Dear Mr. Young, March 22, 2018
I only recently discovered your work yesterday—your website, and stories of LDS children abused by ecclesiastical interviews. I glanced briefly at the headers for some of the stories on your web site, and knew I had to submit a story. I apologize for the length of the narrative, but even as long as it is, it cannot do justice at all to the many facets of all the LDS sexual child abuse that I have been personally acquainted with in my family. For me, while I applaud greatly your efforts to have LDS closed-doors interviews of youth cease completely, that is just a smaller part of the greater LDS problem with sexual child abuse.
After I finished my several page account of our “story,” I then went back and viewed the video accounts of your victim’s “stories” on Youtube, viewed the press conferences (downloading them all), and viewed much of your other material. It really got me stirred up, as so much of it touches close to home, which will be apparent in what follows here. Here goes, and I thank you for your patience in reading my narrative. I really applaud your efforts.
This story is mainly about my former wife, Tina (name changed for this account). (I am also now happily remarried.) We all grew up very mainstream LDS, but many years ago left the LDS Church when we discovered what were for us unjustifiable differences in doctrine, ordinances, and gospel principles, and where we finally made the effort to hear and learn the true history which the LDS Church for years has avoided to hide these many changes to things which were essential to the fabric of what was supposed to be the “Restored Gospel.” We left the LDS Church and joined what most people might refer to as a “Fundamentalist LDS” Church, though this was not the FLDS in Colorado City, with whom we had no sympathy or affiliation.
After making my decision, and retiring from the Air Force in 1998, I moved to where my new Church was located, all while also sadly divorcing from my first very difficult marriage of 20 years, which I would have preferred would have endured and prospered. After arriving, Tina and I met and married.
I knew at the time very little about sexual child abuse, other than it occurred at times, but I had no first hand-experience with it or with those so abused.
Tina grew up having many issues of emotional and personality dysfunction. She was highly emotion driven, which resulted in making very unwise decisions from time to time, and also led her at time into very dangerous behaviors, physically. She was also often guilt-ridden, and lived constantly in fear, and at other times would take a “whatever” attitude about such things, when it appeared things were too much for her to get her arms around. She always had difficulties in relationships of all kinds, had few close friends, had rocky LDS missionary companion relationships, and difficult marital relationships (she was married before me), and pre-adolescent semi-promiscuity (“peek-a-boo with the boys” and such as she referred to it in grade school and junior high school). She also was a strong magnet for several predatory male associations, including one unreported instance at Ricks College where she claimed to have been raped, but where her descriptions of the circumstances were very reluctant and vague. According to what she told me, a young Jordanian student at the college there threatened to harm her if he couldn’t have sex with her. So she complied. In another instance, she fell asleep with a date on a park bench, and woke up to find her date’s hands inside her blouse.
After later returning from her LDS mission, she found an LDS boyfriend with whom she shared many sexual intimacies barely short of intercourse itself. Because of the deeply entrenched LDS standards and expectations, this led her to increased guilt and shame, where she decided at that time to leave the LDS Church all together. Her family at the time was also considered a pariah and subject to ignoring and derision in her very cliquish LDS ward, which had so many difficult issues too numerous to mention here, and not germane to this description. This shortly led her to marry a non-LDS man from the Northwest, with whom she started to have a family, but which was still plagued with the types of emotional and relationship issues described above.
It was during this time of her first marriage that her mother revealed to her that she had caught her husband in flagrant abuse of Tina as a toddler in the bathroom of their home. Tina was the second oldest of thirteen children that her parents had. Tina’s mother graphically related this occurrence to me in person of witnessing Tina’s father molesting Tina as a toddler in the bathroom. Her mother also told me that she went and reported this to her LDS bishop, but who either did not or could not take action or for whatever reason do anything about it. So after her brief visit with her bishop. Tina’s mother stayed with her husband and had eleven more babies with him, which fact leaves me stupefied.
Tina’s mother was also overwhelmed, not very present as a conscientious mother, kept a filthy house, and did not know how to motivate and properly train kids. She felt that “loving” her children meant giving in to everything the kids wanted. Tina’s mother also related to me when I knew her years ago before her death that her husband had once told her, “Well, at least I didn’t ever touch the last two children,” an assertion which I disbelieve. We have spoken of these events somewhat with a few of Tina’s siblings, but they cannot recall any abuse, except for one. Indeed, Tina didn’t recall herself her abuse as a toddler, but she did remember many other abusive and degenerate behaviors from her father from time to time during her youth. However, most all of Tina’s siblings have also suffered from similar relationship and emotional issues, though not generally as marked as Tina.
Tina was utterly devastated when her mother revealed to her about the abuse she had suffered under her father as a toddler. This made her relationship and emotional difficulties worse. I would like to insert here that Tina’s father was always respected as an LDS man, and as an active, local ward leader. When Tina was a young woman, her father was called to be their ward’s LDS bishop (now there’s an “inspired” calling for you!), who actually interviewed Tina for her worthiness in his capacity as her bishop to go on an LDS mission when she submitted her application. The hypocrisy and irony of all this even today still leaves me breathless!
During her first marriage, Tina left her husband four times, only to return to him the first three of these times. They were married for about ten and one half years total. At some point during their marriage, Tina’s mother spoke to her about the “Fundamentalist LDS” Church that we eventually joined, and Tina at that point could think of nothing else, and of leaving her first marriage to do so.
To not be too long, I’m omitting many relevant events to the story here, which illustrate even further the dysfunction, the poor discernment, and the relationship issues in question. But at one point, Tina decided to just pick up and leave to be with her mother and to join this “Fundamentalist LDS” Church. So she secretly purchased an airline ticket with one of the credit card offers she received in the mail, drove the older two of her three children (about 7 and 9 years old) to her husband’s mother’s home, asking if they could stay there with Grandma for a while that day while she ostensibly went shopping. She then took her youngest (three years old) with her to the airport, parked and abandoned the car in the long-term parking, and then got on a plane to a different state to come and be with her mother. This was the fourth and final time she unexpectedly left her first husband.
She had given no warning at all to her husband of her departure. Her mother-in-law had no clue that she wasn’t going to return for the two older children. They all were left to figure it out on their own. However, when the courts got involved, Tina was forced to have her three-year-old that she took with her returned to the jurisdiction of the court where her husband still lived. She of course lost all community property as well as custody of her children.
The “spin” as these events were presented to me by Tina wasn’t quite as I have come to view these things now, and I was also very naïve at the time in judging these things, as Tina and I married not very long after her arrival where I likewise about the same time had come to “gather,” and where we met. We never knew each other at all before arriving here.
Tina and I were both very happy to be together initially, and to each find the “spouse of our dreams.” But these same emotional and relationship issues did begin to surface somewhat as time went on, which issues were largely driven by fear, but I and we did the best we could to grow and make the best of things. I told her at the onset that I take marriage very seriously, and was willing to make whatever effort I could for our success, which in spite of the divorce in my first marriage, I still feel that I did as best as I could. Tina and I had two children together, a boy born in 2000, and a girl born in 2002. However, to make a long story unjustifiably too short, her personality issues again began to arise, along with many manifestations of escapism.
We had many members in our Church society skilled to some degree in counseling and helping with these things, but ultimately for any person to heal, they have to make the decision to heal themselves, they have to muster the desire to heal themselves, and they have to make the effort themselves—nobody can do it for them. Perhaps the hardest part, they have to begin to visualize and internalize the state of being they hope and want to achieve if and when they do succeed in achieving each level of healing. Knowledge is necessary, but is not sufficient alone without the desire to heal. But after a certain point, this Tina ultimately refused to do. She couldn’t really voice it, but it is as if she finally decided the effort was too much, and the healing work too hard. It wasn’t her fault that she had been so abused, but it did become her responsibility to figure out how to heal. But it was too much for her.
During our marriage, Tina had two suicide attempts, both of which she wound up in the ER over. The latter one was the most egregious, after which she spent a week in the psychiatric evaluation ward at Utah Valley Hospital. For whatever her level of emotional and relationship instability was before this, it was multiplied many times worse after these suicide attempts. She received counseling, and while there were some very superficial and modest benefits from this, they were very short lived, and in the long run ineffectual.
Things ultimately came to the point where her two kids with me (14 and 16 at the time) together planned and attempted an intervention on her, which I did not know about in advance. But they told me about it after it was underway, and asked me to not interfere. I agreed to this, as I was overwhelmed by the possibility of perhaps having a stroke that day, due to some numbness on the side of my face. But their intervention angered Tina so much that she refused to come with all of us to the emergency room at the U of U hospital that night over the possible stroke that I thought I was having. (It turns out I was not having a stroke, but something much, much less serious, and certainly not life-threatening like a stroke). I was all night at the ER, and when we returned home the next morning at 5:30 AM, Tina had without warning vanished. She left a cryptic note about each of us “following our dreams,” but we did not know where she was. It was more than a month before either the kids or I knew where she had fled to.
At that point, her original descriptions to me of how she had unexpectedly abandoned her first husband and children became all the more clear in a very new light. She had now abandoned husband and children TWICE, in similar fashion. Oh how I had tried to work with her and help her. We later discovered that she had been secretly planning to abandon us for a few months prior to actually leaving, and so the intervention of our children, and my trip to the ER turned out to be her opportunity to do what she had been planning for some time. We were married for about eighteen and one half years. That is a big investment to throw away
I am omitting considerable material that would form a more complete picture here. But Tina was not normal in managing her emotional issues and interpersonal relationships. I can only attribute this to the terrible psychological damage done to her by her father in sexually abusing her as a toddler, and in different ways also from time to time as she grew up, and by the fact that she also had a disconnected, incapable, irresponsible, and clueless mother. (Tina’s mother had also undergone various forms of abuse as a young child, including being kidnapped in a family struggle over custody.) Tina’s father was never brought to justice for his actions before he passed away some years ago. A few years before he died, however, he was finally excommunicated by the LDS Church for ongoing behaviors, particularly as it regarded the children of Tina’s brother, and other things. But his abuse of Tina or undoubtedly of her siblings as well was never acknowledged.
I am also personally and well acquainted with other instances of serious, serious sexual child abuse by adults in positions of supposed responsibility in the LDS Church. I am not bringing up these instances specifically here. In one case, the perpetrator went to prison for 8 years. However, many years after his release and newfound “freedom,” I was still working very hard with the kids he abused trying after all that time to help undo some of the damage brought upon these once-innocent children by this indescribably evil perpetrator. You can’t fix the horrible damage done to children in this way. They can achieve varying degrees of healing in their lives later on as they make the effort on their own themselves. Even with a therapist, the individual has to want to heal and make the effort. But generally even as adults, there are still varying degrees of manifestation of the abuse brought upon them as children or youth.
I am now convinced that the only thing to do with such horrible perpetrators is to hang them by the neck until dead with a strong rope, though our laws have no such provision, and I certainly don’t condone vigilante efforts. Prison sentences ultimately come to an end, and then some people in some misguided sense of “do-gooder forgiveness” want to “patch up” the family, but yet the horrible damage lingers on in the abused. This is not a lack of ability on my part to forgive, but rather a frank acknowledgement of the devastating seriousness of this abuse, which generally is life-long in those so abused, depending on severity. This is also consistent with Jesus’ teaching where he said: “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt18:6). (Note: I included that verse in my narrative here before I saw you cite it in the press conference in Houston.)
Ultimately things did not go well in our “Fundamentalist LDS” Church, after our leader died, and his blood kin began to rule in very “un-Section 121” ways, and we decided that we had had enough. I still retain strong spiritual beliefs and inclinations, but I seek no more any religious affiliation. I don’t regret my decision to leave the LDS one iota. It is still so painful to me to witness the willfully blind and utter refusal of LDS people to take an honest and thorough look at their own doctrine and history—from their own sources. Much of what I would want to bring to their attention if I could, they have never even heard a word about. I have had to endure an effort or two by past LDS acquaintances inviting me to “return to the fold.” It is simply because of my love of truth that I can not and will not do so.
The LDS problem of sexual child abuse is chronic and must be dealt with. While I agree that bishops should NEVER be alone interviewing male or female youth (even with a parent in an adjoining room). Or that they should NEVER ask the kinds of questions that they do (I remember well, from my LDS youth) about the subjects of so-called “morality” that they do— that is just the tip of the iceberg. I have come to see the LDS Church as a sexually repressed and guilt-ridden society, which is very harmful to the people. In such a society, the repression of these things without a healthy outlet or manifestation ultimately comes out anyway in many instances, but often in very unhealthy ways, as in the devastating multiple examples I have been personally associated with.
The unwarranted imputing of guilt into youth and the general membership is an unavoidable by-product of this kind of belief system, and I have personally experienced in more than one instance the painful, awful fruits of the resulting guilt and fear. It is everything and worse that your website claims it to be. It is a similar problem that the Catholic Church has been having with their totally repressed Priests.
One problem is now that LDS people and in particular, LDS youth, have no idea what a healthy outlook might be for these normal inclinations, as youth begin to realize and understand their sexual natures. They are embarrassed and intimidated rather than calm and open. This nature is not an evil thing but rather healthy, contrary to what we have inherited from our tongue-tied ancestors who couldn’t even speak about these things to their own children, in most cases, except in shame. Our people and youth have been shamed and led by fear into their current paradigms on this subject. For example, what the seminary teachers taught me in high school, particularly on Fridays when there would be a school dance that night, was hurtful and irresponsible. This is not just about Bishops’ interviews. I am not advocating that youth behave in such a way as to be irresponsible, or in such a way that it harms the feelings, circumstances, or self-esteem of others, but things should be decided not just to avoid guilt or out of fear, but rather because of love and respect for others, without guilt.
In particular, one famous analogy between so-called “immorality” and a chewed piece of gum that is taught to LDS youth and particularly to young ladies is particularly harmful, not even to mention that it negates the notion of repentance even if one does accept fully the LDS position. If a repented “sin” becomes “white as snow,” does that mean the chewed piece of gum is no longer chewed in this hurtful and guilt-imputing analogy? Time to stop “guilting” LDS kids.
Sometimes now I wish I was back in eleventh grade seminary (1969-1970) in Orem, Utah, before a school dance on a Friday, to dish it right back to my seminary teacher. One girl in our seminary class did try, but our teacher jumped on her pretty hard. But I don’t fear the LDS leadership any more, either local or general. I still remember from the Endowment the “evil one” that is portrayed as boasting that he maintains his power by fear and intimidation. Yet that is what LDS leaders have done so often to our members and youth, particularly on this subject.
I can’t back it up, because I haven’t taken the time to research this more thoroughly, though I’d like to, but I discovered over this past year an image form a Powerpoint presentation on this subject that identifies the state of Utah as number one in the Nation in the rates of child sexual abuse considering the cases per capita. The same slide also showed the state of Utah as being number 8 overall, which is astounding considering the much lower population base of Utah. These data were from some study in 2014.
I believe profoundly that instruction on these subjects should come solely from healthy, well-adjusted parents themselves to their children, as they are the ones who ultimately have the responsibility to do so. I agree wholeheartedly with Natasha Helfer Parker where she says the same: that it is up to parents to teach their children on these subjects, as they decide wisely to do so. This should never be up to bishops or seminary teachers to dictate standards, particularly harmful ones. It should not be their business ever to do so. I have really enjoyed Natasha’s interviews also on the “Mormon Stories” podcasts.
I suppose I’ve really had a mouthful to say on this subject here. I could have written much more on this subject had I included the particulars of other instances that I’ve been intimately familiar and involved with. I write all this because my whole life has been invested in learning and understanding what was supposed to be the “Restored Gospel,” and spiritual things and truth in general, wherever it may be found. I also have love for “my people,” though I am no longer ecclesiastically tied to them. My ancestors go back to the very origins of the LDS Church. I have found that so much of what we have been taught our whole lives and which we have taken for granted is simply not true. The LDS in its present state will never be able to continue. It will not go away, but as Grant Palmer declared, it will evolve as it has been doing all along to suit the circumstances and requirements of the times it is in. I will be happy to answer honest questions by honest individuals, and to discuss my experiences with this subject in more detail.