Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Virtue, Scripture, and Imperfection

Posted by Robert C. on May 9, 2013

There’s been a lot of discussion about virtue recently (e.g., here). And for good reason.

If you haven’t been following, here’s the skinny. In a letter to his son (Moroni), Mormon describes horrible acts being committed against the daughters of the Lamanites (Moroni 9:9). Recent events, esp. pertaining to Elizabeth Smart, bring to light the sense in which Mormon’s words are apt to perpetuate wrongheaded attitudes about chastity, rape, and “that which [is] most dear and precious” regarding (young) women.

Because this issue pertains to scripture, and because scripture is the explicit focus of this blog, and because this is such an important and serious issue, I feel compelled to say something. Actually, I want to say two things—the first without elaboration, the second with. (I’ve also included a longish footnote with some of my own thoughts about how we might think about Mormon 9:9 itself.)

#1. Any attitudes that contribute to rape culture, should be repudiated. Full stop.

#2. Inasmuch as Mormon’s words contribute to a rape culture, they should be repudiated.

There’s a lot to consider and unpack regarding #2. I’ll confine myself to just two sub-questions.

#2a. Do Mormon’s words contribute to a rape culture?

I think the short answer is, “yes, probably.” Even if Mormon meant something different, current readers (esp. young women working on Personal Progress) are apt to read Mormon’s words and think that if a woman loses her virginity outside of marriage, no matter the reason, she has become less “dear and precious.”

Now, notice that I did not ask whether Mormon’s words necessarily contribute to a rape culture. That’s a can of worms[*]. Rather, I asked do they. In actual practice, in today’s culture, I am afraid they do. (Again, we can thank the outspokenness of Elizabeth Smart and others for this.) I also did not ask the extent of the contribution. That is an interesting and important question, but I want to focus on something different here.

#2b. Doesn’t this mean we should repudiate scripture?

Consider the well-known Mormon object lesson that plays on disgust when a small piece of dung is put into a big batch of brownies. Applying the logic of this lesson to scripture, in the same way it has been applied in chastity lessons (surely with good intentions but in ways Smart reveals as obviously misguided), it would seem we should repudiate all of scripture.

I want to be clear that my quick jump to this conclusion goes further than I’ve seen others go—I don’t want to implicate them with my (hyperbolic) question. I’m interested in the logic of the argument here, and I’ve struggled to come up with an answer I feel satisfied with. (I welcome suggestions.)

Scripture, means a lot to me and I don’t want to repudiate all of scripture. But where’s the flaw in my reasoning?

Probably the most obvious problem in this reasoning is that the dung example is . . . well, dung. We are all nothing— scripture is emphatic about that (just as it’s emphatic that we are all of great worth). So, according to dung logic, we should all repudiate each other. Christ is the only exception. And Christ doesn’t repudiate us. He seems, in fact, to repudiate this logic of wholesale repudiation. He loves us even though we are imperfect. And yet he still repudiates sin. This is the mystery. (And this mysteriousness is importantly related to my dissatisfaction with my answer to #2b, even though I’m proposing it here.)

Mormon’s not my favorite person in scripture. Every time I read the war chapters, I have a virtual argument with Mormon about why he included these chapters. However, I’ve learned a lot from Mormon, and I think that for those who have ears to hear, he’s got a lot of great wisdom to teach.

So, I think I can love Mormon, even if I don’t agree with everything he says. And, because of this love, I try to read him considerately, thoughtfully, carefully, charitably, etc.[*]

In this way, Mormon is kind of like my parents. Over the years, they’ve thought and said some things that I’ve disagreed with. In many (OK, most) cases, I’ve repented of my disagreement, learning to see my parents’ wisdom. But in a few cases, I still disagree.

I think I’ve gotten better at disagreeing with my parents, over the years. Of course, it could just be that I’m becoming more recalcitrant in my misguided ways, and that’s what underlies my unwillingness to repent of my disagreements. I don’t have a good argument against this accusation. But my disagreements feel different now, compared to when I was younger.

The most obvious difference is that I don’t feel a need to argue about these disagreements. I’m generally happy to revisit these points of disagreement, and if further discussion helps me learn something that would cause me to repent of my disagreement, I’d welcome this new insight. At least that’s how I feel. I just don’t feel the same kind of defensiveness or resistance about these matters, like I did when I was younger.

Again, I don’t pretend that this is really an argument justifying my disagreements. It’s weakly rooted only in my own witness and experience of this difference, a difference about how these issues feel.

Well, I’ve digressed.

But not really. This is the best way I can think of to describe my relationship with scripture (and with many other ideas, people, books, etc.). Over the years, I’ve disagreed with various passages, ideas, and teachings—in my engagements with imperfect scripture, an imperfect Church, and imperfect people. The disagreements have been the most intense, honestly, with those that are closest to me. But these are also the engagements I’ve learned the most from.

I can only hope your own experience is as rewarding as mine.

__

* I think there are several possible ways to read Mormon’s words that don’t have the troubling overtones or connotations that appear on a first-blush reading. But I don’t know how likely any of these possibilities are. In this post, I wanted to focus mostly on the troubling connotations of a first-blush reading. However, because of my relationship with scripture, which I elaborate on in the latter part of this post, I feel compelled to at least consider and explore alternate readings, no matter how unlikely or implausible—after all, my most rewarding engagements with texts and people have been when my initial understanding of something is turned upside down.

In that vein, one thought is that perhaps Mormon means by “virtue” something like “innocence,” but with robust connotations that link this notion of innocence to, say, the child-like traits we have been admonished to emulate. This idea seems to have some resonance with Jacob’s words about the “tender and chaste and delicate” feelings of the women and children listening to his sermon railing against sexual sins in Jacob 2 (though parts of this sermon also sound rather sexist, at least to our modern ears). This is a connection I’d like to explore (or see explored) further.

The virtue (…) of this reading is that it suggests what is “most dear and precious” about the young women Mormon is describing is not virginity per se, but something else—something that perhaps lies at the root of our strong feelings against rape. This is complicated, however, because we are told that the atonement heals all wounds. But it’s hard to believe that, or fathom how, the atonement can fully make right the consequences of rape. These are hard and complex issues that I’m struggling to make sense of.

But setting these issues aside, it’s still troubling to think that what is “most dear and precious” about (young) women is something that can be taken away by someone else. This seems to create problems for thinking about issues such as agency, accountability, self-worth, etc.

So, I currently can’t think of a way to read Mormon 9:9 that doesn’t spark some disagreement deep within me. However, I plan to keep pondering these issues of chastity, purity, sexuality, gender, fidelity, cruelty, agency, accountability, etc. And I fully expect to learn a lot in the process, even if I don’t really expect to ever come to full “agreement” with Mormon’s words on this particular matter….

30 Responses to “Virtue, Scripture, and Imperfection”

  1. Dawn Bradbury said

    Dearie, I think you meant “But it’s hard to believe that, or fathom how, the atonement can fully make right the consequences of rape.” Having been in a rather horrible situation as a child– I was recently asked to speak about how the Atonement heals. Let me know if you would like to see my notes on that. The Atonement does heal, but I also think we are responsbile ourselves to do things to overcome the past. It is difficult, but possible.

    • Robert C. said

      Thanks for pointing out the typo — I’ve now fixed it. I’d be quite interested in your notes, if you’d be willing to share them (rcouchZZZ@gmail.com, without the ZZZs).

  2. BrianJ said

    Robert: I’m very glad that you posted this. We’ve been having these discussions a lot in my home lately—in part because of current events, but also because my oldest recently entered the Young Women program.

    As for scripture, I reject the “dung in the brownies” analogy—but not for the reason you do. See, I kinda reject your reasoning too. Yes, the scriptures make it clear that “We are all nothing—scripture is emphatic about that.” But if we’re already in the mode of rejecting/questioning scripture, couldn’t I reject this part of scripture? In fact, as you point out, scripture itself rejects this idea: “just as [scripture is] emphatic that we are all of great worth.” Which is it?

    I think the solution—in this case specifically—is to recognize where scripture overexerts itself to make a point, and accidentally makes several other off-target points as well. The “dung in the brownies” analogy doesn’t work here because no one would ever put dung in brownies for any good reason. I’m a pharmacologist, so let me use a drug analogy instead. Every drug has side effects, ranging from minor to major. But drugs with major side effects—think chemotherapy—are still used when their target is particularly pernicious. You wouldn’t tolerate the side effects of chemotherapy to combat a cold or a headache, but you would tolerate them if faced with life-threatening cancer. When King Benjamin convinces his people of their nothingness, I take his words as an aggressive assault on pride—a battle that he apparently views as so crucial he must “really drive home the point.” So maybe King Benjamin’s “you are nothing” drug was both effective and necessary for his people, at that time, but that doesn’t make it a universally applicable drug (at that dose, anyway).

    Okay, but that drug analogy doesn’t address the other type of problematic scripture: any downright racist, sexist, etc. statement that really can’t be excused. Again, I reject the “dung in the brownies” because there is no way to pick out the dung and just eat the brownies. The dung is everywhere, equally mixed, unavoidable. Scripture is not like that. For example, Mormon could say something terrible but that doesn’t affect what John wrote. It also doesn’t affect other things that Mormon wrote. The desire to throw out all of scripture stems, I think, from our society’s unwillingness to associate with anything in anyway that is wrong—lest we be accused of supporting an evil person: you can’t eat at Chick-Fil-A because they support traditional marriage, you can’t work with a Democrat on a bill because then you must be pro-Obamacare, etc.

    I think you provide the answer to this attitude:

    Christ is the only exception. And Christ doesn’t repudiate us. He seems, in fact, to repudiate this logic of wholesale repudiation. He love us even though we are imperfect.

    Exactly. Mormon can be wrong about “virtue,” Nephi can be wrong about race, etc. I don’t worship either of those guys (or their words), so I don’t need them to be perfect examples in all things.

    In fact, I’m happy to see the mistakes in scripture—not the typos, but the mistaken/incomplete beliefs of scripture authors—because it serves as a lesson about how to act as an imperfect person in an imperfect world. I will make mistakes as I strive to do what is right. I will hold false/incoherent beliefs as I strive to comprehend the Gospel. So what? The scriptures show me that that is not a deal-breaker—at least as far as God is concerned.

    I guess in this respect I would replace the “dung in the brownies” analogy with the “dung in the cattle” analogy: you see, every cattle has parts you really don’t want to eat, but if you’re careful you can still milk the cow or carve out uncontaminated steaks and roasts. And even that dung inside the cattle had an important purpose in the growth and development of the beast! You really would not ever want to eat or drink from a 100% dung-free cattle.

  3. Jim F. said

    Robert, I agree that it is difficult to fathom “how the atonement can fully make right the consequences of rape.” But is that what atonement means? Is is true that the atonement “heals all wounds” or is that something we have inherited from other traditions (my suspicion)? The scriptures never speak of that healing, do they? They tell us that the atonement delivers us from death and the power of Satan and that it makes it possible for us to live in the presence of God. But I don’t think they say anything about undoing every sorrow or pain or injustice.

    Presumably it brings us together in God’s presence in love. Presumably living in that community of love I will no longer care that I was wounded because I will have been taught how, like Christ, to truly forgive. I will have learned how to live beyond my sins as well as beyond the injustices I may have suffered, But the atonement isn’t a magical acts that makes them go away. It is something that changes me and my relationship with others and my past.

    That, however, isn’t the same as healing all wounds–or at least it isn’t the same as our usual way of understanding what such healing would be like. There are ways of understanding what it means to change the present so that the past is different than it was, and I like to think of the atonement in those terms. (Those of you who are philosophers, think of Gadamer.) But I don’t think the atonement simply undoes that past.

    If we want to keep the metaphor of healing (and I admit to liking it), perhaps rather than speaking of the atonement healing all wounds we could speak of it healing them and showing us how to live proudly with their scars, loving those scars as part of us rather than as continuing signs of something evil in our past.

  4. BrianJ said

    My response above is about your scripture question, but it doesn’t address the question about how to read Moroni 9 or how the atonement “can fully make right the consequences of rape.”

    First, I think Mormon is wrong here (though maybe if given the chance he would amend his words?). I don’t think there is a way to reconcile his words, but there may be a way to read it and understand why he would have written an equation that is so clearly imbalanced.

    I start by pointing to the weight of the atrocities in verse 8 versus verse 9:

    8: The Lamanites feed the women upon the flesh of their husbands, and the children upon the flesh of their fathers.

    9: The Nephites rape the Lamanites, then torture them to death.

    Mormon states that chastity and virtue are more precious than any other thing—presumably, more precious than not having to eat your father’s flesh or not being tortured to death. Set aside for a moment the question of whether someone’s chastity or virtue can be forcibly taken from them: all of the atrocities Mormon lists are off the scale atrocious.

    Thus, I think to understand Mormon’s…hyperbole, we may have to recognize that he is more appalled by the Nephites than by the Lamanites because the Nephites had the Gospel. As he laments: “O my beloved son, how can a people like this, that are without civilization, how can we expect that God will stay his hand in judgment against us?” Greater light, greater condemnation.

    I don’t agree with Mormon here, but after witnessing what he witnesses, I’ll cut him a lot of slack. You really can’t rank these crimes from bad to worst, but I won’t condemn him for doing so because, again, he actually saw it.

    Second, about the atonement. I’ve often felt uncomfortable by the way we talk about the atonement “healing” or “making right” everything. I don’t know exactly why it bothers me. Perhaps because it feels like we’re talking about smoothing everything over in a way that robs us of our life experience. In that way, it reminds me of the argument that if we really believed that little children who die “go straight to the Celestial kingdom and godhood” then we would kill all babies—because, after all, it worked our well in the end, right?

    As the scriptures say, we have to know the bitter in order to appreciate the sweet. If the atonement heals all the bitter by taking away the memory of it then we lose that knowledge. That doesn’t sit well with me. Like Joel Barish in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” I don’t want my memories erased.

    So what good is the atonement? I look at Christ and see that he still has his scars from the ordeal. Maybe that’s a signal to us? Maybe we keep all of our scars too, but the atonement helps us to not suffer any more from them. Christ’s unending, unyielding love for—read that as devotion to and acceptance of—us gives us an anchor; it let’s us know that whatever vulnerability we felt during our suffering, we are not ever alone or not understood. When one of my daughters, as a toddler, used to hit me, I told her every time, “I still love you. I will always love you.” When one of my other daughters is angry and screams, “Leave me alone!” I tell her, “No, I will never leave you alone: I will always love you. I will always try to help you for as long as I live.” I can’t speak for victims of extreme suffering, like Elizabeth Smart, but I think even she has spoken about finding peace through finding people (like her husband) who she knew were devoted to her. None of that requires the atonement to “make things right” in the sense of making things go away.

  5. Sins are ranked in the eyes of the Lord, which is why we find two Book of Mormon prophets ranking sins. All unrepentant sin results in spiritual death, but some sins are considered graver than others. All this harping on Mormon is unnecessary, for we learn from his words the perspective of the Lord.

    Mormon lived after the ministry of Christ, and thus knew all the laws of God and the full account of that ministry, and the society that lived after Christ’s ministry, which was based upon the most perfect and excellent laws, given personally by Christ, also knew these laws. So, when he says that “chastity and virtue was most dear and precious above all things,” this wasn’t merely an erroneous cultural thing, but a law of God thing, for their culture was, at these times, established upon all the laws of God. In other words, after Christ’s ministry, their culture = God’s laws.

    We do not have the full account of Christ’s ministry and therefore do not have all the laws and principles they lived under, but we have enough (less than 1/100th part) in the Book of Mormon to understand that Mormon, living after the ministry of Christ, was judging these atrocities by the law of Christ given by Christ. This wasn’t an opinion, pulled out of his you-know-what, but an inspired assessment which allows us to glean how truly enlightened societies (for surely the Lehites who had the laws given by the Savior in His personal visit became the most enlightened society of all) view things.

    But even before Mormon’s time, we see in the record that another prophet of God was also ranking sins. Alma, in his words to Corianton, says,

    “And this is not all, my son. Thou didst do that which was grievous unto me; for thou didst forsake the ministry, and did go over into the land of Siron among the borders of the Lamanites, after the harlot Isabel. Yea, she did steal away the hearts of many; but this was no excuse for thee, my son. Thou shouldst have tended to the ministry wherewith thou wast entrusted. Know ye not, my son, that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost?”

    So, sin ranking was taught both before and after Christ.

    From these words, we can see that the ancients who were grounded in the doctrine of Christ, much more so than us Gentiles, for they had much more of that doctrine than we do, looked upon (and were taught to look upon) chastity in the same way that the Lord did. And how does the Lord view chastity? Jacob revealed the divine perspective with the words,

    “I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women.”

    The ancients, then, also delighted in the chastity of women. It was “most dear and precious above all things” to them because it was “most dear and precious above all things” to the Lord. After Christ’s ministry, they had all fully adopted the divine perspective.

    Now, chastity and virtue, referred to the loss of sexual purity, which purity they considered excellent. Again, this was not a mere “cultural perspective,” but a divine perspective, for their culture had been altered and made divine after Christ’s visit. In other words, they had been patterned after the heavenly culture. So, Mormon’s words must be treated as coming from this same divine perspective. And so when he saw them go against these long established divine commandments, committing the abominations as a sort of middle finger raised to God’s face, for they had all been taught these heavenly principles, he was understandably upset, for they had been blessed more than any other people, including us.

    Anyway, so what did chastity refer to? It was “purity of the body; freedom from all unlawful commerce of sexes. Before marriage, purity from all commerce of sexes; after marriage, fidelity to the marriage bed.” And virtue meant “excellence.” Just as the law of Christ was more excellent than the law of Moses, so sexual purity was more excellent than sexual impurity.

    Again, Mormon is giving us God’s perspective, not his own. This is how God viewed the issue, for He (God) had been robbed of this delight (for He delighted in the chastity and virtue of women) by these abominable Nephites, who knowingly rebelled against His revealed laws.

    We Gentiles, not founded on these revealed laws of God, for we only have an abridgment consisting of less than 1/100th percent, are topsy-turvy in our perspective. We view life as more precious that sexual purity, but this is not how God views things. In His perspective, all things live and all things die, but not all things have sexual purity. Sexual purity, then, in His view, is more valuable.

  6. rameumptom said

    Robert, good read. I do think the most important word in your entire post is “charity.” We would like to think that people will use charity in reading our many posts, emails, letters, journals, sermons, etc. Yet, we rage at the machine when we find scripture or a General Authority statement that we perceive as wrong, or IS just plain wrong.

    I do not know whether Mormon actually used the word “chastity” in discussing what raped women lose, whether the barely literate Joseph Smith chose a poor term in his translation, or what. I do know I disagree with the literal meaning of the statement in Mor 9:9. That said, when I stop placing that one statement in isolation, and place it within the context of other scripture and modern prophetic statements, I know that there is a better meaning I can take from the passage: the rapists terrorized the girls and stole their innocence from them. The girls were still innocent, but their view of the world, sex and love would never be the same again.

    I am pretty sure that Elizabeth Smart, even without the horrid gum wrapper analogy, would have seen herself in a very different light after being raped. Such things can require years to recover from, even with the best counseling. In Mormon’s day, there was no counseling available, just more torture, rape and terror.

    Mormon’s words bother me. A lot. I love the Book of Mormon, but dread reading the final wars, the violence, the rapes, the cannibalism, and the desecration. But, I need to know those things. Perhaps his words in some places were brutal, and in modern context definitely wrong. But, seeing that Moroni begs us to overlook the weaknesses of the book, we would miss out on some very important concepts and teachings if we repudiated all scripture, simply because we allow our modern weaknesses to trump their ancient weaknesses. It is because of Mormon’s charity towards us that we have the Book of Mormon today. I would hope that we consider being charitable to him in considering his words.

  7. JPenny said

    Robert, I appreciate how delicately you’ve tried to frame this. I am not for the repudiation of scripture, though I do think it’s important that we remember–and discuss–how scripture is culturally (historically, contextually, rhetorically) contingent, and that our literal readings of things, or our one-to-one transference of them can damage their theological sense.

    This passage has always struck me as being forcefully critical of the violence itself: of a patriarchal notion of ownership, in particular. Similar passages in Jacob suggest the same. But of course the very real concern here is whether or not if, in the act of chastising men for doing violence against virtuous women, Mormon’s rendition of that feeling of outrage does further damage to women who might themselves be the objects of similar violence.

    At dinner, I asked a friend what he thought about this, and he said “of course ‘virtue’ is used in the Book of Mormon in its Victorian sense: as equated with virginity,” and if this is so, then that is “all” Mormon means: their virginity had been taken by force and could not be given back, and God (and Mormon) are angry about this.

    Well, two additional questions arise: 1) What, if any, were the additional consequences for the women who had been violated? 2) Does this limited definition of virtue help or hinder our use of this passage in the context of chastity?

    1) I don’t know. If LDS Anarchist is right (and of course that comment is made problematic by the degenerate state of Nephite society 350 years on), then hopefully not. Hopefully they were taken back into the care of their families and helped to recover, at least physically, from the trauma they had suffered. Hopefully this did not mark them as impure or broken or undesirable or any of the other things our metaphors tend to suggest. But the Middle Eastern societies with which I am familiar do suggest that a certain degree of ostracization might occur, and that trauma begets trauma.

    How would God respond to this cultural abuse? With that same anger, compounded, I should think. But I am mindful that much of the Old Testament (the “much” I personally consider a cultural record and not the revelation of God’s mind and will) suggests otherwise. That is, some societies have, under the auspices of purity law, felt not only justified but compelled to remove the offended party from society. Doubly heart-breaking.

    2) It seems to me that thinking of “virtue” as virginity merely in this passage has the potential to make matters worse if, as Smart felt, losing her virginity, regardless of agency, meant losing that which was “most dear and precious above all things,” and permanently. It was no doubt of little comfort to her that she did not “lose” it: it was taken. (And the implication–a tired and frankly offensive notion we heard in the eighties over and over again–of some of what Anarchist says above–that she ought to have fought to the end of her life to preserve it as more valuable than her life itself–flies in the face of Christ’s own treatment of the woman taken in adultery, or the woman who washed his feet with her tears. He restored what he could to them: dignity, value, confidence before God.) In other words, a person whose virginity is taken, and not with their permission, but by deceit or force, may feel that they can no longer be dear or precious.

    But I can’t accept that reading, because I sense in Mormon’s outrage that the dearness and preciousness of virginity is the dearness and preciousness of sexuality as, ideally, the site of love and creativity. When it is compromised, “virtue goes out” of all of humanity. We are all of us implicated. And we all ought to share alike in the shame and the pain in order to motivate us to root out the evil and to comfort and bless the wounded. This passage is not, in other words, intended as a moral judgment of the women, but is clearly framed as a moral judgment of the men who injured them, and of the society that allowed it.

    So what’s the answer? As I think about this more and more, I think we need to attend to the frame better. This passage is important. It is loaded with pathos–God’s pathos, I think: it deserves better and fuller treatment, better and fuller imaginative attention, clearer and more charitable interpretation and explication, or it does, indeed, risk doing damage. And that sin will be on our heads. “If there are errors,” after all, they are ours.

    As for Jim’s discussion of the Atonement: I agree that healing does not mean reversing, wiping away, undoing. Scars remain, but the symptoms and effects of both suffering and sin can be wiped away. He allows us to suffer so that we learn to suffer well–patiently, and in the hopeful expectation that we will be whole and pure “again,” restored to wholeness. And anyone who knows about restoration knows that the signs and symptoms of damage are healed, but the structure itself is original; that elements that were lost are brought back, re-knit, re-woven, imped, transplanted, etc. The structure–the person–is that same one that was damaged, but the damage has been attended to, for sinner (if repentant) and for sinned against (if receptive) alike. I can’t think of any better sermon on this than Alma 7.

    Anyway, yadda yadda yadda. Thanks for giving me occasion to think this through a little more.

  8. Robert C. said

    Brian, very nice — esp. the cow.

    Anarchist, I agree that chastity is as highly ranked as you describe. What troubles me is how this attitude can be squared with a robust conception the divine worth of rape victims. (Nate Oman has a nice post that nicely articulates my concern.)

    Rameumptom, amen to your comments on charity. Whenever I write something or speak to others, I always worry I won’t be read or heard charitably. It makes me feel empathy for the BoM writers. And it is very gratifying when others do read or listen charitably. Thanks.

    Regarding atonement (Jim, Brian, and JPenny), your comments nicely frame what I increasingly think is the key underlying issue (which I didn’t see very clearly before). JPenny gets at this very clearly: “It was no doubt of little comfort to her that she did not ‘lose’ it: it was taken.” If that which is “most dear and precious” can be taken by others, Mormon’s words shake my confidence in (or at least my understanding of) the atonement, regardless of how the atonement is understood (though I do like and agree with your suggested critiques of, and improvements on, my “heal all wounds” mischaracterization of the atonement).

    In this light, I esp. like JPenny’s suggestion to read Moroni 9:9 as virtue going out “of all of humanity” (and I think Anarchist might’ve been getting at this idea too). And by following this thought up with thoughts from Alma 7 (esp. coupled with Jim’s and Brian’s thoughts on atonement) — yes, I think this a really productive way to frame this . I’ll have to ponder this a lot more. Double thanks.

  9. BrianJ said

    Re. “It was no doubt of little comfort to her that she did not “lose” [her virginity]: it was taken.”

    I’m trying to think of any other crime where the victim is said to have “lost” a virtue. For example:

    - the victim of theft…lost his generosity?
    - the victim of assault…lost her courage?
    - the victim of slavery…lost his temperance?
    - the victim of slander…lost her honesty?

    I can’t think of any—none that I have heard and none that make sense. Certainly the victims in the examples above lost something—property, freedom, life, limb, sense of security, etc.—but not virtue.

    I know that some people, when they say that a victim of rape “lost his/her virginity,” really mean something more along the lines of what Rameumptom says: “The girls were still innocent, but their view of the world, sex and love would never be the same again.” I think this is the correct view.

    Unfortunately, I think many more people use that phrase in an entirely straightforward manner: the victim lost something that is virtuous and therefore valued by society—and by God. This is my understanding of LDSAnarchist’s view: “Now, chastity and virtue, referred to the loss of sexual purity, which purity they considered excellent…. In [God's] perspective, all things live and all things die, but not all things have sexual purity.”

    I reject this definition of the word “virginity.” Or rather, if this is what is meant by “virginity,” then I reject it as being of any value at all. As mentioned above, societies that value virginity in this way inevitably ostracize, blame, and/or devalue the victims. I reject the idea that the victims lost even one bit of their purity or virtue. I’m reminded of 1 Samuel 16:7: “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” The victim’s heart is broken, not impure.

    • Seems pretty spot on to me.

    • [Edited]

      [The law of chastity] makes no differentiation between consensual sex vs. non-consensual sex. This is why is why Mormon said that they were deprived of chastity and virtue. Chastity is a state of being, in relation to the physical body. Although a women may not have voluntarily broken the law herself, it still has been broken in respect to her by someone else. Thus, she has been deprived of chastity and virtue (being in a certain physical state).

      From the Lord’s perspective, there is no difference between temporal and spiritual commandments, for they are all spiritual and all spirit is matter, so it’s all the same to him. Therefore, although the law of chastity deals specifically with the physical body, it is nonetheless a spiritual law. Regardless of how it was broken, of by whom, it still is viewed as broken. The tendency to say, then, that no one can be forcefully deprived of their chastity and that one can remain chaste while being raped, is a misunderstanding of what chastity is. Our modern usages and connotations of the word chastity, or of what it means to be chaste, do not apply to the doctrines given in God’s word. We moderns view being chaste or keeping the law of chastity from a strictly consensual point, and thus make chastity into a purely spiritual state of mind, meaning that because a women did not consent, the rapist cannot deprive her of her chastity, for she remained chaste in her thoughts, but this is erroneous, for chastity is a law about the bodily state, not one’s spiritual or mental state.

      That said, there is no reduction of self-worth implied by the Lord’s laws against rape or the non-consensual breaking of the law of charity. Nevertheless, all sin causes heartbreak and sorrow, both for the sinner and the one sinned against.

      King Benjamin taught: “And I would that ye should remember, that whosoever among you borroweth of his neighbor should return the thing that he borroweth, according as he doth agree, or else thou shalt commit sin; and perhaps thou shalt cause thy neighbor to commit sin also.” (Borrowing and not returning is theft.)

      All sin committed against another is a form of theft. You are forcefully deprived of property, freedom, comfort, bodily integrity, a good reputation, life, etc. Being sinned against in any of these ways does not diminish the worth of the victim. Just as a person who has been robbed doesn’t need to repent of being robbed, so a woman who is raped doesn’t need to repent of being raped. But that doesn’t mean that bad feelings, misery, regret, etc., don’t ensue as a result of another’s actions. (And sometimes, as King Benjamin said, being sinned against causes the victim to sin, creating a cycle of sin.) Loss is loss and its feeling is quite painful. Whether the loss be personal property, chastity, a loved one, or freedom, if the thing lost was cherished as precious, the painful feeling of the loss will be that much more acute. The less cherished or valued the item, the less pain is felt at the loss.

      The Atonement, of course, can heal absolutely everything, even restoring one’s lost virginity, through application of the healing and other gifts, which have power to fully restore a physical body to a virginal state, a mind back to a state without guilt and anguish, a spirit to a state of innocence, etc. The power of the Atonement is not just for the sinner, but also for the sinned against, restoring all, according to their faith, back to a state of wholeness, or excellence. This is what the “restoration of all things” refers to, after all.

      So, although wicked men will commit abominations in society, and in particular against women, that does not excuse us in lowering the value that God places upon chastity in our own eyes. We ought to hold it just as high in our estimation as He does, for this is what emulating Christ is all about. Such a strategy will increase our pain at its loss, if ever it is lost, but that is how it is supposed to be, that we may more fully understand and adopt our God’s perspective.

  10. BrianJ said

    As a side note (perhaps), I am likewise unswayed—meaning, I don’t believe them—by explanations that frame sins against others in the context of offending God. For example, “This is how God viewed the issue, for He (God) had been robbed of this delight (for He delighted in the chastity and virtue of women) by these abominable Nephites, who knowingly rebelled against His revealed laws.”

    If God were offended by the Nephites, he could be offended by their rejection of him, his blessings, his laws. Many of the things the Nephites did surely were intended as deliberate blasphemy. But for God to be upset because he lost his delight in the chastity of women strikes me as wholly selfish when considering what the victims lost. As a father of daughters, I imagine myself in this situation: true, I hope that my daughters will remain chaste, but I hope so for their sake, not mine. If they lose their virginity due to their own poor choices, I will sorrow for them, not for myself. And if they should ever be the victim of any kind of abuse, I would sorrow for them, not for myself.

    It’s like when one of my daughters is sick in the night: Do I grieve because she suffers, or do I grieve because I will have to stay up all night and miss out on a good night’s sleep? I think my “loss” is clearly insignificant in comparison.

    • God is intimate with all created things, for everything belongs to Him. So how you view your daughters does not in any way approximate how He views them. They are yours only superficially, or in name only, whereas, God knows them inside and out and can feel all of the loss they currently feel as well as greater loss than they can, for He knows all that He has in store for the obedient, whereas we all are left in the dark. So, the loss that God feels for the slightest jeopardy in which our spiritual state is placed is infinitely and incomprehensibly greater than any of us can experience. Also, because we own nothing ourselves and are all still God’s, saying that what we do things with “our lives” is not the proper view of things. We are merely stewards. Everything we are belongs to God. If not so, nothing could be taken away from any of us. But, as we stand to lose everything in the second death, all faith, agency, life, etc., not even “our” agency is ours, but just borrowed.

      Given this proper prospective, it becomes important that we learn the will and perspective of the Lord in all things and champion it, so that we become wise and others become wise stewards and so that no one loses their reward. What delights the Lord, then, is of, or should be, of prime importance to everyone, for when He is delighted, He shares that delight with all of creation. The principle “not my will but thine” accords with the law of reciprocity, so we need not worry that by putting God’s delight in first place we will somehow be short-changed.

      This principle of God sorrowing over His loss is seen plainly in Zenos’ allegory. Although the house of Israel was perishing and would suffer themselves, the Lord of the vineyard was more concerned about His own loss, showing the intimate connection God has to all of us.

  11. Robert C. said

    Excellent additional points, Brian.

    This is only loosely related to Brian’s additional comments (#10), but I wonder to what extent we might understand Jacob’s words saying that God “delight[s] in the chastity of women” (Jacob 2:28) in relational-covenantal terms. That is, rather than thinking in terms of God’s personal delight, I’d be inclined to understand this expression as saying that such behavior fulfills the purpose of God’s covenantal relationship with his people.

    One problem of this kind of covenantal view is that it would seem to exclude non-covenantal people. I can think of two responses to this objection/concern.

    (1) If understood w/r/t the covenant with Noah, I think it pertains to all of humanity.

    (2) Admitting this is a problem, perhaps more of a “common good” approach could be taken, but in a similar vein. Chastity, on this view, must be understood not just in terms of individual effects, but in terms of the larger community and culture. This is not to say the individual concerns (pain, heartache, misery, etc.) aren’t of primary importance, but the community itself also suffers. So, when God says he delights in something or is offended/pained by something, this doesn’t take away from the kind of concern for the victim (better: survivor) who is pained by the action, as Brian rightly emphasizes must be prioritized — but, it is a way to explicitly recognize that the sinner and the person sinned against are not the only people who suffer.

    Chastity is, on this view, a kind of public value that is upheld or violated by a whole community: when a sin occurs. the whole community suffers.

    I’d thought briefly about these issues when I chose to use the phrase “rape culture” in the original post. I think culture is a really important part of all of this, and it’s easy to blur the individual vs. communal issues at work.

  12. BHodges said

    Thanks for this post, Robert.

  13. The wording of Moroni 9:9 is defensible from one perspective: it is an effective representation of how the victims felt.

    We may say that the victims should not feel as if they have lost their chastity or virtue, but this is succumbing to a variation of the is/ought fallacy: stating that the world is as it ought to be. Should victims of sexual violence feel unvirtuous or unchaste? No. Do they? Very often, yes.

    The reality is, victims of sexual violence routinely experience deep-seated feelings of shame, guilt, worthlessness, and so forth, and experience those feelings largely independent of their culture. Even women from cultures with high levels of promiscuity and little traditional religion experience those feelings after a rape. They are universal to the experience, and a part of why it is such a horrific crime.

    They are also somewhat general to crime. To the question asked by BrianJ, yes, people who have been the victims of serious crimes often feel deprived of something that they value; they may feel deprived of their sense of security, their sense of privacy, their sense of control over their lives. Victims of fraud are routinely made to feel guilty by the perpetrators of the fraud, who imply that, since they voluntarily contributed to the scheme, they took part in the wrongdoing – a nasty tactic which is used to keep their victims from going to the police, just as molesters make children feel guilty to keep them from going to their parents.

    The bottom line is that people who have been victims of serious crime – but victims of sexual crime in particular – feel deprived of value and innocence by the act. That is why those acts are crime, that is why they are so evil. Moroni 9:9 is an effective description of that brutal reality.

    There is a tendency in our culture to try and strip crimes of their emotional baggage – to insist that victims should not feel guilty, ashamed, upset, etc. Unfortunately, I think that natural tendency – whose aim, generally speaking, is to try and alleviate the suffering of the victim – has the unintended side effect of reducing the apparent seriousness of the crime. The more we insist that women have been sexually assaulted should not feel ashamed about it, the more we are tempted to think that they don’t feel ashamed about it (even though they actually do), and the more tempted we are to think that maybe it isn’t as big a deal after all.

    The scriptures are actually clear on the issue of real guilt, or responsibility, for the act – the victim of a violent action is clearly not responsible for it, and is not guilty before the law or the Lord for it. This is perfectly clear as in, e.g., Deuteronomy 22:26, which directly equates being the victim of a sexual crime with being the victim of a violent crime, and states that the victim is innocent. (And Moroni 9:9 should arguably be read in that light – even though the later Nephites were no longer under the Law of Moses, general principles as laid out in the Law were certainly understood by them.)

    One final protest, before I am instructed to get my own blog – while I think there is in fact a problem with a “rape culture” in modern society, I would issue a strong protest against any association made between that culture and traditional views on sexuality. The rise of sexual crime in our society is a modern phenomenon. Forcible rape in the U.S. doubled in one short decade, from 1960 to 1969, then doubled again from 1970 to 1985. If there was any sudden resurgence in interest in traditional values between 1960 and 1969, I am not aware of it; the opposite would appear to be the case. Attempts to associate modern sexual violence with traditional values that predate the modern era by more than a century are not just wrong, they are, in my view, a deliberate attempt to mislead, and to avoid a frank discussion of the horrific toll inflicted on society by the social revolution of the 1960′s. Any discussion of “rape culture” in our day and age should be prefaced by a recognition that the rise in sexual violence is demonstrably associated with modern changes in thinking.

    • BrianJ said

      Interesting thoughts, and certainly your point about how the victim feels is spot on.

      I find two points, however, where I must push back or disagree. First, your response to the question I posed (in #9) did not address the question I asked. I asked the question:

      “[Are there] crimes where the victim is said to have ‘lost’ a virtue?”

      You answered two different questions:

      “Are there crimes where the victim is said to have lost something of value?”

      and

      “Are there crimes where the victim is made to feel that they have lost a virtue?”

      Second, while I see your point about modern sexuality and modern sexual violence, I don’t understand your apparent intent (correct me if I’m wrong) to completely free pre-modern culture from responsibility for “rape culture.” Rape culture is not a modern invention. I believe that the intent of Robert’s post was to root out any and all sources of rape culture. His reason for discussing one cause in particular in this post is found in his second paragraph.

      • I don’t know that I can answer your question directly, because I am not confident that our modern use of “virtue” – as “moral excellence”, etc. – is what is intended here. The word “virtue” has very limited use in the King James Version of the Bible, and is literally found in only one other instance in the Book of Mormon, and all other places where it is used, it has more of the sense of being a power or an attribute which one can seek or acquire, rather than a descriptive characteristic of a person. (“Virtuous” is used in the latter sense, but of course it is not “virtuous” that is being used here.)

        Regardless of the sense in which “virtue” is used, however, the real problem is in the jump from “loss of virtue” to “guilt for sexual sin” or “loss of righteousness before God” – a jump which Mormon does not make, but which many commentators have assumed. That jump depends upon a reading that focuses on the words while ignoring the context.

        I should clarify that my original response represents my own views – that the wording chosen is designed to carry a sense of the full horror of the crime, and of the feelings of the victims in particular (rather than using the clinically correct but emotionally empty terminology that we favor). But regardless of how the wording is intended, it is an abuse of the text to claim that Mormon is implying guilt on the part of the victims – not in light of the following verses, where he decries the “depravity” and “wickedness” of his own people and calls for the judgments of God to fall upon them.

        With respect to the issue of “rape culture”, my general view is that pre-modern culture is responsible for the crimes committed in pre-modern culture, and modern culture is reponsible for the crimes committed in modern culture. The implied argument that sexual assault is somehow a relic of a previous era, a product of traditions carried over from less enlightened times, is not supported by the facts, which clearly show a sharp rise in rates of sexual assault in recent decades, and which have some of the most modernized and secularized countries – e.g., Sweden and Canada – toward the top of the list for rates of sexual assault.

        If “rape culture” is to be addressed as an issue, the starting point should be the elements of Western culture – movies, television, music, popular fiction, computer games, pornography, stand-up comedy – that are common to Western society, and that have come to dominate it in the last four decades as rates of sexual assualt have risen sharply. Obscure passages in the sacred texts of minority religious groups – who in the past formed communities where sexual crimes were a rarity – are not a logical starting point for a discussion on the problem of rape in modern Western society.

      • BrianJ said

        HubertHawkins: “Regardless of the sense in which “virtue” is used, however, the real problem is in the jump from “loss of virtue” to “guilt for sexual sin” or “loss of righteousness before God” – a jump which Mormon does not make, but which many commentators have assumed.”

        I don’t see any commentators here making or accusing Mormon of making that jump—not even LDSAnarchist, who gets the closest to something like that. As much as I disagree with him/her, I still see a stark difference in his/her argument. Rather, I see people here discussing 1) how people in our culture make that jump, 2) how they misuse Mormon’s words to support that jump, and 3) how Mormon’s words, even properly interpreted and understood, may still be wrong. (And, of course, the main concern of the original post, which wasn’t even about rape per se. Rape culture was merely an example to discuss a different question: What should we do when we find something in scripture repudiable?)

        “If “rape culture” is to be addressed as an issue, the starting point should be…”

        Why should there be only one “logical starting point”? This post began as a discussion of concerns expressed most recently and publicly by one victim in particular: Elizabeth Smart. And inasmuch as her concerns relate to—and perhaps stem from—Moroni 9, then that scripture (hardly “obscure” in this context) is the logical place to start.

        I don’t see where anyone “implied…that sexual assault is somehow a relic of a previous era, a product of traditions carried over from less enlightened times….” The concern here has not been “what begets rape?” but rather “what leaves victims of rape feeling guilty or permanently unacceptable?”

        In other words, I think you want to discuss the causes of rape—certainly an important topic—whereas this discussion has been about the causes of the guilt felt by rape victims.”

  14. Robert C. said

    HH #13, thanks — excellent thoughts! I’d be esp. interested in hearing more about what research (and thinking) has been done with regard to the rape statistics you mention.

  15. One comment to a point made in the original post – Mormon spends a great deal talking about war because, well, he was a military commander, and as a general rule he prefers to talk about things he does know (Christianity, warfare) while taking a more abbreviated approach to things he does not know as well (economics, politics, culture, etc.)

    The reason for the bulk of “the war chapters”, however, is even more simple: Mormon loved Captain Moroni. Mormon cannot say enough about Captain Moroni, and exhaustively documents his entire military career. He even names his son after him!

    That is certainly due to the great respect he had for him as a person; ” if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni . . . ” Is there a more complimentary description in all of scripture of any mortal man?

    But beyond that, I think Mormon identified with Captain Moroni’s situation: he led a badly outnumbered, demoralized force, against a vastly more numerous foe, with the survival of his civilization hanging in the balance. Not only that, but he faced deep moral decay in both government and society at large. Mormon saw, in Captain Moroni’s situation, a parallel to his own; and at some level he must have hoped that his situation would end as did Captain Moroni’s, with the survival of his society and the restoration of his people to a commitment to the true faith.

    That was not the outcome, of course. And perhaps Mormon sensed that it would not be. But he could live vicariously through Captain Moroni’s successes, in documenting them in great detail.

    In summary, the war chapters are there to serve many reasons, but the main one I can see is personal. Mormon wanted the reader to become as acquainted with the man of Captain Moroni as he was, and to gain the admiration for Captain Moroni that he possessed; and by and large, I think he succeeded.

  16. jimslds said

    This was very good Robert C. and very thought provoking considering all the great comments and passion it has brought out. I’m not sure I can add much, but would like to contribute nonetheless. If you could take the time to share with us, then this is my way of saying thank you, even if I do not agree with everything and do not articulate it in a scholarly way. It’s meant in a good spirit. You guys are awesome!

    Another reason for the importance on chastity & virtue:

    Since there are many of the unborn whom are about the throne of our Father in Heaven, waiting for the opportunity to take upon themselves a tabernacle of clay, so as to clothed their spirit like a fit garment, to be taken up for all eternity, it’s no wonder that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue, and even sacred is so important to heavenly father. Women are the portals, the gatekeepers for those whom are yet unborn into mortality, even many of our own children.

    When I look it at it from that perspective, I see something beautiful, holy and most sacred , even spiritual for mankind, or at least that would be my hope, and I would venture say, to our Heavenly Father. After all, it is His purpose and His glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. And when each of these souls enter into a covenant with Him, it adds to His glory. At this juncture or perhaps any other, I do not think there is much else we can add.

    Moroni 9:9 And notwithstanding this great abomination of the Lamanites, it doth not exceed that of our people in Moriantum. For behold, many of the daughters of the Lamanites have they taken prisoners; and after depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue— When I read this verse, I see something beautiful and quite fit for us.

    After reading what has already been said on this scripture, it is obviously arguable, but I do not see this as a contribution to a rape culture, but see this scripture as something that would add to God’s glory and for the honor and glory of woman/women and ultimately all mankind. This may seem a bit naive or too simplistic but my feelings on the matter. If we make it a problem, it’s our problem, not Mormons. He is following the laws of God.

    Joseph Smith never claimed to be perfect and I do not recall any other prophet claiming to be, unless you are referring to Jesus. I wonder why the weak things of the earth are chosen. Sometimes those of higher learning, the wise, over analyze everything. And I am not inferring this toward anyone here, as this is a great learning experience. It is good to do our best to understand the true meaning of scripture. As was already mentioned, we do not know the meaning of all things, have all the scripture, and not sure of translation, esp. due to language differences, etc..

    When a young woman or any other person is raped, it’s a bad and terrible thing, but that’s it. That person, or young woman , can be loved, nurtured back, treated with gentleness, long suffering together, and taught or reminded of the atonement, and that she is a beautiful creature, and of a noble birthright, even a daughter and child of a Heavenly Father, no matter what was previous learned or taught. The past does not equal the future. We wear the scars as has been said [all disciples must wear the battle scars of life], but the atonement can and does truly heal us.

    If we have a problem with Moroni, what about Spencer W. Kimball?

    “It is better to die in defending one’s virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle.” Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 196

    Many take this out of context. I highly doubt that if Spencer W. Kimball were alive today and was faced with the Elizabeth Smart scenario would blame Elizabeth or any other woman, and punish her for a loss of virtue. I think like many of Christ’s teachings, it was to place a high and serious importance on it. I can- not and do not think Spencer W. Kimball or any other prophet has demonstrated poor judgment or teachings, based on a lifetime of their good works and teachings. I am comfortable with following the prophets, after all, this is what I teach my sons and daughters.

    By being raped, I do not believe virtue has not been taken, but virginity. It is the sin of someone else who stole the use of the body for their own moment of gratification and sickness.

    The victim of rape had no choice in the matter —sometimes not knowing beforehand what to do or even what you are feeling or experiencing, to submit and SURVIVE is the right thing to do so that she/he can bring the perpetrator to justice and prevent it from happening to someone else!
    There is a saying in the military. “You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it.” We don’t have to agree with all scripture and everything a prophet or apostle has to say, per say, if that is a person’s viewpoint, we just need to be obedient, be diligent, and quick to observe would be an added bonus to move us along the path.

    On occasion I come some whom question a prophet or an apostles viewpoint and if we do have such a question, why not go directly to the source for further clarification, rather than hypothesizing?

  17. Robert C. said

    HH #15, regarding Captain Moroni and the war chapters, I like your suggestions for why they might be there. I think these ideas have merit, and there is at least some truth in them. However, I am also not completely satisified by your answers, and I think my lack of satisfaction is importantly related to the thrust of my original post here.

    I think my main concern is simply I worry about my own tendency to take the line of reasoning you suggest as a way to effectively dismiss the lessons of these chapters. Frankly, I am very uncomfortable with Captain Moroni’s tendency to revert relatively quickly to violence (when, for example, he puts to death those who don’t commit to defending freedom in Alma 46:35).

    I am thus tempted to cope with my own feeling of revulsion (toward violence) here by saying that (1) Mormon only praised Captain Moroni because Mormon was himself a military man interested in these kind of epic battle episodes in the Book of Mormon, and then my next argument is that (2) I can continue my own thinking that both Captain Moroni and Mormon had attitudes toward violence that are not wholly inspired. I’m very nervous about (2), and it’s the link between (1) and (2) that makes me nervous (1).

    So, to bring this back to my relationship example, the war chapters are for me kind of like when one of my close friends acts in a manner that I don’t understand: although I am tempted to explain their action by some theory I have about them as people, if I am more honest with myself, I recognize a large gap between my theory and their action. For me, this kind of gap still exists with Captain Moroni’s actions in Alma 46:35, as it does with the way Mormon talks about rape and virtue.

    For more regarding my own struggle with this issue of violence, and my discomfort with Grant Hardy’s overly critical (IMHO…) take on Captain Moroni, see here).

  18. Robert C. said

    Regarding the follow-up discussion by Hubert and Brian in #13, and regarding Jim’s #15, this discussion highlights to me an underlying tension that pertains to this issue of chastity — a tension that I think is quite common in various Gospel settings.

    On the one hand, to say that rape does not have (or shouldn’t have) significant, lasting effects on the victim is to undermine the seriousness of rape as a sin/crime.

    On the other hand, to say that rape does have significant, lasting effects on the victim is to risk the victim feeling . . . well, victimized, and in a way that subverts the victim’s feelings of self worth.

    In a sense, I think this is the key tension underlying most of the discussion on this thread (including my original post). And, in a sense, I think it’s a nice way to think about the underlying tension at work with the atonement between faith and works, or the law and repentance, or justice and mercy, etc. That is, on the one hand, we condemn the sin (the law, work, justice), and on the other hand we emphasize the hope of repentance and forgiveness that follows from God’s unconditional love for us as his sons and daughters. On the one hand we eschew disobedience, on the other hand we embrace the disobedient.

    Now, the implications of applying this two-handed view to our contemporary cultural situation, and the challenges we face as Mormons living amidst broader cultural currents, is very challenging. So what I like about Hubert’s set of questions is that I think it effectively challenges us to reflect on the link between various modern manifestations of rape culture and the larger cultural transformations that have occurred, esp. over the last 50 years.

    To focus on problems associated with rape culture without considering the relation to these larger cultural shifts is perhaps to miss the forest for the trees (i.e., to focus on one hand holding a $100 bill but forgetting the other hand holding the wallet? or, in my parenting example, to rebel against everything my parents taught me because I’m offended by their dislike of my music?).

    That said, I will add that I don’t think there are obvious answers Hubert’s set of questions. Why have rape statistics have increased the past 50 years (assuming they have — I haven’t checked this myself)? How much of this can be explained by an increase in reports rather than just occurrences? How much of this change can be explained as, effectively, backlash against unhealthy Vicotorian-era attitudes to sexuality, or unhealthy Christian attitudes (which Mormonism has mostly inherited) toward our bodies in general? How do our own attitudes toward our bodies, to sexuality, to modesty, etc., continue to propagate these unhealthy aspects of our culture (past and present)?

    These are all questions that I think deserve careful and charitable consideration. After all, I think there’s a temptation here to find scapegoats — such as “the media,” or “liberalism,” or “the 60s,” etc. — to serve as an explanation and excuse that just reinforces our own cherished ideological biases and dogmas, without learning the lessons about ourselves and our culture that I think the scriptures really want to teach us….

  19. Jim Siniscalchi said

    After re-visiting this post, I’d like to change my position on the below statements. Sometimes, I fall asleep at the wheel.

    When a young woman or any other person is raped, it’s a bad and terrible thing, but that’s it.

    To

    When a young woman or any other person is raped, it’s a bad and terrible thing, although her virtue may have been taken, not all is lost. Although she may have had her virtue taken from her, she can, in a day future, be healed, and as leaders, parents, and society, we must make it our business to help them.
    By being raped, I do not believe virtue has not been taken, but virginity. It is the sin of someone else who stole the use of the body for their own moment of gratification and sickness.

    To

    By being raped, I do believe virtue has been taken, as well as virginity. Although, it is the sin of someone else who stole the use of the body for their own moment of gratification and sickness.

    The victim of rape had no choice in the matter —sometimes not knowing beforehand what to do or even what you are feeling or experiencing, to submit and SURVIVE is the right thing to do so that she/he can bring the perpetrator to justice and prevent it from happening to someone else!

    I would first advocate, and I teach my own children to fight, yell, scream, and other such things, when dealing with violence at them. A little training can go a long way. Bullies and perpetrators generally, do not like the attention drawn to them, and like more timid and easier targets, especially ones that won’t put up a fight.

    Robert, until this post, I’ve never really given this topic of rape culture any thought. I’m not sure I am any closer, or rather, I’m pretty sure that I am not, in offering much satisfaction in an answer to your liking. Nevertheless, thank you for your patience and charity. I am glad to take part in this thought process being shared by those here, as it’s certainly given me much to consider and new ways of thinking and studying things out. I really enjoyed all the comments given by everyone, even if your name was not mentioned by me in the example below. There was much merit and very good arguments or cases to defend ones’ understanding and which I felt shed further light and knowledge to the rest of us.
    The thing I do not really understand specifically (after reading your post and other comments) is why Moron 9:9 seems to be thought of as “do they (Mormon’s words) contribute to some rape culture”?

    Is it really because they feel their leaders (or Mormon) value them less or that they just feel of less value or diminished because of being raped, based on Moroni 9:9 and other such teachings?

    From my standpoint, it ought and needs be taught, that chastity and virtue are most sacred, as it has to do with bringing those whom are anxiously awaiting, the very children of God, to come into earth life and to have the chance for mortality, immortality, and perhaps eternal life. Being clean, chaste, and by becoming vessels of virtue, that the Lord has provided through women, the mother of our children and ultimately His to come into earth life and for that life to continue evermore.

    If Mormon truly understood this [Moroni 9:9] as according to a higher purpose & understanding according to the laws of God, which I think is most probable, and according to [5. LDS Anarchist explanation (which I happen to like & agree with), Again, Mormon is giving us God’s perspective], not his own, then that is law which is everlastingly unchangeable & irrevocable.
    I just went into the kitchen and saw on the table a covered plate with most delicious looking and appetizing food on it, but then thought oh, that was in the refrigerator and forgotten about, and now it was left on the table to be thrown out. It no longer seemed appealing since the food had probably gone bad. I asked my wife why it had been left in the refrigerator and not served for dinner much earlier in time. I told her this looked like it was a good dinner and now I was bummed. For which, She immediately replied, when I picked up Marlie (our oldest daughter, 14) at the block party, they had all this wonderful food and I brought a plate home for you (I felt, well, you know how I must have felt) When I heard that, all of a sudden this food became most desirable and delicious to the tasting and I was salivating before it even reached my mouth. I had a very nice plate of food and then thought, wow, this might be a good analogy to share.

    Does the question becomes how we” see things” and “deal with things’? So far, it appears we haven’t as a people/church, society dealt with it very effectively with this topic. [Is this where the problem lies?] Also, I think there is merit to Hubert’s explanation on society in general and how our culture of videos, porn, TV, stand-up comedians, technology, etc… have had such a societal influence, and in excess has shown to change moral values, repress feelings and value for life in some cases.

    Also, can we [society/church/individuals change this epidemic, find better or the best ways to deal with scripture pertaining to chastity & virtue, words of the prophets on this matter, and how to effectively teach and make a difference for this and future generations? I believe we can.

    If it can be shown that these scriptures are not true or somehow Mormon or others got it wrong and it's not according to a higher understanding of God's law's, than that could change everything, or not change anything. Why not ask the GA's to address these concerns more FULLY, OPENLY, and with scriptural, and who knows, perhaps prophetic insight & instruction in light of all the challenges? For that matter, why couldn’t it be asked for an explanation on the Law of Consecration and any other concerns that some of you may have?

    For me, personally, I trust the brethren, and know that there must needs be a good reason and when and in good timing all things may and perhaps will be known. Although not infallible, certainly, they are among the most noble and high caliber of men and women upon the earth, so far as I am concerned.

    When a person is victimized and there are feelings of guilt or something that subverts the victim's feeling, I do not think there is denial by anyone, that there may, or will be suffering.

    Regardless of prior teachings and instruction, some people will suffer more than others from these traumatic experiences. Being that the victim is still alive, that alone is plenty to be thankful for and attention to the fragile nature of life and to have an attitude of gratitude for this alone. I know this is hard, but is was never meant to be easy, only worth it. I can hear the critics; I don’t understand the trauma of having just been raped. Well, I’m from New York, I know dings…smile. I have a lifetime of painful dings.

    You see, the more thou suffereth painful dings, the more thou knowest thou art doing it right. In this life there is going to be some measure of pain and suffering.

    We can be there for these victim's, to nurture and love them, being patient and long suffering, teaching them as best we can in "light of God's law's or scripture" if that is or has been of concern to the victim, it ought to be explained with sensitivity and truthfulness, and provide counseling, and over time the atonement can work it's healing miracle. We must trust and have faith in a higher power, to make this weighted burden carried...lighter, as has been promised. In some measure there will be scars by all who pass through mortality. If thought about in that perspective it can serve in likeness of Christ who bore the ultimate scars for each of us.

    As far as the church is concerned, maybe all that needs to be done, is to modify and to further teach that if by unfortunate happenstance or circumstance, a woman or anyone that is raped or somehow loses "what is most precious" that they are of value and never will be devalued, and will always remain beautiful and delightful, [Although virtue taken it need not be dwelt on, but if asked simply answered and LOVE them, and help them on the way to continue living virtuous lives].

    Help the raped victim understand they have not done anything wrong, and that they will always be loved by a loving Heavenly Father. For the person that made poor choices the same applies, but there is a need to repent and a repentance process.

    I don’t know that we have to wait for policy change to start teaching this or some better way of what I am trying to convey, before or after any traumatic event, such as rape?
    People are going to have various experiences, education, personal experiences, and upbringing, that shape how they will respond, some positive and some will be negative, and that is all part of this fallen world we were born into, but it doesn’t have to remain so and through our help and better teaching, education, prayer, faith, hope and charity and the pure love of Christ, all can be healed in due time.

    Traumatic experiences in life may require more time and healing.

    We must bring this into perspective, that we were all there in the pre-mortal grand counsel and even knowing all the calamities we’d face on our mortal sojourn, sang with joy for the opportunity to come into this realm of existence to gain for ourselves fleshy tabernacles of clay that will become as a fit garment to our spirits for time and eternity.

    It’s very late and I’m tired and probably shouldn’t be writing/ typing, so I hope this is being articulated in a meaningful manner. Charity please…Good night or morning to all!

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