I’m Not into Banning Books, but Some Books Need to Go Away

A while ago, a dear friend asked if I had a particular book in my personal library. I emphatically told this friend NO, I did not have it and exclaimed this book should just go away. I am not typically into banning books, but there is one book in particular that will NEVER be on my shelves ever again.miracle_forgivenessMore than any other book I have read or will likely read in my lifetime, this book was the catalyst to the near-destruction of my already broken heart. It was a death-knell to my spiritual, emotional, and mental health. In my “old age,” I am not shy about telling people how I feel about this book and the devastating effect it had in my life, damage that reverberates through generations and into the eternities.

Back to my friend, though.

After I told her I didn’t have the book, she borrowed it from another church member who did have it. She read it, then reported back to the bishop about it. My friend also mentioned to our bishop my feelings about the book, to which he replied I most likely felt that way because of past sins or errors in my life. Setting aside the breach of trust and confidentiality on both my friend and bishop’s part, I felt a need to explain myself and perhaps illuminate his understanding about the damaging nature of this book.

I share with you parts of the letter I wrote to him regarding my strong feelings about this book and its effect on my life [edited for grammar, because I was in a bit of a tizzy when I wrote it]. Perhaps it might help others understand the cultural context and time in which my lost daughter was conceived and born.

When I look back on the string of events in my life, beginning in August 1989 when my sister died until April 1993 when I signed the TPR, I am astounded I survived.  Especially with ecclesiastical leaders like I had at that point in time, leaders who blamed me for rape and didn’t believe the abuse allegations, either. Leaders who told me  relinquishing my daughter for adoption was an outward sign I had truly repented of premarital sex, who said if I *really* loved her, I would let her go to a two-parent home. Leaders who told me I was being selfish for wanting to raise my daughter.

I think it is fair to say I *totally* lost the leadership lottery, LDS-style, over and over and over again during those years.

______________________________________________

Dear SW –

[My BFF] told me that she talked with you yesterday and shared with you how I feel about the book, “The Miracle of Forgiveness.” She then reported you said I felt that way because my past sins and mistakes made me feel “uncomfortable” with it (or something like that). I wanted to clarify my negative feelings towards the book have NOTHING to do with MY past sins and mistakes, but EVERYTHING to do with the message sent to rape and incest victims.

Let me set the scene for you: My natural father molested me. In Young Women’s, when virtue was discussed as a value, THE VERY FIRST scriptural reference is one regarding the rape of Nephite women (see https://www.lds.org/young-women/personal-progress/virtue?lang=eng as well as Mormon 9:9).

Now, our ADULT brains and reasoning can understand that whomever selected a scripture about rape causing a loss of chastity and virtue for THE VERY FIRST REFERENCE didn’t intend to harm, but merely to make an illustration. However, as a young woman who had suffered mightily at the hands of my father who “deprived” me of my chastity and virtue, this cut like a knife and sent a message that I HAD DONE SOMETHING WRONG by allowing it to be taken from me.

Fast forward three years. I was 17. The Relief Society President’s 27-year old son raped me. My sister had just died and my parents marriage was imploding with the revelation of my father’s sexual abuse of his daughters, so I turned to a man I thought I could trust for help, my bishop. Do you want to know what he did? He didn’t call the police. He didn’t report the man for rape of a minor. He didn’t tell my parents. He put ME on probation and had ME read “The Miracle of Forgiveness.” His reasoning was that I MUST be responsible for my “part” in the rape. Imagine the soul-crushing effect it was to read these words, penned by a not-yet-prophet:

“Also far-reaching is the effect of loss of chastity. Once given or taken or stolen it can never be regained. Even in a forced contact such as rape or incest….It is better to die in defending one’s virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle.” ( p. 196)

“President David O. McKay has pleaded: Your virtue is worth more than your life. Please, young folk, preserve your virtue even if you lose your lives.” (p. 63)

“…one should give his or her life rather than to yield to loss of virtue.” (p. 66)

So…according to [Spencer W. Kimball, eventual prophet and leader of the LDS church,] I should have DIED before I “let” my father molest me. I should have DIED before I “let” a 27-year old man rape me.

Just to make sure the message was driven home that I WAS AT FAULT FOR THE RAPE, I was not allowed to graduate from seminary and I was also denied my Young Womanhood medallion, even though I had done EVERYTHING to earn it and had done NOTHING wrong except willed myself to LIVE instead of dying from the abuse and rape.

It has taken YEARS of therapy to forgive that bishop and to forgive myself for being a naive and trusting 17 year old. Obviously I should have gone to the police instead of my bishop with the rape. Instead of reading the Miracle of Forgiveness, a rape kit should have been done. Instead of banning me from seminary graduation and denying me my medallion, I should have been testifying against the man who raped me. But none of that happened because in that book, a not-yet-prophet said I should have died instead of “letting” my virtue be FORCIBLY TAKEN FROM ME. This same thinking is what lead Elizabeth Smart to stay with her kidnappers until she was rescued. She had been taught the same things, taught the she was a chewed piece of gum and should have fought to the death before she “let” that man rape her.

My adult mind now understands virtue is NOT the same as virginity. My virtue – or in other words my goodness, righteousness, morality, integrity, dignity, honor, decency, respectability, nobility, worthiness, and purity – CANNOT be forcibly taken from me or from any other rape or molestation victim. The book, “The Miracle of Forgiveness”  **VERY** plainly says that it can and THAT is what I take exception to. [Those passages perpetuate] the fallacy that if a woman is raped and lives to tell about it, she was asking for it and is somehow at fault.

Sincerely,

M.

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To Bishop F: Thanks for Everything!

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

That last two times I spoke with your mother (last June/July), she asked me if I had been in contact with Bishop F. recently. (In case you didn’t know, he was my Bishop at the time I relinquished you for adoption, the one who urged me “that it is never too late to do the ‘right’ thing” and spent many hours convincing me that you deserved so much more than I could ever possibly offer you. He is the one who arranged your adoption – he had been your parent’s neighbors for years and….well, I trusted him. Any time I had concerns, hesitations, or did not think adoption was the right thing for us, he deftly and expertly talked me out of it, as well-trained social workers in the adoption industry are taught to do (and can even get continuing education credit for it, too! How sweet is that? Thanks National Council for Adoption for providing well intentioned social workers like him with the tools necessary to convince a vulnerable but extremely capable young mother that she was a big fat pile of steaming poo and that she would potentially “destroy” her daughter’s chances at success in life if she parented!!!! Thanks, NCFA, for teaching people to prey on the weaknesses of the most vulnerable among our citizenry, all in the name of love. Huzzah for infant adoption training, eh?).

Bishop F. was the one who reassured me it was “just the abuse” talking and the best way to prove I was a “good” parent and “truly loved” you was to relinquish you for adoption. After all, adoption is about love, you know and birthmothers are good mothers (implying that single mothers who choose to parent are bad parents). He was one of the people who urged me to remember the mother in King Solomon who would rather have another woman raise her child than to see her child perish. He just forgot to tell me the rest of the story and I was too stupid/naive/trusting to go do my own research and to trust my own mothering instincts.  (Side note: He is also the same one who convinced me to dump Mr. Amazing Man because he was told “old” for me – ha. Joke is on him, eh?).

At any rate, the last time I spoke to your mother, I told her I had not talked to Bishop F. since I had gotten divorced in 1997 (when he called me to urge me to work out my marriage to my ex-husband.) But every time your mother asks about him, it feels like a litmus test of some sort, as if she is wants to know if I have kept him up to date so he can judge whether I am a good person or not or am “safe” enough to have contact with at this point.

So when it came time to send out graduation announcements, I sent one to your parents. When I sent theirs, I took a deep breath also sent one to Bishop F., along with a letter. That way if your mother ever asks if I have contacted him, I can answer in the affirmative. The following is the letter I sent along with it (obviously names and places have been changed).

April 14, 2011

Dear Bishop F. –

Not sure if you remember me, but I am M., Ms. Feverfew’s first/birth mother. I know it has been many years since we communicated but I just thought I would update you on how my life has unfolded.  I think the last you may have heard from me was when my then husband, The Ex and I were going through a divorce in 1997.

During that same time, I had been called to testify against my biological father for his abuse (he eventually went to prison). I testified against him on a Friday and the following Monday, The Ex asked me for a divorce. Fortunately, my very wise and knowing Bishop at the time knew far more than I did what was actually going on in The Ex’s life. He advised me to file for divorce and loaned me the money to do so. Within a short time period after it was final, The Ex ended up marrying my therapist’s 18 year old daughter, leaving me a single mother with a darling blue-eyed, dimple cheeked 8-month old little baby boy.

After the dust settled, I went back to school full time and worked a graveyard shift at a disabled adult care facility so I could provide for my little one and get a degree at the same time. It worked out well for little son and me  – my sister took care of him overnight while I was working and I was able to get homework done while my clients slept.  I graduated summa cum laude with my BS in Psychology from Utah State University in 2000 and immediately went on to a MS program in Instructional Technology there.

About this same time period, my mom remarried a wonderful man, my New and Improved Dad. He eventually adopted many of my siblings and myself, even though we were all adults at the time. He is the father that I was promised in my Patriarchal blessing all those years ago and has been such a miracle in all of our lives.  My parents live in a sleepy little town at the south end of Cache Valley and it is there that I now call home.  My mom has gone on to be a successful author and writer. One of her books was used for many years by LDSFS as the resource in their drug and alcohol recovery program. Eventually, she was tasked to write one specifically for the church with a friend of hers, which is the one in current use by the church. She and my New and Improved Dad recently co-authored another book specifically for the spouses of people who are struggling with sexual addictions in the LDS culture.

In the fall of 2002, I married the love of my life and this year will mark our 9th anniversary. I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to be married to a man so exquisitely matched to my unique needs.   I am certain that God brought him into my life to help me overcome the challenges I have faced and to accomplish the things the Lord has set before me. Perhaps you remember him – he was the tall, dark haired green-eyed Special Forces soldier I was dating fairly seriously at the time you were my Bishop, just after the H.’s adopted Ms. Feverfew.

I finished my MS degree in 2003 and have had two more lovely children. Our son is six years old and is a wonderfully challenging little one to parent. He has a keen intellect and a command of the English language well beyond his years.  I simply adore him and am so grateful God sent him into my life! I was also blessed to have a baby girl early last May. We named her after her two grandmothers. Needless to say, she has brought untold amounts of joy to our little family. The boys are a completely head over heels for her and her daddy is utterly smitten with her.

I am nearing completion of my PhD in Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences at Utah State and will be graduating in May of this year. Yes, that means I took comps, defended a proposal, and finished a dissertation all while having a nursing baby, a grade-schooler, and a teenager – crazy, but true!!! I will graduate on May 6th, four days before our little girl’s first birthday.

I felt strongly prompted by the Lord to return to school and earn a PhD and in 2006, the way was made clear to do so. Mr. Amazing Man had started another two-year deployment schedule and so I moved back to Logan with the boys to complete course work. When I had completed the course work and Mr. Amazing Man’s deployments came to an end, we joined him at his current assignment. It has been a tremendous amount of work but I have held fast to the knowledge and conviction that I have been on the Lord’s errand as I earn this degree. It has been the only thing that has sustained me as I have balanced the demands of research and academic writing with being a mother.

We currently live in the Tidewater where we are active members of our ward and have enjoyed the wonderful history in the area.  My fascination with the history and the area has only deepened as I recently discovered my maternal grandmother’s side of the family is entirely peopled by Tidewater residents of the oldest order (thank you FamilySearch.org!) I have multiple direct ancestral lines that can be traced back to charter members and early settlers during the 1610s and 1620s.  Not only that, but also many of my direct ancestors stayed in this general vicinity for the last 400 years!  Finding this out has only heightened my love and attachment to the Tidewater area and the people I have grown to know and love.

As much as we love this area we will be moving  in July. My husband’s work with the military requires we move every couple of years, meaning we are always making new friends and having new adventures. Captain Knuckle will be entering the 9th grade and so we hope to stretch the assignment into a four-year gig so he can finish all of high school in one place. Mr. Amazing Man will be doing a lot of deploying, which means I get to be a “sort of single parent” again. Fortunately, it has gotten easier as the years have gone by. Parenting Captain Knuckle on my own for nearly six years and then managing Mr. Amazing Man’s multiple deployments with two boys and graduate school has taught me I do not need to be afraid of what challenges life might bring my way. God always provides a way.

All in all, life has turned out to be sweet and good, despite its challenges. I hope all is well in your life – I would love to hear from you if you get a chance.

Sincerely,

M.

Naturally, I have not heard back from him. Or your parents.

Not that I am expecting too, but to be honest, it would be nice to be acknowledged that I exist.

I think I handled things fairly well in the letter, don’t you? Especially considering this is the man that I trusted so implicitly (as was only natural – he was my Bishop and a father figure to me during that time period). I think I did a fairly decent job of not telling him exactly what I thought of his craptastic advice to (a) relinquish you for adoption, (b) dump Mr. Amazing Man all those years ago, and (c) get back with my ex-husband when that marriage hit the rocks.  Good thing I finally listened to my heart and to common sense. Otherwise I just might still be related to my ex-mother in law and that makes me shudder!!!!  All in all, I feel I did a very good job bringing him up to date with the happenings in my life and hopefully he will give the thumbs up of approval to your parents. Hopefully the letter convinces him that I am not some raving lunatic crack whore birthmother who wants your parents money or to usurp their position of authority in your life.

Sometimes I wonder if it would be easier if I was that kind of woman instead of the stable, settled, well-educated, successful normal mother and wife I have become. Then at least I would fit the LDS cultural stereotype of a fallen woman and it might be easier for everyone to “deal” with me. As it is, no one knows quite what to do or say.

Much love,

M.