In the sedate setting of an academic symposium in Provo, a respected LDS scholar delivered this historical bombshell:
Eliza R. Snow, one of Mormonism’s “founding mothers,” was gang-raped by eight Missourians during 19th-century tensions between LDS settlers and their Midwestern enemies.
“The rape was brutal, and so it made Eliza unable to have children,” Brigham Young University-Idaho professor Andrea Radke-Moss said in an interview. Mormon founder Joseph Smith “offered her marriage as a way of promising her that she would still have eternal offspring and that she would be a mother in Zion.”
Snow was one of the faith’s longest-serving presidents of the female Relief Society, a strong advocate for women’s suffrage and a well-known poet who penned the famous lyrics to the beloved Mormon hymn “O My Father,” which refers to the LDS belief of a Heavenly Mother.
Understanding Snow’s horrific experience could help Mormon women today, “some of whom live in war-torn areas where they themselves have been the victims of rapes,” Radke-Moss suggested. “How much better can we nurture and mourn with these women than to provide them with an empathetic model of the survivor of a gang rape in war? And not just any Mormon woman, but the Mormon woman.”
It might also help modern Latter-day Saints “rethink, or at least complicate, the origins of plural marriage,” Radke-Moss said. For Snow, polygamy was about “spiritual comfort following a savage crime that made her infertile, and a protective measure in the context of trauma and sexual violence that Mormon women experienced.”
Continue reading how this historian believes this information can help women today at the Salt Lake Tribune.