So much for the hype in the Bloggernacle that supposedly dispelled any notions that Oprah would support Beck’s outlandish anti-Mormon claims and false accusations that Hugh Nibley sexually abused her as a child. The March 2005 page for Oprah’s books sponsors Beck’s book. (This might be the one and only time that this blog ever links to Oprah’s sensationalist, pop-psychology website.)
The endorsement of the book, as unfortunate as it is, didn’t have to be as bad as it is. However, Oprah’s site uses language that presents Beck’s controversial, spurious, and religiously bigoted work as undisputed and established fact:
Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith (Crown) is Beck’s uncensored account of her chilling discovery that her father—a famous apologist for the Mormon Church—molested her as a child, and of how confronting that holy terror, now in his 90s, helped her complete her arduous journey “out of religion and into faith.”
Notice the language of this description of the book. It presents Beck’s allegations as fact (“uncensored account,” “chilling discovery,” “molested her as a child”). There is no hint in any of this that these are unproven, and, frankly, outrageous allegations.
Melissa Proctor, in the comments over at this BCC thread, has such a high level of faith in the American reading public that she doesn’t see much of a threat to the Church from Beck’s work. Apparently, she believes that the average American reads critically enough to see that Beck’s allegations are unfounded and stem from pop-psychological “recovered memories” from psycho-hypnotic procedures.
My earlier post about Beck’s book, on the other hand, pointed out where the danger lies for the Church in these allegations. Beck is able to erase her father’s career of dedicated and sound scholarship into the historical and cultural setting for the Book of Mormon and other aspects of Latter-day Saint faith by simply alleging that he sexually abused her and then adding unsupported and discredited anti-Mormon criticisms in the same paragraph as such allegations. Thus, she avoids the pesky detail that mountains of subsequent scholarly debate about the very anti-Mormon points that she dredges up has occured since these anti-Mormon criticisms against the plausibility of Latter-day Saint faith first surfaced in the nineteenth century. She doesn’t have to address any of the “apologetics” that defends the Church with sound research against her very accusations; rather, she plays the new anti-Mormon trump card: allegations of sexual abuse.
The American public is going to love this. It sets up an easy target–the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–for ridicule for an audience all too eager to find reasons to denigrate the Church. This audience is made up of a blend of Evangelicals and secular atheists, neither of which want to see the Church portrayed in a good light by any forum. This audience also reads the National Enquirer and hungers and thirsts after the newest “drama” and sensationalist reporting. Regardless of how inaccurately and absurdly the book portrays the Church and life in Utah, as well as the outlandish accusations against the Church’s greatest scholarly apologist, and despite the role that a discredited pop-psychological procedure of hypnotically recovering “lost memories” plays, Oprah and Oprah’s audience are going to receive it very well and take it as truth.