Rape in Our Curriculum
- Moroni 9:9. The soldiers in Moriantum rape the Lamanite women that they are holding captive. This is described as “depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue.”
- Genesis 19:4-11. The men of Sodom surround Lot’s house and demand to be allowed to rape his two guests, who are visiting angels. Lot offers his virginal daughters instead.
- Genesis 34. Shechem “defiles” Dinah, a daughter of Jacob. Modern translations such as the New International Version and the New Revised Standard Version use the word “rape.” Dinah’s brothers retaliate by killing Shechemite males and enslaving their wives.
- Numbers 31:15-18. Moses instructs the army to destroy the Midianites, saving only the young female virgins. Those, he says, you may “keep alive for yourselves.”
- 2 Samuel 13. Amnon rapes his half-sister Tamar and is killed by Absalom.
- Deuteronomy 22:22-27. The law says that a woman should not be punished for being raped, as long as the rape occurred in a field, where no one would have heard her if she screamed.
It is hard to imagine a less helpful set of scriptural passages. But the real shame is that our manuals, in some cases, do further harm:
- Commenting on the story of Shechem and Dinah, the Gospel Doctrine teacher’s manual says, “If Shechem had truly loved Dinah, he would not have defiled her.” That is indeed an important principle. But while the word “defile” may have been appropriate in Elizabethan English, it is no longer appropriate today. To “defile” is to sully or to spoil. Words matter.
- And here’s how the Gospel Doctrine manual describes 2 Samuel 13:15: “Amnon was attracted to Tamar and forced her to commit fornication with him.” The manual goes on to give us this contextually inappropriate quote from Elder Gordon B. Hinckley: “I heard Elder John A. Widtsoe . . . say, ‘It is my observation that a young man and a young woman who violate the principles of morality soon end up hating each other.’ I have observed the same thing. There may be words of love now, but there will be words of hatred and bitterness later.” As commentary on the story of a man raping his sister, this is breathtakingly awful. No, Amnon did not force Tamar to “commit fornication.” No, they are not examples of young people who violated the principles of morality.
- Moroni 9:9 is in the Personal Progress manual as part of the first required value experience for Virtue. Young women are instructed to use this verse to “[s]tudy the meaning and importance of chastity and virtue.” To be clear, they are to study a passage of scripture that seems to teach that one’s chastity and virtue can be taken away by another person. From a more mature perspective, it is apparent this verse is presenting us with a euphemism: “Chastity and virtue” most likely stand in for virginity in this verse. But if we don’t really mean “chastity and virtue” here, then why are we using this verse to teach young women about chastity and virtue? At best, it’s confusing. At worst, it teaches girls damaging lessons about sexuality.
And while we’re disavowing errors of the past, it is high time that we disavow the devastating statements about rape in Spencer W. Kimball’s 1969 book, The Miracle of Forgiveness. We can love and honor President Kimball without condoning the teaching that, “It is better to die in defending one’s virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle.”