law, LDS, religion, true crime

Repost: Rape culture in churches

I am reposting this blog entry that originally appeared on October 16, 2016. I have no reason for reposting it, other than I think it’s an interesting piece. Bear in mind that it was written almost five years ago and I haven’t changed the content, so some comments may be outdated.

I just read a very disturbing article about a lawsuit that was just filed against a Jehovah’s Witnesses church in Weber County, Utah.  The lawsuit was filed by a woman who claims that she was repeatedly raped by a church instructor and JW officials later her made her listen to a recording of one of her assaults.  The woman seeks a jury trial and $300,000 to cover medical care, legal fees, and general damages. 

According to the article I read, the woman may or may not have gone to the police after she was allegedly raped by a church instructor.  The Salt Lake Tribune states that members of the JW faith are encouraged to bring problems to church elders rather than involving outsiders.  Having done my share of reading about Jehovah’s Witnesses and having had a relative who was once a member, I can affirm that this attitude is prevalent among people involved with the Witnesses.

In this case, the assaults against the woman allegedly took place after she went out with the instructor on a date.  He took her cell phone from her and said she had to kiss him on the cheek to get it back.  She refused, so he kicked her out of his car.  Later, he came back for her and the assaults apparently escalated from there.  When the assaults were brought to the attention of JW officials, they began an investigation…  but it was not an investigation against the perpetrator.  Instead, the young woman was investigated.  Below is a quote from the article linked above:

In April 2008, the Roy church formed a judicial committee to investigate whether the girl engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior — “a serious sin” in the religion. During the meeting that included her mother and stepfather, the lawsuit states, church leaders played a recording of one of the purported rapes, obtained from the instructor, for four to five hours “repeatedly stopping and starting the audio tape … suggesting that she consented to the sexual behavior.”

The woman alleges that she was raped several times.  Realizing the patriarchal culture within the Jehovah’s Witnesses, it’s possible that she felt like she had to do what this man said.  She was likely taught to do whatever the church officials told her to do.  As the attacker was apparently her church instructor, she probably felt that she had no choice.  It really is a shame that people continue to get and stay involved in religious organizations that promote this kind of thinking and do nothing to empower everyone, not just the men. 

This situation among the JWs in Utah sounds an awful lot like the recent hullabaloo about Brigham Young University’s policy of bringing rape victims up on Honor Code violations.  Women who dared to report rape to the police or University officials were getting in trouble for putting themselves in situations where they might be assaulted.  For the record, I think these kinds of policies are disgusting and they keep our society in the Dark Ages.  

Of course people– male or female– who choose to sexually assault others should be held responsible for their actions.  At the same time, I don’t think it’s wrong for people to look out for themselves.  I wish these churches and universities like BYU would do more to promote personal safety outside of the religious sense.  I wish they wouldn’t simply tell women to protect their virginity and purity because that’s supposedly what God wants.  They should be empowering them to protect themselves because they don’t want to be victims of crimes. 

It’s interesting that this subject came on my radar this morning.  I just saw a Facebook post by 11th Principle: Consent about how rape culture develops.  Although I would absolutely never say that it’s okay to rape someone, I do think it pays to be careful.  One young woman made a comment about how she’d gotten very drunk at a party and was raped while she was unconscious.  She wrote that it was wrong that she was raped, but she shared some responsibility in the situation by drinking so much that she passed out.  She got a lot of indignant comments from people who said that no part of the rape was her fault at all; she bore absolutely no responsibility toward the crime perpetrated against her.

At the risk of pissing off a lot of people, I will go on record as saying that I agree that rape is never a victim’s fault.  However, I do think that everyone– males and females– should take some responsibility for their personal safety.  One of the comments I read on the 11 Principle: Consent Facebook page was this:

– if you went for a walk, but someone chose to stab you, should you have stayed in?

-if you decided to go for a drive, but someone drove into your car, is it your fault?

-if you went for a swim, but someone drowned you, was it your fault because you put yourself in a position where you could be drowned?

My response is that in the above examples, precautions could have been taken to lessen the chance of harm or mitigate the harm that did occur.  For instance, when you take a walk, you choose areas where there are people around.  You carry a cell phone that is charged and ready in case of emergency.  You tell someone where you’re going.  You might learn self defense.  These are things you can do to lessen the chance that you’ll be a victim.  You might still end up being victimized, but you will have taken steps to lessen the chance of it.

If you go for a drive, you wear a seatbelt (even though I hate them).  You make sure your car is safe to drive.  You don’t drink alcohol or take drugs before getting behind the wheel.  You make sure you are well rested.  You might still have an accident, but you’ve done your part to lessen the probability.

If you go for a swim, you make sure you can actually swim.  If you can’t, you learn how and stay out of the deep end until you have the appropriate skills.  You take someone with you when you swim.  You use floatation devices if you need them.  You might still drown, but the chances are not as high as they could be.

When it comes to assaults, sexual or otherwise, I think the same responsibilities apply.  Don’t get so fucked up that you black out.  Don’t go to parties alone, especially if you don’t know the people hosting them.  If you do get assaulted, it’s certainly not your fault.  But my guess is that you will learn from the assault and take steps to be sure it doesn’t happen again.  It sounded to me like the young woman who said she shared in the responsibility of her attack had simply learned from it.  She’d made a mistake by getting so intoxicated.  I have made the same mistakes myself on a number of occasions.  There, but by the grace of God, go I.  

Is it ever your fault if you get assaulted?  No.  The person who chooses to perpetrate a crime is always the guilty party.  But the point is, there are things you can do to lessen the chance that you will be a victim.  I don’t think it’s wrong to acknowledge that.  I don’t think that line of thinking promotes “rape culture”.  I applaud the young woman who realizes that she was wrong to get so drunk that she passed out.  At the same time, I think it’s sad that there are shitty people out there who would take advantage of a woman so distressed.

I’m reading the article about the lawsuit against the JWs just as everyone’s talking about Donald Trump’s infamous “locker room” talk.  I have friends of every stripe opining on a potential U.S. president talking about grabbing women by their pussies.  I have a number of very religious relatives criticizing Hillary Clinton because– well, probably because she’s a female liberal.  These same supposedly God fearing people see no problem with voting for a man who brags about forcing himself on women and grabbing their crotches.  But if a woman gets assaulted, instead of being outraged, they look for ways to blame her.  I don’t think that’s right.  But I do think there are things people can and should do to protect themselves.

As for the woman suing the JWs, I don’t think it’s wrong that she’s filed a lawsuit.  This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of a pervert ending up in power.  It’s not just the JWs, either.  Lots of churches empower creeps who then victimize their supposed underlings.  I’ve read about plenty of religious organizations who don’t do enough to keep bad people from powerful positions.  I think they should be held accountable when these things happen.  Again, from the article:

A leader from the congregation apparently warned the girl’s parents in November 2006 that the instructor — who previously attended church sessions in Ogden and Oregon — was a “bad kid” who had “engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with a female member of the Clearfield congregation.” The plaintiff says that warning wasn’t enough.

How did the guy end up a “church instructor” if church leaders knew he was a “bad kid”?  One has to wonder.  At the same time, isn’t it crazy that someone like Donald Trump, who openly admits to being a pervy creep– even if it was privately– might end up leading the country?  No wonder we have issues with so-called “rape culture”.

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communication, healthcare, LDS, mental health

“My way or the highway”…

Picture it– a Saturday morning in early July 2006. The doorbell rang. Our mailman, Steve, who knew all of the best gossip on Fort Belvoir, was at the door with a bunch of packages. They were from Bill’s ex wife and sent “restricted delivery”, so Bill had to sign for them personally. In the boxes were a bunch of personal effects that Bill had left behind when he and Ex got divorced in 2000. She had written a letter, explaining that she had expected him to “retrieve” his stuff, but he never had. So she was sending the stuff back to him, along with an itemized list of the contents.

She also included adoption papers for Bill’s daughters, along with an invitation to sign them so her third husband, #3, could officially claim Bill’s daughters as his own. And there were also photocopied letters the girls supposedly wrote, demanding that Bill give permission for them to be adopted by #3. I remember quite distinctly that younger daughter’s letter was especially cold, while older daughter’s was a bit kinder. However, she did include the line, “I’ll never talk to you again” as an ultimatum. As in, “If you don’t let #3 adopt me, I’ll never talk to you again. It’s my way or the highway.”

Bear in mind, Bill had not been allowed a chance to speak to his daughters. Ex refused to let him have any contact with them and had them so mindfucked that they couldn’t think straight. Years later, it turned out that the girls had their names legally changed when they were both 18. Younger daughter said she’d been under a lot of pressure, both to write the letter (which Ex basically dictated to her), and to have her last name changed. But she also realized that she would be changing her name anyway, once she got married. Sure enough, younger daughter did get married and changed her name again. She now freely communicates with Bill– her REAL dad– who is a wonderful person. And it’s been beautiful for both of them. Younger daughter certainly doesn’t consider #3 to be her father and doesn’t really speak to him nowadays.

Older daughter has been as good as her word. She hasn’t spoken to Bill, and remains trapped in her mother’s toxic home. She’ll be 30 years old soon, and younger daughter has said that Ex regularly threatens and demeans her. Meanwhile, life has gone on, and for us, it’s mainly been worth living. Bill would love to have his older daughter in his life again, but she’s made a choice. I hope the “my way or the highway” attitude is worth it to her and brings her much joy… but somehow, I doubt it does. When Bill’s father died in November 2020, older daughter wasn’t welcome at the funeral, even though she had reportedly wanted to attend. Sadly, thanks to COVID-19, Bill wasn’t able to attend, either.

I have shared this story more than a couple of times over the years. I usually share it when I write about parental alienation syndrome or people who have decided to leave Mormonism and get shunned by their families. Since PAS and leaving Mormonism are both factors in our story, it makes sense that I’d share this sad anecdote when I write about those subjects. Today, I’m sharing it for another reason.

This morning, I read an article in The Washington Post about how to have conversations with people about COVID-19 vaccinations. I almost didn’t read the article because, frankly, I’m pretty frustrated by the subject. I live in a place where I can’t yet get a vaccine, even though I’m willing to get one. I see all of my American friends getting their shots, but I’m still sitting here with my thumb up my ass. I’m bored, depressed, and super sick of this lifestyle, especially since I can’t travel, but my husband keeps having to go places for work. It sucks, and I’m so tired of it. I need a new subject to focus on, so my attitude doesn’t completely go down the crapper.

Curiosity got the better of me, so I decided to read what the writer, Allyson Chiu, wrote about talking to people who can’t agree about the vaccines. I thought her advice was very sensible. Like me, she realizes that shaming, threatening, scolding, and lecturing aren’t very effective when it comes to changing hearts and minds about vaccinations. I’ve mentioned this more than a couple of times. When you come at a person with aggression, their instinct will naturally be to defend themselves. When a person is focused on defending themselves, they won’t be listening to what you have to say. You might as well save your breath.

Chiu also recommended positive ways of encouraging people to get the vaccine. Instead of insulting them or making assumptions about the person’s reasoning for not cooperating, she suggests asking people what would make them more willing to consider getting the shot(s). She emphasized being caring and concerned about the person’s welfare, rather than issuing stern ultimatums. Above all, she emphasizes maintaining basic respect with a mind toward preserving the relationship.

I looked at the responses left on the actual article, rather than Facebook. I’ve found that people who take the time to respond on a newspaper article itself, usually tend to be more thoughtful and appropriate in their comments. Also, the people who comment on the actual paper usually have taken the time to read the article rather than just responding to the headline.

As I read the comments about the COVID-19 vaccine controversy, I got a strong sense of deja vu. Only, the comments reminded me of ones heard from frustrated and angry parents when a child makes a decision with which the parent disagrees. For instance, when people raise their children in Mormonism, and the family members actually believe in the church doctrine and live by its principles, they tend to be very intolerant of opposing views. They issue ultimatums to the wayward family members, threatening to cut them out of their lives if they don’t conform. They might tell their supposed loved ones, “If you don’t stop rebelling, I’ll never talk to you again.” Or, “You aren’t welcome in my home until you come back to the fold.” Or, “I don’t want you talking to anyone in the family about your ‘beliefs’ or ‘opinions’. Your thinking is ‘wrong’, and I won’t tolerate you leading them down the ‘wrong’ path.”

I’m sure if you asked these folks if they love their family members whom they are so cavalierly threatening to cast out of their lives, they would say they do love them. Sometimes, this is an issue of control, but probably more often than not, these kinds of threats and ultimatums are based on fear of loss. In my husband’s ex wife’s case, she fears losing control and access to certain commodities. Although she joined the LDS church, she doesn’t actually agree with or care about the church’s teachings, and basically, she just uses it for control purposes. Apparently, she only goes to church now when she needs money. However, back in 2006, she sure did use the church and Bill’s decision to resign from the church as a means of trying to exert control and influence. Mormons, as a whole, are pretty famous about being willing to cast out unbelievers. Yes, there are exceptions– some church members are more liberal about their beliefs than others are– but a lot of church members see apostasy as a reason to disown, disinherit, and discard family members over a disagreement about religious beliefs.

And now, with the COVID-19 plague going on, it seems other people are also adopting that same “my way or the highway” attitude regarding the vaccines. Here are a few comments from the Washington Post article.

My honest reaction to anti vaxxers is astonishment and i express that.  That is self- respecting.  Infectious diseases are a fact.  I have no intentions of allowing ignorance on my watch.  (And how do you know that all of the anti vaxxers are being “ignorant”? Have you asked them?)

For antivacciners and antimaskers, it’s good to be compassionate and ask if they need a ride to a vaccination site or if they would like you to buy them some protection.  Ask if they are afraid of getting a shot and offer to accompany them to one.  Ask if they need making an appointment.  Give them a box of gloves.  Ask if they have a smart phone or a device to help them make appointments and to video chat.  (This response, while seemingly well-intentioned, seems rather manipulative and possibly insulting.)

I have mentioned that I am happy to be vaccinated. Usually others are too or are eagerly waiting. If they aren’t going to, I say, ” Really? Hmmm”. Walk away and check them off. I will easily drop any business, service provider or acquaintance and substitute them with a reasonable person. I have no time for this nonsense. (I’m sure the people you’re shunning don’t think of their opinions as “nonsense”.)

I read with interest your article regarding vaccinated parents and unvaccinated kids.  Speaking as a Warrior Mom, it absolutely exhausting dealing with this.  A calm parent with common sense says” My Teen will get vaccinated and my teen will spend time with his peer group.  The Nosy moms need to mind their own business. It is unacceptable and rude to ask your pod of moms ” When is your kid getting vaccinated.”  So let’s be polite and start focusing on summer plans and going to the beach. (What is a Warrior Mom? I’m pretty sure I didn’t have one of those!)

I have no problem telling someone who does not want to get the vaccine that it’s fine but they can’t come inside my home and they need to keep their distance on my porch. This includes my oldest kid who for some reason does not want it. I will be fully protected and my husband and our parents. Honestly that’s all that matters to me. The kid is an adult and can make his own misguided decisions.  (This is the comment that prompted me to write today’s post. It sounds a lot like Mormon parents kicking their kids out or telling them “I will never talk to you again.” I suppose this mom has the right to kick her son out of her life, but I suspect she could eventually end up regretting that decision.)

What a load of touchy-feely crap. FFS why after over a year are we still catering to those who simply won’t be persuaded? HERE’s how to talk about the shots: “I and everyone in my immediate family have been vaccinated. If you want our company, show us your vaccination certificates. If you don’t, or if you aren’t vaccinated yourself, you can count on never seeing us until you are.” Full stop.  Not only does this have the advantage of real world honesty and consequences, it will eventually show what kind of people one is surrounded with, particularly extended family. Their choice with the vaccine will eventually reveal which they value more: family, or clinging to myth, ego, suspicion, and ignorance. (I think this person overvalues his or her own company.)

Like I said… personally, I’m more than willing to get the shot. I’d like to get it over and done with. I have no issues with vaccinations. The science behind them has existed for hundreds of years, and the science behind the COVID-19 vaccine has been in the works since before COVID was a thing. I’m grateful scientists were able to develop them so quickly and I am definitely ready to cooperate, because this lifestyle, truly, is having a terrible effect on my mood and will to live.

But… even though I have my thoughts and opinions about the COVID-19 vaccine, and personally, I do think people should get them, I can also understand why some people are reluctant. I think it’s better to be compassionate toward them, rather than insulting and threatening. And I also think it’s crazy to throw away friendships and family relationships simply because of a disagreement about an illness that wasn’t even on the radar 18 months ago. Seriously? Are you really willing to cast out your loved ones over an argument about COVID-19? Isn’t it bad enough that so many people have actually DIED from this disease and will not ever be coming back? Are you really assuming that your “my way or the highway” attitude is the best way to get compliance, and that the person you are shunning won’t decide your company is that important to them, anyway?

I know some people would say, “But the fact that people are dying is the reason I’m taking such a strong stand about the vaccines. I know I’m right, and they’re wrong!” I get that. And I realize that to many people, it seems like the “my way or the highway” approach is the best, because– they tell themselves– this is the way to “save them”. However, most competent adults don’t take kindly to the negative approach and will resist it. And when it comes down to it, people must be free to make their own choices.

You can resolutely choose not to associate with people who refuse the shot– that’s your choice. And they can refuse to get vaccinated and wind up excluded from things like concerts, cruises, and flights. That’s their choice. But to say something along the lines of, “You aren’t welcome in my house.” or “I don’t want to see you again.” or “I’ll never talk to you again.” or “It’s my way or the highway” may cause a great deal of regret in the long run. Now is not the time to be extremely adversarial. As Joe Biden said some weeks ago, “We are at war with the virus, not each other.”

Everyone is struggling right now, and many people are legitimately frightened. Some people are frightened of catching COVID-19 and dying or living with “long hauler” syndrome. Other people are legitimately frightened of having the vaccine and suffering ill effects or even dying from it. Even if you and I think they’re being “silly” or even “stupid”, that fear is legitimate to them, and it can be difficult to overcome legitimate fear. Whether or not their fear has merit, they will probably remember your reaction to their fear, how it made them feel, and respond accordingly.

Interestingly enough, as I’m writing this post, I’m reminded of a quote that is often attributed to Maya Angelou. If you read my blog regularly, you know that I’m a big fan of verifying quotes to make sure the right person gets credit. Well, it appears that Maya Angelou is probably not, in fact, the originator of this quote:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

It turns out, the originator of that quote was highly likely to be Carl W. Buehner, who was– surprise— a high level official in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! The earliest evidence located by Quote Investigator was in a 1971 book of quotes by Richard L. Evans, also a high ranking Mormon, who was the program narrator for the weekly radio and television broadcast of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir called “Music and the Spoken Word”. The Mormons, for all of their dysfunction and propensity for misguided interventions regarding the religious beliefs of their loved ones, sure do put out a lot of quotable quotes for the masses.

It was also a Mormon woman named Laurel Thatcher Ulrich who said, “Well behaved women rarely make history.” Ironic, given the fact that LDS women are very much second bananas in the church’s hierarchy and the demands to “conform” to the rules and mores of the church are well established and known. Ulrich went on to win a Pulitzer Prize and later became a professor at Harvard University.

Clearly both of these quotable Mormons are highly intelligent and talented folks, even if I think their beliefs in Mormonism are ridiculous and certainly not worth shunning loved ones over. I don’t know if Ulrich or Buehner ever did have family members who decided the church wasn’t for them, but I do know that the LDS church is famous for people taking a “my way or the highway approach” regarding obeying the principles of Mormonism. Those who step out of line will be dealt with and, if the infraction is serious enough, potentially cast out of their families or even the church itself. That action kind of flies in the face of those “feel good” quotes, doesn’t it?

Isn’t it possible that people who aren’t ready to get the shot are similarly valuable? Do you really want the COVID-19 vaccine to be the hill your relationship dies upon? Again, isn’t it bad enough that people are literally dying of COVID-19?

This doesn’t mean, of course, that I don’t believe you should protect yourself. If someone refuses to follow protocol and you don’t feel safe around them, you are well within your rights to protect yourself. What I propose is approaching the naysayers with basic respect, compassion, and kindness, rather than hostility, sternness, derision, and ultimatums. Don’t use a “my way or the highway” approach in your attempts to persuade. Because there is a real chance that they’ll choose the highway. That might ultimately be alright with you, but I would encourage you to think about it carefully before you go there. Make sure you can live with the results of your “my way or the highway” attitude, because taking that approach may actually put you on the Highway to Hell.

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Ex, LDS, psychology

The “princess treatment”…

About ten years ago, I was a big fan of the Project Rant series on YouTube. This channel featured actors who would take the most entertaining rants from Craig’s List and recite them as if they were the people who wrote them. I can’t remember which rant attracted me first, but I was hooked after I saw my first video– which wasn’t actually their first video. I have a habit of catching on to things after they’ve been established for awhile. For instance, it took me four years to discover Desperate Housewives. I never got into Nurse Jackie until long after it was off TV.

This morning, I discovered a video by Project Rant that I hadn’t yet seen. It’s entitled “Bully”, and appears below…

This one is a bit darker than most of them… I had somehow missed its release. I like her parting shot.

I hate bullies. I understand on a cognitive level that bullies exist because they have unmet psychological needs, and they take out their angst on people they perceive to be different and/or weaker than they are. I still hate them, though. I have been on the receiving end of bullies for most of my life, and it’s caused me a lot of pain. It’s also made me surprisingly resilient and resolute about some things. As I watched the above Project Rant video, I related to the actress as she describes mean people provoking her to take action.

What is a bully? Simply put, a bully is “a person who habitually seeks to harm or intimidate those whom they perceive as vulnerable”. I’ve seen some people and behaviors described as “bullying”, when they don’t actually fit the definition of “bully”. For instance, I don’t think mere criticism of someone counts as bullying. There has to be a threat or intimidation involved. There also has to be a perceived power imbalance– whether or not there is an actual power imbalance– which causes the bully to act.

This morning, Bill and I were discussing a sad and distressing situation involving a female bully and her victims. For years, we were the only ones who seemed to see what was happening. Other people have now noticed the bully and the bad behavior perpetrated by this person.

Having a relationship with a bully, particularly when it’s someone as close as one’s parent, is like falling into quicksand or being caught in an undertow. It’s very troublesome and exhausting to extricate oneself from those situations. Once you’re out of that metaphorical quicksand or undertow, you’re wise to stay out of the morass and avoid the area. That’s what going “no contact” is about. A person can go “no contact” with a bully and still forgive them, and even wish the best for them.

But, as the actress in the above Project Rant video points out, sometimes you have to take bullies down a notch. There are times when it’s appropriate and even necessary to take action against them. Sometimes, you have to fight back. Sometimes, the smallest and most subtle and obscure clues can be profound in how they illustrate an actual scenario of how a bully is operating. Context is important.

The above video is pretty funny… especially at the beginning, as the missionaries ring the doorbells to the stars.

This morning, Bill related a story he’d heard from someone who had served as a Mormon missionary. Mormon missionaries, as you may or may not know, are not often treated well by the public. They tend to get a lot of doors slammed in their faces. But every once in awhile, they run into people who offer unexpected kindness to them. It’s those people who are the most memorable, and who often have a profound affect on the missionary’s experiences in the field.

I have kind of a special affinity for missionaries. I spent two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer, which isn’t the same as being a Mormon missionary in terms of my purposes for being away, or the day to day lifestyle. How the experience is similar, however, is that Peace Corps Volunteers and missionaries are far away from home and typically don’t have a lot of money. Both groups of people can be somewhat vulnerable in a number of ways. And since they are so far from the comforts of home, some situations are magnified in terms of how they are experienced and remembered.

Sometimes, people are cruel, but sometimes they’re not. I think the LDS missionary and Peace Corps situations are also similar in that, a lot of times, missionaries and Volunteers find themselves daydreaming about being at home and feeling comfortable among material possessions and loved ones. However, it’s possible for a PCV to visit home during their service. It’s generally not possible for LDS missionaries to go home while they are “serving the Lord”, even if there’s an emergency. Being a Mormon missionary can be very tough, unpleasant, and uncomfortable.

Imagine my surprise, then, when Bill said that this missionary had been treated like a “princess” by a couple she and her companion met when they were missionaries. The couple, who were members of the church, helped them out by giving them a place to stay for a couple of weeks. For some reason, the sister missionaries had nowhere to stay, so the couple had taken them in on a temporary basis. Years later, she remembers the experience of staying with the couple and describes their treatment of her as “like a princess”.

It’s my understanding that the church arranges apartments for the missionaries. The apartments tend to be cheap and spartan in nature, and sometimes they aren’t in the best or safest neighborhoods. But supposedly, the onus is not on the missionary to go out and find an apartment on their own. I am left thinking that the missionary in this story was waiting for a spot to open in an existing apartment, but I’m not sure exactly what the situation was.

I was just awestruck that the former missionary felt this couple who had taken her and her companion into their home– strangers to them, except for being fellow church members– had treated her so well that she felt like a princess. Either the couple who had offered hospitality are extraordinary people who weren’t aware of the concept of what missionary life is supposed to be like, or the missionary’s life at home was extraordinarily terrible. Bill happens to know something about this particular missionary’s home life. Indeed, he knows about it quite intimately. And he can attest that life at home was probably pretty horrible for her.

Still… hearing that story this morning really gobsmacked me. Over the years, I’ve read a lot of accounts from former LDS missionaries. I know that for a lot of them, the mission is pretty tough. It’s physically, emotionally, and mentally uncomfortable. Sometimes, it’s even dangerous. Sometimes missionaries come home with lifelong health issues related to their missions, or lose limbs or senses.

A number of missionaries have even died while serving. Some get sick with diseases like dysentery, or they become seriously ill because they don’t get adequate medical treatment. That tends to happen when the missionaries are in remote areas in developing countries. Some missionaries are victims of crimes. I remember in 2006, an “elder” (male missionary) from Utah was killed in Virginia when he and his companion stumbled across a criminal in the process of committing an offense. The criminal shot the missionaries, and one of them– Morgan Young– died, while the other was wounded.

Church members tend to regard those who die while serving a mission as somehow blessed– they had a special purpose that God needed them for in the Celestial Kingdom, or something. I remember, in particular, the missionary who died in Virginia, since that’s my home state and where I was living at the time of the death. His mother said her son had “died with his boots on”. Below is a quote from Gordon B. Hinckley, who was president of the LDS church when the missionary was murdered:

“I’m impressed with the thought that Elder Young has joined the ranks of a very select group who stand so very, very high in the estimate of God,” he said. “There is some special place and some special work for them to do under our Father’s plan.”

Some missionaries have accidents, which run the gamut from the garden variety car crash, to falling off cliffs while hiking, or even being mauled by animals. Many missionaries make it through the experience just fine, although some are left with emotional scars that haunt them. I’ve read a lot of stories by people who have been LDS missionaries and have left the experience worse for wear. But sometimes, the mission– as tough as it can be– is even better than being at home.

It’s not that different for Peace Corps Volunteers. Sometimes, PCVs die, have accidents, are victims of crimes, or contract exotic illnesses that affect them for the rest of their lives. I think that PCVs may have access to better healthcare. I know that they can be “medevacked” to the States or a western country for treatment, if it’s necessary. The LDS church, on the other hand, tends to do things as cheaply as possible. A lot of times, church members are tapped for help– donations of skills or material things, like a room in a house. So, say a church member is a doctor or a dentist. The church might call on that person to offer treatment for an ailing missionary free of charge, or at a much reduced rate. Sometimes people are glad to help, but other times, it’s an imposition.

I would think hosting two young women in a home, particularly since missionaries have to live by rather strict standards and rules, could be an imposition. I would not expect a missionary to be treated like royalty. But then, I also know that sometimes, just being treated with basic kindness, dignity, and respect when one has spent their whole lives being abused, can feel like royal treatment. So, knowing what we do about this situation, I guess I can understand why it felt like “princess treatment” for the missionary in question. She was getting treated like someone with value. And now, she wants to help others who are not being treated with value escape the morass, and get away from the bully who has victimized them for years.

It’s very satisfying to escape the toxic clutches of a bully. It’s even more satisfying to help someone else escape, and to help them realize that they can and should be treated with basic respect. But it’s absolutely mind blowing when someone describes being treated with dignity and decency as “the princess treatment”. I have no words for that. It’s possible that this missionary was really treated as if she was a princess, but I doubt it. I think being treated with warmth, friendliness, fairness, and love was so foreign and comforting to her that it felt like “the princess treatment”, much like a plate of bland vegetables or saltines tastes like the best food in the world to a starving person. It’s all about perspective.

Anyway… we hope we can help her take the bully down a notch. Maybe not with a literal baseball bat… but with something just as devastating and powerful. Time will tell.

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healthcare, law, LDS

Utah’s new “pregnancy and pre-natal child support” law…

Last night, as I watched Liam Neeson kicking ass in his Taken series, I was scanning the news for interesting headlines. Sure enough, The New York Times delivered with a story about a new law set to go into effect in Utah next month. The headline read, “Utah Will Require Fathers to Help With Pregnancy Bills”. It was inspired by a law signed by Utah Governor Spencer J. Cox on March 16th, which amends Utah’s Child Support Act by “requiring any father whose paternity has been established to pay half of the mother’s insurance premiums while she is pregnant, and any related medical costs, including the birth.” The new law is set to take effect on May 5th of this year.

Utah’s new law comes from HB113, which was sponsored State Representative Brady Brammer and State Senator Daniel McCay, both of whom are Republicans. The men said they came up with this law as a way of addressing the very contentious abortion debates that have come up in recent years, as “pro-life” people try to convince the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. Mr. Brammer confirmed that he hoped this bill would be sort of a “pro-life” measure, although he didn’t intend it to be about abortion, per se. It’s more that he recognizes that pregnant people are in a “really tough spot, making a really tough decision.” In other words, he acknowledges that many women decide to terminate their pregnancies because of the high cost of being pregnant and giving birth. Personally, I don’t think it’s a bad thing that Mr. Brammer acknowledges that simple fact. It’s true– fathers’ names aren’t the ones on the medical bills when it comes to pregnancy, and since they are responsible for making women pregnant, theoretically, they should be paying.

On the surface, this new law, which may be the nation’s first stand-alone law to mandate prenatal child support, sounds like a good thing. In fact, given the culture of Utah, I can see why prenatal child support has now been made a state law. Utah is a state full of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), and Mormons are famously pro-marriage and family– as long as the marriage and family involves a man and a woman… or women, as they case may be. Utah is historically not so tough on polygamist families. However, once I started thinking about the law, I realized that it could cause some problems. And then I looked at the comment section, and sure enough, I saw how this new law could end up complicating matters for a lot of women. The first point made in the story, in fact, illustrates that the new law doesn’t directly assist pregnant women and could tie them to abusive partners.

In Utah, a person who is considering having an abortion must wait 72 hours and receive “counseling”. The counseling includes information that is designed to discourage abortion, rather than allowing pregnant people to simply hear the facts about the procedure and determine the right course of action for themselves. Supposedly, if the woman also has some help paying the bills, that might also convince her to have the baby instead of terminating the pregnancy. That is probably true in some cases, although it doesn’t address the fact that some women just plain don’t want to be pregnant or go through childbirth, particularly if the baby is the product of a tryst with someone she doesn’t know or care about. While adoption is still an option for people who don’t wish to parent their offspring, a lot of pregnant people decide not to choose adoption. They have some good reasons for not choosing that path, too. Frankly, if I were pregnant and didn’t want a baby, I would probably not choose adoption over abortion. But I have always wanted to have kids and didn’t get the chance.

Looking at the comment section, I saw many men opining that thanks to this law, men might FINALLY have a say in forcing women to birth babies when they don’t wish to be pregnant. After all, if he’s paying his fair share, shouldn’t he be able to dictate that the woman stay pregnant? Personally, I don’t think so. It’s still her body that is being used as a vessel. It’s still her health on the line. It’s her kidneys and bladder being danced upon in the middle of the night, and her nether regions that will be ripped apart as the baby passes through the birth canal… and it’s her blood pressure that might rise to unhealthy levels that could lead to a stroke and permanent disability or even death. Financial support from fathers is a very good and necessary thing for pregnant people, but it’s still not an equalizer of the situation at hand when it comes to making babies.

The bill would also require the paternity to be confirmed. There are situations in which the paternity can’t be confirmed, or perhaps the pregnant person does not wish to identify the father. In those situations, the mother would presumably still be paying her own bills. Although I know that there are initiatives that exist that encourage mothers to identify the fathers of their babies– mainly so that the government can go after deadbeat fathers. I was once interviewed for a job that would have had me encouraging new mothers to name the fathers of their babies if they hadn’t already. It wasn’t about involving dads, though. It was mainly about money, and preventing mothers from using welfare or other social safety nets.

If you’ve followed my story, you know that I’m very much in favor of father’s rights, once the babies are born. Even if the mother thinks the father is a total shithead, I think the father should have rights. After all, in most situations, the women chose the fathers of their children when they consented to having sex with them. And before anyone jumps my shit, let me reiterate that I also know that there are exceptions. In fact, the exceptions are one reason why I strongly believe in a person’s right to have an abortion. However, if the baby is born, and there is a father, and he wants to be in the baby’s life, I think it should be allowed and encouraged. If fathers had stronger rights when Bill’s kids were young and Bill could have feasibly gotten custody of his daughters, maybe they wouldn’t have gone through all they did. And I write that knowing that Bill also chose a poor mother for his daughters.

However, I don’t think the time leading up to parenthood is the same for males and females. Men do their part at the time of conception. So many of them do choose to walk away from their responsibilities, and it seems that a lot of them either never think twice about it or don’t ever know the difference because they’re never told about the pregnancy. Either way, once they’ve fertilized the egg, their path to parenthood involves waiting and, if they’re a decent sort or the relationship is amicable, supporting the woman through the pregnancy. Women, on the other hand, have to deal with the physical, emotional, mental, and hormonal effects of being pregnant. Some of it, I’ve heard, is pretty amazing and interesting. A lot of it is unpleasant or even dangerous. All of it is potentially very expensive.

Anyway… it wouldn’t be one of my blog posts without a few reactions from the peanut gallery. Here are some of the unedited comments that made me laugh, scratch my head, or feel genuine concern for the people of Utah who will be testing this new law. As you can see, reactions ran the gamut. Some people, whose comments I didn’t include, were aghast because they live in countries where this isn’t an issue because healthcare is a fundamental right, rather than an overpriced privilege.

Agreed, however this is more about Mormons and polygamy than it is about a cultural problem with men taking paternal responsibility for creating children. It’s Utah. (probably)

When I was pregnant in the 80’s I was told that the most dangerous time in a women’s life was when she was pregnant. This just makes it more dangerous to be a woman. (this could be true, too… there will be some men that won’t pay and will think murder is a better solution)

That’s a start. The impregnator should also pay all the funeral expenses, if the pregnant woman dies from complications caused by the pregnancy. The impregnator should also be assessed a portion of the funds necessary to care for any underage children the pregnant woman might have as a result of other impregnators, since she’s no longer alive to contribute her share of support for those children.

Story cut out on me but that’s what I’m talking about. And don’t stop with pregnancy bills. Get some hard and fast bills on the floor to make sure these fathers are paying child support. Real child support; not 5.25/wk you (I, anyway) see these moms receiving. Of course, women are more susceptible to being murdered by an alleged love one during pregnancy than any other time. Maybe we need to rethink that whole mandatory vasectomy thing. Do it at age 15 – when they’re mature enough, and wish to start a family, reverse it. After all, a male can impregnate multiple women a day if he were so inclined whereas a woman if going to produce 1 child in 40 weeks. (side note– not all vasectomies are reversible. I know this from Bill’s experience. I would NEVER support mandatory vasectomies, for the same reason I support a woman’s right to have an abortion. No one should have a say over another person’s bodily autonomy.)

Utah is creative in its efforts to allow men to control women’s reproduction.

I have a strong feeling were going to be seeing a lot of fathers move out of Utah and make it a strictly women only state.

They should make this retroactive. It would bankrupt the LDS Church.

Great, as long as the putative father has the right to demand an abortion. (make up your minds, guys…)

But they don’t get any say about abortion.

So are they having a voice on abortion or not ? (Why is this so important?)

Good….now it paves the way for father’s to have a say in abortion too.

Nice. Can fathers block abortions now? Accountability is a two way street. (not in cases of rape or incest, you cave dwelling twit.)

Great, but also should have concent before his baby is murdered as well.

They should be able to veto abortion decisions then. Their money their choice. (This comment got a shitload of replies. Why do so many people seem to think that an investment of money trumps everything? This guy seems to think that paying money for pregnancy and pre-natal support is akin to paying a prostitute.)

So the father has to pay half the medical bills (I agree because he helped make that baby) but the father has no say if the mother wants to commit murder and have an abortion? (ABORTION ISN’T MURDER!)

If guys have no say in preventing an abortion, then they shouldn’t be forced to pay pre baby costs. (They DO have a say. Don’t have sex with a woman with whom you don’t wish to make babies.)

And just like that – the words “it doesn’t feel as good with a condom” were never said in Utah ever again… (bwahahaahaa!)

This is what happens when you let men set the “birthing” agenda. Next thing you know, we’ll be requiring DNA testing of every fetus to determine the father. How long is that gonna take, who’s gonna pay for it and what if a woman refuses to name the father, or the man she names refuses to provide a sample? Too ridiculous. (I think she’s right.)

First, how do you establish paternity before birth? Second, does this give the presumed father the right to monitor the woman’s pregnancy and behavior? Will he have a say in the birth plan? Is he allowed to attend medical appointments? Will he be there for the birth? Or does he just get to foot the bill with the mother? What if the mother doesn’t desire or need his assistance? This could go south really quickly. (Yep… this was my thought, too.)

As long as the mother and fetus can be on my family insurance during the pregnancy then I don’t have a problem with it. The problem is that if I’m not married to the woman, how can she be on my insurance? (this guy is clearly NOT a mental giant… dude, maybe you shouldn’t be having sex with people to whom you aren’t married, if her not being on your “family insurance” is a concern? In fairness to him, he did come back and clarify, showing that he’s not really as dumb as that comment seems… Besides, the law indicates that the man must pay half of the woman’s health insurance premium, not put her on his insurance. And with a pregnancy rider, that’s probably gonna be pricey.)

And one guy, whose comment I can no longer find, said he was fine with the new law as long as a woman didn’t “trap” him into being a father. Now– I know for a fact that men CAN be raped, but the odds of a male rape leading to pregnancy are pretty small. I think the bigger issue is convincing men to use condoms and/or not have sex so freely with women they don’t wish to make babies with. I doubt being trapped in fatherhood is a real thing for the vast majority of men, if the man is being responsible.

There were many more comments, but I don’t have all day to share them. Bill was up very late last night, working in the office. We got a late start this morning and I want to practice guitar and do some reading. Anyway, after March’s visit from Aunt Flow, which was a bit irregular, I realize that this is an issue that really won’t affect me at all for much longer… and probably doesn’t affect me now, if I’m honest. It’ll be interesting to see what Utah does with this new legislation and how it changes things in the Beehive State. I’ll be watching for the headlines.

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book reviews, LDS, true crime

Reposted review of Under the Banner of Heaven

Here’s another Epinions review that I reposted on my old blog and am reposting as/is on this blog. Jon Krakauer’s book about Mormonism is well worth a read, even years later. I wrote this review in June 2006, but the book remains relevant today, especially as Netflix airs its new documentary, Murder Among the Mormons.

The official trailer for Murder Among the Mormons, which I haven’t yet seen.

Those of you who regularly read my book reviews on Epinions.com may have noticed that recently, I’ve been reading and writing reviews of a lot of books about Mormonism. I thought I would take a break from the subject until I happened to run across Jon Krakauer’s 2003 book Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith at Fort Belvoir’s thrift shop. I had just read several very interesting Epinions reviews about the book and had already planned to purchase it at full price. I couldn’t resist when I saw it priced at $4 at the thrift shop. I picked it up last weekend and wasn’t able to put it down until I finished reading it last night.

Under the Banner of Heaven is a fascinating book. It seems to be part true crime, part history book, and part expose. At this book’s core is the story of Dan and Ron Lafferty, two brothers who, on July 24, 1984, believed they had received a commandment from God to brutally murder their sister in law, Brenda Lafferty, and her fifteen month old daughter, Erica. July 24th is a significant day in LDS culture. It’s Pioneer Day, which is the anniversary of the day Brigham Young and his followers found the Salt Lake Valley. Brenda Lafferty was a vibrant, outspoken woman who had apparently encouraged her sisters in law to be assertive in their dealings with their husbands. She paid for her rebellious streak with her life not long after Ron Lafferty’s wife decided to leave him.

The Lafferty brothers were members of a fundamentalist sect of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Popularly known as Mormon Fundamentalists and collectively known as the FLDS church, this group is not the same as the mainstream LDS church. One of the most striking differences between the FLDS church and the main LDS church is that Mormon Fundamentalists practice plural marriage, which is a form of polygamy. Although the mainstream LDS church denounced polygamy in 1890, Mormon fundamentalists are ultra conservatives who believe that polygamy was an essential teaching according to the LDS church’s founder and first prophet, Joseph Smith. True believing Mormon Fundamentalist men take multiple wives and typically have many children who grow up in the faith.

In Under the Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakauer relates the story of the Lafferty brothers, but he also includes the history of the LDS church and its splinter groups. He writes about Colorado City, Arizona/ Hildale, Utah the FLDS community on the Arizona/Utah borders and Bountiful in British Columbia. He includes chapters about famous and infamous FLDS church members who have been in the news over the past few years. There’s a chapter on famed polygamist Tom Green and one on Elizabeth Smart’s kidnapper, Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee. Krakauer weaves these stories in with the core story about the Lafferty brothers and their gruesome murders, effectively showing how everything is interrelated.

Krakauer, who grew up an agnostic among Mormons in Corvallis, Oregon, writes in his epilogue that this book turned out differently than he expected. He wanted to write a book that explored and compared the LDS Church’s present with its past. But as he started writing Under the Banner of Heaven, Krakauer found himself drifting onto a different path. I was very impressed with Krakauer’s ability to look at the many aspects of the LDS church’s very convoluted and colorful history and write a book that was both very interesting and informative. Krakauer writes that his book was generally not well-received among many members of the LDS church. I never detected any bias for or against the church on Krakauer’s part. Yes, he did expose some of the more troubling aspects of the church’s past, but he also wrote about how Mormon pioneers were persecuted. I came away with the idea that Krakauer was just reporting the facts without necessarily passing judgment.

I will warn that parts of this book are very sad and upsetting. Krakauer does not mince words as he describes how Brenda Lafferty and her daughter were killed. Reading about Brenda Laffety’s murder was very troubling; but to me, it was much more disturbing to read about the way her innocent child was butchered. You may not want to read this book if graphic descriptions of brutality keep you up at night.

Although this book was published three years ago, it’s quite timely today. Krakauer provides a lot of information about Warren Jeffs, the self-proclaimed prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Jeffs was very recently put on the FBI’s most wanted list for sexual conduct with minors and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with minors. Krakauer explains how Warren Jeffs came to be a prophet and provides chilling information about Jeffs’ late father, Rulon Jeffs, the former prophet who was once known as “Uncle Rulon”.

On the surface, Under the Banner of Heaven seems to be about a double murder. Looking deeper, this book is about much more than two heinous crimes. It casts a revealing look at the relationship between mainstream Mormonism, the fastest growing religion in America, and Mormon Fundamentalism, a faith that few people understand. Krakauer spent many hours interviewing people for this book, including Dan Lafferty himself. The Lafferty brothers insist that they were on a mission from God when they killed Brenda Lafferty and her daughter. In fact, they meant to kill at least two more people that day, but perhaps God intervened on their behalf.

Under the Banner of Heaven is not an easy book to read. Krakauer packs a lot in 365 pages and he does a good job of explaining a religious environment that is foreign to many people. I think he’s written an important and riveting book, although I suspect that it’s not a popular choice among devout Mormons. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about true crime and history. I found this book well-written, well-researched, and extremely hard to put down. I also learned a lot more than I bargained for when I bought this book.

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