Where Can I Turn for Support? abuse.lds.org

Laura Brignone Bhagwat is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley where she studies technology and domestic violence.  Her dissertation tracks a public health intervention in hospital emergency rooms meant to prevent intimate partner homicide.

Abuse is the neglect or mistreatment of others (such as a child or spouse, the elderly, the disabled, or anyone else) in such a way that causes physical, emotional, or sexual harm. It goes against the teachings of the Savior. The Lord condemns abusive behavior in any form. 

‘The Church’s position is that abuse cannot be tolerated in any form’ (Handbook 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops [2010], 17.3.2). Abuse violates the laws of God and may also be a violation of the laws of society. The Lord expects us to do all we can to prevent abuse and to protect and help those who have been victims of abuse. No one is expected to endure abusive behavior.

At 12:05 yesterday, I was driving to lunch when a message from a friend popped up on my phone. It consisted of six exclamation points (“!!!!!!”) and the text “abuse.lds.org.” Within 15 seconds I’d pulled over and clicked on the link.

This is arguably the most comprehensive resource made public by the Church to members dealing with abuse.  It has an expansive mission. It attempts to address physical, sexual, emotional and other types of abuse. It attempts to address abuse against children, intimate partners, the elderly, and the disabled. It attempts to do so as a resource for victims, non-abusive loved ones, caring bystanders, and leaders.

The most remarkable thing about it is how beautifully it succeeds.


Old Material

The website is broken into five categories:

  • “I Have Been or Am Being Abused,”
  • “Stories of Hope,”
  • “How Can I Help Victims of Abuse?”
  • “Prevention and Protection,” and
  • “Resources for Church Leaders.”

Each category contains a set of four to nine articles or vignettes that answer specific questions. For example, “How Can I Help Victims of Abuse” contains articles entitled “What are signs that someone is being abused?” “What should I do if I know or suspect someone is being abused?” “How can I support someone who has been abused?” and “What should I do if my child has been abused?

Footnotes and in-text citations on these articles collocate and incorporate the most victim-sensitive, abuse-specific material published by the Church or stated by Church leaders in recent years. Talks such as Elder Scott’s “To Heal the Shattering Consequences of Abuse,” and “To Be Free From Heavy Burdens” and Sister Carole M. Stephens’ “The Master Healer” are linked as footnotes in relevant articles. Dr. Ben Ogles’ BYU devotional “Agency, Accountability and the Atonement” related to sexual assault is discussed at length.

Common scriptures used to support and comfort victims in reference to this topic are referenced and linked in-text, such as Doctrine & Covenants 18:10 and Alma 7:11-14. In addition, a Mormon Newsroom statement on abuse and the Gospel Topics essay on abuse are included as independent articles under “Resources for Leaders.”

New Material

Within the category “I am or have been abused,” the article “In Crisis” contains this statement (similar examples are replete within the site):

If you or someone you know has been abused…you may also seek help from a victim advocate or medical or counseling professional.  These services can help protect you and prevent further abuse.

In addition, the help lines listed below are free and are staffed by people who are trained to help. These resources are not created, maintained, or controlled by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

This statement is followed by twelve links to twelve preeminent crisis hotlines for different types of abuse (primarily U.S. but also U.K.).

Twelve links! Specific to abuse! To outside advocates! Offered directly to victims/survivors!

Excuse me for a moment while I try to stop crying.

Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 2.27.00 PM

Until yesterday, Church support and guidance for victims of abuse consisted in talking to their bishop. While a bishop’s spiritual guidance can be welcome and helpful and healing for victims/survivors on their spiritual journeys, there are many trauma- and abuse-specific aspects of violence that are hard for a bishop to address. This blog has discussed why talking with a bishop can be challenging and even harmful for both victims/survivors and bishops.

Now, the LDS website includes bishops as resources after external crisis interventions. This recognizes formally — for the first time — the individual’s need to deal with acute trauma before spiritual healing can begin.

Until yesterday, the Church’s interventions were not abuse-specific. Previous resources ranged from the helpful (as described in “Old Materials” above) to the actively harmful – suggesting, for example, that victims may be responsible for the abuse or able to stop abuse. While well-intentioned, these demonstrated a lack of connection with the actual dynamics of abusive behavior and have caused incalculable pain to already-suffering victims and survivors.  While helpful, transcendent recommendations such as advice to pray and seek healing through the Atonement apply broadly to life’s problems; until yesterday, these were not paired with additional support specific to abuse.

Today, the resources in abuse.lds.org are specific to abuse. The site’s language is replete with the language of professional advocacy and victim-sensitive support and reads like a warm embrace. Further, the authors show a clear awareness of abusive dynamics and appropriate interventions. The presence of articles such as “What if I think the abuse is my fault” expose a clear awareness of the mind games in play in abusive relationships. Their content is clearly informed by expertise that works to empower and free victims/survivors from the abuser’s manipulation.

Until yesterday, the Church did not offer or promote specific abuse helplines, advocacy, and other resources. I caveat this, because the Church did suggest to bishops that victims might be well served by counseling or other outside resources. But victims were hardly recommended to look outside the Church structure for help dealing with abuse – and in some cases have been actively discouraged from doing so.

The new abuse.lds.org site doesn’t just clearly advocate that it is often appropriate for victims to seek help outside the Church structure. It names and links to high-quality resources (and these are high-quality resources) that are specific to abuse. I rarely see links to non-Church resources and social services on any topic. But this is offering relevant, actionable, victim-sensitive, victim-responsive, deeply knowledgeable help to highly vulnerable children of God.

Until yesterday, the Church provided coordinated resources only to bishops. I’ve spent the last ten years as an LDS domestic violence advocate looking for every piece of Church guidance and help for survivors/victims of abuse I could find. For victims, those were (at best) the then-scattered, piecemeal resources listed under “Old Materials.” Bishops were offered optional training videos and a hotline offering assistance with legal requirements and (sometimes? its unclear) advising on emotional responses and other interventions. Victims and survivors didn’t know what to expect because the Church’s requirements and resources for helping bishops were often opaque and confusing.

For the first time ever (to my knowledge), abuse.lds.org offers resources directly to victims. And, though not fully disclosed, the section on leaders’ responsibilities and resources are described in a more transparent way than I’ve ever seen them presented before.  This empowers both leaders and victims / survivors that seek to offer and receive healing and care.

Today’s Church language empowers victims/survivors to regain control of their own lives. Not stuck in the relationship even if the abuser doesn’t change, not reliant only on the bishop as a conduit for support. This language suggests that as children of God, victims/survivors shouldn’t be forced to suffer. As children of God, they have individual worth. As children of God, they can have options. Their only dependence is on an omnipresent, empathetic, co-suffering, healing Christ as they find safety and wholeness after abuse.

More New Material

A few more quotes/themes to highlight from the new site:

The use of abuse.lds.org. The rhetorical power of this is unmatched. This single-handedly, vocally lends the Church’s institutional support to a deep and robust opposition to abuse in a way experienced by only a handful of other issues.

The picturesThe pictures throughout the site are racially inclusive, gender-proportionate (most victims/survivors pictured are women, some are men), and age-inclusive. Survivors of elder abuse, dating abuse, child abuse and domestic violence all appear to be depicted.

No one is expected to endure abusive behavior. This teaching has long been ambiguous. Bishops, who until yesterday were the only ecclesiastically endorsed support for abuse, were never to counsel divorce. Church statements around leaving the relationship mainly centered around dating. Earlier this year, Church requirements changed for bishops such that they were not to counsel abused individuals to remain in abusive relationships. This sentence, from the heading of the entire website, clarifies and ensconces the Church’s position: the victim is absolutely not required to stay.

Consider your words. Blaming the victim or making statements like “get over it” or “just forgive and forget” can lead the victim to increased secrecy and shame rather than healing and peace.

This is beautiful abuse-specific advocacy work at play, and a direct counterpoint to a lot of the Church’s prior messaging.

Children.  Another step forward is regarding conversations with children.  Children need to know that they can talk to you about anything, including… understanding their bodies, their anatomy, and their sexuality. When done without shame, not only is this spectacularly good practice in terms of abuse, it also paves the way for the child’s healthy relationship with their developing sexuality as an adolescent and adult. 

Healing.  I want to shout-out to Elder Holland’s most recent General Conference address. Gone are the honest, but footnoted, days of yore. Two weeks ago, when referencing the exception of abuse, Elder Holland taught: “[Christ] did not say, ‘you are not allowed to feel true pain or real sorrow from the shattering experiences you have had at the hand of another.’ Nor did He say, ‘in order to forgive fully, you have to reenter a toxic relationship or return to an abusive, destructive circumstance.’”

This is echoed and elaborated on in beautiful ways under the new abuse.lds.org article “Can I heal from this?”

What Next?

There are a few clear next steps for the website. First would be debunking specific perpetrator tactics and guidance related to the perpetrator and their actions.  I welcome that framework because it allows the needs of those who have been harmed to take center stage. However, it means that Church doctrines and teachings commonly used by perpetrators to justify abuse (most notably “I hold the priesthood, so…”) are not directly addressed.  Nor is the harm of victims/survivors seeing the perpetrators in continued Church fellowship (and sometimes leadership). These issues deeply affect LDS victims / survivors, and are unique to the Church and its members. While the site may hope that this is one of the many issues victims / survivors would be empowered to address through the provided links to advocacy, advocacy would not address this issue as well, with the same authority, or as thoroughly as a Church resource.

A future article could easily accomplish this through references and quotes like this one by President Hinckley: “Any man in this Church who abuses… exercises unrighteous dominion… [and] is unworthy to hold the priesthood.” Or the site could have cited scriptures such as Doctrine and Covenants 121:36-41 on unrighteous dominion, which I was surprised not to see referenced in the site. Few principles in advocacy are as declaratory toward the perpetrator – and none are as unique to the Church – as “amen to the Priesthood of that man.”

Another available avenue for future development relates to ecclesiastical abuse. While the Church does not really have precedent for acknowledging such abuse, the expansive mission of the site – to address all forms of abuse Church members may experience at the hands of unrighteous men (usually men) – suggests that ecclesiastical abuse should have a place.

However, while not explicitly mentioned or discussed, abuse.lds.org includes subtle acknowledgment of both of these concepts through the vignettes shared on the site. “One Day At A Time” discusses a spectacular misuse of the priesthood that had damaging and long-lasting effects on the victim. It also discusses a particularly sensitive – and complicated – interaction with a priesthood leader, as well as the long-term effects of that on the victim/survivor. “Finding My Worth” explores both positive and complicated aspects of relationships between bishops and women who have been abused.

All in all, with abuse.lds.org, the path to safety and healing from abuse for LDS victims and survivors just got a little bit wider.

My sincerest thanks to the Church for publishing this new resource during Domestic Violence Awareness month.


  1. Study Study Study says:

    Just need an ecclesiastical abuse section with resources to report the leaders who did the abusing.

  2. Thank you for this review. We sexual abuse survivors (whose abusers lead in the church), will always scoff at efforts like this as two-faced for as long as the church continues to withhold apologies to church leaders’ abuse victims and use tithing monies to silence those abused by church leaders. It feels like a fake attempt to win public approval without actually being kind or Christlike. Sort of like telling gay people they are loved by church leaders while at the same time telling them that those same church leaders will give the boot to any gay person who dares enter into a committed relationship.

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks for the review. I spent some time browsing it today and thought it looked good, but this isn’t my field at all, so I appreciate your expert eye.

  4. What a good step forward. I applaud the effort.

    I was abused by a family member decades ago. It took decades before I could admit what happened and face the healing process. During those decades, the perpetrator held admirable Church callings. Meanwhile, I was a mess because of the emotional damage done. The upshot of that was that when I finally told my story, it was not believable because of the contrast between hysterical female accusing upstanding priesthood leader of abuse. Also because of the time lapse, priesthood leaders assumed that mostly I just needed to forgive and move on. There wasn’t any ongoing abuse, other than the mind game of everyone thinking the perpetrator was a good guy and I was a train wreck.

    I wish those resources talked about the perpetrator more. What I needed for my healing was to hear that my perpetrator would burn in hell, no matter how well he did at his Church callings. I was looking for some evidence of accountability. I never got it. I know the Church takes abuse seriously if it’s happening right now, but that ignores the fact that some abuse stays hidden for decades because the victim can’t handle the pain of the healing process yet. I don’t believe the passage of time counts as repentance. But the Church’s emphasis on forgiveness tends to eclipse the fact that abusers rarely repent. At most, they go through Repentance Theater that is designed to blame the victim for not being forgiving enough. The Church soft-pedals the consequences to the abuser, especially if it’s old abuse. That doesn’t help the healing process.

    I broke up my family over something that happened thirty years ago. Sometimes I still feel guilty about that, but not very often anymore. I did forgive him. But it strongly damaged my trust in the Church as an institution that not one priesthood leader would ever say the perpetrator would be held accountable for what he’d done. Accountability matters in the healing process. It matters a lot.

  5. Thanks for the valuable perspective on this new resource. I’m glad that the Church has taken this step, and I hope that they’ll move in the directions you outlined.

  6. aRecentlyReleasedBishop says:

    Due to my interactions with the church when a daughter was abused in our church building, and during my subsequent time as a bishop (released 3 years ago) calling the helpline multiple times, I lost my previously held belief that the church cares about the safety and well-being of its members. So I have stated my biases clearly at the start of my comment.

    When I saw the website, I was very surprised that there was a significant level of detail and that there were multiple references to outside resources. That is good. I have never before seen the church humble enough to vouch for outside resources. I think the website will be very useful for those interested in abuse (hopefully local leaders) and maybe for those formulating 5th Sunday discussions or other lessons.

    At the same time, it is important
    1) to recognize the difference between an online resource people can benefit from and a system where you know that your bishop and people working with youth were trained before they started functioning in their callings and that training material is public so a parent can know what they know. Currently, those materials are optionally accessed by local leaders and the non-leader parent can’t access them. I have seen them and they are not as good as the current website.
    2) to recognize that the privacy of the abuser will probably continue to be protected because it is in the legal interests of the church. It is a mistake to assume that if there is an abuser in your ward church helpline would push bishops to let you know. This should factor into assumptions you make about who is at church activities. You should also recognize that there is not much of a system for handling sex offenders—marking the record is all there is. A sex offender can be assigned as a home teacher(minister?) to families with small kids without violating the record marking (at least as of 3 years ago).
    3) to recognize that the advice bishops get from the lawyers isn’t necessarily what is best for the victim.
    4) to recognize that bishops are told that use of fast offerings for victims are “subject to normal welfare conditions” i.e. victims should consult with family and extended family to try to get financial support for therapy before the bishop would be authorized to use fast offerings. Bishops may act differently from what they are told, but the standard conditions risk the privacy of the victim. Pointing victims to outside resources is consistent with the long-time policy of not providing professional counseling to victims by default, just support from untrained local leaders.
    4) to recognize that you don’t have a relationship with the institutional church, only with your local leaders. For example, in our stake this summer, a convicted sex offender with marked records was asked to chaperone at a multi-day and overnight stake youth activity with the approval of my current bishop and my current stake president. I don’t think that was appropriate. Who can I turn to to fix this kind of situation? No one. We are not supposed to have any other contact information.

    My solution is to withdraw my trust from the institution, from the system and from local leaders in areas related to abuse and safety. I am happy about the online resource—I don’t have anything negative to say about the abuse.lds.org site. At the same time, there is a difference between good optionally accessed information and the effectiveness of the system for keeping kids safe and a real Christian commitment to provide real and not just virtual resources to victims. Thank God for those organizations outside the church that have made that commitment.

  7. The $64,000 Answer says:

    From an outsider’s (Catholic) perspective, it doesn’t look at all bad. Not the most user-friendly interface in the world—one has to click through a lot of links to get information that may be relevant to one’s particular situation—and using the word “abuse” as an umbrella term for everything from domestic violence to rape wouldn’t have been my personal choice. But so far as the external resources are concerned, it’s directing users to the kind of places—e.g. the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, or the support site Pandora’s Aquarium—to which I’d send them too.

    If there’s a problem here (and I haven’t, and probably won’t, go through the entire site), it appears to be a lack of synchronicity between the trauma-informed material and the contents of some of the LDS-specific links. In an address by Richard Scott entitled “Healing the Tragic Scars of Abuse,” for example, the victim is informed that “you are free to determine to overcome the harmful results of abuse.” Most professionals in the field would say that that’s a dangerously simplistic notion of how PTSD operates. In reality, seeking to overcome trauma by means of determination is akin to trying to overcome diabetes by using will-power to induce one’s pancreas to start producing insulin.

    Again, from the same address, a great many now-discredited notions about sexual violence are recycled: the “vampire syndrome” myth (or, as Mr Scott puts it, the “cycle of abuse that can transform a victim into an aggressor”); the complicity of the victim (“the Lord may prompt a victim to recognize a degree of responsibility for abuse”); the suspicion of certain forms of therapy, especially group therapy (“Excessive probing into every minute detail of your past experiences, particularly when this involves penetrating dialogue in group discussion”); the inevitable and, in this context, unhelpful anxiety over “false accusation”; the recommendation of secrecy (“if someone intentionally poured a bucket of filth on your carpet [an infelicitous metaphor if ever I saw one] would you invite the neighbors to determine each ingredient that contributed to the ugly stain?”) and the insistence that all roads to addressing this problem are to pass through the ecclesiastical authorities (“the repair of damage inflicted by abuse should be done privately, confidentially, with a trusted priesthood leader and, where needed, the qualified professional he recommends”).

    Granted, this is a first step on the LDS Church’s part. From my own Catholic Church, I know too well that deeply entrenched and harmful cultural patterns, especially as regards sexual violence, are not eliminated overnight. At the moment, though, it appears as though, when it comes to this question, http://abuse.lds.org is riding two philosophical horses that are heading off in entirely different directions. That is not the way to arrive safely at one’s chosen destination.

  8. Thanks for the review/summary/commentary. It sounds like a great step forward!

    With no inside information, I expect there is more in the works related to abusers and leaders and leaders who are abusers. I have high hopes for the general case, much less confidence regarding ecclesiastical abuse and ecclesiastical responsibility (i.e., is dealing with abuse properly or well a “nice to have” or an obligation over which failure is reasonable cause for dismissal?)

    A question for the experts (Laura with the OP, and several comments that suggest real expertise and experience): What is best practice or what are the pros and cons to public notice of these next steps regarding abusers and leaders? I understand that some separation would be wise, so that material meant to be helpful to the victim can focus on the victim. How should that work? I project an inclination on the Church to keep matters of discipline/rehabilitation/repentance private, and to shelter leaders including leaders who themselves are a problem–where “shelter” ranges from blatant cover-up (where I assume we would all resist and object) to keeping “confidential” reasons for discipline or release from calling (where I have long thought modern practice goes considerably too far in the direction of protecting individuals, especially in cases where the harm or potential for harm is a matter of community concern).

  9. Are there any information or any resources listed that deal with the connections between abuse and some of the severe mental illnesses such as bipolar or borderline?
    I know that early intervention, which I believe could have come if the bishops involved had been educated and trained, might have saved my marriage and that of a number of friends.
    If there are not such resources listed, how can we let Church authorities know of their existence and the need to recommend them?

  10. The $64,000 Answer says:

    As regards Christian Kimball’s query: the Catholic Church has been severely, and justifiably, criticized for failing to publicize the names of those found by ecclesiastical authorities to have committed sexual offences. In recent years, various Catholic dioceses in the United States have been publishing lists of “credibly accused” priests, for two reasons (i) to ensure that these people are not in the future placed in situations where they have access to children; and (ii) to insulate the Church from liability in civil suits if its keeping of perpetrators’ guilty secrets should enable them to reoffend. Over the past fifteen years or so, juries have not been kind to the Church when this has occurred. Around a dozen dioceses are now in bankruptcy proceedings as a result.

    I imagine that it will likewise take the experience of coming out on the wrong side of a series of extremely expensive tort verdicts to induce the LDS Church to follow the Catholic example. I am in not the slightest doubt that those verdicts will, in due course, materialize.

  11. I do hope the focus of Church leadership involved in helping the abuser will include a plan that requires them to take ownership of their abuse prior to being allowed back into the Church or into the temple. It was my personal experience that from bishops to general authorities, they felt that the problems had been solved if they got the abuser rebaptized, back to the temple and serving in a Church calling. This left me, as the victim of his abuse, feeling both enraged and powerless. Fake repentance will not heal either the abuser or the abused.

  12. I believe it is time for a frank admission by senior leaders that they have often mishandled these matters in the past. As a victim, I have felt many times that the actions of Church leaders in failing to acknowledge how their policies increased the damage has hindered my attempts at healing. The distance between the words they speak and write and the actual experience I had when consulting them has been great. I am willing to forgive ignorance but not arrogance.

  13. I’ve been reading through several of the stories and other information on this new website. It’s very well-done and has made me cry in a good way. Many of the statements are things I came to understand on my own, and it is good to see the Church affirmatively state them.

    I would like more about the wrath of God. I want someone I trust to be angry on my behalf so I feel safe again. Jesus didn’t say anything about how he would forgive people who abuse. He said if anyone offended a little child, he would have been better off to have drowned with a millstone around his neck. And through Joseph Smith, Jesus said any unrighteous dominion says “amen to the priesthood and authority of that man.” That sounds like eternal damnation in my mind. I know repentance is extended to any sinner through the Atonement, but it seems to me that an abuser isn’t likely to repent completely. It’s like Laman and Lemuel, who cyclically abused Nephi both physically and verbally. They may feel bad sometimes, but they don’t make permanent changes.

    I had this experience once when I was trying to be so forgiving I could ignore the abuse and keep all the family relationships intact. I read that I should pray daily for charity for my abuser, and that would soften my heart to see him how God sees him. I tried that. My prayers for charity bounced off the ceiling for days. I’ve learned that when I get that response to a prayer (the ceiling bounce), it means I’m praying for the wrong thing. So I switched it up and prayed, “dear God, show me how you feel about my offender.” I rather thought I would feel lots of soft love and compassion for his struggles and I would be thrilled to be in a family relationship with such a son of God. Instead, I got the merest brush of the wrath of God. God was flaming angry at this man for what he’d done, and for his refusal to confess and repent. It was so huge and so terrifying (God’s wrath). Forgiveness means turning it all over to God and knowing that God will wring the sin out of the offender’s soul. There is no way I can make the offender suffer more than God can. And I’m just a little mortal person – the wrath of God is so much bigger than anything I’m capable of that I will leave justice in God’s very capable hands. God is *safe*. God is trustworthy. God is angry at people who hurt children. God hates hypocrites (so all those Church callings he held will further his condemnation as a hypocrite; they don’t make him into a good man who just made a terrible mistake). I don’t think I would have trusted God as much as I do if he had only ever dealt with my pain. I needed to know how he was going to deal with the offender too. It’s not vengeance; it’s about safety and trust.

  14. As an endowed LDS woman, my biggest remaining concern is if we are willing to truly deal with the effect the covenant of obedience given in the temple, has on abuse. I have often wondered why the Church made so many changes to the endowment during my lifetime, changes that I read addressed the concerns of many, but failed to address the wording that left half of its population at risk of abuse.

  15. This is a great step forward! I do hope they eventually update with some more specific guidance around “non-violent” forms of abuse like emotional, verbal, and financial abuse, or neglect, since my sense is that these are very common, even in LDS families. Patterns of non-violent abuse are especially easy to downplay, dismiss, or misidentify; in isolation, each incident could be written off as an inappropriate but understandably human loss of temper, or forgetfulness, or mutual misunderstanding—whereas a single instance of physical violence is often unambiguous enough to constitute recognizable abuse. The site does mention emotional and verbal abuse among other forms of abuse, but there doesn’t seem to be as much specific material on identifying or responding to it. I really appreciated the vignettes, but all of the stories from victims involved physical or sexual violence. I wish more people knew that non-physical abuse also justifies serious actions to protect victims and penalize abusers.

  16. @The $64,000 Answer: From what I understand, a fraud suit against the Church is all that remains active of the Joseph Bishop case. I don’t know details, but this is one of the interesting things I see of the existing case — it is specifically going to look at what the Church knew when and what liability the Church bears (within statute of limitations and all). I will be interested to see what results and changes may come out of this case.

  17. The $64,000 Answer says:

    There’ll be more to it than that, Mr Shorty. Several state attorneys-general have announced that they’re empanelling grand juries to look into Catholic clerical sexual offending, on the model of the Pennsylvania enquiry that reported its findings in August. Yesterday, U.S. attorneys told every Catholic diocese in the country not to destroy any documentary evidence of possible criminal activity, pending a Federal investigation. Already, various commentators are asking why the Catholic Church alone should be the focus of such inquiries, and that’s a question that admits of only one answer.

    A single plaintiff employing the discovery rules in the Utah state courts is, I’d say, the least of the LDS Church’s problems.

  18. @ChristianKimball The most important solution, to me, would be for the church to stop bestowing priesthood privileges/authority on our abusers. Just limiting them from serving with youth for the rest of of their lives is not enough. We who carry severe emotional damages for a lifetime shouldn’t have to watch our abusers sit out an ecclesiastical slap on the wrist, six-step repenting, followed by full temple and priesthood privileges restored, then watch them climb the priesthood ranks while being called to positions of authority over those they abused (or our loved ones, friends, neighbors, etc). I truly believe that “amen to the priesthood of that man” needs to be taken literally: no more priesthood for abusers in this life. Since we who endured the abuse probably won’t be fully healed from it until after the resurrection, then the abuser should have to wait until that time to have their priesthood authority and temple privileges restored to them.

  19. Ryan Mullen says:

    Laura, this is a great write up. Thank you for taking the time to share just how this new resource is remarkable.

    MW, “What I needed for my healing was to hear that my perpetrator would burn in hell” Thank you for this frank and sobering advice. I hope the person who abused you burns in hell.

  20. ChristianKimball: I second SorellaM’s motion. The human body, being imperfect, simply can’t heal from certain wounds in this life. Constantly telling abuse survivors to forgive abusers and move past it heaps additional abuse on to those who are physically/mentally incapable of healing in this life–those who require constant spiritual/professional care because of severe abuse. If LDS men balk at the idea of lifetime revocation of priesthood authority, privileges, etc. we can just remind them how more than half the church has been denied access to priesthood ordination/authority since the early days of the church. We can shower those brethren with praise about their other spiritual gifts: what great nurturers they are, their calling as fathers, how sweet and lovable we find them, etc–and even if they don’t have kids, we will call them all fathers in spirit. That should put their minds at ease.

  21. I think this is something that would’ve helped me as a child in an abusive home, particularly the links to outside resources.

    One thing I didn’t see with a quick check was a clear definition of abuse. Some of the links contain legally established definitions, but not the LDS website. This is something that would have been critical for me growing up. Any occasional condemnation of abuse from the pulpit was water on a duck’s back for my parents, because my dad didn’t “abuse”; he “disciplined.” I was told repeatedly that I was “not abused.” I desperately needed some validation that my pain was legitimate, that what was being done to me was wrong. (To an extent, I still do, which is probably why my first reaction was to look through the website for a definition.) I realize physical abuse can be tricky to define. Even the legal definition gives exception for “discipline” (including “switching” and “paddling”) so long as it is “reasonable” — and my dad considered himself perfectly reasonable when paddling us with 2x4s or throwing us down the stairs or across the room. Some books I’ve read about healing from parental abuse define it so broadly as to not alienate any potential readers (buyers), straining the credibility of their definition by lumping in all acts of sub-superhuman parenting. I’m not sure what definition would have penetrated my dad’s narcissistic supposition “that whatsoever [he] did was right,” but I’d like to think such words could exist.

    I love the new website’s treatment of forgiveness, from a cursory look. This was something I beat myself up over, based on countless talks and lessons about carrying “the greater sin” and forgiveness being a commandment. I hated myself for hating my dad. The acknowledgment that forgiveness can take time would have made all the difference for me.

  22. One of the lessons I have learned is that recognition of the wrong and acceptance that there has been real damage must precede forgiveness. And yes, that too often Church members wish our pain would just go away so they would not need to develop charity. One bishop even tried to blame what happened to me on my ceasing to attend Church in the middle of everything. There have been times when I have wished the bishop would burn in hell. And that makes that bishop guilty of failure to lead, so amen to his attempt at receiving priesthood power. He might have exercised authority, but power he had none. A whited sepulchre.
    But that gives all my abusers too much power over my happiness, something I have decided to no longer allow. And I no longer see forgiveness as removing responsibility from the perpetrator of evil. God is a judge and there is a judgement. And there is punishment, both here in this life and in the world to come. Punishment that includes the loss of the sweet family relationships that might have existed, in many cases eternally. How sad to marry someone who celebrates your death. How terrible to realize your children do not want to know you anymore. What bigger failure is there in life.

  23. SorellaM, I agree with you that priesthood authority should be revoked for the remainder of mortality. So many male abusers would never abuse if a consequence in this life included the loss of the worldly prestige that accompanies priesthood position.

  24. I would like to see the problems of bipolar and borderline rage at least referred to and resources provided.
    So many of the children of the mentally ill have been deeply abused by the actions of a parent. I have witnessed the damage done to them and how long lasting its effects.
    Perhaps another website?

  25. My former spouse was my abuser. The Church held him accountable through excommunication. My complaint is about the way his rebaptism occurred. A letter from me was not solicited. I was not contacted until he sought to have his temple blessings restored. I wrote a fairly forgiving letter. A year later, he contacted me to inform me he had been turned down and was applying again. In this letter addressed to the president of the Church I stated my objections and specifically requested to be informed on their decision. I received no reply. Indeed, I was only informed as to the Church’s decision when he called to brag to me that he now had an eternal marriage while I was still single. And I was being told by others that I needed to keep on his good side because he might have the power to derail my request for a sealing cancellation when I was ready to remarry. Finally I cane to my senses and got an unlisted phone number.
    It seems the Church only cared about making sure he was back in good standing, not about the emotional roller coaster their repeated requests for letters was putting me through.
    This needs to end. The Church has finally changed its policy allowing women to obtain a sealing cancellation without an imminent remarriage. Thank you God for hearing my prayers on that.
    They need to consult victims and allow them to specify whether or not they wish to weigh in if their abuser is seeking rebaptism or restoration of temple blessings. And they need to actually give some weight to their answers instead of treating them with such disrespect. People need to repent before their temple blessings are restored. How can the Church know of this has even happened if they do not consult the injured?

  26. Kristin Brown says:

    MW- I appreciate your comment. It is hard seeing the guilty go free. I would like to add to your thoughts and experience a quote from Elder Christofferson’s General Conference talk in April of 2014 – “… the Savior makes all things right… no injury, disability, betrayal, or abuse goes uncompensated”. I find peace knowing there is an all- seeing-eye of God.

  27. As I frequently tell my California Bay Area friends, those to whom all our personal value is summed up by the value of our real estate holdings, “because of the abuse I suffered in mortality and the deprivation I have experienced, I will be receiving a much bigger mansion on high than all those who got theirs here.” Amazing the level of consternation this provokes among those who rely on their sense of financial superiority to prop up their self-worth.
    I am looking forward to the promised compensation for abuses suffered.

  28. I cannot get the website to accept my feedback. Hope someone there is reading here.

  29. Is there a place to report ecclesiastical abuse? My friend’s bishop, whom she spoke to following a sexual attack, told her not to tell anyone, including her parents. It would destroy the young man’s family, he said. But it is she and her children who are being destroyed. She has married and divorced twice. She decided she must be gay, entered a lesbian relationship, which ended badly with her lover in prison. Now it is her children who she is destroying by teaching them aberrant sexual information. The Church must take responsibility for past mistakes and get people help. Her family cannot reach her.

  30. What is the procedure to report past ecclesiastical abuse?

  31. I think the temple and obedience covenant needs to be changed. Not addressed, changed. I agree it puts women in a position to be abused and then the marriage seals them there.

    I was shocked by what the bishop upthread said, because a lot of what he wrote hadn’t occurred to me and he would be right about everything he wrote.

    I have never thought of a life-long amen of the priesthood, but that’s a good idea.

    My ex’s abuse was never punished, always rewarded. It is difficult having been abused, my bishop knowing and in some sort of effort to let my ex know the Lord still loves him, have him bless the Sacrament. I refused to partake as a silent conscientious objector, but who looked worthy and who looked unworthy?

    My ex was finally excommunicated for living out of wedlock with a woman. He married her, was rebaptised, told by the Stake President ALL his sins were forgiven — even though that SP had done no due diligence by calling me. My ex converted his new wife and I got a letter about restoration of temple and priesthood blessings and a sealing clearance. I don’t care if the doctrine says he can be polygamously sealed to more than one woman. After what he put me through and this church put me through, I don’t believe his getting rewarded with a second wife and my now having to share my reward is a fair outcome and if he divorces this wife, he’ll just take a third, and so on. So, I think amening priesthood needs to extend beyond callings and rebaptism restoration of blessings and future sealings needs to be seriously revisited. As has been said, they may be rebaptised, but they don’t repent. If they repented, we’d be informing the church leadership, not the other way around.

    Finally, I haven’t seen this addressed yet, but I believe abuser and victim should not have to go to the same ward. I know they are no longer encouraging victims stay with their abusers, at least that’s the official word, but even if they do work things out, I believe the victim shouldn’t have to go to the same ward and see their abuser get promoted up the ranks. Or if a victim is in a ward where the abuser was well liked and the victim is uncomfortable, the victim should be able to go to a different ward, no questions asked.

  32. Eyes now open... says:

    Today, for the second time in the space of two short months, the Cambridge Stake President stood at the pulpit and advised our ward to forgive a man who subjected his wife (according to her testimony in court, as corroborated by her psychiatrist) to indescribable abuse–spiritual, emotional, physical, sexual, psychological and medical. She was 20 years his junior, physically healthy, but died on September 24 at the age of 36 of unexplained “heart failure”. The husband is a neurologist, and they were going through a bitter divorce.

    This doctor has verbally and physically assaulted various members of the congregation, one of whom is pursuing criminal charges against him. He has threatened to sue two different women for libel, one of whom housed his wife after he kicked her out. He created an enemies list of women who provided assistance to his estranged wife, who was literally homeless and penniless. Relief Society women saved her life (at least until she mysteriously died), but ward and stake priesthood leadership failed to help her in any meaningful way.

    It is widely known what happened to her (the abuse over the years wasn’t subtle–we all knew something bad was happening), but the Stake President has yet to say a SINGLE WORD condemning abuse. Instead he has advised us to “embrace” this man and his family, despite the fact that women and children in the congregation fear for their safety.

    Rather than condemning abuse, the Stake President condemned those of us who have dared to challenge his attitude toward abuse. Today he called us to repentance for criticizing him. He informed us that the priesthood carries the name of Jesus Christ and to criticize it is the equivalent of taking the Lord’s name in vain. (I am not making that up–I think his comments verged on blasphemy.) His calling is inspired; therefore neither training nor expertise is required, and his relative youth and inexperience are irrelevant, because he leads by inspiration. If I were one of the women in the congregation suffering abuse (and statistically speaking there are likely to be several), he is the last person I would approach with my problems, as he would advise me to obey his God-given counsel and forgive my abuser.

    I am heartsick. I don’t care about the neurologist–I am quite confident the Lord will deal justly with him. The issue here isn’t forgiveness. I don’t care enough about this man to hate him–he’s not worth the energy. However, I do FEAR him, and I worry about his next victim. Acting the part of the bereaved widower with full priesthood privileges, he can inveigle another gullible LDS woman into marriage.

    I have lost faith in local leadership. For decades I have accepted church leadership structures as a benevolent patriarchy. Suddenly an all-male priesthood no longer seems benevolent. A woman is dead, and the men did nothing to help her. The church has launched a helpful website (and I am glad of that), but leadership attitudes have not changed.

  33. Eyes now open... says:

    I meant the Cambridge Stake in Massachusetts, not England.

  34. Eyes now open... says:

    Women in the Belmont 2nd Ward are still processing what happened on Sunday. Here’s an excerpt from a friend:

    * The stake president never repudiated abuse, despite clear language in the Handbook (“The Church’s position is that abuse cannot be tolerated in any form.”) and from a number of leaders.
    * He said that no blessing will be denied those who are abused, that everything will be alright for them in the end. He also that we must forgive others without condition. Any abused woman/child hearing this message to “turn the other cheek” would feel duty bound to *stay* in an abusive situation and strive to repeatedly forgive her abuser in order to be acceptable before God. This message is not in line with recently released church guidelines and would not help an abused person to feel God’s love.
    * His strident message about never criticizing leaders, even though they are human and make mistakes, was troubling.

    So what does Salt Lake City do with local leaders who preach the opposite of official church policy on abuse from the pulpit?

  35. Eyes now open... says:

    Here’s an excerpt from another friend: “His comment about ALL meetings occurring under his priesthood keys (to which we agreed in temple recommend interviews) was a direct response to my complaint that allowing her alleged abuser to speak at her memorial service felt like a desecration of both her memory and of a consecrated space like the chapel. He has complete power over that pulpit, and I had to sit quietly and respectfully while being rebuked in a public meeting.”

  36. Eyes now open... says:

    And here’s another: “Please tell me I am not the only one who was a little weirded out by the stake president’s talk. His demeanor was one of self-interest and personal insecurity. He made this about himself, not what’s really going on. But truth is truth. He shifted this from an issue of tragic abuse concealed from the leadership of the community to abdicating accountability and rejecting an opportunity to promote essential change.”

  37. Eyes now open... says:

    Sorry–don’t mean to spam, but I feel a need to document this event, somewhere, somehow. Here’s another comment: “According to my teen-age son, priesthood and the Young Men met together during the third hour. The 2nd counselor in the stake presidency hammered home the message that no one should criticize church leadership. He *guaranteed* (my son emphasized that this was the word he used) that anyone who criticized church leadership would have at least one child leave the church. If my son leaves the church, it won’t be because of me (who counseled him to listen respectfully even to those with whom he disagrees). It will be because he is so disturbed by the use of threats and fear tactics by priesthood leadership in an effort to control church members. These kids are smart. They recognize the truth.”

  38. That sounds so awful. I feel so sorry for the woman who died and for all of you who are having to deal with the cover-up and the abuses of priesthood authority.

  39. Eyes now open... says:

    And another comment: “I asked my son about what happened in Sacrament Meeting and his understanding of it. He replied that the stake president was angry with anyone who had helped [the abused woman], because that meant they had criticized the priesthood. So much for a clear message on the church’s opposition to abuse!”

  40. Concerned says:

    I would gather as many comments about the SP’s remarks and take them to the local police department. The man is an enabler and facilitator to spousal abuse, and both he and the abusive husband should be watched very closely by non-Church authorities.

  41. Just A Lurker says:

    Has anyone contacted the Area Authority or SLC? It sounds like something needs to be done.

  42. Eyes now open... says:

    That is a great suggestion! It hadn’t occurred to me, but it makes sense. I know several women have contacted the police, because they are afraid of the abuser (who is unraveling and is also a gun owner). Given that the SP has now twice publicly supported the abuser, perhaps the police need to give him a tutorial on mandatory reporting for clergy.

  43. Eyes now open... says:

    How do you contact SLC about something like this? Whom do you contact? The Area Authority is one ward over, same building. Nice guy but conflict-averse. He’s not going to confront the SP (who has family connections–his wife is the oldest great-grandchild of ET Benson, which she made a point of telling everyone in a RS lesson she taught on the priesthood being perfect).

  44. Not very happy with LDS leadership roulette says:

    Eyes, Some have had the experience of such communications/complaints to SLC being returned to the stake president for action. Accordingly, some have been known to send such communications anonymously. But even anonymous communications have been known to be sent to the stake president to deal with. In some circumstances, such a stake president as yours is reported to be may think he sees through the anonymity and may take action against those he suspects. Maybe just a copy of the postings here with a suggestion that someone above the Area Authority level investigate. Possible addressees would include whichever general authority called the stake president in question and the conference speaker who made the most recent, blunt statement in opposition to such abuse. (Elder Holland, maybe?) Good luck.

  45. Eyes now open... says:

    Another very helpful suggestion. Thank you. I agree that Elder Holland is a good choice, as the SP’s comments run directly counter to his counsel in GC.

  46. Speaking up says:

    Maybe contact Kim Clark. I think he’s the one who pushed the church to do more on abuse. I undersatnd that his daughter left an abusive marriage maybe 5-6 years ago, which really opened his eyes. The Clarks and the Christensens were both in the Belmont 2nd Ward (Kim was dean of Harvard Bus School), so ironically the daughter and the current stake pres grew up together.

  47. Eyes now open says:

    Helpful to know. Thank you.

  48. Reformed Mormon says:

    My bishop used to always ask me if i had a problem with masturbation. It was the most awkward ten seconds that would occur twice a year from the age of 12 to 19. I still feel fooked up from it even though he never put hands on me. Glad teh church

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