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One of my heroes in the Book of Mormon is the woman who married Nephi. I wish I knew her name and more about her. Nephi, like other prophets, points out that his record is limited to his ministry, revelations, teachings and testimony. Imagine a bishop’s record of his ministry. We probably wouldn’t learn much about his family. From time to time, Nephi infers that there are other journals that probably detail family matters, so he resists redundancy and touches on those things only as they support the purpose of this particular record.
What I do know of Sister Nephi tells me that she, like Rebekah of old, was a woman of extraordinary courage and faith. There is no way that Isaac or Nephi could have carried the tremendous weight of their ministries without the love and support of their equally strong and faithful wives. We could learn valuable lessons from these sisters. I am writing this article for my children and grandchildren with the hope that they will seek a to marry a spouse who possesses these qualities, which I found in my eternal sweetheart.
We first become acquainted with the future Sister Nephi when she and her mother stood between Nephi and his enemies. Loyalty and love are forged in the furnace of adversity. On this occasion, she and her family had left everything to follow Nephi and his brothers into the wilderness. If we judged her on that alone, we would find her worthy of our admiration.
The faint-hearted in the group quickly gave way and tempers flared. Nephi had recently received a beating from his brothers during the Laban incident, so another beating was immanent, but this time, Laman and Lemuel would receive help from some of Ishmael’s sons and his other daughters.
But this young woman was different. She displayed the courage of a lioness protecting her pride, the courage of prophets and martyrs that has been fired by testimony and burns in the soul. Her own safety on the line, she took her place beside Nephi, and standing for him, she quieted his adversaries. Imagine what Nephi learned about his future bride on that occasion.
Seek to marry someone who is courageous, someone who will fight for you and for the truth with no regard for self.
The next time we read about this remarkable woman, she is now Sister Nephi, and her husband describes just how difficult is the journey for the young mothers in the company. The journey to the promised land required that she sacrifice everything and suffer privations while bearing and nurturing children along the way.
We never hear of her murmuring, but we are aware that she was in the minority. Nephi’s love for his wife must have grown exponentially as he daily witnessed her unwavering faithfulness, sacrifice and devotion to her family.
Seek to marry someone who is not afraid to give life despite the difficulty of the journey.
Finally, we read about her on the ship at a moment of crisis. Nephi is bound on the deck, his ankles and wrists swollen by tight ropes. He is suffering this torture at the hands of his brothers and Lemuel’s sons, who are threatening his life and the lives of anyone who dares relieve him. The situation is so dire that Lehi and Sarah nearly lose their lives for grief.
With the patriarch and matriarch now out of the picture, who will stand for Nephi? His devoted and courageous wife. Standing alone, with apparently no thought for her own safety, she weeps and advocates for mercy.
Seek to marry someone who will stand with and for you, even if he or she must stand alone.
I don’t know any more about Sister Nephi, but I imagine her to have been cut from the same cloth as her great-grandmothers, Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel. Rebekah is the woman I would like to discuss.
Born in Haran, the land that Abraham settled before he was commanded to his promised land (present-day Israel), Rebekah was of Abraham’s extended family. These were covenant people, the only branch of the Church in existence besides Abraham’s household 400 miles south. If you were a man like Isaac, who desired to marry a woman of the covenant, the options were few.
Brigham Young said, “There is not a young man in our community who would not be willing to travel from here to England to be married right, if he understood things as they are; there is not a young woman in our community, who loves the Gospel and wishes its blessings, that would be married in any other way; they would live unmarried until they could be married as they should be, if they lived until they were as old as Sarah before she had Isaac born to her.”
The Lord had promised Abraham a chosen posterity through which the covenant could be perpetuated and by which it would be carried to the peoples of the earth. As children of Abraham, by blood or by adoption, we inherit the same blessings.
Isaac was now forty and single. By tradition, the Hebrew culture called for a young man to marry early, usually between ages sixteen to eighteen. In terms of marriageable age, Isaac was ancient, but through no fault of his own. No young women of the covenant lived in his country, and so he waited.
Seek to marry someone who has the discipline to worthily wait to marry in the covenant.
Evidently, Abraham received a revelation that the time was finally right for his son to marry, so he called his trusted servant, Eliezer, and caused him to swear an oath to follow specific instructions so that his beloved son might marry someone worthy of the covenant blessings. Included in Abraham’s instructions were: “Thou shalt go unto my country…Thou shalt go . . . to my kindred.”
Notice that Abraham’s single criterion was to find someone worthy of the covenant. Not beauty, not fun-loving, not PhD smart. No, Abraham’s number one requirement, the most important thing on his mind, was covenant worthiness, and he was willing to send his servant, Eliezer, on a 400-mile journey to find such a woman.
Seek to marry someone who is covenant worthy.
Regardless of how many other qualities one might appreciate in a prospective mate, if covenant worthiness is missing, nothing else matters. The supernal Abrahamic blessings cannot be realized. Even if you must travel an extensive distance to find such a companion, the sacrifice will be well worth the effort.
I am impressed that Abraham chose a trusted servant for this errand. Often, a friend or family member will act as Heavenly Father’s servant through whom He will make the introduction.
Eliezer took ten camels and riches for the journey to Haran. The riches would become the “bride price,” which was customarily given by the bridegroom to the father of the bride. Typically, her father would return the riches to his daughter as insurance against the eventuality of her husband’s premature death and her being left alone without support for her and her children.
Eliezer had probably traveled twenty days when he arrived in Haran. He stopped at the city well and prayed for help and a sign. I am impressed that he involved the Lord in this most important of decisions.
Pray for the Lord’s guidance in seeking your eternal companion.
“And he said, O LORD God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and shew kindness unto my master Abraham. Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water: And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master.”
He didn’t have to wait long for an answer to his sincere prayer.
“And it came to pass, before he had done speaking, that, behold, Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, with her pitcher upon her shoulder. And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known the like unto her….”
Few women in the scriptures have been described so glowingly. Rebekah was stunning. But I hesitate to add this to our list of criteria for a spouse. Of course, every man or woman wants to be attracted to his or her intended, but external beauty is often fleeting. (A scan of old yearbooks prove my point.) Other qualities are infinitely more important than physical beauty, but too often, this quality is the first on our list.
Notice that when Eliezer saw Rebekah, he “ran” to her.
When the Lord offers you an introduction, act upon it now.
Eliezer said, “Let me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher.” Rebekah obliged. The scripture says she “hasted, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him to drink.” This reveals something about her character. She hurried to serve this stranger.
Then, as per Eliezer’s requested sign, Rebekah offered to water the camels. A thirsty camel can drink up to twenty-five gallons of water. According to archaeological finds, the well in Haran was probably located deep in the earth, as much as eighty feet below ground level. A descending spiral path would have led to the water. If Rebekah’s pitcher held a gallon of water, she would have had to climb up and down the stairs 250 times to water the camels! And once again, the scripture states that she “hasted” to do so.
Seek to marry someone who is willing and anxious to serve.
And additionally —
Seek to marry someone who works hard.
Significantly, Eliezer stood back and observed Rebekah while she worked. This wasn’t laziness. He was seeking a revelation. “And [Eliezer] wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not.”
What you do matters. You are being watched.
Convinced that the Lord had made his will known, Eliezer presented Rebekah with “a golden earring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold,” as a down payment on the bride price.
Eliezer met with Rebekah’s father and brothers, explained his mission and requested Rebekah’s hand in marriage for Isaac.
Eliezer rejoiced. The Lord had helped him fulfill his oath. His prayer of thanksgiving teaches us another vital lesson about finding a spouse: “And he said, Blessed [be] the LORD God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth: I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren.”
Eliezer found a bride for Isaac because he looked for her in the right place; he placed himself “in the way.”
As you seek a worthy eternal companion, stay in the straight and narrow way.
Your chances of success diminish when you step out of the way.
Eliezer wanted to return immediately with Rebekah to Hebron, the home of Abraham and Isaac. We have learned this lesson before.
Don’t trifle with the Lord’s blessings. When something is right, act on it without delay.
But Rebekah’s family knew that they might never see her again, so they pled that she remain for a few more days. Nevertheless, Eliezer was insistent, so the family yielded to Rebekah. Would she be willing to leave immediately, travel over 400 miles with a man she had just met to marry someone she did not know because she believed the Lord wanted her to?
Seek to marry someone who is disposed to obey the Lord by sacrifice.
With the decision made, Rebekah’s father and brothers laid their hands upon her head and gave her a priesthood blessing: “Be thou the mother of thousands of millions.” In similar words, that blessing is repeated to every daughter of Rebekah when she kneels at an altar in a holy temple and is sealed to her husband. Then all the blessings of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Rachel are pronounced upon their heads.
Rebekah wasn’t the only one on a difficult spiritual journey. When her caravan drew near to Hebron, we read “Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide.” We surmise that Isaac had spent the last forty days praying, fasting and meditating. He had been waiting a long time for the right companion, and now the hour was at hand for him to receive the greatest blessing of his life.
Something beautiful happened then. “And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel.” No more waiting! They had found each other. Every man and every woman wants their beloved to rush to them and adore them.
When you find your eternal companion, don’t withhold. Love and cherish that person with all your heart.
Finally, we draw our attention to the sequence of the final verse of this love story. “And Isaac (1) brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and (2) took Rebekah, and she became his wife; (3) and he loved her.” Love came last.
Love grows with age and experience together. Service and sacrifice are the fertile soil for love. The period of courtship will cause the seed of love to take root and sprout, but the bloom of love will be realized after thousands of dirty diapers, struggling through the education years, sacrificing to start a career, the financials setbacks and successes, the sicknesses, disappointments, achievements and triumphs. Yesterday love was a puddle; today it is an ocean.
Fan the flame of love every day of your life.
Is seeking such a companion worth the effort? President Hinckley said,
“Every normal young man desires a wife. Every normal young woman desires a husband. Be worthy of the mate you choose. Respect him or her. Give encouragement to him or her. Love your companion with all your heart. This will be the most important decision of your life, the individual whom you marry. There is no substitute for marrying in the temple. It is the only place under the heavens where marriage can be solemnized for eternity. Don’t cheat yourself. Don’t cheat your companion. Don’t shortchange your lives. Marry the right person in the right place at the right time.”
Sister Nephi and Rebekah can teach us a lot about preparing for and enduring faithfully in the covenant of marriage. Their examples are placed in the scriptures on purpose. I hope that my children and grandchildren will rise to the stature of the progenitors and claim the blessings that are rightfully theirs – blessings that can only be secured by marrying a covenant-worthy companion in the temple. Then I hope that they will continue in the covenant until the blessings that are sealed upon their heads become perfect in perfect love.
<img style="margin: 10px; float: left;" src="/wp-content/uploads/images/stories/image/2013/Oct/10_02_13/Barkdull_Zion.
jpg” alt=”Barkdull Zion” width=”180″ height=”271″ />I acknowledge and thank my friend, Ted Gibbons, for allowing me to borrow his research to write this article. Receive my gift to you: Portrait of a Zion Person. Click here. Follow our Internet missionary project: www.gospelideals.org. And LIKE us at www.facebook.com/gospelideals.