Child abuse at the hands of clergy often makes headlines, and leaves people questioning how various religious organizations respond to and seek to prevent the sin and tragedy of child abuse.
This question about how the LDS Church handles child abuse was recently addressed by Von G. Keetch, chief outside legal counsel for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He summed up by stating that the Mormon Church’s position is simply that “Abuse cannot be tolerated in any form.”
For decades, the LDS Church has repeatedly, publicly, and unequivocally denounced child abuse as an “insidious evil” and a “sin of the darkest hue.” Church leaders at the highest level began making such statements and aggressively addressing the issue even before clergy-abuse cases raised public awareness in the mid-1980s. Since 1976, more than 50 articles have appeared in Church publications condemning child abuse or educating members about it. As wrenching as the topic is, Church leaders have given sermons about it more than 30 times at the Church’s worldwide conferences….
Read more on this topic in the article entitled: Protecting Children in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
You can also read more about the Church’s position on abuse at lds.org under the index topic “Abuse“
My father has worked for Child Protective Services for over 35 years now. I remember as a little girl, our phone was constantly ringing….bishops and stake presidents from around the state would need his help as to how to handle a child abuse situation they were dealing with with members in their ward/stake. And he would give them the right numbers to call, the right advice as to what to do, the help that they needed to combat the horribleness of child abuse.
The LDS church has never tried to hide this awful thing….contacting local authorities when needed……helping families by finding family therapists for them to go to so that healing can start….constantly training Bishops and Stake Presidents so that they can understand the signs of abuse better and have the no how in what to do and how to help in the first place.
Thank you for bring this topic up……I wish child abuse didn’t exist in the world, but I am grateful that the LDS church handles it the right way when discovered.
[comment edited for language]
You’re so wrong its actually quite funny. The mormon church does hide child abuse and the people causing it, I’ve had a first hand experience with this. I’ve tried to turn my father in for what he did and the church just hides him, they cover his backside so that the authoritites wont know this has been going on for decades.
I am so sorry to hear about what you have been through. I hope you can get the help and support you need.
Please understand that what you have reported here as happening is wholly inconsistent with the Church’s policies on child abuse. If individuals don’t follow those policies, that is an individual error of grave concern. The official stance from the Church and its leaders is very clear on this matter.
For more information, you can read this article at the LDS Newsroom about the Mormon Church’s policies regarding child abuse.
Again, I hope you can get the help and support you need to help you heal from what you have been through, both in terms of the abuse you experienced and also how you have reported here that it was handled. Again, I’m so sorry for what has happened to you.
Oh Michelle how naive you are. You said that if people don’t follow these “policies” its an error on their part. So you’re saying the 5 bishops my aunt and myself have tried to tell and get help from have made their own error? Also what about the bishop that I went to, to get my name off the church records and I told him it was because the mormon church hides child molesters and he just paused for a good 5 to 10 seconds and gave me that look like oh crap she knows? They all made mistakes huh?
Once again, I’m sorry for what you have been through. Yes, I still hold to the fact that if abuse happened, and actions weren’t taken on behalf of victims as described in the links we have provided, and if leaders knew about these things, then that likely reflects mistakes. It definitely does not reflect the general Church position on these things. [I want to add that I use conditional ‘if’ statements not because I question your experience, but because there are always two sides of the story and these leaders are not here to explain their side of what happened.]
At this site, we seek to share the *principles* that our Church stands for, those ideals that *should* guide Mormons. We realize that people don’t always do things as they should. But that doesn’t change what the ‘shoulds’ are. It’s very important in my mind that people separate out the two when trying to understand the Church and its position on issues such as this.
As hard as your experience sounds like it has been (I know I have no idea what it is like to be abused by one’s father and to not feel heard by others), it still does not or should not define in people’s minds (or in your own, for that matter) what “the Mormon Church” stands for and what its leaders at the highest levels think and expect to see happen with regards to this crime of child abuse.
OK, now for an editor’s note. As you have probably noticed, we moderate comments here. I’ve let your comments through because I think it’s important to acknowledge that sometimes mistakes are made and sometimes things don’t work as they should. I also believe in victims of abuse having a voice. And again, I’m very sorry for what happened to you.
However, at this point, I’m going to say that comments that continue general attacks on and/or accusations about “the Mormon Church” will be moderated.
I do realize, however, that perhaps the title of my post doesn’t acknowledge the fact that sometimes mistakes are made. I will change the title from “How the Mormon Church Handles Child Abuse” to “The Mormon Church’s Position on Child Abuse.”
I serve in a Bishopric, and I know firsthand of a situation where a daughter was raped by a father. The father is currently in prison (as he should be) and the daughter has moved on with her life, though the trauma still affects the entire family. The attack happened many years ago and what we struggle with today is how to handle things when the father is released from prison in the next year or so (fifteen years on from the original incident). The wife never divorced him and continues to visit him in prison. I have often asked myself if that is truly Christ like love. An ability to look past the sin and love the sinner. Or if it is really misplaced devotion. I don’t have that answer.
We share a building with a “sister ward” and they are currently dealing with the attendance of a convicted pedophile. When such situations occur, the member/perpetrator is allowed to return to attendance, but they are accompanied 100% of the time by a male member of the congregation while on church grounds.
So you can see that there are real situations where ward members and Bishoprics struggle with these situations and make the best calls they can within the confines of the authority they are given. There are three sides to these situations. First the victim and while we always sympathize and attempt to get the victim the help they need. There is always a call for full disclosure. That is, everyone wants to know what happened. Everyone feels they have a need to know and that the perpetrator has no right to privacy. This is wrong on two counts. If the perpetrator has only been accused and not convicted by civil authority, then they are presumed innocent and this can be equivalent to a second attack. But if the church either actually or figuratively convicts the offender, then we are also at risk. Even after a conviction by civil authority, we have the same ecclesiastical responsibility to maintain privacy as other ministers in other religions. So while the victims needs must be given weight, the legal right of the perpetrator cannot be ignored. I mentioned that there are three sides. The final side in the spiritual side. Heavenly Father still loves both the victim and the perpetrator and as ministers we must (and I acknowledge that this is sometimes really hard both on the priesthood and on the victims) try to see a way for the perpetrator to work themselves back into good standing. This doesn’t mean ever be put in a position of trust with regard to potential victims, but it does mean good standing with regard to a relationship with Heavenly Father. After all, we are all sinners, and we all need a path to salvation.
I am not writing this message to attack you, but I am very concerned with the post that you left. I truly wish I could say that the church never tries to cover up child abuse, but that is not always the case. Most abusers hold distinguished callings within the church, as well as in the community, and as a victim of horrendous sexual abuse at the hands of a “good-standing” member of the church, and from the comments you just made, I believe that church leaders are not only uneducated and untrained on the matter of abuse, but they should not alwayas be trusted. I would like to reemphasize the fact that I am not trying to personally attack anybody; I only wish for members of Christ’s church to fully understand the nature of abusers. I was also disturbed when you mentioned the lady in your congregation who you felt may have been displaying “true devotion,” by staying married to a pedophile. This is not an act of love or devotion. The savior of mankind simply does not want a woman to stay married to a pedophile. This is not love. This is misguidance, and it makes me concerned as to what advice church leaders such as yourself have given to people in situations such as the one of this wife. As for your concern with helping the abuser return to “good standing,” you are wasting your energy and efforts. Believing that somebody who has strayed so far from the laws of nature and God can be saved by your guidance is a very naive idea. I would invite you to become more educated on the subject of abuse before you ever give counsel to another victim. Thank you for sharing your comments.
The church handles abuse very poorly. Saving the abuser is far more important than helping the victim. My father molested me for years, I told my stake president, he did nothing. My father wasn’t even told he couldn’t take the sacrament. They gave him a calling in boys scouts. A year later I told them I was upset they had done nothing. They held a council, I was not invited. Their decision was to take no action. I went to talk to my stake president and he told me to “move on”. The church may preach that abuse isn’t tolerated, but in reality it is just brushed aside.
We are sorry for what you have experienced, both in terms of being molested and then not feeling heard.
Like I said earlier, we do feel it is important to separate out individual experiences from church policy, though. The church as an institution has very strong feelings about child abuse, even as we realize that there are unfortunate individual circumstances that may not necessarily reflect that position.
I hope you are getting the help and support you need to heal from the trauma of your experiences. The most important message of the Church is that healing is possible through Christ. Even if leaders may make mistakes along the way, even if family members or others fail you, the Lord is perfect and His healing power is real.