Thursday, July 16, 2009

Not an Obituary

I was in Brother Michael Pratt's class on the south side of the Orem High seminary building in the spring of 2007 and Zach Power and I were co-presidents of our fourth period. We had a big important meeting with Brother Pratt the first day this was decided and I couldn't believe someone thought I was boring and smart enough to be a seminary president. It was fascinating. On the first day of class he brought a video camera and had us each say our name into the screen, smiling, and he promised to take it home and watch it with his wife and some popcorn to get to know us by our smiles. He did. When Bro P asked us each to teach a lesson, Liza Clark was so inspired that she wrote an individual letter to each of the thirty people in the class, telling them about how awesome they were for their own reasons. I remember how he told us that he used to have a mullet. I can't remember the boy's name who stood up at the end of the semester and sniffled and wiped his eyes and told everyone that he was painfully shy. He looked straight at Brother Pratt and said he'd never had such a strong push to do the right things for the right reasons, and that he liked Jesus on his own now. I was so proud of myself when Lee that breakdancing guy and I taught our lesson on Brigham Young, and I brought everyone cute little apples, because Brigham Young's favorite food was apple pandowdy or something creepy like that, and Brother Pratt told me how cool of an idea that was when I was putting a little red one carefully on the corner of each brown desk in our little pods.
I remember the special Joseph Smith assembly with Brother Nixon's class where all the special time period decorations were that Brother Pratt had set up so carefully, and all the times when I would go into class early and Brother Pratt and I would laugh and laugh and laugh through my stories about dating the student body VP who highlighted his hair. He would always end these little updates by smiling and clasping his hands together and shaking his head with that big grin and telling me that I only deserved the best.

He bounced with energy when people started to come in for class.
And you could tell he wasn't faking it, and that was important.
Brother Pratt wouldn't get mad at me or be an Obnoxious Grownup about it when I would leave class early to be with some boy, and for that, I am so thankful. I never would have come back had he said one thing, and
he knew that, somehow, so he didn't, so I kept coming. When Brother Pratt came to assemblies in the school with the rest of the seminary's faculty, he would be swarmed, absolutely swarmed, and everyone had to say hi to him. They had to let him know that they were there, and that he was there, and that they were in the same place. Everyone had to feel like they were a part of where he was and that they were his arm, or his foot, or his spiky hair. People were always lined up outside his office. Even during class, like they just expected him to drop teaching for a second to come out and hear what they needed to talk about. And sometimes, he did. He laughed at jokes that were in no way funny because he liked people and that made them funny enough.
All seminary teachers, no matter how nice, no matter how patient, no matter how many interactive beach ball games they inject into their lessons, no matter how dry or droll or boring or sweaty or prayerful or whatever they are, have at least one student in one class who snips meanly back at them if he tries to involve them at all. There is always someone. In Brother Pratt's class, no one was ever this person. Ever. Cheesy or not, everyone melted through that classroom door and shut up and listened. Nobody felt stupid learning scripture masteries by beating our fists in rhythms on our desks, which most highschoolers feel pretty ridiculous and zitty doing, unless they're in band and/or get As, which isn't everyone, and people weren't nervous when we had thought time and listened to a church song just before starting the lesson. We had a good time. I think I can speak for everyone when I say that, and I'm sure that if I can't, I'll get some snippy comments of my own on this post. Ah, well. We got into the deep Mormon Seminary Feel-Good Religion together and nobody was embarrassed. My mom made the plaque with the scripture and the family name on it that she makes for everybody, she made one for Brother Pratt, and I took it to him and presented it and was happy to picture it hanging up in his house and whenever I saw his wife she commented on how much she loved it. Zach and I went barefoot to Brother Pratt's house once or twice to talk about a class idea or something and when his little boy opened the door, I thought, "What beautiful kids he has" and, "How weird to see Brother Pratt in warmup clothes!" and, "How cute is his wife?!" It was just two years and a couple of months ago that I was doing all of that.

The day before Brother Pratt was arrested last week, I was asking around for his new address to add to the envelope I had already stuffed with the announcement for my wedding that I was so excited to give to him. I was so excited to visit him. This whole thing has been very interesting. All of this. While boating on Saturday, Emily got a text about the arrest and we all sat quietly as we zoomed back to shore and I was angry.I pounded my fist on the side of the boat. Sunday, it kind of hurt my feelings. Today, I walked into the seedy Albertson's in south Provo with the domed ceiling to buy Andy some dental floss, and for some reason my eyes welled up and I got the overwhelming wish that Brother Pratt, who has posted bail, would be in the store so I could give him a big hug. I feel like he needs a big hug right now.

He might have done it, and he probably did, and I feel sorry for him. He made a mistake. It was definitely a very stupid one. She's sixteen. I think sixteen-year-olds know what's happening.
They do.

So, the point I'm trying to get to is this--not an obituary, which I just realized this post sounds like--but the point that Brother Pratt is a person. A human person. Maybe a pretty good human person. Maybe people do really atrocious things and they are still people. All these people on Facebook, these impassioned people with summertime on their hands who like to type big paragraphs, the ones who support him, the ones who don't, the ones who like to type the f-word a lot, the ones who wonder where their hero has gone, the ones who used to like him and now think he's sick and wrong, the ones who talk about his "victim" being a "child", the ones who "just daren't believe it [handkerchief flutter]!", all these people are coming from all sides and fighting so impatiently and obnoxiously for something they have nothing to do with, and it's bothering me.

I think he did it. And I still want to give him a hug. And I think he feels bad. And I don't think I'm wrong.

I just wanted to say that somewhere that's my own private area, not Facebook or the comment section on


brycrasch said...

Jules. I just have so much love and respect for you. Thanks for turning out normal.

alayne said...

You said it.
I cried too.

Brianna Jean said...

I agree Julie

kayla & tyler said...

It is sad!! the group on facebook makes me crazy. everyone trying to make everyone else believe what THEY think. and saying the f-word. ridiculous. I do feel so bad for everyone involved.

Birrell Family said...

Thoughtfully written Julie. We can all ask ourselves before we speak...
1. Is it true?
2. Is it kind?
3. Is it necessary?

It's during times like this that we need less talking and silence for more prayer for everyone involved. I don't believe that the good a person has done all their life is washed away when mistakes are made. Hopefully we can all turn our stumblings into a deeper strength in the Lord.
Love you!

tracy said...

I've never met Brother Pratt, but that was really well said Julie. If more people reacted like that, the world would be a better place. And people would have an easier time turning their lives around.

Thank you.

Constance Marie said...

Julie, this is an excellent post, and I totally agree. I think we all felt really confused when we first heard, that someone so genuine, fun, kind, and spiritual could do that, but when it comes down to it, they're not a totally different person from the one we knew. They're the same person who has just made a horrendous mistake. But he doesn't need hatred for it, and it doesn't ruin his entire character. I'm very glad you wrote this post.

Kaitlyn Flanagan said...

I too was president of his class and at that time I totally hated myself and the world. I had an addiction. A bad addiction. And he helped me start on fixing that problem. I too think that something definitely happened between him and that girl. But I still believe he was inspired while he was teaching. Good people do bad things. Your post was very well written. I like you.

Jeremy said...

So, maybe I got a little emotional reading this.

Well said, Julie. Well said.

Meg said...

Beautifully and bravely written Julie. I too have known people who love him so dearly and have been VERY emotional about this situation. Your post is just like the woman caught in adultry.. Christ would hug him too!
Way to stand up and say something for a good person who made a horrible choice! Good Bless you as well as the Pratt family!

Anna said...

AHH Can I just say Amen that may sound cheesy but for me it fits I have my own opinions about what he did and didn't do but I love your point of view that you would still go up and hug him even thou you think he did it. One big mistake should not define a man's life when he did so many good things. I know a lot of people he has seriously helped change there life's completely and to here what mother's or people that don't know him say and how judgmental they are when Nobody will ever know what really happened except a select few it just makes me sick. I love this man no matter what and I am great full for the fun memory's you put on here it reminds me of when I was in his class and Janessa lamb and I were presidents to the secret service and we did something way similar as you guys with the letters but we assigned people names so everybody got one but not just one person was doing it so thank you Julie I love this and you are great.

Jessica said...

I want to give him a hug too.

Sackett said...


Well written, and I don't have an argument with what you are saying. I do believe that the shell shock, however, that most are experiencing is wondering if all that you described was reall real. Was all of that goodness genuine? Or were ther other motives? He befriended you when you were young, he video taped you, and had contact with you outside of the classroom. Suppose he could have seen weakness in you. Suppose you had been attracted to him and had been forward with him about your attraction. Where would all of this have led?

His popularity and such close interaction with students is probably a very thin and dangerous line to walk.

I agree that Mike is probably feeling bad...and that is ok. Some heavy remorse is certainly in order.

Who really needs a hug is his wife. She certainly doesn't deserve any of this and my heart goes out to her. When you talk about victims...his family should top the list.

I am not so quick to feel so badly for him. Sometimes when we make our own beds, we have to sleep in them. That is a consequence of actions.

My heart goes out to Mike's lovely wife and children. I can't even imagine.

Please think and pray for them, maybe even more than you do for "Brother Pratt".

JULIE said...

While I'm sure that people sleep in the beds that they make for themselves, this blog was to point out what I loved about the the Brother Pratt I knew, and to let people know that I, personally, support him. If there was anything in this post that inferred my brushing aside of his family, I'm sorry that it came across in such an insensitive manner.
Of course there is lots of sorrow and compassion for his family--his wonderful wife, his beautiful children--and I pray for them--but this specific post, for me, is about him, not them.

Mandy and Mark said...

This whole story to me is tragic, like the story of king David.
One thing I would note though is that if everyone likes you, as you say was the case with this man, does that mean you are doing everything right or doing something wrong? Even Jesus had enemies. If Jesus were a seminary teacher, would he have been as popular as Michael Pratt?
I believe the answer to that question was the beginning to Pratt's problems.

Lila Tueller said...

I have memories of Brother Pratt similiar to you.I was shocked when I heard the news,sick to my stomach,and just so sad.

I love Brother Pratt.

And there is one thing I know forsure and that I have been reassured about the past couple weeks....
We ALL need a savior, because we ALL make mistakes- all sorts of mistakes-big or little- (Sometimes I wonder if it matters- and although obviously Brother Pratt's mistake,this time was definitely big...)and we all need someone to save us, and to forgive us completely.

I would want to be completely forgiven, and have everyone forget about my terrible actions if I were him...and so, even though it is rather hard for me in some ways to do, I want to forgive him as much as the Lord would.

He recieved alot of love when he was teacher at Orem High School, but I think he needs even more love now- sometimes it's exactly what is needed in times where its hardest to give!He needs it now.

I'll continue to pray for Brother Pratt, that he can turn to Jesus Christ and clean things up, and For his sweet family. ALL of them need our prays.

I loved this Julie.

paige Tueller

Emma said...

this is the most egotistical thing i could say about that beautiful obituary: i was in band. and i get As. sometimes. and i definitely was not embarrassed learning scripture mastery! oh no! who am i!!

Jeremiah said...

Well written Julie, I was never in Bro. Pratt's class but he lives in my ward and I would see him every sunday, he's one of nicest people that I've ever met and those people that critize him and judge him don't really know him. Everyone makes mistakes but we all deserve second chances I'm positive that Bro. Pratt recognizes what he did and is going through Hell right now but we can all repent and can always come back.

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