Wednesday, September 15, 2010

More weirdness in Mormon culture

So i was at our local Mormon-oriented bookstore a little bit ago, and i saw that they had a bunch of motivational posters for kids based on heroes from the scriptures. (“Real Hero Posters”, they’re called.) I went over to look more closely at them, and i saw that there were about two dozen of them. It was a two-sided display, one side made up of Biblical heroes and the other of Book of Mormon heroes.*

The Biblical side was mostly male heroes, but it had threefour female heroes mixed in. Well, the Book of Mormon is pretty thin on female characters,** so i was curious what they held up as role models for girls.***

Correction: I’d originally only thought that three of the twelve Biblical hero posters featured female characters, but i was wrong—there are four: Ruth, Esther, Hannah, and Mary the mother of Jesus. Not a bad set, i’d say.

Rather to my surprise, there was only one poster out of the twelve Book of Mormon posters that had any female characters,**** and it was (wait for it) the daughters in the wilderness. (That is, the daughters of Lehi and Ishmael who subsisted only on raw meat but still were able to nurse the children they gave birth to.)

I’ve since learned that they’ve come up with one more female-oriented poster in the series: the mothers of Helaman’s stripling warriors.

Um, yeah. I mean, nice stories and all, but Abish gets bupkis? You know, you may remember her—she went house to house among the Lamanites to get attention to what was going on as a result of Ammon’s preaching. Pretty important for the story, and i’d say she’s a pretty good role model for girls (and boys, for that matter). Or if not her, what about the queen of the Lamanites from the same story?

No, instead of women who actually performed active, individual roles in the Book of Mormon, we get women who acted in groups, none of whom even have actual speaking roles.

Not cool, nameless Mormon-oriented commercial products designers. Not cool at all.

* Neat trick, really—you can send only the Biblical half to mainstream Xian bookstores and make money off a larger market segment.

** Famously, the Book of Mormon has only three named female characters that aren't shared with the Bible. There are a handful of other unnamed female individuals or groups that play some sort of plot-movement role, though, and i don’t think they should be forgotten.

*** I was kind of figuring the harlot Isabel was out.

**** See footnote **.


Heather the Mama Duk said...

I take great offense at the company - and you - skipping right over the coolest named female in the Book of Mormon. Of course it could be that no one remembers her. I mean, she was only Nephi's mother, gave birth while not a spring chicken to not one, but two little ones while in the wilderness. And her name is Sariah, people. With an -iah. It's not Sarah. And it's not Sari. And when you Mormons out there hear that my daughter's middle name is Sariah, do not, I repeat, do not, say to me "Abraham's wife, right?" Um, no. Lehi's. Have you seriously never read 1 Nephi?

Ah, I feel much better now ;-P I can't even begin to tell you how many Mormons have said something like "Oh, isn't Sariah what Abraham's wife's name was changed to?" Um, no. And it's even stranger how many Mormons have completely blank expressions when I say Sariah is Lehi's wife, Nephi's mother. I mean, come on. Only three named females and you seriously can't even remember the first one?

Michelle said...

On the note of Sariah, you both might find this interesting: It's not the words of a prophet or General Authority, but makes for very interesting reading concerning women in Nephi's day. The genealogist in me finds it especially interesting.