#hearLDSwomen: I Asked to Be Released and My Branch President Verbally Abused Me for Two Hours
When I was 21 I wanted to serve a mission. I had a timeline for when I was hoping to get a mission call because my parents lived in Russia at the time but were taking a temple trip to Spain several months after I started the process of putting my papers in. I had some medical issues so I knew it would take longer to get all the needed paperwork and that it might take longer to get my actual call. I met with my stake president for the first time coming straight from class and was not wearing a dress or skirt. He hinted that the next time we met we could do so later so I wasn’t rushed to get there. I told him that it was fine and he then told me that I should dress in Sunday clothes to meet with him. So the next time I met with him, I wore a knee length jean skirt. After that meeting, my bishop asked to talk to me and told me that my stake president had spoken to him and that I should dress like a sister missionary when I met with him. So I wore an ankle length skirt and sweater the next time I met with my stake president, and he even commented on how I was dressed saying that I looked nice and like a sister missionary. Fast forward to the last time I needed to meet with him after getting all the needed paperwork, and I get a call from the executive secretary saying that the stake president needs to postpone our meeting. The next week the same thing happened, and then again the third week. I didn’t meet with him to do the final interview to submit my papers until after I had gone to Spain to meet my parents for the temple trip and didn’t know if they would be able to be there when I went through the temple. So a week after my final interview, we had ward conference and my stake president was there so I went and asked him directly if he had submitted my mission papers. He said he had. Six weeks later I was moving home to prepare to go on a mission and I still hadn’t received my call. My stake president had made me feel like I was bothering him whenever I contacted him about anything related to my mission, so I called my dad to ask what I should do because he had been a bishop, stake president, and area authority 70, so I trusted his judgement. He told me to call the missionary department, not ask about the status of my call, but just say I was moving and wanted to give them my new address. So I called and they said that they had no record of me and hadn’t received my papers. I again called my dad to ask what I should do and he suggested I go into the stake offices and ask the executive secretary if I could ask the stake president a question really quick because the stake president was likely booked out several weeks. So I went in and asked the executive secretary if I could talk to the stake president for a minute because my mission papers had been lost. Suddenly my stake president was behind me and said “your mission papers aren’t lost, I know where they are, why did you call the missionary department.” I explained the situation and my dad’s suggestion, and he said “you should never call the missionary department, you should always go through me, you need to have more patience and faith.” I asked if he had submitted the papers (which he had told me 6 weeks earlier that he had), and he avoided answering the question and said “I know exactly where they are” and reiterated that I needed to have more patience and faith. A week later, my doctor got a call from the missionary department for some fill in information. I don’t know what else to conclude except that my stake president lied to my face. He had complete control over my life for several months due to his priesthood calling and everything was on his time. I worked for the BYU bookstore during this time and quit because I was planning on being on a mission in the fall and couldn’t work there if I wasn’t a student. I ended up not going on a mission due to medical reasons, but I had already been replaced at my job. It was a nightmare and affected my trust for my priesthood leaders for a very long time.
I got pregnant outside of marriage when I was 18. I still wanted to attend church, though, and was willing to jump through all the hoops in order to be able to attend because I believed then that only the LDS church could bring me close to God.
So I started meeting with my branch president.
He told me that in order to complete the repentance process and be welcome at church, I would need to surrender my baby for adoption. I would not be allowed to progress in the priesthood-administered repentance process until I had gone to see LDS Family Services and he had proof I’d visited them about adoption.
I wept, but I promised to pray about it and visit the local LDS Family Services office.
I prayed for weeks. I never felt good about giving up my son for adoption. I went to LDS Family Services, as ordered, hoping that they would offer me some additional insight or support.
They told me that my branch president had called ahead and notified them of my situation, and—on this first visit to them—began presenting me with the preliminary paperwork for surrendering my son to the church.
There were zero alternatives; they were merely the enforcement for my branch president.
I returned to my branch president. I wept and explained that I really wanted to please him, and I wanted forgiveness very much, but I just didn’t feel right about signing away my baby. I’d prayed and studied, and I felt that I was supposed to keep my baby and await further word from God.
He got angry with me and told me that I needed to go pray again and that until my answer matched his answer for me, I wasn’t really hearing the spirit.
Then he disfellowshipped me.
– Rebecca, Washington State, 1999
I was called as Relief Society 1st counselor a week after I had just moved into a branch. The RS president had health conditions and could not drive and so I was needed to take on extra responsibilities. I served with my whole heart during this difficult time. I had 6 kids and my husband was in grad school, and there arose many confrontations. I tried to start a facebook page to bring sisters together and I got in trouble for that because it was not allowed, and there were multiple communication problems and decisions made behind my back. After a while, my husband told me that he would support me if I asked to be released because he noticed how it was not emotionally healthy for me. A meeting was arranged, and during that meeting the branch president verbally abused me. He told me how I hadn’t learned the things I needed to, how angry he was with me to asked to be released…I think he was trying to get me to change my mind. He proceeded to ask me what I thought of something he had said and then he’d said he liked to play with people’s minds. He wouldn’t let me go and he kept me in his office for 2 hours! and after he broke me down I started to cry uncontrollably then he said I could go. He never apologized to me but he did to my husband. Three days later I was still crying which caused me to break out in shingles.
Pro Tip: Though they may sound extreme, situations like this happen more often than you would think. There is almost never recourse for women who find themselves abused by an ecclesiastical leader. When women tell you experiences like this that have happened to them, listen. Believe them.
“If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:23)