Mormon women and scripture in the nineteenth century

Authored by: Amy Easton-Flake

The Routledge Handbook of Mormonism and Gender

Print publication date:  May  2020
Online publication date:  April  2020

Print ISBN: 9780815395218
eBook ISBN: 9781351181600
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781351181600-11

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Abstract

This chapter examines nineteenth-century Mormon women’s use of scriptures—the Bible as well as scriptures particular to the Mormon faith—as recorded in journals, autobiographies, and the Woman’s Exponent. Mormons’ emphasis on an expanded canon and prophetic and personal revelation to facilitate the meaning of scripture had, at times, a significant impact on their reading of scripture. This may be seen whenever a doctrine particular to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint faith is discussed, but it is particularly noticeable in nineteenth-century Mormon women’s discussions of polygamy and Eve. More often than not, though, Mormon women’s exposition of scripture remains undifferentiated from their Protestant contemporaries as they primarily used scriptures to praise God, provide comfort, encourage desired behaviors, fashion their lives, explain religious doctrine, and argue for the correctness of certain political and social views. They shared the populist, literal hermeneutic that dominated nineteenth-century Americans’ understanding of the Bible, and they primarily took a noncritical approach to scriptures. What is perhaps most intriguing from a gender perspective is how in the Woman’s Exponent they regularly used scriptures to assert women’s equality, gendered capabilities and worth, and increasing expansion into public realms.

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