Complicity with Pedophilia

By Anonymous

The recent news about another sexual predator being employed by the LDS Church despite his admission to a church leader of molesting a child (not to mention the story from last week about a current bishop being arrested on charges of human trafficking and sexual battery) brought to mind this story about my family’s complicity with pedophilia.

My great-grandfather was in a stake presidency and was a temple worker until the day he died, despite serially molesting all of his granddaughters that he had access to for decades.

He didn’t have access to my great-uncle’s daughters for long. As soon as my uncle learned his father had molested one of his daughters, this uncle confronted his father, moved his family far away from the small town in Utah where my great-grandfather lived, and severed ties with the entire family since all of his siblings enabled my great-grandfather’s abuse—despite knowing what he’d done to their own daughters. This complicity includes my own grandparents who knew that he had molested my 6-year-old mother and whose response was to tell her to “stay away from him” at family gatherings. Subsequently, my great-grandfather went on to molest nearly all of my mother’s five younger sisters.

As a result of denying my pedophilic great-grandfather access to his family, my great-uncle was demonized: as a child I only heard stories of what a horrible person he was.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned about what to me is my uncle’s heroism in a toxic family system: he rooted out the cancer that would likely spread through his whole family if he hadn’t by extracting himself, his wife, and his children from the source of the disease. Subsequently, he spent the rest of his life as an outcast among his parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews. He did what was right and “let the consequence follow” (“Do What Is Right,” LDS Hymnal, 1985).

Contemplating my great-uncle’s example of how to protect children from sexual predators in contrast with the Church’s history of complicity with pedophilia leaves me with these questions:

  • If my great-uncle could make that decision in the 1960s with no information about the extremely high rate of recidivism of sexual predators and the devastating and far-reaching consequences of sexual abuse for survivors, why can’t the LDS Church in the 21st Century do the same?
  • How many more sexual predators like my great-grandfather find easy prey in the vulnerable in the LDS Church today because this evil is enabled among us?

I shudder to think of the answers to these questions.

If you had the ability to change LDS Church policy and procedures to protect the community from sexual predators of all kinds, what would you do?


[Photo credit: Colby Stopa—Creative Commons]

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11 Responses

  1. BidTimeReturn says:

    This so closely mirrors my extended family’s culture. I’ve wondered if there’s a linked gene between mormonism and “not making a fuss”. I was raised to constant teachings that there was no evil as big as complaining about that evil; or asking others to get involved. To stay quiet and sweet was the sign of a true victim– those that made “it” an ordeal revoked their right to assistance. With such families, the only healthy path is a complete severing. I can attest that there is great happiness after the severing

  2. LMA says:

    Thank you for sharing this, what you wrote is really powerful. I really appreciated what you said about how if your great-uncle was able to make that decision to remove himself and his family from the abuse that was happening without being taught or helped or validated for it. I think some people in the church like to act like they or others just “don’t know better” and can’t be accountable, but that’s not true at all. Your great-uncle had the courage and intuition to say no and to make changes that cost him his relationship with his family, which I’m sure was excruciating to make. This idea that people “can’t help” participating or enabling abuse or other toxic family dynamics or “don’t know better” doesn’t work anymore. This was so powerful and honest, thank you.

  3. anon says:

    The church has done a phenomenal job of inculcating a cult of authority. From the prophet down to the bishop, to the father and grandfather in a family, so much deference is given to those in authority positions. Part of this is due to fear of apostasy and anarchy, but it is all rooted in control. If the church would shift focus to the preeminence of the individual over the family, over the ward, over the church, then people might be unshackled and free to stand up for themselves and not bow down and submit. We should be made to feel free to challenge, disagree, doubt, question, oppose, and walk away.

  4. EmilyB says:

    Just answer me this: why is it that a woman loses her temple recommend for breastfeeding in church while a man confessing to pedophilia gets hired to teach at BYU and paid tithing money to make temple movies? WHY? How is this even happening? Why are millions of Mormon women just continuing on, week after week in church, business as usual, as if this is somehow okay?

  5. Nancy Ross says:

    Your uncle was really brave. So often in the church we give lip service to the idea that men’s role is to protect women, which doesn’t actually happen when women need protection from our own men. But your uncle took great steps to do just that – protect the women in his family, and at great personal cost. Stories like this seem rare these days.

  6. LaryB says:

    If you had the ability to change LDS Church policy and procedures to protect the community from sexual predators of all kinds, what would you do?

    This has been on my mind, and it is the issue that has opened my mind to to NEED for women in the priesthood. I believe if our wards were led by teams of men and women there would be less opportunity for abusers to find victims. But women are also capable of abuse, and definitely capable of justifying the acts men under the current system of authority- this story is a good example of where not questioning our patriarchal authority has led predators to hide in plain sight.

    So questioning needs to not just be a part of LDS history. Questioning needs to be a part of the practice of our religion. It needs to be taught regularly in lessons. Jesus questioned authority, he drove the money changers from the temple, he called out the Pharisees, he made space for the ‘sinners’ who pure in heart- Does our church look like that?

    • anon says:

      No, it does not, not at all. Over the past few years my eyes have opened and I see clearly how we must break the allegiance and deference to authority. Authoritarian systems almost always breed corruption. The spirit, inspiration, and set-apart leaders cannot be relied upon.

  7. katie88 says:

    * Background checks for anyone who works with children and youth.
    * An independent ombudsman department in the Church where victims can call. The agency would need the power to remove abusers from their positions and tag their records.
    * Better training and oversight of bishops by their stake presidents.
    * Stop the gas-lighting of victims of ecclesiastical abuse by Church leaders.
    * Require ecclesiastical leaders to report abuse to police, not to first call Kirton and McConkie who regularly dismiss reports and whose primary function is to protect the Church, not the victims.
    * Create age-appropriate lessons for children, youth, and adults to identify grooming behaviors by sexual predators and to teach how to heal from sexual abuse.
    * Require bishops to refer abuse survivors to trained professionals skilled in abuse and trauma.
    * Stop shaming abuse survivors in talks and lessons.
    * Remind teachers that 1/4 females and 1/10 males are survivors of sexual abuse. Never shame a survivor in conversations, ministering, talks, or lessons.
    * Train members to recognize that perpetrators love silence, manipulation, and trust. Stop teaching that all callings are inspired. That creates a rape culture where perpetrators have power to abuse.

    • Marilyn T. Hadd says:

      Thank you for thinking through this and articulating it so well. I hope someone who can change things sees it!!!

  8. Wendy says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more, LaryB and Katie88!

  9. Chiaroscuro says:

    Your great uncle is a hero that set a good example of boundary setting to protect the vulnerable. Sometimes family ties have to be cut like this, when members are protecting an abuser the whole family situation becomes toxic

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