Believe Women

Shelby Hintze is a news producer in Salt Lake City. In the singles ward, but not of the singles ward.

Note: I attend a fairly young YSA ward. One speaker before me said she was not a feminist which prompted the beginning here.

I’m the last speaker but they told me to go as long I want, so buckle up. And my name is Shelby Hintze and I am a feminist.

The bishop said I could pick my topic and I immediately knew what I wanted to speak on. It’s a bit unusual but unfortunately, statistically, many of you in this room have experienced it. And I promise that in one form or another, everyone will experience it so I pray that the Spirit will bring it to your remembrance when you need it.

I want to begin with a scripture found in Mark 16:9-11.

9 Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.

11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.

I read this scripture and immediately imagined what that may have looked like. Mary may have gone into the room, filled with very good men and women who knew and believed Jesus and told them her experience.

One person may have turned to her and said, “Well actually…when someone is dead, they don’t come back to life. That’s not how it works.”

Another may have said, “Mary, you have so many emotions and hormones running through your body, how do we know you weren’t just seeing things?”

And yet another may have said, “Our sweet, sweet Sister Magdalene, your testimony and love of the Savior is an inspiration to us all. You are an angel on Earth.”

And then he went right back to doing what he was doing before.

I also think of Mary. She was in an incredibly vulnerable state. Jesus, who she loved dearly, just appeared to her after being dead for three days. And then she was supposed to go share that experience, one of the most intimate and personal experiences of her life. I imagine her inner dialogue as she walked back to town.

“I have to tell them this and I am going to sound crazy. AM I crazy?”

But she had the courage to speak the truth. A hard truth. A truth people didn’t believe or maybe didn’t want to hear.

And no one believed her.

Today I want to talk about a hard topic but something being discussed around the world. Believing women, especially victims of abuse.

For those of you who don’t know, I am a news producer. I spend all day elbows deep in what is going on in the world. I’ve watched as the Me Too and Time’s Up movement has grown at lightning speed. Recently, the choices of one high powered person has brought our church and culture into the discussion. I won’t get into the details but because of his actions, women in the church have been sharing their experiences of abuse and then not being believed by their leaders—bishops, stake presidents, Relief Society presidents.

The church is very, very clear on its stance on abuse. In A Family: A Proclamation to the World, it says, “WE WARN that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God.”

The doctrine is very clear. But as a society and culture, both within the church and without, we often don’t take necessary steps to believe victims of abuse-both men and women. As a side note, I do recognize that men can be victims at the hands of women as well. But I also recognize that according to the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition, 88% of domestic violence related murders in Utah were carried out by men in 2016.

So why don’t we listen to victims and to women?

First, I believe that the natural man, who is an enemy to God, urges people to side with and understand people more like themselves. As a male leader, it is easier to listen to and believe the story of another male. Often that male is cunning, deceptive and sometimes a leader in his community. We sometimes also think that no one could possibly beat their wife or children, so the victim must be lying. The fact that we would never do something like that must mean someone like us would never do it either. So we don’t believe, or worse, make excuses. And that in turn is just another form of abuse.

In Rachel’s talk, she mentioned a quote from President Nelson, which says, “we need women who can detect deception in all its forms.” I believe this is part of the deception that quote is speaking of.

To those who have been abused, it is not your fault.

It is not your fault.

People may ask you what you did wrong, what did you do to make that person angry? What are you doing to change yourself? You may have made mistakes, we all have. But there is nothing that justifies or excuses abuse.

Within the church, everyone is a volunteer. It gives us an amazing opportunity to serve one another as Christ would. But that often leaves holes in our training and experience.

If you decide to go to an ecclesiastical leader for help and healing, great. But know that just as you wouldn’t go into your bishop’s office and ask him to take out your appendix, you can’t only seek the help of your bishop. You may need professional help healing. You may need legal help. Seek out those professionals. Your bishop should help you with that and if he won’t, find someone who will.

And remember, your personal revelation, what you think you need to do to help yourself and your family, is more valuable than what your bishop says. Listen to the Spirit.

To those who are entrusted with this burden—believe women, believe victims.

In Utah, 1 in 3 women will experience domestic or intimate partner violence. That’s higher than the national average. I promise you, far more women and children live in pain and silence everyday than make up or exaggerate abuse claims.

One of our baptismal covenants is to bear one another’s burdens and to mourn with those that mourn. We can’t do that if we refuse to believe, or even vilify, our peers.

Now I’d like to speak to those who are abusers or have noticed abusive behaviors in their actions, often because that was the relationship modeled in your own home.

President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “How tragic and utterly disgusting a phenomenon is wife abuse. Any man in this Church who abuses his wife, who demeans her, who insults her, who exercises unrighteous dominion over her is unworthy to hold the priesthood. Though he may have been ordained, the heavens will withdraw, the Spirit of the Lord will be grieved, and it will be amen to the authority of the priesthood of that man.”

Those are some harsh words. But there is hope. Just as the Atonement can help victims heal, it can help abusers change and repent.

Now the Atonement doesn’t save you from consequences. You may lose a relationship. You may face professional or legal consequences. Start before it becomes an even bigger issue.

I hope that in your daily lives, men and women, listen to and believe the women around you.

Listen to women in your counsels.

Listen to women when they preach and testify in church and at General Conference.

Listen to women not just because she is your wife, mom, sister or girlfriend but because she is a fellow child of our Heavenly Parents.

Listen to women because each and every one has a valuable opinion, shaped by the experiences of her life.

Every generation is told they are the “chosen generation”. But I firmly believe this is what we were chosen for. In order for Christ to come again, men and women must truly be equal, especially in His church. He is the perfect example of that. He treated men and women with respect. He didn’t place them on pedestals. He listened to them. He wept with them. And then He got to work.

I believe our Heavenly Parents are trusting us more and more to talk about the things that are important to us and affecting our lives. You see that in the change in the Relief Society and Priesthood lesson manuals. They want us to learn from one another.

Rachel mentioned the quote from Sister Eubanks that says women are to speak out about what they think and the truth the Spirit speaks to them.

Will you listen?


  1. This is excellent, Shelby! I love that you gave this talk and that you shared it here. How did people in your ward respond? Well, I hope?

  2. The Other Brother Jones says:

    Awesome. thank you

  3. Thank you, Shelby. I love your writing and message. You’re doing the Lord’s work.

  4. Shelby, this was so dang good. Thank you for sharing here. I’m proud of you and inspired by you and I want to just read this talk you wrote the next time I’m asked to speak or teach anywhere. <3

  5. Your comments struck so many chords for me. I especially appreciated “Every generation is told they are the “chosen generation”. But I firmly believe this is what we were chosen for. In order for Christ to come again, men and women must truly be equal, especially in his church. He is the perfect example of that. He treated men and women with respect. He didn’t place them on pedestals. He listened to them. He wept with them. And then He got to work.” I guess I’ve never liked the pedestal remark…we are all in this together, working toward the same goal. I want to send this to my daughters and my priesthood leaders so we can effect change where needed.

  6. air2water says:

    Yeah but which women are to be believed? Good, church going white women? They are not the only ones who get abused. You need a more inclusive perspective.

  7. J. Stapley says:

    This is greatly good. Thank you.

  8. jaxjensen says:

    I’m pretty positive this message did include ALL women. I didn’t a single word that limited its scope to only white, church-going women. That seems to be something from your own mind, the the OP.

  9. jaxjensen says:

    *** I didn’t read a single word… ***

  10. Thank you!

  11. I said this on twitter, but it’s worth repeating: It has driven me nuts for years that the church has an official ban against women witnessing, but it’s felt more important lately. If we officially say we don’t believe women witnessing our most important ordinances, why would we believe them elsewhere?

  12. Emjen, thanks for tying in the witnessing issue–I think it’s huge.

  13. Well done. Thank you.

  14. Deborah says:

    On the other hand, there are women that do lie. A difficult situation.

  15. I think the ban on women witnessing is weird too, considering Mary Magdelene and even Emma Smith. This was beautifully written. I am curious about any feedback you received from ward leadership?

  16. Deborah- As the article stated, the vast majority of women are telling the truth. Many more keep it hidden and never ask for help than lie about it. I would rather believe a single woman who lies about it than pressure 99 women to not ask for help. That is why we need to default to belief. People’s lives are at stake here. There really isn’t incentive to lie. Abuse feels humiliating and the abuser often casts the abused as mentally unfit and crazy-often leading the abused to feel they must be crazy.

  17. “there are women that do lie”

    Deborah, you miss the point. There are all kinds of people that lie, we are all aware of it. But if your default is to assume that a victim of abuse if lying, you are protecting abusers. Simple as that.

  18. “there are women that do lie”
    Also thinking about the line at the end of most general authority talks that say “there are exceptions” but then the counsel is that statistically YOU are not one. Why focus on the super-rare exceptions in this case? It is much more likely that the abuser is the one lying because they are the one who needs to save face. They want to keep their temple recommend and social standing.

  19. Jeremy-
    There are thousands of rape kits that go untested in this country every year. These are women that immediately go for help. Get invasive exams, go to the police. Is it any wonder more don’t submit themselves to this. Why would it hurt you to believe this is a problem?
    This isn’t a feminist problem, it’s a human problem. Society doesn’t leave men in the dust, where have you been for 10,000 years. Who are the statues of in our society? Who are the leaders in the history books? I just don’t understand how you view men as being the victim of these movements.
    Women don’t want to be put on a pedestal or be the new gender in charge, we just want representation in decision making circles. 50%.

  20. MDearest says:

    It’s not that difficult to expose a lie; professional investigators are adept in exposing both the liars and the truthful victims. the percentage of women who lie that they have been raped is about the same as people who lie about being the victims of other crimes — approximately 8% according to law enforcement studies. (Without feminist agendas, I presume) Abuse by a significant other is a different offense, not always even a crime, but good investigative skills tend to expose the agendas of those who are making it all up.

    Just my .02

  21. MDearest says:

    I should have begun my comment with a dollop of praise for another stellar OP on the subject, and specific kudos to Shelby for speaking such things from the pulpit. That’s how I imagined it as I read. Sorry I got sidetracked by the threadjack.

  22. This is a sacrament meeting talk. In LDS culture, there’s no real need or social expectation to rebut it with a series of angry, badly phrased “men’s rights” talking points.

  23. Chadwick says:

    I find myself in a position in life where I feel I can trust what people tell me. Of course there are exceptions but in my life they are rare and isolated. It seems several comments here have had different life experiences; where their initial response to things is to disbelieve, deny, or rebut other people. Either these people have surrounded themselves with scoundrels or they are cynical. Or they just don’t believe women. I wonder how we can help them live in a world where trust is the norm. Because we need to be able to trust each other in order to build Zion.

    This talk is wonderful and I’m glad I read it. Thank you.

  24. Kevin Barney says:

    Great talk; thanks for sharing.

  25. Tim Aebi says:

    Great stuff Shelby – rings very true…..unfortunately

  26. Shelby: this is marvelous stuff. I’m so glad to have your voice in this space.

  27. Jeremy is gone, folks. As you were.

  28. Thank you for this powerful statement.

  29. I am also very curious about how this talk was received. I have been quickly shut down if I try to make a short comment along these lines in relief society. Reading this excellent talk made me uncomfortable, and I had to analyze why, concluding that the social consequences of giving this talk in my Salt Lake County ward would be very high, indeed. Bless you for your courage.

  30. Shelby Hintze says:

    Air2water: you are so right. Women of color, women who don’t fit the mold of “church-going women” need to be believed as well. I’m sorry I didn’t highlight that particular struggle more.

  31. Shelby Hintze says:

    EJ: it was surprisingly well received. I have a good bishopric that has largely been shaped by the experiences of women in their lives. I’m also RS president so I’m fortunate enough that I do a lot of the time setting, mostly in RS, but people know what to expect from me haha! I hope you keep saying what you need to, as much as it doesn’t make you uncomfortable. There are people who need to hear what you have to say!

  32. This talk is *on fire.* Well done!

  33. Cynthia says:

    Excellent! This talk should be given in every ward, from the pulpit, so that a variety of people can hear the message. I especially appreciated your personalization of Mary Magdalene-I had never imagined how it could have gone for her.

  34. a dude abiding says:

    This is outstanding and I second every other comment praising it. I hope it gets universal distribution to church leaders everywhere.

  35. albertatim says:


    I cannot thank you enough for this piece!! Excellent throughout!

    As a survivor of pervasive ecclesiastical abuse — as well as spousal abuse from an ex-wife who not only completely rejects ANY level of personal responsibility whatsoever — and from whom I obtained a cancellation of my sealing, that while women are far more likely to suffer from such, that a man being abused is just as much a victim in all of this, and just as much in need of capable, qualified support.

    You covered many bases in a spirit of perfect love and understanding, and I stand in eternal appreciation and respect for your much needed and perfectly timed eloquence in addressing this issue of critical importance.

    It’s all about focusing on the totality of one’s life, as well as remembering that TRUST must be EARNED, and not just because Brother Idiot or Sister Ding-a-Ling was put in a major high-profile calling.

    Food for thought that all the abusers may choke on!

  36. albertatim says:

    A side note here:
    Between us all here, it’d be nice and also the right thing to do if church leadership would have Shelby give this talk in the Sunday Morning (Prime Time) session of April’s General Conference.

  37. This is a great scripture to open your talk. The close disciples of the Savior struggled with belief in the long prophesied resurrection, even with eyewitness testimony from those they knew well. Thomas did not believe the testimony of 10 men plus several women.
    One further point that could be made is that Peter and John doubted, but had enough trust in Mary to go to the tomb and verify the most easily verifiable facts that she relayed to them. I think that many people are like Peter and John, not believing the amazing story, but in a position to verify some of it, if they put forth a little effort. There are usually some corroborating facts that can be discovered with some effort.
    Local leadership is pretty sensitive to these issues around here. If Shelby lived in our stake, we would likely hear from her at the next Stake Conference.

  38. Excellent! The substance, of course. But what stands out to me is crafting such an important message into an appropriate for Sacrament Meeting talk. If we had a stronger social justice thread in our meetings this would fit nicely. As it is, a Mormon SM talk on listening to and believing women is a towering achievement.

  39. Per MDearest, if 92% of women tell the truth about sexual violence, and investigators can determine who’s telling truth, why not lobby for state legislatures to change their laws to place presumption of guilt on the alleged perpetrator, and make him (usually a male) bear the burden of proving his innocence? Far too long have women borne the cost and males benefited from the current system. A presumption of innocence is a noble concept, but has failed women miserably. Maybe its time for a new approach.

  40. The $64,000 Answer says:

    I can think of a lot of reasons, J, but one of them is that it wouldn’t end there. Once that precedent was set, we would hear a great many voices (one of them, I idaresay, with a Twitter account at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue) asking why, if we do it for sexual assault, we’re not also doing it for those accused of terrorism. And at that point, we’d really be off to the races.

    In any event, I’m far from convinced it would have the desired result even in sexual-violence cases. The existing system is pretty terrible, but it has one thing to recommend it: whenever a conviction has been obtained, nobody except the truly unhinged denies that the perpetrator has been justly condemned. An under-appreciated advantage of due process is that it minimizes the chances of definitely or probably innocient people going to jail. In a democratic society, at any rate, one can’t afford too many mistakes in that regard before people begin to lose confidence in the entire process. Paradoxically, that might allow many more perpetrators to conceal themselves behind a series of unsafe or unsatisfactory verdicts, which would be certain to gain considerable public attention.

  41. albertatim says:

    MDearest has it ALL WRONG in seeking to make the MALE prove his innocence. Cops are better trained in working out DV cases them ever before. On a DV call, if there’s evidence of injury, then arrests of one or BOTH offending parties is mandatory under state laws.

    The onus of securing a conviction in court is on the government/state; it can be no other way, lest vindictive souls seek to turn the 5th (no self-incrimination), 8th (cruel and unusual punishment), and especially the 14th (equal protections under the law) Amendments. Otherwise, we’re stuck in a banana republic, and no intelligent person would want that.

    To seek to strip men of their rights without having lawbreaking women subject to the same penalties only undermines you as a responded to this perfectly written piece.

  42. MDearest says:

    Speaking of having it all wrong. . .

  43. albertatim, your comment evidences your understanding that there is a difference between, as the “Law & Order” voiceover has it, “the police, who investigate crime, and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders.” Maybe you could climb down from your soapbox long enough to reread MDearest’s comment and discover that MDearest, as well as the author of the OP, speaks only of investigation, not prosecution, much less conviction.

  44. I knew there would cries of constitutional crisis if we even mentioned messing with the presumption of innocence. The ones who push back are usually men, not women. FWIW — there are already presumptions imposed by state/federal law in criminal matters. I’m not saying a male should automatically be convicted merely upon a woman making a complaint to law enforcement. But if statistics bear out that 92% of women are telling the truth when they make sexual abuse allegations, then why not accord that percentage great weight.. You could have the court take judicial notice of that fact; have the judge include that statistic when giving jury instructions, and so forth. If we shift the burden to the male perpetrator, then perhaps in exchange for that presumption he can prove his innocence by a mere preponderance instead of proving himself innocent “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The bottom line is there are any number of ways to incorporate the notion of believing women in the sexual assault arena. I’m sure there would be some unintended consequences which would have to be addressed down the road, but it would make most perpetrators think twice before sexually assaulting a women if he knew how difficult and expensive it would be to get off.

  45. albertatim says:

    When I said MDearest had it wrong with onus (or burden of proof) reversed. I meant to direct my response to Janie, for which I apologize. I stand by remarks about the ABSOLUTE NEED for due process to be honored and respected.

    As has been said, I object to the Law & Order reference. You obey ALL the laws, period. Don’t like one? Work with your legislature to CHANGE or REPEAL it.

    That being said, I agree that the number of cases within the Church are about 92-8. As to the world, FBI/DOJ figures show that either men or women initiate DV in fairly equal measures.

    Whereas men use size and body mass to intimidate women, the women use weaponry and the element of surprise to level the playing field of abuse. Both are wrong to do so, but that’s just the facts, coming from a guy who worked as a co-fscilutstor on a DV task force in teaching offending men the essential need to replace their bad habits with positive ones as a means to lower risk of reoffending.

  46. jaxjensen says:

    Janie, exactly what type of evidence would you expect to exist that would prove a man hadn’t hit his wife? If he hits her there might be a bruise/injury as evidence; if he doesn’t, well, there is nothing that “proves” he didn’t hit her. Would he have to have 24/7 recordings of all areas of his house/car/yard so that every second is accounted for; no time in which he could have slipped from view and assaulted her? Is a man to be presumed guilty because he didn’t have cameras recording every moment of his own house/life? That would be an absurd standard.

  47. MDearest says:

    Thank you for noticing that, albertatim. I agree with you about honoring due process, and the part that I think is missing is training for people who are in the position of investigating these situations. With due regard for professionalism, there is no need for 24/7 cameras and other absurd spy-evidence. I had an eye-opening experience observing a friend who was sexually assaulted by her male supervisor at work, and for good reasons, waited nearly a year to report it. I found her easy to believe because I know her to be truthful and sensible, but I found it amazing that the police who investigated her report believed her too, actually told her not to worry about the long period she waited. They took the time to ask probing questions about what happened and took what records existed to support her credibility. They took the same professional approach in their investigation of the man, and were able to proceed with the case, treating her with respect due an injured party. Unfortunately, since the standards of evidence in court are much higher than their professionally trained intuition, as they should be, the county attorney declined to prosecute, but it was a more healing experience for her because she was validated by the professionals who worked on her case.

    A great majority of cases where a woman is lying can be made to crumble rather easily by a careful investigator who is trained what to look for, and what to watch for. Don’t fret guys, no one wants to see your constitutional rights, or mine, diminished by a hashtag frenzy. Perhaps take a deep breath and a step back, and don’t jump to unfounded conclusions, and please, let’s get someone on the case with the training to know who to believe.

  48. “If we had a stronger social justice thread in our meetings this would fit nicely.”

    Off topic: If we had a stronger social justice thread in our meetings, we’d have the same problem from people on the left as we do people on the right, and one that is complained of on this site often: an inability to tell one’s politics from one’s religion.

  49. albertatim says:

    You touched on a very important part of this, jimbob, and I commend you for your spotting it. We need to focus on the truth (usually the first casualty of war in any and all areas of life), and in being a solid support for those who have been abused — whether those victims are mostly women, and on occasion — men as well.

    SJWs need to stay out of this area, and focs on helping the abused heal through getting the help they need.

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