[Paleopsych] NYT: A Mormon Daughter's Book Stirs a Storm
Lynn D. Johnson, Ph.D.
ljohnson at solution-consulting.com
Thu Mar 31 03:46:08 UTC 2005
Interesting piece, Frank. I knew Hugh Nibley, lived next door as an
undergrad, talked with him many times. I know one of his children, Tom.
The other seven children - some of whom are highly estranged from the
LDS church and would love to see it fall - are united in refuting her
Martha's story actually has changed numerous times across the past ten
years. She originally practiced self hypnosis to try to self-diagnose
her problems, accused various people of molesting her before she settled
on her father. As her sister said today on a radio interview, all her
life, Martha has been a great story teller but highly unreliable. She
changes her stories and expects others to forget the earlier versions.
I have been in Nibley's home, and it was exquisitly small and crammed
with stuff. No child had a room of his/her own (eight children, in a
very small home). The ritual abuse story is too incredible (where/when
could it happen in a crowded little house full of children, guests,
students, and anyone passing by), even leaving out the fact that Hugh
Nibley was a remarkably frank and open man. His lecture on Management
Versus Leadership was a classic. He once gave the invocation - opening
prayer in Mormon parlance - at the commencement exercises, and asked God
to forgive us for coming before Him in the robes of a false priesthood.
Another shocking moment. But he always meant what he said.
Ten years ago there was a lot of paranoia about satanic ritual abuse,
and I interviewed several patients who claimed it. I also interviewed
several people who were abducted by flying saucers. The sincerity of
their claims does not overcome the unreliability and unbelievability of
their stories. One woman - not my own patient - claimed to have had a
child who was ritually murdered and eaten by satan worshippers. A man I
am acquainted with was the federal prosecutor, so he investigated the
case. He had her examined by an OB who reported she was a virgin and had
never had a child.
This Martha Nibley Beck story seems to fit into the "recovered" (read,
"constructed") memory syndrome.
Premise Checker wrote:
> NYT: A Mormon Daughter's Book Stirs a Storm
> February 24, 2005
> [Dr. Nibley's obituary follows. He died on the 24th.]
> By EDWARD WYATT
> The daughter of one of Mormonism's most prominent religious scholars
> has accused her father of sexually abusing her as a child in a
> forthcoming memoir that is shining an unwelcome spotlight on the
> practices and beliefs of the much-scrutinized but protectively private
> Mormon religious community.
> "Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith"
> details how the author, Dr. Martha Beck, a sociologist and therapist,
> recovered memories in 1990 of her ritual sexual abuse more than 20
> years earlier by her father, Dr. Hugh Nibley, professor emeritus of
> ancient scripture at Brigham Young University and arguably the leading
> living authority on Mormon teaching.
> The book, being published next month by Crown, an imprint of Random
> House, has attracted significant criticism both for its depiction of
> sacred Mormon ceremonies and for the author's effort to tie her sexual
> abuse to what she says were mental disturbances suffered by her father
> because of his role as the Mormon Church's "chief apologist."
> Dr. Nibley, who is 95, is ailing and is physically unable to respond
> to questions, Alex Nibley, one of eight Nibley children, said in a
> statement. Dr. Nibley has been aware of Dr. Beck's accusations for
> several years, Alex Nibley said, and maintains that they are false. As
> part of a defense of their father, Dr. Beck's seven siblings have
> condemned her assertions and have hired a psychologist and lawyer who
> has worked on lawsuits against therapists practicing recovered-memory
> The Mormon Church issued a statement condemning the book, calling it
> "seriously flawed in the way it depicts the church, its members and
> teachings." Dr. Beck and her publisher have said she has received
> e-mail messages containing death threats.
> In addition, Mormons around the country have participated in an e-mail
> campaign against the book, sending more than 3,500 messages to Oprah
> Winfrey, who has featured "Leaving the Saints" on her Internet site
> and in the March issue of O, the Oprah Magazine. The magazine includes
> a monthly self-help column by Dr. Beck, who has a doctorate from
> Though other recent books have taken aim at parts of the Church of
> Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at well-known Mormons or at Mormon
> culture, rarely have they focused on so prominent a figure as Dr.
> Nibley. In 2003, for example, Jon Krakauer wrote about a group of
> renegade Mormon fundamentalists in "Under the Banner of Heaven: A
> Story of Violent Faith." As with the Beck book, the Mormon Church
> issued a statement condemning it before it was published.
> Recovered memory, in which a suppressed traumatic incident is recalled
> years later, has been one of the most disputed topics among
> mental-health professionals in the last 15 years. The American
> Psychological Association states that while "there is a consensus
> among memory researchers and clinicians that most people who were
> sexually abused as children remember all or part of what happened to
> them," most leaders in the field also agree "that although it is a
> rare occurrence, a memory of early childhood abuse that has been
> forgotten can be remembered later."
> But "Leaving the Saints," Dr. Beck's fourth book, seems as likely to
> be discussed for the things it leaves out as for those it includes.
> Among the omissions is an incident of sexual abuse that Dr. Beck said
> recently in an interview was never suppressed. When she was about 9,
> she said, a teenage neighbor barricaded her in his room, stripped most
> of her clothes off and sexually assaulted her. He did not achieve
> penetration, Dr. Beck said, and the incident was interrupted by her
> father, who was in the neighbor's house at the time. Though she called
> the event "extremely traumatizing," she said the incident was cut in
> the editing of her manuscript to shorten the book.
> Dr. Beck also does not mention that one person she consulted about her
> sexual abuse was Lynne Finney, a Utah psychotherapist who has said
> that up to one out of three Americans were sexually abused as
> children. In the early 1990's, Ms. Finney, who is referred to in
> "Leaving the Saints" by the pseudonym "Mona," was a leading
> practitioner of recovered-memory therapy, including the use of
> self-hypnosis, a practice that some studies have shown can result in
> the creation of false memories. Asked about the omission, Dr. Beck
> said she consulted Ms. Finney only after having already recovered the
> memories of abuse. She said that she practiced self-hypnosis once
> under Ms. Finney but that it did not play a part in her memory
> While Dr. Beck is now highly critical of the Mormon Church, in 1990,
> she and her husband, John C. Beck, had a book published by a company
> owned by the Mormon Church arguing that homosexuality is a compulsive
> behavior that can be overcome. After leaving the church, however, the
> Becks divorced and have lived openly as homosexuals, something each
> acknowledged in interviews. Dr. Beck said she left those details out
> of the book to keep it focused on the accusations of sexual abuse;
> John Beck declined to comment further on the book.
> Those and other facets of Dr. Beck's story have been discussed online
> in chat rooms and on bulletin boards, at sites devoted to Mormonism
> and at those favored by people who have left the church and view its
> practices unfavorably. The book's own Web site,
> www.leavingthesaints.com, has had more than 6,500 visitors in
> February alone, triple the number in January, and has received more
> than 200 e-mail messages, 80 percent of them expressing outrage at the
> book, the publisher says.
> In an interview, Dr. Beck said she did not intend "Leaving the Saints"
> to be an indictment of Mormonism. Though she said her book did not
> reveal any church secrets, it discusses Mormon rites like the temple
> ceremony, a sacred ritual, and subjects like regulation temple
> garments, which Mormons wear under their clothes - in a sometimes
> mocking tone that has infuriated many devout Mormons. Her publisher
> said Dr. Beck had received at least one death threat by e-mail that
> cited her depictions of Mormon ceremonies.
> "I didn't write it to convince anyone not to be Mormon or not to join
> the Mormons," she said. "I just needed to get the story of my
> childhood out of my system."
> Her childhood was marked, she said, by unexplained depression,
> anorexia and despair that at times left her suicidal. Even before she
> recovered her memories of sexual abuse, she said, she recalled
> suffering unexplained pain and bleeding between her thighs when she
> was about 5. She writes that she remembered thinking that "if anyone
> finds out about it, no one will ever marry me." In her teens and 20's,
> she writes, several doctors commented on unusual scar tissue in her
> vaginal area, which she cites as physical evidence of the abuse.
> Later, she said, doctors confirmed to her that the vaginal scarring
> was not the result of childbirth.
> It was not until she was in her late 20's, however, while teaching at
> Brigham Young, that Dr. Beck experienced a flashback that resulted in
> the memories of what she describes as ritualistic rape by her father.
> During the incident, which she believes took place in her home while
> her older siblings were at school, her father recited incantations
> about Abraham and Isaac.
> Dr. Beck's siblings, who have known about her claims for almost a
> decade and several of whom attended at least one family-group session
> with one of Dr. Beck's therapists, dispute her account, saying that no
> evidence exists of abuse and that incidents in the book are either
> inaccurate or made up. Rebecca Nibley, a sister, said Dr. Beck
> "encouraged me to get my own recovered memories of being abused."
> "As hard as I tried, I couldn't remember anything untoward concerning
> my father's behavior toward me, and I can't validate any of Martha's
> claims," she added.
> Dr. Beck twice confronted her father about the claims, once at a
> family therapy session with her husband and her parents shortly after
> she recovered the memories. The other time was at a 2001 meeting in a
> hotel, an event that she uses as a device in "Leaving the Saints" as
> the story of her life and her understanding of her sexual abuse
> Joining her at that hotel meeting was a member of her extended family
> who has supported Dr. Beck's assertions from the beginning. The family
> member, who is identified in the book by a pseudonym, agreed to speak
> only on the condition of anonymity after receiving threats of physical
> violence because of her support of Dr. Beck.
> "I believed Martha from the beginning because the memories she had of
> elements of the abuse - memories that never went away and were always
> part of her history - also fit with the outward signs of the abuse I
> saw in her growing up," the family member said. Speaking to Dr. Beck's
> parents about it since, she said, "has only served to strengthen my
> belief in the veracity of her reporting of her experience."
> The New York Times > Obituaries > Hugh Nibley, Outspoken Mormon
> Scholar, Dies at 94
> February 25, 2005
> By EDWARD WYATT
> Hugh W. Nibley, a Mormon religious scholar who was one of the most
> active and outspoken defenders of Mormon writings and teachings, died
> yesterday at his home in Provo, Utah. He was 94.
> A spokesman for the family, Chris Thomas, said Dr. Nibley had been in
> declining health in recent months.
> Though not a member of the formal hierarchy of the Church of Jesus
> Christ of Latter-day Saints, Dr. Nibley, a professor emeritus of
> ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, was regularly called on
> by senior church officials to research and respond to questions about
> or criticisms of Mormon teachings.
> Unlike many previous Mormon defenders, Dr. Nibley used his training as
> a historian to support Mormon beliefs, making academic examinations of
> the origins and documentation of events and people in Mormon history.
> He focused his expertise on the Mormon Church's most sacred texts,
> particularly the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price, a
> collection of the writings of Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism.
> For much of the last two decades, Dr. Nibley worked on a defense of
> the portion of the Pearl of Great Price known as the Book of Abraham,
> which was the translation by Smith of an ancient Egyptian papyrus that
> he obtained in 1835 but that went missing after his death.
> In 1967 a researcher discovered the papyrus in the collection of the
> Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was returned to the church, but new
> studies of the document, based on modern Egyptian scholarship
> including an understanding of hieroglyphics not available when Smith
> was alive, claimed that the document was a common Egyptian funerary
> document. Dr. Nibley rejected that interpretation.
> Dr. Nibley has been the subject of heated debates among Mormons and
> former church members recently as one of his daughters, Martha Beck,
> of Phoenix, has prepared to publish a memoir in which she accuses her
> father of sexually abusing her as a child. The book, "Leaving the
> Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith," is to be published
> next month by Crown.
> Dr. Nibley's seven other children all signed a statement condemning
> the book, saying they were "saddened by the book's countless errors,
> falsehoods, contradictions and gross distortions." They said that Dr.
> Nibley had vigorously denied the accusations, which were based on
> suppressed memories that Martha Beck said she recovered in 1990.
> In addition to his children, Dr. Nibley is survived by his wife,
> Phyllis Draper Nibley; a brother; a sister; 24 grandchildren; and two
> Hugh Winder Nibley was born in Portland, Ore. He grew up there and in
> Los Angeles, where he graduated from the University of California, Los
> Angeles, with a history degree. He earned a doctorate in classics at
> Berkeley, training that led him to the military intelligence corps
> when he joined the Army in 1942.
> After World War II most of his life was spent in Utah, where he taught
> at Brigham Young from 1946 through 1994.
> Although a defender of Mormonism, within the church he was also an
> outspoken critic. In a 1984 commencement address at Brigham Young,
> with leaders of the university and high-ranking church officials in
> attendance, Dr. Nibley made a pointed contrast between leaders and
> managers, extolling the first while denigrating the second.
> "That one caused a lot of trouble," Dr. Nibley told the Deseret News,
> a newspaper affiliated with the Mormon church, in a 2003 interview. He
> added that even the university's president "hated it."
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