A Day Late and a Dollar Short

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Hi, all. I have been falling down on my job lately. To complete the third entry in the marriage series, I have to finish a book I’m reading, so it hasn’t happened yet. Mostly because of all the other books I’m reading. One of which is the Jon Krakauer book, Under the Banner of Heaven, which I finished last week. Al mentioned to me that it had been reviewed by Mike two months ago, so I read his review and wrote back to Al the following (which he forwarded to Mike and Mike suggested I post here):

“So interesting that none of the comments nor the post (all by men) addressed what to me is the overarching theme of the book — misogyny. To me, the book says that the Mormon church was founded by a misogynist (Joseph Smith) and his contemporary doppelgangers (the Laffertys and the guy who kidnapped Elizabeth Smart to make her his plural wife) are also misogynists — that misogyny is, in fact, their raison d’etre. Mike’s account of why Branda and Erica were killed does not even mention the most salient facts: that Brenda stood up to all the Lafferty brothers and encouraged Ron, the oldest’s, wife Dianna to leave him because he was abusing her. This pushed Ron over the edge to the extent that he wasn’t already, and caused him to decide (via a cooked-up “revelation” from God) that Brenda and baby Erica, as well as two others who had helped Dianna either emotionally or financially to leave him, had to be “eliminated.” The baby was killed solely because she was a girl and, according to Ron would “grow up to be a bitch just like her mother.” Ron probably would have chosen to kill Dianna herself had she been geographically proximate to him, but she was smart enough to move to Florida.

The difference between Joseph Smith’s polygamy and the current polygamy is that Smith wanted polygamy so he could have sex with several different women with the approbation of the community. Now that men and women are largely free to do that without fear of reprisal, the Lafferty brothers’ reason for converting to fundamentalism (they were raised mainline Mormon) and polygamy is that it is a system for subordinating women, forcing them to be sexual slaves and mothers, keeping them from obtaining education and any modicum of financial independence. It is an extreme reaction that is on a continuum of reactions that men have had to the increase in women’s freedom and equality. Some men are “players” and can’t have any kind of relationship with a woman that involves responsibility or intimacy; some men marry a series of 14-year-old girls and force them to bear their children and keep their house. The communities and social milieus are different, but the basic feeling is the same — some men cannot handle the change in their roles that occurred in the 20th century. They either take the opportunity to control every aspect of their homes and families, if given the opportunity, or they bow out of the whole game. Everyone loses in either scenario. This is where the Coontz interview comes in: marriage, when it works, is a better relationship now than it ever was before. The lucky few, like me, who get to participate in it are those who have found men who can deal with being an equal. I feel so sorry for all the people who will never get a chance to have what I have. Mormon fundamentalists or inner-city gang members or whoever, they are all living emotionally stunted, hollow lives that appear nightmarish to me.”

This is my version of a rant. But I was incredibly disturbed by the book and had an emotional response; it was very hard to read (and I have seen probably every episode of American Justice and Cold Case Files that exists, so it’s not that I don’t have the stomach for murder). It also made me feel incredibly fortunate to have the life I have. Much love to my husband David for being who he is and sharing it with me.

I agree with Joe’s point that the book is an indictment of Mormonism. My snide thought in response was, well, maybe some things need to be indicted. My reasoned thought is that there are some real problems with Mormonism, some of which are shared by some Christian sects as well (are Mormons Christians? the book left me confused on this point). For example, racism (not to mention sexism since I already mentioned it). I also agree that there was a bit of an anti-religion tone, which would maybe be fine if he were writing for an atheist audience, but is definitely off-putting to the vast majority of people who believe in a God of some sort. And it’s too bad because I think the book was really well-written and had some valuable points and interesting history that most people are not aware of. So, anybody who hasn’t read it might pick it up; it’s a very quick read. Just be sure to fasten your seat belt, as it is a bumpy ride.

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One Response to “A Day Late and a Dollar Short”

  1. Whitney Says:

    Sandi,

    Yours is a very interesting take on Krakauer’s book. I like it. I read the book quite a while before Mike commented on it, and find myself referring back to it quite often as an example of extremism. (Also, I’ve seen several news reports, 60 Minutes & the like, about these exact groups recently. No doubt a result of the book.) Mormonism, in general, is interesting to me (I’m a psychologist) and Fundamentalism is just plain ol’ fascinating.

    I, too, am very fortunate to have a wonderful, loving, intelligent husband who is not intimidated by a PhD, who values my thoughts and beliefs, and who seriously considers my opinions in any decisions we make together or individually. I hope I am as good to him! ๐Ÿ™‚ On what some may call the flip side of the coin, I defer (even submit) to my husband a LOT–a choice I have made, not one he would ever try to force–because I value his judgments and because I think he is a great Christian man who is helping me live a better life than I could on my own.

    As I think more about your analysis of the book, it does become more disturbing. Here is a subculture who promotes degredation and hatred while claiming it is in the name of God. No doubt there are several social psychological factors driving this behavior so that it can survive, and even evolve, through generations. (I think this links right back into all the conversations we’ve had about love and acceptance of people in the Church versus love and acceptance of sin.)

    Thanks for an interesting perspective. Also, I tried not to hijack your article w/ a complete religious diatribe this week. That’ll probably happen anyway. ๐Ÿ™‚

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