Trauma ate my newsletter

Family annihilation and cooking with gas

Trauma ate my newsletter
Photo by Nathan Dumlao / Unsplash

I spent most of last week and this week doing the research for an essay about stoves. But I’ve had a hard time writing it. So it’s coming to you on Sunday instead of today.

Why have I had a hard time writing it? Well.

Some of it has been the problem of working with kids at home. Monday was a school holiday. Yesterday was a snow day. On top of that, my five year old’s amazing teacher has Covid. I am pretty worried about her. The class was also exposed. So my five year old is home with me today, and probably tomorrow. Which means that … yes…I will have had one work day this week. 

That doesn’t mean that I didn’t work all those other days. I did, of course, the unpaid work of the home. But I also did the work that my paid subscribers fund. A lot of that involved the stove newsletter research, a deep dive that has been delicious. I ended up with 61 pages of notes!


In some ways, the forced pause on the writing part of the stove newsletter was good. I spent a lot more time pulling on a lot more threads. Or maybe…to use a stove metaphor…I had time to let everything simmer. Really looking forward to sending it out on Sunday. 

Also, if you’re part of the paid homeculture community, head to this AMAZING discussion on the gas stove/electric stove debate playing out on social media right now. Such thoughtful comments from the community!

A lot of my newsletter work is spent researching! But obviously a large part of it also involves, you know, writing. And writing with kids in the house is hard for me. So while I took notes and drafted…I was never able to hit the writing groove that my kind of work seems to require.

And here’s where after however many hundred words, I realize that having kids home all week isn’t the only reason I’ve had a hard time writing. 

Mostly, I’ve been kept from finishing the piece on stoves because I can’t stop thinking about the family annihilation perpetrated by Michael Haight in Enoch, Utah. The LDS Church used to frame my understanding of … everything. That’s not true anymore. And I no longer attend the church. But the religion, and my experience in it, is still so much a part of of who I am. The victims look so much like the children I grew up with, the mothers I raised my kids beside during my early years of motherhood. It has been incredibly distressing. I can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t stop having nightmares about it. It just…has invaded my heart and mind.

A lot of you have been thinking about it too.  You’re hurting, and many of you have expressed that you want me to represent that hurt with care.  You’ve asked when I plan to write about it.

I think that’s a fair question.

I write a lot about the home, women’s issues and my own Mormon experience. This violence against women and children happened in the home of an LDS family. So what about this? What am I waiting for? And I do think I owe you some words on cultural context of this atrocity. I just want to make sure I do it right. Or as I right as I can. I owe that to you too. 

Along with that…there’s grappling with what more I can do to keep this from happening again. I write to try to expose power structures, advocate for women and children, demonstrate the home is not always what it seems. I am not interested in writing about this if all I can do is wail and gnash my teeth. (Although there’s been plenty of that this week, in private.) Because I think I owe those dead women and children more than an exposition of my own LDS trauma. 

I never met the victims. But I can’t shake the feeling that I did not protect those women, that I did not protect those children. Because the LDS people did not protect them. And even though I am no longer an active part of the LDS church, the LDS people are still my people. And I feel, rightly or wrongly, that I bear part of that collective blame.

Collective blame doesn’t mean that individuals don’t need to be held accountable here. The murderer is dead, but there are others that can, and should, be held to account. Please read Gabrielle Blair’s newsletter about this. She is from a community very much like the one that Tausha and her kids called home. As always, Blair knew exactly what to say, pretty much immediately.

Do you remember Gabrielle? She wrote the best book of 2022. I wrote about it and Semen Supremacy last October.

In her newsletter, Blair explains how LDS congregations work. She also shows how every mechanism LDS women are told exist to protect them had to be intentionally allowed to fail for Michael Haight to murder seven people. Or they were simply not meant to protect women at all in the first place.

I am including an excerpt here, but I really, really beg you to read the whole thing. 

Okay. So we know the murderer was a shitty man. But he’s dead now. So what is it that I want to happen? I want accountability. I want accountability, so this doesn’t happen again. In Enoch, or in any other Mormon town.

I want a list. I want a list of every man who knew about the abuse. Every bishop and counselor. I want a list of the cops who knew.

I want to see the cops fired immediately with no chance to work in law enforcement for the rest of their lives. I want to see each one of the men on the list, publicly investigated for abuse in their own lives. If they couldn’t take abuse seriously, when someone they were tasked with caring for and protecting came to them and told them about the harm, then do they even understand what abuse is? Are they themselves abusive and in denial about it?

My thinking is that a bishop would be more likely to take an accusation of abuse seriously, if he knew he could be publicly investigated.

As for religious accountability, first, the Mormon men on the list need to think back to every story of abuse they’ve heard about in their congregation, and use their relationships of trust to systemically take the guns of every accused abuser and every man in a rocky marriage and every man going through divorce.

Then, every Mormon man on the list should have their priesthood removed. In what world would they be worthy of the priesthood? Either priesthood is important and sacred and you must be worthy of it. Or priesthood is meaningless and it doesn’t matter if you’re worthy. Pick one. If Mormon men knew that their misogyny could endanger their priesthood, perhaps they’d learn to value women.

As it stands right now, no one is facing accountability, and the next time a woman attempts to divorce a horrible man in Enoch, this could easily happen again.

I’m angry at Mormon men. What is the fucking point of accepting a position as bishop if you’re going to let this shit happen? The entire purpose of having the priesthood, of being a bishop, is to serve others. How did these men serve those five children? How did they serve Tausha and her mother? They didn’t. They only served Michael Haight. - Gabrielle Blair, He Murdered His Whole Family. Who Will Be Held Accountable?

As I’ve been tweeting my own stumbling thoughts about all of this, I’ve gotten a lot of blowback from LDS men. They’d prefer I leave the church out of it.

It’s interesting how, for men like this, every outwardly nice observant LDS family man is proof that the power structure of the church works. But they’re also quick to claim that each observant LDS family man who commits violence does it completely outside the context of that same church power structure. It’s almost like when faced with the choice to interrogate their own power and comfort or simply allow violence to keep happening, they choose the violence. Huh. And it’s almost like that’s a choice men outside the LDS church keep making too.

These family annihilation apologists have said lots of ridiculous, offensive things to me. But the most ridiculous, and common, reply has been some version of, 

“You didn’t know Tausha, her mom or her children. So you have no standing to say or think anything about this.”

So they’re not going to try to stop the next LDS family annihilation from happening. And they don’t think women should either. 

I imagine if I went to Enoch and talked to the women in the community, there would be some - even many! - that tried to help Tausha and her children. But power structures are, well, powerful. And it is difficult for the disempowered to rescue one another within the systems that oppress them. I also imagine I’d find plenty of women who were as eager to ignore the church’s influence as the men in my Twitter mentions. Life is complicated and sad like that.

I don’t need to know a child to be responsible for them. I am obligated to every child, in every LDS congregation. Even though my own children haven’t been in a congregation for years. And every time an LDS man abuses or murders an LDS woman, it is about every LDS single woman. We’re sisters. We don’t abandon each other. (Or maybe it’s more honest to say we must no longer abandon each other.) That’s true always, even for those of us who no longer attend the church. 

And it’s true outside of a church context too. 

I am obligated to try to protect every child, no matter where they spend their Sundays. And every time a man abuses or murders a woman, it is about every single woman. We’re sisters. We must no longer abandon each other.