“Anna,” Ensign, February 2019
“And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;
“And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.
“And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.”
Forty days after the birth of Jesus and at the end of Mary’s time of purification under the Mosaic law, Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem and presented Him to God (see Luke 2:22). While they were in the temple, a man named Simeon, who had been promised by God that he would live to see Christ, prophesied that Jesus was the promised Messiah (see Luke 2:25–35). “In that instant,” a woman named Anna came up and recognized the Christ child as the Savior of the world (see Luke 2:38).
Anna faithfully stood in holy places. She had lived a long life of service to God, and as she searched for the face of the promised Messiah, she beheld the infant Jesus in the temple. Faith carried Anna through her hardships in life, just as it can carry us and inspire us to seek the Lord.
Anna is described to us by Luke as “a widow of about fourscore and four years.” He also tells us that she “departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day” (Luke 2:37). Anna had dedicated herself to serving God in the temple. In that respect, she reminds us of many of the women who serve in our temples today. Many of them spend much of their time working, learning, and worshipping in God’s house, just as Anna did.
Anna went to the temple every day, but it is remarkable that she was there at that exact moment to see Simeon speaking with Mary and Joseph, just in time to see the promised Messiah. Surely that was no coincidence. She had dedicated her life and the majority of her time to serving the Lord. She must have desired, more than anything else, to see and know God. And she did.
Having devoted herself to searching, fasting, and praying, Anna finally gained the deepest desire of her heart. She saw God’s promised Messiah; she saw the face of Jesus Christ. Luke calls Anna a “prophetess,” a title reserved for only a few women in the scriptures. A prophetess is a woman who possesses the spiritual gift of prophecy and bears testimony of Jesus Christ. Anna exemplifies this title because after seeing the baby Jesus in the temple, she “spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). She could not keep the joy of her discovery or her knowledge of Jesus Christ to herself; she prophesied of Him to anyone who would listen.
Her story is a powerful reminder to us that there is no knowledge or experience beyond our reach. Many of us have questions and desires burning in our hearts. There are things that we want to understand, mysteries of the universe we want unfolded, and deep personal questions we seek answers to. Such knowledge is obtainable. Yet like Anna, we need to keep searching and keep moving forward day after day and year after year as we develop our faith in Jesus Christ.
Some knowledge and experience does not come easily. Anna’s example of faith, shown by her commitment to serving the Lord, is a reminder to all of us about how to receive additional light and understanding. God has promised that if we knock, we will receive. He doesn’t say how many times we will have to knock or how long it will take before He answers the door. He only promises that if we diligently seek Him, as Anna did, we will find Him.