Slaying Dragons

I have written from time to time about my quest to save a family member who had become a victim of scams. I called this family member “Riley,” since that’s a nice, gender-neutral, name.

Alas, my mother has died (and I’ve told you who she is). You are left with the possibility that I was describing a distant relative (and some of you would therefore be right to wonder why I was butting into someone else’s business) or that I was describing my father.

“Riley” is my dad.

I bother writing this now because I spent the last two days in yet another hearing, where Dad incurred tens of thousands more dollars worth of legal effort in his quest to free himself from the protection we were able to provide for him. The funny thing is that all the legal costs are being borne by his estate. We children show up and testify. I’ve gotten really good at writing pro se filings. But no one else is losing a cent (aside from toner, paper, and stamps). With COVID, none of us even had to stir from our couches.

I sometimes see my life as slaying dragons. Some of the dragons are small, like the tiny dragons of disorder in my home. Other dragons are large, like the threats against which it is my job to help ensure the United States maintains undersea superiority. M* readers have witnessed my battles trying to slay the twin dragons of 1) defamation against Joseph Smith over plural marriage and 2) adulation for the supposed patriarchal and woman-hating system some believers claim is Joseph’s legacy.

But when it became clear my father now believed African women were willing to share gold mines and $100Ms in offshore assets for fake marriage documents and every cent in his possession, I realized I was facing one of the most difficult dragons of all.

Dad is every whit as smart as I am. Like a tiger, he lashed out in ways intended to cause great wounds. Even now, protected, he is pleased to insist that I and my siblings acted to protect him only because we covet his money. Though we are barred from knowing anything about his will, he is pleased to tell us that he has disinherited us. Given that estimates of the value of Dad’s real property exceed $50M, that would hurt.

If it was money we cared about.

I guess I see my dad as being like Scrooge McDuck. He glories in his wealth. The scam worked on Dad because he thought he suddenly had a line on wealth beyond his previous dreams. Initially, we know, he intended the vast wealth the scammers promised to be ours.

But the way these scams go is predictable. First, every scrap of available money is siphoned out of the victim. In Dad’s case, that was $1.2M. Then, the real property is sold because of defaulted mortgages or unpaid taxes. The funds from these sales of real property go to the owner – land transformed to cash. Had Dad been unprotected and still under thrall, all that cash would have been wired to the scammers. The gold and promised wealth is imaginary.

Dad would have ended with his lifetime of investment, sacrifice, and luck dissipated. He would have been left with only income from his pension (still more than many have). And he would have had the love of his many children and grandchildren. But had he ever awoken to the truth, it would have been truly pitiable.

In Dad’s case, we were able to get him protected just as mortgage companies were acting to foreclose. Despite the substantial cash he’d lost, Dad didn’t lose any of the real property he’d spent his lifetime accumulating.

I hope in some future day to meet my Dad beyond the veil, freed from the lies that cloud his vision today. I hope that in that day he will realize that I was fighting to save him from a fate he would have found horrific.

For now, I must be content with a job well done, if unthanked by the beloved father whose dear treasure we have saved.

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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but that Emma was right to assert she had been Joseph's only true wife.

9 thoughts on “Slaying Dragons

  1. No sorrow required. Before the scams, I used to joke Dad would live forever or bequeath everything to a feral cat society. Likely my reaction to how my first husband actively looked forward to me inheriting, which I found distasteful.

    You say your folks got scammed. But did they lose on this scale, and were you able to protect them? Was it a cool dragon, and was your battle skillful and courageous?

    There was a period of a few days when we thought a $25M property belonged to Mom. It was instructive to see how she planned to sell, fix her home, then donate the rest to charity. But then it turned out a second property settlement had been filed and the $25M property had remained with Dad. As she had planned to give it away, she was merely amused when she found it wasn’t hers after all.

  2. The perspective of meeting people beyond the veil, free from the haze of mortality, resonates with me. My extended family, particularly my parents, have taken an old single sister on as a long-term project. This sister is literally schizophrenic. Hell’s Angels bugging her bedroom, government laser beams, full tilt delusional. But when she’s not having an episode, she’s really nice. I suspect on the other side, with her brain chemistry problem removed, she’s going to be amazing. But man, it takes patience right now.

  3. As we excitedly jump off our comfy little cloud in our Heavenly Parents’ home in the pre-earth life to enter mortal life, an angel catches us before we come down. With a stern look on his face, he says, “Oh, did we mention the dragons?” We stare back at him with our eyes wide open and the scene fades to a new realm.

    Pre-earth life may be different from the representations we see in primary manuals and Church media. Even though we have visions recorded by prophets (and other individuals) about other realms, we won’t know for sure until we know personally. But we were told about opposition. We knew, because we chose the Redeemer’s Plan.

    Indeed, we all come down here to slay dragons.

    Disabilities, illness, wayward children, our own dragons, hatched in our free agent minds. An unjust and corrupt world (spanning centuries and continents) wickedness in high and low places.

    And then comes the touch of the Master’s Hand. And the Savior’s words in John, Chapter 14.

    My wife and I recently slew one big dragon. We testify that we were not alone in the fight. Our Heavenly Father was there for us.

    “Now, Heavenly Father, could you please remove the financial scars, the emotional scars?”

    “No, my son. As there is opposition in all things, I need warriors. I know full well that my warriors will be battle scarred. The wars are fought on many fronts and in many ways. You have fought, are fighting, and will continue to fight the good fight. What matters is the sacrifice, after the manner of my Firstborn, your older Brother Jesus Christ.”

    “Thank you, Father. I know the fight will drag on… Little dragons, big dragons.

    Thank you Meg for sharing your stories, temple sealings, mournings, and dragon slayings. Reflecting on this enriched my Sabbath Day. God bless you and your family.

    Since “The Touch of The Master’s Hand” came up, maybe it’s time for some of us to watch it again or for the first time.

  4. We shouldn’t compare life’s dragons in the same way we should not compare life’s blessings.. that said, reading this today has given me perspective of what I have endured and received. Thank you for sharing this.

  5. Hi Laurent,

    I wasn’t really thinking what the Touch of the Master’s Hand was about until the video got a few seconds in.

    It was funny, because a couple of weeks ago a friend at Church asked me to fix a violin she had gotten as a hand-me-down. Strings were broken, the tail piece looked awful, the bridge was weird, and the fingerboard was covered in old, brittle tape.

    Contrary to the parable, most violins need a bit more than the touch of a master player. In the parable, the putative piece of junk was ugly to look at to a person unfamiliar with violins. But the master recognized it as something fine, faded wood notwithstanding. For example, when I took lessons from Jenny Oaks Baker, her Stradivarius is worn looking. If you don’t know what you’re looking at, you might wonder at the obvious age of the wood and lack of shiny varnish. But that “old” piece of wood is one of the most valuable things I’ve had the pleasure to share a room with (value per pound).

    In the case of my friend’s hand-me-down, I ordered new strings and brass-screw fine tuners. I sanded down the frightful looking rosewood tailpiece and the sticky/grimes neck, and removed the ancient tape. Then I rubbed the tail, neck, and fingerboard with tung oil. I also rubbed graphite onto the bearing surfaces of the tuning pegs and peg box, so the pegs would turn smoothly, but also keep in place. Then I installed the fine tuners and strings and tuned the violin before playing something.

    TLDR, I’m sure. But it might sometimes help to know that sometimes we need to help a bit before the sweet song can play true.

  6. Meg I sympathize with your experience. A similar thing befell my uncle. My uncle Paul who has departed this world did not have the large means that your father was blessed with. Prior to his experience to give understanding he was faithful member throughout his days. He was a returned missionary to South America with Elder Richard G. Scott as his mission president. Married and had five children. While pursuing entrepreneurial opportunities after his career with Motorola ended abruptly he fell into the scam of promised opportunity in South Africa. In a nutshell is kidnapped, beaten and tortured thinking he was a man of excessive means. Fortunately the local authorities had a sting operation in place that rescued him from the scammers. I share this to see that the miracle of you sparing your father from a terrible fate is wonderful and praise to God.

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