THE daughter of a prominent Mormon scholar is to accuse her 95-year-old father of raping her as a child in a forthcoming memoir.
Martha Beck, a sociologist and therapist, will claim that she has “recovered” memories of ritual sexual abuse more than two decades ago by her father, Hugh Nibley, Professor emeritus of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University in Utah. Dr Nibley is considered the leading living authority on Mormon teaching.
“I didn’t write it to convince anyone not to be Mormon or not to join the Mormons,” Dr Beck said in an interview with The New York Times.
“I just needed to get the story of my childhood out of my system.”
In the book, Dr Beck will say that she suffered pain and bleeding from the age of five.
She says that doctors have since confirmed that the unusual scar tissue in her vaginal area was not the result of childbirth. It was not until she was in her late twenties, however, that Dr Beck says she experienced a “flashback” of her father raping her while chanting verses about Abraham and Isaac.
The Mormon Church has already released a statement on the book, calling it “seriously flawed in the way it depicts the church, its members and teachings”. Dr Beck and her publisher, the Random House imprint Crown, both say that they have received death threats.
Meanwhile, more than 3,500 protest e-mails have been sent to the television host Oprah Winfrey after she featured the memoir in her magazine, O, in which the Harvard-educated Dr Beck writes a monthly self-help column.
On her website, Ms Winfrey describes Dr Beck as “the woman with the blueprint to stress-free living” and “one of the smartest women I know”.
Dr Beck’s memoir, entitled Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found my Faith, will come as yet another blow to the insular and patriarchal Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the largest Mormon denomination.
This month alone, a Mormon leader in Idaho has been jailed for soliciting sex on the internet from an under- cover police officer posing as a 14-year-old girl. Clayton Hildreth, 52, used the screen name “Sexy Montana Gentleman” and turned up to what he thought was the girl’s house with three condoms, a gift of thong underwear and a digital camera.
Meanwhile, a horror novel entitled Wives and Sisters, based on the Mormon church, has also been published in America. The well-known author Jon Krakauer tackled the subject of Mormon culture in 2003. His book, Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, was also criticised by the Mormon Church ahead of its publication.
At 95, Dr Nibley is said to be unable to respond to questions. Dr Beck’s seven brothers and sisters, however, have defended their father. They have also hired a lawyer who has sued therapists who practice “recovered memory” therapy.
Dr Beck says she twice confronted her father about claims of sexual abuse. The first was at a family therapy session, shortly after she says she recovered the rape memories in 1990. She tried again in 2001 at a meeting in a hotel.
One member of Dr Beck’s family, who has insisted on anonymity because of threats of physical violence, supports the claims of abuse.
In 1990 Dr Beck wrote a book arguing that homosexuality was a compulsive behaviour that could be overcome. Now divorced, Ms Beck lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with her three teenage children and her homosexual partner of ten years.