Getting Life: Elizabeth Smart case shows best and worst of religion's influence

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  • Peter S. Chamberlain Commerce, Texas
    Dec. 28, 2010 10:18 p.m.

    This is a classic case of God works for good in all things for those who love him, and of What the Devil and man meant for evil, God used for good, and a great account of an example of the triumph of the human spirit over the evil in this world.
    In my law practice and some other privileged and confidential contexts, I have unexpectedly had close contact with an awful lot of survivors of mostly incestuous sexual abuse as children. Having some exposure to solid religious principles is one of the things that correlates strongly with and apparently contributes materially to psychological survival. The ones with strong religious background also tend, in my experience, to make better employees.
    Elizabeth is one of the finest young people of whom I have heard. She would be one of the people on my fantasy list of those with whom I would like to meet and talk. I hope that, without invading her privacy, we will continue to hear about her living her precious young, God-given and preserved, life, including, but not limited to, what use she makes of her unique combination of talents, skills, life experience, etc.

  • The Atheist Provo, UT
    Dec. 23, 2010 3:15 p.m.

    I stand all amazed at the hypocrisy of many comments.

    The same people who say "individuals doing wrong does not make a religion wrong"...

    ...will then say "An atheist (Stalin, Mao, etc.) did wrong, so atheism is wrong"!??

    Religionists are eager to take credit for people like Smart, but distance themselves from people like Mitchell. But both are a product of Mormonism, and anyone who denies it is a deceiver.

    Our goal should be to move toward a moral and civil society.

    Believers invoke their god into public debate on the false assumption that they have the market cornered on morality.

    There is no evidence god exists, and less evidence that god is "moral". Even a malicious god can create, perform miracles, and appear to people.

    Unless his morality can be objectively established, god cannot be the arbiter of discourse on the moral society.

    Scripture provides evidence: God commands assassination of the defenseless without due process; god orders Israelites to commit genocide; god destroys people then threatens survivors if they do not bow to him (3 Nephi 9:1-13).

    Haters, please show where official atheist scriptures or doctrine espouse or justify such horrible things!

  • charlie91342 Sylmar, CA
    Dec. 23, 2010 12:32 p.m.

    re - Bill in Nebraska | 12:14 p.m
    "in all reality atheism has killed, maimed and destroyed more people through history than any religion ever has."

    Bill... I cannot even begin to explain how illogical your statement is.

    None of the people you named killed for religious reasons. And they didn't kill for atheistic reasons. They killed because they were power-mongers, and because they could. None of which has anything to do with religion or a lack thereof. You assume they did it because they were atheists (if they were in fact atheists). That is a very flawed assumption.

    The basic tenets of religion are good. The intolerance of people that do not believe, or are different, is where the problem lies. And I think that is because the guidelines for each religion are not considered a guide for living your own life - they are considered by many to be rules by which everyone must live.

    Every time an Islamist kills a non-believer, or a christian critisizes gays or anyone different, it is that person judging someone else based on their religious beliefs.

    If only all religious people would follow the rule "thou shalt not judge".

  • fender Washington, UT
    Dec. 23, 2010 12:30 p.m.

    John Charity

    Maybe waving terms like "irrefutable" and "true" around is part of the problem. Mitchell certainly wasn't violating his own religious doctrines. Which particular religious doctrines, I'm curious, are "true"? Yours? Would those be the same ones that formerly regarded African-Americans as inferior and plural marriage as preferred? The ones that deny civil rights to Gays?

    And when we start believing that any set of religious doctrines can be "true" without a generally acceptable mechanism for testing them, how then do we distinguish the religuous doctrines of people like Mitchell from yours?

  • Bill in Nebraska Maryville, MO
    Dec. 23, 2010 12:14 p.m.

    To Pagan: Stalin who is devout atheist killed or hurt millions of individuals. Hitler who some want to pass off as a Christian is much like Stalin, killed millions in just 13 years.

    Mao who is an atheist as well killed millions of chinese. So yes, your citations are small in comparsion to what these men did, all in the sacreligious of atheism. Constantine was an atheist before he took Christianity and then only under his terms. Most of the Roman Emperors were atheist as was Gingas Khan. So in all reality atheism has killed, maimed and destroyed more people through history than any religion ever has.

    Hope you are happy with that.

  • Pagan Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 23, 2010 11:26 a.m.

    'To "Pagan | 10:37 a.m." do you care to explain what the news articles you cite actually have to do with the story or the other comments.' - 'Redshirt1701 | 10:56 a.m.

    If you can't figure it out, I can't help you.

    But thanks for citing your facts that '...athiesm has killed and harmed more people in modern times than religion has.'

    You know, like articles.

    From two months ago.

  • Redshirt1701 Deep Space 9, Ut
    Dec. 23, 2010 10:56 a.m.

    To "Pagan | 10:37 a.m." do you care to explain what the news articles you cite actually have to do with the story or the other comments.

    You should realize that athiesm has killed and harmed more people in modern times than religion has. Just ask the millions killed during the Communist rule of Russia, China, or Cuba.

  • Pagan Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 23, 2010 10:37 a.m.

    'I would suggest that the incidence pedophilia, sex with minors, etc. is far less common in the LDS Church than the general population.' - What in Tucket? | 10:24 a.m.

    'Woman who had sex with therapist sues LDS Family Services for negligence' - By Aaron Falk - SL Tribune - 10/28/10

    Oh. Well, I guess it's ok then.

    'You neglected to mention the Crusades.' - Hank Pym | 10:14 a.m.

    Good point!

    My bad. :)

  • What in Tucket? Provo, UT
    Dec. 23, 2010 10:24 a.m.

    The whole Catholic Church is not bad because some priests were bad. I would suggest that the incidence pedophilia, sex with minors, etc. is far less common in the LDS Church than the general population. As for Mitchell one might not be criticized too much to say he is Evil.

  • Hank Pym SLC, UT
    Dec. 23, 2010 10:14 a.m.

    re: Pagan | 3:33 p.m. Dec. 22, 2010

    "Religion's influence...."

    You neglected to mention the Crusades.

    re: Belching Cow | 4:05 p.m. Dec. 22, 2010

    "@Pagan... Religion is not bad. However, people who misuse religion are bad."

    Religion is man made. Misusing religion is bad but blind complicity is worse.

    re: John Charity Spring | 4:11 p.m. Dec. 22, 2010

    "In short, the absurd attack against religion simply proves that religion is a positive good."

    Really? Because, X which may be good is attacked then X is good. Talk about flawed logic.

    Does that mean Vitamin D is phenomenal because of it has benefits yet some experts are skeptical how much should be applied?

  • Pagan Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 23, 2010 9:09 a.m.


    Three replies to my 3:33 p.m. post.

    Must have hit a sore spot.

    So glad the moderator isn't allowing any personal attacks.

    Sarcasim off.

    I never said religion was bad. That was projected onto me by others.

    I simply posted what some religious leaders do with thier authoirty.

    How does that mean I am against religion or I am a 'hater?'

    Believe what you wish.

    However this article had 1 paragraph and 2 lines about the wrongs of religion.

    And then, followed it up with almost 2 pages of examples of how religion is good.

    That's about as 'fair and balanced' as Fox News.

    'I'm glad you follow the D News, but I would watch it because it does occasionally report on religon.' - ute alumni | 4:21 p.m. Dec. 22, 2010

    Not that I expected something different from a paper, funded by a religion...

    but thanks for supporting my point ute alumni

  • Neanderthal SLC, Utah
    Dec. 22, 2010 6:57 p.m.

    @John Charity Spring:

    "In every case, if the perpetrator had followed true religious doctrine's, no harm would have ever occurred."

    The perp was merely trying to follow the religious principle of plural marriage... a principle found in a variety or today's religions. The problem is, his methodologies was extremely gross.

  • wrz SLC, Utah
    Dec. 22, 2010 6:51 p.m.

    Religion is easily expropriated for illegitimate purposes such as was done in the Mitchell case. Why? Because much of it is man-made, all of it ethereal and tenuous, and the author rarely if ever shows up to set things straight that have gone awry.

  • Lasvegaspam Henderson, NV
    Dec. 22, 2010 6:19 p.m.

    All I know is that I saw Good versus Evil... and Good prevailed.

  • acutegirl Jonesboro, AR
    Dec. 22, 2010 5:55 p.m.

    This is a very insightful article that highlights the different ways that religion has influenced the world. Thank you for this thoughtful article!

  • anti-liar Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 22, 2010 5:27 p.m.

    It could be argued that the non-religious concept which influenced Mitchell is itself a religion. That may well be. But at least in the sense that it is being used in this article, I do not believe that religion has both a positive and negative influence, that influences one positively and another negatively. Instead, it's influence is and can only be positive. If there is a negative influence, it is coming from some source other than religion.

  • anti-liar Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 22, 2010 4:59 p.m.

    Wendy has reported well on Elizabeth's faith and on the positive influence that religion has had in her life.

    But we must make an important distinction here. Wendy mentions it herself: "quasi-religious."

    As we know, "quasi" means resembling but not actually being. This is a very important distinction because it means that by definition, religion itself was not the source of negative influence on Mitchell.

    Mitchell was influenced by some concept OTHER than religion. He then took religion and distorted and transfigured it into something that it is not. He then used this false representation of religion in order to disguise and rationalize the non-religious concept.

    Elizabeth, on the other hand, has in fact been influenced by religion (or, she has allowed it to influence her).

    Therefore the situations of these two people are not at all analogous. By no means do they represent opposite sides of the same coin.

  • Curtis Hight Anchorage, AK
    Dec. 22, 2010 4:41 p.m.

    May the Lord protect and defend you.
    May He always shield you from shame.
    May you come to be
    In Israel a shining name.

    May you be like Ruth and like Esther.
    May you be deserving of praise.
    Strengthen them, Oh Lord,
    And keep them from the strangers' ways.

    May God bless you and grant you long lives.
    (May the Lord fulfill our Sabbath prayer for you.)
    May God make you good mothers and wives.
    (May He send you husbands who will care for you.)

    May the Lord protect and defend you.
    May the Lord preserve you from pain.
    Favor them, Oh Lord, with happiness and peace.
    Oh, hear our Sabbath prayer. Amen.

    Sheldon Harnick. "Sabbath Prayer." Fiddler on the Roof.
    "The Son of God suffered unto the death, not that [girls] might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like His."
    George McDonald, Unspoken Sermons. First Series. Cited in C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (1940; New York: Macmillan, 1977), vi.

  • Considering Stockton, UT
    Dec. 22, 2010 4:27 p.m.

    Seems the usual haters are attempting to make it appear that religion has some special propensity to cause problems.

    Well, it does...if we define religion broadly as belief systems. Look at those "religions" (or belief systems) that eschew any belief in deity to see what harm a belief system can do.

    Since 1900 the religion or belief system known as communism has murdered some 75 million persons.

    Since the early 70s some 38 million people have died from malaria that might well have been prevented save for a ban on DDT. The religion or belief system of extreme environmentalism places more value on plants and animals than it does on the life of a poor African living in a malarial climate.

    On the flip side, about half of all persons in Africa who have AIDS/HIV are being cared for by the Catholic Church. In this nation most of our best universities and hospitals were started by men of faith.

    I'm still looking to find the great charity work done by groups of atheists.

  • ute alumni Salt Lake, UT
    Dec. 22, 2010 4:21 p.m.

    Here we go again, paganette. No point, just rants and cut and paste headlines. I guess it was a good thing not to have recieved any religious influence, p. I guess only people that had any contact with religion are criminals. p, I'm glad you follow the D News, but I would watch it because it does occasionally report on religon.

  • John Charity Spring Alloway, NJ
    Dec. 22, 2010 4:11 p.m.

    It did not take long for the resident left-wing atheist to use this article to attack all religion whatsoever. He (or she) apparently intends, like the rest of the left, to use any excuse whatsoever to attack religion.

    Pagan ignores the irrefutable fact that in every one of the proposed examples, it is the violation of religious principles which led to the harm. In every case, if the perpetrator had followed true religious doctrine's, no harm would have ever occurred.

    Pagan also ignores the fact that the whole reason that Ms. Smart is doing as well as she is is because of her devotion to religion. It is the very place from which she receives her strength and comfort.

    In short, the absurd attack against religion simply proves that religion is a positive good.

  • Belching Cow Sandy, UT
    Dec. 22, 2010 4:05 p.m.

    Religion is not bad. However, people who misuse religion are bad. There are bad people in the LDS Church no doubt. Michael Pratt is a good example. That does not mean the LDS religion itself is bad. I for one am of the opinion that the world is a much better place because of the LDS Church.

  • MoJules Florissant, MO
    Dec. 22, 2010 3:46 p.m.

    I believe that most Christian religions would never condone this kind of behavior from a member of their church and claiming that they were doing it in the name of religion. So the Catholic church didn't molest boys, the Mormon church didn't molest Elizabeth, sadly people from those churches have done these kinds of things. Now, if a church condones it or looks the other way, then they are to me as much at fault.

    I really liked how this article points out how some people will do wrongs in the name of religion, but also because of the strength of religion, those wronged can overcome the trauma.

  • Pagan Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 22, 2010 3:33 p.m.

    Religion's influence....

    *'Ex-seminary principal Michael Pratt pleads guilty in sex case' - By Sara Israelsen-Hartley, Deseret News - 06/02/10

    *'2 leaders of church charged in teen's rape' - By Lana Groves, Deseret News - 08/18/10
    'MAGNA Two leaders of the religious sect Church of the First Born and the General Assembly of Heaven were charged Wednesday with the rape of a teenage girl in 2005 after telling her they were following instructions from God.'

    *'Victims: child sex abuse is crime against humanity' - By Nicole Winfield - AP - 10/29/10

    'ROME People who were raped and molested by priests are gathering in Rome this weekend to launch a petition...'

  • Owl Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 22, 2010 3:10 p.m.

    I am in awe. Elizabeth is a remarkable woman.

  • mecr Bountiful, UT
    Dec. 22, 2010 2:15 p.m.

    Well put. Not only she moved forward but as a parent, I know I wouldn't be able to move forward too if my kid was behind. She not only helped herself, she helped her family. She is an extraordinary woman and her parents are good ones. They taught her well.

  • cerana Littleton, CO
    Dec. 22, 2010 2:07 p.m.

    Thank you for recognizing Ms. Smart and the great influence of a religion, even her religion that's been critized by both so called Christian and non-Christian groups.

  • CTguy30 Colchester, CT
    Dec. 22, 2010 2:02 p.m.

    There are extremists of all different kinds of "shatterproof beliefs." The notion that it exclusive to religious beliefs is erroneous, though a great many atrocities in this world are "shatterproof beliefs" that mention some form of deity. There are always opposites, especially in religion. There is the good, pure, and meek - and then there is the aggressive, obsessive, and controlling - Both can be housed under the same named religion. Pure religion seeks not to control. One of the greatest pieces of doctrines I've learned as a lifetime Mormon is "Teach correct principles and let them govern themselves."

  • RicoSuave Kaysville, UT
    Dec. 22, 2010 1:40 p.m.

    I completely agree with this article. It is truly amazing to know all the things Elizabeth has been through, and yet she has such strong faith, and attributes her ability to cope with it all because of that. Definitely a "best" of religion.

  • BH Tremonton, UT
    Dec. 22, 2010 12:51 p.m.

    Great article. Very well written. Very straight forward and clear.