#hearLDSwomen: My Bishop Counseled Me to Stay with My Abuser

When I went to my last bishop about my abusive marriage and told him I was planning to leave and get a divorce, he seemed very supportive. He even offered to be present when I was ready to notify my husband of my plans.

When I was finally ready, my bishop backed out. He said I needed to be forgiving and give my husband another chance. I told him that advising someone to stay in an abusive relationship can be very dangerous, even life threatening. He stood his ground. So did I. I let other female friends know of my plans, and they knew if they didn’t hear from me by a certain time that evening they were to come to the house looking for me and be prepared to call the police. Fortunately, it went smoothly.

But, my bishop tried several more times to talk me into attempting to reconcile. Even after I had explained to him all the times during 20 years prior to leaving I had attempted to reconcile, attempted to get my husband to go to couples’ counseling, etc. After 20 years of me trying and my husband not trying, it was time to go.
– Anonymous


I was told when my then-husband, who I’d married in the temple, tried to run me over with our car that I “overreacted” and should try not to be so “difficult.” That was the church counselor my bishop had sent us to. My bishop apologized when I filed for divorce. I never once blamed the church for that. I just no longer trust church leaders with what’s best for me or my family. I still attend and hold callings. I love the scriptures and my relationship with Christ. I take church with a grain of salt…
– Bethanie


I left a man who was beginning to punch children and who was a hoarder.

He claimed I was a bad housekeeper. (Have you tried cleaning up or throwing away after a hoarder? It’s not possible.)

My former bishop, who we’d discussed things with for years as my husband refused to see any other (any qualified) therapist, wrote him an affidavit saying he’d never seen abuse. Though Bishop had often directly counseled us to divorce.

Though he’d witnessed my being berated in his office. Though he knew about the rest.

The executive secretary wrote another affidavit.

Nobody could figure out why I’d leave such a nice guy. Those two affidavits cost me $45K in divorce legal bills.

He moved his increasing hoard out two years later.

We finished yesterday. In the meantime, I wasn’t allowed to get my stuff, a one page personal item list.

Getting away was a traumatic nightmare, and yet still better.
– Anonymous


Pro Tip: Do not ever counsel someone to stay in an abusive relationship, and do not use your position to make it harder in any way for the abused spouse to leave.

Click here to read all of the stories in our #hearLDSwomen series. Has anything like this happened to you? Please share in the comments or submit your experience(s) to participate in the series.

“If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:23)

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6 Responses

  1. Evangelina Voz says:

    Thank you for sharing your life stories. I am so sorry to hear of your horrific sufferings and that those who should have helped and comforted you, betrayed and abused you (both husbands and priesthood leaders).

    I also have suffered much extreme abuse in the home and much ecclesiastical and spiritual abuse when seeking help from the abuse and it’s horrific consequences.

    It is good we have a place to share our experiences. We have been taught, raised, and conditioned to outsource our spiritual authority to “inspired leaders”. I have experienced an inspired leader once or twice, but most of them had no clue, and enough arrogance that they were “God’s mouthpiece” that they assumed everything that came into their head must be inspired. The damage they caused is indescribable. They would utterly dismiss my revelation about my life, and try to counsel me in place of doctors, police and psychologists. If the Lord was going to give priesthood leaders all knowledge through the spirit, instead of through schooling and training, the church wouldn’t hire all the professionals they do for real estate, accounting, contractors, lawyers, etc. Why they can’t see that this is true when ward members need trained professionals to help the abused, and to prosecute the abusers is beyond me. Bishops are NOT psychologists, divorce lawyers, criminologists, etc and need to stop practicing all these kinds of things without a license. We pay fast offerings which should be used to help the abused get out of an abusive situation with the financial empowerment that is so vital. Abusers need to be reported to the police, not let off scott free in the name of “forgiveness”, giving them the green light to keep abusing.

    So much suffering caused to protect male pride. I wish with every ounce of my being that our leaders would practice what the Lord requires, described so perfectly in doctrine and covenants 121.

    Truly “many are called, but few are chosen”. Meaning, I personally believe, that many are in the calling, but so few behave as the chosen sons of the Lord. I mean how many priesthood leaders actually don’t ever “gratify their pride, vain ambition, or excessive control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness.”!???

    How many actually practice “long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned..kindness, pure knowledge…without hypocrisy or guile”???

    I love Jesus and His gospel so very very much. But it is a rare priesthood leader indeed that practices The Lord’s leadership requirements, and then “amen to the priesthood or authority that man.” ” the heavens withdraw themselves and the Spirit of the Lord is grieved “.

    No wonder inspired counsel, requiring the heavens and Spirit of the Lord is so very, very rare.

    It leaves me wondering how much priesthood and authority is actually being used at any given time.

    Is it any wonder the church has been me so messed up?

  2. Evangelina Voz says:

    *husbands, priesthood leaders and church councelor

  3. Tim says:

    It can be very difficult for an outsider to judge abuse (sexual, physical, emotional, verbal). There are always at least two sides to any story or accusation. One challenge within the church is not only that bishops are not properly trained, but also that we have not adequately defined the role of bishop. They are clearly not able to rely on inspiration in these cases. As such, they should not be tasked with, or sought after to take sides. In my opinion, a bishop should offer emotional or spiritual support to all parties, without taking sides or passing judgment. If his actions hurt anybody then he has failed. Quite often a bishop’s counsel is not worth much and we as individuals should be trusted to make our own decisions, even in those cases where we might be wrong.

  4. Anon says:

    I had a bishop who, upon finding out that my husband was involved in activities that would almost certainly lead me to divorce him if I found at, actively colluded with my husband to hide the behavior and also worked to prevent me from being in a position where I could more easily leave the marriage. This included interfering with my efforts to get a job (which in hindsight may have been illegal). The bishop also called my husband into a high-level priesthood calling, in an apparent attempt to rehabilitate him. My ex was charismatic and had a longstanding friendship with the bishop, who was about our age. I’m convinced that the bishop really believed my husband and I were a good couple and that keeping us together was the right thing to do. However, his actions had some really terrible long-term consequences for my life.

    Anyway, I recognize that bishops are often put in difficult situations. But I think the church has got to stop telling bishops to rely on “inspiration” (usually their own flawed intuitions) to resolve family conflicts and stop insisting that keeping marriages intact is usually the right thing to do.

    • The church needs to stop telling bishops and other leaders to stop relying on “inspiration,” and we as women need to stop putting ourselves in situations where that alleged inspiration can hurt us. Knowing that the system is flawed, we have a responsibility to ourselves, our sisters, and our daughters to teach and practice self-care and self-protection and use our god-given brains to keep ourselves safe, even (maybe especially) if it means distancing ourselves from those who would presume to have inspirational authority over us. I am certain our Heavenly Mother would encourage us to do no less.

  5. M says:

    As to the earlier post about a bishop not taking sides. When children in a marriage, as well as the spouse, have been abused and have shared that abuse, not taking sides means you either 1. Tacitly approve of the abusers behavior or 2. Don’t believe those who have been abused. In addition, all members of authority are male, and I think they feel threatened by a woman who stands up for her children. If she can do this, then what is to stop my wife from doing it. In the end, the problem is you hvappave people in the position to judge others who aren’t trained to do so.

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