Removing the Masculinity from Alma 39

“Which do you like best,” asked my brother. “The Book of Mormon, or the Old or New Testament?”

 

He was only a year older than me, and at the time of this question, we were each only about 6 or 7 years old. “The Bible,” I said, not sure what he was talking about.

 

“Old one or New one?”

 

“The one with Jesus.”

 

“I like the Book of Mormon best.” Then he added with a sneer, “Because it has more wars.”

 

“Mine is better because it has Jesus,” I said.

 

“The Book of Mormon has Jesus, too.” he victoriously announced before adding, “And wars. Lots of wars.”

 

I stood by my choice, the New Testament ! Sure of this, I began to leaf through the scriptural picture books that my mother collected for us. Finding drawings of Jesus in the New Testament, I knew: This was my favourite book of scriptures. But I decided to have a look at the Book of Mormon picture book, because I didn’t believe Jesus was in there. And to be honest, I can’t recall if I ever did find drawings of Jesus in that particular children’s edition of the Book of Mormon, though I know now that Jesus also appears in the Book of Mormon.

 

But as a child, looking through the pages of the children’s Book of Mormon, I became distracted—it has so many drawings of boys and men. I liked the men who were painted in bright red outfits, but I struggled to find images of women. From memory, I saw three: One of Sariah, being doubtful and looking forlorn. Another of the Lamanite girls screaming as the priests of King Noah took them. And lastly, Abish. She was dressed in dank, dark colours, looking every whit a slave.  None of the women looked happy.

 

Compared to the New Testament picture book, this was nearly void of women—especially happy-looking women. Yes. I was assured that my choice was best: images of happy women with Jesus. My favourite was the New Testament.

 

Even at such a young age, the masculine and feminine influences of Book of Mormon picture books, and likely the words, influenced me in regard to gender.  They also influenced my brother as his voice pounded out verses to “Book of Mormon Stories,” which were a masculine fit for boys bent on adventure. Even within the later-added additional verses, not a single female is mentioned within this song; armies, battles, arrows and sons—it is a march of masculinity, meant to be sung by a chorus of children.

 

 

It is no wonder then that the song, the picture books and all of the early influences that I had in regard to the Book of Mormon were masculine.  The book itself seemed subject to masculine perceptions, on more than on occasion, men have told me that there are no women in the book of Mormon. These were not daft men; they most certainly had read the book. But they read it with a masculine vision, disregarding the females. (masculine = power, male = gender see Connell, Gender and Power).

 

As I grew older and sought for more than pretty pictures in children’s scripture books, I searched the women in the book for Mormon. As I began to think that I might never marry, and therefore might never be a parent, I likewise began to search for women in the scriptures who were not identified by marriage or motherhood. And, upon my father’s death, I sought for women who were not positioned as daughters. Those women are few and far between, especially in the Book of Mormon. But it was here that I first was introduced to Isabel. She has only two sentences, but is yet important enough to be included in the scriptures meant for us today.

 

Alma 39: 3-4 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.

 

Ouch. Can you imagine being recorded in scripture as only a “harlot”? Even King David is remembered primarily as a hero and prophet, and secondarily as a fallen prophet. But Isabel is limited to a single, unkind, label. And why? She seems to have stolen Corianton’s heart, when his father intended for him to serve a mission.

 

Most often, this scripture is intended to highlight the grossness of sexual sin. However,

but for the term “harlot,” the only other mention of sexual sin might be in verse 9, wherein Alma uses the term “lust” when he speaks to Coriantion: “Now my son, I would that ye should repent and forsake your sins, and go no more after the lusts of your eyes…”

 

So was a physical sexual sin committed? Or was it just in Corianton’s heart and mind? Would a father who is angry at his son for ditching a mission then go to label the son’s crush in a demeaning manner, as means of insulting his son? I think so.

 

A few years ago, a friend’s daughter went to a church dance. This young woman was beautiful- inside and out. She was a physically fit basketball player, in line to graduate from high school, then was on her way to BYU. She wore a dress that went past her knees, covered her shoulders and had a conservative neckline. It was not tight, nor was it snug, but fit her comfortably. Yet…. she was forbidden from entering the dance. The man at the dance entrance, a father of sons, deemed her attire “immodest.” When she pointed out that she could comfortable wear garments if she needed, and that the dress was chosen by her and her parents, he remained firm. Her feminine, statuesque form, though draped appropriately in copious amounts of fabric, was to blame; in other words, her body and the idea of her body – not her clothing or dress– was too physically attractive. Thus, she was forbidden entrance by a man, who deemed her a harlot. He saw and labelled her as someone who would lead young men away from clean choices.

 

I argue that this is the same manner in which Alma spoke of Isabel. I think he labelled her with a sexually derogatory term because it was the most demeaning way in which he could attack the young woman his son seemed to think was special. (So far as we can tell, she might not have even known Corianton existed; maybe he just had a crush on her from afar.) It was her presence and ability to distract Corianton that seem to have contributed to his lack of desire to serve a mission, not the possibility of physical, sexual sin. In fact, in further scripture, it says nothing of adultery, but rather the words emphasise unnamed sins, focusing heavily on the sin of omission because Thou shouldst have tended to the ministry wherewith thou wast entrusted.” (verse 4)

 

Because the Book of Mormon is a masculine collection of stories, we often read it through a lens that has been contorted by the male gaze.  In this, we miss a powerful concept that otherwise becomes lost in a haze of perceived sexual sin; this is the sin of omission.

 

I personally feel the sting of the sin of omission much more powerfully than I do when I think of sexual sin. I feel the burn of omission in not being a good enough missionary, mother, wife, servant of Christ and everything else.

 

Perhaps that is why it is more conformable for us to look upon Isabel in a masculine light; by blaming her for sexual sin, we can ignore our own sins of omission. After all, what do we really know of Isabel, other than the fact that Corianton was distracted by her, and Alma did not like her? In the end, I don’t think she was the sinner, because when we remove the label of “harlot” from the story, the story changes immensely.

 

What do you see when you read this story from a feminine perspective, rather than through the lens of masculinity? What is the story Isabel teaching you?

Spunky

Spunky lives in Queensland, Australia. She loves travel and aims to visit as many church branches and wards in the world as possible.

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36 Responses

  1. Em says:

    Interesting take. Even if we take at face value the designation harlot (she was literally a prostitute) we see pernicious patriarchy. I always read it as Corianton was visiting a prostitute and was crazy about her. So Corianton is committing sexual sin just like Isabel. But one is an erring boy needing a fatherly chat and the woman is completely and irretrievably defined by her sexuality. Not to mention the fact that prostitution doesn’t happen in a vacuum. If she’s selling sex it’s because she lives in a society and economy that has removed all other survival options. You can’t have a prostitute without Johns but it’s the woman who is seen as the problem, rather than the victim.

    I also like the NT best for similar reasons. I like hearing about women who are considered people in their own right, not just as relatives of important men or extras in a man’s heroic journey

    • Spunky says:

      I agree, Em– the woman is blamed for Corianton’s choices- sexual or not. Maybe that is why Alma spoke of her so bitterly.

      There really are so many ways of looking at this! Early dictionary definitions of the term “harlot” describe it as someone who is a vagabond, homeless, or similar. I think it is interesting that she “lives by the boarders of the Lamanites–” perhaps she is a vagabond? Or a a kind og gypsy entertainer, between two lands? Or perhaps she is mixed-race (Nephite and Lamanite), also a result of living between boarders, rather than within a community. As soon as we look at HER and what little we know of her, she story changes. The male/sexual positioning is limited, and therefore in the end, teaches us only one lesson.

  2. Caroline says:

    Ohhh, I love this rereading of these verses! Nothing makes me more excited than reclaiming women that have been tossed aside and written off as unworthy. This totally reminds me of feminist midrash. And I also love that you connect the ways this woman was treated with the way your young friend was treated at the dance. Male gaze, indeed. Thanks, Spunky!

    • Spunky says:

      Thank you so much, Caroline! In thinking of this, I felt a sense a feminist midrash. In the end, her inclusion *must* be important, else why include her by name? The Hebrew meaning of Isabel is “God is my oath”– furthering her complex position in this story.

  3. Olea says:

    I so hope the sealed section is filled with stories of women – that as we prepare ourselves to hear their perspectives, we’ll be blessed with rich narratives.

    Of course, there’s no need to wait for this hypothetical, far-off day when we have authors like you to write reorientations like this. Thank you, Spunky!

  4. Andrew R. says:

    Perspective is everything. As women (especially feminists) you read the name and the title and think degrading of women, masculine influence, etc.

    I read “Sexual sin is an abomination” as per BRM’s synopsis at the top of the chapter. I read of pointing out to Corianton that he followed after his own desires (which happen to have been Isabel – could have been anyone) and not the path the Lord had called him on. He calls him out for being a bad example, and failing in his mission as a result.

    Whether Isabel was a beautiful women who many desired and came after, or she was a prostitute that many wanted to use the services of, is irrelevant in the story of Corianton and his path of sin.

    Nothing in the Book of Mormon passes judgement on Isabel, or speaks to her position with God.

    • ElleK says:

      “Whether Isabel was a beautiful women who many desired and came after, or she was a prostitute that many wanted to use the services of, is irrelevant in the story of Corianton and his path of sin.”

      Sure, okay, but it IS relevant in the story of Isabel, which is what Spunky was writing about. Does her post contain conjecture? Of course it does. As she noted, there are only two sentences about Isabel. Perhaps she is right; perhaps she is wrong; but she does bring up a good point: that what we know about Isabel is written by an angry, anguished man who may or may not be using her as a scapegoat. What Spunky has done here is not unusual; seeking to expand understanding of minor characters in the scriptures through context is regularly done across religious traditions.

      There are only three named women in the Book of Mormon (six if you include the three named women from the Bible: Mary, Sarah, and Eve). Is it any wonder that some of us feel a hunger to know and understand more about these women and their lives?

    • spunky says:

      Thank you, ElleK!

      So here’s the thing, AndrewR, what is Bruce R. McConkie was wrong? Or at least missed out on the fact that the real sin could have been the sin of omission? (therefore enacting *THE* sin of omission in and of itself.) What if Corianton was trying to covert Isabel– rather than going on the mission as intended? Or maybe they liked going to clubs, dancing and so on– as in, they were a popular among those of similar age?

      Alma later said this: “Behold, O my son, how great iniquity ye brought upon the Zoramites; for when they saw your conduct they would not believe in my words. (v 11)” See here– Alma was embarrassed by Corianton’s behaviour and blamed Corianton for *his* own poor missionary skills. Haven’t we all had a similar experience where Mormons act in such an unChristlike way that those outside of Mormondom won’t believe what we are saying (Ammon Bundy?)?

      I don’t think that it is unrealistic that in his frustration and embarrassment that Alma called Isabel a name as a means of getting the message across to his son of his utmost disapproval. But if you really think that verse is all about sex– then…what is the point of addressing missionary work?

  5. EFH says:

    What is interesting about the Book of Mormon is that the stories, discussions, and opinions stated are so representative of our world today – war, women and children dying, family relationships etc. What struck me in this story is that while the story of Alma and Corianton is about their relationship and following God’s path and being good missionaries, yet not only Corianton fails in it but indirectly even Alma. While Corianton’s sins can be recycled and he can redeem himself by putting aside his personal ambitions, Alma considers Isabel as a lost cause for redemption. She cannot recycle her sins and Alma deems her unworthy of conversion and missionary work. Such a paradox from a man dedicating his life to missionary work.

    • Andrew R. says:

      Sorry, where is this to be found? I can not see the words where Alma “considers Isabel as a lost cause for redemption”. Nor that he “deems her unworthy of conversion and missionary work”.

      Please supply the verse so that I may read it.

      • EFH says:

        Hi Andrew, I never wrote that I quoted those words directly from the text. Please, do pay attention. What I wrote is my interpretation of the scenario, what I think Alma’s attitude might be. Cheers~

    • spunky says:

      Agreed, EFH. Well stated,

  6. ElleK says:

    This chapter has been a troubling one to me for a long time. The prevailing interpretation of verse 5 (“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?”), as mentioned in the chapter heading, is that “sexual sin is an abomination.” I have heard many times that sexual sins are “second only to murder and denying the Holy Ghost,” but that interpretation seems like a stretch to me. Alma says “these things,” implying more than one of Corianton’s sins, and he’d just given a list of them:
    1. “thou didst go on unto boasting in thy strength and thy wisdom” (v.2)
    2. “thou didst forsake the ministry” (v.3)
    3. “did go over into the land of Siron among the borders of the Lamanites, after the harlot Isabel”(v. 3)
    4. “Thou shouldst have tended to the ministry wherewith thou wast entrusted.” (v.4)

    It seems to me that the abominable sin had more to do with forsaking his ministry and committing the other sins while a missionary than it did with him having sex. If he was boastful and obnoxious and generally making it impossible for people to be converted, the fact that he potentially had a public dalliance (which we don’t actually know for sure) is just the tip of the iceberg.

    It is damaging how we take this one very specific instance and generalize it. For example, in the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet under Sexual Purity, it says: “The prophet Alma taught that sexual sins are more serious than any other sins except murder or denying the Holy Ghost (see Alma 39:5).” Immediately after, it gives a long list of mostly minor sexual “gateway sins,” leading many young people to believe that masturbation and passionate kissing are “next to murder” in severity. It’s seriously messed up.

    Rape is next to murder, certainly. But masturbation or even consensual sex between two people who love each other? No way.

    Thanks for helping me think about Isabel in a new way, Spunky.

    • Andrew R. says:

      Why try to put too much into it just to try to show that the Book of Mormon, and therefore the Church, is damning of women.

      Corianton is told off by his Dad for going to a prostitute. That the prostitute’s name is known is an indication of how easy it was to acquire the services of one, and that she was sort after.

      However, no comment is made about Isabel in relation to her condition. With no knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and no teachings that what she is doing is wrong, we would not condemn her anyway.

      Alma then explains that sleeping with a women, not your wife, is a sin just shy of murder and sinning against the Holy Ghost. I have no problem with that. he does not mention masturbation, or even petting. Generally a prostitute is sought for intercourse.

      This is about Corianton’s sin.

      • ElleK says:

        “Why try to put too much into it just to try to show that the Book of Mormon, and therefore the Church, is damning of women.”

        Did you even read my comment? When did I say that?

        “Corianton is told off by his Dad for going to a prostitute. That the prostitute’s name is known is an indication of how easy it was to acquire the services of one, and that she was sort after.” –This is one interpretation. There are many other possible interpretations. She may have been a prostitute, but she may not have been. Women throughout history have been called whores, harlots, and prostitutes when there was no truth to it.

        “Alma then explains that sleeping with a women, not your wife, is a sin just shy of murder and sinning against the Holy Ghost.” Actually, Alma does not explain that. In fact, he doesn’t mention chastity at all. Like I said above, that appears to be the prevailing interpretation of that verse by church leaders, but I think it’s a major stretch. Corianton’s sin was clearly more egregious than just sex, or even paying for sex–it had more to do with forsaking his ministry and messing up their missionary efforts. Perhaps sex was a part of that, but it wasn’t even the main part.

        “he does not mention masturbation, or even petting.” Right. Alma does not. But the church does in the FTSOY pamphlet. Again, it says: “The prophet Alma taught that sexual sins are more serious than any other sins except murder or denying the Holy Ghost (see Alma 39:5).” FTSOY does not say “sleeping with a women, not your wife, is a sin just shy of murder and sinning against the Holy Ghost;” it says “sexual sins.” It goes on immediately after that to list masturbation, petting, and passionate kissing, among others. This leads many of our kids (and adults!) to draw the conclusion that hot and heavy making out or masturbation or looking at porn is a sin “next to murder” in severity, which is just plain absurd. This causes major shame spirals which lead to repeats of the sexual behavior, which causes more shame… We need to get shame out of our sexual discourse. Making room for alternate interpretations of these verses is one way we can do that.

        “This is about Corianton’s sin.”
        Why do you insist taking this conversation about Isabel and other possible interpretations of these scriptures and turning it back to Corianton? He’s a player in this discussion, sure, but he’s not the one we’re focusing on.

      • spunky says:

        Andrew R, I think this is more about Alma’s lecture to his son, Corianton– it other words, it is about Alma. NOT Corianton’s sexual sin.

        He uses the term harlot to describe Isabel. The term has various meanings, including vagabond, and for a time was used to describe homeless men (look up the etymology yourself). Indeed, the chapter tells us that Isabel was living by the boarder or the Lamanites– in other words, she may have been homeless. Corianton’s focus on her may have been to “rescue” her (masculine hero-guy), so he may have been spending time with her in regard to that.

        So- remove the term harlot, or at least try interpret it in a different light, please? Just try? What do you read now? Once the term that BRM saw as sexual is removed, the scripture no longer reads as a sexual admonition. In my mind, it reads as a sin of omission– that is to say, Corianton forsake God. He did not deny God, but her left his calling in order to do something else. It is a sin of omission, rather than a sin of commission. Murder is also a sin of commission.

        My intent is not to devalue sexual sin, rather– I am focusing on the sin of denying the Holy Ghost. Corianton denied his calling as a missionary– AND his father was embarrassed because Corianton’s reputation detracted from Alma’s missionary teachings. (Have you been judged as less worthy because one of your children has made a bad choice? Alma can relate!)

        And get this– the origin of the name Isabel is Hebrew, taken from the name Elisabeth. The name is translated as “God is my oath.” So– what if Isabel isn’t even a real person? What if the name Isabel is being used to show in a literary, poetic way that Corianton has forbidden his oath of being a missionary? This observation plays into these verses much more powerfully than when we only focus on SEX. So drop the sex. Drop it. Then read it again.

        This is what I think this scripture is teaching: the sin of not keeping one’s oath to God. I don’t think this is about sexual sin at all (again, I am not disregarding sexual sin). I think this is about the sin of omission in serving the Lord, and letting whatever else get in our way. For me, that take hits way harder than does the sexual sin focus.

        For which sins of omission are you guilty? Have you accepted every calling, used every single opportunity to further the will and teachings of the Lord? If not, perhaps Alma is talking to YOU. My intention is not to call you to repentance or accuse you in any manner. Rather, I am trying to get you to view this scripture in a different light.

      • Andrew R. says:

        Spunky, forgive me. As you know I come from the TBM view that an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, given an assignment to write the synopsis for the chapter headings of the Book of Mormon would use more than his limited, patriarchal view, and use the guidance of the Holy Ghost.

        Since he is only a man he saw the word harlot and just wrote sexual sin.

        As to harlot. I might agree with you had Alma not said, “she did steal away the hearts of many”. Whether for money, or simply pleasure, I don’t believe she was offering sewing lessons. But that is my interpretation.

        I don’t know if you have yet, and I hope if not you never do, had a child who has committed sexual sin (and I am not talking masturbation). One’s own feelings of embarrassment are nothing when considering how to help the child repent and come unto Christ.

      • Andrew R. says:

        Spunky, the etymology of the word harlot aside I am having great difficulty in giving credence to the idea that Joseph used this particular word, in the 1820’s, to mean anything other than prostitute (or at the very least slut).

        This view is compounded by the use of the word in the Bible. http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/harlot/

      • Spunky says:

        Andrew, the term prophet does not mean perfect. I mean no disrespect to brm, but I think scriptures have more interperations.

        Um…so….are you saying Joseph Smith wrote the BOM? I believe differently. I believe he translated a book of scripture according to the spirit. Meaning to me that God!s perfect use of infinite language was used; Not smith’s. Perhaps that is where our core differences originate; you believe Joseph Smith was the author. I believe he was a translator. Perhaps you’d like to clarify this? And, the bible dictionary is a recent addition ; so far as I know, it is not canonised.

        What are your thoughts on the use of Isabel’s name? Why use her name to only shame her? I think there is a reason her name is used, and it is for symbolism.

      • Spunky says:

        And, considering etymology of the term (presuming it is God’s, not Joseph’s), the term also means “camp follower.” http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=harlot

        So, given that she is reported to live by the boarders of the Laminates, that interpretation makes sense to me. As for leading away hearts…just because someone is popular dies not make them promiscuous. Perhaps the hearts are being led to the beliefs of the laminates, I.e. She has led many away from God and thus, their hearts are hard- therefore she has stolen their hearts from Hod. That is a massive sin indeed!

      • Andrew R. says:

        Translation
        I believe as you do. But I don’t believe the BoM was dictated by God. Joseph, by inspiration, put the BoM story into words understood in the day. Why would he use a word in common parlance in his day, and since, to mean something other than the generally accepted meaning.

        I understand what you are trying to do. And expanding our knowledge of scripture in ways like this is good. I don’t have an issue with it as such. But I find it a stretch to believe that God decided to use the derivative of a non-English word to mean something from over half a century ago.

        As to the inclusion of Isabel’s name – that is certainly interesting. Perhaps more is said of her in the rest of the plates.

        Since the BoM plates were written in reformed Egyptian I don’t know that what the name means in Hebrew has any bearing at all.

        I do agree that it is sad that not more women are mentioned by name in the BoM.

        Having said that, it could be argued that the most influential people in the entire book are the mothers of the Stripling Warriors – and we do not know any of their names.

        As I have said, I do not read this as a condemnation of Isabel – rather of Corianton.

      • spunky says:

        Andrew R, I appreciate your thoughts on this. I also am happy to not apply your interpretation of these verses to my life. The scriptures are meant for all of us; the interpretations. and so on are fluid pending our circumstances. Your life in not mine; neither is your emphasis ion sexual sin.

    • Andrew R. says:

      Absolutely Spunky, scripture study isn’t really about the narrative – it is about what we do, how we change, and the affect it has on our lives.

  7. Kelsi Moore says:

    Reading this matched up with my experience with one really terrible EFY session director I had when working as a counselor. On the “spiritual day” he had a chance to speak to all the girls from the ages of 14-18. He spent the entire time talking about how when he was a stake president he had a young man come in right before his mission who had to postpone because he’d messed around in a car with a girl he liked. The session director then went on the entire time about how it was all THAT GIRLS fault. She should have known better, it was her job to make sure the boy stayed clean so he could go on his mission. From my understanding this session director had never spoken to this girl, I have no clue if she was even Mormon or had the same understanding of immorality that this Mormon boy had. I think the same thing can be said for Isabel. We don’t know what her belief or understanding or knowledge was about sexual sin. Also it takes two to tango and if that boy or corianton wants to go on a mission, he knows what is necessary and needs to step up to the plate and take responsibility for his choices and actions. I wish I had read this passage the way you have suggested because I really struggled at the time on what to tell to the girls I was responsible for. Thank you for opening my eyes to a new and more compassionate light on Isabel and her story.

    • spunky says:

      Ugh. That stake president sounds like a piece of work! Sounds like he fully missed the lesson about the sins of omission. I’m so sorry you had to sit through that, Kelsi Moore. I hope you have the space and time you need to heal from such a horrible, degrading lecture.

      I’m so glad you commented, because I am positive that others have been taught similar rubbish. Thank you for your bravery and honesty.

    • Andrew R. says:

      This is unforgivable. If my children came back from an event like this, saying a priesthood leader told a story like this, I would report it as high as I could get.

      His view is NOT Church policy, quite the opposite. The girl may well have had some repenting to do, but not for the sins of the boy – only for her own. And I am not judging her’s, or his’ for that matter. When a sexual sin is committed the priesthood leader, if there is one, of the other party is informed. That then is the end of the matter in connection with the other party.

  8. acw says:

    There are also scholarly thoughts I’ve read on other posts that Isabel was a temple prostitute and the sin wasn’t just sexual misdeeds, but the apostate idol worship connected with mocking the temple. Also, despite BRMcC’s headnote, Alma’s talk is less about sexual sin and more about apostasy, read more here: https://knowhy.bookofmormoncentral.org/content/why-was-corianton%E2%80%99s-sin-so-serious

    • Spunky says:

      I’m going to guess that B. W. Jorgensen is male, just like all of the others quoted in the link you have provided.

      Yet that is the point: this is all the thoughts of men. My goal is to remove the masculinity, remove the masculine perspective.

      I agree that the entire point of the peice is about sins of omission, rather than sexual sin. All of your links focus on sexually sin. But what if Isabel was not engaged in sexual sin? That is what I ask. Keep thinking from a female perspective; don’t stop just because other men have already done some thinking on a topic.

  9. Melody says:

    So, besides the huge round of applause you deserve for this, Spunky, I’d like to add another challenge to our interpretation of this event: Readers may want to consider the term “victim of human trafficking” to describe the place of prostitutes throughout history.

    In the present day, the vast majority of those we call prostitutes are victims of a male-dominated sexual slave trade. I cannot imagine there was much difference — or rather there may have been even greater oppression of women “whores, sluts, prostitutes” at a time when women were thought to be 2/3 of a soul — not even fully human — in this time period.

    In this context, Corianton (and every other human who has participated in or benefitted from the sexual oppression or abuse of another) turned away from God in his sexual sin.

    I reject the notion that this woman was entirely evil or that she was in any way responsible for the loss of souls other than her own. And even that gives me pause: women who are forced into prostitution or who choose it often are wounded long before…

    Thanks again, Spunky. This is an amazing essay (and midrash, as Caroline suggests.)

  10. Cynthia says:

    this is so beautiful spunky….thank you for your thoughts! keep on writing!

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