TOM - Why are women absent from the scriptures, for the most part? I don't mean to ask why they don't receive the priesthood, but if their role in the plan is as important as man's, why doesn't God inspire prophets to record stories that will inspire them? My wife often says that she feels the scriptures were written by men mostly for men. I do too. If that's the case, God doesn't seem to value women as much.

JOEL - Just because there wasn't much written about women does not mean that He doesn't value them as equally as men. In fact after God created man, He took one look at Adam and said:
"Oh, I can do better than that!"
Some of it may have to do with the fact that the Bible and other scriptures are mostly comprised of God's dealings with His prophets, who were of course for the most part priesthood bearing men. In those times people lived in a patriarchal society where women played a somewhat subserviant role in terms of leadership and religious matters. And as you say, men were also the ones who wrote the scriptures, which may also explain some of the bias. I'm sure if God Himself were to have written the scriptures He would have evened things out a little better. But all He had to work with were falible human men who may have been a little chauvinistic when it came to writing down the religious history.
It may not seem like there are many references to women, but if you pay close attention to not only women that are identified by name but also to the terms wife, woman, and mother, you will see that they actually did take part in many of the important events recorded in scripture. In fact, there are nearly a hundred women cited by name in the Bible, some of which are also mentioned in the Book of Mormon and other scriptures. The list includes, Eve, Sarah, Hagar, Rebekah, Leah, Rachel, Ruth, David's wives, Naomi, Hannah, Esther, Jezebel, Mary, Elizabeth, Mary Magdalene, Martha, including several women Jesus encountered. One needs to remember also that much of the lessons learned in the scriptures revolve around people, full of pride, making mistakes and commiting sin, requiring them to repent. Who better than men to perform these rolls?

Perhaps we could also look at it at a little different angle. The scriptures were written hundreds or thousands of years ago at times when men played a more dominant role when it came to religious matters. And the women in those days, and for centuries after, accepted and expected it. God realized this and knew they were not ready to accept anything different yet, so He worked with it. And the women didn't complain.
Now that we are in the 21st century, genders have shifted more towards equal involvement. And God, seeing that we are now ready for it, is helping us to better realize the strengths and importance and needs of women. Therefore, our latter-day prophets are addressing issues regarding women more now and women are participating more in leadership roles and together they are inspiring the women of our day. Perhaps this is why Ezra Taft Benson said in his "Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet";
"The living prophet is more vital to us than the Standard Works" and
"The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet." (Address given Feb. 26, 1980 at Brigham Young University)
So rather than worry about what women were doing thousands of years ago, perhaps we should concentrate more on what our prophet is telling us now, and what women are doing now, and try to learn from the examples and inspiration they are providing for us in our time. Just pick up any issue of the Ensign magazine and you will find plenty of examples of their roles in God's plan of salvation.

TOM - I'm not sure what the scriptural justification for denying blacks the priesthood was. I thought it was b/c they were of the lineage of Ham, and that the Book of Abraham specifies that the lineage of Ham was restricted from the priesthood. However, in Galatians Paul explains that when one is baptized and converts to Christ, he or she becomes one with Christ and heir to the promises and blessings of Abraham. So regardless of whether one is descended of Ham, if he converts and becomes one in Christ, doesn't he become heir to the blessings of Abraham, with the accompany rights to the priesthood?

JOEL - First consider what Abraham had to go through before he obtained his blessing. The blessings God promised to give him were conditional, in that he had to demonstrate his willingness to obey God by sacrificing his son Isaac;

"And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only [son]:
That in blessing I will bless thee,..." (Gen. 22:16-17)

This provided the opportunity for Abraham to demonstrate a complete and “perfect” faith (James 2:21-22), and his obedience was accounted “unto him for righteousness” (D&C 132:36). In like manner, all who would qualify to be heirs of Abraham and recieve those blessings “must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham,"(D&C 101:4-5)
This includes all of us, even though we are baptized and become "one in Christ", we must be tried and endure to the end to realize those blessings. Because of the curse through the lineage of Ham, the blacks had to be tried and tested in a little different way by being denied the priesthood for a time. But if you look at it in the eternal scheme of things, the black race was always meant to eventually receive all the blessings of Abraham, even though they had to wait for when the time was right. I know that Paul does not make this aspect of it clear in his scriptures, but then I have a hard time understanding some of the things he says anyway.

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