May 22, 2021
My primary objective while working for the Open Stories Foundation was to promote a culture within Mormonism that I believed would help all the good people work together to stand up to the child sexual abuse which I knew to be endemic within Mormonism. I didn’t talk about my primary objective much at the time because I understood it to be an exceptionally long term goal and one that most people would not see as relevant to the work I was doing. I rarely, if ever, mentioned it to John. Yet that goal was why I was working for Mormon Stories and was always on the back of my mind.
And my strong commitment to fighting child sexual abuse was one of the primary reasons I fought to prevent John from shutting down all my work and firing me (in order to personally take all the donors’ money). I wanted to preserve the strides I felt my programs had made within Mormon culture in hopes that people much more vulnerable than myself could get the help they needed.
And I also fought John because I was terrified of what would happen to me if I didn’t do something to stand up for myself. Yet in all my terror of August and September of 2012, I still had no idea of just how destructive a force John’s powerful retaliations would play in my life or how effectively he would use his greater power to silence me and to suppress this story. Nor did I ever imagine he would still be running his scheme in 2021. It’s been many years — I have moved on. Yet here John is, continuing to stir up trouble and continuing to make my story relevant in the present. As hard as it is to believe, John even used Kwaku, Brad Whitbeck and Cardon Ellis (some YouTubers) to win Leah Remini’s publicity — pretending he was being “fair gamed” by the Mormon church.
So because all this history is still relevant today, I will share a little of it with you. I recognize that because John has worked very diligently to wipe me and my work from Mormon history, most people know next-to-nothing about who I am.
Below is what I believe to be relevant.
MY FAMILY BACKGROUND:
I grew up in Salt Lake City. I’m a sixth-generation Brighamite Mormon and had ancestors who were well acquainted with Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. I’ve had relatives in the big (very big) jobs Brighamite Mormons refer to as “callings.” I had family die in the infamous nineteenth-centuryHaun’s Mill Massacre. My great something grandmother (a Haun’s Mill survivor) was “sealed” (or married) to Joseph Smith after his death, with Brigham “standing proxy,” and the church has upheld that sealing to the present. I had family on both sides who led Brigham’s Utah settlements and because my family were leaders, polygamy, or “plural marriage,” is part of my family history. I don’t remember ever not knowing plural marriage was part of Brighamite Mormon history. I don’t remember not knowing that the United States sought to force Brighamite Mormons to stop practicing plural marriage during life, and, as a result, multiple women are “sealed” (or married) to one man after death inside Latter-day Saint temples today.
My own father worked in the LDS Church Office Building and Family History Library. My mother worked as a hostess at Brigham Young’s historic Lion House and guided tours of his Beehive House next door. As a child, I knew the grounds of the Salt Lake City temple square like the back of my hand. I regularly toured the many rooms where some of Brigham Young’s many wives and children lived during the nineteenth century.
MY OBSERVATIONS OF SECTARIANISM WITHIN MY BRANCH OF MORMONISM:
At a very young age I also became aware of what I now call “sectarianism” within Brighamite Mormonism. I was people watcher and I would observe the way believing Mormons spoke negatively about Mormons who had lost their belief, had been disciplined or excommunicated by the church, and who (like John Dehlin now) would fight the church. I was taught that to be an ex-Mormon or an “anti-Mormon” was to become and enemy to God.
Wikipedia defines sectarianism as: “A form of prejudice, discrimination, or hatred arising from attaching relations of inferiority and superiority to differences between subdivisions within a group. Common examples are denominations of a religion, ethnic identity, class, or region for citizens of a state and factions of a political movement” (April 9, 2021).
My people, the Brighamite Mormons, grew strong in the isolation of the United States Intermountain West. There, in our isolation, we splintered into the FLDS sect that Warren Jeffs now runs from prison, and my own childhood Salt Lake City sect.
Then, within my own Salt Lake City sect, we formed into two subgroups: the people commonly referred to as “TBMs” (or True Believing Mormons or, possibly, true believing Latter-day Saints) and the people we call “ex-Mormons.” While both of these subgroups are founded in my branch of Brighamite Mormonism, they interact in competition to each other. The ex-Mormons (or “anti-Mormons” as the TBM’s sometimes call them) may not consider themselves to be Mormon, but, more realistically, they are. When it quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.
Thus, the ex-Mormons are a sect within Mormonism.
And right now, John Dehlin, is the ex-Mormon sect’s leader. The ex-Mormons would not call him a “prophet” (because they’re secularists), but the role he plays is analogous to one.
The battle between the TBMs and the ex-Mormons is a constant battle for supposed “superiority.” The TBMs speak and act as if they are superior to the ex-Mormons due to their TBM belief and loyalty to the Salt Lake City religious authorities, and the ex-Mormons speak and act as if they are superior to the TBMs due to the ex-Mormons’ supposed ability to see Mormonism for what, to them, Mormonism really is.
I came to see these things as an adolescent. I came to see believing Mormons and ex-Mormons as two subdivisions within the wealthy Salt Lake City corporate conglomerate splinter of the Latter-day Saint tradition, although I wouldn’t have used the word “conglomerate” then. I observed a constant non-ending battle of attaching superiority to oneself and the members of one’s own sect, either TBM or ex-Mormon, and inferiority to those in the other sect. I came to see this need to perceive oneself as “superior” and others as “inferior” due to group affiliation as a phenomenon that had an intensely harmful effect on the well-being of my Brighamite Mormon people.
The adolescent me reasoned that it is “insecure” (that was a word I used at the time) to always need to promote the self as the “superior” and the other as “inferior.” I couldn’t see how it was possible that all ex-Mormons were really evil “anti-Mormons” or how there could be any good God who actually promoted this kind of self-focused sectarian “insecure” reasoning. I saw the sectarianism conflict as a clear manifestation of human weakness, even when the prophets, apostles and general authorities promoted it from the pulpit during general conference. Even while I continued to believe in Mormonism, the adolescent me would sometimes view an authority during general conference as “weak,” “human,” “insecure.” I would see these authorities as stirring up unnecessary conflict between TBMs and ex-Mormons through promoting the ideal of “superiority” of belief. I would wonder how a powerful and good God could possibly promote such a silly thing and shrugged these conference statements off as indications of the “insecurities” of human men.
MY OBSERVATIONS OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE WITHIN MY BRANCH OF MORMONISM:
In addition to all of this, as an adolescent I also became aware of the extreme problems with child sexual abuse within the Brighamite branch. As always, I was continually a people watcher — I perpetually did a lot of observing. I grew up in a Salt Lake City group of congregations called a stake and was aware of at least three offenders in my stake who faced prosecution and jail time for sexual offenses against children. One offender did a few (but not enough) years of jail time for sexually abusing several boys in my stake’s Boy Scout program. I knew there were more problems in my stake that weren’t being prosecuted and the offender who hurt Elizabeth Smart was in my stake at one point. There were even major problems in my own nuclear and extended family. Myself and many of my family members were victims.
My awareness of all these problems gave me an opportunity to observe offender concealment strategies. As an adolescent, I came to the conclusion that the sectarian conflicts between the “TBMs” and the “anti-Mormons” were used by offenders on both sides to conceal their abuses. All TBM offenders had to do was make themselves publicly appear to be really good and “righteous” believing Mormons while simultaneously publicly shaming and attacking the people they called “anti-Mormons.” Then, the other believers would be convinced these offenders’ personal piousness and their attacks of those with less piousness were evidence of their righteousness and innocence. And all an ex-Mormon or “anti-Mormon” offender had to do to defend the self from TBM allegations was to accuse any TBMs making allegations of being simple-minded, unsophisticated, and of only making the allegations to promote the inferiority of “anti-Mormons.”
In this state of mind, the adolescent me came to see the sectarian attacks and the commitment to “attaching relations of inferiority and superiority to differences between subdivisions within a group” (Wikipedia, April 9, 2021) as a very effective offender concealment strategy. As a result, good people on both sides would miss discerning between the good people, both TBM and ex-Mormon, and would allow offenders on both sides of the sectarian fight to continue hurting children.
MY ADULT APPLICATION OF WHAT I LEARNED IN MY BRANCH OF MORMONISM AS A CHILD:
Then I grew into an adult. I continued to be aware of the endemic problem of child sexual abuse within Brighamite Mormonism. I sacrificed a lot of personal happiness and worked very hard to protect my own children. And I continued to observe. I saw much more of the same — over and over and over again the pattern repeated itself. I gained a deep conviction that the childhood me had observed Mormon sectarianism and offender concealment strategies accurately.
Then, I met John Dehlin and I decided to put a strategy of my own into effect — a strategy that I hoped would fight the tendency towards sectarianism within my branch of Mormonism. I hoped that fighting sectarianism would eventually make it more difficult for offenders to use it to conceal their abuses.
And so, in 2011, I coordinated the crowd-sourced drafting of the Mormon Stories Shared Values (crowd-sourcing was new and exciting then) and I very intentionally prepared experiential conference environments designed to demonstrate to all conference participants that sectarianism was unnecessary and that in reality, whether TBM or ex-Mormon, we were all simply human beings in different places in our journeys.
And the conferences worked. People attending my conferences would repetitively come to me afterwards to excitedly share new insights they’d gained about the viability of what we call “pluralism.” Pluralism is the opposite of sectarianism. According to Wikiepdia, pluralism is “the recognition and affirmation of diversity within a… body, which is seen to permit the peaceful coexistence of different interests, convictions, and lifestyles” (April 9, 2021).
And then, in 2012, John shut everything down, worked as hard as he could to make me disappear, took the donors’ money, and used concealment strategies of his own to cover up of this history. He then went on to promote the never-ending sectarian conflict I view as a very effective offender concealment strategy.
THE MORMON STORIES SHARED VALUES FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION:
- We acknowledge the richness of Mormon heritage, teachings, and community in all of its diversity as well as the pain some experience within Mormon faith communities.
- We believe that one can self–identify as Mormon based on one’s genealogy, upbringing, beliefs, relationships, and other life experiences, regardless of one’s adherence or non–adherence to the teachings or doctrines of any religious organization.
- We seek spaces where we can live lives of intellectual and spiritual integrity, individual conscience, and personal dignity.
- We acknowledge and honor different spiritual paths and modes of religious or non–religious truth–seeking. We respect the convictions of those who subscribe to ideas and beliefs that differ from our own.
- We recognize the confusion, distress, emotional trauma, and social ostracism that LGBTQ/SSA Mormons, Mormon feminists, Mormon intellectuals and Mormons on faith journeys often experience. We seek constructive ways of helping and supporting people, regardless of their ultimate decisions regarding sexuality, self-expression, church affiliation or activity.
- We affirm the inherent and equal worth of all human beings. We seek spaces where Mormons (and all people) can interact as equals regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation.
WHERE I AM TODAY:
I believe that a wide commitment to these values would help end the sectarianism that allows offenders to conceal their abuses. And I am also less hopeful and idealistic now than I was in 2011 and 2012. These days I have troubles believing that enough people are willing to commit themselves to mutual respect to have the effect of actually cutting through offender concealment strategies and protecting children. Instead, I now observe that so many people on both sides act as enablers of narcissists that it there is little hope for pluralism.
And I am sad about that, of course… because I love children.
But this is the history from my perspective.
So you know….
John is loud and powerful and I am quiet and relatively powerless.
But so you know……..