When The Media Exploits Abuse Victims To Attack The Church

As I see the media every couple of weeks rotate between the same trigger topics to attack Mormons, nothing makes me more sad than when the media trots out victims of sexual abuse–women and children who are hurting and in need of help–into the spotlight like some kind of circus sideshow, like an exhibit that portrays Mormons as grotesque and horrible. “Some see the poor victims of Mormon brutality! Come one! Come all! Hurry, hurry!”

The woman who was allegedly abused by the ex-Mormon mission president did not ask for the anti-Mormons to leak her recorded voice or for the media to propagate it to millions of people. Few people understand the damage it does, the level of humiliation and trauma it inflicts to an abuse victim, when her story is non-consensually proclaimed in the newspapers. The media trumpeted the recording far and wide with zero regard for the victim’s health, because to them it is not really about stopping abuse or helping women. It is about attacking Mormons.

Like the intelligent propagandists they are, the New York Times and Fox News have their rhetoric down to a science. Groups such as MormonLeaks leak private recordings and documents that may damage the church. Then there are low-level Anti-Mormons on Reddit, dutiful sentinels, who vigilantly keep watch for anything that will raise a flag. The leaders of these groups have hundreds of journalists on speed-dial in case anything juicy turns up. The sentinels alert the journalists, and once a fire is lit, these journalists wait for any further news that will pour fuel on the fire.

This weekend, in the midst of an incredible and historic General Conference, the journalists found their fuel for the fire. Did Fox News report on the historic changes in church policy–the new ministering program, the shakeup of local ward leadership meetings, or combining of priesthood quorums? Did Fox News report on the new apostles? Did Fox News report on the new temples in the new frontiers of India and Russia? No. Instead, Fox News took a tiny comment from one of the talks out of context about sexual misconduct to attack the church.

“Mormon leader’s remark on sexual misconduct draws criticism,” is the headline by Associated Press, and we are told that the Elder Quentin L. Cook’s phrase “non-consensual immorality” is bad because it “could be interpreted as victim blaming.” It is hurtful to group “victims of sexual abuse” with immorality, we are told. Yes, that is true. But anyone who has actually listened to the talk knows that Elder Cook was not talking about victims of abuse. He was talking about abusers, and made the correct, oft-repeated point that abusers commit grave immorality. Associated Press is creating an issue out of nothing by taking the phrase out of context.

Biased Associated Press Reporter

The author of this article, Brady Williams, earlier wrote an article on Mormon polygamy. We know the media is always falsely portraying polygamists as Mormons to attack the church, right? The polygamists’ “religious beliefs” prevented them “from working for a woman,” he reported. Oh, Mormons are so misogynist!

But then Brady Williams also wrote a different kind of article on Mormon polygamy. In this other article, Brady called the polygamists “progressive and independent.” Wait, what? Now they are progressive ? Well, yeah, because these Mormon polygamists have “no organized religion.” These polygamists have denounced their “Mormonism” roots and now believe “teachings such as Buddhism.”

So those ex-Mormons apostatized by practicing polygamy are just terrible. They mistreat women. But these other ex-Mormons apostatized by practicing polygamy are progressive?

It is obvious that Brady Williams is heavily biased against the LDS church and will do anything to malign Mormons. He takes people and situations out of context to make Mormons look like they are abusive towards women. He is one smart propagandist out of thousands, and they all know how to take words and events out of context, how to spin and omit facts, and how to coordinate with secretive anti-Mormon groups and online activists.

It is despicable that Fox News, New York Times, ABC News, and the others would take a statement condemning abuse and spin it as hurtful. It is despicable for the media to leak a private conversation without the consent of an abuse victim. It is despicable for them to exhibit human beings to push their agenda against Mormons.

“Come one! Come all! See the oppressive Mormons and their poor oppressed women!”

Many young members of the church cave in to this persecution. It is not easy for a young person to have social justice warriors sneer at him for “hating gays,” or to be rejected by friends because of “how Mormons are.” Women in the church are humiliated every time they are reminded of the church’s history with polygamy. It is not easy.

We can stand against this relentless barrage of propaganda by exposing the media circus show for what it is. We can show real care for victims of abuse and call out unrighteous dominion anywhere we see it, particularly in Hollywood, top Leftist leadership, their push to transition children’s’ gender, pornography–and also when we see it in the church. We must be vigilant to protect the vulnerable everywhere. But we can also can show confidence in the priesthood structure which makes our church the safest place we can be. We can steel our fortitude against the darts of the opposition and winds of the world.

“It’s None of My Business”

Any word about the moral rot and perversion of today is quickly met by, “Why do you care? They can do whatever they want in the privacy of their own homes and it won’t affect you. It’s none of your business.” This is meant to shut you up rather than address the problems, but it shows two important underlying assumptions: you should only care about someone if it directly affects you, and what people do by themselves doesn’t affect you.

While this may seem “current year”, it’s actually one of the oldest arguments out there. Cain’s first instinct when called out by the Lord for his sins is to say, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” or to update it “Why should I care about someone else, even my brother?”

People are defensive. They don’t want to deal with others and especially don’t want their sins getting called out. Cain wouldn’t be out of place in a Twitter thread ranting against legislating morality. But does the Lord want us to do that? Not give a toss if someone is destroying himself? You already know the answer.

Prophets are constantly recorded warning people about sin and imploring them to turn to God. Regular members as well are commanded to warn others about sin and invite them to follow Christ. This is contrary to modern sensibilities which is to turn a blind eye to the sins of someone you aren’t responsible for (and sometimes even if you are). As church members, we know we are all brothers and sisters. Shouldn’t we be looking out for our family?

When we see people advocating for causes that go against the Lord’s way, we need to notice it and call them out on it. They may tell you to sod off, but it may also get them to think and change. Being yelled at a bit is worth it if you can help someone get on the straight and narrow.

“But what about the other part?” you may ask. “The part about it not affecting us?” Well, that’s never been true and never will be true. The Book of Mormon is full of subgroups in societies turning away from Christ and the ruin that brings to not only them, but to all people in their society. The Order of Nehors introduced priestcraft to Nephite society, and it led to civil war and oppression. After Christ’s visit, peace and unity reigned throughout the land, but after a few generations, rebels and doubters led to the sorrow of many and eventual genocide of the entire Nephite people.

Prophets are not called to only preach to people who come to General Conference. They preach to societies, nations, and peoples. This of course includes people in the Church, but it also includes all people for we are all sons and daughters of God. Sin brings misery and suffering, whether from getting addicted to heroin or ruining one’s body through mutilation.

This is why the Lord has His prophets sound the trump of warning, and why He expects all of us to fight. Ceding the culture to those who would encourage sin isn’t being respectful. It’s slapping the Lord in the face and inviting the destruction of everyone.

Our duty as members is to share with everyone what we know is right and stand firm about gospel principles. We do this because we love them but also because the culture we live in affects everyone. The Lord expects strong men and women to stand firm against the tide of lies, hate, and bitterness rising everywhere. Let’s not disappoint Him.

Who are working women working for?

In The Two-Income Trap, Elizabeth Warren outlines the argument – bold for a progressive – that the entry of women into the workforce has been an unmitigated disaster for most American families.

At the time (2003), the average worker’s real wages hadn’t meaningfully grown since 1964 – around the time that the women’s movement got serious  and the picture hasn’t got any better in the fifteen years since.

American households bring in a lot more (inflation-adjusted) income today than they did with only one breadwinner – but Warren, a highly regarded scholar in bankruptcy law, notes that this hasn’t made American families any more comfortable or secure.

Foreclosures, bankruptcies, repossessions, and credit card debt have all gone way up; household savings have gone negative, and with no cultural epidemic of Boomer frivolity to conveniently explain it -“certainly nothing that could explain a 255% increase in the foreclosure rate, a 430% increase in the bankruptcy rolls, and a 570% increase in credit card debt”.

Average household productivity has gone up ~400%, real household wages have climbed 43%, and it isn’t all going to hookers and cocaine – at least, no more than it ever did – so where is it going?

Warren’s answer, essentially, is positional goods.

Things like cars and phones and appliances can get cheaper over time, but “a home in the best school district in the city” is a positional good: there’s a static quantity that isn’t going up, so even if everybody became a million dollars richer in real terms, we still couldn’t all live in the best school district in the city.

Partly that causes the two-income-trap: if you’re a one-income family in a bidding war with a two-income family, you’re going to lose – so you’d better become a two-income family. But it’s also an effect of the two-income trap, because when nobody’s home during the day, it becomes a lot more important to secure the right daycare, preschool, and public school, and a home in a safe neighborhood.

So mom’s impulse to protect, nurture, and acculturate her kids – roughly speaking, the “nesting instinct” – gets sublimated into brutal bidding wars, shoveling every cent of surplus into locking down these positional goods for her children. Which means she has to get out and earn more, which makes the positional goods even more important, and so on.

Warren estimates that the average working mom’s $30,000 income breaks down approximately like this:

  • $4,000 more on the house in the expensive neighborhood/school district so that child-rearing can be safely outsourced
  • $4,000 more on the child care that she only needs because she’s working
  • $3,000 more on the second car to drive to work
  • $1,000 more on health insurance
  • $5,000 more on education (preschool + college)
  • $13,000 more on taxes

In other words, the average working mom spends at least two-thirds of her income paying for the privilege to work.

Meanwhile, study after study finds that homemaking moms are better for children at every stage of development, on every axis of child well-being that we’ve ever bothered to examine. Kids raised with mom at home are mentally and physically healthier, less prone to behavioral problems, more academically successful, pick your metric.

And that doesn’t even touch the impact that homemaking mothers have in harder-to-measure matters of culture, faith, and identity.

The prevailing elite narrative is that feminism saved women from a life of stultifying, meaningless drudgery – half the society’s intellectual resources squandered on washing dishes and changing diapers rather than working a million different thrilling and useful professions.

Of course this is ludicrous. The intellectual firepower of women in pre-sexual-revolution America was dedicated primarily to the work of holding civilization together – raising children, nurturing relationships, building communities – and contributing to the family’s support in an ad-hoc way that allowed some flexibility during hardships.

And sure, pre-modern women did a fair amount of drudgery, but A) so did everybody else, and B) most career women today aren’t colonizing Mars or swimming with dolphins. They mostly answer phones, populate spreadsheets, and make copies like everybody else – and all the money goes straight to the daycare so their children can be raised by Disney movies under the supervision of some minimum-wage zookeeper.

Even if you made the case that all of the above is a small price to pay for women to enjoy liberation and fulfillment, you’d be wrong.

Working women still do most of the domestic drudgery that these changes were supposed to liberate them from, and after controlling for socioeconomic status (stay-at-home moms tend to come from lower-SES cultures), levels of self-reported anxiety, depression, and life satisfaction between working moms and stay-at-home moms are indistinguishable.

And that’s only on measures of instantaneous, how-you-feel-right-this-minute happiness. It doesn’t account for the tragic cases of women who spend their best childbearing years climbing the ladder, and then blow every dollar they earned in a panicked (and often unsuccessful) attempt to conceive.

It doesn’t account for bereft, elderly Japanese women turning to petty crime just to have somewhere to go and someone to talk to.

It certainly doesn’t account for the millions of families that have outsourced their child-rearing to public institutions and mass media, only realize what they’ve lost (both in foregone memories, and in suboptimal outcomes for their kids) decades after the choices were made.

So why are women doing this to themselves?

Talking about this kind of thing in the workplace is extremely delicate, so I’ve never gone beyond the facts that my female co-workers have volunteered in casual conversation – but everybody knows something is wrong.

A colleague of mine pays $2,500 a month on childcare, which is most of her take-home pay. She has a good degree from a good school, but her job is not glamorous; she mostly makes PowerPoint charts. She doesn’t love it. She misses her kids, and she’s infuriated by the way they are treated at their (expensive, exclusive) daycare.

As far as I can tell, she sticks with it because somebody told her that this was the only path that would allow her to respect herself – that, were she to stay home and raise her kids, she would be betraying generations of women who fought for her freedom to generate slides for corporate executives at an effective wage of $3/hr.

Who benefits from telling women this story?

Well, it’s pretty clear why government and corporate America are uniformly in favor of working moms. Homemaking labor isn’t part of the formal economy – it can’t be taxed, or leveraged by corporations to depress wages. The value homemakers generate can be enjoyed informally and reciprocally in their community – but it can’t be quantified, monetized, and cycled back into corporate revenue streams.

Losing the taxes generated by women in the workforce would be (at this point) an existential threat to the United States government.

A 100-million-strong army of surplus workers gives corporations tremendous leverage in hiring – enough to reap virtually all the gains from skyrocketing productivity for five decades without paying their people another dime, for example.

And of course, the more people work in the formal economy, the less time and energy they have to meet their own needs, and the easier it is to sell them “solutions” that they didn’t need before.

(In America, this is usually prosaic things like childcare, prepared foods, cleaning services, etc. But in Japan, practically every aspect of romance and sexuality has been commodified for young professionals with no time and plenty of disposable income.)

In short, the people selling you this story are not your friends. They want to use you like any other resource, in whatever way is most profitable. HR wants you to trade your birthright for a pittance, and Marketing wants to sell an inferior imitation back to you – and of course, Uncle Sam wants his cut of both ends.

It’s not a conspiracy; it’s just business. But this is one of those cases where “business” takes on a dark life of its own.

The value of “women’s work” is impossible to quantify, but we can observe the fallout from having lost it.

How much of the hollowness and loneliness of modernity could be avoided if we didn’t have three generations of latchkey kids trying to piece a meaningful life together from stuff they saw in movies and porn? It’s confounded by all sorts of other harmful social phenomena, of course, but Mormons have more than just empirical reasons to believe that it matters.

Still, we can’t lay the blame for all that havoc solely at the feet of feminism. It was all too easy to convince women that homemaking was valueless when it has been so consistently and callously undervalued.

Maybe our great-grandfathers just couldn’t see how much was at stake – couldn’t appreciate the feminine heroism that held their world together. I suppose it’s human nature to feel entitled to what you’ve never had to do without – and a modern failing to undervalue things that can’t be quantified.

But I’m encouraged by what I see in the young Mormon families around me: women entering into marriage and motherhood with a clear-eyed sense of purpose, and men determined not to take that work for granted.

Proverbs 31:10-31

Why Bible-Bashing Doesn’t Work

The scene: A comfortable suburban ranch house. Two missionaries are present, with a callow priest tagging along, and they’re excited because they have finally met the non-member husband of the less-active sister they’ve been visiting.

HUSBAND: I know you’ve got your lesson you want to teach me, and I want to listen, but before you get going would you mind answering some questions I have about the Mormons?

MISSIONARY 1: Absolutely. Just fire away.

HUSBAND: Why do you believe Jesus and Satan are brothers?

WIFE: (nervous glance)

MISSIONARY 2: (deep breath)

HUSBAND: …and that is what it says and either the Bible or Joe Smith is a liar-

MISSIONARY 2: …same thing. They’re the same thing, read it again in your Bible…

MISSIONARY 1: Calm down, guys, calm down, the question was…

WIFE: (sips coffee)

⏩⏩

MISSIONARY 2: (incoherent rage babbling)

MISSIONARY 1: He is sorry, we are really sorry-

HUSBAND: You’re just like the last set.

WIFE: Sorry, boys, I think he just needs a little more time-

The bible bash is a mystery. Why is it so easy to get sucked in? Why don’t our points ever seem to make a dent? How can they move on so blithely from point to point, another anti-Mormon factoid up their sleeve for when you pull out a verse that proves the last one inconsequential?

The easy answer is: you didn’t testify and you brought the spirit of the Devil. This is true, but I think we can dive a little deeper into this subject, and draw on some examples from scripture to guide the tone and direction of our discourse and ministry.

What is conversation for?

The worst takeaway a member or missionary or member missionary can bring from a bash is the urge to store up better scriptures to bring out the next time someone has those questions. This is because the questions an experienced non-Mormon bible-basher has are not actually what we would call “questions.”

What’s the point of a question? To get an answer, right? That’s what conversation is, we talk to each other, we trade information, we might disagree on some things but we see where each other is coming from and we walk away with something to think about. This is attractive for the Latter-day Saints, as we believe in all truth, no matter the source, and so you might just learn something from whatever encounter.

This is not what your interlocutor is asking the questions for. He intends to shame you. He wants you to feel stupid for believing, and I want to make one thing absolutely clear: that is a completely legitimate use of questions.

The problem, and what makes a bash far more painful than it needs to be, is when there’s a mismatch between your expectations of the conversation. Verbal sparring is a time-honored tradition, but when you walk into a spar expecting an exchange of knowledge that works toward a consensus nobody’s coming out happy.

Bear down in pure testimony (but keep those pearls out of the pigpen)

The astute missionary will sidestep the bash – will see it coming, will get out of the way, will defuse the situation, will leave with a testimony and a prayer. Sometimes that works – but sometimes they’re not ready to hear the still, small voice. Sometimes there are people around them that desperately need to see them cut down a peg. Sometimes they need to be humbled before they’ll open their ears.

There are places for polite rebuttals. There are places for mockery and scorn. 1 Kings 18 is one of those places. Can you imagine Elijah treating that like a friendly chat? “So you can plainly see that their, the priests of Ba’al’s, rituals failed to bring the fire from Heaven that was promised, which means that for whatever reason Ba’al has no power here. The logical course of action is to return to the worship of YHWH…”

It wasn’t time for reasoned arguments. It was time for slaughter. Sometimes that happens too.

Always testify – but weave your testimony in with context-meaningful communication. Elijah’s testimony wasn’t polite, but you can’t deny its effectiveness. The gentle, sweet declaration of belief is best saved for those who can hear it.

Bible-bashing without the Bible

The stereotype we’ve been discussing in this article is a mainstream Christian of some sort, most likely a Protestant of a non-denominational or Baptist sect. He is ubiquitous, found most often in the southern United States but drawn by some sort of basher clairvoyance to missionaries all over the world, and all over the world missionaries keep stroking his wolf-skin to try to pull out the sheep they’re sure is underneath.

There’s another kind of basher out there, all the way on the other side of the spectrum, with the sheep on the outside and the wolf on the inside. This kind will still use conversation as a weapon, use words as a bludgeon, but they’ll try to be more Mormon than you are. They want to reach an understanding, they want you to ask questions, and they’re even harder to deal with because when you take them at face value absolutely everything that works on them makes you feel like a jerk.

Of course wolves in sheepskin are polite. That’s the entire point of the wool. They’ll try to use the Gospel to teach their own twisted truths, which they frame as common decency, just the sort of thing all moral people should believe. They don’t even have the decency to try to back it up with scripture. And this weekend they are trying to change Church policy through demonstrations. All in the name of, you know, what’s right. What Jesus would probably do, assuming His moral standards, as they always do, perfectly match up with those found in Western nations in the early 21st century.

Don’t accept their framing

When you try to prove the Church is true from (or at least isn’t disproved by) the Bible, you are accepting the Bible as a source of legitimacy, setting aside the role of the Spirit in conversion, and have lost the debate.

The same thing can happen when you try to answer the gentle, polite, bright-eyed contentions of those people who just can’t wrap their heads around a God who would risk being called sexist; if you try to prove that, as a matter of fact, God as Mormonism teaches isn’t sexist, you’ve bought into lack of sexism as a source of legitimacy and have lost the debate.

It doesn’t feel like you’re letting them set the pace. Not at first. Then it’s an hour and a half into a half-hour lesson and you haven’t even got past God is our Heavenly Father yet. Don’t let them do that. Stick to what you know – that God’s law is eternal, that your testimony is rooted in a witness of the Spirit, that Russell M. Nelson is an inspired prophet – and make them come to you.

When they say the Bible says God is a spirit don’t pull out a verse that says He isn’t, testify that Joseph Smith saw Heavenly Father in the flesh. When they try to “start a conversation” about when we can expect gay temple marriage don’t nitpick the legitimacy of OD2 and the Proclamation, mock them out loud. Call everyone over to look at this ridiculous wolf in that shabby sheep coat. Ask if their god is asleep, or on a journey. Let them prance and shout and cut themselves.

Maybe all they need is one sharp shock.