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Ancient Testaments: Sarah's daughters shine in latter-day shadows

There are countless people hidden in the stories of mankind. Someday, we will know all about them — all of them. Some will shine, like polished diamonds glimmering from a trunkful of keepsakes.

The Lord tells us that, "when I make up my jewels," we will clearly "discern between the righteous and the wicked." No need for labels or explanations. We will see for ourselves which keepsakes shine and which do not.

While we wait to get acquainted with all those jewels, we have been invited to focus on a few of them ahead of time. One of them is Sarah.

Many centuries after Sarah had lived on earth, a masterful prophet named Isaiah came among her descendents. Hundreds of thousands of them were losing spiritual ground. He spoke to them as rough diamonds, urging them to "look to the rock from whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit from whence ye are digged."

Where had these uncut, unpolished Israelites come from?

What rock? "Look to Abraham, your father."

And what quarry? "Look … unto Sarah, she that bear you."

For Isaiah's contemporaries, that meant peering back through 1,200 years of pedigree — to somehow take comfort in great-grandparents buried under 30 layers "great-"!

To God, and to our righteous forebears, the number of centuries or generations cannot diminish the relationship. (If you wonder about this, just ask a grandma. She may even admit that she adores her grandchildren more than her own children.)

Later, when another dispensation was soon to end in martyrdom and apostasy, the president of the church gave similar counsel to the faithful. Peter, like Isaiah had done seven centuries before, urged the sisters in the church to think of their ancient ancestor Sarah, who had remained so graceful under enormous pressures.

Peter spoke of facets that made Sarah a shining gem. One was what he called "chaste conduct" that over time can soften and win the heart of a husband.

He also spoke of beauty. But, "let it not be that outward adorning" that glitters on the surface. Decorations may be harmless and even wholesome. But Sarah's kind of beauty radiates from powers "hidden" inside. It is beauty "of the heart, … in the sight of God of great price."

Peter said more about the deep source of Sarah's beauty. In the King James Version, his words are rendered, "the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit." In our world, where brashness, super-assertion and shrill opinionation is more and more fashionable, that "meek and quiet" spirit sounds like real relief. But an alternate translation in an LDS edition footnote adds even more substance: "gentle, mild, forgiving."

Of course, Abraham, the huge rock — "father of the faithful," and "friend of God" — would be disappointed to find the age-old flabbiness of a contentious spirit in his sons.

But perhaps Sarah, Israel's diamond quarry — mother of a saving race, a princess known among prophets for her inner beauty and "mild, forgiving" spirit — would especially hope to see no such ruddy, unflattering stuff in her covenant daughters.

Darkness like that which troubled the saints of Peter's day, and which befuddled Israel in the time of Isaiah, will continue a while longer. But unlike ancient eras, our dispensation is not about to end. Rather, it will "become very great, … fair as the sun, and clear as the moon." And in the midst will be Sarah's shining daughters, from which the Lord will make up his jewels.

(References: Malachi 3:17-18; Isaiah 51:1-2; JST 1 Peter 3:1-8; James 2:23; Doctrine and Covenants 138:41; 105:31)