book reviews, LDS, religion

Repost: My review of Bringing Elizabeth Home…

Here’s a repost of an Epinions review I wrote in 2004. It appears here “as/is”. A whole lot has happened since 2004– to include Ed and Lois Smart’s divorce and Ed’s coming out as gay. I’m reposting the review for the sake of history, and because I think some people might find it interesting.

The first time I saw Ed and Lois Smart’s 2003 book Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope, I was tempted to purchase it. Their beautiful fourteen year old daughter Elizabeth was kidnapped from their Salt Lake City, Utah home on June 5, 2002. The Smarts’ other daughter, nine year old Mary Katherine, witnessed the abduction and alerted Ed and Lois Smart after Elizabeth and the kidnappers, later revealed to be Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee, were gone.

I remembered how the summer of 2002 was a summer plagued by a rash of child abductions. A couple of those abductions had ended tragically– five year old Samantha Runnion was killed soon after she was taken, but not before she was brutally molested by her captor. Elizabeth Smart had, against all odds, survived her abduction, reuniting with her family in mid March 2003. And Elizabeth Smart’s story is a bizarre one indeed. Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee were revealed to be believers of a fundamentalist branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. According to news reports, Brian David Mitchell meant to make Elizabeth one of his wives.

The Smart family fascinated me. On the front cover of Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope there is a lovely picture of Elizabeth and her parents, and on the back cover, the whole family of eight is pictured. The Smarts seem to espouse the epitome of the American Dream. Ed and Lois Smart are well off financially, and they have six beautiful children. I wanted to know what lingered beneath the surface of the Smart family’s attractive facade. Nevertheless, I had read negative reviews about Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope, so I passed up the book.

Then last week, my husband went out of town for a meeting and I found myself with some extra time to do some reading. It wasn’t long before I found myself purchasing Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope. I finished the book in a few days and am left with my own feelings of ambivalence about the Smart story. On one hand, Ed and Lois Smart are not professional writers and they were telling the heartwrenching story of their daughter’s abduction. On the other hand, Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope was ghost written by Laura Morton, who, according to information on the book jacket, has written a total of eighteen books, six of which were New York Times bestsellers. Unfortunately, I would have expected more from someone who has had such an auspicious career in writing.

While at times, I found Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope to be a warm, touching story, the writing is sometimes awkward and repetitive. Also, although the book is supposed to be written entirely from the Smarts’ point of view, the authors don’t seem to be very selective about their usage of pronouns. For instance, the chapters that are supposedly written by Ed or Lois as individuals read like personal narratives and employ the pronoun “I”. In other chapters, “we” is used, but so is “Ed and Lois”, as if the story is being told from a different point of view. It makes for awkward reading.

This book doesn’t shed a lot of light on the case, either. Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope doesn’t offer many more details than what was already printed in the news or portrayed in the television movie that was made about Elizabeth and broadcasted last fall. There are, however, a couple of interesting chapters about Ed and Lois Smart’s extended family. There’s also a lot written about Elizabeth’s love for playing her harp. Mary Katherine also plays the harp. I don’t know of any kids who play harp, so it was interesting to read about that. The book also offers some very nice pictures of the family. Again, however, it seems like I had already seen some of them in magazines.

The thing I liked the least about Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope was the “preachy” tone in the book. Yes, I understand that the Smarts’ faith had a lot to do with keeping them sane while Elizabeth was missing, but the book, particularly at the beginning, is very heavy on quoting scriptures from the Book of Mormon and the D&C (Doctrine and Covenants), which is another LDS document. If readers aren’t members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, they might not understand some of the significance of the quotes.

Speaking of quotes, the Smarts start most chapters off with one, and they are generally from LDS sources– either the Book of Mormon, or the D&C, or perhaps from a well known LDS leader like church president Gordon B. Hinckley. Again, it seems to me that the Smarts might have forgotten that they might have readers who have no understanding of the LDS Church. On the other hand, the inclusion of the LDS quotes may have been by design– to get more people to investigate the church. All one has to do is contact LDS missionaries and they can start learning about the church and possibly become a member. In any case, it seems to me that some folks might find all the LDS stuff included in this book off putting, particularly if they don’t believe in God or going to church. That said, I will also mention that before I picked up Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope, I figured I would be reading something about the Smarts’ faith, so this aspect of the book didn’t surprise me much.

The Smarts continually contend that they want to protect Elizabeth’s privacy, and I respect that. On the other hand, I do find it curious that they published Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope, if they truly wanted to protect Elizabeth’s privacy. They write that they were hoping to put some of the false information to rest. It seems to me that the Smarts’ book is really more about how Ed and Lois Smart dealt with Elizabeth’s absence than Elizabeth’s ordeal, and to the Smarts’ credit, they do seem to convey that idea in the book. However, they had to know that people would buy this book expecting to read about what really happened to Elizabeth. The Smarts include a few details, but those who want to buy Bringing Elizabeth Home should realize that they won’t get the whole scoop.

I don’t think that Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope is a terrible book. It’s just that it doesn’t reveal that much more than what the public already knows about the Smart case. The writing is not as strong as it should be and there’s some preaching in this book that might turn some people off. Nevertheless, the Smart case is fascinating and if you want to know everything that’s out there about the Smart family, you might find reading this book worthwhile. On the whole, however, I think that most people would probably do well to skip it.

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LDS, mental health, psychology

Please don’t smile when you say that…

You know that old cowboy movie saying, “Smile when you say that”? It’s an idiom meaning that you’d better be joking. If you said something shitty and actually meant it, you’re due for a beatdown of some sort. At the very least, if you’re not joking, the other person is going to be very angry or offended by what you dared to say with a straight face. Today, I want to explore the opposite of that saying. Some things aren’t really laughing matters.

Trigger warning– this post is going to be about suicidal ideation.

Recently, I had a rather unsettling experience while witnessing a video call with someone. I wasn’t actually the primary conversant on that call; I just happened to be in the room when it was happening. Bill was talking to his daughter, who was talking about some pretty personal stuff. As she was revealing some painful things about her past, she was laughing and smiling.

At one point, the topic of suicide came up, and she was giggling as she talked about it. There she was, talking about being so aggrieved at more than one point during her childhood that she wanted to meet Jesus. She felt Jesus was the only one who loved or cared about her, and had actually taken steps to make the meeting happen. And as she talked about this painful memory, she was smiling and giggling… which I’m sure she did because she needed Bill to know about this, but didn’t want to upset him. Or maybe it was just too painful and surreal a subject to talk about with a straight face.

Days later, Bill is still a bit apprehensive about that conversation. It didn’t escape either of us that it seems like it would be unexpected for a person to laugh while talking about suicidal ideation. Bill is understandably concerned. So am I. In fact, I wish he could have had this conversation with her in person, preferably in private. Ordinarily, he would have been talking to her with headphones and in a different room. But her call came late and Bill was thinking it wasn’t going to happen, so he didn’t have his laptop handy. He talked to her on his iPad, and was sitting at the table with me when she Skyped. I suppose he could have Skyped her back and spoken to her privately, but he chose not to… and most of the call was mundane, anyway. It was about the usual stuff. But then that topic came up, and it got a bit awkward.

My theory is that many people in Bill’s family, to include Bill himself, have this innate tendency to put others before themselves. They will sacrifice their own needs to make someone else happy or more comfortable. I’ve seen Bill do it many times. I’ve seen his mother do it, too. And now, I think I saw Bill’s daughter doing it, needing to talk about this very deep and painful memory, but not wanting to upset us or herself. Or, it could have been that she was embarrassed about or ashamed of this trauma and wanted to make it seem less serious than it clearly is. I think the laughter could have even been a form of self-protection… a tension breaker of some sort.

I see from reading Psychology Today that laughing about psychological pain is actually not an uncommon phenomenon. In fact, it’s possible that she didn’t even realize what she was doing. This was a very scary, traumatizing, and triggering memory for her, but talking about it with laughter was a way to minimize it somehow. I told Bill that, to me, it seemed like she needed to talk about this, but maybe she was afraid to bring it up because it might traumatize us. That would mean she was at least partially focused on someone’s needs other than her own, although I will say that overall, she’s proven to be very resilient and self-reliant. She couldn’t bear living with her mentally ill mother, so she did what she had to do to escape that environment. But before that happened, she obviously learned to put others before herself, likely to prevent more pain. I also think she comes by that naturally, to some extent. As I mentioned before, I’ve seen that tendency in Bill and his mom. But I also think younger daughter’s mother exploited that tendency and reinforced it. Her older sister reportedly has the same tendency, which is probably why she’s still living with her mom at age 30, taking care of her severely autistic brother.

I heard younger daughter explaining how her mother was “deep down a good person”, as she also talked about how her mom did things like deny her access to her family, force her to take out student loans and give her mom the excess, compel her to change her last name and call her stepfather “dad”, send her off to college and on a church mission with no support whatsoever, deny her medical care, and use money and empty promises as a means of controlling her. I can understand why she does this. It’s not easy to accept that a close family member is not a good person, especially when that person is a parent. When a parent turns out to be a “monster”, the person wonders if that tendency to be monstrous is hereditary. They may try to overcorrect by being overly considerate and kind.

I don’t think younger daughter needs to worry that she’s “monstrous”, like her mother is. I take comfort in knowing that the more younger daughter gets reacquainted with Bill, the more she realizes that she has a lot of him in her… she has a lot of his goodness, kindness, and empathy. But she also has a mother who is truly a selfish, cruel, and abusive person. Her mother didn’t take care of her, and she didn’t have access to her real father. So she’s had to learn to take care of herself by denying herself some basic needs and not speaking up when she urgently needs attention or assistance.

I am pissed at Ex for not taking care of her children properly. It makes me very angry that these things were going on, and Ex apparently knew, and she didn’t speak to Bill about them. She also didn’t do fuck all to help her child. In fact, she even denied her healthcare, even though Bill’s daughters had full access to health insurance through Tricare. Meanwhile, she was telling Bill what a terrible parent he is, and labeling me a homewrecking whore. But this isn’t a surprise. I don’t think Ex is a good person, and I’ve felt that way for many years. I don’t have a connection to her, other than being the wife of her ex husband, so I can safely have these feelings. But her children don’t have that luxury, because she’s their mom, and she’s the only mom they will ever have.

Although people can and do disconnect with their parents, it’s actually a very hard thing to do– to completely cut them off and go no contact. Even if a person dies, as long as any thought of them is in a person’s conscience, the relationship continues on some level. Hell… even many adopted children with excellent adoptive parents wonder about their birth parents. A lot of them do what they can to seek out their birth parents because they want to know their origins. They want to know why their birth parents– particularly their birth mother– didn’t raise them.

Sometimes, the stories adopted children unearth about their birth parents are comforting and reassuring. Birth mom desperately wanted to keep the child, but couldn’t because she was too poor or too young and it was just impossible. But sometimes the stories are painful. Ex was adopted. We heard in Ex’s case that her birth mom was married and had been having an affair with another man. She chose her marriage over keeping and raising Ex. Making matters worse was the fact that Ex’s adoptive parents were abusive, neglectful, and treated her like a second class citizen compared to their natural children. Or, perhaps the adopted child finds her birth parents and neither wants anything to do with him or her. Younger daughter wasn’t adopted. She knows her mom, as well as the truth about her. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t wish it weren’t like that, and have some hope that somehow, someday, her mother will change into a different kind of person.

Younger daughter was told many falsehoods when she was growing up. She was told some outrageous lies about Bill and me, and the nature of how we met. Meanwhile, Ex gaslit her into not seeing what she was seeing with her own eyes. As Ex labeled Bill a philanderer and me a whore, she was shacking up with her now husband while still married to Bill. And they were having a sexual relationship, even though they weren’t married and she was supposedly a devout Mormon. The church teaches that premarital sex, particularly if one is still married and “sealed” to someone else, is morally wrong. The church was used to break up Bill’s relationship with his daughters– Bill was no longer “living the standards”, so he needed to be discarded. But Ex was also not living the standards, and somehow that was okay. The cognitive dissonance was probably incredible for the kids.

Incidentally, younger daughter is still LDS, and the LDS church is good at guilt, too. People are expected to “endure to the end.” I have heard countless stories about people who have wanted to do something for themselves– say stepping down from a church calling or tithing less money– and they were guilted and shamed for that. I suspect that the church has also, in some way, reinforced that tendency to deny problems and minimize or discount them. It’s easier for others when we’re “strong”… at least until it gets so bad that the strength gives out and the strong person finally collapses. And since younger daughter is now a mom herself, she can’t really afford to fall apart.

Is it any wonder Bill’s daughter is so traumatized? Is it any wonder that she laughs and smiles and giggles when she talks about something as serious as suicide, suicidal ideation, or other traumas? I suspect she fears being too “heavy” and turning off her dad, who has been wanting to have a relationship with her for so long. I also suspect that she was trained not to bring any problems to her mom or her stepdad. In fact, I’ll bet Ex’s reactions to her daughter’s pain included anger, derision, or even laughter.

My heart goes out to younger daughter. When I was younger, I had similar thoughts about self-destruction. I didn’t think I was ever going to be able to launch. I didn’t think I had anything to offer the world and I didn’t think anyone cared about me, even though there were obviously people who did love me. Adolescence is hard, though… biological processes during that time can be pure hell. Childhood is hard, too. You have no control over anything, and adults are telling you to be quiet… “shut up before I give you something to cry about”. Being a young adult is hard– trying to find one’s way in the world and make enough money to support oneself. I think the phase I’m in now may be the easiest for me so far, but I am about to be menopausal. We’ll see how that goes.

Sometimes I still feel shitty about myself and want it all to end. Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure that when I admitted having these feelings to my own therapist years ago, I probably laughed too. It’s just not easy to talk about it, and laughter somehow makes the task easier, especially when you don’t know how the other person will react. My therapist was a doctoral level psychologist with many years of experience. He was in the prime of his career when I saw him. But he’s still a flawed human being with feelings and thoughts. Despite the fact that I was paying him to counsel me, I wasn’t sure what his human reaction would be to my comments. Fortunately, he was a professional and talked me through the pain.

I do remember telling my mom, at one point, that I felt suicidal. I don’t think I put it that way, but I did express to her the desire I had for ending it all. Her response was to get angry and say, “I know you won’t do anything ‘stupid’.” It was absolutely the WRONG thing to say. She basically discounted my pain and practically dared me to make an attempt. I have never forgotten that she said that to me. If I’m honest, it kind of lowered my opinion of her, although I do love my mom and I don’t think she meant it. I look back at that time and realize that she was under a lot of stress. So I forgive her for saying that, although I haven’t forgotten that she said it. I can’t forget it because it’s shocking to hear your mom say something like that, even if you kind of know why she said it.

I don’t know what Ex said in that situation… but I suspect it was a lot worse than what my mom said to me. My mom is not a narcissist, nor is she mentally ill. My mom has compassion. Ex has compassion only when it makes her look good to other people. And I truly believe that she sees her children and grandchildren as extensions of herself– objects to be manipulated and owned, rather than nurtured, loved, and cherished. I’m sure if younger daughter had succeeded, Ex would have simply felt abandoned. She would have been angry at the imposition and the inconvenience. And she never would have thought to tell her daughter’s other parent, a loving father who would have done whatever he could to help her and ease her pain. Ex was much too “prideful” and vengeful for that.

I really think that younger daughter’s tendency to “laugh” at trauma is a combination of a few things. One is that she’s been conditioned to minimize her own pain, either because no one would comfort her anyway, or because she would be shamed for it. Another is that talking about these feelings is embarrassing for her. Another is not wanting Bill or me to think there’s something “wrong” with her (which we definitely don’t). And then there’s the need to reduce the tension that comes from talking about trauma and pain. Laughter is good for that. It’s close to crying, but crying is kind of “taboo”– many people see crying as “weakness”. So we laugh and that kind of breaks the tension, even if we really just want to break down in sobs and tears and have someone hug us and tell us it will all be okay.

I know my husband well… and I know that if he was in a room with his daughter and she was talking about this subject, he would give her a hug and stroke her hair. He would encourage her to lean on him and cry as much as she wanted. I know he would comfort her for as long as she needed it. I know this, because this is how he treats me. It’s an absolute tragedy that his children were denied this love and compassion that he’s been waiting to give them freely– without any strings attached.

The good news is that she has him now. She’s out of her mother’s house and can heal. No one can tell her what to do anymore unless she gives them permission.

On the other hand, right now Noyzi is telling me to get off the computer and walk him and Arran. So I guess I’d better wrap this up before he has a conniption. I’ll have to give this some more thought. For now, I told Bill that I think he should tell his daughter that he’s here for her and if she needs to talk to him, she can depend on him. He’ll hear what she has to say and won’t laugh at her, judge her, rage at her, minimize or discount her feelings, or treat her like she owes him… or he owns her. I hope that will help so she won’t have to laugh at her own pain anymore when she speaks to him.

A good video for people who have had a narcissistic mother.

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book reviews, LDS, true crime

Repost: Joyce McKinney and her unwilling LDS sex slave…

This is a repost of a review I wrote for Epinions.com on Anthony Delano’s book, Joyce McKinney and the Case of the Manacled Mormon. This review was written on January 15, 2010, and appears here as/is.

This book review has the distinction of once earning me $54 in one month.  $54 from Epinions on a book review is amazing, especially when it was earned in one month.  Book reviews didn’t typically make a lot of money on Epinions.  Anyway, it was my most popular book review… it was probably my most popular review, period.  So I have to repost it.  

Back in 2008, a weird news story was circulating about an American woman who had gone to Seoul, South Korea and had her pet pit bull, Booger, cloned. South Korean scientists took a piece of Booger’s ear and turned it into five cloned puppies. Booger’s owner, who was calling herself Bernann McKinney, was strangely familiar to a lot of people in Great Britain. British author, Anthony Delano writes in his 2009 book Joyce McKinney and the Case of the Manacled Mormon that McKinney was a bit frumpy and middle-aged, but the face was unmistakable.

It turns out that Bernann McKinney, owner of the cloned pit bull, was actually Joyce McKinney, a former beauty queen and notorious perpetrator of a sex crime that occurred in England in 1977. There was a time when Joyce McKinney was big news in Great Britain; she had been accused of kidnapping a Mormon missionary named Kirk Anderson, chaining him to a bed, and raping him. McKinney and her male accomplice, Keith May, jumped bail before they were tried and went back to America, where McKinney has continued to live an odd life.

As it so happens, I was actually living in England in 1977, though at that time I was too young to know or care about this case. I found out about Joyce McKinney by reading a messageboard for former Mormons. It seems that the story of Joyce McKinney and Kirk Anderson had become missionary lore among Mormons. A regular poster on the messageboard brought up McKinney’s story along with a link. I found out about Delano’s book by following the link to a news article about the case.

Joyce McKinney and the Case of the Manacled Mormon was priced at $17 and appeared to be published by a small time outfit. Nevertheless, I was fascinated by the story for many different reasons and that is what led me to purchase this book, which, I will admit, has sort of a tabloid feel to it.

A brief rundown of what happened

Joyce McKinney, who was called Joy back in the 1970s, had grown up in Avery County, North Carolina. She was an attractive natural blonde with a thick southern accent, big boobs, and a flair for drama. Indeed, before she got involved with a Mormon missionary, she had earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theater.

Joy converted to Mormonism after living with a Mormon family and observing how close and loving the family was. She had lacked that connection as a child and thought that becoming a Mormon would allow her to achieve that same closeness with other people. After Joy converted to Mormonism, she moved to Provo, Utah to attend Brigham Young University (BYU) and study for her doctorate in theater. It was at BYU that 27 year old Joy met 19 year old Kirk Anderson.

While they were in Utah, Joy and Kirk apparently had a “fling” that included sexual intercourse. Kirk felt guilty about the premarital sex and confessed to his bishop. The bishop’s solution was to get Kirk sent off on a mission for the church. Kirk was originally bound for California, but in light of his problem with Joy, the church sent him to Britain instead.

Joy was obsessed with Kirk. Evidently, he was the one man who wasn’t willing to have sex with her. Oh, I’m sure there were other men out there who wouldn’t bed Joy, but apparently in her mind, Kirk was the one man she couldn’t have. So Joy resolved to fly to England and make Kirk marry her. She found a willing accomplice in Keith May, a man who had answered an ad she had placed for a “free trip to Europe”. They went to the little town where Kirk was doing his missionary work and, using a fake gun, managed to kidnap him and take him to a secluded cottage.

Joy McKinney and Keith May chained Kirk to a bed and held him hostage. Joy made him wear silk pajamas and then tore them off his body. She played sexy music, wore negligees, plied Kirk with liquor, and sexually assaulted him in an attempt to get pregnant. When Joy and her accomplice loosened the chains on Kirk Anderson after he had agreed to marry her, he escaped. Joyce McKinney and Keith May were later arrested, but when they got out of jail on bail, they fled back to the United States, where McKinney has had a few more scrapes with the law. She was later found in Atlanta, Georgia, but Britain declined to extradite her.  Shockingly, she was never punished for kidnapping and raping Kirk Anderson, though Britain did sentence her to a year in prison in absentia.

My thoughts

Author Anthony Delano presents the story of Joyce McKinney and the Case of the Manacled Mormon in a distinctly “cheeky” way, using a writing style that is unmistakably British. I could practically “hear” a clipped British accent as I read this bizarre tale. Besides writing the story of what happened with Joyce McKinney and Kirk Anderson in the 1970s, Delano adds some insight into the workings of the British press and photographers, which had a field day with this story. He also explains a bit about Mormonism and what members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints believe. He includes snippets from books about Mormonism as well as articles about McKinney.

In addition to her obsession with Kirk Anderson, Joyce McKinney was also preoccupied with Wayne Osmond and the Osmond family. Delano actually includes some quotes from Olive Osmond, the late matriarch of the famous Osmond clan. Evidently, Joyce McKinney tried very hard to soil the Osmonds’ squeaky clean reputation. McKinney tried to pass herself off as squeaky clean herself, but thanks to digging done by the press, McKinney was revealed to be anything but a typical Molly Mormon. Delano includes some of these juicy revelations in the book.  Apparently, McKinney now denounces Mormonism and considers it a cult.  Some of her quotes may be very offensive to Mormons.

The whole thing is presented in a very gossipy, tabloid way that I have no doubt will be very titillating and entertaining for some readers. After all, it’s quite a juicy story that had a lot of Britons wagging their tongues back when it was current news. Even today, it’s an amazing story that is almost too weird to be true.  Delano mostly treats McKinney like an oddball character rather than the criminal and liar that she is.  I will admit, though, that many people probably see her that way, rather than someone who ought to be avoided.  She has actually been rewarded for her criminal misdeeds and, in fact, did try to profit from the story back in the 1970s.  What’s more, according to Delano, this case supposedly caused a number of Britons to investigate Mormonism and later become members of the church.

That being said… as titillating and fascinating as this story is, part of me was rather disgusted by it. Let’s face it. There’s a huge double standard when it comes to men and women, particularly regarding sex crimes. Had Joyce McKinney been a man who had kidnapped a sister missionary back in the 1970s, she would have certainly been prosecuted and, if convicted, might even still be in prison. No one with any class would be acting as if this case were a big joke. As it stands now, the seriousness of McKinney’s crime has been reduced to locker room fodder. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Kirk Anderson, who had made it very clear that he wasn’t interested in having a sexual relationship with Joyce McKinney. He was a victim of sexual assault and kidnapping, yet people behave as if he should have enjoyed the experience. Few people would have taken that attitude if he were a woman in the same compromising position.

Still…

I do think that Anthony Delano did a good job writing this book, even if it is billed as the “ultimate tabloid story” by Trashfiction. It is well researched and entertaining to read.  Though I feel sort of ashamed for enjoying this book, I think it’s worthwhile reading for those who are interested in this case.  At the very least, Joyce McKinney is a fascinating character, particularly for those who are interested in true crime or psychology.  My money is on her having at least one, possibly two character disorders.

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mental health, movies, true crime, TV

Celebrity stalkhers… guys who can’t accept rejection.

Before anyone asks, yes, I meant to type “stalkhers” as opposed to “stalkers”. I was inspired to title this post with the misspelling because I was reminded of a guy I ran into many years ago in a BDSM themed chat room. There were a lot of people in that room who had come up with “clever” names for themselves that also addressed their kinky interests. “Stalkher” was one guy’s nickname. I happened to chat with him briefly, once or twice. I remember him to be an interesting character who liked to be “stern” and shaming when he did BDSM themed “scenes”.

Anyway, none of that is either here nor there. It just made for an interesting anecdote to add to today’s topic of celebrity stalkers. It also gives me a chance to write something provocative. I do enjoy being shocking at times. Perhaps the most shocking thing about that particular BDSM chat room is that aside from being for kinky people, it was really not that kinky. At least not in the main chat room. Most people acted like they were at a virtual cocktail party, or something. I don’t think Stalkher and I were very compatible. He wanted me to wear nipple clamps.

A scene, for those who don’t know, is a role playing fantasy people in the chat room would do. Sometimes the scenes were interesting or exciting. Other times, they got really boring, especially when they involved a certain narcissistic guy who fancied himself an author and repeated the same misogynistic crap over and over again. Most people did their scenes in private rooms, but every once in awhile, people did them publicly, titillating the community. The funniest thing is, most of the people in the chat room weren’t chatting about BDSM.

Yesterday, I happened to watch a movie on YouTube that originally aired on NBC in 1984. It was called Victims for Victims: The Theresa Saldana Story. I actually saw this movie when it originally aired. I remember it distinctly, because I was in seventh grade at the time, and I kept a diary. I wrote about seeing that made for TV film in my diary. I’m not sure why I was so moved by the movie in 1984, since it was pretty typical movie of the week fare that was so common in the 80s. But I do remember being shocked by what happened to Theresa Saldana, which is probably why I decided to watch it again yesterday.

Theresa Saldana, who died of pneumonia in 2016, was an up and coming actress in 1982. The New York transplant, who had been in a few movies and on some television shows, was about 28 years old in 1982. She lived in West Hollywood, California and was married to a man named Fred Feliciano, who worked as a drug and alcohol counselor.

Theresa was attacked by a man from Aberdeen, Scotland named Arthur Richard Jackson. Jackson had seen Theresa Saldana in the films, Defiance and Raging Bull, and he eventually became obsessed with her. He thought the angels had told him to kill her. So he showed up in California, armed with a 5.5 inch hunting knife. On March 15, 1982, he came up behind Theresa as she was about to get into her car, asked her if she was Theresa Saldana, then repeatedly stabbed her in the chest. In total, Jackson savagely knifed Saldana ten times and came very close to killing her. She spent four months recovering in a hospital.

The TV movie about Theresa Saldana. She starred as herself.

Although I’m not sure why Theresa Saldana’s specific story was so riveting to me when I was 12 that I immortalized it in my diary, I did find the movie to be fascinating, mainly because it covered a lot of perspectives. Theresa and Fred eventually divorced, in part, because their marriage could not withstand the terrible stresses caused by Theresa’s stabbing. Theresa was very badly injured, so she was unable to work and had to be hospitalized for months. That put the couple in dire financial straits. Fred was so overcome by the trauma of the stabbing that he soon became ineffective as a counselor and had to quit his job. Meanwhile, Arthur Richard Jackson got all of his needs cared for by taxpayers, as he was incarcerated… or, at least that’s what Theresa complains about as she’s faced with the extremely high costs of recovering from the brutal attack. And those were 80s prices!

Theresa was eventually allowed to stay at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital, which is a facility that serves motion picture and television veterans with limited means. She found the hospital oppressive, due to its many rules and regulations. One of the nurses is a bit of a hardass, which causes Theresa to freak out. But then it turned out that the nurse had also been attacked by a man, so she understood where Theresa was coming from. They became friends, and Theresa eventually started a victim advocacy group which was instrumental in developing anti-stalking legislation.

Notably, it was Saldana’s Victims for Victims group that helped get a 1990 anti-stalking law passed, as well as the 1994 Driver’s Privacy Protection Act. The Driver’s Privacy Act was introduced in 1992, in response to attacks perpetrated on abortion providers. The abortion providers were being attacked and killed by anti-choice activists, who used the Department of Motor Vehicles to get the names and addresses of the providers. Fellow celebrity stalking victim, Rebecca Schaeffer, was also attacked, in part, because in the 1980s, the DMV would provide names and addresses to anyone who paid a fee. Schaeffer’s killer, Robert John Bardo, got Schaeffer’s address from the DMV before he shot her in the chest at close range. I remember Rebecca Schaeffer well, as she was on the show My Sister Sam, which also starred Pam Dawber. I loved that show.

I’m sitting in my bedroom right now, typing this post on my new laptop and watching Dr. Todd Grande. He just so happened to make a video about Rebecca Schaeffer yesterday. That’s why I’m writing about this today. It’s just too weird that I would watch Theresa Saldana’s TV movie yesterday, completely by chance, and Todd Grande would post a video about Rebecca Schaeffer on the same day. Rebecca Schaeffer’s killer was inspired by Saldana’s case.

Weird… this comes up the same day I watched Theresa Saldana’s movie, which I hadn’t seen since it aired in 1984.

After the video on Rebecca Schaeffer was finished, I kept watching Grande’s videos because I was in the middle of a game on my iPad. His next case analysis was about a Mormon guy named Steven Koecher, who had mysteriously disappeared in 2009. I hadn’t heard about that case when it happened, but I do remember the Susan Cox Powell case, which involved a beautiful young Mormon mom who disappeared. Susan’s creepy husband, Joshua Powell, claimed that perhaps Susan ran off with Steven Koecher. Josh Powell, of course, later killed himself and his two sons with Susan Powell, who to my knowledge, still remains missing. There’s no telling if Steven Koecher had anything to do with Susan’s disappearance, but it’s interesting to hear Todd Grande talk about it.

Interesting case, especially since I know a bit about Mormonism myself. Steven was very stereotypically LDS.

According to Dr. Grande, Steven Koecher was going through some tough times just before he died. He was months behind in his rent, had a poorly paid job, and was having trouble finding a relationship. Grande doesn’t discuss this in the video, but Koecher was likely under a lot of pressure due to the LDS culture. Young men are expected to follow a straight and narrow path to include being an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts, going on a church mission, graduating from college, finding well paid work, marrying a nice Mormon woman, and having a family. Like so many young people, Koecher was having trouble connecting all of the dots in a timely and linear fashion. He did apparently have a supportive and loving family who were trying to help him. Koecher didn’t want to accept his family’s help and was wanting to solve his problems on his own. I’m still not sure what happened to Koecher. His case is still a mystery. I’m sure his family is still devastated, as they have been denied closure.

Phew… once again, I’ve managed to tie together a bunch of topics that don’t seem to have that much to do with each other. I just thought it was kind of interesting that I watched an old made for TV movie about a celebrity who was stalked, then by complete chance, watched a newly created YouTube video on Rebecca Schaeffer, who was also stalked and attacked… and then that led to a case about the disappearance of a Mormon. Mormons are, of course, one of my pet topics. Then I throw in a blurb about kinky BDSM chat rooms, which aren’t really all that kinky after all.

I’m not sure what we’ll do today. The weather is nice and my neighbors are annoying me by using some kind of loud electrical power tool. I’m kind of tired… but I hate to waste a day off for Bill. I wish we could have gone somewhere fun this weekend, since there’s a holiday on Monday. I would have been happy just to go to Stuttgart to get a dental cleaning, at long last. But we just never got around to planning anything, even though COVID-19 cases have dropped very low and we’re both vaccinated. Bummer…

Ah well, I guess we’ll figure out something to do. Hopefully, it will be something healthier than sitting around drinking beer. Maybe we’ll get kinky instead.

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LDS, religion

Yes, Mormonism is a cult. But so are a lot of religious groups.

This morning, I noticed that The Atlantic was rerunning an article about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I read the article the first time it ran, back in January, so I didn’t read it again this morning. Instead, I went directly to the Facebook comments. Many people posted that the LDS church is a cult. I happen to agree that it’s a cult. If you go by the strict definition of a cult, Mormonism fits nicely. According to Dictionary.com, the noun usage of “cult” is defined:

noun

a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies.

an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers: the physical fitness cult.

the object of such devotion.

a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.

I notice that there’s nothing really negative implied by this definition. In fact, based on the dictionary’s definition, just about any religious group could be called a cult. But many Americans see the term “cult” as negative, so when a group is called a “cult”, some people become defensive. Such was the case this morning, when an obviously LDS church member took on the many people who were calling the LDS church a cult. I chuckled to myself when I came across this exchange:

The same guy had similar responses for those calling his church a “cult”.

I thought about responding to him, since the original poster hadn’t. I was going to ask, “Are you sure you want us to spell it out for you?” Because again, if you look at the official definition of a cult, Mormonism and most other religious groups fit quite nicely. But Mormonism also fits nicely under the more sinister meaning of a cult as it’s defined by famed cult expert, Rick Ross. In a 2009 article published by The Guardian, Ross explicitly spells out the “tell tale” signs of a cult . He quotes psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton, who taught at Harvard Medical School and wrote a paper titled Cult Formation back in the early 1980s. Below are the three main characteristics of cults, according to Lifton.

1. A charismatic leader, who increasingly becomes an object of worship as the general principles that may have originally sustained the group lose power. That is a living leader, who has no meaningful accountability and becomes the single most defining element of the group and its source of power and authority.

2. A process [of indoctrination or education is in use that can be seen as] coercive persuasion or thought reform [commonly called “brainwashing”].

The culmination of this process can be seen by members of the group often doing things that are not in their own best interest, but consistently in the best interest of the group and its leader.

3. Economic, sexual, and other exploitation of group members by the leader and the ruling coterie.

Ross goes on to provide a list of ten signs of an “unsafe” group or leader:

Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.

No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.

No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget or expenses, such as an independently audited financial statement.

Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.

There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.

Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances.

There are records, books, news articles, or broadcast reports that document the abuses of the group/leader.

Followers feel they can never be “good enough”.

The group/leader is always right.

The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing “truth” or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.

As I look at this list, and consider what my husband experienced when he left the LDS church, as well as many of the other stories of what people who have left Mormonism have gone through, I recognize a lot of the signs. The LDS church has a “living prophet”. Right now, the prophet is Russell M. Nelson, who is 96 years old. True believing Mormons consider Nelson to have the ability to receive special revelations from God, although they do realize that prophets are human and sometimes speak “as men”. In other words, the prophet is only a prophet when acting as such, which provides a convenient explanation when a prophet says or does something that is distinctly un-Godly.

However, although the church has a living prophet in Russell M. Nelson, they also have Joseph Smith, who founded the church and is considered the prophet above all LDS prophets. Mormons believe “the teaching and writing of Joseph Smith was the result of revelations from God, and they believe that the teaching and writing of their present-day prophets are similarly inspired.” So that means it’s the only true church, and in fact, many Mormons will outright state that the LDS church is the “one true church.” They’ll also stand up once a month during fast and testimony meetings and share their testimonies as to why the church is “true”. Small children will be held up and spoon fed the words, “I know the church is true.” by their parents.

I’m with her.

People who are in the church but question it are often told to “put it on the shelf” or “doubt their doubts”, meaning that they shouldn’t think critically or worry about any niggling thoughts they have as to whether or not the church is true. Members who are too vocal about their doubts will surely be called in to talk to the Bishop, at the very least. They are not encouraged to talk about their concerns with friends or family, especially if those people are also church members. And every member has home and visiting teachers– church members who come by other members’ homes to teach them a “lesson” or have a look at the books and movies on display in a person’s home… or maybe check to see if there’s a coffee maker.

Drinking coffee, tea, and alcohol, you see, is forbidden. So is the use of tobacco or recreational drugs. Mormons are very scared of “addictions” and many believe that ANY use of a forbidden substance, masturbation, or viewing pornography is a full on addiction. My husband’s younger daughter, at age nine, visited us ONCE. She saw two beers in our refrigerator and actually slapped Bill across the face for having them. She even called him a drunk. It was quite a shock for me to see that, since I actually was raised by a drunk. And I can tell you that Bill isn’t an alcoholic (thank GOD). But he does like to drink alcohol.

I don’t have much to write about the church’s financial dealings, other than to state that the church invests in a lot of businesses. Members are expected to tithe ten percent of their gross income, and every year, there is a “tithing settlement” meeting with the Bishop. If members don’t pay a full tithe and follow the rest of the rules, they can lose their “temple recommend”, an actual ID card that allows believers to visit temples, where they put on weird clothes and go through religious ordinances sometimes involving films. This might not be a big deal, except that most faithful Mormons get married in temples, so if you don’t have a current recommend, it might mean you’ll miss a family member’s nuptials. Recently, the church was in the news for misleading members about how donations were potentially being misused.

Bill stayed an active member for several years after he and his ex wife converted. Part of the reason he stayed in the church was because it was used as a tool to keep him in line. He was afraid that if he resigned from the church, he would lose contact with his children. That did end up happening, although it was happening before he finally resigned. Many people told him that resigning would lead him to ruin, although as you can see, his life only improved exponentially after he got divorced and quit the church. An added bonus was that he no longer had to wear the underwear with special symbols on it. If dictating to members what kind of underwear they wear isn’t the sign of a cult, I don’t know what is. And members will often “garment check” other members, checking to see the telltale signs that a person is wearing the proper underwear and is dressed “modestly”.

The very first video I ever saw by Weird Wilbur… I definitely don’t agree with his politics, but I totally agree with what he says in this video, which many people will find very offensive. But, if you stop and think about what he says, he makes a lot of sense.

Hang out on the Recovery from Mormonism board, and you will read many stories from former church members. Some of the stories are heartbreaking. Sadly, a number of people who used to post on that board are no longer with us. I can think of at least a couple of folks– bright, sensitive, intelligent, and talented people– who took their own lives because of church bullshit. Many times, it’s because they were homosexual and their families couldn’t accept that and disowned them, but other times it’s because they don’t believe anymore, and their families rejected them. There is one frequent poster who has had many problems with his family because he doesn’t believe and won’t conform. Yes, he could go through the motions in order to keep the peace, but why should he have to do that? It’s not an authentic way to live, and it leads to misery.

Here’s a great video by a former member who explains how her LDS upbringing and the associated indoctrination still affects her today, years after leaving.

The above video is just one of many similar stories about the lingering aftereffects of growing up Mormon. And a lot of people who are in the church will not explore other belief systems. Why not? Because it may shake their beliefs! They don’t want to hear anyone offer criticism about the church and will be very threatened by negative commentary about the church. But if the church is true, why does it matter what other people say? How can a testimony be shaken if church members are so certain the church is “true”? I have gotten many comments from offended Mormons about posts I’ve written. It always perplexes me, because if a person is that sure that they have the truth, nothing I write on a little visited blog should have any effect on them.

I really like Jimmy Snow’s videos. He’s an ex Mormon and he lays it out pretty well as to why the church is pretty “culty”.

I personally don’t care what someone’s religious beliefs are… and, in recent years, I’ve become a lot less interested in Mormonism. I don’t write about it as much as I used to, mainly because Bill’s younger daughter, who is a devout Mormon, is finally speaking to him again. I no longer feel as much anger toward the church as I used to… although I still think the church is pretty culty. As Jimmy Snow points out in the above video, the church takes up a lot of time. Members are kept busy and invested– financially, emotionally, and literally, as young men are expected to go on two year missions, often in other countries. Young women can also go on missions, but it’s not expected of them the way it is for the men. And while plenty of people leave the LDS church after serving missions, it’s my guess that the mission experience is likely to bind people to the religion.

Seriously… it’s sad, but often very true.

I have also noticed that a lot of members don’t actually know that much about their church’s history… or they only know the whitewashed version taught by the church’s leaders. For instance, they don’t dwell on the fact that Joseph Smith had a habit of marrying girls as young as fourteen or the wives of men who were sent away. Church members will explain that we shouldn’t judge Joseph Smith by today’s standards. But what about the wives of other men that Smith married? Many modern Mormons are descended from polygamists, although mainstream Mormons don’t practice polygamy anymore. It is still practiced among FLDS (fundamentalist) Mormons. Fundamentalist Mormons claim that their version of Mormonism is the “truest” one, since plural marriage is still practiced.

That all being said… the LDS church is not unlike a lot of religious groups that fit into the “cult” definition. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Christian Scientists, Scientologists, members of The Way International, and any number of other belief systems that are unlike more mainstream faiths. And, in fact, most churches are culty. I have some respect for Catholicism, but it’s a pretty culty belief system, too.

I could have spelled all of this out for the guy on The Atlantic’s Facebook page, but I figure other people with more patience and energy can take it up with him. What matters to me is what I believe, and I doubt I could change the guy’s mind, anyway. His beliefs don’t affect me personally, and if he’s happy as a Mormon, good on him. But I see that the longer the post is up on the page, the more arguments ensue. Some active church members are bound and determined to defend the faith, and they resort to lectures and insults to get their points across. Again, I see that as a waste of energy, since most people aren’t going to be receptive to changing their minds when someone berates them. Calling someone a “bigot” is unlikely to inspire them to hear what you have to say, right? I know I’m rarely interested in listening to someone who chastises and namecalls.

Anyway… here’s another video by Jimmy Snow. Again, he’s a great source for information about culty religious stuff– not just the Mormons, but other groups, too… as well as Republican wingnuts like Kaitlyn Bennett, the gun toting college grad who made the news a few years ago for posing with her weapon while wearing a cap and gown.

And if you have time, look up what the Mormons think about masturbation… you can even find it on my blog, if you like.

I’m hoping to get my second vaccine today, which may mean that I won’t feel like writing tomorrow. We’ll see what happens, but if there’s no post tomorrow, it’s probably because I’m bedridden.

Edited to add… Poster sunbeep on RFM has offered this entertaining parody of church membership…

Posted by: sunbeep ( )
Date: June 01, 2021 05:13PMThe new resturant across town

Have you tried the new restaurant across town? Two nice young kids stopped by my house to tell me about it. They said the food was delicious to the taste and very desirable. I listened to them for a while and then they promised to come back and show me parts of the menu.

From what I hear, this isn’t just any old restaurant. This place is special and offers a fare that you simply can’t find anywhere else. You don’t need a reservation, but you do need to pass two oral exams. Once you have been recommended, you can go inside. After you have eaten here a few times, they will assign you a night and expect you to eat here on that night every week. Someone will even call you to see if you went.

This is not a cheap place to eat, in fact it’s rather expensive, but the rewards are out of this world and they promise you that you won’t be disappointed. Soon you will be asked to tell others about this place as the owners want all to receive it. Oh, one more thing; the patrons who eat here will also be asked to help clean it once a week. It’s only fair, you help dirty it, you help clean it.

If you eat here long enough, they will even let you be a server, a cook, a dishwasher, or maybe the bouncer to make sure nobody gets in who couldn’t pass the exams. One of the things that makes this place so special is that everyone is welcome and everyone pretends to love it. Isn’t that a marvelous work and a wonder?

One more thing, and this is verily important. What makes this place even more specialer than other eating places is that you don’t actually eat very much here. You come, you quietly sit, you pretend to enjoy the small morsel of bread and the tiny sip of water. But remember, you can only use your right hand to eat with. Then when your meal is over, you get to take a short nap while someone tells you stories about how blessed you are to find this restaurant.

If you eat here long enough you can even pay to send your children to third world countries to get intestinal parasites and malaria and tell far away peoples about this restaurant. There’s more, much much more, but we don’t want to confuse you with minor details. So, bring your checkbooks, credit cards, or hard earned cash, and dine at the one and only restaurant worthy of praise.

Or, if you like… but this video could apply to a lot of different “culty” groups.

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