Seriously? You want to know what I think.
Are you sure?
I was recently contacted by a Utah journalist for a comment on the subject of suicide among FLDS and ex-FLDS. I expect my contribution was solicited in order to provide a small splash of alternate opinion to give the illusion of opposition to the overwhelming majority, about as effective as one drop of hydrogen peroxide added to an entire ocean of despair.
As I read the article, it became clear from the first sentence that the journalist was unable to remain objective in his report. As usual, he presented people and opinions to hash and rehash the usual complaint that the FLDS religion and culture is responsible for destroying people’s lives. I have noticed that this particular journalist is unable to hide prejudice. His identity page boasts something like, “I cover polygamists. I am also interested in monogamists. Me.” I don’t think anyone is convinced that his “reporting” is unbiased.
In the article, FLDS dissenters and anti-polygamy activists chimed in with the usual discontent about what they consider to be a dangerous ideology which they identify as the cause and result of the sad situation of suicide.
I find that many anti-polygamy activists are those who have never lived it. They claim that all women and children in polygamy suffer abuse. They try to represent the whole when they are not qualified to do so. Even those who may have lived plural marriage and now fight against it are not qualified to represent the whole. The haters of plurality are actually a minority. There are more satisfied people who have lived plurality than there are those who have lived it and later became dissatisfied and turned against it.
Just because people are silent doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
Having personal knowledge and experience about that so-called ideology and how it has affected the lives of many, I offer my reflections and testimony which might result in a more balanced and accurate report. If you are able to read this presentation without prejudice, you may even find a solution for the lamentable situation of suicide.
The point of this follow-up article is to bring out the things that were NOT said. Think of this as a tough love message from someone who really does care. However, if you have a defensive and accusing frame of mind, anything I say will be considered patronizing and condescending. I don’t relish offending anyone, but I am willing to take the risk in case there is anyone who may benefit from a candid, yet positive perspective.
Since FLDS religion and culture has so often been the scapegoat advertised as the cause of suffering, I offer this analogy:
What if I was to conduct an anti-mainstream crusade? I know there is much corruption, depravity, immorality, dishonesty, and abuse in the world. I make it my life’s mission to take down mainstream. I try to rescue all the innocent women and children from the horrors of modern society. How do you think that would go over?
Quite a number of celebrities from Hollywood have committed suicide. Down with Hollywood! Let’s take out the entertainment industry because it seems to have a dangerous effect on the minds of children. LOL, you say? Ha ha indeed.
Why do people listen so intently when a minority religious culture is repeatedly targeted by haters, advertised as depraved and abusive, and touted as a DANGEROUS ideology? Can you not see the paradox?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So is ugly. Oh, dear. The majority must be ugly.
Many FLDS dissenters claim they were mistreated and unloved. Let me share a truth that life has taught me. No matter how much you are loved, if you cannot recognize love and you reject love, you will forever eat, drink, think, feel, and enjoy hate. You live in that “perfect hell of happiness”. Bad feelings twist and obscure truth. Feelings are those pesky critters we like to pet and coddle and dress up to look like something else.
Concerning the various people who were quoted in the Salt Lake Tribune article on suicide, as well as some who contributed comments concerning their views and experiences among the FLDS and the challenges they faced with suicidal thoughts and/or attempts, I would like to point out that I know these people. I commend those who have been through great challenges and have overcome. But I do not agree that anyone can justify blaming their dark moments on the FLDS religion or religious leaders.
All people make mistakes. As humans, we Mormons and ex-Mormons have not lived faultless. In our youth, many of us went over Fool’s Hill and behaved like hellions. I don’t know about you, but I am mighty thankful for the gift of repentance and the opportunity to overcome and improve. I, for one, do not hold your youthful indiscretions against you just as I hope you will not hold mine against me. I hope you will not hold your past against yourself.
Without identifying anyone in particular, I give my honest report that some who were interviewed and some who added disparaging comments to Nate Carlisle’s article on suicide are former students from Alta Academy. Interesting to see that those who feel they were mistreated and unloved are the very ones who had a challenge getting their homework done, not to mention challenges with disruptive behavior. Some of the commentators are relatives and former acquaintances who had problems with obedience to reasonable rules in their homes and schools. Some engaged in questionable conduct, and some were often disrespectful to parents and teachers. Some were repeated offenders at breaking rules.
All of us have the freedom to choose our behavior, but there is always a consequence of choice.
Think of it this way. If you are part of a particular organization which requires greater self-discipline such as the Navy SEALs, Harvard, Yale, Club 33, Freemasons, or the Mennonites, Hutterites, or Amish, there is a certain set of rules, certain behaviors, a specific mindset, an ideology you must follow and strictly adhere to in order to qualify to remain in the program.
Sometimes people don’t fit in. Some choose another path. If you choose to separate from a particular organization, naturally, fraternizing will probably come to an end.
For decades we were warned that separations must come. Most often people separated themselves. Those who wanted to do stupid stuff were separated either willingly or unwillingly from those who wanted to quit doing stupid stuff.
You could not have prevented being born where you were. No sense in lamenting your birth. All of those born to FLDS members came with a birthright. Esau sold his birthright to Jacob and then blamed his brother and his father for his loss. Be honest with yourself. If you sold your birthright for a mess of pottage, enjoy the mess as much as you can. You cannot blame your loss on the source of the blessings you sold.
For many years people complained that the FLDS religion kept people in prison and chained within its walls. Now people complain that they were sent away from their religion. They claim that because they were cast out, they lost their self-worth. Which is it?
Were you chained within or chained without? Make up your mind.
We all know how spoiled apples corrupt the whole barrel. In order to protect your crop, you remove the spoiled apples, right? All of us were taught how to avoid becoming a spoiled apple. Nobody forced you to inject yourself with mold.
Did I just hear you say sheee-it? So, are you mad because you were sent away even though you were one of the very best apples? I see. Well, what are you doing right now? Are you complaining about your corrections and trials? Did you have hidden mold inside that you had no idea was there? Is it now spilling out and infecting others?
If you have been ousted from one barrel and now belong to another barrel, don’t be the moldy apple. Clean up! Wash off the mold, and let your good apple aroma permeate the barrel until you all age together into fine wine.
From my earliest memory, we FLDS people heard from the pulpit that the act of suicide is a grievous sin in the sight of God and is one of the most selfish things a person can do. We were actively and repeatedly taught how to work with our thoughts, feelings, and emotions to cultivate a positive mindset. We were warned of the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that contribute to the darkness of mind and body which travels a path that leads to suicidal thoughts, and can eventually culminate in the act itself.
I imagine we can all agree that suicide is preceded by discouragement and chronic depression. What causes this? There is no single answer. But in a nutshell, discouragement comes from within when we react to influences from without.
I am a witness that as a people, we were taught and encouraged specifically what to think and do to protect ourselves from discouragement.
The foundation of our faith was and is Jesus Christ. Each prophet I have known has faithfully and repeatedly taught the life and works of our Lord and Savior. The most profound teachings of Jesus Christ I have ever heard came from Warren Jeffs. We studied the words and acts of Christ in order to identify and avoid the enemy of Christ.
If we heard it once, we heard it a thousand times that discouragement is the greatest tool of Satan. We studied much how to use the gifts of faith and love to stay encouraged. But we were, and apparently still are, a very proud group of people. Some of the most stubborn people that ever walked the earth are those who were born FLDS. Stubborn can be good. If you are stubborn, you can be just as stubborn doing right as you are stubborn doing wrong.
Six things come to mind that we were specifically taught as points of good behavior. In our scattered state, whether you call it escape or rejection, have we abandoned these principles?
Keys for Success
1. Keep the mind active in good thoughts through prayer and study. Read your Bible and Book of Mormon. Learn who God is and how to become like Him. Study the life and works and words of Jesus Christ. Study the lives of honorable men and women who have provided good examples for us.
2. Stay physically active in building and creating and learning skills. Idleness is the devil’s workshop. Yes, perhaps we were more old-fashioned then modern society is, but I don’t think our ancestors had much problem with suicide. If staying busy and working hard kept them out of trouble, it should work for us as well.
3. Be morally pure. Avoid corrupt sights and sounds and acts.
4. Think good of others. Speak well of others and serve others.
5. Trust in God and be respectful and obedient to parents, teachers, and leaders.
6. Take care of your body. Eat healthy food. Avoid alcohol and abstain from drugs, including mind altering drugs that can have negative effects upon one’s ability to control one’s own thoughts and emotions.
For years, many FLDS people had one foot in and one foot out. Just as in any society on earth, children fell through the cracks when parents were not active enough in the lives of their children. Teens suffered when parents were too harsh or too permissive. Wives suffered when husbands were too harsh or demanding or neglectful. Husbands suffered when wives were harsh or bad-tempered or neglectful. Parents suffered when children were disrespectful and disobedient.
Being human, we all made many mistakes. But we just aren’t honest if we blame our mistakes on our leaders or the church or our religion. I never once heard it taught over the pulpit OR under the pulpit that we should behave contrary to the laws of the Gospel as taught in the scriptures.
Okay, what happened over the last ten years in the lives of thousands? Many people either left FLDS faith, or they were sent away. Either scenario naturally resulted in a certain amount of shunning by those who remained. If being shunned caused you to lose your self-worth, maybe it should have been a wake-up call that you are too dependent on the opinions of others.
Do you have what it takes to think good of yourself no matter what other people say?
Are you doing things that promote self-respect?
So you got your “freedom”. With that new-found freedom, what happened? I think we can all agree that unchecked “freedom” without accountability breeds idleness, self-indulgence, and immorality. This narrative usually includes alcohol and drugs and excessive wasteful entertainment. Where does that lead?
Surely anyone can see that a “whatever” attitude and a haphazard, slovenly, free-for-all, devil-may-care lifestyle will take you down a path that leads to boredom and self-loathing, even crime. It takes a terrible toll on the mind and body. This decline automatically defaults sooner or later to despair and the sense of worthlessness. Whose fault is that?
You can’t blame your unworthiness on anybody but yourself. You can’t even blame the devil.
The devil CANNOT force you to do bad. God WILL NOT force you to do good. It’s your choice.
People say how hard it was on them to adapt to mainstream because FLDS culture didn’t prepare them. Boy, don’t I know it. Of course it’s hard to adapt to mainstream. I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing.
In my experience I found mainstream culture to be far more demanding and dangerous than FLDS culture. It’s a good thing I didn’t know it upfront. It was easier to take it a bite at a time and adapt slowly. The biggest challenge I find living in mainstream is maintaining my chosen identity. But that’s the whole idea of the test. We have to prove to our Heavenly Father what we really love. He will eventually give us what we want and earn.
A whole bunch of us FLDS kids were actually quite spoiled. If you grew up without the discipline of good habits, you will have hell no matter where you go. If you had a challenge adapting to mainstream…now be honest…was it because of the religion, OR…was it because you were lazy? Were you so accustomed to blessings, you just expected a handout?
Dang. Even mainstream bosses don’t like it when their employees are lazy, rude, disrespectful, drunk, high, late, or no-show. Shoot. You mean I have to work for my toys in mainstream just like my FLDS leaders thought I had to work for my blessings? Scrud. It’s just not fair.
Did you expect your teachers and leaders to come to your house every day to make sure you got out of bed and washed your face and did your exercises and ate good food to make the best kind of you? Did you expect your parents to hold your hand through your teens and into adulthood to protect you from all the tests and trials so you wouldn’t ever feel unloved and unwanted?
Who is ultimately responsible for you?
Life is challenging, I agree. If it is unbearable, why is it? Did you turn your back on the good habits you were taught to strictly keep? Did you forget your prayers? Did you forget the One who gives you His Spirit as protection against evil? Did you forget how to say, “Get thee behind me, Satan”?
Let’s face it. When you found your freedom in the world, you allowed yourself to be absorbed, more or less, into mainstream culture. Mainstream is largely a godless society. The universal cry is to live for self and promote self. How is that working out for you?
You joined mainstream and adopted its customs, not all of which are good or right or safe. In FLDS culture when you get discouraged, you WORK it off. You read and pray and sing. You do something to bless someone else.
In mainstream culture when you get discouraged, you sleep in, get drunk or high, and party on! But dang. Then you wake up and have to deal with the hangover and the consequences of whatever happened the night before. After so many lovely occasions like that, then what? Where does it lead? How long does it take until you can’t stand yourself any longer?
The most lamentable custom of mainstream is suicide.
They say that the rate of suicide among the FLDS is higher per capita compared to mainstream. This statement is inaccurate. For one thing, the statistics include deaths that were claimed as suicide, but have no proof of being such.
If there is a higher rate of suicide among ex-FLDS, it is only because folks did not take responsibility for their thoughts and deeds. True, there is a greater gap between one culture and the other because the two are so dissimilar.. Those who cross the great divide must trek through a formidable gulf to find a place of compatibility.
So, would you also blame FLDS religion for that as well? Would you have us raise our innocent children by saying, “Listen, my child, in case you ever want to dump your faith and turn your back on your blessings and go live in a place where there is death and darkness and destruction all around you and be surrounded by selfishness and immorality, here is all you need to know about the world.”
We do not teach our children the bitter that they might appreciate the sweet. We all experience bitter in the natural temptations of life. We teach our children how to deal with temptation and overcome. If individuals choose to leave the faith and culture they were born and raised in, they have every freedom to do so. But they will naturally find it very difficult. Who are you going to blame?
If you go live with the devil, will you be mad at God for not teaching you how to get along with the devil?
This country was founded on religious freedom. People should be free to organize themselves in whatever religious capacity they desire. Parents should be free to teach their children what they believe and raise them in their chosen culture. If parents later change their minds about that faith and culture, naturally, a certain amount of confusion and displacement will occur.
Let’s be honest. Long ago we were taught how to avoid the pitfall of discouragement. Did we sleep through the teachings, the meetings, and the sermons? Did we feel burdened by all the requirements? Did we resent not having our “freedom”?
If you wanted to do your own thing your own way, you got your wish. Now what?
Can anyone actually in good conscience blame their self-inflicted hard knocks on the man who has spent his life teaching the people he loves how to avoid such things?
Nobody can make you feel down on yourself.
Nobody can make you feel bad except you.
Nobody but you is responsible for your happiness.
Many say they lived in doubt and fear in FLDS society. Wow. That is way different from living in mainstream. Everybody is always happy and content and successful in mainstream, right?
People say they found it a horrendous task to keep up with the requirements put upon them by FLDS leaders. They were afraid of not being good enough.
Well of course you experienced doubt and fear. I did too. That was the whole point of the test. Learn how to deal with fear and overcome it. The only way to do that was to stop relying on our friends and family to make us happy and get close to our Creator and earn His confidence. Those who do so earn self-confidence and self-respect in the process.
A very high standard was set for us. We had no choice but to either step forward or step backward.
The fence became too thin, too razor sharp to stand upon.
Many people say that since leaving the FLDS, they found true freedom and no longer live in fear. They are happy and content in mainstream. Well, of course you are! The absence of conflict makes you feel like you are in heaven even though you might actually be in hell.
We might not be aware of the slow cooking of the pot until we are bunt to a crisp.
Enjoy your heaven as long as you can. But please, my friend, find out what truly makes you happy. Love yourself enough to not lie to yourself. Complaining will never bring you happiness.
We may not recognize that separation is often a blessing in disguise. People say they were taught to hate their mother or father or son or daughter or neighbor. This is not true. People may have interpreted a separation as entitlement to shun others or criticize or judge those who were sent away. All that means is that those who were NOT sent away failed the test by judging those who were sent away.
The truth is, and I am a witness, that the Prophet Warren Jeffs never once taught or promoted that anyone should hate anyone for any reason. On the contrary, he exerted much energy thousands of times teaching us that we must overcome criticism and love our neighbors as ourselves.
Yes, he was the messenger for many situations which required separation. Separation does not mean hate. Why should we have raunchy feelings about something that can actually benefit us? I don’t think separation was ever intended to cause dissension among those separated. On the contrary, it should have caused increased love and respect and longing to be reunited.
I do agree that dissension is a natural result of the test—natural for those who care more about feelings than they do principle. It’s like holding on to a fistful of dirt refusing to let it go because it’s MINE! God offers a world in return for our fistful of dirt, but we are too deaf, blind, and dumb to understand.
Sometimes people are not good for each other. Sometimes they need separated to have a chance to find themselves. Even famous mentors in mainstream society who pump self-improvement will advise you to avoid associations with anyone who has a negative effect or impact on your life.
The whole focus of Mormonism is to love God and love one another.
But too often, as a people, we cared more about what each other thought then we cared about what God thought of us. Although Mormonism is basically a “together” society with focus on family, sometimes separations occur to help us find ourselves. When a person finds himself or herself terribly alone, in order to survive, they have to appeal to God. In so doing, we learn about ourselves and our relationship to Him.
The world calls that a sabbatical, a time of introspection, a deep breathing exercise, one-on-one with your Creator to discover yourself.
Somehow those opportunities for self-improvement, and the necessary hard experience one must go through to earn those improvements, have been twisted and misrepresented as a religion and ideology of hate.
True, the life of a Mormon is not easy. Every FLDS member has been corrected by God. Every single one of us has been jolted out of our comfort zone. Sometimes the love of God starts with a spanking. If we are unable or unwilling to recognize Tough Love when we see it and feel it, we will always be wimpy whiners.
With all the adjustments and separations among the FLDS, true, it appeared that many innocent and obedient people were also corrected and sent away to test the strength of their faith. Although this was shocking at the time, it answers the warnings that Mormons have received many times during the last couple centuries that we would face unimaginable tests.
“A test, a test, a test is coming,” said Heber C. Kimball, “and who will be able to stand the test?”
The tests among us gave the clear message that nobody is above repentance, a great equalizer to obliterate class-distinction. The prophecy calling us to judgment clearly stated that every FLDS family will be affected by great trials, hard experience, and tremendous contradictions, followed by the scourge of falling away. This has happened just as it was foretold.
But with the judgment, and true to the nature of God, the same prophecy also gave the solution to prevent horrid reactionary extremes such as suicide which may result from the judgment which has come upon spoiled entitled, extremely blessed, people.
Most people are not interested in the solution because they are looking for someone to blame. Now, if somebody like Tony Robbins comes along in your life to kick butt, sometimes people stop whining and take responsibility. If people claim that their religion destroyed them, perhaps they can accept another form of religion such as the power of positive thought to prevent suicide.
Even leaders in mainstream don’t agree with blaming others for the lack in yourself.
How the devil must laugh to see people embrace his philosophy and then blame God for the consequences.
The tests and judgments AKA “abuse”, depending on how you look at it, have been severe upon every man, woman, and child among the FLDS. I have been through it myself, same as everyone. But my faith is what saves me daily and keeps me going. I can never repay my Heavenly Father for what He has taught me.
My success is found in obedience to FLDS teachings, not in spite of them. I am far from perfect. Like my grandfather Richard Seth Jessop said, “Though I walk this path falteringly, still I know it is the correct path.”
I have never heard of anyone committing suicide who actually followed the teachings of the prophets. The only people I know of who were once numbered among the FLDS succumbing to suicide are those who left their faith and the good habits associated with it.
There is no such thing as suicide among faithful FLDS.
In spite of popular opinion, the FLDS is not extinct. I personally know thousands of strong-minded people who are active in faith. The voice of the faithful is very small, yet God is on their side. One man and God is the majority.
Nobody is going to get away forever with either rebellion or self-righteousness. Even if you were actually treated badly by friends and family who may have misunderstood that separation meant they were entitled to shun and despise, even then, you are not justified in destroying yourself. Don’t be content with bad feelings and retaliation. Don’t allow other people’s opinions to rule your life.
Jesus was treated very badly. How did he react? How about Gandhi? What kind of a people were Betsie and Corrie ten Boom? These people were treated horribly. They could have been justified in holding a grudge much more than you and I. No matter how we look at it, we simply have no excuse.
The most DESTRUCTIVE IDEOLOGY is your own self-pity.
The cancerous grudge you hold will eat out your heart.
The most TWISTED RELIGION is your own warped opinions that you refuse to relinquish. They have the power to destroy you.
If you no longer believe in God, start with good habits. A pill won’t fix you. Anti-depressants will not keep you safe forever from suicidal thoughts. Band-Aids don’t cure cancer.
Even if you are now alone in the world, you can make the best of yourself from this moment on. Even if you have lost your support system, if you hold on to your honor and practice the good thoughts and good works you formerly learned and practiced, I believe you will find a great degree of contentment and satisfaction and be safe from the horror of suicide.
For those looking for happiness and independence, both physically and mentally, Best Wishes!
The very independence you hope to achieve by casting blame will become your prison cell. Embracing the world and partaking excessively of its shiny objects without the proper balance of faith and works will destroy your focus, steal your mind, and eventually chain your heart.
The ideology of modern society is your dangerous enemy.
Suicide will not stop until people stop griping. Not until people quit expecting handouts, not until people stop excessive self-indulgence that leads to the corruption of self-respect and the depletion of self-worth. Not until parents teach their children to recognize self-pity and avoid it like the bubonic plague. Not until we all take responsibility for our own actions. Not until we learn to love unconditionally. Not until we keep our hands busy in worthy endeavors that build up the human spirit.
Whether you are an FLDS believer or unbeliever, a mainstream Mormon, or a traditional Christian. No matter your religion or belief system; even if you are an atheist.
GRATITUDE IS THE ANSWER!
Even if you feel like you were harmed by a religious culture, I bet you can find at least one good thing in those experiences. Start by being grateful for that one thing. It just might surprise you how beautiful your life can become when you start saying, “Thank you.”
Jesus Christ gave His life for those who will repent. As long as life lasts, there is hope. Who cannot see the value of consistently battling the darkness within ourselves? Consider the great gifts of faith, hope, charity, and love we can earn by using the precious gift of repentance to improve our lives.
“Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God.”