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LDS Church Updates Abuse Guidelines Amid Mounting Criticism

Lee Hale

Just a week after an audio recording was leaked of a former Mormon leader, Joseph Bishop, admitting to sexual misconduct, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has released revised and more detailed guidelines on how local church leaders should respond to abuse. 

The new guidelines include four noteworthy changes:

1. "Church leaders should never disregard a report of abuse or counsel a member not to report criminal activity to law enforcement personnel."

In the case of Joseph Bishop, his accuser said her reports of sexual assault were never taken seriously by church leaders. The woman said she shared her account with one top church leader, Carlos Asay, a former general authority for the church. Bishop never received formal church discipline. Read more here.

2. "Members should never be encouraged to remain in a home or situation that is abusive or unsafe."

This is particularly relevant in light of Rob Porter, a Mormon, resigning from his job as a White House secretary after allegations of  spousal abuse became public. Two of his ex-wives said they confided in their Mormon bishops and were encouraged to stay in their abusive relationships. Read more here.

3. When it comes to one-on-one interviews with church leaders: "If the person being interviewed desires, another adult may be invited to participate in the interview."

The clear distinction is made that any adult can be invited to accompany someone into an interview, not just a parent or guardian. This is particularly important in matters of child abuse when a child's parent being present in an interview might cause them not to divulge important information and receive needed help. 

Recently, the LDS Church has undergone scrutiny for allowing church leaders to interview children about their sexual experiences without another adult's supervision. Listen to a recent Radiowest episode about this topic.

4. "When adults are teaching children or youth in Church settings, at least two responsible adults should be present. The two adults could be two men, two women, or a married couple."

Previously, it was encouraged that two men should be present. That has been expanded to include two women or a married couple. 

Read the entire revised document here.

These changes come just days before the LDS Church's bi-annual General Conference. This will be the first conference with the newest president of the church, Russell Nelson, at the head. It is unclear if these changes or the recent allegations against Joseph Bishop will be addressed. 

Lee Hale began listening to KUER while he was teaching English at a Middle School in West Jordan (his one hour commute made for plenty of listening time). Inspired by what he heard he applied for the Kroc Fellowship at NPR headquarters in DC and to his surprise, he got it. Since then he has reported on topics ranging from TSA PreCheck to micro apartments in overcrowded cities to the various ways zoo animals stay cool in the summer heat. But, his primary focus has always been education and he returns to Utah to cover the same schools he was teaching in not long ago. Lee is a graduate of Brigham Young University and is also fascinated with the way religion intersects with the culture and communities of the Beehive State. He hopes to tell stories that accurately reflect the beliefs that Utahns hold dear.
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