Sierra Newbold Murder: When Mormon “Power of Discernment” Fails, Turn to “Divine Intervention” (And Forget All About Logic and Good Police Work)
Question of the day: If the Mormon “Power of Discernment” is true, why didn’t it work for anyone — anyone — in all of West Jordan, Utah?
Second question: If “divine intervention” can be credited for catching a killer (or alleged killer), why didn’t “divine intervention” stop him in the first place?
No “God works in mysterious ways” responses allowed. You’ll understand why after you read the entire horror story — and the story of the police chief who dragged his own religious beliefs into the public square, praising “God” for everything good that happens, yet failing to blame the same “God” for something so bad, so horrific, so unthinkable — that is, the rape and murder of a six-year-old girl — it dwarfs the so-called “good.”
“The teachings of Presidents Cannon and Richards concerning the power of discernment to detect hidden evil and to identify good that may be concealed become even more important to you and to me in light of a specific element of Lehi’s vision. …
“I repeat again for emphasis the truth that discernment is a light of protection and direction in a world that grows increasingly dark. You and I can press forward safely and successfully through the mist of darkness and have a clear sense of spiritual direction. Discernment is so much more than recognizing right from wrong. It helps us distinguish the relevant from the irrelevant, the important from the unimportant, and the necessary from that which is merely nice.
“The gift of discernment opens to us vistas that stretch far beyond what can be seen with natural eyes or heard with natural ears. Discerning is seeing with spiritual eyes and feeling with the heart — seeing and feeling the falsehood of an idea or the goodness in another person.”
— Elder David A. Bednar
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
“Quick to Observe”
“From a devotional address given at Brigham Young University on May 10, 2005″
SALT LAKE CITY — A man has been arrested in the death a 6-year-old Utah girl after authorities say he sneaked into her home through a sliding glass door in the middle of the night, then raped and killed the child.
Terry Lee Black, 41, a neighbor of the girl who attends the same Mormon church as her family, has been charged with aggravated murder, kidnapping and rape of a child, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said Tuesday.
Police in West Jordan, about 15 miles south of Salt Lake City, say Sierra Newbold’s body was found June 26 in a canal near her home. …
— Lynn DeBruin
“Sierra Newbold Case: Police Arrest Terry Lee Black In Death, Assault Of Utah Girl”
Huffington Post, July 10, 2012
Meanwhile, the Mormon-church-owned KSL.com (as well as the Mormon-church-owned Deseret News) is emphasizing the role of “divine intervention,” per West Jordan Police Chief Douglas Diamond, in the arrest of Black:
“Miracles do happen,” said West Jordan Police Chief Douglas Diamond. “I’m not going to say it’s not divine intervention. I myself believe it is divine intervention.” …
“[Detective James Bigelow] has that sixth sense that a lot of cops have,” Diamond said. “As he put it, when he heard this call come, the hair stood up on the back of his neck and he knew he needed to respond.
“How he knew that, we may never know.” …
That sounds more like a cop — “who headed the investigation under ‘enormous pressure’ from the public” — paying attention to everything happening in the neighborhood, with an assist from a set of fortuitous circumstances (which KSL prefers to call “unbelievable”).
Black was captured after allegedly attempting to rob a bank, using a stolen Jeep as a getaway car. A woman recognized the Jeep as her boss’s stolen vehicle and snapped a photo with her cell phone. The cops were called — and it dawned on Detective Bigelow that the bank wasn’t all that far from the Newbold home. “When Black was stopped by police, they learned that he lived in an apartment complex near the canal where Sierra’s body was found.” Uh, yeah, and so did the Newbolds — about half a block away. If you were the lead investigator, wouldn’t you be hyper-aware of everything and everyone within that small a radius?
Or are we supposed to believe that God made Terry Lee Black steal a Jeep and rob a bank, or made him rob that bank at that time (either of which would deprive him of his “free agency”), and then God led the employee of the Jeep’s owner to the bank at just the right moment (thus depriving her of her “free agency”)? KSL seems to think so, and Chief Diamond most assuredly does.
Fortunately, Sim Gill, the far more level-headed District Attorney of Salt Lake County, tells it like it is: “This was the epitome of good police work. They connected all the dots.” We’re glad to know not everyone in Salt Lake — particularly everyone in a position of authority — thinks angels are hovering around, dropping clues on detectives who can’t think for themselves. (Even Sierra’s poor, distraught family credits “marvelous police work that brought the pieces together that connected Terry Lee Black with the murder of Sierra,” without attributing anything to “miracles.”)
If you want a less ethereal recounting of Black’s arrest — including details the Mormon “news” outlets mention only in passing or omit entirely (such as the home surveillance video purportedly of Black entering the Newbold home, and the stains on Black’s hands and clothing) — read the Salt Lake Tribune‘s far less breathless take.
KSL adds (and note how quick the bishop, apparently Vaughn Shosted, is to say Black wasn’t one of us): “Black had lived in the neighborhood for about 10 years. His wife and children are active in their LDS ward and attend church services with the Newbold family. Although police said Black attended the same church, the bishop of the ward said Black is not LDS and had only attended a few church functions over the years.”
(A commenter at the Salt Lake Tribune observes that Black’s “family attended that ward because…wait for it…they’re Mor-mons. Today, people are scrambling around trying to disown them faster than a Kardashian divorce.”)
So, especially if Black was an outsider — not a Mormon — yet everybody in the ward knew him, his wife, and their children (who had been baptized into the church some years earlier), didn’t anybody’s Power-Of-Discernment-O-Meter go flashing into the red, detecting “hidden evil”?
Guess not — which means one of two things: Either the Mormon “Power of Discernment” is not true, or the West Jordan Police caught the wrong guy. (And we do not think they caught the wrong guy.)
In the meantime, we’re relieved to find we’re not the only ones disturbed by the idea of a police chief attributing simple, good police work to 19th-century woo:
I’m so happy that the arrest was made. But I am kind of disgusted with the loose language of this report. How can you say, without quoting anyone, that the arrest was “nothing short of a miracle”? How can the first paragraph, without attribution, site “possibly even divine intervention” in the arrest? If there were miracles involved, the poor little girl would not have been attacked. Let’s lay off all this loose talk of miracles — as in, someone opining that it was a miracle that certain homes were spared from wildfires. Does that mean other people whose homes were burned were not as deserving of a miracle? The paper [The Deseret News] is far too quick to declare divine intervention and miracles are involved in too many horrible stories. If there were a bona fide miracle, that in itself would be front-page news throughout the world.
I would be more persuaded to believe it was divine intervention if the parents had been awakened at 3:00 AM and prevented the kidnapping vs. catching the perp after the fact.
I’m a Christian yet I still cringe a bit when “divine intervention” is referenced in conjunction with a tragedy. For, if the hand of God really is touching this case, why did this happen to begin with?
I also cringed when “divine intervention” was cited. While it is fine for the police officer who was so quick to add this up and find closure for this family to claim a higher source inspired him (this time), it insults all police officers who are trained to investigate and work hard on every case to not be able to bring closure and answers to all families.
Bringing religion into this case has hurt the prosecution’s ability to professionally present the evidence at trial. There are bad people in this world and it has nothing to do with God. If God was involved at all, this poor child would have been protected from this horrible behavior in the first place. Calling good police work “Divine Intervention” is unprofessional hurts the quality of good investigation. Religion is becoming a shot of whiskey for the weak minded.
Wouldn’t ‘Divine Intervention’ have prevented this horrible crime in the first place?
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves with this miracle business. The guy committed a heinous crime that garnered national attention. He then proceeded to steal a car, commit fraud at a bank, all the while wearing the clothes he killed her in. He’s either not too bright, or he was on some level hoping to get caught. My heart goes out to all those affected by this awful crime, but God had nothing to do with it.
I’ve never understood how someone can believe that God will not intervene when a child is being tortured and murdered because, as they put it, God must allow that person his free will. The same people pray that they’ll get a new job, or something like that, and God intervenes to bless you for paying your tithing. Has not God impinged on that employer’s free will by intervening and causing them to hire you? It’s the ultimate level of arrogance, in my mind, to dismiss the real suffering of millions around the world by simply saying, “God must have a purpose,” and then simultaneously believe that he’s so involved in your affairs as to help you locate your lost car keys.
Divine intervention would have been saving the poor young girl from the murder in the first place. Doesn’t surprise me, however, that Utah police would give credit to God for solving the case.
I’m so glad that the family will get closure. But why can’t you just credit the intelligence and quick thinking of the humans who worked on the case. Why must the glory and praise be stolen from them and attributed to something unseen? I think the detectives who worked on this case are deserving of every bit of praise we can heap upon them.
— Reader comments, Deseret News
Chief Diamond should be ashamed of himself for discounting the fine work of his subordinate officers by insinuating an arrest could not have possibly been made this quickly without some supernatural force behind it.
“Divine intervention” supposedly led to Black’s arrest. Why then didn’t “God” intervene to protect poor Sierra in the first place?
Apparently God prefers to see justice served more than tragedy prevented. If you ask me that’s one cynical individual running the show. It’s like we little things are little more than a really twisted soap opera for the ‘creator’.
The chief is a public official doing official business so he should have kept his metaphysical beliefs to himself and stuck to the facts.
So, he believes a ‘diety’ [sic] intervened to help solve the case, but somehow couldn’t be botherd to stop that innocent little girl from being brutally raped and killed right in front of Him? … I would have felt better if the chief had choked up or cried or asked for a moment to compose himself, but no-o-o-o. He had to drag us all down that stupid, childish path of supernatural intervention, dissing the professional police work that his crew sucessfully conducted. How would you like to work your butt off on a project at work that saved your company from ruin only to have the CEO stand at a microphone and tell the world that ‘god’ did it?
While I agree he has the right to his own divine opinion. I also believe he has the professional duty to at least seem neutral to the greater society he is serving.
A spooky, mysterious, smoky-mirrory diety [sic] got recognition, but I didn’t hear one mortal name mentioned. … It’s like that insane old turd Pat Robertson saying hurricanes are caused by gay marriage. There’s absolutely no cause-and-effect relationship. Murders are not solved by dieties [sic] floating ‘up there’ somewhere. They are solved by hard-working, hard-thinking detectives, agents and investigators.
Great work… except for Diamond’s claim of “divine intervention”. Mr. Diamond, what does that say to those whose cases are NOT solved or figured out? Are you telling them that your god doesn’t care about them? Do you realize how divisive your comment is? Some folks just don’t know when to NOT say anything.
Divine intervention? This poor girl was raped and murdered. Where was divine intervention to save her before this evil act occurred? It was horrific and tragic that this happened to her and the police were lucky in finding the guy.
How is it a miracle? It would have been a miracle if someone just happened to be up and saw him leaving the house and stopped him from killing her.
God was too busy picking the winner of a sports event to prevent this from happening, but as soon as he found out he was like, “Whoa, dude! I’m going to alert the cops to what you’ve been doing.”
It’s divine intervention when things go well? Seriously?
It was good, honest police work. If there was such a thing as divine intervention, this child would not be dead.
I don’t want an a police chief that invokes his religion in such a time. I want one that promotes ration and reason. One that thanks the community for their support and explains the capture of a despicable criminal and process behind it.
The chief is a public official and the comment was made in a public press conference. It’s fine that he has his personal beliefs, but it has no place in an official forum through his role as chief. In talking with his family or church members, sure. But not at the press conference, where it should be about facts, not feelings.
[Thank you, Salt Lake Tribune for not using] the ‘divine intervention’ line in your headline like the Deseret “News” has plastered accross their front page.
You know, I am really glad this murderer got caught. But why would Bigelow not go to a bank robbery. He’s a cop, isn’t he? And Diamond is a police spokesman. I notice the DesNews had “divine intervention” as the FRONT PAGE HEADLINE. Yes, this is exceptionally disturbing. As another comment has previously pointed out, what about the family members of other murder victims? Are they not worthy of “divine intervention”? Why wasn’t there “divine intervention” for Elizabeth Smart, saving her from repeatedly raped and traumatized? Diamond’s statement is totally thoughtless and, of course, imaginary.
Divine intervention would have been God striking the man dead before he had a chance to abuse and kill this poor little girl!!
— Reader comments, Salt Lake Tribune
Of course, there are plenty of comments like this one:
God oversees this world but, because of freedom, has chosen not control every aspect of it. Events transpire, some uplifting and glorious, some equally depraved and disgusting. After the tragedy of Sierra’s death, hundreds prayed God to enable her murderer to be found. God answered that prayer with a brief insight to a detective to go and participate in an arrest of a car thief and bank robber. The detective listened. And he found Sierra’s killer. For that, I’m grateful. Some prayers were answered. In another life hereafter, I believe we’ll understand far better why good and evil are freely permitted to run free on this world, without God pulling every string, on every occasion.
Guess that means God doesn’t care about all the unsolved murders in the world — such as Rosie Tapia’s — but He does care, much more, about Tim Tebow‘s next game (at least, as long as Pat Robertson is praying for him).
Guess that also means God doesn’t protect little ones unless enough people get together and pray for them — or maybe the writer is suggesting that Sierra’s family never prayed for her health and safety before… or maybe that… You get the idea: God works in mysterious ways. God answers every prayer — sometimes He just says “No”… yada, yada, yada.
We couldn’t have put it better ourselves:
So a god who is capable of poofing the universe into existence and requires no cause for itself, is going to consistently respond with a “no” to the prayers of starving children, cancer ridden children, amputees and paraplegics? This all powerful god is going to say “no” to abducted children being tortured and raped for years or just for a while before they are murdered and left in a shallow grave? “No” to the altar boys?
Is god too busy saying “yes” to sports teams? “Yes” to companies that produce the tools of war, “yes” to young and able bodied men and women to enter the field of battle only to be removed in whole or in parts in body bags?
Yet believers ask that us non-believers accept that their god is good and kind and loving and always answers prayers and then don’t bother to downplay that failing to accept and worship — and correctly, mind you, the correct kind that the particular believer does, not how believers of the 38,000 other versions of Christianity and let’s not mention other religions at all worship — failure to worship means eternal hell and torment.
— “God’s Toadies”
Nina’s Garden, June 8, 2011
Related posts (automatically generated):
- E. Ozwald Balfour (R-Bad Mormon, Utah)
- Police: Liberal-Mocking, Divorced Utah Mormon Gun Nut Offs Girlfriend, Kindergartener, Self
- Mormon of the Month: Taiosisi David Matangi (To-Do List: 1. Murder Rival Gang Member; 2. Prepare for Two-Year Mission to Preach LDS Gospel)
- Another Mormon Murder: “You won’t meet a nicer set of people.” M’kay.
- Divine Justice: Bradlee Dean Ordered to Pay Court Costs to Rachel Maddow, MSNBC, MN Indy & Andy Birkey