Virtue can be stolen (and it has nothing to do with rape)

One of the discussions running around feminist circles is about the use of Moroni 9:9 in President Dalton’s talk on virtue. The hurt expressed from using this scripture is the assumption that the loss of chastity and virtue means that the women were raped.

To show the scripture:

9 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—

Sure, it’s easy to say this means rape, nicely tying chastity and virtue to it, but I think this misses that these women were taken prisoners. This could be the effects of months or even years in the hands of their captors.

These women were subjected to a period of time being prisoners. It would be likely that eventually they would come to empathize with, or even defend the actions of, their captors. The effect of this would have been a loss of virtue and chastity. Would they have the blame for this? No, it would be described that their virtue and chastity – their innocence – was taken by their captors, even if no sexual component was involved. We’ve only recently given this kind of thing a name – Stockholm syndrome.

Something more to remember are the other usages of virtue in the New Testament, when it was used to heal, as in Mark 5:25-34 and Luke 8:43-48:

43And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any,
44 Came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched.
45 And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
46 And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.
47 And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.
48 And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.

Virtue, even when paired with chastity, does not mean sex. No one would argue that the woman (and others, Luke 8:19) healed by the Savior in any way sexually violated Him, but in every case, it was described as a loss of virtue.

Virtue is power used to heal others, physically and spiritually. No, I am not saying that the Lamanite daughters were used as physicians, but that in their time as prisoners their ability to heal themselves and each other waned over time in what must have been an unbelievably horrific situation. In modern times, we seem to have gone to the easy answer in interpreting the words of Moroni. The worst thing we could imagine happening to a woman was rape, but we find with sad experience that there are worse things. To be kidnapped, kept by people doing horrific things, and seeing glimmers of false hope and trust in your captors can change you, taking away the virtue and chastity you once had.

For the sake of those who have had to live through the horrors of rape and kidnapping, we need to change our usage of Moroni 9:9. I think the recent use of it by President Dalton was a good step, but it is going to take a good deal of work for all of us to un-learn our hurtful interpretation of this. Rape and sexual abuse is damaging and vile. The burden of repentance for this should never be placed on the victim. No virtue or chastity has been taken from them, even though their innocence is lost. Using our virtue to heal should be foremost in our minds, not the erroneous idea that they are somehow to blame. We’ve bludgeoned our daughters (and sons) with this long enough.

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  1. #1 by Susanna on 29 June 2013 - 4:02 am

    Wow. Awesome post and I actually found an answer to to my prayers! :) Check this out: http://susanna-behindmyeyes.blogspot.fi/2013/06/blogs-to-check-out.html :)

  2. #2 by Mel on 24 July 2013 - 8:00 am

    I took a classics class at BYU and my prof said she always laughed to herself when she heard the word “virtue” being used in Relief Society. In the Bible and in other classic literature, the word “virtue” almost always means “strength” or “valor” instead of chastity and is often associated with the military. The oft quoted Prov 41:10 “who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies,” really is more precisely translated as (my prof’s exact words) as “Who can find a strong military woman?” So when it says Jesus felt virtue leave him, it obviously means strength not chastity. If you read Machiavelli’s “The Prince,” (which was published within 100 years of the King James Version of the Bible) he uses the word virtue very much to mean strength, might and valor.

    Without any context it’s hard to say with the Book of Mormon, but I do find it kind of funny in Church when people talk about Biblical virtue. With Sister Dalton, I also call for a “Return to Virtue” for women, but my interpretation of virtue is a little different than what I think she had in mind :)

  3. #3 by April on 7 February 2014 - 9:51 pm

    Thank you.

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