LDS, religion

Repost: “Liberal Mormons”

Here’s a repost from March 22, 2018. I don’t have a particular reason to bust on the Mormons today, but I felt this post might be helpful for someone out there. Religious abuse in families is a thing, and the photos in those prove it.

Yesterday, someone shared an article about the practice of shunning within the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  I got sucked into a discussion about it in the Duggar group I’m in.  There were a few folks saying that shunning doesn’t happen in the JWs, the Mormons, and other religious groups where shunning is supposedly rampant.  I was reminded of a couple of documents Mormon parents gave to their wayward children and helpfully shared them with the group.  If you read this blog regularly, you might have already seen these.  I am reposting them for the curious.

I was actually surprised it took as long as it did, but several hours after I posted these, a so-called “liberal” Mormon spoke up to tell us that these letters don’t represent the norm in LDS families.  She was careful to explain that she’s liberal and liberal Mormons exist… and church members, as a whole, aren’t really as “weird” as these letters make them sound.

Actually, when I originally posted these letters, I was careful to mention that not all Mormon families do this.  There are millions of people in the LDS church and many of them are perfectly good folks.  However, it’s disingenuous to say that shunning doesn’t occur in Mormonism.  It does.  It may not happen in your family or your friends’ families, but it happens in other families.  By the way… it also happens among families in other strict religions that require family involvement, which I also pointed out.

These examples happen to be from Mormon families because I spend a lot of time following stories related to Mormonism.  The LDS church has affected my husband personally.  I would imagine that if Bill’s ex wife had been a Jehovah’s Witness convert, I would be following that faith more carefully.  I do a lot of reading about the JWs anyway, because one of my cousins was a JW for awhile.  He and his family left the church because the local leaders wanted to put a child molester in charge (or so that was the official explanation as to why they left).  

The point is, shunning is a thing and it happens a lot in religious circles.  It has two purposes.  One, is to punish anyone who goes astray.  The other purpose is to warn anyone within the group who is thinking about going astray.  If you leave the toxic group, you will be ostracized.  You’ll lose people who are important to you.  Your support system will fall apart.  These kinds of groups, by design, separate their members from other people in society, labeling them as “bad influences”.  At first, the intimate nature of the group seems close, loving, and maybe even special.  After awhile, when the group becomes toxic, that intimacy becomes a powerful incentive to stay invested.  By the time a lot of people decide to leave, the people in the group are all they have.  Leaving means striking out alone, and that’s too scary for many group members to consider.  So they continue to toe the line.

Here’s another point I’d make to “liberal” Mormons who don’t like it when these kinds of threatening letters put shade on their religious beliefs.  If you’re in a group designed to “bash” fundamentalist Christians like the Duggars, shouldn’t you expect that people might discuss other, less mainstream religions?  Although many mainstream Mormons have been trying to be “normal” for a long time, the fact is, the Mormon leadership actually pride church members for being “peculiar”.  

Russell M. Nelson explains “peculiar”…

Another thing I noticed when I posted these letters is that at least one person felt these “rules” were perfectly fine.  In the second group of photos, it sounds like the parent may be confronting his son for doing “illegal” or inappropriate things.  I think it’s important to mention that many Mormons think that people who leave the church will immediately fall into illegal or immoral behavior without the strict church teachings to keep them in line.  Many Mormons, who have no experience with things like alcohol, marijuana, or even sex outside of marriage, assume that people who drink, smoke weed, or have sex do so to excess.  That’s not necessarily so.  

I know some people get upset when I share things like this.  However, I did get one private message from someone yesterday who thanked me.  She is an ex Mormon and she gets it.  I’m sorry if some people are offended because they feel “attacked” by critical posts about their religion.  I say, if it doesn’t apply to you, you probably shouldn’t take heed.  Or maybe you should…  But there is a reason why church members are discouraged from reading “anti” Mormon literature.  It’s because the leaders know that criticism is a threat to their members’ testimonies… and when members lose their testimonies, they leave.  That means less money and power for the church as a whole.  Think about it.

Standard
Duggars, narcissists, religion, YouTube

Jana Duggar… poster child for stay at home daughters and keeping sweet!

I’m getting a late start on my blog post today. It’s because I got sidetracked watching YouTube videos. One of the videos I saw was posted by none other than Katie Joy, of Without a Crystal Ball. I know a lot of people don’t like KJ for whatever reason. I am not involved in that drama myself. I think her videos are interesting and thought provoking, but I am pretty neutral when it comes to whether or not I think she’s a good content producer or about her as a person. I did find her recent video about Jana Duggar and “stay at home daughters”, in general, interesting viewing.

What is a stay at home daughter?

Stay at home daughters are usually the eldest daughters in large, fundie Christian families. They typically don’t get married or find jobs. Instead, they stay in their parents’ homes and help raise the youngest children. Then, as the parents get older, the stay at home daughter takes care of them. In the Duggar Family’s case, it’s said that eldest daughter, Jana, is a “stay at home daughter”. I don’t know if that’s actually true, although it does appear to be so. At this writing, Jana is 32 years old and evidently still sleeps in the same bedroom with her much younger sisters. But then, Jana has never had the simple luxury of having her own bedroom. She grew up with many siblings in a home that was much too small. Privacy is a concept with which she’s probably got very little experience.

Is Jana really a stay at home daughter?

I look at Jana and I think she’s absolutely beautiful. She’s very capable, in spite of having been educated at her parents’ dining room table. She’s done everything from rearing children to heavy construction work. I’ve noticed that she’s even wearing pants lately, which is a new development. I would hope that she’s been exposed to the world enough to understand that her father doesn’t own her. But there’s really no telling what the truth is about being Jim Bob Duggar’s daughter.

Young women in the IBLP cult are raised to believe that they are always under a man’s power. They belong to their fathers until they get married. Then, once they marry, they become their husband’s “property”, for lack of a better term. They’re expected to have babies and serve their husbands and the church. They don’t have a voice. They aren’t supposed to work for money. They are supposed to wear skirts and grow their hair and do what the man says.

Fundies live for this…

To be sure, Jana Duggar’s lifestyle isn’t like that of her sisters closest in age to her. They’ve all been married off and have their own babies. But there’s Jana, 32 years old and still having to take orders from her father, sleeping in a big “dorm” room with her little sisters. Maybe this is the way she prefers it. Who knows? I have heard rumors of her “courting”, but then the courtships invariably fizzle out. I’m sure Josh’s recent trial has had an effect on Jana’s prospects for escaping the Duggar compound. After all, Josh’s seven children need help with their raising now…

I think I was especially interested in watching this video because I’ve seen a similar dynamic in my husband’s older daughter’s life. Older daughter is a few months older than Jana is, and she’s still living in her mother’s home. We’ve heard that she does all of the housework and takes care of her brother. There have been a few times she’s been allowed to leave the home. For instance, she spent some time working with her brother in another state. But even though she reportedly thrived on her own and enjoyed her work, she always faithfully returns to Ex. She supposedly doesn’t have privacy, autonomy, or apparently, much respect. She takes care of everything while Ex presumably sits on her ass, grifts money and gifts from people, and tweets.

Now… older daughter isn’t a fundie. She was raised LDS, which is something her mother pushed. She was not born into Mormonism. Ex decided that she liked the church’s teachings– or maybe the emphasis on family units and staying married for eternity. Ex doesn’t like abandonment. However, the whole Mormon thing seems to have fallen apart. Ex supposedly isn’t in the church so much now, especially since it became more of a burden than a blessing. She just runs her “mini cult” by convincing her grown children that they will suffer without her. Even the ones who aren’t living under her roof anymore are given the message that they have to do what she wants, or else.

I really think this “stay at home daughter” thing often has more to do with narcissism than religion. I think a lot of narcissists are attracted to super strict religions, because it allows them to maintain control over their mini family cults. A lot of strict religions place a lot of emphasis on families, and keeping everyone in the family on the same page, as it were. Where things get into trouble is when the church tries to intervene, or people within a church point out that legalism and power mongering isn’t very Christlike behavior.

I’m sure there are people in the world who like the “stay at home daughter” trend. Some people might be very happy in that role, staying in their parents’ homes, taking care of the house, younger siblings, and later on, their parents. Maybe it works in some situations. To me, it sounds like a special kind of hell. But maybe Jana Duggar and her ilk like how they’re living their lives. I just think it’s sad… because Jana appears to me to be a very smart, capable person who could be living life on her own terms. I feel the same way about older daughter… and I think it’s sad that older daughter can’t or won’t take advantage of the many people, her father included, who would help her escape the situation she’s in. But again… maybe it makes her happy. I don’t know… she doesn’t talk about it.

Anyway… I did run across an interesting blog post about the concept of “stay at home daughters”. The person who wrote it seems happy enough with her lot. It would definitely not be for me, though. I spent two years living with my parents after I came home from the Peace Corps. It was not easy. Thank God for graduate school.

Standard
healthcare, LDS, mental health, Military, religion, true crime

Sweeping stuff under the rug leads to years of abuse…

Thanks to my regular reader, commenter, and friend Alexis, I have fallen down yet another true crime rabbit hole. Yesterday, I reposted a review of the now out-of-print book Doc, by true crime author Jack Olsen. I found out about Doc from the Recovery from Mormonism messageboard, a place where I’ve “hung out” online for years. I know from hanging out on RfM that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is no stranger to controversy. It’s also had its share of perverts among its ranks, some of whom have committed crimes that were, unfortunately, “swept under the rug”.

The story of Doc is about a non-Mormon physician named John Story who worked in Lovell, Wyoming, a heavily Mormon populated town. Story took advantage of the local mores and religious customs on Lovell as he perpetrated sex crimes on his female patients, many of whom were faithful members of the LDS church.

Alexis, who shares my interest in Mormonism, alerted me to a similar story about the late LaVar Withers, a Mormon physician from Rexburg, Idaho who similarly abused his patients. Rexburg, Idaho, like Lovell, Wyoming, is a town that is chock full of LDS church members. And, just as Dr. John Story took advantage of his patients, many of whom were sexually inexperienced and very vulnerable, Dr. LaVar Withers also took advantage of his patients. According to the Los Angeles Times, Withers was forced to give up his medical license in 1996 when someone finally spoke up about his unconventional examinations. He had been “practicing medicine” by giving his female patients inappropriate breast and vagina exams for over thirty years. Yes, people talked about it in town, but no one ever officially reported him to the police until the 1990s. He victimized women, but he also victimized young girls, under the guise of giving them “care”. LaVar Withers died in 2005.

Before I go any further, I want to state that I’m not specifically trying to pick on the Mormons. Having heard and read so much about disgraced Dr. Larry Nassar’s sex crimes against hundreds of female athletes, I know that this is a problem that doesn’t just affect members of the LDS church. However, I think it’s true that highly restrictive religions or other groups that emphasize sexual purity, virginity, patriarchy, and taking care of issues “internally” can lead to a lot of innocent people being abused by people with authority. Although gymnastics is not a religion, per se, it is a discipline that requires a lot of obedience. Gymnasts are taught to do what they’re told. Female gymnasts, in particular, are vulnerable because they’re usually children who are not yet ready to stand up to adults, particularly ones in authority like coaches and doctors. In that sense, women who are devout members of patriarchal religions, like Mormonism, may also be vulnerable to abuse by male church leaders or physicians.

Because my husband was a victim of domestic violence in his first marriage, as well as a former convert member of the LDS church, I am more aware of the cases affecting Mormons. I do know, however, that this is an issue that transcends a lot of communities– particularly those that are “closed” somehow. I would say that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with its somewhat secretive (they say “sacred) rituals, patriarchal authority systems, and emphasis on “callings”, may make some members more ripe for the picking by abusive people with authority, like Dr. John Story and Dr. LaVar Withers. Story was not LDS, but he served a heavily Mormon population. And his patients, particularly the females, were trained to trust and obey people like him.

Also consider that the LDS church does not have a professional clergy. The church is led by high ranking males who tend to be pillars of the community somehow, not necessarily people with training in religion or counseling. A man with a white collar career, say a doctor, professor, lawyer, or dentist, is likely to climb the highest echelons of church hierarchy. A lowly woman, especially one who doesn’t have a career, was not likely to be believed when she complains about someone like LaVar Withers, who was a popular and well-known physician and a pillar of the community.

But there were complaints– in fact, the earliest one dated from the mid 1960s. A woman named Carol Hannah visited Dr. Withers because she was having trouble shaking a bad cold. Somehow, her complaint about her cold turned into a very intimate breast and vagina exam. When she reported him to the police, they laughed at her and accused her of “misunderstanding” what he was doing. She was dismissed and her complaints were completely ignored. Other women who complained over the years were also ignored, and none of them were willing to sign their complaints against him, anyway. It was too shameful and scandalous for them.

In 1992, a parent wrote to the Madison Memorial Hospital’s then executive director, Keith Steiner, about how Withers had examined, without a nurse present, her daughter’s breast and pelvic area after she went to the emergency room having been hit in the head by a volleyball. Instead of thoroughly investigating the issue, Mr. Steiner wrote back that he had received an “absolute denial” of the allegations from Dr. Withers. Steiner added  “I will say that I have not had any indication of this type of behavior from the doctor. He is greatly respected in our community.”

In the L.A. Times article about LaVar Withers, journalist Barry Siegel writes about what happened when a female church member confronted her bishop about Dr. LaVar Withers’ unconventional medical exams. The woman, Tee Andrew, was a convert to the church. She was highly respected and married to an accountant. Because her regular doctor had retired, she visited Dr. Withers, complaining of a severe migraine. She had heard stories about him, but figured he wouldn’t try anything with her, because her husband was in the room. And yet, even though Andrew’s husband was present, Dr. Withers still managed to feel up Tee Andrew’s breasts. He did so with a straight face, as if this was a perfectly normal and natural part of an exam for a migraine headache.

Tee Andrew then called the Idaho Board of Medicine, which reported that Dr. Withers had never been sanctioned by them. That was because there had never been any formal allegations against Dr. Withers, even though many people had informally complained. When Andrew called her former physician, Dr. Jud Miller, he said that he’d heard of “some problems”, but thought Withers had stopped. Then he advised Andrew to contact LaVar Williams’ “stake president”– that is the church leader above his bishop. Note that Miller didn’t tell his former patient to call the police or speak to the licensing authorities. She was told to keep this within the church. So she called LaVar Withers’ stake president, Farrell Young, a dentist who was the great great grandson of Brigham Young himself. According to the Los Angeles Times:

“I’m not going to mince words,” Andrew began. Then she told her story, and offered to take a polygraph test. According to Andrew, Young mainly expressed his sorrow and appreciation for her call, right up until she told him she meant to notify the police.

“I wish you wouldn’t do that now,” Young responded. “I’d appreciate you letting me take care of things from my end.”

In an interview months later with the Idaho Statesman newspaper, Young didn’t dispute this account. Yes, he agreed, he “may have said do not go to the police immediately,” because Mormon doctrine stresses forgiveness. “When people have a hurt, they should leave it alone. Put it away and look for the good.”

Sure enough… Andrew waited a month for action from Farrell Young against LaVar Withers. None ever came. He never contacted her with an update about the situation. So Tee Andrew finally went to the police and made her complaint. Then she started talking to other women in the community. Sure enough, the stories came pouring out. And that was what finally led to LaVar Withers’ resignation from medicine. However, he managed to leave the profession with a cheery news article, his reputation– temporarily– intact.

Again– these specific incidents have to do with the LDS church, mainly because that church was a specific interest of mine for a long time. It’s less so now, since Bill’s daughters are grown. But it’s not just the Mormons who have these issues with sweeping crimes under the rug and handling them “internally”. As anyone who has followed the Duggar family over the years knows, the Mormons do not corner the market on abusing women. Back in 2015, the entire planet was made aware of Josh Duggar’s propensity toward molesting women. It came out that Josh had sexually abused four of his sisters and a babysitter. And instead of reporting the issue to the police and having Josh deal with legal consequences, his parents chose to sweep the issue under the rug. Instead of getting counseling for their son, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar made him shave his head and sent him away to do hard labor for a family friend.

Years later, it came out that not only did Josh molest his sisters and a babysitter, he also cheated on his wife, Anna. Sadly, instead of divorcing Josh and taking their children away from him, Anna has stood by her man and had more children with him. Although we have not heard more reports about his misdeeds with women, I would not be surprised if the abuse continues. I’m all for letting people redeem themselves, but I don’t think the way religious groups handle these kinds of issues is particularly effective. Sweeping things under the rug doesn’t solve anything. There have to be real consequences and a commitment to contrition and restitution. Unfortunately, proven abusers, particularly those who get away with the behavior for many years, don’t tend to change their ways.

LaVar Withers was eventually sentenced to 30 days in jail on a misdemeanor battery charge against his patients. That is a ridiculously light sentence, especially given that Withers had complaints against him going back over 30 years. The LDS church also disciplined him by taking his “temple recommend” and placing him on probation. However, the whole thing was handled privately. It seems that restrictive religions tend to want to come up with their own discipline against members who violate the law. And those practices can lead to more abuse of the innocent.

Restrictive religions can also help create predators and allow them to flourish, even among non members. I reposted my articles about Heath J. Sommer, a Mormon psychotherapist who convinced female patients in the military that having sex with him would be therapeutic. After reading about Sommer, I started getting LDS vibes. I looked him up, and sure enough, he was a church member. And he no doubt used his church affiliation to make himself seem more trustworthy and humane as he told some of his clients that they should be giving him blow jobs as part of their therapy. I don’t know what Sommer’s specific issues are. I kind of wonder if maybe he has a problem with women in power, and that’s why he worked with females in the military. One of his victims was an Air Force colonel. Many people felt she should have known better, but she trusted him and expected that he would be competent. In some ways, the military can be as bad as strict religions in covering up and perpetuating abuse.

Many people will give religious people the benefit of the doubt, especially when the churchgoer is a man with multiple academic degrees and a successful career. Another example of this is Dr. Martin MacNeill, a Mormon doctor, lawyer, and bishop who murdered his wife after she’d had plastic surgery. People trusted Dr. MacNeill because of his lofty career and church status. But if anyone had taken the time to look beneath Dr. MacNeill’s “respectable” surface, they might have seen that he wasn’t as good a person as he seemed to be.

Anyway… I could write about this subject all day. It’s probably time I closed this particular post. But I will probably revisit this topic soon, because I think it’s an important one. I think our culture, especially, hates confrontation. Too many of us are willing to let things slide and sweep egregiously bad behavior under the rug. We blame ourselves when people do wrong. We look back on what we said and did for any indication that something bad that happened was our fault. This happens a lot with women, especially, and if you’re a part of a strict patriarchal group, such as a religion, the military, or even a sport like women’s gymnastics, it can be all too easy to surrender common sense and self-respect.

It can be so easy to let a fear of humiliation and shame scare us into keeping silent. It’s happened to me. Fighting back is hard, and sometimes it leads to disaster. I’m writing about this to encourage my readers to speak up rather than sweep up. Don’t let abusive people get away with their bad behavior. The longer they do it, the more emboldened they become. And if you don’t do your part to stop them, you become part of the problem and even a bit complicit when the next person suffers.

Standard