book reviews, LDS, psychology, true crime

Repost: A review of Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight

Here’s an as/is book review that was originally posted on February 10, 2016.

So, I just finished M.E. Thomas’s Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight (2013).  I think I’m left with mixed impressions of this book.  On the positive side, I thought it was reasonably well written, if not occasionally a bit dry.  Thomas offers some interesting theories as to how having sociopathic tendencies could be a positive for some people.  On the negative side, I found Thomas to be rather unlikable, occasionally disturbing, and really more narcissistic than sociopathic.  Also, though she frequently describes herself as “smarter” than regular people and above being emotional, I notice that she does some really dumb things.

I think one of the dumbest things Thomas (a pseudonym) did was go on the Dr. Phil show after she published this book.  I own a newer edition of Confessions of a Sociopath.  At the end of the book, there are some extra materials that include an epilogue about the aftermath of Thomas’s decision to publish Confessions of a Sociopath. 

Thomas writes that she was very careful not to share too much about herself on her blog or in her book.  And yet, Internet sleuths being what they are, her real identity was discovered and she was promptly fired from her job as a law professor.  She was also barred from being within 1000 feet of the university where she worked.  Thomas writes that she doesn’t think the restriction is legally enforceable and notes that it is a significant inconvenience to her, since the area around the school includes her bank, several public transportation stops, and other places she’d need to visit.  Thomas writes that personality disorders are legally protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), but she doesn’t think a jury would be sympathetic to her if she decided to sue. 

From what I can tell, Thomas is still LDS, which I think is pretty much the height of stupidity.  Based on what I’ve read, Thomas was employed by Brigham Young University, which is a Mormon owned school.  She complains that they are discriminating against her; just as they do to many people, to include homosexuals and apostates.  And yet, she’s still in the church.  

Even if I didn’t have serious issues with the way some Mormons treat others who aren’t like them, and even though I realize that there are many attractive, talented, and otherwise intelligent people in the church, I just think Joseph Smith was a liar and a con man, among other things.  People who choose to believe the lies the church was based on and accept its policies are, in my opinion, showing some serious logic deficits.  But then, Thomas writes that she frequently does things that other people might think of as crazy or stupid.  She habitually lives in the sketchiest parts of town, where rents are cheap but burglaries are frequent.  She even walked in on a burglary once, yet didn’t decide to move. 

A lot of the examples Thomas uses to describe her so-called “sociopathic” behavior don’t seem all that sociopathic to me.  She writes of one incident where she gets angry at a guy working at the metro in Washington, DC.  The guy yells at her for trespassing.  She says she wants to kill him and follows him for a couple of blocks before she loses him.  In another passage, she writes of trying to kill a baby opossum in a swimming pool.  It fell in there and was on its way to drowning before she found it.  She isn’t able to do it.  Later, she fishes the corpse out of the pool and tosses it over a fence.  Big deal.  She fights with her father.  Who hasn’t? 

Thomas repeatedly explains that she doesn’t really enjoy being a lawyer.  She says she’s a lazy person who thrives on any activity that allows her to game “the system”.  Maybe law was a good field for her for that reason, but one thing good lawyers should be able to do is show good judgment and protect one’s reputation.  I don’t think publishing this book was an example of good judgment, even though Thomas claims that she’s okay with the consequences.  Given that she admits to being sexually attracted to and acting on her attraction to both males and females, I’m surprised she’s still LDS.  She does write that being Mormon forces her to be accountable and a “good person”, so maybe that’s a good thing.   At the same time, she writes about how bloodless and calculating lawyers are.  Hmmm…

I did find Thomas’s anecdotal examples of what makes someone sociopathic versus narcissistic somewhat interesting, though I’m not sure I totally agreed with them.  And, again, I have certainly read books that were not as well written.  I don’t think Thomas is very likable, though she insists that she is… and that people don’t seem to notice her sociopathic tendencies.  I find that somewhat hard to believe, though maybe I’m biased.  Thomas does write that she runs into a lot of people who think sociopaths are inherently evil people.  I’m not sure if that’s true, since I’m not really certain that Thomas is a sociopath.  To me, she seems a lot more like a malignant narcissist than a sociopath.  I’m no expert on sociopaths, though…. On the other hand, I’m not so sure Thomas is, either.

Anyway, I didn’t hate this book.  I didn’t love it.  It has three stars on Amazon.com and I think that’s what I’d give it, too.  Thomas is clearly intelligent and some of what she writes is interesting.  Since she lost her job, maybe it’s not a bad thing that I bought her book.  Of course, given her self-proclaimed ability to charm people, she’s probably landed on her feet somewhere.  Who knows?  Read it if it interests you, though I certainly wouldn’t call Confessions of a Sociopath a must read.

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mental health, movies, true crime, TV

Celebrity stalkhers… guys who can’t accept rejection.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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book reviews, LDS, religion

Repost: Sam Brower’s Prophet’s Prey…

Here’s a reposted exmo lit review for those who like that sort of thing.  It’s yet another review of a book I enjoyed and don’t want to have to review again. It was originally written for Epinions.com in November 2012 and appears here “as/is”.

I have been interested in reading about the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) for several years, even before the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas was raided in the spring of 2008.  My fascination with fundamentalist Mormonism comes from being married to an ex Mormon.  The mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) does not claim any kinship with the FLDS sect, which parted ways with the LDS church mainly over the issue of polygamy.  They are separate entities, with the FLDS sect mainly operating in the twin cities of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona.  Other branches are located in Texas, Mexico, and Canada. 

Having already read Jon Krakauer’s book, Under the Banner of Heaven, I was intrigued when I saw that he had collaborated with author Sam Brower in writing the 2011 book Prophet’s Prey: My Seven-Year Investigation into Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-day Saints.  I knew if Krakauer had anything to do with the book, it would be well-researched and well-written.  So I ordered it for my Kindle.  A printed version is also available.

The premise

Sam Brower is a private investigator and Mormon convert who moved to Utah after having lived in southern California for many years.  He got involved with investigating the FLDS sect in 2004, when a family asked for his help in extricating themselves from the FLDS.  He accepted a payment of one dollar, which he, in fact, had to loan to the family because they were too poor to pay him.  When they became his paying clients, Brower was able to work on his clients’ behalf. That’s when he began to uncover Warren Jeffs’ amazing fiefdom which had been allowed to exist largely unmolested in Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Colorado.

Brower became familiar with the people involved in fundamentalist Mormonism and had his eyes opened to the extreme control Warren Jeffs, the so-called FLDS living prophet, maintained over his flock.  He learned of girls as young as twelve being “married” to men in their 40s, even though these men already had other wives.  Brower writes of how members of the FLDS were compelled to do whatever Warren Jeffs demanded of them, lest they lose everything.  Jeffs was unconcerned about and unconstrained by federal law.  He ran his compound as if it existed entirely seperate from the rest of the United States.  Over seven years, Sam Brower learned about it all and wrote about his experiences in a comprehensive and well-written account.

My thoughts

I have read several books about Mormon fundamentalists, so I was already familiar with some of the sects’ practices and beliefs.  Nevetheless, it was interesting to read Sam Brower’s account of following the FLDS.  He writes in a personal tone which comes across as both matter-of-fact and occasionally disgusted.  I was definitely interested when he wrote about some of the techniques he used to get information and stop FLDS people from harassing him as he went about his duties. 

Sam Brower is clearly no friend to Jeffs.  He writes in vivid detail about watching Jeffs being loaded onto an airplane in Utah, escorted by Texas Rangers on his way to Texas, where he would stand trial for raping minors.  Jeffs is described as a bit of a nerdy pipsqueak, and yet he was able to command his followers to do his bidding.  I had a hard time reading some of the chapters, especially the one that had to do with Jeffs’ declaration that no FLDS family should own a pet dog and the ones having to do with young girls being forced to marry middle aged or even elderly men. 

Brower includes commentary about the raid on the Yearning For Zion Ranch as well as the court case that followed the raid.  He writes about the incredibly incestuous nature of FLDS families, many of whom are intermarried and interbred.  Brower explains how the children, particularly the young mothers, who were taken from the ranch made it very difficult for investigators to figure out exactly what was going on.  He also writes a great deal about the way members of the FLDS sect use government programs and funding to expand their empire.  And he makes it clear that this sect has been allowed to do these things unbothered for many years– in part, because in Utah, there are many people who are related to FLDS members and are ambivalent about prosecuting them for breaking laws related to polygamy.  Brower also includes photos, which were clear as a bell on my iPad.

Overall

If you’re curious about the FLDS sect and want to know more about Warren Jeffs and his followers, I think Prophet’s Prey is an excellent book to read.  Brower is a good writer and has the backing of Jon Krakauer, who is also an excellent writer.  This book held my intention and informed me.  I think it rates five stars.

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LDS, religion

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

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

noun

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

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

the object of such devotion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.

No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.

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

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

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

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

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

Followers feel they can never be “good enough”.

The group/leader is always right.

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

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

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

I’m with her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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complaints, family, healthcare

Repost: No, vasectomies are NOT totally reversible!

I am reposting this article I wrote in September 2018 because I keep seeing memes promoting (in jest) forcing men to get vasectomies because they are “totally reversible”. Unfortunately, Bill and I know from personal experience that that’s not always true. Besides, I don’t agree with pressuring anyone– male or female– to have elective surgery. That should be a personal decision made by the person having the surgery and forced to live with the aftermath of it.

Yesterday, someone in the Duggar group posted this article, based on tweets by a Mormon mom of six who lays out why she thinks men are responsible for every “unwanted” pregnancy.  The mom, name of Gabrielle Blair, reminds everyone that women can only get pregnant for a couple of days every month, while men could theoretically get different women pregnant thousands of times per month.  Because men are so easily able to impregnate women, she believes they should be more responsible about birth control.  In fact, she thinks the onus should be on men to prevent “unwanted” pregnancies.  They should be more willing to make birth control accessible, affordable, and available to all women.  And they should also be much more willing to wear condoms.

Gabrielle Blair refers to “unwanted” pregnancies, but that’s not a term I’m comfortable with.  I once used it when I was getting my MSW and was corrected by my field instructor, who told me the right term is “unintended pregnancy”.  Although I do think a lot of unintended pregnancies are also unwanted, I decided that I liked the word “unintended” better.  Sometimes women find themselves unexpectedly pregnant and later decide they’re glad about it.  So, in this post, I will refer to unintended pregnancies instead of “unwanted” pregnancies.

I agree with many of the concepts Blair discusses in her tweets.  Although birth control has never been an issue I’ve personally had a lot of concerns about, I did used to work in maternal and child health, back before I was an overeducated housewife.  I have seen the aftereffects of what happens when a woman has a child she isn’t ready to nurture.  I do think we need to make birth control readily available so that there is less of a need for abortion.  I would much rather see a woman prevent an unintended pregnancy than have an abortion.

The one thing that I don’t agree with, however, is the idea that vasectomies are totally reversible.  Blair tweets this concept, after just having suggested castration as a penalty for men who cause unintended pregnancies.  Of course she realizes that castration as punishment for a man who accidentally impregnates a woman would never happen.  So then she “jokingly” suggests required vasectomies for boys at the onset of puberty.

It’s really not that simple.


Before I get too cranked up with my comments about this, let me say that I know that, just like the castration law Blair suggested, forced vasectomies for pubescent boys would also never happen.  Maybe if we only had female lawmakers who were also extreme feminists with a cruelty streak, something like that could possibly be considered, but even then, I really doubt it.  The United States would have to turn into a completely matriarchal society with a hefty dose of The Handmaid’s Tale thrown in for good measure.  Blair’s suggestions are very sci-fi and interesting to ponder, but completely implausible and highly unlikely to happen in my lifetime.

That being established, I will agree that microsurgeries have come a long way and a lot of men are able to successfully have their vasectomies reversed even years after the vasectomy was done.  However, I can also speak from personal experience that not every reversal will result in a man regaining his fertility.  I know this because my husband had a vasectomy reversal that was technically successful.  He had 90 million “swimmers” after he underwent a 4 hour operation to reconnect his junk.  And yet, here we sit, still childless. I know we aren’t the only ones who had this outcome after a reversal, either.

Now… it’s entirely possible that the reason we didn’t have children could be because of something other than Bill’s vasectomy reversal not working.  For all I know, I didn’t get pregnant because something is wrong with me.  However, even if that were the case, the fact remains that not every vasectomy reversal will result in pregnancy.  The Mayo Clinic reports that reversal surgery can be anywhere from 30% to 90% effective.  A lot depends on the conditions the surgeon has to work with.  The reversal surgery has the best chance of working if it’s done within a few years of the vasectomy, the patient is young and healthy, the vasectomy was done with a minimum of scarring, and the surgeon has mad skills.

In Bill’s case, it had been about eleven years since he’d gotten snipped.  At first, his surgeon told him that he might have to do a more complicated procedure, since it had been so long since his vasectomy (done in 1993).  In the end, they did a less complicated procedure.  A couple of weeks later, a different doctor– not the one who did Bill’s surgery, because that guy got deployed to Iraq– told Bill that he needed to be careful where he pointed his “thing”, since he was firing “live ammunition”.  They’d found 90 million sperm in his sample.  Sadly, not a single one was able to penetrate any of my eggs, despite multiple attempts at the right time of the month.

After a couple of years, we quit trying, deciding that we’d rather not go through other methods of trying to conceive. Our decision about that mostly had to do with finances, and my realization that I didn’t want to be a parent badly enough to go through all of what becoming a parent in a non-traditional way entails.

I don’t know why I never got pregnant.  We did try.  There were a few things beyond our control that got in the way of conception, not the least of which was Bill’s own adventure in Iraq.  However, even if I had gotten pregnant, I still would never agree that reversals are 100% successful.  That wouldn’t be true.  Although many men can regain their fertility after having a vasectomy reversal, at least for a time, the fact is, sometimes men aren’t able to get it back.  Their bodies start seeing sperm as something foreign that needs to be destroyed or there’s too much scar tissue.  

Aside from that, reversal surgery is expensive, delicate and involved, and requires time off work.  In our case, Bill was able to have it done for free, courtesy of an Army urologist who needed to maintain his skills.  He also got plenty of time to recover, thanks to his understanding Army bosses at the time.  But most men won’t have the opportunity Bill had to get that surgery for free.  Reversals are also a hell of a lot more involved than vasectomies are.  They take much longer, cost a lot more, and are riskier.  Those who do get reversal surgery will also need to be able to take the time to recuperate.  

I totally agree with Blair’s main points that birth control is important and should be easier to get.  She’s right that men should be more willing to do their part to prevent unintended pregnancies.  However, I think it’s wrong to promote sterilization surgery as an easy fix for anyone, especially with the irresponsible comment that vasectomies are “totally reversible”.  They’re not.  

Vasectomies are intended to be permanent sterilization.  Any man who gets one should do it with the knowledge that it will possibly permanently end his ability to father children the easy way.  If they’re alright with that, fine.  But no man should ever have a vasectomy believing that someday, he can simply have it reversed and father children without medical intervention.  It doesn’t always work out that way, and it’s irresponsible of Blair to promote the idea that it does, even if her comments were really intended jokingly as sort of a “modest proposal”.

I made a comment about how vasectomy reversals aren’t always successful in the Duggar Family News group and immediately got a ration of shit from a couple of the members who wanted to argue with me about it. One woman said that in her hospital, 95% of reversals are successful with “swimmers”.  I called bullshit on that.  I don’t know that woman from Adam, and have no idea what her background is, but it’s a well established fact that reversals don’t always work, even if the surgeon is a superstar.  I would be very skeptical if any medical professional claimed that success rate, because not every candidate is going to get those results, regardless of the quality of the facility and the skill of the staff performing the operation.  

Another woman commented with some tripe about how I should be more sensitive to the women who have to deal with preventing pregnancy.  I AM sensitive to the women.  I DO agree that birth control for both partners is a good thing and both people are responsible.  I simply don’t agree with the idea that forcing boys to have vasectomies is a good idea, even if the idea is presented in jest.  

I would be horrified if anyone suggested tying the tubes of pre-pubescent girls, rationalizing that they can later have the operation reversed.  I am just as horrified by the suggestion that we should be giving vasectomies to boys to prevent them from knocking up girls.  That’s an extreme and unethical solution, and even as a joke, it’s really not funny in my opinion.  But what really prompted me to write this morning is the idea that a decision to be permanently sterilized is easily undone.  It’s not, and reputable medical institutions confirm that it’s not. We should be more respectful about every person’s right to make personal decisions about their own bodies without pressure or interference from other people.

That being said… although I always wanted children, I now think it’s a blessing that I don’t have them, and am mostly at peace with not being someone’s mother. I do sometimes wonder what a child between Bill and me would have been like, though. Then, after I fantasize about it, I realize I wouldn’t wish today’s fucked up world on any child of mine. Also… I wonder how in the world Gabrielle Blair can be a Mormon and be as much of a feminist as she is. She’s either simply a cultural Mormon or she has some serious cognitive dissonance going on.

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