At the end of the year that I turned 8, my Primary teacher gave each of us students a laminated card with a scripture that she picked out for us. Everyone’s was different. Mine said,
Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. Proverbs 31:10
I put this scripture up in my room somewhere, probably on my desk. It was an exciting discovery as well as a confusing one. First, there were verses about women in the Bible! In fact, reading it in context showed me that there was a whole chapter! It still felt scant to me, but at least it was something.
On the other hand, who was the question directed to? I took it to heart that my teacher and chosen this scripture for me, alone. After all, my friend Emma had been given a different scripture. Was I supposed to find this woman? Or was I supposed to be the woman? And what was it to be “virtuous.” My 8 year old self did not know.
It was always sort of back in my mind. I remember looking up “virtue” in the Topical Guide (it wasn’t in the Bible Dictionary) and being more confused at what it might be. Women would be referenced as “virtuous” and we were told to have “virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly.” But I couldn’t figure out what it was. I wanted to be worth more than rubies, but I didn’t know how.
What I did know were little quips like “patience is a virtue.” So waiting is virtuous? Sitting around and doing nothing? Ok. Done.
My mother is an organist and we had an organ in our living room. It once belonged to an elderly ward organist who sold it to my parents before she died. It came with scores of sheet music, with one song titled “Who can find a virtuous woman?” As a teenager, I found this sheet music and thought, “Aha! I’ll figure this ‘virtue’ thing out now!” The first line of the song was,
Who can find a virtuous woman? Who can find a virtuous wife?
Ah, so maybe one can’t be virtuous until one is married? So more waiting, suppose. I decided to ask my mom how to be virtuous; the song came from her collection, at least. She didn’t really have much to say other than being good and stuff. At least, I don’t remember her answer being very memorable.
The thing that I really couldn’t wrap my head around as a child and as a teen was that if it was so great to be virtuous, then what do you actually do as a “virtuous” woman? It seemed like a lot of waiting. And it seemed tiring.
As an adult, I’m still perplexed as to what you have to do to be considered “virtuous.” It still sounds like a lot of sitting around and being pretty. I wonder what the Young Women could possibly do for value projects now that “virtue” is a value. Good works, I get. Knowledge I get. But virtue? Of course, I’m not sure how you do “divine nature” either.
I think this is possibly one reason why modesty is huge in terms of lessons and talks to young women. You can’t really “do” virtue. But you can put clothes on. And going to the store and spending money? Double plus!
I’m not sure where I’m going with this. Maybe we should focus more on the “doing” values and “virtues” of the gospel. Maybe we shouldn’t be giving 8 year olds scriptures about virtue. Maybe we should skip “virtue” altogether since it seems to be something you can’t really judge yourself of.
And for the record, it seems that 1 carat rubies are around $1.5k. Not too shabby. I’m curious as to the price of women who are lacking in virtue.