Recently, our Relief Society teacher talked about women of faith in the scriptures. She read verses about a woman (omitting her name) and the class guessed who it was. For one woman, the teacher read all of the verses and nobody answered. When it was clear nobody was going to answer, I called out Tabitha. (I tend to be overly excited to participate, so I’ve tried just sitting back to see how I like that instead. It’s nice. ☺)
Tabitha’s story is only six verses long, but it’s one of my favorite scriptural stories depicting women’s lives and influence. It also describes Relief Society in ancient times.
At the time the story began, Peter was preaching and performing miracles in Lydda. Tabitha lived in a nearby town called Joppa.
“Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and alms deeds which she did. And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber.
And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them. Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them.
But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive.
And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord” (Acts 9:36-42).
We don’t know Tabitha’s age, occupation, family configuration, callings, or if she felt like she fit into some imagined Mormon mold. We simply see a woman without stereotypical trappings or labels. We do know about Tabitha’s habits and character. She was full of good works and almsdeeds. Almsdeeds are acts of mercy or charity.
Tabitha got sick and died. Was it a lingering or chronic illness? Had she been serving amidst her own trials and suffering? Or was it a sudden onset of something that claimed her life? We don’t know.
Did she have a priesthood blessing? What would it have promised her? Was it of healing or miracle or a promise that her experience would strengthen the faith of others? Did the blessing indicate to those around her that they should send for Peter?
After her death, the saints in Joppa sent two men to Peter. In English, the text doesn’t indicate if the men were her husband, children or other relatives. Maybe it’s more specific in the Greek. Maybe the men were her home teachers or her bishop.
Upon invitation, Peter arises and goes. I think about this all the time. When Jesus Christ and His servants are bidden, they always arise and go. After hearing reports of Tabitha’s life and good works, Peter raised Tabitha from the dead!
I love Tabitha’s story because in life, her great service and charity to those around her blessed the lives of those she knew. In her death, her friends honored her compassionate works. But, the miracle of her return from death brought many more people to believe in Jesus Christ.
What a powerful example and reminder of an ordinary woman doing extraordinary things!!
“Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.”
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have moved 64 times and have not tired of experiencing this beautiful earth! I love the people, languages, histories/anthropologies, & especially religious cultures of the world. My life long passion is the study & searching out of religious symbolism, specifically related to ancient & modern temples. My husband Anthony and I love our bulldog Stig, adventures, traveling, movies, motorcycling, and time with friends and family.