Sunday, September 6, 2015

Brigham's Destroying Angel: The Life, Confessions, and Disclosures of Bill Hickman - William Adams Hickman

Told by the destroying angel himself, Bill Hickman exposes what really happened during the reign of the Mormon churches bloodiest prophet.

Hickman is not a writer. Initially he comes across as an ego maniac, bragging about his conquests as he relates how he killed a mountain lion or a wild boar when he was a kid, all by himself.

It sets us up for what is to come. The brutal murders under the direction of Brigham Young. Yes folks, according to Hickman, although Young never actually killed a man, he was the godfather of the wild Mormon west.

It turns out that Young did direct Hickman and others to do some killing for him. "Use him up" was the phrase even if there was no kissing involved.

Hickman also paints a picture of a man who expected everyone to give money to him but was reluctant to pay for services rendered.

Actually the more interesting parts of the book are the clearer explanations given by the editor. As J.H. Beadle points out that "Mormonism is sanctified selfishness" citing the belief that men with many wives (which leaves some men with no wife), will inherit the earth and lord it over everyone else.

Beadle is also careful to footnote some events and provide background information that supports what Hickman states.

Hickman tries to make us feel sorry for him when he's left without his ten wives, tries to take children away from one of his wives (because they're his and she's married someone else) and ends up in poverty, out of the church and friendless.

Not feeling sorry for him. 

This is a fairly quick read, and it does no favors to Brigham Young.

Book Review: Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet - John G. Turner

This is a thouroughly researched, heavily footnoted, and balanced look at Brigham Young, second prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

It's also a little dull.

But I managed to slog through it. It suffers from what many history books suffer from. Interesting history told in a factual but dry way.

BY was no angel. He was a misogynist, bigot, control freak, hypocrite and had a mouth on him like a sailor. Hardly the image that current Mormons like to present.

He married woman after woman without thought for their well being. Made himself not just prophet but also political leader of Utah, and although Turner doesn't out right say it, there is some question about whether he was behind many murders that were committed, including surprisingly Joseph Smiths.

One of the more interesting stories is the one with wife number 19, Ann Eliza Young, who was brave enough to divorce him, sue him for alimony (which he refused to give) and then went on tour telling the truth about polygamy. She eventually wrote a book about her experiences none of which made Young happy. Hey, if you're going to be cruel to your wife, force her into poverty then can you blame her if she makes money going on tour to tell the truth to an audience who is eager to hear the inside story of polygamy?  Especially when she lives in a time where there aren't that many options for women.

Young also came up with the United Order. He encouraged members to give everything to the church and in return they would receive back according to their need. However, he wasn't willing to do the same. It would have meant giving up mansions and businesses which made him wealthy.

I always suspected this about BY even when I was a devout member. He would make his daughters make everything they used but he would send to the other side of the country for goods he wanted.

The Mountain Meadows Massacre happened on his watch. His rhetoric of blood atonement caused a stir and his laws created suspicion of all who were not members led to one of the worst blood baths in the history of the U.S. It is unknown if he gave the go-ahead to the perpetrators, among them his adopted son John D. Lee (the only one to be executed over it), but according to Lee he approved of the action after the fact and years later when the law was seeking justice he did what he could to cover it up.

Turner did not set out to assassinate the character of a good man. Instead he set out to present an honest portrayal of one of the most influential men of American history. The fact that Young does not end up looking good, is not the fault of Turner.

Book Review: Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape - Jenna Miscavige Hill & Lisa Pulitzer

Jenna Miscavige Hill the niece of current leader David Miscavige grew up in Scientology. Her parents, members of the Sea Org, the organization within the church, willingly handed her over to the church while they served wherever the church sent them.

Jenna explains the billion year contract that she signed as a child to belong to the Sea Org, the years of child slave labor and little education, and the complete control the church held over her family including when they could visit each other, for how long, where everyone in the family lived (it's normal to have a husband and wife in different places and the children somewhere else), communication (all communications are read), what they wear and what they own (which isn't much since they're not paid, the church provides room and board).

It appears that there are three different groups within Scientology. The regular members who live life out in the world and have little to do with the workings of the church ; the Celebrity group who receive all the benefits and perks while promoting the church; and the worker bees who are told they are the leaders, The Sea Org, an almost military part of the church where even children are members for a lifetime, and another lifetime, and so on and so on.

What is astonishing is that the church can get away with child slaves, for the work is grueling as they force young children to dig ditches and build buildings while neglecting their education. All education is geared towards working within the church where when they grow up they will put in long hours and receive almost no pay.

The other stunner is the celebrities that support this while they live their lives of luxury. John Travolta, Tom Cruise, Kirsty Alley, to name the most prominent.

This is a heart breaking story and as more and more information comes to the surface from former leaders who have left, unequivocally true. It's also a really good read and hard to put down.

Perhaps in an effort to end the child labor problem the church has cracked down on Sea Org members and is preventing new marriages and forbidding babies. It's expected when a young woman gets pregnant that she get an abortion. It was the final straw for Jenna who managed to get away.

This is not just a weird church. This is a dangerous organization.

Interestingly, one of the things they believe is believed by many other churches including the LDS one. They are the only ones with the truth and it's their job to spread it until everyone has the truth.

Yeah, that sounds so familiar.

Kudos to Jenna for her bravery in telling the truth.