The Dark Side of the Rainbow Gathering
Heber City, Utah, is usually a quiet town. Nestled in a tranquil valley of the Wasatch Mountain Range, somewhere in between Salt Lake City and Provo, the little bedroom community has some of the lowest unemployment and crime rates in the state. More than 60 percent of the city is Mormon. So it came as a particular surprise when city officials learned that they would be playing host to this year’s gathering of the Rainbow Family of Living Light, a loosely organized troupe of nudists, hippies, and itinerants that meets every summer for a month-long love-in.
Started in the late 1960s as an outgrowth of the anti-war and hippy movements, the Rainbow Family of Living Light describes itself as “the largest best coordinated nonpolitical nondenominational nonorganization of like-minded individuals on the planet.” The flagship Rainbow Family Gatherings, which have occurred every July since 1972 in a different US national forest, are like longer, more authentically weird versions of Burning Man, bringing together upwards of 10,000 “Rainbows” from a cross section of fringe culture: bikers, Jesus freaks, computer programmers, naked yogis, and gutter punks looking to escape “Babylon,” the Rainbow shorthand for the various evils of modern life. The gatherings are free and open to anyone. No one is in charge, and nobody can tell anyone else what to do.
“If you asked 20,000 Rainbows why they go to the gathering, you would probably get 20,000 different answers,” said Rob Savoye, a “Rainbow” who has attended gatherings since 1980 and runs the unofficial Rainbow website WelcomeHome.org. “I know rednecks, Orthodox religious people who go to the gatherings, so it’s really hard to put a label on it.
“People are tolerant, accepting of different stuff,” Savoye added. “A lot of us have had rough family lives, and the Rainbow has sort of filled that void for us.”
Leilani Garcia was arrested Monday for allegedly stabbing a man at the Rainbow Gathering camp. Photo courtesy of the Heber City Police Department
But as officials in Utah learned this week, recent gatherings have also had a more sinister side, attracting a seedier crowd that uses all the anachronistic peace-loving as cover for drug abuse, theft, and violent crime. On Monday, Heber City police arrested a woman known by the Rainbows as “Hitler,” who is accused of stabbing a man at the gathering’s encampment. Authorities are also investigating the death of a 39-year-old New Hampshire woman who was found lying outside at the camp last week. Over the weekend, law enforcement agents said they were called in to respond to a drug overdose at the camp, and to reports that a group of “Rainbows” crashed a wedding on their way to the gathering. “They just went into the reception and started taking the food,” Wasatch County Manager Mike Davis told the Salt Lake Tribune. “They weren’t trying to blend in.”
A Visit to a Mormon Temple… On Acid!
No religion is complete without a little mystery—Catholicism with its Immaculate Conception, Scientology with its OT Levels, Buddhism with its Nirvana. It goes without saying that the Latter-day Saints have their share of enigmatic rituals. Some Christian fundamentalists are quick to point out the esoteric beliefs of the LDS church, including the ideas that Mormons become gods of their own planets when they reach one of three heavens, that Jesus vacationed in the Americas, and that they once sort of had a thingagainst black people.
The Mormon obsession with building gigantic temples around the globe also raises some eyebrows in non-believers, owing to the secrecy of whatever goes on inside.
Mormons hold regular Sunday services in churches open to the public, even slobs like you and me. But unless you’re an incredibly loyal, obedient member, you won’t be getting into any of the temples, a “house of the lord” specialized for prayer, fasting, marriage, baptism (including the controversial “baptism of the dead”), and other “ordinances” or contracts with the Almighty.
Nevertheless, the LDS church hosts an open house when it completes a new temple, inviting society to stroll through God’s crib, free of charge. Afterward, they dedicate the place, forbidding public entry. Naturally, the rumors fly: The temples are rooted in Freemasonry. In temple ceremonies, you are given a secret new name. You learn a secret handshake. Couples are sealed for all eternity in a “celestial marriage,” and in the afterlife, women will forever give birth to “spirit babies.” I could list dozens of other weird rumors I’ve heard—for instance that, after an open house, the church tears out and replaces the carpet—but I can barely find references to these online, let alone confirm them.
The Mormon Church No Longer Believes That Dark Skin Is a Punishment from God
In an article released this month by the Church of Latter-day Saints, leaders and historians are cited in what is meant to be an explicit disapproval of past racially restrictive policies. Yet an actual read of the article is disappointing.
Is the Russian Mormon Church an FBI Front?
The Young Guard is the youth wing of President Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia Party. They’ve tended to exist as a less intense, less Hitler Youth-like version of Nashi, a similar Kremlin-backed, pro-Putin youth movement that intimidates people who oppose Putin’s policies, go to rallies dressed as Star Wars storm troopers to distract from anti-government protesters, and, allegedly, beat up critical journalists to within an inch of their lives.
Since part of the Young Guard’s role is to prepare young people to discharge their civic duties as stoogesof the Putinist junta, they need to maintain an air of respectability. Not that this has stopped them propagating Putin’s cult of personality by making a video reenacting his most famous publicity stunts with sexy young women in the role of Vlad.
However, being respectable isn’t the same as being sane. Responding to Putin’s recent statement on the need to “confront totalitarian sects” operating in Russia, instead of looking in a mirror and repeatedly slapping themselves, the Young Guard turned up to Mormon meeting houses last week in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other cities and picketed them, accusing Mormons of being “foreign agents” paid by the USA to brainwash young Russians. They also claimed that many young Mormon missionaries return to America to become members of the FBI and CIA.
When I heard that a group of brainwashed idiots were picking on another group of brainwashed idiots, I felt confused and sad at how stupid the whole world is. So I decided to talk to Elena Nechiporova, the Russian press contact for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
The Young Guard presented the Mormon missionaries with a “one way plane ticket back to Washington,” complete with CIA logo.
VICE: Hi Elena, how are you?
Elena Nechiporova: I’m doing great, thanks.
Great. So you’re not lying in a pool of your own blood after the Young Guard brutalized you, or anything?
No. They just picketed our meeting houses, but nothing was happening there on that day anyway. The picket was peaceful.
I see. Why do you think they are targeting the Mormons?
That question should be addressed to the Young Guard. We’ve never had contact with them before this. I don’t think they know anything about who we are or what we believe. We’re happy to start a dialog with them, though. We have a lot of smart and worthy young people in the church who are the same age as Young Guard members. They’d have a lot of things in common to discuss.