Zelophehad’s Daughters

Mothers in the Book of Mormon

Posted by Elbereth

It’s Mother’s Day on Sunday and I would like to bet that at least one person in every ward is going to read the one mother-related scripture in the Book of Mormon. “Yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it.” (Alma 56:47-48) Have you ever wondered who those faithful women are?

Approximately twenty-six years before Helaman took his army to fight the Lamanites, the sons of Mosiah and some of their friends set off to preach the word of God to the Lamanites. Among the stories told about this journey, there are those that tell of three women who played a role in the conversion of many Lamanites and may have been the mothers or grandmothers of the sons of Helaman. (See Alma 17-19, 22)

The first woman we run into is only known by her husband, King Lamoni. After Ammon protects the King’s flocks, he preaches to the King, who prays to the Lord and falls down as if dead. The King’s servants carry Lamoni off to his wife, who mourns the apparent death of her husband for two days. She decides against burying Lamoni, has a talk with her husband’s servants and calls for Ammon. When he arrives, she explains that she thinks her husband is not dead as he “does not stink” Ammon takes a look at the King and tells her that he “sleepeth in God” and will awake in the morning. Ammon then asks a very important question. He asks, “Believest thou this?” and she answers, “I have had no witness save thy word, and the word of our servants; nevertheless I believe that it shall be according as thou hast said.” Ammon then counters with the compliment, “Blessed art thou because of thy exceeding faith; I say unto thee, woman, there has not been such great faith among all the people of the Nephites.” The Queen believed the words of an unknown man based simply on the testimony of others.

The story continues. King Lamoni wakes up in the morning, as Ammon had prophesied. Lamoni’s joy in his experiences during those days of unconsciousness is so great that he testifies to his wife and then falls to the floor. His wife, whose heart has been changed through the words of her husband, also falls to the floor, overcome by the Spirit. Ammon and the servants are also overcome and fall to the ground as well. This is where the second woman comes in. Abish, a servant of the Queen who had “been converted to the Lord many years, on account of a remarkable vision of her father,” runs to tell the people the good news, hoping that they will also come to believe in the power of God. Unfortunately, the people aren’t as excited as Abish is. They are suspicious of this unknown Nephite. They fall to arguing among themselves about whether or not they should kill him. This bothers Abish, who had been so excited just a few moments ago. She starts to cry, and runs to the Queen and lifts her up by the hand. The Queen speaks in tongues, proclaims the greatness of God and revives her husband. Ammon and the others soon follow. These two women, one whose testimony had survived on its own for many years and one who had just discovered God, both have great spiritual strength and understanding, and either or both of them must have passed that strength on to their own children.

There is one other woman connected with these events. After having a little confrontation with his son, King Lamoni’s father decides to give the gospel a chance. Ammon’s brother, Aaron, goes to visit him. A similar event happens. King Lamoni’s father, upon hearing the gospel, prays to Lord and falls down as if he were dead. His wife, though, is not as accepting as her daughter-in-law. Instead of believing Aaron, she commands her servants to take him. They refuse out of fear. The queen then commands that the people come and slay Aaron. To avoid any further contention, Aaron stretches forth his hand and raises the King up. The King then proceeds to convert entire household, including his wife. Though this woman does not initially believe and welcome Aaron, she eventually has her own change of heart and joins the church with her husband. As her husband has married children, it is less likely that this woman is the mother of a stripling warrior. But her testimony doubtlessly affected her children and their children and her grandsons could have been among those who remembered the words of their mother.

Though these three women are never again mentioned individually, they are doubtless part of the group of people who moved from the lands of the Lamanites to the land of Jershon, under Nephite protection. These people took on a new name, the Anti-Nephi-Lehites. Therefore, it is no stretch of the imagination to guess that these three women could have been among the ranks of mothers who taught their sons to trust in the Lord. These women could have been among those referred by when the sons of Helaman said, “We do not doubt our mothers knew it.”

3 Responses to “Mothers in the Book of Mormon”

  1. 1.

    You know, I’d never made the connection between those stories before, that Abish and Lamoni’s wife could be the mothers or grandmothers of the sons of Helaman. (For all the times I’ve read the BoM, I’m realizing that my sense of the chronology of it all is still rather fuzzy!)

    The story of Abish is one I find intriuging. There are so few women even mentioned in the text, let alone by name, and suddenly along comes this woman who’s been secretly converted for years, and who clearly isn’t afraid of taking the initiative. Not to mention that she doesn’t show up in the context of a traditional female role; we don’t even know if she’s a wife or a mother.

    Sometimes I wonder if we’d have more stories like this, and fewer about military strategy, if Mormon hadn’t been a general. ;)

  2. 2.

    I hadn’t ever really made this connection either, so thanks for the insight. I love deepening my understanding of the scriptures, especially when it involves stories about strong women.

  3. 3.

    Great post, Elbereth! I had also never thought about who the mothers whose sons did not doubt their faith were.

    I’m particularly interested by the fact you cite that it was 26 years between the beginning of Alma’s and Mosiah’s sons’ mission and when the sons of their converts volunteered to defend their parents and the Nephites. Since the sons were all “very young” (Alma 56:46), this suggests they were likely born after the conversion of their parents, meaning that their parents were likely even younger at the time of their conversion. (Here’s my reasoning: Say the sons were 14-18 at the time they volunteered to fight under Heleman and that their mothers were 18-30 when giving birth to the them. This puts the births of the mothers at 32-48 years before their sons went into battle, making the mothers 6-22 at the time of their conversion.) I’m not really going anywhere with this other than to comment that it’s perhaps another example of the zeal of a new convert, or in this case, a whole bunch of new converts.

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