Rape and The Miracle of Forgiveness

Today’s Guest Post is by Chris Kimball.

Although nobody accuses me, every time the (now out-of-print) The Miracle of Forgiveness comes up, I cringe and feel guilty. It’s really not my work and I know that. But the author is my grandfather Spencer Kimball and somehow I feel responsible in a vague but troubling way.

Rape is a difficult and touchy subject, yet I want to contribute to the discussion. I offer this as my personal opinion (I certainly cannot and would never claim to channel Spencer Kimball.)

In a discussion about rape, the two lines most commonly cited from The Miracle of Forgiveness are on pages 63 and 196 (English edition). I can make sense of these, in the main.

On p. 63, Elder Kimball quotes President David O. McKay: “Your virtue is worth more than your life . . . preserve your virtue even if you lose your lives.” This appears, in the original and as used by SWK, to be addressed primarily to boys on college campuses, and in effect counsels: “don’t have sex, don’t initiate sex, don’t do it.” It is complicated by the fact that in common discourse of the time (1960s) men were seen as the actor and women the acted upon and “virtue” was for a woman to preserve. But in the words of two prophets, I read “virtue” as something the actor (the man in this traditional model) is supposed to preserve. In addressing a concern for the man preserving his virtue, it appears a somewhat radical statement for its time.

The problem is that for decades this counsel has been read by both men and women, by both actors and those acted upon. And the statement is not clear or unambiguous about turning the preservation of “virtue” from the woman’s responsibility to the man’s responsibility. As a result, a rape victim understandably hears that she (or he) would be better off dead than having lost her “virtue.” That is an intolerable, insensitive, wrong-minded, dangerous thought and statement.

On p. 196, in his own voice, Elder Kimball says this: “Also far-reaching is the effect of the loss of chastity. Once given or taken or stolen it can never be regained. Even in a forced contact such as rape or incest, the injured one is greatly outraged. If she has not cooperated and contributed to the foul deed, she is of course in a more favorable position. There is no condemnation where there is no voluntary participation. It is better to die in defending one’s virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle.”

On a close contextual reading I find this to be a message to the rapist, or the person who initiated and is guilty of sexual sin. It’s all about how restitution is near impossible because the damage is so great. (For example, I think the “better to die” phrase is really saying that rape is akin to murder.) The next paragraph states, “while one may recover in large measure from sexual sins they are nevertheless heinous.” However, the problem with this quote is that in expounding on how great the damage is, the words lapse into victim-blaming. Perhaps it was common language or phrasing at the time (however wrong that might be even then), but in modern terms this language is unavoidably damaging to victims.

By reading in context and assigning Elder Kimball the best intentions, I can explain and rationalize and in so doing show that there is something good in these statements. However, the words are harsh, punishing, misleading, and dangerous. There is no amount of good intentions or rational interpretation that can solve that problem. These statements from The Miracle of Forgiveness simply must be disavowed.

Comments

  1. Thanks for this, Chris. Your re-interpretation of these troublesome passages places the emphasis, and the condemnation, exactly where they should go: on the rapists. I can’t say for sure if this is what President Kimball meant, but if it isn’t, it should have been.

  2. The idea that a person’s standing before God can be diminished simply by being the victim of an attack denies the second Article of Fatih. The idea that a person’s standing before God can be irreparably damaged, even as a result of his or her own actions, denies the atonement. The Lord’s interest is not in our so-called “worthiness”; He already knows we have a history of sin, that we are imperfect, and that we are vulnerable to temptation. Ether 12 tells us He gave us those very weaknesses. Of course He already knows about them, and better than we do ourselves. It also tells us that we get rid of those weaknesses only by coming to Him in humility. We overcome them not through our persistence or determination, our strength of will, our modest dress, our adherence to some Honor Code, or by tithing and regular fasts. We overcome them through His grace. Christ is far better at fixing stuff than we are; we have to let Him do it.

  3. mjbigelow says:

    Because being virtuous is a decision made by the individual, that is one of the few things rape cannot take away from you.

    I look at someone like Elizabeth Smart who has taken power back from her attackers and used it to strengthen her virtue. She is an excellent example of taking one of the worst possible experiences to suffer and refusing to let it break her.

  4. As a rape an incest victim, I just can’t go there with you. I realize that it is hard to find out that a beloved relative has done huge amounts of harm to those who were already victimized, but the reality is what it is. Bishops still use this book, with those passages, with women and men who have been raped. They are used to justify victim blaming and rape culture, and have been for my entire lifetime.

    I would like to believe that a prophet meant these words to only apply to the men who abused and raped me, but that is not how they were used. I still mentor victims who are dealing with the additional trauma that these words, and the cultural bias behind them, bring with them. The thing is, he had plenty of time to change them, if he had recognized them as hurtful and against the doctrine of the church. He was certainly not the first person to tell women that death was preferable to being raped. There are stories in earlier church magazines (that you can find reproduced at Keepapitchinin.com) that refer to girls being ready to kill themselves when they thought they might be raped. Certainly I heard that it would have been the better alternative in many ways, and from many different people.

    I don’t think that we can keep any justification for using the book anymore. There is too much damage that it does, and too many women (and men) who have been left with the words echoing in their heads as it drove them to attempt to kill themselves. For many years, even though my attempt was unsuccessful, I would wonder which night I would wake up from a nightmare of being chased by the condemnation of a prophet; who blamed me for being alive, for doing what it took to stay alive, when I was raped.

    I want every victim to not have the messages from the book internalized. Instead, I hope that they are allowed to simply heal, without any of the ideas in the book. That would be a Miracle to me.

  5. Thank you for this Chris.

    In our gospel, we go to great lengths to offer our ancestors saving works by performing proxy ordinances that they cannot presently perform for themselves. Personally (and to be clear, this is just a personal view) I extend the idea of proxy salvation beyond ordinances. I work to perform reparations and provide historical context in an effort to purge my ancestor’s missteps while preserving the record of their good works.

    Most of this work is done through teaching my children. I am (and therefore my children are too) descendants of slave holders. The family lines through which we are sealed has a lot to repent of. Unfortunately, in today’s cultural setting it is common for people to jettison the entirety of an ancestor’s work simply because their life contained some views/actions that are (rightfully) rejected today. Consider, for example, many of the founding fathers.

    This may not have been your intent, but in reading your post I see someone who has wrestled with these statements for many years, and who is trying to perform a proxy work for a beloved grandfather who cannot speak for himself. For me, this is the gospel in action. It is the atonement in action. It is in a very real sense the action of a savior on Mt. Zion. And it is beautiful to behold. I pray that our descendants will be understanding of our (many) missteps and work to save us as well.

  6. Chris Kimball says:

    poetrysansonions @8:47: In agreement, may I just reiterate “There is no amount of good intentions or rational interpretation that can solve that problem. These statements from The Miracle of Forgiveness simply must be disavowed.”

  7. Poetry, CK has already clarified but I read this post as saying the same thing you are.

    Also, CK, I hadn’t considered that interpretation of those statements (as directed to the sexual offenders and explaining to them it will be more difficult to repent based on the model of “restitution” that SWK seems to have believed was required — whether that can be squared with the Atonement is another discussion). I think you’re right about that. But I agree it doesn’t salvage the damage the book does to victims.

  8. CK — do you have enough of SWK’s writings to indicate he was some kind of “victim blamer?” It seems like people are quick to condemn a couple of sentences in a book, when my readings of President Kimball indicate he was completely sympathetic with the innocent and abused. He certainly was tough on sex outside of marriage, but I just don’t envision him as unfeeling or uncaring about the victims of sexual assault.

  9. This post says SWK was not blaming the victim but rather the offender. In other words, CK is reading SWK against the grain of how he has been interpreted in these statements all these years.

  10. Chris Kimball says:

    IDIAT @9:57 am: No writings to speak of, no more than is available in The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, for example. My father has been pretty diligent in exploring Spencer Kimball’s life and teachings. I agree that everything I know of the man is that he was completely sympathetic with the innocent and abused, and that informs my reading to be honest. On the other hand, he was a man of his time, and used the vocabulary and norms of his time, and sometimes that creates problems in interpretation. With respect to a number of troublesome SWK quotes, my father has observed (of his father) that if pressed on the meaning Spencer Kimball would have said “I never thought of it that way.” We’d all like something approaching omniscience, but what we get is a human being.

  11. This post is the exact reason I hold my copy tight. This is the beginning of “no, it doesn’t say that…” I believe that SWK was a prophet, but prophets are human. His words definitely do not say what you are ascribing to them. In Mormonism, women have always borne the burden of being the “guardians of virtue” (read: virginity). I can understand wanting to ease the blow of your grandfather’s words, but it would be much more helpful to simply disavow them rather than re-writing history. I hold my copy because no one will ever tell me it doesn’t say what it does, and why my Bishop gave it to me while disfellowshipping me for being raped. The message was loud and clear.

  12. I appreciate the contextualization, Chris.

    At the same time, I’ve never been able to open President Kimball’s book and read it. And now I’m sure, based on your comments, that my interpretation would combine with my upbringing to distort your grandfather’s intent. I would probably read it and experience dismay and shock. I can’t not be a part of my culture any more than he could.

    For example, if the atonement has power to redeem, then, chastity can be regained, full stop. There’s no getting around my perception that he was simply wrong about saying that it can’t.

  13. Rob P – I disagree with your interpretation and application of the atonement to chastity. You mean one can be a virgin, then a non-virgin, then a virgin again? Can you quote any prophet to support your position? By not reading SWK’s MOF, you’re missing out on a very thorough description of the healing effects of the atonement.

  14. “I can understand wanting to ease the blow of your grandfather’s words, but it would be much more helpful to simply disavow them rather than re-writing history.”

    EOR–that is exactly what Chris is suggesting we should do, as he says bluntly and clearly in his final sentence.

  15. DennisonE says:

    Many Protestants claim that Mormons don’t believe in Christs atonement but believe they have to save themselves. Pres. Kimball at one place in his book seems to indicate that is not only possible but required, giving some people a feeling of hopelessness. Curious, I checked the book to see how many times the word atonement appears in the table of contents-zero. With regard to President Kimball this certainly gives the impression the evangicals are right. His views do come across as harsh.

  16. IDIAT: In your response to Rob P, you equate chastity with virginity. The two are not equal and the belief that they are is a major problem. Chastity can be fully regained through the atonement. The belief that one’s sins cannot be fully overcome and blotted out, made white as snow, through Christ is a denial of the infinite power of the atonement.

    Virginity and chastity are not the same thing.

  17. Dennisonlott says:

    Many Protestants believe that Mormons don’t believe in Christ’s atonement, that we believe we are required to save ourselves. At one point in his book President Kimballseems to indicate that we can achieve perfection through ourselves tremendous effort. This leaves many I have spoken to with a feeling of hopelessness. Curious, I checked President Kimball’s book to see how many times the word “atonement” was found. The answer is zero. I don’t get it. President Kimball appears to deny sinners and those sinned against the hope and comfort of the atonement. He does come across as harsh.

  18. The other week, as I was helping my 12 year old daughter with her personal progress requirements, and was horrified that one of the most traumatizing and disturbing moments in the Book of Mormon was a scripture our daughters were expected to read in order to “study the meaning and importance of chastity and virtue.” Moroni 9:9 should not at all be highlighted in a study of virtue. It teaches that virtue can be taken away without any agency and along with that brings up really sickening behavior that should not be highlighted to young children. This verse should also be disavowed, but it’s front and center for our daughters to internalize in a required personal progress activity under the value “Virtue”. As a culture and church we are still teaching this damaging ignorance, even today.

  19. Dennisonlott says:

    Addition to the above reply. I checked the table of contents to see how many times the word atonement applies.

  20. I think your reinterpretation does violence to the original intent of the passage. Clearly Kimball is directing his words to the victim, not the perpetrator. That passage is (pun intended) unforgivable.

  21. (Realizing that we’re going a bit off-topic)
    Rachael (12:38p) – Jesus had virtue taken from Him. The interpretation of Moroni 9:9 that the loss of virtue was caused by rape also needs to be strongly disavowed.

  22. Personally, I don’t see any way to twist the text in Miracle of Forgiveness to refer to males. I mean, really, a rapist should die defending himself rather than lose his virtue? Is the victim going to kill him or something? Please. This is inexcusable. The text here refers specifically to women defending themselves, to the death, if necessary, rather than submit to rape, which the two Church leaders quoted somehow equate to losing “virtue.” Let’s just chalk this up to sorry 1940s or 1950s views of morality and shelve the book forever. FOREVER.

    It’s not just this topic that is problematic. That book probably caused more unnecessary guilt than any book that has ever been written. I loved President Kimball, but even he admitted that he probably went overboard with this book. No probably about it, though. Let’s retire it now, forever.

  23. Internally MoF seems to be a reaction to SWKs experiences in dealing with people under church discipline. At one point the book was distributed to all English speaking units IIRC. I think that’s how I first came in contact with it. I appreciate your interpretation Chris. But at the time this was certainly not the way the book was interpreted. I had sharp disagreements with other leaders over it.

  24. Clark Goble says:

    Just a note that while this was out of print for many years, Deseret Books is now selling it as an ebook.

  25. Chris Kimball says:

    WVS @1:27pm (echoing a number of comments above): “this was certainly not the way the book was interpreted” — I agree.
    I keep feeling defensive about this which means I keep repeating myself, but that’s absolutely correct and it’s the reason I conclude, after giving it my best shot, that the book cannot be rehabilitated and must end.

  26. Dennisson E: You might want to read the book again:

    Chapter 22 of MOF, second or third line:
    God Will Forgive
    Jesus Christ the Only Way
    The purging out of sin would be impossible but for the total repentance of the individual and the kind mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ in his atoning sacrifice. Only by these means can man recover, be healed and washed and purged, and still be eligible for the glories of eternity.

  27. CK 1:48 pm. Yeah, I hear you. Just adding a bit of my experience with it. Only he could rewrite it, otherwise, it just needs to disappear.

  28. Kristine says:
  29. Its important to realise the Generation SWK was from and the attitudes that prevailed then. He also wrote in the book that masturbation was the gateway to homosexuality, something that is obviously untrue.

  30. It could also be considered a justification for a woman killing a man who is trying to rape her. After all, if a woman’s virtue is worth more than her life, how much more is it worth than the life of the person trying to take it from her? (And yes, I realize that the concept of “taking somebody’s virtue” is problematic, especially where rape is concerned; nevertheless, that still seems to be the prevailing paradigm in the church.) I wonder what the legal ramifications might be if that were to happen and the would-be victim cited MoF in her defense.

  31. teelea, People can kill in self-defense legally. There are no extra ramifications and justifications needed.

  32. If anyone can help me out on interpreting Moroni 9:9–

    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—

    10 And after they had done this thing, they did murder them in a most cruel manner, torturing their bodies even unto death; and after they have done this, they devour their flesh like unto wild beasts, because of the hardness of their hearts; and they do it for a token of bravery.

    and here’s the 1828 dictionary definitions of virtue:

    VIRTUE, n. vur’tu. [L. virtus, from vireo, or its root. See Worth.] The radical sense is strength, from straining, stretching, extending. This is the primary sense of L. vir, a man.]

    1. Strength; that substance or quality of physical bodies, by which they act and produce effects on other bodies. In this literal and proper sense, we speak of the virtue or virtues of plants in medicine, and the virtues of drugs. In decoctions, the virtues of plants are extracted. By long standing in the open air, the virtues are lost.
    2. Bravery valor. This was the predominant signification of virtus among the Romans.
    Trust to thy single virtue.
    [This sense is nearly or quite obsolete.]
    3. Moral goodness; the practice of moral duties and the abstaining from vice, or a conformity of life and conversation to the moral law. In this sense, virtue may be, and in many instances must be, distinguished from religion. The practice of moral duties merely from motives of convenience, or from compulsion, or from regard to reputation, is virtue, as distinct from religion. The practice of moral duties from sincere love to God and his laws, is virtue and religion. In this sense it is true,
    That virtue only makes our bliss below.
    Virtue is nothing but voluntary obedience to truth.
    4. A particular moral excellence; as the virtue of temperance, of chastity, of charity.
    Remember all his virtues.
    5. Acting power; something efficacious.
    Jesus, knowing that virtue had gone out of him, turned – Mark 3.
    6. Secret agency; efficacy without visible or material action.
    She moves the body which she doth possess,
    Yet no part toucheth, but by virtue’s touch.
    7. Excellence; or that which constitutes value and merit.
    – Terence, who thought the sole grace and virtue of their fable, the sticking in of sentences.
    8. One of the orders of the celestial hierarchy.
    Thrones, dominations, princedoms, virtues, powers.
    9. Efficacy; power.
    He used to travel through Greece by virtue of this fable, which procured him reception in all the towns.
    10. Legal efficacy or power; authority. A man administers the laws by virtue of a commission.
    In virtue, in consequence; by the efficacy or authority.
    This they shall attain, partly in virtue of the promise of God, and partly in virtue of piety.

  33. Kristine, after spending the entire post attempting to run apologetics on the book a final sentence is not good enough.

    I can not imagine any reason for writing this (well, I can, but the answer is selfishness and I would rather not attribute that to a stranger). If your ultimate conclusion was that it could not be rehabilitated, why bother opening fresh (old and new) wounds for so many people?

  34. Genevieve says:

    Chris Kimball, thank you for the post. That passage in the MoF has pained me for years, and I wholeheartedly agree that it needs to be disavowed. I am glad that we’re talking about this!

    While I can’t quite swallow the re-interpretation of the text that you offer, I found it comforting to imagine Elder Kimball as more sympathetic and compassionate than his written words would indicate.

  35. Genevieve says:

    Also, regarding Rachael’s comment (April 28, 12:38 pm), I am very sorry to hear that the YW leaders have not yet changed this. Using Moroni 9:9 as an introduction to the concept of virtue for young women is indefensible. This would be such an easy fix; I’m frustrated that it hasn’t happened already. I’m at a loss as to what to about this, besides write letters to our stake leaders and ask them to pass the message on.

    Lemuel, here are two possible interpretations of that verse:

    1) The Lamanite women literally had their virtue and chastity taken from them.
    2) This is a euphemism, a stand-in for saying outright, “the Lamanite women were raped.” We aren’t supposed to believe that they actually lost virtue or chastity, but that they lost their virginity through sexual violence.

    Interpretation (1) has very troubling doctrinal interpretations (i.e. your virtue can be taken from you), and interpretation (2) relies on the reader to interpret “virtue” as a euphemism for “virginity.” Either way you interpret the verse, it makes absolutely no sense as instruction for teenaged girls about the meaning of “virtue.” Maybe there are other, more palatable interpretations of the verse, but something this muddy, with this much potential for misunderstanding isn’t going to teach girls the right lessons about chastity and virtue.

  36. The scriptures contain other instances of euphemisms for things related to sex. I don’t recall ever thinking it meant anything other than rape.

  37. Genevieve says:

    IDIAT, right. So in this verse, “virtue” is a euphemism that doesn’t really mean “virtue,” but we’re using it to teach our young women about virtue.

  38. Right, because it’s a euphemism we shouldn’t use it to teach about virtue, because it doesn’t work that way.

  39. Well said Genevieve.

  40. RockiesGma says:

    When I was growing up we had classes at Youth Conference, fire sides, dating panels, and lessons during week night Mutual that taught us that if we were raped we were damaged goods and no righteous priesthood holder would want to marry damaged goods. Likewise, we were taught that we were no longer chaste if we were raped. We were frequently reminded that it would be better to die than to “submit” to rape. I’ve personally known women who were disfellowshipped after being raped. They were called in to account for how much they resisted or to judge whether they brought the rape upon themselves because of their attire and/or behavior. They were told that they lost their virtue. The ensuing depression and anxiety are difficult to adequately portray. I’m a bit old. Times were different. I remember hearing my own stalwart and wonderful father once speak of his doubts that a young sister in the Ward was really raped because she had no visible bruises, swellings, or broken bones–she obviously didn’t put up much of a fight he said, so how could it really be rape. Mom agreed. I heard others make similar comments over the years. Then, too, there were a couple girls who whispered of their “violation” because they couldn’t bear to say “rape” and made me promise not to tell a soul because everyone would find out they were no good any more. Yep, times were different, and that’s how a great many folks sincerely saw things. No wonder my friends and associates who were raped never recovered. Glory, that’s powerful sad.

    I’m so grateful the Lord has blessed us to re-think these matters and continues to lead us toward greater wisdom, understanding and light. Let’s earnestly strive to keep our eyes continually focused on Him and He will lead us to the whole truth of these things…..even all things, eh?

  41. RockiesGma- I wish that times had changed enough that no young woman or young man was taught those things anymore. I’m very sorry every time I work with a survivor who is struggling not just with the rape or abuse, but also with losing a boyfriend or fiance when they disclose what happened to them. We hurt both young men and young women with the idea that virtue and virginity are the same thing.

  42. Kristine says:

    EOR–I think civil discourse, and ESPECIALLY discourse in the context of a community trying to be bound by love and faith, requires first trying to find the most charitable possible way of understanding each other. Chris has done that for his grandfather’s words, which makes his conclusion that they must be denounced all the more powerful.

  43. When I was a kid, maybe 8 or 9 years old, I read a line in a newspaper, out loud, about a rape and asked “What does ‘rape’ mean?” My mother said, “We’ll talk about it later” in the tone of voice that I knew meant we would probably not get around to talking about it later … so I went right to the dictionary. I didn’t quite understand it, but “rape” became one of those ideas I became sensitive to throughout my life, in the sense of “learn what you can where and when you can.”

    I never heard any of the ideas that RockiesGma reports being such an apparently constant theme while we were young. Some of those ideas were current with regard to dating and voluntarily going too far, but never taught in Church settings — never, in my experience — in connection to rape.

  44. Genevieve says:

    I was taught — in conversation, not formal classes — that women were supposed to give their lives before allowing themselves to be raped. This was in the 1980s and 1990s. I had hoped that we had expunged this belief by now. I am sorry to hear that there are still remnants of this belief in our Mormon community.

  45. I was taught in seminary that we should die before being raped. That was late 80’s.

  46. Yeah, those early 80’s were crazy times alright. Except that Elder Rex D. Pinegar in the October 1981 Ensign article “Let God Judge between Me and Thee,” addresses victims of rape head on, and clearly says they are not to blame. So, for those of you who claim to have been taught differently, apparently you had crappy leaders.

  47. See also Gospel Topic “Abuse.” #Don’tblamethechurch

  48. Genevieve says:

    No, we had well-meaning leaders, mothers, and friends who had taken Elder Kimball’s counsel to heart. The Miracle of Forgiveness was promoted by the Church for a long time, and blaming “crappy leaders” for heeding it hardly seems fair.

    Also, the 1981 article you referenced was a great step forward but it’s a bit of a weak sauce against Spencer Kimball’s unfortunate passage on rape. The article specifically mentions resistance — twice — as evidence that the rape victim is innocent.

  49. These lessons and teachings have an incredibly long life. Most of us do not take the time and effort to study and learn new things or new interpretations or new ways of saying things, but mostly we teach what we were taught. Errors of whatever kind replicate and repeat. I think it takes a loud and persistent effort to effect change. I think it also requires saying that the past was wrong. Just adding upon, new and better lessons and interpretations and teachings, as laudable as that is, is not enough. We don’t do that–reject the past when it warrants rejecting–often enough or well enough, in my opinion.
    (I think that’s by way of agreeing with Genevieve above, but I’m happy to stand on my own.)

  50. I was just 18 in 1978, graduating from high school & moving away attending a college ward just in time to confess my immorality to the bishop when I really should have been in therapy for being raped at age 16 by a 21 year old brother of my friend who had just gotten out of jail. Up until a few years ago I could never speak of it or say the words *I was raped* … I hate, HATE that book …I tried so hard to read it & abide by it. I never, ever felt felt the miracle of forgiveness reading it, only guilt & pain & shame driven in even further.

  51. Genvieve: unless we want the YW to learn that “virtue” means “virginity”, and that it’s the most important thing, therefore the most damage someone could do to you is to take that away from you. I really think that’s what they’re going for, and I think it’s pretty terrible.

    I remember that when I first encountered the “death is better than rape” idea, I assumed it meant we should kill an attacker (and that killing somebody would be a terribly big burden, but not worse than having my bodily autonomy taken away). It wasn’t until my mid-20s (ie – fairly recently) that I understood the intended message was slightly different.

  52. Chris, I have great respect for your grandfather, but not for some of his opinions, or his diction. If I recall correctly, one of your father’s books reports SWK having said something about The Miracle of Forgiveness having been too harsh. And, again if I recall correctly, your father noted in conversation that his parents never discussed the gospel and in responding to his listeners’ surprise, he quipped that Mother is an Eyring and that means she has questions, while Father is a Kimball and that means he cannot understand why they are questions. That may once have been a Kimball characteristic, but it is clearly no longer attached to the name.

    Thanks for your noting that disavowal is necessary. Part of the problem is a diction problem. Some do not realize that the word “virtue” does not always mean the same thing. There have been many who used the word sometimes in place of “virginity.” Similarly, the word “homosexuality” is now used and understood by many [not all] as equivalent to the Church’s preferred term “same-sex attraction.” But it was understood and used by SWK and Pope John Paul II and many others, and still by some, to mean “homo-erotic sexual intercourse.” Some decades ago as a bishopric member I refused to use a Church-produced film, intended to teach youth sexual self-control, because it concluded with SWK’s declaring that “homosexuality” was a gross sin. I doubt that he meant what our then youth would have heard. Disavowal seems to be the only reasonably effective way of preventing continuing damage, even if the possible damage were to result from differing definitions of the words used.

  53. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    For those who are criticizing all but the last 3 sentences of the post, it has a way of tempering the associations of memory for the average person who read the book. Here is my takeaway: If you have read the book and remember these passages, they are bad. If you can’t erase them from your memory, use these tricks to recharacterize their obvious intent into something that is less twisted–but if at all possible–erase them from your memory.

    I was on a mission in the 80s and I had a companion that asked our MP about a passage in MOF that spoke negatively about beauty pageants. (Correct me if I am wrong about this–I haven’t touched MOF in many years and have never read it from beginning to end). The timing was shortly after Sharlene Wells had won the Miss America pageant and was being praised all over for her accomplishment. The MP told my companion to ignore MOF because it was basically garbage. He was shocked that someone would say that about any book by an Apostle, as was I when I heard the retelling.

    As a youth who came of age during President Kimball’s presidency, my admiration for him enthusiastically continues. As with other writings of past prophets that later seem inflammatory will never go away, there is a place for discussing them and the doctrinal cultures from which those statements arose.

  54. I just to add to the anecdotal evidence of what we were taught in YW growing up. I was a teenager during the late 1990’s/early 2000’s. I was never explicitly taught that rape implied a loss of virtue or that any rape victims were at fault. Rape (or any euphemism for rape) was never mentioned once in 9 years of Primary, 6 years of YW and Sunday School, and 4 years of Seminary. As far as my gospel training was concerned, rape did not exist. It wasn’t a thing. It wasn’t even mentioned after one of the young men in our ward sexually assaulted at least 2 of the young women. Chastity lessons carried on as usual, pretending that all sex was consensual and that if you had any that was a sin. And if you tempted a boy to want sex (pretty much just by being female and existing), that was also a sin.

  55. Angela C says:

    Mid-80s I was also taught that we should die before allowing ourselves to be raped.

  56. that’s really perverse. *no one* can “allow” themselves to be raped. it’s a contradiction in terms. the level of resistance doesn’t matter at all. if there’s no consent, it’s rape, and rape is the fault of the attacker, not the victim. it’s a cultural shame that we’ve ever thought differently.

  57. IDIAT — Yes, I differentiate the two terms. Today, “virginity” is a trait of innocence, absence of experience with sexual intercourse with another person, and is also a euphemism for any activity that has never tried. It is a passive descriptor, like an age or a hair color. A “virgin” is a person without an experience. A rapist can take someone’s virginity twofold, by assaulting, and by forcing sexual intercourse.

    “Chastity” on the other hand, is behavior, intent, and attitudes that accord with a moral law bracketing the circumstances of sexual activity. “Chaste” is a behavioral descriptor, like “angry” or “frenetic”. The definition encompasses Matthew 5:28 and carries the clarity that a rape victim remains chaste before, during, and after the assault. And, the rapist is unchaste from the moment he or she decides to groom or surprise a victim, because of intent and attitude. It is possible to obtain forgiveness, therefore, chastity can be restored. Even though the 1828 dictionary makes an implication that “chastity” in Moroni 9 can mean experience with sexual intercourse, because the definition then was specifically spare, today it’s been expanded, and so today a rape victim, by the moral law definition, cannot be rendered unchaste by the assault.

    I use the modern definition because of the way the wording of Temple covenants combine with the doctrines of the atonement.

    This third term, “virtue”, as others have pointed out, generally meant and still means moral strength or vitality. It does not mean virginity or exclusively chastity. A virtuous person employs agency and energy to bring about good outcomes. That’s why patience, cleanliness, valor, kindness, loyalty, helpfulness, and courtesy are all virtues. Because it is expressive of moral strength, chastity is a virtue. It does not and cannot mean virginity, because virginity is not an expressed moral strength. Using the language of Joseph Smith’s time, the Lamanite women in Moroni 9:9 lost “chastity and virtue”, which looks to me like they’d been raped and enslaved: denied moral agency to refuse consent.Because of the way words were defined the year the Book of Mormon was first printed, it must mean more than loss of virginity.

    It helps, also, that the plain reading of materials like the “For the Strength of Youth” booklet support these ideas.

  58. Justagirl says:

    Unfortunately our bishop has stacks of these in his office. I would trash them if I could.

  59. Hedgehog says:

    Mid 80s stake youth fireside (on chastity, of course), to which questions could be submitted. One of my submissions questioned the logic of the requirement to fight to the death if murder was deemed the greater sin… so I have to assume the idea was current at church in Britain in the 80s.

  60. It seems to me that these kinds of statements become very interesting case studies in what we mean by “prophetic infallibility”. There are statements like those in the OP, which, we can see, are not uniquely attributed to Pres. Kimball, but were also made by Pres. McKay and Pres. Grant. There was Pres. Kimball’s “oral sex” letter from the early ’80’s. The claim that April 6th is Christ’s official birthday that many have said is “revelation”. Exercising discernment with these kinds of statements, I find myself frequently asking questions around what it means for a prophet to be a prophet and how to know when he is prophetically speaking eternal truth and when he is speaking as a product of his own time and culture.

  61. This book needs to die in the flames of the enlightenment of the Internet Age. It’s spiritual poison, as far as I’m concerned. Nothing but a guilt-inducing, misguided tool for ecclesiastical abuse. I can’t even stand to see the cover….

  62. mikerharris says:

    “I was an old man before I understood! It was not until I was an old man that I could finally see a poor country doctor—overworked, underpaid, run ragged from patient to patient, with little medicine, no hospital, few instruments, struggling to save lives, and succeeding for the most part…”
    This story told by President Packer seems relevent.
    https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1987/10/balm-of-gilead?lang=eng