Better to BELIEVE, than to be SAFE–The Mormon Way

In a truly embarassing moment for the LDS Church, it has been discovered that a sex offender–who is currently serving a jail term–has an article in the October issue of the Ensign Magazine.

In a story in the Deseret News, which I am quoting MOSTLY because the opening paragraph is a HILARIOUS attempt to CLEAR THE CHURCH OF ALL BLAME BEFORE ANYONE READS FURTHER THEREBY MAKING CLEAR THEY HAD NO GUILT, they emphatically state that there was just nothing–NOTHING–they could have done to stop this. Interesting journalistic tactic.

Here’s the opener.

The October issues of the LDS Church’s widely circulated Ensign and Liahona magazines contain an article written by a sex offender whose arrest and conviction came after the magazines’ editors conducted background checks.

Okay, now that we’ve made that VERY VERY CLEAR, now you can read further. Anyone who had ANY doubt whether or not the Deseret News was unbiased can now cross that concern off their list. BIAS is the newspaper’s middle name.

Here’s part of the ACTUAL story, which is what SHOULD be told.

The story by Oleg Barabash describes how as a recent convert in Ukraine he distanced himself, then became active again in his new found faith. After serving a mission in England, Barabash attended Brigham Young University and worked at the LDS Church’s Missionary Training Center.

Barabash, 27, was sentenced in August to 240 days in jail for two class A misdemeanors of lewdness involving a child. Four second-degree felony charges were dropped in exchange for the guilty plea of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy.

Now, personally, I don’t really think the issue here is whether this should even BE an embarassment for the Church. They didn’t molest this child, Barabesh did. And since, as I’ve stated MANY MANY TIMES, Mormons are first and foremost humans, the fact HE is the scummiest of the pond-scum sucking scums, does not really reflect on the LDS Church.

And if they did indeed do a background check, and he was INDEED arrested later, after the article was accepted, as they have stated, this situation was ENTIRELY out of their control.

Although you would think God would have AT LEAST given them a heads up, beings as they are the members of HIS only true church.

There were two things about this situation that really bothered me.

1. They are doing BACKGROUND CHECKS on people who write for Church publications but NOT on people who actually WORK with children across the world on a daily basis. Which means they believe there is more danger that people might READ something they shouldn’t, and leave the church, than there is that a child could potentially be molested and abused!

2. They are, quite obviously, rewriting things for people, putting words into people’s mouths, trying to spread the FAITH TO OTHER NEW MEMBERS, without really looking into OR RESEARCHING what they are doing. Why do I say this?

See, the thing is, I did a Google search on Oleg, and came up with this.

Oleg had himself a little blog on a place called Campushopper.com

There, he wrote:

I’m a BYU student. Have you heard about such university? Yes? Good!!! No? Bad!!! It is somewhere in America, in square state with a lot of mountains called Utah. Does it ring the bell. Anyway, I love this university and it was my dream to study here so here I am. I guess, this is the best university in the world. What else?

Ah, you want to know where I am from. Right? Because you’ve noticed couple of mistakes in the text. Well, do not get surprised. It’s because I am a crazy foreigner. Oh, you want to know what country I am from. It’s somewhere in Eastern Europe. It starts with U. So pause now and do not read further but try to check your geography knowledge. One clue. We had orange revolution in December 2004. By the way I took part in it. So I guess I am also a revolutionary. So, did you guess? I hope you did. No? It’s Ukraine!!! I speak Ukrainian as my first language. Now, you want to know if Ukrainian is like Russian. No!!! It is not!!! For goodness sake. It’s much better!!! No offence to Russians here. But as a Ukrainian I should be proud of my country and my language. Now, I’m also a nationalistic.

How long I’ve being in the United States? To be more precise, it’s 13 months as of February 2006.

Oleg, did you serve a mission? Who me? Would you not marry me if I didn’t? Oh, you just want to know. Ok, here is the answer. Yes, I did. I served in England London South Mission. So, I had some chance to practice my English. As you probably guessed. Excited? No? Good!!!

You might have noticed Oleg’s English is not all that good. Wonder how he managed to get published in the Ensign? I have sources are digging for the actual article, so we can compare the writing.

I also happened up on the actual details of Oleg’s trial, but the original Salt Lake Tribune article is no longer available. If you want to read a rather funny recounting–please NOTE! The actual CRIME Oleg committed is NOT EVEN REMOTELY funny. But the take this blogger took is–then go here.

My suggestion to the LDS Church? Spend more money trying to actually KEEP your children safe. Do background checks on youth leaders of all ages and stripes. Avoid a few of those billion and million dollar lawsuits.

I do not understand why an organization that is so large and powerful is MORE WORRIED ABOUT WHAT PEOPLE SAY ABOUT IT, then whether or not someone is fondling their children during Scout meetings!!

This was a faux pas. A BIGGER FAUX PAS was admitting they regularly do background checks and SCREENINGS on writers, but NEVER ON YOUTH LEADERS. Can written words really do more damage than molestation and fondling? Nope. Sorry.

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About Natalie R. Collins

Natalie has more than 30 years writing, editing, proofreading and design experience. She has written 20 books (and counting), has worked for the Sundance Film Festival, and as an investigative journalist, editor, and proofreader. She embraces her gypsy-heart and is following her new free-thinking journey through life. Follow her as she starts over and learns a bunch of life's lessons--some the hard way.
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11 Responses to Better to BELIEVE, than to be SAFE–The Mormon Way

  1. Cele says:

    How could a background check not pick that up? You would think if he was sentenced in August, that he’d have been in court before that, and on trial before that. Wouldn’t they have just not run the story? It makes more sense.

    A major part of this that worries me is that he only got 240 days in jail. Less than a year. The plead out for a reduction in charges. What on God’s green earth is wrong with them. Sexual Abuse and only 240 days? That is an outrage in itself and a disgrace on the Utah justice system.

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  2. MLBower says:

    What is most shocking is that someone would actually argue that he merely didn’t know it was inappropriate behavior because it is acceptable in the Ukraine. I took a few basic law claases when I was in college and one of the very first things they teach you about criminal law is that IGNORANCE IS NOT AN EXCUSE. You can’t just say ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to touch a young child’s genitals. My bad.’ and be on your merry way.
    I know it is very big in Mormonism to send every single young lad on a mission as soon as they turn 19 or convert, but perhaps, just maybe, not every young lad should go on a mission. As a child, I would look up at missionaries and think of how much older and wiser they were. Now, I look at them and think they are just kids themselves and what could they possibly know abou the world when they haven’t had time to be in it. If the church couldn’t have known or found out what kind of man this Ukranian was, why wouldn’t they have taken opportunity to observe him and find out what kind of man he is?
    Now the big question is whether or not the church will notify those who receive the magazine exactly who the article was written by. Those living outside of Utah may be unaware of the entire situation.

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  3. Nathan Rasmussen says:

    (Full disclosure: I have been personally acquainted with Oleg Barabash for the last six years. I met him while serving as a missionary in his native Lviv, Ukraine; I have worked alongside him on occasion since; and I consider him a casual friend. I am also an active member of the church.)

    I do agree that the opening of the Deseret News article is pretty funny. For the sake of balance, here’s the Salt Lake Tribune’s opening salvo: “An article published in the October edition of the LDS Church-owned Ensign magazine was penned by a former BYU student and church member who was recently jailed after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges of lewdness involving a child.” The spin is just as hilariously blatant, only in the other direction. (The Trib was founded by anti-authoritarian ex-Mormons. That apple didn’t fall any further from the tree than the Desperate News did.) The Provo Daily Herald actually covered the matter without making themselves look like clowns, for which I’m grateful.

    (BTW, I think that means ‘(former BYU student) and church member’, not ‘former (BYU student and church member),’ though I’m not sure. It wouldn’t be surprising if he were disfellowshipped for this, possibly even required to see a counselor before regaining his good standing, but it would be somewhat surprising if he were excommunicated.)

    You can check the chronology online: The Ensign’s editorial deadlines put the background check six months before publication, which would be April, and Oleg was arrested on May 22. Cele suggests that they might have just pulled the story. Printing a few million copies of a journal takes a little time, you know, and pulling a story makes a huge gap in your layout that you’ve got to do something about. The following is speculation, but August is no time to be doing that, since at that time the Ensign has to get ahead of schedule so as to be ready for the semi-annual rush publishing job that is General Conference (conference in early October, in print by November). They did pull the story from their online version (I checked), but the moving litho prints, and, having printed, moves on. And so, I expect, will the church.

    Now, as to the quality of Oleg’s English. How much do you know about English as a second language? Have you met many non-native speakers? I have, since I’m an ESL teacher, and I’ll tell you that by second-language standards, Oleg’s campushopper stuff is pretty darned good. I see writing no worse from native speakers on blogs all the time.

    You accuse the church of rewriting, putting words in his mouth. Um. One, anyone is going to write a little more carefully for publication in a million print copies than for a blog. Two, Oleg has just a few friends who *are* native speakers of English, with whom he discussed his prospective article. Three, you see, the Ensign employs these special people called editors. And although it is fashionable, these days, to arm editors with no more than a rubber stamp that says ‘OK,’ it is not hard to imagine that, deep in the labyrinthine corridors of the Church Office Building, there might yet lurk a few throwbacks who wield the traditional red pen.

    You and/or MLBower also seem to have assumed that Oleg was a youth leader or something. No. He was a student, he trained missionaries of ages 19 and up, and he worked occasionally as an interpreter for broadcast events. (If he were a youth leader, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see an excommunication come out of this. It’s pretty clear in the church handbooks that you respond much more seriously to abuses of a position of trust than to the same action carried out by a random nobody. But he wasn’t a youth leader, after all.)

    Finally, let’s not put words in the *Church’s* mouth, huh? I quote: ‘admitting they regularly do background checks and SCREENINGS on writers, but NEVER ON YOUTH LEADERS.’ Um. Could you point out to me where the church has said they never do background checks on youth leaders?

    I grant that it is not standard procedure, and here’s why: The editorial office at the Ensign cannot be personally acquainted with every person who submits a manuscript. They can expect to get submissions from cranks, lunatics, antis, and weirdos of just about any sort. (Just about every psycho in Utah ‘knows’ s/he is Very Important to the powers that be, up in Salt Lake.) So they very sensibly use an available generic tool, the police background check, to help them screen the good from the bad. Whereas a bishop who calls a youth leader is personally acquainted with that person, is instructed to conduct a searching interview, and has documentation of the person’s church membership. The Church is inclined to extend some trust to its members, who have made a solemn promise to try and do what’s right. (This is not merely a courtesy: You don’t develop much character if you’re being micromanaged. Consider the general depravity that emerges from police states.) So it is not usual to conduct background checks for those situations. If there’s any question about someone, you’d more likely just give him a non-youth calling than run a background check on him.

    Postscript: I don’t know what’s up with that ‘cultural misunderstanding’ line either. It doesn’t sound like Oleg, and it doesn’t sound like Ukrainian culture. (No, the ‘cool kids’ are not walking around Kiev flashing each other hello.) I bet it was the public defender’s idea. I’m also not at all certain whether Oleg was doing this for sexual gratification, in which case he needs to see a therapist, or merely because he is, after all, an irresponsible guy with a crude sense of humor. He said in court it was not a sexual matter, but I’m not sure I can take him at his word on that. It is true that he’s pretty irresponsible and wild, and that he enjoys shocking people. It is even true that humor in Ukraine is more often vulgar, and more explicitly so, than in the States (the USSR left behind a lot of moral imbeciles), not that that excuses Oleg from knowing better. So I can readily imagine him stepping *way* over the line without any sexual motivation; but I can imagine that he’s a deviant and we just didn’t know it before, too. I’m now writing Oleg to ask about all of these things.

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  4. Oleg Barabash says:

    Ok, I guess that now it’s my turn to speak for myself. I can not read all that “bullshit” about myself and sit quiet!

    I stated that before and do it one more time. There was nothing sexual in my relationship with my so-called “victim”. If there was, I would guarantee you that I would get more than 240 days in jail. They accused me in lewdness acts, which is nonsense! They told me the victim claimed he saw my privates. My question is: “So what?” Did I masturbate in front of my victim or masturbated his penis? – No! Did I sexually arouse myself or my victim? – No! – THERE WAS NOTHING SEXUAL BETWEEN MY VICTIM AND ME!!! So, what is wrong? I will tell you!!! Your laws and society which is sick with sex abuse paranoia! In Ukraine, I can go to any sauna and see dozens naked men of different ages and no one thinks that it’s a “lewdness”!!! You can go swimming with your friends to the nearest lake in privacy and be completely nude. No one cares! It’s natural.

    In America everything is different. You made such a big thing out of it that you even will have a 12 year old boy registered as a “sex offender” because he played a doctor with his younger brother! ( See http://sentencing.nj.gov/downloads/pdf/articles/2006/Oct2006/news06.pdf) It’s sick!

    Why such things happen? – You have some people who make business on it. For example, democrats wanted to win elections so what do they do? It’s just enough to accuse Mr. Foley to send “explicit” messages to White House young pages and here we are! – Foley quits from his office and democrats win!!! Great!

    I just hope that your society will come back to its senses and stop this nonsense.

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  5. We are evangelical Christians who have aministry to Mormons .
    We knew Oleg when he was serving his Mormon mission in England . We tried to help him come out of the Cult . if you are able to forward our email details to Oleg it would be much apprciated . Andrew and Ruth Price

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  6. josh jones says:

    Don’t bag on his public defender. She is a very talented attorney. She will not make him say something that is not true or too uncomfortable for him. All of you need to check facts about everyone you are talking about before talking adversely about anyone.

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  7. Mr. Jones says:

    Hey guys – you should reconsider the name of your website – Trapped by Religion!!!

    You put some much efforts in trying to blame mormons that you forget that in your own religion there are so many sexual predetors!!!

    I feel really sorry for you Natalie Collins – I guess Oleg Barabash is way smarter than you since he got ridd off the religious shit, in one of his blogs he said that he is no longer a mormon and lives in celestial kingdom! LOL

    Like

  8. Patmos Pete says:

    Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.

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  9. Natalie says:

    The only answer to this is, WTF?

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  10. Carl says:

    WTF doesn’t begin to cover it Nat! Have you checked out this “PATMOS” blog? Holy F’n mother of nut job!!

    Like

  11. Birdman says:

    It was quite the dinner topic, Carl. I suggested that if he were going to quote scripture, that he provide book chapter and verse…but I don’t think Amazon carries the King Crazy version of the bible.

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