The Sex Abuse Essay: A Plea to the Brethren

This is a guest post from a currently serving Stake Relief Society President. She has asked to remain anonymous mainly to protect the victims mentioned in the post.

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While the seemingly recent statement on sexual abuse in the church has turned out to be several years old, let me share a current experience where I live. I have been serving as a Stake Relief Society president for a few years in North America outside of the Book of Mormon belt. Elder Nelson has admonished women to “defend morality and families in a sin-sick world” and requested we share our “impressions, [our] insights, and [our] inspiration. We need you to speak up and speak out” so here goes.

(Potential triggers ahead.)

I grew up in a branch in the 1970s and ’80s that had two active males who sexually molested children (including groping, oral sex, and full rape). My friends who were the victims grew up with many emotional scars that have affected both their marriages and parenting. Fortunately counselling has helped stop the full-blown panic attacks and allowed the women to function.

The one predator who is still alive is a particularly grievous offender who moved with his family from LDS church to LDS church across our region. He molested local children until he was found out and then he and his wife moved to a new branch or ward to continue his addiction there. He served at least one jail sentence for his crimes when he was found guilty of impregnating a 15 year old girl. At the time he would have been over 50 years old. I have heard from one person that he had dozens of victims, while an adult victim told me that her LDS therapist told her that he had hundreds of victims across the region which would have encompassed several stakes. Regardless of the exact number of victims, the man lived his life for decades as a serial child molester who preyed both on very young Primary children and Young Women.

I am not going to dwell on the mistakes that were made that allowed this to happen several decades ago, but rather what is in place currently to help prevent further trauma for these victims.

A few years ago the child rapist had his temple blessings restored. His wife also holds a temple recommend. I have no knowledge of whether she was ever held accountable for aiding and abetting his criminal behavior all those years. When I learned via one of the victims the molester had been spotted at the temple, I immediately contacted my stake president. The repentant molester was living in another stake but it was confirmed that he was indeed attending the temple. After learning that his blessings would have to have been restored by the First Presidency, I quickly realized that there was nothing I could do to argue that he wasn’t worthy. Regardless of how I felt, I knew a Stake Relief Society President fighting a decision made by the First Presidency was a losing battle.

Horrified that sisters in my stake might have to face their childhood molester in the temple, I told my stake president that one of the victims had shared that she did not feel she could safely attend the temple. Therapy had helped stop the panic attacks, but she did not want the anxiety to return or trigger further trauma.

As a solution I requested that the child molester attend the next closest temple, about three hours’ drive from our local one. This would take him outside of the region of the four to five stakes that he had molested his victims in for forty years. If the molester was truly repentant, this seemed to be a good way for him to show compassion and a tiny measure of restitution toward his victims.

My request which traveled up to the area authority was denied and I was kindly told about repentance, the atonement, and the need to forgive. Instead of travelling to a different temple, the former molester was asked to give his proposed temple attendance dates to his stake president who gave it to my stake president who passed the list on to me and I passed it on to the two victims in my stake whom I know. Two other victims of whom I am aware now live elsewhere and have long since left the church.

So this solution allows two women, out of possibly hundreds of victims in our temple district, know when they might — if the dates are accurate — avoid running into the man in an endowment session who molested or raped them as children.

Would this example, too, be called a gold standard by Mormon Newsroom?

Elder Nelson, women are answering your call. We are speaking up and speaking out about the problems we have experienced in the handling of child abuse in the church. We are coming not just with problems, but with solutions. We are sharing our impressions, our insights, our inspiration.

My plea to the Brethren: If you won’t allow women the power to make necessary decisions and policy changes to protect our families, our sisters, our children, then please, please take action. Now.

Comments

  1. Wouldn’t want to have to make some of those decisions. I cant say whether they were all the right decisions or not. Food for thought, even a child molester can repent and receive all the blessings that you temple going saints can have. We shouldn’t get offended by that. It should be celebrated.

  2. N8, It isn’t about repentance as much as simply acknowledging and protecting the victim. As an victim of abuse I’ve heard over and over that I just need to forgive the perp. and then all my pain would be gone. Guess what? I’ve forgiven him. I don’t really care about him. But that does not make the effects go away. So why not have compassion for the victims? Why don’t women and girls matter???

  3. Yes, the focus of this is keeping the victims safe from the trauma of encountering their rapist in the temple. It really is surprising that the burden is placed on the victims to come to terms with it rather than imposing the suggested, common sense solution made by the stake relief society president — “If the molester was truly repentant, this seemed to be a good way for him to show compassion and a tiny measure of restitution toward his victims.”

    This is so true. If the man is truly repentant, that should entail his willingness to make amends by undergoing this minor inconvenience to spare those whom he raped from the trauma of encountering him in the temple.

  4. Thank you for sharing this post. My wife was sexual abused by her active, temple recommend holding father. He was in the bishopric and the high council at the time of the abuse and is in good standing with the church today.

    By my count 15 priesthood leaders know about what he did including bishoprics, stake presidents, and the First Presidency. Of those 15 men only 1 has done anything to help my wife. The other 14 have either done nothing to help my wife or have exacerbated the abuse. At the same time those 14 priesthood leaders have done everything in their power to help her abuser escape the consequences of his actions.

    N8, Repentance is great. It should be celebrated. But if church leaders gave a tenth of the time and energy they give to coddling abusers to helping the victims heal, I would celebrate that even more.

    I am so sorry for the sisters in your area. I pray that they may continue to heal.

  5. This is a complex issue and if the perpetrator is truly repentant he would willingly attend an alternative temple. Amongst other things victims forgiving doesn’t mean the pain and horror of sexual abuse disappears. To me it appears that the abuser has more rights than the sisters he abused and this in no way supports them and as Anon stated the victims don’t seem to be heard or truly acknowledged.

  6. Eric Russell says:

    Despite the offers of solutions and a call to take action, it’s unclear to me what action the church is being asked to take here. To intervene in this particular case or to modify worldwide policy? If the latter, what would those policies be?

    As I think about what would be the best way to address this problem from the top, it occurs to me that the best solution would be a lifetime temple ban on all adult child abusers. It would simultaneously establish the seriousness with which the church takes child abuse as well as the practical effect of preventing situations as described above.

  7. Longtime lurker piping up because of the “flames, flames on the side of my face.” Repentance does not mean that the consequences for your actions are erased. He should absolutely, at a bare minimum, be required to travel elsewhere to the temple, and he can take advantage of that time to reflect on and re-repent of the horrors he caused those innocent children the whole long drive there and back. If his repentance is real he would want to avoid at all costs the possibility of causing them any more injury or distress. His victims, even if they have been able to find peace and function through therapy, may spend their entire lives learning and re-learning how to forgive this man. If he is truly repentant he will more than willing to make the drive as part of his own life-long process of making restitution.

  8. Change worldwide policy:
    1. No matter where they live, they report. No clergy privilege. Report. Report. Report.

  9. Anonymous1 says:

    Same as it ever was. When I was young and our Sunday School teacher was trying to get our class of 12-13 year-old girls to come have a sleepover at his house, and come wash his truck in our swimsuits, I was the one who was chastised for saying he was a pervert, and I was told I needed to forgive him. He was not released as our teacher, by the way.

    Lately most of my interactions with the church leave me trying to choose whether to feel anger, frustration, or despair. Not much Good News these days.

  10. Anonymous says:

    My husband and I witnessed an instance within the past decade when the bishop talked a registered sex offender and his wife into working in the nursery and with the youth without a calling, because (as the bishop told us) he trusted him. He was not, as far as we knew, a violent or predatory offender, but he was in the registry. The bishop totally dismissed our concerns until we suggested we could talk to the police about the legality of the arrangement, and all of a sudden he was no longer in the nursery or working with the youth.

    Was he repentant? Who knows. We didn’t care.

    We’ve never trusted church leaders quite the same after a number of similar experiences with that bishop and the next bishop that suggested that they prized reactivating marginally active members far above the safety of the children in the ward.

  11. Frank W. Hays says:

    It is so sad and to think we won’t let the children of Gay families be baptized. Seems we have so much to pray about in this fallen world. Seems we desperately need woman serving and having major input on Church Policy. The Church needs major reviews of its Policies ,Forgiveness is for all it seems, but isn’t, like membership…Like being SSA/GAY/Two Spirit….Victims should never be forgotten…even when we repent….He could never make restitution…

  12. For insight into how pedophiles operate, especially in the context of religion-based societies, as well as why the Church’s claimed “gold standard” in this area is actually more tarnished than many other religious institutions, see the current Mormon Stories episode where John Dehlin interviews sex crimes prosecutor, Matt Long. Highly recommended. If this topic if of interest to you the investment of three hours to listen to the interviews will be well worth your time.

    ” – The methods of child abusers (including within the LDS context),
    – Matt’s experience prosecuting (and defending) child/sex abusers in Arizona (many of whom are/were LDS),
    – His interactions with LDS law firm Kirton | McConkie, and
    – His reactions to the LDS Church’s recent media release wherein it claims that “no religious organization has done more” to prevent child abuse, and touts its child abuse approach as “the gold standard” amongst all churches.”

    http://mormonstories.org/matt-long-sex-crimes-prosecutor-discusses-lds-church-child-abuse-policies/

  13. Notwithstanding that Church policy states that a Church leader’s first priority “is to help those who have been abused and to protect those who may be vulnerable to future abuse” (quoting the 2010-2013-2016 statement), reports and experience suggest that almost all of the Church’s and Church leaders’ actions are with regard to the abuser. There is a lot to discuss about whether those actions with respect to the abuser are judicious or effective or required or permitted, but it seems quite clear (to me) that helping the abused takes a distant second in practice.

  14. Many years ago I had a Bishop who was speaking on forgiveness and he said that just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean you have to put yourself in the position of being harmed again. Seems like our leaders could use this advice a bit in protecting those who have been harmed at church. I know that people who have committed certain sins aren’t called to BSA positions (because of the BSA background check) seems like expanding this to callings with children/youth or certain leadership positions would be a natural extension.

    The idea of asking a person to attend a different temple (or ward or stake) seems quite logical. It’s very sad to me that it wasn’t considered at all. Clearly this man written about didn’t have to make any sort of restitution to the people he harmed (a step of repentance I was always taught) and making the trip to an out of area temple would be a reasonable step.

  15. Anon (OP) – Bless you for your ministry to the women in your stake. I am so glad those women have you as an advocate for them.

  16. Betty hunt says:

    And if elder Nelson finds out who you are you will be released and possibly much worse. He never meant for women to really speak out dear sister.

  17. Noisacompletesentence says:

    Mandatory background checks for all volunteers who work with anyone under 18.

    No more worthiness interviews as they are inherently abusive.

    Two leaders at all times.

    Professionally trained clergy.

  18. I apologize if this is a bit disjointed, I’m writing it in bits and pieces between appointments.

    It is frustrating to see that the lessons that could have been learned from the Catholic abuse crisis are being overlooked. I think part of the problem is that too many within the church are comfortable reciting platitudes about the Atonement and forgiveness without realizing the very real damage that done by sexual abuse. I think we become too comfortable trying to save the perpetrator from their sins, and forget that by doing so we are putting at risk the survivors–both psychologically and spiritually.

    I’m reminded of what the Savior taught in Matthew 18:6. I think when most people think of this verse, they can easily see the application to the perpetrator, but at least one scholar sees an alternate interpretation, “The child in view in these verses is not a literal child but the disciple who has humbled himself or herself and in so doing has become childlike… Withholding supportive encouragement would cause a disciple to stumble in the sense that it would make it harder for him to do his work. Jesus was not speaking of causing the disciple to stumble by leading him or her into apostasy. The contrast makes this clear. Discouraging the disciple amounts to rejecting the Master” (NET, Constable’s Notes). In these types of situations, we have survivors who are being harmed first by the perpetrator, and then by those who should be ministering to them in their suffering.

    It’s as is if the Church is focused on the souls of the perpetrator a the expense of the souls of the survivor. That’s wrong.

  19. A referral to law enforcement is the only way to slow or stop abuse. A mandatory reporting policy must be implemented to achieve the gold standard.

  20. Excellent post.

    From your lips to God’s ears.

    I know we need to fight for change with many brave actions in order to correct these unacceptable problems, but I wondered if the bloggernacle couldn’t have a day of prayer and fasting to begin as a dedicated group. Seems to me we already there are already a tragic number of voices raised like those in Jacob 2:31-32. Let us join them, if we aren’t already crying in pain.

    Can you share the word, THIS SUNDAY FEB 7th, a joint day of fasting and prayer to:
    1. See, hear, and acknowledge abuse among us
    2. Prevent, protect, and comfort victims of abuse
    3. Correct the disturbing gaps in church claims and actions regarding abuse prevention unearthed this week.
    4. Focus on making our congregations and communities places of zero incidence of abuse.

  21. Weird question that I can’t believe hadn’t occurred to me until now:

    Gold standard according to whom?

    If the LDS Church leads the way in preventing abuse, then it shouldn’t be too hard to find statements from (non-LDS) organizations such as child advocacy groups or ecumenical councils urging those who would protect children to be more like the LDS Church.

    Or is the church the “gold standard” simply because the Newsroom says it is?

  22. Nathaniel James says:

    This statement was actually written by one Von G. Keetch in 2010, and then afterwards published on the Newsroom without his name attached. You can read the original here: http://writ.news.findlaw.com/commentary/20100527_keetch.html. He was called as a 70 this last April. According to his Wikipedia article, “He is a shareholder in the law firm of Kirton & McConkie and a member of the firm’s Constitutional, Religious and Appellate Practice section. He has defended land use rights of religious groups against state regulations, and has argued against liability of religious groups for crimes committed by their members.” It’s a little disappointing that one of the Church’s leading lawyers seems so indifferent to the suffering of victims. I don’t know him, so who knows what kind of a person he actually is, but it is unfortunate that he wrote this article.

  23. never again says:

    Rapists and child molesters can only find forgiveness in the next life. Their actions are shedding innocent blood. If they had any decency left, they would remove themselves from this world since the state can’t do that for them anymore.

  24. Wow,
    1st having them go to another temple far away won’t help, what if one of the victims happens to move into that temple district. I have met people I know from across the country in temples.
    2nd this happens to boys almost as much as it happens to girls, so don’t leave them out.
    3rd the church does have practices in place that I did not see mentioned. Leaders are told they must report any criminal activity like abuse. Also an abuser, even if they get rebaptised has their membership marked so new Bishops know they can not assign them to work with children.
    These are not all, but some of the things that the church has put in place. It has been suggested here that an abuser should die. Well that is beyond the authority of the church. Also note that most abusers were abused themselves as children per psychiatric magazines.

  25. Whether it will make a difference or not, I think it would be a great thing to see “a Stake Relief Society President fighting a decision made by the First Presidency”, although perhaps instead of fighting, making an honest appeal given your conscience on the matter. Standing for your truth done in sincerity doesn’t have to mean trying to undermine authority. And who knows, maybe it could lead to change.

    In my estimation, cleanliness from forgiveness is not the only determining factor in worthiness. I feel a lifetime ban from the temple is a requisite consequence for sinning to the degree of child molestation. I can’t say I have a strong feeling where that line always exists, but I do believe there is one and child rape certainly crosses it for me.

    I believe if anyone honestly considers this very story – that the victim runs the risk of running into their perpetrator in the holy temple of God – that they will feel that something is definitely not right about it. I think because our theology is not complete, or in other words not all things are yet revealed, we sometimes struggle, and i believe this is one of those instances. We want to believe that even with so great sin, a person can repent and then everything is okay. It sounds like your immediate leaders in this uncomfortable situation are retreating to this very self-deception (and I do not doubt that most are honest and good men). But do a quick and honest gut check, and I believe you will realize that the truth is not so.

    I offer my opinion and support in favor of trying to approach even the highest up of leaders in an honest appeal, to consider what may be truly wrong here, and to seek just amends through policy change. Because I believe our leaders are sincere, I do believe the higher up you can get, the better chance that you will have in breaking some of the barriers of cultural self-deception and making a difference.

  26. Clark Goble says:

    It’s definitely worth checking the sex offenders list, seeing who in your ward is on it, and keeping an even more careful eye on things. Not assuming that everyone is OK is also worth doing. I think that happens in many wards. But vigilance is always important.

  27. As someone said earlier some of the problem is patriachy. As with the decision on gay marriage, men with similar backgrounds, could only see limited solutions.
    We have been having the discussion about abuse of women and children in my country.
    The government already require, and will do, background checks, on anyone who is to work with people under 18, including at church.
    Discussions of the problem ususlly end up concluding that the long term solution is equal power for women and men.
    It would be interesting to see figures on abuse of adult women in the church too. The amazing figure here (with a population of 25milliom) is that 2women a day die as a result of domestic voiolence. I wonder if we are gold standard here too. We should not have alcohol as a problem, but we have more extreme patriachy than the rest of the world.

  28. As a current Relief Society president, one year ago I attempted to use the church’s abuse hotline to get advice about how to handle reported abuse in my ward. The person spoke to me confidentially, and I was asked not to involve the bishop. After looking long and hard for the number and finding it (it is not provided to any female leaders), I called and was told the line was for priesthood leaders only and normally he wouldn’t speak to me at all. Because the counselor on the line knew a relative of mine, he deigned to talk to me for a few minutes. But he did not get an attorney on the line, which was normal procedure, according to him, because as a woman I am not considered clergy and thus have no mandated reporting requirements. It became clear to me that the hotline is all about legally protecting church leaders from lawsuits if they don’t handle things properly. It is not about protecting children. If it were about protecting children, the counselor would have grilled me about the possible abuse and made sure I understood how to proceed for the best chance of protecting the children and their mother. I wrote a complaint about the hotline being exclusive to priesthood leaders and exclusive of female leaders (who, after all, deal a whole lot more with vulnerable ward members than does the bishopric) but never heard anything back from anyone.

    If anyone has access to Handbook One, I would love to know what it says about who can use the Hotline and under what circumstances.

  29. Sister Chris says:

    One of my siblings was sexually abused in an LDS church scouting context–not by a leader but by a peer–and it had horrific ripples through our family for decades. I would want my ward leaders–my RS president, my bishop–to stand up for me the way the way this good sister is doing for those in her stewardship
    .
    With that out there as context, I’d like to jump in with an example of how the lay clergy in our stake recently managed a situation with a known child abuser. An no, we don’t live in the Jello Belt though one might think that was the case based on our large wards and relatively small ward boundaries.

    One Sunday, our bishop asked all the adults over 18 to remain in the chapel after the closing prayer. All the youth and primary were dismissed and instructed to meet in the primary room with a handful of primary leaders supervising.

    Our bishop proceeded to let us know that a convicted sex offender, who had completed his sentence, was moving into our area where he had been a member of our stake before prison, some 15-20 years ago. The abuse happened in the context of a daycare situation (if memory serves)–not in his church callings. Because some of the families and victims still lived within the stake boundaries, the stake president, along with the bishops, determined that he would attend church in our ward at a building different from the one where his former ward met. Members of the High Priest Quorum would escort him from door to door and would sit with him throughout the service They would escort him home after sacrament meeting had ended–he was not invited to attend the block.

    In the interest of full disclosure, the bishop wanted everyone to know exactly what was happening and how it would be handled. He felt it would be dishonest to do anything other than level with the congregation. Though the man had spent his full sentence in prison and had been through rehabilitative counseling etc, the bishop knew that he was honor bound to protect the congregation so he was trying to balance repentance/mercy/fairness and protecting the innocent. The abuser had discussed the plan with the priesthood leadership and understood–and accepted–the limits placed on him. The bishop also wanted to minimize any potential contact with children and young men/young women–thus the reason for him joining the meeting as it began (or arriving extra early) instead of being able to meander around and socialize.

    The bishop wanted to give every parent and adult in the ward the chance to make their concerns and/or objections known, well in advance of his starting to attend our ward, so that if there were any issues they could be resolved, including the possibility of assigning him to a different ward.

    To me, it was an honorable, decent way to handle a difficult situation. I’m grateful that our leadership legitimately attempted to balance acknowledging this man paying his debt to society with the real safety and emotional concerns of ward members.No one tried to whitewash anything. The priesthood had contact with the man’s parole officer so even accountability mechanisms were in place should the man fail to hold up his part of the agreement. There is no perfect way to deal with this kind of nightmare in any community, but I felt like our leadership councils did exactly as I would hope they would. I think if SL leadership would provide guidelines as sensitive and honest as those employed by our stake leadership, much suffering could be averted.

    .

  30. Excommunication for the rapist…..why isn’t he in prison. He can repent there. Isn’t that where rapist go. Why should lds. Members be any different. Turn him in to the authorities for prosecution so he can atone for his sins.

  31. I think it’s so, so dependent on the bishop. In my experience, the typical reaction to abuse reports in the church is to try to smother the situation with normalcy and churchiness. I’ve twice reported systematic abuse by family members to a bishop, somehow expecting some major intervention. In both cases the only action taken was that the family member was called to a more time intensive calling (a temple worker in one case and a quorum presidency in the other). I think the idea was that if these men were more involved at church, they’d mend their behavior in other areas. But it made things harder, really, because it created this even bigger disconnect between the public persona and the cruel private reality. As a teen I once mustered the guts to discuss an abusive incident with my YW president, only to have her tell me that I must be mistaken about the details, because she knew that this was a good person who served faithfully in the church. I’d like to think that sexual abuse is taken seriously, at least, but perhaps not.

  32. Yet another anonymous poster says:

    From my point of view, the things that are relevant to the situation are:
    1) I believe that the church legal strategy as outlined in the Utah supreme court decision published in 2013 ( my analysis is based on http://www.utcourts.gov/opinions/supopin/MacGregor012814.pdf ), is to never directly help victims. This prevents the church from assuming legal duties related to helping victims and the subsequent liability. So anything that goes up the chain of authority is not going to result in the church directly helping a victim or acting directly on behalf of the victim. It could however, result in the church making sure that its secret legal policies are followed.
    2) Helping victims indirectly means providing statements to bishops and stake presidents that encourage them to help victims. Bishops and stake presidents are not required to follow up on those statements, but I believe that the church hopes in good faith that they would do so. i.e., there is a real desire that the local leaders help the victims.
    3) Protecting/helping victims does not include the institutional church accepting responsibility to monitor or to manage the activities of child molesters, just recommending to local leaders that hey monitor the molester in some cases. So the institutional church forbidding someone entry into a church building is very rare. More commonly, the bishop acts on his own without the permission of the church when this happens.

    This sounds very harsh, but the right thing for the victims to do is to realize and accept that the church accepts virtually no responsibilities for their well-being or comfort. There are legal reasons why they never will.

    Most of the emotions that victims and families of victims feel toward the church in these kinds of situations arises from their very understandable misunderstanding of their relationship to the church. Quite simply, human beings are built to expect reciprocity. A lack of reciprocity in a relationship is painful and results in anger, frustration, a desire to lower the social position of the entity that does not reciprocate. For legal reasons, the church has the absolute minimum possible amount of responsibility to its members, thus the minimum possible amount of reciprocity. Most churches do not go this far in an effort to protect themselves, as they want to be in a more human-like relationship with their members. So our relationship with the institutional church is not like a human relationship because it does not have reciprocity in it, for example, the church doesn’t give you a temple recommend, it just allows you to use one that it owns. You don’t have the right to complain to the institutional church, just to your local leaders. etc. The only solution I can think of is to let go of the desire to have a relationship with the institutional church, whether you stay or don’t stay.

    The church doesn’t talk about its relationship with the membership (i.e. what its responsibilities are, etc.) because it is intellectual property. And I am only guessing about what that relationship is because I don’t have inside knowledge.

    If my legal guesses are off—-please correct me, lawyers of BCC.

  33. This post shows how the patriarchy is harming us. The First Presidency needed the information – the stories and experiences of women, but the process never included them and a regretable decision was made that cannot be reversed.

    We cannot address this massive problem alone, we need everyone- especially the women. I’m appalled that female leaders don’t have access to the help hotline. I’m horrified by all of this.

    In a ward I once lived on, a predator who was a member of the high council was forgiven by his good buddies the SP and bishop and given a light slap on the wrist (a short two- month disfellowshipment), while leaving 9 children and two women destroyed. Female leadership were livid, but those who made complaints to the SP were told to forgive and threatened with excommunication if they didn’t let it drop. The unique perspective of the women who worked daily with the victims was brushed off by the male leaders (who incidentally were all indebted through friendships or business dealings with the predator). Merely having women on councils leaves them in the same powerless predicament.

    It’s time to ordain women!

  34. Can I just add that we need to make sure people working with children and youth are mentally stable as well? We had an issue in a ward I lived in where they had a mentally unstable person working in the nursery who ended up going into a psychosis while in that calling. It was scary to think that this person was working with kids with emerging language skills. Those kids had very little in the way of communicating if something was done or said to distress or disturb them. Anyway, there is much more that needs to be done to protect kids and youth.

  35. Brother Sky says:

    I think Yet another (4:08) has it right. The church is quite deliberate in creating its institutional culture of distance and lack of accountability. The hurt feelings, frustration and anger result, as Yet another tells us, when people expect the institutional church to reciprocate the obedience, sacrifice, faith, etc. that it demands of its members. Institutions generally and the LDS Church in particular simply don’t work this way. Institutions, just like people, have a built-in survival instinct that is quite pervasive. An institution wants to survive and its survival is more important than the people who work in it and the people who could benefit from its help if it was so inclined to give it. We’re taught as Mormons to have faith, to model ourselves after Christ and to invest ourselves in the well-being of others. The institutional church does some of this, but its prime directive (no offense, Trekkies) is its own survival. And if people, whether children of gay unions or abuse victims, suffer because of its drive to survive, than so be it.

    There’s a good post on Wheat and Tares this week about disenchantment vs. disillusionment. That post may help some members who are struggling with these issues. Best of luck to us all in these troubling times.

  36. Glad those two women got out.

  37. RSPres – the hotline is designed to assist Stake Presidents and Bishops in cases of abuse. These cases are a belief of physical/sexual abuse or viewing/purchasing/distributing child pornography. The professionals on the other line help formulate a plan and steps to take. I would agree that its designed much more as an institutional (& clergy) protective measure than as a traditional hotline for reporting abuse that might be sponsored by a municipality or state government.

    I know that most states (if not all) have a hotline designed for reporting abuse – this would be the avenue designed to best respond to and benefit a victim of abuse.

  38. RSPres — I am really sorry that was your experience with the abuse hotline. My suggestion is don’t bother with the Church’s abuse hotline. If you suspect abuse, please contact law enforcement authorities directly, and please make every effort to get therapy and counseling for the victims through normal, professional channels.

  39. RS Pres,
    Unfortunately women in the church are not considered clergy. A man I work with recently complained about an issue in his ward. His wife is the RS president of their ward and she was dealing with a woman in the ward who was going through a messy divorce. Her husband had been counselling with the Bishop. During the divorce proceedings, but the RS pres and the Bishop were subpoenaed to testify. They RS pres went to talk to the Bishop about it. She was told that the attorney help line said that he didn’t have to testify but that she did because she didn’t count under the clergy exemption.
    This hurt both the RS pres who was put at risk because she didn’t count as clergy even though she functioned as clergy and the husband who didn’t get to have the same level of testimony on his behalf as the wife did.

  40. In the Church, we have this sad institutional memory. Joseph Smith once petitioned the federal government for redress of wrongs – land confiscated, property taken, rights denied. The learning from that seems to be “Because you are Mormons, the government will not protect your rights”. Polygamy made things even worse – we learned, as a people, that you don’t talk to people outside your ward about issues. Mind Your Own Business became the watchword.

    There is something we can do now.

    Crimes like the ones being discussed here don’t go to the Bishop. They go to the police. If I’m having a crisis of faith, if I’m having a hard time in my calling, if I need to discuss personal sins and shortcomings, then I get a hold of the ward executive secretary and schedule an appointment. If my child is injured in a hit-and-run incident in the parking lot at church, if somebody cleans out my savings with a scam, if a member of my family is molested or raped, then I call the police. I’m sure the Bishop would like to hear about it after the fact, but unless the Bishop is the one committing the crime, he doesn’t really need to be involved.

    In the case of abusers now returning to the fold, can we look into restraining orders? Another really radical step might be to start attending a different ward. We tend to forget that as a valid option.

    When somebody receives a calling, we are given the opportunity to object. Granted, it might not change anything, but the opportunity is presented. I’ve done it, and my concerns were addressed quickly and without a big fuss.

    Until we learn that Mormons have rights too, this will continue.

  41. Pedophiles have a high propensity to reoffend. That someone who should’ve been serving life in prison for abusing “dozens or hundreds,” gets his temple recommend back is appalling. The repentance process includes restitution. How does one make restitution for sex crimes? (Does the church restore temple privileges to murderers also?) Frankly, I don’t see that this is much different than the Catholic church moving offending priests around.

    Is this issue another issue where all-male leadership results in poor decision-making?

    I would like to digress a little…
    Abusers can be very innovative. As a child, (age 7 or 9) I was “violated” by a store clerk, in Salt Lake City with my mother present. It was done in such a way that she could not see what he was doing. At the time I knew nothing about sex or even that what he did was wrong. I just knew I didn’t like it and forever after feelings of dread arose whenever we drove past the store. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I applied the correct label to what was done to me.

    Where I live (not in UT) one can look-up on-line the names and pictures of those who are required to register as sex offenders living in your local area. I tried to access that information in UT but couldn’t find it. Is it available?

    @SisterChris
    Kudos to your leaders who correctly identify their responsibility as protecting and serving the members of the ward rather than serving the higher-ups.

  42. An Honest Dude says:

    I really like Eric Russel’s suggestion above about a lifetime temple ban for child abusers, but with the sole exception being for them to still be permitted to receive their own personal temple ordinances only. Seems like good policy to me….

  43. I still have panic attacks because of the actions of the man I was married to, who I occasionally have to contact and be around because of my children. I don’t hold him in very high esteem, but I’ve put his salvation firmly in the hands of my Savior. That is forgiveness. It doesn’t mean I’d ever allow myself to be alone with him, or that I encourage communication beyond what is necessary.

    He has baptized our child, and will probably baptize the other when it comes time. Despite the fact that I know without any doubt that he has not repented (because an attempt at restitution is a necessary part of repentance, and because stopping his behavior would also be necessary,) his being found worthy by his bishop is between him and his bishop.

    The temple is a place where we are supposed to be safe. That being said, trying to control his movements, worthiness, and attendance would be controlling behavior. If I were to run into him at the temple, I would simply wait out the session for the next one. If I couldn’t, I would quietly withdraw and try again another day. My triggers are mine. My panic attacks are mine. They are not his business, and they have nothing to do with him. I would never try to control him.

    There is no doubt in my mind that all the bishops and stake presidents who set the welfare of perpetrators above the welfare of victims will have to look my Savior in the eyes and be held accountable for their decisions. I trust Christ to handle that, and gratefully remove myself from the process.

    That being said, it is definitely my responsibility to call gaps in the process when I have the opportunity, and point out patiently and tirelessly the systemic patterns which cause problems. I have learned by experience that outrage rarely changes anyone’s mind.

  44. I can’t even imagine a woman (or man) in the temple having to face her former abuser. I like the previously stated idea that, as part of restitution, the predator should be asked to attend a different temple. Or even not attend the temple at all. It seems like, especially in serial cases, a permanent ban on the temple would be appropriate.

    I hope that the church, as society, is better at dealing with this problem now than in the past. In cases of reported sex abuse, the handbook, as I understand it, recommends that leaders call the church’s hotline in addition to calling the appropriate authorities.

  45. it's a series of tubes says:

    Crimes like the ones being discussed here don’t go to the Bishop. They go to the police. If I’m having a crisis of faith, if I’m having a hard time in my calling, if I need to discuss personal sins and shortcomings, then I get a hold of the ward executive secretary and schedule an appointment. If my child is injured in a hit-and-run incident in the parking lot at church, if somebody cleans out my savings with a scam, if a member of my family is molested or raped, then I call the police. I’m sure the Bishop would like to hear about it after the fact, but unless the Bishop is the one committing the crime, he doesn’t really need to be involved.

    Right on the money.

  46. Clark Goble says:

    Lois the Utah Sex Offender Registry is online. One thing to keep in mind of course is that many offenders haven’t yet been charged and of course there are the occasional person on the registry for bad reasons. The Utah registry is helpful as you can get a general idea of the reasons for their arrest.

  47. Clark Goble says:

    Michael (9:39) I tend to agree. And I do hope the Church has flags to alert leaders to problematic members. Although there are legal issues involved that means what we might like doesn’t always happen. Ideally though there should be windows to see into classrooms and people shouldn’t ever be alone with children that aren’t theirs. My current calling is a den leader and they make watching videos warning about sex offenders part of the calling. This is both to protect yourself (so you don’t get into a situation someone might misjudge) but also to be on the lookout for offenders. (This is admittedly done by the Boy Scouts – but perhaps the Church should have a similar online training video for any calling working with children)

  48. a couple things:

    When I called the hotline, which was a few different times. I was put online with a lawyer to talk about legal responsibilities and then transferred to a counselor to talk about the welfare of the victim, and what to do to help support. In my experience they did care about the victim a lot.

    Also the church does flag the records of those who are involved in abuse of minors and they are not allowed to have any calling that involves children.

    I’m sure there are missteps to how these things are handled but things are in place to help.

    I’m also sure that there are times when the wrong choices are made but I also know of many cases in which things were handled in a way that was helpful. There are cases that are done well all throughout the church that you will never hear about.

    Again that isn’t to say that there aren’t cases that are handled badly but it is possible to have a skewed perspective on the church based on the cases you hear about.

  49. I second a life-long temple ban for convicted sex offenders. No need for exceptions, someone neutral can do their proxy work after they’ve crossed over.

  50. Is it possible for an abuser to be really repentant without fully understanding the damage he has done? Perhaps, but if he did, and was truly repentant, he would unhesitatingly agree to attend a temple far from his victims.

    Every time there’s a post touching on abuse, there are a lot of stories of how the bishops/SPs/institutional church screwed up and how abuse should be reported directly to civil authorities. I have no doubt this is true, but I also can’t help but wonder if every one of these stories is as black and white as presented. I also marvel at the faith people exhibit in civil authorities.

    Say a young man confesses to his bishop that when he babysat a young girl, he assisted her in changing her clothes (when she didn’t strictly need it) and had enough prurient interest that the girl noticed and was made uncomfortable. The YM is horribly guilt-stricken but swears nothing else happened. What should the bishop do? 1) report the YM to the police immediately, 2) inform the girl’s parents immediately, 3) call the church’s hotline, 4) investigate on his own to try to establish if anything else might have happened, 5) believe the clearly sorrowful YM was guilty of nothing else, set terms for repentance, and forbid him from babysitting. Any of these choices can severely impact somebody, and possibly several somebodies, for the rest of their lives. It’s possible the young man had a one-time lapse and that the girl may not even remember it in a couple years, or it’s possible the youth is a nascent pedophile who did more than he admitted and who’ll victimize in the future. If it’s the first, and the bishop calls the authorities, the results for that young man and his family will be devastating (unless you’ve had at least second-hand experience with the criminal justice system, I don’t think you understand what it means to have been flushed down that toilet). If it’s the second, and the bishop doesn’t call authorities, a young girl receives no succor and a disturbing individual will likely re-offend. And the bishop could end up in jail himself.

    It’s easy to say that because the young man was the offender, one should always err at his expense. The girl is completely innocent and must be protected. I agree with that, but if you judge an action based on the amount of “harm done” (which I believe is the generally accepted metric in these parts) then calling the civil authorities may very well cause more harm — certainly to the youth, but maybe even to the girl and her family — than not.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am positive that bishops/stake presidents have made bad choices. I just don’t necessarily think it’s always because they (or the institutional church) is morally bankrupt, or because they’re male and naturally more sympathetic to the offender. They have to make choices, just like all of us, and I believe it’s entirely possible for them to make the wrong choice for reasons with which we could sympathize.

  51. Anonymous says:

    I share occasionally here, but post anonymously at this time on purpose.

    I am a priesthood leader who has personal experience with being abused, but also has experience helping abusers and abusees, as well as sitting in counsels dealing with this. I have unlimited love and support for the victims, and a forgiving, but very short leash on the abusers.

    Having said that, I find that rarely is something black and white from a Leader’s perspective. My own wife has been frustrated that things are “obvious” to her, but often there is little that can be done because there is no confession or evidence.

    I have even seen that with a confession, and in turning this information over to authorities, the case where very little was done legally.

    All abuse is heinous, but all abuses are not the same. I have seen where the public perception of the sin was extensive (intercourse),but the actuality was that it was much less (fondling). Again, it is all bad, but not all the same.

    I share this because I think sometimes the perception is that the church or a leader should have done more, but in actuality there may be limitations to what can be done or an incomplete understanding of the situation. Key word – sometimes.

    Above all I have faith in the atonement in redeeming the abused and the abuser.

    WordPress.com / Gravatar.com credentials can be used.

  52. Reading stuff like this, along with the comments, really makes me pause and have to rethink why I remain a member of this church I was born into. So many things to love and honor, but also so many things which are stupid. It’s amazing how child molesters are given quarter, repentant or not, while people like the Van Allens are excommunicated for questioning the divinity of polygamy and polyandry. This is inspired leadership?

  53. I’m glad to see the liberals here supporting lifetime band for child abusers. Perhaps we can get an open letter, signed by all the permas to Lena Durham, explaining that because she is a child molester, the Lds church had no interest in baptizing her, or ever allowing her in the Temples. Is that consistent with your worldview too. It certainly works for me.

  54. Laserguy, maybe you should focus on politics a little bit less.

    Andrew, for the record, child molesters are excommunicated as well.

  55. effedup,

    Those children will be able to attend the temple at the appropriate age just like any other faithful member of the church.

    For me, as one who was abused as a child, the real issue is whether or not would kick the guy’s a** right then and there if I saw him in the temple. I guess I still have some forgiving to do.

  56. If you commit Incest, technically you are *supposed* to be Excommunicated, and, not be rebaptized, without First Presidency permission. Yet, if you molest a child, from a different family, at a church function, or building, it’s some how a much lesser sin?? That makes little sense. Incest is sometimes is ignored, in regards to proper Church discipline.

    So, if you’re gay, expect heavier Church sanctions, than if you molest someone else’s child? While on this subject, some in the Church believe that most homosexuals are also pedophiles, which is *not* true. Beating up on gays won’t solve child molestation.

    I think those who take advantage of their callings to molest children should face harsh discipline, like Missionaries who commit immoral acts on their mission. That normally takes *years* to get rebaptized afterwards.

  57. @Marc….
    So what your saying, is that you are personally in favor of banning someone whose name you do not know, whose repentance status is unknown to you, accused by anonymous people…
    But you are unwilling of banning someone whose name you DO know, whose repentance status is clear, based on her public confession that SHE willingly offered.
    Do you not know how hypocritical this appears?
    Do you not see how inconsistent this is?

  58. @laserguy.

    No, what I am saying is that not everything has to be a political discussion. Both sides can condemn sexual abuse with equal moral justification.

    Some issues should be treated with more respect than trying to interject liberal hypocrisy into the discussion. I just thought your comment was random and bizarre.

    And yes, I think serial molestation, while using a church calling for access to children, is something that should bring into question both your church and temple status on a permanent basis.

  59. I think a problem that exists in the institution of the corporate church is what I call the “centrally decentralized” leadership model of the church. That being, every directive on how to govern the church must come from HQ in Salt Lake. . . except when it doesn’t. Bishops, Stake Presidents, and other local leaders seem to have broad latitude to enact actions that have serious consequences (such as disciplinary councils) but will turn around and punt to SLC when the going gets tough. And more often than not, SLC will punt back. It appears from your article, this is a case where HQ needs to take a stronger stance and give the local leaders some specific directives, possibly church wide. Instead, it looks like there was a punt.