Ep 258 – Child Abuse in the Church


Posted February 2nd, 2016

Matt Long talks with John Dehlin about the recently re-released article on their website, titled, “Effectiveness of Church Approach to Preventing Child Abuse.” Spoiler alert: Matt was not impressed.



  • Tim

    When I click on the link, it looks like it has already been changed to answer some of Matt’s critiques of the policy. And by answer I mean something to the effect of “No we don’t.”

    • Ryan Gregson

      I could have sworn I heard a *cough*Dehlin*cough* after reading that ‘some bloggers…’ comment.

      • Tim

        I’m pretty sure that the church office building houses the most avid listeners of Infants on Thrones. Oh yeah, and that John Dehlin podcast, too. They responded almost immediately.

        • I’d love to think that there are denizens of the COB who huddle around dedicated computers behind custom built firewalls in rooms with cypher locks on the doors listening to IoT and Mormon Stories podcasts. But then a GA makes a statement of some kind and either he’s a phenomenal actor or he’s totally disconnected from every other living being on the planet and I have to assume it’s the later.

          Maybe, like some presidential administrations in living memory, the GAs are fed a strict diet of “only what they need to know” in order to cultivate plausible deniability. If that’s true it would be really interesting to know who makes the real decisions and at what level.

          • Tim

            I think it really is almost as darkly comical as you make it sound. I arrived early to pick up my son from YM and watched the end of the “face2face” with the newest apostle clone Elder Rasband (Hey Infants! — if you want a good smackdown, you might consider getting your hands on a recording of this program. Youth from around the world ask questions to general authorities who try to answer on the spot. A really bad tragicomedy plays out for non believers as a really down to earth apostle appears to believers.) One of the young women asked if children who die are resurrected as children or as adults. The newest apostle said he doesn’t think we have any doctrine on the subject. I had to stop myself from yelling “It’s in the King Follet discourse!” Maybe it’s because he’s the new guy, but I was shocked that he didn’t know. I don’t think rank in the church correlates with knowledge of the church, but clearly there are more informed people at the COB tasked with damage control from the truth.

  • AxelDC

    Why does the LDS Church have to turn everything, including the disgusting subject of child abuse, into a PR moment? What are they thinking bragging about their policies as the “Gold Standard”? Without even debating the merits of such a distinction, the idea that they are once again breaking their arms patting themselves on the back shows that they care more about their own corporate image than about the psychological damage of child abuse. Instead of instructing members on how to treat abuse, their thesis is that the LDS Church is a superhero that you can always count on. The protagonist is the church, not the victims.

    Taken in that light, their helpline becomes a sick joke. It’s not a victim’s helpline, giving treatment and protection to the abused. As usual, it’s a CYA for LDS, Inc. Its main purpose is to inform LDS clergy of their legal minimum duty to avoid a Penn State situation. As Matt points out, these attorneys are not even their for the clergy, but for the Corporation of the First Presidency. If something were to go wrong, their main duty is protect the corporation, not its volunteers, and certainly not the sexual abuse victims. Instead of training clergy on how to best help victims and prevent abuse, the church’s main concern is to protect itself from bad PR and legal liability.

    If the church truly cared about sexual abuse, they would use their theocratic powers in Utah to tighten sexual abuse laws. In Matt’s Arizona, LDS, Inc. has tremendous political power but not the domination it has in Utah. Perhaps that’s why they were able to carve out a backdoor for Bishop’s confessions for more CYA legislation.

  • Seth L.

    Loved this episode of Morm….I mean Infants on Thrones. I liked Gelnn’s Dehlin impression. He held it well the entire episode.

    In reality though I find Matt’s knowledge on this fascinating and sad. It must be very hard to have to deal with these topics and I’m glad there are people like Matt out there being an advocate to protect children. I found their discussion on the hotline as troubling. Is it too much to just say If somebody reports the abuse of a child you should report it immediately? That would save a phone call and using the PR Law Firm of GOD. The current system seems very intentioned at protecting the offender over the victim.

  • Jesus H. Christ

    This was truly one of Matt’s finest hours. He was exceptional in being highly informative and in providing insightful analysis.

  • sd


    I was uable to hold back tears listening to this. TO think that there are people like you who fight for victims of abuse, it warms my heart.

    I am a successfully married mom with a fulfilling career. My life is good, happy, even joyful. But my life has existed under a shadow of abuse. When I went to the one person the one person who should have protect me I was left in the abuse situation. It happened that very night.

    As a devout member of the church I had one extraordinary who told me with force and passion that I was not to blame, and to release myself from any sense of guilt. That was when I was a very newly married and struggling.

    But in the coming years I found other members of the church who had entirely different comments and points of view. (It was hard to hide from the truth about my past.) In one case I was told that it was my fault, that my inability to deliver a child was tied to the abuse and, again my fault. The madness continued.

    My patriarchal blessing contained a great deal about reading and studying and seeking, using my natural intelligence to understand. I am a natural seeker, a reader, thinker, and a writer. I studied,; I pondered. I read articles like this: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1992/04/healing-the-tragic-scars-of-abuse?lang=eng (Pay particular attention to the fourth point under Principles of Healing.) Words like these destroyed me in pieces.

    Coming out of the Church was difficult. I am fairly moderate in my feelings about the Church. I see, and acknowledge, where there is much good. I have never considered myself an angry former member. But this, this horrible damage cannot be ignored.

    I made it one of my life’s great endeavors to raise my children free of this sort of nightmare. At times I have felt like a warrior fighting to educate people with darkened minds around me.

    Dragonslayers like you restore my faith in humankind. I wish cases like these were merely anectdotal. I fear that they are not. It seems that the older I get the more I hear about cases within the Church and the “wild, Wild West” approach of priesthood holders to handling them.

    Our children, all children, deserve superheroes. Matt, thank you for donning the cape and fighting the good fight.

    • Thanks for sharing, sd. The level of ignorance and irresponsibility in the talk you linked is enraging. I’m so glad you’ve replaced that utter nonsense with better information. May you and your children continue to live free and safe.

    • Tim

      From the link: “At some point in time, however, the Lord may prompt a victim to recognize a degree of responsibility for abuse.” — Elder Richard G. Scott

      It’s one thing to be ignorant, but to get up in General Conference and actively spread caustic misinformation like this is to be an accomplice to the abuse. Unbelievable. I’m so glad that you find your way past that destructive message.

  • Dave

    Matt and John – thank you for this podcast. This topic hits very close to home for me, and I found myself getting angry all over again. A few years ago, my teenage daughter disclosed to her bishop that her step-father had molested her when she was nine. He called the hotline, which, as you noted, is not to provide help for the victim, but to protect the church’s assets. The bishop called in the step-dad and my ex-wife for a meeting where he confessed and she admitted knowledge as well. Fortunately, this bishop was a good man who had a moral compass beyond what church lawyers and general authorities dictated. He convinced them to confess to child protective services and the police. Things got more complicated when he realized that he was being charged and could go to jail. He recanted, and my ex pressured my daughter into recanting. He had already confessed to police, but the DA felt that the bishop’s testimony would be important at a preliminary hearing to move the case forward. I had established and maintained contact with this bishop, and discovered that the church legal department had advised him to ignore the subpoena. They were concerned about confidentiality and minimizing church liability. My wife, who was a law student at the time, wrote a two-page memo to the church’s legal department pointing out several other reasons he should be present and unrelated testimony he could give, and that it was up to the DA and defense attorney to argue what’s admissible. Honestly, I believe that the only reason anyone even read the memo and took it seriously was because my bishop at the time (also a great guy) was related to an apostle and had a direct line to the top.

    I’m trying to keep this short (too late), but the bishop showed up with counsel that the church had retained to represent the corporation. The testimony that was allowed was enough to win the preliminary hearing and move the case forward. Watching the church’s lawyer interrupt every question to argue admissibility and provide protection for the perpetrator was disgusting beyond my ability to articulate. The way that the church showed a total disregard for my daughter’s well-being throughout the entire process, and the way they worked so hard to minimize the impact on the perpetrator (legally, church standing, professionally, etc.), as well as other issues related to the abuse, obliterated my shelf and took me from 42 years of TBM to complete non-believer and infants enthusiast in no time.

    I know wonderful people who are members of the church, but the organization and leaders are morally bankrupt and/or clueless (institutional racism, sexism, homophobia, and policies that protect priesthood holders, not victims).

    Anyway, I’ll cut myself off and thanks to John Dehlin for easing me out of TBM mode, and introducing me to the infants. Matt and the other Infants, thank you for articulating what I feel, so I know that I’m not alone.

  • Pink-lead

    Well done Mr.Long.

  • svendevil

    Matt, this is nails. Great work.