Earlier this week I was studying Miriam and wanted to write a blog post about her, but I didn't get around to it. Such is the life of a mother working full time and going to school. I promised myself I would not blog until all my homework for the week was done. So many of my thoughts and ideas for posts don't come to fruition. Anyhow, I then found and really enjoyed this post from Women in the Scriptures which is a brief overview of what we know of Miriam from the scriptures. It is the first in a series of two and I am interested to see what she says in the second one.
The story I found most interesting is in Numbers 12. Miriam and Aaron complained about Moses choosing a "nonmember" or non-Israelite wife. When they complained God called all three of them out of the tent and chastised Aaron and Miriam. Then Miriam was struck with leprosy until Moses pleaded with God to heal her. God did, after a period of time.
As I was reading the Seminary Old Testament Study Guide about Numbers 12 I found this statement about Miriam:
"One question that arises is, Why was only Miriam, and not Aaron, punished with leprosy when both had participated in the opposition? There are two possible reasons. First, as Keil and Delitzsch pointed out, Miriam was the instigator of the attack on Moses’ right to preside. Thus, her sin was the more grievous. Second, for Aaron to seek priesthood leadership demonstrated pride and self-aggrandizement. He aspired to a position to which he had not been called. When Miriam sought that position, she not only demonstrated pride but also sought to set up an order contrary to God’s system of government. From the beginning, the priesthood callings and the right to preside were given to men. Miriam’s attempt to achieve equality with Moses was a serious breach of that divinely instituted system of order."
I couldn't help but think as I read Miriam's story that she and Kate Kelly had a lot in common. They both spoke up for what they believed in and both received serious punishment. Essentially they were both punished for their attempt to achieve their vision of equality. While I don't necessarily agree with Kate Kelly's quest or the methods of Ordain Women, I have developed a great deal of respect for her. I respect her courage and her integrity, the same courage and integrity I sensed in Miriam's story.
Miriam's story struck me as a timely other reasons as well. In this season where many women are wondering what their place in the church and God's kingdom should be, Miriam stands as an example of a strong woman. She was labeled a "prophetess" and seems to have had that gift since childhood. Many Mormon feminist point to Miriam as an example of what women could be in this church.
In Miriam, though, we find a woman who was not a prohetess because of any calling or authority given and she was most likely not ordained to the priesthood. However, Miriam possessed special spiritual gifts that set her apart and facilitated her leadership. That seems to be a common theme in the church when talking about men and women. While women do not hold the priesthood, they do have special spiritual gifts.
Elder John A. Widstoe wrote in Priesthood and Church Government, "“Priesthood is to be used for the benefit of the entire human family, for the upbuilding of men, women, and children alike. There is indeed no privileged class or sex within the true Church of Christ. … Men have their work to do and their powers to exercise for the benefit of all the members of the Church. … So with woman: Her special gifts are to be exercised for the benefit and uplift of the race”
This dynamic contrast is something I would like to delve into further. I find it personally meaningful as I have been blessed with a sense of some of my natural "special gifts" and the ways the Lord means for me to use them. I can see how my gifts could be viewed as equal in importance and influence as the power of the priesthood, even though I haven't yet reached the divine potential intended for me. But there are other aspects that are a little unsettling.
I am thankful we have the stories of Miriam, illustrating her faithful and powerful leadership. I know that the Lord has a plan for women in his kingdom that has yet to be fully revealed. I hope that I can prepare myself for the great things he has in store of each of us in these rapidly changing times as he hastens his coming.