King David, Corianton, and Sex #BOM2016

Alma 39-42

DavidThe Latter-day Saint scriptural tradition contains two great cautionary tales about sex: the first is the story of King David, who saw Bathsheba bathing on the roof and summoned her to his quarters—an assignation that ended with the betrayal and murder of Bathsheba’s husband. The second is the story of Corianton, the son of Alma the Younger, who abandoned his missionary duties among the Zoramites and dallied with “the harlot Isabel”—thus imperiling the entire mission and bringing disrepute on the followers of Christ.

On the surface, these cautionary tales seem to have the same message, which is something like, “don’t follow your sexual impulses (except under carefully controlled circumstances) or bad stuff will happen.” It’s a message that Mormons hear a lot. But when we start looking at the differences between the two stories, we start to see very different understandings of human sexuality and religion at work. And, in this case, the differences are much more important than the similarities.

Let’s start with David, a man who has wives and concubines all over the place (2 Samuel 5:13). As the king in a polygamous society, David has very few restraints on his sexual behavior. “Stay away from the wives of top officers who might lead a rebellion against you.” That’s about it. His actions with Bathsheba show us a man whose appetites and sense of entitlement are so great that he can’t even observe the minimal sexual boundaries that his society has set for him. And, of course, things end very badly for him as a result.

But here’s the thing: we repeatedly read in the Bible that, whatever else might have strayed, David’s heart was always with the Lord. He replaces Saul because he is “a man after [God’s] own heart.” After he dies, the narrative tells us that his heart was “perfect with the Lord” (1 Kings 11:4) and that he followed the Lord “with all his heart’ (1 Kings 14:8). This constant emphasis on David’s heart tells us that, AS THE TEXT PRESENTS IT, David’s sexual impropriety was not tied to any theological error (he continued to believe correctly) or any deficiency of love (he continued to love the Lord with all his heart). This is why, for all of his sins, many people still see David as a hero today.

But what about Corianton’s heart? In his lengthy blessing of his son, Alma makes it very clear that Corianton’s heart is not right. His sexual sin has resulted in the alienation of his heart from God:

Suffer not yourself to be led away by any vain or foolish thing; suffer not the devil to lead away your heart again after those wicked harlots. Behold, O my son, how great iniquity ye brought upon the Zoramites; for when they saw your conduct they would not believe in my words. And now the Spirit of the Lord doth say unto me: Command thy children to do good, lest they lead away the hearts of many people to destruction (Alma 39:11-12).

Corianton’s sin, unlike David’s, becomes evidence of a deficient heart. Perhaps even more importantly, though, it also becomes evidence of a lack of religious understanding. After rebuking Corianton for his sexual sins for one chapter, Alma spends the next three chapters correcting his son’s theological errors. In chapters 40-42, Alma takes the unusual step (for someone giving a blessing) of clarifying doctrines that Corianton has presumably not understood: the nature of the resurrection, the doctrine of the spirit world, outer darkness, the corporeality of the afterlife, the nature of spiritual death, mercy, justice, atonement, and so on.

The curious juxtaposition of moral rebuke and theological correction in Corianton’s blessing casts sexual sin as an essentially theological problem—either the result of, or a symptom of, a faulty understanding of the Gospel. This means that the solution to sexual sin must be theological instruction of the kind that constitutes the bulk of the blessing. Such an approach implicitly denies sexuality as a primary part of human identity. We are not (like King David) sexual beings who have a theology; we are theological beings who have sex—and whose sexuality must be entirely contained within theological bounds unless we don’t love God.

There are limits to these kinds of generalizations, of course—the most obvious being that they work much better for men than for women. The two texts treat David and Corianton very differently, but their treatment of Bathsheba and Isabel is almost identical: both women are presented as stumbling blocks to male spiritual progress and not as actual people whose spirituality or sexuality matters for its own sake. This is a huge problem in both texts, and Latter-day Saints all too often pass this flawed understanding on to our daughters by telling them they are responsible—through their dress, their words, and their actions—for making sure that men don’t become Davids or Coriantons.

This is one of the reasons that our traditional scriptural cautionary tales have limited instructional value for teaching our youth today. Another is that the two stories end up teaching opposite lessons about what it means to love God, accept the Gospel, and have a sexual identity. Proof-texting both passages to come up with “sex is bad and ugly until you are married, when it becomes a Godly act of co-creation” has not actually worked very well. Mainly it has helped to created several generations of neurotic Mormons. Instead, I would suggest, we should try reading both stories carefully and really grappling with the complicated and difficult issues that they raise for us all.

Comments

  1. Jonathan Cavender says:

    A Latter-Day Saint examination of David is deficient without engaging Doctrine and Covenants 132 and what it says about him and his ultimate situation. It would seem that this should significantly aid in resolving any conflict between these two narratives.

  2. ConcubineAnd says:

    I have a difficult time truly believing that David was always “a man after God’s own heart” when his “relationship” with Bathsheba was for all intents and purposes rape. And no, I don’t say that lightly or without understanding that it was a different time and culture. But if we are going to take lessons from that different time and culture we need to be explicit about the ways in which they got it wrong. Otherwise the only conclusion we can reach is that God is as neurotic about sex as we are. As a woman, what am I forced to conclude about the God that I love if this great king, this man who collected nameless faceless women like cattle, was “a man after His own heart”? For the sake of my own heart and my sanity I have to find solace in believing that the writers of the story of David were stumbling in the dark, searching for truth as much as we are today, and perhaps their conclusions about David’s heart were akin to eulogizing the dead, rather than an immutable truth.

  3. I agree 100% with ConcubineAnd. I cannot, as a woman, find much to admire in David’s story. His interaction with Bathseba was nothing but an abuse of power–like all rapes. She was likely performing her ritual post-menstrual purification as the law required of her, and he sent guards to bring her to him. He was the king and her husband’s boss. We need to stop seeing this as a story of sexuality and more a story of gross abuse of power. It is just not possible for him to have his heart with God while abusing the gifts and stewardship God entrusted with him. That’s not how it works. Maybe he eventually figured it out, but I do not see David as a hero.

    Corianton seems to have engaged in consensual sexual relations. He needed gospel instruction to learn why this was wrong. But, interestingly, he did and then stayed on his mission. (My seminary students were aghast at this, by the way.) For all of its limitations, I prefer this story.

  4. nevadanista says:

    What ConcubineAnd said.

  5. I am with ConcubineAnd on this. I never see David as a man after the Lord’s own heart. I think that is the royal writers trying to justify an important king, one who gave them a rich and powerful country. David is not and never was a hero to me. I pity him, someone who did not seem to be able to love one wife, to actually develop that emotional intimacy that makes sexual intimacy become something remarkable. I feel that once he married his second wife he lost site of happiness and gave himself over to power seeking. The inability to recognize women as full children of God with dreams and desires equal in importance to men’s cripples a society and leaves it second or third rate. I am hopeful that the LDS culture might someday actually believe that about its women.

  6. The LDS text actually agrees with all of the commenters. If you look at the footnotes for many of the instances where it talks about David’s heart (including 1 Kings 11:4), there is a Joseph Smith Translation that changes it to say that David’s heart was not right with the Lord. Also, as Jonathan pointed out that D&C 132 mentions David’s fate due to his sins (spoiler: not the celestial kingdom). So I would agree with Sandra that these verses are likely a product of royal writers trying to bolster the image of one of the greatest (politically) of Israel’s kings. Given this, I think it’s a stretch to say that these two stories teach contradictory lessons.

    That said, I think that there is a lot to be admired in the life of David, especially before his fall. He was very patient with Saul and generally seemed to be doing what’s right. And even after Nathan confronts David, David spends basically the rest of his life trying to repent. But the story definitely reinforces the principle that past righteousness does not necessarily guarantee future righteousness.

    Also, I never read these chapters as Alma laying his hands upon his sons and giving them a blessing. Rather, I saw them as Alma sitting down with his sons and talking with them. So Alma’s clarification of doctrine is not unusual at all in this setting.

  7. it's a series of tubes says:

    Parts of this series offer excellent insights. Other parts, like this one, seem like the author is sticking his fingers in his ears and chanting “na na na na” while conveniently ignoring various canonized materials that expressly contradict his position. The OP is almost comical in light of D&C 132, and even more so in light of the various JST modifications others have mentioned.

  8. “Parts of this series offer excellent insights. Other parts, like this one, seem like the author is sticking his fingers in his ears and chanting “na na na na” while conveniently ignoring various canonized materials that expressly contradict his position. The OP is almost comical in light of D&C 132, and even more so in light of the various JST modifications others have mentioned.”

    Oh, I certainly understand that it is possible to use these canonized “revisions” of the Bible to tame the David narrative–to pull it into the same moral universe that Corianton inhabits. We can reject the plain sense of the Old Testament by saying that David’s heart was not right, that he isn’t going to the Celestial Kingdom, etc. We can even pretend that the narrative of the Old Testament does not present David as a hero. But what I am suggesting is that reading it this way takes away a moral complexity that we need to come to grips with and turns it into the kind of nice, black-and-white morality tale that we already have quite enough of. I am suggesting that, in reading the Old Testament, we allow it to retain some of the uncomfortable moral complexity that is actually in the text–and that we maybe bring some of it over into the way that we read the Book of Mormon.

    The story of David that we have in the Bible is a great work of tragic literature. It has most of the elements of Greek tragedy that we are used to: a great man with a tragic flaw that causes him to act in a way that ensures his own downfall. But David does not fall in the classical sense. He is overtaken by the lusts of the flesh, which cause him to commit horrible acts of murder and betrayal–and he gets away with it, at least as far as his worldly position is concerned. He remains a great king and dies in his sleep.

    David’s tragedy is moral, rather than a political. He “falls” because he violates his own moral code and offends the God that he honestly loves. The great moment of tragic recognition comes in 2 Samuel 12, when Nathan tells him of the man who had many sheep who stole the sheep of the man who had only one. David becomes enraged and says that the man must die, and then Nathan tells him that he (David) is the man. This scene only works because David remains fundamentally moral. The tragic fall is internal. And the traditional attribution of the Psalms to David rests on the presumption that he spends the rest of his life wracked with guilt and agony and trying repent for a sin that is beyond his ability to repent of. The essential purity of David’s heart is what makes this a particularly poignant work of literature. It is at once a political epic and a moral tragedy–a combination that no Greek or Roman writer was ever able to pull off because they lacked the Hebrew sense of morality that defines the story of David.

    And let me be very clear that I am reading this story as a constructed literary tale. I completely agree that David’s court propagandists were trying to make him look good, as were all of his descendants. The real David would have been a much less grandiose figure than we read about in the Old Testament–probably little more than a glorified clan leader. Both his opulence and his heroism (moral and political) were carefully constructed over centuries by people who needed the image of David to justify their own political positions. We do much the same with our own founding fathers, even though we have access to much better historical sources than anybody has ever had to describe the court of King David.

    As a moral tragedy, David presents us with a man who loves God with a pure heart but who cannot turn that love into pure action. This raises some extremely important issues, which have been explored by Jewish and Christian scholars for thousands of years. I can see why, theologically, Joseph Smith wanted to take away his pure heart–to suggest that anybody who commits grave sins must be deficient in either their theological understanding or their love of God. This is what I am arguing happens in the narrative of Corianton because, by and large, the Book of Mormon does not contain anywhere near the moral complexity that the Old Testament does. From the theological perspective, this is defensible (but barely). But from the literary perspective (which is the perspective that I announced in the beginning I was going to take in this series), this gives us a much less interesting (and I would say much less useful) story than the one that is actually in the Hebrew Bible–and I am not in any hurry to embrace it as a way of resolving a contradiction that, in my opinion, teaches us so much more when it remains unresolved.

  9. ConcubineAnd says:

    Approaching the story of David as a great moral tragedy still falls flat for me because even in that interpretation his “great sin” was the murder of one man, rather than the figurative murder and dehumanization of hundreds of the daughters of God. You’ll forgive me for being weary of the plight of my sisters being glossed over and used as a plot device to get to David’s “real” sin. If ever a black and white morality tale was needed it is in this area. Unfortunately there is still the matter of d&c 132, which will always allow an “out” for David’s (and our continued) sin of erasing women as human beings

  10. ConcubineAnd,

    I agree with you here. (I hope you noticed that I spent my penultimate paragraph in the OP making precisely this point). In trying to understand what writers of the past are doing on their own terms, I am not endorsing their world views. I completely acknowledge that both the stories of David and Corianton use the female characters instrumentally, with no attempt to represent them as actual people in their own right. And I agree that this is an enormous problem.

  11. The disagreement I have with the argument is that I do not believe David is fundamentally moral. I believe a truly moral man would have resigned as king after having to face his own willingness to murder a loyal soldier rather than be revealed as an adulterer. A moral man would have humbly sought forgiveness when Bathsheba revealed to him her pregnancy. David instead reveals himself to be unwilling to face the consequences of his action even to the point of murder, a true coward. I do not know what the consequences would have been if he had had to tell Uriah and Nathan of his adultery. But to choose murder instead can never qualify one as moral. He reveals the breadth of his self-deception when Nathan tells him the story of the lamb and he passes sentence that this man should die. For a lamb? Why then not for stealing a wife or killing a husband? And why the anger? How self-righteous could he be?
    I believe he sought forgiveness on terms that required little from him. I do not believe he repented and tried to make his life right with God. If he had he would have sent home all his foreign concubines and wives. He would have actually reformed his kingdom and then resigned the kingship. He wanted eternal life. He did not want to pay the price it cost. He did not love God. He loved himself as king, powerful and important. His offering to God was not a broken heart and contrite spirit. It was expensive, worldly goods prepared for a temple. He did not create a kingdom of people seeking God. He created a history that celebrated wealth and power, alliances cemented with royal marriages to people the Israelites had been forbidden to marry.
    This story may have been a great moral tragedy in that David was once a humble follower of God. But I believe David and Solomon are the greatest examples in the Old Testament of the fulfillment of the warnings given to the children of Israel about the hazards posed by kings.

  12. Sandra, that is certainly a plausible and defensible (and moral) way to read the text.

  13. Y’all, I read this post because I have to teach the chastity lesson in Young Women’s next week, and I am frankly over it. I am fed up with the over-sexualization of our daughters. I am tired of the judgement and the finger pointing (he/she/they isn’t/aren’t going to the celestial kingdom because of xyz–apparently there are exemptions to that not-judging idea Jesus told us about). I’m over being directed (in the lesson prep stuff online) to the incomplete stories, like Corianton’s, when really what matters are stories where Jesus forgives people and stories where people say hey y’all those red stains you are carrying can and will turn snow white. But OH. NO. We have to read verses where sex becomes almost (i.e. just) as bad as murder. Because that is SUPER helpful to tell a group of hormone crazed young people. And never mind that maybe this is a heightened spiritual argument coming through the filter of B.C. man, coming through the filter of Victorian era man with another filter thrown in there because I forgot that Mormon was abridging–because what child (people under the age of 18) can keep up with all that? Particularly when any sifting of personal bias of the narrator or abridger or translator when it comes to the BOM is seen as sacrilegious. I read about David and my take away is, “Good people make big mistakes and thank heavens for Jesus and his mercy.” I read about Corianton and my take away is, “He turned it around. Praise Jesus that we can all turn it around.” But again no. Sex has to be a sin before marriage, and then it has to be holy-baby-making-godliness during marriage. No room for pragmatic attitudes about sex ever. And the nice stuff in the Bible (like song of Solomon) where sex isn’t demonized, well that apparently is just pornography that the devil snuck into the good book and we have to demonize it now and/or avoid it entirely.

    I agree with the author of this post, that these stories aren’t very helpful for teaching our young people about chastity. And objectifying our daughters as instruments of sin, walking porn, vessels for sleeves and appropriate hemlines, temptations of the flesh, or illustrations of the gospel in action–none of that is helpful. They are people. Girls, YW, Women, sisters–they are all people. I get it. But this just adds to my frustration because if scripture stories like this aren’t helpful (and they are not because I remember my leaders saying that Bathsheba should have been more modest when she was bathing and that David’s fall was partly her fault and responsibility) then WHAT IS helpful when it comes to teaching young people about chastity? After prayer and study the only thing I got is: Jesus. Jesus forgives. Jesus loves. Jesus and Heavenly Father made us. They set us up to be sexual and to want to be sexual, and a committed relationship with fidelity, love and maturity (that’s a marriage, yeah?) is the safest, healthiest, and everyone’s (including Jesus and HF) best guess for happiness.

  14. Michael, have you read McKenzie’s biography of King David. It is indeed revisionist, but takes the very text of the Hebrew Bible as offering clues to David as “a usurper, adulterer, and murderer–a Middle Eastern despot of a familiar type. McKenzie shows that the story of humble beginnings is utterly misleading: ‘shepherd’ is a metaphor for ‘king,’ and David came from a wealthy, upper-class background. Similarly, McKenzie reveals how David’s ascent to power, traditionally attributed to popularity and divine blessing, in fact resulted from a campaign of terror and assassination. While instituting a full-blown Middle Eastern monarchy, David was an aggressive leader, a devious politician, and a ruthless war chief. Throughout his scandalous reign, important figures who stood in his way died at convenient times, under questionable circumstances. Even his own sons were not spared. David’s story, writes McKenzie, “reads like a modern soap opera, with plenty of sex, violence, and struggles for power.” https://global.oup.com/academic/product/king-david-9780195147087?cc=us&lang=en&#
    https://www.nytimes.com/books/00/06/18/reviews/000618.18milest.html

    I am no Hebrew Bible scholar, but I found the book interesting and gripping.

  15. It always bothers me when people say David was an adulterer, when in fact, he was a rapist, as ConcubineAnd and others have observed. I am curious, Michael, as to your take on the matter. Do you see David as a rapist, or merely as an adulterer?

  16. 35 ¶And Jesus answered and said, while he taught in the temple, How say the scribes that Christ is the Son of David?
    Given the commentary above, what are we to understand with respect to this title; was it acknowledged by the Saviour as fitting or only an attribution of others? If acknowledged then to which ‘David’ might this identification be made?

  17. I get it that the women in these stories are a plot device and that’s awful, but it’s not the first or last time and says to me look to the men because that’s who the story’s about, whether you/I/the reader is a man or woman. (Admittedly it’s easier for me because I’m a man.) About David and Corianton, as a young man I read the stories as saying that one could be guilty of the worst sins–fornication, idolatry, rape, abuse of power, murder–and still serve the Lord. Be punished. Require repentance. Suffer and atone. Maybe for all of this life and the next (cf D&C 132). But still serve the Lord. I read this in the midst of a Victorian-flavored Mormon culture that was telling me no, that’s not so. That some sins–murder of course, but most of the emphasis was on sex–are disqualifying from service. Disqualifying from the love of God. Forever.
    40-50 years later, I’m still torn. My head, and what I would say to others, is with “nevertheless, repent and serve the Lord.” My heart, at least when judging myself, is with “disqualified forever.”

  18. In Alma 39:2-5 an example (not the only one) of poor teaching technique by Alma (or Mormon as abridger/editor). Verse 2 begins with daddy (as Mission President) comparing his sons to each other followed by daddy announcing what he (not the Lord) has against Corianton. Verse 3 continues with what Corianton did that was “grievous unto” daddy, which as far as one can tell from this verse was leaving his assigned area to go try converting a woman daddy calls a harlot (either because he knows she is one or because he is given to name calling when his boy is tempted or inspired to do something contrary to daddy’s wishes). Verse 4 claims she stole the hearts of many, which tells us nothing of her sexual behavior, but only that she was an attractive woman; then that verse again chastises the missionary for leaving his assigned area. And finally in verse 5 Mormon’s Alma gets around to telling his son that not only daddy is displeased, but that “these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord.” What is the antecedent of “these things”? Is Alma/Mormon such a Victorian prude that he can’t tell us? Or should we read that plural in context to mean that boasting in one’s strength and wisdom and leaving one’s assigned missionary area and being seen with someone accused of being a harlot are abominations? The second part of verse 5, following the semi-colon, elevates all of these things and not merely whatever it was that Corianton did or sought to do with the accused to a status worse than all sins except shedding innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost. This seems to be an editor’s distortion or an offended father’s/missionary president’s rhetorical flourish. While there are in the received text later hints that “these things” might be multiple, undescribed sexual behaviors, whatever they were, the rest of Corianton’s story clearly implies repentance and forgiveness. Perhaps Mormon’s message as abridger is that, although Alma claimed that some group of Corianton’s real or imagined offenses were abominations more serious that almost all sins, the possibility of repentance and forgiveness for them is real.

    p.s. I left my assigned mission area to teach a woman (not a harlot) who otherwise would not listen to the missionaries. She was baptised. I don’t know if Isabel was!

  19. Rachael, I have been thinking a lot about that question as this thread has developed, and the best answer I can give is that I just don’t know. ConcubineAnd is absolutely correct to say that Bathsheba is erased from the text as a human being and converted into a plot device. And I agree that this fact alone makes the story problematic enough that it should never be used to teach anything about modesty or chastity.

    One of the consequences of entirely removing Bathsheba’s perspective from the story is that we don’t know enough (as I read it) to answer the question, “was she a willing participant in the events?” The author of the story has no interest in the answer to this question. As a plot device, Bathsheba’s consent or lack of consent, is only relevant to the extent that it drives the plot.

    Only two chapters later, the same author tells a story (the rape of Tamar) in which the plot device’s non-consent is absolutely vital to the plot, and I don’t get the sense that he (this writer was definitely a he) saw David’s story in the same way. But this, too, tells us very little. And since I don’t consider either story historical (at least not in any sense that we would recognize the historical facts), then I am left with the indecision that I began with: I just don’t know if David (as portrayed in the story) was a rapist or merely an adulterer because I don’t think that the author of the story cares enough about Bathsheba’s agency to give us the information we need to answer that question.

  20. Maryanne says:

    The major problem I have with so many of the scriptual stories is not the stories themselves but the interpretations we place upon them in Mormon culture. I have seen over and over the terrible effects on men and women who have been trained to interpret scriptures in a way that places the feelings and lives of women second to men and to blame them for the mis-behavior of men.
    As someone who has spent the majority of my life single, I can tell you many, many of the divorces in the Church happen because women refuse anymore to give up their free agency or allow their husbands to make their decisions for them. Yet I would hear these men again and again use Church doctrine and what they had been taught in Church classes as justification of unrighteous dominion. It is one thing to act badly; it is another to be offered up an institutionally justified excuse for that bad behavior.

  21. This is a good post and a good comment thread, because it treats the story of David as what it is: not a neatly packaged moral tale, but a story of problematic moral contradictions. Most of the commenters are responding the way that the author(s) of the story hoped they would, taking the problems of the story to heart and making sense of it in terms that matter to us now. Remember that the story as we have it in the Bible was composed long after David lived. That version of the story was written as part of the same process we are going through—the process of trying to understand it with the perspective of time, experience, and inspiration. There is no better way to learn from scripture.

  22. I believe that the interpretation we place upon a given story, the rights and wrongs we recognize and comment on, say everything about our dicipleship, our true understanding of what is expected of us as followers of Christ. That said, it is hard to separate yourself from the common beliefs that surround you. I often wonder how we will look back on what we saying and doing now in 20 years time. What will be so clear to us then that entirely escapes us now?

  23. I find it telling that so many female commenters interpret the story of David very differently than it is usually taught, i.e. David a hero with a tragic flaw. It makes me wonder what other scriptural interpretations are being given in classes but discounted by those sitting in the classes.

  24. Alpineglow says:

    I appreciate that some of the details of the situation are murky. But realistically, could Bathsheba have said no? Think of the power dynamics! There is NOTHING in the story to suggest she pursued this encounter, and EVERYTHING to suggest it was all David’s doing. He sent messengers to her home to take her.

    We may know little of her thoughts and feelings, but we do know this:

    26 ¶And when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband.

    She also lost a child because of David.

    I will always see Bathsheba as a “daughter of the covenant” who was abused by a powerful man. I will try to find room in my heart for the writers and commentators who have maligned her for centuries in an effort to rehabilitate the legacy of a powerful man. As for David himself, the D&C 132 account sounds about right to me: rape and kill, lose your inheritance.

  25. JR, your reading of the Corianton story seems like an interesting reinterpretation, but why search for counterintuitive readings that make Alma’s actions unjustified? The intuitive reading is that Alma called Isabel a harlot because she was in fact a well-known prostitute, that Corianton went after her in the sense of pursuing her professional services, that he obtained said services and word got out (perhaps because he boasted about it), that the missionary effort was significantly set back as a result, and that Alma expressed his disapproval because he was being honest with his son, and knew that approach was most likely to reach him. Alma apparently knew his son pretty well, since rather than rebel against the expressions of disappointment or the comparison to his brothers, Corianton repented. Who are we to second-guess Alma’s parenting from such a distance?

  26. ConcubineAnd says:

    Danielle, I find it even more telling that while so many of the male commentators say they sympathize with the plight of the women in this story they also want to get back to the “real” lesson of the story. WHY CANT THIS MISTREATMENT BE THE “REAL” LESSON?!? It’s like getting a nice pat on the head, a “thanks for your contribution” and then let’s get back to the status quo. “Women are incredible! Now where were we?” I don’t wish to single out any male commentors or even derail the thread if everybody wants to keep focusing on David. But it seems like so many comments from the women are saying lets go elsewhere! Lets talk about women as plot devices and Davids sins against the other half of gods children being secondary to the real story and what that says about us and why thats a problem. I don’t mean to vent or single out any commentors, and I genuinely appreciate that BCC tries to be a place where all voices are heard. I think the reason I am finding this thread so frustrating is that it is a microcosm of what I experience as a woman in the church week after week. It’s exhausting to be heard but not listened to. I think that experience is so foreign to many men that they don’t even realize they are doing it. But maybe by pointing it out my comments will have been helpful. If not then I hope that they will at least be taken in good faith, with no intent of malice.

  27. Travis, Your reading (the traditional reading) invents at least as many missing facts as does the one I proposed for consideration. It has the advantage of tradition and of consistency with a later verse with respect to harlots. It has the disadvantage of ignoring the problem of the received text that reports “abominations” in plural (“these things”) without any plural antecedent unless the antecedent includes Corianton’s leaving his assigned mission area. The reading I proposed is not counterintuitive unless you start from the presumption that Alma, as reported by Mormon and translated by whoever made English words appear on the stone in Joseph’s hat, is always right. I don’t see any good reason to start with that presumption. Further, we have examples within the Book of Mormon of fathers’ not knowing what to do with their sons — Lehi, Mosiah, Alma the Elder. I have observed, and experienced, such examples myself. I also know of a father who called his daughter a whore when she wasn’t one, because she had met a boyfriend he disapproved of. I know of women maligned as such because of a perception of their clothing, quite without the maligner having any knowledge of their sexual behavior. Though I suspect that the traditional reading may well be accurate, it is not a necessary reading. It can be useful to consider alternative readings, at least when there are potentially significant factual omissions in the received text in addition to the problem of the plural not matching the traditionally assumed antecedent. I suggest that the story, as received, has enough omissions and textual problems that it may be wise to take the larger story of Corianton as a message on repentance and forgiveness rather than as a message about a hierarchy of serious sins or the place of extra-marital sex in that hierarchy.

  28. Thanks to BCC, and to Michael and Steven’s excellent past posts about rape, I have been thinking a lot about rape as it takes place within a Mormon context. I keep trying to pinpoint what the central problem is, the problem that if we could fix it, it would go a long way toward solving rape culture. One thing that I think potentially fits the bill is the sense of entitlement among some Mormon men.

    Let me illustrate. I once went on two dates with a man who was Institute president at his university. On our second date, he announced that we were “both so in love,” took me to his parents’ house and talked about us getting married as if it was all settled (without having asked). When we left and I set him straight he was devastated and confused. I had done nothing on our first date to give him the impression that I was in love with him, beyond being cordial. I believe that the whole painfully awkward thing happened because, since he was apparently feeling ‘love,’ he assumed that I must be as well (as if I were merely an extension of him). It didn’t even seem to enter his mind that he could be in love with me and I feel differently. In this, I was treated like an object he could idealize rather than an independent human being with actual thoughts and feelings of my own. While this is an extreme case, you can find the same sort of dismaying entitlement from Mormon guys here: https://www.instagram.com/provoguysamiright/.

    I also see the same sort of entitlement in David. There is the entitlement on his part, as king, to just take a woman who is unable to give meaningful consent because of his power, and rape her, simply because of his own unbridled desires. Then there is the entitlement that subtly informed the authors of the story in the Bible and even in our Sunday School manuals, where it is written that David and Bathsheba committed sin together. (I remember a Sunday school teacher spending much of his lesson emphasizing Bathsheba as a temptress to an innocent David, as if her ritual bathing for her ‘uncleanness’ was only a ploy to get David hot and bothered.) Once again, we see that David’s desire alone is enough for well-meaning men to fill in the blanks on Bathsheba’s desire. Because if he wanted it, then she must have wanted it, too. And that entitlement, where women’s thoughts and feelings are somehow cancelled out by men’s, and where a man believes he has the right to a woman’s body simply because he desires it, lies at the very heart of rape culture.

  29. Rachael–these are good points. Very good points. Thank you for making them. I was doing some more reading on this question this afternoon, and I ran across this article, which quite ably supports the view that David’s actions can only be interpreted as rape. Just FWIW

    http://www.atsjats.org/publication_file.php?pub_id=318&

  30. Thanks for the link, Michael. ChristianKimballI, you said, “I get it that the women in these stories are a plot device and that’s awful, but it’s not the first or last time and says to me look to the men because that’s who the story’s about, whether you/I/the reader is a man or woman. (Admittedly it’s easier for me because I’m a man.)”

    I may be misinterpreting your comment but it almost seems like you are saying that objectively, from a God’s eye view, these events are about men and not about the women who also factor into the story; and thus we can overlook the fact that women are used as mere plot devices. But an event involving two people of both genders is not intrinsically about the man, any more than it is intrinsically about a woman. And it’s not as if God wanted all of these Bible stories to be only about men and the moral space they occupy, to the exclusion of women. Surely you can see that the reason Bible stories are rarely about women has more to do with deeply entrenched cultural sexism, than it has to do with who the stories are intrinsically about. We cannot simply console ourselves with the idea that the author of the text assumed that only men’s stories matter, so that’s all that need matter to us. Where, admittedly rarely, a woman does factor into a scripture story, even as a plot device, we can think about and learn from her point of view as well.

  31. Clark Goble says:

    (I’ve not read the comments for forgive me if I repeat something – taking a moment between vomiting little girls and various house problems)

    My sense is that we don’t get a single view of David in the scriptures but several often somewhat in tension views. I’ve not studied him enough to know how much of this is part of the issue of competing politics either pre-exile or post. Of course the proof text method of reading scripture often attempts to reduce scripture to a single univocal voice. That’s almost always misleading in my view. Jacob (Nephi’s brother) certainly doesn’t think much of David. My guess is that the authors of 1 Kings are generally seen as part of the deuteronomist movement. So I suspect their politics affects how they read the stories of David and Solomon. References to other history books used by the editors can be found scattered about (and may have been on the brass plates leading to Jacobs somewhat different view of David) With respect to David’s errors, while again it’s just a guess I suspect the deuteronomists primary concern was whether he kept a pure religion or (like Solomon came to and that Josiah reformed) he allowed competing religions in. Something to keep in mind as we read the texts.

    With regard to Corianton, Nibley long ago suspect the story isn’t simple fornication but idolatry tied to cultic prostitution. For various reasons I suspect that’s the case. Abinadi’s charges against the priests of Noah make similar points. It’s worth noting that one of Abinadi’s charges against Noah is his concubines and whoredoms. I suspect there some conscious echoing of David and Solomon in how the story of Noah is presented. Elements that we can pick up a bit on comparing statements with Jacob. But I suspect we miss some if the main negative accounts are on the brass plates but not in our Old Testament.

    To the way we use the stories in contemporary times, I confess I normally hear the King David story relative to various sex scandals of rich and quasi-powerful Mormons. That is as a warning that privilege makes us think the rules don’t apply to us.

    Corianton is presented somewhat differently, but again that those with much given can fall away. The main prooftext use is of course adultery as close to murder. As I mentioned I think that we misuse it as I suspect the real issue was Corianton, a missionary, taking up with idolatry and ritual prostitution. In the OT that’s pretty serious. Well above fornication, which admittedly was also viewed rather seriously.

    As to people’s hearts, that’s interesting. I knew people who had everything going for them who ended up getting caught up in sex and drugs and lost everything. Usually the life they lived thereafter was a shadow of what could have been along lots of levels. On the other hand it’s also not hard to find the rich and powerful along the Wastach front who were raised in the church and fall away in various ways. It’s alway sad to see this. What’s sometimes more inexplicable is that many of these people (at least for periods) say they still believe even as they are living in these ways. The point being theology, abstract belief, and practical belief seem rather orthogonal to each other.

    To the final point that the way we use the texts, especially Corianton, merely makes us neurotic I’m not sure I buy that. First I think overall we do pretty well on chastity along all the various angles. We could do better but I don’t think there’s some magic rhetoric that gets people to act correctly. At some point we know what’s right and we either do it or we don’t. If we’re doing it for the wrong reasons (i.e. the crowd or the like) then it won’t persist.

  32. Clark Goble says:

    To the comments, it should be noted David did murder. And so a lot that gets focused on with him is that murder. This sermon of <a href="http://www.boap.org/LDS/Parallel/1841/16May41.html"Joseph Smith's is relevant.

    “Even David, must wait for those times of refreshing, before he can come forth and his sins be blotted out; for Peter speaking of him says, ‘David hath not yet ascended into Heaven, for his sepulchre is with us to this day:’ his remains were then in the tomb. Now we read that many bodies of the saints arose, at Christ’s resurrection, probably all the saints, but it seems that David did not. Why? because he had been a murderer.”

    Rachel, I pretty well agree with what you say. That said the narratives are complex and often refer to each other in subtle ways. One thing worth asking in these cases is how the narrator would know about the events in question. And, as I mentioned in my previous post about the deuteronomist history, what their political aims were. I think in church we all too often read as if all the narrators had a god’s eye view when they didn’t and usually were writing centuries later. All that said, in terms of the narration it’s worth asking whether David’s encounter is presented with the presumption that Joseph’s somewhat similar encounter was known. The focus is thus to contrast David’s actions with what the narrator presumably considered Joseph’s proper actions. You’re completely right to note that if we ask about Bathsheba we think about it quite differently. By and large the Old Testament is an account of horrible people doing horrible things with sometimes questionable moral judgements of what was going on.

    I confess I just don’t see too many people seeing David as a good guy. Usually I hear people perceiving him as starting out a good guy who quickly goes astray with power. As did the King before him and Solomon as well. It seems like a good warning against authoritarian governments.

  33. Rachael (and ConcubineAnd, and others): You make good points. I find this all very interesting in the sense of trying to see as others see. My previous comment is misplaced in this conversation. Yes, I think you’re misinterpreting my comment but in the interest of making a different but useful point (“if this were a God’s eye view . . .”) that’s ok.
    I’ve always heard and read 2 Samuel 11 as an abuse of power story. (So it goes without saying–for me, anyway–that David raped Bathsheba.) And Alma 39 as a going other ways story, i.e., idolatry in Nibley’s terms. But Michael’s OP and the several comments here and apparently some of the LDS lessons taught make these stories about sex. I’m misplaced in that discussion, so I bow out. I’ll listen.

  34. christiankimball, I’m sorry that I misinterpreted your comment. Please don’t leave on my account. :)

  35. Danielle says:

    I too have experienced what you are referring to in church ConcubineAnd. To realize that the lightbulb is not going on when you have expressed your feelings and interpretation is demoralizing.
    Do you think this happens when the ideas expressed are new to the hearer? Is it because all we usually want in church is to parrot back the traditional interpretation so we can receive a gold star for our forehead then go home? Is it exhaustion with the demands of three hours of church and other church work and therefore unwillingness to engage with a doctrinal wrestle? Are we uncomfortable with challenging traditional interpretations not yet vetted by the Brethren? Does this new insight challenge our beliefs about the roles and responsibilities of each sex? Will the new interpretation decrease my power?

  36. Chadwick says:

    I really enjoyed this post and the comments and it’s provided me loads to think about. Thank you.

    Danielle, your comment expresses my desire for the church to implement an advanced gospel doctrine class during 2nd hour. We have the essentials class, all the rest of us get lumped into the lowest common denominator. I’m not at all sure logistically how this gets implemented, and I’m sure it would be varying degrees of messy in each ward, but I would LOVE to wrestle the doctrine with you during 2nd hour. If only.

  37. Clark Goble says:

    I think this really varies ward to ward. Singles wards in my experience always seemed to have several excellent Sunday School classes. I usually found one I really enjoyed. And they weren’t usually the “deep reading” or doctrinaire ones. My favorite Sunday School class I recall was a guy who always made a connection to show tunes. He usually picked one or two themes and then managed to tie it to his personal experiences. While I like doctrine and close reading I’m mixed at how useful they are at church. When I’d taught Sunday School (pretty much the main calling I had while single) I’d usually alternate between picking points and tying it to personal experiences versus the close readings. The close readings are always interesting but my experience is that the gospel messages are usually lost in the noise for most people.

    Regarding David, I’m trying to remember the last time it was taught in Sunday School in my current ward. My kids seem to get sick regularly so we seem to miss a lot of church over the years. I know back in my single days it was almost always taught as rape.

  38. Rachel, I have to admit that your story made me laugh…I have one that tops it, however. On my last afternoon at BYU (I had received my mission call and was preparing to enter the training center), a young man I had seen once or twice in an English class came up to my table. He said..and he didn’t even bother to sit down first…that he’d had a revelation. I was to refuse my mission call and marry him, help him through college and raise ‘righteous children to the Lord.”

    For about the only time in my life, I was able to think up the proper rejoinder instantly: that the Lord had forgotten to tell ME about this. I then left, went on a mission, came home and married a converted Baptist who hadn’t had enough time to get properly indoctrinated into the proper Mormon male outlook. I wonder if there is any Mormon woman or girl who doesn’t have a similar story to relate?

    Now, my degree is in English literature, and I’m well acquainted with the idea of ‘lemon-squeezing’ a text to mine as many meanings as possible from it. In THAT respect, Michael has done an interesting job in comparing the two texts. I also note with considerable interest the very disparate ways these narratives (and the interpretations of them) are seen by the two sexes.

    The thing about such texts and narratives, however, is that both sexes here are missing the point; in fact, I’m not quite certain what the point actually is, except that ‘it’s complicated’ seems to be wholly accurate. Men…yeah, giving lip service to Bathsheba and Isabel while dismissing their role in the story (and the possible/probable abuse of power/rape) is irritating to any woman who has to deal with the male attitude of ‘she made me do it!” However, women need to understand that no matter how unfair and irritating this tendency of men is, in their limited perspective, and while talking about something else, they might have a point. What WAS David’s ‘big sin?’ Rape, murder, abuse of power….and he is seen as ‘beloved of God?” Why? Would he have been condemned had he NOT committed murder, and restrained himself to the rape?

    I have seen the women almost unanimously dismiss the point that Michael is attempting to make, because they (OK, make that ‘we’) are looking at it as a sort of ‘other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?” sort of thing, and ignoring the cliched elephant in the room; that which is most important to us.

    Or, as ConcubineAnd wrote…it is exhausting to be heard and not listened to.

  39. Clark Goble says:

    Diana, I heard of that happening to someone on a date. They had the best response ever. She started weeping and saying she’d just found out she was pregnant and was praying that the Lord would help her. This clearly was a sign. A bit dangerous of a strategy since maybe the guy would be excited by that. But the guy totally backed off freaked out. (Not seeing that it was more or less the inverse of what he had been doing)

  40. Diana, I was laughing at your story, and have to admit yours trumps mine. The sad thing is, I’ve heard far too many of those sorts of stories from other Mormon women. It makes you wonder where such entitlement comes from? Does it hearken back to the Brigham Young days of the Church where women were seen as celestial property to be acquired with righteousness, or is it just because, given that many of the leadership callings are run by men, these young men have not had enough practice listening to women as individuals with full-fledged points of view of their own? Either way, I am eager to teach my son a better way.

    While I do think it is important for us to teach that Bathsheba was in no position to give meaningful consent, and thus, keep the sin on David’s shoulders where the Bible places it, Michael’s point was not entirely lost on me. In fact, in my twenties, I drew much comfort from the story of David. At the time, I struggled with an overdeveloped sense of guilt for unimportant mistakes and I found solace in knowing that David could commit such huge sins and still be considered pure-hearted and God-like. What stood out to me in the Psalms was that David seemed to fervently love the Lord and I figured that that love was the purifier of his heart. I also found solace in the story of the woman who washes and anoints Christ’s feet in Luke 7:46: “Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.” I’ve always needed God to be a God where our love and devotion to Him is enough to evoke the atonement’s cleansing power. But such love on our parts has to be a pure love; there are those who strap bombs to their chest because of their fervent ‘love’ of Allah, so we must remember that fervor alone should not be mistaken for pure love.

    I now think David’s story is importantly different from the woman who washes Christ’s feet (besides the obvious difference in the relative severity of each’s sins). I tend to see David’s love as more mercenary, and less pure. Take the story of the death of his son. When the baby got sick, David fasted and laid on the earth to try to get God to save him, the moment the baby died and there was no longer a chance to get anything out of God, David got up, bathed, put on lotion, and ate. Likewise, some of David’s Psalms seem calculated to try to win God’s love for self-serving purposes. Just as early man offered sacrifice in hopes of a quid pro quo arrangement to elicit desired results from the gods (good crops, and what not), David’s worship also seems to be about trying to get what he wants from God (I’ll give you my love and worship if you let me keep my kingdom and continue to bless me.) Incidentally, even in our church there are some who choose to be outwardly good, not out of pure love but out of a desire for safety and success; the ‘prosperity gospel’ is based on that same assumption that if you do what God wants he will do what you want. How can such a transaction involve pure love? And what happens to the relationship when God fails to give us what we think we have earned?

    If you consider the story of the woman who washes Christ’s feet, you see nothing but devotion, humility, and love-unfeigned. She would have spent almost all she had on the expensive oil, and she risked humiliation and possibly worse in order to show Christ her love for him. On the other hand, when you look at the story of David, do you see someone who was willing to put love in to action, someone humbly repentant to the point of being willing to forsake all he had in order to make things right? As Sandra noted, David could’ve chosen to show true remorse, abandoning his kingship, sending his concubines home, and dedicating himself to private contemplation. Instead, his repentance came cheap, at little personal cost to David, and did not result in much change to the man himself. (Only a few chapters later, David lets his son get away with the horrible rape of his half-daughter. Perhaps I’m being too hard on him, but this does not strike me as a man who has the same humble purity of heart as the woman washing Christ’s feet.)

    Could we retain and value Michael’s important contribution that moral complexity exists and that God thankfully does not seem to judge in black and white, while yet rejecting that David was actually a man after God’s own heart? Because, as ConcubineAnd observed, what does it say about God that he is willing to overlook rape and murder, just so long as a guy can write a good psalm?

  41. I take back what I said, who am I to judge David’s heart?

  42. FWIW, I am learning a lot from this discussion and revising some of my own views. I would not write the article the same way if I did it again. Keep going and I will take more notes.

  43. I think that it is important to understand that the complexities were just as important for the women in the stories, and that by reducing them to plot devices, the 5ext not only removes half of those complexities, it doesn’t allow us to format complete pictures.

  44. ConcubineAnd says:

    Danielle- I blame it on correlation, but that’s kind of like a black and white version of David’s story- too simplistic and not actually helpful :) I’m sure the actual answers are as complex and varied as we ourselves, with all our bias and idiosyncrasies, are. It is certainly exhausting to deal with from others, but then again it reminds me that God must surely be exhausted with my hearing Him and not listening to Him.

    After thinking about this post and my reaction to it for some time I came to the realization that I have forgotten one of the fundamental principles of the gospel- that it can only be applied to oneself, not used as a weapon or justification against others. And I realize that in my “righteous indignation” and frustration I have been doing more of the latter than the former. (Not just in the bloggernacle but in real life too.) I want to thank everyone for their comments and for listening to me (yes listening, not just hearing), even though I feel a bit like the crazy lady who jumped on the table and demanded everyone’s attention. I have felt like an outsider in the church for so long that even as I was writing I was fully expecting to be shut down. The thoughtful responses in the comments have certainly lowered my defenses and allowed me to see a bit more clearly and for that I thank you all, and BCC for being a place where this kind of interaction can occur.

    As for David I have two more thoughts, if you can take me rambling a little more. First, I think I am more sympathetic to David personally than I am to the way we as latter day saints tell his story. That is to say, despite his flaws and grave sins the idea that the Atonement cannot reach him (per D&C 132) has never felt right to me. Doesn’t such a declaration invalidate the entire point of the Atonement? If it cannot reach the vilest sinner then what else can it not do? Is it infinite or not, and what does that mean for me? David may not have been truly penitent or humble at the time of his death as Rachel so aptly pointed out, but could he not still become such? We like to think of our own sins as less than those of others but last I checked no unclean thing can dwell with God, and we are all unclean. If the atonement cannot reach David, will it reach me?

    And as for the way we tell the story I keep coming back to the articles I have read about the capture of the women of the Yazidi sect in Iraq and Syria who were turned in to sex slaves by the men of ISIS, all of it justified by their culture and their sick interpretations of Islam. We are disgusted by this, appalled, horrified. We would never in a million years condone this or try to say that because of their culture and the times they live in it is certainly understandable that it happened, even if it isn’t right. No! We are outraged! And rightfully so. And yet when it comes to David, we not only don’t recognize his behaviour as being essentially the same thing (after all, his culture allowed for such things) but we go so far as to implicate the women in the story as being culpable in his denial of their agency.

    And agency I think is the key to all of it. I know many people think that between murder and rape murder is the worse sin. But I have always felt that both are essentially the same thing- a denial of a person’s agency. Whether you physically kill them or only murder their soul, at the heart of it you have stolen the one thing from them that even God will not deny them. Agency. Perhaps this is the wrong interpretation and murder really is worse, but I suppose my understanding of it goes a long way in explaining my complicated feelings about David’s story. At least it helps in understanding why the (lack of) discussion about the plight of the women in the story is so much more disturbing to me than the murder of Uriah (though that is disturbing as well, obviously). At our best we hear those women. But I don’t think we really listen to them.

  45. These are enormously important questions. Before I became a fairly useless university administrator, my main job (about half of my teaching load) was teaching World Literature to non-English major undergraduates at a state university. I loved so many things about this part of the job. I read tons of things that I would never have read had I not had this assignment: The Iliad, The Aeneid, The Ramayana, The Divine Comedy, Faust, Hamlet (OK, I had read that one), Don Quixote, etc.

    But in almost every single one of these readings, this exact issue comes up. The plot device that starts the action in The Iliad is that Agamemnon claims Achilles’ “war bride” (i.e. captured woman that he raped regularly) as his own, and Achilles refuses to fight, thus turning the tide of the war against the Greeks. In Goethe’s Faust, Faust seduces the 14 year old Gretchen and causes her to murder her own mother by telling her that a poison is a sleeping potion–just to get her out of the way before he rapes (since there is no other way to describe a sexual encounter with a 14-year old girl) her. In both cases, the women are simply plot devices to create either problems that drive the plot (Homer) or to show the absolute degradation from which the hero must ultimately be redeemed (Goethe).

    These are reprehensible actions on the part of the characters, and they are reprehensible strategies on the part of the authors. But I would also lying if I said that I have not learned profound things from Homer and Goethe. And Shakespeare (for whom Ophelia is simply another plot device), and Dante (Beatrice is more complicated, and there is nothing like rape or abuse in the story, but she does not actually function as a character who is important in any way not tied to a man). This all causes me great discomfort, and it is always a tension when I teach these works. I always acknowledge these issues, but I also try to bring out other things–sometimes very important things–that these literary works teach. I have never been entirely comfortable with this approach, but I have yet to find a better one. It is an open problem for me.

    And, FWIW, the great exception to this is Cervantes’ _Don Quixote_, which actually satirizes this abuse of female characters by having Quixote invent and dedicate all of his actions to the lovely Dulcinea del Toboso, who does not actually exist. Cervantes (figuratively) points to all of these other writers who use female characters as plot devices and completely remove their agency and says, “look, to do what you guys do, you don’t even need an actual woman–just the name of one will do.” This is one of the reasons that I count Don Quixote as my favorite book ever.

    But I have enjoyed this discussion a lot. It has opened me up to new perspectives and caused me to seriously reevaluate my understanding of the David story–for the better. I agree that this is one of the things that BCC does best, and I am glad that we can do it here.

  46. [Rachael, like it or not, I’m not going away. :-) Michael, I’m going to take “keep going” as an invitation to break from just listening, although just listening is good for me. And despite the fact that you seem to have just wrapped up.]

    I don’t think these stories are about sex. Sure, there is sex in the stories, but I think they are really about rape and murder and abuse of power and apostasy (my quick modern label for Corianton’s crime). I think the text is designed to press the issue, to push buttons, to make the hearer react with a “no, never forgive–condemn him.” And then the text says “yes, this too.” It works on me. I can get into a frame of mind where I think “no never forgive” for rape or “no never forgive” for murder. I’m too modern to think that way about apostasy, but clearly apostasy has been a capital offense in many times and cultures. Actually, for me, most consistently, it’s David murdering to cover up rape that gives me the creeps, and I label that whole package “damnable [literally] abuse of power” without ranking the constituent parts. The point is that I hear something in the mix that causes a “no, never forgive” reaction. And yet the texts say that David and Corianton get right with God.

    (For what it’s worth, I find no part of either story suggesting any form of “it’s ok because.” I find it appalling that anyone would suggest anything along those lines–as some commenters have said some lessons have done.)

    There are several ways to respond to the “gets right with God” conclusion, including the following:

    >Joseph Smith glossed the Biblical story, including with D&C 132:39 “[David] hath fallen from his exaltation.” (I know this is Joseph Smith and canon and all, but I don’t find it very satisfactory. On the one hand, it smacks of conditional love which I don’t believe and find contrary to other scripture. On the other hand, if the atonement is not operative, if forgiveness is not available, if these really are “no never” situations, then I’m of a mind that some part of rape, murder, abuse, and apostasy, merits a bit more punishment than to be knocked down one rung on the celestial ladder. But I don’t have Joseph Smith around to argue with.)

    >A dynastic view would say the text is all about glorifying a king, and has little or nothing to do with sin and punishment, i.e., it does not speak to God’s view at all.

    >An imperfect narrator view would say that this is all some scribe or some story teller trying to make sense of a complex situation and the narrator might have gotten it wrong or only part right.

    >A strong atonement view would say that these are test cases that illustrate the universal reach and power of the atonement.

    >My current view (reporting on where I am, not meaning to persuade anybody) is that these stories teach that callings and serving the Lord and doing His work are in some important ways orthogonal to personal righteousness and right and wrong doing. That sinning and being fit for duty are different scales or different dimensions. (This really is where I am right now, but I’m not at ease here for a number of reasons. It’s not the way the Church teaches. It’s counter-intuitive and very hard to accept in David’s case (because I believe that abuse of power–however manifest–is fundamentally disqualifying for a king). I do have an easier time with Corianton. And probably this is no more difficult than the strong atonement view. Also, I’m naturally inclined toward the dynastic and imperfect narrator and strong atonement ways of reading scripture.)

  47. Danielle says:

    Could David yet become humble and repentant? I do believe he could. However, perhaps it takes much longer to repent after this life. First you have to see yourself as God sees you, as guilty of callously murdering a loyal servant. As guilty of requiring a married woman to come have sex with you. Of seeking to hide your sin through murder. Of defiling the trust God placed in you when He chose you as king.
    Did David want to see his sin as less serious than it truly was? I remember reading books written by LDS men who committed adultery and their struggle to find forgiveness. I was amazed how late in the story it was before they finally realized the justifying lies they had told themselves. One blamed his behavior on his wife never ‘becoming his dream girl’. I remember being shocked when I read that and the sheer sense of entitlement and lack of maturity it displayed. And when another expressed the fear he had of how his sin and its public revelation would affect his relationship with people he cared about, he failed to list his wife among those who would be affected. As he detailed his fear he would never be called to high profile church positions again, all I could think was, you might never have a wife in eternity. She might decide to leave you here or maybe just decide in the next life that she did not want to spend eternity with such a selfish man for whom her feelings meant nothing. Perhaps because David never fully faced the losses in mortality, he did not reach the level of understanding necessary for repentance.
    David was basically promised that there would be an end to his suffering, thus qualifying him for the blessings of the Atonement, forgiveness and resurrection. But the higher kingdoms of glory require more of us than just forgiveness of our sins. We have to be actually engaged in seeking righteousness. Do we see that in David’s story?
    Maybe Joseph Smith was shown much more about David, who he was and who he would become. How else would he know the state of David’s heart, that it was not right with God? It is a pretty big change Joseph Smith made to the story of one of the main characters of the Old Testament. Joseph literally turned the moral of the story on its head. I assume he had good reason for that change.
    On a side note, has anyone else ever asked themselves the question, why was Joseph Smith so interested in David and Solomon and Abraham’s polygamy? If I could ask God about anything I did not understand in the Bible, that would never has occurred to me to enquire after. I would want much more information about what Abraham was taught about the stars, about how exactly one creates a Zion society, about the details of life for the Nephites following the visit of Christ. Why polygamy was okay would be the last thing i would have thought to ask.

  48. Christian (and everybody else),

    Please keep going. I was not trying to wrap up at all. Now that we all have gotten the first wave of being uncomfortable and defensive out of the way and are really starting to listen to each other, it is getting good. Maybe even great.

  49. I suspect a substantial number of the writings that use women or a woman merely as a plot device, including a good many scripture stories, do so in large part because they were written by men for men to read and consider. If so, then reading them from the viewpoint of our culture requires us to either make up the rest of the story in order to imagine the plot-device woman’s viewpoint, or to generalize the human lesson in the man’s story from men to both men and women. The latter effort does not seem to be particularly natural to many of the women I know, but I’ve seen them capable of it when they choose to do it. It is unfortunate that the idea lingers that scripture stories written by men (with their own political or tribal agendas) for men should be assumed to include all parts of the story that are important to God or to his daughters (or even to men concerned with God’s or their daughters’ viewpoints).

    At the risk of being “heard, but not listened to,” or even castigated as a misogynist, I also note, contrary to the implication of some early comments in this thread, that being heard but not listened to is not universal among LDS women, that giving women that treatment is not universal among LDS leaders, and that those LDS leaders who treat people in that way often do not limit that treatment to women. This is not to say that we don’t still have in our LDS culture and Church structure a tendency to value some men’s words more than women’s, but that the problem is not only a women’s issue. Elder Neil Andersen is said to have acknowledged, at least privately, that single, never-married LDS men are treated by the Church as second-class citizens. I have personally observed LDS musicians, regardless of gender, being heard reluctantly if at all by some of their priesthood leaders, and not really listened to. There are likely other groups who are sometimes heard, but not listened to. I wonder how often the Brethren think they have been heard, but not listened to!

    As to those occasions when some insensitive, self-assured clod of an RM told a woman he’d had a revelation that they were to marry when they had not approached the subject jointly, I’m less than persuaded that it was out of a sense of “entitlement” to the woman. I suspect it happened as a result of inordinate pressure on an RM to get married, combined with an immature inability to imagine that the “object” of his approach was not experiencing the same feelings he had, and a naive view of revelation (and “entitlement to revelation”) that facilitated confusing hormones for the voice of God. I hope no woman ever swallowed that line and married such a dolt. I fear she’d be in for a long series of insensitive, autocratic exercises of presiding authority, at least until the boy grew up (some never do).

  50. On a personal level, I was married to a man who was unfaithful. Because of this, I divorced him. He got the woman he was seeing pregnant and married her shortly after our divorce became final. She was baptized almost immediately and they were approved about six years later to be sealed in the temple. A few years later he left her for another woman he met at church.
    At the time when they were separated but she was trying to save her marriage, she called me. She gave what I assume she thought was an adequate apology and then basically sought information from me about how he had treated me at the end of our marriage so that she could save her marriage. I tried to be of help, but in the end did not feel I owed her a lot.
    Many years passed and he died. We spoke again, multiple times. Finally, after I practically pinned her to the wall, she saw herself the way I saw her, as an adulterer whose actions helped to destroy my temple marriage. For the first time I heard true remorse and a sense of despair and desparation.
    I believe the power of the Atonement applies to her. I believe she can be exalted. I do not believe, however, that it can restore her temple marriage to my former husband. After all these years I still cannot wrap my head around the First Presidency approving their temple sealing in the first place.
    I also do not believe Solomon could ever be sealed to David, even if David were allowed in the celestial kingdom. And perhaps cutting Uriah’s opportunities to progress in mortality short eliminates David’s opportunities forever. But that is my line in the sand. What do I know about the thoughts of God or His power to correct the uncorrectable.

  51. JR, have you ever been in a church class where the Doctrine and Covenants section addressed to Emma Smith is discussed? It ends, as many sections do, with the words that what the Lord says to one, He says to all. Yet I have never heard that section applied to any but the women of the church. Why are the requirements of the rest of the D&C thought to apply to all, but that only to the women?

  52. JR, entitlement and immaturity are not mutually exclusive attributes.

  53. I have often wondered about Isobel. She is one of the few named women in the Book of Mormon. As I see it she was utterly fascinating, an Alma Mahler, if you will. It was not just sex otherwise Alma, the younger, would not have known who she was and known her name.

    So, the question is, was Alma, the younger, repelled by her intellect as well as her sexuality? This is the basic question for men: How dangerous are smart, powerful and erotic women. A man can lose himself in this woman, mother, lover, friend, and more than equal. It is my observation, that in the Church, we are terrified of these. Isobel is a type who terrifies us, males. And, because she is so self-assured and confident, also puts off females who have bought into male privilege. She is free.

    Let’s face it, the whole BofM is misogynistic. Women are used as props for most of the story, to show the depravity of either the Nephites or the Lamanites, or used to show perseverance in the presence of adversity, as in the trials in the wilderness. The exception is the mothers of the “stripling warriors.” But these women were passive heroes.

    As for David, he was a war lord for most of his early carrier after fleeing Saul. He lived by raiding and plundering. I am sure there were other women raped by him. But who else would have danced, naked, before the Lord? Maybe we all should so dance.

  54. RW, I really enjoyed your comment, down to, and especially, your last line. Thanks for that!

  55. Alpineglow says:

    JR, it may not be *natural* for us to take stories about men and apply them to everyone, but we sure get good at it. That is almost our entire experience with “likening” the scriptures (not to mention like 80% of general conference). Please give us some credit. And maybe don’t jump all over us when we stumble upon a story that finally involves a woman and we are able to see the story from the woman’s perspective and feel like that’s important and relevant.

    But since we are supposed to engage with the argument in the post, here are my thoughts. 1) I just really struggle to believe David’s heart is in the right place. If ye love me, keep my commandments. Now obviously all of us fall short of that ideal. But David wasn’t sinning out of ignorance. It was willful. And it was giant sins like rape and conspiracy murder and abuse of God-given power and authority. And giant willful disobedience is hard to match with love. I’m inclined to believe the text shouldn’t be taken at face value and is infused with more than a little propaganda. He may be able to repent, but having a perfect heart? I just don’t see it. 2) I never know what to make of Corianton, except that he seems to have been forgiven and allowed to move on with his life. That part gets left out of YM/YW lessons, probably unfortunately.

    Finally, I know some folks are saying they have always been taught that David/Bathsheba was rape, but that was never what I was taught. (Here is the exact sermon I got multiple times in my YSA ward: http://ldsmag.com/article-1-13519/) It was maybe two years ago that I actually read the full text in a SS class and realized Bathseba wasn’t the one to blame. So sorry if I’m fiercely protective of her and how her story is presented and used. It’s penance.

  56. The level of charity, respect, and introspection in these comments is itself inspiring, apart from the substance, which is also great.

    To me, the thing that is perhaps most galling about the David story is the line that “he lay with her, *for she was purified from her uncleanness*” To me, that’s the ultimate hypocrisy and self justification. David and the narrator overlook and don’t comment on the fact of the rape, or at the very least, adultery and seduction (though that’s generous), but are eager to point out that he obeyed the law off Moses by not having sex with a menstruating woman. It’s like a Mormon having an adulterous affair but saying, “but I didn’t have a cigarette afterwards, because that’s a sin.” Talk about weightier matters.

  57. Zoe, I have been in church classes where Doctrine and Covenants Section 25 was discussed. (I assume you meant 25 and not 132 which has even larger problems in my view.) I do not recall (maybe that’s a male failing) any emphasis in those discussions on Section 25 applying to women and not to men. But taking verse 16 as applying to the entire Section results in nonsense anyway. It cannot, e.g., apply to verse 11 or some other concepts specific to Emma and not even all women. I believe verse 16 is clearly intended to apply to verse 15, and could apply to more. I have often heard verses 12 and 13 applied to men and women. I think many men are particularly bad at hearing verse 14 applied to them, making the appropriate mental substitution of “wife” for “husband” as, apparently, women are expected to with all those scripture stories written by men which use women only as plot devices. Perhaps the next time you experience a class applying Section 25 only to women, you can contribute to expanding the content of that discussion. It might even be useful to have a discussion about the possibility of applying verse 16 to each verse or phrase in the section. But I acknowledge that the possibility of such an effort varies widely from class to class. (The Church is NOT the same everywhere!) If I’m still teaching the GD class (think what you like of that abbreviation) next year, I may make a point of prompting discussion of applying verse 16 to verse 14. That could be an eye-opener for a number of the men and women who attend that class.

  58. Rachael, yep.

    Alpineglow, sorry I worded my comment in a way that gave you the impression that I was jumping all over women for seeing a scripture story from a woman’s perspective. I don’t know how I did that, but there’s another male failing for you. For me it is important to try to see both the story writer’s viewpoint and the possible viewpoints of all the characters in the story without presuming that my assumptions as to their viewpoints are historically accurate. For me there is in that approach more value and less judgment (positive or negative) of others. I believe the way you were taught the David/Bathsheba story was simplistic, wrong, and despicable (except that your teachers may have had good, but misguided, intentions). Your passionate defense of the possibility (likelihood, in my view) of Bathsheba’s righteousness and victimhood is understandable. I believe the story should be presented that way, while also noting that we are not given enough information to know whether she viewed David’s rape (or seduction) as violence against her or as an opportunity to gain power and wealth. The report of her mourning her husband’s death might mean she sincerely mourned his death and was not motivated to take advantage of David’s sin. It could also be a reference to her compliance with social expectations of a mourning period before moving on with her life. For me, exploring the gaps in the received stories is a lesson in compliance with the command “thou shalt not judge.” I must agree that David’s heart was not always in the right place. I would be surprised to learn that anyone’s was. His outrageous reported sins, however, do not in my view preclude the possibility of change and repentance. We have other scriptural examples of repentance of both sexual sin and murder. (My thoughts on D&C 132:39 are currently aligned with Christian’s. For me that is possible because I see no good reason to suppose that in writing his revelations in God’s first person voice, Joseph was a stenographer taking dictation. I believe there is evidence contrary to that common view.)

    RW, loved your comment, including: “But who else would have danced, naked, before the Lord? Maybe we all should so dance.” I have often wondered what to make of that story. Of course, “naked” does not always mean what our contemporaries think it means. Sometimes, it has meant merely without armor or weapons. That would also be a natural meaning in the case of David returning from battle. But, at the very least, it is reported that “David was girded with a linen ephod” and Michal chastised his leaping and dancing and uncovering himself before others in vanity. If dancing naked before the Lord, means metaphorically rejoicing in the Lord’s goodness while being fully open and honest (spiritually naked and without defensive “armor”) as to our own failings and inadequacies, then it seems we should certainly all do it. As difficult as that is, it may be easier than introducing liturgical dance in linen ephods into sacrament meeting!

  59. As someone whose marriage was destroyed by adultery, may I simply offer my experience that certain serious sins take much longer to repent from because the people who are injured from these traumatic experiences can take a long time to be healed. Often decades pass before the person injured can forgive or move forward in a healthy way.
    Maybe that is part of the story of David as well. He might have to wait for Bathsheba and Uriah and their parents and siblings and David’s other wives and children and siblings and parents to be made whole before he can be. Their healing might be a pre-requisite for his forgiveness.
    And who knows what effect the knowledge of his sin had on the other Israelites. Did knowledge of David’s sin set back the efforts of the prophets to teach repentence? One can only imagine the effect David’s actions had on the morale in the army and palace. Might David need to wait for a nation to repent before his forgiveness could be granted.
    The writers of the Old Testament seem to so admire the power, wealth, and size of the kingdoms of David and Solomon, they understate the rot at their heart. The leaders are basing what should be their eternal family relations on treaties with foreign powers, young women shipped off to foreign lands to cement peace and trade agreements by having sex and producing children with strangers. Are we to believe that none of David’s daughters were treated the same, used as trade goods by powerful men? How could God possibly grant favor to such a nation?
    The split between the twelve tribes happens suddenly in the Bible story, but must have been building for decades. To me the story of David’s lust for Bathsheba is symptomatic of the decay that preceded the destruction and replanting of the Ten Tribes of the House of Israel elsewhere.

  60. it's a series of tubes says:

    We have other scriptural examples of repentance of both sexual sin and murder.

    JR, can you cite a scriptural example of a church member / person who has received the ordinance of baptism being forgiven of murder? D&C 42:18 seems to be pretty express regarding the consequence of committing this sin if one is a member of the church.

  61. I suppose the Anti-Nephi-Lehies would count? They seemed to consider themselves guilty of murder, though they may have been soldiers or something like soldiers. King Lamoni in particular seems to have been guilty of it, if not by his own hands then by ordering the executions of servants who hadn’t done anything more wrong than being robbed.

  62. It’s a series of tubes, The Anti-Nephi-Lehites described their own sins as murders and were subsequently made members of the Church, I assume by baptism, though I have not recently checked the text to see if baptism is specifically mentioned. Alma the Younger described his actions prior to conversion as murders, but I think that was a metaphorical reference to “murdering” the “eternal life” of those he led astray. Given his father’s story, I suspect, but don’t know from the text, that Alma the Younger had been baptized before he went on his rampage with his buddies to destroy the church. Moses fled Egypt because he was seen to have killed an Egyptian under circumstances that suggest murder rather than manslaughter (at least by current American definitions). Saul/Paul was at least complicit in what Christians would view as the murder of Stephen (and possibly others) though he seems to have believed he was assisting in carrying out the law of the Lord. Both Moses and Paul seem to have been subsequently accepted by the Lord. We have a report of Paul’s baptism; I don’t know of a baptism of Moses, or of David, for that matter. If you think of membership in or even prophetic leadership of the tribes of Israel as .being members of the Church, then such worthies as Joshua and others were in clear violation of D&C 42:18 which denies forgiveness to those who kill (without limiting it to murder or shedding innocent blood). That section was described by Joseph as the “law of the Church,” not the law of the Lord, even though he wrote it as if in Christ’s first person voice. The scriptural examples above may not include any who were baptised prior to their committing murders. But consider Howard Egan, a Church member who was defended against the murder charge by an apostle, though his actions were clearly premeditated first degree murder by current American definition.. See https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/the-curious-case-of-james-madison-monroe/ Consider also the case of John D. Lee whose rebaptism and full reinstatement of priesthood blessings were approved by the First Presidency and the Twelve. It is difficult to construe Lee’s participation in the Mountain Meadows massacre as anything other than post-baptism, pre-meditated mass murder. He was not the only one, though he was the only one convicted. Others indicted remained on the run and may not have been significantly pursued. I don’t know if the others who were excommunicated were also subsequently reinstated. In the face of all this, in addition to the killing (contrary to the plain reading of D&C 42:18) by Captain Moroni, Mormon, Moroni, the stripling warriors, and our modern LDS soldiers, I am more inclined to believe in the possibility of repentance and the power of the Atonement to permit forgiveness, than I am to think of the Lord as bound by Joseph’s attempt to articulate the law of the Church.

  63. JR,

    My thoughts on D&C 132:39 are currently aligned with Christian’s. For me that is possible because I see no good reason to suppose that in writing his revelations in God’s first person voice, Joseph was a stenographer taking dictation. I believe there is evidence contrary to that common view.

    Can you elaborate here? I think this is an important avenue to explore. Church members are expected to take D&C 132 as if it was straight from God. This makes it appear that God sanctioned David’s (and other powerful men) excess, that wives and concubines are rewards, that fidelity to God is super important but fidelity to a wife not so much. I look at men like Joseph and Brigham and the number of wives they had and can’t help but think that they felt entitled in the same manner that David appears to be in D&C 132. William Clayton recorded that Joseph once told him ‘you have a right to get all you can.’

    Verses 55-66 are so incredibly manipulative to me. I can’t fathom such a God. I can fathom Joseph trying to get Emma to cooperate by giving it the imprimatur of revelation.

  64. it's a series of tubes says:

    JR, my inquiry specifically distinguished between those who committed murder subsequently being baptized, and those who had been baptized subsequently committing murder. Your interpretation of 42:18 proscripting any killing has been expressly contradicted by various modern prophets, including in statements discussed in this thread.

    I am more inclined to believe in the possibility of repentance and the power of the Atonement to permit forgiveness, than I am to think of the Lord as bound by Joseph’s attempt to articulate the law of the Church.

    Translation: “as between Joseph Smith and myself on this doctrinal topic, I’ll take my own opinion”.

    JS: “A murderer, for instance, one that sheds innocent blood, cannot have forgiveness. David sought repentance at the hand of God carefully with tears, for the murder of Uriah; but he could only get it through hell: he got a promise that his soul should not be left in hell.”

  65. Alpineglow says:

    I think I’m going to bow out of this conversation. I realized it’s just too painful for me to entertain the idea that God is not all that upset by the suffering of his daughters. I recognize that the lesson is supposed to be “have your heart in the right place and you can be forgiven of anything.” Ultimately I guess I believe that. But what I hear is treating women like property is understandable, forgivable…boys will be boys and aren’t we glad God looks past their “indiscretions” to see their “true” character. That hits too close to home. I get the bigger point, but this conversation feels off to me.

    I get that the goal is to be objective and intellectual about this. That’s fine. But please understand why it is very painful for women to hear men find ways to talk around the horror–horror that isn’t even fully behind us.

    (Honestly, this conversation has given me lots of insight into the feelings that motivate black students to, say, want university building names that honor prominent slaveholders changed. I used to try to make excuses (historical context, other good things he did, etc.), but I think I’m beginning to get it. It’s personal because you still experience the echoes of it.)

  66. Alpineglow, you do what(ever) works for you. I see the “boys will be boys” trend (including in that awful talk you referenced earlier, which I wish I had not clicked on) and hope I haven’t been part of it. Apologies if I have.
    Thinking about Section 132 leads me to one of the “elephant in the room” issues which is that I see Joseph Smith replaying David’s abuse, using his (Joseph’s) position of power and authority to get women, with a veneer of authorization. And then covering it up. (I don’t know about murder in Joseph’s case–just don’t know the history enough–but I see that as something of a side issue anyway.) I have a real problem with this. I’m really stuck.

  67. Alpineglow, I understand why this is personally painful. I am an older member of the Church and spent most of my life dealing with people in church classes actually feeling free to mock my feminist views, now all perfectly mainstream and some even taught by General Authorities.
    I think what you are reading here is horror at the contemplation of any of our brothers and sisters losing salvation. I am horrified every time another suicide bomber blows himself up. I do not want these young men to be murderers and outside the power of the Atonement to exalt them. I hope and pray there is another chance for them. I remember that once we met together and voted to follow Christ, David, Hitler, Stalin and me and you. So I am choosing to believe that God’s plan has a way for all who desire it to fully repent. And that therefore, all damage done here must be fully healed, with compensating blessings given to those who suffered much. That said, God seems to limit the rewards possible for those given knowledge here but who commit acts of evil I simply choose to believe He will be just and merciful, demanding and generous.
    In my own doctrinal belief, i hope that those unhappy with their reward will be given another opportunity to repeat mortality, coming this time as changed beings, willing to suffer for righteousness, instead of inflicting evil.

  68. It’s a series …, I am confused. I thought I had pointed out that the scriptural examples of forgiveness for murder I could think of were either not post-baptism or we are given no information as to the alleged murderers’ baptisms. I did give you two examples of non-scriptural implied forgiveness of a post-baptism murderer. They are John D. Lee, whose restoration of blessings implies forgiveness if you believe the First Presidency and Twelve always know what they’re doing with sealing powers, and Howard Egan though his case is much less strongly implied. Of course, you could argue that Lee and the participants in the Mountain Meadows Massacre thought they were soldiers and are therefore excused from the murder accusation, but that is difficult to maintain in the face of their deception of their prisoners and their executions of the disarmed men, the women, and children. Egan’s case you might distinguish as having been approved by one apostle rather than the combined First Presidency and Twelve or because he at least claimed that his victim was not “innocent” of seducing Egan’s wife.

    I have not “interpreted” Section 42:18. It expressly (your word) condemns “killing”. It makes no exception. I don’t believe that absence of exception is appropriate; neither do the subsequent Church authorities who have told us it doesn’t mean what it says.

    Yes, as to the possibility of forgiveness, I will currently take my tentative opinion over a reading of Joseph’s restatement of whatever the Lord revealed to him that insists on literalness as to part of his statement and rejects it as to another. This is particularly so since I am not the one to judge another. Section 42:18 seems to me more likely to discourage a believer from being a murderer than it is to authorize a believer to judge whether someone else is ever to become eligible for forgiveness.

    Your last quotation from Joseph also has its difficulties. The first sentence denies the possibility of forgiveness to a murderer. It doesn’t sufficiently define murder because it fails to explain what “innocent blood” is. (“Innocent” of what? Was Egan’s victim not “innocent blood”?) The second sentence is not at all clear as to the antecedent of “it”. The candidates for an antecedant that make some sense are “repentance” and “forgiveness”. If it is only the former, I don’t understand the value of whatever repentance is that doesn’t lead to forgiveness. If it is the latter, then it stands in contradiction to the first sentence, unless by “forgiveness” in the first sentence Joseph meant something like “forgiveness and relief from any suffering resulting from sin following cheap, easy purported repentance.” I must currently continue to have a tentative opinion consistent with larger principles of the gospel rather than think I understand correctly exactly what Joseph meant or that his words convey to me exactly what the Lord means. None of this suggests that repentance is easy or forgiveness is cheap. None of it is inconsistent with the best sense I can currently make out of your quotation from Joseph.

  69. it's a series of tubes says:

    I remember that once we met together and voted to follow Christ, David, Hitler, Stalin and me and you. So I am choosing to believe that God’s plan has a way for all who desire it to fully repent.

    Jaime, what about those who voted not to follow Christ at that point? In your view, can they fully repent, receive bodies, etc? If not, do you see that your positions are inconsistent with one another?

    JR / JLR – thanks for your clarifying comments; it appears that we are not as far apart on this issue as it initially appeared. I agree that there is much uncertainty and nuance here, and I’m not trying to get hung up on a too-literal interpretation of any statement. It seems that in large part, the schools of thought on this issue can be divided into two camps: position A, wherein certain actions in premortal or mortal life permanently foreclose a limited subset of the most choice of certain future opportunities, and position B, where at most those actions make the path to those future opportunities longer / harder / steeper / more painful / whatever. I fall, barely, into position A, as it seems to me to be supported by the weight of scripture, but recognize that position B is a tenable belief also.

  70. Alpineglow, I clicked the talk you referenced and read the other one given to the men as well. I agree with you. The talk misreads the story of David and Bathsheba and uses it in ways detrimental to both men and women. All are damaged when false doctrine is taught.
    But in defense of the speaker and based on decades spent first in college singles wards, then young singles wards, then mid-singles wards, I believe the bishop was trying to warn the sisters that many young men did not mean the same things when they participated in kissing or other forms of sexual expression. I have watched friends waste as many as eight years on guys who were just hanging out, waiting for someone better to come along. I have watched friends devastated when they discovered the man they kissed for hours on Saturday had a date with someone else the day before, someone he soon announced an engagement to. There are differences in belief and behavior between men and women and between individuals. I believe the bishop sincerely wanted to protect the women by letting them know what some of the men were actually doing and saying, not what the women believed the young men meant by their actions.
    A woman I know told me a very sad story about the man she had been married to. She thought he was seeking permission to go ahead with sex when they first became physically intimate. She admired him for stopping and asking. After she became pregnant, she discovered all he really wanted to know was if she was using birth control. Terrible marriage, disaster for the children.
    That said, the bishop could have come down harder on the men, telling them adults take responsibilty for their thoughts and behaviors. They do not blame others for their mistakes. He could have made the men aware of the tender feelings of some of the sisters and let them know of their responsibilty not to wound these women.
    In fact, why don’t we shift responsibilty in our talks away from women’s modesty and onto men’s responsibilty for the feelings of women. That ought to shake things up for awhile! Guilt the young men for a time until we finally teach people to be responsible for themselves.

  71. Are you aware that both Brigham Young and Heber C Kimball speculated about the ability of people to progress from a lower kingdom to a higher one after the resurrection? They also considered the possibilty of people living in Outer Darkness just being recycled and doing it all again. So my speculations join those of some who preceded me.
    Also, one of the Twelve in the 70’s said an eternity was not endless but one eternity would follow another. I can only say, I do not understand how time works for God but it seems to be different than how it works for us.

  72. PC, I can give you a little elaboration, but cannot currently give you citations to documents. I am not a historian.

    First, an example from my own experience: some years ago I was in a conversation with a reporter after a school/parent meeting following some outrageous decisions by the school principal. The reporter took notes, but did not record and the notes did not purport to be in shorthand, they were not stenographic. His write-up for the newspaper put his words, elaborated from his notes, in quotation marks and attributed them to me. His words were a somewhat misleading distortion of what I had said, though they were certainly similar to and prompted by what I had said.

    As to evidence that Joseph was similarly not taking stenographic dictation from the Lord, I suggest looking at comparisons of the early, successive printings of the revelations in the Book of Commandments and subsequent volumes leading to what we now have in the Doctrine & Covenants. I believe you will find that Joseph approved varying versions of some of the revelations written in first person language attributed to the Lord. In some later printings he changed things, sometimes adding whole paragraphs. To me that is evidence of his not feeling bound (or even capable) of repeating the Lord’s exact words, that he was instead attempting to articulate and refine his earlier articulations of what he felt the Lord had revealed to him.

    Section 132 is specifically more problematic because of the very long time between Joseph’s taking a first plural wife and his writing the “revelation.” You will find some references to early records and circumstances here: http://scottwoodward.org/scripture/DC_132_background.html
    I, however, am unable to come to any firm conclusion about polygamy generally. It is also problematic because Joseph’s own practice of polygamy was inconsistent with Section 132 (first wife’s permission, etc.). It is also problematic in that the Church had previously canonized a statement on marriage that explicitly restricted a man to one wife and vice versa and required that weddings be public (contrary to current temple wedding practice). This suggests that canonization by common consent of members of the restored Church does not necessarily reflect the Lord’s unchanging will. I can’t look at the abandonment of the earlier statement on marriage in favor of Section 132 as indicating much beyond the idea that canonization is not necessarily a final statement of doctrine as the Lord would have it.

    Like Christian, I tend to “see Joseph Smith replaying David’s abuse, using his (Joseph’s) position of power and authority to get women, with a veneer of authorization.” I prefer not to have any firm opinion on the LDS history of plural marriage. My polygamous ancestors might also prefer that I don’t.

  73. http://www.nearingkolob/progression/
    contains a number of quotes from various church leaders giving their beliefs regarding full forgiveness and exaltation.

  74. JR,

    Thank you. I, too, see Joseph using D&C 132 to his advantage in unscrupulous ways. The more I read about the horse trading of women, the secrecy and coercion, and the ‘loyalty tests’, I am repulsed. It casts a long, dark shadow that makes it so hard to accept that Joseph was God’s chosen prophet. I get that we claim that prophets are not infallible, but this (abuse of power) is more than infallibility, especially when it relates to the treatment of half of God’s children.

  75. PC, I agree. It is interesting to compare the story of David and Bathsheba, a story of power differentials that preclude meaningful consent, to the story of Joseph and Zina Jacobs Smith Young. For those who don’t know, three times Joseph proposed to Zina and three times she turned him down; she clearly did not want to marry Joseph. Then, because she loved Henry Jacobs, and in an effort to forestall further objectionable proposals from Joseph, she married Henry. But Joseph did not let up, he sent word with her brother that (despite her lack of consent,) God had gone ahead and given Zina to Joseph to be his celestial wife anyway and that an angel of the Lord was essentially going to kill him with a drawn sword if she didn’t marry him. Zina, by now six or seven months pregnant with Henry’s child, knew Joseph was a prophet and obviously didn’t want the prophet’s blood on her hands so she was coerced into agreeing to the marriage; once again, under such circumstances, how could there be any meaningful consent?

    The story gets worse: we have in Henry a man who deeply and tenderly loved Zina and faithfully fulfilled the many missions he was called on. Brigham Young then decided he, too, wanted Zina for a wife. In the words of William Hall:

    “He [Brigham] said it was time for men who were walking in other men’s shoes to step out of them. ‘Brother Jacobs,’ he says, ‘the woman you claim for a wife does not belong to you. She is the spiritual wife of brother Joseph, sealed up to him. I am his proxy, and she, in this behalf, with her children, are my property. You can go where you please, and get another, but be sure to get one of your own kindred spirit.'”

    Regardless of whether you accept William Hall’s account, there is no question, historically, that Brigham claimed Zina as his rightful spiritual wife and did not allow her to reside again with Jacobs.

    Once again, Zina is treated as little more than property that can be claimed by whomever is highest on the totem pole of authority. Nathan rebukes David with the parable of a man who had little, but who loved his one lamb fiercely. This man had his beloved lamb taken from him by someone with more power and sheep to spare. The same rebuke could have been rightfully made to both Joseph and Brigham, who stole Henry’s parabolic beloved lamb, and I struggle to see any primary motivation for such behavior other than entitlement. (Though note that I am not entirely comfortable with Nathan’s parable since, once again, women are treated as mere property to be taken at whim and not as individuals with thoughts and feelings of their own; moreover, the wrongness of the action is portrayed in terms of the damage done to the poor man, rather than the damage done to the lamb.)

    In light of all of this, it’s interesting that Joseph was so quick to condemn David (I know, I know, it’s because David took ‘property’ that didn’t belong to him while Joseph was always given his ‘property’ by God.) Can you see that I’m not a big fan of Section 132, at least the uninspired parts? ; P

  76. The Jewish perspective is always interesting. Here is a link to an article by the Jewess scholar Tamar Kadari. I present it for “Reference only.” http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/bathsheba-midrash-and-aggadah

    Some other points to consider:

    1. Jesus is referred to as the “Son of David” in seventeen New Testament verses, as in the promised Messiah had to be of the lineage of David.
    2. Jesus quoted from Psalms more than from any other Biblical book; and David is thought to have written about one-half of the Psalms.
    3. The name “David” is most likely derived from a Hebrew word which means “beloved.”

    So the name David and David’s writings carry some heavy, sacred weight.

    Yes, I am aware that Jacob condemned the wicked practices of David and Solomon in having “many wives and concubines.” (Jacob 1:15, 2:23-24). See also D&C 132.

    So what is the net result for David’s salvation and exaltation? I do not know. I cannot judge.

    But here are some further points…

    Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Adam then blamed Eve who blamed the serpent. (Genesis 3)

    Noah became drunk after he left the ark and had planted a vineyard. (Genesis 9)

    Abraham lied twice about his wife Sarah, each time claiming that Sarah was merely his sister. (Genesis 12 & 20)

    Lot had an incestuous relationship with his two daughters. (Genesis 19)

    Jacob played a trick on Isaac in order to get the birthright blessing. (Genesis 27)

    Aaron built a golden calf for idol worship. (Exodus 32)

    Miriam had a bout of leprosy as punishment for gossiping about Moses’ wife. (Numbers 12)

    Moses was not allowed to cross into the Promised Land because he was disrespectful to the Lord when he drew water from the rock at Meribah. (Numbers 20:8-12)

    Gideon made an “ephod” out of the gold won in battle, which caused the whole of Israel again to turn away from God. (Judges 8:26-27)

    Jonah at first refused to go to Ninevah. So he was swallowed by a whale. (Jonah 1)

    Solomon worshiped the gods of his wives. (1 Kings 11)

    Elijah was depressed and asked God to let him die. (1 Kings 19)

    Job cursed his own birth. (Job 3)

    King Hezekiah showed his treasures to the ambassadors from Babylon. Isaiah then prophesied: Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day, shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the Lord. (Isaiah 39)

    Zacharias was struck dumb because he doubted the angel Gabriel’s message that he, Zacharias, would be the father of John the Baptist. (Luke 1)

    Mary Magdalene was possessed by seven demons before Jesus cleansed her. (Luke 8:2)

    Martha complained to Jesus that her sister Mary was unhelpful with housework. (Luke 10:38-42)

    Peter denied knowing Christ three times. (Mark 14)

    Nathaniel questioned: Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? (John 1:46)

    Thomas doubted that Jesus had been resurrected. (John 20)

    Paul (Saul) held the coats of the men who stoned Stephen. (Acts 6)

    John Mark left Paul and the other missionaries who were traveling to Asia Minor, and he returned to Jerusalem. This caused a break between Paul and Barnabas some time later. (Acts 13 & 15)

    Paul confessed:

    For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
    For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
    (Romans 7:15,19)

    * * *

    Rabbi Saadiah Gaon, in his Book of Beliefs and Opinions, explains that God deliberately chooses human prophets whose mortal nature is apparent, so that people will not ascribe the miracles they perform to themselves, but rather to God.

    – Tom Irvine

  77. In the D&C there are a number of times recorded when the Lord called Joseph to repentance or made other reference to his sins. Maybe that has happened or will happen with respect to what some of us at least see as an abuse of power with respect to the women in his life. Tom Irvine has given us a long list of scriptural persons used by God despite their sins and mistakes. [Side note: Matthew 16:17 is about as close as it can get to saying Peter had the witness of the Holy Ghost (or the Father) prior to his denials of Christ. I fail to understand how in the face of Peter’s example and subsequent history we can conclude that denying the Holy Ghost is an unforgivable sin — even if the D&C says so.] I understand PC’s concern that Joseph’s history “casts a long, dark shadow that makes it so hard [for some] to accept that Joseph was God’s chosen prophet.” I wish there were not such a strong emphasis on what seems to me an invalid all-or-nothing approach to belief in the restoration. Maybe expecting perfection of our leaders is as off-the-mark as is expecting infallibility. On the other hand, focusing on the behavior and some of the comments of Joseph, Brigham, Heber C. Kimball and others with respect to women is enough to make me physically ill. Even giving allowance for a prophet’s language limitations or mistakes as to his source of inspiration (some claim Joseph acknowledged he didn’t always know the source), when the consequences of erroneously claiming a revelation from God are as grave as those inflicted on Emma Smith and Zina Huntington Jacobs Smith Young and others, I must wonder if such revelatory claims amount to taking the Lord’s name in vain in a way far more serious than using his name as an exclamation, a swear-word, or an intensifier. None of that, however, displaces my conviction, which I believe to be God-given, that Joseph was a prophet (in the messy, Old Testament sense as Jana Riess put it). It does make me well aware that such a conviction does not mean that I always understand what is revealed through him or that he was always acting as a prophet or in accordance with God’s will, even when he thought he was.

  78. While I, too, am okay with imperfect prophets (since we are all imperfect, how could I not be?), I am left wondering if any sin is too great to make one unfit for the calling? If one can rape and murder and still be ‘beloved’ of God, if one can treat women in sickening ways, or can institutionalize racism, and still qualify as a prophet, then I wonder if any amount of wickedness can disqualify a prophet (note that I think God loves all sinners, but ‘beloved’ takes it a step further and indicates a deeply personal relationship). And once we cross the line from infallible prophets to fallible prophets and then again to VERY fallible prophets, what do we make of Wilford Woodruff’s claim that “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray[…] If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty”?

  79. Rachael, perhaps David was “beloved” of God prior to his gross sins. Perhaps God’s love is not conditional. Perhaps David at some point through repentance was again (or will be) brought into a right relationship with God. I don’t know if any amount of wickedness can disqualify a prophet. My observation of Christian friends, however, is to the effect that we are wrong if/when we teach that one breaking the commandments cannot have the Holy Spirit with them. To the extent of my observation, it is not breaking the commandments, but rather breaking what one believes to be the Lord’s commandments that gets in the way of responsiveness to the Spirit. Oh, well. I’ve been wrong about other things, why not that? As to the lead-astray language, there was some significant discussion of that in the comments here: https://bycommonconsent.com/2016/03/29/acknowledging-the-judas-reality/

    To the extent President Woodruff’s claim is true, I don’t believe it can possibly mean that the Lord will not allow the President to teach as the Lord’s doctrine something that is incorrect. There are too many contrary examples. Perhaps it is an expression of confidence that the Lord will not allow the President to lead the Lord’s Church to utter destruction.

    Of course, my current way of looking at these things is not particularly comforting to those who want certainty and clarity rather than ambiguity and challenge or who want to be relieved of the responsibility that comes with free moral agency. I’ve been one of those. I’ve had to give it up.

  80. “I wonder if any amount of wickedness can disqualify a prophet ”
    My opinion (warning, it’s going to sound angry) . . . Whether or not there’s a limit in God’s eyes, there ought to be a limit in human terms, in an organization of real live women and men and children all of whom matter. It’s pretty obvious that a pederast priest should not have any contact with children. Whether he should be defrocked I’m willing to leave up to God or the Church, but I want him out of the Sunday School. Similarly, a prophet who’s seeking out extra women for himself should not be giving advice or propounding ‘revelation’ or be taken seriously when he does speak about marriage and relationships.

  81. JR, the first three sentences in your response to me make me think that maybe you were confused by my comment. I find all three assumptions in your opening sentences to be perfectly reasonable and yet, I was left with the feeling that you took me to be espousing the opposite. That is, I believe that David was beloved of God sometime prior to the rape and murder; I believe that God loves sinners unconditionally; and I believe that David can repent. If you were confused by my rhetorical wondering, I’ll make it clear where I stand. I don’t actually believe that one can rape and murder and be beloved of God at the time of sin; being unconditionally loved? yes; being beloved? probably not until significant and lasting repentance takes place. I also believe that extreme wickedness can disqualify a prophet. (While I’m not ready to place Joseph Smith in that box, I do believe that polygamy was not inspired.)

    I disagree with your observation that “it is not breaking the commandments, but rather breaking what one believes to be the Lord’s commandments that gets in the way of responsiveness to the Spirit.” A man could believe that the Lord has commanded him to murder his wife and children, and him choosing not to follow through on that is not going to get in the way of his responsiveness to the Spirit. I believe that it’s fully possible to obey what one takes to be a commandment, but in doing so, to be sinning so grievously as to lose the Spirit.

    I agree with you that we can’t charitably interpret Woodruff’s claim to mean that a prophet will never teach false doctrine, since some prophet’s clearly have; though, like you said, what we are left with (that the church won’t be led to utter destruction) is cold comfort.

  82. *prophets, not prophet’s. Wish we could edit our comments.

  83. ConcubineAnd says:

    Alpineglow- (If you are still there) I understand your feelings, at least I think I do, and I hope my comments didn’t come across as minimizing the catastrophic damage David’s sins must have done to those women. I think in my mind I want to give him (and others) a “second chance” because I feel like if people truly understood their sins, could see them from the eyes of those they hurt then surely they would understand and repent. Maybe that’s just me trying to be optimistic in a world full of people who hurt others and never seem to repent of their sins. If David ever is repentant I imagine it will be a long and painful road to salvation for him, as Jamie J expressed in her comment.
    As for the conversation feeling off I have been thinking about it and I think part of that “offness” comes from a lack of passion (which is admittedly difficult to convey in text form). What I mean is that many of the comments have expressed dismay at the treatment of women in this story and other biblical texts, which is certainly appreciated and much better than an attempt to explain it away (as I have gotten so used to receiving). Michael mentioned that in his literature classes he always addresses the problems with women as plot devices when discussing the stories he teaches. That is good but part of me wants more. I want someone to stand up and say “this is despicable, it is a huge problem, and not only is it a huge problem but we need to discuss it and ensure that when the great books of tomorrow are read 1000 years from now there will be no question of the worth and value of women. We need to learn from this lesson before we can move on to appreciate the intended lessons in Goethe, Shakespeare, etc.” But of course, a literature course must discuss the literature rather than the missing stories of the women in it, so it is understandable that such an approach would not be tenable in Michael’s situation.
    I do wonder though if such an approach is tenable in a church or blog setting. Because I feel that it should be. I feel that it is absolutely necessary if we are to ever overcome our terrible history of misogyny or prevent young men from feeling entitled to objectify and control women. I feel like we need to make it the focus of the story so that we can adjust our interpretation of the story of David as the writers of the text intended it.
    That being said, I also wonder if many men CAN feel the passion about this situation that I feel because of my experiences as a woman. Not to say that they are not trying, but I wonder if it is something that just isn’t possible to understand unless you have experienced it, which men being men and not women would mean that they haven’t. I’m not really sure though, because by the same token I feel equally passionate about gay rights and movements like black lives matter and I am neither gay nor black. But certainly as a woman I have felt what it is to be marginalized and so I have much more empathy for such movements and people than I otherwise might. And that to me indicates that perhaps men can have similar experiences and maybe they just aren’t coming through in this comment thread. (Admittedly, the OP wasn’t even about misogyny so perhaps the comments I am wanting to see are not there because it wasn’t the intended message of the post. Many possibilities).

  84. Rachael, I think I did misunderstand you. I don’t think we have any disagreement unless it were that I don’t imagine as great a rhetorical distinction between being the subject of unconditional love and being “beloved” as you do. I think you have invested “beloved” with more meaning than I had. I think your distinction is likely more useful than my comment’s lack of such a significant distinction. As to my observation that “it is not breaking the commandments, but rather breaking what one believes to be the Lord’s commandments that gets in the way of responsiveness to the Spirit,” you have come up with some apt hypothetical counter-examples. What I had in mind was my observation of a friend of mine, then a committed Presbyterian who saw nothing wrong with his having sex with women he was dating before his divorce was final, but whose adultery did not get in the way of his responding to spiritual promptings with respect to his service to others and his support of the less fortunate or his spiritual responses to worship music or sermons. I don’t know how else to account for his apparent and reported experience, and yet my formulation is clearly not correct for your counterexamples. Thanks for the corrections. I may think some more on the sin and spirit connection or disconnection, but I don’t have much confidence in my ability to articulate that relationship reliably. “The wind blows where it will, and thou hearest its voice, but knowest not whence it comes and where it goes: thus is every one that is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8.

  85. Lorenzo Snow, in his Collected Discourses, said he believed that every man and woman who came to this life and passed through it, his life would be a success in the end.
    So I have hope for all of us, David included, that salvation may take much longer for some, but will come for all.
    After all, we are spending hundreds of millions of dollars and countless hours performing temple work for these people. Why, if not so that they may one day be worthy to make those covenants.
    We have also taught since the days of Joseph Smith that parents who have their children sealed to them and keep their covenants will bring those children to salvation. If that promise belongs to Adam and Eve, then Cain will be going home, as will Laman and Lemuel, and many of the most wicked of the Old Testament children. If they will be saved through the Priesthood authority of their parents, how could God keep anyone out but the sons of perdition.
    I remember reading an essay by a BYU professor that turned my thoughts around on this matter. He said someone in his ward was complaining to him about a young couple in the ward who had been forced to marry because of an out of wedlock pregnancy. The person felt they got off easy, having their fun then going forward in the church. He told the person that they were seeing the situation incorrectly. They should not be envying tbose who had spent longer in Satan’s grasp but be happy they personally had escaped it earlier than the couple.
    Sin was not happiness. It was misery and we should never envy it.
    Perhaps if we knew the depth of David’s fear and remorse and how much more he had to suffer after death and how long, we would have only compassion for him. The apostle Paul did when he mentioned that David’s sepulchre was still with them after so many graves had been opened following Jesus’ resurrection. And if the time element is expressed correctly, he will need to wait hundreds more years following the Second Coming to be redeemed from hell. Hell for thousands of years.
    If Lorenzo Snow’s speculation is correct, even after the resurrection, the process of progression will be long and hard in order to advance from level to level in each kingdom and then between kingdoms. All because he chose to sin here. Hardly a good bargain.

  86. To go back to the OP, the problem I see with the texts is with the King David story. With Corianton, we see a father giving instruction to a wayward son. His concern is with his son, as most parents’ concern would be, particularly at the time when they were trying to wrest him away from a destructive relationship. I do believe sin can result from an incomplete understanding of truth. Indeed faith can only follow the hearing of the word. Perhaps that is what Alma knew about his son, that his knowledge of gospel truths was weak and his commitment to them even weaker. President Packer taught us that a correct understanding of doctrine does more to correct behavior than studying behavior. So Alma teaches doctrine to his son.
    And I do not think this was about sexuality, per se, but about its misuse. To tie Corianton’s actions to their ultimate long term consequences seems to me to be Alma’s goal.
    The story of King David is much more complex. We have greater knowledge of his life, of his early triumphs, of his life while in exile, of his respect for the position of the king while suffering at his hand, of his friendship with Jonathan. He is a fleshed out character. Then he sins in a major way and is caught by the consequence of the pregnancy of an adulterous affair. Perhaps part of the story we do not discuss is that his polygamy has made him not see women as fully human. They are treaty brides, sent to forge ties with other nations. They are people he picks up along the way as he travels as a warrior. When his wife criticizes him he never reconciles but treats her as his property. I do not remember mention of Saul engaging in this behavior, so maybe David is the first king in Israel to do so. If so, he introduces great sin into the nation. He corrupts the foundation of family life, the only glory that travels with us after this life, basically making Israel little different from her neighbors.
    Then David compounds his misuse of women, his ignoring of Bathsheba’s rights as a person and Uriah’s expectation that as he serves David, his family structure will be respected, by entering into a conspiracy to commit murder. David has sinned so Uriah must die. Uriah is killed and David marries Bathsheba, thus supposedly hiding his betrayal. But God knows and his prophet
    traps David into condemning himself. He has passed the sentence of death upon himself. David is forced to see himself as he has become. He attempts repentence, but to my eyes it is cheap repentence he wants. He keeps all the power and wealth and glory in this life and gives it all up in the world to come. While sexual sin may play a part in this story, I really see it as being about a man who increasingly sees himself as no longer answering to God until he realizes that only God can grant what he really wants, clean hands.
    Yes, this story ignores Bathsheba, just as it ignores Uriah and their families reaction to the killing of a family member and the feelings of whoever would have been king before Solomon came along. It is telling the story of the corruption of power.
    What is interesting to me is that the story as told in the Bible does not in any way attempt to blame Bathsheba. That twisted addition has been added by our culture. The real question for us as Mormons is what warping exists in our culture that caused this addition and why has it remained unchallenged for so long?

  87. A small refinement of the question: “The real question for us as Mormons is what warping exists in our culture that caused this addition and why has it remained unchallenged for so long?” The addition was not caused by anything unique in Mormon culture, but was adopted by Mormonism from its 19th century culture. It dates from at least as early as the Arcipreste de Talavera. I understand he was explicit about this interpretation of Bathsheba. Alfonso Martínez de Toledo (ca. 1398 – ca. 1470) was a Castilian poet and writer. The first part of his Corbacho is focused on earthly love, which Martínez rejects. “In the second part, Martínez applies his arguments against earthly love to a criticism of women in general, repeating such stock arguments, for example, that women are the source of man’s perdition. Martínez’s chapter titles alone indicate only too well his opinions on the opposite sex: “How a woman is jealous of anyone more beautiful than she,” “How a woman is disobedient,” “How a woman lies even while under oath,” “How a man should watch out for a drunken woman,” “How a woman loves whomever she pleases regardless of age.” ”

    That interpretation of Bathsheba has not remained unchallenged. “Juan Rodríguez de la Cámara’s Triunfo de las donas (1445) includes 40 feminist arguments meant to counter the misogyny of Martínez’s Corbacho. Rodríguez’s work presents arguments for the superiority of women to men.” I don’t think Mormondom’s adoption of that addition from its 19th century surrounding culture has remained unchallenged, but it has not been challenged sufficiently or widely or authoritatively enough. I think the real question is what is it in contemporary Mormon culture that allows it to persist as a common view? and what can we do to change that?

  88. JR: Thanks for the history (which I was vaguely aware of, but without names and dates). Not to disagree, but perhaps add a Mormon slant . . .
    My wife and I were talking about this whole discussion yesterday and she observed (my words, her thoughts) that we Mormons try to make sense of polygamy, to make it good. And whether we succeed or not, some (many? all?) of the arguments made are really insulting to women. At various times and places people will trot out some of the history you describe (Martinez and others), in constructing a rationalization for polygamy.

  89. What I think is missing from people’s understanding of Corianton’s story is that his actions weren’t solely based around Isobel. That was just the final straw. Alma mentions previously about how his (Alma’s) actions had been driving people away from salvation, while Alma had been out sinning with the Sons of Mosiah. His entire spiel against Corianton is based on that. He talks about how Corianton’s actions caused others to not want to hear what Alma had to say, and mentions how Corianton should have bee more attentive to the ministry that Corianton had been given. Finally, after being a poor missionary, corianton then went running off after isobel. At no point does Alma solely look at that being what was wrong. He was looking at all of Corianton’s actions and great pride in boasting of his own strength. Only in the church has the idea that Corianton’s sole issue is sexual appear, in fact Alma doesn’t employ it as the sole reason; we do that, due to our ideas and so confuse the text’s meaning. Instead of talking about Sexual sins, Alma talks about clear aspects of the gospel that Corianton apparently doesn’t get or understand. That would highlight where Corianton’s flaws really fall into.

    I think the Church really filters a lot of stories through the “sex” lenses, and so makes stories about how certain ways of having sex is wrong in stories, even though there is nothing actually in the scriptures that say so directly, and then re-interpreting the scriptures for the purpose of producing that result. Corianton’s story is about a flawed and failed missionary, but the Church makes it about a missionary that went chasing after a harlot just to have sex completely ignoring that Corianton was being a lousy missionary in need of correction. The Church even cuts off almost all of Alma’s words, only applying his admonition against Corianton’s driving people away from the gospel and salvation as being only about Corianton’s sexual activity, but Alma didn’t make it just about that; instead the Church does that.

  90. JR, I agree with you that your questions are more relevant today than mine but I still believe there was something fundamentally flawed in Mormon culture and understanding of truth about women that caused us to continue to repeat such ridiculous claims as Bathsheba being a temptress responsible for King David’s fall from grace. Or perhaps the inaccurate belief is about men, that they cannot control their sexual behavior and should not be held accountable when they do not control it.
    Perhaps I am wrong in seeing early Mormon culture as wildly innovative, willing to institute a new economic model, a new marriage order, to invent a new language, and to overturn fundamental beliefs about Diety and our ultimate destiny in eternity. Why not then questions about women? They were questioning everything at the time, speculating wildly about the location of the Ten Tribes, about the ultimate destiny of the sons of perdition, about whether people would be able to progress through the kingdoms of glory.
    Perhaps all this was just too much cultural change to be adopted at once, so they clung to racism and interpreted the Pearl of Price’s idioms about dark skin to be literal instead of figurative. And they used false cultural beliefs to hold women back in their progression. But I believe it was more likely a sense of entitlement brought on by believing too thoroughly in your place as a god in embryo, in charge of lesser creatures like women and Blacks.
    We actually see a rollback in practices Joseph Smith taught, for both Blacks and women, once he was dead. From the history I have read, the leaders interviewed Elijah Abel trying to make sense of Joseph’s action in ordaining him, then unable to, created a doctrine that kept Blacks from being given the priesthood or participating in the higher temple ordinances. Emma had already invited Sister Manning (cannot remember her first name) to be sealed to her and Joseph as their child, so Emma and Joseph saw Blacks as temple worthy.
    When Joseph organized the Relief Society, he told the wonen that he turned the key to them. This was later changed to ‘turned the key in their behalf’ and you can read about the history of this modification in one of the older Relief Society histories, the men insisting on it. In the current manual it is now back to its original wording. We also see women’s giving anointings and blessings pushed back, despite Joseph’s explicit instructions on the matter.
    In fact, within the Church there was for much of the latter half of the 20th century, a lessening of the independence the Relief Society had. So it was not just something inherited from the Middle Ages; it was new sexism. There was also a reaching back to earlier LDS Church leader statements about women that may have sounded reasonable in the 1840’s, but were completely out of place when they were repeated in the 1960’s in the infamous talk given at BYU telling women men were the trunk of the tree, women only the branches.
    How do we fix it? I have found laughing in the faces of people who teach ridiculous things in Church works well.

  91. Susan, my version of the question is only a very small proposed very small revision of yours. I agree that there was/is something fundamentally flawed in Mormon culture and understanding of truth about women. My point, if I had one, was only that the fundamentally flawed thing was initially adopted from the surrounding culture and was not unique to Mormonism. Then as Christian implicitly pointed out (his words, his wife’s ideas), polygamy and the sense of entitlement and authority of Church leaders (including legitimization of their cultural opinions) made it worse. To some extent it may be the continuing defense of polygamy as a good or inspired thing that helps it persist. If I recall correctly, there were a number of times when Joseph received revelations only because he thought to ask questions. I don’t think it occurred to his successors to ask the Lord questions about their attitudes about women. See, e.g. the report in Turner’s Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet, p. 152, of Brigham’s comment, joking or not, about women’s counsel and wisdom: “All their council [sic] and wisdom (although there are many good women) … don’t weigh as much with me as the weight of a Fly Tird.”
    The new sexism of the mid-20th century also made it worse, but that seems also to have been at least partly a reflection of or adopted from the general American cultural drive to get the women back out of the work force so that the returning soldiers could take their jobs. That was then also made worse by the male Mormon leaders exalting that new sexism into a divine pattern for all. While there has been some backing away from that and I think the current General Authorities do not weigh women’s counsel and wisdom as BY did, I don’t anticipate ever seeing a restoration of the independence of the Relief Society. The confiscation of Relief Society assets and destruction of its independence was a coup d’etat in the name of Priesthood authority and is now the status quo. Sometimes it is purportedly justified as part of an effort toward correlation and consistency, but maybe it was also influenced by certain male leaders’ inability to tolerate competent, intelligent women running their own affairs without being told what to do.
    How do we fix it? I have tried introducing competing ideas in Sunday School and Priesthood meetings with limited success in getting some to think rather than merely react by deferring to their understanding of some authoritative statement. I have tried arguing a text with some Priesthood leaders with no success at all in even getting them to see that a viewpoint new to them might have some possible basis. I have not tried laughing in the faces of people who teach ridiculous things. Has it really changed any of their attitudes when you have done that?

  92. First, I need to modify some of my statements. I do not have the right to ascribe motives to the leaders of the Church. I do not know their hearts. I certainly am offended when my church leaders have made false judgements about me.
    Why the leaders did what they did I cannot say. Isn’t that basically what the Church statement about Blacks and the priesthood said: they cannot determine how the policy was created.
    But I am frustrated to be living in a church where so much garbage is still preached to our members about women. I knew these things were wrong over 50 years ago. How can people still be teaching women not to be the Bathsheba’s to the young men? Good grief! How patheticly small they must view the young men.
    Do you actually change people by laughing in their faces? No. You embarrass them, which sometimes silences them. That is a place to start if you just cannot take it anymore. Will you win friends and influence people? No. You may very well make enemies. Probably not a good path for lasting change.
    Perhaps a better way is to appeal to their vanity. Point out that only spiritual pygmies would seek to pass off blame for their sins to another. No man wishes to see himself as small. It might get them thinking.
    If the lesson was taught twisting the story of David and Bathsheba and trying to blame her in any way, I would point out that was not what the scripture actually said. The prophet of God placed the blame squarely on David. By referencing the word of the prophet, you have trumped any challenge. David lost his salvation. No information is ever given about whether her participation was voluntary. Then end by stating that you for one would not want to ascribe wickedness to her where the scriptures and the prophet did not. Most teachers will back off at this point because they are not going to attack a prophet of God or be seen as attacking an innocent woman. You have manuvered the teacher into silence. And most people accept that whoever has the last word is correct so you will win over some of the class.
    I would not wait until after a lesson. Challenge the teacher during the class. If anyone makes a belittling comment about your opinion, do not let it go unchallenged.
    The truth is that our culture will need to change for these kind of teachings to go away. I believe we are on the cusp of that change.
    Although I have been a registered Republican for over 40 years and dislike much of Hillary Clinton’s policies, I think she will be our next president. (I sincerely hope so since I believe Donald Trump suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I really do not want a mentally ill president.) The culture change will probably not happen during her time in office, but will be visible in four years. People will simply adjust to seeing a woman in power just as they have adjusted to a Black secretary of state, a Black president and a Black chairman of the joint chiefs.
    I wish we as Mormons could be leading the world in these areas but we seem incapable of it. And I believe it limits our missionary work to be the follower instead of the leader.