For the record, I have met Chad Daybell, the man at the center of that Idaho missing-children mystery.
Nearly four decades ago, I was a cop in the small town where Daybell graduated from high school. We later worked for the same newspapers (although not this one). My first books were published by the company where he became the managing editor.
So, while I don’t recall any specific encounter, our paths crossed too many times for us not to have at least met in person. If we did meet, apparently I was too blind to recognize his spiritual greatness.
Now that he’s in jail, it does make me wonder how he went from a relatively normal kid, to a Mormon missionary, temple-married husband and father, published author, and, finally, cult leader?
A few years ago, he reportedly told friends that an angel appeared and said his first wife, Tammy, was going to die. Shortly thereafter, she did.
Soon after her burial, he married Lori Vallow. If that can’t convince you that he was telling the truth about the angel, then you’re blind. And probably unworthy.
Lots of cults end badly, like the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, the Manson family in California, Heaven’s Gate (also in California), Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple in Guyana.
Falling under the spell of such a thing may have already happened to me, belonging as I do to The Church of Hay-Sue Cristo of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), which some consider a cult.
According to experts — including some who only think they are — the signs of a cult are easy to discern. I’m not sure they apply to me, but let’s check.
- The leader is infallible.
- Deceptive recruitment practices.
- Exclusivity in faith.
- Intimidation and fear.
- Illegal activities.
Really? I’ve been a Mormon my entire life and none of those has ever entered into the equation in a serious way. I get bored too easily for that kind of stuff. I argue with leaders all the time. Intimidated? By a church? Please. And I have no idea why there’s stuff about some dog’s ma.
Then again, maybe I do belong to a cult. Most people call it marriage. My wife is infallible. And she deceptively recruited me by batting her eyes a certain way in 1975.
Furthermore, she insists that I remain exclusively hers. I’m scared of making her mad. She forces me to engage in illegal activities by demanding that blowing stuff up can occur only outside where the cops can hear it.
I don’t even want to get into doctrine, which consists of incomprehensible edicts like, “We can’t afford that right now” and “I can tell you’re lying by the look on your face.”
OK, I belong to a cult. Lucky for me.
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.