Mormon leader calls abuse ‘abomination’ amid policy scrutiny
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Russell M. Nelson, the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, told members of the faith on Saturday that abuse was “a grievous sin” that shouldn’t be tolerated and would bring down the wrath of God on perpetrators.
Though the leader of the nearly 17-million member faith did not mention it directly, the remarks were the first on abuse from a senior church leader since The Associated Press published an investigation into how the church handles reports of sexual abuse when brought to its attention.
“Let me be perfectly clear: any kind of abuse of women, children, or anyone is an abomination to the Lord,” Nelson told members of the faith gathered in Salt Lake City for its twice-yearly conference.
The AP’s investigation found the hotline the church uses for abuse reporting can be misused by its leaders to divert accusations away from law enforcement and toward church attorneys. The story, based on sealed records and court cases filed in Arizona and West Virginia, uncovered a host of concerns, including how church officials have cited exemptions to mandatory reporting laws, known as clergy-penitent privilege, as reason to not report abuse.
Since its publication, the church has said the investigation mischaracterizes its policies, while underlining how its teachings condemn abuse in the strongest terms.
The church has historically used its conference to set a tone for its members, reflect on current events and announce changes in doctrine. Nelson’s remarks on Saturday echoed the statements the church has released since the publication of the AP’s investigation — condemning abuse, while also defending the church’s policies.
“For decades now, the Church has taken extensive measures to protect — in particular — children from abuse,” Nelson, the church’s 98-year-old president, said sitting on a stool behind a conference center lectern, imploring listeners to research church policy themselves.
Nelson described abuse as an influence of “the adversary,” employing a term the church frequently uses to describe forces that oppose the gospel and its teachings.
Amid the church’s insistence that reporting mischaracterizes its sexual abuse hotline, Nelson also said “the adversary” worked “to blur the line between what is true and what is not true.”
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe Nelson is a prophet.
This weekend’s event, which runs Saturday and Sunday, is broadcast to members around the world.