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BYU Education Week: Handmaidens of the Lord

PROVO, Utah — Although men authored most of the books of scripture, there are many things to learn from the women mentioned.In the New Testament, there are more women mentioned than in the other books of scripture, Gayle Strathearn, an assistant professor of ancient scripture at BYU, said during the campus Education Week on Aug. 17.When we read the scriptures, there arent a whole lot of women mentioned, she said. These women serve as role models and not just for women.She focused on four women in the New Testament: Mary, the mother of Jesus; Elizabeth; Martha and Mary Magdalene.Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her cousin ElizabethMary and Elizabeth are some of the earliest witnesses of Jesus Christ, Strathearn said. And Mary is one of the few women where there are written prophecies, including those in Isaiah and 1 Nephi 11.I love Mary, Strathearn said. I dont think we think about her enough. Marys great example of faith can teach us about discipleship.The experience of an angel appearing to Mary is quite telling of her personality.As the angel tells her in verses 30-33 that she is going to be the mother of the Savior, can you imagine what is going on her head? Strathearn asked. Strathearn said that Mary was likely very spiritually mature, knew the prophecies about the Saviors birth, knew of the Abrahamic covenant and knew of the tender mercies of the Lord.In verse 34, the question she asks of how can this be is quite natural for anyone to ask in a situation where they dont feel prepared or understand how they will fulfill a calling or assignment.Then the answer comes in verse 37: For with God nothing shall be impossible. Mary accepts the answer (verse 38) and is willing to do what the Lord asks. Thats how we turn our fear into faith, Strathearn said. The Holy Ghost will bring us success.There are parts of the story that Strathearn wonders about.But what happened when Gabriel leaves? she asked. She's probably thinking, How do I tell my parents?However that conversation went, Mary goes and visits her cousin Elizabeth.We dont know much of (Elizabeth), Strathearn said. We do know that Elizabeth was a women of great faith.MarthaMartha is one of those people who you love or you dont, Strathearn said.The story of Martha and her sister, Mary, in Luke 10: 38-42 needs to be taken in context. In Luke 10, Jesus is sending out members of the 70 on missions and they were instructed to go without purse or scrip.When Jesus gets to Bethany, he fully expected someone like Martha to take him in and feed him, she said. At this point, Jesus isnt traveling alone, as he has disciples and others with him.The indication in verse 38 that shows it was Marthas house shows that she had some means, as a single woman generally lived with her parents or brother. In verse 39, the word also suggests that both Mary and Martha initially were sitting at Jesus feet. Then, quite likely under the pressure of so many hungry people in her home, Martha gets up to prepare food for them.Is the Lord chastising Martha (in verse 42)? asks Strathearn. Absolutely.But if anyone learned from a chastisement from the Lord, its Martha.In John 11 is the story of raising Marthas brother, Lazarus, from the dead.In verse 5, it states that Jesus loved Martha and her siblings. So, despite Marthas earlier mistakes, Jesus still cared for them, Strathearn said.In this experience with the death of Marthas brother, Martha doesnt make the same mistake. She runs to him in verse 19 and in verse 21 shows her faith in Jesus healing power when she says, if thou hadst been here my brother had not died.It is Marthas declaration (of her faith and belief), Strathearn said.Mary MagdaleneMary Magdalene lived in a seaside village and Jesus cast out seven devils from her.She was also some of the certain women Luke mentions in Luke 8:2-3 who followed Jesus and the twelve and ministered unto him.They likely also preached the gospel and stood side-by-side with the apostles, Strathearn said.Mary Magdalene was at the cross when Jesus was crucified and was at the sepulcher after Jesus was buried (John 19-20).Even after the disciples leave when she finds the tomb empty, she stays at the sepulcher in John 20:11, Strathearn said. Here is where she encounters the resurrected Jesus Christ, who calls her by name. It is a privilege to be called by name, Strathearn said. In the parable of the good shepherd, we learn that the shepherd knows each sheep individually.Then, in verse 17, he sends her forth to bear witness of him.Mary wasnt in the garden by accident, Strathearn said. Ever since she was healed, she gave time and sustenance to him. Mary is an example of someone who has allowed God to serve them.Strathearns presentation was recorded for broadcast later on BYU Television.