Blessed be the name of my God, for his Spirit hath not altogether withdrawn from me, or else where is thy glory, for it is darkness unto me? And I can judge between thee and God; for God said unto me: Worship God, for him only shalt thou serve. (Moses 1:15)
The basics were revealed. Dale was living a double life, and had persuaded himself that his illicit relationship with another woman was justifiable because she would replace his wife, who, he was convinced (and had told her) would die in childbirth.
She did not die. Both she and the baby lived, and she divorced Dale a few years thereafter.
In the few days before I left Guatemala, Dad and I had soul-searching conversations. My primary thought was, “How did I let myself be deceived?” Dad had similar thoughts, but his were mingled with guilt and a crushing sense of betrayal. As chairman of the board, Dad had raised hundreds of dollars for the foundation. Of course, the foundation itself was not a bad thing. The issue was the fact that Dale insisted on merging his Mormonism (including amendments we had not previously identified) with his foundation, and that he persisted in doing this in opposition to counsel given by those with ecclesiastical authority over him. So, when he transported missionaries to Chulac, the name of his foundation was on his truck. That might not have been important, except that he also reported the missionaries’ conversions and their other successes as though he were responsible for them, and these stories appeared in the foundation’s mailings–even long after Dale had left Mormonism. He had a target audience of Latter-day Saints, and presented himself as a loyal Mormon. Sadly, there have been many who have used their church standing to get fellow-Mormons into businesses, and sometimes into scams.
Dad and I used literary analogies to comprehend the hugeness of the situation. We spoke of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Dostoevsky’s “The Legend of the Grand Inquisitor.” Dale was a shadow of Kurtz in Heart of Darkness, the well-intentioned manager of a trading post who becomes a demigod, whispering “The horror, the horror!”with his dying breath. Dale was worshipped, and we had been among the worshippers. Dad and I also compared him to Dostoevsky’s Inquisitor, who commanded the people to cease from worshipping Christ, who was even then performing miracles among them. The inquisitor said to the Lord, “At my command, the very people who worshipped you will heap the embers onto your feet.” Later, taunting Christ for refusing to yield to the temptation of turning stone to bread during extreme hunger, the inquisitor said, “In the end the [people] will lay their freedom at our feet and say to us, ‘Make us your slaves, but feed us!'”
How had such a good man become what we now saw before us–a deceiver? How deeply had his projects been marred by the fact that he was the centerpiece? Indeed, how had we let ourselves become part of his divisive narrative without recognizing that division and contention seemed to follow him, that most of his conversations eventually moved into accusation? Not only had we failed to recognize these facts, but we had cheered him on! We saw the good that he was doing and blinded ourselves to any narrative but his.
There was no question that he had started a Quixotic (a word he loved) adventure with his family out of pure love for the people. He had done what few would dare to do–what many missionaries vow that they will do, though few follow through. He had given up the luxuries of First World living and had headed an enormously successful project to help the people–hundreds of people–in the area where he and his family settled. It was a phenomenal effort, and rightly extolled by various magazines and the testimonials of many who had seen his projects. He had taught business planning, dairy farming, rabbit butchering, poultry sales, health principles, and even birth control. The issue was never whether or not he was doing something good. It was in his personal apostasy and in the ways he capitalized on Mormonism in his fundraising efforts.I have heard both that Dale was excommunicated and that he asked to have his name removed from the Church records. Regardless of how it happened, he became a fervent critic of many church leaders in Guatemala–though one would never know of his critical stance by reading his reports to his donors.
Was he Kurtz or the Grand Inquisitor, or both? Like the two fictional characters, Dale was imaginative, brilliant, energetic, and ultimately seduced by his own apparent power.
With much to contemplate, I took a bus to Mexico City in late May of 1978. Shortly thereafter, I was with several colleagues to be “set apart” for our literacy endeavor, which had official Church sanction. We were in a high rise in the center of the city when Elder Bradford, whom I had casually mocked as Dale had prompted me to, walked into the room. It was a stunning moment. I felt an unearthly power when he entered. It was in direct contrast to what I felt in Dale’s presence, and I have often pondered the difference. Dale was charming and charismatic, and I felt his energy and his strong will. It was exciting to be near him. He was, indeed, a world changer.
Elder Bradford, by contrast, was a pretty regular human being–a banker by profession, heavy set and jovial but not one who would normally draw my attention. Nonetheless, he brought quiet power with him into the room. It was something I would experience years later, when BYU, and my department in particular, descended into turmoil over issues of feminism and academic freedom. At the apex of that turmoil, my father was called to preside over the Baltic States mission. Elder Dallin Oaks was to set him apart. Since we knew Elder Oaks socially, I was not intimidated or in awe of him in any way. Nonetheless, when he entered the room, I felt a power I had not previously felt in his presence. He was in the room to perform an apostolic assignment, and came with that mantle. There was nothing flashy in it. Again, it was quiet power. Similarly, my co-author, Darius Gray, speaks of a time when he was in a blessing circle to assist a new father giving a name and a blessing to his son. Suddenly, Darius felt electric shivers going through the circle. He looked up and saw that President James Faust had just entered the circle. The power was palpable. These men, acting in their ordained assignments, brought power and peace, something unmatched by any quixotic charisma.
I suspected that Elder Bradford had heard bad things about me, and I began praying silently that when he laid his hands on my head, he would know that I was not a bad person. I was immature–there was no question about that.
He went around the long table, stopping at each young woman to lay his hands on her head and set her apart–or in other words, to put her into the order, the organization we were forming. Others were told of their particular gifts and how they would contribute to our project. When Elder Bradford came to me, he placed his hands on my head, said my name, and then, “The Lord is pleased with the desires of your heart.” That was exactly what I needed to hear–as a witness to Elder Bradford and to myself.
After these blessings, I asked if I could speak with him privately. He led me into a private office, where I told him everything. I watched him bow his head in pain. “So it has started,” he said. “We knew it was coming. We did not know it had started.”
Again, I was left to contemplate the fact that he–and apparently others–knew something which Dad and I had not seen.
And so, I had done what my father had asked me to do. It was not surprising to either of us that Dale sent out warnings to some of his supporters to not believe anything Dad or I might say, as we had been deceived by the church leaders into believing the familiar lies about him.
The next area authority over Guatemala would receive instructions to bulldoze the LDS chapel on Dale’s finca–and I would learn about that from the area authority himself, years later.
To be continued.. .