John Dehlin, host of the Mormon Stories podcast, is a career apostate - that is to say, one who makes his living trying to deconvert people from his former religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His views and goals have been all over the place. In 2010, when I had my own faith crisis, one of the first resources I found was "Stay LDS/Mormon", a website he founded. But by 2015 he was excommunicated for publicly arguing against the Church's core truth claims - or as he and his followers called it, "asking questions".
Of course, he fought tooth and nail against being excommunicated because it would reduce his credibility with believing Latter-day Saints, and it has. So now he doesn't even bother trying to obfuscate his true agenda. From observations and one brief personal interaction where he actually blocked me on Facebook for asking a question (He posted something that purported to be from an anonymous source working at church headquarters, I asked why we should trust this source, and he blocked me), I believe him to be a liar, a coward, and a hypocrite. Recent events have somewhat bolstered this impression. On April 18, the StoneXVI podcast released a video called "The End of John Dehlin." Whether that is the case remains to be seen, but it's certainly gotten his attention.
The video was originally made by Kwaku El back in December. As you may recall, Kwaku is not my favorite person either because I don't appreciate the huge dance parties he hosted at the height of the pandemic or the tasteless videos he made for FairMormon, but I support him in this particular endeavor. The video claims that when some Deznat cultist made a meme about John and Jeremy Runnells getting murdered by a baseball bat that represented Kwaku's show, John lied about being afraid for his life and he lied about calling the police. The video also highlights his hypocrisy in not batting an eyelash when one of his podcast interviewees, a very unhinged apostate named Mike Norton who films temple ceremonies and posts them on YouTube, threatened violence if he ever sees Apostle Dallin H. Oaks in public. The video also documents allegations of financial mismanagement and discrimination against women in his "non-profit" organization, and sexual assault against one former employee.
John Dehlin responded by addressing none of the allegations, but instead republishing a laughably vague and evasive statement from December that basically says "I'm not going to explain anything, but trust me, I'm right and they're wrong." He explained, "I used to feel the urgency to respond publicly to the smears, but such responses are usually unwise, since my public responses then help to advertise the smears, which literally never stop. If I were to respond to every smear it would become a full time job, it would drain me of all my emotional energy, and I would never create anything meaningful. Responses also reward those who lie/smear with the attention they crave." I mean, if someone accused me of sexual assault I would definitely not just sit there and take it, but you do you, man.
My favorite part of the video, though, is a clip from a Zoom conversation he had last year with Los Angeles attorney Madeline B. Liebreich, Esq. They were talking about Kwaku and how stupid he must be to convert to a church with so much racism in its history, and as liberals with a superiority complex sometimes do, they thoughtlessly put their own racism on display.
John Dehlin: "Super weird, and I don't mean to attack anyone, but like, that an educated person of color who's a teen or in their early twenties, in 2018 or 2017 or whenever Kwaku converted, with the internet, can you imagine an intelligent person of color ever deciding to join Mormonism? Like isn't that, like I don't wanna be mean or insulting, but isn't that story in and of itself kind of... mind-blowing? That's like some serious internalized hatred, self-hatred, because like, how in the world can Mormonism not be racist, like - I'm racist!"
Madeline B. Liebreich, Esq.: "He doesn't speak like many black people do. He has like a very English venacular, he doesn't have like a black dialect. So he speaks like a proper white person raised in Utah. So he's the perfect figure for Mormonism, because he basically seems like a white person with dark skin; the way he talks, the things he likes, the way he dresses, so... yeah."
Because the full video is half an hour long, and because I wanted some of the attention for myself, I isolated this clip and reuploaded it. The first comment was "When is Kwaku going to come out of the closet?" I deleted it for being spam, but I wish I had held onto it as a demonstration that liberals with a superiority complex have no problem doubling down on racism with a bit of casual homophobia. In fairness, Madeline's remarks here are ten times worse than John's, and very disturbing to hear from someone in the legal profession. There are many racist idiots in the Church - I see them in Deseret News comment sections every week - but what she did here was project her own racial biases and stereotypes onto countless people she's never met to make herself feel superior to those dumb Mormons. I shared this quote from her on an Instagram photo where she was pretending to respect Kwaku. She blocked me within an hour.
By the way, if you're saying "But I'm sure this clip was taken out of context" - you're probably right. Let's see what context could possibly make these words less racist. Oh, that's odd. John Dehlin seems to have quietly deleted the original video as soon as StoneXVI shared this clip. So much for that hypothesis.
On April 27, Donald Trump's three black supporters discussed the clip on their podcast "You Ain't Black" (obviously named for Biden's infamous quote asserting that black people need to vote a certain way because of their skin color). They laughed in disbelief at how racist it is. While I don't share their politics, I fully support their mission of calling out the hypocrisy of liberals with a superiority complex.
John Dehlin's first response was to block the producers of "You Ain't Black" on social media, but it didn't take him long to realize how screwed he was. The next day, looking a bit haggard, he stopped ignoring/covering up this scandal and posted an apology for setting himself up as an authority on what beliefs intelligent people of color should or shouldn't find credible.
"I shouldn't have said it, and it was wrong. The truth is I don't even believe that..." Then why did you say it, John?
UPDATE: One member of the "You Ain't Black" podcast crew was so pissed off that he made his own solo video, almost as long as the first, to explain just how wrong John's and Madeline's (or as he called her, racist Karen's) comments were.
The following text was originally a Facebook post and subsequent comment by my friend Krista Taylor, which she has allowed me to share here for whatever good the meager reach of my blog will do for it. Thus it becomes my first guest post ever. Hailey Allen of "Perfectly Unhinged" suggested doing a blog swap a few years ago, but she's been too busy every time I subsequently brought it up, or maybe she just realized I stood to gain a lot more from it than she did. So this is the first. Would that it were under better circumstances.
If any of you have confidence in the court system it is unwarranted. They have blatantly acknowledged that Bradley (my husband) abandoned the kids and me at my mom’s house after Thanksgiving on Dec 1, 2019. Since he took the car and car seats we had to get car seats from the local police station so there’s a police report to verify that. Nevertheless the courts have still claimed that since it is Utah policy to ‘ensure both parents access to the children’ that Bradley gets custody since I was refusing his visitation.
According to Utah Commissioner Christina Wilson and Alyson Johnson, the children’s guardian ad litem, abandonment doesn’t constitute neglect or any other form of abuse of the children. The court also has a copy of a text that Bradley sent me saying that he had thought about sexually abusing our then 4 year old daughter but that he didn’t think he would because he didn’t want to cause her trauma. He sent that 2 months after abandoning us all. Clearly abandoning her doesn’t constitute causing her any trauma. Apparently spending months convincing the courts to send in a SWAT team to tear her away from her mom and grandma obviously isn’t going to cause her or her two brothers any trauma either.
He also goes on in the text about how beautiful I looked that night and how sad he is that we aren’t together and how he’s been struggling so much and looking at porn but he’s trying to stop. It’s very cleverly put together to elicit sympathy and simultaneously send me the message that if I don’t come back he’ll sexually abuse our daughter and who knows how many other people through his porn use. He had repeatedly claimed that I was supposed to give him sex simply because I am his wife even after he abandoned us and I refused. He had also repeatedly sexually abused me throughout our marriage including manipulating me into having sex prior to going to work by telling me that he didn’t want sex on his mind before he went to teach piano to his students. (Yes he is a piano teacher and if your children are taking lessons from him I would recommend stopping immediately for their safety. Although since he cares a great deal about his reputation I don’t know how far he would take it with a student or not.) But of course the text is carefully crafted so that idea is not explicit because then he might get in trouble with the court. I’m not sure there’s a better example of mental and emotional manipulation and abuse out there.
Based on the text I also asked for a protective order from the Idaho courts here in Rexburg, “America’s Family Community” or “Zion” as many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints like to call it. But Judge David Hunt decided that not only was there not sufficient reason to grant a protective order he turned around and granted Bradley the writ of assistance that required the police to enforce the Utah custody orders. Previously I had shown the police Bradley’s text and they had been refusing to enforce the Utah orders for months because he is clearly a danger to the children.
What could possibly be more manipulative and abusive than subtly threatening to sexually abuse my children? But sure let’s pretend that he’s a safe person simply because the court said so and throw me in jail for daring to stand up for my kids against the court.
But don’t worry the courts told Bradley that he has to keep the kids at his parents’ house so according to the court they’re safe because his parents and sister haven’t reported anything. Never mind that his parents are the ones who have taught him to be abusive in the first place and they have been funding his attorney and everything else all along. They take great pains to ensure that they maintain a good looking but not too good reputation like these kinds of people do. https://www.flyingfreenow.com/liar-liar-pants-on-fire/... But don’t worry as long as things look good on the surface the kids are obviously safe and healthy. Clearly his parents did such a great job raising Bradley that they should be in charge of raising even more kids. And if he’s not really safe for him to be taking care of the kids himself then why in hell should they not be with me? Obviously it’s all for the kids. That’s our tax dollars and justice system at work for us all. They’re really working hard to protect everyone and keep us all safe.
Obviously there’s no reason to suppose that the courts could ever make a mistake about that since they care soo much. Except for more than 600 children who have been murdered by abusive fathers in the last ten years because the courts insisted on visitation regardless of clear safety risks for the kids. But who really cares about them? The court is just another industry to make money and divorce impoverishes women and children and enriches men. So pander to the men because they have the money. How dare I have the audacity to say that Bradley can’t call and repeatedly ignore them or make them cry over the phone as he was doing before I cut off all contact? They sent in a freaking SWAT team and literally ripped my baby out of my arms and carried my other two children crying and screaming out of the house, this while they arrested my mom and I for refusing to hand the kids over to Bradley because he is abusive. So yeah the courts definitely care a lot about the kids. And justice. Oh and did I mention that since Bradley abandoned us if I went back to our house to get my stuff the police told me that I could only take essentials? But if Bradley threw our stuff out on the road the police couldn’t tell him what to do with “his” stuff? But at least the courts wouldn’t like it if he did that. So by abandoning us he stole our house and our things. He did bring some of them back because that makes him look better but he managed to trash plenty of the stuff in the process. He told me that he wouldn’t take the kids away from me. He also told me that the kids are my life. He has spent the last year working toward taking them away from me through the legal system. Yay for him he’s succeeded! But of course telling me that they are my life and then taking them away doesn’t constitute mental or emotional abuse. How blatant can he make it that he hates me? But of course that’s all fine and dandy because it makes people more comfortable to sweep it under the rug than to face the truth. Obviously Bradley and I just have communication issues. Frankly I was stupid to ever marry him after all the bs my mom went through with her divorce. It’s no wonder that so many people are scared of marriage. They’d be naive idiots not to be terrified of it.
Furthermore after seeing and experiencing plenty of abuse throughout my life I don’t know whose “genius” idea it is to force kids to go back and forth between parents in high conflict cases. But when there is abuse even if you haven’t confidently identified who the abuser is sending the kids back and forth just allows the abuser ample opportunity to further abuse the victim and children and potentially frame the victim. That has got to be the most dangerous position for the kids to be in. And it’s all court sanctioned. It’s heinous. “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” -Elie Wiesel The courts have repeatedly and blatantly reaffirmed to me that they will give Bradley custody until I agree to allow him back into our lives. I can not live with myself and do that. I have tried allowing visitation and it was brutal to stand by and allow his mental and emotional abuse of my children to continue. They need to know that they matter and they are worth protecting. They need to know that I will not condone or enable his abuse. I will be arrested and thrown in jail but I will not voluntarily allow him to abuse them. How could any genuinely loving mother do any less for her children? How can we pretend that as long as the parents divorce and the mother can get out that it’s ok for the children to be tossed back and forth between parents and denied any stable home? What has our society come to? Why in the face of such clear abuse were the only choices that I was left with to go into hiding or be arrested and thrown in jail for protecting my children?
If you have the chance to “help” anyone with a custody case or who is going through a divorce please make sure that you are actually informed and listening and genuinely helpful. People need real help not a bunch of lame excuses and pretenses that the courts “care” when it’s really just about money to them too. Whether or not you believe me or care about my case, this is a big issue and it desperately needs to be addressed.
Please pray for my children and please look for ways to help those around you through these horrible issues.
Link about psychological abuse escalating to murder:
Don’t worry the police have thrown big bad scary grandma and mom in jail for trying to set safe boundaries for children. https://www.eastidahonews.com/.../woman-jailed-after.../
Although they suddenly decided to drop her $25,000 bail to zero after she spent two weeks in jail. Watch out! She’s loose on the streets again! She just might do something like tell people about how dehumanizing the jails are and how much of money making industry that they are too. Oh and the police officer who claimed that she landed a strong punch is lying but the newspaper didn’t want to print our side of the story. She attempted a punch but couldn’t see well because they had knocked off her glasses so she missed. I overheard the police officer claiming that it hurt about as much as brushing his teeth.
Please share this. People need to know. #outthem #domesticviolence #domesticviolenceawareness
Addendum: For whatever it’s worth psychologically speaking based on the research that I’ve done as horrible as sexual abuse and other abuse is, neglect is even more psychologically damaging. So to disregard abandonment, which is the ultimate act of neglect, is heinous. Especially since he later claimed that I am physically abusive and then asked the courts for joint custody. What kind of father abandons his children, particularly with someone he claims is abusive and then claims that that person should still have them half of the time?
How in the world am I supposed to figure out how to cope with a society where the police and the courts are the ones kidnapping my children to hand them over to our abuser? Why do “father’s rights” so obviously take precedence over our basic safety? Since when did “father’s rights” include the right to abuse children? Oh and a writ of assistance is used for property. Think about that. What it really boils down to is that the court simply views my children as property.
I don’t know about you but I am really looking forward to when the prophecies about the cleansing of the world before the Second Coming of Christ come true. This society has lost all sense of morality and decency and as a society we deserve to be utterly destroyed and swept off the face of the earth when we treat our innocent children in such a heinous fashion.
Also please keep in mind that sexual predators and abusers routinely pretend to love their victims in order to entrap them and manipulate them. That is how Bradley convinced me to marry him and that is how he has succeeded in getting the courts to kidnap the children for him. How is it helpful to the children to continue lying to them and pretending that he loves them when his actions clearly show what a lie that is? Believing that lie was the most damaging thing that I have ever done. Choosing to continue to believe it in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary nearly made me lose my mind. I spent years of my marriage just trying to get through one more day of that hell. Who benefits from believing that lie? Because it certainly isn’t my children. I’ve been the child in a divorce and accepting the fact that my dad didn’t love me in spite of his claims to the contrary was freeing. Likewise recognizing Bradley’s lies has also been freeing and standing up to them has been immensely healing. “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”
And how many of you will even believe me? How many of you will blame me because it is too uncomfortable for you to believe that the courts and the police are so corrupt?
“We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable.” - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
What will you believe?
Evil and abuse and oppression rely on and thrive in secrecy and a code of silence. Will you look the other way and allow it to grow? Or will you shine a light on it?
The last day of USU classes was Thursday, December 10, and though I had two final projects and my own students' grading to finish, for most intents and purposes I was already on vacation. My therapist a couple years ago said that his experience successfully procrastinating as an undergraduate made him less stressed in graduate school. That was one of the most comforting things I ever heard, and I really took it to heart. I've gotten a perfect score on every assignment in every class this semester and still had a lot more free time than I expected. Now I have no classes and no job for over a month; school starts again on January 19 because spring break is canceled to prevent students from traveling and bringing Sharona Cyrus back with them, is what I heard. Next summer, I will probably go back to my old job at Jenson Online for a while to get some extra money, but there's no point trying to do that right now, especially since December is their slowest time of year when they give employees free time off.
I was supposed to attend two sexual misconduct prevention trainings this semester - one for graduate students and one for university employees. I'm not sure why graduate students need to have their own training separate from normal students, but they do. The employee training never happened because it's being rewritten to conform with updated government regulations, but the graduate student training was... interesting. I signed up for a date and time and then showed up to a Zoom meeting with several other graduate students, and it basically went as follows.
Host: This is kind of an awkward topic.
Everyone else: Yes, well, that can't be helped, can it? We'll just have to deal with -
Host: So let's make it less awkward. Let's make it fun.
Everyone else: Uh, what?
Host: I'm gonna put you in breakout groups and have you answer icebreaker questions.
Everyone else: Icebreaker questions?? Um, thanks, but that's really not -
Host: I'm going to put you back in these groups over and over.
Everyone else: You really don't have to -
Host: Build some lifelong friendships!
Everyone else: Please don't do this
Host: Have fun!
Everyone else: We won't
By the fifth or sixth time I returned to my breakout group, none of us were speaking at all. The main group discussion was fine, though notably absent was any mention whatsoever of rights or due process for those accused of sexual misconduct. I'm sure that was just an oversight - this isn't Purdue, after all.
Surprisingly, there doesn't seem to be a rule against graduate instructors asking out their students. I assume that if there were such a rule, it would have been announced very emphatically both during this training and the initial orientation. It makes no difference to me either way since none of my students are old enough or good enough at writing for me to be attracted to them, but I'm just surprised. My colleage Greyson got asked out by one of her students in a weekly reflection post, and she turned him down because it was "unprofessional". In the next week's reflection post he said that he hated her class and everything about it. Then he tried to make her jealous by talking about "this dope girl" he was going out with. Then he stopped coming to class. Then at the end of the semester he said he's dropping out of college and it's all her fault. I'm never going to stop teasing her about it. On a more positive note, one of my students asked out one of his classmates in a discussion post, and I was super impressed with his chutzpah and I hope they get married because that would be the cutest thing ever.
I also was supposed to have to take an alcohol training before I would be allowed to register for classes next semester, and that never materialized either. It would have been a waste of time anyway. I've never consumed a drop of alcohol in my life, and if I ever do, I know I'll immediately drink myself to death and there will be no other problems to consider.
Teaching was... good. I don't know what else to say. It wasn't phenomenal, it wasn't terrible, it wasn't super easy, it wasn't super difficult. I do seem to have natural teaching skills that somewhat compensate for my lack of knowledge or experience. I don't know how I could have acquired any such skills but I don't know how else to account for the semester going so smoothly under the circumstances. I love most of my students - I definitely have favorites, and one least favorite. My favorites are the best writers, of course, but also some others who aren't so good at writing but are just really good hard-working kids. I still don't know what most of them look like. I may have gotten an exceptional batch - my colleagues complained that all of their students wrote about Covid for the "Investigating the Conversation" current event essay, but my students, in addition to a few essays about Covid's effects on this or that, wrote about such diverse topics as Utah's drought, California's wildfires, Chicago's violence, Mexico's water treaty with the US, Chile's new constitution, Bolivia's election, Poland's abortion ban, and China's Uyghur genocide.
I tried to get them to talk and make friends with each other in class. For the most part they were awkward and quiet, but sometimes when they finished their work in breakout groups they asked each other about their lives and majors and stuff, and sometimes when I dropped in they asked me questions about my life and undergraduate experience and that was probably the most enjoyable thing for me so far. They didn't have many opportunities to socialize this semester and I wanted to help them out as much as I could. Most of them are freshmen getting cheated out of their freshman experience. When I was a freshman, events were held on campus and/or in my dorm almost every evening. Live, in-person events. I feel so sorry for these kids. I tried, also, to teach them skills and principles that will help them in everything they do for the rest of their lives. I thought back to a philosophy class I took my first semester, and how it taught me to think, and I wanted to replicate that effect in my own class. I never forced my opinions on anyone but I taught them how to evaluate sources and information and different perspectives, and that will help them be less stupid and dogmatic than most Americans.
I tried, also, to draw on my own experience to urge them to avoid my mistakes and consequent suffering, but here I was less successful. One of my students with a learning disability flunked the class after not showing up or turning anything in for two months, despite being informed by me about the Disability Resource Center four times. I ask myself, what could I have said or done differently to have more of an influence on this student? If nothing, then what's the point of me being here? If I wanted to watch young people ignore my warnings and make avoidable mistakes and suffer, I would become a parent.
So this is a draft I've been sitting on for over two years and have finally decided to just get out of my drafts file so the effort put into it won't be wasted. I wrote it early in the week to post on the weekend according to my habitual schedule but then had to keep updating it as more details came out in the news every day, and then because I was very busy with school I gave up and shelved it. This is how I left it the week of March 20, 2018, except for one brief interpolation denoted by brackets and a few tweaks to bring it into conformity with the revisions made to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Style Guide later that year.
Post Draft Begins
The good news this week is that I got [I don't remember what I was going to put here so obviously it wasn't that good]
The bad news this week is the scandal in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which of course thanks to my weekly format and busy schedule I'm writing about after everyone else, but maybe that's for the best as it's given me time to reflect instead of lashing out. Please forgive this recap that may well be redundant to you. And please read the entire post before deciding to hate me. I've had to revise a few times as additional information keeps coming out, so I apologize if I've missed anything crucial.
An anonymous woman who served as a Latter-day Saint missionary in the early eighties alleges that the president of the Missionary Training Center, Joseph Bishop, groomed and tried to rape her. She claims that she told Carlos E. Asay of the Seventy about it, and that he said he would speak to Joseph Bishop about it, but he never did and Joseph Bishop never faced any consequences whatsoever. Unfortunately, the late Elder Asay has not responded to requests for comment. The latest legal investigation started in January and closed because the statute of limitations expired thirty years ago and they can't actually do anything about it, but it has suddenly blown up due to the unauthorized leak of an audio recording of an alleged interview between the victim and Joseph Bishop, in which he admits to his alleged crimes in great detail for the better part of two hours and forty-four minutes. And since this woman was choosing to keep the whole matter mostly private, whichever "friend" leaked it without her permission and probably ruined her chance for a settlement is kind of a dirtbag.
Outside of the recording, Joseph Bishop has before and since denied all accusations except asking to see her breasts and giving a backrub to another missionary living in his home. His son claims that he told him about these things sometime before the accusations came. Admitting that much either increases or reduces his credibility, I'm not sure which. The breast thing in and of itself is a terrible and unacceptable thing for a man in his position to have done and should have cost him said position at the very least had it been known at the time, but far less than he stands accused of now. The Church's official statement can be found here. Some people whose view of reality is filtered through the assumption that everything the Church does or says is in bad faith have read such victim-blaming and negligence into this statement that I can only assume they aren't seeing the same one I am.
Of course, as with unsubstantiated claims regarding suicide statistics, there are those who want this to be true because they don't care about assault victims so much as they hate the Church and like having tragedies to weaponize against it. There are also those church members who immediately assume it can't be true because he was an MTC president. Both types are dangerous. The rest of us have two competing prerogatives: to take seriously women (and, in theory, men) who claim to have been abused or assaulted, and to take caution against ruining innocent men's (and, in theory, women's) lives. Most people these days seem to resolve this difficulty by just not caring about the latter item. It seems like men accused of abuse or assault are presumed guilty until proven innocent, just because the topic is so emotionally charged and people are out for blood. And that's disgusting.
Because I was so disturbed and needed the full context, I read the transcript while I should have been doing homework, and it looks extremely damning. And it probably is. Unless it isn't legit. As absurd as that may sound, an ex-Mormon skillfully crafting fake but convincing evidence to embarrass and/or extort money from the Church would not be without precedent. See: Mark Hofmann I'm willing to regard the accuser as acting in good faith unless and until proven otherwise, but I mention this possibility and perhaps focus disproportionately on it because many people haven't bothered to consider it at all - assuming, apparently, that modern recording devices are magic infallible purveyors of truth, even though many of these same people had no hesitation in dismissing the undercover Planned Parenthood videos as "deceptively edited" without watching them. Joseph Bishop's son Greg claims that the accuser has also made spurious accusations against at least ten other men without filing charges which, if true, obliterates her credibility. But I don't know if it is. No one has denied it, but if it's true I'd like to know why she isn't in prison for life.
Someone who knows Joseph Bishop personally asserts that he has dementia and espouses this hypothesis. His son, Greg, asserts that he was under medication for the heart surgery he mentioned having a couple days before the interview. Certainly it's obvious in the transcript that he isn't all there. He seemed like a rambling child, with the interviewer a (mostly) patient teacher guiding the discussion and constantly redirecting him back on topic. She said he had tried to rape her and he said he didn't remember that but spilled his guts about his other alleged crimes, with no resistance, despite knowing he was being recorded and despite denying it in before and since then. And he kind of rambled all over the place and sometimes he just talked about it as casually as the weather but other times he talked about sex addiction and tried to make himself the victim but other times he was like "I feel really bad about it" but when the interviewer talked about how her faith and her life were ruined, he was just like "Wow." He said he didn't remember some things, which people have taken as proof of his dishonesty despite how open he was about the other details. The whole discussion is weird. Something is off.
I'm not advocating per se for Joseph Bishop's innocence, which I haven't the expertise to declare, but all I'm saying is that we can't immediately rule it out as so many have done. This is why we try to have fair trials and lawyers instead of just convicting people as soon as an apparently damning piece of evidence comes to light. If the recording is discredited, which unfortunately won't be a matter for the police or court system to resolve since the statues of limitations is up, I won't have made an ass of myself and slandered a (mostly) innocent man. It's worth a reminder, too, that both our secular legal system and the church discipline system are imperfect necessities for maintaining some semblance of order. Both will inevitably overlook people who should have been punished and punish people who shouldn't have been. We can only look to God's final judgment for any hope of true justice - and then, of course, we can also take comfort that He will be far more merciful to all of us than any of us deserve. Without this, life is irredeemably and irrevocably unfair.
If true, the mere fact of a high-ranking church leader doing something terrible, however tragic and unacceptable it is, has little or no bearing on the legitimacy or integrity of the organization. Everyone has agency and any good man can choose to no longer be a good man. Far more problematic in my view are a couple other aspects of the alleged situation. First, Joseph Bishop claims in the interview that he struggled with sex addiction and unresolved sexual sin before beign called as MTC president. If so, why would God allow the selection of such a man to a position over vulnerable young women? And second, of course, the alleged unwillingness of Elder Asay to do anything about it. I suppose that too would mostly reflect on him as an individual, but it would sure make the institution look bad. On both of these questions, though, the other men whose sides of the story could enlighten us on the answers are deceased, so any speculation from detractors or defenders of the Church seems to me of limited value. I'm not going to worry about it. I have the Holy Ghost for myself and how anyone else deals with Him is not my concern.
But regardless of the outcome of this one person's guilt or innocence, it should serve as a wake-up call and an urgent reminder that no one - no one - is incapable of doing terrible things simply by virtue of his religion or his status within it. If you ever catch yourself saying "He couldn't have done that, he's a good Latter-day Saint", stop. Just stop. See: Mountain Meadows Massacre Other instances of abuse and assault unquestionably happen within the Church. I don't think we have an exceptional problem with it, and we'll never be able to stamp it out entirely because humans will be humans, but we have to do what we can to address the instances that have happened and prevent future ones. This doesn't happen to be one of the myriad problems in the world that I've channelled my limited time and resources into addressing, but I hope that mentioning it here will be some small help to those who are working on it. This article from Leo Winegar and this site from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops that he recommended to me are good resources. And I would generally recommend going to the police before religious leaders who have no legal authority.
End of Post Draft
I already went into more detail in a post last year, but to recap the rest of the story since then: the woman, McKenna Denson (who changed her name from June Hughes after her reputation started to catch up with her) does, in fact, have an extensive record of trying to extort money from people and institutions with false accusations and fraudulent lawsuits - including but not limited to the aforementioned rape accusations - going back about four decades to before her mission. Oh, and she also solicited donations by pretending to have cancer so basically she's Satan. When the Church's lawyers documented these facts, they were evil scum-sucking victim blamers promoting rape culture. When McKenna's partner and biggest supporter Mike Norton documented these facts, he was a hero acting with courage and integrity. A couple days later her own lawyers quit for undisclosed reasons. So mysterious. The last news about her was in February when she dropped the lawsuit and the case was sent to settlement instead, but for the most part, she's dropped off the face of the Earth and her support has evaporated.
The story hits a bit closer to home now that I've also faced false accusations from a pathological liar. Fortunately, I was "only" accused of stalking, and all that happened was Officer Jackass chewed me out for a few minutes and then forced me to go to the hospital to talk to the world's most apathetic social worker. At no point did either of them ask a single question about my side of the story or give the slightest indication of considering that I might have one. Thinking back on it I've fantasized about giving Officer Jackass a piece of my mind, telling him exactly what I think of him and explaining in detail, even though he didn't ask, why pretty much everything he thought was completely wrong, but at the time I was too confused and scared to do much more than sit through his abuse. I worried that it might cause additional problems in my life and was prepared to file a lawsuit if it did, but it doesn't seem to have gone on any sort of permanent record so that saves me some hassle. So that was my admittedly one-sided experience with the culture of hashtag believe women.
Besides my original question of why McKenna Denson isn't in prison for life, which still stands, I now have two more: how many people left the Church because of her, and how many of them came back after her career of lies was exposed? Knowing what I do about human nature, I'm guessing the answer to that last one is zero, give or take.
I should have been at work when they came, but the internet went down and we were all sent home early. I thought I would use my newfound freedom to take a sorely needed nap, and maybe if the snow ever stopped I would shovel the sidewalk for everyone. But no. Around one in the afternoon they came and knocked on my door.
Even though I would have much preferred to be left alone, I was prompt in answering, but not prompt enough for them, if their indiscreet ducks and peeks under my half-closed window shades were any indication. Two guys I couldn't get a clear look at. My upstairs neighbors, I assumed, as peeking in people's windows is frowned upon and thus the sort of thing friends goofing off would do. I opened the door and discovered how wrong I was.
As the police officers made small talk and gently invited themselves in, I racked my brain trying to come up with anything I could have possibly done to warrant this visit. Had my years of jaywalking finally come up with me? Their refusal to get straight to the point didn't help. I concluded after a few agonizing seconds that this was a misunderstanding of some kind, and once they had satisfied themselves that I had no drugs or weapons or Nickelback albums they would leave me alone. They did make a rather obvious show of looking at every item or piece of clutter in my living room, as if forming their opinion of me right then and there, but there was no actual search. I sat, they stood. My memory is already fragmented so I don't know if I've gotten all the basic points in the right order, but I think I've gotten them all covered at least. I'm also going to censor myself less than usual because I feel like it.
The one guy who did most of the talking while his partner stood back and to the side finally got to the point. "Your neighbors next door have expressed concern about you," he said.
Oh. So this was an intervention because I had recently been talking candidly to one of them about my lack of will to live. She'd taken it the wrong way if she was actually concerned or thought I was planning to kill myself, but that was probably my fault, so fair enough and I would be more careful about phrasing in the future.
"They said you've been making them uncomfortable," he continued stiffly. "You are not to talk to them anymore, you are not to text them, you are not to call them. Consider this a warning."
At this point, one thought overwhelmingly dominated my mind, and that thought was What the fuck?
Out loud, I phrased it a bit more tactfully.
"You know the texts you sent them?" He sounded contemptuous and borderline hostile, derisively emphasizing "the texts" as if they were proof that I had murdered a kitten.
"Yeah," I said.
"What kind of texts were they?"
I hesitated, which I immediately assumed they had immediately taken as an admission of guilt. The reason I hesitated was because there was no way to answer that question in a few words. It required a decent bit of backstory and context. "They were - well, I can show you," I said, reaching for my phone beside me on the couch.
"We've already seen them," he snapped, his voice rising as if my response had been evasive or obstinate instead of, you know, the opposite of those things. But I'm not black, so he didn't shoot me.
Now, I'm going to interject some of that backstory and context. It doesn't make a difference to anything now but someday I'll be gone and want the record set straight for posterity. There were, I assume, only two of the five neighbors involved, best friends, the only ones I knew much at all - or thought I knew, anyway. I'll call them C and T. The officer never did clarify for sure which horrible texts he had in mind, but I hadn't texted C for nearly a week, and I had been texting T the previous day. And yes, some of those texts were "weird". But so is T.
The second time I had a conversation with T, she had granted my request to come over and discuss something that I would tell her if she promised to keep it confidential. "I promise," she had said with a smile. And when I showed up, of course she already knew what it was. I wanted to talk about her roommate C. She was very friendly and supportive and gave me lots of advice in a conversation that stretched on about four times as long as I'd anticipated, which I had to cut short so I could go to work. She said I should invite C to go for a walk, and I said I was too nervous, so she said we'd compose the text together, then took my phone and composed and sent the text on her own.
More to the point here, though, she told me she could read people's auras, that she'd seen mine, that it was refreshingly devoid of the usual flashing lights and loud noises and smells of most people's auras; that my heart was a nice color, that my soft eyes nicely complemented C's vibrant ones, that the emotional damage she saw in me wasn't as bad as I thought and just needed a little time and attention to heal, and that she could glimpse the future sometimes and this was one of those times and that the walk C had miraculously agreed to as we sat there would turn out to be a good experience, but she wouldn't say how because knowing your own future will make you ruin it. Which sounds legit. You know, I'm often a skeptic, but I do think the world is a strange and wondrous place and if someone tells me they have gifts like these, I'm happy to take their word for it as long as they're not charging too much.
T was a very calm, soothing influence. She seemed to spew wisdom in every sentence with a cryptic smile plastered on her face. She seemed to know everything and be incapable of surprise. But she wasn't cocky, she was just like "I know everything and I'm not worried so you shouldn't worry either." Basically she was like real-life Luna Lovegood. And every time then or thereafter I expressed a misgiving beaten into me by years of misfortune that I had said or done something weird to upset her or C, she acted confused as to why I would think that way when clearly I had said or done nothing wrong and needed to calm down. Basically, she was a strange, free spirit who had seen my innermost self and pronounced it wholesome, who implicitly and explicitly made me feel like I could be candid and honest and not stress about always saying the "right" thing the "right" way because she would know what I meant.
I know now that for some length of time - maybe a day, maybe weeks, maybe from the start - she was straight-up deceitful with me.
So these particular texts that made me the worst person in the world started Sunday evening after I called T to ask about something else and then hesitated and she sensed there was more I wanted to say. By her own admission she was really, really bad at responding to texts, but on this occasion she made a promise to respond for the next twenty-four hours. I took her up on that and took advantage of the time allotted to cover as much ground as possible.
My first question had to do with what she'd said months earlier about my aura. It seemed from what she'd said that she had looked into my soul and pronounced it good. And I wanted to know, was that all she'd seen, or had she seen the ugliness too? Because this is something I've pondered and wrestled with plenty of times and was doing so again as the new year provided an impetus for introspection and improvement. Plenty of people think I'm great and whatever, but virtually none of them are very familiar with my gamut of shortcomings. I, on the other hand, have a more balanced picture of myself and am less inclined to think I'm so great, but am I just too hard on myself? The people who think I'm great would say so, but how would they know when they can't see what I see? So I thought T would have one-of-a-kind perspective and could maybe put me at ease, if she could be like "Yes, I saw your soul's defects but it was still good and beautiful overall."
She said - and I saved this response because it was so poetic - "I'll be completely honest with you. Your outer shell looked covered in cigarette burns, cuts, infection, and you looked starved and severely damaged. Your outer shell was blotchy in color from a lack of sunlight and extreme cold. Your head was covered in cracks and had exposed parts to your brain. I saw some things that aren't my place to say because it would only give you flashbacks and anxiety."
I said, "That sounds about right."
That was the part where I opened up more. She wasn't able to respond for a bit but I wanted to take advantage of my twenty-four hours so I kept texting. When she responded she said she was glad I had told her these things but there wasn't really anything she could do to help and I should talk to somebody more qualified. I said she'd been very helpful in the past and shouldn't underestimate herself, and I was pleased that for once I was the one in a position to tell her to have a higher opinion of herself. Now, in hindsight, maybe at this point she was trying to tell me to shut the hell up, and interpreted my response as a refusal. I didn't ask her to cure me, though. I only meant that she was more helpful than she gave herself credit for.
But I imagine her main problem with me arose on Monday, when I asked her on a whim if she could interpret dreams. She said sometimes depending on certain factors and whatnot. I told her I'd had some weird dreams about someone - I figured she knew I was talking about her roommate, but I wanted make it more objective and less awkward - and I was pretty sure most of them were meaningless nonsense, but one of them I wanted to check because it had a bit of biblical imagery, nothing too fancy but enough to make me wonder a little. It wasn't a big deal or a priority - the dream had happened weeks earlier - but I figured as long as T was committed to responding for a certain time period and this seemed like something that would be right up her alley, it couldn't hurt to ask. I was perfectly aware that this is a weird thing to bring up with just anyone, but she wasn't just anyone. I thought I could share anything with her.
She queried me about the sparse details, which I don't feel like getting into in this public space at this time, but I promise it wasn't a vision of my mother and/or wife dying. Then she asked who this person in the dream(s) was. I started to feel uneasy for the first time in our twenty-four hours. She said she already knew who it was so I should just spit it out. I did, playing right into what I'm now positive was a duplicitous attempt to make me incriminate myself - not for actually doing anything illegal or unethical, of course, but for being creepy. I think even subconsciously at the time I picked up on a change in her that I shouldn't have overlooked.
"Please don't be upset," I said.
"Why would I be upset?" she lied.
She said this dream and other unrelated ones stemmed from my own insecurities, that they came from a bad place and I should ignore them. I mulled it over, somewhat surprised that she would see any bad influences behind it, but she was usually right about things so I accepted that. I wasn't surprised or disappointed that this dream which I knew probably meant nothing actually did mean nothing. I thought that would be the end of it and assumed without question that she would continue to respect the confidentiality she promised me. She had no reason not to.
And that, essentially, is what I would have liked to be able to explain to the police. But if they had read these texts back even a little ways, they should have been able to see for themselves that T's were totally on board with everything, that she believed all this stuff about auras and dream reading and that she started the auras part herself. This was not an instance me sending weird texts to a normal person who wouldn't be expected to know what to do with them. I suppose she told them she was just playing along so she could incriminate me for being weird.
As far as my texts to C, there was no similar weirdness. Originally I got her number when I showed up to invite her to go hiking with some friends, and she wasn't home but T invited me in (this was before our aforementioned discussion) and offered it to me on a sticky note. Even though it's normal behavior for people within YSA ward boundaries to look up each other's numbers in the directory, I was nervous that C wouldn't appreciate me having hers without permission. T said it was fine. The point became moot when C came home right then and I was able to talk to her in person, but as I was about to leave I said, "Oh, your roommate gave me your number and wanted me to text you."
"You're welcome to text me," she said, and no sooner had the words left her mouth than their dog ran out the door and we spent the next five minutes chasing it.
Despite this explicit permission, I was afraid to text her and didn't until T did it for me. I was afraid because I'd had far too many experiences of texting women and having them invalidate my existence by responding between two and zero times. In early 2016, this happened with three different women in the span of a couple of weeks, sufficiently breaking my spirit that I vowed to never ask for a woman's number again. And I didn't. And I fully expected that C would decline the invitation T wrote for me, and that she would stop responding almost immediately thereafter. Instead I found her her responses incredibly consistent and prompt, especially for one so busy, and warm and friendly as well. I wasn't so delusional as to think that the smiley faces were flirtatious, but they did at least give off the impression that she enjoyed texting me. Yet I constantly felt like this was too good to be true, that my luck would run out and reality would reassert itself. Every time she responded I felt like I'd performed a miracle.
Instead of the scheduled walk, we ended up just sitting and talking on campus, which was delightful in itself. C gave me an unsolicited friendly hug when we parted ways. But some time later I grew bold and asked if we could try for the walk again. It was finals week, when I hoped she would have a bit more room in her schedule owing to the lack of classes, but she said she was busy and stressed and trying to figure some things out and get everything ready to go home for the break, and asked if we could do it sometime next year instead. I said for sure but that I was sorry to hear she wasn't doing well and hoped she could get some much-needed relaxation. I left it at that because she seemed like she needed space and would brush off any offers of assistance on my part. Over the break, I only texted her on Christmas (when we had a nice conversation) and New Year's Eve (when I texted once, she responded and I didn't).
When school started up I started texting her more, and at long last we got into some deep discussions and she put the stunning intelligence I'd seen in her eyes long ago on full display. I shed a few tears of joy. That conversation tapered off but I figured she was busy and didn't worry much about it. I waited a day or so, then asked if she would be up for a walk the following weekend. She said her foot hurt too much from spraining it over the break, and that she needed more time. I said no worries and this time I did ask if there was something I could do and of course she said no. We texted some more about school and stuff, she stopped responding even though I asked a direct question, and that was quite a disappointment but I didn't let it get to me. I decided to wait a week before texting her again. She went to the police before that week was up.
What I'm trying to get across is that no reasonable person on the planet could find any cause for complaint in this set of texts. I bent over backwards to respect real or imagined boundaries and not pressure or overwhelm C in any way. So I assume this was all about the other texts, and that T violated her promise of confidentiality. Of course I there would have been valid cause to do so if she had reason to suspect that I presented a danger to someone. But nothing whatsoever in any of these texts provided such a reason either - unless, of course, one factors in the statistically baseless but ever-popular assumption that all mentally ill people (but mostly just all mentally ill men, if we're being honest) are ticking time bombs who threaten normal people, in which case every weird thing I said became ipso facto proof that I was scary. I can imagine T thinking, "Crap, he's more insane than I thought; I'd better stab him in the back." But by her own logic there, I should have run and told somebody as soon as she got that smile and started talking about the color of my heart.
And if, for the sake of make-believe, I did have less than pure intentions toward C, why in the everlasting gulf of death and misery would I confide in and seek advice from her best friend as much as possible? Is that how stupid T thinks I am? I almost find that more insulting than her betrayal. She knows me better than that.
The asshole cop, nonetheless, consistently referred to "the texts you sent them" as if they owned the same phone, which I thought was kind of stupid. (For that matter, he never even specified that it was just the two of them and not all five neighbors under discussion, but I've only ever sent one text to one other, and it was in response to her finding my number and texting me to say she'd retrieved my package while I was out of town, which now that I think of it was kind of creepy and I obviously should have told the police to tell her never to text me or take my stuff again.) He went through that little spiel in his unnecessarily belligerent manner, seeming to take for granted that I wouldn't comply with this injunction I was hearing about for literally the first time ever unless he threatened me, and then softened. "Any questions?" he asked.
I told him, truthfully, that this had come out of nowhere, that my neighbors had never complained to me about anything I said or did, or given me the slightest indication that there were any problems of any kind.
The quiet cop got his piece in. "Some people don't like confrontations," he said.
Ah, of course. Other people's freedom to avoid resolving conflicts like adults at all costs should certainly trump my freedom to not be treated like a criminal by some belligerent twat in my own home by some for no justifiable reason. Why do we pay taxes for law enforcement, if not to use them as pawns in real-life Facebook blocking as a first and only resort to prevent any communication about our personal drama? I thought they were my friends.
The asshole cop then mentioned in passing a few things that were garbled to the point of inaccuracy, making it clear that either C and T or he himself had no problem playing fast and loose with facts. I believe there's something very specific in the scriptures about bearing false witness against thy neighbor... He mentioned "the Tootsie rolls and the notes" that I left on their doorstep and said specifically not to leave notes anymore.
Back in the early days of what I thought was our friendship, I noticed on C's public Instagram status that she was a huge fan of Tootsie rolls. I didn't understand the fascination myself for such a monotone-flavored candy, but different strokes for different folks. Although now that I think of it there are multiple flavors and I shouldn't have just assumed she only meant the chocolate ones. Anyway, I had gotten the feeling lately that she was going through a rough time, and I figured even if my intuition was wrong it was still correct because any life as busy as hers would suck, and the idea just coalesced in my mind that it would be nice to do something nice for her and that Tootsie rolls could be it. I got the biggest bag I could find, put it in an old Amazon package with the address torn off, and yes, God forbid, I put a note with it - a note comprised of two words explaining who its intended recipient was. And I left it on her doorstep.
It was just a nice thought that seemed like a good idea at the time, and I had no further thoughts or aspirations than that. I kept myself anonymous and felt that the selflessness of the act would be compromised if I did otherwise. However, I did tell one person, a mutual friend who kept me informed that C thought the gift was very thoughful, couldn't be happier to have it, and really really wanted to find out who it was from. This friend urged me to the point that a week later I knocked on C's door and explained, and she expressed her gratitude and I bowed out as fast as I could so I didn't seem like I was expecting anything.
The only other time I left something on their doorstep was a birthday present for her, on the day she had told me was her birthday, selected to match some of the biggest interests she had told me about. This one, also, had a note, eleven words long this time as I recall, which may be where I crossed the line into unacceptable behavior. It was anonymous again but I knew she would know it was from me but I planned to deny it because she couldn't prove anything, so I could at least maintain some semblance of selflessness. When the time came, though, I realized I couldn't lie to her even for such a purpose, so I phrased my denial as an overly obvious joke. She said she was very happy to have it. When T invited me over late the next week I saw it in a place of prominence on the kitchen table.
Those two notes accompanying those two packages, together totalling thirteen words, were the only notes that I left for anyone living there at any time. So, "don't leave any more notes"? What the actual hell?
The asshole cop also mentioned that they said I was "always" outside when they went by, which is quite an absurd statement. The way they/he phrased it would seem to suggest that Sometimes I saw one or both of them in the yard and popped out to talk to them because opportunities to do so were few and far between. I stayed within or next to my own doorway unless the dog was also present and delighted as always to see me. I didn't see it as problematic because we all lived in the same building and I thought they were my friends, but If I'd suspected at all that they did, I wouldn't have tried to talk to them. In any case I'd estimate that all of these brief encounters with either or both of them averaged less than one a week. I recognize that "always" was meant as a bit of hyperbole anyway but in this case, it's actually just a lie. Perhaps they were just really, really upset for some reason about both of the times one of them came outside to find me playing with the dog after they left it tied up alone in the cold?
The asshole cop said, "Don't follow them." I have never followed them. I'm not even sure what they're smoking if they think I've ever followed them.
I also would just like to mention that one time I had my headphones on and didn't hear T knocking on my door for four minutes or see her text announcing her arrival, so she went around to the living room window by where I was sitting and banged on that. I didn't mind it, and felt really bad for wasting four minutes of her life, but if our positions had been reversed I never ever would have dared to do the same with her or any other woman who hadn't been a close intimate friend for at least three years.
Oh, and I'm sorry, I really didn't mean to get onto this tangent, but I should also mention the reason she came. She had told me before that she needed to show me something and ask me something. So now she showed me an unsettling handdrawn picture of a lanky Grey alien with human woman's hair and a smiling mouth of long sharp teeth. It looked as if it had been torn into bitty pieces and taped back together. I was silent for a moment as I tried to process this freaky random thing she'd thrust in my face, then said "Wow, that's something."
She asked, "Do you know what it is?"
"No," I said.
"Okay," she said, and left with it.
I texted her to nonchalantly mention that the picture was going to haunt my dreams at night and asked what it meant.
"It doesn't mean anything," she texted back, "it's just a picture. Are you Irish?"
I answered honestly and didn't press for an explanation, but I asked C about it a couple days later. She said she didn't know about this particular instance, though she had seen T drawing something, but T just did random checks like that from time to time and never explained what she was checking. I would be able to count my friends on one hand if I did weird crap like that. Aren't double standards and hypocrisy amazing? I should have called the police anyway.
So to summarize that painfully long section, my neighbors sent the police after me for not entirely accurate reasons because they weren't willing to talk to me about their concerns like adults. I thought they were my friends and I thought they were mature and intelligent people. To say that the truth blindsided me would be the understatement of the year, which admittedly hasn't been underway very long but still.
Now the talkative officer changed the subject and acted all concerned. He asked if I was depressed or suicidal right now.
Of course I am now, you cunt. "Yeah, a little."
He queried me about past suicide attempts, plans and so forth. I have this crazy thought that if he was really so concerned about my emotional health, he could have maybe not started his approach by trying to confuse and scare the crap out of me, but what do I know about police work? He asked if he could take me to the hospital.
"I don't have insurance," I said.
"I'd just take you in the patrol car," he said. "No ambulance." (Note for non-Americans: This is relevant because in the dystopian nightmare called the United States of America, an ambulance ride can cost up to two thousand dollars.)
"But how much would the visit cost?" I pressed.
"I don't know," he said, "but your life is more important than money."
I silently disagreed. I will concede the point that being alive is a prerequisite to money having any value at all, but on the flip side, a life devoid of money is essentially one long hellscape of anxiety and deprivation that I for one don't consider a more attractive alternative to not having to worry about the damn stuff. What's the point of a hospital saving my life just so they can make it even worse?
The offer of hospitalization was probably their intention all along based on the more nihilistic texts my neighbors showed them, but ironically, my neighbors doing this to me was the only reason I needed it at that moment, if I did need it, which despite my hesitation I sensed I very well might. And I figured I could still kill myself afterward if it turned out to be too expensive. So I let him convince me, probably because I knew deep down that he was only pretending I had a choice.
The three of us stepped outside. "Thank you for cooperating," said the officer who had snapped at me a few minutes ago for cooperating. Then: "Is it okay if I pat you down? I want to make sure you don't have a knife or anything you could use to hurt yourself in the hospital." So I put my hands on my head and he patted me down right there on the sidewalk where anyone could look out the windows and see us, and in fact one of my upstairs neighbors did, but since he's an actual friend he texted me to ask if I was okay and I said no. I got in the back of the asshole cop's car - there were two, as they'd driven separately, which struck me as overkill, but then, their being called to the scene in the first place was already overkill - and we set off. No handcuffs, so I didn't get the full experience. On the way the driver chatted with me about school and career aspirations.
Of course when we got to the hospital my first question was about the money and they determined that I might be eligible for Medicaid and should talk to the financial adviser after. I had looked into Medicaid a little and determined that I wasn't eligible, but that just shows how dumb I am.
At one point, besides the officer standing just outside, there were four people in the room - I believe the doctor, the nurse, the social worker, and a woman probably a few years younger than me who inexplicably wore a nametag identifying her origin as Weber State University. She said nothing as the others briefly discussed the details of my case. The word "stalking", spoken as casually as a discussion of the weather, jumped out and hung in the air forever. Here they were talking about me as if I were a monster, while treating me as if I deserved help. Did they not know that the only good stalker is a dead stalker? I guess there was truth in what Dr. Proctor said in one episode of "Pokémon" that I watched a hundred and fifty times as a kid: "A doctor's job is to heal, not to judge."
But what were they really thinking? In particular I wondered about the young Weber woman who never joined in the discussion. Was the appearance of clinical objectivity on her face genuine, or did it merely mask the revulsion she felt toward me? Or worse yet - pity? You poor stupid boy, her eyes might have said. You just can't help it, can you?
In fairness, though, they might have actually said "stocking". I shouldn't jump to conclusions.
Before the officer left, he said I was welcome to call the station and ask to talk to Officer Nelson. For a moment I wanted to take him up on his offer and explain why I wasn't the terrible person he thought I was, but what good would that have done? It wouldn't have altered the legal situation at all. And I can't believe he was stupid enough to think I was stupid enough to think he was my friend after the way he treated me. But it's kind of funny that he literally had another cop with him and still decided to attempt the Bad Cop Good Cop routine by himself. The Logan City Police Department, ladies and gentlemen.
The hospital process mostly consisted of me changing into one of those skimpy hospital gowns that I guess is supposed to make people less suicidal, and talking to the social worker. I managed to give her a very condensed version of my side of the story but soon figured out that she didn't actually give a shit what had happened or not happened; she was just aiming to stop me from killing myself and of course that information couldn't have been relevant to her goal. She brushed it aside and asked, "Any physical or sexual abuse growing up?"
Not intentionally, but given what we know about the long-term effects of spanking and slapping children, to say nothing of children who don't know why the hell they're being punished half the time, yes. I said something less articulate to that effect.
She pressed, "Any sexual abuse?"
"No." For a moment I wondered if I should mention the time I was alone with an older relative and he whipped out his penis and tried to convince me to suck it. But after I declined enough times, he gave up and put it back in his pants, so that didn't count as abuse and couldn't have had much impact besides helping me realize years later how fucked up one side of my family is. So it didn't seem relevant and I didn't mention it.
Would I consider this situational depression, she wondered? Well, duh. I didn't really think a chemical imbalance had jack to do with it. I thought that most people - not that most people would ever find themselves in a similar situation, but if they did, most people would have essentially the same emotional response. I didn't think my inability to get over it with a smile and a shrug was something to pathologize.
She said they had to determine whether to let me go home or make me stay for a few weeks, and it was a point in my favor that I had come voluntarily. She asked, "Do you have something to live for?"
If you mean, I thought, do I have any hypothetical future joy nearly as compelling as my real current suffering, then no.
"I want to be a famous author someday," I said, and she accepted that.
Why is my life so valuable to you? I silently demanded. You didn't know I existed before today. If I had died before today, you never would have. You just took this job where you're supposed to tell people you've never met before and know nothing about that they need to stay alive because, nothing else considered, you think being alive is intrinsically so freaking important for some reason. Why?
She gave me a piece of paper to write a plan for handling suicidal urges, and left me to fill it out on my own. I totally half-assed it but that was good enough for her. One thing she emphasized was that they'd only let me go if I had someone supportive to spend the evening with. I'd already texted Katie, the one person who came to mind because I was talking to her virtually every day, and told her where I was. Now I called and asked if she could do that for me. I didn't want to add to the crap she already had going on, but she seemed like the best option and I knew I would feel safe with her. I got dressed, applied for Medicaid, went home and waited for Katie to get off work and come get me.
While there I decided to announce where I'd just been, so as to strike a blow against the often-fatal stigma surrounding these topics, but I didn't want it to sound like a cry for attention so I balanced it out with more positive news.
My home was a scary place to be while I waited. I was scared to open the blinds, scared to go outside, scared of every sound I heard in the yard or through the wall. I was hungry but had no appetite. When I forced myself to eat something after nearly two hours, I started shivering and couldn't stop.
Katie came and got me, took away my kitchen knife and toaster, and let me tag along with her for the rest of the evening even though she had errands and things to do. She offered to get me something to eat, and though I had no appetite, I knew she wanted to help and I should let her. She asked what I wanted. I said "Something hot" because my insides were cold. Steve, my upstairs neighbor who saw me getting "arrested", offered via text to hang out and talk, but he wouldn't be home for a few hours. When I mentioned that I was afraid to go to bed, Katie suggested that maybe I could also stay the night with him.
She also suggested I talk to our bishop, which I thought was a most excellent idea. It turned out he already knew about it because C and T had actually first gone with their garbled account to Brad Hansen, one of his counselors in the bishopric who happened to be a police officer, and he in turn, whether because of professional requirements or just being a dick, had sent the two other officers instead of talking to me himself. So of course this information had also been disseminated to the rest of the bishopric and the secretary, and because it was last minute the bishop only had five minutes or so but wanted to talk anyway. I didn't really appreciate having to start out on the defensive with everyone from the beginning, and I expressed my annoyance to Katie by taking the Lord's name in vain.
There wasn't time to explain very much but I did tell him that I felt my neighbors had been very childish and handled the situation very poorly. I knew it wasn't his place to try and make them reconsider their actions, but it was kind of his business since they had created a substantial rift in his ward, and he wasn't forbidden to communicate with them, and I kind of hoped he would at least meet with them in private and find a really tactful way to suggest that maybe they had been very childish and handled the situation very poorly. I didn't ask him to though. And he just basically said he couldn't do anything about the legal aspect and I needed to do what the police said whether I thought it was right or not. It never occurred to me to do otherwise. In fact, if my neighbors themselves had told me not to have any contact with them, without involving the police, that still would have been out of nowhere, completely uncalled for, and deeply hurtful, but I still would have complied. There's little to be gained in trying to talk to people who hate you that much.
"Will you be able to do that?" he asked.
"That depends," I said. "Are they going to get mad at me for being in my own front yard?"
"I don't know," he said. "Just do your thing. Go to work, come home. Don't watch them." For the record, that was yet another thing I was already not doing. I'm almost surprised nobody told me not to campaign for Donald Trump.
He agreed with my plan to go to another ward for at least a few weeks, and said I could then let him know if I wanted my records moved permanently. He said I need to look forward, because I can't change yesterday, only tomorrow - a surprisingly useful piece of advice, as I hadn't yet managed to wrap my brain around the fact that this nightmare is my new reality.
While we waited for Steve to get home, Katie took me back to her place and let me watch part of "National Treasure" as we ate chips and salsa. I hadn't seen it in a long time and was surprised at how much I'd forgotten besides the parts engraved on my heart. "I've always wondered," I said as Nicholas Cage explained his brilliant plan to steal the Declaration of Independence, "if people actually learn how to commit crimes by watching movies like this."
"Right?" Katie said. "Me too. This and 'Tower Heist'."
It was about my normal bedtime when I got to Steve's place, but I stayed up for another hour to talk and watch "The Mandalorian" regardless. In the meantime of all this, a few people had reached out from my Facebook post, and I'm not going to pick favorites from the messages I received, but these were my favorite messages I received.
I've had several people in person mention that they love my blog, but from what I can see its search ranking and page views are nowhere near where I think they should be after all this time, and it often feels like I'm just tossing weird words out into empty air and I wonder if it's worth bothering anymore. So this was nice to hear.
I don't know, I can't say the obscure Disney Channel original film "Can of Worms" was great or anything, but it was an acceptable way to spend part of a long car ride. I can't really say it sucked. It had a certain dorky charm. Oh wait, I also saw "The Muppets" (2011) a few days ago. And part of "National Treasure".
But I had to go to bed, and though this particular situation was unprecedented, I'd been through enough Earth-shattering crises to know as well as I knew anything what was going to happen next. No matter how much love and support I'd received from my friends, in person or online, and no matter how much better I was feeling since earlier in the day, it would all be moot as soon as I lay still and alone in the dark and the silence. The depression and anxiety would return with a vengeance and make getting to sleep, a challenging task for me during the best of times, much much much more difficult. After I did calm down enough to get to sleep, I would more than likely be woken up a couple hours later by the depression and anxiety once again in full strength.
I hoped that crashing on Steve's house, in someone else's home, would ameliorate that a little. And maybe it would have in the long run. But after forty-five minutes or so of torture, I got the bright idea to take a long hot shower. So I gathered my things and went downstairs to my own apartment and did that. It made me feel okay for as long as I was in the shower. Before long I was restless enough to turn my phone back on and drunk-text one of my closest friends whom I had already acquainted with the situation.
By "paths I shouldn't go down" I just meant self-destructive behaviors and substance abuse to prevent me from ever falling in love. Nothing weird.
My best way of describing the next few hours is being tied down at the edge of an ocean of pain as wave after wave crashed over me. The pain ebbed and flowed, but remained a constant presence. My heart raced through one drum solo after another and I thought, quite seriously and not for the first time, that I must be losing years off my life from the way it was wearing itself out. A few times I scrounged together the energy and coherence to beg God for help - not a deliverance that I knew wouldn't come, but the strength to endure. The pain didn't change but there were a few moments throughout the night when I could believe I was receiving that strength.
It was, indeed, the same thing I'd come to expect, except worse and longer than any time I could remember, and I gave suicide a serious reconsideration. It seemed slightly unethical to go ahead and kill myself anyway right after the hospital released me, but I hadn't actually promised them I wouldn't, as such, and even if I had, promises meant nothing anymore.
But then I thought of Katie. There were many people I should have stayed alive for, but the one I fixated on was Katie. I knew that if I did it, she would think she had failed, that she hadn't done enough for me. I was certain that her pain wouldn't be nearly as bad as what I was experiencing, but it would nonetheless be pain that I had inflicted on her. And I didn't want to do that. So I endured for her sake.
At 4:36, I chose to accept the fact that I wasn't going to get a single minute of sleep, and a strange kind of peace fell over me. After another half hour I brought my laptop to bed and got a good head start on this post.
You can return from the edge of your seat now. I didn't kill myself. But more importantly, do you know who else didn't kill himself? Jeffrey Epstein. I know, I know, too soon, but somebody has to say it. All y'all sheeple need to wake up.
The very high esteem in which I once held C and T is well and truly gone, and I'm baffled that I could have been so very, very wrong about the kind of people, let alone friends they were. I've been advised to forgive them and not hold onto anger. I will and won't respectively, because this time I literally don't have the energy left to be angry. Now that I've gone through the catharsis of writing this massive post I will do my best to never think about them again. And having set the bar tolerably low, the few days since then have been much much better.
However, T still has in her possession my copy of Splinter of the Mind's Eye that I bought in 2005 and would really like to have back. I still have her copy of Wizard's First Rule that she exchanged for it, but since she chose to legally forbid me from returning it I don't particularly give a damn, and plan to burn it when the weather is nice and my friend Terrah starts doing campfires again. I really would like to have mine back though. We exchanged books the evening she dropped C at the airport and invited me over after she saw me sitting in the yard, and after talking a bit we ended up working on individual projects while "Legion" played in the background because she found horror films relaxing, which isn't weird at all. Just in case she was too polite and passive to make it known when she wanted me to leave, I offered to do so before I wore out my welcome.
With that confused face, she asked, "When wouldn't you be welcome?"
But do you want to know what the very best part is? Well, I think it's the best part, anyway, but that's subjective. I swear I'm not making it up.
I think back to when I moved here a few months ago. The move, I hoped, would symbolize a fresh chapter in my life, and big part of that fresh chapter would be making sure nobody ever again got through the wall around my heart. I fortified it daily. I was aware that some girls lived next door to me, but I ignored them as I did the entire opposite sex, and I knew they would ignore me too and we would coexist in peace.
When I came home from something one day, one of them was standing in my yard with a little dog, which strained at the end of its leash to lavish me with affection as soon as I walked close enough. Having spent far too much of my life without a dog nearby, I knelt down and returned its affection with equal enthusiasm. My eyes never left it. I did not look at the woman awkwardly standing off to the side with the leash. I did not take out my earbuds to hear her speak.
From what I had seen on entering the yard and could see now in my peripheral vision, I made some quick assumptions. She was plain, homely, awkward, and entirely forgettable. The totally blank expression on her face, which later would lead me to believe she, too, was on the spectrum, now seemed to convey her coldness and apathy. I knew she didn't want me here. I knew she was thinking that I looked like a weird person and she didn't like me and she wasn't comfortable with me being here, but she would just have to deal with that because I lived here and I had a right to be here and it wasn't my fault her dog loved me.
As I turned to go into my apartment, though, something made me take out one earbud just in case she did have something to say. In her soft monotone she said, "Have a good day."
But I knew that what she really meant was "Fuck off."
That was the first time I ever noticed C, and my first impression of her.
Why didn't I listen to me?
P.S. Registered Utah voters! Time is almost up to sign the referendum that, if successful, will put Governor Herbert's horrible attempt at tax reform on the ballot instead of shoving it down our throats! Would you rather take a few minutes out of your day to sign, or pay more taxes forever? Join Utah 2019 Tax Referendum on Facebook to learn where to sign and how to volunteer.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.