“Some churches, sects, cults or religious movements are basically collective egoic entities, as rigidly identified with their mental positions as the followers of any political ideology that is closed to any alternative interpretation of reality.” – Eckhart Tolle
When I was 11, the first man entitled to ask me if I kept the law of chastity was my Stake President. A few years ago he was found guilty of paedophilia and imprisoned.
When I was 13 my then Bishop came to my home and asked me if I kept the law of chastity. He went on to have multiple affairs.
I loved my second Stake President. He (I think reluctantly) asked me on several occasions if I kept the law of chastity. He too committed adultery.
My former husband, who was also a Bishop, and who regularly asked me about my sex life went on to have an affair. But it turns out that he was more interested in the teen daughter of the woman with whom he committed adultery.
My next Bishop (while I was a young adult) would also ask me in interviews if I kept the law of chastity. On a couple of occasions, he gave me unusually lingering hugs (with small groans of pleasure). He went on to have multiple affairs.
Another Bishop, who asked me if I kept the law of chastity in Temple Recommend interviews, dramatically abandoned his young family for someone else with whom he was not keeping the law of chastity.
Several years later another Stake President who was also my former bishop, asked me about my sex life in several interviews. He also went on to an extra-marital sex life of very public proportions.
This isn’t to say that adultery is the same as sexual abuse. It’s not. I understand adultery is often symptomatic of a whole host of marital and personal issues.
But it is to say that unless the LDS church can guarantee the sexual propriety of its agents I would suggest that they cease and desist from interrogating anyone about their sexual lives, least of all my children.
I say this on the eve of a local Stake Young Mens Camp that most of my boys will attend with their father.
Not one leader, nor any of the parent helpers will have been police vetted. In fact, no youth leader, congregation leader nor any person who works with Mormon children are screened in New Zealand. Children and youth leaders are not required to be signatories to a code of ethics. Children and youth leaders are not trained in the area of the prevention of clergy or lay leader sexual abuse. There are no guidelines that must be followed in order to protect children in Mormon church contexts from sexual abuse.
I say this because I have heard the stories of countless friends who were sexually assaulted in Mormon contexts where instead of their protection and healing every mechanism was used to preserve community cohesion and the reputation and repentance of the perpetrator.
So, how safe are LDS children?
I don’t think a guarantee can ever be given. But due diligence and a duty of care are not impossible. Yet, the LDS Church seems wholly disinterested in complying with the World Health Organisation guidelines for the prevention of sexual abuse. Which means clergy sexual abuse is a problem in the LDS Church as much as in New Zealand as anywhere else in the world.
Why might this be the case?
It’s hard to know, except to say that the LDS Church has a history of sex trafficking young women while still requiring adulation for the perpetrators of what today would be considered a sex crime.
How does the LDS Church support victims of sexual abuse? Listen to this podcast to find out.
And to add insult to injury, if you feel strongly enough about this issue and take a stand for the protection of LDS children, you could find yourself excommunicated.