book reviews, LDS, narcissists, religion, tragedies, true crime

A review of The Doomsday Mother: Lori Vallow, Chad Daybell, and the End of an American Family by John Glatt…

As I write today’s book review, I reflect on the last twenty years or so and realize that Bill and I have been relatively lucky. I complain a lot about Bill’s ex wife, who converted to Mormonism during their marriage, and then used the religion as a tool to alienate him from his daughters and former stepson. There is no doubt in my mind that my husband’s ex wife, who is on her third husband, and has had two more children with him, is not the sanest person. She has legitimately put Bill through several layers of hell over the years. He has many scars from that marriage, both figurative financial and psychological ones, and literal physical ones. But at least, as far as I know, Ex hasn’t killed anyone, and at least Bill was able to fully recover from their relationship. Bill and I have been very fortunate on many levels. At least his ex wife mostly leaves us in peace. For that, I am genuinely grateful. After reading British true crime author John Glatt’s most recent book, I know not everyone who splits from a relationship that involves religion, mental illness, and narcissism is that lucky.

The book I’m referring to is titled The Doomsday Mother: Lori Vallow, Chad Daybell, and the End of an American Family. It was published January 18, 2022, making it very fresh reporting, as Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell are still awaiting trial for their roles in the gruesome murders of Lori’s children, 16 year old Tylee Ryan, and 7 year old J.J. Vallow, both of whom were last seen alive in September 2019 and “disappeared” for months before their brutally desecrated remains were found in a pet cemetery on Chad Daybell’s property in Rexburg, Idaho. The children were not actually killed by their mother; instead, Lori’s brother, Alex Cox, who had a violent streak and a touch of mental illness, did the deed. Alex Cox is not being prosecuted because he suddenly died in December 2019. Also dead are Charles Vallow, Lori’s fourth husband and the adoptive father of J.J., and Tammy Daybell, Chad’s first wife, who died under sudden and suspicious circumstances.

A couple of other people– to include Lori’s ex husband and Tylee’s father, Joe Ryan, and Lori’s older sister, Stacy, are also dead, but not due to foul play. However, they both figure in this complicated and tragic story. I’m going to try to break it down a bit, and it may seem like I’m giving a lot of details. Trust me. This is a very convoluted story and there’s plenty to unpack. There’s no way I could possibly give away too much information. I also want to note that when this was hot news, and people on the Recovery from Mormonism messageboard were posting a lot about it, I deliberately avoided reading the details. I’m not sure what made me decide to read Glatt’s book, but now that I have, my mind is blown. So here goes…

Lori Norene Cox

Just from the previous paragraph, you already know that a lot of people in Lori’s and Chad’s circle did not survive their connection. But even before Lori Vallow Daybell met Chad Daybell, a gravedigger, author, and publisher of weird Mormon based books about the “end times”, Lori was a troubled soul with a long history of failed relationships. Unfortunately, Lori, who was born Lori Norene Cox in San Bernadino, California on June 26, 1973, had a devastatingly appealing combination of superficial charm, good looks, and vivaciousness that men found very attractive. She was also a very troubled and manipulative person who left heartbreak and devastation wherever she went, even among those who managed to survive having anything to do with her.

Lori Cox was raised in California by her parents, Janis and Barry Cox, who had four living children besides Lori: Stacey, Alex, Adam, and Summer. A fifth child, Laura, had died soon after birth. Stacey died young, having developed Type I diabetes that she refused to take care of properly. Stacey left behind a daughter named Melani. Lori’s parents were LDS, but they weren’t considered extremely devout. Her father, Barry, had served as a missionary in England in the 1960s, and then came home to California to sell life insurance. He was successful at his job, and the Coxes lived comfortably. They went to Hawaii frequently. Barry Cox was very vocal about his opposition to taxation, and he and his wife would later get in serious trouble with the Internal Revenue Service for tax evasion. Even in the 80s, Lori’s older brother, Alex, seemed sinister. Glatt interviewed one of Lori’s best friends, who told him that she always tried to avoid creepy Alex. Lori also told the friend that Alex had sexually assaulted her. Alex was a “wannabe” stand up comedian who was supposedly “obsessed” with Lori and would do anything for her.

Lori’s string of men

Lori married her first husband, Nelson Nelson Yanes when she was just out of high school, but that marriage ended very quickly. Her marriage to second husband, William Lagioia, lasted three years, but produced their son, Colby, in 1996. Lori quickly set about alienating Lagioia from Colby as she married her third husband, Joe Ryan, who eventually adopted the boy after their 2001 nuptials. Lori and Joe had their daughter, Tylee, in 2002, but their marriage soon faltered. Joe Ryan filed for divorce in 2004, and it was granted in 2005. Ryan, like Lagioia before him, also experienced parental alienation as Lori did her best to destroy his bond with Tylee. In 2007, Lori’s brother, Alex, tasered Joe Ryan after Lori accused Ryan of being abusive to her and the children. Alex had meant to kill Joe, but did not succeed. However, Joe later died of heart disease, a broken and destitute man who, by then, had lost contact with his daughter, Tylee. His body was found three weeks after he died alone in his bed; the walls of his home were plastered with pictures of his beloved, estranged daughter. Lori nonchalantly collected life insurance benefits and later casually ripped off Social Security money meant for Tylee.

In February 2006, Lori married Charles Vallow, a handsome Catholic man from Louisiana who was financially successful and had two sons from a previous marriage. Vallow converted to Mormonism for Lori, and the two of them adopted Charles’s grandnephew, J.J. J.J., whose original name was Canaan, was the biological son of Charles’s nephew, who, along with the boy’s mother, had a severe drug problem. Originally, J.J. was awarded to Charles’s sister and J.J.’s grandmother, Kay Woodcock, and her husband. But although the Woodcocks loved the boy, they felt like they were too old to raise J.J., who besides being born prematurely, also had autism. So initially, it seemed perfect that Lori and Charles would raise J.J. Lori was younger, and seemed like a great mom to her biological children. Again, Lori was almost always able to charm most people, at least when they first met her. After awhile, her true colors showed.

For a few years, the marriage seemed to go okay. Lori was preoccupied with trying to alienate Tylee from her father, Lori’s third husband, Joe Ryan. Once Joe was dead, she was free to turn her attentions elsewhere. Lori began becoming obsessed with “the end times”, which if you know anything about Mormonism, will be a familiar theme. Many members of the LDS church think we are now living in “the end times”. Lori became fixated on a passage in the Bible about 144,000 people who would survive the rapture and witness the second coming of Jesus Christ. Lori was a talented singer and dancer, and Charles built her a special mirrored room– probably much like the Sealing Room in a LDS temple– where Lori would dance to religious music or her favorite 1980s era pop love songs. She also read many books written by LDS authors, including some written by Chad Daybell, who would eventually become her fifth husband.

Lori wasn’t one to stay in one location for long. She lived in several places, including Texas, Arizona, Utah, and Hawaii. She was especially wedded to Hawaii– and lived in Kauai several times, where she made friends and mingled in the local LDS church. At one point, she and Charles lived in Kauai. She would return there after Charles was murdered by Lori’s brother, Alex, who shot him twice in the chest. She would eventually be arrested at a Kauai condominium, just across the street from where she’d once lived with Charles Vallow, after she and Chad Daybell fled after Lori’s children disappeared.

Chad Daybell

Chad Daybell was born August 11, 1968 in Provo, Utah. He often heard voices and saw spirits of his ancestors, to include his grandfather Keith. Chad would often claim that his ancestors would bring him messages from beyond, which he would follow– promptings of the spirit.

Chad Daybell was raised a devout Mormon in Utah, completed a two year LDS mission in New Jersey, and in March 1990, married the former Tamara “Tammy” Douglas at the Manti, Utah temple. They are the parents of five children. Chad graduated from Brigham Young University in 1992 with a degree in communications; he worked as a copy editor at a newspaper, but also did a lot of work as a sexton– that is, gravedigger. That skill would eventually come in handy after he and Lori Vallow got together.

Chad fancied himself a writer, and he started his own publishing company called Spring Creek Book Company. He also decided, after a prompting from the spirits, that he would move his family from Utah to Rexburg, Idaho. He made this decision without consulting his wife, Tammy. He also gave up a lucrative job so that he could publish LDS themed books about the end times. Chad was successful in recruiting other LDS writers, including Julie Rowe, whose books were very popular. However, his decision to publish books made life somewhat financially challenging for his family. Tammy Daybell often worked in schools as an assistant librarian to help pay the bills.

Daybell was known as a “prepper”– meaning, he was preparing for the end times. He spoke and wrote extensively about the topic and became well known in certain LDS circles. Although Chad Daybell’s own books were considered “cheesy” by some readers, Lori Vallow was a super fan of his. She came to one of the conferences where he gave a speech. It wasn’t long afterwards that they became obsessed with each other and formed their own religious cult. They were seeing each other, even though both were married to other people. The other people– Tammy Daybell and Charles Vallow– were soon dispensed with– and once those inconveniences were gone, Lori and Chad were free to get married on a Hawaiian beach. It would be Lori’s second Hawaiian beach wedding.

Chad Daybell’s obsessions with the end times, coupled with Lori Vallow’s mental illness, would lead to the tragic, horrifying, and absolutely heartbreaking destruction of several people’s lives, especially Lori’s own children’s. Her son, Colby, is the only one left to live with the absolutely crazy wreckage left in the wake of his mother’s relationship with Chad Daybell. But even if she had never met Chad Daybell, Lori Vallow would have been responsible for hurting many people. Maybe fewer of them would be dead.

My thoughts

At this point, Lori and Chad Daybell are still awaiting trial. Justice has been delayed because of the pandemic, as well as Lori’s mental illness. She was deemed unfit to stand trial because she needed psychiatric treatment. For that reason alone, John Glatt’s book will probably need a sequel, because I am sure the court case(s) will be explosive. Lori’s fourth husband, Charles Vallow, was killed in Arizona, while her children were murdered in Idaho. Lori may also face charges for grand larceny, because she collected her dead children’s Social Security benefits from their fathers for several months before the game was up and she was arrested in Hawaii.

One thing I did notice about this book is that it didn’t appear to me that John Glatt knows that much about Mormonism. He often used terms that Mormons would not use, such as “congregation”. LDS “congregations” are called wards. He also refers to Lori and Charles “attending the temple”, as if perhaps they were Jewish, and visiting the temple was a regular weekly thing. Mormons do have temples, but they don’t typically attend them regularly, as they would a church meeting (Mormons called their services “meetings”). Temple ordinances are usually “special”; they require a “temple recommend”, which is a special ID card that members in good standing carry. The ID allows them to enter the temple for certain religious ceremonies that are only open to Mormons who are deemed “worthy”. A person can be LDS, but not worthy to enter the temple. Members have to convince their bishops that they are worthy, and get that temple recommend, before they can visit the temple. Plenty of LDS members haven’t done that.

I can’t really fault Glatt for not explaining all of this stuff. I don’t know how much he knows about Mormonism. For all I know, he might know a lot, but have decided not to try to explain everything totally accurately. It IS kind of complicated for the uninitiated, and I suspect most of the people who read The Doomsday Mother are not going to be well-versed in the LDS religion’s less popular beliefs. I do think it’s important to understand the church on a basic level, though, because Mormonism does figure very prominently in this story. It helps to know a bit about the church to get a grasp of how and why things unraveled the way they did.

It’s true that Lori is mentally ill, but she and Chad Daybell got together because they were both obsessed with the LDS religion, the Bible, and some of the more obscure teachings. Indeed, the children were murdered because Lori and Chad believed that they were “zombies”. To my knowledge, “zombies” are not part of Mormonism, but the faith does put a lot of emphasis on spirits, supernatural events, “promptings”, “burnings in the bosom”, and “signs”. Most rank and file Mormons can separate the “woo” from the useful church teachings, but someone who is mentally ill probably could take some of the church’s stranger beliefs and really run with them. It sounds like that is what happened in this case.

I do think John Glatt writes well. He included photos, and wisely divided this book into sections. This is not a story that can be successfully written as one big tale. Both Lori and Chad had such complicated histories that created this perfect storm that readers need to get an idea of both of them as individuals, before they met each other and destroyed so many lives. Even without Mormonism, I think this would be a very complicated story. In fact, I think both Lori and Chad could merit their own books about their lives before their abbreviated existence as a married couple.

I also liked that Glatt added a few trivial tidbits. For example, back in 2007, before Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell became huge news, Lori’s brother, Adam Cox, was working as a morning disc jockey in Sacremento, California. Adam and his fellow deejays decided to have a contest called “Hold your wee for a Wii.” The object was for listeners to drink as much water as they could without going to the bathroom. The winner would get a Nintendo Wii as a prize. A nurse called in to the show and warned the deejays that this was a dangerous idea. They blew her off, which led to tragic consequences for the second place finisher, Jennifer Strange, who died of water intoxication after taking part in the contest. I remember when the Wii contest was news, and was surprised that one of the people who masterminded it is related to a notorious killer.

Those who are interested in this story can also watch ABC’s Dateline program, “The Gravedigger’s Wife”, which at this writing, has been uploaded to YouTube. I’ll be watching it myself later today.

On a much more personal note…

I mentioned my husband’s ex wife at the beginning of this post. Those who have been following my blog for awhile might know why I found the story of Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell even more chilling than I otherwise might have. There are just so many similarities between Lori Vallow’s and Ex’s stories, right down to connections to Texas, the LDS church, multiple marriages, sexual abuse, parental alienation campaigns, narcissism, crazy religious visions, theft of money, and even autism. Ex has a son who has severe autism.

Ex has always promoted the narrative that she’s an “excellent, caring, and devoted” mother. If you look at her social media footprint, you can see that she promotes that image somewhat convincingly to the unaware. However, if you know the truth about her, and hear stories from people who have been close to her, you see there are a lot of cracks in the facade.

Likewise, Lori Vallow came off as this lovely, vivacious, caring mother who loved people. But then look beyond the surface, and you see someone who is extremely troubled and damaged. If she hadn’t had that very attractive and alluring visage, people would be running away from her. Unfortunately, people tend to believe people like Ex and Lori Vallow. Ex looks like a devoted mom to her five children by three men, but her three eldest children were prevented from having relationships with their fathers, and Ex has repeatedly exploited them for her personal gain. Meanwhile, she posts on social media about everything she’s supposedly doing for her youngest son, who will probably always be under her thumb due to his disability.

In his book, Glatt writes about how Lori Vallow got her son a service dog named Bailey to help him negotiate the world. Later, after Charles Vallow’s death, Lori decided to “rehome” the dog, which really upset her daughter, Tylee. Ex has also been making noises about getting a service dog for her son with autism. Ex also reportedly made her daughters get G.E.D.s (just as Lori Vallow’s daughter, Tylee, did), then enroll in college and take out student loans. Ex then allegedly used the excess loan money to pay her own bills, which the girls were expected to repay. Remember, Lori Vallow used her daughter’s father’s Social Security money and her cell phone to do her dirty work.

While I don’t think Ex is as crazy as Lori is, they do have a lot in common. This book was pretty eerie for me, personally, for that reason. Over the years, I’ve gotten a lot of comments about how I’m an obsessive second wife. Maybe there’s truth to that, but there’s also a lot of truth to the fact that my husband was married to a toxic person who has harmed a lot of people. Ex hasn’t killed anyone, that I know of, but I have always felt that if the conditions were right, she definitely could kill someone– including herself. In fact, Ex supposedly did attempt suicide at one point, and landed in the hospital. These comments are based on what I’ve heard from family members and have seen Ex post about publicly.

So, my heart goes out to the “sane” people in Lori’s family who stood by and watched her work. I know from personal experience just how scary and unnerving that can be. The sad thing is, narcissistic, manipulative people tend to get the benefit of the doubt, and it often takes an explosive situation involving horrific crimes before they are finally stopped. Lori Vallow manipulated and conned so many people– friends, relatives, church acquaintances, and the like– before people finally opened their eyes to the person she is.

Likewise, Chad Daybell, a very manipulative man with disturbing delusions of the “end times” also fooled a lot of people, taking on jobs that others wouldn’t seek. Daybell’s knowledge of gravedigging proved handy, as he disposed of Tylee Ryan’s and J.J. Vallow’s remains in the pet cemetery on his property. I will warn that the descriptions of how the bodies were disposed of are especially heartbreaking and horrifying. I especially felt terrible for J.J. Vallow, who probably experienced torture before he died. And now, I feel terrible for the heartbroken relatives– especially his grandparents– who are left missing him and know about the terrible things that happened to him because they didn’t raise him themselves. They must be riddled with guilt.

Anyway, I do recommend The Doomsday Mother to those who enjoy true crime and have both a stout heart, and a strong stomach. There’s a lot of death and sadness in this book, but it’s coupled with a lot of crazy “woo” that is a challenge to comprehend, but I think John Glatt has done a good job explaining this story. It’s definitely NOT an easy story to write. It’s amazing what some people get away with in life, and how long they can get away with it before they are finally stopped.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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law, LDS, money, travel

Crystal Symphony cruise ends on a sad note…

The featured photo is one I took from a hotel room in Rostock, in northeastern Germany.

Thanks to the pandemic, cruising is about the last way Bill and I want to travel right now. However, prior to 2020, Bill and I did enjoy the occasional vacation on the high seas, and we definitely prefer the luxury lines. We haven’t yet had the chance to try out too many of them yet… mainly because we were won over by the two we have tried– SeaDream Yacht Club and Hebridean Island Cruises.

I have eyed Crystal Cruises on and off over the years, having heard that it offers a wonderful experience with six star service, excellent food, and all inclusive amenities. Crystal Symphony can carry up to 848 guests, but passengers enjoy a crew ratio of one per every 1.7 guests. It certainly looked enticing to me, even though we are more attracted to smaller ships. But, life happened, and we never got the chance to pull the trigger on one of Crystal’s dreamy seafaring excursions.

This morning, I woke to the news that a U.S. judge ordered the Crystal Symphony seized because the company has been sued by Peninsula Petroleum Far East over unpaid fuel bills– to the tune of $4.6 million! The fuel company filed their lawsuit in a South Florida federal court on Wednesday of last week, and the judge issued the order to seize the ship on Thursday.

A news story about this incident.

Crystal Symphony, which had embarked on a two week voyage on January 8, was on its way back to Miami, where it was due in port on Saturday. If the ship had continued to Miami, or any other U.S. waters, it would have been seized by the authorities. According to the above news report, Peninsula Petroleum wants the ship sold so it can recoup some of its expenses.

At the last minute, the ship changed course to Bimini, in the Bahamas. There, the passengers were put on a decidedly less luxurious ferry to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Making matters worse is that the weather was inclement, and apparently some passengers had motion sickness. That last bit I got from a thread on Cruise Critic’s message boards. Someone who was on the cruise had been entertaining everyone with daily posts, right up until the cruise had its unplanned ending in a different country.

A video about Crystal Symphony.

I probably would have been interested in this story in any case, but as I was reading about the ultra luxe Crystal Symphony, I noticed that a 51 year old man named Steven Fales was interviewed for the story. The New York Times described him as an actor and a playwright, but I immediately recognized the name because about fifteen years ago, he wrote a book called Confessions of a Mormon Boy: Behind the Scenes of the off-Broadway Hit. I bought and read that book in 2008, when I was still kind of fascinated by Mormonism and ex Mormons… again, thanks to Ex and her unilateral decision that she and her most recent two husbands would convert, and her children would be raised LDS.

In 2008, I was still pretty thick in my bewilderment and disgust for the way Mormonism is so often used as a tool to alienate and divide families. Now before anyone comes at me in the comments, let me state that my mind has somewhat changed about the LDS church since 2008. I no longer despise it as much as I used to. I still don’t like highly controlling religions, but I don’t think the LDS church is among the worst there are. Like, I don’t think mainstream Mormons are as bad as fundamentalist Baptists. Moreover, I don’t really care what someone’s personal religious beliefs are, as long as they don’t use their beliefs to control other people. I never have cared about that– I just hated that Bill’s decision not to be Mormon was one of the many excuses Ex had for why he was deemed “unfit” to be a dad to his daughters.

Anyway, back in 2008 and the years around that time– the blissful pre-pandemic days of yore– I was reading a lot of what I referred to as “exmo lit”. I wrote many reviews of the books by ex Mormons I read during that period, many of which you can find reposted in this blog. I no longer read much about Mormonism, since my interests have evolved. But I do remember Steven Fales, and how entertaining I found his book. Notably, Fales was also married to fellow author, Emily Pearson, daughter of Carol Lynn and Gerald Pearson.

Carol Lynn Pearson is a much celebrated LDS poet and author who wrote a very moving book called Goodbye, I Love You, which was about her relationship with Emily’s father, Gerald, who was gay. Although Carol Lynn never stopped loving Gerald, they did divorce. Sadly, Gerald eventually contracted AIDS in the 1980s and died with Carol Lynn at his side. Emily Pearson wrote Dancing With Crazy, which I also read and reviewed in 2012. As far as I know, Carol Lynn Pearson remains a faithful and active LDS church member, while Emily Pearson and Steven Fales left the church.

Of course, I don’t actually know if the Steven Fales in the news story is the same one whose book I read, but my guess is that the person is one and the same, since the Fales I’m thinking of is also 51 years old, and an actor and playwright. If there are two 51 year old Steven Fales who act and write plays, I will gladly stand corrected.

As I was reading the story about this cruise– somewhat happily realizing that, for once, it wasn’t a story about cruisers coming down with COVID-19 en masse– I was reminded, once again, about how luxury cruises can unexpectedly put someone in contact with a person they might never otherwise meet. Bill and I have rubbed elbows with a number of interesting people on cruises. On the other hand, we’ve also met people like “Large Marge”. Suffice to say, she’s someone I hope not to run into again. What’s funny is, on our last cruise, I mentioned her to the bartender and he knew exactly who I was talking about and said she’d just been onboard the ship two weeks prior to our voyage.

I read one of several Cruise Critic threads about this unfortunate turn of events. A poster who had been on the voyage wrote about how the crew bravely kept smiling, even though they didn’t know if they would still have jobs. I have met some truly amazing crew members on the cruises I’ve been on. Many of them come from countries where it’s hard to make a good living. They are able to help support their families back home with the money they make on cruises, taking care of the well-heeled, often without ever revealing the stresses of having to deal with a potentially very demanding clientele.

According to Fales:

“That crew treated us like royalty through the tears of losing their jobs,” he said. “They’re all just heartbroken, and it was just devastating.”

As if it’s not enough that cruise ship crews are, no doubt, working harder than ever in these pandemic times, now this has happened. It really doesn’t look good for Crystal, or the industry as a whole.

As for Bill and me, I think our days of cruising are over for the time being. I don’t want to cruise until the COVID-19 crisis has been mitigated more. It’s too risky on so many levels– from financial to health. And now, it appears that even the cruise lines that cater to the wealthier segment of society is not exempt from falling into a crisis. My heart goes out to the hard working crew, who are now faced with uncertain immediate futures. And, while I think anyone who is fortunate enough to be able to afford a Crystal cruise is doing alright, I feel somewhat saddened for those whose vacations might not have ended happily in the wake of this development– or those who have booked cruises and may now be wondering if they just lost thousands of dollars or euros, thanks to this financial fiasco.

I do hope that Crystal can settle this mess satisfactorily and eventually resume operations. I know the line has many fans. I’d hate to see it go away.

Below are links to the books written by Carol Lynn Pearson, Emily Pearson, and Steven Fales. If you purchase through those links, I will get a small commission from Amazon.com, as I am an Amazon Associate. I recommend all three books, but if you choose just one, I would recommend reading Goodbye, I Love You first.

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complaints, condescending twatbags, LDS, rants, slut shamers

Repost: Speaking of shameless shaming– Breastfeeding is not an act of public indecency!

Here’s a repost from July 27. 2018, inspired by the swath of people who seem to think that breastfeeding a baby is an act of public indecency and my recent post about the Duggars and “defrauding”. As you can see, the fundies aren’t the only ones who have screwy beliefs about modesty. I am posting it mostly as/is, as I consider what today’s fresh post will be. The featured image is in the public domain.

I would be remiss if I didn’t post about this news story I read last night about a Mormon woman who was shamed by her bishop and stake president for breastfeeding (link was removed because it no longer works).  According to KUTV, an unidentified LDS mom of four from northern Utah lost her temple recommend because she decided to breastfeed uncovered while she was in the foyer of her church.  Temple recommends are basically cards that identify worthy members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  One must have a valid temple recommend in order to visit the church’s temples, where “sacred” and secret religious ordinances, including many weddings, take place.  Temple recommends are very important to faithful Mormons.

A few weeks ago, the mother had gone to see her bishop about getting her temple recommend updated and signed.  The bishop told her that church members had complained about her openly breastfeeding her 18 month old baby.  LDS churches have “mothers’ rooms” where breastfeeding moms can go to privately feed their babies.  The bishop said she should either use the mothers’ room or cover up, since her decision to openly breastfeed might cause the men in the church to have “sexual thoughts”.  The bishop refused to sign the temple recommend and she had to get it signed by the first counselor instead.

Later, the mom visited her stake president so he could also sign her temple recommend.  The stake president also brought up the breastfeeding issue and quoted from a church pamphlet about the importance of modesty.  The pamphlet, “For the Strength of Youth”, is well-known to LDS church members and provides guidelines about how church members are to present themselves. 

The mother said that she got very upset during the meeting and had to leave the room several times to calm down.  The woman’s husband, who was also in attendance during the meeting, was told that he needed to “control his wife”.  The husband was also told that if he supported his wife’s decision to publicly breastfeed without a cover, he would also lose his temple recommend.

Some people may wonder why the woman didn’t simply use the mothers’ room.  Apparently, the room is off of the bathroom and this mother claims it’s too isolating for her.  Also, she says she can’t hear the service in the mothers’ room.  The mom warns that even after her child is weaned, she doesn’t plan to back down on this issue.  She correctly states that breastfeeding is not a sexual act and publicly feeding her child is not wrong.  She wants the church to be more accepting and sensitive toward mothers who choose to breastfeed in public.

As I read this story, I was, at first, very irritated on the mom’s behalf.  Fellas, if you’re turned on by a woman’s breasts, that is your problem.  It’s not up to women to protect you from your sexual thoughts.  You need to exercise more self control and realize that breasts are, first and foremost, intended to feed babies.  I realize that public breastfeeding is a somewhat new phenomenon in that, until recently, many women would feel uncomfortable exposing their breasts in public to feed their babies.  But dammit, breasts are not primarily for titillation.  They have a purpose.  A man’s sexual reactions to seeing a woman’s breasts are secondary to that very important purpose.  When it comes to embarrassment about breastfeeding, it’s the men who need to get over themselves, not the women.

Then, after reading about how this mom was treated by church leaders, I was irritated by her reaction.  I understand that the LDS church is the type of organization where membership is very important, particularly within family circles.  It’s not like it is in my family, where people attend different churches.  Most of my family members are protestants, but they aren’t all Presbyterians.  I have an aunt who is Episcopalian and a sister who is an atheist.  My mom played organ in Baptist and Methodist churches for most of my life.  Yes, many of my family members go to church, but there is no pressure to attend a specific church or practice a particular religion.  This is not necessarily true for Mormons.  To them, family participation is essential and in devout families, there is intense pressure to be Mormon and participate fully in the church.  Leaving the church can lead to a host of unpleasant consequences.

And yet… here is this nice couple doing absolutely nothing wrong, sitting there listening to church officials berate them for doing something totally natural and necessary for their baby’s health, and threatening them with eternal damnation for not conforming to their stupid rules about modesty.  I realize I’m not Mormon and never have been, but it’s inconceivable to me that these people tolerated those shameful remarks from church leaders.  They should have told both the bishop and the stake president to go fuck themselves (sorry, I’m in a mood this morning), gotten up, and walked out, vowing that their children would not grow up to be tithe payers.  I may be very cynical or even naive, but I think that’s ultimately a response that would get church leaders to listen.  Seriously, fuck those guys.  They are just regular men put into positions of leadership in a manmade religious organization.  They only have as much power as their members are willing to give them.  As long as church members allow them to talk to them in that way, the abuse will continue.

I do think it’s abusive to subject breastfeeding mothers to shame, scorn, or ridicule for daring to feed their babies in public.  If you think the church is right about this, the next time you have a meal, put a blanket over your head or go sit in the bathroom to eat.  Tell me, is that a pleasant way to dine?  Why should mothers and babies have to tolerate that?

It seems to me that this mom is very faithful to her beliefs.  She is exactly the kind of member the LDS church would not want to lose.  She cares enough about the church to want to hear what is said during meetings, even when she’s nursing her child.  While I personally think Mormonism is bullshit, she clearly doesn’t.  I don’t think she’s the kind of church member they’d want to alienate, since she has clearly had several children who will one day pay tithes… that is, if the church doesn’t one day drive them out with their outdated and anti-woman policies.

Churches are definitely losing members lately.  Nowadays, many people are abandoning religion or attending churches that offer more in the way of personal enrichment or entertainment.  I have never attended a Mormon church service, but Bill has.  He tells me they are extremely boring, except perhaps on fast and testimony days, when members get up to testify that the church is true.  I have heard that a number of colorful testimonies have been offered on those Sundays, although in order to enjoy them, you have to be fasting…  I’m not sure that’s a good tradeoff.

I’m sure the church is very important to this mother and her husband.  It’s a pity she didn’t just tell her leaders that she’d find a church where breastfeeding mothers are more respected and men are taught that they need to control their lust.  The onus should not be on women to protect men from “falling”.  The men should be taught to self-regulate.

And… for the last time, breastfeeding babies isn’t sexual.  If you think it is, you’re the one with a problem.

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advertising, LDS, religion

Repost: Selling church…

I was looking for some old commentary about the Duggar family yesterday when I ran across this post from August 24, 2016. It made me cackle as I read it, so I decided to preserve it for posterity’s sake. The post actually has little to do with the Duggars, but it is about religion, and how religion can screw up people’s lives on many levels. I tagged the Duggars, though, because at the time I wrote this, Jessa Seewald was pregnant with her second child, who went on to be named Henry. I commented that I hoped the second baby would have a name less obnoxious than “Spurgeon”. I guess the name Henry is less obnoxious indeed, so kudos to Jessa and Ben for that.

Every once in awhile, someone in our local Facebook group will ask about where to go to church.  Germany has many churches, of course, but most of us in the local Facebook group are English speakers.  A service conducted in German is not so useful.  Many people attend services on one of the local installations.  Not everyone has access to the installations, though.  And some people are looking for a specific type of service.

I had to giggle yesterday when a newcomer asked where she and her family could attend services.  She has three kids and wants to find an American style church that will be good for them.  Her family is not affiliated with the military, so they have no access to the installations.  And they are Methodists.  Well…  sure enough, there were quite a few folks who were willing to sell their church.

There are always folks from the two Baptist churches scouting for members.  The first time we lived here, we were invited to a Baptist church by a woman who was a lapsed Catholic.  Bill and I don’t attend church.  He’s too scarred from being Mormon and I just don’t give a shit about church that much.  I think Bill is actually a lot more spiritual and potentially religious than I am.  I’ve just never really cared too much about attending church one way or another.  I see church as a place to go for socializing and sometimes pretty music.  A good minister who isn’t too boring is a huge plus.

This is a picture of the closest thing my family has to a “family church”. My dad and his siblings were raised in this Presbyterian church in Natural Bridge, Virginia. I, too, was raised Presbyterian, but it hasn’t seemed to have stuck.

Someone also mentioned a church near one of the installations that is Pentecostal/Assemblies of God.  I knew a lot of folks who were involved in that faith when I was growing up.  I’d say it’s not much like Methodism.  Methodists are rather mainstream and moderate.  The AoG and Pentecostal folks struck me as being a lot more like holy rollers.   

One person mentioned an English speaking Anglican church.  I think if I were inclined to attend services, that’s the one I’d want to go to.  But the original poster says she’s wanting an American style church and my guess is that the Anglican church would not be very American.

And yes, sure enough, there was a plug for the local Mormon ward.  The folks who were plugging it touted the excellent youth program and said a person can be as “active as they want to be”.  It was all I could do not to comment that there is a HUGE difference between Mormonism and Methodism.  One brave soul did ask the question and I know he knew the answer:  “Is there a significant difference between your faith and the Protestant faith?” 

One of the LDS ladies selling the Mormon church advised him to visit one of the official church Web sites for information.  Right.  Because we can’t have people finding out the non whitewashed version of what Mormonism is all about, can we?  The person who advised the guy to visit LDS.org or Mormon.org took pains to empathize that Mormons believe in Jesus Christ and is a Christian faith.  She also mentioned “instantaneous friends”.

Now…  here’s one thing that maybe the LDS apologist hasn’t considered.  Real friendships aren’t formed “instantaneously”.  Real friendships take time to develop, and must be nurtured.  “Instant friendships” are most likely going to be assigned friendships.  Assigned friendships are almost always fake.  The LDS church is pretty much rife with assigned friends.  Home visitors, visiting teachers, Relief Society, and everything else…  They will be friendly until you start asking uncomfortable questions.  Aside from that, it may be pretty damaging for young women to be told that if they engage in sexual contact before marriage, they are akin to chewed pieces of gum or shattered vases.

The apologist also emphasized that newcomers are “welcomed”.  Maybe that’s so, at least the first time a person shows up to a meeting.  But if he or she starts coming regularly, there will be pressure to be baptized.  There will be pressure for the newcomers to get on board with the status quo– look the right way, dress the right way, drink the right liquids, pay the right amount of tithing…  I highly doubt that a person who comes to meetings for the three years a typical military tour lasts will simply be encouraged to attend casually.  Mormonism requires big lifestyle changes that the entire family is pressured to embrace.

And yet…  this is what the apologist says…

“…you will find a very welcoming group of individuals and families who simply wish to share the hope and happiness they find in following this faith.

If that’s true in Stuttgart, it would be the first time I’ve seen a group of Mormons take a laid back approach to their faith.  You’d think that people who are sincere about wanting to sell their church would want to be honest and upfront about what attending would mean.  And if they have nothing to hide, then why can’t an investigator take the time to read multiple sources to help them make up their minds?  Even if there are a lot of people with axes to grind posting about Mormonism, it seems to me that a person with strong faith and conviction could easily overcome those obstacles.  Moreover, if there are a lot of people with axes to grind, maybe that should tell you something about the church itself.

I guess I can understand being a member of a church you love and feeling like everyone misunderstands it.  On the other hand, if you expect people to join your church, you should be open to allowing them to make an informed decision.  Mormonism and Methodism are not much alike.  They have different beliefs.  The newcomer looking for a new church should do her homework for her own sake, and that of her kids.  I did notice, though, that she knew something about Mormons.  She responded to the one guy who asked about “significant differences in beliefs” and told him to “Google Mormons”.  I guess she got the message.

On a different note, yesterday I listened to a very interesting discussion/interview conducted by a guy who interviewed a woman raised according to Bill Gothard’s principles.  It was quite eye opening and really put a different spin on fundamentalism.

This guy, Chris Shelton, usually talks about Scientology, but in this video he talks to a woman who was raised in the Quiverfull movement.  Crazy stuff!

Edited to add in 2021: originally, I ended this post with my comments about Jessa’s second pregnancy. But since she’s now had four kids and is living in her sex pest big brother’s old house, I figure that commentary is no longer relevant. I think I’m just glad that I don’t care about going to church. Seems like it can cause a lot of problems for people. I wonder if Josh Duggar would have turned out more normally if he had been raised in a home where he was free to talk about sex. Maybe he wouldn’t have been normal in any case, but I really don’t think fundie Christianity and its many rules and regulations, as well as its clearly misogynistic bent, helped matters at all.

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book reviews, celebrities, LDS, religion

Repost: A review of Faith and Fortune: A Mormon Family in Hollywood by Kimball Jacobs

I originally reviewed this book for Epinions.com in January 2006. I reposted the review on my Blogspot version of this blog in November 2014. In my previous repost, I included videos from Rachel Jacobs’ career. I am not including the videos this time, because they tend to get schwacked for copyright reasons.

A few days ago I was on YouTube, watching an old Pop-Tarts commercial from the mid 1970s. Someone asked who the little girl in the ad was.  I knew, because I was an avid fan of Diff’rent Strokes back in the day.  There was an episode in 1979 that featured a cute little girl named Rachel Jacobs as Arnold’s “girlfriend” when they were in the hospital together.

Rachel Jacobs went on to act in a number of TV shows, as did her brothers, Parker and Christian.  Their father, Kimball Jacobs, went on to write a book about his kids and their show business careers.  I read and reviewed his book.  It wasn’t good.  But I am reposting my review of Faith and Fortune anyway, because I know I have a lot of Mormon and exMormon readers who might be interested.  

Pros:  A little bit of gossip. Probably the only book about the Jacobs kids.

Cons:  Horribly written. Typos and grammatical errors galore. Preaching.

The Bottom Line: Writing this review might be my one good deed for today.

Since I am an aspiring writer, I take a strange form of comfort from the sheer suck factor of the 2002 book, Faith and Fortune: A Mormon Family in Hollywood written by Kimball Jacobs. This book is probably the worst one I’ve read in a very long time. But before I get into how hard this book sucks, let me explain who Kimball Jacobs is and why I read Faith and Fortune in the first place. After all, as I quickly found out, Jacobs’ book is not on any best seller lists– thank heavens! 

Kimball Jacobs is the father of three former child actors who worked mostly during the late 1970s and 1980s. His daughter Rachel, and his two sons Christian and Parker Jacobs, were in a number of commercials, television series, and movies. I am a child of the 1970s and 1980s. That means I remember a lot of cheesy television sitcoms from that era. Sometimes, I can be persuaded to watch re-runs of shows that aired during that time. Anyway, the other day, I was watching a re-run of Diff’rent Strokes and remembered the episode in which the character Arnold (played by Gary Coleman) gets a case of appendicitis. He goes to the hospital and shares his room with an adorable little girl named Alice, played by Rachel Jacobs. They become friends, much to Alice’s bigoted father’s (Dabney Coleman) chagrin. 

What transpires in the Diff’rent Strokes episode is not important as it relates to this review. Suffice to say that I became curious about the little girl who played Alice, so I went off to the Internet Movie Database and found Rachel Jacobs’ bio. It was there that I discovered that she had two brothers who were also in show business and she’s a Mormon. Besides being a fan of crappy 80s sitcoms, I’m also the wife of an inactive (now resigned) member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka the Mormons). Being married to Bill has led me to learn more about the LDS faith, especially since Bill’s children are still members of the church. I noticed that Rachel Jacobs and her brothers were the subjects of Kimball Jacobs’ book. I looked up Faith and Fortune on Amazon.com and found that it got two one star ratings. One of the ratings appeared to be from a disgruntled family member, perhaps his ex wife. Apparently, this book was unauthorized. Now that I’ve read it, I can see why. 

Actual review from Amazon: This is a totally unauthorized version of exploiting your own family. Each child involved feels used. Each child involved requested that it not be printed and Dad went right ahead… not only that, even if the story is interesting, it is terribly written and tweaked in its approach …Mom thinks this is unforgivable.. (This review was written by someone named Rebecca.)

Some of you might be wondering why I read this book if it got such poor ratings. Well, Bill has been out of town all week, so I needed something to do. Besides, I’ve been reading entirely too many decent books lately. Against my better judgment, I went to Booklocker.com and downloaded Faith and Fortune. Thank God I didn’t pay full price for the paperback edition. The ebook version of Faith and Fortune runs for 120 pages. Actually, that’s not an entirely true statement. It runs for about 113 pages. The ebook was 120 pages long, but for some reason, quite a few pages were left blank. As I looked at all of those wasted blank pages, I was even happier that I didn’t buy a paper version of this book. What a waste of trees! 

Faith and Fortune starts off with Kimball Jacobs explaining how he and his first wife, Rebecca, met at Brigham Young University’s drama department. In his very affected writing style, Jacobs explains that it was his older brother, David, who introduced the two, because David felt he was too old for Rebecca. Kimball and Rebecca Jacobs were married and they moved to Ririe, Idaho to embark on their lives together. Kimball Jacobs got a job as a teacher and wrestling coach and his wife became a teacher’s aide.

It wasn’t long before Rebecca Jacobs gave birth to their first child, Rachel, the adorable little girl I saw on Diff’rent Strokes. A year and a half later, Christian Jacobs was born. Then, the family moved to Ogden, Utah, so that the Jacobs’ family could try their hand at running a restaurant, an adventure that lasted a year, during which time Parker Jacobs was born. It’s at this part that I’m starting to think that perhaps the exuberance of youth had gotten the best of the Jacobs family. Here they were with three young children, trying to launch a restaurant, a stressful venture under the best of circumstances. It sounded like a recipe for disaster and apparently it was. But Jacobs doesn’t dwell too much on this part of the book. He has bigger fish to fry. 

While Kimball and Rebecca Jacobs were trying to launch their restaurant business, they remained active in local theater. Little Rachel showed a talent for acting, so her parents started looking for an agent who could launch their cute daughter’s acting career. They got in touch with Hollywood child star agent, Mary Grady, who told them that they should be living in Los Angeles for best results. The young family left their safe Utah haven for Los Angeles, literally living on prayers. They used their formidable connections within the church to secure an apartment in Los Angeles. Then Jacobs got himself a minimum wage job, while his wife got their three children hooked up with Mary Grady, the Hollywood agent. In fact, the whole family started looking for show biz work in Hollywood, but the kids saw more action. 

What follows is Kimball Jacobs’ story of how his three older kids (youngest son Tyler was born after Rachel, Christian, and Parker had become established actors) became child actors. I won’t call them stars, though, because none of them ever really made it big. Jacobs points out that at one point, all three kids were regulars on network series, but that success was short-lived. 

In my opinion, Jacobs really comes off like a stage dad. It looks like he was really wanting his kids to become big stars and perhaps, ride on their coattails. This book reads like a poorly written resume, with Jacobs’ kids accomplishments listed and little else besides a gratuitous amount of self-important preaching.  Faith and Fortune is also riddled with typos and grammatical errors. Jacobs uses awkward sentence constructions and seems to have a particularly irritating penchant for writing in the passive voice. It’s clear to me that this book was never edited by a professional or even its author, for that matter. 

Faith and Fortune does not include any pictures, which would have made this book a little bit more worthwhile. Instead, it’s full of testimony bearing for the LDS Church and moralizing. Jacobs continually states that he and his family have high conduct standards and were constantly butting heads with agents and Hollywood types over the lines their kids would say, the products they would endorse, and how they would dress. I don’t really fault them for having standards, especially when it comes to how their kids were portrayed, but I got the feeling that Jacobs was expecting his family to make it big. And they weren’t willing to play by Hollywood’s rules in order to achieve that end. As it stands now, none of the Jacobs kids are still working in Hollywood (ETA: As of 2014, it looks like Parker and Christian may be back in the biz). What’s more, I got the impression (though I may be wrong about this) that the Jacobs kids were completely financially supporting their parents!

Faith and Fortune does include some interesting gossip about other kid stars from the 1980s. Jacobs dishes a little bit about Ricky Schroder, who apparently had a crush on Rachel. He shares a little bit about jobs that his kids had on popular sitcoms like Family TiesGrowing PainsSilver Spoons, and the short-lived All in the Family spinoff, Gloria. But the information that he provides is not very worthwhile and it is, very much, gossip. It’s not even firsthand gossip, either, since most of what he writes about are things that he heard about from his kids. 

I think that Kimball Jacobs could have written a decent book, had he taken the time to expand his story a bit, added some pictures, and included more insight into his experiences as a Hollywood dad. I do think that this book is more about his experience as a Mormon Hollywood dad than it is about his children’s experiences as child actors. And, while I’m not knocking Jacobs for having great faith in his religion, I do think that he pushed it a little too much. I think he could have written about his faith without constantly beating his readers over the head with it. 

Yes, Faith and Fortune: A Mormon Family in Hollywood has a high suck factor. Fortunately for you, dear readers, this book takes some effort to find. It’s not likely that you’d buy this book by mistake. I’m offering my opinion so that anyone who might be curious about reading it on purpose will think twice about it. Unfortunately, it’s garbage like this that give print on demand books a bad name.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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