Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, July 31, 2009

Latter-day Debs

by Kerry Blair

Like most authors, I get quite a few letters. To say that I appreciate the time, effort, and thoughtfulness that go into each is an understatement. I do in fact marvel at the kindness of strangers.

Most of the e-mail I receive is easy to answer, even if the questions sometimes give me pause. I’ve been asked what color my hair really is, the names of my goldfish, and the birthday/shoe size/astrological sign and the like of various characters. Usually I know the answer. When I don’t, and it’s about a book, I can always make something up. Rarely does anybody ask anything I have to stop and ponder. But it happened this week. I was contacted by a young woman who asked me – among others – a self-revelatory question. She plans to compile her responses to complete a Young Women project. The question: If you could be a latter-day version of anybody in the scriptures, who would you be and why?

After consideration of the many possibilities I decided I would like to be Deborah. Since femininity is eternal, I felt compelled to choose a woman, but even if I had considered all the great men of the ages, I still think I’d have picked her.

According to the book of Judges 4-5, Deborah lived under a palm tree and judged Israel. See how much we have in common? I lived under a palm tree in Mesa for almost a quarter-century and am easily one of the most judgmental people around. It’s a natural fit.

But that’s not why I chose her. I chose Deborah because of her politics. And perspective. And courage.

After ceasing to heed the Lord God, Deborah’s people became virtual slaves of an oppressive foreign kingdom. Twenty years passed in misery, but nobody did anything because they didn’t believe there was anything they could do. The Canaan government was much too big to take on. The king had 900 iron chariots and enough fighting men to fill a valley. Guess how many iron
chariots Israel had. Right.

Their military leader, Barak, saw the situation clearly. The enemy had more than enough men, weapons, and early-day tanks to wipe his small army off the face of the earth. (Probably without breaking a sweat.)

Deborah saw the same situation with equal clarity. If they would turn again to God in humble and sincere prayer, they could send forth men armed with enough faith, courage, and power to prevail. Over anything. Indeed, angels would fight with them.

Deborah shared her vision with Barak and urged him to battle. At last he grumbled, “If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.”

Go to battle? A woman? If Deborah up and ran off to war who would clean up around the palm tree and wash her husband’s robes? What agency could send in a temp to do her judging? Perhaps most troubling, what would her visiting teachers think?

Deborah didn’t hesitate. She surely went – and everything transpired as she had prophesied. (That’s the thing with prophecy generally.) In exchange for repentance and obedience, Israel was granted blessed freedom under God.

I wish I were like Deborah. I see my people facing many of the oppressions Israel faced – and for largely the same reasons. I certainly don’t want to go to Iraq, say, but I do want to be the kind of woman who engages in the battle, speaks up for the right, and stands up to be counted when it counts the most. Moreover, I want to be like the latter-day Deborahs we all know and admire – women who gaze through the eyes of faith rather than fear. These women look at useless scraps of fabric and see beautiful quilts; they live in modest homes, perhaps even in the dirt and decay of our inner cities, and yet gaze up to admire the sunrise. They see our families’ and nation’s and world’s evils for what they are – and know surely where to look for the solutions.

All over the world, valiant women wage war against invincible obstacles and multitudes of foes. They battle where they must with the weapons they have at hand. They clip coupons to provide for their families. They serve missions to share the gospel. They redeem their kindred dead. They go alone to church and to the temple. They raise vegetables . . . and grandchildren. They bless and strengthen their neighbors. Some write bravely and boldly, seeking to raise a rallying ensign for people of like minds.

I know I’m no Deborah. I’m too content to sit under my apple tree and juggle. (I’m trying to give up judging.) But I’m grateful for the question because it made me want to raise my sites and do better – and to acknowledge those who are already where I would like to be.

Now it’s your turn. You don’t have to write a long response (I’m the preachy one, remember) but I promised this girl I would ask for more input, and so I am. Who do you wish to emulate in the latter-days, and why? I’m not sure she will be able to use anonymous responses for her project, but I’d like to hear what you have to say, regardless.


At 7/31/2009 2:42 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

This was a beautiful post, Kerry. Let me see ...

There are so many to choose from, but for right now, I would have to say, Mary. She was chosen to be the mother of Christ because of her purity. Today we need more of that kind of purity. Not that we need to hide under rocks and refuse to interact with the world around us, but that we need to have the strength to keep ourselves from getting sucked into all the crassness around us. I would like to be even partially that pure.

At 7/31/2009 3:00 PM, Blogger David J. West said...

besides being Christ-like of course, I would say Captain Moroni, to make the powers of hell quake. But I'm probably just a much shorter version of Teancum and thats just trouble.

At 7/31/2009 3:29 PM, Blogger Becca said...

I want to be like Esther, and be able to say with conviction: Who knoweth but I am sent for just a time as this?

At 7/31/2009 3:55 PM, Blogger Janice said...

I want to be like Alma the elder. First because he was able to see the truth in a sea of lies and not only believe but act on it. Second he prayed for his son and got an angel to set him straight. (What parent doesn't want that as a backup plan?)

At 7/31/2009 5:12 PM, Blogger Karlene said...

I too like Deborah, and for the same reasons you give—only I'm not quite as eloquent as you are so I'll just say, "Ditto."

A close second is Esther because she was so brave to stand up for what she believed in, and I am a chicken-liver at heart.

At 7/31/2009 6:47 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

I would have to go with John the Baptist. (I considered David's friend, Jonathan, who is my actual namesake.) John the B (Was the sloop named after him?) was humble, righteous, given to service. That's what I aspire to, but I fall quite short.

I'll have to ponder this more as I drive my iron chariot home.

At 7/31/2009 6:53 PM, Blogger Daron Fraley said...

Great post Kerry.

I would choose Enoch.

Moses 7:41 And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto Enoch, and told Enoch all the doings of the children of men; wherefore Enoch knew, and looked upon their wickedness, and their misery, and wept and stretched forth his arms, and his heart swelled wide as eternity; and his bowels yearned; and all eternity shook.

A mortal man. Hears and sees it all. Then is so moved by it that all eternity shook. When this happened, we must have felt it and wondered. I still wonder at it.


At 7/31/2009 7:01 PM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

I'd be Samuel the Lamanite. Dodging arrows. Or maybe Sam (Nephi's brother). Always stalwart, yet I'm not in charge :)

At 7/31/2009 8:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There’s a lady in the Old Testament named Zipporah,(pronounced Zeffora) and she drew water from a well for a man who wandered out of the desert all dirty and smelly from sweat, and half dead from heat exhaustion. He later defended her flock of sheep from some not so nice guys. Shortly after that, the lady’s father gave her hand in marriage to this man ... named Moses. He became a sheepherder along with his wife until he was called to the Mountain of God. Zipporah supported him in every turn, including wandering in the desert for forty years. How her heart must have ached when he told her to cross the river into the Promised Land while he climbed into heaven. Yeah, I’d like to think I am as supportive of my husband in his callings as Zipporah was with Moses.


At 7/31/2009 10:32 PM, Blogger Jennie said...

Deborah has always been high on my list of women I admire, but something about Ruth has always touched me too. I admire her courage in leaving all that was familiar to her--her country, her family, her culture--to follow Naomi and to give her support and comfort. Along with Ruth, I'd like to be like Naomi too. I'd like to be the kind of mother-in-law that inspires that kind of love and loyalty from her children's spouses.

At 8/01/2009 12:40 AM, Blogger L.T. Elliot said...

I'd be Ruth or I'd be Esther. Ruth because of the reasons that Jennie said and Esther because of the reasons Becca said. =]

At 8/01/2009 10:29 AM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Great comments, thanks! I know Christiana is reading along with interest and scribbling furiously.
You all are the best!

At 8/01/2009 3:50 PM, Blogger Charlie Moore said...

The person I would most like to emulate is not from ancient scripture. He is, in fact, a modern day prophet. John Taylor called him the greatest man to live on the earth (paraphrasing), save the Savior only. There have been many great people,men and women, but I agree with John Taylor. Joseph Smith, Jun. was one of the very few privileged to see God the Father. We should try our very best to emulate our Savior. Joseph Smith, Jun. is a wonderful stepping stone.

BTW -- I liked all the other suggestions, as well.


At 8/03/2009 4:40 AM, Anonymous mubaishoopig said...

Nice Blog. i liked it.

At 8/03/2009 11:28 PM, Blogger Bruce in Montana said...

Joseph Smith...absolutely.

At 8/04/2009 1:08 AM, Blogger Valerie Ipson said...

Wow. Really something to think about. I've always loved Abinadi and his courage. My patriarchal blessing says I'm like Joseph of old, so I'm partial to him, too. If I need to be a woman, how about the wife of Captain Moroni? Now that would rock.


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