Readers respond to "The Church of Latter-day Constraints," by Ian R. Williams.

Published March 19, 2003 8:32PM (EST)

[Read the story.]

Ian R. Williams may be right about the psychological effects of being a Mormon, but one way or another, the same thing could be said of anyone raised in any faith. The whole purpose of a religious education of a child is to mold him or her in a certain way. As the Catholic educators say, give me the child and I will give you the man.

So what's the point? Now it's Elizabeth's parents' fault that they tried to raise a child who was obedient, drug-free and not sexually active? She would have been better off in this situation if she had been a "street smart," sexually active, reality-TV-addicted mall rat?

Maybe, maybe not, but I just wish everyone would get off this kid's (and her parents') back. She was 14, for God's sake! Some creep took her at gunpoint out of her own bedroom! Now she's somehow at fault because she didn't blow the guy away with a concealed weapon or do some commando-type escape? Her parents are to blame because they didn't raise a child prepared for just such an eventuality?

Elizabeth Smart did the best she could with the resources at hand. She got through the ordeal alive. Who can demand more? Which of us at 14 would have done any better?

Now let's leave her and her family alone so they can get on with the business of trying to recover from this trauma. Enough of the Monday-morning quarterbacking.

There are plenty of subjects we can all argue about in bars and online. Let's leave this one alone for the sake of a family that desperately needs to heal its wounds and get on with its life without the help of those of us who have no idea what they are really going through.

-- Nancy Bartels

Salon may have reached a new low. Who authorized printing this garbage? An ex-Mormon analyzes the faith he and his family left behind and concludes that a young girl would rather be kidnapped by psychos than be raised in a Mormon home. Yeah, that sounds about right. Way to slip in an anti-Catholic dig while you were at it. Might as well offend a billion more people while you're already riling the 10 million Mormons. And by the way, getting a divorce does not prove a woman's strength. Unless it's due to an abusive situation, it only shows a weak will.

-- Eric McIntosh

I'll have to agree with what Bill O'Reilly said last week; she could have totally made her own decision. She's practically an adult. But when I look at those vacant eyes in photos, I have to think the "brainwashing" happened long ago. The fact that those kids in that religion aren't allowed to do anything made her "abduction" that much easier. I sincerely think she left of her own accord. I'll wager she was promised that "her eyes would be opened" and 'Emmauel' would show her the way.

At 15, I was curious, thinking myself wise to the inner and outer workings of the world, not to mention the secret rebelling. My parents were strict but not naive. I'm sure they were on to my every move but let me think I was getting away with it. I found out early on the consequences of my actions, and I learned how to deal with them.

The fact that no one knew it was her in all these places added higher stakes to the game. If someone dared me to do those things when I was a teenager, you're damned right I would do them. Can you imagine the thrill of being around people you knew who didn't recognize you? The exhilaration of passing day-to-day, watching the world and your parents mourn for your possibly diminished existence from behind a veil of anonymity?

It gives me a little flutter just thinking about it!

-- Eileen Hall

Unfortunately, Ian Williams is correct. Take one young Mormon girl who's been taught to believe in obedience, male authority and the reality of prophets. Abduct her and tell her that she needs to obey and submit to male authority because you're a prophet. Add a little abuse to cement your point with fear and shock.

Is it a surprise if she buys it and stays?

-- Jenna Janssen

By Salon Staff

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