I love Sariah and her narrative.
Throughout the beginning pages of the Book of Mormon, Sariah presents a powerful example of faith in adversity, strength in persuasion, and an unmistakable tenacity to keep her family together.
At the time of their leaving Jerusalem, she is the only stated woman of her household of five males (her husband and four sons) — although she arguably had daughters. We do not know exactly how much wealth she was accustomed to as Lehi’s wife, but we can assume from their possessions (that Laban coveted after enough to kill) that they did not stand in want for the next meal. However, considering her station in life and what she left behind, Sariah is a woman of extreme faith in God.
In her fear, Sariah had worried and vocalized her grief to Lehi that not only was he a visionary man, giving up the inheritance they had once enjoyed in the land of Jerusalem, but that in following his visions they had (1) lost all of their sons (posterity) in the desert, and (2) would also be destroyed (without the help and aid of their sons) in the desert as well (1 Ne 5:1–3). Lehi comforted her, recognizing the seeming strangeness of their predicament while never wavering in his knowledge of God’s mercy in leading them into the desert (1 Ne 5:4–6).
One strong insight into Sariah’s character is found in one simple phrase — a phrase often gleaned over and buried in her brief murmuring — that typifies the faith of this matriarch of the Book of Mormon narrative. This phrase, a penitent response to not only Lehi but to the Lord after temporary fear had guided her to complaining against Lehi, came as a realization and testimony after the trial of her faith.
When the Lord had delivered all four of her sons safely back to her and Lehi, Sariah’s one simple utterance speaks volumes of her strength as a daughter of God:
Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord had protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded (1 Ne 5:8; emphasis added).
“Now I know of a surety…”
This is a powerful statement that typifies not only loyalty, commitment, and reliance upon Lehi as the patriarch of their family in following the Lord, but in her own faith in following Lehi into the wilderness without first having a sure knowledge. By following in faith, her testimony grew to a sure knowledge of not just her husband’s divine calling but more importantly of the Lord’s power of deliverance. She recognized what Nephi had already observed (1 Ne 3:7) that the Lord would always give power to accomplish anything that had been commanded.
Barbara B. Smith, General President of the Relief Society, once observed:
Sariah, the wife of Lehi, had the wrenching experience of leaving their home and their possessions to travel in the wilderness. We are not told of the trials she may have experienced; but going on foot, living in tents, and cooking over an open fire could have been devastating after their comfortable life in Jerusalem. We do read of her anguished waiting when she feared her beloved sons had perished in their return to obtain the plates. But in spite of troubles, she did love and serve her family. With the return of her sons, she knew of a certainty that the Lord had commanded her husband to flee into the wilderness, and in their safe return she found the assurance that the Lord was with them. Their circumstances did not change; they still slept in tents. But she had joy and comfort in the knowledge that the Lord was guiding them. In that light she could carry on and meet further difficulties as they came.
The scriptures teach us that in our own lives we must “dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith” (Ether 12:6). It is easy for us to want to know the end before the beginning, but that is not the way of this life — nor is it the plan of our Heavenly Father who so desperately wants us to prove him to see if he will not “pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Mal 3:10).
Just like mother Sariah, we must be patient and act in faith and obedience to gospel principles before we will realize and come to an actual and sure testimony of pure knowledge. The Lord knows what is in our hearts, and he knows that we too will often complain along the journey out of fear and sadness — but that is often the point. The Lord loves each of us as we struggle against the mists of darkness and the fiery darts of the adversary, as, even in the darkness, he is still leading us along the iron rod to the realization of his love, care, and concern for us unto deliverance.