Wendy L. Watson, the “young” bride and second wife of Mormon Apostle Russell M. Nelson recently wrote a children’s book that has generated some criticism. I won’t get into this book, but her recent press brought to bear other interesting tidbits. Before she married Apostle Nelson (her first marriage), the virgin Watson, a retired BYU professor of marriage and family therapy, also wrote a book on sex purity and passion in marriage. In fact, Watson has published many books through Deseret Book since her best friend Sheri Dew took the CEO reigns in 2002.
There’s an interesting dynamic among the wholesome threesome—Dew, Watson and Nelson—which I personally cannot untangle precisely, so I will ask the blog readership for their views. First, all three seem to have very strong opinions on traditional marriage and family. Watson published a book on marriage before she herself was married and helped many LDS couples with their relationships. This is not at all surprising, nor especially interesting at present. Her husband has been somewhat outspoken on traditional marriage. Nelson spoke at the white house on one occasion to defend traditional one-man/one-woman marriage.
He’s signed the petition by the “Religious Coalition for Marriage” including "a Letter from America's Religious Leaders in Defense of Marriage" demanding that the Constitution of the United States of America be amended to ban legalized same-sex marriage and define marriage "as the exclusive union of one man and one woman."
Nelson has spoken out against same-sex marriage:
"If civil law were altered to recognize so-called "same-gender" marriage, you as believers in God, and keepers of His commandments, would then be regarded as exceptions to the rule...In truth dear brothers and sisters, if you lose marriage, you also lose freedom of religion. Atheistic moral bedlam and religious repression go hand in hand. At stake is our ability to transmit to the next generation the life-giving and inseparable culture of marriage and the free exercise of religion."
Dew has also been a strong opponent of gay marriage. In Meridian Magazine (archived here), in 2004, she lamented gay relationships and especially children raised by gay parents.
In that same article, Dews states she believes erosion of personal morals is a slippery slope that could destroy family values.
“ There were several statements that stood out for me in a dramatic and terrifying way, but one of the most sobering features of the entire article was a picture of two handsome, young men, getting “married.” What distressed me most was the fact that they were both holding an infant “daughter”–twin girls they had adopted. I was, frankly, heartsick. What kind of chance do those girls have being raised in that kind of setting? What will their understanding of men and women, marriage and families be? ”
“ The minute I talked myself into a brief, tiny, what-seemed-like-a-harmless breach of the law, it wasn’t very long before there was such a total disregard of the law that I had become a danger to society… And that seems to be a predictable pattern: Once there is a deviation from truth or from what is right, things can escalate dramatically and quickly. Seemingly overnight. It seems to me that this is exactly where we find ourselves today with respect to key issues and all matters relative to the family. ”Dew also made reference to a statement made in 1941 by journalist Dorothy Thomas, who said each person in the world would be forced to choose sides for or against Adolf Hitler. Dew paraphrased Thomas to apply a principle to immorality. "Before this era is over, every living human being will have chosen," Dew said. "Every living human being will have lined up in support of the family as God has defined it or against it. Every living human being will either have opposed the onslaught against the family or supported it. For if we make no choice, that in itself is a choice. If we do not act in behalf of the family, that itself is an act in opposition of the family."
She received criticism for the Hitler analogy to gay rights, and backpedaled less than a year later, stating: “I wasn't comparing anybody to Hitler.” And further, “I have friends living an openly gay lifestyle with kids. In every instance, they are caring parents who love their kids and their kids love them. They know I feel it's not my prerogative to judge them. It's their right to choose. . . . Those that deal with same-sex attraction have my respect.”
Having been a member of the LDS faith all of my life until the past six years (almost one year officially resigned), I can sympathize with Dew on having to back-pedal over acerbic statements about gay rights. I myself am ashamed to admit that I had made a few and written opposing gay rights (back in the early 1990s) as what I believed were faithful mutterings. It does seem to me that Dew is concerned about her personal moral dilemma, using parallels to her own life’s slippery-slope patterns, and more recently concerned over her previous attitudes about gays.
I believe in gay rights and I believe that they deserve protection and respect equal to that others have enjoyed traditionally. Part of advancing those rights includes admitting my own previous errors and pointing out the hypocrisy of leaders who are among the strongest opponents to gay rights currently. Just as with zealous opponents such as Ted Haggard, Larry Craig, Mark Foley and others who’ve been exposed with obsessive sexual uppitiness hiding latent sexual frustrations, I think it helps us as a culture to move forward when we untangle the issues behind those who are most vociferous.
That being said, I am not sure what to make of what I discuss next. Perhaps readers will have more to offer in opinion. But here are the facts.
Wendy L. Watson and Sheri L. Dew have been “best friends” for well over a decade. In fact, in October, 2000, they bought a vacation home together in Heber Valley (where Monson and many of the Apostles have second or third homes). They were granted a warranty deed as “Wendy L. Watson, an unmarried person and Sheri L. Dew, an unmarried person, joint tenants tenants” and later, in 2002, refinanced it together for $245,800, paying it off in 2007 and rearranging the ownership until at present they are both still listed together.
2000 Warranty Deed for Joint Tenants
2002 Trust Deed for Refi
In 2004, Dew also bought a property in North Salt Lake at 1348 Elk Hollow Property, under her name only.
In April 2008, after a short period of removing Watson and obtaining a mortgage for $225,000 for Dew, she regranted to herself and to Watson a warranty deed listing both of them as joint tenants, giving Watson full rights of survivorship.
Why the numbers are different (1348 vs. 1349) and the "Road" vs "Drive" difference, I am unsure. Since 1349 Elk Hollow Drive doesn't exist, and that Dew does own 1348 Elk Hollow Road, I assume clerical error at the Wasatch County Recorder office.
UPDATE: In 2012, Nelson and Watson executed a Quit Claim, effectively removing Watson from the 1370 Elk Hollow property. The reason for this only they know.
Those are the facts as best I can tell. One thought: Watson and Dew seem very succesful in their own right. Nelson almost seems to be the third wheel who drags them down only because his name is lauded due to his priesthood position.
Here’s one limited rumor I will share, without much comment on my part. An anonymous (and probably unverifiable) Deseret Book employee stated in late 2008, “I work at Deseret Book and have worked here for over 20 years. I work in the corporate offices and have been in many meetings with Sheri Dew. She is not a flawed woman as you describe, she is a very mean woman who is a lesbian and her partner is Wendy Watson. Yes, Wendy is married to Elder Nelson. …” (comments)
Personally, I will question that this is all true. Whatever the arrangement is between Watson and Dew, Watson is perhaps getting favored treatment as an author at DB. And whether there is a platonic or even more involved relationship between the two women, I would encourage them to speak out against LDS intrusion into politics over gay rights. After all, I am absolutely sure both of them have great respect for those that “deal with” same-sex attraction.
Special thanks to "BiteMe" from RfM who provided documents.