So it isn’t a topic I reflect on too much these days because it doesn’t bring with it anything much more than sadness. It becomes even more difficult to share to a Mormon-centric audience where one is almost constantly being assessed and judged in different forms whether internal and/or more commonly external ways within the church structure.
But I think this is a helpful forum where we can all get vulnerable and share our collective voices on spiritual abuse and unrighteousness dominion. I hope someday enough voices will matter to leadership so that those still within can have a much healthier experience within Mormonism.
As a young 18 year old who converted on my own, I came into the church a shy, naive and trusting person but who was already rather fragile and struggling in my own ways, especially in Mormon terms, but sincerely felt I had found my spiritual and religious home. Once within the church I had hoped God would provide me with strength in areas I felt I needed to overcome but it didn’t quite work that way.
Soon after my baptism, literally within a couple months, my Bishop called me in and told me he felt I was to be called on a mission. I now faced the prospect of serving a mission even as it felt like I had just joined. It felt over-whelming but I had a hint of confidence from the fact that the Bishop and his spirit of discernment had deemed me worthy enough to go out and teach the gospel. So within 15 months of my baptism I left for the MTC and then it was on to Southern California for my mission.
I really thought God would strengthen me and I’d overcome my continued weaknesses by giving sincere diligent service to the Lord. Once again it didn’t quite work out that way and it was devastating to me. I saw it as more confirmation of how broken I was. So around a year into my mission I went to my Mission President in agony and confided in him. And although he tried to offer options to stay, I was convinced I was not worthy to be out there teaching people especially if I ruin the chance of an investigator feeling the spirit because of my shortcomings. I knew I had already in multiple instances tried to rely on the Lord for strength to overcome and didn’t want to continue on that same cycle.
So after confessing, in extremely exact detail, to my Mission President and going home I then learned I had to now re-confess to my Bishop and after that I was sent to my Stake President who was the third to want every detail. And after that my Stake President sent me to a church therapist for multiple visits rehashing again the same things. It became completely demoralizing and I felt no forgiveness or relief or spirit involved but rather even worse self image, shame and depression even while following their every instruction.
Having grown up outside Mormonism but within the Christian faith I was always taught that working out sin is between an individual and their God and no one else. That always felt hard enough as a kid. So for me interviews in the Mormon church from day one felt extremely uncomfortable on even rather benign inquiries. So when I finally did pour it all out to the Mission President, without any knowledge or frame of reference as a convert of how invasive and layered and specific the repentance process would be it devastated me. In this same time frame my dad passed away unexpectedly at 53 years old which was devastating on its own but it was exacerbated because I immediately felt like it was a direct consequence of my unworthiness and having dishonorably come home from my mission. The stakes were raised and I felt doomed to more tragedy if I didn’t become the perfect Mormon.
The spiritual abuse I received ultimately got so ingrained in me and created a dark cloud of sexual and personal shame that had effects on so many proceeding events in my life including the eventual demise of my marriage.
I was never able to turn that switch on once I was married that tells someone, “Ok, sex and sexuality is now permitted and no longer dirty and shameful”. I was never able to connect on that physically intimate level that is such an important component in a committed relationship. Eventually it made for a sad and unhappy marriage for both of us which ended in divorce even though we were best friends.
This cloud of shame and inability to connect with a partner has lived on past the end of my marriage. I am still unable to engage in sexually intimate connection that isn’t immediately and consistently damaging to myself or a partner due to my complicated relationship with sexual shame. I’ve since decided that at least for now I’m going to forgo pursuing relationships for the protection of myself and others. I’ll be 41 soon and that decision to not pursue any romantic relationships was made almost 7 years ago at 34 years old. I don’t see an end to that in sight. Even though I’ve done so much work over those 7 years with therapists, psychologists, DBT, mindfulness, medications and also discontinuing any religious affiliations there’s been no substantial progression in my subconscious and conscious reactions when it comes to having a healthy sexual outlook or connection.
I stopped participating in church generally by the time I was about 26 but sadly like a kicked puppy always still thought I’d return once I got my life together all the way until just a few years ago. I finally had my name removed from the church in March of this year.
I will continue to chip away at this from as many angles as I can until hopefully I find a meaningful bit of healing in this area. I remind myself of the friends I made, the many different meaningful service opportunities I was able to give and receive benefits from and even miss and still long for a decent amount of the Mormon culture, but I will always regret joining the church. I stayed too long, believed too hard, put trust in the wrong institution and leaders and almost like an abused spouse I felt like I had to go back to it after each instance of abuse long enough for it to have severely warped my perceptions on some key components of relationships.
Thanks for letting me share.
I received one of the PNG, no trespassing letters you have linked to. It bans me from church property forever. To this day, I am still very confused as to why this happened to me and disturbed by the use of legal intimidation to coerce and threaten me.
I was a sunbeam teacher for the last few years. I had children of my own who had special needs and really tried as their mother to advocate for them within the church and their youth programs. I had heard some ward members did not care for some of my opinions and took their complaints to the Stake President. They had relations with him that went back years and years and some were related to him.
The Stake President immediately called a new bishop and within a week, the new bishop had call the church hotline to instigate the process to ban me from church. No one had discussed with me what the problems were, and I've come to find out, there are several erroneous and false stories and accusations involving me from people who had issues with me one way or another.
I was teaching sunbeams one Sunday, and the next I was banned from church property for no reason. The bishop told my husband he needed to keep me in line and that he had the power to fix me if my husband brought me to him. It was all very disturbing and traumatizing.
I have come to learn that the hotline is used for other purposes to investigate members without even telling them or talking to them. They gather intel and then have the church attorneys write a PNG letter, banning the member from church if the bishop wants this to happen. The local leaders are given a lot of freedom and power that is unchecked. I had no one to turn to when this happened to me. I was lost and thought it must have been a mistake. But I have learned, this is a process they use to silence members and intimidate them into leaving, especially if the local leaders want you gone.
I have missed several funerals, baptisms, wedding receptions, and baby blessings because of this abuse. I have reached out to the church headquarters in order to explain this mistake and exonerate myself, but they cover and protect the local leaders at all costs. My life has changed dramatically because of the ecclesiastical abuse I went through. My bishop made me feel that I had no right to be who I am and there was something wrong with me. It was traumatizing for our whole family.
At BYU, I decided to take a Mission Prep course from the most popular Mission Prep teacher at BYU. He was extremely popular, and I believe he had tenure....not sure.
Anyway, While taking the course, I was dating a guy who I then got engaged to.
I don't enjoy drawing attention to myself...it makes me feel really awkward and overly self-aware, and at this point in time I didn't have the highest self esteem.
Well, when someone got engaged, pregnant, their mission call, they were encouraged to stand up at the beginning of class and express their bit of exciting news.
So, out of excitement (I guess), I decided to do it, too. I stood up at the same time another girl did, so I allowed her to go before me.
Girl: "Hi! Yes I got engaged!"
Professor: Oh congratulations! When did it happen?
Girl: "Friday night!" (Same as me)
Professor: When's the wedding?
Girl: "Six weeks!!"
::Big gasps and sounds from the class::
Professor: Well, sounds like you have your hands full til then! Wonderful!
She sits down and the professor looks at me:
Professor: Stand up! Tell us your news!
Me: "Oh, well I got engaged." ::Sits back down::
Professor: Stand up! What else? Who's the guy? (This professor doesn't know me. I felt really weird and DUMB to answer that question considering no one in the room knew me, so why would he care who the guy was?)
Me: "He's alright."
::snickering or other weird sounds from the class:: (I guess I was supposed to say I'm so madly in love with him...)
Professor: Alrighty. When's the wedding?
Me: "We are thinking the first week of July!" - This whole scenario took place the last week of November, meaning 7-8 months until the wedding
-And the professor continued to speak, for a literal FIVE MINUTES about how what my fiance and I were doing was wrong. How us waiting "so long" to get married was a mistake and that we would mess up and have sex before getting married and most likely not have a temple marriage. Perhaps not in those exact terms, but the words "do not do this" and "you will mess up" were used. Tthe message was clear: Do not wait so long to get married because as young little Mormons, we can't control our hormonal impulses and will have sex, even if we never had before in our 20 some years of life.
I was also STANDING throughout the entire 5 minutes...so I was basically the poster on the wall for his lecture.
I eventually slid down into my seat and felt the awkwardness of the two kids sitting beside me. The girl to my left usually talked to me during class, and she didn't say a word the entire time.
I wanted to burst into tears and run out of the class, but that would make it more dramatic, and I still needed to take notes for finals in 2 or so weeks. I skipped the rest of the day of school and cried off the embarrassment. I actually don't even know how I was able to go back to that class after that.
I'm not an emotional person, nor do I allow my emotions to be seen in public. I'm also not one to blow something out of proportion. My husband wanted to email him, but I said I would do it. I never did.
BTW, I'm still active. I realize this man was very wrong, but I thought he knew so much due to his reputation at the school.
Well he made a bad decision 1-2 years later on behalf of the church when he didn't have the permission, so I believe he was forced into retirement.
I worked for the LDS Church for 4 years. During this time I worked at two temples and in the Temple Department at Church headquarters. I quickly found that I, and many of those people I worked with, were working in a hostile and abusive work environment. Striving to improve the environment for others, first and then for myself, I reported the many abuses to the Provo Utah Temple Recorder. I soon found myself becoming the victim of abuse from this Recorder and the temple engineers. The more I reported abuse, hostilities, retaliation, revenge, illegal acts, safety violations, and threats, the more I was retaliated against.
One evening the Recorder broke into my computer, cracked open my password protected journal, and read it until 3am at my desk. I soon found myself being transferred to the Temple Department in SLC for a "developmental assignment". From this point forward Church leaders sought to vilify me. In SLC, the Temple Department Director was even more abusive than the recorder. Within 9 days he threatened my job (on the same day an OSHA complaint was filed against the Provo Utah Temple for 9 serious violations).
Approximately 4 months later, 11 days after the OSHA complaint was closed, I was suddenly being forced out of LDS employment. The director stated I did excellent work, there was nothing wrong with my performance, but I just wasn't a good fit. However, as I started to appeal the HR Director and Temple Department Managing Directors stated I was being let go for performance reasons, reasons I had never heard or been allowed to correct according to HR policy. This was the second step of vilification. I was in complete shock. Not only did these high executives support the abusers but also worked with them to oust me and destroy my reputation.
I had over 100 pages of journal entries documenting the abuse, recordings, and other documented proof. All of it was completely ignored and leaders refused to even speak to me about the abuse. I recently spoke with an LDS Church attorney from Kirton McKonkie who said to me that, yes, they were bad managers and their actions were bad but he would not answer my questions on why were they allowed to continue their employment while I, the victim of this abuse, was forced out.
Addition vilification then started and he stated I was hostile, went around slamming doors, and was knocking pictures off of walls. I couldn't believe what I was hearing, I had never done those things and told him so. He said, "See, you don't take correction or counsel." I agreed that I would not take accountability for things I had never done. It was astounding!
The attorney from Kirton McKonkie concluded by saying to me, "What does it matter? Nothing can be done for you." [He knew that the statute of limitations had expired and that no one had responded to my requests for review of the abuse]. In my experience and opinion, they don't care about the abuses that occurred. They simply do not care. They do care about protecting the Church at all cost even if that cost is a human being.
Stake Presidents are implicitly believed by the Church and often implicitly believed by the stake. Because of this, they do not have checks and balances when they go a bit or a lot rogue and can lead many people away.
18 months ago a predator accidentally revealed herself and ultimately others in her secret group. This group is supported by the Stake President, as I found out when I sought his help and was subsequently smeared by him. I have tried to reach out to the Church but have found no outlet when the Stake President is part of the secret. It is very dangerous, especially because the predators have targeted youth, young adults (married and single,) missionaries and even some adults.
Because the predators have high callings, it is easy for the vulnerable to fall into their dangerous traps of destruction (this has been going on for a while and the stories are heartbreaking) which is to get others to think they are addicted or immoral. Our Stake President appears to be kind. Due to some prior work of the Area Authority Seventy which is similar to what he is doing her, I think the Area Authority Seventy may be involved in the secret too. The tactics of the Stake President and possibility the Area Authority are to place predatory people in high callings. From what I have observed, these predatory people come to church to prey rather than to pray. There are huge warning signs that they do more in secret with the kids and adults. The predator who accidentally told me the secret, so that I would be complicit, seeks to secretly teach the kids how to get away with doing things, which is bad enough, but I think she does more than she told me. The doings of her and her friends are very dark.
I wish I had a way of letting parents know to ask their children about secrets and to know when they need to call the police.
In December, when I talked about getting protective measures in place and notifying parents so they could protect their children to the Stake President, he got a worried look on his face. It wasn't until just recently, this April, when I came to the conclusion that he is likely part of this secret group because he simply refuses to release the predators (and let parents know.) He said I can approach the authorities over him, but I feel that, like I said, the Area Authority Seventy may be also perpetuating the idea of putting predatory people (who prey upon others) in high callings.
Regarding how the Stake President retaliated against me by smearing my name, fortunately, we have lots of educated, faithful and kind people in our ward. Most of our ward doesn't fall for the smearing which he has orchestrated. In fact, in participating in the smearing, one of the predators revealed openly more information about her goals and was released from one of her ward callings by our wonderful bishop.
We have a wonderful bishop who takes a stand against the predators in ward callings, but feels like he cannot stand up to the Stake President. The predators fight against the bishop a lot.
April was my most recent appointment with the Stake President. We have recently made progress. With the support of the bishop, last Sunday in his office, someone else learned of the predatory behaviors and spoke against it, being a strong advocate for the kids. This week, some others learned as well and are also strong advocates. In the past, they have seen the smearing attempts. These predators have even gone after my kids. They are cruel. We have only survived by the grace of God and Jesus. I give them all praise. I am trying to let Jesus fight my battles and feel it is a blessing to learn about your website. I learned about it from "Protect LDS Children."
I am curious, how can we get the word to parents to let their children know that if leaders have told them to keep something scary a secret it is not ok?
This group of predators love Girl's Camp. Some parents have no idea that predators go to girl's camp.....
Personally, as a youth, I was assaulted by a church member and was so shocked I did not tell anyone for a few years and then just told my bishop. I didn't even tell my parents. My good bishop didn't know back then to tell me to call the police.
I know kids can be shocked into silence. I am looking for a way for parents to be able to talk to their children and to know when they need to call the police. Frequently, it seems these cases are kept in-house and this keeps members in danger.
What happened to me was criminal. I wish I could have called the police back then, or my bishop would have called the police when I told him.
Because of the involvement of the Stake President with the predators, I have to be careful with how I approach others.
Thanks for your work. I hope this story helps with your work. God bless us all in this super important work.
I was sexually abused by my father. I was emotionally abused by my mother but at least she led me to the Lord. I loved Jesus so it surprises me that He would let me suffer at a tender age just out of high school under the leadership of some more messed up people.
I was physically and emotionally abused by my first husband. I loved Jesus and was totally naive. Apparently my church leaders were naive to physical abuse patterns as they said to separate them get back together. After the third abuse I was put into the hospital and miscarried a child. The leader told me it wasn’t real abuse he just “roughed me up a bit”. To this day they think they were justified in sending me away and excommunicating me from church for leaving him. They also ex communicated my mother and grandmother who said I should not go back to him. I listened to my family instead of the church who didn’t believe in divorce.
If I had gone back I wonder what would have happened to me or any (more) children we had together. I have many more stories of friends and close associates who went through church abuse in addition to physical or emotional abuse from their husbands. I like a few lines I heard from the movie Chocolat when the abusive husband says “we are still married in the eyes of God” and she quickly retorts “God must be blind”. It is sad to think so many of us have lived through such horror only to face more horror from our own church. No one is good except God it’s true. And more training needs to be done in the church about childhood abuses and what that produces in people (hiding, lying, manipulating etc) as well as abuse from spouses: verbal, physical, spiritual; and the resulting spiritual abuses from the church.
This happened in 1999. I walked away gradually from any and all church starting then until 2010 when I returned to church slowly. I was mad at God and mostly mad at this person as well as my church community for taking such drastic measures to protect an abuser and ostracize the victim. The abuser snowed people into thinking he was a good person taking the “proper steps toward reconciliation” and praying the right prayers. He was a class A antisocial personality and when I said he can’t continue to fool people he said “watch me” and I’d be so surprised that he would do it. I believed God was mad at me and judged me.
I could not understand why as a Christian girl since I was 8 years old, shared my faith in the religion at 15-17 and in church choir, pioneer girls...someone with a real heart for him would put me through this. I was devastated. I went to a Christian college and got some healing for it but I have never been the same since. My legs, heart, and etc have been truly broken and truly alone. We are promised suffering in this life. It is a sad and scary fact that even in our own churches we are not safe not in the world not in our homes. We will never rest this side of eternity.
This is one of many stories that are completely unacceptable during my teen years attending the LDS church. I was 16 & in high school in a the Northwestern U.S. All of my friends had tried alcohol and so I was curious (my parents don’t drink & I wasn’t taught anything about alcohol except all of the “negatives”) my best friend had snuck a small bottle of rum and we were all trying it. The minute I drank it, I felt incredibly guilty. Why? First, I was not about to tell my parents. Imagine how lonely & confused I was feeling. Second, I was taught things like this require you to confess to your bishop. I was so afraid to go and see him but my trained, and brainwashed conscience was telling me to go see him. So I did! Ha! Wish I could go back in time. Anyways, when I saw him and basically confessed that I had tried alcohol his questions were not appropriate at all. I remember feeling so terrible about myself because of the way he was talking to me. He then asked me a set of questions that still to this day sit uneasy in my stomach.
“What kind of alcohol? Vodka? Beer?” I lied. I said I didn’t remember
“Who was with you? Boys? Girls?” To which I said it was just a group of girls
“Did anything happen between you and these girls when you drank?” I told him I didn’t really understand the question
“Like as in anything sexual? Touching?” I was shocked. I felt my stomach drop. Of course this didn’t happen! In one small drink?? I told him of course not
“You know we don’t drink alcohol because it makes us do things we wouldn’t normally do. It tears families apart & thats what will happen if you continue to drink.” I was dumbfounded at this statement. I simply said ok.
The end of my interview was near, he told me I was not allowed to take the sacrament for 6 weeks. (What?) and he also told my parents about what I had done. I had no idea he would do this and I did not consent to this. He also told my parents that if they did a better job at parenting I would have ended up like this. This started a whole new situation at home & ultimately made me a very rebellious teenager. This interview created rage, embarrassment, and rebellion.
At the age of 16 I was smoking weed, sneaking any kind of alcohol I could get my hands on with my friends, sneaking out, talking to any kind of guy that would give me attention. Oh, also faking my temple interviews that my parents forced me into doing. So while I was going to the temple on a lying recommend I was also spiraling out of my own control. The church crushed my sense of self at the pure and ripe age of 16.
What a shame that a man “called of God” had any kind of right to tear me down like this. And my parents didn’t stop him. They made it clear that they did not like him, but they never stopped him. I hope all 3 parties feel a sense of guilt to this day, as I did at the age of 16 for being a small amount of curious. The church has let me down. And a real and true God would not tell a leader to do this to a young 16 year old girl. That was one of many stories.
One memory I have in particular was when I was only 19 years old and engaged to a returned missionary at BYU. He had repeatedly sexually assaulted me and even raped me, but I didn’t understand that it was rape. The only context Mormonism gave me up to that point was that it was my fault, and that I was now unworthy. So I confessed my sins to my Stake President, who was also my father. He told me to repent and encouraged that I move forward with the wedding.
A few years later, I was in the trenches with a tiny baby and an abusive husband. Sexual, emotional, mental, verbal, financial, and physical abuse were a part of my daily life. It was normal enough compared to my own childhood experiences that I had a hard time understanding that what was happening was abuse. I knew he was addicted to pornography, and I was convinced that if we could get him to stop looking at it, he would start being nicer to me. We spoke with our Bishop, and I was clearly in a lot of distress. I was really emotionally overwhelmed and clearly struggling. He focused mostly on helping my husband find resources to help him, and would simply speak to me as an afterthought. He just encouraged me to keep being supportive of him while he kept working through his issues.
I stuck around and tried to make it work for far too long. We had a second child, and my emotional health and self confidence continued to deteriorate. It wasn’t until I sought proper help from a therapist that I realized what was happening was abuse, and that I needed to get out. I’ll be forever grateful for that therapist. I still carry a great deal of pain from the responses that I had from my poorly trained (and even malicious) ecclesiastical leaders. They should never have been given that power in the first place.
My father was either a Bishop or Stake President for almost all of my childhood. He was very widely known and loved by everyone in our community. He was also deeply involved with organized abuse involving many other members of my family and our small community. They would intentionally inflict such torturous, premeditated abuse that it would force children to dissociate so they wouldn’t remember what happened. The abuse involved child sex trafficking, child pornography, and many other horrendous acts.
I was a victim of this abuse. I was repeatedly targeted for my entire childhood, and only recently started having flashbacks to the abuse. It’s been horrifying to realize the extent my father had power, authority, and access to thousands of vulnerable people in our community that he was likely targeting, just like he was targeting me.
I am in the middle of a very bad divorce in which I have expressed my desire for full custody because of physical, mental, and sexual abuse by my husband against me and physical abuse and 1 sexual abuse act to my 4 year old son. I legitimately feel that my children are in danger and my ex is not healthy or stable at this time.
I kept telling my Bishop and Elders Quorum Leaders about the abuses going on in our home which involved marital rape, spousal abuse and child abuse. These leaders kept "counseling" him instead of taking me aside and helping me file a report and get to safety.
I now have people not believing me that this great and upstanding Elder in the church could possibly have done the things I'm now yelling from the roof top.
If you are in a relationship with an abuser of any kind GET HELP OUTSIDE OF THE CHURCH.
Rape by your husband is still rape and should be reported to the police.