Where, oh where does the time go? Friday and Saturday marked the two-year anniversary of the worst day of my life (which encompassed an entire sleepless night). I'm not going to explain it again. I wrote about it at the time in a blog post which is still there if anyone's interested, but which I don't recommend because it's somewhat incoherent. I was still reeling from shock and confusion and anger, and I jumped around chronologically several times. But it was useful for recording quotes and details while they were still fresh, which has helped me with subsequent accounts. The most definitive one, and the one which I do recommend to anyone interested, is an essay I wrote for class last year called Things That Rhyme with "Elise." Though it doesn't include every possible detail, it is much better-written overall. It left a big impact on my classmates and my professor. Actually, because it was so long, I split it into two parts and submitted them separately instead of writing two essays. And the first part had just a bit of foreshadowing of what I like to think of as the greatest plot twist since (spoiler alert) "No, I am your father." I still laugh a little to myself when I think of how my professor began her feedback letter to the second part.
I have such a sick sense of humor. I mean, I felt really bad about this plot twist, though not as bad as I did about living through it. Everyone was so invested in the story, thought it was so sweet and so cute. I felt like I was preparing to shoot a puppy as it looked up at me with eyes full of love and trust. But to continue:
Yes, there is some mention of race in the essay even though the worst day of my life had nothing to do with race, because I wanted to acknowledge that larger conversation and show my awareness that even when I am misunderstood and mistreated for being different, I maintain some degree of white privilege. There is zero doubt in my mind that my interactions with the police and hospital staff would have gone even worse if I was black. And as much as Officer Nelson can go fuck himself, I'm not accusing him of conscious racial prejudice. But he was very obviously prejudiced against me because of my mental illness, and it's also self-evident that white cops in the US are conditioned to perceive and treat black people as more threatening, while white healthcare workers seem to believe they have different biology altogether. We saw this, for example, with the cops who assaulted a neurodivergent black man named Elijah McClain for "looking sketchy," then claimed he had exhibited "superhuman strength" and the fictitious medical condition of "excited delirium" (both often used by police to justify brutality). We saw this with the paramedics who injected him with ketamine without attempting to talk to him and overestimated his weight by eighty pounds. Those cops and paramedics should be publicly executed just like they publicly executed him. So yeah, I wanted to recognize my privilege of not getting murdered for existing while black. It would have been very tonedeaf not to do so.
I couldn't have asked for more understanding than I got from my professor and classmates. It was kind of intimidating, in the era of #metoo and #believewomen, in a predominantly female class in the hotbed of liberalism that is a college English department, to assert that two women falsely accused me of some form of sexual misconduct. (In saying that, I don't mean to suggest that I have it worse than the women who are actual victims and still don't get taken as seriously as they need or deserve. USU is currently being sued, and its police chief Earl Morris was recently forced to resign, for that very reason.) I am grateful that everyone believed me and empathized with me. I don't take that trust lightly. There was one part of the essay that I'd been tempted to gloss over because it put me in a less positive light, but I realized that if a classmate from my undergraduate non-fiction course (with the same professor) could write an essay about abusing her husband, I could admit to being less than perfect too. And then only one person even commented on that part in their feedback.
Toward the end of my essay, I didn't have room to explore all the introspection and gossip and recovery that filled the months after the worst day of my life, and in particular the process of reconciling what I thought I knew of Calise's kindness and maturity with her very unkind and immature action, so I tried to summarize it. I tried to explain why, to the best of my knowledge, Calise and Talease did what they did. I didn't want to cast them as one-dimensional villains when in real life I know them to be complicated people, and I've forgiven them and I didn't want anybody to hate them. (Maybe someday I'll be able to say the same about Officer Nelson.) But my professor and classmates didn't think that worked. They said Calise and Talease already came across as complicated, and that the end of the essay needed to stay focused on me and not them. So I changed that. In my first blog post about them, even though I did hate them at the time, I kept them anonymous (unlike Officer Nelson) to avoid any appearance of vindictiveness. But after a while I stopped keeping them anonymous because I hope that someday they'll notice what I've written about them and get the side of the story that they never asked for and then barred me from sharing. Is that a socially acceptable thing to do? No, and I don't care. If people are going to abuse me no matter what I do then I'm going to do what I want.
I've written a little prayer/poem that goes like so:
Father, forgive Talease, for she is delusional.
Father, forgive Calise, for she is naive.
Father, forgive Officer Nelson, for he is stupid and poorly trained.
Father, thank you for giving the emergency room staff at Logan Regional Hospital what they deserve. [Note for future historians: this is a reference to the COVID-19 pandemic that made healthcare workers' lives a living hell.]
Father, forgive me, for I am autistic.
Crisis struck last weekend. Prudence, which it runs out I am capable of possessing once in a while, dictates that for the time being I keep it to myself apart from a half dozen friends and all of my Fiction Writing classmates who deserved an excuse for why my second story is garbage compared to the first. For a few moments after seeing the news I never wanted to see, I tried to wrap my brain around the fact that my life and my faith were about to shatter beyond repair. Then I ran into my bedroom to pray but discovered that I couldn't speak. I tried to pray silently but discovered that I couldn't think. So my prayer was just Help me, help me, help me, help me, help me.
I reached out to this guy in the ward that I know a little bit for a priesthood blessing. I didn't want to be too much of a burden on the guys I usually ask. While waiting for him to get back to me and then waiting for him to arrive, I cooked a frozen pizza and force-fed myself half of it, despite my complete lack of appetite, because I was starving. I offered the rest to him when he arrived, and he said it would be a good idea to make himself eat, and he appeared to have an even harder time doing so than I did. He wasn't doing well. He asked if he could stick around for a while after the blessing so he didn't have to be home alone. He asked if I've ever had questions about my faith, and I outlined the most recent one in very vague terms. I didn't want to tell him about my situation because I just wanted comfort from the blessing; I didn't want to open the channels for advice that I wasn't ready to accept. And he gave me the shortest blessing I've ever gotten and I appreciated that. He cried afterward. I think it helped him more than me. So that was cool.
I invited him to accompany me to Come Follow Me with people from the ward. While there, I went through mood swings and wasn't in hell the entire time. I sat there for half an hour while two girls and four guys discussed the proper care and washing of different kinds of hair, a topic that I found altogether uninteresting but still better than being home alone, and then as I was poised to go be home alone again some others arrived very late and we played Werewolf. I threw myself into it with gusto. When I figured out that my in-game lover was a werewolf, I protected her with as much zeal as I would a real-life lover who murdered people. When others falsely accused and killed me, I was only upset that it would lead to her death as well. I can be selfless like that.
I didn't look forward to bedtime because past experience had given me some idea of what I was in for. I'd gotten the obligatory blessing, and I would pray, and I would get sufficiently calm and peaceful to fall asleep, and I would wake up an hour or two later in a cold sweat with my heart doing its best impression of the ungodly screaming over the bridge of Rammstein's creepy and inappropriate song "Mein Teil", and there would be no more calm or peace or sleeping for the remainder of the night. Well, I did wake up and fail to get back to sleep until the sun rose, but the rest didn't happen. I didn't feel good by any means, but I felt all right. I soon came to the realization that God was shielding me from the worst of the pain. And He continued to shield me throughout the week, and I thanked Him and prayed more and tried harder and got better. Wednesday morning I woke up from a nightmare that ruined most of my day, Thursday morning I woke up from a nightmare that ruined the next half hour, and Friday morning I woke up from a nightmare that I was able to put out of my mind right away.
It's not like I'd never thought to pray for comfort before. I'd just rarely noticed any of this magnitude, no matter how hard I pleaded. I don't know what's so different this time, if the nature of the situation has made me more desperate or more deserving or what. I do know that whatever suffering remains is a part of life that I shouldn't try to avoid or expect to be exempted from. Now I feel like I'm in a good place where I haven't stopped hoping for and believing in one specific outcome based on God's previous communications to me no matter how unlikely it looks at the moment, but I'm also patient and trying to be open to any outcome and the necessary understanding that will come with it. I know, I hate having to be so vague too. I'm annoying myself.
One thing I've consciously done to enhance this effect is listen to a playlist I started nearly two years ago, which has taken on ever greater significance. Sometimes, like in the mornings when I wake up feeling like a dead battery and vulnerable to all manner of negative emotions, songs like "Head Above Water" and "Echoes of Andromeda" and "Boasting" have returned to my head.
I canceled my Tuesday morning classes so I wouldn't have to get out of bed until I felt like it, which greatly disappointed my students, I bet.
My ex-neighbor and dear friend Steve drove up from Salt Lake on Monday evening. We talked a little about what happened, but mostly watched Disney+. We watched Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and then some of my favorite episodes of The Simpsons - "Bart Sells His Soul", "Miracle on Evergreen Terrace", "The Springfield Files", "Lisa the Skeptic", "Bart on the Road", and possibly another that I forget at the moment. He went home around noon on Tuesday, which I later realized was his birthday. He gave up a third of his birthday for me. And I couldn't believe it was two years to the day since we went to see Jojo Rabbit, aka one of the finest films ever made. Where does the time go?
My classmate and colleague Kylie also offered to hang out, so after our class on Tuesday I went up to ask if she was still good to hang out that evening. As soon as I started to speak, she put her hand on mine, and I thought about how USU's sexual misconduct prevention trainings told us not to touch someone without permission, even though we know full well that's not how neurotypical people live their lives. And I thought about my old friend Bracelets who used to touch me on the shoulder a lot until she saw the Temple Grandin movie and decided I didn't want to be touched. And I thought about a girl in my ward who came up to give the closing prayer after I had spoken in sacrament meeting, and touched my knee as she walked by. I think, in fairness, that this isn't just about neurotypicals vs. autistics but about women vs. men. Because women are raised to be more affectionate and nurturing, I think they can touch men's hands or shoulders or knees without these automatically coming across as romantic or sexualized gestures, whereas the reverse is not true.
I remembered when a friend in high school was crying about her grandmother dying, and I needed to comfort her but I didn't know what to do but I didn't want her to think I didn't care so I finally admitted, "I'm trying to decide if I should put my arm around you or not," and that made her laugh through her tears a little so I guess it was better than just putting my arm around her. Speaking of dead grandmothers, I was at the funeral of mine a couple months ago, seated right next to my grandfather, who howled with grief a couple of times. If ever there were appropriate contexts to touch someone without permission, these were them. And it was still hard, it still rebelled against my conditioning, to put my hand on his wrist. And then I felt awkward. Should I take it off now? What if he wants to move his arm? I'm not really letting him move his arm. I envied a little Kylie's ability to put her hand on mine all casual-like just because she knew I was having a rough time.
I couldn't think of anything more exciting to do than watch a movie, but fortunately for me, Kylie hasn't seen any Star Wars except for Rogue One and both of SNL's Undercover Bosses skits with Kylo Ren, so I picked the original Star Wars movie to guarantee that I would get invited back at least eight more times. She observed that Darth Vader is a jerk for kidnapping his own daughter, that stormtroopers don't aim very well, and that the use of computers in warfare was a pretty new idea in 1977 and that's probably why the movie was so popular. After the next movie, she reiterated that Darth Vader is a jerk for strangling his own men, and also reflected on the lack of women and racial diversity that's been somewhat fixed in the more recent movies. She said Princess Leia is an interesting character - specifically, it's interesting that she's a strong character but she still has to be sexualized. I hate myself for using that word twice in one post. Anyway, Kylie wasn't judging; she said the movies were fair for their time. I should have apologized in advance for what happens to Leia in the next one.
She made me watch the SNL skits, and I made her watch the Robot Chicken sketch that introduced the world to Gary the stormtrooper.
I also talked to my old friend Eliana on the phone a couple times, and the first conversation mostly turned into her complaining about the Church. Kylie has left the Church too, but we have nuanced and mutually respectful discussions about it, and I look forward to reading her folklore paper about how patriarchal blessings might have roots in the Smith family's fascination with folk magic. When Eliana left a couple years ago she still believed in the Book of Mormon and stuff but didn't trust the leadership because of their past mistakes and current LGBTQ policies. Now she sees nothing good, wholesome, or true in any of it. I didn't try to argue and I hoped that my listening allowed her to let off some steam. But I kind of wanted to ask, Can you live with yourself knowing that I'm still in the Church because of you? I used to tell her about all kinds of issues that bothered my testimony, and she was so chill about all of it and confident that the Church was where God wanted her to be. She was my anchor many times. You never can tell what the future holds, can you? Anyway, we don't talk much anymore but I appreciate that she's still there for me.
For Thanksgiving, I was going to visit a nearby great aunt whom I shamefully never visit because I'm always welcome but that means I have to kind of invite myself at any given time, but she got sick. So I went to my bishop's house. Although I haven't always cast him in the most flattering light, he is a great guy. I wish I could say the same about my last bishop. Some others from the ward also showed up, and someone else in the ward had a friend who wasn't in the ward but was going to come, but he went to the wrong house so we started without him. He showed up fifteen minutes in and guess what? He was one of my students. So he saw me without a mask on and sat right next to me and that's kind of funny, isn't it? I hope he didn't take it as a personal jab when I said that I like teaching college students because if they don't want to be there, they don't show up.
Today I tried really hard to pay attention in church and be open to the Spirit, and I did pretty well. I didn't even close myself off when a couple of people in Elders' Quorum said a couple of things about gender roles that made me want to stab my eyes out.
When I was about twelve I decided to read the Bible all the way through, and I did, except for a few chapters of Leviticus that bored me beyond my capacity to endure. I learned pretty quickly that there was a lot of stuff in the Old Testament besides the usual stories I'd heard eight billion times. If I recall correctly, the first time I thought "What the $#@%?" was during Genesis 19. This is not an obscure chapter. It includes the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, but I never had and still never have heard the parts before and after discussed in Sunday school. At the beginning of the chapter, Lot invites a couple of angels or holy men to have dinner and spend the night at his house.
4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter:
5 And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know [have sex with] them.
6 And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him,
7 And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly.
8 Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known [had sex with] man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.
Lot doesn't exactly sound like a contender for Father of the Year. Fortunately, the would-be gang-rapers aren't interested in his daughters, and it becomes moot when the angels smite them with blindness so his family can escape before the city is destroyed by a meteor. He flees with them, his wife gets salty about leaving their home behind, and his daughters have their revenge.
31 And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth:
32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.
33 And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose.
34 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.
35 And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose.
36 Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father.
Biblical scholars now believe that "wine" should have been translated as "margarita", because it sounds like Lot was wasted away again in Margaritaville, searching for his lost pillar of salt. Eh? Anyway, you can imagine that by the end of this chapter, twelve-year-old me was like
Muslim apologists have suggested a few creative and possibly legitimate interpretations of the first passage that don't actually involve Lot offering up his daughters to be gang-raped. So far as I can tell, the Christian approach to the passage, besides ignoring it, is that yes, Lot did offer up his daughters to be gang-raped, but this action was simply wrong and unjustified, even though neither God nor the author of the text shows the slightest hint of disapproval. Here's one area where Joseph Smith's revision of the Bible comes to the rescue. In his version of Genesis 19, the mob demands to have sex with the angels and Lot's daughters, and Lot refuses on both counts. (And the number of angels is three, not two, because that matters for some reason.) So maybe that's what really happened, or maybe the Muslim apologists are right but Joseph Smith figured that was too complicated to try to explain. He also interpolated that Lot's daughters "dealt wickedly" and "did wickedly" when they raped their drunk father to get themselves pregnant, removing any ambiguity as to whether the Bible endorses that sort of behavior.
If only that were the only issue. To modern readers, the Old Testament is full of weird and disturbing stuff that requires a lot of contextual knowledge that most people don't have in order to be of any value whatsoever. In my experience, instead of providing that contextual knowledge, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and most of its members - like most Christians in general - go out of their way to cherry-pick around the stuff in question and pretend the authors and characters of the Old Testament were just like us. Yet the Church exhorts people to study the scriptures, including the Old Testament, without so much as warning them about what they'll find. That sounds like a recipe for atheism to me. Third-party sources, including some by Latter-day Saints, are of course available to make sense of these things, but I sure think the Church should take a more proactive role in explaining one of its own canonical texts that it wants everyone to read.
It doesn't help that the Church's curriculum writers lean conservative and anti-intellectual. Of course, it does help them with their assignment to dumb the curriculum down so it can be translated into dozens of languages with relative ease and used by used by a convert of two weeks to teach a class, but it has its obvious drawbacks. And my faith in them was shaken a little more last year when the Come Follow Me manual for the Book of Mormon included a racially insensitive quote from Joseph Fielding Smith about dark skin. It was, admittedly, pretty tame compared to most of the things he said about dark skin, but I still find it concerning that the curriculum writers didn't realize it would be a problem. And the Old Testament institute manual that hasn't been updated in forty-one years devotes quite a bit of space to quoting a Seventh-day Adventist anti-evolution tract. Based on these facts, I half-expected that the Come Follow Me Old Testament manual, in addition to continuing to cherry-pick around the weird and disturbing stuff, would strongly denounce evolution even though the Church has quietly but unmistakably moved away from ever doing that in the last decade or two.
The manual is already out, so instead of paying attention in Elders' Quorum one week, I skimmed through it (specifically the one for individuals and families because I'm an individual and/or family). This was by no means a thorough reading, but here are a few things of which I took notice.
An introduction called "Thoughts to Keep in Mind: Reading the Old Testament" gets off to a promising start. It says, "These writings come from an ancient culture that can seem foreign and sometimes strange or even uncomfortable. And yet in these writings we see people having experiences that seem familiar, and we recognize gospel themes that witness of the divinity of Jesus Christ and His gospel." Vague, but a most useful and necessary warning. It continues, "If you wonder whether you and your family can find personal meaning in the Old Testament this year, keep in mind that Lehi and Sariah's family did. Nephi shared stories about Moses and teachings from Isaiah when his brothers needed encouragement or correction or perspective." I'm not sure this is a good comparison when Nephi was at best a century removed from Isaiah, immersed in a similar cultural background to the Old Testament writers, and not dependent on a seventeenth-century English translation of their writings.
"Don’t expect the Old Testament to present a thorough and precise history of humankind. That’s not what the original authors and compilers were trying to create. Their larger concern was to teach something about God - about His plan for His children, about what it means to be His covenant people, and about how to find redemption when we don’t live up to our covenants. Sometimes they did it by relating historical events as they understood them - including stories from the lives of great prophets. Genesis is an example of this, as are books like Joshua, Judges, and 1 and 2 Kings. But other Old Testament writers did not aim to be historical at all. Instead, they taught through works of art like poetry and literature. The Psalms and the Proverbs fit in this category. And then there are the precious words of prophets, from Isaiah to Malachi, who spoke the word of God to ancient Israel - and, through the miracle of the Bible, still speak to us today." Boom. Here the manual acknowledges that the Bible is not historically accurate in all respects and that its books are written in different genres altogether. Many people will be learning these concepts for the first time.
A note at the bottom of this introduction says, "These [first five] books, which are attributed to Moses, probably passed through the hands of numerous scribes and compilers over time. Still, the books of Moses are the inspired word of God, even though they are - like any work of God transmitted through mortals - subject to human imperfections (see Moses 1:41; Articles of Faith 1:8)." This is a short and sweet attempt at reconciling Moses' traditional authorship of the Pentateuch with the scholarly consensus that it has multiple authors. While church curriculum doesn't need to address every academic controversy or criticism in detail, it needs to engage with them instead of promoting a bubble of ignorance, and this is a good start.
Moving on, I was gratified by the lack of evolution-bashing. The manual remains as vague as possible about the methodology of creation. It says, "While there’s a lot we don’t know about exactly how the world was created, ponder what you learn about the Creation from what God has revealed in Genesis 1:1–25; Moses 2:1–25; and Abraham 4:1–25." I'm still going to nitpick a little because that's what I do. I would have said, "While there's a lot we don't know from the scriptures about exactly how the world was created..." (emphasis added) God has allowed us to learn a lot about how the world was created through the scientific method, and while this knowledge is beyond the scope of the manual, I kind of hate when we act like it doesn't exist and any speculation on the subject is equally valid. Just because the scriptures don't tell us how old the planet is or how its current diversity of species came to be doesn't mean those things are mysteries.
The manual does acknowledge at least one little controversy. "What does it mean that Adam was to 'rule over' Eve? This passage of scripture has sometimes been misunderstood to mean that a husband is justified in treating his wife unkindly." It kind of sidesteps the actual issue here - normal people in the twenty-first century are repulsed by the notion of husbands "ruling over" their wives at all, not just unkindly. A husband who "rules" benevolently, while of course preferable to an abusive one, is still an insult to any grown woman with a functioning brain. I think this is a more subtle example of the writers being out of touch. Within the memory of many people still living, the Church taught that while he should be kind and considerate and involve his wife in decision-making, a husband had final say because he held the priesthood and God had chosen him to preside in the home. His was the tiebreaker vote if the couple couldn't come to an agreement. I suspect that some of the manual writers still subscribe to this way of thinking on some level, and that while they would never use the wording "rule over" themselves, they can't bring themselves to denounce it either.
"In our day," the manual continues, "the Lord’s prophets have taught that while a husband should preside in the home in righteousness, he should see his wife as an equal partner (see “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” [ChurchofJesusChrist.org])." It gives no reason for the obvious discrepancy between this teaching and what the passage of scripture says. One cannot "rule over" an "equal partner," and the only reason one can "preside" over an equal partner is that we've redefined "preside" to no longer mean what the dictionary says it means or what we obviously meant when we said it fifty years ago. The only persuasive argument I've seen for this passage - supported by the original Hebrew and better translations - is that it isn't saying how marital relations should be, it's warning about how they will be in a fallen world. But then, since the passage itself has been used countless times to justify the very thing it warns against, it seems like God should have just not said anything.
In a note on the historical books of the Old Testament, the manual says, "When reading the Old Testament, as with any history, you’re likely to read about people doing or saying things that, to modern eyes, seem strange or even troubling. We should expect this - Old Testament writers saw the world from a perspective that was, in some ways, quite different from ours. Violence, ethnic relations, and the roles of women are just some of the issues that ancient writers might have seen differently than we do today." Like true historians or anthropologists, the manual writers don't assert that these views on violence, ethnic relations, and the roles of women were wrong, just different. That's fair. We want future generations to be patient and understanding with us too. And it's still a big deal - for many readers, this will be the first indication they've ever gotten that people in the scriptures were not just like us and didn't get their entire worldviews straight from the mind of God, let alone that the scriptures themselves contain unenlightened ideas we should reject.
The note also says, "Sometimes the passage may be like a puzzle piece that doesn’t look like it has a place among the other pieces you’ve already assembled. Trying to force the piece to fit isn’t the best approach. But neither is giving up on the entire puzzle. Instead, you may need to set the piece aside for now. As you learn more and put together more of the puzzle, you may be able to better see how the pieces fit together." I think the manual underestimates the number of pieces that don't appear to fit, but still, acknowledging them at all is a big and much-appreciated step. This manual isn't perfect but it is a breath of fresh air.
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?
"Guys. Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you’re ever looking for a good read, check this out!"
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"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
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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.