I had a friend whose only problem was that he was as good looking as he was smart. He was very smart.

I decided to reach out to him to get a post for Wheat & Tares. That is when I found out that he was currently not affiliated with the church.

They had a child that had been abused.

The Stake President:

  • Forbid them from reporting the matter to the police in order to “protect the good name of the church.” That ban included prohibiting their child from getting medical care because of mandatory reporting laws.
  • Insisted they treat the predator with kindness, greet him with respect and deference in order to assist in the predator’s rehabilitation.
  • Characterized any disagreement with him or other church leadership as rebellion and obstruction for which discipline was appropriate.

There was no realistic way to appeal from the stake president. Any letter or communication about the actions was just sent back to him.

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This resulted in the child’s first doctor’s visit causing a report to law enforcement contrary to the Stake President’s direction. The parents were disaffiliated from the church and were sanctioned.

Did the Stake President’s goals get met?

  • In every case of this sort the Church’s name is hurt much more than reporting the abuse would have hurt it.
  • In every case where a predator fails to fully confess their sins and make complete restitution they invariably do not rehabilitate.
  • Punishing people for rebellion in these cases does no positive good.

The only current appeal is to go to the police, the press and/or to the courts. All of these methods of appeal lead to worse outcomes than an appeal overturning the Stake President would cause.

Some religious groups have real problems in this area. The ongoing Catholic scandals come to mind as do the problems faced by evangelical groups and the Southern Baptist Convention.

On the other hand, many other groups have virtually ended all such problems.

There is a simple difference. The ones that have ended their problems have a clear, publicized and effective path of appeal and reporting. Nothing is hidden. The structure of such programs is material for a completely different post.

The Church can institute a program patterned after other institutions that have found success or it can continue to try to explain to judges and juries how a stake or mission president who embezzled fifty dollars gets immediate and harsh responses but those who shelter and enable sexual predators have few consequences for their actions.

Church lawyers can explain how a church leader circulating false doctrine (Eg bogus first presidency statements or institutionalized polygamy, etc) gets an immediate response but one preserving a predator’s access to victims isn’t interfered with.

Consider a stake president who shelters an abuser. Any complaints about that process are sent back to the Stake President with no other response.

I originally had a much longer essay with more examples and discussion. But this is one time I think it is clear enough.

It is not my place to make policy determinations or suggest solutions. This post only discusses what the current environment creates and what the alternatives are.

What do you think?