Image credit: Polyvictimization.org
Warning: this movie will simultaneously boil your blood and break your heart. Don’t watch this without having a box of tissues and a punching bag on hand. Skip the popcorn as it’s a choking hazard. You’ll thank me later for that.
I’m not going to focus so much on the movie as you just need to watch it yourself and have your own head explode. I honestly have no words for this atrocity. Rather I’m going to focus on how religion played a huge part in this epic failure of humanity.
This horror show took place in an unexciting town in southeastern Idaho called Pocatello. Despite being home to a state university, the population is about 90% Mormon. Mormonism is inescapable. It infiltrates schools, the courthouse, local businesses, and at just about every public function there is some reference to Mormon teachings, or at least religious invocations using Mormon verbiage. At least you can still buy beer on Sundays, unlike other towns in the area.
Despite the obvious theocratic tendencies, there are nice people who live in Pocatello, just as there are at least some nice people everywhere so don’t get too giddy. The Broberg family was known and respected in the community as kind and honest business people. In other words, they were the perfect target for a psychotic child rapist.
Robert Berchtold and his family went to the same ward¹ as the Brobergs and they became friends. Long story short, Berchtold (unfortunately a victim of sexual abuse as a child himself) found them to be an easy target, manipulating the parents into allowing inappropriate long-term contact with daughter Jan and even managed to entice both parents into sexual relationships. Yes. BOTH parents. And he kidnapped Jan. TWICE.
During the first abduction, Berchtold brainwashed Jan into believing that she had to have his baby to save the planet before she turned 16, quoting some crackhead alien conspiracy. During the second abduction, he manipulated her into protecting him, what he was doing and where he was hiding. And abused her the entire time.
You have to watch the movie to see the nightmare this family lived, and how brave they are for banding together and telling their story years later and admitting their mistakes to the world. That takes a lot of courage, especially when the threats of punishment from the church were so real to them, never mind the onslaught of criticism from a planet-sized peanut gallery. You may want to drop your phone or open a tab for Netflix in your browser right now and watch before finishing this article. Please do. Grab tissues and a punching bag and… GO!
Welcome back. Hope you have a push broom to clean up the brain bits splattered all over your house.
Now I’m sure the intent of this documentary was not to expose the Mormon cult for its miserable teachings and failures, but that’s what we here at the Atheist Republic do: we air the dirty laundry that religions likes to keep hidden and claim it doesn’t have in the first place. Just a public service we offer. Happy to oblige.
Let’s break down the Mormon influences in the situation that facilitated the depravity of this monster:
- In typical cult/corporation fashion, sex offenders are never reported.
- The Mormon Corporation feels it’s above the law.
- Cults always teach blind support of cult leaders and even fellow cultists without question. Mind control in the extreme.
- Cultists, regardless of rank, feel they are something special, somehow untouchable and privileged. That’s one of the classic traits of narcissistic personality disorder, and it’s taught to everyone in this cult. That’s pretty toxic.
- Not allowing questions keeps people naive to the world around them, and makes them easy prey for predators.
- Religions prime the brain to believe fantastical bullshit — despite the fact people who know better say: Snakes don’t talk, feeding children to bears is not ok, sending friends off on “missions” and marrying their wives behind their backs is a dirty trick, etc.
- The concept of “missionaries.” The grand plans they promote for the good of the world must be spread to the entire world. No exceptions, unless the missionaries die because their “grand plans” aren’t welcome by the natives who have their own grand plans.
- The image of perfection is more important than being human. The facades Mormons put on to impress and outdo each other is astounding, and couldn’t be more mentally unhealthy. Some of these families are complete wrecks but as long as fellow churchgoers don’t know, it doesn’t matter to them. Financial ruin? No problem as long as we show up to church in expensive clothes and a nice rig!
- Naughty bits belong to the church: no premarital sex, no sex for fun, and above all else don’t be gay. The mormon church hates gays despite their weak attempts to pretend otherwise. Gays can’t breed more Mormons anyway.
- Raping children is totally ok though. Joseph Smith “married” underage girls, so in the minds of fundamentalist believers, they can too. The non-fundies just wave the underage issue away as if people who criticized the policy of child rape were delusional.
- Mormonism is very much a theocracy, at least it would be if it hadn’t been invented in a secular country that threatens its tax-exempt status unless it steps into line, with changes usually involving a “new revelation” by the prophet at the time.
- Families are forever (15:00-16:58). If one person leaves, it ruins the whole possibility for the family to get into heaven, the highest level being reserved for married people only. One person leaving the church threatens the entire family’s “salvation.”
- Apostasy nullifies marriage as far as the Cult is concerned (25:00-26:05).
- The practice of “bishops” questioning children about sexuality is another setup for children to be exploited. They train children that pornographic conversations with adults is totally ok. They train adults to be pedophiles.
- The shameless victim blaming, as if anyone really asks to be abused. Siding with abusers and claiming that it’s the victims’ fault that they LET the abuser abuse them is complete bullshit.
- The utter rejection of secular psychological help, educational materials, and resources outside the church (at 13:00). It’s all “of the devil!”
- “Truth is anti-mormon” (17:02). Cults actively DENY reality and truth. The fact that they are so open about it is astounding. Even more astounding — the fact that people believe it. It’s so sad.
- “Doubt your doubts, or you’re a defective idiot” (19:15).
How these shortcomings of morality apply to the movie (numbers don’t necessarily correspond to the numbers in the list above):
- Berchtold was already known to the church/cult/corporation as a child molester, and no one reported him. Not even average churchgoers would speak up.
- Church/cult/corporation policy is to not report its sex offenders, so no help from them.
- Berchtold certainly thought laws were for chumps.
- Neither the Mormon or Catholic corporations respect secular law and only answer to their imaginary friend. Cowards.
- The Brobergs were very trusting and forgiving people, quite naive really. They even begged the court to let Berchtold off easy, astoundingly enough.
- The Broberg parents were so obedient to the vile cult that they didn’t even allow themselves to follow their own good judgment.
- They went to church. The mind control works.
- Jan believed the pervy POS’s claims to “save the world” for a very long time, and wanted to protect him from legal action. Classic Stockholm Syndrome, and clearly a victim of religious brainwashing: encouraged to believe complete nonsense.
- The Broberg parents were terrified of the humiliation that would undoubtedly come when Berchtold exposed their affairs with him to the church, much to the detriment of daughter Jan.
- See Shortcoming #6, and put extra emphasis on the gay encounter Dad Broberg had with Berchtold.
- See Shortcoming #6 again, this time with extra emphasis on Mom Broberg and the months-long affair she had with Berchtold, AFTER HE RAPED HER DAUGHTER.
- Fear of being salaciously grilled about every dirty detail of the affairs by, not just one bishop, but a snarling pack of 12 perverts (28:00-29:00), only to be shamed for stepping outside of cult-approved vanilla sex.
- Christianity and its bastard child Mormonism both support the sexual abuse of at least girls, and Joseph Smith himself was a child rapist. Berchtold was a victim himself (or so he claimed, narcissists love to fabricate stories like this where they are the victims in all situations, even situations they create), and he went on to hurt children himself.
- The courts and psychiatric facility let him off easy.
- Berchtold’s wife bullied the Brobergs into not pressing charges. Mrs. Berchtold was quite the flying monkey. She was his victim too but she’s an adult and I have an impossible time feeling sorry for her. And she’s a victim of cult mind control, terrified of not going to heaven because she wouldn’t have a husband anymore.
- Berchtold’s wife stayed with him even though she had to have known he was out raping children and having affairs with men and other women. “Families are forever” and all…
- Perverted adults have no business grilling and shaming young children about sex. Their agenda is a far cry from a clinical and secular sex education class taught to teenagers.
- Victims are blamed for how they dress or act, and are always female. See “Porn Shoulders.” Odd how male victims get to be victims, even if they are ignored for several years, male victims are never told they are “whores” or “deserved it because [they] were drunk.”
- The overwhelming denialism. Hiding crimes and putting on a shiny happy face for the world is the MO of the cult.
To expound on a few of these points:
Mom and Dad Broberg were too concerned about being exposed for their mutual liaisons with toxic narcissist Berchtold than they were about protecting their kids. The FBI agent pointed this out, and I’m sure by now the parents realize that a little bit of embarrassment would have been worth it to save their daughter.
Threatening the Broberg parents with ratting them out to the church was a pretty big gamble for the child rapist, but narcissists do that. He risked exposing his own church-disapproved activities but as it turned out that outrageous stunt worked well for him. The church is so superficially squeamish when it comes to sex in general that I would have been surprised if this filthy rat would have had the hubris to expose his part in the extramarital affairs, especially the homosexual encounter. The church would have frowned on that, seriously. But then, Berchtold would have put some outrageous spin on it accusing the Brobergs of seducing him or whatever, because narcissists ALWAYS manage to be the victims.
Dad Broberg stated that the most horrendous thing he had ever done was cheat on his wife. Sure he feels horrible about what happened to his daughter but to claim that the worst mistake of his life was giving a guy a hand job? Did he really mean it that way? If so, how could that possibly be worse than letting his child get repeatedly raped and kidnapped?
Oh. Mormon scripture, and “prophet” Ezra Taft Benson trying to equate “sexual sin” with MURDER. Did it not occur to him that the degenerate raping his daughter was committing a crime that he equates — because of cult programming — to murder? Or does he not think that rape is a “sexual sin”? Well, considering the LDS cult has taken a page from the Catholic Rapist Guide to Escaping Secular Justice manual, it’s no surprise that the victims are considered the real sinners and shamed into silence and rapists are just poor defenseless little things led astray by nasty sinner women and girls. The Corporation isn’t very good about drawing the critical line between consensual sex and rape, and doesn’t want to understand the motivation of rapists to better protect their children and women.
And why in the world is rape not a crime? Do they not even see rape as a sin by their definition of the word? Or is sexual assault only a crime when the victims are boys?
From Benson’s speech in 1987:
If Dad Broberg’s cheating on his wife weren’t “sin equal to murder” enough, that he cheated on his wife with a man is even more of a no-no-no-no-NO. These mental gymnastics excusing away their bigotry by trying to draw lines between attraction and behavior are over the top. But again, how is this worse than letting a predator “commit [repeated] sexual sin” by abusing his own minor child? Why is there no specific and rightful demonization of rape? Oh yeah, the supposedly godly books say it’s ok to rape children...
Jan was at an age where she was likely already being harangued about sex by her bishop. This can be quite the uncomfortable topic for most people, even in secular societies. Considering we have age of consent laws, it means that sexual behavior is not an activity for children, nor should it be up for discussion in a pornographic manner.
Fathers bully their daughters about dressing “modestly” and all over town you’ll see dress shops advertising “modest dresses” for prom. Wear those shoulder hijabs with pride, ladies! Especially horrendous is that girls and women get blamed for drinking alcohol but rapists do not. BYU has a real problem with this. The entirety of Mormonland is all about slut-shaming, even when the girls aren’t sluts. Boys are never shamed for sex or rape, just for masturbation and watching porn. This cult even had the unmitigated gall to try to equate boys struggling not to masturbate or watch porn to men fighting for their lives in an actual war zone. This is absolute batshittery.
No wonder Mormons have such a warped view of sex.
Child “marriage” damages children physically and mentally. Religiots of many brands like to claim that puberty somehow means adulthood, but modern consensus is that humans aren’t fully developed physically until at least reaching maximum height (even later for some) and mentally until about age 25. CHILDREN ARE NOT SPOUSES OR BABY FACTORIES. CHILDREN CANNOT CONSENT. But “holy books” such as the Talmud, the Bible, the Quran, and the Book of Mormon all support the sexual abuse of children and forcing young girls to marry older men. Women and girls are property according to the books, not human beings. Civilized society does not allow women and girls to be traded for two cows and a goat. Or even money. We even have a term for this “livestock for livestock that can cook” exchange: HUMAN TRAFFICKING.
Guess we shouldn’t talk about the child exchanges that take place between fundamentalist Mormon cult colonies. And I’m pretty sure Brigham Young University, named after the second so-called prophet in the cult, doesn’t want us to know how they further victimize already devastated victims of sexual assault. How about that, a major university named after Brigham Young, a notorious child rapist and theocratic psycho. Utah must be oh-so proud...
Rape is a horrendous crime even when adults are victims. Children especially cannot handle it. I once asked a counselor how child victims of sexual abuse could possibly grow up to be rapists themselves, since they of all people should know better, and he said something to the effect of “they think they turned out just fine and assume their victims will too.” I’m still gobsmacked by this excuse. Getting abused as a child then going on to abuse children is somehow “just fine”???
The court system in Mormonland protects the LDS Corporation and rapists. They want to protect their image, which they arrogantly think is pristine, and will throw any and all victims under the bus. If for no other reason, they try desperately to protect their own delusions. It’s quite a racket really, with literally millions of dollars on the line in addition to their colossal yet fragile egos. Money and appearances. Even in minor cases, inappropriate religious bonds are formed between judges and litigants, and the other litigants get railroaded. It’s so bad that the people getting thrown under the bus aren’t even protected by their own lawyers. It’s really appalling.
To the Mormon corporation: your twisted teachings lead to the exploitation of and crimes against women and children; crimes against HUMANITY. So far the vast majority of perps are men, your “exalted” men. Your “bishops” and “heads of families.” So this is your gold standard? Sex offenders? Is that the best you can do, offering rapists as “moral and spiritual leaders”? I guess that explains why Utah has the highest rate of child sexual abuse in the country. Yes Mormon “church,” I’m calling YOU out. Send out your flying monkeys and rabid apologists. I’m ready.
And you know what? The world is listening, even as far away as New Zealand. The cat is out of the bag. You can’t hide your crimes anymore. It’s only a matter of time before tax evasion charges kick in as well… You may think you’re a shining beacon of morality, but you aren’t. You’re an colossal embarrassment to the human race as a whole.
I still feel horrible for the Broberg family. As if being exploited and set up for failure by a cult weren’t bad enough, to be targeted for such heinous crimes and to have their religion, something they truly believed was good, used to manipulate them into even more traumatic situations is unthinkable. Yes Mom and Dad Broberg are responsible for themselves and their actions, and inactions; but I’m pretty sure that no one is more painfully aware of their own mistakes than they are. I have a hard time condemning them further, though I have no problem eviscerating the cult and the psychotic teachings that helped facilitate this tragedy. I would like to commend the Brobergs for bravely exposing this abomination. I shall also place the ultimate blame on the cult leaders and congregation members who refused to turn Berchtold into the police which would have prevented this catastrophe in the first place.