The Book of Morma

A Feminine Reading of the Book of Mormon

Introduction

The Book of Mormon  is the primary founding scripture of the branches of Mormonism.  First published in 1830 in Palmyra, New York, it presents itself as a 19th century translation of an ancient record chronicling the religious and spiritual histories of several lost civilizations.  According to this record, these civilizations originated in Israel and Mesopotamia, and were led by God to a distant “promised land,” where the gospel of salvation was taught to them by men who had been called of God.

The narratives and teachings of the Book of Mormon are, arguably more so than the Bible, male-dominated and patriarchal.  Female characters that do make appearances in the text usually do so in supporting roles (e.g. wives and mothers,) as traditional female icons (e.g. Mary and Eve,) or in instances of deus ex machina (e.g. Abish and Morianton’s maid-servant.)

Mormon author Carol Lynn Pearson has noted:

I have never once heard the Book of Mormon approached with a sensitivity to what it says about my femaleness.  Occasionally there has been some jest about the lack of women in the book, but there has never been a serious acknowledgement of what that means to all of us.

Because what it means is profoundly important, we cannot afford to ignore it.  The messages that go into our psyches as we study this book and absorb the positive images of the male and the absent or negative images of the female affect out lives, our self images, our images of the opposite sex, our relationships to God, and our relationships to one another. 1

Men cannot possibly know what it is like to be a female child in a Motherless house unless they are shocked into glimpsing what it would be like to be a male child in a Fatherless house. 2 

This book, The Book of Morma, is the feminine counterpart of the Book of Mormon—a protracted “role reversal” composition derived from the Book of Mormon text. It is the product of an imaginary universe, mirroring our own, in which genders have been inverted.  In this imaginary parallel universe, a female Goddess has established a plan of salvation and ordained her only borne Daughter to be the Savioress of the world.  Priestesses and prophetesses bring the heavenly messages to the people through a matriarchal order.  Women strive to build the queendom of Goddess, and to serve their Lady with all their hearts.

Furthermore, The Book of Morma is a full-length meditation on the questions of: What if?  What if we lived in a world where females dominated the leadership in society and religion?  What if we lived in a world where our language equated “women” or “womankind” with the entirety of humanity?  What if our religious traditions and our scriptures presented men as simply incidental elements of the various narratives and teachings?  What if men were required to approach prophetesses, priestesses, and matriarchs to connect with the divine?  What if the divine feminine was at the forefront of the interface with humanity, and the divine male was all but erased from collective consciousness?  What if the gifts of prophesy, revelation, and authority were reserved for righteous women?  What if the Restoration and the Book of Mormon had been brought to the world by means of a prophetess and her female assistants?

In rendering the text to feminine form, intuitive conventions have dictated the grammatical and lexical amendments.  Male and female pronouns are interchanged.  Gender-charged nouns and adjectives (e.g. wife, son, fair, stripling) are substituted for suitable opposite gender analogues.  Proper names are generally feminized using the English conventions of feminine vowel suffixes, but when more drastic alterations are required, a name of comparable etymology is selected. When male–female pairs are clearly defined by the Book of Mormon or Biblical texts, they simply become substitutes for one another (e.g. Lehi and Sariah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel, Moses and Zipporah, Adam and Eve, etc.)  Androgynous names such as Alma have been left unchanged.

Some will doubtless take great issue with this publication at large, denouncing it as a deliberate misrepresentation of scripture, and indicating that does not reflect authorized doctrine, teachings, or history.  These charges are valid on all counts.  Although the text from which it is derived is regarded as authentic scripture by the greater part of its readers, The Book of Morma in its feminized form makes no claim of inspiration, revelation, authority, historicity, accuracy, or veracity.  It should merely be received as a thoughtful re-framing of an influential religious text for the purpose of facilitating the extended contemplation of gender roles in the spheres of society, religion, spirituality, and theology.

Male readers are invited to introspectively observe the effects of the erasure of Heavenly Father from religious discourse, to perceive the thoughts of appealing to a female Redemptress for salvation, and to recognize the humility involved in submitting to prophetesses, priestesses, and judgesses for spiritual instruction.  Female readers are encouraged to see the empowering effects of matriarchy, the compassion, tenderness, and sometimes sternness of a female Deity, and to imagine a world in which prophetesses are revered as the oracles of a benevolent Goddess.

It is my hope that this feminine reading of the Book of Mormon will be the means by which we can analyze more concretely the implications of the divine feminine, the process of unmediated female access to revelation and authority, and the place of these ideas within Mormonism.  I likewise hope that we may consider, in a more thorough manner, the significance of gender structures that have been with civilized society for all of recorded history, and experience vicariously, through the characters, stories, and statements found in this feminized text, the ramifications of women becoming prominent joint-heirs with Christ, and partakers of the divine nature.

Flora Walker 

  1. Pearson, Carol Lynn. “Could Feminism Have Saved the Nephites?” Sunstone,  vol. 19:1, no. 101 (March 1996): 39 
  2. Pearson, Carol Lynn. “Walk in the Pink Moccasins.” Sunstone,  no. 137 (May 2005): 21 

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