joyous return of Elizabeth Smart (right) to her family in Salt Lake City
is indeed cause to celebrate on a couple of fronts. However, in the process
of celebrating, Ed and Lois Smart were, bluntly put, pretty damned insensitive
to others who have had to suffer through the ordeal of kidnapped children
-- especially within the past year.
Both at the choreographed dog and pony shows that passed for press conferences
and at the community bash at Liberty Park, Ed and Lois Smart were quick to
give sole credit for her safe return to the power of prayer. Now I'm not
one to either minimize or negate the role of prayer in the lives of people
-- for it has and continues to play a significant role firsthand in my own
life. Furthermore, it is my firm and unequivocal belief that as a fellow
member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- the same religious
faith as that of the Smart family -- that all prayers are heard and answered.
I do believe however, that sometimes our prayers are answered with a 'No!'
for reasons that we may or may not fully understand at the time the 'No'
answer is given. As people of faith -- regardless of whatever our religious
persuasion may be, it is incumbent upon all of us to exercise that faith
in something larger than ourselves and to heed the scriptural counsel offered
in Proverbs 3:5-6 that says: "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and
lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and
he shall direct thy paths."
In making such a blanket statement, the Smarts inadvertently demonstrated
insensitivity towards others who suffered similar ordeals that could only
be described as brutal. Adam Walsh never came home when he was kidnapped
and later decapitated in 1981; Rachael Runyan was kidnapped and later found
murdered in the Smart's own backyard of Utah in 1982 while I was an undergraduate
at the University of Utah. Turning to more recent times, Samantha Runnion
was kidnapped and later found murdered in Orange County, California last
summer and Danielle Van Dam also suffered the same fate in San Diego County.
Surely prayers were offered on behalf of these youngsters as well. What made
Elizabeth Smart more protected than the other children? Certainly it wasn't
her church membership as Church members are sometimes the victims of homicide
on occasion just as those who aren't members of the Church. Look no further
than Rachael Runyan as but one example.
Salt Lake City Police have indicated that there will be hard questions that
will be asked of Elizabeth in the coming weeks about her nine months in captivity
with Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee. It seems that Mitchell fashions
himself a self-appointed 'prophet' for the homeless and is a familiar face
in downtown Salt Lake - somewhat known as not exactly being the sharpest
knife in the drawer, if you know what I mean. With Barzee as his companion
in that I'm not sure if they are legally married or not, you have to wonder
whether or not if she's a few fries short of a Happy Meal® herself.
Given that it's been allegedly reported that Mitchell may have taken Elizabeth
as a 'second wife' in a polygamous ceremony - long since outlawed in Utah,
despite what critics of the Church may allege - it has only reaffirmed to
me something I've long known. Now what I'm about to write may annoy some
people, it may even get me in some trouble; if it does, so be it as it is
stated and offered without apology and is an expression of some deeply held
feelings, consequences be damned.
Each of us has had the misfortunate to go up some genuine psychos in our
lifetimes. Given Utah and its predominant mix of Latter-day Saints who live
there and its unique theology, which I find comforting and highly reinforcing
for the good, along with it comes its own strain of homegrown nutcases. Be
that as it may, I'd much rather go up against a garden variety nutcase than
one with a background in any theology, as the latter is far more dangerous,
formidable and comes with a far greater potential for explosive violence
than the former.
How do we all know this? Look no further than Jim Jones, David Koresh, or
especially al-Qaeda or any of the other nutcases out there that have committed
their atrocities in the name of their Supreme Being.
Email Timothy Rollins
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