A controversial verse from the Book of Mormon that describes rape as the loss of chastity has been removed from a workbook Mormon girls are required to study.
Chapter 9 of the Book of Moroni details the “depravity” of the Lamanites ― a tribe the Book of Mormon describes as descendants of Laman and Lemuel, two brothers from a family of Israelites that sailed across the ocean around 600 BC.
Moroni 9:9 relays the story of the Lamanite daughters who were raped and deprived “of that which was dear and precious among all things, which is chastity and virtue.”
The workbook still emphasizes chastity, asking girls to write in their journal on “the promised blessings of being sexually clean and pure and your commitment to be chaste.” But the revision reflects LDS Church policy, as stated on the church’s website, which says that “victims of sexual abuse are not guilty of sin and do not need to repent.”
Mormon author Jana Reiss called the change “a good start” in an article on Religion News Service, but noted that the verse is still present in LDS scripture and pervades Mormon beliefs surrounding purity.
For years church leaders have communicated the message to Mormon faithful that it’s better to “be better dead clean than alive unclean.” This message has shifted in recent years, Reiss said in her article. But Mormon survivors of sexual assault are still often subjected to victim-blaming.
In March, a student at LDS-operated Brigham Young University filed a federal complaint against the school for putting her on academic hold after she reported being raped to police.
In other cases where students have reported sexual assault, BYU has investigated them for violations of the Honor Code, including drinking, staying out late or going into boys’ rooms, reports The Salt Lake Tribune.
Well-known activist and rape survivor Elizabeth Smart addressed the BYU Honor Code in an interview with Broadly in September. Smart discussed the “religious stigma” that can make survivors afraid to come forward with their testimonies. This culture of shaming, she said, needs to come to an end.
“People need to realize there is nothing that can detract from your worth,” Smart told Broadly. “When it comes to rape and sexual violence and abuse, that can never detract from who you are.”