Altar Bound

men who hide behind pulpits and priesthood

Altar Bound
collage by me

This is the second installment in an ongoing series on The LDS Church and abuse. It contains violent imagery and details about child abuse. I am sorry.

This series is not a history, although it contains research. It is not a report, although it contains reporting. It is not a persuasive text, a screed or a prayer. It is not the whole story. I am not really sure what it is.

But I think it might be a lament.

It might be helpful to read the first piece before reading this one. But it’s not necessary. I’ve included related resources at the end of the essay.


Many people have asked how they can support me as I write about religion and abuse. I think they understand the toll a project like this can take on a person. In order to keep working, I depend on the financial support of my readers.

One-time donations and paid memberships to pocket observatory allow me to pay for the resources I need to be able to write.

The first story

Ten years before King Agamemnon made Achilles angry in Troy, the winds went still in Aulis. Agamemnon was there, gathering the Greek fleet. He’d called for war because he wanted control of Trojan trading routes. 

The king knew his trade would require the lives of many men. So he claimed they were forced to fight because of a princess named Helen. It was better to tell Greek fathers their sons died because of a woman. But the men could not die, if they could not sail. Agamemnon waited impatiently for the wind to return. 

The king’s priest, Calchas, claimed Artemis stopped the wind because she was angry. The priest declared Artemis could only be appeased through the sacrifice of Agamemnon’s daughter, Iphigenia. Maybe Calchas really believed the goddess demanded the king’s daughter. Maybe the priest knew that once you convince a father to sacrifice his child, you can convince him of nearly anything. 

Usually when the story is told, Agamemnon reacts to the priest’s words with dismay. In some versions, commanders in the fleet pressure him to make the sacrifice. In other tellings, the king paces, finally asking the priest, 

“Is there no other way?” 

Agamemnon always overcomes his reluctance to sacrifice his daughter. She is his to offer and his plans for power require a fair wind. 

The priest knew that once you convince a father to sacrifice his child, you can convince him of nearly anything

The king knew his wife, Klytaimnḗstra, would not send their daughter to him as an offering. So he sent a message claiming Iphigenia was needed in Aulis, where she would be wed to Achilles. A marriage to a half-god was a fine thing. 

Klytaimnḗstra dressed Iphigenia in beautiful robes, caressing her daughter’s cheek before sending her away. This was how it was meant to be. There was nothing to say. 

People say that Iphigenia believed she was being given to Achilles, even as she was led to the altar where Agamemnon waited. She only understood she was a different kind of offering when the tip of her father’s blade touched her throat. 

Calchas, the priest, was wrong. Artemis never asked for Iphigenia. And she did not stop the wind because she was angry. She held it back because she knew how how much death would follow the Greeks to Troy. She released the wind as Iphigenia’s body grew cold. Let the men sail to kill and die. She would not protect them.

Klytaimnḗstra learned what Agamemnon had done before he reached the Trojan shore. She watched for her husband’s return, every day. 

Achilles raged and a wooden horse was built before King Agamemnon set sail for home. When he arrived, Klytaimnḗstra greeted him with red robes and a hot bath. As he soaked, she pulled a sharp point across his throat. She wiped her bloody hand across his cheek before leaving his body in the water. This was how it had to be. There was nothing to say. 

Her son, Orestes, believed women were for making men, not punishing them. He vowed to avenge his father. Klytaimnestra clutched at her son’s cheeks as he pushed a knife deep into her soft stomach.  This was not supposed to happen. There was something to say. As she died, Klytaimnḗstra invoked the names of furious old gods bound by an old code.

Alecto was Unceasing. Tilphousia was Destruction. Megaera was Grudging.

At the beginning of the world, three sisters emerged from the darkness of their mother. Alecto was Unceasing. Tilphousia was Destruction. Megaera was Grudging. They were the Furies. 

Eyes dripping with blood, libation-stained lips and scalps writhing with snapping snakes, the sisters lived deep down. They had work under the ground. Fingers ringed with dirt, they mixed their blood with the earth, making it wet. Inhabiting the space between winter and spring, they pressed their cheeks against the mud, feeling for the stirring of life. 

The sisters had work above the ground too. Men’s unholy designs incurred their anger. Blood vengeance was the rite of the wronged. When the sisters heard Klytaimnestra’s invocation, they emerged from the earth, carrying brass-studded scourges. 

Orestes ran. But he knew the sisters always found their charges. The Furies could smell, taste and hear the impious. They moved as quickly as thought. And they could see better in the dark. Orestes knew what the sisters would do to him. They gathered their foundlings into the darkness, offering a furious reassurance,

Shhh, shhh, shhh. We’ll take care of you now.

The Furies always flayed their wards first. But scourging never satisfied. And so, when the whip lost its sting, the sisters began to sing. 

Our Sisters of Perpetual Patience took their time

Some say the sisters screamed their song. I think they sang it soft and low, like a lullaby. A three part harmony that caused a paralytic madness. The wrongdoer’s mind grew quick with horrors as stillness moved in from his fingers and toes. Our Sisters of Perpetual Patience took their time, waiting for his mind to shatter before their song reached his lungs. Always careful with their dependents, the Furies only turned away after his last inhalation. 

They would have sung to Orestes, if it wasn’t for Athena. She helped Orestes seek sanctuary in a court in Athens. Athena was a new god writing the old code in a new way. Her designs made material of men. She would use them to build her city-state, Athens. 

Blood vengeance was to be the right of the male, land-owning citizen.1 State power would be maintained through compromising juries and courtly outcomes. But Athena could not order her city-state while the sisters sang. She required their silence. 

When the sisters moved to claim Orestes, Athena asserted the court’s claim to Orestes fate. With her deciding vote, the court declared that a man who killed his mother wasn’t so bad. Especially if that mother killed his father. 

Iphigenia wasn’t Klytaimnḗstra’s to avenge in the first place. Children belonged to their fathers. Harming a man meant harming Athens. But a woman? A woman had no authority in Athens and so she had not rights and deserved no rites.

Athena was proud of her rhetoric. But the Furies were not convinced. They opened their mouths to sing. It was then that Athena drew near them. They were not used to being approached. Startled, they closed their mouths and listened to her soft voice.

Athena could sense the sisters were tired, after all their hounding. That their throats were dry, after all their singing. Men had been so very bad for so very long. Athena wondered, What if, three sisters, you protect the just instead of hounding the wicked? What if you nurture the life that builds the city? 

The sisters recoiled, but they did not pull quickly enough into the dark. Athena gathered them into her light, threatening, promising and soothing with the promise of satisfaction.

Athena draped the sisters twisted shoulders with red robes. She bid them to wipe the blood from their eyes and gave them a new name, The Venerable Ones. The sisters followed her into a house with three pedestals. As each sister stepped up, the snakes fell from her scalp, and her twitching limbs grew still. 

A woman had no authority and so she had not rights and deserved no rites.

The impious no longer ran. They walked circles around the Athenian courts, running out water clocks with rhetoric. A man was called just if he adhered to the law, which was written by men like him. The powerful protected their abuses in shadows created by lines of code. 

Pregnant girls visited The Venerable Ones and asked for healthy children. They left baskets of bread and fruit as offerings. And then they’d lean against a mud brick wall, close their eyes, and feel for the stirring in their wombs. They were nurturing the life that built the city. 

When it was time, men and women placed their children on altars constructed of custom and culture. Offerings made in exchange for fair winds.

The second story

These myths have been told for thousands of years. But I didn’t read them until I was thirty-five. I wept with a kind of bitter recognition, I knew what it was to be led by men who made child sacrifice the founding act of their power. I wept with an embarrassed betrayal, why hadn’t anyone told me the thing I called justice was just protection for the powerful? Why had I needed someone to tell me?


When Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was fourteen years old he went into the woods to ask God a question. He said that as he prayed, God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him. 

The LDS Church marks this moment as the beginning of the Restoration. What was restored? God’s kingdom, 

a sovereign city-state with its own customs, codes, and courts. Each member of the church is made legible through tithes and census. Only men can become true citizens of the LDS Church. They are ordained to the priesthood, an authority derived from God, the beginning of all things.

Men have the right to preside, reveal and conceal. LDS Bishops are ordained as Judges in Israel. Judges in Israel can excommunicate members of the Church. Excommunication is like exile. To become an exile, doesn’t just mean just being cast out of a church. It means being cast out of heaven.

 The Church doesn’t need physical borders to be a sovereign city-state. The bodies and spirits of its members are its form. And they carry a map of its boundaries in their hearts. - from the first essay in this series

I grew up in that sovereign city-state, learning about this boy, this prayer, this ongoing restoration of light. I remember looking forward to being fourteen. An age when a child was ignorant enough to walk past every answering adult and into the presence of God. An age when a child was wise enough to kneel in sacred places and hear words older than the trees, the dirt and the stars. 

What won’t a girl do to ensure her family’s salvation?


When Helen Mar Kimball was fourteen, her father told her God revealed a higher principle of marriage to the man they called prophet, Joseph Smith. This higher principle required one man to have many wives, they called it Celestial Marriage.

The principle was being secretly practiced by leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The marriages were performed late at night, with just a few witnesses. The plural wives didn’t live with their husband, because no one could know they were married. They remained with their families, or in little homes alone. But when their husband knocked, often late at night, they were expected to answer.  

Helen’s father told her he wanted her to become one of Joseph Smith’s wives. She was given twenty-four hours to give her consent. Helen Mar Kimball wrote that Joseph Smith came to her the next morning and said, 

‘If you will take this step, it will ensure your eternal salvation & exaltation and that of your father’s household & all of your kindred.[‘] This promise was so great that I willingly gave myself to purchase so glorious a reward. None but God & his angels could see my mother’s bleeding heart-when Joseph asked her if she was willing...She had witnessed the sufferings of others, who were older & who better understood the step they were taking, & to see her child, who had scarcely seen her fifteenth summer, following in the same thorny path, in her mind she saw the misery which was as sure to come...; but it was all hidden from me.”

The suffering Helen’s mother had witnessed included her own. Helen’s father took a secret plural wife in 1842. Helen didn’t know. 

What won’t a girl do to ensure her family’s salvation? She married Smith. She was not the last fourteen year old he took as a plural wife. 

Smith was killed in Illinois when he was 38. By then, he’d married up to 40 girls and women in secret. Helen’s father died twenty years after the Mormons settled Utah. By then, the principle was no longer a secret. Her father had taken 43 wives, each was taught their family’s salvation depended upon the principle.

Sometimes LDS apologists argue that Helen was not a child, because by fourteen she’d probably already started menstruating. They say she was considered mature enough to marry within the context of her time. This is untrue. 

Fourteen to sixteen was the average age of marriage for females in Ancient Greece. From the early 18th century through the 19th century, the average age of marriage for women in the United States was between 20 and 22 years old. 

Today, LDS men argue that Helen was mature enough to marry. And that twelve year old girls in the church are mature enough to be questioned about sex by LDS men behind closed doors. Men who call themselves priests are often wrong. 

I was a child the first time a LDS leader took it upon himself to ask me if I masturbated. And Helen knew she was a child when she was sacrificed by her father. Helen wrote, 

“Having a great desire to be connected with the Prophet Joseph, he offered me to him; this I afterwards learned from the Prophet’s own mouth. My father had but one Ewe Lamb, but willingly laid her upon the alter”

Over the next century and a half, plenty of LDS fathers willingly laid other people’s lambs upon the altar.


Joseph Smith was dead and the LDS people had moved west to the place we now call Utah. They called it the State of Deseret, it was a theocracy with polygamy as a founding document. 

Growing up, my Sunday school teachers didn’t talk much about the Church’s history of polygamy. But I was taught about the sacrifices of the Mormon pioneers who walked across the plains so that some LDS men could practice polygamy. There was a children’s hymn about them, I can still hum the melody.  

Pioneer children sang, as they walked and walked and walked.

Cheerfully. image from LDS website

Well, they sang unless they died.

Women walked across the plains to Utah, with too little food, in the wrong season, burying babies in frigid ground along the way. Babies that might have lived if they’d been born in a home instead of on the side of a rutted trail. I’m related to some of those children. I’ll never find their bones. 

20th Century

By the mid-twentieth century, the LDS Church had evolved from isolated theocracy in the desert to a group striving to prove they were emblematic of American Exceptionalism. This wasn’t such a hard shift, really. It had always been a very American religion.

One way the Church associated itself with America was by developing a relationship with the Boy Scouts of America. The BSA started as a British paramilitary organization. By the 1930s, it was considered as American as apple pie. Like the LDS Church, the Boy Scouts depended on its wholesome reputation to appeal to potential members.

The BSA became church’s official youth program for boys. LDS BSA Troops were made up of boys and men from LDS congregations. At the height of their one hundred year relationship, some experts say the LDS Church accounted for 40% of BSA membership. The LDS Church paid the scouting dues for every member boy, funding the BSA depended upon to function. 

The BSA and the LDS Church knew there was a problem with child sexual abuse within Boy Scouts. Pedophila was not wholesome, so it had to be kept secret. 

The BSA kept track of pedophiles in confidential records they called “perversion files.” The BSA claims the files were kept to protect children, but since so few of the perpetrators were ever reported to law enforcement, it’s apparent they were simply keeping track of their liabilities. 

The perversion files were a huge piece of evidence in uncovering the multi-generation BSA coverup of sex abuse. Very few of them had to do with LDS troops. But that was by design. 

According to victims, lawyers of victims, BSA leadership and sworn testimony from LDS leadership, the LDS Church handled reports of child sex abuse internally.That wasn’t so hard either. They’d known how to do things secretly since the 1800s. 


A sixteen year old named Brad Stowell told his bishop he abused a young neighbor boy. Instead of making sure Stowell was taken care of by the proper authorities, the bishop used his ordained office as a judge in Israel to adjudicate Stowell’s case. The bishop sent Stowell to LDS Family services for six months of counseling. That summer he supported Stowells appointment as a Boy Scout leader at the local Boy Scout Camp. 

Over the next ten years, Stowell abused at least 24 boys by his own confession. Most of them were abused at the BSA camp where he was a leader. At least one child was abused while Stowell served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. BSA and LDS leaders knew about Stowell the entire time. 


One of Stowell’s neighbors wrote to BSA National headquarters to explain that Stowell had molested a neighbor boy. He wanted the BSA to keep scouts safe from Stowell. They did not keep scouts safe from Stowell. 


Stowell’s neighbor wrote with the same concern to the Office of the President of the LDS Church. This is the Office held by the man the LDS people call Prophet, Ezra Taft Benson. I was eight then. And I called him a prophet too. I was taught the LDS prophet spoke with God. And I believed that was true. 

The neighbor received a response from Office of the President of the LDS Church. The response claimed it had been determined that “the allegations warranted no further action.” 


Child sex abuse victims were increasingly bringing lawsuits against churches. The uptick in lawsuits occurred at a time of enormous church growth. During the 1990s, the LDS Church was the fastest growing church in America.

More members meant more money. In order to access the church’s saving ordinances, members must be full tithe payers. Most interpret a “full tithe” as being 10% of their income. Juries would take the church’s growing wealth into account when awarding damages to victims. 

This seems to be something the church took into account.


The LDS Church started a “help line” that bishops were supposed to call when their congregants told them about child abuse. The help line was managed by the LDS Church’s Office of Risk Management, the department responsible for protecting the LDS Church from liability. 

Once you understand the help line was not there to help children, it’s easy to see the “help line” did what it was supposed to do. It protected the church. 

Last year, Michael Rezendes of Spotlight famereported on how protecting the church hurt children, 

MJ was a tiny, black-haired girl, just 5 years old, when her father admitted to his bishop that he was sexually abusing her.

The father, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints…, was in counseling with his bishop when he revealed the abuse. The bishop, who was also a family physician, followed church policy and called what church officials have dubbed the “help line” for guidance.

But the call offered little help for MJ. Lawyers for the church, widely known as the Mormon church, who staff the help line around the clock told Bishop John Herrod not to call police or child welfare officials. Instead he kept the abuse secret.

“They said, ‘You absolutely can do nothing,’” Herrod said in a recorded interview with law enforcement.

Herrod continued to counsel MJ’s father, Paul Douglas Adams…..and brought in Adams’ wife, Leizza Adams, in hopes she would do something to protect the children. She didn’t. Herrod later told a second bishop, who also kept the matter secret after consulting with church officials who maintain that the bishops were excused from reporting the abuse to police under the state’s so-called clergy-penitent privilege.

Adams continued raping MJ for as many as seven more years, into her adolescence, and also abused her infant sister, who was born during that time. He frequently recorded the abuse on video and posted the video on the internet.

Adams was finally arrested by Homeland Security agents in 2017 with no help from the church, after law enforcement officials in New Zealand discovered one of the videos. He died by suicide in custody before he could stand trial.


Adam Steed was fourteen years old when he was sexually abused by Brad Stowell at an Idaho Scout camp. Every scout at camp was LDS. Every leader at Adam’s camp was LDS too. Adam went to other BSA camp leaders to report his abuse. He was put on the phone with two top LDS Scout executives, one of whom would later become the official liaison between the LDS Church and BSA. 

The men told Adam they would take care of the problem. But they needed something from him. They needed him to keep the abuse secret from everyone, including his parents. One of the men told Steed that if other parents found out about the abuse, they might not let their boys go to camp. He didn’t want to ruin scouting for everyone, did he? 

LDS leaders, from bishops to the prophet, put Adam on an altar. And these men wanted Adam to choose to stay there. And to let them continue to pile the bodies of other victims on top of his. 

Instead, Steed called the police himself. 

Stowell was arrested. He confessed to sexually abusing 24 boys. He was given a 150 day sentence. A mere week per child he confessed to abusing. According to later reporting, the prosecutors handling the case were members of the BSA too. The case disappeared from the courts when the local BSA Council hired lawyers to get the files sealed. 

The case didn’t disappear from Adam Steed’s life. He lived in a fiercely LDS community. Steed was fiercely LDS too. His father even worked as a LDS seminary teacher, instructing teenagers in church doctrine during the week. But neither he, nor his family, was willing to make the sacrifice required by church culture. So the Steeds shunned by fellow church members. (A fact I’ve had confirmed by people in the community.)

The details about Stowell’s persistent predation, and the BSA and LDS leadership who’d facilitated his abuse, only came out when a tiny Idaho newspaper, The Post Register, went to court to get the files back into the record. 

From an interview with the paper’s editor,

“The local Boy Scout executive had declared Stowell was the only child molester he’d discovered in the Grand Teton Council. But by midsummer, the paper was hunting for documentation on a dozen leaders whom victims and their families had identified to us as pedophiles.”


Ensign Peak, the secret investment arm of the LDS Church, was founded. It is funded with tithing and money made from investments made with tithing. Because tithes are associated with salvation, it is not uncommon for LDS parents to give 10% of their income to the Church even when they cannot afford basic necessities for their children. 

Ensign Peak was kept secret from the members of the LDS Church. They did not know the Church’s wealth was growing even as they struggled to make ends meet. By the time a whistleblower exposed the fund in 2019, it’d grown to over $100 billion. By the end of 2022, conservative estimates put the fund at closer to $160 billion. 


When Michael Johnson became Boy Scouts Youth Protection Director, he tried to implement some very standard safety measures to protect children in scouting. He was shocked when even basic reforms were rebuffed. This was not unprecedented.

According to people within the BSA, the LDS Church had a long history of refusing to cooperate with the implementation of youth safety programs. BSA executives said that LDS leaders told them they would take care of sexual sin within the church courts.

If true, it is incredibly disturbing that LDS leadership saw child sexual abuse a matter of sexual immorality instead of a crime. But when one considers the church’s history with fourteen year olds….it might not be surprising. 

In Scouts Honor, a documentary about the Boy Scouts of America child sex abuse cover up, Johnson said, 

“I kept getting told the Mormons may not like that. The Mormons won’t like that. I said, ‘I am working for BSA not The Mormons, not the Catholics.’” His boss responded, “Mike you need to understand that the Mormons are sacrosanct.” 

His boss was right. And he was wrong. I mean, my god I wish the Mormons, the actual people, were sacrosanct. If they were, then the church place its children on altars. But the people are not sancrosanct. The LDS Church is sacrosanct. Its image is sacrosanct. Its portfolio is sacrosanct. 

Its people? They’re just the building materials. And the babies? The children? Ourchildren, because my god, my babies were born into this church too. They’re ground up into a workable paste, turned into mortar used to fill, seal and bind the church together.


As the scale of the Boy Scouts of America’s child sex abuse cover up became apparent, the future of the organization seemed unsure. There were potentially hundreds of thousands of victims. So the Boy Scouts of America entered bankruptcy, a filing designed to protect the organization from lawsuits from child sex abuse victims. It worked.

Yes, over 82,000 victims came forward during the course of the bankruptcy. But the bankruptcy turned victims into creditors. They were given a short, final window to come forward. 

Plenty of victims did not file a claim in time because of a lack of resources, support or an abundance of shame. And the ones who did come forward will receive far, far less money than they would have if they were able to make their claim in court. According to one attorney involved in the filing, some will get less than $2,300. They will get what they get and they can’t get upset. 

Consider how this treatment compares to the way the U.S. courts are treating investors defrauded by Sam Bankman-Fried. SBF allegedly embezzled a lot of money. The U.S. legal system takes the loss of investor money very, very seriously. So SBG was criminally charged. Those investors are now considered victims by the court as SBF goes to trial this week.

Where is the federal criminal investigation into BSA and the LDS Church? Well. The courts exist to protect the powerful. And if a person isn’t powerful, it’s difficult to get the courts to see them as victims. Who is less powerful than child? According to the Christ LDS prophets and apostles like to claim to follow, no one is less powerful than a child. 

The LDS Church contributed $250 million to the fund created to pay out claims for BSA victims. Erin Alberty reported on the the LDS church’s original settlement offer, which included ”the condition that former Scouts who were abused couldn't sue the church separately over incidents that occurred outside of Scouting activities. The church argued that $250 million was enough to cover abuse both in scouting and in other church settings.

Many analysts felt the condition simply required the abuser to have participated in scouts at one point ever for their abuse to be covered by the $250 million. People outside of the church might not understand how sweeping that made the condition.

Much of scout leadership was considered a calling in the LDS Church. A calling is a volunteer role a Bishop asks a member to take on. Members are expected to accept callings. Because of this a huge percentage of American LDS men served in Boy Scouts at one point or another. And almost all US-based LDS boys were Boy Scouts, they were enrolled by the Church as soon as they turned eight.  So while this settlement condition wouldn’t have granted the church complete immunity from CSA lawsuits, it would have come pretty close. 

The bankruptcy judge rejected the condition. The Church contributed to the settlement anyways. Why? Well, I guess I can’t say. But I think they knew even without that condition, they were getting off cheap.

August 2023

David McConkie, the grandson of LDS apostle Bruce R. McConkie, was charged with sexually assaulting a child from 2004 to 2013. McConkie was also a deputy district attorney in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He knew how to navigate both the LDS and U.S. court system.

According to the police report, McConkie confessed to a LDS leader about an “innapropriate act” with a child in 2008. In an interview with police, the LDS leader said that McConkie’s “confession shocked him, but he didn’t ask many clarifying details about it.” 

Floodlit reports that in the 2010s, David McConkie served in the LDS bishopric, working with young men. He’d also served as a scout leader. 

And in 2016, the LDS Church News reported that David McConkie was called to be a Stake President in the LDS Church. A Stake President is an ecclesiastical leader who oversees multiple LDS congregations. They have incredible access and power in their region. 

The first known victim came forward last summer, because she believed McConkie was currently hurting another little girl.

In an interview with a Department of Human Services caseworker, the other child McConkie is accused of sexually assaulting said McConkie asked her if she wanted to play a game but didn’t remember what the game was about. When the caseworker asked if she didn’t remember or if it was hard to talk about, the girl responded, “it is hard to talk about,” according to the arrest documents. - KRDO News, ABC affiliate

How many LDS men knew about McConkie’s abuse for years before he started abusing his second known victim?

October 2023

The LDS Church held  General Conference, a worldwide televised meeting where the LDS prophet and apostles give sermons. As I watched it, I was reminded that O.U.R founder and groomer, Tim Ballard, learned the manipulative power of “save the children” from the leaders of the church we once attended together. 

Throughout the conference, the men who have made the LDS Church a safe haven for child sex abusers, talked about the importance of keeping children safe from “seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” They railed against gay marriage, even as queer LDS youth kill themselves. They stumped for more tithing, even as LDS investments compound. And they threatened parents with the loss of their children. 

The LDS prophet and LDS apostles told LDS parents that if they weren’t faithful enough, if they didn’t keep filling the church’s empty altars, then they risked losing their children for eternity. What won’t a believing parent do to keep their children forever?

The priests are wrong. God has not asked to be appeased by the sacrifice of our children. 

I am lucky because I do not believe those old men with their old lies. But I once did. And I remember how afraid they made me feel. I know what I was willing to put on their altars when I believed them. What won’t a girl do to ensure her family’s salvation?

Did you know there is a version of the story where Iphigenia isn’t sacrificed? 

Just as her father’s blade touches her throat, Artemis sweeps in. She covers Iphiginea with her body and then carries her away. Artemis leaves a goat in Iphigenia’s place. Agamemnon cannot tell the difference as he spills blood in service of his own power. In this version of the story, Iphiginea is made a goddess herself. She’s never subjected to a man again. 

We don’t tell that version very often. Maybe we should. 

Where are the three sisters? 

Their pedestals have crumbled by now, so they are no longer Venerable. Perhaps they’ve become furious once again. After all, the old gods existed before Athena. They could could exist after her. 

The Greek word for the Furies means “to stir.”

I think they might have gone back underground. Maybe their ears, mouths and eyes are packed with earth. Maybe they’re waiting to hear someone call their names again. I invoke the sisters’ name and then put my cheek against the ground and listen. 

The Greek word for the Furies means “to stir.” I can almost feel the sisters stretching their grasping fingers and wiggling their silt-soaked toes.

There’s a very old prayer to the sisters. A reverberation from a thousand years before Christ was born.

Hear me and be gracious,  O renowned Eumenides…your awesome eyes flash forth, flesh eating, darts of light, Everlasting, repugnant, frightful, sovereign, paralyzing the limbs with madness, hideous, nocturnal, fateful, snake haired, terrible maidens of the night, it is you I summon, to bring me holiness of mind. 

The Orphic Hymns

I can imagine the prayers' first recitation.. It would have been chanted by initiates as evening fell. Those gathered closed their eyes. They said the words over and over again, until their limbs and lungs moved together. 

And then, when all resistance had dissipated, they’d been made into a thing that could scourge the impious. Their lids rolled back to reveal flashing eyes. And then, maybe, with a furious holiness of mind, they could finally sing the sisters soothing song.

Maybe if I can’t stir the Furies, I can become one of them. I started reciting their prayer this morning. The one that can make my mind holy enough to sing their song. I’ll sing it soft and low to the men who sacrifice our children and then hide behind pulpits and priesthood. 

Shhh, shhh, shhh, I’ll take care of you now.