Moroni 9:9, with its claim that women can be deprived “of that which is most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue,” is something of an infamous scripture, and justly so, because it suggests that chastity and virtue can be passively taken from someone instead of actively given away. As EmJen explains:
What’s objectionable is not that they lost their hymen, but that they were forced against their will, they were raped. Their virtue cannot be taken, it can only be given away, and when given at the point of a gun or through other coercive means, it’s rape, it’s not being unchaste. This should be evident to anyone who reads it; it’s kind of an obvious point. Most women will immediately realize that if there is no consent, there is no loss of virtue by the woman, and that a man who forces or coerces a woman, robbing her of consent, is committing a heinous crime against her. But that doesn’t mean she is at fault.
This critique ably clarifies what the scripture misses about consent and female agency (see also Kristine’s post), but it doesn’t explain the worldview in which it makes sense to say that virtue can be taken away. This post is going to attempt that, because I don’t think that we can do better until we name such assumptions and get them out in the open. After all, the Personal Progress section on virtue still includes Moroni 9:9.
I propose that the story of the Rape of Lucretia affords a good platform for understanding the idea that virtue can be taken away. The Book of Mormon itself provides a pretty slender basis for understanding the sexual mores of its culture: all that come to mind are Jacob 2, Alma’s talk with Corianton, and the verse in Moroni.
In any case, the nearest we have to the original language is English, and the word “virtue” sends us back to the Latin, where it comes from the word vir, meaning “man” (in the male sense, not the generically human sense). So, even though the Book of Mormon’s historical narrative precludes Roman influence, that influence comes through the language of our encounter with the text. Furthermore, the story of Lucretia plays a central part in classical republican thought, which exercised a profound influence on the American founders a generation before Joseph Smith, because it provided the pretext for the overthrow of the Roman monarchy and its replacement with a republic, so it’s at minimum relevant to the text’s reception.
Associating virtue with masculinity raises complex questions of gender, given that the people deprived of it in Moroni 9:9 were women. What does it mean for women to have this masculine trait in the first place? That requires looking at Roman sexual mores, which center on the concepts of pudicitia, or the proper inviolability of any freeborn Roman (male or female), and stuprum, or the violation of pudicitia. 
Even though both men and women can have pudicitia, a gendered difference remains. As Craig Williams explains, “According to the prime directive of masculine sexual behavior, a Roman man who wished to retain his claim to full masculinity must always be thought to play the insertive role in penetrative acts, whether with males or females; if he was thought to have sought the receptive role in such acts he was liable to being mocked as effeminate.”  Roman virtue—acting like a man—depends on “control and dominion, both of others and of oneself.” 
Enter Lucretia.  Rome in its early days was governed by kings, the Tarquins. One king, Tarquinius Superbus [Tarquin the Proud] had a son, Sextus Tarquinius. Sextus, after seeing Lucretia, the wife of his kinsman Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus, decided to rape her. She resisted until Sextus threatened to kill both Lucretia and a slave and leave them naked together in the bed, suggesting in Livy’s words “adultery of the lowest kind [sordido adulterio],” at which point “his lust prevailed as the victor over her resolute chastity [vicisset obstinatam pudicitiam velut victrix libido].”
Livy’s language presents the pre-rape as a debate in which Sextus prevails by making an argument that Lucretia can’t counter. Chastity, in these terms, is a form of eloquence, and Lucretia’s proved insufficient. (Never mind that Tarquin relied on a threat of violence and not reason alone.) The contest is one of virtue, understood in masculine terms of dominance. It ends when one party is forced to assume the feminine position, which in this case fell to Lucretia. The debate is a test designed to evaluate whether or not Lucretia truly possesses chastity, understood as the impenetrability of pudicitia. Tarquin, in other words, took away her claim to masculine virtue, which Ovid explicitly assigns her when he describes her as a “matron of manly courage [animi matrona virilis].” She failed to control what happened to her body, which means she can’t possibly have virtue.
The chilling consequence of understanding the contest as a debate is that it ends in Lucretia’s consent. “Consent” comes from the Latin verb consentire, which means “thinking or feeling with.” In other words, when Lucretia can’t come up with an argument to counter Tarquin’s threat, she is understood as having agreed with his reasoning. Faced with the prospect of murder and implied adultery, she agrees to be raped, and the very fact of her having been penetrated suggests that her chastity was never all she made it out to be. (To be clear: I’m explaining this, not approving it.)
The next day, Lucretia called her husband and father, accompanied by another kinsman, Lucius Junius Brutus, to her chamber and explained what happened. In Roman understandings of the family, the paterfamilias acted as a judge over his household, so Lucretia is submitting herself to a kind of family court, in part because the rape was an affront against Collatinus’s pudicitia, too, because his household had been penetrated. Collatinus and Brutus conclude that she was not at fault in what happened. She, however, refuses the pardon and kills herself. In Livy’s version, she sets herself up as a moral martyr, refusing to allow that her example might excuse future adultery. In Ovid’s version, she seems driven by post-traumatic despair.
Augustine, writing about this story in The City of God , identifies Lucretia’s double-bind: “If she is adulterous, why is she praised? If chaste, why was she put to death? [si adulterata, cur laudata; si pudica, cur occisa?]” The tension emerges because, on the one hand, it was clear that Tarquin forced Lucretia against her will, but, on the other, the powerful cultural assumption that chastity means invulnerability to unwanted penetration casts an inevitable shadow on Lucretia’s character. She killed herself either as a way of trying to throw the shadow off (Livy) or out of despairing resignation to it (Ovid). Lucretia is the paradigmatic example of the mindset that thinks death preferable to unchastity (and expressions of that idea in late-20th-century Mormon discourse aren’t hard to find).
I’m not suggesting that these assumptions are normative in Mormonism. The Family Proclamation, with its talk of equal partners in marriage, is probably irreconcilable with Roman family values, and the only people who go around thinking in terms of pudicitia and stuprum are probably classics professors, and they of all people are in a position to recognize the distance between those ideas and modern life.
Even so, I think that we import those assumptions whenever we suggest that virtue can be passively taken away. When we do, we frame masculinity in terms of domination (contrary to D&C 121) and deny women full access to the agency that we put near the heart of our theology. More troublingly, we imply that rape victims, by the mere fact of having been raped, cannot be chaste, because they must have consented in some way, whether by dressing a certain way, staying out past curfew, or whatever. The very notion of penetration without consent becomes unthinkable. This mindset precludes taking victims’ accounts of their trauma at face value, which amounts to denying that women are capable of understanding their own experience and need a man to understand it for them.
If I hadn’t read certain comment threads here at BCC, I wouldn’t believe that any Mormon would willingly sign on for these assumptions.  I remain committed to believing that we’re a fundamentally decent people, more often than not inclined to do the right thing. Still, there’s room for us to do better. I don’t think that we should excise Moroni 9:9 either from the scriptures or the curriculum, because I think it can be a useful tool for challenging the assumptions embedded in its depiction of chastity and virtue. But if we’re going to read it in our classes or homes, we need to read it critically. Otherwise it’s better not to read it at all. Only when we look its assumptions about virtue and chastity in the face will we be able to work together toward understandings of those concepts that allow women full personhood. I’ll begin to explore what such understandings might look like in a future post.
 Craig A. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 104-09.
 Ibid., 137.
 Ibid., 139.
 Two important Roman versions of the story appear in Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita, I.58, and in the section of Ovid’s Fasti for 24 February.
 I.18-19, if you’re playing at home.
 I’m not linking to them. No trigger warning could suffice.