Serious post today. I'm working on an article and sort of fleshing out ideas here. There may be some incoherentness, but I wanted to get some initial thoughts down. Sorry about that. I'll get back to posting fart jokes sometime soon. I promise...
So – religion. Or, more specifically, fundamentalism and cults.
I’ve railed before about the evil creature that lurks behind the cold, dead, blue eyes of Tom Cruise. He’s a hollowed out golem for the evil that is Scientology and, poor Katie Holmes has been sucked in by his toothy smile and preternatural good looks. When all is said and done, the good, beautiful, Catholic girl from Toledo has given birth to the savior-like spawn of all of the Scientology whackos.
Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Jenna Elfman, Leah Remini, and Isaac Hayes all believe in this “religion”. A religion that, quite truthfully, could very well have been thought up by Hubbard on a night of too much drinking with Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Phillip K. Dick. (Heinlein actually took a passing swipe at the absurdity of Scientology in Job: A Comedy of Justice. He referred to Scientologists as “those nutty ElRonners”)
What concerns me most about cults like this is their willingness to trample on people’s rights and do blatantly illegal things to censor those who would speak out against them. A simple google search will undoubtedly show you the lengths Scientology will go to in order to completely crush those who would speak bad of their "religion".
So why am I mentioning this? Well, it’s because I found this article while doing some random searching on presidential candidates. Specifically, I was looking a little more closely at Mitt Romney.
Now – I have some insight into Mormonism. You see, I live within a mile of, and have lived that close most of my life, to Kirtland Ohio. Kirtland was the first stop for the Mormons after they were thrown out of New York. After getting thrown out of Kirtland (they did things like make their own money and force non-Mormon businesses and farmers out of Kirtland. Joseph Smith was also tarred and feathered when he started chasing after local underage girls) the LDS moved on to Missouri (where they actually did WORSE stuff) and finally on to Utah.
Despite most of the Saints moving to the new Zion of Utah, many stayed behind and still live and thrive here. So at least once a week I get a knock on the door from some clean cut, young Republican looking, man or woman looking to ask me if I’ve read the book of Mormon. So I’ve kind of grown up around the LDS – although I never ever considered it a viable belief system.
The problem as I see it is two fold. The first is the idea of a Mormon Mafia that is intent on squelching anyone who would speak out against them. The previously mentioned article is an example of this. This reeks of the same tactics that the Scientologists employ, and, truthfully, with all the money that the Mormons have (ALL members are expected to tithe, without question, 10-15% of all their earnings.) they have a lot of political and economic clout to silence anyone who would rouse some rabble about them. The second part – and the part that Romney needs to overcome – is the growing Fundamentalist LDS movement. Specifically polygamy. (It sure don’t help that his father was part of a Mexican polygamy group. Whoops!)
Anyway - The reformist or fundie LDS groups are pushing for a return to polygamy and they are making some headway – especially since they have a visible candidate running for president.
The thing is – Fundamentalist LDS sects bring a whole lot of other shit with them – besides the polygamy thing. Which, by the way, I’m ambivalent about. If a dude can handle more than one wife, kudos to him. I can barely handle the ONE I’ve got! On the other hand, the dark side to modern day polygamy is the mysogonistic, male dominated, subjugation of girls who should be shopping for their first training bras. The sad, twisted, fucked up reality is that 12 and 13 year old girls are being married off to middle aged and older men who are raping them and forcing them to bear babies. The Taliban does that kind of shit. It’s not right there, and it’s definitely not right here.
I feel strongly about fundamentalist LDS because I have some personal experience with one of these groups.
You see – when I was in high school, I worked at the local mall in the paint section of Sears. It was a good job for a high schooler. One of the people I worked with was a man named Dennis Avery. He was a bit odd – sort of a quiet Walter Mitty-esque man who bore more than a passing resemblance to Don Knotts in his Mr. Limpett role. Anyway, Dennis was a nice guy who struggled in the job and myself and another clerk named Brian watched out for him. What was odd was that, while he worked, his three daughters; Trina, Becky, and Karen would wander the mall, occasionally checking in with their dad. Apparently, they had no sitter while Dennis and his wife worked separate jobs.
They were all beautiful little girls; aged 15,13, and 7 respectively.
Myself and the other clerks took to giving them money and buying the girls food on our breaks. We also occasionally looked out for them for Dennis.
Unknown to all of us, the Avery’s were members of a splinter group of Mormons known as the Reformed Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In April of 1989, the leader of the group led Dennis, his wife Cheryl, and those three little girls into a barn in Kirtland. All five of them were bound with duct tape, thrown into a pre-dug pit, and shot – one by one – with a Colt Commander 1911 .45 caliber pistol.
Their crime? Questioning the authority of Jeffrey Lundgren – the leader of their group about things like polygamy and the other crazy shit that is part of LDS dogma.
Religion can be a terrible thing.
For more information on Mormonism and the genesis of what’s been called the “quintessential American religious movement”, I can’t recommend Jon Krakauer’s Under The Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith highly enough. It's an EXCELLENT book on the entire fundamentalist mormon movement. While unrelated to the Lundgren Murders, it gives a great synopsis of the entire history of the LDS and Fundamental Mormonism.
And for a better account of the murder of Dennis and his family, see this website.
The Avery family. ( Counter clockwise from left: Trina (aged 15), Cheryl, Dennis, Becky (13), and Karen (7)