Last Sunday I could not raise my hand to sustain any callings. I have two reasons that I could not raise my hand. One reason is the stories on your Facebook, website, blog and listening to your journey on Mormon Stories. The second reason is what I have gone through in the last couple of years.
It all started October of 2016. When I confronted my mother about my father grooming my daughter. We went to counseling with them multiple times. My parents insisted that my father would never cross the line. My parents told me that my father was in good standing with the church, a faithful follower, and that he worked in the temple as an ordinance worker. That he couldn’t be doing these great things if he was pedophile. I didn’t know what to think at the time.
What I have learned is that the leaders in the church can’t guarantee that they don’t have pedophiles serving in the church. In April of 2017, my husband heard from word of mouth that a pedophile was attending our ward. He was seen talking to children alone in the hallway at Church and he had no restrictions placed on him. My husband and I talked to the Bishop about him and he also verified that this man had no restrictions put upon him, he could wander the halls with no escort. He was convicted and had a felony and was on the Sex Offender list. Our Bishop came out with a letter telling the ward members that our church building was open to the public and that our children should always go to the bathroom in pairs.
I felt like they were making our children fearful while this man walked the halls. They told us that our children were not safe in the church building. I have always warned my children about strangers and no one has a right to touch you. I have always continued to tell them this at Church and public places even before we found out about this man. But now there was a known threat and the Bishop wouldn’t warn the members. Unfortunately, anyone who went to that ward would have to find out from other members who he was. What if he abused a child at church and I hadn’t warned everyone. I thought about sending out an email, but my husband cautioned against it, so I didn’t send one out. By law in the state I live in you can warn a group of people about a pedophile, but you have to be careful how you do it. I no longer felt the Church was safe for my children. In the past I had looked at an independent sex offender website for our ward boundaries, but this man when we heard about him we were told he didn’t live in our ward boundaries. We were told that he was coming to our ward, because his child victim was in the ward he was suppose to attend.
We took another look at the sex offender list I was shocked to find another man in our Stake that we had known for over ten years. We did not know about him, because he had been convicted of a felony about four weeks prior to us moving out of that ward. When we found his name on the list he was serving as the Stake Sunday School President. He had been in the Stake Sunday School Presidency for about five years at this point.
I called the probation department and he was no longer on probation. She did reassure me that they would have known if he was attending church and was around children. That he had to report that information while on probation. We were shocked.
I alerted a friend of ours in the Stake about both men, she is a psychologist. She went and spoke with the Stake President about the two offenders I mentioned and another known offender. The Stake President did know about the first man I talk about, but did not know about the second one. The Stake President called the second man’s current and past Bishops and he had never disclosed his felony or that he was on the sex offender list. The Stake President told our friend that they would not release him until the next Stake Conference, which was about a month away. That they were also not releasing him from his calling, since she had told him that he was a sex offender. He was not released until Stake Conference. We were all shocked.
Then that same August we found out that an extended family member had been a pedophile for most of his life. He was arrested. He was just sentenced to decades in prison recently. He had victimized his own children and at least one child in the ward. At the time of his arrest he was serving as a High Councilor and in the past had served in the Bishopric. We know that he lied for years to everyone. Bishops and Stake Presidents can’t catch everyone, but where is the discernment or the Holy Ghost prompting the leaders. You just never know who is in these leadership positions. I know that other organizations run background checks. Why can’t the church run background checks? It could be costly, but isn’t it worth it. One victim is too many. It is worth the cost. It might keep some these pedophiles away from our children. I know that the man in my extended family was not caught yet and a background check would have not had his name on it. But isn’t it worth if it protects one child.
In the past year I have talked with my old Bishop and my current Bishop. What they say to me about pedophiles in the church is that I am not to judge someone else in whether they have repented or not. That I should look at them at face value no matter what they have done. I should not know who the pedophiles are around me. That only God, the Bishop, or the Stake President should judge if they have been through the repentance process. If they have repented of their sins and then they are considered clean of those sins. Do you give those pedophiles the chance or the right to possibly re-offend? What if they keep going through the cycle over and over again? How many chances do you give them? Do we let them possibly keep offending and repenting? The bishop talked about protecting the abuser and the victim. But can they protect both of them? I feel if you protect the abuser then you sacrifice the victim or possible victims.
I also have a past. My older brother molested me. He molested most of my four other siblings. My parents found out about what was going on. My father talked to each of us individually about what had happened. He was a schoolteacher and a mandatory reporter. He determined after talking to all of us individually that what was going on was we were playing doctor. He was afraid to report it, because of the possible consequences with his job. He was afraid he would be blamed. The molesting continued.
At least a year later my sister went to the doctor with my grandmother and my sister told the doctor that she had been molested. The police and social services came out and interviewed all of us. I told the authorities most of what was going on. My brother, my sister, and I were sent to counseling through the county social services. My abuser remained in the home. He stopped the sexual abuse, but then physically and emotionally abused me. My Bishop knew about the situation going on in my home. He talked and counseled with my parents. He talked with me, but I don’t remember the questions that he asked at the time. I have blocked out many parts of my childhood and can’t remember things that have happened to me. Over the years I talked to many Bishops about my past, because I received counseling through church services. I have always been upset with my parents, my father for not doing the right thing in reporting it and also protecting me. Then when I read the stories on your website, I also feel upset at my Bishop for not protecting me. I was a child and no one in my world protected me. He knew what was going on. Why didn’t the Bishop counsel my parents to protect me? Why didn’t he try to protect me?
Thank you for working tirelessly to protect our children. My daughter will soon be twelve and I know that if she goes in an interview with the Bishop that I will talk to him beforehand. I will make sure that he doesn’t ask intrusive sexual questions. That I can also turn down the interview if I need to. I know that I can go in with her and make sure she is protected.