Many will have heard about emerging reports that Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein has raped, molested, and otherwise abused females for decades. Weinstein prominence was such that he had been granted a lifetime membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, by which he had been awarded a best-picture Oscar for Shakespeare in Love in 1999.
Weinstein’s reported modus operandi was distinctive. Weinstein would claim he had an important opportunity to discuss with a female actor. When the woman arrived in his room, Weinstein, inappropriate clad (or unclad), would proceed to demand sexual favors. If the favors were not immediately forthcoming, Weinstein would threaten to destroy the woman’s career and/or take liberties by force. Any attempts made by the women to retaliate were quashed by various means.
One of those decrying Weinstein for the reported abuse is Tom Hanks, who has been a Vice President in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 2005.
Now imagine that instead of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences we were talking about the Nauvoo-era Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Instead of Tom Hanks, we have Joseph Smith as a ranking leader in the organization. Instead of Harvey Weinstein as an important member of the leadership, we have Dr. John Bennett.
|Scandal||Honored Leader||Reprobate (per leader)|
|Hollywood 2017||Tom Hanks||Harvey Weinstein|
|Mormonism 1842||Joseph Smith||Dr. Bennett|
Instead of decades of abuse by one man, imagine the molester has only been active for six or so months but has convinced dozens of others that molestation is “right.” And instead of the ranking leader reacting only after the newspapers publish the women’s allegations, the ranking leader responds to a private informant and takes an active role in uncovering the nature of the abuse. After an initial call for righteousness isn’t effective, the leader uses all means available, including unorthodox means, to identify of the person responsible for the continued molestation.
In today’s scandal, Weinstein has admitted to the acts, but claims they were consensual. He has checked himself into a rehabilitation center so his “sexual addiction” can be treated, as though his were a regrettable but ultimately legal and pardonable pattern of activity. Hanks is often cited as a member of the Academy in news articles reporting on the Academy’s Saturday action to strip Weinstein of his lifetime membership. While some members of the Motion Picture community claim it was common knowledge that Weinstein was an abuser, others claim this news caught them by surprise.
In Nauvoo’s scandal, Smith and others signed their names to the published notification that Bennett had been stripped of membership. The published notification affirmed that leadership had repeatedly attempted to reform Bennett, “apparently to no good effect.” Bennett didn’t have the option of claiming a sexual addiction or casting his behavior as the result of illness. His only option of avoiding public condemnation was to destroy those who condemned him. Bennett embarked on a vast campaign to “tell the truth” about Smith and others, while maintaining that he, himself, was innocent of any wrongful behavior.
In today’s scandal, the women are publishing their detailed accusations for all to read. Despite our supposed age of enlightenment, there are many who presume the women are lying.
In Nauvoo’s scandal, the women’s statements were taken and believed privately. Relatively few were recorded in writing. Redacted versions of the written statements were published during Joseph Smith’s lifetime, publicity that was intended to thwart Higbee’s effort to have Joseph killed. The exposé was insufficiently effective. Meanwhile, the published accounts utterly destroyed the reputations of almost all the women whose accounts were publicized.
No researcher has ever published an analysis of the fuller extant statements. Instead researchers consider the statements through their current lens and presume the activities the women reported as performed by Bennett, Higbee, and others reflect Joseph’s secret teachings. These researchers then publish their conclusions about how Joseph was the debauched leader, conclusions that are then retweeted hundreds if not thousands of times an hour in our modern age.
We are living the Weinstein moment, so we get that one man’s gross abuse does not damn an entire industry.
Unfortunately, we do not understand the Nauvoo moment, so many get confused about who was telling truth and who was lying. Meanwhile an entire religion is damned.