Book Review: Walking With the Women of the New Testament
Walking With the Women of the New Testament by Heather Farrell is a touching tribute to the testimony, courage and charity of women who lived long ago. But it is much more than that. In a time when many are becoming aware of the need for more women's voices, this book offers the reader over 60 stories of faith, strength and courage from New Testament women.
Too often women's lives and contributions in the scriptures are overlooked or undervalued. I loved Heather's story illustrating this point. When speaking about women in the scriptures she often asks the audience how many women they think are in the scriptures. After allowing a few people to guess, she reveals the astonishing number: 500. I shared this story with a friend, who responded, "Yes, maybe that's true, but they don't do anything important." Unfortunately, I think that this is the message many women receive in the church. This book can open our eyes and our hearts to see and value women. In the New Testament women are there at every major event in the Savior's life and in the early church. Women were not merely present, but participated as well. Mary and Elisabeth were the first to know of the Savior's coming. Mary bravely carried and brought him into mortal life. The Woman at the Well was the first person we know of to whom the Savior revealed his mission as the Messiah. Women stood with him when he died and a woman was the first to testify of his resurrected body.
As Heather so beautifully described,
"In a time period when women's participation in religious life was limited to that of an observer, Christ invited them to be active participants in His church - learning, serving , teaching and leading … Jesus broke down barriers between people, especially between men and women, in an incredible way. He challenged the mentality and customs of a fallen world and elevated the status of women to the plane on which God sees them: a view of women that didn't base a woman's worth on her physical appearance, her marital status, her ability to bear children, or what she had done but instead celebrated her intrinsic worth as a daughter of God."
The book's layout is straightforward, addressing each woman's story in approximate chronological order. The chapters are short, perfect for a busy mom like me. I could pick the book up and read one or two chapters in the morning and spend the rest of the day pondering the lessons contained in each story. Even if the stories are brief, it is evident that Heather has thought deeply about each, for she brings each woman to life and gives her a voice.
The tone was so personal and tender that I felt as if I was talking to a dear friend or an older sister. Heather has a gift for taking modest narratives, many of which are a few lines at most, and give them life. I felt like she was describing people and events from firsthand experience. She sees applications and connections in small things that others may gloss over. Heather may not be an historian or a scholar, but her prayerful study and powerful testimony is evident on every page.
Walking With the Women of the New Testament also lends itself well to sharing with others. Next year, our adult Sunday School classes we will turn to the New Testament. This book would be a perfect companion for anyone looking to deepen their study or any teacher looking to breathe life into the text. Almost immediately after I received Walking With the Women of the New Testament I started using it in my youth Sunday School lessons. I teach three interesting and engaging young women and I found this book perfect for illustrating the gospel principles we are learning. I felt impressed that it was important for them to see and hear the stories of women who were close to the Savior.
Recently my spiritual life has been like a difficult journey in the wilderness. As I ponder my life I often think about the women who traveled with Nephi and Lehi on their journey. Like those women, I have been blessed to grow stronger, but along the way I have wandered, hungry and tired. I found in the pages of this book a spiritual abundance that I had been thirsting for. Heather brought these women to life and allowed me to see Christ through their eyes. Her blog and this book are a part of the ministry to which God has called her and I am glad she has responded to that call. For me, at least, Heather has achieved her stated purpose:
"… it is my hope that reading this book will spark a desire within you to open your own scriptures and to learn more about these women - and about God's plan for women - for yourself."