Interview with Girls Who Choose God Author Bethany Brady Spalding

Girls Who Choose God: Stories of Courageous Women from the BibleA little over a year ago Deseret Book released Girls Who Choose God: Stories of Courageous Women from the Bible.  I reviewed it here.  Now, authors McArthur Krishna and Bethany Spalding have published a second book, Girls Who Choose God: Stories of Strong Women from the Book of Mormon.  I asked Bethany to tell us about the process of writing these books.


Tell us about where the idea for a book about women in scripture came from.

GIRLS WHO CHOOSE GOD: STORIES OF STRONG WOMEN FROM THE BOOK OF MORMONWhen my oldest daughter, Simone, was almost three years old, we were reading through a book of scripture stories together. At the end of the book, she looked up at me with puzzled eyes and said, “Mom, where are all of the stories about the girls?” Her question struck me.  I don’t think my mom had ever asked that question.  I didn’t think to ask that question until I was in my thirties.  But here, my daughter who was not yet three was already asking the gender question.  At such a young age she could already see that she wasn’t reflected in those stories.  She could already recognize the discrepancy.  It was then that I knew that Simone’s generation was different and that they would demand and deserve a new approach to teaching the gospel.  It couldn’t be boy-centric anymore.

Now I am not a writer, and I am not a scriptorian. But I am a mom, and I am a believer in change.  So when I couldn’t find an adequate book about women in the scriptures, I decided to write one.


How much time passed between that initial spark and publication?

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A Classic Midrash of “Our women . . . were strong . . . like unto the men.”

Guest post by Bradley J. Kramer

Bradley Kramer is a scholar of interfaith studies, particularly the relationship between Mormonism and Judaism. His book Beholding the Tree of Life: A Rabbinic Approach to the Book of Mormon is available here. Brad’s work in Mormon midrash inspired the Exponent II short story contest. This post is an example of one kind of midrash: a classic dialogic midrash. There are, however, many other kinds, including straight narrative. The point of midrash is to pay attention to subtle clues within the scriptural text and uncover the stories left “between the lines,” as it were.  We hope this post will inspire you to think about the scriptures in a new way and, perhaps, submit your own midrash.

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Rabbi Abigail asked: Why does the Book of Mormon say that the Lehite women “were strong, yea, even like unto the men” (1 Nephi 17:2)? Is this supposed to be a compliment? Many of the Lehite men murmured continually during their journey to the Promised Land. Some even rebelled against their leaders. This does not seem very complimentary, or respectful.

Rabbi Eliezer said: “Like unto” here means “better than” or “greater than,” as in the brightness of God is “like unto the brightness of a flaming fire” (1 Nephi 15:30) or God’s voice is “like unto the voice of thunder” (1 Nephi 17:45). In these examples, the first element in the comparison is clearly superior to the second element. Therefore this passage is saying that the Lehite women were superior to many of the Lehite men, in that “they began to bear their journeyings without murmurings” (1 Nephi 17:2).

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Announcement: Exponent II Mormon Feminist Midrash Short Story Contest

Deborah under the palm tree “Deborah Under the Palm Tree” by Adriene Cruz.

Exponent II is excited to announce a short story contest of Mormon feminist midrash. Midrash is a Jewish tradition of spinning out a new story based on scripture, filling in narrative gaps or retelling the scripture from a new point of view. Stories can help resolve tension or evoke questions as they ask the reader to consider possible meanings, even as the fictionalized accounts are not meant to be taken literally.

For our short story contest, we are inviting writers to tell us the missing stories of women from the scriptures. Give us the perspective of Deborah, Huldah, Dinah, Miriam, the woman at the well, Mary Magdalene, Sariah, Laman’s wife, or Emma Smith. We want to hear their voices. We want to know how they came to hear the voice of God and how they made choices in their lives. What were their childhoods like? How were they personally influenced by the great and terrible things that happened to them in the scripture stories? What did they think about in private moments? Let your imagination reveal new interpretations and meanings of scriptural stories and help us to hear the women of the scriptures.

Many of the stories we receive will be printed in our Winter 2015 issue of Exponent II and the winner of the contest will receive $150. Submissions should be between 800-3000 words and the deadline is November 2. Please send them to We look forward to reading your stories.

“I want midrash to give a voice to women in the Bible who have had nearly none. To be an advocate for biblical figures over whom the ages have kicked considerable dust, and to imagine their lives.”
– Rosen, Norma. Biblical Women Unbound: Counter-Tales. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1996.

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Series: #visiblewomen: You Can’t Be What You Can’t See: Primary Pictures

I teach Primary Sharing Time.  I love it.

I love the teaching, the stories, the kids, and the fun.  When we talk about Jesus, I tell the children the stories of His life and the men and women He lived and worked with.  When we talk about the courage to do what is right, I read from “Girls Who Choose God”.  When we talk about faith, I tell them of both Nephi and Abigal.

I tell them stories from my own life and any stories of President Wixom that I can find.

I use pictures a lot.  Aside from the pictures I bring myself, there are few pictures of women.  I will be writing a letter to President Wixom and her counselors, asking them to consider including more pictures of women and girls in packets / manuals provided to Primary teachers.

I believe this will be a great advantage to both girls and boys.  They will learn that both women and men can be examples of faith, courage, and service.  And they can strive to be like them.

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#VisibleWomen: Women in Church Art

relief-society-general-presidency-2012-busath-1031310-gallery-noticeThis week I decided to do an informal survey of the representation of women in my ward building.  I had the general impression that there were few women, but I decided to actually go through and count.  The numbers are a little imperfect, for several reasons.  First, I did not have access to any of the male-only rooms which were locked, including two Bishop’s offices, the Stake offices, the High Council Room and the Clerk’s office.  Second, many paintings and posters feature images that include very small or indistinct figures that can’t really be counted one way or the other.  A few paintings include androgynous angelic figures that I decided not to count either way.  As part of my survey I included both framed paintings and images on bulletin boards, but excluded any snapshots or local images.

In my ward the various auxiliaries are assigned bulletin boards to decorate as they choose, but most feature pictures taken  from church magazines, lesson manuals or the Gospel art kit.  A few have posters produced by the church or affiliated organizations promoting conferences and programs. I figured since I was doing the survey I might as well keep track of ethnic representation as well, since most church art tends to depict the people of the Americas or the Fertile Crescent as looking like they are from northern Europe.  Accordingly, my stat numbers of non-white people reflect only individuals who are clearly represented as not having pale skin or light hair, rather than people who are supposedly of a non-white ethnicity (the Nephites) but actually look like Vikings. Here are my findings.

Representation of people with special needs or disabilities: 1 boy with Down syndrome on a pass-along card tacked to a board.

Number of non-white women depicted: 2

Number of non-white men depicted: 11

Total number of women depicted: 48

Total number of men: 245

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Christmas Series: Primary Nativity Program


The Annunciation – Luca Giordano courtesy of


If your ward is anything like mine, the Nativity program put on by the children of the Primary at the annual Ward Christmas Party is a highlight of the season!  Some years, the script seems like it might have been lifted from “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” others you may notice the absence of spoken lines for the beloved female characters.

Let’s call this an “equitable” Nativity script, then. With spoken lines for Mary, Elisabeth and Anna (in addition to the lines of a second angel and shepherd which may be cast as either gender), this Nativity script offers equal speaking opportunities for girls and boys alike.

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