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If you or a loved one has been victimized by a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church), contact us today and fill out your free case evaluation.

Sexual Abuse in the Mormon Church

Testimonies and recent allegations reveal a horrifying history of sexual abuse crimes being silenced within the oppressive walls of the Mormon Church.

STORIES COMING OUT OF THE SHADOWS

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stretches across the world with over 16 million members and more than 30,000 congregations. The Church of Jesus Christ promotes caring for the poor and needy throughout the world. But, historically, the Mormon Church proves to neglect those in their church who have been sexually abused by fellow LDS members.

Over the years, numerous men, women, and youth have stepped forward, stating that they were victims of sexual abuse, and the elders in the Mormon Church they trusted with their story did nothing to contact authorities, confront the predator, or do anything beneficial for the victim. All their efforts were in preserving the reputation of the Mormon Church.

True Abuse Stories Hidden By the Mormon Church

Thousands have been victims of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!

How Did This Happen?

ABUSE OF AUTHORITY

LDS bishops are the front line clergy of the LDS church. Unlike Catholic priests and other clergy responsible for leading local congregations, bishops usually have full-time jobs and serve as bishops on a volunteer basis and receive little formal training and no pay. Although they are often the first to receive reports of child sexual abuse and other moral transgressions of their ward members, they are provided little if any training or guidance from LDS church headquarters in how to handle serious problems.

"FORGIVE" OVER REPORTING CRIMES

The bishop’s judgment is often the final word in matters of administering the ward. Armed with little more than their “inspiration” and a few paragraphs of written policy from church headquarters, bishops will often make serious decisions about how to handle allegations of child sexual abuse or other serious criminal conduct involving ward members with nominal training and support from church headquarters and NO CONSULTATION WITH SECULAR AUTHORITIES. In part because of inadequate support, supervision, and training from church headquarters, many bishops make poor decisions and mistakes that result in needless damage and trauma to innocent children.

SAVING CHURCH REPUTATION, NOT PEOPLE

In addition to the problems that arise from bishops failing to protect children and report child sexual abusers to secular authorities, the LDS church has a long well-documented history of protecting offenders at the expense of the children they have abused.

24-HOUR HELPLINE ABUSE

In the mid 1990’s the LDS church introduced a “helpline” for clergy to call in the event of child sexual abuse. Although advertised as a tool to help prevent child sexual abuse, over time it was discovered that the church’s helpline was nothing more than an alternate phone number that rang to the church’s attorneys, where bishops provided information about whether the church might have legal liability in a given situation and were told by the church's attorneys to make sure that child abusers went to legal counsel before they went to civil authorities.

99% of Mormon sexual abuse claims come from the following groups:

BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA

MORMON MISSIONARIES

WARD LEADER ABUSE

BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA

For over 100 years, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has partnered with the Boy Scouts of America. According to the Washington Post, almost 20% of all the Boy Scouts’ members belong to the Mormon Church, with boys in the Church automatically becoming part of the Boy Scouts when they are of age or being strongly encouraged to join.

Many of the LDS Church’s bishops and ward leaders lead Scout troops or actively volunteered in Scouting programs. Ward bishops even have the task of choosing and supervising Scout leaders in the LDS church. Numerous Scouting troops are sponsored by the LDS Church, as well.

However, claims assert that child sex abuse committed by both Mormon and non-Mormon Scoutmasters and/or volunteers was masked or not reported to the authorities. Allegedly, the Scouts and LDS Church focused on saving the face and reputation of both the BSA and the Mormon Church instead of protecting innocent youth from predators.
First-hand accounts of Mormon children being abused in the Boy Scouts:
A 14-year-old Latter-day Saints boy was molested by Scout volunteer Dennis Empey during a Scouting camping trip in 1981. While the BSA put Empey on its Ineligible Volunteer Files in 1988 for molesting scouts, records in Empey’s files indicated that he was never reported to the police. An LDS boy who was abused by Empey told his father in 1987 that he was abused by Empey in 1981 in an LDS chapel, but no one from the Church or BSA reported the abuse to the police.
As a young boy, a former scout claimed that he was sodomized and endured physical, emotional, and sexual abuse at the hands of his scout leader, James Schmidt, in 1982. The scout says the BSA and LDS Church were both notified as early as 1979 that Schmidt was abusing Scouts and was a pedophile but neither institution reported the abuse to the police.
Because the Mormon Church and bishops hold such an involved role within the Boy Scouts of America, LDS members who survived sexual abuse in Scouting assert the Mormon Church is responsible for knowingly placing minors in danger of molesters and not reporting child sexual abuse to local authorities.

MORMON MISSIONARIES

Mormon missionaries are members of the LDS church from all over the world who leave their homes for a period of 18 months to 2 years to share their beliefs and serve in other states and/or countries. These “Elders” and “Sisters” are not paid by the Church to be missionaries, but they act as representatives of the Church on their mission. LDS missionaries typically travel in pairs, acting as each other’s “companions” throughout the duration of their mission.

They go through communities volunteering and teaching about the Book of Mormon to locals, and frequently get invited into peoples’ homes to chat more intimately. People can even go online and request a missionary to visit them if they are curious about the Mormon Church. However, little do they know they could be welcoming a sexual predator into their homes and lives.
Real Stories from Survivors of LDS Missionary Abuse:
In a case leaked by the MormonLeaks whistleblower site, in 2012 a missionary was accused of child sex abuse in another country, but the missionary was only sent back home. The Church decided not to take action, and the local authorities were not informed.
In 1985 a 13-year-old girl was sexually abused repeatedly by an LDS missionary assigned to her hometown. When a Mormon Church bishop learned of the claimed abuse, the bishop made a payment to the girl’s family for damages and for them to remain silent about the abuse.

WARD LEADER ABUSE

Some bishops have pushed the boundaries of these interviews and ask questions that quickly cross over into sexual harassment. Bishops have been found to interrogate youth about their sexual morality to the point of making minors feel attacked or violated from the sexually probing questions. Questions may include whether the youth were dressed or not during a sexual transgression, what clothes they took off, or did where someone touched them and how. Some minors have even reported bishops using minors’ confessions of sexual sins to become aroused, live out sexual fantasies through the youth, or exploit the child’s vulnerability to molest them. Because LDS children are taught to revere their bishop from a young age, some are frightened to speak up if their bishop abuses them due to fear of reprimand or sinning against someone who speaks on behalf of the Church and God.
Testimonies from Bishop Sexual Abuse Survivors from Protect LDS Children:
A young man came forward to his family and said that he had been repeatedly groomed, fondled, raped by his bishop for several years when he was about 10-12 years of age. The boy’s parents confronted the bishop, who confessed to the whole ordeal, but the Church made no moves to take action against the bishop or report the abuse to the authorities.
After being sexually abused by her older brothers and cousin since she was three, a nine-year-old girl was interviewed aggressively about the abuse by her bishop, told she needed to repent for what happened to her as a three-year-old child. She was told by her bishop that boys would always be after her because she was “too pretty”.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is My Call Confidential?

Yes. We realize it is difficult to reach out for help. Some of our clients have reached out to us before they have shared their history of abuse with close friends or family members. We realize these are difficult matters to discuss, and we are here to help.

Is It Too Late For Me?

It depends on your age when you finally confront your memories of abuse. Each situation must be evaluated carefully before any legal advice can be given. No one will be denied a confidential evaluation of your potential claim.

Do I Qualify To File Suit?

Each potential case is different with different facts. Your situation must be evaluated carefully before any legal advice can be given. Call our qualified representatives right now and they can explain the process and help you seek the justice you deserve.

Reported Incidents of Sexual Abuse in the Mormon Church

2008

Helen and Zachary W.'s 4-year-old son, Zachary cried to his mother that he didn’t want 16-year-old Michael Jensen to babysit him anymore because Michael made him “suck his privates.” Helen and her husband met up with their bishop as soon as they could and reported the details of the abuse. The bishop said he was going to look into it and talk to Michael, but when Michael said he did not sexually abuse Zachary, the bishop simply prayed for guidance and considered Michael to be telling the truth instead of calling the police. Years later the bishop testified that he did not know about the abuse and Helen never spoke to him. He claimed that since he believed Michael as telling the truth, he believed there was no abuse to report of and felt no obligation to report it to the authorities.

2018

55-year-old McKenna Denson spoke in a LDS church meeting that a former Mormon bishop raped her in the 1980's. She asserts that Joseph L. Bishop, former president of a Mormon missionary training center (MTC) raped her in 1984, and Mormon church leaders did nothing to remove Bishop from office or report the offense when she told them of the assault. Huffpost news reported that to confront Bishop on the sexual abuse, Denson posed as a reporter and secretly taped her conversation with Bishop. Bishop called himself an "addict," "predator," and "hypocrite," in the recording, though denies the rape. However, another women has stepped forward, claiming that Bishop sexually assaulted her in 2010. 

2019

In a secret recording Sterling Van Wagenen, founder of the Sundance Film Festival and cinematographer for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, confessed of sexually molesting a 13-year-old boy in 1993. The Salt Lake Tribune reports the victim was assaulted by Van Wagenen while at a sleepover with Van Wagenen's son. Van Wagenen stated he reached under the boy's pants. While Van Wagenen admitted his crime to leaders in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints, the leaders never reported the crime to the police, simply "disfellowshipping" Van Wagenen. Van Wagenen was charged with another count of sexual abuse for sexually abusing a girl between the ages of 7 and 9 years old, touching her inappropriately on two occasions. He pleaded guilty to these charges in May 2019. 

Featured Attorney

TIM KOSNOFF

Tim is renowned by the media in the United States and Canada for his decades-long fight to expose sexual predators and the institutions that employ and hide them.
For 40 years Tim Kosnoff practiced law as a prosecutor, defense attorney, and  lawyer representing victims of child sex abuse. He possesses extensive experience handling thousands of complex child sexual abuse cases against religious and secular organizations including the Boy Scouts of America, the Mormon Church, the Catholic Church, and a wide spectrum of other organizations. 
Photo Credit: Law360

Am I Barred From Bringing My Lawsuit Because It Happened So Long Ago?

"Not necessarily. Many laws have changed to help victims who were abused, even many decades ago. We are here to fight for your rights."
Many state legislatures are sick of the Mormon Church and other institutional cover-ups that allowed sexual predators to abuse millions of children over the past century. You do not have to suffer in silence anymore. We are here to help victims of sexual abuse at the hands of the Mormon Church---please contact us today to learn more.
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