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"I believe that I am a child of God, endowed with a divine birthright. I believe that there is something of divinity within me and within each of you. I believe that we have a Godly inheritance and that it is our responsibility, our obligation, and our opportunity to cultivate and nurture the very best of these qualities within us."
-Gordon B. Hinckley, President, Prophet, Seer, and Revelator of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Brigham Young University, 1992)
SALT LAKE CITYThe elder pointed the gun in anger, anger like none he had ever felt. He looked at her full head of hair. In Texas, they would call it big hair. But this wasn't Texas. This was Utah, where women wore big hair, and complemented the coiffure with the best makeup their money could buy. The bullet lay in the chamber, lethal lead an eighth of an inch in diameter and a quarter inch in length. It was designed for killing small game-rabbits, birds, squirrels, and an occasional reptile. But it was a favorite of street thugs as well, when loaded in a Saturday night special. The load waited to do its deadly work.
The elder was in command, as always. A god walking on his own personal planet, the world was his. He had been groomed from birth to maintain absolute command of his home. He looked at her sleeping, thinking of how she had betrayed him. She had no right to question his motives or the world that he had created for himself and those around him. Yet she had challenged him, and if she wasn't stopped, she would soon betray him to the people he cared for most, the very people he had spent a lifetime wanting desperately to please.
The anger was palpable. He had worked so hard to create his world, even though he knew that it was a façade. She had destroyed it as surely as if she had stepped on a roach. He had planned his life so carefully, crafting a perfect lie, a fairy tale that could never be. Tonight, she had killed him with words, without knowing the brutality of her act. The anger was bitter in his mouth as he lowered the gun toward her luxuriant head of hair. Beneath it the pillowcase was still wet from Lori's tears.
ELOHIM: We will put the sisters under covenant to obey the law of Obedience to their husbands. Sisters, arise. Each of you bring your right arm to the square. You and each of you solemnly covenant and promise before God, angels, and these witnesses at this altar that you will each observe and keep the law of your husbands, and abide by his counsel in righteousness. Each of you bow your head and say "Yes."
-The Law of Obedience, Mormon Endowment Ceremony as it was until 1990 when it was softened somewhat.
Their August 1999 marriage in the Temple in Bountiful had been perfect, the ultimate culmination of love, the joining of two childhood sweethearts. There in the gleaming white building, its spire soaring high above greater Salt Lake City and in view of the Great Salt Lake itself, the two were wed in a traditional Mormon wedding, tiny by the standards of other Christian sects.
Each had donned temple garments covering the body, neck to ankles and wrists, worn only by the best Mormons deemed to be "Temple worthy," having passed tests imposed to determine their righteousness.
They had performed their endowment, and had been washed and anointed after removing all of their clothing, each by an "officiator" of the same sex who laid hands on their heads and pronounced a formula. Each then entered a booth and received the washing, or a token wetting of each part of the body with a blessing that the part function properly. Each part, the head, eyes, nose, neck, shoulders, arms, legs, feet, and loins are blessed. At the end of the rite, the officiators again placed hands upon their heads and uttered a short prayer sealing the washing, and cleansing each from the "sins of this generation."
Then the entire ritual was repeated with each body part being touched with olive oil.
It was then that Mark and Lori were clothed in the simple white garments of the Holy Priesthood that they had brought with them. On the garment, symbols were sewn at the right knee, the navel, and over each nipple.
From childhood they had been taught that selecting their life's mate was perhaps the most important thing that they would ever do, since marriage was sealed "for time and all eternity." Thus it was that Lori would be bound to Mark, not only in this life, but in the next as well. A church tradition suggests that they had selected their mate in their prior existence before coming to earth.
Inside the huge stone walls the families had gathered, faithful to their religion, all dressed in their Temple garments for the occasion, steadfast in their beliefs, certain that the simple garments under their clothes afforded them protection.
The sealing ceremony was brief. Dressed in a white suit, the officiator told the couple to kneel at the altar and face each other, joining hands in the special and secret Mormon patriarchal grip. Then simple vows were exchanged and the two were pronounced husband and wife-Stark by the standards of other Christian sects, there are no flowers, no music, no poetry, and the father doesn't give the bride away. Moreover, the exchange of wedding rings is not a part of the ceremony, and is optional.
In gleaming white, the Temple housed Bountiful's most sacred places, space reserved for the anointed-truly anointed-of the Mormon faith. There the Soareses and the Hackings had gathered for the wedding of Mark and Lori, both in communion with their faith.
There was no "Dearly Beloved, we are gathered . . ." There was no vast sanctuary filled to the brim with friends and family. Instead, a handful of those closest to the couple joined them in the small "Sealing Room" of the Temple which looked much more like a hotel lobby than a church. Only the Temple worthy were allowed to attend, and those left behind must wait outside, or in a waiting room set aside for the as-yet unworthy.
For spiritually inclined Mormon girls (women is not a word used often in this faith for the young unmarried female) this was the key to eternity. Quite simply, according to the faith, unmarried women can never enter paradise unless they are at the side of a man. As such, marriage for Mormon women is considered essential to attain the highest spiritual state after death, the Celestial Kingdom. Tiny Lori Soares was such a woman. Moreover, she knew that she was destined to spend that eternity at the side of Mark, such was the depth and confidence of her love for him.
When the time came, Lori could count on eternity at the side of Mark. Her unmarried sisters would have the bad fortune of never attaining the Latter-day Saint equivalent of Heaven.
Mark Hacking carried his tiny bride across the threshold of their new apartment filled with the expectation of a long and wonderful life together. He adored Lori, and had since he was 14. Now she was his and the two would stroll arm and arm into the Celestial Kingdom as their reward for a good life lived in the faith. With luck, they would be joined by a brood of Hackings of their making.
A string of pleasant surprises greeted Lori during her first encounter living with a man. The horror stories she had heard from her married girlfriends and relatives, or imagined from a lifetime of watching television, just weren't true about Mark.
There were no dirty socks lying in the corner of the bedroom where he'd shed them. There was no dirty or soiled underwear thrown haphazardly across the bed or at the foot of the dresser. In the kitchen, dishes covered with an unfinished meal weren't left in the sink, but were washed as soon as the table was cleared. Snack food wrappers weren't strewn around chairs that Mark had sat in. Mark was tidy to a fault.
Living with Mark was fun at first, a prolonged honeymoon. Yet little things did get to her. Sometimes she caught him in white lies, innocent yet annoying.
The two had spent a delightful honeymoon in Las Vegas. When Mark and Lori returned to Salt Lake City, it was to Mark's two-bedroom apartment on Lincoln Street.
Mark had secured a job, and the apartment, a couple of months before. He signed on as manager of the small complex, getting free rent in the bargain. It was an ideal situation for two newlyweds starting life on a limited budget with the male of the family a full-time student soon destined for more long years in medical school and a residency.
Lori fell into the routine of being a resident manager of the seven Lincoln Street apartments. Tenants moved in, tenants moved out. It wasn't the kind of complex that had a large maintenance staff. She and Mark were it. If a swamp cooler (a kind of air conditioner used in Western states) was on the blink, it was up to Mark to fix it. When a vacancy occurred, the couple made the apartment like new again for the next tenant, including completely re-painting the interior if need be. Lori joined in with exuberance.
"It was funny," Paul recalled. "Lori had never done anything like that."
When they opened their front door, the two of them walked into a cookie cutter apartment.
The floor plan was simple, much like a jillion starter apartments across the nation. It was an oblong box with thin partitions as walls erected to create the privacy of rooms. Once inside the apartment's door, a small kitchen was the first thing a visitor would see. A bar, a standard architectural trick used to make the entire space appear larger, separated the kitchen and the living room. On the opposite wall, each of the two bedrooms' doors opened independently. A small common bath separated them. The master bedroom was on the right.
In the living room, pictures hung on the wall, common decorator items picked up in a home furnishing store-or perhaps at a garage sale. The couple's TV sat on a stand outside the door to their bedroom. On the other side, a small table housed Mark's Nintendo when it wasn't in use, which was all too frequently when he was at home.
The apartment had limited seating, with only a recliner, sofa and love seat for the couple and their guests. Shortly before their marriage Lori had come into the sofa when a former roommate moved and was unable to take it with her.
Occasionally the house would fill with out-of-town guests, some staying overnight. During family gatherings, the women would crowd into the tiny apartment kitchen to prepare meals and snacks. At one such gathering, Jana, Lori's stepmom, and Eli, her half-sister, were caught on video having a great time. The scene would later become famous as it was repeated again and again on news shows and cable programs, many mistaking the tape for a party hosted by Lori's friends immediately before her death.
On a few occasions, the sofa also served as a bed for Lori's brother Paul when he came to town.
"When I would go to Utah we would mostly see them at night and meet them at the apartment and go out to dinner or something like that," he later remembered.
Paul found talking to Mark particularly stimulating. "I never thought of him as a shallow person. His conversations and concerns for people were genuine and he really did care about people," he remembered.
"Mark was very liberal in his point of view," Paul says. "I don't know if he was registered as a Democrat or a Republican, but his viewpoints were very liberal. I remember when Mark was down at my mom's house for the fourth of July. We were discussing the gay marriage issue, and Mark was saying how much he was in favor of it. Lori was more conservative, but Mark was very liberal."
Conversations with Mark often turned to trivia. "He was really into those worthless facts-of-knowledge things and loved doing crossword puzzles."
After Paul's divorce in his first marriage, he found solace in his sister, coming back to Salt Lake City and crashing on the sofa late one night at Mark and Lori's apartment.
"That was one of my most special memories with Lori, because I had just gotten divorced and Lori and I had time to really talk about things," he said.
Scattered around the apartment, family photos gave testimony to the closeness of the large Hacking brood, as well as to Lori's smaller but equally close family, at the center of them, Mark and Lori, a happy, well-adjusted young couple exuding confidence.
Their place made a statement: An apartment's furnishings don't need to be expensive to deliver a sense of taste and style. Their two-bedroom apartment had both.
"Lori was good at that type of stuff," her brother Paul remembered.
The couple was busy-busy all the time. When he wasn't in school, Mark was in the outdoors cultivating his lifelong passion for the mountains. Lori was much more an indoor type. Most recently she had taken up the fad of scrapbooking that had swept the nation to the point that franchise stores had sprung up in strip centers from Maine to California.
The small-town girl from Orem loved living in the city at the thick of things near downtown. The apartment sat just down the street from Temple Square itself, the epicenter of Mormon Utah, and a stone's throw from the ornate state capitol building.
Whenever she could, she would catch a movie or play. When the opportunity presented itself, Lori and her mom would go to the Mormon Tabernacle to hear its world-famous choir. That was special to Lori because she knew how much her mother loved music, and how much a part of her life it had become.
And there were always those special nights when she just went out to dinner with her girlfriends. It was a habit begun in high school when she and her chums would buzz into a fast-food joint for a burger or shake. As an adult, it had evolved into evenings sitting at a restaurant with white tablecloths.
Lori was also active in the Relief Society at her church. Devout Mormon women joined the group to do good works. Critics across Utah claimed the Relief Society's major work was relieving overburdened women of the gossip they had bottled up inside that was bursting to get out and be told.
Mark was active in the Church as well, but his devotion was largely for appearances.
He was determined to get Lori outdoors. Mark began jogging, and soon his wife joined him, as much to humor her new husband as to stay in shape. It wasn't long until the couple was entering 10K runs-several of them.
Mark and Lori sometimes walked the short distance to City Creek Canyon and launched a jog from its entrance near Memory Grove. Both became health-conscious, eating non-fattening foods and salads. And despite the pure mountain water of Salt Lake City, Mark was convinced that the couple needed a water purifier. He constantly had to fill it.
The two settled into a routine. Lori would go to work and Mark would go to school. They didn't see much of each other during the week except for the occasions when Lori slipped away from work to catch a quick lunch with her husband on campus. She would drive up, and Mark, toting a backpack full of books, would meet her between classes for a quick sandwich on the run.
To all appearances, the marriage of Mark and Lori Hacking was perfect.
His mind was racing as he stood by the bed in 127 South Lincoln, Apartment 7. She looked relaxed, no longer the hellcat who had confronted him not so long ago.
The blowup had been extreme.
It had begun when they got home from a party thrown by Lori's work friends as a going-away sendoff. As soon as they left, she'd started in on him, saying vicious things to him, and then belittling him in his own home. In situations such as this, Lori could be formidable, her superior intellect meshing with her temperament.
Her friends always called her a spitfire. Little did they know, Mark thought. For a Mormon man, there was no greater insult from a woman, any woman. To insult him in his own home, to challenge him the way she had challenged him, was unthinkable.
Lori had known her place in this world since childhood, but this night she had violated it.
Lori stared her husband down and bluntly called him a liar, destroying his manhood again and again as she confronted Mark about the untruths she had discovered.
That Friday, Lori had phoned Randee Alston at the University of North Carolina, inquiring about financial aid. Alston had checked several different databases before telling Lori that Mark was not registered at the school, and had never even submitted an application. Mark had tried to sidestep the situation with a story that he'd phoned Alston and been told that it was a misunderstanding caused by a computer malfunction, but the truth had come out at last.
Lori told Mark that she was sick of his lies. Worse still for him, she told her husband that he had to leave.
Lori had kept the secret of troubles in the marriage quiet for too long, covering up the fact that Mark Hacking was what most would call a pathological liar. During the last year or so, she had begun to tell a handful of friends that her marriage was troubled. For most, though, she maintained the façade of the perfect Mormon marriage. There was only so much of Mark's deception that she could handle, and this was the biggest lie of them all.
She had quit her job, a job she loved, and was pulling up stakes and moving across a continent for him, only to discover that it was all an elaborate ruse, manufactured to make Mark appear to be more of a hero, more of a man, more of a Hacking than he in fact was.
How could he dare to create something so gigantic in its deception, so daring a lie? He had outdone himself, she shrieked.
Copyright © 2006 by Steven Long