The LDS Church has been subject to increasing leaks and protests lately. MormonLeaks has been publishing internal documents (some mundane, some embarrassing), and some people have been sneaking cameras into church to record Protest-imonies. Apparently Jeremy Runnells and Sam Young have had excommunication proceedings posted online as well. Is the LDS Church becoming even more skittish with cameras?
I had a really weird experience happen to me today. I spent the weekend with my family in Moab. On my way home from Moab, my wife tells me Elizabeth Smart is speaking at the U of U institute. So I decided to come by myself because she is tired of driving. She sends me the Facebook post telling me it is open to the public.
On my way in the building, an Institute teacher intercepts me and demands to know what stake I am in. Clearly I don’t look like a college student. Due to my job, I spend a fair amount of time at BYU, Utah, Utah State, Utah Valley University, and Salt Lake Community College. I know all of the campuses fairly well, and feel quite comfortable on all of the campuses. Bewildered, I tell him. He tells me this is a Relief Society function and I am only allowed in the overflow since I am not in the stake. As I head in the direction he directed me, he notices my backpack and wants to know what’s in it. I’m not trying to hide anything, and voluntarily open it up, and ask him if this is the airport? He replies “Yes.”
Then he rifles through my bag, looking for a camera. He sees my laptop and a few books and tells me not to video record the event. I wasn’t going to record it, but I must say that he ticked me off, and made me want to record it.
I’m pretty sure the outside of the building says “Visitors Welcome,” but I certainly didn’t feel welcome. Seriously, the guy was a total jerk-off.
While seated in the overflow chapel waiting for the meeting to start, I hear two senior citizen guys behind me wonder why there are so many women here. So I tell them it is a Relief Society event. They said they had no idea. The announcement they and I saw clearly said “Public Welcome.” It was advertised as a simple fireside, and said nothing about it being only for women or a Relief Society event. I suppose if I had been a woman, nobody would have batted an eye at me (unless maybe the woman looked past their college years. There were several women in front of me in the overflow also clearly past college age.) Anyway, this is the weirdest experience at Mormon event ever!
Are the brethren seriously checking backpacks for cameras now? I mean nobody bothered checking for my cell phone camera. I could have recorded it if I wanted to. Are we that paranoid now?
Most of what Elizabeth said I had already heard. She did have an interesting thing to say about forgiveness. I don’t know if you all heard, but Wanda Barzee was released from jail yesterday. Elizabeth did say that forgiveness was different for her. She wasn’t going to invite Wanda or Brian over for dinner–she never wanted to see them again, and they took 9 months from her life that she will never get back. She also said she had no illusions that Brian or Wanda cared if she forgave them. But Elizabeth said forgiveness for her was not to carry the burden of anger, fear, etc, and that she had overcome that.
At the end, they read 3 questions (a sort of Q&A session) and had Elizabeth answer. That was also a bit unusual for a fireside. Two questions were combined from sexual assault victims and asked how to overcome the anger of the assault. Elizabeth just said that was normal, and it was ok to have “bad days” even in Utah. She basically didn’t seem to have an answer, other than to validate that it is ok to feel bad when sexually assaulted. It’s a completely normal reaction.
The other question asked how friends can help. The question said that a person had recently been sexually assaulted, and that it had affected her friend’s marriage. How can friends help support? Once again, Elizabeth didn’t have any magical answers. It’s ok to feel bad.
By the way, Elizabeth is pregnant with her 3rd child (I’m guessing about 5 months along.)
She did talk about the chewed gum and nail in the fence analogy with regards to chastity, and how awful that is for sex assault survivors, but didn’t really dwell on that as much as I would have liked. If I were to ask her a question, I’d like to ask her whether rape is something that should be addressed in church meetings.
It was a good meeting, even if the start was rather unusual. Thoughts?
I suspect that that had more to do with it being Ms. Smart (who naturally wants to control her public message, and who may have experienced stalking or threats that are not publicly known), than church leaders.
I do think there is a valid concern. I would have to say that the church does have talk among “the really IN group” that they don’t want missionaries to be including as an additional discussion for investigators.
I have seen many people saying they are asked not to record church meetings with upper church leaders in them. For the ex-Mormon crowd, that is just extending a challenge (probably the only way to get them to back to a church meeting). There has been some encouragement of youth to record bishops when they probe on sexual questions.
I do think there is reason for the church to be worried. Many of these will not make the church look good to outsiders. But if the result is to clamp down, the local “spy” shops are going to have a bump in business as people mimic New Name Noah. The solution is to focus on Christ like a Christian church should. Recordings of that will be good missionary tools.
But to your experience last night – I can’t figure out why they are worried about people recording Elizabeth Smart. She has spoken at MANY venues and has been surprisingly open and answered lots of questions. I doubt it was her request and more likely some power-trip infused guy wanting to be Mr. Policeman.
There a lot of kooks out there and in this day and age, I’m frankly surprised there aren’t more security checks. I work in Washington, DC, and going through screening is an every occurrence — visit a Smithsonian Museum and they will go through your bag.
I remember in the 1980s when a chapel in Utah was bombed by a polygamist. As I said, there are a lot of kooks out there.
As for bringing up rape at church, I think that would be fully appropriate in both Young Women’s, Relief Society, as well Priest and Elder’s Quorums. According to the National Center for Sexual Violence, one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives. When I was as a student at BYU I was surprised that the numbers for American society are not much different inside the church.
All this said, I’m always troubled when I receive your emails labeled “Mormon Heretic.” You strike me as a faithful person but one who may have some issues that make you angry. I hope you’ll keep praying, studying your scriptures, leading your family with faith and kindness, and perhaps consider changing the name of your blog.
All my best,
RNP, I don’t believe Elizabeth Smart told the institute teacher to ask men which stake they belonged to.
Jeff, are you saying you think churches and LDS Institutes of religion should start installing metal detectors, even here in Utah?
I often say (and it’s on my About page), “I’m trying to be a heretic like Jesus.” By the way, was he angry when he cleansed the temple. I love my church, but there are things that bug me too.