What Role Did Religion Play in This Death?

I didn’t watch Dateline Friday night, but when Jon Montgomery, the Salt Lake City Freethinking Examiner, sent me the link, I made the mistake of checking out the transcript.

I read the whole damn thing in one sitting. (Curse you, Jon.)

In short, a woman named Faylene died several years ago — she drowned in a bathtub with Ambien pills at her side. Days earlier, she had fallen 60 feet off a cliff (a tree may have saved her life). Her husband Doug was the prime suspect in her death — even his 911 call is in question. However, Faylene’s own writings in the days before her death indicate that she was ready to leave this world, in part so she could meet her not-yet-born child who was in the state of pre-existence. (Thank you, Mormonism.)

The most compelling part of the case is that it’s possible her husband did not kill her directly, but manipulated her enough so that she believed she needed to die. And her “talks” with God (not surprisingly) confirmed exactly what she wanted to believe.

The transcript notes:

Was Faylene divinely inspired? Brainwashed? Suicidal? Or all three? The detective knows what he thinks.

[Reporter] Josh Mankiewicz: You think if she jumped or deliberately fell [off the cliff], it was because that idea was placed in her mind by her husband?

Det. Sy Ray: Absolutely.

In other words, he thinks it was an attempt at murder by manipulation. A brilliant — if diabolical — plot.

The full video will be up on the Dateline website on Monday. But the transcript makes for some great Sunday reading.

  • http://www.agnosticmom.com Noell

    I’m a former Mormon turned atheist (some will recognize me as “AgnosticMom” and former columnist for HNN).

    Having only read your post and not the transcript, I tend to think she must have been mentally/emotionally unsound and would blame THAT as the number one culprit for her suicide. I do think that religion, and specifically Mormon doctrine, can make it very easy for those who have genes for mental illness, or who ride close to the mental illness line, to fall over. In other words, if you tend to be close to mental instability in the first place, then the Mormon religion can push you over the edge. At least it seems that way from my own personal observations.

  • SarahH

    I’m adding this example to a thread on the FA forums regarding religion and mental illness. It can certainly be hard to distinguish the difference between symptoms poor mental health and certain religious beliefs and actions. They can go hand-in-hand, and I also think that either can result from the other.

  • Larry Huffman

    As a former mormon myself…and one who lost a small child while very devout, I am not too ready to blame this on mormonism, per se.

    Here is the thing…while it is easy for someone outside of mormonism to see the view of children being in the pre-existence or in the spirit world to be motivation to leave this life…for those who know the doctrine they know this is foolishness (OK…so the doctrine itself is foolishness, I concur…but relatively speaking…).

    First of all, mormon doctrine is pretty clear on the point that where our unborn children are and where we go after we die are two distinctly different places or states. So, mormon doctrine does not at all support the idea that dying will put you in contact with a yet-born child.

    Secondly, the sin of suicide is generally thought to preclude a person, no matter how devout, from the rewards in the afterlife that would allow someone to be with a child in the same state (since mormons believe that a child who dies before the age of 8, regardless of anything else, is bound for the highest level of glory). You see, in my case, had I decided i wanted to be with my daughter who passed away…who would be bound for great afterlife rewards because she died in innocense…my sin of suicide would prevent me from ever coming in contact with her. This is based squarely on the doctrine.

    Either this woman had her own mental illness that led her to misunderstand the doctrine…again, the mormon doctrine does not at all support the ideas she had…or she was gullible and weak enough for a manipulative husband (mormon doctrine does place the woman subject to the man in a marriage)…to twist the doctrine into serving his own purposes. Most likely the latter.

    I am not excusing the mormon church completely. The role of women according to the church…and the magnified ‘families are forever’ views can and do pose problems even for devout members (like my wife and I were when we lost our child). But suicide is always shunned as a solution for anything.

  • http://www.banalleakage.com martymankins

    Larry Huffman said it best with this:

    Either this woman had her own mental illness that led her to misunderstand the doctrine…again, the mormon doctrine does not at all support the ideas she had…or she was gullible and weak enough for a manipulative husband (mormon doctrine does place the woman subject to the man in a marriage)…to twist the doctrine into serving his own purposes. Most likely the latter.


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