CASE REPORTS OF THE MORMON ALLIANCE
VOLUME 1, 1995
"AM I WORTHY ENOUGH YET?":
JACK C. McCALLISTER
Jack C. McCallister was born 24 July 1945, in Las
Vegas to Jack C. ("J. C.") McCallister, Sr., the youngest of
seven children, and Geneva Tapley McCallister, the oldest of eight. The
couple also had a daughter, Angela, eighteen months younger than Jack.
They were loving but strict parents; like most men of his generation,
Jackís father was sometimes emotionally distant. Sometimes he would
explode in rage, particularly if the children were disobedient; and
although his discipline was not physically cruel, both Jack and Angela
learned to placate him and to conceal their own feelings from him.
The family joined the Church in Oklahoma City in
1953, where Jack grew up. J. C. was a furniture salesman for James A.
Cullimore, then President of the (pre-stake) District, later a General
Authority. The Cullimore-owned furniture store was the largest in
Oklahoma City with three branches. Cullimoreís sister Bernice was
married to Wallace Leonard Mercer, an employee, like J. C., in the
furniture store, and one of the first bishops when the Oklahoma City
district became a stake. Kelvin Cullimore, Jamesís son and also an
employee in the furniture store, succeeded Mercer as bishop.
Jack remembers his father coming home from work
"disgusted at all the politics" and especially at Kelvinís
persistent humiliation of Mercer. "I donít understand why he just
rides Wallie," J. C. would say. "He says the rudest things to
him." Jack, recalling this comment now, remembers Bishop Mercer
telling him that he had stayed in the large Cullimore home to recuperate
from a foot operation when Kelvin was young and wonders if Mercer
attempted to sexually molest him. Jack has talked to two men who were
teenagers from his own ward who acknowledge that "Mercer came on to
me but I wouldnít let him do anything." Three others admitted to
Jack also wonders if his sister, Angela McCallister
Hodge, was a target of sexual abuse from Mercer or someone else. When
she is healthy, she functions well and has been a Relief Society
president; but she has been diagnosed as manic depressive with emotional
problems, suicidal thoughts and some attempts, frequent
hospitalizations, and memory losses.
At the time, however, he remembers the feeling in his
home as being one of liking, respect, and sympathy for Mercer, not only
because he was unjustly persecuted at work but because he was the
bishop, and "we need to treat him right." Jack recalls that
Mercer made frequent visits to the McCallister home as bishop. "He
was like a lamp sitting on the table, he was just there so much, always
laughing and joking around in the living room." Jack says:
My abuse was not violent. It was
deceptive. It was not only sexual abuse. It was spiritual abuse. When
I was eight years old and my family joined the Church, I was taught to
believe in Joseph Smithóthat when he was fifteen years old, he was
privileged to see God the Father and his son Jesus Christ. He saw
heavenly messengers. When I was fifteen years old, I was being
sexually abused by my bishop, Wallace L. Mercer. I didnít see any
divine messengers. I couldnít even translate my own writing. And I
had to endure this in silence and in secrecy. I felt so totally alone.
I felt that I had to lead a double life. In one life, I was a youth
leader, at the podium, acting like everything was fine during the
daytime. Then there was the other life.
Jackís immersion in Mormonism was profound and
total. He recalls, as a five-year-old, asking his mother if Santa Claus
was real. He was stunned when she told him he wasnít. Panicked, he
asked about the Easter bunny and burst into tears when she confirmed
that the Easter bunny likewise didnít exist. Braced for the inevitable
he asked, "So God isnít real either?" and was confused when
his mother insisted that God was real. Jack grew up praying to
God, as he was taught; but a much clearer teaching was to obey Church
leaders, particularly to look up to and follow the bishop. A bishopís
authority was "beyond question. His motives and behavior were
He was the one person in my
immediate life to whom I owed my unconditional obedience since he was
the one called by God to be the spiritual leader. It was my
understanding that he would always be directly inspired to know the
mind and will of God for me. I thought these chosen ones had already
been tried, tested, and proven worthy in every way to pattern my life
after. I considered them to be the ultimate role model in mortality. A
bishop sits as judge on all actions that take place in the personal
lives of each member. The relationship a member has with his bishop is
symbolic of his relationship with God. In the personal and private
interview process, the bishop represents God when asking for an
accounting of personal obedience to Church mandates. Failure to do
everything the bishop wanted of me meant rebellion, disrespect to God.
Strict total obedience was the only way to earn Godís ultimate love
I participated in the youth
organizations growing up. I memorized the required thirteen Articles
of Faith and graduated from Primary at twelve. I became a member of
the Aaronic Priesthood. I had 100 percent attendance four years in a
row at the Sunday meetings. I wanted to please God by being and doing
what he wanted. I received the Boy Scout "Duty to God Award"
that took four years to qualify for. I did my best to honor and
sustain the leaders God had chosen. I received and valued my patriarch
blessing. I expected, planned, and prepared to serve a two-year
mission. I prayed, read the scriptures, and was attempting to gain my
own personal witness of Jesus Christ. I tried hard to please God by
doing, doing, doing. Failure to be perfect meant rejection by God, my
leaders, and my parents. I tried so hard to live up to these
expectations of perfection.
I was privately interviewed in the
bishopís office annually from the time I was twelve, which is the
custom. The first time I was asked about "masturbating," I
had no idea what he was talking about. After a brief description, I
could tell it was some kind of big deal and I was glad I didnít know
anything about it. It sounded weird and gross to me.
Then I was thirteen on my first real
overnight camping trip with the Church Scout troop. We were separated
into younger boys and older (fifteen and over). After dark, the older
boys had a campfire, and we younger boys were lying down in our
sleeping bags, watching the fire. I could hear them laughing and
passing around something that looked like a red coffee can.
I asked my friend, a year older,
what those guys were doing over there. He was embarrassed that I asked
the question. His response was, "Donít you know? They do it on
every campout." The questions came to my mind: "If itís
wrong, then why are they always doing it on Church camping trips?
Doesnít the Scoutmaster know? Do these guys know itís wrong?"
The feelings of curiosity left and
were replaced by feelings of fear and nausea. "I donít want
these guys touching my penis. I hope I donít have to be in that
group someday. These guys are really gross. Theyíre the same ones
that prepare and bless the sacrament on Sunday. I wonder if the bishop
I went over the cliff of
self-discovery myself about a year after that. I was overwhelmed with
shame. I was too embarrassed to talk with anybody about this secret
sin. It seemed as if I split apart into the outward appearance of
"commandment keeper" and the bad side. That was the
"real side." Inwardly, I couldnít deny that masturbation
felt better than anything I could imagine. The cycle of shame had
begun. I prayed so many times for God to help me overcome my weakness
I stopped praying altogether. What was the use? This thing was either
more powerful than God himself could control or he gave up on me a
long time ago because of my futile though sincere attempts at complete
abstinence. I felt alienated from God, detached. I became so
depressed, I thought the only way I was ever going to control the big
"M" problem was to die.
Time passed and I was almost
sixteen. Bishop Mercer called me one night about 7:00 PM to come to
the church. He wanted to talk to me. I knew it was important or why
would he call me in the middle of the week without notice?
We were the only ones at the meeting
house. We shook hands and he put his arms around me. He told me how
much he loved me and how much the Lord loved me. He felt directly
inspired tonight to call me down to his office. He said he had
something really important to talk to me about. It was an honor to
have a special, private interview. He asked if we could pray together
before we talked. He said a lot of really nice things about me to God.
I was embarrassed to get so much attention and recognition. I felt
very special and very humble. It was one of the most beautiful,
heartfelt; eloquent prayers that Iíve ever heard on my behalf,
asking the Lord to bless me, watch over me, care for me, and assuring
the Lord of what a fine wonderful young man I was. While he prayed, he
reached over and put his arm around me and pleaded with the Lord to
bless me with wisdom and understanding and on and on. Then we sat down
in two chairs in front of his desk. He pulled his chair up really
close to mine, looked me straight in the eyes through his pink-tinted
bifocal lenses. I could see he still had tears in his eyes from the
prayer. "What sincerity!" I thought "Maybe some day I
can learn how to talk to God with such powerfully impressive prayer
language." I was really touched. I had a real low self-image back
then. I was skinny. I wore glasses. All the girls liked my guy friends
better than me.
Then after a long pause, he finally
said, "How are you, Jack?" He leaned forward and started
asking me the usual interview questions: "How are your folks? Howís
school going? Are you keeping all the commandments? How about your
personal worthiness? Are you morally clean?" Then he said it;
"Are you masturbating?" I didnít say anything. I felt too
ashamed and embarrassed. He said he understood how hard it is growing
up and the changes your body goes through.
I didnít want to answer him. I
didnít know how to answer him. I felt trapped. I could feel my body
flushing with the heat of frustration. If I lied to him, I lied to
God. I would go straight to hell. If I said, "Yes," my
secret would be out.
While I was trying to decide how to
answer the question with the least risk to my eternal soul, I started
to cry. I cried from the deepest part of my gut. How could I be so
wicked, so imperfect? What was wrong with me? How could I ever face
God or any of his chosen leaders with such a horrible sin crushing my
soul? I felt overwhelming shame and rejection.
He leaned forward, put one hand on
my knee and the other on my thigh. He ran his hand up to my genitals
and it rested there in cupping shape. "You have a beautiful
body," he said. "Itís nothing to be ashamed of. I can help
you with your problem." Then he unzipped my pants, reached into
my underwear, and began to fondle my penis. I was too stunned to
react; too confused to resist; too unprepared to stop him from doing
whatever he felt inspired to do on my behalf to purge my sins from
this contemptible body.
I couldnít figure out what was
going on. He was the bishop. I was the obedient but unworthy servant.
He was Godís chosen leader on earth. Whatever he did was directly
authorized by God. My thoughts raced around. Was this divine
intervention and I was receiving a hands-on blessing? Was this a part
of some special ritual to celebrate the onslaught of puberty? Was this
the secret handshake preparing me to overcome my problem? I was so
embarrassed. Was I being tested, taught; teased, or tortured? 1 couldnít
understand, but I was grateful when the ceremony finally concluded and
my problem possession was returned to its rightful owner. Of course,
as in all church activities, we had a closing prayer and just the
regular handshake in parting.
Whatever Jack was doing for the next three yearsóand
he was energetically involved in school activities, Church
responsibilities, dating, and a part-time job, the sexual abuse was a
black shadow accompanying an apparently normal and happy adolescence.
Jack felt no attraction, physical or sexual, to Bishop Mercer. Mercer
was a heavy man, probably weighing more than three hundred pounds. He
sweated easily and wore a pungent cologne. Most of the abuse took place
at night, and most of the time it was in Jackís own bedroom while his
parents slept on the other side of the wall in their own bedroom or sat
in the living room.
Bishop Mercer would arrive at the house about 10:15,
after Jack had retired, anywhere from twice a week to twice a month. He
would greet Jackís parents as they watched TV or talked in the living
room, and then ask, "Is Jack in his room?" His parents would
reply cheerfully, "Oh, yes, but heís probably not asleep yet, go
on in. Heíll be glad to talk to you." Jack remembers:
I remember the sickening cologne he
wore every time he hung over me. He would kneel beside my bed, stroke
my back and neck for a few minutes, and then reach his hands under me
as I lay on my stomach, turn me over like a board, hold me in a cradle
position, and massage my penis. I would never open my eyes. He would
put his cheek up against mine and start breathing real hard and sweat
his stinking cologne on me, as it would drip from his face. I was
afraid to open my eyes. I didnít want to see what he was doing. I
didnít want to hear what he was doing. And most of all, I didnít
want to feel what he was doing. He never manipulated me to the point
of orgasm, but just short of it. He would leave me frustrated and
confused. Was this the test? To see how much I could endure before
wanting more or acting like I wanted more? I would always contain
myself, never say anything, shut off my feelings, detach emotionally,
and ignore him until he would finally stop, pull up my covers, kiss me
on the face somewhere, tell me he loved me, and assure me that
everything was okay.
Jack struggled with his confusion:
During the day and especially at
church, Mercer would act the part of a righteous, humble servant of
God. I tried to rationalize what he was doing as being above and
beyond the call of duty and totally unselfish to be so active in
helping me with my problem. I thought the object was not to respond
with an erection when he would stimulate me. I was always disappointed
when my penis betrayed me. But in retrospect; it was really clear that
Mercer wanted me to respond sexually to him.
What did his parents think?
My parents never questioned what
went on. They felt proud, I think, in a way that the bishop was taking
such an interest in me; but also, they were concerned. If I needed
this much of the bishopís time and attention, I must have really
serious problems. They encouraged me to be grateful for his time so
freely and frequently given. I certainly must have a special mission
to fulfill because of all the quality time with him, I was told. They
sure hoped I appreciated what he was doing for me. They explained to
me that a bishop is tirelessly inspired to spend time with those who
need him the most. I should follow his example and render
compassionate service to others someday.
Bishop Mercer and my dad worked
together every day. Iíd been told he was a wonderful man. My mom
said he was one of the most Christ like individualsócaring, kind,
and considerate. I had no way of knowing anything different. Iíd
been taught to love, trust, respect, look up to, and obey the bishopsóthat
they were all called of God.
I knew I needed "help"
because I was guilty of this terrible sin. So I was totally grateful
to Bishop Mercer for speaking gently and kindly to me and being
willing to help me. But I was totally confused. I hated my body. I
hated myself. And I hated Bishop Mercer.
Another source of confusion was that Mercer gave him
expensive presents (he bought Jackís class ring for him), so Jack
"had feelings of loyalty and obligation. He kept telling me I owed
him something. I guess thatís another reason Iíd lie there and
endure the Ďtest.í" Jackís part-time job as a student was
working at a menís store near the Cullimore furniture store, and
Mercer would take him to lunch nearly every Saturday. Jack resented
Mercerís overwhelming presence, his domination of Jackís free time.
Mercer also tried to eliminate Jackís natural
attraction toward girls, an attraction that Jack credits with possibly
preventing him from developing same-sex attractions. Jackís first
girlfriend was Judy, an LDS professorís daughter from Oklahoma State
University, about seventy miles away. Because of the distance, Judy
would sometimes stay overnight with Jackís family, a solution to the
distance problem that both sets of parents approved of. Jack recalls:
It was my first teenage love, and
those first sweet kisses and my completely spontaneous reaction to her
and desire to be with her gave me something solid to place against the
confusion I was feeling from Mercer. It wasnít simple, because I
didnít know whether what was happening with Judy was normal or not.
She liked to kiss. I liked being hugged. It was affectionate and
romantic, not exploitive or overtly erotic. I didnít want to push
any boundaries. Locker room talk offended me. I was very protective of
my sister Angela and wouldnít let anybody talk vulgarly around her.
I liked the affection. Sexuality was just one aspect of it. We steamed
up our share of windows in the car but it stopped with kissing and
The bishop did things she didnít.
He would interview me continually regarding my moral worthiness. He
would tell me how wrong it was to kiss, pet, and fondle a girl before
marriage. Sexual intercourse was as serious as murder. He assured me,
however, that with his help, I would be able to control my lustful
urges. I felt used, betrayed. I wanted to be free. I didnít want any
part of him. He was jealous of the time I spent with Judy. He would
ask, "Are you going to be with her?" And then when I got
back from dates, heíd be waiting in his car, at midnight or one in
the morning. Heíd call me into his car and grill me about the date.
"Do you get an erection? Do you ejaculate?"
It got so that Iíd case my street
before Iíd turn into it If I saw his car, Iíd park somewhere else
and slip into the house without being seen, or else Iíd come from an
unexpected direction and dash into the house before he could stop me.
When Jack was seventeen, he broke up with Judy, not
because he didnít like her but because, confused and conflicted by
Mercerís abuse, he could not let the relationship develop naturally.
Thirty years later, after Scottís disclosure and after confronting the
effects of abuse in his own life, he found her again to give her the
explanation he had owed her since age seventeen for rejecting her. She
was teaching at a university. "We sat in a parking lot, talked for
an hour, and cried for forty-five minutes of that hour," he said.
"It was an emotional breakthrough to finish off old business with
Next, he deliberately dated Karen, a Catholic student
who had moved into town from Dallas. Jack felt the need to have a
girlfriend but felt that dating a nonmember would be less confusing
"because I wouldnít get as close." She was a sophomore, and
he, now senior class president; had developed the role of being "a
stand-up comic." Easy mannered and outgoing, he conducted
assemblies and class activities, participated in drama, and was on the
debate team. Mercerís night-time abuse in Jackís bedroom continued
as did his post-date "interviews" in his car outside the
Jack was in love with Karen and enjoyed being with
her. "I felt normal affection, normal reactions with her. She made
me feel good. I wanted to marry her, but I was so confused that the only
way I could think of to do it was to persuade her to have sex with me so
that sheíd get pregnant. Iím so grateful that she was
resistant." Karen also perceived that religion was a very divisive
issue for them, and they broke off the relationship during Jackís
freshman year at Central State University in Edmond, Oklahoma. He dated
no one and made average grades but emotionally "I was teetering on
the brink of suicide. My thinking was so crazy. I was saying to myself:
ĎIf sheís not attracted to me, then I guess the only person who is
is a pervert."í Jack summarizes his confusion:
When Iíd go to church on Sunday, Iíd
see Bishop Mercer sitting there between his two counselors and hear
the things people said about what a fine man he was, and I began to
think, "Maybe what happened to me last night wasnít real."
Maybe reality and fantasy became mixed up for me. In the daytime, I
didnít want to believe what had happened the night before because it
didnít make any sense.
Jackís parents still basked in the glow of their
special relationship with Bishop Mercer, who worked hard with them to
see that they made the long trek to Salt Lake City to be sealed in the
temple at a time when very few did. To J. C. and Geneva, it was a sign
that they were very special to Bishop Mercer, especially since the task
was barely completed before Jack turned eighteen in July 1963.
Somewhere, Jack found the strength even when his
world was shattered by breaking up with Karen, to resist Mercer. Out of
his anger and pain, he finally reached the breaking point.
I confronted Mercer one night in my
bedroom. I was so confused, but Iíd finally caught on that this wasnít
for my benefitóthat he must be getting something out of this.
Whatever my problem was, his solution wasnít helping at all. That
night I finally confronted him. I said, "I donít want you to
come near me. I donít want you to touch me. I donít want to have
anything else to do with you ever again."
"Or youíll what?" he
And I said, "Or Iíll
And then I realized how completely
heíd been using me. There were no more expressions of concern or
love. He just laughed. He said, "Who will you tell? Iím the
bishop. Youíre only a kid. Who do you think theyíre going to
I felt the hate and contempt in his
voice. It made me furious. I said, "Iíll print it in the
newspaper if I have to if you donít leave me alone."
"Well, youíre as guilty as I
am," he rejoined. "Youíre as much at fault as I am. You
let me do this to you for the last three years.
The shame shifted to me. He was
right I didnít stop him. I didnít resist. I didnít even try.
What was wrong with me? What was there about me and my body that
sexually attracted another man to me, especially a chosen man of God?
I must really be bad because I had tempted a bishop, of all people,
beyond his ability to withstand. So he began to transfer his shame to
me. You can imagine how that would confuse a kid, but I was determined
to stand my ground. Then he began to cry and tell me how sorry he was.
He really did love me. He wanted me to forgive him and be his friend
again. He said, "You probably just think Iím some old
queer." I told him, "I donít know what to think except
that I donít want you to come near me again." He tried to hug
me and say good-bye. I told him again just to leave. "I donít
want to touch you and I certainly donít want you touching me."
Part of Jackís confusion was trying to come to
terms with his religion, a normal developmental task for teenagers but
one terribly complicated by Mercerís abuse:
I had Mercer and the Church all
mixed up together. I tried to break away from both of them
simultaneously. When I confronted Mercer that night, I basically
threatened him: "Tell me the Church isnít true or Iíll tell
what I know." instead, he said, "You probably think Iím
just some old queer, but the Church is true." As a result, I
couldnít disconnect completely.
I was a true believer. As a
teenager, I read the Joseph Smith story and really identified with a
young, sincere person who was seeking the truth. I always prayed. One
of the things I prayed from age fifteen on was to overcome my sexual
urges. I never got an answer, obviously, because I was asking the
wrong question. I had feelings for God that were separate from my
feelings for Mercer. How could God call a pervert to be the bishop? My
faith was something that steadied and helped me, but it was also part
of the enormous confusion that overwhelmed me as a teenager.
From that time, I never let him come
close enough to have any contact with me. He would come around with a
hangdog look and tell my parents: "I just donít know what Iíve
done to Jack. I wish I could apologize." They put a lot of
pressure on me to see him, to talk to him. I absolutely refused. When
I saw him come in the front door, Iíd go out the back door.
Fortunately, the pressure eased. Before the end of
Jackís freshman year at college, Mercer moved to Tulsa and was
released as bishop. He kept writing warm notes to Jack: "Come to
Tulsa; weíve got a lot of cute girls up here." In 1995, Jack was
surprised to discover among his papers a letter from Bishop Mercer, a
single-spaced letter two and a half pages long, dated 12 June 1964. It
was chatty and rambling but returned often and obliquely to their
relationship, often in generalized religious terms, both as exhortation
ÖHow is the job working out? Have
you made any plans for school? I hope you understand, I am not trying
to be nosy but I am still interested in you and what you are doingÖ
I want you to know that if there is anything which I can do for you,
even though we are a few miles apart, I would love to do it for you.
Jack, I am so proud of you, and I donít want you to think I am
trying to butter you up. I mean it from the heart.
Life is funny at times and it seems
like it is almost impossible to cope with, but we are and will be
given the strength to overcome any difficulties which may arise in our
term here on the earth. Sometimes it is hard to realize that the tests
and trials we are forced to go through are for our best good. It is
these things which make us strong and build within our selves the
ability to accomplish our great mission. But it sure does get hard
I guess I have been rough on you and
you donít understand me, but I want you to know how proud I am of
you. I realize each day what a blessing it was to have such a choice
spirit as yours as a member of our priests quorum. I have watched you
grow and develop and seen your leadership ability. I guess I am
sounding like another former bishop, when I talk about you know when I
was bishop, ha ha, but I hope that you know what I mean. My heart is
full of love and gratitude for my Father in Heaven, for the wonderful
youth of our Church and especially those of whom I feel so close to.
Itís hard to explain but you are a part of me. Your courage and
strength build mine. I donít want to seem like another lecture from
Mercer but I want you to know and to feel that someone does care.
Gee, young man, hold close to the
wonderful mother and dad and sister which you have. They are choice
and love you so much. I miss you all so much. I know that you could
have shot me sometimes which I donít blame you, when I would come by
so much. I guess I did wrong but I felt the need of family and you
filled that empty spot and still do.
You know itís great to be in the
presence of good people. And you are the greatest. I hope that you are
keeping up your chin. I know that I have no right to tell you what to
do but I still want you to hold that head high. You have nothing to be
ashamed of Jack. God has given you many talents. He has given you a
fine body and a clear mind. You have been charged to develop this mind
and body and to build a spirit temple and not a tavern....
Well, I just want to drop you a
line, but it looks like I have been preaching again. I am sorry. Look
ahead and find the beauty and richness which is yours. Donít look
back only with profit on what has passed with the idea to make
improvements on the new....
The letter is signed, "Love, Wallie" and
the handwritten postscript reads: "Come up and stay. I will see if
I can find a good-looking gal? Ha Ha."
Jackís parents were pleased that Bishop Mercer was
still taking an interest in their son and encouraged him to accept the
invitation. Finally, the whole family went to visit the Mercers. Mercer
introduced eighteen-year-old Jack to several girls at church. Jack got a
date and went back by himself in a couple of weeks, staying overnight
with the Mercers.
Early the next morning, Mercer came into the room
wearing only his temple garments and, for the first time, got into bed
with Jack and began to fondle him. As usual, Jack kept his eyes closed,
pretended to be asleep, and detached from his body to prevent any
physical response. But he could hear Mercer pulling tissues out of the
bedside box as Mercer ejaculated.
Jack repeated his visit one more time. Again, the
next morning, Mercer joined him in bed. This time, Jack heard the door
creak and opened his eyes in time to see Mercerís wife closing the
door. "I felt terribly ashamed but I thought this must be part of
the bishopís wifeís duty. They were always talking about how the
bishop gets so close to the people he serves and loves them so
much." This time, however, Jack never went back to Tulsa and
successfully avoided Mercer when he came to Oklahoma City.
I think Iím really lucky that I
met such fine young women as Judy and Karen. What if Iíd been
socially and emotionally isolated? Would my hunger for affection have
turned me toward Mercer? As it was, I ended up with no attraction to
men, but also no trust, no respect, no bond, and no fraternal feelings
for men either. It hasnít been until some therapeutic work Iíve
done on the post-traumatic stress syndrome as a result of my Vietnam
experiences that Iíve been able to feel brotherhood with other men.
After Jackís freshman year, he transferred to
Brigham Young University where he was reassured to find that women
seemed to find him attractive and he "dated compulsively." He
recalls being shocked, however, when a coed was sexually aggressive, and
he "literally jumped away." Jack was startled to see Mercer
appear suddenly on campus.
I had mistakenly thought if I never
saw him again, if he didnít exist, then what happened to me didnít
exist either. He stood in front of me, wanted to talk, wanted to see
how I was doing. I muttered that I was late for class and jogged away.
"How about tomorrow?" he called. I shouted, "I canít.
Iím really busy tomorrow."
Jack had counted all his life on going on a mission,
but he almost immediately ran into misunderstandings with his new
bishop, Kelvin Cullimore.
Kelvin was only about ten years
older than me, a real iconóa young successful business executive, a
big man on campus, married to a beautiful woman, and with a model
family. Kelvin also had a sarcastic and controlling sense of humor. He
either liked you or he didnít. Iíd also developed a sarcastic
personality, which passed for being witty and humorous.
When I turned nineteen and he called
me in for a worthiness interview, I didnít want to go. The only kind
of bishopís "interviews" I knew about were with Mercer,
and the thought nauseated me.
Kelvin gave me this icy feeling from
the moment I entered. I had a chip on my shoulder, and he responded.
His first words were, "Jack, Iím not going to baby you the way
the last bishop did."
A big alarm went off in my head. I
was thinking, "Youíd better believe youíre not."
We went through the interview
questions and I was really belligerent. He asked, "Do you want to
go on a mission?"
"Are you worthy?"
"Why not? Are you morally
"Well, that depends on how you
"Do you masturbate?"
I decided that I wasnít going to
be ashamed because that was what had put me in Mercerís power, so I
said, "Yeah, so what?"
"Thatís against Church
standards," he snapped.
"Well, it beats rape," I
"Thatís against Church
I said, "Well, take your
He announced, "Youíre neither
worthy nor prepared to go on a mission, and until you change your
attitude, youíre not going."
The interview was over. Even though
I didnít really want to go on a mission at that point, giving up the
dream of a mission that Iíd had since age eight was very painful. I
wanted to teach the gospel and learn to love people. But I felt that I
wasnít worthy and couldnít be worthy because I knew what that
"worthiness" process involved and I just couldnít take
someone else touching me and asking me about my sex life. My parents
were devastated. Iíd been sort of inactive after breaking up with
Karen, and theyíd been hoping that a mission call would be the kind
of realignment I needed.
Back at BYU, during his junior year, he met Merradyth
Trunnell, a friendly and pretty girl with sparkling eyes and a radiant
smile. (She remembered waiting on him at the pizza place where she
worked when he had come in as a sophomore with his date.) Ed Pinegar,
their bishop in BYUís 55th Ward, assigned the nine men rooming
together in Jackís house to see that Merradyth and her sister April
had rides to church. Merradyth impressed Jack immediately with her
naturalness, her cheerfulness, and her open friendliness. She didnít
flirt or play games. She was genuinely happy, working hard at a
part-time job, as he was, to get through school. His roommates jeered,
"The oldest of sixteen children; you know what sheís here
for," but the idea of large families didnít scare him. They had
known each other for only a couple of weeks when she paid him "the
best compliment Iíve ever had. We saw a young mom with a baby in
stroller and one in either hand, and Merradyth spontaneously said, ĎWe
could have cute kids together!í Then she caught herself, was
embarrassed, and tried to apologize. I took it as one of the most
sincere compliments Iíd ever been paid. It went right into my
Jack was deeply drawn to her wholesome goodness after
five years of the double life he had been leading. Yet he tried to break
up with her because "she deserved a returned missionaryóthe best,
not somebody like me." His resolve lasted "about six
hours." At his part-time job in the BYU bookstore, he was telling a
colleague about breaking up with Merradyth. The colleague said, ĎYour
face doesnít know what youíre talking about. You canít say her
name without smiling.í I turned around and looked at myself in the
mirror. My face went beet red. It was true. I proposed to her that
They became engaged in October 1965. Jack went to
Bishop Pinegar, prepared to drop out of school, save money for a year,
and serve a mission if the bishop said so. He was surprised to find the
bishop "putting me first and saying, ĎNow, let me get this
straight. Youíre engaged to this wonderful girl, and you both love
each other, and you want to get married. So why does it make sense to
leave for two years? It sounds to me as if marriage is what you need to
do."í Jack took Merradyth home that Christmas to meet his
parents, and they were married 7 April 1966óEaster weekendóin the
Salt Lake Temple. At the wedding reception in Oklahoma City, Bishop
Mercer stayed for the whole evening, working in the kitchen in what Jack
interpreted as a gesture of ostentatious humility, but still maneuvering
to get a photograph of him and Bernice with Jack and Merradyth.
In September, Merradyth got infectious hepatitis and
was bedfast for ninety days. She could not register for classes as fall
began. Jack struggled, successfully he thought, to bury his terrible
secret. During the summer of 1967 when he heard from his parents that
Bishop Mercer had died unexpectedly while vacationing in Utah, he felt a
sense of great reliefóbut it was only temporary. It gnawed at him that
he had not been fully honest with Merradyth:
I felt that she had married a lieóthat
I appeared to be something on the outside that I wasnít on the
inside. So I told her. We were driving back to Utah from a trip to
Oklahoma. I was scared. On the one hand, I was just plain scared about
talking. Wasnít this speaking evil of the Lordís anointed? And on
the other hand, I was scared of Merradythís reaction. I was sure
that one of two things would happen. The most dreaded scenario was
that sheíd say, "We got married in the temple, but youíre not
who you represented yourself to be. Our marriage is over," or
else sheíd say, "Well, I canít love and respect you any more
but we were married in the temple, so weíll stick it out together,
but I never want you to talk about this again because itís so
disgusting." Instead she said, "I understand. It wasnít
your fault. Donít think this makes me love you any the less." I
had a hard time believing that she could be so loving and accepting.
In fact, on some level I was sure that she was covering up her real
feelings. She had to be disgusted by me.
Like Jack, Merradyth hoped that Mercerís death
meant that the episode was behind him and could be forgotten. "It
all fit together," she remembers. "There was never a thought
of not believing him." She also remembers thinking, "So thatís
why he was always so angry whenever Bishop Mercer came to see us at BYU
or telephoned us" which he did every few months. "Iíd
thought he was just being a really nice bishop, but I could tell Jack
didnít like him, and there was always so much tension whenever Mercer
was around. Both of us had a lot to learn about how sexual abuse
works." For one thing, both of them somehow felt that Jack would be
able to forget it faster if he didnít talk about it. Instead, it just
meant that two of them were keeping the gnawing secret.
Jack graduated from BYU in August 1967 in behavioral
science with an emphasis in political science. He had joined the Marine
Corps during his last semester and was mustered in during October 1967.
Merradyth was pregnant with their first child, Tara Anne, who would be
born in February 1968. Jack recalls feeling, "I couldnít fulfill
a mission, but Iíll be a good man, a good Mormon, a good example. I
hoped that serving in the Marines would make me feel that Iíd proved
my manhood and also guarantee, in some way, that nobody could ever take
advantage of me again. I didnít realize until later that it was also a
death wish, because I still didnít feel worthy to be married to
someone as good as Merradyth."
He was not a star trainee. He longed to be with
Merradyth and their coming child; he felt no connection to the young,
single Marines around him. He couldnít concentrate on the training and
ended up last in the class twice, to his commanderís disgust
"They teach you not to feel, just to obey and react," he
remembers. "Iíd had plenty of practice doing that but it was just
getting harder to concentrate on the task at hand." Knowing the
casualty rates of each branch, he deliberately chose infantry, which had
the highest mortality rate, as his first choice, tanks as his second,
and supply as his third assignment option. It was important to his
uncertain sense of manhood that he not try to avoid danger, even for
Merradythís sake. With enormous relief, he received his assignment to
supply. "At least I was willing to die for God and country,"
he recalls thinking.
Tara was six months old when Jack was sent overseas.
"I was totally bonded with her," he remembers. "I
unconditionally loved her. The morning I left, I remember how sick and
numb I felt to lean over and kiss her good-bye in her bassinet, not
knowing if Iíd ever see her again."
Jack discovered during the year he served outside Da
Nang (October 1968 to November 1969) that there was no safe place from
the incoming 120 mm rockets. He would work supply in the day, then serve
as a "reaction platoon" commander at night, "sitting on
the hill with men you donít know, waiting to go out in the dark to
back up a hit anywhere along the line. We were the backup until they
could get the helicopters there." At one point, he maintained that
nightmarish schedule for ninety straight nights. Because he didnít
drink, he often had the assignment of night perimeter officer,
patrolling the line and thinking, "If the Viet Cong knew how drunk
these guys were, how doped up, theyíd overrun us in a second."
When he finally went to the company commander and
asked to be relieved, the commander processed the request instantly. Two
nights later, a new lieutenant led out a suicide mission and many of the
men in the group Jack would have been in were killed or wounded. He had
to deal with the guilt of surviving, the guilt of wondering if those men
would have been alive if he, an experienced platoon leader, had been in
charge instead of a green officer.
"I was real disillusioned about Vietnam
anyway," he recalls. "We werenít there to win. We were
getting killed and wounded for nothing. I was scared the whole time I
was there. I felt so isolated." Even at church, the isolation
persisted. Another bishop, L. J. Housley, had promised that if he kept
his temple covenants, his life would be spared. "It was a great
relief," he admits, "but I had the feeling sometimes that I
was a nemesisóthat because of this promise, the shells were killing or
wounding the men next to me. We didnít all have equal odds of
Jack came back with no visible wounds; but the
invisible ones were so deep that in 1993 he received 100 percent
permanent disability for post-traumatic stress syndrome.
He had a year left in the service, which he spent at
Camp Pendleton, mustering out in July 1970. Scott was born the same
month. They moved to Missoula, Montana, where Jack worked as a very
successful traveling salesman for a cement company, hating the days on
the road and the nights away from his family.
1 had a company car, and expense
account, and the responsibility of entertaining customers. Other
people envied my job. I hated it, especially the nights. I was
entertaining customersóbuying them drinks at bars and lounges,
watching them pair up with the girls. I had to make jokes and act like
the life of the party but really I was so lonesome. I liked to dance,
but I was aware all of the time of the invitations dangling in front
of my eyes. If Iíd ever been unfaithful to Merradyth, I donít know
how I would have lived with myself. I knew when to play dead and when
to run; and when I could tell that people were getting drunk enough
not to notice me, I would just slip out and go to my room alone.
Shanan Brye was born July 1971, Amber Patrice in July
1973. Jack was "promoted" to an office job in Oakland,
California. He hated the confinement and work with numbers. Brechan
Leigh was born in February 1975. When Jack turned thirty in July, he
decided to act on his consuming desire to be self-employed. The family
moved to Okmulgee, Oklahoma, that same month, where they lived for the
next nine years. Jack had begun buying rundown real estate in Montana
and fixing it up with a handyman friend, Chuck Timony, then selling it.
He took the experience to Oklahoma and was successful enough to go into
partnership with his father on a sixty-four-unit, four-story,
seventy-five-year-old apartment building, the Beauclair Apartments, in
Okmulgee just south of Tulsa. His parents had retired and were living in
the building, managing the units, while Jack systematically renovated
one apartment after the other. "It was very satisfying to take
something messed up and make it better," he recalls, "and we
were definitely off the fast lane. We didnít even have a car for part
of that time."
Brittany Cayle was born in October 1976, David
Barrett in October 1978, and Lindley Tennille in August 1980. They were
thoroughly involved in church. (The ward met in Henryetta, seventeen
miles away.) Jack served as ward mission leader for two years, 1976 and
1977. "Merradyth was so outgoing, and our little ward was so warm
and welcoming, that we had lots of success," he remembers.
Jack describes this period of his life as living
"on automatic pilot." Despite the joys and happiness of family
life and church service, he now looks back and sees a pattern of
arbitrariness and authoritarianism that he then classified as good
parenting. "But a lot of it was anger, ready to be unleashed on my
children when they didnít obey instantly. I didnít listen to them. I
didnít respect them enough," he says. "I was raising them
the way my dad had raised me."
He was called as second counselor in the bishopric in
1977. A woman in her seventies, in poor health, confessed that she had
been involved in a sexual transgression when she was a teenager. Kenneth
Herbert, the bishop, explained that the purpose of the court was to help
this woman get some relief, to repent of her sin. Jack and the other
counselor had never participated in a court, so they listened intently
as Bishop Herbert explained:
"This is to be a court of love.
Weíre supposed to bear one anotherís burdens, and this woman has
initiated the repentance process. Iíve already talked to the stake
president and he says that probably disfellowshipping her for a year
is enough. You have to pay a penalty as part of the repentance
process, and weíre here to support her."
Well, we were kids. This woman was
old enough to be my grandmother. She sat there, trembling from the
palsy of age and in emotional distress, crying as she talked about
what had happened to her sixty years before. Iíll never forget it as
long as I live. I trusted Ken Herbert. He was a compassionate, kindly
person. He was completely supportive of this sister in mood and tone.
As I listened to her, I began to weep. I felt so sorry that sheíd
suffered for so longófifty or sixty years of misery and pain. Was I
going to end up like this at age eighty?
And she hadnít transgressed. Sheíd
been molested. She believed that sheíd consented voluntarily because
she didnít fight backóand the Churchís position was "better
dead than unclean," she knew thatóand because sheíd allowed
it to happen more than once. But the man was older. Heíd overpowered
her will with arguments and guilt and his own authority. I could see
my own situation in hers. The more she grieved, the more torn up I
feltófor her, but also for myself.
The deliberation was strange. The
bishop has to make the decision, and we were basically just there to
support him, since the stake president had already given him his
orders. It felt so wrong to me. I said, "This lady shouldnít be
punished. I want her to feel forgiven." Bishop Herbert explained
again what the stake president had said and asked me if I supported
him. Reluctantly, I said yes. When he told her that sheíd be
disfellowshipped for a year, she thanked us and hugged us. I was just
dying on the inside.
I told Kenneth Herbert, "I need
to talk to you." After everybody else had left, I blurted out,
"If this woman, after all this period of time, canít be
forgiven of her sin, which is nothingónothing!ócompared to mine,
then I donít know what I deserve. I deserve to be excommunicated. I
canít be a member of the bishopric. I canít be a hypocrite."
I told him the whole story, with
sobs just tearing me apart. Bishop Herbert said, "Jack, your
situation was different. I donít think it was wrong." I was
confused. How could it not be wrong?
He asked, "Could I have your
permission to talk to the stake president?"
"Sure you do," I said.
"I want to go through the humiliation now. I donít want to wait
until Iím eighty years old so that my family thinks Iím one thing
and Iím really something else. Iíll suffer my consequences now and
get it over with."
The president of Tulsa Stake was Raleigh J. Huntsman,
a senior vice president at McDonald-Douglas, who had been raised in
western Montana. He was "a real nice guy, kind, compassionate,
always laughing and making you feel good." Jack did not know what
I went home; it was late at night. I
told Merradyth what had happened and said, "Our lives are on
standby." She was completely supportive and reassuring, promising
me that things would work out, that things were going to be all right.
I lived in hell for the next week, until I got a call from President
Huntsman. I went in, and he asked me to tell him my story. He
listened. His first question was, "Who is this bishop?" As
soon as I told them that Mercer was dead, he breathed a sigh of
relief. Then he tried to reassure me that it was not my fault. He
urged me to put it behind me, to be faithful, and to keep on doing
good things. I felt an immense sense of relief; but as soon as I
stepped out of his office, I was confused again. Why was my situation
different from this womanís? Why was I being treated differently?
How could it not be wrong? These were my leaders, men who dealt
directly with God. But why didnít I feel clean or worthy? There must
still be something I hadnít done.
Jackís next calling, in 1978, was as first
counselor in the bishopric, where he served for two years. Then in 1980
Bishop Herbert let him know that he was next in line to be bishop. Jackís
defenses flew up. "Donít make me bishop," he begged. "Iíll
be a counselor. Iíll do anything else, but not this." Bishop
Herbert soothed him, "Well, you have to go talk to President
Huntsman anyway so he can release you as first counselor." In the
office, President Huntsman said, "Youíre being released as first
counselor, and God has called you as bishop." The wording stopped
Jack cold. "How could I say I wouldnít accept Godís call? It
was like a trap door opened beneath me. I didnít feel worthy; but I
didnít see any honorable way out except through."
He served for three years, trying to be kind and
compassionate like Bishop Herbert. "But Bishop Mercer had been kind
and compassionate tooóon the outside. I didnít know who I was, the
inside that felt so unworthy or the outside that everybody loved."
His father, who had never served in a bishopric, was living out his
dreams through Jackís success and secretly gave him advice behind the
scenes. Jack writhed inside when his parents, trying to praise him, said
repeatedly, "Wallie Mercer would be so proud if he could see you
now. Just remember what kind of a bishop he was." Well, Jack did.
I didnít want to be a bishop. I
didnít trust those shirts and ties. I kept wondering how many more
of them like this are out there. As bishop, I felt I was living a lie.
I kept thinking, "If the people in the congregation really knew
who theyíve got for their bishop, they couldnít trust me. They
wouldnít let me in the parking lot, let alone sit on the
stand." The other fear I had was, "I wonder when Iím going
to go weird? I wonder what there is about the calling of a bishop that
maybe causes a person to act this way?"
Being a bishop was one of the most
spiritual experiences of my life, but I found out firsthand how
vulnerable people are when they come into a bishopís office with
personal problems. I saw how easy it would have been for a person who
had those tendencies to victimize someone who looked up to them. Being
a bishop was a perfect set-up. I received more training in how to
drive a car than I did on how to conduct worthiness interviews.
Jack didnít use the standard interview questions.
"I was too embarrassed," he admits. "I just listened most
of the time to whatever was bothering them. I always felt guilty because
I wasnít doing my job. I rationalized that some priesthood official
upstream, with more curiosity or attention to detail, would probe for
the intimate details. But the risk of crossing personal boundaries was
always there for me. It was an invisible line that I could have crossed
any time. I knew how. Iíd been taught how by an expert."
Meanwhile, on the professional front, his father had
started making small loans to people in the apartments, not even
charging interest, and then found other people coming to him for loans.
"We didnít even know it was a business," Jack says wryly.
When they did, they got a license, were bonded, and opened an office in
the apartment building. Jack found himself becoming a businessman as the
front partner, "climbing into a suit and showing up at
Kiwanis." Secretly introverted, he played the part of the
gregarious salesman to perfection. Investors began offering him and his
father loans to increase the sums they had available. Jack was elected
to the city council in 1980.
"We really looked good from the outside,"
recalls Merradyth. "We were playing that Mormon game: We must be
happy. Look how busy we are." But Jack was
just a dad passing through on the
way to another meeting. On the inside, I still felt empty. My
relationship with Merradyth was as good as I knew how to make it, but
I felt that no one understood me on the inside. Merradyth used to ask
me when I was real quiet and depressed on trips, "What are you
thinking?" and it was always so embarrassing, because I was
always thinking about the Mercer thing. I could never get it
processed. I could never get past it. Was it my fault? Had I corrupted
this man? How could Merradyth love anybody who had been involved in
this kind of thing? Iíd always lie when she asked or get mad, or get
sarcastic, and sheíd think I was rejecting her so sheíd stop
talking to me, then I began to resent her because she was loving the
person I wasnít.
Work was a way of distracting
myself. We had borrowed almost a million dollars in Okmulgee and were
poised on the edge of the big time, we thought. So I moved the family
to Oklahoma City, just in time to meet the great oil recession of
In Oklahoma City, the McCallisters met five years of
swift and punishing financial reversals. The family settled in Bethany
in August 1984, a suburb west of Oklahoma City proper, and Jack
discovered that he had borrowed his $4.5 million of new assets, opened
ten branch offices, hired thirty-five employees, and now had attorneys
with contradicting legal opinions. While he was dealing with a potential
indictment from the Oklahoma Securities Commission, the "oil bust
in 1985 put our lights out overnight. Everybody whoíd loaned money in
wanted it out. We declared bankruptcy, and went through a hostile
takeover of our company."
Stanley Powell became their attorney in 1985 but was
not yet their bishop. Jack, floundering in business waters over his
head, felt a desperate need for somebody to trust, and the Powells had
been warmly welcoming the year they moved into the ward. In retrospect,
Jack feels that they were suspiciously friendly. "Weíd never had
anybody invite us and all eight kids to dinner," he recalled,
"but Stan and Sylvia would have us to elaborate buffets with the
best of everything." At the time, the attention was welcome and
Sylvia Powell, a nurse, had grown up in Henryetta,
the small town in eastern Oklahoma where Jack had been a bishop. They
had three children: Randy, Lindsey, a year younger than Brittany
McCallister but a good friend, and Nicki. Stan Powell had graduated from
California State University at Los Angeles in 1972 with a B.A., received
a masterís of education in 1975 from the University of Oklahoma, and
his J.D. from the same institution in 1978. He had been in private
practice since 1978 and served as a municipal judge in Cashion,
Oklahoma, from 1984 until at least 1994.2
To Jack, always scrupulously honest, the idea of not
being able to pay his bills and, worse, being in violation of the
securities exchange rules, plummeted him into "catatonic, suicidal
depression" by mid-1985, a state that lasted for almost four years.
"I was functioning strictly on automatic pilot. Iíd been asked to
speak in sacrament meeting about how to prepare for future adversity,
and I gave that talk the day after my company was taken over by hostile
investors, some of whom were in the ward.3
I was so numb it really didnít make any difference. Only in retrospect
does it seem bizarreóseeing the same faces in court and then again in
He felt humiliated that his family had to go on
Church welfare because the temporary jobs he was able to find did not
support the family. Then insult was added to injury when, on his
birthday in July 1986, the bishop, L. Arnold Clinton, later a member of
the stake presidency, called to inform him brusquely, "Iíve
talked to the stake president about you in welfare meeting. Your family
has received more commodities than anybody else and youíre consuming
two or three times more food than any other family in the ward. You
havenít done anything to work it off over here at the church. Until
thatís done, there wonít be any other assistance from the
Church." Jack tried to explain that they were also the largest
family in the ward, begged the bishop "not to let my family starve
because Iím broke," explained that he had not been available,
because of his job, to work on the welfare project and that Merradyth,
dealing with the family and helping Jack fulltime with sales could not
do one more thing. It was no use. He reached new depths of humiliation
and shame. It was a time of "no home, no money, no food, no job,
and no hope."
Despite her own paralyzing terror when she could see
"Jack dying before my eyes, Merradyth rose magnificently to the
occasion. "You let the Lord guide you. You do what you have to do,
and the Lord will take care of the rest," she said. "I had to
pray, read scriptures, and sing hymns every hour just to get through
that hour." Jack said, "She never blamed me." Despite
what seemed to be the worst timing in the world, she had two more babies
during this period: McKenzie Kaye in July 1988 and Tamryn Shay in March
1990. Shay had Downís syndrome and required extensive medical
intervention, both as a newborn and for the next two years. Merradyth
and five-year-old Tennille scavenged in dumpsters behind supermarkets
(for still-edible food) while waiting to get approval for food stamps.
The sheriff foreclosed (on their home) and began eviction proceedings, a
fortunately protracted legal process during which they were able to
remain in their home. On the afternoon that they were evicted in June
1987, Merradyth felt inspired to make a phone call to a friend in Utah
who had been selling a house to someone who had gone bankrupt. The house
was still vacant and the friend (instantly) agreed to let them
"camp" in it.
This move placed them within the boundaries of
Oklahoma City Silver Ward, a recently created ward housed in a newly
constructed chapel in Surrey Hills neighborhood, twelve or fifteen miles
west of Bethany. By paying the phone and utility bills, the McCallisters
were able to live basically rent free for several months. Then, with
baby McKenzie in her arms, Merradyth pled in person with the housing
authorities for space in a new public-assisted program that provided
vouchers in a number of neighborhoods. She began looking first closest
to home; the only landlord who would accept the voucher was in the same
neighborhoodóSurrey Hills. The children still had access to decent
schools and such amenities as public parks, a golf course, a swimming
pool and, of course, their own ward. They were there until they moved
out in the wake of the hostility they felt just before Merradythís
excommunication in 1994.
But they had arrived only after another bruising
encounter with priesthood leaders. Jack was working in Edmund, eighteen
miles north of Yukon, but they had enrolled the children in Mustang, ten
miles to the south and were looking for a home in that vicinity. Jackís
job at a computer company paid only a little above minimum wage and the
family was scrambling. One afternoon, Curtis James McLean, the president
of Oklahoma Park Stake, dropped into the office. They had known each
other since they were teenagers and double-dated after Curtis joined the
Church. He asked Jack how much he was making and condescendingly asked,
"How can you afford to raise a family on that?" Jack felt
humiliated. Curtis was vice president of public relations for Kerr McGee
with a Ph.D. from Purdue "and I was bankrupt and on Prozac."
Curtis followed it up by saying, "Until you move to Mustang, you
need to attend Church in Silver Ward, where your records are. How can
you expect the Lord to bless you if you arenít keeping his
commandments?" He stressed that this was a policy straight from
Salt Lakeóno exceptions.4 Again, Jack
felt embarrassed and humiliated. Stan and Sylvia Powell came by,
welcomed the family to Silver Ward, and urged them to attend meetings.
Jack and Merradyth, knowing they needed blessings, began attending
The next time they saw President McLean, he was in
sacrament meeting issuing a stern rebuke to the members. Members had
written letters to Salt Lake City about some kind of problem going on in
the ward. All of those letters, he announced, had been sent back to him
with instructions that they would receive no attention in Salt Lake. He
was in charge of handling all of the complaints members in his stake
had. Members had no higher authority. Jack noticed Stan Powellís
Depressed and confused as he was, the incident still
made Jack uneasy. "It reminded me of a tyrannical father beating
his wife and kids and yanking the phone cord out of the wall so they canít
call 911," he remembered.
Powell was still Jackís attorney; but after the
$10,000 retainer had been spent, as declared in the bankruptcy
proceedings, there was no money for additional legal action. At Brittanyís
baptism in October 1987, Jack was distracted from the spiritual nature
of the event when Powell warned him before the ceremony that the
Securities Commission wanted to press charges. In a meeting that same
evening, Powell advised Jack to plead guilty and go to jail for three
years. "You donít have money to defend yourself," he pointed
out. Bishop Arnold Clinton nodded, "The three years will go by real
fast. Weíll see to it that your family is taken care of." Jackís
dad sat in silence. With the last remnants of Jackís pride, he flared,
"Like hell I will. Iím no criminal, and theyíll have to prove
that I intended to defraud. You know I didnít." Powell
immediately backed off from the proposal. Clinton, unbelievably, had a
few weeks earlier offered Jack a loan of $100,000 for Jack to go back
into business, using his database of former customers. Jack refused. He
told Clinton, "I hate it. It goes against my nature. I wonít do
He recalls, "Thatís the only time I felt any
pressure from Merradyth. We were squatting in a house we could be booted
out of. She was scavenging for food. She begged, ĎTake the list and
start the business again.í I yelled, ĎNo, I wonít do ití She
never asked me again. It meant a lot to me that she was so sensitive to
what I needed, even though I was about as dysfunctional as a human being
could get at that point." Despite the hellish legal complications,
their very complexity turned out to be a blessing. The district attorney
in Okmulgee refused to file charges in July 1988, then the statute of
Jack should have felt relief. Instead, he plummeted
further into depression and was hospitalized briefly for suicidal
thoughts in late 1988. Face to face with the fragility of material
security, he searched his soul. This time, he could not avoid facing his
own sexual abuse and the lethal violence of Vietnam. He entered therapy
and began the arduous process of excavating his buried past over the
next three years as the family struggled for stability.
Merradyth was pitchforked into her own hell.
Struggling to understand the dimensions of Jackís abuse, wondering how
long it would take to get back to "normal," and desperately
trying to help, she searched the library for books and articles related
to abuse. There was comparatively little about the sexual abuse of boys,
but many adult women survivors of childhood incest by their fathers had
written their accounts.
Merradyth was stunned by how common the problem was
and read everything she could get her hands on, feeling a profound
uneasiness amounting almost to panic. These accounts sounded so
She had to ask herself if she was overlooking
symptoms in the family.
The worst thing I could imagine
would be if Jack was molesting our daughters and I was in denial. Iíd
never seen or suspected anything, but could I trust my own judgment? I
asked each of our six oldest daughters individually if Jack had ever
approached them sexually. I assured them that they could trust me.
Each one was completely shocked by the question. Each one exclaimed,
"Dad?," and stared at me in total disbelief. I couldnít
believe the relief I felt.
I immediately told Jack. He was
shocked and hurt that I had suspected him. I explained, "Honey,
usually the wife is the last to know or accept the reality. If there
was a problem, I didnít want to be in denial. I wanted to know about
it and deal with it for the sake of our children."
A few hours later, Jack came back
and said, "Iím glad you asked the girls, Merradyth. If it would
help anyoneís daughter, all dads should be run through the
gauntlet." That was important. It meant that we could act as a
team, totally united in trying to help the children.
Meanwhile, the older children were reeling from the
financial insecurity, the disarray in the family, Jackís emotional
absence, and Merradythís inability to take up all of the slack,
coupled with the pressing needs of the new babies and younger children.
Sixteen-year-old Scott was hospitalized for depression for five months
in 1986. After he graduated from high school, he went to Utah for nine
months. It seemed to do him good. He came back, anxious to serve a
mission. Amber McCallister, younger than Scott by three years, spent
most of her teenage years in an unaccountable depression that her
parents never understood and did not know how to help. In 1990 when she
was seventeen, Amber was hospitalized for depression and suicidal
thoughts. Later, they wondered if she, too, had been sexually abused.5
The next year, Brechan was also hospitalized for depression.
The wardís youth are the bishopís particular
stewardship, according to the handbook, and Powell involved himself
heavily in youth activities. He was always present on youth campouts and
frequently sponsored overnighters at his home. The ward members were
thrilled with this bishopís obvious concern for their teenagers.
Bishop Powell took a special interest in Scott who was exploding beyond
the control that Jack, suicidally depressed, and Merradyth, overwhelmed
and stressed out, could impose on him. The Powell home was a
"time-out" place for Scottósafe, they thought, compared to
drinking and doing drugs on the streets.
Bishop Powell was endlessly available to counsel with
Scott, speak to him sternly about his responsibilities, and take him
into his home when Scott was in trouble with his parents. One of these
stays occurred when Scott and a friend were smoking marijuana in his
bedroom. Jack was working in California. Merradyth called Powell in his
combined roles as bishop and family attorney; at midnight Stan came to
the house with the father of the friend and a police officer. Scott wasnít
arrested, but he went with Powell for six weeks. Scott didnít date
this episode but it must have been in late 1986 or early 1987. In the
fall of 1987, Jack ordered Scott out of the house for again disobeying
the family rules. Scott called Powell, who again picked him up and
brought him home where Scott lived for another six weeks. The
McCallisters were grateful and urged Scott to cooperate. Scott still has
a behavioral "contract," dated 10 January 1989, that Bishop
Powell wrote out for Scott to follow that he, Scott, and Jack all
signed. It set six goals: "(1) Read 4 pgs. per day in scriptures.
(2) Daily prayer. (3) Full tithe payer. (4) Speak with Mom re: financial
help. (5) Do part around house. Be kind! (6) When tempted by drugs,
contact bishop or dad."
In the summer of 1990, Scott, who was then twenty,6
left to serve in the England Birmingham Mission, where he had an
ideal and idyllic experience. It was two years of love for the people,
full commitment to God, intense spirituality, and great joy as he saw
many of those he had taught develop testimonies and join the Church. He
baptized over fifty converts and was considered a "super
missionary" by the president and other missionaries for his
attitude, love for the people, and unflagging commitment to serve.
At about this time, Curtis James McLean abruptly
released Stan Powell as bishop and Sylvia as Young Womenís leader.
Stan had served only two years and nine months (1987-1989) and was very
upset not to serve three to five years, as was customary for bishops. He
expressed his frustration to the McCallisters in a number of private
conversations, complained bitterly about what a "demi-god"
McLean thought he was, and carped about the incompetence of Neal
Hancock, his former first counselor, who had been called to replace him.
(He had earlier boasted to the McCallisters that he would be called as
the next stake president or, if he made enough money on a big lawsuit he
was prosecuting, mission president). Jack heard rumors that Powell
"just wouldnít follow orders from Salt Lake" and remembers
thinking, "The rest of us have to follow local leaders. I wonder
why he gets his orders directly from Salt Lake?" Jack was also
dismayed at Powellís ambition and vindictiveness.
Nor did the feelings of ambition ebb. Powell was not
invited to give a farewell talk in sacrament meeting, but a group of his
supporters sponsored a banquet, honored his achievements, and presented
him with an engraved silver tray. Powell insisted, "Once a bishop,
always a bishop," and corrected people who addressed him as
"Brother Powell" or by his first name. He and Carter Green,
the high priest group leader and a former regional representative,
instructed all the Sunday School classes that former bishops should be
addressed by their titles out of respect for their service. (Green went
by "President" Green.)
Powellís next calling was as chair of the high
priests temple committee. Jack was assigned to the committee and
attended the first meeting, held at Powellís home. Three others were
present: two were former bishops and the third had been in Powellís
bishopric. A sixth committee member was excused. He was also a former
bishop. Powell began by announcing that everyone was a former bishop so
that the special powers a bishop received at ordination could continue
to be exercised and so the members could follow their leadership.
"To remind the members who we are, we should refer to ourselves and
to each other as ĎBishop.í Donít you agree?" The first man,
called on by name, quickly agreed. So did the second. Jack was in no
mood for this game. When Powell posed the question to him, he responded,
"No, you can just call me Jack. Thatís my name, and I donít
need a title. And Iíll call you Stan. Iíd rather have you for a
friend than a bishop."
Powell, looking frustrated, began again with the
first man, asking him if he didnít think they should call each other
"bishop." Again, when it came to Jackís turn, he balked.
"Look, you guys can call each other anything that makes you feel
better. My name is Jack. Itís easy to spell, and I donít need a
Jack was never invited to another meeting, but the
confusion over having seven bishops, present and former, in the ward was
causing so much confusion that President McLean made another appearance
and ordered ward members to refer only to Neal Hancock as the bishop.
An apparently unrelated crisis pushed Jack away from
church, weakening the strong bonds of identification he felt with the
organization that had given structure to his whole life. McLean was
released as stake president and was replaced by Leon M. Fulton, a
geologist. During the summer of 1991, Brittany and Brechan McCallister
attended stake Young Women camp. The girls had asked Merradyth to attend
and, with a reluctant okay from the Young Womenís president, she did.
Merradyth, accustomed to the disorder and turmoil of a large family,
took more easily to the normal camp rowdiness than some of the stake
leaders, teasing and joking the girls into a good humor. One afternoon,
before an activity was scheduled to commence, the girls were running
through the woods, seeking relief from the scorching Oklahoma heat by an
impromptu water fight with squirt bottles. The adult ward leaders
overreacted, called the girls to order, scolded them harshly, and
threatened to cancel the rest of the camp. The girls, upset,
"yelled back." In a gathering that night around the campfire
and again in the next nightís testimony meeting, the scolding from
leaders and the resistance by the girls who found it unfair continued.
Stan Powell, who was present, listened intently to the exchanges but
said nothing. The women leaders were extremely nervous, continually
glancing at him. The leaders also complained to Silver Wardís current
bishop, Neal Hancock, when he came up Saturday night to help dismantle
the camp. On Sunday morning, the girls were planning to present their
side of a yearís worth of complaints about overcontrolling leaders to
the stake president, Leon M. Fulton, but the women leaders spoke first
to Fulton. On Sunday morning, President Fulton called the Silver Ward
girls into a meeting during Sunday School and chastised them severely.
He did not allow them to speak, tell their version of the story, or ask
Jack, who had accompanied his daughters to the
meeting, was appalled. Perhaps someone without Jackís deep-seated
reasons for mistrusting authority would have been able to dismiss it as
an immature display of temper and bad communication. But to Jack,
President Leon Fultonís anger was a naked display of unrighteous
dominion, designed to shame and intimidate. He described the meeting and
his follow-up efforts in a slinging letter of rebuke:7
Remember when we talked together...
about the girlsí camp issue? I asked, urged, and pleaded with you to
please conduct an objective inquiry into the girlsí point of view of
what happened at camp, since neither you nor I was there to observe
first hand. I wanted you to approach the matter in the spirit of love
rather than anger, when you had the time and willingness. Iím still
waiting for your response.
As an imperfect father of ten
children, I shared with you this fact. The greatest sorrows of my life
come from the occasions when Iíve injured my children, both
emotionally and physically, as a result of acting on my first natural
response or from drawing "logical" conclusions based on
hearsay. I stand as a firsthand witness to what I feel was the stake
fatherís first natural response based on hearsay and directed to the
children in Silver Wardís Young Women program. I say bluntly: in my
opinion, you too are guilty of emotional child abuse, no matter how
worthy your motives. I feel as if a great harm was done to the
spiritual well-being of the girls that Sunday morning, the day after
the girls came home from camp. The scathing lecture you unleashed
lasted only an hour. The pain you caused will last a lifetime. What
provoked you into thinking the girls deserved to be treated with such
contempt and disrespect?
Regardless of my love for you from
one brother to another in the gospel, I am greatly troubled by the
subsequent harm that has been done to our children by other Church
leaders as well. In my opinion, there is still unfinished business
that needs your attention with the Silver Ward girls. How do you
explain to them why the president of the stake, not their bishop,
charged into the middle of an issue limited to the girls and their
local leaders within the ward?
My unresolved questions to you are:
1. Why did you deny any of the girls
a chance to express their feelings to you as an objective,
compassionate leader either before, during, or after the emotional
confrontation at girlsí camp?
2. Why were you unwilling to listen
to them in the spirit of love and understanding? Instead you chose to
command them to repent for something you only "heard" about
from others with no background understanding. What really caused you
to interpret what happened at camp as a serious sin, rather than as a
youthful innocent inability to express their honest feelings of anger
and frustration? Did you express a sincere interest in the problem as
they felt about it? Why were their concerns less valid than others you
chose to listen to before you confronted them that morning? What were
the girls trying to draw the attention of their leaders to in the best
way they knew how? Was their only purpose to bring awareness of
personal relationship problems that could benefit from open
discussion? Why werenít they allowed to focus on something that had
the potential to heal their wounds of misunderstanding?
3. Why did you, in your official
capacity as stake president, shame, brand, and label the young
daughters of our Father in Heaven with your searing remark by saying,
"No wonder you Silver Ward girls have the reputation for being
absolutely the worst girls in the whole stake"? Could remarks
like that from someone in authority contribute to the self-fulfilling
prophecy by destroying their individual worth and self-esteem?
4. Why were you so eager to take
sides in the misunderstanding between the girls and the Young Women
leaders, rather than acting as an unbiased facilitator to promote
peace through careful listening and to create an atmosphere of healing
with an attitude of mutual respect?
5. Why did you prevent the girls
from expressing their own feelings by conducting a one-way lecture on
your interpretation of the commandment "to always practice
unconditional obedience to Church leaders because they are called by
God to rule over them and disobedience to them is the same thing as
disobeying God"? Does that mean that priesthood leaders can,
because of their perceived authority, insult, harass, demean, and
humiliate with insensitive remarks? Does it mean that they are
justified in using fear and intimidation to control the young minds of
those with less experience who want to participate in the Lordís
kingdom here on earth?
7. Why did you simultaneously accuse
and pronounce them guilty of "failure to sustain the Lordís
anointed" without first taking the time or interest to personally
inquire into the circumstances objectively? What lesson does that
teach about those who are called to serve in leadership positions?
(There are those who are called and those who are mauled!)
8. Why did you fail to recognize the
importance of teaching the girls that they are loved unconditionally
and have the right to expect to be led by those who will gently
nurture the young, the weak, and the powerless? Did the girls see
examples of moral inconsistences and public hypocrisy? Are they to be
victimized because of their age, gender, or Church hierarchy when they
attend their Young Women classes and activities?
9. Why did you tell the girls they
should unconditionally show respect and obey their leaders at
"all times and in all places"? Could they have felt, over a
period of time as a result of interacting with their leaders, that
they were emotionally abandoned, neglected, and spiritually abused by
them? Could they have sensed that they were being willfully deprived
of their equal rights to the same standard of respect and the
opportunity to explain their feelings and actions? Could they have
gotten the message that a person is innocent until proven guilty only
if she or he has the status of being an adult leader?
10. Why did you express the opinion
that it is inappropriate and unwise for the girls to express their
feelings of dissatisfaction with the conduct of others placed in
authority over them? Does the Saviorís injunction, "Feed my
sheep," in any way justify using force to cram the fodder down
the throats of those who, for whatever reason, hesitate to eat
willingly? Does that mean that the followers are left powerless to
have and express their feelings and opinions? Will they be denied the
freedom to exercise any self-determination and to experience the
learning that follows?
11. Why were you so [insistent] to
interview my wife Sunday after Church without any personal knowledge
of the girlsí camp situation? Do you wonder why I insisted on being
present as a witness, especially after coming from the meeting you
just finished conducting with the young Women? You have no idea of the
amount of self-control it took for me to just sit there and listen to
you accuse her for her responsibility in the "Girls Camp Revolt
of Ď91." Were you criticizing her for lack of willingness or
ability to control the mind and will of her two teenage daughters at a
Church-sponsored activity? What was your purpose for saying, "Itís
parents like you who fail to teach their children correct principles
in the home that cause the leaders to be disrespected and disobeyed
when they are at Church"?
12. Why did you characterize this
situation between the girls and their leaders as a right or wrong
situation instead of as a timely challenge to resolve the inevitable
human conflicts that are part of the process of learning to
communicate with one another, necessary to perfect the divine nature
in all of us?
13. Why did you tell the girls:
"Of all the extensive years of Church service I have had, what
you girls did to your leaders was the worst thing that I have ever
seen or heard of... and the girls who were involved ought to be truly
ashamed of themselves and beg the Lord and their leaders for
forgiveness immediately.... You have no place coming to Church or any
activities until you have repented completely"?
14. You told the girls to decide
right now to "either follow your leaders or leave." Was
their angry silence proof of a voluntary broken heart and contrite
spirit or a reflection of your ability and desire to control the mind?
Why did you choose to condemn from the very beginning without a single
question of how the leaders may have provoked some justified angry
15. Why did you show so much
compassion and sympathy for a single lost calf that froze to death in
the snow, stranded outside the fence, because of your failure to leave
the comfort and warmth of your own home to check on its safety? Do you
remember telling us that story with tearful emotion in your opening
remarks as a new stake president? What about the girls in Silver Ward
who are now spiritually stranded outside the fence, freezing to death
in the snow? Donít they deserve to be rescued from the same fate?
Are they to suffer through life as unfortunate victims of a priesthood
leaderís emotional response to a spiritual problem?
Why does it seem to me that there is
a double standard of expectation for "leaders" and
"followers"? How can a leader expect followers to tolerate
the leadersí peculiar attitudes and actions without offering the
same opportunity to those expected to follow? Does the means of
swiftly accomplishing a unilateral objective justify the total
spiritual domination of others? Why do tangible recorded statistics,
calculated and compared during evaluation meetings, so easily eclipse
the invisible, more subtle stirrings of the human spirit seeking
meaning among meaningless things?
16. Why am I full of dread and
anxiety when I enter the meetinghouse? Why am I constantly
anticipating that either I or some family members can, for any reason,
be jerked into a room and threatened by any leader who feels justified
[in making a] self-righteous rebuke? Is it "edifying the
Saints" to have a perfunctory opening prayer, only to [then] be
unmercifully reprimanded and finally shunned? Was it realistic for you
to think that our responsibility as parents included compelling our
teenage daughters to conform to gospel standards so that they
"donít cause trouble and be a bad influence on other youth in
17. Why canít I find a comforting
answer to the question of my daughter, who was blamed for
"inciting" the "rebellion": "If President
Fulton speaks for God, does that mean that God wonít listen to us
either or try to understand all the facts before he judges us, not
knowing or caring about whatís in our hearts"?
18. Why do I feel vulnerable around
you and distrusting, in all things, at all times, and in all places.
If I donít trust you, if I feel alienated from you, and if God
called you to be my spiritual leader, how can I have any positive
feelings toward the being who is supposed to have love and compassion
for us all? How do I stop feeling as if Iím a hollow function
trapped within an organizationóand become a vibrant member... [the]
purpose [for which] it exists?
19. Have you ever felt abandoned,
rejected, and betrayed by someone you trusted, loved, and respected?
Have you ever felt truly wronged by someone sustained as the
priesthood authority in your life? Where do I find any evidence of
your unconditional love and understanding?
20. Why does it feel as if Iím
walking on egg shells around priesthood leaders in general? Are
statistics more important than souls? Do programs have a higher
priority than people? Is absolute unconditional obedience with total
subjection the purpose of our existence? With so much deceit around
us, isnít it only wise to use cautious conditional trust in all our
personal relationships? Only through mutual respect come love and
understanding. Doesnít that have to be constantly earned, without
respect to age, gender, or leadership hierarchy?
21. Is there a high degree [of] risk
from being emotionally attacked by priesthood leaders with no obvious
justification? Is the appetite to have absolute control over others
more motivating than being long suffering and full of charity? Is my
highest value in life to be a "human doing" instead of what
I really am, a human being?
22. Why is it so difficult to accept
the adversities of life as being milestones of mortality in which God
reveals his true purpose for us? Can intense human suffering prepare
us to be more responsive to the needs of others because we recognize
even silent cries for help? What is gained from criticizing anotherís
flaws, frailties, and failures unless the spirit of love wraps around
those being condemned?
23. You told my wife she had no
business being at girlsí camp with her daughters nor [was she]
welcome there because she wasnít invited by the leaders. You said
her influence there undermined the ability of the leaders to establish
a relationship with the girls. You ordered her to never again attend
any future activities without specific authority. Why did you forbid a
mother to accompany her daughters (at their request) on
Church-sponsored activities? Why is it not appropriate for a mother to
share in a Young Womenís activity with her daughters? What is really
going on behind the scenes that you want to prevent from being
witnessed? Is the purpose of the Church organizations to strengthen
families or strengthen itself at the expense of families?
24. Finally, what happens when these
girls are forced to endure the tactics of mind control from their
religious leaders? To survive, they will be forced to put up a false
emotional front. Will they never know the freedom of expressing their
spontaneous feelings? Donít they deserve to have a safe,
nonjudgmental atmosphere in which to share their true feelings? Is it
more important for them to pretend adherence to a gospel standard or
to share their frustrations with leaders who donít comprehend the
spiritual growth process?
Donít we need leaders to
understand, not resent, the opinions of those they are called to serveóto
encourage, not avoid, open, honest communicationóto learn, not
lecture, with checklists verifying competence to their peers?
I sustain you in your desire to
serve the Lord, not in actions of spiritual abuse.
Jack stopped attending church, a message that should
have shrieked distress, coming from someone who was a former bishop. He
requested no home teachers or other visits from priesthood leaders.
The fifteen-year-old inside me
finally began to thaw out. I finally began to feel my anger, my fear,
some of the feelings Iíve blocked. I realized that I didnít feel
safe at church, and I gave myself permission not to go to, to put a
safe perimeter around me. I wouldnít even let the home teachers
come. I wanted to feel safe, because that fifteen-year-old had never
been safe, even in his own bed in his own bedroom.
Stan Powell was still the familyís home teacher and
stake executive secretary at the time. Jack, who respected Stan, told
him candidly why he was inactive and why, because of the sexual abuse,
he no longer felt safe at Church. He expected Powell to understand and
respect his need to set some personal boundaries in an effort to heal
from the repeated violations of his personhood as a teenager. Instead,
Powell "sat on his couch and listened without saying a word. His
face didnít change. His eyes didnít blink. There was absolutely no
response." At the time, Jack didnít understand it.
Jack also fully disclosed his sexual abuse to his
therapist, Lyle Burrup, of LDS Social Services, who remained his
therapist from at least November 1989 to June 1993. At the first visit,
Burrup asked Jack how much he could pay per session. Jack "feeling
assertive for the first time in my life, said I was there because a
bishop had molested me. I donít think I should pay anything."
Burrup agreed not to charge him if that was the way he felt about it but
would log each appointment down so Jack could see the value of what he
was receiving. Jack saw Burrup once in November 1989, but he began
regular visits in October 1990 that continued at monthly or semi-monthly
intervals until June 1993. By then, the total stood at $1,065. Bishop
Neal Hancock called Jack one Sunday afternoon and said he needed to
collect on the bill. Jack explained the arrangement he thought he had
with Burrup and was dismayed to learn that Hancock had been pressuring
Merradyth to pay. She had squeezed three payments of $25 each out of
housekeeping money. Jack forbade Hancock to approach Merradyth again
about money and explained to her that, as a matter of principle, he felt
the Church should pay. Hancock persisted: "Somebodyís got to pay
it." "Look," said Jack flatly. "The Church did this
to me by turning Bishop Mercer loose on me. The institution is
accountable for the abuse. Itís accountable for the bill."
Hancock dropped the subject.
After a few sessions, Burrup asked Jack if heíd be
willing to talk to Merrill Woodford, another member of the Church in
Oklahoma who had been sexually abused as a youth by an uncle, a
Scoutmaster, and his bishop. Jack was willing, even eager, to meet with
someone else who had been down the same road. The two men compared the
traumatic effects of their sexual abuse and its lingering effects.
But Merrill told him of a double betrayal. His bishop
had been a brother of a General Authority. In 1989, Merrill had gone to
Salt Lake City to meet with another General Authority. He was hoping for
comfort, resolution to his lifelong anguish, and some kind of assurance
that the Church did not condone such behavior. Instead, the General
Authority that he talked to was "rude and antagonistic." He
challenged the veracity of some of what Merrill told him, advised him to
put it behind him, and warned him not to talk about it any more.
"He told Merrill that his job was to learn forgiveness and the
other manís problem was none of his business," summarized Jack.
There were no assurances that there would be no more victims. Merrill
crept back home under the weight of an even greater burden.
Jack and Merrill felt a bond as survivors, and Jack,
energized by knowing that he was not the only sexual victim of a bishop,
began calling the men he had grown up with. That summer of 1992, two of
them told him that they, too, thirty years before, had been sexually
approached by Bishop Mercer between the ages of fifteen and eighteen, in
the latter half of the 1960s. In both cases, they also said something
like, "He tried something but I wouldnít let him do anything and
he backed off." But in each case, they had never told anyone about
it and they admitted that the shame still lingered. Also that summer,
Jack, accompanied by his therapist, Lyle Burrup, told their new bishop,
Neal Hancock, about his sexual abuse. Bishop Hancock, shocked and
sympathetic, had exclaimed, "Heíll fry in hell for that!"
The sense of being believed was a sweet relief to Jack, who responded,
"I donít care about that. Thatís between him and God." And
in a session the same day with Burrup and the whole family, Jack told
his children that he had been sexually abused, apologized for having
fallen into an authoritarian pattern as their father, and promised to
Scott returned from his mission in November 1992.
I looked like the classical inactive
dad. People had written him letters about how his job was to come home
and reactivate his dad. So a few days after he got back, he asked,
"Dad, whatís the problem?"
I tried to explain it to him in
generalities, and he said, "Iíve heard all the excuses on my
mission and thereís not a good excuse."
So I told him that my bishop had
sexually abused me when I was a teenager and I just couldnít handle
dealing with the men at church anymore.
Scott didnít want to talk about it. In Scottís
silence, Jack read disapproval. Scott began working in the familyís
carpet cleaning business, dating, and settling back into post-mission
On 18 April 1993, Merradyth met with Bishop Hancock,
and renewed a commitment to contribute to the missionary fund. Jack made
it clear that Merradyth was free to make her own decision but wrote
Hancock a blistering note: "I have changed my mind about being
willing to support the efforts of any organization whose objective is to
recruit unsuspecting potential victims into being sexually abused by
perverted priesthood leaders that members are obligated to sustain but
are helpless to defend against."8
The next spring in May 1993, Jack, who had joined a
support group of former Marines who were also suffering from
post-traumatic stress disorder, went on a retreat, a warrior sweat
ceremony based on Cheyenne rituals. It was a healing experience,
producing the trust and sense of fraternal bonding that he had never
before felt with other men. In that supportive environment, he disclosed
his sexual abuse and talked about it with them. He felt emotionally
renewed and returned to the family, prepared to begin going to Church
again and feeling, for the first time since he was a teenager, that he
might be able to rebuild his trust in his priesthood leaders.
He planned to attend church with the family on his
returnóthe first Sunday in June 1993; but he and Scott were called out
on a water-damage job to vacuum up a flooded basement. When they were
having lunch after completing the job, Jack told Scott about the sweat
lodge and how spiritually healing it had been. For the first time, he
was explicit, telling Scott exactly what Wallie Mercer had done in those
Scott said, "Dad, the same
thing happened to me. Thatís what Stan Powell did to me.
At the time, I thought I couldnít
hurt any worse for myself, but it was like a trap door opened up and I
fell into a whole new dimension of pain. I felt guilty. I felt
responsible. I had been too embarrassed or too ashamed even to warn my
son. Iíd thought it couldnít happen to anyone else. This made me
afraid all over again. Whom could I trust? Whom could I possibly
trust? I felt so bad for Scott. It ate my guts out, and all I could
think was, "What if, for the next thirty years, he has to go
through what Iíve gone through?"
Notes for Chapter
[Use the Back button to return to the original
without ellipses from an undated mss entitled "Reprinted from
Personal Journal of Jack McCallister," actually not a journal but
an autobiographical reminiscence, typescript, 14 pp., ending "to be
continued." Additional material comes from a presentation sponsored
by the Mormon Alliance at the 1994 Sunstone Symposium, Salt Lake City,
and from telephone interviews.
Powell, Resume , Exhibit B attached to "Oklahoma Indigent
Defense System, Trial Level Representation, Contract Bid Proposal...
Fiscal Year... 1994," Kingfisher County, Oklahoma.
letter from Stan Powell to the Veterans Administration, dated 18
November 1991, certified that Powell was Jackís legal counsel in July
1985 when Jack "went before Judge Berry Ö to be released of his
duties as president and owner" of Fidelity savings. "He was at
that time under much stress and anxiety and thought unable to control
his business by investors who took over the operation for said
business." Jack was basically unemployed for several years except
for a brief few months with Cooperative Computer Corporation in Edmund,
after Scott McCallister married Catie Kennedy in 1994, they attended
church in Cadeís parentsí ward in a different stake than that in
which they reside and have received no pressure to attend their resident
in 1995-96, after a troubled marriage, a divorce, and a second
relationship reported that she was recovering suppressed memories of
sexual abuse, Satanic rituals, and being raped by both Stan and Sylvia
Powell and by other adults in the ward during the girlsí summer camps.
She filed a report with the police in Logan County, site of the camp, in
6Because of learning
disabilities, he was one school year behind his age group.
letter from Jack to Park Stake President Leon M. Fulton, 5 January 1992.
Spelling, grammar, and punctuation standardized, some bold-faced type
and underlining for emphasis omitted.
McCallister, Letter to Neal Hancock, April 18, 1993.