So I was asked to substitute for Sunday School, and the lesson dealt with David and Bathsheba. (For a slightly amusing take on this challenge, see here.) Here are 21 lessons I learned from preparing the lesson:
- When David saw Bathsheba in the bath, she was performing a ritual washing or Mikveh. She was not just chillin' in the tub after a long day. In fact, the verses tell us she was doing this because she had just finished her period.
- Jerusalem is on a hill, so David could have looked out from the roof and seen Bathsheba.
- There is nothing, NOTHING!, in the scriptures to suggest that Bathsheba had put herself on display, wanted to be seen by anyone (including David), or was doing anything but performing a ceremonial washing. In fact, the verses mention her bath and her period to drive home the point that Bathsheba's child was David's and could not have been Uriah's.
- David saw a beautiful woman performing a ceremonial washing, became sexually aroused, had his men take her, and then had non-consensual sex with her.
- The sex between them is non-consensual because David had all of the power, had compelled her to come to him, and someone in Bathsheba's position is not completely free to say yes or no to sex. What David did was beyond adultery; it was rape.
- Paintings, stories, and rationalizing arguments perpetuate Bathsheba's victimization. Bathsheba was the victim of sexual abuse at David's hand, and if you want a sense of the tip of the iceberg of what that might mean, please watch this video.
- Softening or rationalizing what David did may contribute to a very dark element that persists in Mormon culture
- This is a modern equivalent of what David did; David was like a youth leader (YM President, Bishop, etc) who is turned on by a young woman doing baptisms for the dead, so he convinces her to have sex with him, she gets pregnant, and he ends up killing her boyfriend.
- The lesson manual suggests that David might have displaced his persistent thoughts about Bathsheba with other, healthier, more productive thoughts. The manual uses Elder Packer's famous analogy.
- Elder Packer's analogy is wonderful, but it does not work in every situation. If such displacement strategies always worked, then we would never have stories about faithful, hard-working members with serious challenges like addictions or other compulsive behaviors.
- Kirk Dougher, an LDS therapist, distinguishes between superficial challenges versus more serious challenges with intrusive thoughts. He notes that superficial challenges can successfully be addressed with techniques like what Elder Packer outlines, since such challenges are like blowing out a candle.
- But Dougher notes that, with more serious and deeper challenges, such strategies are like blowing on a large fire—they tend to only fan the flames and aggravate the situation.
- Dougher talks about other strategies and treatment options that may have helped the Davids of the world.
- The Davids of the world have a compulsive sexual problem, one that singing a hymn or looking at a picture of the Savior cannot successfully address. Such people need additional help and strategies.
- The Davids of the world need good, close friends (which makes his loss of his friend Jonathan even more serious).
- The Davids of the world need to be held accountable for what they have done.
- The Bathshebas of the world need us to not soften or rationalize what the Davids have done.
- The Bathshebas need us to believe them.
- The Bathshebas need us to work hard and with eyes wide open to eradicate everything from our culture that perpetuates their continued victimization.
- The Bathshebas need our support, patience, and love.
- When we are teaching, we should keep in mind that we most likely have Davids and Bathshebas in the room.
Shawn Tucker grew up with amazing parents and five younger, wonderful siblings. He served as a missionary in Chile during the Plebiscite and the first post-dictatorship election. After his mission, he attended BYU, where he married ... you guessed it ... his wife. They both graduated, with Shawn earning a BA in Humanities. Fearing that his BA in Humanities, which is essentially a degree in Jeopardy, would not be sufficient, Shawn completed graduate work in the same ... stuff ... at Florida State University. He currently teaches at Elon University in North Carolina. He and ... you guessed it ... his wife have four great children. Twitter: @MoTabEnquirer. Website: motabenquirer.blogspot.com.
Image: David and Bathsheba by Paris Bordone (used with permission).