archetypes in the scriptures. Keep your eyes open for them!