Latter-day Saint Charities recently donated $20 million to UNICEF's push for two billion vaccine doses in 196 countries by the end of the year. I applaud such an initiative. It is absolutely unacceptable for only wealthy countries to get the vaccine while the rest continue to suffer for God knows how long. Naturally, the anti-vaxxers whose existence blights this planet are confused and upset at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints all over again, and I've had many opportunities to pass along my post "Follow the Prophet, Even When He Shills for Big Pharma", which has upset some of them even more. When I wrote it, I harbored no illusions that it would change anyone's mind. Trying to convince an anti-vaxxer of reality is like trying to convince a rock to do jumping jacks. I know that, and yet I've still wasted some time arguing with them, and I'm not proud of myself and I'm really trying to stop.
The best I could hope for was to cut through their mental gymnastics and rationalizations about the officiality and unambiguousness of the Church's position on vaccines, and expose them to the full force of the cognitive dissonance they warrant and deserve for knowing that it isn't run by delusional anti-science conspiracy theorists like them, and convince them to have some integrity and admit that they disagree with an official and unambiguous Church position. Even that was expecting too much of them, but I tried. At least when left-wing members disagree with the Church on something - always for reasons that are a lot less stupid - they have the cajones to say they disagree with the Church on something. They don't lie and pretend it's one guy's opinion that isn't binding on anything. Really, the logical leap from "The First Presidency ackowledged that vaccinations are a personal decision" (true) to "The First Presidency didn't endorse vaccines and encourage all members to get vaccinated" (bull) is so blatantly wrong that I'm sure even most of the anti-vaxxers making it know it's wrong. They're just trying to stave off the cognitive dissonance at all costs. And they hate me when I don't let them do that.
More than one person was upset with me for mocking the grieving parents of hundreds of thousands of children who have suffered from vaccine injuries. No, I'm mocking parents who are so stupid that if their kid gets vaccinated and then gets hit by a car two years later, they call it a vaccine injury. More than one person was upset with me for not showing Christlike love to people with a difference of opinion founded on lies that presents a constant direct threat to public health throughout the country, and especially to the lives and well-being of children whose only sin was being born to such idiots. Oh, isn't it funny how anti-vaxxers were always like "Why does my child need to get vaccinated to protect your child" but now they're pretending to know how herd immunity works? We don't need the vaccine, we need everyone in the world to get sick, several million people to die, and the healthcare system to collapse so we can achieve herd immunity. The virus has a 99.9% recovery rate with no long-term side effects or any negative outcomes besides death whatsoever, but the rate of abnormally serious side effects from the vaccine is - well, it's a lot lower than .01%, but that's still a lot because it just is! Or something. I'm only pretending to comprehend their thought process, if they have one.
Last week we workshopped the first thirteen pages of my essay "Things That Rhyme With 'Elise'", which maybe I'll post on this website and maybe I won't. And I just want to say that the workshop was a great experience for how it contrasted with my experience last time I had a class from Jennifer. Last time, as I've mentioned, I was not adapted to the flash non-fiction format she made us use where every detail has to have some deeper layer of meaning, and my classmates didn't understand when I was trying to make jokes in my writing and decided to assume I was stupid instead. I felt eaten alive. This time, everyone gushed about how great it was. I mean, workshops always start with saying what you think is working well in a piece anyway, but you can tell if everyone really liked a piece because they have so much to say. They thought it was funny and sweet and had all these brilliant things going on - some of them intentional on my part, some subconscious, and a few coincidental but I'll take them anyway. My one favorite line from all verbal and written feedback combined is: "I love the way you write about Calise, I feel like I'm falling in love with her with you."
Of course, as this is a little less than half of the current length of the essay, they couldn't see where I was going with it or which seemingly random details will turn out to be important - some even questioned whether Talease, interesting though she is, really matters to the story I'm telling, and oh how I wish I could answer that in the negative - so I'm impressed with the volume of useful feedback they were able to provide regardless. I felt bad having to split it up and make it less powerful, but I'd feel worse making them respond to 28 pages in one go. I was going to do this essay and another essay about something else, but this one will swell to fill as much space as I can give it, and it's what my heart needs me to write about. I've had to be very selective with details and try to choose representative ones that present a good picture and also take the time to dwell on key scenes and not just jump along from one point to another like "The Rise of Skywalker", and there's the whole show vs. tell balance and scene vs. summary balance and so on. My classmates are invested now and they're excited to read the second part and see how this adorable love story will play out.
Yeah... I feel bad about that.
I wish I could make up a different story, to satisfy them if not myself, but I can't because unlike anti-vaxxers, I have some integrity. So the second part is going to break their expectant, excited hearts. I feel like a box of puppies is looking up at me with such love and trust in their eyes as I'm about to shoot them all. I suppose this is a skill I can carry over to my preferred venue of fiction writing. I'll get people to love my characters and root for their success and read with baited breath to see what happens, and then I'll do terrible things to my characters, kill them off even, and my readers will cry and curse me and keep buying my books. I mean, I want my books to be funny, so I won't be too extreme with that direction. But it's a good skill to have and it looks like I have it. I feel so bad.
Since that one incident with the bootlickers, the floodgates have been opened and I've relapsed into being as rude to strangers on Facebook as I feel like, which is very. For example, the other day I finally had enough of this jackass:
I'm sure the thread has been deleted. If he responded at all, he probably said something really original about me not being Christlike. But one can always hope that I managed to prompt some legitimate introspection about his sad life.
But on the plus side, my last two discussion posts for Creative Nonfiction Writing weren't swear-filled rants. So I can be composed and mature sometimes when I feel like it. For one, Jennifer wrote, "I want to begin where the syllabus begins, with these words: What a strange world in which we find ourselves - isolated but connected, ordinary but extraordinary, temporary but permanent. If nothing else, the pandemic has forced us to live in the present moment because we simply cannot say for sure what the future might hold. While we know that art can only be made in the realm of pure presence, the grief that washes under all of our feet makes the creation of art difficult these days. I am often reminded of what Theodor Adorno said: 'There can be no poetry after Auschwitz.' Most artists would disagree - but I think we can all recognize in Adorno’s words that when faced with largescale trauma it is sometimes hard to see the relevance of art. And yet. What else can we do but sing even if the song is one of rage, dislocation or violence?
"I am asking everyone to think about whether their ability to create has been altered in the past year and if so how. I am also asking you to think about how, or even if, writing is important in these times - how or if it remains relevant. Should we write directly about the pandemic? At one point is it 'okay' to write about it? Can we write about something that we are living through and have no sense of distance? Or is it best to approach our grief through the side door of research or metaphor or fiction?
"And what about the fact that most of us are having trouble even focusing. How do we actually sit down and write?"
So I said,
See, it's not so much that I have a positive attitude as that I'm acutely aware of global suffering and how entitled Americans are. If it wasn't before, the rest of the world is now also acutely aware of how entitled Americans are.
The next discussion was organized by Kelsie and me, and we have to keep an eye on it and respond to posts until Thursday. Kelsie proposed an idea and I proposed some refinements and we settled on: "Think of a work of creative non-fiction (flash, essay, memoir, etc.) that has shaped you as a writer. What did you like about it? What stood out to you that was *different* from most of the genre and challenged the traditional ways of doing it? How do you try to emulate it as a writer?"
So I said,
Maybe I sound kind of holier-than-thou in both of these posts. I can't help it. I'm just being honest about my perspectives on things. But I think I meant similes, not metaphors, so I've embarrassed myself yet again.
I turned in a little less than half of my essay last week, so as not to force my classmates to critique 28 pages at once. We will workshop it on Thursday. Jennifer didn't mean to make Kelsie and me turn in our essays the same week we were in charge of the discussion, but these things happen sometimes. My essay, by the way, is entitled "Things That Rhyme With 'Elise'", so anyone who knows me very well can guess who and what it's about.
You know that gag book that's called Everything Men Know About Women and all the pages are blank? I'm going to write one like that, except I'm going to call it Ventana Student Housing's Guide to Effective Damage Control. As previously reported, Ventana Student Housing in Orem, Utah gave a tenant less than a week to move out after she violated her contract by vocalizing suicidal tendencies. I'm not kidding. That's literally what the eviction notice says. Now, I think the social-media-driven outrage machine is usually a plague on society, but this time it was put to good use and I was happy to participate. How did Ventana Student Housing respond?
They didn't. They continued ignoring all media requests for comment and refusing to answer the phone - so if you thought for one moment that they had a legitimate side of the story that could exonerate them, you were wrong. They disabled the option to message their Facebook page and deleted comments on said page. In fact, they deleted their one post from this year, apparently thinking nobody would be smart enough to just comment on the next one. They were mistaken about that. And somehow they got Facebook to take down my review for "violating Community Standards", which, after a solid track record of Facebook refusing to do anything any time that I report blatant hate speech or pornography, confirms my suspicion that the Community Standards are enforced by lobotomized gerbils. So I immediately left another review and that one has stayed up for a week now. Their rating is at 1.1 stars, which sadly is the lowest it can go because they have some ratings above 1 star from back before they showed their true colors. I'm not sure why 1 star is the minimum anyway. They deserve negative stars. What's the 1 star for, having the audacity to exist when they shouldn't?
I still hope, of course, that Ventana Student Housing will get sued out of existence, but even if that doesn't happen, at a bare minimum they've been taught a lesson they'll never forget.
While these ingrown hairs on Satan's butt are persecuting a student whose vocalizing of suicidal tendencies, according to them, was a "breach by the Tenant of the quiet enjoyment of the premises or surrounding premises of other tenant's [sic]", my neighbors are actually breaching my quiet enjoyment of the premises several times a week, but I don't want them to get evicted because they're nice and I'm not a complete sociopath. A few days ago one of them started screaming over and over and over so I rushed outside and banged on the door. Michaela's face greeted me in the window beside the door, as with a cheery smile she said, "This doesn't concern you, Chris!"
Kaylee was, as usual, the source of the screaming. Michaela and Hailey had her on the floor, cornered. Hailey also greeted me at the window and explained, "She's afraid to text a boy."
"Oh," I said, "you should just take her phone away and do it for her."
"That's what we're trying to do!" Hailey said.
"Help me, Chris!" Kaylee said.
"Don't let her out!" Michaela said, but I couldn't anyway because the door was locked. So I left them to it.
Of course I couldn't help but think back several months, to their predecessors, who were much quieter but did far more to breach my enjoyment of the premises. Talease gave me Calise's number one evening when I dropped by to invite her to go hiking and she wasn't home. Talease said I should just text her to invite her to stuff, but I didn't dare use her number without permission. Talease assured me it was fine, that she was Calise's best friend and it was fine. And then Calise came home and interrupted us, and on my way out I said that her roommate gave me her number and wanted me to text her. She said, "You're welcome to text me," and then Talease's little dog Paisley ran out the door and we spent the next ten minutes chasing her down and I didn't forgive her for weeks.
So I'd texted Calise a little bit, probably less than I could have, always hesitant and worried that my unnatural luck would run out after she actually responded the first few times, when I became frustrated by my lack of progress and solicited Talease's help and she said Calise loves going for walks and I should invite her to go for a walk. She basically promised that Calise would say yes, but I didn't believe her. I said I was too nervous. She said, "Then we'll do it together. Give me your phone." I did, and she wrote the text and sent it with no input from me, and when I saw it I nearly had a heart attack.
It's funny how perception and memory can be so wrong - for me, at least. Maybe I'm exceptionally stupid. Because this is what the text actually said: "Hey Calise, I was wondering if I could take you on a walk on Wednesday. Are you free?"
But this is how I read it: "Hey Calise, I would like to take you for a walk. Do you have some time on Wednesday?"
First of all, I wouldn't have said "take you for a walk" because she wasn't a dog, but I guess "take you on a walk" is a little more ambiguous. In any case, though, I read the text as expressing a desire without an actual request attached to it, and then operating on the assumption that she had already agreed to the nonexistent request and we merely needed to work out the details. And I nearly had a heart attack because it was so bold and presumptuous. "No, it isn't," Talease assured me. She said that Calise was at work and would probably respond in about an hour. She responded in nine minutes.
"Sure, I have some time after 6- I usually go to the temple on Wednesday as well if you'd like to join me"
So I thought about that when I told Kaylee's roommates they should take her phone and text the boy for her. In hindsight, I'm not sure if I was trying to help her or if I am just a bit of a sociopath after all. But tonight I heard she got a date out of it, so she's welcome.
I feel bad because I don't know how long it was there and I only noticed it when I stepped on it with bare feet, but somebody left a yellow flower at my door a few days ago. Such a vague little gesture that I can't even guess at its meaning, and yet it must have one because its placement was clearly premeditated because my door is separated from the sidewalk by at least two meters and a fence. Nobody could have dropped the flower there by accident. They could have flung it, perhaps, if they were walking by with it and something startled them, but that seems contrived. Only like five people still in Logan are supposed to know where I live, and I can rule out three of them, leaving one or both of my next-door neighbors who hate me as the most plausible candidates. Maybe I have a stalker, but I couldn't begin to guess who that would be when there isn't currently a single woman at work or church that I've ever had a conversation with. If someone is stalking me based on my looks alone she's in for quite a disappointment.
Of course, I'm not assuming any romantic intent behind it since I don't know what intent was behind it but that would still be weird if a guy did it so I'm assuming a guy didn't do it. I looked up the symbolism of yellow flowers specifically: joy, sunshine, friendship, new beginnings. But was that level of thought put into the color scheme, or does all the intended symbolism rest in the plant genitals themselves regardless of detail? Anyway, I put the flower in a bottle of water and left it outside but it died quickly. I laid it to rest on the concrete lip around my doorway. It disappeared. Either an animal that eats dead yellow flowers but not grass wandered through, or whoever gave it to me took it back. I've kept a casual eye out for that type of flower growing anywhere around here with no success so far. It was either purchased somewhere or plucked a considerable distance away. Since I didn't have the foresight to get a picture of it, you'll have to take a leap of faith and trust me.
A few days later, someone left me cookies, and I reached a logical conclusion and got all excited that my stalker was stepping up her game. But then one of the five people still in Logan who are supposed to know where I live admitted to leaving them just as a random nice gesture. How was I supposed to know? Who does that? So the mystery of the flower remains. Dear flower giver, if you read this, I was just kidding when I called you a stalker. Don't be hurt by my lack of reaction or response, as there was really nothing I could do when I have no idea who you are or what the little yellow flower was supposed to mean. Please feel free to keep leaving stuff or doing whatever else you have in mind, unless you're a guy. It's fine if you just want to be friends but it would still be weird if you're a guy.
An even more surprising but more easily explained surprise came in the form of an email from Debbie, whom long-time readers of this blog will remember from a long time ago. I've been thinking about her periodically since she is in large measure responsible for the direction my life has taken and it just makes me wax philosophical about how events build on each other and how God brings things about and so on. During the summer of '16 she often texted me in the evenings to say I could come over, so I dropped everything and rushed over and we sat on the balcony outside her apartment and talked. Then her neighbor Steve usually came home from work while we were talking and she invited him to join us. I kept my feet propped up on the third chair hoping he would take a hint, but he wouldn't. As things turned out I remained friends with Steve long after Debbie and I parted ways, and he stayed in the same apartment complex, and last year when I found out someone was selling his contract here I jumped at the chance to be his neighbor, changing wards for the first time in seven years and embarking on a fresh start that so far has been an epic disaster. But I know God wanted me here for some reason.
Anyway, the email was full of feedback that I had long ago accepted I would never receive for the book manuscript I sent her fifty-six months ago, back when I used to send it out to people who said they would read it and then didn't. I hadn't actually asked for any feedback but she gave me some for the first chapter and it was so brilliant that I knew I needed her to critique the whole thing before I dared try to publish it. And then she just got busy and stopped. And then almost a year later when she broke my heart she tried to cheer me up by telling me she'd started reading it again, and that was the last I heard of it until just the other day. My first reaction to the email was "Holy crap" and my second reaction was embarrassment that she read such an old draft. I've learned a lot and done plenty of revising since then and compared to my current draft, the one she has in her possession is garbage. I'm not even sure how much of the feedback is still applicable. Do you see, Debbie? I moved on. I got stronger. I don't need you anymore. In all seriousness though, it was great to hear from her.
Fifty-six months. I had to check the math again because I couldn't believe it.
This is a nostalgic time of year already, even more so than usual for me, because today I've been in Utah for nine years. Nine years is almost ten years which is a sacred number to humans. Usually 7-Eleven celebrates the anniversary of my arrival by giving out free Slurpees but it's canceled this year because I've written one too many controversial things. As ridiculous as this will sound coming from one who just turned twenty-seven, the passage of almost a decade makes me feel very old. Because in human terms, not getting into the geological timescale where our existence as a species represents only a couple minutes, a decade is a freaking long time. For the overwhelming majority of us it's more than a tenth of the time we have on this planet. Often much more. In my case, I've felt for a long time like I'm going to die in my early forties, and that may just be wishful thinking on my part but I do know I haven't got a chance in hell of making it to ninety unless medical science advances sufficiently to replace every organ in my body. Which it probably will, but I won't be able to afford it because I live in a country that thinks healthcare is a privilege.
Barely out of high school, I embarked on the nightmare, I mean adventure that is adult life. I wasn't nearly as afraid as I ought to have been. As year after year has gone by I've experienced more pain than I could have imagined, much of it caused by my own mistakes that I still get to suffer from long after I've learned from them. I've grown into a different person and all that jazz. If I could go back and speak to that naive little boy, I would offer the following advice:
- Don't procrastinate.
- Don't stay up until two in the morning just because you can.
- Don't seek unhealthy coping mechanisms when you feel isolated.
- Don't isolate yourself by withdrawing from the people who actually care about you.
- Pay attention to your bank balance and email inbox.
- Don't be so dogmatic and inflexible about politics.
- Don't fall in love.
- Always pay rent on time.
- Talk to your academic advisor regularly.
- Avail yourself of the counseling services on campus that you already paid for.
- Don't be afraid to talk to the registrar's office, professors etc. when you screw up and need help. That's their job. They're not going to yell at you.
- Don't be afraid to stand up for what you believe in.
- Don't be so dogmatic and inflexible about religion.
- Seriously, don't fall in love.
- Participate in as many clubs and activities as you can before, I don't know, a global pandemic cancels all of them. Hypothetically.
- Communicate with people who are pissing you off instead of harboring silent resentment.
- Don't work at a call center in a misguided attempt to boost your confidence.
- Don't eat too much candy.
- White privilege is real, and racism in the United States is much worse than you think it is.
- Be patient with yourself even when it seems like nobody else is.
- I'm not kidding. No matter how hard it is, don't fall in love.
Wow. I can't believe I just wrote something like that without being sarcastic. But the real treasure was the friends I made along the way. And lost. I've lost a lot of them, too. Most of the Facebook friends I met in the dorms my freshman year have unfriended me by now. But the random girl who politely declined to be kissed by me at True Aggie Night has stuck with me for all these years, and that counts for something. The girl I actually did kiss unfriended me after a few years though.
Nine years from today, I hope to be typing away at my latest upcoming bestseller, watching my dogs play in the surf beneath the glorious sunset over Bora Bora, Tahiti, a smile on my face as I think of all the money in my bank account. My wife Felicity Jones is half a world away making another Star Wars anthology spinoff prequel Disney+ exclusive series, but that's okay because one of the few things I love more than her is Star Wars. Though admittedly it's been a little less interesting ever since we made contact with actual aliens and learned the secrets of interstellar travel. At first they tried to annihilate us, but it was just a relief to finally face enemies we could actually see instead of another global pandemic, and then they apologized and we let it go because we were screwed if we kept fighting anyway. Felicity's and my adopted alien children have all grown up (they have a short life cycle) and dispersed to three far-flung solar systems which we rotate between for Easter, Christmas and St. Zarquon's Day. Most of Earth's tourism is now siphoned off to the improbable single-biome tropical planets, which is how I got this prime piece of real estate in Tahiti for so cheap, even though I could have paid a lot more because I'm loaded.
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.
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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.