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.
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.