Thursday, November 27, 2014

Book Review: Walking with the Women of the New Testament

Written by Heather Farrell
Art by Mandy Jane Williams

If I had a coffee table, this book would be on it.  It is the perfect coffee table book!.  The book has beautiful pictures portraying the women, and has a wonderful layout.  One thing I love about this book is that I could pick it up and just flip through it and read about any of the women that seem interesting to me at the moment.  As a mother of a 3 year old and a newborn, I have limited time to sit down and read. Each entry is short enough, that I could read about one or two of the women in one sitting.

Heather has thought about each of these women’s lives and learned a gospel principle from them.  Each story is an example of how we can apply the scriptures to our own life – despite the cultural and time differences between our lives.  Life is complicated because of relationships:  relationships with family, friends, leaders, enemies.  Once in a Sunday school a teacher commented on how our lives are more complicated today in our modern society.  The thoughtful details that Heather expresses, shows us that they are not.  The women of the New Testament are very much like us.  Heather helps us to see that.  She also introduced me to women in the scriptures that I was not aware of, like Jesus’s aunt and sisters. 

With each story, Heather also talks about a different gospel principle, such as faith, forgiveness, or receiving inspiration.  She also shares stories from her life in a way that shows us how our lives are similar and that we can learn from the women in the scriptures and feel a connection to them.

The art also made me think of details of these women’s life that made the stories more real.  In the story of the widow who gave two mites in the temple, I have always visualized as an older women, nearing the end of her life.  Mandy depicts this woman as a young mother with three children.  Although we do not know the age of family situation of this woman, we do know she was poor.  This visualization gave me a different understanding of the depth of her sacrifice. 

The additional scholarly information was interesting and informative to read.  As I have studied the scriptures I regularly go to the seminary and institute manuals to get information about history, culture and religious practices and customs. But I still have had questions and lacked understanding because of my lack of familiarity with the culture.  Heather has gathered research that I had not yet seen, and helped me understand these women’s life and some gospel principles better.  One example is the Hebrew word tuma, which is translated as unclean in the Bible.  Heather states, “There is not an English equivalent of this word (which is why it can be a hard concept to grasp), but the easiest way to understand the meaning of tuma is to understand that it is the spiritual status that occurs when you have had contact with death.  This is because every living thing in the world contains a spark of divinity, a portion of God’s power, and when that power departs, it leaves behind a ‘spiritual vacuum,’ or a state of tuma.” (page 52).  This is a concept that I want to research and study more because of the greater understanding that I obtained of learning about the original word.

There are two things I wish the book included:  one, an alphabetical list of the women to make it easier to find the page if I wanted to look up a specific woman.  Second,  I would love for this book to contain an index on different topics!  How fun would that be?  I do love that the appendix includes a list of the values emphasized in the young women’s program.  Those values have become key in my life, and I love that there are examples of each in the scriptures!

This book is one that I intend to share with my daughters, so that they two can understand how the scriptures can relate to them.  It was an enjoyable and fun book to read, that I am sure I will revisit on a regular basis.  I hope Heather and Mandy will compile a book about the women in the Old Testament!