Wendy and the Lost Girls
by Karin Anderson England
Honorable Mention in the 2000 Affirmation Writing Contest. This article was pulled from internet archives and was originally published in 2000. Some edits and updates have been made to the original text. It’s possible information this article treats as current is out-of-date and readers are encouraged to verify with more recent sources. If you believe an update should be made to this text, please let us know.
Abstract: This essay is an examination, with commentary, on the text of a suit filed by the “Citizens of Nebo School District for Moral and Legal Values” against a Utah high school teacher and coach, Wendy Weaver, who “came out” as a lesbian in 1997. Matthew Hilton, a local lawyer, and activist, assisted the group in compiling ten counts against Weaver and petitioning for summary judgment. Although the Citizens’ document is in many ways reflective of national anti-gay prosecution, it also bears highly distinctive marks of Mormon cultural perceptions and anxieties. Hilton’s imagery portrays a spectral lesbian sect in a striking inversion of the Mormon institution, complete with secret initiatory rites, a two-by-two missionary force, a female hierarchy of authority, and indications of polygamy. The Citizens’ document is, among other things, an artifact of contemporary Mormon culture, an example of one culture’s fears of its own spectral likeness.
The rural city of Spanish Fork, Utah, is home to a deeply conservative Mormon majority population and to a lesbian high school teacher and former volleyball coach named Wendy Weaver. Ms. Weaver and her partner, Rachael Smith, are both former Latter-Day Saints themselves. In 1997, after an accumulation of related events, Wendy Weaver openly acknowledged her sexual and emotional preference for women, as well as the “marital-like” status of her relationship with Ms. Smith. This acknowledgment promptly led to Principal Robert Wadley’s decision to “relieve” Weaver of her duties as Spanish Fork High School women’s volleyball coach. It also precipitated a memo from Almon Mosher, Nebo District’s director of human resources, prohibiting Weaver from discussing her sexual orientation with “students, staff members, or parents of students” in the school district (these details are documented in the Jenkins Ruling, Federal Case 2:97-CV-819J, November 1998). Violation of this order would, according to the memo, result in the termination of Weaver’s teaching position. As rural circumstances would have it, “students, staff members, (and) parents of students” constituted nearly everyone in Nebo County, including her own partner, children, and personal friends; Weaver eventually responded with a lawsuit, aided by the ACLU. Weaver contested that her constitutional right to free speech had been violated and that her job had been unjustly curtailed and threatened.
That same year, a local lawyer named Matthew Hilton and a Nebo District mother named Roxanne Barney rallied a group of citizens to form an ad hoc activist group to prosecute Wendy Weaver on ten allegations of “inappropriate behavior.” Hilton, a renowned conservative legal activist in Utah, donated his time and expertise to the group, soliciting and collecting hundreds of pages of affidavits from Weaver’s students and former students, and consolidating his “findings” in a ponderous document submitted to the Utah Fourth District Court. The group, self-titled “Citizens of Nebo School District for Moral and Legal Values,” called for the court to make a “declaratory judgment” in their behalf (Citizens’ Document, 1997, 6), determining “whether or not” their ten allegations against Weaver could be construed as prosecutable in further proceedings.
In the process of enumerating the ten counts against Wendy Weaver, the Citizens’ document also builds an elaborate spectral construction of lesbianism by repeatedly leading its readers to specific points of imaginative departure, then allowing distinctive threads of Mormon culture and psyche to complete the suggestion. “The details are quite graphic,” a member of the Citizens’ group informed me before I read the document. But within the actual text, explicit details of sexual activity are nonexistent. The imagery and resulting implications that the reader can conjure as a result of the document’s insinuations, however, are graphic, and likely to spring up with remarkable consistency among Mormon respondents.
This essay is structured primarily in relation to the Citizens’ Document as an artifact of contemporary Mormon culture. The effect of the document on a (faithful or unfaithful) reader steeped in L.D.S. ways of thinking culminates in an emotionally clear but liminally articulated image of a perverse, reverse sect of proselyting lesbian zealots bent on seducing converts. Anti-homosexual propaganda in the United States at large, of course, portrays gays and lesbians as active recruiters, but the implications of the Hilton document bring a new twist to an old theme: the terror generated by Hilton’s imagery comes from the clear implication that this clandestine lesbian sect is a nearly perfect inversion of the Mormon church, complete with secret initiatory rites, an organized two-by-two missionary force, an insatiable passion for conversions, a (counterfeit, female) hierarchy of authority, and, perhaps most frightening of all, potent indications of polygamy. For a Mormon audience, the mirroring that occurs is frightening not in its strangeness but in its familiarity.
By the end of 1998, Weaver’s ACLU case against Nebo District had been ruled by Federal Judge Bruce Jenkins in her favor. In addition, the Citizens’ case was dismissed in Utah’s Fourth District by Judge Ray Harding, with the cooperation of Matthew Hilton, who at the time of the dismissal announced his plans to take the complaint to the Utah Supreme Court. As the situation stands, Weaver retains her position as a psychology teacher at Spanish Fork High, but has voluntarily relinquished her position as volleyball coach. The Citizens of Nebo School District for Moral and Legal Values are apparently regrouping for appeal on this issue.
My interest in the Citizens’ case remains fundamentally irrelevant to whether it proceeds to the Supreme Court. At least for the purposes of this essay, I am more intrigued by the ways the document portrays the attitude of Utah Valley conservative Mormons toward a self-identified lesbian woman in their midst. Further, I am interested in the ways a legal action might proceed against any educator deemed by popular local opinion to be in opposition to majority values.1
Having said this, I do not want to assert that the Citizens group is an accurate reflection of every believing Mormon in Utah Valley. Like any apparently homogeneous regional, political, or religious group, Latter-Day Saints, even in their cultural enclaves, are often diverse and individually complex. However, because the Citizens’ document draws heavily from politically conservative and peculiarly Mormon assumptions, I am willing to own as one thesis of this paper that the language and reasoning of the Citizen’s suit are consciously and unconsciously designed to produce maximum emotional impact upon Utah Valley’s numerous L.D.S. citizens. This essay is, fundamentally, a response to a close reading of the Citizens’ legal complaint filed against Wendy Weaver in the Fourth District Court, and a catalog of my observations of the document as an example of one culture’s fears of its own spectral likeness.
Although I have attended primarily to the text of the Citizens’ document, I have not resisted occasional temptations to consult Weaver and Smith personally regarding their responses to particular allegations, nor to consult members of the ACLU or the Citizens’ group. I do not propose to cover the case as reportage; rather, I am concerned with a particular line of critical textual interpretation, focused on the document filed by Matthew Hilton et al. While my six-generation Mormon background allows me a certain unique access to the cultural assumptions informing Hilton’s document, it may as well hinder my ability to read the text objectively, in ways I may not recognize. Although I no longer consider myself to be a Latter-Day Saint, I maintain strong emotional ties, negative and positive, to my “ethnic” identity. As a result, I am certainly willing to acknowledge that my interest in the document goes beyond mere academic inquiry.
In this essay, I will discuss elements of official and/or popular Mormon belief which I see as key to revealing major implications of Hilton’s text. I will briefly expand upon the history of events surrounding the Weaver case, and then proceed with a deeper textual analysis and commentary in regard to the Citizens’ official complaint / Request for Declaratory Judgment as filed in the Utah Fourth District Court.
Some Background on Contemporary Mormon Culture and Belief
4 When a messenger comes saying he has a message from God, offer him your hand and request him to shake hands with you.
5 If he be an angel he will do so, and you will feel his hand.
. . .
8 If it be the devil as an angel of light, when you ask him to shake hands he will offer you his hand, and you will not feel anything; you may therefore detect him.
(Latter-Day Saint Doctrine and Covenants, Section 129)
Approximately ninety percent of Spanish Fork’s eighteen thousand citizens are more or less active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, commonly referred to as the “Mormon” Church. The top administrative office of the L.D.S. Church recently contributed 1.1 million dollars to the successful Hawaiian and Alaskan campaigns to outlaw same-sex marriages. Currently, the highly organized religion is lobbying against gay marriage in California on a more grassroots level, privately soliciting hefty contributions from its members toward supporting the Knight Initiative and, in church meetings, encouraging its members to vote in favor of the anti-gay-marriage bill. An institution devoted to worldwide evangelism and to the eternal preservation of patriarchal family values, the Mormon church zealously preaches its position as the “only true and living church on the face of the earth,” portraying itself as a bastion of revealed and uncorrupted truth in competition for souls against innumerable counterfeit messengers and organizations.
I think it is fair to say that living in “Truth,” according to Mormon doctrine, is both a simple and intricate affair. Simple because it entails straightforward obedience to the very explicit teachings of ordained and highly organized leaders of the Mormon church. Complex because individual members must function in a world which demands subtle everyday discriminations between truth and falsehood, good and evil. In the Mormon universe, Satan is an indefatigable enemy of God and “The Church,” occupying himself with grand and small deceptions of God’s mortal children. Most desirable to Satan are the souls of the righteous, who must be led astray in careful, nearly indiscernible increments, who might in this way be conquered despite their vigilance. The more nearly a worldly practice or principle resembles revealed Mormon doctrine, then, the more potentially dangerous it becomes as a seductive and calculated apparition of truth.
Obviously, this mentality is not exclusive to Mormonism. Stephen Greenblatt describes a Renaissance religious phenomenon of individual or institutional “self-fashioning . . . achieved in relation to something perceived as alien, strange, or hostile” (1980, 9). Protestant and Catholic leaders, defending their positions in a period of dramatic religious uncertainty and upheaval, consistently portrayed rival doctrines and institutions as alien influences in familiar garb. “This threatening Other—heretic, savage, witch, adulteress, traitor, Antichrist—must be discovered or invented in order to be attacked and destroyed” (1980, 9) (italics in this paragraph mine).
“Dangerous” elements are, within a purist mindset, often difficult to discern without the aid of special authority or sensitivity. A group which defines itself as separate, or wishes to be transcendent, is inevitably prone to paranoia regarding outside infiltration. The apparent resemblances of the alien “other” to familiar “self’ are often, in such a case, explained in terms of malevolent imitation versus purity and authenticity.
This tendency is alive and well in Mormonism, a distinctly American sect which defines itself against Catholicism and Protestantism both. Mormon doctrine portrays the Catholic church as a degenerate version of an originally sanctioned Truth, now bereft of authority; Protestantism as a well-intentioned but strictly human attempt to rectify the apostate disaster; itself as a “restoration” of divine Truth and Authority literally brought back to mortals through direct communication from God, his son Jesus Christ, and sanctioned heavenly emissaries. The Mormon doctrinal reliance on direct authoritative revelation underscores a theological emphasis on legitimacy, inevitably generating a parallel preoccupation with imposture. Within such a theology, human experience becomes highly unreliable, and within Mormonism, must be so in order to test the obedience and faith of God’s children. The central purpose of mortal existence is to demonstrate one’s resilience and integrity in a divinely-designed endurance test, so to speak. The temporal world is a controlled2 environment in which human souls “prove” the strength of their pre-mortal commitment to obey God’s will. Mormon doctrine states that humans lived as identifiable, individual entities with God before their birth into mortality. During this “pre-mortal existence,” each of God’s children either chose 1) to follow God’s plan for ultimate salvation via correct choices in an environment of free will, or 2) defected to Satan’s side, favoring his proposal to coerce righteousness on earth and thereby guarantee a full return. Those who chose God’s plan are human beings who have been or will be born on earth. Those who followed Satan remain unembodied spirits, let loose among mortals to tempt them away from righteousness if they can. The experience of mortality, then, becomes a test of one’s true commitment to God, a demonstration of personal integrity and obedience in a veiled setting fraught with spiritual hazards. While God and goodness control the destiny of the creation as a whole, God will not–or can not–interfere in the individual agency of any particular individual.3
It is not difficult to understand, in light of such claims, the potent Mormon fear of counterfeiture, the easy slip of the unaided human heart and mind into deception. Ironically (or maybe predictably), the doctrinal insistence on God’s stand-back-and-see policy seems to generate an institutional tendency to panic. Rather than producing a clergy preoccupied with protecting the right to individual discernment and agency, Mormon doctrine seems to have produced, at least at this point in the institution’s history, a highly authoritarian organization. The official church’s emphasis on the indistinguishability between goodness and malevolence generates an attitude that only God and his appointed leaders can discern truth from dangerous apparition. Such an attitude inevitably generates a highly institutionalized system of power and discipline, rigid structures of institutional self-protection, and a deep (and increasingly doctrinal) paranoia regarding threats to its own authority.
Greenblatt describes this institutional fear of sabotage in relation to Renaissance constructions of alien opposition, but I think it applies remarkably well to a mindset that thrives in contemporary conservatism, and, in some unique manifestations, Mormonism:
The alien is perceived by the authority either as that which is unformed or chaotic (the absence of order) or that which is false or negative (the demonic parody of order). Since accounts of the former tend inevitably to organize and thematize it, the chaotic constantly slides into the demonic, and consequently the alien is always constructed as a distorted image of the authority. (1980, 9)
According to this logic, the most dangerous and insidious evils may be those which look most familiar, integral,- and innocuous. Because their evil is apparent and fundamentally foreign, hookers in a smoky Las Vegas casino, or men in drag marching in a gay rights parade, may seem less threatening to the average orthodox Mormon than a middle-aged, well-liked high school volleyball coach, mother of two, living in a “marital-like” relationship in Spanish Fork, Utah. One parent at an anti-Weaver meeting in Spanish Fork was reported to have stated, “The most frightening part of this is that she seems like such a good person.” This kind of logic, of course, privileges ideology over experience, dogma over circumstance.
Latter-Day Saints are taught that those who value their own judgment above that of the men called to official positions in the church may find themselves in a vortex of spiritual peril. “Men begin to apostatize by taking to themselves strength,” says Brigham Young, quoted in the 1998-99 adult instruction manual, “by hearkening to the whisperings of the enemy who leads them astray little by little, until they gather to themselves that which they call the wisdom of man; then they begin to depart from God, and their minds become confused” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church, 1997, 81-82).
A more contemporary and specific elaboration of this warning came from Elder Boyd K. Packer in 1995, in an address to the managers of the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City. “The three chief dangers to the church at this time are so-called intellectuals, feminists, and gay rights advocates,” Packer stated, all of which, to an unsuspecting mind, could certainly appear harmless or even efficacious. “So-called” intellectuals top Packer’s list, I believe, because they are people who have “tak[en] to themselves strength,” and “gather[ed] to themselves . . . the wisdom of man,” and are therefore likely to spread deception of every variety. “Feminists” challenge, implicitly or explicitly, the patriarchal order of the exclusively male Priesthood and paternal family authority in the Mormon institution.
Latter-Day Saint doctrine is founded on the principle of heterosexual procreation, not only in this life, but, among those who prove themselves worthy, in the eternity following mortality. Exaltation in the hereafter specifically entails a literal and prolific procreative interaction between glorified men and their multiple wives. Polygamy (or, more accurately, polygyny) is often justified in these terms; although the practice has been discontinued in the contemporary Mormon mainstream, popular and official wisdom4 maintain that polygamy is part of the eternal order of Heaven. Procreation is at the heart of the Mormon definition of exaltation. “Gay rights advocates,” in such a scenario, defy God’s intentions in organizing the universe according to the principle of polarized genders.
However, the Mormon sense of homosexuality as perversion goes even deeper. Mormon theology makes a rather exceptional claim that God himself, to be God, must obey principles of truth which antecede him. The essential identities of human spirits are not created by God, but rather have been eternally co-existent with God. God’s part in the creation of human life and habitat was one of facilitation (something like engineering, a science based on the manipulation of natural principles), through obedience to non-originated and irrevocable principles of nature. Gender, according to the virtually scriptural L.D.S. “Proclamation to the World,” is one of these irrevocable principles.5 Creating reproductive males and females was not God’s arbitrary choice, then, but an empowering act of obedience to nature, a force more powerful than God himself.
A Brief History: Citizens of Nebo School District vs. Wendy Weaver
In April of 1997, Wendy Weaver divorced her husband of seventeen years and soon after moved into a new home with Rachael Smith. Smith, mother of four, and Weaver, mother of two, both share custody of their children with their ex-husbands. Weaver’s ex-husband, the Nebo School District Psychologist, was apparently the first to make Ms. Weaver’s sexual orientation public. His communications with colleagues and administrators in the district regarding the matter made Ms. Weaver a subject of conversation in the school and community. Community concern, at least in some sectors, was heightened after Roxanne Barney, a Nebo parent, saw Ms. Weaver and Ms. Smith walking arm-in-arm at a community softball game (Jenkins Document, Federal Ruling, 1998). Weaver’s own affirmation of her sexual orientation occurred in a telephone conversation with one of her veteran team members when Weaver called the student about attending a volleyball camp. The student asked Weaver directly if Weaver was a lesbian. Weaver answered the question truthfully. The student quit the team, saying that she “didn’t want to be exposed to it” (Groutage, “Storm,” 1997).
On 21 July, shortly after this telephone conversation, Weaver was informed by her principal Robert Wadley that she would not be allowed to coach the volleyball team, and on 22 July, Weaver received the memo from Almon Mosher, Nebo District’s director of human resources, prohibiting her from discussing her sexual orientation with “students, staff members, or parents of students” in Nebo School District (Jenkins Document, Federal Ruling, 1998).
At a Nebo School Board meeting in November of 1997, after Weaver had filed her suit with the ACLU and put Nebo officials in a state of supreme caution, Lawyer Matthew Hilton presented the school board with a petition asking that the district require its employees to observe “moral, legal, and healthful values,” values which clearly, in Hilton’s mind, did not include homosexuality. Due to the solicitations of the Citizens’ group, the petition was signed by 2,678 district residents (Egan, 1997).
The Citizens’ suit filed against Wendy Weaver in the Fourth District Court is stamped with the date “Dec 23 9 48 AM ’97.” All ten of its “counts” against Weaver, despite Matthew Hilton’s claim that “This is not a gay issue” (Groutage, “Dismiss,” 1998), are in some way related to her sexual orientation. Although Hilton has repeatedly informed the press that the group does not wish to have Weaver fired from her teaching position, the suit accuses her of behavior “unbecoming of a teacher” and names the State Board of Education as a defendant for not revoking Weaver’s teaching certification, without which Weaver could not maintain her teaching position6. The suit also names as defendants Attorney General of Utah Jan Graham7, Director of Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing Craig Jackson,8 and Utah County Attorney Kay Bryson,9 alleging negligence in exercising their supervisory and prosecutorial responsibilities.
I procured a copy of the document filed against Weaver et al. from the District Court in Provo on 8 October, 1998. At the time, the Citizens’ case was under a ten-day suspension while Judge Ray Harding considered arguments from the ACLU for dropping it entirely. The ten-day suspension lengthened into over a month of no information on the status of the Citizens’ suit.
On Thanksgiving Day, 1998, Utah Valley’s Daily Herald reported on its front page that the federal Tenth District court had ruled in favor of Wendy Weaver in her ACLU action against Nebo School District. In a summary judgment, Judge Bruce Jenkins (articulately and unequivocally) ordered Nebo District to pay the $1,500 in back pay Weaver had requested, to remove the administrative gag orders from Weaver’s personnel files, and to reinstate her as women’s volleyball coach at Spanish Fork High School. Matthew Hilton’s response, as recorded in the Herald the next day, was that the Citizens’ suit against Weaver yet stood, that their case dealt not with free speech, but with “Much more understandable issues,” such as Weaver’s classroom conduct.
In January of 1999, Utah Fourth District Judge Ray Harding dismissed eight of the Citizens’ counts against Weaver, but was still considering the prosecutability of two counts which contained allegations of improper classroom conduct. Apparently at Hilton’s request, Harding dropped these two remaining counts within the week, releasing the case for appeal to Utah’s Supreme Court. At the time of this writing I can only assume that the case is moving in this direction.
The Citizens’ Document as Filed in the Fourth District Court
Ron Hammond, one of the plaintiffs in the Citizens’ document and one of my teaching colleagues at Utah Valley State College, was forthright in a conversation I solicited in his office at the outset of my research. Hammond told me that Matthew Hilton has gained national recognition among conservative activists for his efforts in the Weaver case and has secured the support of the Rutherford Institute, an influential conservative think tank, due to his “innovative” approach to challenging gay rights. Hammond expressed his conviction that whether or not the Weaver case was dropped in the Fourth Circuit, Hilton’s precedent will be highly influential in other same-sex legal cases in the nation’s future. It appears that Matthew Hilton, or at least members of the Citizens group he leads, view the Weaver case as an opportunity to make their points on a larger national scale.
I have no way of judging the level of legal “innovation” occurring in this case (at least outside of its distinctive Mormon trappings), or even the accuracy of Hammond’s predictions regarding Hilton’s influence. But I draw the relevance of Hammond’s statement to this essay in the sense that it points out one thing I believe, too: that although the Citizens’ document is rooted in and aimed at Mormon cultural reactionism (a feature that its originators may or may not concede), it is reflective in many ways of national anti-gay thinking.
It is not possible to know whether or not Matthew Hilton realized the extent of his culturally-founded insinuations as he composed this document. My inclination is to think that for Hilton, as well as for his target audience, the structural imagery is largely unconscious, so deeply rooted in homophobia and traditional Mormon psychology that the effect is gut-level and fundamental. Hilton makes no explicit reference to lesbianism or any form of homosexuality as a sect or a church until paragraph 47 of the Citizens document, at which point the allegation is so oddly couched that it is difficult to believe Hilton is fully aware of his language. I will address paragraph 47 in greater detail toward the end of this essay, since its peculiarities will be more meaningful in the context of Hilton’s preparatory paragraphs.
One striking element throughout Hilton’s document is the repetition of allegations regarding the sexually charged atmosphere of the girls’ locker room. His portrayal of the girls’ locker room as a site of sexual ambiguity and/or transmutation calls to mind Lee Edelman’s discussion of public men’s rooms in “Tearooms and Sympathy: Epistemology of the Water Closet.” In this article, Edelman argues persuasively that in the 1960’s, at the height of the Cold War, men’s rooms became a site invested with American anxiety regarding homosexual proliferation: ” . . [I]n the twentieth-century American social landscape, the institutional men’s room constitutes a site at which the zones of public and private cross with a distinctive psychic charge,” (1994, 158). Edelman asserts, “… [T]he American bathroom in 1964 constituted an unacknowledged ideological battleground in the endless–because endlessly anxious–campaign to shore up ‘masculinity’ by policing the borders at which sexual difference is definitionally produced, the borders at which inside and outside, same and different, self and other are the psychic stakes at risk” (159).
A similarly unarticulated anxiety about the borders of female sexuality in the institutional women’s locker room may, intriguingly, have been generated by Title IX, the landmark federal ruling which required funding for women’s academic sports programs to be equal to men’s. Women’s locker rooms (just like their rest rooms) differ from men’s, of course, in their lack of open urinals. Edelman points out that public urinals, whatever else they might do, display incontestable evidence of physiological maleness. But at the same time they provide natural opportunities for homosexual intrigue. Women’s restrooms, designed with stalls for either eliminatory function, do not figure in Edelman’s essay. Even so, the girls’ locker room in Spanish Fork seems to stir up a great deal of anxiety for those in the Valley who might need to demonize lesbianism. Although a large portion of the Citizens’ document alleges Weaver’s evil influence in the psychology classroom, it is significant that dismissing Weaver from teaching physical education, not psychology, was the immediate and definitive reaction to her step out of the closet. Apparently, in the minds of Nebo administrators, the pressing dangers of lesbian influence occur in places outside the reach of male / heterosexual surveillance, within the enclosure of a “women only” sanctuary. Consider paragraph 12 of the Citizens document, the first item under “Teaching and Coaching History”:
In 1979 Defendant Weaver was certified by the State of Utah as a physical education teacher, and was hired by Nebo School District to work at Spanish Fork High School teaching physical education and coaching the girls volleyball team. I n 1982 she received tenure as a faculty member at Spanish Fork High School where in 1988 she also began teaching psychology. In June 1997 she was relieved of her position as girls volleyball coach. At present she continues to teach psychology and does not teach physical education.
Weaver, who led her team four times to state championships during her coaching career, was “relieved of’ her position as volleyball coach as a result of confirming her same-sex orientation. The implication here is that same-sex orientation “occurs” primarily on a sensual, rather than psychological, level-at the site (sight) of the body rather than through the reach of the mind. That Weaver is unqualified to teach physical education is axiomatic. That she should not be permitted to teach psychology requires more strenuous and convoluted persuasion.
Interestingly, men’s rooms, girls’ locker rooms, and Mormon chapels can be seen to serve similar “sectarian” functions. They are gathering places for specific varieties of people, relatively safe havens for assuming one is with one’s own kind, for performing certain kinds of acts or speech which would be inappropriate in more various company. Ironically, though, it is this appearance of safety that can make such assumptions uneasy, particularly to a mind set prone to conserving the sanctity of categories. The thought of an apparent ‘woman’ (i.e. someone who looks, even in the locker room, like a physiological female), who behaves like a ‘man’ (i.e. is sexually attracted to women) in the midst of physically revealed young females must be a profoundly disturbing image in a community fraught with the fear of apparitions. In this way, the locker room becomes the threshold not of safety, but of the subtle transformation of clarity into confusion.
Not only is the locker room the site of Weaver’s alleged transmutation from public coach to rapacious sexual predator, but it becomes the site of the potential transformation of sexually innocent high school girls into lesbian converts. Sweet girls enter the locker room. Strong, aggressive, and competitive athletes emerge. That no allegation whatsoever of sexual misconduct was ever applied to Weaver in the sixteen years before she “revealed” her sexual orientation, that no explicit allegation of the kind is applied to her even now, seems irrelevant to the “Citizens” and to those who rally their cause. In fact, Weaver’s very invisibility with regard to her sexual “activities” seems to be her indictment. “Something” might happen in the locker room that could set young women off on an alternate course, and the more ineffable it is, the more real and insidious it is perceived to be.
Such thinking generates a document which suggests that Weaver’s guilt is never more evident than when Weaver is obscured, that she is never more transparent than when she is opaque. The frightening power of such reasoning is that it makes Weaver as defendant most vulnerable in the very place she is portrayed as most influential. Much of the “evidence” filed against Weaver comes from affidavits signed by young women who “saw” Weaver’s influence in the locker room or in equivalent settings. The affidavits were produced after Weaver’s identification of herself as lesbian, for the express purpose of showing evidence against her in court, and these statements therefore generate a retroactively ‘knowledgeable” reading of their otherwise ambiguous contents. In such circumstances, the testimony of any young girl who was there when it happened becomes rather more than less credible when it lacks corroboration, because it evidences the magnitude of Weaver’s influence on the uninformed. The testimony carries disproportionate weight because it was procured from behind enemy lines–from a place where only a few can penetrate and “comprehend.”
The efficacy of Hilton’s imagery draws not only from the Mormon terror of the apparently familiar as the very shape of calculating seduction, but, I believe, maybe even more so from the wide-open secret that Mormons themselves are out to convert the world to their way of life, even if this means using rather clandestine tactics. Only passionate evangelists, I would imagine, could so eagerly believe that people with other viewpoints are willing to devote the same volume of time and energy to outside recruitment. The keystone of Latter-Day Saint thinking is the imperative to “preach the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people,” including even the generations of dead humans who missed the opportunity to hear the message in mortality. Mormon temple activity is specifically focused on performing “saving” rituals and ordinances, including baptism and eternal marriage, for people in every generation who died without having them performed in person. Premature deaths, from infants to relatively ungeriatric adults, are rationalized in Mormon funeral services with assurances that God needed the deceased back on the “other side” to perform missionary work among the multitudes of unconverted generations. Dead people are vicariously baptized and married, sometimes against their mortal wishes, sometimes against the wishes or knowledge of living relatives.
The whole living world outside of the Mormon enclaves of Utah is habitually referred to as “The Mission Field.” Although Mormon missionaries preach openly in political and geographical regions which legally allow religious proselyting, Mormon efforts operate in more closeted ways in other regions as well. The open secret of Mormon intentions in Israel makes an interesting case in point10. Mormons see the conversion of the Jewish nation as key to the return of Jesus Christ. The LDS church spent what must have been a staggering amount of money to buy a large building site on one of the holiest spots in Jerusalem. The impressive and spacious extension of the Brigham Young University campus that now stands on that site is a Mecca for Mormon scholars, students, and tourists, and a regular stop on the Mormon Tabernacle Choir touring circuit. “We’re not proselyting there,” report the returning adventurers. “We were allowed to build there on the understanding that we were not to seek converts.” But the members of the Choir report their “random” wanderings through the streets of Jerusalem with a communicative smile, recount their ‘spontaneous’ conversations about ‘The Church,’ their distribution of free tapes and CD’s of recent choir releases. A piece of folklore that comes up repeatedly in Sacrament Meeting stories describes a group of truth-enhanced BYU students speaking to a cynical street vendor somewhere in the heart of the city.
“You Mormons are here to convert us,” says the astute Jew.
“Oh, no, we’re only students,” comes the brightly disingenuous reply.
“Oh, I know you do not say the words,” says the Jew, “but my people will come to you anyway. They can not resist the light that is in your eyes.”
The congregation laughs knowingly, in this case pleased to hear that essence is so compelling behind its veneer. Somewhere beneath that response is a consensus that constructions and masks can be used to good or evil purposes, that a sham obedience to worldly authority can be justified as obedience to a higher authority.11 Greenblatt quotes Tyndale’s Obedience in expressing a similar sentiment in the cause of Protestantism: “To steal, rob, and murder are no holy works before worldly people, but unto them that have their trust in God: they are holy when God commandeth them” (93).12 For Mormons, God’s authority upholds rather clandestine or manipulative means to a glorious and undebatably worthwhile end, one good for everyone in the long run.
Once again, I doubt that this much articulation occurs in most believing Mormon minds. But the uneasy effect may be demonstrably clear in such manifestations as the Citizens’ document. Mormon tactics are reprehensible, even terrifying, to Mormons when represented as the means used by another group for recruiting converts. This is, I contend, precisely the emotional hit of Hilton’s construction of Weaver and the macho girl cohorts he goes on to portray. I also believe that Hilton’s spectral portrait of Weaver, for all its intentions of fortifying an allegedly divine institution, ultimately damages the very institution it is designed to protect. “The power generated to attack the alien in the name of the authority is produced in excess and threatens the authority it sets out to defend,” Greenblatt states. “Hence self-fashioning always involves some experience of threat, some effacement or undermining, some loss of self’ (9). One of the many losses, I would speculate, might be a believing Mormon’s inner sense of integrity under the document’s inverted but virulent projection of Mormon conversion tactics. The missionary effort so celebrated within Mormon culture looks more like hideous effrontery when turned back upon its source.
Hilton’s terror trick against Wendy Weaver works largely on the continuous play between irreconcilable binarisms, very much in the style Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick describes in her powerful critiques of antihomosexual rhetoric. Such rhetoric relies on making irreconcilable contradiction appear to be the coherent shape of social imperative. For example, Hilton relies on the perception of adolescent children as sexually innocent, incapable of prurient motivation, in order to portray Weaver as a dangerous sexual predator. But the precise danger of a lesbian lion in the midst of high school lambs seems, according to the Citizens’ document, far less that she might find random opportunities for obscene play among the innocents, than that she seems so capable of converting young heterosexual girls to her rapacious lesbianism, a threat that has no edge without the premise that teenagers are driven by volatile sexuality, brimming with multidirectional lusts. Under the section entitled “Activities as Volleyball Coach,” Hilton describes the numerous occasions in which Weaver might have been well situated to do her worst:
While acting as a volleyball coach, Defendant Weaver led and participated with her team members in at least the following activities, all for the stated purpose of promoting “team unity”: trips to a private cabin; four-day “survival” camping trips; weekend overnight sleep overs (sic) and hot tub parties at her house; all-night hot tub parties at the high school. (7)
The visual imagery here is both opaque and “transparent.” Space, walls, tents and sleeping bags, bubbling water, closed institutional doors and even Weaver’s own language all ‘cover’ or closet the ‘actual’ activities Hilton assumes his audience will surmise without his explicit description. The “evidence” is both veiled and ‘obvious.’ In a remarkable study of legal attempts to pin down an ever-elusive definition of homosexuality, Janet E. Halley discusses Robert Bork’s published opinion in Dronenburg vs. Zech. Bork (like Hilton, here) “repeatedly deploys locutions which both assert that his position is patently obvious and mark his reluctance to expose it” (1995, 31). Halley comments: “These gestures create the character of the official knower, a man whose ‘common sense and common experience’ render him unexceptionably a member of a stable, common majority that knows without having to find out” (32). Not only is Hilton a member of a “stable, common majority,” in Utah Valley, but he is, as a Mormon male, as a voice confirming the values of Mormon hierarchy, as a bearer of Mormon priesthood, above question, above scrutiny or categorization. His right to mock and dismiss Weaver’s explanations, to force her to defend herself against her own statements while he himself remains unquestioned, is foundational. Halley makes the point succinctly: “Homosexual conduct must be visible to a knower who is not to be known” (31). But Weaver, the demonized antithesis of Mormon male authority, must be revealed.
Even while Weaver is “revealed” as a dangerous deviant, however, Hilton seems finally incapable of clearly defining the distinctions between homosexual and heterosexual, “lesbian” as opposed to straight. This inability becomes particularly clear in his portrayals of students-on-the verge: girls in the locker room and kids in the psychology classroom are straight while they are ignorant, homosexual or potentially homosexual once they have been initiated. Hilton’s inability to distinguish between truly straight and truly gay is exactly what generates the fear of mutability, the fuzzy “point” that justifies keeping Weaver out of the locker room and out of the classroom. Halley relevantly states that “A key rationale for antihomosexual discrimination, then, is anxiety about the ambiguity of heterosexual interactions, about a potential for mutability that undermines heterosexual identity. Lest the change actually take place, ‘known’ homosexuals must be segregated” (32). Hilton uses the theme of mutability to justify the Citizens’ concerns about Weaver’s influence in the psychology classroom. The academic discipline of psychology is one that has long been associated in the popular mind with manipulation, mind-reading, and brain-washing. Hilton exploits these notions; Weaver as portrayed by the Citizens’ document seems hell-bent on casting the spell of transmutation, if not in the physical intimacy of the locker room or private retreat, then by applying psychological magic in the classroom.
The Citizens’ document insists that Weaver be prohibited from teaching psychology because, it suggests, Weaver uses psychology to reveal (or generate) the latent homosexuality in her otherwise oblivious (therefore safe?) young students. Under the section entitled “Activities as a Psychology Teacher” (10), the document declares that “Defendant Weaver administered a psychological personality test to Plaintiff students in class without disclosure or approval of the parents, which tests included a predictive component regarding student attitudes regarding family and sexual matters, and discussed the significance of the responses with students in class.”
The allegation that Weaver surreptitiously administered this unspecified test13 is intriguing in light of one of the student affidavits I read on the premises of the District Court, which complained that Weaver would not allow students who did not bring written permission from parents to participate in the practice psychological tests. This undemonstrable point aside, however, I find it interesting that the Plaintiffs’ fears here center on the insidious transformative power of revelation itself; to find is to become, to speak “it” is to be compelled by “it.” If ignorance is vulnerability in this framework, knowledge is worse–it is compulsion. Homosexuality buried is dangerous, but homosexuality revealed is nearly irresistible.
After listing several similar “testing” situations in Weaver’s psychology class, Hilton’s allegations jump directly to a register of crimes against the Mormon church, negative speeches imposed upon psychologically-scrambled young Latter-Day Saints who might otherwise be immune to Weaver’s spells. “During class time, speaking to the entire class, Defendant Weaver demeaned the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, stating, among other things, that said church’s missionary farewells have no purpose. She also repeatedly discussed her religious beliefs—or lack thereof—in class” (11). Disparaging missionary farewells seems a fairly anticlimactic example of Weaver’s “religious beliefs—or lack thereof—” considering the titillating possibilities an environment of spiritual and sexual peril might offer. Pondering such a statement for any length of time renders it so irrelevant to any of Hilton’s alarms that it’s hard to imagine why he included it, except as a (weak) opportunity to suggest that Weaver is mixing religion with state activities. Since Weaver’s “religious beliefs—or lack thereof” do not coincide with Hilton’s or the Citizens’, they by definition should not be discussed in the classroom.
Another alleged crime against the dominant community religion is a carefully ambiguous indictment of Weaver’s parenting as well as her teaching: “During class… Defendant Weaver indicated that while her husband Gary Weaver read the Book of Mormon (sic) with the children in the home, she tried to get them to read books other than the Book of Mormon” (sic) (11).
This seemingly bland accusation is fascinating for several reasons. The double layering of Weaver’s malign influence on children—as teacher and as mother—is probably as significant in the minds of the Plaintiffs as the actual content of the allegation. And the precise meaning of the word “while” is (tactically, it seems) unclear. The syntax and word choice lead a paranoid respondent to believe that Gary Weaver’s reading and Wendy Weaver’s coaxing are simultaneous activities, pitting righteous father and deviant mother against each other in competition for scripture hour. This rather unpleasant domestic scene is entirely spectral, however, as the passage (against authorial reluctance, perhaps, but certainly as a safety valve) allows “while” to carry a sense of temporal stretch: a difference in long-term parental emphases with Dad helping the kids read scripture, Mom encouraging additional reading from broader sources.
The more alarmist interpretation of this item, however, continues to yield possibilities for the imagination. What books, “other” than The Book of Mormon, would an “anti-Mormon” lesbian coax her children to read? In a document rife with images of negation, conjuring, and inversion, in a culture continuously exhorted to read The Book of Mormon, “the most correct book upon the face of the earth” according to Mormon doctrine, can any careful reader avoid the suggestion of faith-destroying literature, even of some sort of inverse scripture?
Still, for all the dangers of the family reading room and the Advanced Placement Psychology classroom, it is among the girl athletes that Weaver’s power is portrayed as most potent. Hilton suggests that the girls on the volleyball team fall, under Weaver’s designs, into three general categories: initiated and colluding converts,14 “intimidated” younger players (10) vulnerable to conversion,15 and a persecuted “straight” resistance.16 This third group is interesting in Hilton’s presentation of them; once again, Hilton exploits his subject through the use of a thoroughly unreconciled contradiction, portraying “straight” Mormons both as a rightfully indignant majority and as a wrongfully besieged minority. Because the majority of Nebo District citizens are Mormons, the document clearly suggests, Weaver’s speech and actions should model Mormon behavior in deference to sectarian parental values. Hilton becomes most explicit in this charge in the section entitled “Count X: Declaration of Whether the Conduct of Defendant Weaver Violates the Responsibilities of School Employees and Limitations Regarding Student Clubs Act.” Count X doesn’t address any violation of the Student Clubs Act (a piece of Utah legislation prohibiting all “non-curricular” student clubs in order to prohibit gay/lesbian clubs in public schools), probably because Weaver’s “club” only exists in the minds of the Citizens and is therefore difficult to prosecute even in a sympathetic court. What Count X does address, rather irrelevantly, is Weaver’s responsibility to remain silent in any matter which may contradict majority–that is, LDS–values:
65. While not necessary to specifically plead her case in the federal court litigation, Defendant Weaver stated under oath she and her companion Ms. Smith have a “marital like” relationship. Thereafter while discussing matters with the media, Defendant Weaver acknowledged that she chose excommunication from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints because otherwise she would have been required to abandon lesbian or homosexual conduct.
66. In light of Defendant Weaver’s gratuitous disclosure of this information in a hostile community environment, Plaintiffs seek a declaratory order determining whether or not based it can be presumed as a matter of law that Defendant Weaver engages in sodomy as defined under Utah criminal law. (Italics mine)
One clear point emerges from the obscurities of this passage: Weaver should be held guilty for language which contradicts Hilton et al’s interpretation of LDS community values. Because the language was “gratuitous,” because Weaver was not required to reveal this information in her own defense, Hilton requests here that legal exemptions regarding self-incrimination be put aside. According to Hilton, Weaver’s “unsolicited” frankness regarding her relationship with Smith should, without the mediation of due process or jury, make Weaver guilty of a criminal offense. Hilton recommends that the enforcement of an essentially unenforceable law be effected in the very selective case of a woman whose language has crossed the values of a sectarian majority. Hilton’s entire document finally depends on this assertion alone; the only genuinely “criminal” act Weaver is accused of in the text is sodomy. If Hilton can bypass due process in making her words convict her of this elusive act, he can use criminality as the generic premise for removing her from the public school system. This is particularly ironic considering that Weaver is equally guilty, according to Hilton and the Citizens, when she is silent about her sexual orientation, when she is concealing her desire.
It is difficult to imagine Hilton or the Citizens of Nebo School District recommending that anyone in a legally recognized heterosexual marriage be prosecuted for sodomy, even upon the event of either partner’s unsolicited public admission that such acts occur within the relationship, a specific detail which Weaver herself did not offer. Hilton’s invocation of sodomy seems most effective as a sadistic-voyeuristic imaging device for degrading “Defendant Weaver” and her partner, a method of publicizing two women’s privacy, empowering their antagonists in the process.
The specifics of many allegations of misconduct in this document certainly accumulate toward a disturbing characterization of Wendy Weaver as a high school teacher. Obviously, it is the court’s responsibility to decide on the “truth” of Hilton’s, allegations. My primary concentration on the Hilton’s text, however, does not preclude the assumption that some particular incident or motivation lies behind each “example” of Weaver’s alleged behavior. Although my conversations with Wendy Weaver (a very slight acquaintance) have been brief in regard to this project, I think it is important here to put her on record. Weaver stated to me in a telephone conversation that the accusations in the document are grossly misleading, misrepresented, or simply fabricated.
And regardless of the degree of outright misrepresentation in any single “incident,” Hilton’s (like any writer’s) choice of words, sequence, and detail inevitably yield important clues to interpretation, if not of anecdotal “truth,” then of motive and manipulation. For example, while Hilton chooses to portray the heterosexual Mormon as “right” by virtue of majority status in the (nonsectarian, even in Utah, let us recall) public schools, he reverses his language to minoritize the straight population when such a portrayal enhances his argument. Hilton strongly suggests that the lesbians reign, numerically and emotionally, on Weaver’s volleyball team:
(A) On one occasion while team members were playing football outside the cabin, Defendant Weaver was in the huddle of one team when someone told all the team members in the huddle that on signal they were to remove their shirts (which would result in no outer clothing over their bras). All of the players did so except one, whom Defendant Weaver and others then teased about the incident for the rest of the season (7).
The image of the solitary straight resister generates a powerful sense of the direness of the lesbian situation at Spanish Fork High School (they are already among us, in greater numbers than we might imagine, they are playing football in states of undress, they are picking on our daughters). Weaver as “majority” leader is a bully in the locker room, waxing brave in the sanctuary of inversion, once again picking on a lone girl who has resisted Weaver’s lesbian influence:
(C) Defendant Weaver slammed a team member into a locker after a loss, telling the player that she had better go home because she had a boy friend and was “fooling around,” and because of that conduct they were losing. This action by defendant Weaver and repeated harassment during practices caused the team member significant emotional distress (9).
Obviously, the most striking word choice in this passage is “slammed,” an allegation which appears in the service of characterizing lesbian behavior. “Slammed” is teamed with two other terms of unquantifiable degree in this paragraph — “repeated harassment” (How many times is that? What specifically constituted this further harassment?”), and “significant emotional distress” (How much is “significant?” How does the court measure “emotional distress” from the paltry demonstrability of the language?) Slamming students into lockers for any reason seems a serious allegation; if it is true I am concerned that none of the Citizens’ “counts” of misconduct include physical brutality. Weaver stated to me that the accusation is entirely untrue. Regardless, in the absence of such a formal count I am tempted to conclude that “slamming” might be a strategic, rather than accurate, word choice. Or maybe worse, I could be led to conclude that slamming kids into lockers is not viewed as an alarming form of behavior unless it is presented as metonymy, an associational indication of sexual deviance.
A paragraph in which Weaver picks on a team member for her courageous, apparently solitary heterosexual dating proclivities suggests that many other girls on the team, those whom Weaver “likes” and does not pick on, have abandoned heterosexual dating under their coach’s influence. Weaver’s rage over the holdout generates an image of an otherwise converted (or intimidated) team of lesbian volleyball players supporting their irresistible coach.
Apparently unsatisfied with her “right” to a non-articulated, non-public relationship with another woman, with her allegedly substantial student following, or even with her “gratuitous” communications regarding her sexual preference, Weaver (according to the Citizens’ document) stalks the halls and classrooms of Spanish Fork High School, enraged at signs of heterosexual activity. “While acting as volleyball coach, Defendant Weaver was adamantly against any of her team members becoming romantically involved with young men . . . ,” the document declares. Again, the language of this segment yields nothing more than a foregone conclusion. It is impossible for a reader—District Court judge or otherwise—to examine any semblance of the actual situation. The Citizens’ document consistently reveals an alarming willingness to present vague recollections of Weaver’s “behavior” as evidence of predatory sexuality. “(A) Defendant Weaver became irate on the occasions when she saw a team player hugging a young man or dancing close to a young man.” How irate? What were the manifestations of her irritation? The document provides us with no means of interpreting Weaver’s behavior for ourselves. We do not even have any useful means for interpreting situational context. It seems most likely that Weaver’s unfavorable response to close dancing (and Weaver corroborates this) would have been while fulfilling an assignment to chaperone a high school dance. Teachers of any sexual orientation are given the responsibility in such situations (as many of us who attended high school vividly recall), to insure that public foreplay (or premarital sex) do not occur in the high school gymnasium.
Defendant Weaver as rendered by Hilton certainly does seem to resent heterosexual pairing, however:
“(B) Defendant Weaver notified at least four team players that because they had boyfriends they could not play on the team, but would be only practice players” (9). How did Defendant Weaver know that these four team members had boyfriends? Are we getting a full explanation here? This passage is so provocative that Hilton must guess his readers would be interested in details, in a fuller elaboration. But he chooses not to provide it. The general concept here seems to be some (incomplete, inaccurate) representation of a “no dating during the season” policy characteristic of serious athletic coaches. Unless Weaver sent loyal spies into every team member’s home or car (which the author of the document seems happy to suggest but certainly doesn’t risk making explicit), it seems unlikely that she would know or care about her team members’ boyfriends unless the girls had made it evident in some way that affected their team commitment or athletic performance. Weaver stated in our telephone conversation that the entire faculty was concerned about the high rate of teen pregnancy in Spanish Fork, and that all members of the faculty discouraged their students from becoming prematurely involved with steady boyfriends or girlfriends. It seems likely—even inevitable—that any concern Weaver may have expressed on this subject would be interpreted under a “lesbian” reading as a sign of fanaticism, while other faculty members remained outside such interpretations.
“(D) Defendant Weaver would examine young women by lowering their shirts and raising their hair to determine who had a “hickey” (a physical symbol of involvement with a young man), and not allow those team members with one to play until it was gone” (9). Non-rapacious lesbian possibilities? 1. Defendant Weaver is concerned about lesbian activity among her volatile and impressionable young players, and, knowing that such activity would be highly distressing to the parents of said young players, checks each team member for a “hickey” (a physical symbol of involvement with a young woman. Or old woman. Or old man, for that matter). 2. Unhappy that members of a potential championship team might be staying out too late to perform well in school or in athletics, Defendant Weaver is enforcing a principle that talented athletes learn the kind of discipline it takes to become first-class contenders.
At some point, the question must arise for any serious reader of this document, Why would Weaver—in real life or Citizens’ portrayal—be so violently opposed to other people exhibiting signs of heterosexuality? Such behavior seems logical only in the realm of Hilton’s inarticulateness. Actually articulating the implication Hilton apparently wants us to only half-consciously interpret yields rather ludicrous explanations. First, Hilton must be assuming (or expecting his readers to assume) that homosexuals are as adamant in their moral opposition to other sexual preferences as heterosexuals are, that a homosexual is a perfectly mirrored likeness of her or his “opposite.” I can picture, if I will, a scenario in which this might be true, but general evidence suggests otherwise. Promotion of a homosexual “agenda” tends to be stronger in its proposals to extend, not tighten, the boundaries of sexual expression17.
Second, it seems that Hilton would have us believe that Weaver wants to prohibit heterosexuality among her team members so that she can “have” the girls for herself, an allegation that goes far beyond the boundaries of everyday, mundane lesbianism. In fact, Weaver as characterized by this document conjures images of a radically inverted harem master, a fanatical prophet or bishop of sorts, organizing her young initiates to spread her gospel and bring young women into the “fold”:
(H) Defendant Weaver openly [as opposed to secretly, which may have been a greater crime but less allegeable] encouraged older players to form a network with younger, more intimidated players, and seek to become extremely close to the exclusion of other activities, including dating. The older players would pick up the young players in vehicles or motorcycles and go places. When riding in vehicles, the players would sit close together rather than close to the doors. The pressure to participate in the network was very strong, especially since the older girls were generally the starting players. Many of those who were involved in the younger girl-older girl network later announced that they were lesbians. (10)
A feature of this paragraph that would immediately strike any Mormon reader on some level of consciousness is the echo (okay, except for sitting close together in the car) of the Mormon missionary program. To borrow Hilton’s phrasing, “the pressure to participate in the program is very strong.” “Every young man a missionary,” is an endlessly repeated Mormon maxim. The young Mormon men who serve proselyting missions must be constantly in the very near proximity of an assigned companion. Companionships consist of an older, more experienced partner called the “senior companion,” whose responsibility it is to train and nurture the less-experienced “junior companion.” The two years devoted to missionary service are, by definition, intense and deeply committed, to the exclusion of all other activities, including (in fact, especially), dating. The period of missionary service is seen as a time of transformation. “In the hollow of Thy hand / as he grows from boy to man / may his understanding deepen and increase,” go the words of an extremely popular missionary farewell song. Male missionary service is seen as the gateway to full status in the Mormon priesthood.
The depiction of an inverted missionary force, fraught with lesbian signifiers (a motorcycle is a vehicle, isn’t it?) must be highly alarming to Hilton’s audience, on many levels. The passionate evangelistic commitment associated with the Mormon missionary program, echoed in Hilton’s depiction of Weaver’s tough-girl counterfeit force, suggests a high likelihood of converts. Hilton suggests that time spent on the girls volleyball team is a one-way corridor into full-fledged status in Weaver’s counterfeit “church.” Hilton exploits the reverse-sectarian theme with imagery rich in religious ritual associations. Once girls have been recruited, it seems, they must be initiated. One of the most bizarre passages states that “Defendant Weaver directed team members to sit in a circle, select a partner, and wash the partner’s feet while the partner read verses of the Bible” (8).
This passage merits serious consideration. Once again, Hilton states the “fact” and leaves his audience to speculate. Mormon respondents are likely to be unnerved by this passage, as it retrieves elements of unspoken temple rituals. Outside of a Mormon context, the allegation of ritual foot-washing would carry diminished impact. A common conservative Christian interpretation, especially outside of a “lesbianized” context, would simply see Weaver’s alleged action as an imitation of Christ’s symbolic commitment to his “team,” a means for members of the group to demonstrate their willingness to serve each other.
I think it is relevant here to include Weaver’s response to this particular allegation. The foot-washing event did occur at her house, she told me, but not when she was present. Weaver and her former husband were out of town at the time and had agreed to loan their house to the girls’ basketball team and their coaches for a team party. A student teacher, a coach-in-training from Brigham Young University, a young Mormon woman in good standing, initiated and supervised the foot-washing ritual between the players. As of this point, as far as Weaver or I know, this basketball coach has suffered no allegations of either lesbianism or priestcraft.
While the Mormon version of foot-washing, modeled after the New Testament account of Christ’s last supper, is not a feature of any “regular” temple ritual, many members seem to believe (with good cause, as far as I can tell) on some level that foot-washing is part of an even deeper layer of temple initiation, and many members know that it was part of a more primitive version of the modern “endowment” ritual. Hilton drops the allegation of a Weaver-directed washing ritual into a highly loaded social context, without further comment, I think because he knows that such an allegation will explode with implications of usurpation, cultism, and ritual magic, all of which is profoundly evil because it appears to be an inverted imitation of God’s revealed-but-secret signifying codes. Although Mormon churches are open to all members (and non-members) of any age or level of commitment,18 temples serve another function entirely and are accessible only to adult members in good standing. Those who enter into the rites of the temple commit themselves to secrecy regarding the activities which occur there. Mocking or perverting the specific codes and events of a temple ceremony is deep betrayal and sacrilege in Mormon culture.
Throughout these passages, Hilton’s writing portrays, at his convenience, the girls of Spanish Fork as simultaneously sexually innocent and sexually knowledgeable without accounting for himself in the least. He makes use of the same avoidance tactic in exploiting the extremely uncertain qualities of lesbian sexuality. He portrays Weaver in oscillations of usurped masculinity, implying conquest and domination, and overexaggerated femininity, implying insatiable sexual voracity. Although the explicit allegation of sexual perversion occurs in the passage depicting Weaver in a “marital-like relationship” with Rachael Smith, this sort of misguided marriage might just look too much like suburban innocuousness unless it is revealed as a mere closet, covering for Weaver’s continued predation or recruitment of young females. Indeed, closet imagery with regard to Weaver’s sexual activity abounds. Each time Weaver’s body vanishes, partially or completely, from the text, Weaver is at her most “dangerous.” “Defendant Weaver,” the document states, “occasionally, without explanation, left the rest of the group and took an individual team member into a private room for an extended period of time” (80) (my italics). And did what? Kissed her? Raped her? Taught her the ropes of lesbian sex? Drugged her? What did Defendant Weaver do? A second-level initiation ritual? Hilton leaves us to imagine the worst, which is probably far more interesting than anything he might dare make explicit on the page and safely be held accountable to.
“Defendant Weaver was observed sitting on a couch, in between two players, all under a blanket with the television playing” (8). Distracting noise, protective covering. What were they really doing? And who was watching, in order to write an affidavit later in accusation of Weaver? The straight girls? There must have been more of them than we have been led to believe, with more power than we have been led to imagine. The voyeurism implied by this document is disturbing. “During the summers, some team members were seen [passive voice, unaccountable to itself] at Defendant Weaver’s home on a very frequent basis and would stay for extended periods of time” (10). Lawyer Hilton seems capable of articulating a great deal. Why won’t he commit to an articulation of what he means in these passages? “When Defendant Weaver arranged for the volleyball-a-thon, she ordered a hot tub on wheels in which she would sit with certain girls” (7). “Certain girls?” Which ones? The ones who said “yes?” The ones Weaver thought were cute? The ones who didn’t know a lesbian when they were in a hot tub with one?
“When the team went to Flaming Gorge, there was limited space to sleep in the accommodations chosen by the coaches. Everyone was sleeping close together in sleeping bags with Defendant Weaver in the middle” (7). What is significant about the middle? What could Hilton be thinking is so ominous about Weaver’s alleged centrality? Why would it be different if she were two positions to the left or right? Or on the far end, allowing the possibility of making it with some willing girl athlete in the relative privacy of the corner? I recall a Victorian-era cartoon of a harried Brigham Young in the center of a very large bed with several wives on each side of him, all griping. Anyone who has grown up with a polygamous heritage is likely to have incorporated such imagery at some point.
Such center-of the-bed imagery taps deep into the insecurities of a Mormon audience. Although polygamy was officially banned in the mainstream Mormon church in the 1890’s, its continued practice in some quarters remained a semi-open secret for another generation. For example, groups of faithful Mormons who wished to continue the practice with the sanction of Church authorities established colonies in Mexico and Canada near the turn of the century. Gradually, however, polygamous practices became a dividing issue between the mainstream church and dissident groups. Contemporary mainstream Mormons find themselves in the rather difficult position of believing that polygamy is a righteous principle to be reinstated sometime in the mortal or immortal future, while shunning any association with it now as a sign of apostasy and disobedience. Utah Mormons live with a vague unease at any given time that veiled “splinter” Mormons more fundamental than themselves may recruit their daughters. Insinuating that Wendy Weaver is the most terrifying polygamist of them all–a woman, usurping a masculine sexual and “spiritual” role, seducing an endless stream of (athletic and therefore suspiciously androgynous) young girls–is a shockingly ludicrous, yet probably very effective, move on Hilton’s part.
Once again, the strangeness of Hilton’s account warrants a record of Weaver’s version of the evening. Weaver told me that on this occasion, the team had traveled with several tents with the intention of sleeping in the Dutch John Campground just outside of Flaming Gorge. The area is high in the Uinta Mountains and richly forested. A violent lightning storm that night resulted in the local rangers requiring the campers to sleep in an empty room of the Ranger Station for their own safety. Weaver slept in the middle, along with the assistant coach, because they were the two most conducive spots for supervision.
The “polygamous” suggestions may be particularly effective in Hilton’s refusal–or inability–to clarify his binarized perceptions of “lesbian” behavior.19 This duality as portrayed in the Citizens document allows its author to suggest the worst of masculine and feminine sexuality at his convenience. So, aligned with the image of the rapacious polygamous usurper is the parallel image of the insatiable sexual female, an image that Leo Bersani (in another context) asserts is deeply rooted in the social psyche.20 That Weaver might pursue and seduce like a man, yet somehow remain continually receptive, like a woman, generates a fabulous, although inarticulate, terror of an unstoppable lesbian loose in a continuously replenishing pool of young women in gym clothes.
If Hilton’s language throughout most of the document only implicitly suggests that Weaver’s sexual orientation is a religion, an inversion of Mormonism, it may be a sign that Hilton “knows not what he does.” I think to a point it is, which leaves us with two reasonable possibilities in regard to paragraph 47, in which Hilton flatly accuses Wendy Weaver of imposing same-sex orientation as some sort of religion on a state-sponsored body of Nebo students. Either Hilton doesn’t notice when his language actually breaks through the surface and explicitly calls Weaver’s sexual orientation a religion, or he does notice it and guesses it won’t hurt his case or his conscience. In any scenario, I think that I, at least, should be extremely articulate here: I do not believe that lesbian practice or psychology are, in any inevitable or assumable way, religion. And whatever Weaver’s issues with the Mormon church may be, in or out of the classroom, they must finally be seen as irrelevant to her sexual orientation (which is itself nonsectarian) in the sense that anyone might hold or express them, regardless of sexual object-desire.
But Hilton, who has already argued explicitly in the Citizens’ document that Mormon values should be taught and promoted in Nebo’s public schools, that “majority” values, in this case undeniably sectarian, must be upheld in a secular Utah Valley institution, suddenly takes us aback by citing Utah policy against sectarian influence in the public schools. Hilton quotes from the Utah Constitution:
(A) “The rights of conscience shall never be infringed.”
(B) “No public money shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise or instruction, or for the support of any ecclesiastical establishment.
(C) “First: –Perfect toleration of religious sentiment is guaranteed.”
(D) “Fourth: — The Legislature shall make laws for the establishment and maintenance of a system of public schools, which shall be open to all the children of the State and be free from sectarian control.” (paragraph 46, p. 19)
At this point it can only be imagined that Hilton is preparing to refute the efficacy of these tenets, that he is going to argue (again) that a sectarian majority ought to be able to control a secular institution. And he does, in a way: Hilton presents an allegation that Weaver’s “religion,” not his, is being imposed in the classroom: “Plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment that the conduct of Defendant Weaver outlined heretofore violated the provisions of (the previously cited Articles).” Hilton does not seem to be arguing here that church and state should be separated. Rather, he seems adamant that Weaver’s “church” be separated from the state so that it not be in competition with his. And he seems willing to grant the “rights of conscience” and “perfect toleration of religious sentiment” to students, particularly if students are members of the majority sect. Under such conditions, only students can be teachers, and only believers can be influencers.
I can’t see anything but baffling irony in the fact that Hilton could imagine, within the universe he has created for the benefit of his Plaintiff’s lawsuit, that Wendy Weaver could be prosecuted for violating the requirement that “no public money shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise or instruction, or for the support of any ecclesiastical establishment.” It seems, in light of Hilton’s earlier arguments that teachers should teach the values of the majority religion or be removed from their positions, that it is this very provision of the Utah Constitution that he should be protesting. Instead, he attacks the teacher who takes this provision to heart, and, in the oddest mirror trick of all, attempts to use it against her. He can only do this, it seems, by turning every diverse expression of choice, opinion, and personal conscience into an “ecclesiastical establishment, ” a form of “sectarian control.”
Hilton walks into the warp zone generated by the binarisms that plague public education across the nation: the perennially unreconciled tensions between “facts” and “opinions,” the muted line that divides “education” and “indoctrination.” Should public education suppress information or disperse it? Is knowledge power, or is it compulsion? Is challenging or questioning a student the same as, or different from, controlling a student? Should education be universal confirmation, or rich and various contradiction? Is a valuable citizenry assimilated and compliant, or is it diverse and discursive?
When he walks back out, he’s stepped fully into the looking-glass, to a place where Mormonism has become a neutral, nonsectarian norm, and lesbianism is “The Church.” Weaver’s dissenting voice in a highly dominant sectarian community has magically and demonically become the ecclesiastical establishment, her paycheck the public funding of religion in the schools.
Don’t get me wrong. I have no doubt that young members of a regionally dominant religion or ethnicity can be discriminated against in tax-funded secular institutions. It is far from inconceivable that individual members of overbearing majorities can receive unfair retribution for the real or perceived crimes of the institution they come to represent. The history of anti-Mormon persecution, particularly at the outset of Mormon history, adds some poignance to the contemporary LDS siege mentality. While locally a powerful and visible majority, Mormons in the national picture are a peculiar minority (with a queer sexual history, no less), and as such can easily carry a binarized sense of numerical rightness coupled with a contradictory sense of being outnumbered by hostiles. Children who grow up in a thoroughly Mormon milieu, I think, should (like all other children) be treated with care and compassion by any adult in a position to guide them into the citizenry.
Which is why I believe that the children of Nebo School District are victims of the Hilton document as much as “Defendant” Wendy Weaver. Hilton, in his own hyperbole, has generated a monstrous allegation against Weaver that preys on some of the deepest and most irrational fears of the community he “defends.” As such, his language obscures a fundamental principle of civic discourse, the right to consider another’s position and the right to offer one’s own in an atmosphere of free agency and exchange. His attitudes betray a fundamental principle of de-politicized Christianity, the right to be treated as an intelligent and well-meaning human being. Weaver has been dehumanized in this document to ludicrous proportions. The spectral, demonized portrait Hilton has generated can be taken seriously only in an atmosphere of ignorance, hate, and hysteria (however “peaceful” on the surface), an atmosphere Hilton, the Citizens of Nebo School District, and the Eagle Forum21, must promote in order to achieve their goal of making Utah Valley and the rest of the nation free of homosexuals.
And what then? Greenblatt states, “When one authority or alien is destroyed, another takes its place” (8). Who will the Citizens turn on next? Greenblatt, in an extended discussion of the rivalry between Thomas More, a canonized defender of the Catholic faith, and Tyndale, a Protestant dissenter, is disturbed at More’s displacement of the causes of death and violence amidst the contention: “More’s attack seems at its most odious when he charges that Tyndale’s books killed men; the killing was done by the state More served and in defense of the church More loved” (87). I think Hilton loves his state and his church, and might be viewed with some sympathy in light of this. One would hope, however, that Hilton’s zeal could stop short of sacrificing the well-being and agency of a woman who could not possibly have the same voice and influence he does in their orthodox Mormon community.
But finally, I can’t believe that the vilification of Wendy Weaver in the Nebo School District is an act of conscience. It is an assertion of power, power over the private lives of two women who choose a life in mild deviation to the norms of a religious community, power over the lives of children about to become adults, power over the words which can and can not be spoken according to the arbiters of a sectarian morality, power over the words and actions of public educators. It is not discourse, not kindness, not concern for the well-being of young people who have been taught through this litigation that they have the power to shake the hand of an apparition of their own making and declare it evil. Children of Nebo School district now know that they have the power to write on the line and destroy the peace, reputation, and security of a woman who made herself vulnerable by giving them her time, her expertise, and her honesty. Children of Nebo School District have been taught through this litigation that they can receive the praise of their community by doing so.
I don’t think it’s a large jump from here to the murdered gay boy, Matthew Shepard, no matter how we might rationalize that it is “our” children’s salvation, not Weaver’s life or quality of life, at stake. At what price to children’s agency and character do we buy their compulsory heterosexuality? How did love, regardless of its object, become an alternative more hideous than hate? Cases like Weaver’s deserve more than academic analysis. As Tony Kushner’s words in response to Shepard’s crucifixion on a Wyoming fence remind us:
But I worry a lot less about the death of civil discourse than I worry about getting killed if, visiting the wrong town with my boyfriend, we forget ourselves so much as to betray , at the wrong moment in front of the wrong people, that we love one another. . . . I worry much more about the irreversible soul-deaths of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered children growing up deliberately, malevolently isolated by the likes of Trent Lott and Newt Gingrich than I worry about the death of civil discourse. I mourn Matthew Shepard’s actual death, caused by the unimpeachably civil “we hate the sin, not the sinner” hypocrisy of the religious right, endorsed by the political right, much more than I mourn the lost chance to be civil with someone who does not consider me fully a citizen, nor fully human. I mourn that cruel death more than the chance to be civil with those who sit idly by while theocrats, bullies, panderers and hatemongers, and their crazed murderous children, destroy democracy and our civic life (5).
I am a citizen of Utah Valley, too, with four children whom I hope will grow up without falling into the truly frightening “crazed” and “murderous” categories Kushner defines here. I’d like the discourse to be civil in this valley–in fact, I’d like it to become something that resembles discourse at all. I fear the influence of someone like Matthew Hilton, Gayle Ruzicka, or any number of teachers and “Citizens” on my children. Frankly, I fear my own influence on them as well. But ironically what we all fear most, I think–Hilton, Ruzicka, and myself included– is our children’s independence, their ability to resist our influence and locate autonomy and agency. Frightening, but the only route, I believe, to what any of us might call salvation.
Bersani, Leo. 1987. Is the Rectum a Grave? In Aids: Cultural Analysis, Cultural Activism. Edited by Douglas Crimp. Boston: MIT Press.
Edelman, Lee. 1994. Tearooms and Sympathy, or, the Epistemology of the Water Closet. In Homographesis. New York: Routledge.
Egan, Dan. 1997. Nebo Board Hears Raging Debate on Lesbian Teacher. The Salt Lake Tribune, 13 November.
Greenblatt, Stephen. 1980. Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.
Groutage, Hilary. 1997. Spanish Fork Teacher is Caught in a Storm of Controversy After Coming Out as Lesbian. The Salt Lake Tribune, 26 October.
Groutage, Hilary. 1997. Lesbian Teacher’s Attorneys Ask Judge to Dismiss Lawsuit. The Salt Lake Tribune, 5 November.
Halley, Janet. 1995. The Politics of the Closet: Legal Articulation of Sexual Orientation Identity. In After Identity. Edited by Dan Danielson and Maren Engle. New York: Routledge.
Kushner, Tony. 1998. Matthew’s Passion. The Nation, 9 November.
Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young. © 1997, printed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Salt Lake City.
Special thanks to Dr. Kathryn Bond Stockton, of the University of Utah English Department, for invaluable help and encouragement on this project.
1. It appears, a year after my original investigations into the Weaver case, that such considerations are increasingly relevant. This year the Utah Eagle Forum has, with the help of lawyer Matthew Hilton, launched a vocal and public campaign against what they feel to be dangerous organizations, subjects and teaching practices at Utah Valley State College, where I am a member of the English faculty. Also with Hilton’s help, Ron Hammond–UVSC’s controversial faculty senate president, a professor in the Behavioral Sciences department, and a member of the Citizens of Nebo School District for Moral and Legal Values–has filed a legal grievance against several members of the faculty and administration who have, he alleges, threatened his academic freedom by expressing their opposition to his avid promotion of conservative moral values in his courses.
2. Once again, I need to emphasize that I am portraying a popular line of doctrinal interpretation. Questions regarding the degree to which God actually can or does “control” the temporal environment constitute an interesting line of debate among Mormons willing to argue among each other.
3. Because there is, within the span of mortality, no irrevocable moment of grace within commonly dispersed Mormon doctrine, every single day of temporal life is an ongoing struggle between the forces of good and evil, over each human soul. (Although a rather obscure doctrine under the term “Calling and Election Made Sure” does allow for a very few exceptional and righteous mortals to achieve certain salvation before the Final Judgment, the implications for regular church members are negligible.)
4. Although the mainstream Mormon community accepts plural marriage as the eternal will of God, doctrinal questions regarding polygamy are a site of passionate debate within the intellectual Mormon community. Eugene England, for example, has vigorously contested the doctrine in several of his writings, most notably “On Fidelity, Polygamy, and Celestial Marriage” in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Winter 1987.
5. The exact wording in the Proclamation is as follows: “Gender is an essential characteristic of premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” Further: “We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as man and wife.” As these excerpts might suggest, The Proclamation itself would yield a fascinating textual analysis, particularly in regard to L.D.S. perceptions of gender object-desire as opposed to gender identity, or in regard to distinctions between “procreation” and, well, sex. But this is not the subject of my essay.
6. From Hilton’s text: “Defendant Utah State Board of Education is constitutionally and statutorily charged with general control and supervision of the state’s public education system and fulfilling its statutory mandate to teach morality, obedience to the law, respect for parents,and related matters in connection with regular school work…. Defendant State Board of Education is also charged with taking appropriate action against any teaching certificate holder who has “exhibited behavior evidencing unfitness for duty through immoral, unprofessional, or incompetent conduct, or [is found] to have committed any other violation of standards of ethical conduct, performance, or professional competence.” (4-5)
7. “Defendant Jan Graham, Attorney General of Utah, is constitutionally and statutorily charged with supervising the prosecutorial actions of County Attorneys, prosecuting child abuse cases, and rendering legal advice to the State Superintendent of Education. Defendant Jan Graham is also directing the defense of Nebo School District in the current litigation entitled Wendy Weaver v. Nebo School District, et. al. United States District Court, Civil No. 97CV00819, Judge Bruce Jenkins.” (3)
8. “Defendant Craig Jackson is the Director of Occupational and Professional Licensing for the State of Utah and is statutorily charged with ensuring that all licensing laws are complied with in the State of Utah.” (4)
9. “Defendant Kay Bryson, Utah County Attorney, is statutorily charged with the duty to “appear and prosecute for the state in the district court of the county in all criminal prosecutions.” (5).
10. I have peculiar (and sometimes uncomfortable) access to conversations which reflect this “open secret” because, something like the straight-girl spies in Weaver’s locker room, I enter a Mormon meeting house as an apparent “insider.” Although any member of a Mormon ward would allow that there may be dissenters, apostates, or nonmembers in Sacrament Meeting, the assumption usually stands that all in attendance on any given Sunday in the heart of Utah are members in hearty agreement, and the language tends to reflect this assumption as long as members of the group are expressing mainstream views. I see an interesting reversal of this assumption, however, when any particular member speaks in any substantial degree of dissension; a standard objection to “argumentative” language is that nonmembers or members of undeveloped faith may be present and susceptible to doubt in such an environment.
11. This sentiment carries a binarized counterpart, however, specifically in regard to such issues as homosexuality. A standard alibi for enforcing worldly principles which happen to corroborate Mormon attitudes is the Twelfth Article of Faith, one of thirteen canonized statements of foundational doctrine: “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” This argument, in fact, is axiomatic to Hilton’s prosecution of Weaver; his invocation of Utah anti-sodomy laws allows him to classify Weaver as a criminal, and to classify anyone who supports or condones Weaver’s sexual rights as an abettor. The imperative to abandon peculiar sexual behavior in obedience to law may be one that some mainstream Mormons feel, on some level, a rather complex pleasure in enforcing, since open and visible Mormon polygamous practices were abandoned under extreme legal and political pressure at the turn of the nineteenth century.
12. Cf. an intriguing chapter from the Book of Mormon in which Nephi, a righteous hero, kills a king named Laban, disguises himself as the king in order to deceive Laban’s servant Zoram into giving him valuable royal documents, and then makes off with the goods with the help of the rather gullible servant. Answering Nephi’s objections to killing the drunk and unconscious Laban, “the Spirit” says to Nephi, “Behold the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands.” The verse continues in Nephi’s words: “Yea, and I also knew that he had sought to take away mine own life; yea, and he would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord; and he also had taken away our property.
12 And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands;
13 Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief’ (1 Nephi 4:11-13).
(One hopes that Nephi remembered to ask for a handshake first.)
13. Clearly, the state Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing does not concur with Hilton’s fear that Weaver is “practicing” psychology without a license. Rick VanWagoner, the ACLU attorney who represented Weaver against Nebo School District, reported in an affidavit to the court that Weaver received a confidential letter from the Division stating that it would seek no legal action against her (Groutage, “Dismiss,” 1998).
14. A category which includes, for example, “All of the players” who removed their shirts during a football game at Weaver’s cabin (7), “certain girls” who sat in a “hot tub on wheels” with Weaver (7), “two players” who sat with Weaver under a blanket “with the television playing” (8), team members who made “open displays of affection as they caressed each other, placed their heads in each other’s laps, and stroked each other’s faces and hair, and sometimes playfully struck each other’s breasts” (8). Big alarms are sounded over the senior members of the team mentoring younger girls, who would “pick up the young players in vehicles or motorcycles and go places” (10). In fact, Hilton explains without further context or evidence, “Many of those who were involved in the younger girl-older-girl network later announced that they were lesbians” (10).
15. Including, for example, any “individual team member” allegedly taken by Weaver “into a private room for an extended period of time” (8), “those who were more reserved” but who would “leave the group in pairs and return some time later” (8), psychology students who were allegedly required to report the content of telling dreams to Weaver and to classmates (11). Hilton’s portrait of Weaver shows her always eager to convert the vulnerable: “Defendant Weaver influenced the students in the class by saying that it is a good thing to question things and lifestyles to find out what you really want in your own personal life in terms of sexual orientation. She said in effect (my italics) that the students should search it for themselves whether it was right or wrong, regardless of what others or the District would say. She asked her students to consider whether or not they should be homosexual.”
I find this passage odd in its condemnation of a distinctly Mormon technique for discovering personal truth, as recorded in God’s voice to Joseph Smith in LDS scripture:
“8 But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
“9 But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong . . .” (Doctrine and Covenants 9:8-9).
I wonder at Hilton’s fear of Nebo’s Mormon students applying such a test of truth in regard to any subject, but particularly same-sex orientation, a subject which gives God such overwhelming social assistance in communicating its wickedness. In any case it seems to me that the Citizens’ God would answer such a query with a resounding and unmistakable stupor of thought.
16. Including girls caught with hickeys (9), “any young woman who appeared to be feminine . . girls who curled their hair, wore make-up, or had boyfriends (9), the lone girl who did not remove her shirt during the football game, who was “teased about the incident for the rest of the season” (7), and “a player who had felt she had been treated differently because she was straight,” who was allegedly told by Weaver for this reason that “Defendant Weaver hated her and the player was not wanted on the team” (8).
17. In fact, pro-gay rights argumentation in Utah can take on a rather ironic quality in this regard. Stephen Clark, director of the Utah Chapter of the ACLU, was subtly characterized as a ludicrous fanatic at a recent (February 2000) debate over the Knight Initiative, staged in the Florence Ragan Theatre at Utah Valley State College. Lynn Wardle, conservative family values activist, Mormon, and Brigham Young University professor of Family Science, strategically mentioned that Clark, who is gay and non-Mormon, has also argued in favor of legalizing polygamous marriage in Utah. The mention worked against Clark’s credibility among most of his Mormon listeners, not for it.
18. Excommunicated or disfellowshipped Mormons are forbidden to speak or pray in church meetings, however.
19. Masculinity in and of itself, I would venture, is not repulsive to Hilton; it is the “imitation” of masculinity by someone who does not physiologically deserve the privilege. The very indignance of Hilton et al. that Weaver might behave “like a man” is founded on the fact that she is physiologically female. This may seem ridiculously obvious, but it may serve as one more suggestion that much of the essence of homophobia toward either sex is misogyny.
20. In his article, “Is the Rectum a Grave?” Bersani speculates that the specific horror of gay male sexuality as portrayed by contemporary moralists is its fabled promiscuity, a capacity for spectacular repetition in its similarity to the receptive sexuality of women. “Promiscuity is the social correlative of a sexuality grounded in the menacing phenomenon of the nonclimactic climax,” he explains. “Prostitutes publicize (indeed, sell) the inherent aptitude of women for uninterrupted sex.” (1987, 211)
21. Arguably, Utah’s most vigilant and aggressive ultra-conservative lobby, directed by Gayle Ruzicka, Utah Valley Mormon mother of ten.
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