If that title sounds harsh, by all means watch the Netflix true crime documentary “Abducted in Plain Sight.” Otherwise, I’m not sure the ordeal is worth it, since it may throw you into a depression from which you never recover. That’s where I am now.
With the nation facing what might be—“I do believe in people, I do believe in people,” he says in his best Cowardly Lion imitation—an existential election, I really did not need any more reason to despair of the life competency deficit and declining mental state of the nation’s voters. In fact, I decided to watch “Abducted in Plain Sight” to take my mind off of The Big Stupid, with its ongoing efforts by the news media to keep Americans ignorant of the Biden scandal, the brain-melting tale of the Zoom adventures of He Who Must Not Be Named, and polls that seem to show that most of the American public is incapable of paying attention to matters that will effect their lives, family and nation.
Big mistake. What watching the 2017 award-winning documentary did was vividly remind me that normal, decent, religious middle-class Americans like those you live and work with may well be too moronic and irresponsible to be entrusted with children, never mind make decisions about leadership and public policy that will affect the rest of us.
Directed by Skye Borgman, “Abducted in Plain Sight” relates a tale from the early 1970s in Pocatello, Idaho. Bob Broberg, a florist, and Mary Ann had three daughters, among them Jan, a 12-year-old girl whom their friend Bob Berchtold (known as “B”) seemed unhealthily obsessed with. In the 90-minute documentary, Jan, now grown, her sisters and her stunningly matter-of-fact parents explain how they allowed “B” to kidnap her (twice) drug, brainwash and rape her. In October 1974, Berchtold, who had already concentrated sufficient attention on Jan to make what I once would have called typical parents to call the cops, offered to pick Jan up from her piano lesson and take her horseback riding. They disappeared. The Brobergs were going to call the police until Gail Berchtold, Bob’s wife, asked them not to. Oh! All right! No need to make a fuss! So Jan’s family—you know…morons— waited several days before notifying the FBI that their adult friend had disappeared with their little girl, and even after calling the Feds had to be convinced that Berchtold’s taking their daughter and not notifying them where they were was something to be concerned about.
In the course of this disillusioning exposition, we learn that Berchtold had targeted other young girls, and had been reprimanded for doing so by the high council in his church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Naturally they took no further action to protect the community or his future victims. The documentary also feature’s “B”’s brother sitting like a giant slug and telling the filmmaker with a smirk that, yeah, ol’ Bob was a pedophile, all right, and his family knew it from his teen days. But that was just the way he was, ya know?
I think my favorite part of the story is when “B” explains to the Brobergs that his psychiatrist has prescribed a treatment that involves spending nights sleeping in the same bed with their 12-year-old daughter. “Oh…Ok!” is the couple’s response. “Neither one of us was comfortable with him doing it,” Mary Ann says, “but it was his therapy.”
“I want to kill these people,” I told Grace while we watched this horror unfold.
There is more, much more, to explode heads, like the repeated failure of judges and the penal system to lock Berchtold away and throw away the key. He was still stalking Jan long enough for her to get a lifetime restraining order against him decades after he had her convinced that she wanted to have his baby. Jan grew up to experience a relatively normal adulthood—well, she’s a professional actress anyway—and, incredibly, doesn’t blame her parents, but I do, and in fact, as the film went on, my disgust with them was only marginally less than my contempt for their pedophile pal.
This nation was founded by an amazing alliance of geniuses who somehow reached the conclusion that a healthy and successful society could be created by the collective judgment of a public far, far—and after watching this films, I have to add at least one more “far”—FAR less capable and educated than they were. For over two centuries, their crazy scheme worked remarkably well, but the Brobergs, combined with what I’ve read from my Facebook friends and winessed over the past year, have me wondering if we’ve just been very lucky. I think people like the Brobergs may be the majority in America, and not the anomalies we would hope they are. That would explain the success of people like Adam Schiff, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, Joe Biden, the Clintons, Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and so many more, as well as the power wielded by organizations like the two major political parties, CNN, the New York Times, the NFL, movie studios, and our universities, and the existence of local governments like, well, most of them.
I’d like to think that the Brobergs are freaks. I’m beginning to fear that they are the typical 21st Century Americans.
45 thoughts on ““Abducted In Plain Sight”: Maybe People Really Are Too Stupid To Be Trusted With Democracy”
Wow. But wait! Now how much would you pay?? I looked this up because I really couldn’t believe it (sorry, Jack!), and the director of the documentary HAD TO LEAVE STUFF OUT. Apparently both of Jan’s parents had affairs with B. And other stuff…
You are missing the fact that these people are in what I can only call a cult. They are indoctrinated from a young age into the LDS ‘top-down-management style’. God talks to the President of the Church and the 12 prophets. The President and the prophets talk to the stake presidents, who talk to the bishops. The bishops relay the message to the faithful. You can only ask a question once and you must accept the answer, since it comes from God. Anyone higher in the church is higher in standing with God. If you question it, you will be thrown out, and you will never speak to your family or any church members again. I saw a bishop tell a new graduate with a 6-figure job in his chosen field to quit his job and take a $20,000 job for the bishop because ‘God told me YOU were the right person for the job’. The man quit his job and went to work for the bishop. I saw a non-LDS church member forced to get a letter of recommendation from the LDS bishop of his ‘ward’ in order to get a promotion at the public high school. A man ‘disowned’ his wife for talking to a non-Mormon about a religious question. He was considered especially righteous because he didn’t divorce her, but allowed her to live in a room of the house despite the fact that no one would speak to her or acknowledge her existence.
“You can tell a cult from a religion by what they do to you when you leave.”
Yep. One word explains this episode, Jack: “Mormons.” See, eg, “The Flyboy’s Daughter.”
I’ve belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for 29 years, I’ve been in several wards and I literally know hundreds of “Mormons” very well.
I have not seen this documentary, but from what I read, I agree 100% with Jack’s words – they are so idiotic and passively evil it’s difficult to comprehend.
But your description doesn’t even come close to what actual, practicing members of my church are like, or what they believe.
Logically the mistake in your comment is that it’s anecdotal. Ethically, I assume Jack has a category for this too – something about painting the whole as wrong based on a few “bad apples” perhaps? I think I’ve heard a phrase like that before, in fact. Something about…..cops and black lives? I dunno…
You say (paraphrasing) that you can only ask a question “once” and must accept the answer. Not at all. A common thread in our scriptures (the Book of Mormon) and in our founder’s (Joseph Smith) story is that of asking repeatedly, and with persistence. That’s a pretty different idea than what you’re saying.
You say a man ‘disowned’ his wife for talking to a non-Mormon about a religious question? Gee, I’d sure love to know more details here. First, the idea of ‘disowning’ a family member isn’t even a “Mormon” thing. We don’t do that kind of thing. Secondly, our church is famously missionary-oriented. As in, there are tens of thousands of unpaid, full time missionaries worldwide, and we are taught to be missionaries our whole lives – which necessitates talking to people not of our faith about, well, faith and religion and stuff. Frankly, this anecdote doesn’t come close to passing the sniff test. Plain and simple Mormons talk to non-Mormons about “religious questions” literally all the time. I’m not saying your anecdote is false. But I am saying it’s unusual, an outlier, and totally unrepresentative.
You say (paraphrasing) a non-LDS church member had to be approved by a church member at a public school? I don’t even know where to begin on this one. How would that even happen? All the administrators at the school were members of the church? This one is just too weird.
I could go on, but this comment is long enough.
They are freaks and there are probably more of them out there than we would like there to be.
It’s probably best not to dwell on extreme cases like this when determining the overall intelligence and integrity of the average American voter. As a true-crime junkie myself, I’ve found that it’s easy to get worked up over the profound stupidity of some of people one is ostensibly supposed to sympathize with in these cases.
You have a special spot in your heart for the welfare of children. With that in mind, a true story about the abduction of a child is probably not going to be a nice diversion for you from the chaos around us. May I suggest some nice WWII-era Looney Tunes cartoons instead?
But it isn’t stupidity. Look at how many intelligent people are willing to go along with corruption for ‘their team’? How many women’s rights activists went along with Ted Kennedy or Bill Clinton because they were ‘on the right team’? For a lot of people, belonging to the group defines their identity and they are willing to sacrifice their ideals and even their children for the group. Why do you think people gave up their children for child sacrifices? They would rather give up their children than be cast out of the group. See any of that going on lately?
There may be an explanation for it, but it’s still stupidity.
It’s much creepier than stupidity. It’s very warped self interest. The guys running the Mormon church are not stupid.
Stupidity has to do with raw intelligence. This is a different part of the personality. You can be highly intelligent and also very gullible. What is the psychological trait, agreeableness?
I disagree that it’s just about intelligence. Intelligent people do stupid things when they are vulnerable, afraid or angry. Call it what OB said, a warped self-interest, but it fuels stupidity which is the end game here.
In this case, the parents, possibly compromised by their own relationships with B, sacrificed the well-being of their child over the well-being of what was essentially a con man. As much as I may want to help a person who claims to be in therapy, that desire to help must never involve throwing someone dependent on me, especially my own child, under the bus. They thought it was okay for their daughter to sleep in the same bed with this guy because he claimed his therapist said it would help?
This reminds me of a case about 20 years ago of a pastor accused of killing his wife who had apparently had affairs with many of the women in his church, one of whom he convinced to give her children Benadryl to put them to sleep so that he and she could have a tryst without having to worry about them being unsupervised.
What kind of foolish mother drugs her own children so they’ll sleep while she’s having an affair with a married man? That is stupidity. It’s separate from intellect. This is self-interest-based decision making that throws out reason and intelligence.
Life is stranger than fiction.
I watched a trial in Harris County court at law a few years ago. It was a suit to collect a debt: “You owe me money, now pay up”, right? Simple stuff, no? Au contraire, mon frere. Are you sitting down with a caffe mocha? You should be. This is a doozy.
Once upon a time, Mr. Hendricks was a happily married man until he gave in to the temptations of one Ms. Ferguson, who pursued him with reckless abandon. Now. Ms. Ferguson, who herself was a lonely, lonely lady in need of male companionship, was not to denied her quarry and Mr. Hendricks was just the fellow for the job. They got to know each other. Rather intimately. One thing led to another, and before they knew it, they were madly in love, unbeknownst to the virtuous Ms. Hendricks who was the mother of three or four of his children. Mr. Hendricks split his time between a happy home life, a spotty work schedule and cavorting with Ms. Ferguson.
All this time, Ms. Ferguson knew about Mr. Hendricks’ marital status and simply bided her time, giving Mr. Hendricks the time he needed to wrap up his marital (and extra-marital) affairs. Time went on. And on. And on. Ms. Ferguson grew impatient and gave Mr. Hendricks the proverbial ultimatum, impelling him to declared his bifurcated love and affection for her, sealing it all with a “promise ring”.
Well, life gets messy and Mr. Hendricks didn’t wind up his marital life quickly enough, if at all, and Ms. Ferguson was not content to wait any longer. What did she do? What normal people do: She sued him for the money she spent on him, gave him, and the value of gifts she lavished on him during their burgeoning love. Mr. Hendricks counter sued for either the return of the promise ring or its monetary value as there was some dispute over whether Ms. Ferguson still had it. This case landed before a retiring judge who loved nothing more than unusual cases and she set the case for trial. (The judge needed a definition of a “promise ring”, stating that she knew what engagement and wedding rings were but she had never heard of a “promise ring”. Ms Ferguson could not really define it but she knew what one was when she saw one, especially considering she knew Mr. Hendricks was married at the time he gave it to her.)
As we all know, civil cases are open to the public and this case was set for a non-jury trial right before mine, so I had the blessing of watching the whole thing play out before me. What should have been a 20 minute back and forth went on for hours. And hours, mostly to the judge’s amusement. And, just when the case couldn’t get any more bizarre, these two would move the needle farther into lunacy. (You would expect this from pro se litigants; yet, these two former love birds retained “legal aid” counsel, both of whom thought they were Clarence Darrow or Martin Luther King, Jr., or both, who believed “zealously representing a client’s interests” included taking this case to court, to the chagrin of many a lawyers’ guild. Well, as we all know, legal aid is taxpayer funded to provide legal representation to low income or chronically stupid people.)
There I sat, watching Ms. Ferguson testify about how Mr. Hendricks lied to her, misled her, deceived her, and took advantage of her time, energy, and virtue, all the while never intending to end his marriage with his wife. What really set Ms. Ferguson off, though, was when she found out her prince was not only a frog but a serially unfaithful one at that. She wept in court that she knew about his wife but she just couldn’t stand that there were other women in his corral (or lily pad, as the case may be). She testified, oftentimes through wracking sobs, that she had been betrayed by a man who has no morals or ethics or integrity, which as we all know are readily in short supply these days. This testimony lasted for over 2 hours, to the judge’s delight, and was positioned to last even longer were it not for lunch time and the county’s strict overtime rules.
At this point, the judge asked how many more witnesses would be called. Ms. Ferguson’s lawyer said he had about 30 more minutes of his client’s direct testimony and cross-examination of Mr. Hendricks and his witnesses. Mr. Hendricks and his lawyer determined that his testimony would last about an hour and that they expected Ms. Hendricks to testify, which would be about 20 minutes. The judge was intrigued, asking what Ms. Hendricks would testify about on her husband’s behalf. Without missing a beat or any synapses properly firing, his lawyer declared that Ms. Hendricks would be prepared to testify about her husband’s character, that he was a stand up man, a good father and provider. The judge leaned over the bench and asked, “Really? I can’t wait to hear this.”
After lunch, this case lasted another 3 hours, at which point the judge had heard enough. She ruled against the poor Ms. Ferguson, not on any legal or moral grounds, but simply because Ms. Ferguson had no evidence that Mr. Hendricks had promised to leave his wife. Therefore, whatever she gave him was a gift and could not be considered an enforceable promise. Moreover, the judge didn’t believe Ms. Ferguson had lost the promise ring. She dismissed the case, ruling that neither one should take anything from the other. The judge did extend her sympathies to Ms. Hendricks, though, noting that Mr. Hendricks was a poor excuse for a husband and an even lesser excuse for a man. Ms. Hendricks agreed but said they were working on their relationship.
That’s all true.
Nothing, but nothing, beats anecdotal evidence. Thanks John. Much better than an O. Henry story. Close to Flaubert or Dickens.
Yep. Life is strange.
But it’s always great to get it down on paper.
Promise rings were a product of the purity movement. Girls wore them to show they were promising themselves to their future husbands or that they were engaged to be engaged to someone specific. The idea seemed to sort of seep into the mainstream, which is how Mrs. Ferguson would’ve got ahold of it. It’s pretty hilarious.
Seconded: “May I suggest some nice WWII-era Looney Tunes cartoons instead?”
Is it an extreme case, or just a well-publicized case?
Well….that’s a good question. I suppose any case that is well-publicized has a tendency to make us wonder how many don’t get on television. I’d still prefer to believe that most parents wouldn’t allow whatever personal issues the Brobergs had cloud their judgment in the same horrible way. Call me naive or just a Pollyanna. I would prefer not to wake up every day thinking, “It’s just as bad as you think it is”.
Well publicized. Rampant in Mormon populations. Enabled by church senior management. They all do it or put up with it. Been going on since Joseph Smith started molesting young girls.
“I’d like to think that the Brobergs are freaks. I’m beginning to fear that they are the typical 21st Century Americans.”
Not to excuse the true crimes involved in the Broberg-Berchtold follies any more than they deserve to be excused, but, paraphrasing Hyman Roth, “THIS is the self-government we have CHOSEN!” Give The People an inch, and they’re gonna take mile after mile after… Just ask the even less self-governable ghosts of the earlier American tribes and nations.
That should be, “Just ask the ghosts of the even less self-governable earlier American tribes and nations.“
There’s a reason the Mormons were run out of every state they occupied until they fled to the largely unoccupied desert west. Check out that God awful TV show, “Sister Wives” with that lunatic guy lording it over his five wives and living off welfare. This sort of behavior is in the Mormon church’s DNA.
I have tried to watch “Sister Wives” several times. It makes me feel like the robot in the old “Lost In Space” TV series – I see stuff, and mutter repeatedly, “That does not compute.”
The anti-Mormon bigotry in this thread is disturbing, or should be. Also inconsistent: the villain in this episode—other than the parents–didn’t follow the orders of the Church, he defied them. There is no reason to assume Mormons are dumber or less responsible than other citizens, and a lot of evidence that the opposite is true: they have less crime than the population in general. for example, and a higher average income.Far from being the gullible parents this episode shows us, Mormons are generally model parents—like Jews and Asian Americans, they inculcate their children in values that emphasize personal responsibility and success. Anecdotally, as I have worked for Mormons and with Mormons, had a Mormon room mate in college, and have had many Mormon friends,
It’s odd to read comments like this after the confirmation of Judge Barrett, whose foes tried to paint her as a cultist. Christianity was called a cult: the general rule seems to be that your religions is a religion, and the other guy’s religion is a cult.There was an obnoxious episode of Boston Legal on that point—obnoxious, but not without validity. Islam has been called a cult–I could make that argument. Just for sanity’s sake, I draw the cult line at Scientology—if you go beyond that, I don’t think any religion avoids the label. In any event, I don’t see how being Mormon would lead parents to let their weird friends sleep in a bed with their 12-year-old daughter because his said his therapist said it was a good idea.
“What’s going on here?” I guess I now know why Mitt lost in 2012….
I find Mormon beliefs a little strange, some against reality (their pseudohistory of the Western Hemisphere), some a little too convenient (Joseph Smith translated gold plates that no one else ever saw, which the angel Moroni eventually took back to heaven), some far outside mainstream Christianity (the idea that humans are direct children of God passing from a spiritual state, to this world (with the memories of heaven withheld), and into heaven again once we finish whatever work we were sent here to do), and yet others just weird (the Nephites, men from the pseudohistory given eternal life, who pop up now and then to minister and work miracles).
That said, I guess they are no more against reality than really believing in the Great Flood or the pseudohistory of Babel or Sodom and Gomorrah (albeit that latter has SOME archaeological basis), or oddly convenient than the belief that Allah spoke only to Muhammad in a cave where no one else could see or hear anything, or weird than believing in the saints popping up in history to stage-manage events.
However, partly because Mormons are few, partly because they were odd (and a bit racist), and partly because they are usually conservative (Harry Reid aside), they are generally disliked. Mainstream Christians think they are heretics, liberals can’t stand the fact they are not liberal because of their religion.
Yes, the fact is that many people can’t stand religions not their own. That goes double if the religion is that of people who also look different, hence Muslims getting roughed up after 9/11 or Asians being called “Buddhaheads” or Hindus getting attacked by self-proclaimed “dot busters.” The fact is also that a lot of the left can’t stand religious conservative people of ANY stripe, hence feminists hating Catholics for being pro-life, or sneering atheists hating most Christians for being simple-minded, or the hatred of Mormons.
This comment means the world to me – I had only discovered your blog a few short weeks ago and am loving it. And I happen to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And I was quite disturbed at some of the comments here too – as what happened to the poor girl and how her parents acted seems criminal to me, and would be to all Mormons I personally know (hundreds of them).
So thank you.
Sorry Jack, I’m not buying it. I’m not prejudging anyone. Just based on cases I know personally. Some are upstanding, like our long time accountant. Others not, like both our daughter in law’s grandfathers and a client’s abusive uncle, enabled by, of all people, her mother, from age five into adulthood.
Not buying what, OB? Some are upstanding and some are not is a pretty fair description of any groups I can think of.
“Some are upstanding and some are not is a pretty fair description of any groups I can think of.”
Right…. And that’s why we shouldn’t believe things of people before we know those things about them, but there are things that are more likely to happen within a group.
As an example, not all Jewish are circumcized, and not all circumcized men are Jews… But if a Jew is circumcized, it probably has ties to his religion, and it’s not unreasonable to say so.
“Not all Jewish” Grr.. I’d originally wrote “Not all Jews” and then I was like… Duh, women don’t get circumcized. So I was going to write “Jewish Men” and I took a call in the middle of the change, and forgot about it. That’s what I get, I guess.
Well, I lived in a town where I was only allowed to live in Ward 4 or 11 because the bishops in the other wards forbade non-Mormons. I know people who weren’t Mormon, were sold a house in the wrong ward because people didn’t know they weren’t Mormon, and were burnt out by their neighbors. You don’t know what it is like to work for a state institution and be told to convert to the state religion or be fired. You can call that anti-Mormon bigotry if you want, but it is the truth. I guess people told that they couldn’t join the LDS church because they were black and bore the mark of sin are also expressing anti-Mormon bigotry.
You see the pubic face that the LDS church shows in an area where it can’t control every aspect of people’s lives. Utah is different.
You will note that the incident under discussion did not occur in Utah.
Hah! As soon as I saw the documentary was about something that had occurred in Idaho, I knew what the explanation was. Mormons dominate the entire Intermountain West. Their term for the Great Basin is “The Inland Empire.” Mormon settlers were dispatched to all corners of the west by Brigham Young. Mormons settled Mesa, Arizona in the mid to late 19th Century. There’s a huge temple there.
Mormons can believe whatever they want to believe and they can serve in politics and in the judiciary and in law enforcement and the military. That’s all fine by me. I’m sure Rex Lee was a perfectly fine Solicitor General. My daughter in law’s brother is an Air Force officer with a new Ph.D. and serving as a liason for the Air Force in the White House. But they virtually invented the term “circle the wagons.” And child molestation is rampant, epidemic, in their culture and institutionally it is hidden and, needless to say, not addressed.
And trust me, I know anti-Mormon bigots. I worked with guys who called Mormons “Momos” and would never have hired them as associates, never mind been partners with them. But I’ve seen way too much molestation that’s covered up to just wave it off as “some are good and some are bad.”
The situation is analogous to altar boy abuse in the Catholic clergy. Jack, you’re a big fan of “Spotlight.” Does that make you a religious bigot? No. Are you willing to say of the Catholic clergy, “Aw shucks, some are good and some are bad, just like any other group?” I’m sure as hell not, and neither are you. The institution is rotten to its core in that respect. The Catholic clergy has been nothing more than a vicious paederastic cabal for centuries. The Church of Latter Day Saints is in the same category, but, from what I’ve seen, much, much worse.
I’m a bit perturbed as well by the anti-Mormon bias. Here in Wyoming (geographically adjacent to Utah), we’re prime Mormon country, and the vast majority of Mormons I have met have been good, gracious people, earnest about strong families, and hard working. I spent a great deal of time talking with Mormons, doing comparative theology, and even reading some of their documents. I’m no expert by any means.
Yes, the LDS Church permitted polygamy, up until Utah wanted to become a state, and the LDS Church had to decide whether to jettison polygamy or not join the union. But, Islam and other religions currently permit polygamy. The question is how they function in the US. Officially, the LDS Church believes that polygamy is permissible, but the laws of the land must be followed, and so polygamy is not be practiced in the US. Those groups that do practice polygamy are in violation of their Church’s directives. Ergo, those “Sister Wives” shows are not representative of Mormons as a whole.
The LDS Church does work in a hiearchy, and the Prophet does allegedly receive ongoing revelation from God. But I don’t see any problem with the followers being required to believe what comes down from the Prophet, given that in the Catholic Church, formal denial of a Catholic doctrine can eventually find that Catholic placed outside of formal communion with the Catholic Church. To a large extent, I don’t understand antipathy towards a religious group that would expel members for not believing what is expected to be believed. If you don’t believe what the Church teaches, why are you still insisting on saying you belong to the Church?
I have not personally seen any Mormons ejected just for raising theological questions or talking with non-Mormons on religious matters. I have seen Mormons and Catholics dialoging, especially in some online forums. And given that the Mormon missionaries are required to go out and dialogue with non-Mormons and are barraged by people challenging their faith, I can’t really square that with the stories of Mormons being heavily penalized for daring to raise a question.
Regarding sexual abuse in the LDS Church, I won’t argue that it happens. I won’t even argue that some members of the hierarchy cover it up. But just as I will defend the Catholic Church to the death because she firmly and unequivocally teaches that such actions are abhorrent, so will I defend the LDS Church that has the same official stance. I don’t buy this, “the official teachings say this, but every one knows that wink wink nudge nudge.”
Throwing the word “cult” around is, I feel, an unethical dodge. There’s no firm definition of what “cult” means in the context that it is being used. As Jack alluded, it tends to mean “religion I don’t like that does funny things.” But any religion is composed of creed, code, and cult. Creed is what that religion believes; code is how members of that religions are to behave morally; and cult is how the members are to worship. So the Mormons have odd practices. So what? They are distinguishing features. If we are going to assail the Mormons for them, it should be on stronger grounds than we don’t like the practices, or we think they are hallmarks of a cult.
The idea that Mormons are a cult because of brainwashing can be levied against just about any religion. If you believe you have the truth, you try to teach people that truth. And the stories I heard about people leaving the LDS Church because they didn’t ever receive answers to their questions sounds very much like stories of Catholics leaving the Catholic Church. The questions asked could easily be answered, if one is open to hearing the answers, and most who leave actually have a problem with the Church’s teaching on some particular moral issue (divorce, abortion, same-sex marriage, etc.) Given that these people do dissent, do object, and leave on their own suggests that brainwashing isn’t any more prevalent among Mormons. As for ostracizing those who leave the LDS Church, that’s hardly unique to Mormons. You can hear stories of converts from all kinds of backgrounds being shunned by the communities they left. Going from Protestant to Catholic can lose friends, alienate family members, and even lose jobs. Even atheists who become religious find themselves ostracized by their atheist friends and family.
Good comment, Ryan. I personally don’t agree with Mormon theology, but you make a good point about the aspects we think of as being cultish being more in line with individual groups within the Mormon belief system, like the FLDS, than of mainsteam Mormonism. Those are the ones who practice polygamy and control small towns in the way that Warren Jeffs and his ilk sometimes do. Are the polygamists in the FLDS movement any more extreme than those in the Christian patriarchal movement who have a dozen kids, withhold birth certificates and social security cards from them so they can control where they work (or if they work) and who they marry? I don’t consider families like that representative of mainstream Evangelical Christianity. Why should we consider polygamists representative of modern-day Mormonism?
Who’s talking about polygamists? I’m talking about modern-day Mormons. However, my daughter in law descends on her father’s side from the Mormon families that relocated to Mata Ortiz, sonora, Mexico so they could continue their polygamist ways. They’re still there (in what they call their “colony”) and very prosperous and very much in touch with their family members here in the U.S.
But yes, much of the problem of sexual abuse of young girls must be a result of generations of forcing young girls into polygamous marriages before the age of consent. Or perhaps it’s the other way around: polygamy may have been dreamt up as a justification and enabler of child abuse.
I’d say a good case can be made that the genesis and operations of the LDS is not that much different from Scientology. It’s hard to read of Joseph Smith’s history of self-serving “revelations”, and of his many absurd (now debunked) claims, such as his pre-Rosetta stone translations of Egyptian hieroglyphs, Semite colonies in the Americas, etc,. and not have a voice in the back of your head screaming “CON MAN”. Watch the surprisingly accurate Southpark episodes.
The SciFi writer Orson Scott Card, a great-great grandson of Brigham Young, and still a practicing Mormon, I think, even wrote a book, Lost Boys (not the vampire story), that was none too flattering of the church hierarchy and operations.
I was thinking of the Scientology analogy earlier today, Wim. Very apt. There’s a ton of literature by former Mormons about the LDS church.
Okay, OB, I am with you, and so I’ll just go ahead and say it (in addition to, and in alignment with, “Bite me”) – to Jack, to anyone and everyone who is delighted to tuck us into their nice little self-righteousness box labeled “Stay away from this guy, and don’t trust him at all, because he’s a bigot:”
Some biases are justified, and some prejudices by some persons against some groups of persons are earned and deserved, because of the preponderance of certain behaviors in those groups.
That, OB, is said while recalling the keeper you shared recently – namely, the definition of political correctness: “The inability to speak the truth about the obvious.”
Politics, anyone? Bueller?
I fail to see where our host actually said that, or anything like it.
Biases and prejudices are understandable, but that doesn’t mean they are justified. For example, I know of the stereotypical criminal, rioting black person by reputation, but never seen it in person, Should I treat my black friends with suspicion or disdain because of preponderance of behaviors in their group?
The statement “Stay away from this guy, because he’s a…” feels wrong to me regardless of the cultural, religious, racial, or political boogeyman you are invoking, because it amounts to gossip, or “don’t trust your judgment and observations, trust mine instead”.
Something I heard from a protestant minister speaking on differences in religion (which can be applied to differences in general: “Don’t compare your best, with their worst” and “If want to know about a people, ask them, not their critics, not their enemies”. Now if all you see of a particular group is their worst, it’s understandable to have less than positive feelings toward them, but you can’t blame others who’ve seen said group at their best for wanting to change your mind. Their positive experiences and observations should be at least as valid as your negative experiences and observations.
I think relegating this to a specific church, demographic, or time period is disconcerting. My agnostic mother and step-father set me (aged 14) up on a blind date with a 20 year old sailor. Yes, it was the 70s, but the stupidity still boggles my mind. I was fortunate, but not because of anything my family did to protect me.
As pointed out people are still making excuses for Biden, Clinton, all the news and Hollywood predators. Why? It’s not all about power. They hyper-sexualization of children didn’t begin with Cuties. Decades ago at our parish school we had to change the PE shorts to have a visible logo on the bottom of the leg. Why? Because the mothers would hem the shorts to the point that their 13 year old daughter’s cheeks were showing.
It’s not a new problem, but to “otherize” it allows us to dismiss it.
No, it’s not unique to religious groups, but to use organized religion to allow this sort of stuff to go on and to facilitate it is worse than garden variety exploitation, at least in my book. And again, I was brought up seriously Roman Catholic and therefore very idealistic. To have churches being this despicable is really inexcusable. It certainly gets my goat.
Felt the need to chime in here with my own “Mormon” experience.
I was raised LDS, have pioneer ancestors, and I grew up in a relatively conservative community, with plenty of good LDS and non-LDS friends. My reaction to seeing scandals like this happen in LDS circles, and people bashing my church as a result, is similar to my reaction to feminist lectures about sexual harassment: I agree that sexual harassment is bad, I don’t deny that it happens, if I ever witnessed it I would at least like to think I would step in and do what I could to stop it. That being said, when I see anti-sexual harassment phrased as criticizing men or “the patriarchy” in general, I feel personally attacked as a man. I’ve never so much as cat-called, none of my friends every have, so describing such behavior as a general “male” thing feels very unfair to me.
Now, out over 10 million members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-Day Saints, it shouldn’t surprise me that there a few bad apples, even barrels of bad apples here and there. But the scenarios described by Michael R. have not been my experiences growing up deep in LDS culture. I have one sister who married outside our church and is less active, but we still talk to her, we still love her, she and her husband are part of the family. And she hasn’t been excommunicated either. I have another sister who had to end a marriage with a guy who WAS a member that did not treat her right, likewise she still has our love and support, as well as the support of her local church leaders. Last I heard of her ex HE was the one bucking for official church discipline. Speaking of which, this blog post, outlines nicely how the church deals with excommunication:
https://mylifebygogogoff.com/2015/02/mormon-excommunication-explained.html. If anyone is excommunicated for merely “asking questions”, either local leaders didn’t do it right, or those observing misunderstood what was going on.
Next, to clarify a few things on polygamy. It is not “okay” in the church anymore, anywhere, even in countries where polygamy is legal. I worked with polygamists as a missionary, and not only are they expected to be baptized the same as other non-members, they are required to interview with the mission president, our most senior leader in the designated mission, before they can be baptized (normal non-members don’t need to go that high). Also, 15 year old brides were not unusual in the 1800s. Polygamy was not instituted in the church until Nauvoo, before then persecution was based on Latter-Day Saints being anti-slavery, and Joseph Smith founding a church based on revelation rather than going through the normal clergy channels. It should also be noted that said persecution was beyond outrageous, with innocent people killed, beaten, and driven from their homes. When my parents hear talk about reparations for slavery, they joke “When do we get reparations from Missouri?” Regarding black people, they could be and were baptized since the beginning of the church, but they were relieved from the responsibilities of the priesthood for a time (and you don’t have to have the priesthood to receive salvation).
There’s a guy who conveniently put all the major, secular criticisms of the LDS church in a letter, which people have taken the time to craft a nice point-by-point rebuttal. I would encourage anyone whose interested to take a look. Unfortunately you can’t really do a keyword search, but there is a table of contents:
Lastly, at the risk of sounding like a missionary, I would also invite everyone to visit https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org, and plug in whatever you want into the search bar…excommunication, polygamy, sexual misconduct, blacks and the priesthood, etc. and you can get it straight from the horse’s mouth what the official Church teachings and positions actually are. Sure not everyone follows those teaching how they should, but, to draw a parallel, one shouldn’t judge the doctrine of Jesus by the actions of Judas Iscariot.
“Regarding black people,…they were relieved from the responsibilities of the priesthood for a time…”
That was considerate. We relieved them from the responsibilities of finding their own employment, food, and housing “for a time”. Did a pretty good job of saving them from the responsibilities of voting for a while as well.
Not a fair comparison, IMHO. Ecclesiastical work is not a career path in the LDS Church. You essentially serve as an unpaid volunteer, and not every calling (position) in the church’s worship services requires the Priesthood, so there were still plenty of ways to serve. I can understand how it could make a person feel left out in some aspects of church life, but that didn’t stop black people from joining the church before the 1978 proclamation.