Dear President Nelson,
By now, I’m sure you have been briefed on the horrific details of a conversation between high-level priesthood leader Joseph Bishop and one of his victims of sexual assault.
More chilling than the details of his assault upon a young woman, a missionary under his care, it is revealed not only that he was a serial predator, but that high-ranking priesthood authorities over him knew about it. We have a problem in the church with men in authority sexually assaulting the vulnerable in our ranks, and the church leadership has not always handled these situations appropriately or wisely.
President Nelson, I don’t expect this to be news to you. Clearly the church has been aware of abuse in the ranks for some time; it’s the reasoning behind such measures as windows in every door, the prohibition upon men teaching primary alone, as well as the crackdown on anti-pornography rhetoric. The church knows that too many Mormon men abuse women and children. There have been attempts to address it.
But these approaches aren’t sufficient and they aren’t working. I remember being a young girl sitting in a cabin at a multi-Stake girls camp, and finding myself the only female in the room to have not experienced sexual assault at the hands of a priesthood holder (one even at the hands of her bishop father). I cannot number the rooms in which this realization has happened – and I am weary of the burdens and wounds that my sisters bear silently on their spirits. I’m sad that good men leave the church when they see abuse. I’m sad that bad advice and poor support is often offered to both victims and perpetrator. I’m sad that men in authority are often believed and protected before vulnerable women and children are.
Even in this transcript, President, we hear Joseph Bishop blame his predatory sexual violence upon his own sexual addiction and affection-less marriage, half-hearted in shouldering his culpability.
But behavioral addiction is not the same thing as serial, premeditated sexual violence.
In the coming weeks, the Exponent blog will be launching a multi-pronged response to this terrible reality. We invite you and other high-ranking church officials to follow, watch, and listen to the voices that speak here. Victims will speak to other victims, to their assailants, to their former selves. Mental health professionals will offer advice on how a victim should proceed, and how sexual addicts should manage their situation in safe and proactive ways. And finally, professional policy makers will write policy and offer suggestions as to the changes that need to be made in the church in order to protect victims and prevent future abuses from ever taking place.
I offer my witness that as sincere repentance happens, the church will be blessed in ways we cannot comprehend now.
President Nelson, I also offer my hope to you directly, that the church under your direction and leadership will respond humbly, and change in such a complete fashion that there can be no doubt as to the sincerity of the repentance and the church’s dedication to the safety of all people. There’s no coincidence that this comes to light just as you find yourself under the mantle of presidency and prophethood. Who knows, whether you are come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
Yours in faith,
To the LDS Community in general, and the Exponent community specifically:
Dear ones, we have hope here at the Exponent that the coming days will bring real discussions where we look together for ways to systematically protect the vulnerable from sexual assault and exploitation. As these discussions happen in your homes, in your wards, in your associations, we invite you to bring them here. We are asking for open letters from survivors sharing their wisdom, and posts from professionals sharing theirs. A guest post may be published with whatever degree of anonymity that you prefer.
The Exponent is built upon the premise that it is important and valuable for women to share our stories. We are asking now for those stories, but also for wisdom and knowledge and expertise.
The Exponent Blog