My story has to do with an abusive ex-husband, along with the dismissal by several Bishops when told about the abuse or the polygamy desires of my husband.
My Ex has a domestic violence charge against him for pulling a loaded gun on me in front of our 5 children and saying, "I'm going to kill you and say it was self defense." It was also in front of several of my neighbors, so 6 sworn witnesses on the police report. He is out of jail on bond and is to have no contact with me except through a safe communication site about the children.
I was physically, mentally, and sexually abused for 5 years. Our 3 oldest children got baptized into my church with his permission 2 weeks ago. He attends the same church but an hour away. Today they were getting confirmed during Sacrament and I looked back and saw he was sitting in the back of the chapel. He is allowed to attend important events for the children (but zero contact with me) but I had no forewarning he was coming. I had to breath to not have a panic attack as I didn't have time to make a plan like I usually do when he will be at an event. I was ok UNTIL he got up to participate in the blessing!! After being cheated on with at least 3 people that I know about, raped and abused for 5 years due to an addiction to prescription drugs I knew he was not worthy to participate in the blessing.
I was ok with him watching from the back, but to get up and try to participate sent me into a spiral. Someone who knew about the abuse, stopped him and told him to take a seat in the front of the chapel to watch. Then the First Counselor (our Bishop was out of town) said, "He's the father he's allowed to come up." Without asking me at all if it was ok or if I was ok. I stood up at that point (I was in the front row) and said, "if he is participating this will not go on today."
The First Counselor then went to the pulpit and said while looking at me, "I'm so sorry that we are not able to preform the confirmations for these children and this was totally unacceptable." I was on edge, and felt like a deer caught in headlights, I responded, "I did nothing wrong, he was not worthy to be here, he shouldn't even be here" I was then told to leave and as I did I said, "That's fine I don't want to belong to a church that thinks it's ok for rapists and child molesters to participate in ordinances."
Please don't give me the forgiveness speech, because the same leaders just excommunicated and kicked out a woman in a few months ago that he was living with while we were still married (i.e. adultery). I was just so upset and in the car I started crying and so did my children. I hate that he still affects me so emotionally and I hate that my children saw that display of dismissal from a Leader of the Church for a victim of serious abuse.
I was adopted as a baby through the Mormon church. Two years after placing me for adoption my birth mother decided to serve a mission. When she was at the MTC (mission training center) she was raped by Joseph Bishop, the MTC President. Joseph Bishop had had previously sexually assaulted women and the church knew this fact through his confessions.
Not only did the church not discipline him, they continued to put him in high positions where he worked with young vulnerable women. My birth mother has tried to get justice for over 30 years and after the church refused to take action and accountability she took matters into her own hands. She posed as a reporter and sat down with her attacker and was able to obtain a recorded confession where he apologized and explained he was a sex addict who should have never held those positions in the church.
The church heard the tape and as an attempt to keep my birth mother quiet they compiled a dossier filled with any dirt they could gather. Not only did this include her private church records, they also dug into my confidential, closed adoption record and exposed my first and last name in the dossier. The church had this information because I was adopted through them.
My name was then given to Joseph Bishop’s son Greg Bishop and leaked to the media which I believe was not only an intimidation tactic to scare my birth mother but also a warning to other victims to demonstrate what would happen if they decide to come forward as well. Not only was this a complete breach of privacy, they objectified me and used me as one of the skeletons in my birth mothers closet with complete disregard for my feelings and privacy. They didn’t even know if I was aware who my birth mother was or the circumstances of my birth. They didn’t care.
I grew up in the church and never expected this. They have shown a dark and ruthless side that needs to be exposed. I will not be used and I will not allow them to get away with what they did. They have been digging this hole for the past 33 years and only seem to be making it worse. This is shameful. I can’t put into words how livid I am, how much anxiety this has caused and how hurtful the church has been by crushing others to keep up their facade. The church needs to take accountability now.
When I went public in a gay father's group about being sexually assaulted by a man in the group (Mormon and Ex Mormon men), my post was immediately deleted.
I never named the perpetrator. The administrator of the group then told me that this man had dozens of victims "up and down the Wasatch Front."
Why was he allowed in the group?
Because he was married to a MAN!
No vetting process at all.
When I was sent home after being raped on my mission nearly 20 years ago by my Chilean mission companion...the church DID NOTHING! No offer to pay for counseling or anything.
I was suddenly the perpetrator. It is so, so wrong!
But I still see the shaming effects of the culture. For example, my cousin, who has a lesbian daughter, who is married and has a baby, unfriended me, and her own daughter! This was because I spoke publicly about my sexual assault and rape on my mission.
If someone is a devout member, they should not be afraid to speak about these issues that many have faced. There is a sense that speaking out makes the church look bad and they want to save their image. The image means nothing if there is rot underneath.
I speak to my own experience.
My husband’s occupation relocates our family about every five years, we had only been in this new area for a few weeks when I was extended a calling to be the Young Women's President. I had just left this same exact position in another state and honestly was a little overwhelmed at the idea. One reason I was feeling overwhelmed is that my focus really needed to be on my marriage. After almost two decades of marriage, my intuition was telling me something was wrong. I reluctantly accepted the calling, though I expressed my concern with the Bishop and he assured me I would be fine.
As the months progressed, my health and marriage began to deteriorate. I went into my bishop and asked to be released; I did not give details of my home life because I was not ready and not sure what the problem even was. We just were not getting along. The bishop kindly gave me advice telling me to task out assignments, so I would not feel so “overwhelmed”. I tried to communicate that I was not overwhelmed; I just need to focus my energy on my family. He was adamant that I was the one for the calling. I didn’t push back and I just accepted his counsel and tried to be super-wife & mom. This landed me in the E.R., where I underwent emergency surgery.
After the surgery, my husband suggested we move about 10 minutes away we would still be in the same stake just a different ward! There were a lot of benefits to the move, so I agreed. The first thing I did was walk into our new bishop’s office. I discussed with him my concerns in my marriage, that I was not sure what was wrong. I discussed with him my spiritual needs, that I did not want a leadership position at this time, as my family needed to be first right now. I was being prompted by the spirit to just attend my classes. He listened, he thanked me and we did not speak again for a few weeks.
A few weeks later he called me into his office to extend me a calling into the Primary Presidency, I was a little dumbfounded as I just had a conversation with him about what was going on in my life. I declined, but was really pushed to accept the calling. I felt like I was talking to a salesman, he literally would not allow me to not take the calling. There was no way for me to set a healthy boundary and say no. So here was again in leadership role while my marriage needed my focus.
As Christmas rolls around, things in my home escalate rapidly! My husband of almost two decades, a “High Priest” in the church, pushed me down our hallway until I fell on the floor. This was devastating to me. It was at this point, I knew I had to set some boundaries.
The first thing I did was make my husband leave the home, I needed space and time.
The second thing I did was visit with my bishop’s in all my vulnerability, giving him accounts of what happened in my home. He told me how amazing his wife was and gave me suggestions of what I could do to possibly make things better. He testified to me that if I paid a full tithe, had family prayer, and read my scriptures I would be blessed.
A few hours after our meeting, the Bishop met with my husband separately. It was after this meeting the bishop CALLED me on the phone and accused me of being ABUSIVE.
I could barely breath, my heart sank! What was happening? I firmly disagreed with his statement and said nothing further. He was not a safe person for me.
My husband and I continued to live separate for a few weeks, when his therapist reached out to me to come in for a session. During this session, my husband admitted to me, he had an addiction to pornography, and that he had lied about me to the bishop to cover it up. He spent the next few months trying to make things right, which is a sign of true repentance. However I would NEVER step my foot back in that church again. It was traumatizing and still is for me.
In all of this I felt like my local leaders were trying to protect my husband, why?
I have a voice, why was it not valued.
And why, even after my husband admits his wrongs, can the Bishop not acknowledge he was wrong, and validate me and my pain?
I was in an older singles ward and began coming out of the closet. I was referred to LDS Social Services for counseling and I had a good relationship with my bishop. As a member of an older singles ward, clearly I was not the only gay member and a few of us started to connect. We were active and had temple recommends, pretty much the same as everyone else except we had the added challenge of making sense of our sexual orientation. During this same time, the Stake President of a neighboring stake had a monthly fireside for gay members. I attended that meeting regularly, even though this was not my stake. I asked about doing something like that in my stake, and that request was not viewed kindly. The bishop I liked was diagnosed with cancer and was released. An interim bishop was put in and it seemed that man, while nice and probably well-intentioned, was trying to bring the singles ward more in line with what the Stake President wanted. During this same period, I realized that being gay was simply a part of who I was. Not only could I not change my sexual orientation, but I shouldn't. I wasn't ready to date or to do anything that violated my temple covenants but it was clear I had to be honest with myself. My own father had been called as bishop in his stake and he and mom had accepted me. Word spread about me and I became more and more open about it. In my area, there was a counselor in the Elder's Quorum that was gay and I had a good model for how I could coexist in a religion that was otherwise hostile to people like me. In fact, the neighboring Stake President from the "more LGBT friendly" stake encouraged me to switch to a family ward because in his opinion I was a family of one, complete and whole, and I belonged with other families, not in a ward where I let pressure to marry or to pair up.
Several months later, we had a high councilman speak. He was a liberal voice the Stake liked to point to as a hip member. He gave a fairly typical speech, probably uplifting in parts, but then went off the rails on homosexuality, boasting about his role in the successful effort to repeal a recent gay equality decision at a local city or school district (I don't recall specifically, but it was a government agency, not a private company). He thought nothing of dismissing the gay and lesbian community, quoting church leaders, and driving the point home that gays were a scourge and we needed to fight them. I'm paraphrasing and summarizing his words, He didn't use "fight" exactly, but it was something along those lines: we needed to stand up and protect our families and our children. It never occurred to him that some members of the older singles ward might actually be gay or lesbian.
I was dealing with the recent suicide of a friend and the comments from the high councilman were too much. I held it together though the meeting but lost it in the lobby afterward when a friend asked me to sign up for a temple session. She said she hadn't heard the guy say anything I heard him say, and that was another moment of harsh realization for me: he said what he said! I heard him, yet here I was speaking to a college educated woman who had heard the same stuff but filtered it out--the anti-gay stuff was invisible to her. She was in tears and went over to a mutual friend's house immediately afterward to tell him I was gay. That didn't go well because he said "I know. I'm gay, too." He then went on to tell her a number of men in the ward were.
I got home, collected my thoughts, calmed down, and penned a letter to the high councilman with a copy to the Stake President. I knew that would start a process but I could not stand by and not challenge what was said. The Stake President soon wanted to meet with me. In the meeting, he outed a fellow stake member, telling me I should be more like him. He also went back and forth, saying there was no such thing as being gay--I wasn't actually gay, just in a state of arrested development--to saying "the gays" were a very real threat to his stake and it was his duty to protect the innocent members. He also told me at least one women told him she felt she was in competition with me for the elders. Seriously, he told me that! The interview was hostile from the beginning, with the Stake President telling me he was in charge and I was subject to him. The conversation went downhill fast. He said I would be healed in the next life and I had to be celibate in this life. I pushed back and said that sounded like an encouragement for suicide, or at least it could be construed that way by someone who was struggling: hey, if everything is going to fine in the next life, then why not speed the process? The Stake President snapped back at me and said I was twisting his words. I disagreed. He had never been challenged on the basic Mormon idea that telling a gay person they were sick and could be restored in the next life could actually be a subtle message signaling what a person should do.
Then he went fishing for sexual transgressions. He asked me if I had anything to confess to him and I responded by saying I had a current recommend. He asked again, and told me to answer his question--he was getting angry at this point. I again repeated I had a current recommend and he had no reason to assume anything was amiss. He asked again, demanding an answer. This is where my memory is foggy, but I held my ground. I told him my sexual history was none of his business unless I chose to make it his business. I had a valid temple recommend and could answer all the questions accordingly. I said something along the lines that if he continued to want to ask me questions of a sexual nature, I was happy to answer honestly, but I would expect he would therefore be open to answering my questions about him and his wife, and my first question would be how recently it was that his wife performed fellatio on him. He was seething and told me that was none of my business...and yet he didn't see anything wrong asking me deeply personal questions.
I should add, that I remained calm during the interview and never raised my voice. I had been Mormon my whole life and knew how the system worked.
In order for me to be effective, I had to not react, be cool, and calm. I accomplished that. Then came the ultimatum. The SP was flustered and told me if I wanted to continue to attend church and be a faithful member, as I knew I should, I had to pretend to be straight, even if I wasn't. Those were his words: "pretend to be straight." He went on to add that if it got back to him that I had told anyone, LDS or not, that the other man in the stake was gay, he would take that as a sign of insubordination and apostasy and there would be consequences.
I happened to know the Stake President was a convert and recovering alcoholic. He was big into AA and always talked about his group in church meetings. I let his words hang in silence, and then asked him what his group members would say if they heard what he had just told me: that it was better to pretend than to be honest; that it was better to do what other people told him to do than to do what he knew was right. I said I was a seventh generation Mormon man who had discovered he was gay. I was gay and Mormon. Each aspect of my being was an integral part of who I was and I could not give up one for the other. That was my truth. The Stake President exploded at that point. My comment about honesty and AA had hit a nerve and the man was actually shouting at me. He was frustrated he had nothing on me to call a court over, and as I left, he said I was on a dangerous path to apostasy and if I continued, I would never know what happiness was.
I remained calm in the interview but I was dying inside. As soon as I drove out of the parking lot, I lost it. I sobbed uncontrollably and had to pull into a shopping center parking lot let out all the emotions. My life in the church would be different going forward, and given the multi-stake reach of our singles ward, the Stake President had jurisdiction over me anywhere I lived in the area. I transferred my records into the neighboring LGBT friendly stake. I never returned to that ward or stake.
At that time in my life, my church membership was important to me. I didn't speak to anyone for a week, when my sister called. We chatted a bit but then she said it was clear something was up. I told her what had happened, which made me break down again. She cried with me, but added the SP was full of it and I knew better than to believe him. I said I knew that but this was a big deal that put me in the crosshairs of a church court. She was great (I'm tearing up writing about this--I always do) and said she loved me and there was no way in hell I was going to go through this alone. I soon got a phone call from my dad. Keep in mind he was a sitting bishop. He said he I knew he and mom loved me, that I knew who I was, and no matter what happened, we would do this as a family.
So, it was an interesting week: I saw the crappy side of the church with this abusive Stake President, but also got to see the good side of the faith and philosophy not only with my folks but with other friends. When I recounted the incident to the Stake President in the neighboring LGBT friendly stake,
a man who would attend my wedding 13 years later, he was floored. He was at a loss for words as to why someone would conduct a priesthood interview as my Stake President had, and why those kinds of questions would have been asked. I credit that Stake President and his outreach firesides
for giving me a soft landing. I was able to make a healthy exit from the LDS community and go on to have a productive life. My husband and I have been together over twenty years. My life is the opposite of what the abusive Stake President said it would be. My story made it up to Elder Holland.
It is also not unique: lots of people have stories like mine.There are many things I dislike about the Mormon community but I would not trade the friends I made or the people who had a positive influence on my life.
I have not been brave enough to share my experience.
I was married for almost two decades to a man involved in drugs, child pornography, criminal activity and emotionally/sexually abusing my children and myself. I was often yelled at, threatened, belittled for wanting to study and then told not to. He wouldn’t work much and I supported him. I was so blind to a lot of his behaviors and I was told in priesthood blessings to "stay as he will change."
He had spasmodic periods of being righteous and living the gospel, but all the while, secretly doing pornography and more. He was very intense and scary .
I was always of the mindset of protecting him and being the good wife. The worse he became, the more I repented and blamed myself. I almost committed suicide.
He told me how fat I was, how undeserving I am, how prideful and self-righteous I was.
My children and I finally had a person close to us help us get to the police to obtain a protective order. We were to scared to tell the police about his child pornography addiction, robberies, ect. This is typical of living with abuse. Mentally we all were fearful and unwell.
The worst? Several of our church leaders were involved in our litigation on behalf of our abuser. The day of the court hearing, myself and my child were placed in safe room while he had several of the church leaders with him. Not one came to check on us. One particular church leader said my ex was not able to pay bills and a caring person. He has received much of the support of church members and we've had very little. No one has even come to check on us! We are literally shunned.
I get an occasional text of activities and in the beginning a few texts from a leader asking how we are! I couldn’t reply to a text.
After the divorce, I actually found love. It is gossip around town that I was having an affair!
All of this really broke me . To the church, it feels like abused women are of no worth. Things have to change with the church. With the Joe Bishop scandal, protect LDS kids, and me too movement, the leaders are going to have to face this and stop pushing it aside.
I have mainstream mormon friends who call us all apostate for not going through the ‘right’ channels when we start protesting these injustices. It makes me frustrated, as they are not able to judge without going through this situation themselves. Many of us have tried to go through right channels. But if you tell them that, they then say that we have done all we can and it is now in the Lords hands and we should not pursue it anymore as we are tearing down the good name of the church and our leaders!
Thanks for letting me vent and share. Reading these posts have given me hope that I am not the only one.
My sibling is on a mission and recently became unwell. When he told the mission president (who is not a medical professional), he was given something from a pharmacy. He had a reaction to this medication. He became cyanotic and extremely anxious because he felt terrible. His skin was blue and he had no idea what was going on so he contacted ME. They never took him to a hospital. They never referred him to a doctor.
Then, after 3 days of vomiting, they had him out laying cement at a member's house. I wish there was a safer why to address these concerns with the healthcare of missionaries. When they have to run these concerns through the Mission President, it can be dangerous and harmful if it is not addressed appropriately by a medical professional.
While serving his mission, my brother caught his companion with child pornography. My brother was physically threatened by the Mission President when he brought this crime to his attention. He was then told to stay quiet or get sent home early and it would be "dishonorably." They transferred the pedophile-companion to another zone.
My brother told my parents of this incident when he got home. My parents tried to take it up the chain but got gagged and were unsuccessful.
My story is a little different.
In puberty, I began to hallucinate and have psychotic symptoms. This was before mental health was taken seriously so I had zero treatment besides people unhelpfully pointing out that all my peers managed to not be psychotic. I did my best to hide things but it just got worse and worse until at 16, my parents just couldn't take it anymore. They sought help from the bishop. The bishop treated me like I was rebellious, obviously on drugs, definitely sleeping around, and possibly worshiping Satan. (Because this was when that was a thing.)
Now I know some people reading this will say, "But that's just one bishop." Yes, it was. Let me make this clear that the vast majority of my Young Women leaders went out of their way to make me feel loved (though they didn't understand the mental health thing.) My seminary teachers told me that they believed in me. I was surrounded by LDS adults who did not believe I was bad. In fact, the next bishop told me, "Nuts to him!" and signed my BYU endorsement.
But that's the problem with Mormonism. Even those supportive leaders were teaching me that the bishop had special insight, was in charge, and in essence a soothsayer - one who tells truths that others can't even perceive. So yes, even if the numbers are weighted in the positive direction, it only takes ONE man. It's set up that way.
I knew what he said was completely off the mark. But it made me wonder what I was doing to project such bad vibes. I wondered if I was so lazy and careless that I might as well be a junkie. I wondered if I thought too many lurid thoughts and I might was well be sleeping around. I knew that even though I read my scriptures, prayed, and spoke nicely, most of the time I certainly wasn't close to perfect. Maybe the bishop just saw how horrible I was really.
In the years that followed I had a string of very abusive, dysfunctional, and manipulative romantic and friend relationships. In every one I would see red flags, feel them disregard my boundaries. But I would tell myself that chances were that I was just bad and dysfunctional and they were normal. I mean, look at my track record! Every time I even started having symptoms I would engage in self-destructive behaviors. This just attracted more abusers, feeding the cycle. It took so many years for me to trust and care about myself and live life as a balanced, healthy, functional individual.
When I tell people this story, sometimes they ask me why I would blame a bishop for everything. Let me be clear - I don't. He didn't give me the bum genes (schizophrenia runs in my family.) He didn't create the atmosphere and culture where mental health was poorly understood. He didn't make the structure and culture of the church. He didn't even know it was wrong for him to spout off his untrained mouth. But his ignorance didn't make the situation any less abusive.
I also will object to anyone telling me I'm not taking responsibility. I was given no treatment before I was 18, remember? I had to ask what an "intake" was when I first went in to therapy. I had to pay for psychiatric treatment as a low wage earner in a time before health insurance covered it. I spent the hours in cognitive behavioral therapy to re-build my self-esteem. I spent even more time practicing meditation and other stress-relieving practices. I always knew that having a positive outcome rested mostly on me.
I often hear that I should have been mentally strong enough to understand that he was untrained and to discard his condemnation. Yes. And I went out and did exactly that - it just took years, money, maturity, therapy, and hard mental work. Those were things I didn't have access to at age 16. No one had prepared me to defy a bishop.
I'm not telling this story to shame or condemn him (though I'd love it if he were more sympathetic to mental health issues now.) I tell this story because it illustrates how the entire structure of the church is set up so that one cloud can overshadow the whole sun. I care about this because there are many adults who loved me in my darkest hours. They have children and grandchildren in this church. Tomorrow it might be them. If anything I say can make someone stop and think about the power we give the leadership, I will say it.
I was living in the East working as a Flight Attendant, raising my only son and really proud of myself. Some church members and leaders looked down on me for being a Flight Attendant. But it worked for me. I loved being home for several days at a time and the bishop’s wife in my ward was my babysitter for many years. I started dating a Pilot. No, he was not Mormon. I liked that actually.
One day I received a letter from my Bishop.
It read “If you don’t leave this relationship with this non-Mormon pilot and straighten out your life you will be taken by Cancer” and“God will take you home.”
I was beyond devastated. I had been through Cancer twice and didn’t need to hear that I was so bad that God would take me off the earth. I was so angry because I loved this pilot. We’d been together for three years and had a wonderful future ahead of us. But, I broke up with the pilot and then confronted the Bishop. I found out that The Bishop wrote that letter in an attempt to bring me back into the fold. I don't personally believe this was his only motive.
The Bishop lost his job position, and he had hired me to write for his family company, as I was also a songwriter singer. I quit the airline. He promised 100k a year.
This is where it gets bad.
I never got paid. Seven months and he never paid me. He had hired others in the ward and got all their money. Then spent it. I told my Stake President about this fraudulent activity.
Bishop was removed. An attorney was put in his place.
They sent him to jail and his cousin to prison. The ward was falling apart.
I went home to my mom and dad’s house with my son and looked for a gun to use on myself.
My career was over.
My boyfriend went on to another relationship and got married.
I was so lost.
I opened up the yellow pages and found the first therapist and set an appointment. I eventually got back up again and started a new career as a Flight Attendant.
That bishop and his family of ten, moved to Missouri, to usher in the Second Coming. He ruined my life. He used his position to manipulate and coerce me, and as he was my leader and I followed him.