Protecting the Vulnerable

Thank you for your feedback. I have finalized the report and sent it to my stake president. I am pleased to report that he has agreed to send it on to General Authorities. The original text of the post is below for historical purposes, but the final version, incorporating  feedback I received from Exponent readers and others, is available at

The Woman with an Issue of Blood by James Tissot

The Woman with an Issue of Blood by James Tissot

Christ taught that we have a special responsibility to the most vulnerable among us. (Matthew 25:31-46) He reprimanded religious leaders who prioritized their own needs over the needs of vulnerable women in their stewardship. (Matthew 23:14) Church policies that prioritize the convenience of male priesthood leaders with power over the needs, concerns and safety of those in their stewardship fail to meet this standard.

Better protect the powerless by not granting leaders authority to punish people in their stewardship informally without oversight or appeal options for the accused, by not permitting leaders to retain membership records so that they can punish former members of their congregations remotely and by providing a mechanism to report improprieties, abuses and unrighteous dominion, such as a hotline or ombudsman service.

Informed consent procedures could be adopted to protect vulnerable persons during priesthood interviews. The basic elements of the informed consent process include full disclosure of the nature of the interview, adequate comprehension on the part of the potential participant, and the participant’s voluntary choice to participate. [1] Begin interviews with a brief statement describing the interviewee’s rights, such as the right to refuse to answer questions or to end the interview early. Disclose any way that information may be shared or used prior to asking questions. Without disclosure, many members are unaware that local leaders may share information gleaned from private interviews with others, such as the priesthood leaders of co-transgressors in other wards and branches, or that counsel from a local leader is a form of church discipline. A minor should never be interviewed without the consent of his/her guardian and the guardian should be permitted to attend the interview with the minor if desired by the guardian and/or the minor.  Adults should also have the option of bringing a witness to the proceedings. Confession should be voluntary, not compelled on the basis of rumors, tattling or hunches.

Rules requiring additional male chaperones, above and beyond the requirement that missionaries travel in pairs, prioritize the needs of the missionaries over the needs of the women they serve. The difficulty of arranging for male chaperones may inhibit missionary efforts toward women and many women would be more comfortable having another female present instead of a man or having fewer visitors altogether.


[1]  Cornell University Office of Research Integrity and Assurance, Required Components of Informed Consent, 2007.

This post is a section of my draft policy analysis, a Values-based Approach to Woman-friendly Policy in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have completed as much policy research as I can alone and now I am asking for feedback from the Mormon community before I finalize and submit the report. All draft sections will become available at the following links when they are posted:


Charlotte du Val d'Ognes by Marie Denise Villers, Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Introduction


800px-Andrea_Solario_002 Womanhood
The Gleaners by Jean-Francois Millet Opportunity
Jesus and the Canaanite Woman by Mattia Preti Communication
The Sermon on the Mount by Carl Bloch The Golden Rule
The Woman with an Issue of Blood by James Tissot Protecting the Vulnerable
Esther Denouncing Haman by Ernest Normand Transparency
Jesus Tempted by Carl Heinrich Bloch Agency

Policy Suggestions

Family Portrait by Lavinia Fontana Introduction

Missionary Work

Youth Programs

Women’s Programs

Church Participation

Priesthood Interviews

Callings & Employment

Leadership & Policymaking

Temple Worship

Gynecologic Health

Church Discipline

Access all posts here.

April Young-Bennett

April Young Bennett is the author of the Ask a Suffragist book series and host of the Religious Feminism Podcast. Learn more about April at

You may also like...

1 Response

  1. Ziff says:

    Great points, April. I don’t recall where I heard this suggested first, but it seems like some of the suggestions you raise could be accomplished if we split the pastoral and disciplinary functions of local church leaders. As long as leaders wear both hats, and can switch roles without notice, it really hampers the possibility for good pastoral work with Church members in some circumstances.