Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Sexual Abuse Survivor Responds to Joseph Smith's Polygamy

I just had to share this post. I really have nothing more to add to it, it's so well and beautifully written.

A Sexual Abuse Survivor Responds to Joseph Smith's Polygamy

I am not a sexual abuse survivor however I have empathy for those who are. Please take a moment and read this and support the writer.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The God Blaming Card

The world blames God.

We blame Him for everything. We blame Him for children starving in Africa. We blame Him for our car breaking down. We blame him for allowing people to kill each other. Even atheists who don't believe in God blame God. "If there really were a God..." or "I can't believe in a God that would..."

And maybe sometimes it's fair to blame God because we don't understand. Frankly I think He can take it.

The interesting thing I see happening now, is that people who would never dream of blaming God, are blaming God.

And it isn't for things that aren't understandable, like why children are starving in Africa and why my car breaks down.

Nope, it's out of protection of men.

In the LDS church there is such a strong belief in prophets and apostles that there is almost an infallibility belief. "Sure they aren't perfect, but they're still like perfect."

Joseph Smith married young teenage girls. Now most of those people that defend him would find marrying teenage girls repugnant, criminal by anyone else. After all, Warren Jeffs, the fundamentalist prophet was downright evil. Ask any LDS person.

Those same people will defend Joseph. "God told him to. If God told him to, then it must have been right."

That would be God blaming. For some reason the idea that a man could sin so seriously as to ruin lives is harder to accept than that God Himself would send down an angel with a flaming sword and death threats to command a man to do the unthinkable and force women and young girls into marriage with him and then rape them.

See, Joseph Smith would never do that unless God told him to.

We see it in the bible. God sent His people into cities with the orders to kill every man, woman, and child, and then steal everything and take hold of the city.

Because there's no way that the children of Israel would do that on their own.

God blaming.

Men of color in the LDS church didn't get the priesthood until 1978. Why? Because God said so. It wasn't the apostles or prophets fault that they didn't have the priesthood. Their prejudices had nothing to do with it.

Women currently don't hold the priesthood because God said so. After all, the apostles and prophet would never deny women the priesthood if it was up to them. Men simply don't do that ever. Okay, sure for thousands of years women haven't been legally equal to men, and maybe that was the fault of men, but maybe it wasn't. Maybe that was God's fault too.

I want you all to read a blog post by an LDS writer. Now before you read it, let me tell you that I think she is a talented and sincere woman. Here's the link. You need to go read it so we can talk about this. "Women and the Priesthood a Mormon Woman's Perspective."

Did you read it? Or at least skim it? Or at the very least, read the hypothetical story that she wrote near the end of the post.

Okay, so now that you've read it, I'm going to tell you why I have a problem with her little story.

First off, I as much as any woman, like anti-men jokes. Tell me a joke about how dumb men are and I will laugh. Yes, it is sexist of me. I admit it.

Here's the thing about such jokes. I believe that it comes from a core of anger. Many women are angry. We're angry at the way women have been treated throughout history. We're angry that we didn't have any basic human rights until the early 20th century. We're angry that in many parts of the world, women still don't have basic human rights. We're angry that we have to always be on guard for rape. We're angry that women are abused. We're angry that until recently we didn't even have rights to our own children that we bore into the world. So we tell anti-men jokes.

It's better than killing.

Besides, along with our anger, we also love men. We love our fathers and our brothers and our uncles. Later on we add boyfriends, husbands, and sons into that love. And later grandsons become the twinkle in our eyes. We love our men. We fiercely fight for and defend our men. We will move mountains for our men. We even pick up their hard, crusty stinky socks from the floor. Some of us even wash them and put them away. Yeah, I'm not one of them. So sometimes we have trouble reconciling our love for our men with our anger towards men in general. It is two separate things and our way of coping is to make jokes about how dumb all men are.

Humans have a tendency, when they are feeling lesser, to try and beat down the people that we feel threatened by.

For instance - girl with books, danger, danger, must shoot in head.

To the Taliban, a girl with a book is a frightening thing.

I think the rise we are seeing with abusive men is anger towards women for becoming equal. Must keep women down. Must show woman who boss is.

And I think Janette Rallisons story, as entertaining as it is, is another symptom. Of course she would deny it. But if you read it, what it does is first, it treats men as if they're lazy idiots. Second, it rewards them for being lazy idiots. Third, it excuses men for being lazy idiots and fourth, it blames God for doing it.

Let me make something clear. I do not think that individually, men are lazy idiots and I do think that there are many wise and good men in the world. I also think that men as a whole have screwed things up big time. All you have to do is look at history. I would also suggest that wise and thoughtful men would agree. It would be hard to make a comparison as to how women would have done since there are so few incidents in history where women have been in charge. When they have been, they have had to behave like men in order to obtain or maintain their position. Mainly the idiot ones.

And it seems to me, that if men have screwed up so badly, where billions of people have been lost to wars, torture, and starvation, then putting them in sole charge of the "one true church"  or any church or organization is probably not a wise or fair course. Nor does it seem like something a wise or fair God would do.

Furthermore, excusing bad behavior as "isn't that cute" is not respectful to men or women who are honestly and sincerely trying to do the right thing.

So Ms. Rallison's story, may help women in the church feel better about themselves. After all, it puts down men, and it puts women on a higher plane, and it blames God, but it doesn't solve the problem of unfairness and abuse that exists in the church. It's simply a demeaning pat on the head to both sexes. "There, there, we know that you're dumb and useless but we're putting you in charge anyway." "There, there, we know you can do better but you get to take the higher road and sit in the back seat where you must remain quiet because you're better and you don't want to hurt his feelings."

It's like back several decades ago when a young woman would be advised that if she wanted to catch a man then she better not do anything better than he did. She could be the best bowler in the league, but she was supposed to pretend she couldn't throw anything other than a gutter ball when he was around. The exception to this is that she was allowed to be a better cook, seamstress, house cleaner and diaper changer. Just as long as she hid the fact that she knew how to fix the plumbing. After all, a man simply couldn't handle being with a woman who might be better at something. It would hurt his fragile ego.

It's what's happening in the church now. There are women that would be better leaders, financial advisers, counselors and teaching manual writers, but, they are not allowed to be because...

Well, because it's God's fault.

After all, men couldn't possibly stoop so low as to deny women the priesthood. Men would never do that.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Letter to My LDS Friends and Family

The following may be disturbing to some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.

Woman at the Well by Simon Dewey
Dear LDS friends and family,

You may have noticed that I have not been at Sunday meetings for a long time.

You may have wondered why, or you may have not given it a second thought because you're too busy trying to stop son number 2 from torturing daughter number 5 while you prepare for the lesson you have to teach in ten minutes.

For the sake of this post, I will assume that somehow I crossed your mind and you're going "where is Anna. I haven't seen her for awhile."

I want to tell you why you haven't see me in awhile.

But first I want to tell you what I believe.

I believe in God. I have felt Him. I have experienced Him. I have woken to feel His arms around me. I know He is there.

I believe in Heavenly Mother. One Heavenly Mother like one Heavenly Father. I wish I knew more of Her, but it stands to reason that if men and women are made in God's image, then I am in the image of my Mother.

I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe He came to earth, born of the virgin Mary. I believe He healed the sick and performed miracles and taught His people. I believe He suffered and took upon Him our sins in the Garden. I believe He was innocent and perfect and died on the cross. I believe He rose up in a perfect body three days later when Mary saw him. I believe in Christ. He is my King and based on the scriptures in the New Testament, I believe he is a different and separate being from Heavenly Father.

I believe in eternal progression, the pre-existance and that families can be together forever. I believe that death is not the end but another beginning.

I also love the members of the church. I believe that for the most part they are loving, caring and spiritual individuals who are trying to do the right things and live good, honest and decent lives. I don't want to lose those friendships.

And now I will tell you why I have not been at church.

Through my over thirty years of membership in the LDS church I have served in many different capacities and in the presidencies of all three of the women's auxiliaries. I have taught every age group and studied the institute manuals. I have spoken in church, written and directed road shows for the youth, been the music conductor in Relief Society, been a stake missionary, tended the ward library, and served on the activity committee and the homemaking committee.  I have been what I thought was an informed member of the church and an active one as well.

During that time there have been things that I found disturbing and went against my moral values. So I put them on the shelf or on the back burner, or somewhere in the deep recesses of a closet. Polygamy, racism, the inequality of women, the ordinances in the temple. I put them away taking them out occasionally but not dwelling on them. I was afraid to.

Two years ago I took on the challenge I gave myself of reading the scriptures straight through. I began with the Old Testament (that was brutal, there's a lot of killing that goes on there, some that appears to be directed by God), then the New, followed by the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price.

While reading the Old Testament I discovered that no where in it, did God command polygamy. There is no passage that states that Abraham took another wife because God commanded him to. David was not given wives by God. No one was. God never once said "Go forth and gather up women like cattle and marry them for thou art blessed and deserve to have as many wives as thy heart desires."

Nope, not even once.

Whats more, the Book of Mormon condemns polygamy very strongly.

Jacob 2

23 But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son.
 24 Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.
 26 Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old.

 27 Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;
31 For behold, I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people in the land of Jerusalem, yea, and in all the lands of my people, because of the wickedness and abominations of their husbands.
 32 And I will not suffer, saith the Lord of Hosts, that the cries of the fair daughters of this people, which I have led out of the land of Jerusalem, shall come up unto me against the men of my people, saith the Lord of Hosts.

 33 For they shall not lead away captive the daughters of my people because of their tenderness, save I shall visit them with a sore curse, even unto destruction; for they shall not commit whoredoms, like unto them of old, saith the Lord of Hosts.

Oh yeah. God was mad. He even refers to the "mourning of the daughters of my people", in other words "His daughters". 

And so I decided that Joseph Smith, like many prophets before him, such as David, made a big mistake. Like a huge whopper of a mistake and led many people astray.

I could live with that.

But the thing that changed everything for me, was the discovery by doing further research from well respected LDS historians, that Joseph did not translate the Book of Mormon through the Urim and Thummim.

Joseph found a rock that he used to seek for treasure. He would hire himself out to local people promising to find treasure with this rock which he was never able to do. That same rock he stuck in a hat, put his face in the hat and "translated" the Book of Mormon.

This did not even involve the use of gold plates. I don't know where the gold plates were, but they certainly weren't in that hat.

Now some people might say "so what?"

What the church said happened.
Here's the so what for me. It's not the story I was told by the missionaries or in any class I was in. It's not the story I taught in Sunday School. It's not the picture in the church library of the translation. Essentially, the one true church - lied to me.

What really happened.

Let me repeat that. The organization that I put my full trust in, the organization that I allowed to help me raise my children, the organization that I gave my time and my belief to, lied to me.

Which made me feel like this: (note - you need to press the play button otherwise all you get is the pretty smiling lady).

 I thought I was getting something real. Instead I got plastic.

And once I realized that the translation story was a lie, then everything else fell apart. Joseph Smith was no longer someone who could be trusted. From my research about him (using well respected LDS historians) I have come to the conclusion that not only did he lie about the plates, but he also did several other heinous things that would be considered criminal. In fact Joseph would not be allowed to be a member of the church he had founded.

The claims of the church that they are the one true church, that they have authority straight from God, that we should "follow the prophet" no longer held together for me.

However the people are good. Is there really a church that doesn't have a shaky and twisted history? Probably not. So was there something I could hold on to even though I no longer believed in the authority of the priesthood, the Book of Mormon, and  that the church was the way back to God?

And so I looked at the church today and it too had problems. Like really big horrendous problems.

Following is a list without going into great detail since each of these subjects could make a blog post of one, or two, or ten which I hope to delve into at a later date.

1. Polygamy - still practiced today in the temples and the belief it will be practiced again later.

2. The inequality of women in the church. I know there are women out there that don't see it that way because they haven't experienced it. But just because you haven't experienced it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. This is a huge subject. Equal but different is not necessarily equal. Especially when the different has no voice, no authority, and isn't even trusted to handle finances.

3. The secrecy behind the financial records of the church. The City Creek Mall, the hunting preserve for rich people, the expensive temples, keeping women out of executive positions within church businesses since those are reserved for priesthood, the pay and perks that apostles and missionary presidents get while members are told that "there's no paid clergy". This is just a short list of financial indiscretion.

4. Withholding blessings based on money. Members are taught that they must do their temple ordinances in order to enter the celestial kingdom. Members cannot do their temple ordinances unless they pay tithing. It's similar to indulgences that Martin Luther was so against. It causes hardship for the poor when they are told they must not only pay tithing but spend money to travel great distances so their families can be together forever.

5. The temples. The first time and every time since that I went through the thought that went through my head was "secret combination". I never could believe that God needed secret handshakes and passwords. Changing two letters of a word from secret to sacred doesn't take away the fact that it's secret. Plus they are great and spacious and expensive buildings. And it isn't ancient rites that have been handed down or revealed. It's masonic rites.

6. The anti-family stance. Yes, the church is anti-family even though it says differently. It keeps parents and family members from weddings, prevents missionaries from attending family funerals, keeps fathers away from family while they do church callings, discourages many family activities on Sundays, tries to break up marriages when one spouse leaves the church, encouraged gay men to marry women without telling them about being gay, has anti-gay rhetoric that causes problems within families, creates an atmosphere of ostracizing when family members leave the church, and takes money from poor families that would be better spent providing food and shelter.

Chris Cobb's Mormon Ad

7. Is always behind on social issues. The church as a mouthpiece of God should be in the front. Instead they are behind. They were behind on slavery, equality, women's issues etc. How can the church be so wrong over and over again?

8. The church is politically active. By being so (proposition 8) they ask people to vote a certain way. Many members did even though it went against their conscience. A church is not supposed to tell people how to vote.
The church owned City Creek Mall ad that features
a woman wearing a beautiful dress that no devout
temple going Mormon woman can wear.

9. Modesty rhetoric. The church teaches that girls are responsible for boys thoughts and embarrasses young women about their clothes. This has caused my daughters some grief. Furthermore there is body shame attached. Yet the church advertizes a different standard.

Let me add again: Girls are not responsible for what boys think. That is rape culture. Boys are responsible for their own thoughts. By the way, boys will think sexual thoughts if all they see is girls in parkas, snow pants, and balaclavas. 

10. The treatment of gay people. I have heard some awful things said about gay people at church without regard to who is in that class. A church should be inclusive, not be figuring out ways to keep people out or different. Saying negative and nasty things about someone's child is not Christ like.

11. Censorship. This is huge for me being the granddaughter of a man who was murdered by Stalin for the things he said. The church has threatened people with excommunication for things they have said or blogged about and demanded that blogs be taken down. In fact they have excommunicated people for their blogs. In fact, in one instance not only was the blogger excommunicated, but his wife was as well - apparently for associating with him.

12. The excommunication of scholars, historians and feminists for expressing opinions or speaking the truth. The current church essays have the same things in them that people were saying and excommunicated for in the early 90's. Just recently several bloggers and well known Mormons such as Kate Kelly and John Dehlin have been singled out. There has been fear in online church communities with crackdowns for what people have said and blogged about.

13. Hiding historical information. Researchers and historians cannot get into many church archives. History belongs to everyone. Furthermore when research is done, it is discovered that the church has left out important details or out right lied about the information (such as the face in the hat). If the church is true, what is it hiding?

14. Abuse. There are so many stories of abuse. This can happen in any church or community, however the church sets up the situations where it can happen and then defends the abuser. Rape victims are frequently blamed for their rapes and often punished by being forbidden to fully participate in church worship.

15. Taking young women alone into rooms with middle aged men and grilling them about sex. This is so inappropriate and damaging on so many levels.

16. Having untrained men as clergy. "But they're inspired and called of God" is the argument. Yet there is story after story of how men who have no training have severely emotionally and spiritually damaged members of the church. There is story after story of leaders who have committed adultery and sexual abuse. Being called does not make them experts, no matter how sincere and righteous they are.

17. Sexual shaming that causes sexual problems. The church needs to stay out of people's bedrooms. Especially married couples.

18. The insistence that the church has the one true gospel. Not only that but it leads members to believe that all others are lost, that the world outside is evil, and that other churches are completely wrong.

19. Follow the prophet he will never lead you astray. Again, if we study history and the scriptures we will find that simply isn't true. We concentrate more on following the prophet, than on following Christ.

20. Not focusing on grace and the price that Christ paid. We recognize it, and then the church tells the members all the things they must do to be accepted. And it's a long list.

21. Tithing. I believe that tithing has it's place. But ten percent from someone making a thousand dollars a month is completely different from ten percent from someone making a hundred thousand a month. It is not really voluntary when you attach temples to it. We don't know where it goes (billion dollar malls?), and the emphasis is not on the giving, but on what you get if you give it. It also tends to discourage people from donating to other charities (I gave at my church), especially when it can be so demanding. There really isn't a sense of giving when it's handed in. It's automatic and thoughtless. A true tithing would be a prayerful study of who best to give it to.

22. No outside church community. The LDS church tends to hold itself back from participating in activities with other churches. Sure, sometimes other churches leave the LDS church out, but the church itself does it and also discourages members from participating in other churches activities. There is more community with other Protestant churches. It's an Us versus Them mentality.

23. The insistence that everyone must believe the same things. If you don't believe in A, B, and C, then you don't have the spirit. If you question things out loud you are an apostate.

24. "I know the church is true". Look, unless you have spoken face to face with Christ about it, you don't know. You believe. There is too much emphasis on knowing when we are actually supposed to be learning about faith. If God wanted us to know, He would appear in front of the entire world.

25. Free agency. We talk about it and then deny it. The church demands obedience. In order to be a member in good standing you must be obedient. I guess that's a form of free agency, but is it if you feel threatened by not being obedient? Isn't that part of Satan's original plan to force people into obedience? It's why I kept my mouth shut for so long about my questions because the consequences of asking were too great. It's why I've been afraid to tell people about my disaffection. The consequences of losing my family and community seemed a high price to pay.

26. The teaching that the world is getting worse. It's not getting worse. Any student of history can tell you that. It's getting better. People have a higher standard of living. Children have a voice and are better cared for (just read Charles Dickens or Hans Christian Anderson's "The Little Match Girl"). Women are gaining in equality. Rape is illegal. You don't step out of your door and see heads on pikes. Health care is better. Prisons are more humane. We don't go to public executions for entertainment.  People are more concerned with each other's well being. Freedom of choice is more widespread. Yes there are still horrible things in the world, but the world is getting better. Frankly the world was never the Donna Reed 1950's shangrila that we are led to believe.

One of the other things that has been happening for years that I didn't put on my list, is my feelings about going to church. Sunday mornings were a battle for me. I would be fine during the week, but on Sundays I would feel angry and afraid and the last place I wanted to go was to church. I felt exhausted and dissatisfied when it was time to go home. Sundays were not filling my soul and for a long time I blamed myself. I was not spiritual enough. I didn't try hard enough. I wasn't in the right mood and that was my fault. I battled it and then finally decided that Sundays shouldn't be that hard and punishing. Sundays were supposed to energize your soul so you could face the rest of your week. I felt more uplifted going to other churches or staying home and listening to informative podcasts and spiritual music.

And it has irked me when I hear members say about the new essays that the church put out "I've always known that". Really? I didn't. I didn't know about Joseph's penchant for young girls and other men's wives. I didn't know about the face in the hat. I didn't know about the treasure seeking, about the false translation of the Book of Abraham, or that it was Brigham Young's serious mishandling that caused the tragedy with the handcart companies. Nor about Brigham Young's hatred of black people, women, and interracial marriages. I didn't know that he taught that Adam was God, or blood atonement. I didn't know these things because they weren't in the church approved manuals. I was obedient in not looking much further. So I didn't know. It wasn't until I broke away from the admonition to not look outside of church manuals that I discovered the truth. South Park was more honest about the truth than the church was.

And by the way, if you knew about it, why didn't you tell me before you were teaching my daughters moral standards that you thought it was okay to force fourteen year girls to marry already married middle aged men? Because frankly, I can't jump on board with that concept. In my mind, that's rape. According to the law, that's rape. And even the argument that it was a different time doesn't hold. It was wrong then too. It was one of the reasons people were afraid of the Mormons.

I have been visiting Christ's other tribes, looking for a place to fit in. It isn't easy. But my moral compass can't allow me to support the LDS church anymore. I cannot believe that a 38 year old man who coerced a 14 year old into marrying him and threatened other women with destruction if they didn't marry him, who sent men away on missions and then married their wives, tested couples by demanding to marry the wife, did all this behind his wife's back, publicly lied about it and destroyed a printing press for publishing the truth about it, is a good man to follow. Would you readily hand over your teenage daughter for marriage if the prophet knocked on your door and demanded it? Or your wife?

And I cannot be a part of a church that treats women as children, supports censorship, and builds great and spacious buildings instead of helping the poor.

I do not believe that Christ's gospel is about lies and secrecy.  Why hide things? Christ does not need us to lie for Him. He does not need secret rites. He does not need us to keep things underground. The gospel is for everyone. All of the gospel. Not just the milk but the meat too.

And so as much as it hurts me, I have to say goodbye to actively being involved in the church, although I hope I don't have to say goodbye to friends and family. I will not turn my back on people however, it is possible people will turn their backs on me.

I am on a faith journey. I climbed over the fence and found a world filled with great beauty and compassion. I support others on their faith journey, whether they choose Mormonism, other Christian churches, non-Christian faiths or even atheism.

In "The Last Battle" by C.S. Lewis there is a character that does not know Aslan the Lion who is a representation of Jesus Christ. Instead this character has done good in the name of Tash. Yet when he meets Aslan, Aslan tells him that all the good that he did for Tash Aslan takes as service to himself.

And so I am continuing on my journey of faith knowing that if it is done in a sincere desire to do right and to know Christ, He will accept it.

Some may ask why I don't just quietly go away and never speak of this.

I spent over thirty years in the church. I married, divorced, and raised seven kids in the church. This is my story. I can't forget thirty years. Those thirty years helped shape who I am now. I can't pretend they didn't exist. Mormonism will always be with me. I even still retain some beliefs because I think they were inspired. And I can't help but wonder if there is someone out there who is feeling alone who might be helped by what I have to say. If you are out there, please let me know.

I will be continuing with this spiritual blog and I invite people to have a dialogue with me. I will not be posting this blog to facebook out of respect for those who might feel uncomfortable. Nor will I bring up my beliefs to anyone unless I am asked first and then only when the setting is right.

Sincerly and lovingly
The Woman at the Well - Anna


Following are some links to more information.

The Church Essays on

  1. Are Mormons Christian? November 20, 2013
  2. First Vision Accounts November 20, 2013
  3. Race and the Priesthood December 6, 2013
  4. Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah December 16, 2013
  5. Book of Mormon Translation December 30, 2013
  6. Book of Mormon and DNA Studies January 31, 2014
  7. Becoming Like God February 24, 2014
  8. Peace and Violence among 19th-Century Latter-day Saints May 13, 2014
  9. Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham July 8, 2014
  10. Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo October 22, 2014
  11. The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage October 22, 2014
Other Information

I've Heard It All Before (a response to what members are saying)
Why Mormons Leave
Mormon Stories (podcasts that feature a variety of Mormons and reveal a balanced look at the church)
Journal of Discourses (standard works of the LDS church)
Year of Polygamy (podcasts that look at the lives of women who lived in polygamy)
Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony - Jeremy Runnels 
Are We Paying Too Much Tithing? (an historical and scriptural look at tithing)