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.
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?
Here are two bullet points from the church’s page on preventing and responding to abuse:
“Church leaders should never disregard a report of abuse or counsel a member not to report criminal activity to law enforcement personnel.”
“Often a report of abuse will come to a trusted teacher or adviser. Members of stake and ward councils should help leaders, teachers, and members take proper steps in preventing and responding to abuse, including reporting the abuse to appropriate civil authorities.”
Maybe the story that you share in the OP happened a while ago before these guidelines were firmly in place–but something isn’t adding up.
Jack. The problem is what happens if the guidelines are not followed. Link to where on the Church page it gives you a number to call if a leader directs you not to report.
Should be simple enough for you to do.
Same for the advice to never tell someone they have to give a child up for adoption.
Or what about if your branch is told to fully staff all auxiliary organizations with only three women and until they do all welfare support will be blocked to punish branch members for being oppositional.
Show me how to effectively report any clerical abuse other than embezzlement or the types of heresy that the audit committee responds to.
Something doesn’t add up and it is you. Ponder that.
Jack – what doesn’t add up is that leaders in the church don’t always do the right thing and the church cares more about protecting itself than cares about the members. This stake President was acting just as he was taught to do – protect the church.
What doesn’t add up is as a member there is no appeal process as the OP wrote.
What doesn’t add up is not this story from the friend. Plenty of examples like this.
This is absolutely horrific. We must have accountability and a way to report and have abuses by leaders addressed.
The resources provided by the church are virtually nonexistent when compared with the processes and guidelines provided by, for example, the CofE:
Other safeguarding resources on the CofE website:
Dear Stephen, I think the examples you provide (for the most part) are occasions when things aren’t adding up as they should. That’s at least part of what I’m saying. But by the same token we have to be open to the fact that we rarely hear the other side of the story because of the church’s policies regarding nondisclosure of confessions and so forth.
That said–yes–I realize that in many instances *I’m* the one who isn’t “adding up.” Or shall we say: not being as Christlike as I should be.
The story saddens me, and I wish the best for the child and his or her family. I wish I could say the story is so far beyond the pale that it is likely false — but I cannot say that, because my own lived experience tells me that YES, it is certainly possible. That saddens me all the more.
In the recent past, the Church”s handbook of instructions was for leaders’ eyes only, and members were not allowed to read it. A section in it said a man should consult with his bishop before getting a vasectomy — but remember, members could not read that text. A recent convert had a vasectomy at the recommendation of his wife’s physician, and made mention of it somehow, and the bishop started disciplinary proceedings against the member for not doing the required consultation! The man and his wife both left the church, along with their minor children. The bishop probably felt that he was protecting the church, but I have to think otherwise. I was saddened to learn of his wife’s medical condition that precipitated the vasectomy, and then even more saddened at the official church action afterwards. The stake president loyally upheld the bishop’s action and processed the name removal requests without a single effort to talk to the man or his wife.
Jack, please be quiet — please do not dismiss or minimize my story — just please be quiet. It is a true story, and I regret that it is true. I am still a faithful member, but I regret the collateral damage to my father’s friend and his family. I was saddened when I learned the story, and am again saddened now repeating it.
We need a church culture that allows for robust dialogue and meaningful ministering. I hope we get there someday. It may exist in some places, but I am not certain it is universal yet.
Two points :
1. From the very beginning days of the church, there has been a belief that non-members are looking for ways to hurt the LDS church. I was raised to protect the church. I was raised with countless stories about how the the LDS church was so good and so pure that people would be naturally drawn to its goodness — and that many others would be envious and look for ways to hurt the name and reputation of the church.,
The lessons of my youth had many stories about how the church was persecuted. The church is still presented as perfect and led by a prophet who is literally directed by God.
The church has to be protected. That is what I learned. No matter what is written in the manual, the culture continues to promote protection of the church and of priesthood leaders over all else.
2. Women are told that they are born to birth, raise and nurture children yet they are not given the authority to set the policies within the church that would protect themselves or their children. Want to fix this issue of how sexual predators are handled within the church? Let the women of the church set the policies and give them the authority to institute the changes.
I’m sorry. I don’t get it. Maybe its the lawyer brain. When a crime occurs (i.e. sexual abuse) you call the COPS. It really has nothing to do with the Church.
In our ward conference recently, we sustained the area presidency by name. That’s new. They’ve existed for a while, but they were not people that members in our respective areas were asked to sustain. Their assignments as area presidents were not sustained at all, as are 70 assignments to work in the missionary department or in analyzing data or in public relations or anywhere else 70s are assigned. But now area presidents are in the “chain of command” that members sustain. Does this mean that the Church now intends for us to have a leader-member relationship with our area presidency, and we are to have access to them, and “appeal” to them? I put appeal in quotes, because I don’t mean only appeal in a juridicial sense of appealing a church discipline decision. We’re told now not to write to the GAs (but GAs still read letters in conference) and that if we write, those letters will be sent to the stake president without action. Will we be instructed henceforth that we may, and should if circumstances warrant, contact our area presidency to discuss any issues one might have with the stake president? I actually think this would be a good thing if members could petition someone above the stake president. The area presidency still sits in SLC (for the US and Canada), and they’ll have all the clerical and staff support from the people in the tall building, and they can usually quickly discern between serious petitions and crackpot rantings. Every bishop knows that a member can get to the stake presidency, if nothing else through temple recommend interviews, or asking to speak when they see them in the hallway, so bishops might be somewhat accountable, but at present stake presidents are utterly unaccountable. Maybe the local sustaining of area presidents is an indication that the church will soon issue guidance that members may contact their area presidencies. I think that would be good. ji, I am sorry to hear your story, but I am absolutely convinced that something like this positively could have happened. Clearly vasectomies are not sins, but seeking to discipline because of refusal to consult, when neither the policy or doctrine on vasectomies nor the “requirement” or suggestion to consult were published for the people to see–that’s exceptionally unfortunate. Which, off topic, brings me back to the position that the Church was restored by God but is given to men, and men can err and men can do what God would not want them to do, and they can do it in the name of the Lord, and the Lord allows this to happen. His servants labor in the field and He leaves them alone. That’s how I read the parable in D&C 88:51-61. The good news is that the lord of the field will at some point come back and will make things right.
I would have told the stake president that I was going to ignore his advice and if he held a disciplinary council on me, would hold a news conference on him. I’m pretty sure Kirton McConkie would tell him to back off.
I can understand why a person would want to go to a Stake President or a Bishop when there is a problem in their life or they want to unburdon themselves from a “sin.” But I don’t understand how when it involves another person, particularly a child, that they would listen to the church authority if they are being told something like to not report it, or to not seek counseling, or something else absurd. Some things need to dealt with legally, others with a competent health professional and not with some colocialal wisdom of an untrained clergy. So if a person makes a choice to talk to a stake president or bishop they also need to be prepared to make a choice of whether they are going to listen or not and not be afraid or intimidated into doing something they know is wrong by listening to them.
I don’t want to paint all stake presidents and bishops as incapable of making good decisions because I know and have heard of some very inspired counsel from these leaders but there are many resources for people to use, the church is not the only one. Also if we believe that our total salvation is tied up in the church, we are going to be disappointed because the church is made up of fallible men and women who make mistakes, believe the wrong things, and counsel wrongly. We alone ourselves are responsible for our own salvation.
Gebanks— no one would hear your threat until after you had been disciplined and held your press conference. Your proposal is exactly why such things do not result in a meaningful appeal.
Georgis—I’m hopeful that is a solution in progress. I’m less prescriptive than I might be because the Church often acts in ways I’m not aware of or in ways I could not expect.
Everyone—I appreciate your thoughts and comments.
I think that every single time the church suffers publicly because it does not do the right thing with regard to the abuse of children, my belief in karma is strengthened immeasurably.
This will continue to happen because the predominant ethos of Mormon culture is to protect the institution and leadership. Everyone else is collateral damage. Until there is a reckoning at least as significant as that experienced by the Catholic church, nothing will change.
Elisa summed it up as well as it can be: The LDS church very much tolerates abuse.
I am old and cynical, but I learned long ago that it doesn’t matter what you do… some LDS leader is going to take exception to your views or position or personality or suit color or facial hair and persecute you for it. And we are such a hierarchical people that few are going to openly support or defend you. It can be very lonely in such a situation. So if you are going to tick off church leaders, and most of us will at one point or another, you might as well do the right thing while doing so. To do otherwise is to insinuate that they are more important than God. And if there is an “arm of flesh” one needs to worry about, it is the arm exercising unrighteous dominion. And all of those arms belong to leaders in the Church.
Stephen, thanks for being a consistent voice on behalf of victims. I know you do your best. This is from the father of a victim who still appreciates the consideration you showed me when you sent me an account of your discussion with Von Keetch back when you were posting on the previous blog. You are still out there speaking up. Props to you.
This is a reality for issues ranging from the extremely serious such as child abuse down to the totally ridiculous. I have had experience with both.
On the ridiculous end…my stake president called my husband in for an interview because I had introduced myself in a stake meeting using my name rather than my husband’s name. The stake president then realized that my name was also the name on my temple recommend. Stake president did not give any reasons, but told my husband that my husband needed to get me under control so that I would use the proper name. If my husband could not do that, then the stake president would step in and take care of it for him.
My husband and I had a long, frank discussion about how we should proceed. What would happen if I refused? Would we both be released from our callings? Would either or both of us face losing temple recommends? Would there be additional consequences as we would then be publicly refusing to follow the guidance of our stake president?
Getting back to the point of the OP, it was our stake president who precipitated this issue. He had all the authority. We had nothing.
Stephen, I am sickened at what your friend experienced: first having his child abused, then experiencing spiritual abuse from his local “shepherd”. Each time I learn of this kind of response from a bishop or stake president, I am suspicious that there is a “there but for the grace of God go I” dynamic at hand. It is not a normal response to child abuse. It is a CYA move.
Ji, I am disgusted at what happened to your new convert acquaintance. Sadly, I am not surprised. I hope he subsequently found a worthy spiritual home.
PWS, that is preposterous. Sorry you were subjected to that.
As long as 1) women and children are considered as less-than (and often deemed less credible), 2) we leave membership fate in the hands of local amateurs (that is our model), and 3) we don’t get bishops out of the counseling business, I don’t see how things will greatly improve any time soon. I do hope there is work in progress with area presidencies to serve as a link for upward communication from members, but I think it more likely to serve as a link for more communication from the top down.
If there is an official way to appeal the decisions of Church leaders like stake presidents, then there is an official Church acknowledgment that sometimes Church leaders make uninspired decisions that don’t reflect the will of God. Church members are told week after week how the restored Church is so special because, unlike other churches, our priesthood leaders receive revelation from God telling them how to make each of their decisions. Just follow your Church leaders–their decisions are inspired. A defined process to appeal and potentially overrule a Church leader’s decision calls into question this fundamental belief and would cause Church members to question what role inspiration and revelation plays in Church leaders’ decisions.
There are several thousand sitting stake presidents at any time. There are so many accounts of how Church leaders have made bad decisions. Top Church leaders have known this for a very, very long time. They are constantly having to clean up messes made by local leaders when they discover them on their own or through informal back channels (for example, a member has a personal connection to a GA and directly reports an issue) A formal appeal process would be really helpful. However, introducing a formal appeal process really would require a fundamental shift in thinking about the fallibility of Church leaders and how frequently their decisions are directly inspired of God. I personally think that shift would be very healthy for the Church, but I don’t know if the Q15 is ready to do such a thing, especially given all the recent rhetoric from GAs equating Church leaders to Christ.
I have often wondered when a letter is read or an event described if it were an actual letter/event since it fit so perfectly with the theme ad point that was being made. Lots of them seem to be made up of whole cloth or pushed and pulled to such a degree that it would be unrecognizable to the the participants,
“If we don’t stand up for children, we don’t stand for much.”
PWS, that is utterly ridiculous. Nowhere in the CHI does it require anyone to take the name of their spouse, even if the system tends to default to a traditional change with a marriage (n.b. that can be changed on the records, but it does take some effort).
I have told this story here before, but it seems relevant. Not long after we joined the Church, we had a bishop who refused my mother a temple recommend because she admitted that she watched the occasional R-rated movie (and would not give me a youth recommend for baptisms–I was 14 at the time and the only active and “worthy” Aaronic Priesthood holder in the ward at the time–because I admitted to drinking Dr. Pepper). My mother was furious, so she got in her car and drove the 2000 miles from where we lived in the midwestern United States to Salt Lake City. She waited in the lobby at Church headquarters until she got a general authority to meet with her, and she got a chance to tell her story. We had a new bishop three weeks later. This was in the early 1980s…which probably explains why she was able to force a meeting with someone at 50 North Temple. If this had happened today, my guess is that this experience would have been enough to push us out of the Church.
This experience does not come close to what the OP describes or to numerous other horrific stories of leaders abusing their positions of which I am aware. But it does underscore the reality of leadership roulette and the desperate need for a way to challenge problematic leaders when necessary. Unfortunately, I also agree with the sentiments expressed above: the likelihood of any sort of legitimate appeals process being instituted is extremely low.
I like the idea of appeal to an Area Presidency, if the stake president has gone off the rails.
Unfortunately in Utah that Area President would be Kevin Pearson (yes, THAT Kevin Pearson). I can’t imagine that he would be helpful or understanding or kind or Christian . . . at all.
(Unless he were asked for help in defrauding poor people from their health insurance benefits; see the April 20 W&T discussion.)
I served in a bishopric as a clerk for multiple years. It must have been a well mannered ward as I never was involved in or made aware of member discipline. But in hindsight I observed a practice that invites the problems discussed in this post.
The problem is the church leadership gives lip service to religious leader training. In the area of financials the church is highly attentive to things being done right. But in the matter of being a righteous steward over others the training is incomplete. There is always the emphasis on personal righteousness and duty and responsibility. But in counciling others the church leadership creates ignorance. For as much as I can remember despite decades of attending Priesthood leadership meetings never has the question of judging and disciplining members, or what justifies judgement been presented.
So where do Priesthood leaders come up with the idea of turning molehills into mountains? What causes them to think it is constructive to pry into people’s lives , to embarrass and to shame them? My perception is because they are not taught otherwise! And then they get into a position of authority and, knowing how righteous they are to have gained that position,they feel entitled to judge the lack of righteousness in others.
The LDS church prides itself on having a lay ministry. Unfortunately that often means having leaders who are amateurs in counseling and leading. But what LDS lack in skill, we make up with good intentions, or at least what we believe is good, not that we would ever invite feedback from those we have judged!
The church already acknowledges that church leaders sometimes make uninspired decisions by making sure they don’t count cash without a witness. It’s moving more in that direction with the changes to policy regarding interviews and support people, and even how many teachers there are in primary and youth. For many younger people, the change wouldn’t be a big shift to acknowledge that church leaders can act badly and their decisions be appealed.
“What happens without meaningful appeal?”
With some reflection, I am thinking that meaningful appeals are not what is really needed. Appeals don’t really happen anywhere in the church — they aren’t part of our pattern and I don’t think we want to introduce appeals.
What really is needed are meaningful discussions. If I am aggrieved at a decision of a church officer, and I want either understanding or relief, I should be able to talk to someone higher in the hierarchy — not to appeal, per se, but to talk. If the discussion helps me understand, reconcile, and/or see the lower officer’s perspective, that is good. If the higher officer thinks an unfairness might have been done, he can talk to the lower church officer and the lower church officer can re-visit his decision and maybe change his mind. This can all be done in a spirit of understanding, humility, and ministry.
If the lower church officer rejects the wisdom and counsel of the higher church officer, the higher church officer might feel impressed to call someone else to replace the lower church officer.
This is my understanding of how things should work in the Lord’s church. This pattern requires higher church officers being allowed to have meaningful discussions with church members in a spirit of understanding, humility, and ministry — or in other words, charity.
I wish our church culture everywhere allowed for meaningful discussions — I hope it does in some places, and aspirationally hope for everywhere.
When does it get expensive enough that there is an effort to act?
“It is not my place to make policy determinations or suggest solutions.”
What do you mean it isn’t “your place?” Look, you might not have the authority nor expertise necessary to give much detail on the matter, but you know enough to know what kinds of experts and policies the church should consider relative to some others.
I’m no virologist, immunologist, nor epidemiologist- but I know enough to trust that vaccines work ; that the science behind vaccination is both robust and systematic enough so as to lend greater credibility to those experts in their respective fields.
It’s a story at least as old as our human development from generalists to specialists; and the disagreement between a community’s spiritual/religious leaders- and those whose authority comes from the knowledge arrived at through both systematic observation and experimentation.
The ‘Non-overlapping Magisteria’ is a normative argument, not an empirical argument. Unreliable and invalid existence claims about how the universe ‘work’ are routinely over-prioritized by so-called religious and spiritual ‘experts’ at the expense of methods and claims that are much more valid, and reliable, relative to what can actually said to be known on a subject.
The sciences meanwhile can be used to study, and compare the outcomes, relationships, and arrangements of/between differing values and beliefs within a society; especially in relation to any known cultural practices meant to secure and/or affirm such values and beliefs.
Scientific study obviously is never accomplished alone, in absence of a priori philosophical commitments and normative goals- but these needn’t be grounded upon any supernatural claims.
jaredsbrother: Unfortunately, that title is misleading. The Church only dished out just over $1M on that one, so in short (to them) chump change.
Yes, I read that, Angela. I guess I should have asked, “When does the blow to reputation get expensive enough?”
Reading Captain Cassidy’s essays over on Patheos and now OnlySky, it makes it abundantly clear that abuse of power is the purpose of authoritarianism. The more authority you have, the more rules you get to break, and the more people you get to hurt (or slimeball friends you get to protect from the consequences of their actions).
She defines a broken system as one that cannot achieve its stated goals. One where every time something goes wrong, all the burden is put on the people who are victimized, to forgive offenders and be more obedient. Where the solution is always to “Jesus harder!” as she puts it, or to practice “exact obedience” as a lot of you may have heard it.
The LDS Church is a broken system. It cannot protect children. It only protects their abusers, by design. There is no way to change it from within. Authoritarians only respond to external consequences and shame.
Incidentally, that’s why they tell you that if something like in this story happens, you’re supposed to handle it the way they did in the story; by appealing to their authority.
They tell you to do this because it only works if they feel like it.
The things you’re not supposed to do, like go outside the church or publicly shame it, are the things that actually work.
Even in my (F51)TBM days it would have never occured to me to talk about my problems or doubts with my bisshop or churchleaders. Ever.
And if I would learn about the abuse of my child I would be sitting in a police station mere minutes after learning about it. It would simply not cross my mind that the church would have any say or opinion in that. Even if the abuser is a member.
What is wrong with members who first go to their bisshop? It is worrying and cultish behavior.
“The LDS Church is a broken system.”
As imperfect as it is–it does a great job of getting people on the road to eternal life.
“It cannot protect children.”
There’s certainly room for improvement. Even so, it does a much better job of protecting children than (say) the public school system. Plus — and more importantly — the church does all it can to teach and foster family solidarity. And it is in intact families where children are brought up by both of their biological parents that they are most secure–generally speaking.
Years ago, I came to know two children who had been brutally sexually abused by their parents and their parents’ associates for a period of years. I cannot recount their stories in detail here without causing distress to others. I still grow nauseous and filled with despair just remembering these children. As for your defense of the Church I have but one thing to say: One does not gain access to heaven by leaving children in hell.
“On the other hand, many other groups have virtually ended all such problems.”
You’re preaching to the choir. I was abused by at least two different people during my childhood–perhaps three–and one of the them was a home teacher! (I’m not making this up.) But to extrapolate my personal anecdotal experience across the broad range of the church in order to arrive at a conclusion on how it protects children is naive at best and, frankly, preposterous at worst.
“One does not gain access to heaven by leaving children in hell.”
Well said. And I’ve no doubt that if we could interview every bishop and stake president in the church 99.99 percent of them would agree with you.
So why did the abuse happen in my home–to my siblings and I? It was because my home was broken to pieces–and not because the church was standing on the sidelines doing nothing. In fact, it is only because of thoughtful members–trying to help however they could that I’m not worse off than I am.
The fundamental problem is members who have been taught not to think for themselves and to imagine that what their leaders say is direct from God. This is a conflation of the church and God and it’s inherently false.
Reality is obvious that leaders are fallible men. Members need to feel free to act for themselves and make their own decisions. However, a bishop needs to be notified of abuse when a member of his ward participates in abuse, particularly if it occurs in a church capacity, so that he can stop that abuse if the police fail in their duties. Such notice should occur after contacting the police, and seeking medical care.
It’s amazing and wrong that as members of the church it would be taught that we need to simply obey. That isn’t the example Jesus Christ or Joseph Smith set for us. They each set the example of having personal spiritual authority over their own lives, and a personal connection with God, superior to any direction from local church authority.
I ate at an excellent cafe in France once or twice (this is true). I know know all the ins and outs of all exquisite dining: what to order for every occasion, how to respond to every server, how chefs work, what makes the best chef, etc. My faith in these establishments and my experience is certain; I am not interested in your experience at the same establishments. Why should there be an online review system? Why should there be a system for complaints or concerns? The chefs make no mistakes. Instead, there are only fickle patrons.
To carry on with your analogy–I think a lot of those complaints come from folks who haven’t tasted the food for themselves. They’ve only heard how bad it is secondhand–or read about how bad it is in a news article. Of course, if there’re enough secondhand complaints then that could very well mean there might be some truth to the complaints–so long as we’re not talking about just a few people filling the complaint box to overflowing. Even so, if we want to get a true sense of what’s going on then we need to go to the restaurant and taste the food for ourselves–and maybe get to know some of the other patrons and even the chefs if we want to get a clear sense of the quality of the product and the experience of dining at that location.
I understand that analogies have their limits–but even so we might stretch this one to include that fact that many “patrons” turned away from the Savior when they found his bread of life recipe to be unsatisfying. And so, while it’s a fact that some chefs make mistakes–it is also certain that patrons can be way too fickle — or perhaps “gainsaying” to put it in scriptural parlance — even when the order is a five star entree prepared by a world class chef.
This is a big reason I was able to finally consider “what if it’s not true” and leave the church. In roughly the late 1990s, it became clear that the COB was not interested in hearing any sort of feedback because they started explicitly saying that all communications would be redirected to the person’s stake president. This led to the SP having basically absolute power to abuse his position, and problems cropped up almost immediately. We had an issue with our SP, in 1999 who told us when we got our permission to be sealed, that if he even heard that we were planning a ring ceremony after the sealing, he would cancel our recommend to be sealed. There is no doctrinal or handbook basis for that at all. That should have been a signal to leave, but I wasn’t ready to hear it.
After another 15 years worth of abusive SPs and other priesthood leaders, gossipy ward members, and anti-woman, anti-LGBTQ garbage, I started comparing the church to your average US corporation in different areas and let’s just say that in all aspects (financial, moral, transparency, community outreach, continuous improvement), the church comes up short. Not led by any god and not led by people who want to do good.
Exactly, Aldanato. First call is to the police. Second call is to my lawyer to let her know that she might have to bail me out of prison for actions I would strongly be considering. I’m not sure I would ever call the bishop or stake president unless someone in the ward/stake was involved–and even then, it would be far down the list of priorities…and at that point only as a matter of information, not permission-seeking.
Jack, many people posting here can understand (if not agree with) your reflexive defense of the Church and its doctrine. But the reality is that the ideal to which you refer frequently exists only in theory. For example, you state that children are most secure when brought up by both of their biological parents. To be sure, that can be the case, and academic studies confirm that there is a greater chance of success for children in that atmosphere. But what is also the case is that it is not 100% true–whether we are talking about Muslims, atheists, Mormons, Catholics, or any other group within society (U.S. or international). If you understand that, then you can also understand that while many LDS leaders are doing their best and have the best interests of those over whom they have stewardship at heart, there are always a percentage whose authoritarian tendencies, lack of empathy, ambition for higher callings, or other flaws lead them to make mistakes or actively cause problems, LDS doctrine and policy notwithstanding. That is the cohort that many commenters are discussing here.
There’s no doubt that leaders have made and will continue to make mistakes–some of them so grievous that they must be removed from their position. Even so, it almost seems as if there’s an endless supply of grievances — from a rather small percentage of people — that are based more on hearsay than actual experience. And the fact that most of the grievances have to do with the leadership is rather telling (IMO) as most of the folks (here and at other like venues) who have difficulty with the way things are run are suspicious of hierarchies in general. Now that sort of suspicion isn’t necessarily bad–but it comes with the territory, so to speak, of a left-leaning worldview. And as such, I think it causes a lot of good folks to rush too quickly to judgment against the church as an organization–when we really know very little about the church’s PoV in most of the situations wherein it has supposedly failed. We rarely know what was actually said or done by church leaders because of their commitment to confidentiality. But on those rare occasions when a detail or two does surface (from the church’s perspective) it almost invariably changes the moral and logistical landscape of the situation at hand.
I don’t know what to say–except that the church just isn’t the depraved organization that some folks believe it to be.
No, Jack, I don’t believe that the Church is a depraved institution. We have two teachers for any situation with children or youth these days (didn’t in former days), and I’m told we’re supposed to have glass in classroom doors (my building does not). Here’s the problem. Most teachers weren’t abusers, but it only takes a very few, and now there’s two and there’s supposed to be windows. Bishops aren’t supposed to be talking about all manner of sexual issues in youth interviews–they never should have, but some did, a few, but few enough that the FP has given guidance. Bishops and stake presidents (and counselors) asked all kinds of inappropriate questions in temple recommend interviews (adults and youth), and they’ been told plain to ask the given questions and no more. BUT there is no transparency and no communication above the stake president, and it is the stake president where it all comes together. In any corporation, educational institution, hospital, etc., there is always a way to go over someone’s head. But we have made stake presidents absolutely unaccountable, and any attempt to question his handling of a situation, or to elevate, is slapped down hard. We’re instructed not to write to SLC and any letter will be sent to stake president without action. Stake presidents have superiors, called area presidents, but members are allowed zero access to them. Why? I think that allowing such access would go a great distance in showing that the leading brethren care enough to allow unpleasantness to come forward–unpleasantness and impropriety that they can take no action to correct if they know nothing about it. As I mentioned above, members can get to bishops when teachers or youth leaders behave poorly, and members can get to stake presidents when bishops behave poorly–at least there is an opportunity for discussion, as ji pointed out. This might also cause local leaders to pause and reflect before acting. Allowing a mechanism to discuss with someone above a stake president would cost so very little and would pay good returns. Would a few crackpots in each stake abuse it? Sure, but that’s an OK price if it benefit is good. The area presidencies in the US and Canada all live in SLC and they are all supported by the church headquarters staff, so they could manage letters and even phone calls.
Your comment that incidents are based on hearsay more than on actual experience is a demeaning attack to those who have been hurt. These stories are real. Take ji’s story about the bishop disciplining a man for not consulting about a vasectomy. The brethren in SLC have no idea about a story like that, because the stake president supported the bishop, and stake presidents don’t report their questionable decisions. They know that they can act with impunity. And that impunity encourages bad behavior. Accessibility and transparency are enemies to bad behavior, like light is an enemy to darkness. Light is good, transparency is good, and accountability is good.