Mary and Martha

“…the story is often told of the time when Jesus visited the home of Mary and Martha, who lived in Bethany with their brother, Lazarus. It was a welcome place for the Master, where He could rest and enjoy the surroundings of a righteous home. During one of His visits, Martha was busy preparing a meal and Mary elected to sit at the Master’s feet to receive His instruction.

“ ‘But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? … And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.’

“Many Sunday lessons have been taught using this story which have cast Martha in a lesser position in terms of her faith. Yet there is another story of this great woman, Martha, which gives us a deeper view of her understanding and testimony. It happened when the Savior arrived to raise her brother, Lazarus, from the dead. On this occasion it was Martha whom we find going to Jesus ‘as soon as she heard’ He was coming. As she meets Him, she says that she knows that ‘whatsoever [He would] ask of God, God [would] give [Him].’

“Christ then shared with Martha the great doctrine of the resurrection, saying:

“ ‘I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?’

“She responded with her powerful testimony: ‘Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.’

“How often has Martha been misjudged as being a person who cared more for the deeds of doing than for the Spirit? However, her testimony in the trial of her brother’s death clearly shows the depth of her understanding and faith.

“Many a sister has often heard the first story and wondered if she were a Mary or a Martha, yet the truth lies in knowing the whole person and in using good judgment. By knowing more about Martha, we find she was actually a person of deep spiritual character who had a bold and daring testimony of the Savior’s mission and His divine power over life. A misjudgment of Martha may have caused us not to know the true nature of this wonderful woman.”

Gregory A. Schwitzer, Second Quorum of the Seventy
Developing Good Judgment and Not Judging Others,” April 2010 General Conference

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“Just as the Savior invited Mary and Martha of New Testament times to participate in His work, women of this dispensation have an official commission to participate in the Lord’s work.”

Julie B. Beck, Relief Society General President
Fulfilling the Purpose of Relief Society,” October 2008 General Conference

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“Just as the Savior invited Mary and Martha of New Testament times to participate in His work, women of this dispensation have an official commission to participate in the Lord’s work. From the earliest days of the Restoration, women were active in helping build up the Church by supporting missionary efforts, contributing to the construction of temples, and establishing communities where the Saints could worship together. The organization of Relief Society in 1842 mobilized the collective power of the women and their specific assignments to build the Lord’s kingdom.”

Julie B. Beck, Relief Society General President
Fulfilling the Purpose of Relief Society,” October 2008 General Conference

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“We also lose sight of that good part when we compare ourselves to others. Her hair is cuter, my legs are fatter, her children are more talented, or her garden’s more productive—sisters, you know the drill. We just can’t do that. We cannot allow ourselves to feel inadequate by focusing on who we aren’t instead of on who we are! We are all sisters in Relief Society. We simply cannot criticize, gossip, or judge and keep the pure love of Christ. Can’t you hear the Lord’s sweet injunction: ‘Martha, Martha …’ ? ”

Bonnie D. Parkin, Relief Society General President
Choosing Charity: That Good Part,” October 2003 General Conference

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“In my office hangs a wonderful painting depicting Jesus with Mary and Martha. Every day as I am greeted by this piece, I reflect on our challenges as women. Sister Hughes, Sister Pingree, and I felt inspired to use the account of Mary and Martha as the theme for our meeting. The Lord taught, one thing is needful: choose that good part. That is what we are going to talk about tonight, choosing that good part.

“Martha lived in the small village of Bethany, where she ‘received [Jesus] into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard his word.’ Both women loved the Lord. And ‘Jesus loved Martha, and [Mary].’ In fact, their relationship breached convention, for at that time women were not usually able to discuss the gospel with men.

“On one occasion Martha was making dinner and, as the scripture says, ‘was cumbered about much serving.’ In other words, she was stressed out!

“Mary, on the other hand, ‘sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word,’ while Martha became increasingly upset that no one was helping her. Does that sound familiar? Do you think she was thinking, ‘Why is Mary sitting there while I’m sweating over this stove?’ So Martha turned to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.’

“The Lord’s gentle invitation to Martha may have surprised her. ‘Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.’

“The Savior’s response strikingly clarified what mattered most. On that evening in Martha’s home, the good part was not in the kitchen; it was at the Lord’s feet. Dinner could wait…

“Mary and Martha are you and me; they are every sister in Relief Society. These two loved the Lord and wanted to show that love. On this occasion, it seems to me that Mary expressed her love by hearing His word, while Martha expressed hers by serving Him.

“Martha thought she was doing right and that her sister should be helping her.

“I don’t believe the Lord was saying there are Marthas and there are Marys. Jesus did not dismiss Martha’s concern, but instead redirected her focus by saying choose ‘that good part.’ ”

Bonnie D. Parkin, Relief Society General President
“Choosing Charity: That Good Part,” October 2003 General Conference

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“The story of Mary and Martha also illustrates how the gift of charity can be diminished. Within Martha’s request for assistance was an unspoken but clear judgment: ‘I am right; she is wrong.’ ”

Bonnie D. Parkin, Relief Society General President
Choosing Charity: That Good Part,” October 2003 General Conference

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“ ‘And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.’

“This scripture reminds every Martha, male and female, that we should not be so occupied with what is routine and temporal that we fail to cherish those opportunities that are unique and spiritual.”

Dallin H. Oaks, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Spirituality,” October 1985 General Conference

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