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The Mystery of Elizabeth Smart

How does she remain so strong after nine months of captivity and daily rape?

by
Andrew Klavan

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October 11, 2013 - 11:00 am
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Elizabeth Smart is making the rounds, flogging her new book My Story (written with Congressman Chris Stewart). Smart is, of course, the beautiful Mormon girl who in 2002 at 14 years old was abducted for nine months by evil lunatic Brian David Mitchell and his wife. Then, miraculously, she was found and reunited with her family. Today, she’s married and says she “couldn’t be happier.” She does good work fighting human trafficking and speaking to sexual abuse survivors.

I’ve always been kind of fascinated with Smart (I’ll read the book and get back to you on it if it’s any good). Her kidnappers dragged her around the country, chaining her up like an animal and raping her daily. And the two questions everyone always asks her are 1) why didn’t you run/call for help and 2) how come you’re not, like, bats**t crazy?

The first question doesn’t mean much to me. Fourteen-year-old-girl, threatened, brutalized, terrified: in the movies, she’d have run away. Real life, not so much. I think anyone with half an imagination can figure that one out.

But that second question — that haunts me. It really does. Nine months of trauma, raped every day, mentally tortured by these demonic lowlifes with their threats and their sick religious delusions. Hell, I know women who’ve been assaulted once and have never gotten over it. I know people whose whole lives are defined by the cruel things that were done to them. I myself just have to hear Smart’s story and I start having angry fantasies about what I’d like to do to Mitchell (hint: it involves a ball-peen hammer and pliers). So how does she, who actually went through this stuff…  how does she live her life without being consumed by rage every day all the time?

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Top Rated Comments   
It might have something to do with the fact that those who tormented her were NOT people whom she expected to love her. They were monsters and their actions had nothing to do with her family and where and how she grew up. I know a very old woman who still has the numbers she was forced to wear burned into her skin decades ago by people who despised her and her family. They killed some of them. And yet she has been a successful business woman, mother, member of the community since she fled here all those years ago. And she is one of the loveliest people I have ever met. I think it has a lot to do with who the tormentor is. People may be able to survive the torment of strangers but almost never the torment of family and those from whom one expected kindness and love.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
Simple. She's a Mormon. (I'm not.) They produce some of the most Christian people you've ever met. She is a credit to her faith.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ms Smart does not let events define her. She defines herself in her own terms. What happened to her is outside her control, but how she's reacting to it very clearly is. So with her character and faith she has decided to be the person she wants to be. Would that I had her courage and wisdom.

Tu ne cede malis; sed contra, audentior ito.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (40)
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http://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2013/10/11/the-mystery-of-elizabeth-smart/?show-at-comment=301069#comment-301069

Hokay. For the record, what we consider standard Western theology took about 1,000 years or so to work out. The first missionaries were people who had been at Pentecost,40 days or so after Jesus was resurrected. The people went out everywhere, in every direction, with what they'd seen. They didn't check in with a church, because there really wasn't much of a church around- they could fit in a room. We still don't know how far they got. Asia, for sure: Mongolia bears traces of visits by Nestorian Christians- not in their theology, but in their math. Japan gets missionaries washed up on-shore, where they find little groups of odd Christians praying very, very old prayers. Nobody knows who got there first, and the Japanese government has a habit of sending policemen to check up on people in their houses, and they had a habit of killing off oddballs. There's an argument that some missionaries made it out into the Pacific Islands. Armenia was evangelized and then had a massacre of Christians before Rome even thought about converting- and that's as close as we've got.

What archaelogists find is that they can't always understand the iconography of the Christian borderlands, in pretty much the same way we have a hard time with the iconography of, say, any sophisticated Western painting from before 1917. There are paintings of Jesus and Plato, for instance. There are paintings of Jesus as Orpheus, but showing both sets of attributes. Jesus and Horus and Isis, too. That's close enough to Western Civ, recorded in writing areas, that we can sort out, kind of, what we are looking at. But we don't understand the meanings that people chose.

Can you sort out the personal meanings of a tattoo, for instance? You've got what you think it means, and then you ask the person- and whoa- something else pops up. I can see a copy of a movie poster, for instance, while the person chose it to show loyalty to their brother, family, and wife, above his own life. And that's modern.

The Divine is infinite, and crosses the finite plane. It's not plottable- if I were to continue the mathematical idea. It's approximatable- but not able to be completely touched. Which is why there are mathematicians among the saints of the church- they are speaking of God in calculus.

In the same way, Joseph Smith and his followers since then are working out a set of worshipful ideas that make sense to them, and are within the broader reaches of the Great Big Boat of the Divine Worship- and we don't know where they lead, or how. They might not look orthodox, catholic, chaldean, abyssinian, irish, nestorian, syriac, etc etc etc to us- because they aren't. What we do have to go on, as evidence, is that the people following Mormonism exhibit the fruits of the Spirit- joy, love, peace, strength of character, and so on---while, say, the 'glorious fist" or whatever it was- the odd cult in china in the 18th century- did not. or, say, the lord's resistance army in africa- again- making child soldiers kill their parents, take drugs, and such- they don't either. That's how we know those are heresies- they aren't exhibiting fruits of the spirit. We can then anatomize further, how they are off-base.

What we do have is that some ideas get tested and tried and handed on, while others fade out. Mormonism is a type of Christianity in its second century. They've jettisoned some practices and added others. Nonetheless, in the meantime, they are on the boat. Elizabeth Smart is as good as any advertisement for that as any.

In the same way, Calvinism was distinctly homicidal and theocratic when it started under Calvin. Luther makes me cringe some of the time. Catholicism had entire centuries where one pauses, shall we say. Now? they've worked out bits and pieces of how things work. And yet, I think we'll all agree that they have something distinct to offer, each a little different, but good. They worked out what they meant. The Mormons, even now, are doing the same.



39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Deeply-held fundamental belief of righteous and moral conduct was instilled in Elizabeth Smart. She's one stalwart human being, even at 14 years of age. She knew right from wrong. Her courage of conviction led to placing the crimes she endured in the proper perspective. She did not allow her rapists and captors to break her. That strength was taught to her by amazing parents, family & friends, religious mentors & teachers and God. She is not a victim - she is victorious, triumphant, unbeaten - UNDEFEATED! She is the epitome of a role model for all of us!
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
Here is a link to a post I wrote in response to Klavan's article. FYI--
http://stuartschneiderman.blogspot.com/2013/10/elizabeth-smarts-recovery.html
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
Her story reminds me of Louis Zamperini - astonishing, unbreakable persistence in the face of unbelievable odds.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
What kind of Ass describes a child victim as a failure?
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm not sure what the book says but I have seen that she's now describes herself as a political activist who talks against teaching abstinence because she blames her conservative up-bringing in part for failure to try to escape her kidnappers.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/wp/2013/05/07/elizabeth-smart-mormon-teaching-on-sex-stopped-me-from-escaping-kidnappers/
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
In reply to AlishaG99:

There are several apostolic seats. They have different theologies about the substance and relationship between Jesus and Divinity. The branch you hang on is only one branch.

Mormons, worshipping God, show the fruits of the Spirit- joy, love, peace, truthfulness, patience, etc etc etc.

They might not be on your branch, but they are on the tree of God.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
Except they also teach false doctrine (i.e. Christ and satan are brothers, chosen mormons will become the God of their own planets).
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
Let's talk theology, since you bring it up.
God promises that we can be his heirs and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), and you're taking issue with that actually happening? What do you think it means to be an "heir" of a God? It's a big, big universe out there with lots of room for an infinite number of other planets. Why shouldn't/can't God elevate his faithful children to be like Him? Isn't he All-powerful? I believe he is All-powerful, though constrained by His own righteousness.
Also, Christ is Hitler's brother, too, because God is the Father of all who were, are, or will be on this world. Saying that the fallen Satan was God's child prior to his rebellion doesn't mean we're blaspheming against Christ.
I'm LDS. I have worshiped Jesus Christ nearly every day of my conscious life, and I'm so weary of willfully ignorant people who don't even know what's in the Bible telling me that I'm not a Christian because I don't hold exactly the same beliefs as they do.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment

The question Klavan asks, how does she stay so posiitive, reminded me of something. Then I remembered one character in an Andrew Klavan novel (IF WE SURVIVE) asked why another character was so unafraid. The answer turned out to be she was inspired by her sister. Elizabeth Smart's answer would probably be similarly idiosyncratic & in explicable without the story that goes along with it. (If he really wants to understand he'll just have to write a novel about it.)
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
In the 1930s a Canadian man living in California raped and murdered a series of young boys. He then convinced his sister to let her son join him in America.

The man raped and brutalized the nephew and then forced him to help in the murders. After the man was caught and the boy freed, an administrator in the penal system gave the boy special attention.

That boy distinguished himself as a solid and much loved sergeant in a Canadian combat unit for 6 years in the second world war.


After the war he became a postman in a small Canada town and raised a family of three children. All loved him and he was well respected in his community. The Angelina Joli movie about a missing child directed by Eastwood tells some of the tale, but not the tormented nephew's story.

It is an astounding mystery to me.

The press, if I recall aright, downplays or ignores the role the LDS has played in helping Ms.Smart re-establish herself in life.

40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
Smart's apparent ability to do well can be explained by an alternative factor. Her captor was an alpha thug. Many younger women seek such people. I hope I'm wrong, but this possibility falls into line with the same reason many women stay with abusive jerks.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
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