To those many friends of mine who are Mormons, or who think that it is in poor taste to scrutinize the recently dead, you might not wish to read further. Fair warning.
As for the rest of you, gentle readers, it has been told to me time and again that, no matter what the actions of a person were in life, once they have expired there is a time for criticism and it is amply preceded by a period of respect for those who have passed beyond this vale of tears. I have never been able to separate the seeming innocuousness of death from the responsibilities of life -- and I am sure all those who would not ask pardon of any despicable historical figure would agree. The act of dying does not instantly grant you a reprieve from the skeptical, the inquiry, the evaluation of your person. Indeed, one of the things for which I admire Christopher Hitchens the most was his immediate response to the death of Jerry Falwell not only for his social outrage in life, but the insipid response to the "respect for his passing" that was levied by so many who happily overlooked his mortal shortcomings. This should be an example to us all.
For this reason, I am not the least bit disinclined to discuss Frances Monson and her troll of a husband, Thomas, the current First Family of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Frances's life was uneventful in terms of religious, political, or social activism. Her general accomplishments appear to have been mostly domestic, as a mother for her three children and marrying the man who would become the President of the Mormon Church. Admittedly, this rather quiet life of matronly servitude leaves little to criticize about -- but the purpose of this writing, my friends, is not to search for things to poke. Rather, it is to illuminate how one does not have to actively participate in despicable occurrences to support them: merely standing silently and letting them happen is enough.
Frances's image is most important: every General Conference (save for the last) she would be seen sitting in support of her husband and his "prophetic" message. As a woman, a wife, and an influential figure of a massive organization, she was seen as a guiding icon whose every supportive action was a pillar to Thomas Monson. This includes, gentle reader, during 2008 when Mr. Monson implored the congregations of California to devote their time and means into the support of Proposition 8. It is a well-documented fact that many of the campaigns supported both legally and illegally by the Mormon Church at this time was a powerful (if not the most decisive) balancing of the political scales toward the passing of the horrid legislation. As the Prophet of the Church, whose opinions are literally heralded as the message of god to his people, Monson's words spurred on a reaction to the voting that few other voices could incite. His church underwent intense legal scrutiny for a religious organization funding a political campaign, and though this controversy has been duly highlighted and investigated since, the damage was done. Coming from a man who said: "Choose your love. Love your choice." this entire endeavor seems more than a little hypocritical. Beyond which, some Mormon families in California bankrupted themselves for the sake of fulfilling the wishes of their deranged, bigoted intermediary. During this, by his side, Frances ever was.
Should we discuss the racism in the LDS Church, unchanged until 1978 (fourteen years after the Civil Rights movement), kept within the Book of Mormon as an official divine slander, deftly avoided by Mitt Romney, whose institution she supported and in the last years of her life she led without comment? Perhaps that is too easy. Let it suffice to say, however, that those who disagreed with this type of segregation to the extent that it deserved should have left the church without regret, not persisted with it for fifty-one years (Frances was born in 1927) and then aspired to its First Ladyship.
She was First Lady of the Church when Boyd Packer dribbled his insanely homophobic and contemptuous speech from the pulpit comparing gay love to "Satan's counterfeit marriages" (shown below). Again, she was silent.
She was the icon for a church who labels all its followers to be ineffectual, no matter how hard they try to attain the church's definition of purity. This is one of the contributing factors to Utah being the highest-prescribed anti-depressant State in the U.S. (Lockhart, Deseret News, 2013. )
She was the female face of a Church who decries females in its holy texts and in its practical doctrines to subservience.
She was, without quibble, the leader of a church so bent on money that it requires all members of the faith to contribute 10% of their incomes or be denied entrance to Temples. This money has gone on to build super shopping centers under the incredibly flimsy guise that this, along with controlling mass media and theme parks, are all part of doing god's work on earth. (Winter, Bloomberg Business Week, 2012).
In short, we are indeed discussing a woman who was not a spiritual radical or a political annoyance. She was nowhere between Fred Phelps and Hitler. She did very little. But she stood for so much more. Frances Monson allowed her life to become a staple for a faith that is domineering, greedy, hateful, and racist without qualm or complaint -- and furthermore allowed herself to become the portrait of that very enterprise. Her life without proactive negativity was negative enough, just by flouting the morality that all decent humans should acknowledge and instead serving a kind much more debased and glutinous. I cannot say if she was a kind person, a good mother, a darling friend -- and it is possible that she was all of these things and more. But the unexamined life, gentle readers, is not worth writing about, and being the First Lady of such a church and wife to such a man is, at the very least, worthy of a little scrutiny. It may be that had she not served so loyally a corporation that was fixated on disrespect of others in her lifetime, she would have earned a little more respect in the hours after her demise.