In a few days, SLC will be cheek by jowl with party members ready for the annual “I’m part of the Mormon elite, how ’bout you?” zip up your magic Wonder Undies and join the General Conference doodah parade on Temple Square. Members will be solemnly asked to raise their hands and sustain the board of directors, um, the general authorities of LD$ Inc.
But how effective has the practice of sustaining its leadership been in stemming the flood of abuse cases in the Mormon church? Is a balance between supporting the church and providing protection and support for abuse victims possible? Let’s examine the last few decades.
If you look at the number of reported incidents of ecclesiastical abuse (see Mormon Alliance.org), coupled with the number of court cases in the US alone, to cite just a few. Using this method has been as effective as calling 911 six months after a life-threatening emergency.
“Sustaining leadership” is one of the many tools of coercion used to keep the church members in lock-step with the ga’s humanly flawed will. It is a weapon of fear used to muzzle victims and parents who, in good faith, go to their Bishop to report abuse. And it is the nail in the cognitive coffin for those, like me, that have gone to their leaders expecting help and instead are told to keep quiet and not harm the church, don’t hurt the priesthood holder/guilty party, and to acknowledge their (the victim’s) part of the blame. The victim’s silence is then guaranteed for the rest of their lives by having it become a condition of Temple recommends, church callings, and their exalted (or not) status in the next life.
Can you imagine a 9 year old standing up in church and voting to not sustain a Bishop because she had told him in her baptism interview the year before that her Daddy touched her in naughty places and she begged the Bishop to get him to stop, but the Bishop did nothing? Should the mother stand up instead, when she has been told by that same Bishop that the abuse happens because she hasn’t been ‘submitting’ to her husband as instructed by the scriptures?
Or maybe the 12 year old boy who’s been abused by his Scout leader since Webelos? Certainly not the boy’s father, who was abused by his scout leader 20 years before and the dad’s church calling (and in many cases his job) is dependent on sustaining the ward and stake leadership.
The church says that it is perfect, but the members are not. Then why does this perfect church act more like a corporation intent on the $$$ bottom line, than the disciples of christ it claims to be? The LDS church declares itself the “one true faith”; yet Mormons share the same horrific record as Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Orthodox Jews and other insular religious societies; 1 out of 4 Mormon girls, 1 out of 6 boys will be abused.
Rather than change procedures to protect its most valuable asset (children, as future members) the church seeks only to limit its liability. The CHI tells the Bishop to check with local and state laws first, and only to notify authorities in abuse cases if they are required to by law. And the church has a cadre of lawyers assigned to challenge those legal requirements. It’s about monetary liability, not moral obligation to its most vulnerable members.
Christ said suffer the children to come unto Him; shouldn’t this apply to the victims coming to their church leaders for protection, counseling and ultimately, healing? Unless the church faces up to the fallibility of its leadership and changes policy and procedures accordingly, the abuse will continue.
Until then, raising your hands serves only to stir the hot air spouted from the podium.