Ruth 1

Would I always feel like a ‘second-class citizen’ in the Church because my parents weren’t LDS?
“ ‘Bad blood. That’s what I must have,’ I said to myself, after listening to another lesson on families.
“The lessons depressed me. They were supposed to inspire us to superlative parenthood by telling us how great our kids would be if we were faithful. If that were true, though, I didn’t have a chance. My family had more than its share of divorce, alcoholism, infidelity, and a number of other unimpressive vices. I was a convert and sometimes felt eons behind the lucky souls who had LDS parents.
“It started to bother me. I was surrounded by people whose families had been in the Church for generations, and that seemed very important to some of them. ‘I’ve got to marry someone from a good, strong LDS family,’ a friend confided in me. ‘I want my children to have good genes and the best grandparents.’
“If everyone felt that way, why was I even trying? No matter how hard I worked on strengthening my faith, no matter how much service I rendered, no matter how much I learned about Christ and tried to be like him, would I always be ‘second class’? Through no fault of my own, was I less than those ‘born in the covenant’?
“My answers came through a blessing and through the scriptures. ‘Read the book of Ruth,’ I was told by an older friend in a blessing at the beginning of the school year. ‘It has a special message for you.’
“I immediately began poring through that book in the Old Testament. I read, prayed, and reread. I studied commentaries and concordances. I came to know and love Ruth, who turned away from the idols of her people to worship the God of Israel, the God of her husband. I admired her faith, for she didn’t leave her new religion even when her husband died.
“Instead, she traveled with her mother-in-law Naomi to her homeland, leaving friends, family, and everything familiar behind. ‘Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God’ (Ruth 1:16), said Ruth to Naomi, originating one of the Old Testament’s most beautiful and well-known passages. Ruth, with Naomi’s help, adapted well to the ways of the new land and eventually married a good man and bore a son. It was a wonderful, inspiring account. But what was the meaning for me?
“Finally, through the Spirit, it came to me. The key was at the very end of the book, where it mentions Ruth’s part in the lineage of David, hence the lineage of Christ. Ruth, the Moabitess, the convert from a foreign land, showed such great faith that she became an integral part of the most blessed bloodline of all. This great woman, who came from generations of idol worshipers, would be a forebear of the Savior of the world.
“That was how the Lord told me that if I were faithful, no blessing would be withheld from me because I wasn’t born to LDS parents. It would be naive and narrow-minded for people to hold that against me, or for me to hold it against myself. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I did indeed come from one of the best families, and my brothers and sisters and I have the potential to share an equal inheritance, as long as we remain faithful. I’ll always be grateful for that insight.” (Kay Hago, “From One of the Best Families,” New Era, June 1991, 20)
Ruth 1:1-2 there was a famine in the land… of Beth-lehem-judah
Ephrath was the older name of the area or village known as Bethlehem (Gen 35:19). Ephrath means fruitful and Bethlehem means house of bread. Ironically, Bethlehem Ephratah was neither fruitful nor a house of bread in the days of Elimelech and Naomi. The famine drove them to the land of Moab for food. The Israelites didn’t have too many friends in Canaan. The decision to move to Moab meant they were already in extremis.
Eventually, Ephrath would produce the greatest fruit—even the fruit of the tree of life. When Nephi asked the interpretation of the tree of life, he was shown a virgin, “bearing a child in her arms.” Once Nephi had seen this, he knew the meaning of the tree, “it is the love of God” represented by the supernal gift of the Son, the fruit of fruitful Ephrath (1 Ne. 11:10-24, John 3:16).
Ironic indeed, that there was no house with bread in Bethlehem. Figuratively, there was no Savior in Israel because they had turned to the idolatry of their neighbors. The Lord had warned about the consequences of breaking the Law, “Cursed shall be thy basket and thy store. Cursed shall be… the fruit of thy land” (Deut. 28:17-18). Because of the curse, there was no bread in the house of bread.
“The birth of the baby Jesus in the ancient city of Ruth and Boaz (Ruth 1:2; Ruth 2:4) fulfilled the prophetic word of God: ‘But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.’ (Micah 5:2.) Significantly, he who was called ‘the bread of God’ and ‘the bread of life’ (John 6:31–35) was born in Bethlehem, a Hebrew term meaning the house of bread.” (David H. Garner, “The Land of Jesus, Part 1,” Ensign, Dec. 1986, 35)
“The distance between Moab and Israel is not great—a little more than thirty miles. Distance in the scriptures, however, is not always measured from one place to another but by one's state of conversion to one's god. Moab, a nation of idolaters, was, by that standard, a far country.
“Naomi and her husband, Elimelech, must have agonized over their decision. They would be faced with the challenge of rearing their sons in a strange place, far from the good influence of friends and family. Surely they considered the possibility that their sons would marry women of Moab. In the end, however, they may have had no choice.” (Jerrie W. Hurd, Our Sisters in the Bible [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 55 - 56)
Ruth 1:11 Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me?
“Closely examined, her words are found to convey, although with most exquisite delicacy, that, if her daughters-in-law went with her, they must expect to remain forever homeless and strangers. She could offer them no prospect of wedded happiness in her own family, and she wished to convey to them, that no Israelite in his own land would ever wed a daughter of Moab. It was a noble act of self-denial on the part of the aged Hebrew widow by this plain speaking to strip herself of all remaining comfort, and to face the dark future, utterly childless, alone, and helpless. And when one of them, Orpah, turned back, though with bitter sorrow at the parting, Naomi had a yet more trying task before her. Ruth had, indeed, fully understood her mother-in-law's meaning; but there was another sacrifice which she must be prepared to make, if she followed Naomi. She must not only be parted from her people, and give up forever all worldly prospects, but she must also be prepared to turn her back upon her ancestral religion. But Ruth had long made her choice, and the words in which she intimated it have deservedly become almost proverbial in the church. There is such ardour and earnestness about them, such resolution and calmness, as to lift them far above the sphere of mere natural affection or sense of duty. They intimate the deliberate choice of a heart which belongs in the first place to Jehovah, the God of Israel (1:17), and which has learned to count all things but loss for the excellency of this knowledge.” (Edersheim, Alfred, Old Testament Bible History, chap. 21)
Ardeth G. Kapp
Ruth was an ordinary person with an extraordinary commitment to those things she valued most—her God and her family… She had neither fame nor fortune, and among the Israelites could have been considered an enemy because she was a Moabite. Yet God moves around prejudices and geographical borders into the homes and hearts of those who love Him. (LDS Church News, 1998, 05/02/98)
Ruth 1:12-13 if I should… bear sons; Would ye tarry for them till they were grown?
Ancient Jewish culture was that a widowed woman be re-married to one of the deceased brothers. While quite different from our day, this was not entirely a cultural phenomenon; it was a commandment of the Lord:
If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her.
And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel. (Deut. 25:5-6)
Sometimes, the brother was quite younger than the widow, but he was still expected to raise up seed to his brother. Why? According to the Old Testament, it was to preserve his “name in Israel,” speaking temporally. According to the higher law, the same practice may be performed to raise up seed unto the older brother in eternity. When polygamy was practiced in the early church, a widowed woman was occasionally married to a brother for time only—the expectation being that any children born to the widow and brother would belong to the deceased in eternity. This principle was understood, at least in part, by the Sadducees who used this principle to mock the doctrine of a Resurrection, asking the Lord:
Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.
Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother:
Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh.
And last of all the woman died also.
Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her. (Matt. 22:24-28)
The Lord would not answer this question based on the principle in question because they were mocking the doctrine and the resurrection, but the question was based on a true principle from the Law of Moses.
John Taylor
You will find in the ancient laws of Israel, there were proper rules in relation to these matters; one was, that if a man died without a child, his brother or the nearest relation of the husband should take the widow, and raise up seed to her husband, that his name might be continued in Israel, and not be blotted out. Where did these laws come from? We are told they came from God. But instead of doing this, suppose he should try to steal this woman away, and rob his brother—how would he get along, I wonder, with such a case against him, at the bar of justice? The laws and ordinances that exist in the eternal world have their pattern in the things which are revealed to the children of men on earth. The Priesthood as it exists on the earth is a pattern of things in heaven. As I said in a former part of this discourse, Priesthood is legitimate rule, whether on earth or in heaven. When we have the true Priesthood on earth, we take it with us into the heavens; it changes not, but continues the same in the eternal world.
There is another feature of that ancient law which I will mention. It was considered an act of injustice for the nearest relation not to take the wife of the deceased; if he refused to do it, he was obliged to go before the Elders of "Israel, and his brother's wife shall loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto the man that will not build up his brother's house; and his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him who hath his shoe loosed." If the restitution of all things is to be brought to pass, there must be a restitution of these things; everything will be put right, and in its proper place. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 1: 232)
Mark E. Petersen
This was an old law going back into Genesis. It is noted in Gen. 38:8-11, as also in the story of Ruth, seen in the book of Ruth in the Bible. But of course this law is not applicable now. (Moses: Man of Miracles [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977], 138)
Ruth 1:16 Intreat me not to leave thee
Thomas S. Monson
I think also of an account I read about a sweet lady, the wife of one of our early pioneers. Her name was Catharine Curtis Spencer. She was married to Orson Spencer, a sensitive, well-educated man. Catharine had been reared in Boston and was cultured and refined. She had six children. Her delicate health declined from exposure and hardships after her family was forced to leave Nauvoo. Elder Spencer wrote to her parents and asked if she could return to live with them while he established a home for his family in the West. Their reply: “Let her renounce her degrading faith, and she can come back—but never until she does.” Sister Spencer would not renounce her faith. When her parents’ letter was read to her, she asked her husband to get his Bible and read to her from the book of Ruth as follows: “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” Outside the storm raged, the wagon covers leaked, and friends held milk pans over Sister Spencer’s head to keep her dry. In these conditions, and without a word of complaint, she closed her eyes for the last time.
This is the spirit of serving God. This is the spirit of putting Him first in our lives. Though we may not necessarily forfeit our lives in service to our God, we can certainly demonstrate our love for Him by how well we serve Him. He who hears our silent prayers, He who observes our unheralded acts will reward us openly when the need comes. (“How Do We Show Our Love?” Ensign, Jan. 1998, 4)
Ruth 1:16 wither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge
Thomas S. Monson
In our selection of heroes, let us nominate also heroines. First, that noble example of fidelity—even Ruth. Sensing the grief-stricken heart of her mother-in-law, who suffered the loss of each of her two fine sons, feeling perhaps the pangs of despair and loneliness that plagued the very soul of Naomi, Ruth uttered what has become that classic statement of loyalty: “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” (Ruth 1:16.) Ruth’s actions demonstrated the sincerity of her words. There is place for her name in the Hall of Fame. (“My Personal Hall of Fame,” Ensign, July 1991, 4)
Thomas S. Monson
Ruth… forsook her people, her kindred, and her country in order to accompany her mother-in-law Naomi—worshiping Jehovah in His land and adopting the ways of His people. How very important was Ruth’s obedience to Naomi and the resulting marriage to Boaz by which Ruth—the foreigner and a Moabite convert—became a great-grandmother of David and therefore an ancestress of Jesus Christ. The book of the Holy Bible that bears her name contains language poetic in style, reflective of her spirit of determination and courage. “And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.”
Yes, Ruth, precious Ruth, was a pioneer. (“They Showed the Way,” Ensign, May 1997, 50-51)
Gordon B. Hinckley
How marvelous a quality is loyalty? There is no substitute for it. It comes of an inner strength… My brethren and sisters, we must be loyal. We cannot be found on the sidelines carping and criticizing and finding fault with one another. We must help one another with each other's burdens. We must share the sorrows of one another. We must rejoice with one another in their victories. We must be loyal to the Church against all its enemies. (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 320-322)
Ruth 1:16 thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God
Missionary work by example was the legacy of Naomi. For all the righteous men, women, and prophets of the Old Testament, there really aren’t too many missionaries that catch our attention. Naomi stands out as one of the greatest missionaries of her people. For Ruth and for us, Naomi’s example spans millenia. As President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “The most persuasive gospel tract is the exemplary life of a faithful Latter-day Saint” (Ensign, May 1982, 45).
Missionary Work. Little emphasis was given in ancient Israel to the spreading of the truth to foreign lands—missionary work consisted mainly of preaching to apostate Israel, who demonstrated by their behavior that they were not ready to take the gospel to others on a large scale. As a matter of fact, even though God’s covenant with Father Abraham enjoined the task of blessing ‘all the families of the earth … with the blessings of the Gospel’ (Abr. 2:11), Israel chose to remain somewhat aloof from non-Israelites. Part of this aloofness was due to necessity: whenever Israel mingled with her foreign neighbors, she was quick to intermarry with them and adopt their evil ways. Thus, the Lord commanded that Israel should never make a covenant with or marry the people of foreign nations. (See Deut. 7:2–3.)
“It is difficult to spread the word of God when one is forbidden to mingle with potential converts. Still there were exceptions. When Naomi and Elimelech went to live in Moab because of the famine in Bethlehem, their two sons married Moabite girls. At least one of those girls joined the Hebrew way of life: ‘Thy people shall be my people,’ Ruth told Naomi, ‘and thy God my God.’ (Ruth 1:16.) Naomi and her family had obviously done some missionary work, for Ruth’s conversion was thorough and complete. There were probably other similar, individual conversions, accomplished by righteous individuals sharing their faith, but we have no record of them.” (Leland H. Gentry, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, Dec. 1981, 61)
Ruth 1:18 then she left off speaking unto her
“When Naomi, herself realistic and wise, saw Ruth’s steadfastness, she ‘left off speaking to her’ (see Ruth 1:18), which does not mean she stopped talking with her, but that she quit trying to convince her of the difficulties she would face in Israel. Ruth, the Moabitess, would face bigotry, poverty, and much insecurity, but she was converted, and she had decided. She and Naomi became a great team, facing together not only the problems before them, but the opportunities that would come also. (Aileen H. Clyde, “Confidence through Conversion,” Ensign, Nov. 1992, 89)
Ruth 1:20 Call me not Naomi, call me Mara
“Naomi signifies in the Hebrew tongue happiness, and Mara, sorrow.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book I, 9:2)
“Interestingly, Ruth means companion.” (Ellis T. Rasmussen, A Latter-day Saint Commentary on the Old Testament [Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1993], 226)