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New LDS Church Abuse Guidelines Address Needs, But Might Not Be Enough

Lee Hale

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released revised guidelines for Bishops and other local leaders regarding abuse. It follows mounting criticism of how church leaders address and respond to sexual assault, but these changes may not go far enough.

One Mormon therapist, Natasha Helfer Parker, said a big red flag for her is how these guidelines instruct Mormon leaders to counsel the abuse perpetrators. Leaders are instructed to help those committing the abuse to stop and repent of what they’ve done. Parker said they simply don’t have the training for that.


"I’ve been working as a therapist for 23 years, I’ve been a certified sex therapist for 7 years and I would not feel qualified to treat a sex offender, Parker told RadioWest on Tuesday.

Parker said the idea that someone can simply repent of this behavior is an uninformed approach.

Another part of the system that has raised questions is the LDS Church’s abuse helpline. It’s not for the abuse survivor, it’s for their church leader. Lindsay Hansen Park, the director of the Mormon magazine Sunstone, said he sees a flaw in this system.

“Often the problem of reporting to your bishop, and then the bishop going to a hotline, is there are cases where the bishops are the perpetrators," said Park.

Park said this provides another barrier for abuse survivors and can keep them from getting the help they desperately need.

Listen to RadioWest's episode on abuse and the LDS Church.

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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