The Rape of the Lamanite Women

Part of tomorrow’s GD lesson is Mosiah 20, which includes the story of the wicked Noachian priests and the stolen daughters of the Lamanites:

1 Now there was a place in Shemlon where the daughters of the Lamanites did gather themselves together to sing, and to dance, and to make themselves merry.

2 And it came to pass that there was one day a small number of them gathered together to sing and to dance.

3 And now the priests of king Noah, being ashamed to return to the city of Nephi, yea, and also fearing that the people would slay them, therefore they durst not return to their wives and their children.

4 And having tarried in the wilderness, and having discovered the daughters of the Lamanites, they laid and watched them;

5 And when there were but few of them gathered together to dance, they came forth out of their secret places and took them and carried them into the wilderness; yea, twenty and four of the daughters of the Lamanites they carried into the wilderness.

Later, in chapter 23, it looks like the wicked priests are finally going to get their comeuppance, but no:

33 And it came to pass that Amulon did plead with the Lamanites; and he also sent forth their wives, who were the daughters of the Lamanites, to plead with their brethren, that they should not destroy their husbands.

34 And the Lamanites had compassion on Amulon and his brethren, and did not destroy them, because of their wives.

When I was a boy, this story always bugged me. When I read about the creepy priests lurking in watchful wait and taking the Lamanite girls, I would feel the bloodlust of revenge welling up within my seminary student heart. I wanted those priests to suffer! And why, I wondered, didn’t those girls take their chance for vengeance, but instead pleaded for the lives of the men who had become their husbands?

Well, this is not the first time this sort of thing has happened. This story reminds me a great deal of the story of the Rape of the Sabine Women, as recounted in the opening book of Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita (“From the Founding of the City [of Rome],” often given the English title “History of Rome”). (The story is also recounted in Plutarch’s Parallel Lives.)

In Rome’s legendary first generation under founder Romulus (for whom the city was named), the founding group had gained sufficient military strength to hold its own with the surrounding tribes. But there was a problem: almost all of Romulus’ followers were men, and it doesn’t take a genius to see that their society will not last beyond a generation without wives and families. Romulus visited each of the half-dozen or so surrounding tribes, requesting the right of intermarriage among their peoples. Although he was politely received, in each case this right was denied his people, since the tribes feared the growing power of the Romans.

Romulus held his cards close to his vest and bided his time. Finally he planned games and a public spectacle in honor of the Equestrian Neptune, to which the surrounding tribes were invited. At one point during the festivities a signal was given, upon which the Roman youth dashed in all directions to carry off the maidens of the Sabine tribe who were present. This was done mostly indiscriminately, but in the case of the most beautiful girls they were specifically targeted by some of the young men. One, conspicuous amongst them all for grace and beauty, is reported to have been carried off by a group led by a certain Talassius, and to the many inquiries as to whom she was intended for, the invariable answer was given, “For Talassius.” Hence the use of this word in the marriage rites even in Livy’s day [That is, the procession in which the bride was led from her parents’ house to her new home was attended by minstrels who invoked Tallassius in the nuptial song.]

This event is traditionally called The Rape of the Sabine Women, but here “rape” is not used in its more common modern sense of “sexual assault,” but rather in the sense of “abduction” (from Latine rapio, to seize, snatch, grab). As Livy tells us:

The abducted maidens were quite as despondent and indignant. Romulus, however, went round in person, and pointed out to them that it was all owing to the pride of their parents in denying right of intermarriage to their neighbours. They would live in honourable wedlock, and share all their property and civil rights, and–dearest of all to human nature-would be the mothers of freemen. He begged them to lay aside their feelings of resentment and give their affections to those whom fortune had made masters of their persons. An injury had often led to reconciliation and love; they would find their husbands all the more affectionate because each would do his utmost, so far as in him lay to make up for the loss of parents and country. These arguments were reinforced by the endearments of their husbands who excused their conduct by pleading the irresistible force of their passion–a plea effective beyond all others in appealing to a woman’s nature.

This of course led to war with the surrounding tribes. The other tribes attacked first, and the Romans in each case prevailed. Eventually it was the Sabines’ turn, and things were not going so well for the Romans. The parties were pitched for a final, bloody battle, when the Sabine women themselves intervened to put a stop to the fighting:

Then it was that the Sabine women, whose wrongs had led to the war, throwing off all womanish fears in their distress, went boldly into the midst of the flying missiles with dishevelled hair and rent garments. Running across the space between the two armies they tried to stop any further fighting and calm the excited passions by appealing to their fathers in the one army and their husbands in the other not to bring upon themselves a curse by staining their hands with the blood of a father-in-law or a son-in-law, nor upon their posterity the taint of parricide. “If,” they cried, ” you are weary of these ties of kindred, these marriage-bonds, then turn your anger upon us; it is we who are the cause of the war, it is we who have wounded and slain our husbands and fathers. Better for us to perish rather than live without one or the other of you, as widows or as orphans.”

The two armies stood in hushed silence, and then the generals from each side advanced and negotiated the terms of a treaty. The two peoples actually joined together and became one (just as the priests would become one with the Lamanites); the Sabine king jointly ruled with Romulus until his death five years later.

This story eventually hits home with modern Mormon culture, via the movie Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. (There is no truth to the rumor that a Mormon version exists, “Seven Brides for one Brother.”) Steven Vincent Benet in 1937 wrote a parody of The Rape of the Sabine Women with the title “The Sobbin’ Women,” and this was incorporated into the movie as a rousing musical number, led by Howard Keel as Adam.

As I’ve told my class, I’m a movie lover and I often relate to the scriptures through the movies. So here is a movie (a BYU favorite in my day) that actually plays out a plot very much like that of the stolen daughters of the Lamanites.


  1. Nice insights. Thanks.

  2. I Dwell In A Tent says:

    The story of the Lamanite maidens also causes me to scratch my head. There’s probably a psychological term for the transition from captive to spouse, and I think native American and other tribal cultures had the habit of stealing women and then having them intermarry. I would be interested to see the female take on this. I don’t think it’s something we men can grasp.

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    Maybe a touch of Stockholm Syndrome? Or maybe it’s just that once they start having children, that completely changes the calculus of the situation. I agree that I would love to hear the female point of view on this situation.

  4. Beauty and the Beast much?

  5. What would the Lamanites have done with these no-longer virgin women? Sure they were likely angry and frustrated that their sisters and daughters had been forcibly abducted and they (the men) had no say in the matter, but what could they do about it now? The damage had been done, as far as they were concerned. May as well make up and be nice.
    My guess is that for most of history once a relationship was consummated (by force or otherwise) a woman had few viable options other than sticking with the man who did it and hoping he treats her tolerably.

  6. I wish we had the women’s report in any of these cases. I suspect it’s more male fantasy than historical truth, in every case.

  7. Ardis,
    One of the strange aspects of these chapters is that we have no idea whose report it is that we’re reading. This section begins with Ammon being given record by Limhi which starts off in first person with Zeniff’s account. Once Noah takes over it isn’t clear who is writing or how they know what is going on with all the various parties. Before Ammon has completed his reading of the plates he is in the very plates he’s reading!

  8. Perhaps. Perhaps not.

  9. That’s no reason to suspect it’s a woman writing the report, John. Whoever it was writing whichever part of the account, it’s a man’s point of view.

    (That uncertainty of who is writing is often a fun puzzle in the Book of Mormon, isn’t it? My ward is a couple of weeks behind Kevin’s, so we’re just getting this Sunday to the question of who recorded Abinadi’s dying testimony since Alma, the only known sympathetic character at the court, has fled and is in hiding.)

  10. here “rape” is not used in its more common modern sense of “sexual assault,” but rather in the sense of “abduction”

    If you’re a fan of musicals as well as movies, Kevin, you knew this bit already as well:

  11. Kevin Barney says:

    That was a new one on me, Russell; thanks for the addition.

  12. Meldrum the Less says:

    This story is parallel to an event in the Bible, Book of Judges last chapter (21?). The tribe of Benjamin has been nearly wiped out for their gross wickedness and the few men left are so despised that nobody will give their daughters to them to wife. So rather lose one of the 12 tribes, these reprobate Benjaminite men are allowed to hide near Shiloh, the place where people come every year to the ark. I imagine it sort of like general conference hiding near the city center off ramp. And next to, (what the heck was the name of that disco joint I used to take my wife to about 30 years ago?). The Benjamin brutes watch the young girls dance and rush out of hiding each one catching him a wife.

    I bet the Jews have something to say about this event in the Talmud or somewhere. Book of Mormon critics claim this is yet another example of material Joseph Smith lifted from the Bible. But it is internally consistent that the wicked men of Amulon knew about it from Biblical sources brought by Lehi since it predates the Israelite monarchies and obviously the Assyrian near-destruction of said tribe of Benjamin. In addition it doesn’t take much imagination and testosterone to reinvent the age old raid for wives, horses, food, tools or whatever needs to be raided.

    I presume authorship in the Book of Mormon of any event not specified is probably Mormon with his unique perspective of his history. I do find it fascinating to consider who might be the voice of the narrator while reading the Book of Mormon. Smith? Moroni? Mormon? Alma or whoever is being described at that point in history?

  13. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks for mentioning Judges 21; I don’t think I had ever thought of that in connection with this story. The girls were even dancing, just like the Lamanites.

  14. something was written up about it in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon:

  15. So what are we using for the good standard of marriage in the Book of Mormon? When Nephi and his brothers went and asked Ishmael to bring his daughters into the wilderness? Sure we like to imagine they already knew each other and liked each other…how very convenient that all of these different personalities brothers had a match in the same family. Assuming they did know each other (we may be able to assume this because Lehi knew the family by name and Ishmael did come-so either this is an amazing case of revelation on all sides…or an arranged marriage en masse-with we hope some revelation at least for some of the matches). Really. How did that work out? I’m assuming the one daughter of Ishmael who defended Nephi…marries Nephi. How did everything else work out? At what point were the woman asked? Or did that ever happen and they were just told?

    so ya. those really super wicked priests of Noah.

  16. My female opinion. These Lamanite women who were forcibly abducted. If they hadn’t been abducted they would have probably married men of their father’s (and hopefully mother’s and their own) choice. Once they had lived as prostitutes or wives of these wicked priests if they returned to their family they might have been treated as damaged goods without status and as poor widows if their husbands were killed and unable to feed their children or themselves.
    So while Emily Smart could return to a loving family, these Lamanite daughters probably knew how dangerous their situation was and how dangerous it was for their children to no longer have a husband.
    Marriage in those days was hardly about love and fulfillment, it was more about stability and survival and protection of property or status for your children. Did these women romantically love and respect their wicked priest husbands? I highly doubt that was the main reason for their pleading. Instead, it was because they believed their lives would be worse, or their children’s lives would be worse without their husbands. I assume their fathers and brothers wouldn’t have welcomed them home with honor and status and property.

  17. Oops. Elizabeth Smart….

  18. #15 has a good point.

    When women are given in marriage, there also are takers.

    If a woman generally doesn’t have a full choice anyway, it’s easy to see how a mother asking her native people to spare her children’s father could be accepted – no matter how he became their father and no matter who his own native people were.

  19. Okay, as a woman, I think most of this conversation is pretty weird. Most of the comments are from men, and most of them have to do with seeing women as objects moved between one cultural group and another. Arguing about whether a culture saw women as unclean after they had “married” the men that stole them might give cultural perspective, but I don’t think it applies to how we should look at marriage today. I don’t think that Lehi’s sons and daughters having a limited number of potential mates equates to a husband removing a wife from her entire family and world against her will. In fact, it seems like such a strange comparison, I am honestly not sure what to do with it

    I find it very difficult to guess how someone from another country or community would go through the decision making progress of choosing a husband or wife. When I try to take that to thousands of years ago, in a culture that has very little documentation, I don’t even try. It is always easy to say, “I would never do that,” but each of us really don’t know what we would do in a particular situation which is completely alien to our own. I love Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, but even that movie leaves me a little befuddled since the “romantic” story does not match the diaries of real people from that time period. It is cute, the music is fun, but it doesn’t even try to come close to any reality.

    I think it is fairly easy to say that what the men did in “taking” the Lamanite Daughters, or any men who “steal” brides, are not acting in a way that would be acceptable in our society at this time. I really don’t know if their actions were completely out of line with the times and places in which they lived. I also don’t know if the women who were “stolen” considered themselves better off with their new “husbands” or not, but since I can’t talk to them, it is very hard for me to even guess why they pleaded for their husbands.

    Before everyone accuses me of taking the easy way out, I don’t think that being realistic about how much I can change my point of view, is the easy way. I think that assuming we can understand another’s experience, and tell them what they “should” have done is wrong in any time and place, even if it the person who lives next door to me. Each earthly experience is so individual that unless I know someone well, and we trust each other enough to share the most difficult and painful experiences of our lives, I am hesitant to make suggestions of what they “should” do. Even with that level of intimacy, I wouldn’t expect anyone to substitute my choices or ideas for their own.

    It may simply be that a lot of my current poetry is about “common” experiences of emotion, but I am ACCUTELY AWARE that those emotions come from millions of different experiences. When someone connects to one of my poems, they don’t do so because they “walked in my shoes” but because our lives have an emotional intersection. Even then, it is not something that I can try to force on someone. Some people find a single poem speaks to them, while others find a little of themselves in almost all of them. (It is always interesting to me that those who are most deeply affected usually email me rather than posting a public comment.)

    This is not a plug for my blog. I guess I am trying to suggest that as we read these sections of the Book of Mormon, we look more for the inspiration the Holy Ghost provides, to find the spiritual intersections between our lives and the lives of those we are reading about. We may share some of their emotions and spiritual growth, even if our distance in time and space makes our experiences and theirs hard to bridge.

  20. In case it’s not obvious…I am a woman. I brought up the Nephi-Ishamel thing because it appears that marriage was an arrangement made between men…with little regard given to the opinion of the women. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe their was courtship or at least a consultation between the father and his daughters…but it is very likely that was exceedingly rare. In that culture, a culture which does not ask consent from women, the women may be more likely to learn to stay married to who they’re with. Men may learn that consent is not something you can or should get from a woman. It’s not like either side was expecting twitterpation in the first place. If your father is not a good guy the difference between and arranged marriage and an abduction may feel very small.

    now maybe my concept of arranged marriage is a bitter one. On my mission, while working with Indian women, I met many who had arranged marriage. It was the family agreement very young, move in with the in laws frequently before 8-so the young girl can be trained by her mother in law how her son likes things…and HOPEFULLY consummation waits until the onset of puberty. This was a society in which if your husband only beat you on weekends he was a good man. It’s a world of women MUST be virgins and men really kinda shouldn’t be. So admittedly that colors my thinking.

    Or we could talk about bride price and proving your fertility before you’re married…that’s fun too.

    Now I know we assume Ishmael is a good guy, I agree. But that does not mean he consulted his daughters. I’ve always figured some of the daughters went against their will…and then married laman and lemuel–see how tidy that is? or maybe they were all faithful and someone still had to marry laman and lemuel? Nephi feels blessed…hopefully that means a good companionship there…but that is the only hint we have in any case of the brothers. We have a sense later that the marriage of the lamanites are stronger than those of the nephites…

    the best marriage relationships we have any hints of are Nephi and his wife-who is courageous enough to stand up to lam an and lemuel (we assume twice, but at least on the boat) and King Lamoni and his wife…she watched over the bed of her husband and converts with him. We know Nephi’s marriage was arranged and it feels likely that King Lamoni’s marriage would be arranged or pressured…see how freely he offers his daughter to Ammon.

    There’s always the daughter of Jared…who manipulates her marriage situation–by working through her father to get her future husband to help her father win his kingdom back by having Akish kill her grandfather. There’s a marriage made to last.

    IF your dad approves of the marriage against your will…wouldn’t the sense of betrayal be stronger–and you still have to figure out some for sort relationship with this guy you don’t want or know. Father aided abduction does allow for continued family contact…true.

    I’m just thinking in the whole context of the Book of Mormon a woman had to do the best she could with whatever relationship was…encouraged upon her.

  21. I’d love to hear the women’s point of view too. I’ve watched women go through very similar situations today (kidnapping women for marriage is not uncommom where I live and a good friend of ours was recently kidnapped). A woman’s reasons for the choices she makes might be quite different from the reasons the men around her might think she made those choices.

    I’d also be really to know how much time had passed between the kidnapping and the pleading. I think that makes a huge difference.

  22. Ardis,

    I didn’t mean to imply that it might be a woman recording any of these events. Just that as you point out there are clearly incidents recorded that none of the principle characters could have witnessed.

  23. “I don’t think it applies to how we should look at marriage today.”


    That’s a sincere question.

    Most marriages still have a degree of attempted control by one spouse or the other in one way or another, and, although the control is of a higher degree in the case discussed in the OP, the general principle applies directly to situations of lower degree. My own marriage was founded on mutual choice and love, but that doesn’t guarantee automatically that it will be free of all manifestations of attempted control.

    I’ve known far too many situations where relationships that started out abusively in some way were accepted by families and religious communities to believe there aren’t powerful reasons to look at the overall issue and ask why the Lamanites would have accepted their daughters’ kidnappers as legitimate husbands – and, eventually, as leaders within those families and communities. These men became leaders in that community, and that happens still in our own time. **In fact, I’d argue that leaving one’s wife (which these men did) and using power of some kind to snag a new, younger wife (which these men did) is so common now that it bears direct relevance to the OP in a real way.**

    Also, just to throw this out there, we have absolutely no idea what kind of husbands these men were on a daily basis. We tend to assume they were heartless bastards because they are described as evil priests of a wicked king in the record we have – but that doesn’t have to translate into being horrible husbands and fathers. We often assume much more than can be proven from the record itself.

  24. “Most marriages still have a degree of attempted control,” evidence? Dubious claim at best. Sure, sometimes that happens, but most? I’m assuming you are referring to our own culture. Also, even if the guys were nice, that doesn’t change the horrible foundation of the marriage, which would never quite be the same.

  25. “here “rape” is not used in its more common modern sense of “sexual assault,” but rather in the sense of “abduction””

    This seems like an odd and unsupportable distinction to make. I imagine there was quite a bit of sexual assault going on, unless you can imagine that the kidnappers patiently waited until the women came around emotionally before attempting to initiate sexual relationship. That strains credulity, I think. Coerced yielding is not the same thing as consent.

  26. #24 – I used the words “some degree of”. I don’t think that’s dubious at all. I think it’s a given of human nature.

    I also never said that if the guys were nice it would change anything about the horrible foundation of their marriages. I didn’t even imply it.

  27. What Cynthia said.

  28. Ray,
    “Most marriages still have a degree of attempted control by one spouse or the other in one way or another, and, although the control is of a higher degree in the case discussed in the OP, the general principle applies directly to situations of lower degree. My own marriage was founded on mutual choice and love, but that doesn’t guarantee automatically that it will be free of all manifestations of attempted control. ”

    To claim your marriage is somehow so superior as to no be like that, while naturally most other people’s marriages are, is absurd (even if you admit there is a threat).

    “We tend to assume they were heartless bastards because they are described as evil priests of a wicked king in the record we have – but that doesn’t have to translate into being horrible husbands and fathers.”

    Um, yes it does. If being a spouse is based on abduction and lack of free will, there is nothing not horrible about it.

  29. I think the story is beautiful — women pleading for their husbands, that they should not be destroyed.

  30. I think the story it beautiful–men kidnapping women, that they might have new wives. (insert sarcasm)

  31. mmiles (no. 30) — Maybe the story isn’t all about the men — maybe life isn’t all about the men — in this story, the women are pleading for their husbands, that they should not be destroyed — it’s okay for women to be in the subject part of the sentence.

    A person forgives someone else. That’s beautiful. Here, a woman (or a group of women) forgive a man (or a group of men). That’s beautiful. There’s no call for sarcasm.

  32. 31 I have no reason to believe that the men were forgiven. I think it more likely as mentioned earlier that these women merely just had no other viable options and these men were the lesser of two evils at that point. I’m sorry, but I cannot find anything beautiful about this story. Not every cloud has a silver lining.

  33. Actually, I can see the beauty of this story. The women had been through lots of bad stuff, but in order to stop bloodshed, went forth to stop bloodshed. Stopping mass killing is a good thing.

    The dilemmas of these stories for us aren’t few.

    Firstly, I think we tend to read the scriptures with all kinds of ‘righteous’ assumptions. We feel the scriptures have lots of good lessons, are true and correct (whatever that means), and are more or less from God. So it seems that sometimes we read about atrocities committed and fail to see the problems-or even moral dilemmas, while reading under these assumptions.

    Secondly, the scriptures are full of rape and abduction; and the lesser crime, women traded off in arranged marriages by fathers and future husbands. We tend to gloss over these facts. I don’t think we know what to do with them. I’ve heard some people address them as, “Parents were inspired (ignoring that it is the father, not the mother involved) to make the marriages,” as if the adult child had no way of getting any sort of inspiration for his or herself until after a marriage was made and consummated. Human nature has not changed so much that suddenly adults can now make those decisions whereas earlier they couldn’t and thus their parents had to; or that it was earlier the order of God and now isn’t. At some point we have to admit these are problematic cultural and human right problems.

    Thirdly, as Amira pointed out, in many parts of the world this Book of Mormon scenario is kind of how it works. Women are either kidnapped (sometimes as a quaint cultural acting out, while the kidnapping is supposedly fun and entirely expected; sometimes an actual kidnapping in which a young girl or woman is forced into a marriage without paternal consent). Our own Western sensibility would mostly find the practice abhorrent. Yet we read the Book of Mormon like it must mean something else, because, you know, it’s the scriptures and all. Yet new members in those places will read the scriptures with another mind set, and think, “Of course, that’s the way things work. They loved these guys, women come around. Men take care of them after all.”

    I think there’s a big risk in trying to find something more to this story than stopping bloodshed. Even if it’s saying, “They stopped bloodshed because they loved their husbands.” We don’t know that. We don’t really need to know that. In trying to get anything out of the story that is good and holy, let’s not forget the foundation of the story sucks. There’s no way to make it pretty. In trying to do so we lose moral sensibility. There is not justice or even necessarily forgiveness in the tale, just a pleading for the stopping of bloodshed, and the clear message that the women are pawns, fought over and around.

  34. “To claim your marriage is somehow so superior as to not be like that, while naturally most other people’s marriages are, is absurd (even if you admit there is a threat).”

    mmiles, again, I didn’t say that. I said even in my own marriage that was founded on choice and love, even that doesn’t guarantee there are no control issues in it. There are, and I admit that openly and freely. That’s my point. If yours has no such issues whatsoever, congratulations. I mean that sincerely. I just don’t believe it’s the norm, even among good, sincere, righteous people.

    Please, read a little more slowly – without prior assumptions. I haven’t said anything, and I mean anything, that you’ve accused me of saying.

    Also, I know some local leaders in the Church who were married through choice and love who are horrible husbands and fathers. I also know some men who got their girlfriends pregnant through dubious choices (to phrase it charitably, in some cases) who ended up being wonderful husbands and fathers.

    I’m not trying to excuse kidnap and rape in any way. All I’m saying is that we can’t say authoritatively that these men were horrible husbands and fathers, especially within the context of their culture and time. They might have been, and I’m not claiming they weren’t – but we just can’t make that leap with total assurance of being correct.

  35. #33 – mmiles, I agree completely, 100% with everything in that comment.

  36. Cynthia, Kevin is distinguishing sexual assault from abduction because the word rape had both meanings until fairly recently. Check the OED if you don’t believe it. The story of the “Rape of the Sabine Women” is all about their abduction and not about their sexual assault. Kevin is merely informing people who are ignorant of the word’s historical meaning what everyone with the least understanding of language and history agrees on. Or look up the Latin. “Rapere” means “to seize”, not “to commit sexual assault”.

    Maybe you’re upset that the sexual assault of the Sabine women has been omitted, or silenced, or treated as something so obvious that it wasn’t worth mentioning. Those are all things to rightly get upset about. And you’re certainly correct that women who were abducted, even for purpose of marriage, nearly always suffered sexual assault as well, which is probably how the word attained it’s current meaning. But Kevin is correct. The distinction he’s making has all the evidence on his side. You’re simply wrong in believing that “The Rape of the Sabine Women” should be understood to mean “The Sexual Assault of the Sabine Women” rather than “The Abduction of the Sabine Women.”

  37. Max,

    (a) I’m not “upset,” though that’s amusingly ironic of you to say that. (read: I am obliquely (now not obliquely) accusing you of the oldest trick in the sexist book: viewing men discussing things as passionate or assertive–but always logical, and women discussing things as just emotional–and by implication illogical)

    (b) Yes, I get the etymological point but thanks for mansplaining it to me.

    (c) If this is true, which you concede it is: “women who were abducted, even for purpose of marriage, nearly always suffered sexual assault as well,” then it’s not “simply wrong,” is it? It is precisely the view that there can be a “simple,” clean cut between those things that I am objecting to. Attempting to separate or make a distinction is wrong from an analysis-of-what-happened point of view. The historical etymological distinction, and the historical understanding of that story as being a story of abduction not sexual assault, are both born of a time+place of profound sexism. If we’re going to discuss those historical traditions today, I thought it was important to be very, very careful and explicit in calling out where those traditions got it wrong, rather than just repeating them without comment.

  38. Max,
    I’m guessing Cynthia understood that, but her point still stands. Can you point to any old literature where rape is used and easily distinguished as only abduction of women without sexual rape taking place? Or, is there any literature you can reference where men are raped (abducted), without sexual assault?

  39. Oh man I rolled for what seemed like an eternity at “mansplaining” too too hilarious.

  40. Sorry, typed at the same time.

  41. Kevin Barney says:

    The distinction I intended is discussed for instance in this Wikipedia article on raptio:

    We’re in Romulus and Remus territory, which means we’re not talking about actual history, but legend, in this case Rome’s foundation myth. So I took Livy’s account of Romulus’ actions at face value for purposes of discussion. That is why I quoted the paragraph that discusses how he personally talked to each girl and reasoned with her, promising her property rights, civil rights, wedlock and that her sons would be freemen, and other forms of suasion. Does that make what the Romans did right? Certainly not. But it makes what they did raptio, IE kidnapping for marriage, rather than sexual assault on the spot. Since the Rape of the Sabines is the classical example of this distinction in Roman law, I thought it prudent to point the distinction out.

    I of course agree that for the women involved the distinction is not particularly helpful, and that almost universally when women are taken by men for sexual purposes they are in fact raped in the modern sense.

    I did not intend to come off as some sort of an apologist for the actions of the Romans in drawing that distinction.

  42. “I did not intend to come off as some sort of an apologist for the actions of the Romans in drawing that distinction.”

    No worries, Kevin. I just wanted to draw attention to the women’s view of the situation.

  43. Kevin Barney says:

    I’m glad you did; that’s what this thread needed. Thanks.

  44. Cynthia,
    The “mansplaining” gave me an idea for a poem. When I publish it, I will dedicate it to you. Thanks for such a good word/concept.

  45. Meldrum the Less says:

    Might be irrelevant. Talked to these friends last night. Their unusual story;

    A few years ago she is about to be deported back to Russia. A guy at work offers her a sham marriage in order to stay in the country. The cost, a few rolls in the sack. Turns out he is about to be deported too. She tries it again with another guy and he is a con artist with several such “wives.”

    Enter fellow worker and inactive Mormon boy with serious drinking problem. He offers to marry the Russian skank a few hours before she is going to jail. (American jail or Russia with no family?) After a few rolls in the sack they decide they actually like each other. She has no tolerance for alcoholic men since her drunk of a father beat her up and sexually abused her as a teen, One of the reasons she came to America.

    Next she wrecks his car and thinks this is probably the end. A Christian guy stops and helps her and she is so impressed with his sincerity that she has sort of an epiphany and starts going to church with him. Newly sober hubby starts going to other church with her. Then they decide to check out his LDS ward. Sister missionaries work miracles. A handful of newly married guys with missionary experience in Russia also help out.

    Russia wife gets baptized into the LDS church. The employment system gets them better jobs. Wife, obvious the smarter of the two is now in nursing school. They had a baby recently and he made $70K dollars last year selling some diet supplement. He realizes it can’t last and saves most of it for a house. He has been sober for 4 years and she is becoming a pretty typical Mormon wife. The temple marriage is next and then she will be forced to stop wearing slightly racy cloths. Too bad, she really is hot. But nothing can hide the inner beauty they have.

    In her words “romance came after marriage.”

  46. puzzled for this says:

    So the priests (who left their wives and children behind) abduct a couple of dozen Lamanite girls and drag them off to the wilds, away from the priests’ and the girls’ families. Then the girls ask their families not to kill the priests because the priests are now the girls’ “husbands”? (Daddy, don’t kill Amron, he’s the father of your grandson, and if you kill him your grandson will live in poverty and I will be a widow!)

    To the victor go the spoils – and the story rights.

    What do the first wives’ and kids back in the city think of all these shenanigans?

    Must forgiveness tales be portrayed as stories of victims (kidnappees) pleading for mercy for their abductors? Should this really be considered as a model of virtuous behavior in today’s society?

  47. Not Enlightened says:

    Why is it that I always (and I mean always) feel dirty, disappointed, and discouraged after accidentally reading one of Meldrum’s comments?

  48. That was a rather long comment to “accidentally” read.

  49. He probably reads comment threads like I do — starting at the bottom and reading up until I run into stuff I’ve read before, not always seeing the name of the commenter at first. Meldrum the Less’s nothing-is-right-with-Mormonism tone is usually identifiable, though, long before I’ve waded up to his name.

  50. Meldrum the Less says:

    Not enlightened :

    I thought that was a beautiful story of repentance and redemption. This reformed alcoholic and his Russian wife inspire me and enlighten me. I find it remarkable the progress that they have made. People change. That was my point about abducted Lamanite women. I guess it is not dirty to discuss rape in the scriptures ( because they are not real?) but when it is something foul amongst the reality of our actual lives that is dirty

    How did you get from repentance of these two friends of serious problems to nothing is right with Mormonism? I am simply astonished.

    I am not perfect. Sorry I wasn’t even good enough for BYU. Usually I find on this blog some acceptance, tolerance and even words of counsel. For this I am grateful. Point out my errors don’t call me names and over generalize. If you think I am “dirty” how about telling me where the soap is.

    I admit that I find some aspects of my faith community to need improvement. Maybe more than average, I don’t know. This disturbs me. Not the part that I see problems, but the part that there are problems. Whenever anyone tells me I have only horrible things to say about Mormonism, I always feel like responding, but I didn’t do it. Joseph or Brigham or my bishop did it. Why are you attacking me when something happens outside of my control and disturbs me? I already got smacked up side the head once for it.

    Instead of leaving, I stay and try my best in my small imperfect way to help fix problems. This is a nearly anonymous blog and I thought it was a good place to share these things. If you want a rosy view maybe you should go back behind the Zion curtain where all marriages and families are perfect. Where the soap and water of life are not necessary.

  51. #50 – “I thought that was a beautiful story of repentance and redemption.”

    So did I.

  52. Meldrum the Less says:


    If you read comments starting at the bottom and proceeding backwards, I find it amazing that you can comprehend anything. I happen to have been taught (by the public schools in Utah no less) to read the first part first starting at the top and going down. My memory isn’t as good as it was 50 years ago and so sometimes I forget. Perhaps I will try reading everything backwards and then untwisting it, that should help.

  53. Ardis E. Parshall says:

    Not sure what I did to be worthy of such scorn, Mel the L. Many people read the last chapter in a book first, in order to know what conclusions an author is working toward. Many people read a newspaper or magazine from the back to the front, for convenience. My reading from the newest comment upward is a similar matter of convenience.

    But even if there were something morally wrong with reading comments that way, I assure you that BCC comment threads, especially your “contributions” to them, are neither so complex nor so structure-dependent that my middling intellectual capacity cannot follow a discussion adequately this way. But perhaps you are speaking from your own experience and your own intellectual limitations, in which case you have my sympathy. By all means, you go on using whatever tools you can find in your efforts to keep up.

  54. I don’t like it when people say rape is dirty. Rape is a crime, and it is the most heinous violation of a person that I can even imagine. Louis C.K.’s comedy routine is dirty. Putting this air of dirtiness on rape is one of the things that makes it hard for survivors to come forward.

  55. (Being lazy today so I did not read any of the comments)

    While reading the OP, it came to me another scriptural passage that also bothers me a lot. This time though, it seems to be within the proper confines of priesthood and not “evil apostate priests” doint the unthinkable. I am speaking of the infamous scripture in Deuteronomy that seems to be rather lenient with the rape of women who are not “bethroted” or promised in marriage by an arrangement between two priesthood holders.

    The following is the copy/paste of the scriptures, with an oversimplified version of how I understandt them:

    Deuteronomy 22:

    22 If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.

    OK, adultery. Big violation of priesthood covenants, kill them both.

    23 If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her;

    24 Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she acried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.

    OK, almost adultery. Big violation of an arrangement between two priesthood holders, kill them both.

    25 But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and alie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die:

    26 But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter:

    27 For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.

    OK, rape. The rapist violated an arrangement between two priesthood holders, kill him. Spare her, since there was not much she could do.

    28 If a man find a damsel that is a avirgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;

    29 Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.

    These are the problematic verses. The main difference I see from this and the previous event is tha the rapist did not violate any arrangement between two priesthood holders. Therefore, he can pay her father (for his economic loss I guess) and she becomes his wife.

    These verses do not state whether the woman in the last event was “forced” but I am assuming it is included (although perhaps not exclusive) so since the law seems to be described progressively. The big issue in this law seems to be a violation against either a priesthood covenant or a priesthood arrangement. The wellfare of the woman seems awfully secondary here.

    Does anyone else think this is kind of absurd? Women, any thoughts?

    Anyway, I think this applies since it also reflects a culture of acceptance of a transition from rape to marriage which is kind of disturbing.

  56. The even bigger head scratcher is how after the Lamanites invaded due to the abduction and then the king has explained to him who really stole the women than the abductors then get accepted into the Lamanite culture but get to oppress those wrongfully accused.

    I think a big problem in all this is we think of women as having the rights they have within our culture. In many cultures (sadly) women were little more than chattel and didn’t really have rights. Even rape was seen much more an offense against the husband or father than the woman herself. (You continue to see this amongst some Islamic cultures unfortunately)

    It’s pure speculation but it comes off like the real crime was removing property from the Lamanites and that once it was brought back everything was fine. This may well be opposed to how the Nephites looked at wives and children. So the intent by Mormon might well have more to do with different conceptions of marriage amongst the cultures. (Just speculation of course)

  57. BTW that FARMS article Anita linked to in (14) is quite good too – looking at the type settings from Judges. A problem is that we look at parallels between stories in the modern world quite different than the ancient world where there was a tendency to try and fit narratives into existing patterns. (Which often is distorting of course)

    Puzzled (46) I rather suspect you are correct in that the Lamanite view was purely about the children which in extreme patriarchal societies was the main issue. That would explain a lot I found confusing. Thanks for that insight.

  58. Clark,

    That is not what happened. Roughly 25 years later the lamanites come across the priests while searching for Limhi’s people who have left. The lamanites join up with the priests (in order to be taught to read and write it seems) and then encounter Alma’s people in Helam, who are people that had left the city of Nephi prior to the invasion that caused Noah to flee and Limhi to become king. So the Alma people didn’t even know about the kidnapping incident as it happened after they left and they got invaded 25 years later.

  59. JI,

    It is not a beautiful story. It is an ugly story with a redeeming aspect to it. The women made the best of a terrible situation, decades after they were stolen away. I wonder if the wives the priests abandoned would have urged the same course of action.

  60. sseL eht murdleM says:

    .yppah lla”y peek dluohs tahT .smelberp yna eciton ot sraey 0001 a em ekat lliw tI .yaw wen siht ni nomroM fo kooB eritne eht daer ot deticxe ma I .em ot gnidaer fo yaw lufrednow dna wen siht tuo gnitniop rof ouy knahT

    .dednetni nrocs oN

  61. Been workin’ on that for 24 hours now, have you, Mel-the-L?

  62. I still think the story of the women pleading for their husbands is a beautiful story.

  63. L-eht-leM says:

    .nuf ‘vivah er’uoy nehw seilf emiT …regnoL

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