Thursday, January 7, 2016

Spiritual sexual predators

I read a very intriguing article titled “How To Spot A Spiritual Sexual Predator” and I couldn’t help but recognize a few of the tactics used by people in positions of spiritual/religious authority.

The piece is primarily addressed to women of the Jewish faith but also freely offered to “other women too.” While I don’t know that much about some of the new-age philosophies the author mentions, I’ve certainly seen my share of sexual predators in the LDS community who use their priesthood and/or related callings to not only mask their behavior but even to justify it.

The last example in the article was evocative—at least to me—of a tactic I’ve seen used by some LDS men that should raise a red flag for any woman who is subjected to it: Playing the “personal revelation” card, wherein an ostensibly worthy priesthood holder tries to convince the object of his affection—obsession?—that they should date/be together/get married because it was “revealed” to him that it should be so.

Photo illustration by the author, derived from images
 courtesy of
digidreamgrafix, Rawich and stock images at
The nature of the “revelation” doesn’t matter. It could be a dream they had, or a casual reverie (the perceived mechanism of the “revelation” is inconsequential). Of course the very idea of being romantically involved with the woman he’s trying to court is going to give the “revelator” a “warm and fuzzy” feeling—it’s the thing that he wants the most. How could the possibility of fulfilling his most selfish desire not seem like a brilliant idea that would solve all of his problems and make him happy?

It’s not a huge leap to rationalize “warm and fuzzy” into “burning in the bosom.”

This stratagem plays on the LDS doctrine of continuing revelation from God but blatantly ignores some key tenets of the faith, in particular that one is only entitled to receive revelation relating to the things or the people that they have stewardship over. A prophet can receive revelation for the Church, a Stake President can receive revelation for his stake, a Bishop for his Ward, a parent for their family, an individual for themselves, etc.

To say that one “had a personal revelation” concerning themselves and another person completely ignores the fact that they have absolutely no stewardship over the other person, has no authority over them and thus has no right to offer—or more accurately dictate—any sort of unsolicited “advice” or “counsel.” Especially where they’re personal life and eternal salvation is concerned.

The very act of sharing this fantasy and couching it in revelatory terms is manipulative, unethical and immoral and it puts a great deal of pressure on the woman to “honor” the “revelation” (which she is supposed to infer is the will of God) by acquiescing to what the guy wants. Not only does it show, at the very least, a lack of understanding—and at most a blatant disregard—of how and why personal revelation can be received, it relies on the woman being pursued to also lack that understanding and forget that she is just as entitled to personal revelation about who she spends her time and eternity with. In the face of such a blatant attempt to manipulate her through her core beliefs, receiving her own revelation about the individual pursuing her may not even be necessary. Common sense and a cautious attitude will be enough for her to know that this attempt at wooing her through spiritual buzz words is a clear invitation for her to move on.

It’s unfortunate that for all the would-be “revelators” who think God is pointing them in the direction of every crush they encounter, there are a handful of naive young women who, for whatever reasons, have been brought up to put priesthood holders on a pedestal, undervalue their self-worth and to subjugate their free will in the hope of becoming sealed to an eternal companion at the earliest possible moment.

As for my thoughts on personal revelation where potentially romantic relationships are concerned—especially when it’s a single man looking for a companion—if one ever imagines being with someone that they think they’re in love with and this daydream seems incredibly vivid and powerful, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a “vision” or “revelatory” in nature. Most of the time, it’s most likely just very intense wishful thinking. If one thinks that it might have revelatory potential, don’t talk about it! The wise and patient thing to do is to just keep those thoughts to oneself and see how things play out. One should never try to force anyone or any situation to conform to an imaginary ideal.

As I read the article, I had to ask myself, “Have I ever been guilty of any of these behaviors?” Especially when I was single and still dating? To the degree that they were described in the post, No. But, to be completely honest, I think I have indeed employed some of these practices in more subtle ways. Thankfully, they got me nowhere and I learned to just be honest and not try to hide my flaws and that has made all the difference in my interpersonal relationships, especially the one that I share with my beautiful wife.