The Internet at the Speed of Thought

Mormon Feminists Fight to Stop Church From Forcing Girls to Repent for Being Raped

at 6:17 pm | By

Stop victim blaming.

Perhaps one of the trickiest aspects of religion is finding the balance between traditional spiritual beliefs and what is acceptable in modern society.

For thousands of years, religious groups have left their homelands and journeyed across continents, deserts, and oceans to escape persecution and seek religious freedom. But in our globalized world, we’re closer together than ever before, and even the most isolated of sects come under scrutiny in the public eye.

As private institutions, how far can religions go to prevent society at large from forcing change upon them and within them? We’ve seen journalists cause massive top-down change within the Catholic Church regarding abusive priests, and we’ve seen countries like France place restrictions on clothing typical for Muslim women. Unfortunately, religious institutions often are among the last to accept social change, using archaic societal rules and hardly-applicable passages from religious text to support their stance.

One of the most secular and scrutinized religious groups in the United States today are Mormons, followers of the Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-day Saints. Widely misunderstood, many non-Mormons relate the religion to the practice of polygamy, which was formally abandoned by the LDS Church in 1890 but still practiced by some fundamentalist sects today.

As with so many other religions, however, a major issue felt in the LDS Church is the role of women. After increasing criticism regarding sacred text that blamed rape victims for their suffering, these Mormon women decided to fight back.

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Now they’re rewriting the Book of Mormon.

The Mormon Movement

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Mormonism is widely misunderstood, and it has been since its foundation by Joseph Smith in 1830.

Like so many other religions, the Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-day Saints began was met with widespread persecution when it began as a Christian restorationist movement in the 19th century.

After being founded in upstate New York, Joseph Smith had to lead his growing congregation ever westward to avoid confrontation with other religious groups. He himself was murdered by a mob in Carthage, Illinois, who disagreed with his theology and politics.

The LDS movement has long been criticized for doctrines that the Church itself has since rejected, but which various sects and communities still practice. Among these are the belief that Adam was an alien god who became human after eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, which was located in North America; some crimes are so heinous as to deserve blood atonement, in which the perpetrator’s blood must be spilt upon the ground; black men cannot become priests; and, of course, plural marriage or polygamy.

Today, the LDS Church is the fourth-largest Christian denomination in the United States.

What We Teach Our Daughters

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Credit: George Frey/Getty Images

Foremost among the sacred texts of Mormonism is the Book of Mormon, first published by Joseph Smith in 1830. According to Smith, this holy text was originally written in “reformed Egyptian” on the golden plates that the prophet and Angel Moroni originally made and later helped him translate into English.

The final two books in the Book of Mormon are called the Book of Moroni, and they are among the first pieces of scripture that Mormon girls are required to read in their studies.

On the topic of virtue, a crucial aspect in determining the worth of Mormon women, Moroni 9:9 reads, “For behold, many of the daughters of the Lamanites have they taken prisoners; and after depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue—”

Over time, more people found they had a problem with that line, especially the women. But it was one national scandal that truly brought this text under scrutiny.