Whoredoms

From Sean's Gospel Topical Guide
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Notes

The definition of this word is kind of fuzzy in common parlance. Usually, the word is associated with some kind of corrupt sexual activity, especially prostitution. The Church's policy is to not define what sexual activities are permissible between married couples, though adultery, homosexual sexual activity, premarital sex, and any kind of involuntary sexual relation, are clearly forbidden. Generally any kind of voluntary sexual activity undertaken by two heterosexual married individuals is not enjoined against. The question remains, though; what are the prophets in the scriptures concerned about when they enjoin against "whoredoms"? Often allusion is made to prostitution, but it does not seem clear that prostitution is always or exclusively the issue in many cases.

Jacob 2 presents a particularly interesting case here, as Jacob is largely railing against whoredoms that are being justified on the basis of the polygamy of David and Solomon. The text says that whoredoms are being justified and that the Lord delights in the chastity of women. A plain cultural understanding of the text leads many to conclude that polygamy is being described as a whoredom and that the Lord prefers women to be virgins. This is never explicitly stated, however, and the idea that the Lord prefers cat ladies to mothers seems like a questionable idea, that also seems to contradict a fairly straightforward understanding of the Plan of Salvation.

Lexical Investigation

The 1828 Webster's dictionary gives two definitions for Whoredom:

  1. Lewdness; fornication; practice of unlawful commerce with the other sex. It is applied to either sex, and to any kind of illicit commerce.
  2. In Scripture, idolatry; the desertion of the worship of the true God, for the worship of idols.

An etymology for "whore" taken from Google gives:

"late Old English hōre, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch hoer and German Hure, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin carus ‘dear’."

The 1828 Webster's dictionary gives the following definition for the suffix, "-dom":

used as a termination, denotes jurisdiction, or property and jurisdiction; primarily, doom, judgment; as in kingdom, earldom. Hence it is used to denote state, condition or quality, as in wisdom, freedom.

An etymology for the suffix "-dom" taken from Google gives: Old English -dōm, originally meaning ‘decree, judgement’.

My Thoughts

It seems clear that, given the Lord's assertion that there are times when he will command polygamy, that polygamy is not, itself, the whoredom. The text of Jacob 2 talks about leading "away captive the daughters of my people," and that in contrast with the Lamanites, they had "broken the hearts of [their] tender wives, and lost the confidence of [their] children, because of [their] bad examples" as descriptions of what some men had done in committing whoredoms.

If we look at modern history, there are polygamist groups that operate without divine license and we tend to find among these groups, that women have greatly restricted freedom, that women are treated and traded as property, and that pedophilia becomes a major problem. Access to women tends to becomes so restricted that young men are kicked out of the community due to their oversupply. In contrast, under early LDS Polygamy, although we might expect a similar result, these polygamists were very permissive in allowing for divorce, and were very progressive for their time in promoting women's liberty and equality, even granting women a voice in elections in 1870. Analysis has shown that women did not become a scarcity, but only tended to marry at a higher rate.

I would tend to think that the disparagement of women's rights such that women effectively live as sex slaves, even if nominally married, is viewed by the Lord as a whoredom.

Moroni 9:9 is somewhat famous for its culturally eyebrow-raising use of the term "chastity". Moroni describes rape as a loss of "chastity and virtue," which, given the way that we talk about chastity today, can sound like blaming the victim. However, I think we have to drop the assumption that Moroni thinks about the concept that is being given the label, "chastity", in the same way that we think of the term "chastity", it seems clear to me that the rape, or forced sexual exploitation, of women, is something which does not delight the Lord, and that, if this is what Jacob is referring to here, then it seems pleasantly consistent for me to conclude that Jacob is using the term in a similar way here.

Cross-References