They Were Just Dancing

by Autumn Dickson

This post will probably not be a popular one, at least in terms of the world, but it’s definitely an important one.

One of the stories we read about this week is painful and tragic.

Mosiah 20:1 Now there was a place in Shemlon where the daughters of the Lamanites did gather themselves together to sing, and to dance, and to make themselves merry.

While these daughters were dancing and enjoying themselves, the wicked priests of King Noah abducted 24 of them and married them. This actually snowballs into a battle where a lot of people die because the Lamanites blame Limhi’s people for taking their daughters.

Now, we have no idea what the scriptures mean by singing, dancing, and making merry. I had dance parties with my girlfriends all the time when I was young. We know that when Laman and Lemuel were making merry, they were sinning, but we don’t know if that’s actually what they were trying to imply right here. I’m not going to assume that these girls were doing anything wrong, but I’m still going to use the story to teach a principle.

Perhaps some would argue with me that everything worked out because the daughters end up defending their abductor-husbands later on, but I just don’t buy it. I’ve seen my fair share of abused women defend their abuser. These priests couldn’t go back to their wives so they kidnap women and marry them instead. These priests had spent their time with other women while they were previously married, and they had also abandoned those poor wives! Something tells me they didn’t change just because they got married again. We also know they haven’t changed because when they’re given a bit of power, they use it to abuse other innocent people as well (cough cough Alma). I don’t think these girls were okay.

Which leads me to what I want to teach today.

The Lord gave us standards to protect us, not to blame victims, but to protect us. Read it again. I want to teach both of those principles today.

Not to blame victims

I feel like I should start with the “blame victims” portion of the principle so we can appreciate the second portion of the principle as well.

The standards weren’t given to punish the victims. The girls were out dancing and making merry, but even if the scriptures were purposefully implying that these girls were sinning, could we accurately blame them for what happened to them afterwards? No. Even if their actions enabled wicked men to take advantage of them, the blame lies with the wicked men.

I remember a time when I was growing up and getting ready for a youth conference dance. I was getting ready at my friend’s house, and we went all out for fun. Dance party, face masks, snacks, everything. Getting ready for the youth conference dance was going to be just as fun as the actual dance.

But we were also taking pictures. Even though we weren’t quite ready yet (i.e. not modest). There was nothing crazy, but they weren’t great either. They weren’t meant to be anything. If you’re judging us by intent, the pictures were 100% innocent. We were playing and getting ready and taking pictures. There was nothing else there.

My mom found the pictures and was understandably upset. She was worried that one of my friends wouldn’t think about it and post some of them online. I learned an intense lesson that day about protecting myself.

Here was the reality of the situation: We didn’t sin. I mean, taking the pictures was probably a mistake but we weren’t actively rebelling or sinning. We were young girls getting ready to go to a dance. Heavenly Father was proud of us for going to youth conference and loving it.

Here’s the other half of the reality. I could have had a friend post some of those pictures online without thinking about it. And those pictures could have been downloaded by someone gross. And as innocent as we were, it could have hurt us. As innocent as we were, it could have hurt us.

I was not a bad person. I was a good, innocent person who loved playing and dancing with her friends and going to youth conference. But the rest of the world is not so innocent or good. Heavenly Father is more aware of this than anyone, and that’s why He gave us standards.

I didn’t need to be blamed if those pictures had been used against me. And yet, despite the fact that I am not responsible for the wicked actions of another person, I am overwhelmingly grateful that my mother taught me a hard lesson about protecting myself that day.

Things as they are

I’m going to use a more extreme example, but I’m actually not going to apologize for it as I often do. The world can hem and haw and complain, but the reality is this: I had too many friends from high school for which this was a reality. I have too many friends who didn’t know what happened to them the night before. I have too many friends who wish they could take back actions or words that occurred because their inhibitions were dulled by alcohol. The world can attack us for using “fear” tactics to try and force our kids to do what’s right, but I call it a reality check. I’m teaching them the truth. As my kids grow older, I will try my best to simultaneously teach them to trust themselves and their instincts, but I’m not going to refrain from teaching them about the very real danger that shouldn’t (but does!) exist in the world. They don’t have to be afraid of the world, but they do need to be able to make their decisions with accurate information.

Let’s say my daughter grows up, goes to a party, drinks some of this alcohol, and gets attacked. What is the reality of this situation? What is she going to have to face?

Is my daughter guilty because the attack happened because she chose to go to a party? No. we already discussed this. The guilt that should lay on her shoulders should be equivalent to her growing up, going to a party, drinking alcohol, and coming home safely. There was still disobedience and broken promises, but the resulting attack isn’t on her.

Since we already talked about that a little more in depth, let’s move to the second part of the principle.

I once had a young woman come to me and argue that she should be able to wear whatever she wants, go wherever she wants, and get blackout drunk if she wants, and expect safety. We should be teaching people to protect others, not teaching girls to keep themselves “safe.” I agreed with her. We should live in a world where people are safe even when they’re extremely vulnerable. I will teach my children to protect vulnerable people. I will not stand for behavior that exploits vulnerable people.

But I am not the only person on the planet. And so despite the fact that we should be able to expect safety even when we’re vulnerable, that is not the reality around us.

So I will teach my children to protect the vulnerable, and I will teach my children to follow the standards given to us by the Lord in order to more effectively protect themselves. I don’t believe the Lord curses those who made themselves vulnerable, but I do believe He is trying to teach us commandments and standards to protect us from pain.

And you know what? Sometimes we do all the right things, and those bad things still happen to us. Sometimes we do what’s right, dress modestly, stand in holy places, avoid substances, and those bad things still happen. Sometimes you follow all the standards, and you still unknowingly marry one of those wicked people. That’s why I can accurately say that it’s not your fault if someone takes advantage of you. Because even when you’re doing everything right, it can still happen.

We teach that. We make sure our children know that if someone hurts them, they are innocent of the crime that happened to them.

But we also teach wisdom. Because even though you can do everything right and still find yourself in trouble, I can promise that the odds of protecting yourself are much higher when you follow the standards given by the Lord.

I compare it to locking your door. If you lock your door, someone could absolutely still break the lock, come in, and hurt your family. Is that your fault? No, it lies with the person who chose to do the wrong thing. But it’s stupid to leave your door unlocked because someone could break in anyway.

And unfortunately there’s another harsh reality, and I ask you to please not misunderstand me. I will do my best to express my thoughts accurately.

When you leave the door unlocked and someone comes in and harms the family, you will be asking yourself, “What if I had just locked the door? Could I have spared us all of this pain?” There is no reason to carry guilt around because someone else chose to do the wrong thing, but a lack of guilt does not equate to a lack of pain. It is difficult to experience those kinds of consequences regardless of whether you made yourself vulnerable. I would argue that it’s  especially painful when you wonder if those consequences actually had to happen. I reiterate. It’s not your fault. You do not need to take on the guilt of a person who chose to do something very wrong to you.

But I also reiterate. It is painful to find yourself in those circumstances. And even though you can’t perfectly protect yourself, the Lord has given us commandments and standards that do provide a good measure of protection from that kind of pain.

I testify of a Savior who gave us commandments and standards because of how much He loves us and because of His overwhelming awareness of the realities of this fallen world. I testify of a Savior who has the ability to heal us, regardless of how difficult circumstances came about because I can testify of a Savior who has saved and healed me when I’ve been imperfect or unwise. I testify of a day when the Savior will judge perfectly and heal those who desire to be healed.


Autumn Dickson was born and raised in a small town in Texas. She served a mission in the Indianapolis Indiana mission. She studied elementary education but has found a particular passion in teaching the gospel. Her desire for her content is to inspire people to feel confident, peaceful, and joyful about their relationship with Jesus Christ and to allow that relationship to touch every aspect of their lives.

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