In ancient Israel, the household was the center of a woman's life and the place in which she held the most power. Even though a child was born into "the house of the father" (bet
Children learned the proper observance of important features of ancient Israelite religion by watching their mother's daily ritual of washing herself, offering sacrifice with her husband, and praying. A good deal of this religious teaching would also have taken place on the Sabbath, when both women and men laid aside their daily chores to worship. The Sabbath was a day of rejoicing and rest, particularly for the labor-weary woman. Both she and her husband spent the day reading from the Torah, singing hymns of praise, and teaching their children the beliefs and rituals of their religion (see Deuteronomy 6:7; this requirement that children be taught the Mosaic law presumably applied to both parents, for the law was read to the entire population).
Children living in Jerusalem around 600 bc would probably have observed their mothers attending local assemblies or gatherings to worship alongside their fathers. Women participated in religious festivals and national celebrations (Deuteronomy 16:9–15; 31:12), singing and dancing, and brought sacrifices of thanksgiving to the temple, teaching their children though their example.
Nephi makes it clear from the first verse of his account that he was grateful to both of his parents for his upbringing. "I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father" (1 Nephi 1:1). Apparently his education was given to him by these "goodly parents," righteous and devoted people who had taken the time to teach him reading, writing, the language of the scriptures, and the learning of his father. But the implication of Nephi's statement is even deeper than that. He also refers to an inherited spiritual knowledge and a familiarity with religion and the God whom his parents worshipped.
In his account of obtaining the brass plates, Nephi recalls the powerful words of Sariah, who had been extremely troubled and anxious for her sons' safety during their absence: "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 hath 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 them" (1 Nephi 5:8).
Against all odds, Sariah's sons had succeeded, and her testimony became a sure knowledge that God's hand was directing the family's course. Sariah and Lehi then offered sacrifice and burnt offerings in thanks for the safety of their sons. Sariah's fervent statement of belief obviously made an impression on Nephi, who painstakingly inscribed the account in considerable detail. This manifestation of Sariah's faith was probably one of many others that served as religious teaching devices to her children and influenced their own belief systems. (Adapted from Ariel E. Bybee, "A Woman's World in Lehi's Jerusalem," in Glimpses of Lehi's Jerusalem, ed. John W. Welch, David Rolph Seely, and Jo Ann H. Seely [Provo, UT: FARMS, 2004], 139–44.)