Start Here: Change These Policies to Better Prevent Abuse by LDS Priesthood Leaders #MormonMeToo

Include women equally with men in LDS Church policymaking.  Current policy is written almost exclusively by men, with almost all women in the church banned from even reading many church policies.  As such, it is not surprising that church policy is biased toward protecting men from false allegations instead of protecting women from rape.

Provide a hotline or ombudsman program for church members to report abuse.  At present, a hotline exists for male church leaders to call and get legal advice to protect themselves, but rank-and-file members have no recourse.

Church disciplinary councils need to include women.  Currently, only men may call or staff church disciplinary councils, so women have no say as to whether abusers will be permitted to stay in our congregations and female survivors must endure the traumatizing experience of describing how they were sexually abused to all-male panels.

Two-deep leadership and background checks should apply to all church leaders who work with children.  Mormon boys are protected by these common sense approaches at Boy Scout activities, but the church does not require the same degree of protection for girls.  Neither are protected during ecclesiastical interviews.

Ecclesiastical interviews should include standard informed consent language, informing church members of their basic rights such as the right to refuse to answer questions and the right to end the interview at any time.

Require church leaders to refer sexual assault survivors to professionals for counseling. Untrained, volunteer clergy are not equipped to handle such cases.

Limit ecclesiastical power.  There is no bill of rights for church members and many policies on the books give untrained, volunteer, male clergy, working with little or no oversight, broad power to punish local members who do not comply with their demands.

Ordain women.  Mormons are taught that men preside and protect, but history has taught that systems in which women must depend on men to protect them do not work. Dependent women are not safe women.

For a more detailed list of potential policy changes, see A Values-based Approach to Woman-friendly Policy in the LDS Church.

April Young-Bennett
April Young-Bennett
April Young-Bennett is the author of the Ask a Suffragist book series and host of the Religious Feminism Podcast. Learn more about April at


  1. I so agree with comments about coffee and tea. If you do not live in the Mormon bubble states it is really holds back conversion. We live in Southern Illinois and understand use of alcohol tobacco and drugs are a sin but the culture of coffee and tea should be a choice and not keep you out of the Temple

    • Why? Surely it is up to God what he does, and does not allow.

      My grandmother could not (in her own words) start the day without a cup of tea. Is that a position anyone should find themselves?

      • Andrew, I wouldn’t judge anyone ill for a morning cup of tea every day. Especially not your grandmother. That’s really insignificant stuff.

      • European saints are allowed to drink tea, because it’s built into many of the cultures there, and few people (from England or Germany, for example) would ever join the church if they had to give it up.

        God used to allow the saints (Joseph Smith time) to drink alcohol, smoke and chew tobacco, and yes, even drink tea. Also, the WoW is for “the weakest” of the saints; I’m sure many of us could drink a beer occasionally and suffer little in terms of addiction. Same goes with drinking tea.

        More to the point, the American obsession with eating meat and drinking sodas at every meal is far more damaging than drinking tea, and yet the meat aspect of the WoW is barely ever mentioned (neither is the regular exercise part), while the tea and coffee aspect is always emphasized.

        MORE importantly, members need to feel that we’re trusted by the leadership to make decisions in our own lives, instead of always waiting for answers to come “from on high”, as it were, from the mouth of the president. Not only should tea not keep you from the temple, but neither should being critical of decisions made by members of our very-mortal leadership.

      • MDearest, I wasn’t being critical of my Grandmother – I loved her dearly. She was not a member of the Church either. My point was that it is addictive, and I find that, at least in part, a reason for the ban.

        However, when asked why I live the WoW by non-members I never try to justify the reasons for alcohol, tea, coffee or tobacco. For me the reason I abstain is because God said to.

        It isn’t (for me) about whether I could drink some alcohol and remain sober and safe – it’s about whether I can obey God.

      • K,

        “European saints are allowed to drink tea, because it’s built into many of the cultures there, and few people (from England or Germany, for example) would ever join the church if they had to give it up.”

        I am British. I have lived in the UK for my entire life. I have a Brother-in-Law who served his mission in France and a Bishop who served in Germany.

        I have to say what you wrote is, in my experience, nonsense. I know many people, my parents included, who have joined the Church and given up tea and coffee.

        I completely agree that we need to heed all of the WoW in order to benefit from the blessings associated with it – in its entirety.

      • Andrew, I know you weren’t specifically criticizing your grandmother, but were only citing her addiction to a morning cup of tea to warn members they may possibly be risking tea addiction if they drank tea. I think the WoW is wise to ban truly damaging addictive substances (tobacco, alcohol) but tea and coffee are not in the same class, and the total ban on tea and coffee has evolved over time from the milder wording about “hot drinks.” It’s really insignificant stuff, whether you violate the ban or obey God on this matter, and I won’t judge someone for doing either. What someone else chooses regarding tea or coffee is inconsequential to me.

        However, the OP was posted to address far more significant policies and practices, both explicit and unwritten, that have had much more harmful impact on the lives of (mostly) women members. I think it’s both revealing and ungracious to those who are among the ranks of the “blips” in these matters, that we’ll spend our time discussing trifling minutiae about tea-drinking (which wasn’t mentioned in the OP at all) at the expense of the far more monstrous offenses that survivors are suffering. It’s a way to minimize the points made in the OP, so I’m done with the tea discussion.

      • MD,

        I agree, and was baffled, that the WoW came up, given the more important issues of this thread. You will note, I didn’t bring the subject up.

  2. There are a few inaccuracies in some of what April wrote, at least in my experience. Those are not really relevant however so far as the thrust of what she says.

    Let’s, therefore, assume that God woke up and realised that there had been a huge injustice, that He has entirely overlooked, at that Women needed to be ordained.

    Give it ten years to take hold, and for the current Apostles to move on to the hereafter, and Seventies to become Emeritus, and a proper distribution of Male and Female leaders.

    What would change? Would all these problems go away? Would there be more problems as a result?

    I have never been in favour of positive discrimination – I don’t believe it allows for the best people to be in the best positions (even if it does equalise numbers). So a Stake President/Bishop forced to have at least one of each gender as counsellors would not be right in my eyes.

    The real problem for the Church is not Patriarchy, or even misogyny, it is Satan. Satan leads the charge against the Church, and he will most certainly continue no matter how well gender balanced our councils are.

    The largest force for good in the world is the Relief Society (in terms of numbers). I believe that the new curriculum, and particularly first Sunday discussions, puts the power in the hands of Relief Society to do what they believe is right. Nothing in the guidelines for these discussions requires any approval, or interaction with, Priesthood leaders. It is entirely in hands of the RSPy in each unit.

    The Church is devolving power and authority – the take up of that power and authority is really the problem.

  3. D&C 121:37 “That they [rights of priesthood – powers of heaven] may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.”
    Based on this scripture I think those who have used their positions of priesthood authority to take advantage of people under their stewardship should lose their priesthood ordination. For the rest of their life that will likely limit their opportunities to lead and serve, as well it should. Amen to his priesthood.

    • Men who do this do loose their priesthood – not all I note – but certainly more do than don’t.

      However, because of the Atonement they can be rebaptised and have their blessings restored. However, their record is annotated and their service will be limited.

      I know men, in my stake, in this position.

    • Wait a second, Andrew. The scripture says that almost all men exercise unrighteous dominion when given a little authority. Which accords with my experience. Do you really think that the majority of men who do so are actually formally punished by the Church? That would be pretty much a majority of all priesthood holding men in the Church. I don’t see anything like that happening.

  4. Excellent list, April. I think ordaining women and including women at all levels of decision making are really core issues. A church leadership that’s entirely staffed by men is just never going to be all that responsive to women’s concerns, regardless of how well-meaning many men might be. It’s disturbing, for example, how many men’s response to the revelations of sexual abuse and assault in the MTC has been to sympathize with the abuser/assaulter and not with the victims.

  5. I just read this and your detailed policy list in 2016. Incredibly thoughtful and well done! Thank you so very much for all your efforts. Let’s hope things really start to change in this direction….

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