Chapter 15
Home Up

VOLUME 1, 1995



Three days after Fulton's interview with Jack and Merradyth, on Sunday, 13 March 1994, Merradyth received a summons to a high council court on charges of "apostasy" because she was "embarrassing" the Church and engaging in "unChristlike conduct." The notice was delivered by Donald Adams, high councilor and currently assistant district attorney for Oklahoma County, and Melvin Knott, then a high councilor. Knott had been Stan Powell's bishop just after Powell graduated from law school. The McCallisters could not help wondering if Knott had known about Powell's arrest in 1980 for indecent exposure.1 A friend, no longer in the area, who had been in Silver Ward, telephoned the McCallisters and told them that Powell had become inactive after graduating from Oklahoma University law school in Norman and was allegedly disfellowshipped for homosexual activity before he moved to Kingfisher to start his legal practice. There Melvin Knott had reactivated him.

 Merradyth wrote to the First Presidency appealing for a different judge and listing the reasons why she felt Fulton would not be fair. She received notice that the trial would be postponed. It was not until July that she was notified that the bishop of her ward, Neal Hancock, had been assigned to conduct the disciplinary council.

Meanwhile, in February 1994, Dianna Carroll, head of Mothers Against Sexual Abuse (later Parents' Alliance Against Sexual Abuse), had arranged a meeting with Floyd W. Taylor of Taylor & Manchester law firm, Oklahoma City, an attorney who was knowledgeable about ritualistic abuse. Mary, Dianna, the McCallisters, and two other women were present at the meeting. They discussed priorities in determining the rights of victims under the law for restitution and recovery, what could be done to identify other victims, and what could be done to protect current and potential victims from abuse. On Monday, March 14, 1994, Taylor wrote to Leon Fulton:

We have reviewed transcripts from the testimony taken in the Campbell trial. We have talked with the McCallisters' son. We have talked with [a detective from] the Edmond Police Department. We are aware of the charges pending in Norman and have seen the police report. There is more than enough here to put reasonable minds on inquiry. It is regrettable that you and the Church council appear to be bent on a course of silencing the allegations of parents and victims of possibly abusive conduct perpetrated by persons affiliated with your Church, instead of listening with open minds to trying to find solutions.

I am Roman Catholic. As you know, my Church has experienced multiple charges of sexual abuse by clergy against minors. My Church's initial reaction was [to] cover up. The result was a plethora of lawsuits and astronomical liability losses. One archdiocese is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. Please do not interpret this as a threat of litigation. I am trying to make a plea to common sense and ask that you look upon the experience of the Catholic Church and not follow the same path. The Catholic Church today has reversed its initial course and is openly acknowledging the problem and is trying to do something about it. Your Church should at least be open to the possibility that these allegations may have some substance and that investigating the allegations is a more appropriate way of handling them than trying to silence the accusers through threats of disfellowshipment and excommunication.

If the McCallisters and others who are accusing LDS officials of unspeakable acts are right; your Church will profit from listening and taking action to protect your most valuable asset; your children. Please consider my remarks in the spirit in which they are intended. It is not my desire to be perceived as a legal threat to the LDS Church. The McCallisters love their religion and wish the Church no harm. Since they truly believe what they have alleged and if what they are saying is true, the worst thing they could do to your Church would be to become part of a cover-up which would jeopardize the safety of countless Mormon youngsters and open your Church up to the kind of legal quagmire the Catholic Church faces today. We urge you to reconsider your approach to this matter.


Floyd W. Taylor

In the local paper's report of the pending disciplinary council, Merradyth described the meeting she and Jack had had with the stake presidency in which they were "told the ex-bishop 'was not dangerous to the kids.'" Merradyth added, "'They have brought church action against me for uncovering and talking to other church members about the molestation cases . ... Also for putting it into the press."' The handwriting on the wall was so clear that the paper mistakenly added that Mary Plourde had already received a letter about her disciplinary council. The article stressed that no charges had been filed or arrests made.2

Merradyth acted boldly on her own behalf, writing a long letter to President Hinckley, then first counselor in the First Presidency, on Tuesday, 23 March 1994:

We know the Church has read several letters in sacrament meeting during the past few years asking the members not to write directly to the General authorities. However, inasmuch as you have quoted from letters other members have written to you in some of your general conference talks, we hope you will permit us to write this one letter without becoming offended.

A few months ago the Church held a fireside on child abuse, in which you were one of the principal speakers. We believed you were sincere regarding your care and concern for the welfare of children everywhere. Our son, Scott, was one of the children you were talking about.

Merradyth summarized Jack's abuse, Scott's abuse, and President Fulton's disbelief and discounting of Scott's report. She continued:

Because President Fulton was not willing to hear our cries for help and told us to "do what you have to do but stop talking to the members of the Church about this or I'll excommunicate you," we went to the police and filed felony charges against Stan Powell. It became a public record. The local media became aware of the complaint filed and interviewed us. We did this in an attempt to warn victims and potential victims both in and out of the Church of the dangerous situation. The police informed us [that] until more evidence developed, it would be difficult to prosecute the case. They believed Scott and recognized the deception used by typical pedophiles with multiple victims. They said it was just a matter of time before public awareness motivated someone else to come forward.

We were curious about President Fulton's explanation of "this crazy lady's" story. We did our own investigation to find out who this person was and what she said that could instantly influence him not to believe our son. We discovered the person was Roseanne Campbell (Hales). We purchased the complete set of court records ($254.00) concerning her allegations of sexual abuse perpetrated by her husband and other prominent Church members upon herself and her five small children. We were shocked such a thing could happen. We talked with Dr. Richard Sternlof, the expert witness on ritual abuse. He said there were indeed such crimes perpetrated without common knowledge. We talked with Roseanne herself. She gave even more details of perversion. We were sent a copy of Bishop Glenn Pace's memo on ritual abuse within the Church. We did not request the information. We were not aware, until we were informed by President Fulton, that the Church [had] completely investigated this report. It is considered to be untrue, full of distortions and unsubstantiated accusations, and is distributed by so-called apostates for the purpose of destroying the good name of the Church.3

Scott was becoming more emotionally distraught by the trauma after the original trauma. We were warned [that] our lives were in danger for having this information. I was stalked by Peter Campbell and two of his associates in a public building, which I reported to the police. We were completely overwhelmed with panic and could only think of the need to prevent the atrocities from being committed against innocent children.

Merradyth described going to the media and the five-part series that investigative reporter Brad Edwards developed that had aired in February 1994. Simultaneously, Powell's arrest for indecent exposure became known.

We thought, next to murder, [that] the second most grievous sin was sexual transgression (including predators in the priesthood), not the failure to protect the image of the Church at the sacrifice of protecting our children. We thought Jesus Christ would not want his name to be associated with any organization where his "little lambs" are molested by monsters masquerading as trusted "shepherds" to the flock. If he were here today witnessing this condition taking place, what would his priority be: the children or the Church image?

Why didn't we hear from you when we made our desperate plea for help? Why did we receive nothing but disbelief and scorn from all of the local Church leaders? How many more victims will there be before appropriate action is taken to protect the children? Will any others even dare to come forward after they see how we have been treated for doing so? What message is the Church disciplinary council sending to the world if we are punished when we "choose the right when the choice is placed before you"?

I am more than willing to "let the consequence follow." I would far rather be excommunicated and suffer all the penalties attached for eternity than silently stand by and allow any child to endure sexual abuse. I don't think that's what the Lord had in mind when we were admonished to endure to the end.

So, President Hinckley, we respectfully ask you two questions:

First, did you mean what you said in your talk about children?
And second, "are the children lying?"


Merradyth and Jack McCallister

Because Merradyth still had not heard any word on her appeal for a different judge, she added a postscript:

P.S. If President Fulton chooses not to disqualify himself from acting as the "common judge," I request [that] a different common judge be appointed. Based on past experience, I don't feel he possesses a "prayerful desire to help, not to condemn" me. Acting as my bitter antagonist, chief accuser, judge, and sole member of the jury doesn't serve the best interests of fair and impartial justice.

Scott took five days off work and flew home for what he thought would be his mother's disciplinary council at the end of March. When it was postponed, pending the decision on Merradyth's request for a different judge, he had a lengthy telephone conversation with Arnie Clinton, the family's former bishop, currently serving in the stake presidency.

Scott was candid about how painful the situation was for him. "I want this thing to stop," he said. "My parents are very good people. I know they love me. I love them. I love the Church. Do you see how I'm torn apart here?" Responding with more sympathy and candor one-on-one than when he was sitting in President Fulton's office, Arnold Clinton told Scott that "the problem is that your mother is publicly discrediting the Church and Church leaders," that "the only thing we've ever wanted her to do was just to stop the public criticism." He pointed out that "the six or seven other people stopped when we asked them to."

Scott asked for a meeting among the McCallisters, the stake presidency, and Stan Powell; Clinton said it was "out of the question" because "that's not the way we do things in the Church," and that Powell would "be taken care of." In the context, Scott interpreted this to mean that action would be taken against Powell.

Arnie Clinton repeated that, until the indecent exposure information, it had been Scott's word against Stan's and defended President Fulton's actions. "Look at it his way," he posed the situation to Scott. "Say I'm the president. I'm the priesthood leader over two people. My job is to save Scott's life. My job is to save Stan Powell's life--spiritual life. If you do anything publicly for one or the other you've basically condemned or exonerated one or the other. Leon is the guy in the middle." To Scott, who felt that he had not been believed, perhaps the most consoling thing President Clinton said was: "There isn't any doubt in my mind that Leon Fulton believed you; but because of the position he's in, he had to be very careful. He still can't come out and say that Powell is guilty."

Scott asked quietly, "Is Powell admitting it?"

Clinton said, "Your story and his story are pretty close, and I've probably told you more than I should have, okay?"

Scott pressed: "I thought he denied everything."

Clinton admitted that he had not been present at the meeting between Fulton and Powell but that "the time frame, the episodes were pretty consistent. The only difference in his story was his intent. We've got the same story, two different outlooks."

Scott did not ask, and Clinton did not explain, why there was no independent investigation and no discussion with other possible victims Scott's age. Scott pled, "All I want to do is live the happiness I lived in the mission field. I've been torn apart. I want to get on with my life. How does all this make you feel?"

"It's torn me up too," said Clinton. "I sat in there and got reamed out by folks saying I'd thrown your mom and dad over the side, that I didn't care about them. That's as far from the truth as can be. You know, I don't agree with the things your mom's done, but I like her. I like your dad. I've always liked your dad."

"My mom has basically said what she's believed and opened it to the public," Scott repeated.

"That's it entirely," Arnie Clinton repeated in turn. "The fact that she openly criticized the Church publicly, not just once but three or four different times that I'm aware of. And she's been passing out these little packets everywhere. One showed up at Walmart."

Despite Scott's best intentions and hopes, "the conversation was just going around in circles."

On Sunday, 27 March 1994, Scott tried once more. With his brother-in-law Steve Allen, the husband of Scott's sister Shanan, he met with the stake presidency in a three-hour meeting. Fulton insisted that they had taken the allegations seriously and that Gerald Putnam, the regional representative, had done a serious investigation. When Steve pointed out the limited number of people Putnam had talked to and the complete lack of interest he showed in talking to other survivors, Fulton retreated to insisting that he'd spent "plenty of time" with Jack and Merradyth.

Scott reacted impatiently when Fulton claimed that Merradyth had blown the problem out of proportion by going to the media. "This is not my mom's fault," he said. "This is Stan Powell's fault."

Fulton also claimed that neither the arrest for indecent exposure nor Roseanne Hales's story had "any bearing whatsoever on your story." Scott exclaimed, "How many times does he have to get caught with his hand in the cookie jar before you start to wonder if he's stealing cookies? This is three times that you know of for sure. The court testimony of the children implicated Stan."

Arnie Clinton commented, "I can't believe the court records. They're just too bizarre." When Steve reminded them that Roseanne's stake president, Roy Franklin, had personally sent them a copy of the medical records and court testimony and an expression of his concern, Fulton did not answer. He also did not answer Scott's question about the medical evidence. Instead, he told Scott that the therapist had asked the children leading questions, that Peter Campbell's attorney had "discredited" therapist Kay Gillette, and that Peter had not relinquished his parental rights because he was afraid of what further testimony would show but because he was "out of money." According to Steve, Fulton said, "Brother Campbell came in and pled with us with tears in his eyes to ask us if he should give up his rights to the children. We told him that we as priesthood leaders could not tell him what to do. He had to make that decision with his attorney, pray about it. This was not a spur of the moment thing. It happened two weeks before that court."

Scott also asked him if he believed the information in the Pace memo. President Fulton replied, "I called the Brethren in Salt Lake and said, 'Tell me about the letter.' Their response was that Elder Pace was approached by people with these stories to tell. He was very concerned. He interviewed these people. And as others found out that he was listening to them, more and more people came to him. He interviewed them, The church for three years has addressed this out in Utah. The brethren asked him, 'Please summarize your findings. Send us a memo.' The confidential memo to priesthood leaders was based solely on interviews. They went in and investigated all of those reports but they could get no substantiation. No one, not the law enforcement, not the Church, no one."

Impatiently, Scott returned to what he saw as the main issue: Stan Powell was still at large, still a church leader with broad access to youth and with the full authority of his position. "We want Stan Powell to be in a position where he could never do to another boy what he did to me," Scott spelled out. "Until January, you said it was my word against his and that you needed additional evidence. Well, you've got the additional evidence with the indecent exposure charge."

President Fulton again explained his position. He couldn't have acted earlier because Powell's version disagreed with Scott's version. Powell had to be condemned "by his actions, not by what he might have done. He had to have an opportunity to condemn himself by his actions." He did not tell Scott that a disciplinary council for Powell was scheduled three days later. Perhaps he did not decide to hold the court until after his meeting with Scott and Steve, although this seems unlikely. Perhaps he felt that this information would have violated his requirement to keep the content of the court confidential, but it would have been the quickest and most reassuring way to respond to Scott's main point. Not knowing about the court, Scott said bitterly, "I don't think Powell would have been condemned. He'd have gone on molesting children. Why doesn't the Church have a hotline? Why isn't there some way to stop guys like Powell?"

When Fulton told him he was free to call the Department of Human Services, if he wanted to, Scott bore an emotional testimony, choked by tears: "These are the last days. Members are going corrupt and corrupting little kids. I was rebellious growing up, like the Anti-Nephi-Lehis in the Book of Mormon. But I put down my weapons of war. I don't want anyone to go through what I've gone through. I want to spend the rest of my life doing what I did on my mission--loving the people and bearing my testimony of Jesus Christ to them. My mission president told me, 'You're a legend here. No one has ever baptized like you.' That's because I knew the difference between light and darkness. I want something done about the darkness in this stake. If I need to go to Salt Lake myself, then I'll go, but I want the lights to be turned on."

Fulton answered, "I don't disagree with what you're saying. I've got five kids. If one of my kids is molested, it'll be a terrible thing. I pray every day and every night that they'll be safe. But if it happens, I hope I've established a relationship with my children so that they'll come to me. This isn't a reflection on your father, but the Church has been encouraging us to do that for years." He also complained that he was getting contradictory reports from members and the police. He didn't know who to believe.

Angrily Scott charged: "You're the leader here. Where's the spirit of discernment? You should be telling us what the Lord wants done here, and all you can say is that you don't know who to believe or that you need more evidence."

The meeting ended on an intense note as Scott quoted scriptures and warned them the blood of future victims would be on their hands. Scott and Steve left frustrated at what they perceived as stonewalling. They felt that the stake presidency perceived them as enemies and were still protecting abusers. The stake presidency apparently had no plans to provide information to parents about warning signs of child abuse, to provide training to ward leaders, or to enlist the help of LDS Social Service workers or community professionals in defusing the rumor-driven situation. They also did not share any plans or even general assurances about attempts to limit Stan Powell's access to youth. The rather chilling statement that Powell needed "an opportunity to condemn himself" seemed to suggest a willingness to expose unwarned youth to his attentions to see what he would do. From this point on, the McCallisters, frustrated and upset, began to wonder if Fulton had personal reasons for defending Powell.

The stake presidency held a high council court on 30 March 1994 for Stan Powell. Ironically, it was the date originally scheduled for Merradyth's court, until she had requested a different judge. The fact that the court was held was closely guarded; it was months later when the McCallisters learned from someone who had been present that Powell had been excommunicated--for the indecent exposure, not for sexually abusing Scott. Furthermore, the stake president would not confirm or deny to the McCallisters what action if any had been taken against Powell, even though the General Handbook of Instructions gives the stake presidency considerable leeway in deciding whether other members of the Church need to be warned against "predators." The message again, as the McCallisters heard it, was that Powell was worth protecting. Scott and boys like him were not.

At about this time, Jack had an experience that was both reassuring and chastening. Boiling with frustration, he was able to identify that at least part of his rage was anger at God. "I prayed to him just as directly as I'd talk to a man and I said, 'When will you get off your butt and help us help these children--if you're there?' And the still small voice said, 'I have. I've sent you, didn't I?"' Jack was shocked at the directness of the answer but did not back down: "Well, then, you'd better send a lot more help because this is more than I can handle." To that, there was no response. Then Jack got an idea.

Ernest Istook, the Oklahoma Congressman, was a Mormon and had been a family friend since 1985. Surely he would have a national perspective, not only on the issue of childhood abuse but also on the importance of the Church's actions. Jack and Merradyth faxed him a copy of their letter to President Hinckley, the first copy they had made for anyone else. The reception was a chilly question: "Why are you faxing me this?" Jack, taken aback and feeling foolish, stammered, "We thought you would want to know--as a friend, as a Congressman, and as a father."

On 4 April 1994, Jack again tried to enlist Istook's aid, only to find him cold. Jack later learned that Istook made a low-profile visit to Channel 4 station managers to "set the record straight" that the Church was not involved in child abuse. The McCallisters could not help wondering if "someone from Salt Lake" had asked Istook to intervene. Jack typed up his notes from the interview later:

Istook's major concerns about the recent media attention were:

He felt [that] ... "Are the Children Lying?" damaged the good name of the Mormon Church by focusing on one particular denomination with no proof of involvement or a disclaimer.
... The average person who watched the program drew a negative conclusion about the Church.
He has no intention of taking sides with any of the personalities involved, only to set the record straight [that] the doctrine of the Mormon Church is in no way linked to Satanism.
He is not aware of any ritualistic child abuse taking place anywhere among church members or anywhere else. He is not familiar with the subject because there has been no reason to be. No one has brought the problem to his attention.
... As the stake mission president [then his church calling], ... he felt [that] the message received by the general public ... had an adverse effect on missionary activity....
Law enforcement officials have had months to investigate the matter and there have been no arrests, nor does he expect any.
The problem with information coming from the media rather than the organization itself is [that] anything having to do with sex becomes sensationalized.
Because no other church was mentioned by name, the viewing public was influenced to believe the situation described not only existed but was unique to members of the Mormon Church. By including the taped interview with Charles Manson and other criminal deviants, it gave a visual impression that they were, in some way, linked to the Church or its doctrine.
"One source" accusations don't carry much validity; and in the case of a bitter divorce and a child custody battle, they carry even less. Children usually don't make good witnesses because they are too young to be believed and too easily manipulated by others.

Istook explained how the Mormon Church functions regarding matters of sexual abuse allegations, although he did not say how he knew this:

Specifically, the Church is not equipped to investigate leaders or members accused of perpetrating child sexual abuse.
The responsibility to conduct such investigations belongs to law enforcement officials who are professionally trained to respond. If there is enough evidence, the case is processed through the judicial system, not the media.
Normally the Church does not investigate or take any action until after a criminal prosecution is completed. Otherwise, confidentiality is violated by disclosing any information gained by the Church investigation. The action that it takes is to help the perpetrator to repent.
A perpetrator and a victim are accorded the same basic consideration and with the same spirit of love. Both are entitled to the right of confidentiality. Church action is considered to be penitent, not punitive. A perpetrator is encouraged to repent and the victim is encouraged to forgive.
In cases whe[re] the perpetrator does not willingly confess guilt, [where] no convincing evidence is available, and [where] there is only one victim involved, the matter remains unresolved until other witnesses come forward or there is more evidence. In the meantime, the victim has no procedure available within the Church to confront the perpetrator. However, if [a] Church disciplinary council is convened, then the perpetrator has the right to confront the one victim in self defense.
If a child molester is discovered within the Church membership, the right of confidentiality is still honored. No disclosure is ever made public as to the nature of the offense. A member's right to know when a child may be in danger does not justify making the information common knowledge.
Destroying personal reputations is not the Church's solution to dealing with sexual abuse issues. Publicly exposing a perpetrator by name embarrasses all those involved, including innocent family members.

He added that the best prevention for sexual abuse is for parents to "properly train children in the home to be aware," "watch their children closely," and "develop a close relationship with their children so they are able to talk about things before they happen and discern when the child may be in danger."

Jack's response to this lecture was blunt: "Lots of people think we're trying to destroy the good name of the Church. Our concern is to protect the children. Our concern as citizens is to find an objective way to investigate it. The children will never have an advocate if, every time something happens, someone steps up and says, 'We can't look into this because we've got to protect the good name of the Church.' Well, the name of the Church is the Savior's name. And that name may be on the building; but if the people inside the building aren't taking care of the little children, he'll be the first to say, 'My name can take care of itself."'

Jack and Merradyth had written to the Oklahoma Bar Association on 3 March, asking how Stan Powell could still be practicing law. On 19 April 1994, they received a letter from its general counsel saying that the bar association "will take no action until any pending criminal investigation and prosecution is complete." The association would "continue to monitor this situation," he said, "and requests that you provide notification of any further action taken by either the respective police departments or church authorities."4

Merradyth and Jack remained convinced that they should use all means available to them to express their concerns and that their silence would benefit only the perpetrators. On 26 March 1994, they sent a formal "Release of Confidentiality" notice to President Fulton: "We hereby authorize and encourage the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to release any and all information to media representatives pertaining to accusations of apostasy to be defended at the Church disciplinary council and results of same." President Fulton, meanwhile, remained convinced that their insistence on speaking in public was evidence that their main motive was to embarrass the Church. It was a deadlock that neither could break.

Mary and Nelson Plourde, like other members of the stake who had expressed support for Jack and Merradyth, were summoned to a meeting with the stake presidency in early March. Mary recalls:

President Fulton said I was distributing pornography. I corrected him calmly: "I was distributing police records and court documents. I gave copies to a girl to give to her mother, because she has a teenage boy. I didn't intend for the girl to read it, and I don't think she did read it, but her father started claiming that I was exposing his daughter to pornography."

Fulton dropped that accusation and went on to his next point. "You're punishing innocent people," said Fulton.

I responded, "I think it is the children who are innocent. And I want the authorities to stop hiding perpetrators and to start protecting moms and children."

When President Fulton threatened to hold a court on me, I said, "When the voice we've been given to protect our children is invalidated, my rights are extinguished. So are the children's rights to be protected. What man of God would care more about the image of a child molester than about the child who has been molested? My Constitutional rights to free speech are on the line."

President Fulton replied, "Those laws have no effect on us in here."

"I have no freedom of speech, no freedom of the press, no freedom of assembly?" I asked incredulously.

"Not once you walk through these doors," he said. "Those laws out there don't apply in here."

Mary did not report the question of a local police sergeant who had been investigating their allegations: "Why doesn't Salt Lake just come out here and clean up Silver Ward?"

Mary summarized, "Basically, they're saying, 'You hush up or we'll smack you around.' And I'm saying, 'If you think you can take away my Constitutional rights, we've got a bigger fight than you think we have. If I have to give up my Constitutional rights to be a Mormon, I won't be a Mormon.'"

They kept saying, "What do you want us to do with Powell?" And I kept saying, "For starters, he needs some help, and you need to make the parents aware that their children are in danger." And they said, "We can't do that."

They wanted me to outline what I considered a good scenario for them. I wouldn't play that game. I said, "That's not my problem. That's yours. And you're trying to solve it by making me shut up. You want me to cease and desist when you haven't done a thing about the injured children."

President Fulton's face turned purple. Arnie Clinton said, "You just told us that you were willing to forgive him."

I explained it again: "I have no anger or malice toward Powell, but he's still going to be judged by an angry God, and you guys are enabling him and are fostering his behavior."

Finally, about 10:30 or midnight, I threw in the towel and said, "You're going to excommunicate me so let's get on with it."

Mary stopped attending church. After she had stayed away for about three weeks, she received a visit from Earl Harrison, the counselor in the ward bishopric, whom the Hales children had said was present during their abuse after she had stayed away from church was three weeks. He was accompanied by a stake officer.

Harrison wanted to know why I didn't bring Nicole [Mary's youngest daughter] back to the nursery. Not why I wasn't there, but why Nicole wasn't there.

I said, "Earl, there's no way. I don't ever put my kids in nursery unless I'm there. She doesn't need to be in the nursery for two hours when she can be with us."

He pretended to be amazed. "What can happen to a child in two and a half hours?" he asked. The question was an insult because I knew he had been named in the court records. I just wanted him to leave. I felt so violated by their pompous attitudes. They hadn't asked if they could come in the first place. They'd called Nelson at work and said they were meeting with us at our house at such and such a time. Nelson and I talked about it and decided to let them come so we could get it over with.

Then they launched into a lecture of "counsel." They told us not to stir up trouble, to come back to church, to stop criticizing the leaders. I felt so alienated from them. I told Harrison, "There's no place in that chapel where my children are safe." If I'd been really brave I would have added, "And you're one of the people they're not safe from."

They sat in our living room and did this number: "We love you, you're great, you're supposed to love us, let's wipe out this problem."

I said very bluntly, "The problem is you've got child sexual abuse in your ward and cult activity and my children are not going back to that church."

Mary received a letter from President Leon Fulton dated 22 April 1994, informing her that a high council court would be convened "because you are reported to be guilty of conduct unbecoming a member of the Church and of actions which have not only adversely affected the good name of the Church but also the good names, lives, and testimonies of the members." The disciplinary council was set for Tuesday, 3 May. Mary said she felt "very, very calm. I feel that God has prepared me for this." On 28 April, she faxed a letter to the First Presidency, citing the General Handbook of Instructions about her right to an impartial judge, and requested a new presiding officer: "It is my adamant opinion that Fulton lacks the ability to be impartial on my behalf in determining the true facts of the matter relating to the charge of apostasy of which he has personally accused me." She gave the request to Bishop Hancock who forwarded it "up the line." Like Merradyth, she received word that the disciplinary council would be postponed. Then there was a long silence.

Ironically, when she saw two men at her door, she was so sure that they were delivering the letter about her court that she didn't want to answer it. It turned out they were two undercover policemen investigating a break-in in the neighborhood. "It's pretty sad when you're happier to see the police than you are to see men from your church," she commented.

Ritual child sexual abuse was a major two-hour session at a Public Awareness of Victim Experience conference in Bethany on 24 April 1994. Advance publicity--Merradyth and Mary both worked to promote the conference--no doubt was a factor in making President Fulton decide to schedule Mary's disciplinary council. Greg Reid, director of Occult Research and Crime Consultants in El Paso, conducted this workshop on "ritual child abuse, mind control, and getting beyond denial." Reid is a "survivor of satanic ritual abuse." The workshop included a panel consisting of KFOR-TV investigative reporter Brad Edwards, a detective from the Edmond Police Department, and adult survivor Marsha Eden.

In an interview conducted on Monday, 30 April, and published Wednesday, 2 May 1994, Leon Fulton responded to the publicity about the abuse conference. He "vehemently disputed claims that Satanic rituals were being performed by leaders of a Surrey Hills church" but simultaneously downplayed it: "'We'll survive this. When a church, prominent organization or prominent individual gets tied into something like this, it catches people's attention."' Canadian County's Department of Human Services was investigating six cases of alleged child abuse in the ward, but Fulton quoted the investigator as saying "'it appears frivolous."' He protested, "'Even if they're proven innocent those parents are still on a list saying they've been investigated for child abuse. It's sad people have to be put through this. ... I think [the McCallisters] feel their intentions are good, but I think this has consumed them. ... For the therapists and supporters of this, there is no day of accountability. The authorities have followed up on every lead they can, and they have found no evidence. It is not fair."'

He also complained that Mothers Against Sexual Abuse (MASA), which had announced plans to interview "dozens" of alleged victims, "has never contacted church leaders regarding these alleged acts." He also claimed that the incidents recorded in Glenn Pace's memo had been "investigated and found to be unsubstantiated. ... 'It's not that [ritual abuse] isn't happening to someone, somewhere,' Fulton said. 'But not on this scale."' He suggested that there was "'no real evidence"' for any of the incidents Pace reported but that the memo had received widespread publicity because it "'was leaked to groups with things against the church." He also downplayed Scott McCallister's allegations as "only sexual molestation," not ritual abuse, and "even those claims, Fulton noted, were questionable since the alleged victim only described hugging, kissing, and massage--but nothing beyond that."

Fulton concluded: "'I do not have any evidence that I could sit here and tell you there was not abuse at sometime by someone. As far as the people that have been implicated, I know those people--and they are good people. ... Our leadership changes constantly, and my responsibility is to oversee the bishops. ... There are so many checks and balances in the leadership of the church, and it's extremely unlikely that something like this could go on without anyone knowing about it. We don't try to get around the law. ... The Church will never interfere with the legal process--we won t supplant the law. We have tried to work with the authorities, and I feel like the police have been very fair and thorough."'5

Shortly after midnight on Sunday morning, May 1, Mary got up and wrote a five-page open letter on flowered stationery to concerned parents, teachers, and leaders.

April 30, 1994
Bethany, OK 73008

To all children everywhere:

To the concerned parents, to their caring teachers, to the American public, and Mormon leaders unaware:

How can I begin to explain the priesthood abuse being heaped upon the Oklahoma City Park Stake to hide the wickedness of a few sick, power-greedy, "secret abominations" activists called Church leaders? When one of them perpetrates [abuse against] a child or a youth (usually in their own family first, then going on to abuse trusting little LDS children they'll find conveniently in their neighborhood and certainly in the walls of the ward meetinghouse, WHO WILL LISTEN to the CHILDREN? ...

There is a quick band-aid cover-up and a hush-up. These cover-ups are almost perfectly orchestrated by the most pious-acting of the spiritually dead, [posing] day to day as human beings but helping to hide the glaring obvious monster...

The little children are still crying, but monsters rage so loudly and far from the sensitivity of young children [that] they never hear their cries. They cannot believe sexual abuse hurts!

I direct this letter to children everywhere ... on God's earth. I pray for you, that you may have courage and the comfort of the Holy Ghost to hold you up. When big people do horrible things to your spirit, body, and mind, Jesus is not happy with them. Jesus said, "Amen to that man's priesthood." Your body is your gift from Heavenly Father. No one has the right to touch you, not at Church or at school, or at home. ... Tell your best grown-up friend, someone you can trust. Parents, teachers, bishops, uncles, neighbors, Sunday School teachers, principals, or Scout leaders cannot make you do sex.

I will listen to you.

You may write me.

You may call me.

I live in Oklahoma. I have six beautiful children. I try to listen to everything they tell me. ...

Our bishop loves us. I hope your bishop truly loves you in the way Jesus Christ does.

Your friend and sister,

Mary Snow Plourde

She finished about 3:30 AM, then went peacefully to sleep. At 6:00 she woke up with a clear message, "Now call Bishop Hancock." It seemed like a strange thing to do, although she had no doubt about the source of the prompting. She explains:

Bishop Hancock hadn't been allowed to counsel us or get to the bottom of this business because the stake president has usurped his power. He's a personal friend and a very nice person, also an attorney. He's been a member of the Church for less than ten years. When Scott told him what had happened, his first reaction was, "It's time to hush." I said, "Neal, you know in a situation like this we're going to have to turn all the stones and beat all the bushes. I'm not going to beat the members up but you're going to hear the paper flying."

He said, "I know that's right. But I can't handle this. I don't even know what's going on. They only give me jurisdiction over the Relief Society and the youth. This is totally out of my hands."

So I called Bishop Hancock. He gave me this big hello and I said, "Were you aware that I'm getting disciplinary action Tuesday night?" There was a long silence.

"Well, yes."

"Do you know why?" Another long pause followed. Finally he said, "Well, we can't be hurting innocent people."

I said, "Well, they're already hurt and the guilty are being protected. What I'm doing is delivering court documents and police records into the hands of people who didn't know about them. I don't organize rallies. I don't go on TV. I just talk to people one on one, like I am talking to you. What you're doing is hiding the perpetrator. The stake leaders would like us to hush and shush. They tell us that it's not our business what happens in church courts. They say the priesthood is in charge. It has things under control. It will make the decisions. I don't believe that. These are our children. This is women's business, too."

He said, "That's correct. You're right."

I continued: "This isn't a suspicion. If I'm a kindergarten teacher and I see cigarette burns or bruises, I am wrong in the eyes of the law and certainly in the eyes of God if I don't try to protect those children. Not only are you these children's bishop, but you should be a concerned citizen, as a father."

"That' s true." I guess I called Bishop Hancock to repentance. I told him, "If you do not speak out for these children now, if you don't turn this in, call it what it is, then you will be prosecuted along with these guys. We both will."

Because of Mary's appeal for a more impartial judge, she, like Merradyth, was informed that Bishop Hancock would conduct the disciplinary council. But the long stretch, while they heard nothing, was an added irritant to the ordeal.

Endnotes (Click the Back button to return to the reference):

1Knott as a bishop had been "legendary" among the youth for asking sexually explicit questions during worthiness interviews. One young woman refused to be interviewed unless her father was present. The youth sarcastically nicknamed him "Bishop Triple-X" because of the types of questions he asked, and his motto was, "You're not worthy until I say you're worthy."

2Conrad Dudderar, "Mormon Church Mulls Action Against Accuser," Yukon Review, 16 March 1994, 1.

3As discussed in Chapter 14, no corroborating evidence of an "investigation" is publicly available.

4Dan Murdock, general counsel for the Oklahoma Bar Association, Letter to Jack and Merradyth McCallister, 19 April 1994, with copy to Stanley Dennis Powell.

5Conrad Dudderar, "Ritual Abuse Claims 'Not Fair,' Church Leader Says," Yukon Review, 2 March 1994, 1-2.