The Other Mary
Often when I think of the term “other”, I usually automatically denote a sense of secondary status, if only because something previous or following the “other” is necessary to identify what the “other” is (i.e. the other store or the other girl). But is being the “other” a bad thing? I think not. Especially when it comes to priesthood.
Consider the “other Mary.” I have developed a love and admiration for this woman in my personal study this year. She is amazing, yet sidelined in Mormon theology because she was not Mary, the Virgin Mother of Christ, nor was she the forgiven sinner, Mary Magdalene. She was just the “other Mary,” sister of Lazarus, who abandoned Martha in serving to be taught by Christ. We read of her utmost significance in Matthew 26:6-13:
Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. (the term ointment is linked with John 11: 2 and this statement: It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.)
But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for (GR: to prepare me for) my burial. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.
This to me implies that the other Mary anointed Christ in preparation of His atonement, His burial, and as a foundation for His resurrection. We know that the Bible has cases where women had the priesthood (Judges 4 and 5, Romans 16). The Bible dictionary teaches that “anointing with oil has been a part of true, revealed religion ever since the gospel was first introduced on this earth to Adam” (Bible Dictionary, p 609). And in the book of John, that washing and anointing is symbolic of preparation, of being clean “every whit”. In Matthew, we learn she anointed Christ’s head, and in John, that she anointed his feet. In consideration of this, it is evident that the other Mary performed this most sacred and holy anointing with priesthood authority.
Yet what did the disciple say? That was expensive oil! It could have been sold and the profits given to the poor! Well, certainly to serve the poor is a good thing… just like just like offering blessings, performing ordinances, etc are all good things. But. When we turn to the book of John for another look at this moment, we learn that the disciple here was actually Judas, who was to betray Christ; in John12:6-7:
This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he (Judas) was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this.
Judas had no intention of using the funds from the ceremonial ointment to serve the poor, he only wanted it for his own prestige. Whereas the other Mary was mindful of the truly righteous and sacred purpose in using the oil to anoint Christ. In further witness to her absolute devotion to Christ after the crucifixion, she and Mary Magdalene went to the tomb of Christ to anoint His body with sweet spices (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1-2, Luke 24: 1-10) …I actually wonder if this was similar to our modern day anointing with oil, which is symbolic of the presence of the Holy Ghost when used in blessing the sick.
The other Mary’s offering was so powerful that Christ said that her anointing of Him would be remembered as a memorial to her.
Do you think of the other Mary when you anoint or are anointed, as a memorial to her for her service to Christ? Similarly, have you experienced a Judas-type individual who only wanted or used priesthood for his own prestige?
Even though the term “other” might imply a secondary position to a defining associated term, in the case of the “other Mary”, being “other” is nothing secondary. She was a righteous, worthy, beloved servant of Christ who had the foresight to anoint Him. She was not secondary; she was “other” as a definition of her importance. She was a partner. A servant. An ordinance worker who humbly ordained Christ even when tested by Judas.
I would like to follow her example. I would like to be the “other” person whom has priesthood keys and performs righteous services and ordinances. Not out of prestige, as Judas. Not out of competition, or for the purpose of dominion. But out of service to Christ and similitude to His gospel teachings. Just like the other Mary. The other priesthood holder. The other ordinance worker. The other servant of Christ.