And it came to pass that I, Nephi, took one of the daughters of Ishmael to wife; and also, my brethren took of the daughters of Ishmael to wife; and also Zoram took the eldest daughter of Ishmael to wife. (1 Nephi 16:7)Does anyone else think it really fascinating that the oldest daughter of Ishmael accepts a former servant as a husband? I could speculate all day about this because there are so many possible dynamics and criteria at work.
On one hand, there is the smallness of the group of eligible marriage prospects, so there could be an element of “take-what-you-can-get” involved.
Then there is the factor of age. You’d think that eldest children would marry eldest children and the pairing would happen all the way down the birth order. Not so. It sounds like some kind of crazy mix-and-match happened.
Then there is the factor of maturity and faithfulness. I’ve read that eldest children tend to be more mature and responsible, though Laman seems to have missed the boat on that.. (I bet Laman and Lemuel ended up marrying the two daughters of Ishmael who wanted to go back to Jerusalem.) Maybe Ishmael’s eldest daughter thought Zoram’s experience as a servant would be an asset to a marriage rather than a loss of status. In their survival situation, status would mean nothing, but service and skill would mean everything.
That, I think, is also applicable today in dating among Mormons. Where spiritual survival is at stake, service, skill, and spirituality mean way more than worldly status or looks when choosing a spouse. (Hmmm. I suppose I have just articulated the Mormon Darwinian Doctrine of Marriage, a principle by which spiritual selection, not natural selection can occur. Select according to service, skill, and spirituality. And it should go without saying that these are qualities to cultivate in oneself as well.)
According to these standards, whoever married Nephi was very blessed. He was always trying to serve the Lord and his family--making a new bow, finding food, building a ship, teaching his family.. It strikes me that his abilities kept increasing with every difficult thing he was asked to do by the Lord. You notice that eventually he builds a temple. I bet he was commanded to do that too and didn’t know how at the beginning, but he attacked the task in the same way that he attacked the task of building a ship. I suspect that his wife had to have been someone with the same can-do faith and attitude, otherwise he wouldn’t have picked her.