This is part three in a planned 3 part series. In part one, Sodom and Gomorrah Thinking Part 1: The Story of Lot , we discuss the idea that extreme normalization of rape, where you could demand to rape your guests. In part two, Sodom and Gomorrah Thinking Part 2: In the World. we discuss why religious leaders saying that we are becoming more like those cities is true.
And now for the uncomfortable part. Looking at my/our own church. We often speak of the vilest of sins happening out in the world, as if sexual abuse and rape were rare among Mormons, as if leaders never take sexual advantage of our children, as if abuse doesn’t happen, among our members, but it happens in our own church too.
Back in 2009 we had a LDS semninary teacher raping a student. The nice thing about this case is that at least he got 5 years in jail for it. A small victory.
I have heard several stories from women who have had Bishops ignore them when it comes to spousal rape. Most of those stories were shared in confidence so I cannot relate further details, but there is one where spousal rape threat was evident in a violently abusive marriage, but the Bishops this woman talked to over the years were unhelpful. Early signs of Sodom and Gomorrah thinking.
After the Porter incident this article came out about how many women were told to stay in physically and sexually abusive marriages. This is Sodom and Gomorrah thinking.
In the Handbook given to Bishops a disciplinary council is NOT mandatory in cases of rape, sexual abuse, spousal abuse, and other abuses. Here is a screenshot. Note the #MormonMeToo hashtag. This a policy that breeds Sodom and Gomorrah thinking.
Our worthiness interviews given by Bishops to our youth are often sexually explicit. While on the surface it seems reasonable, but in reality what you have is an older man, alone with a child, asking sexual questions. Children are taught to trust these leaders and to go along with it, and thus we have grooming patterns begin. There is a movement to end this called Protect LDS Children. These sexually explicit interviews are early signs of Sodom and Gomorrah thinking.
One of the most egregious things I have heard in the news, however, is the story of McKenna Denson who was raped by her MTC President, Joseph L Bishop. This man admitted in an interview (you can listen to it here) that he was a sex addict and would prey on young women in the MTC. He said that if the church knew of all he had done he would be the Harvey Weinstein of the church. And in case you don’t know who he is, read up on Wikipedia (that’s what I had to do since I wasn’t familiar with that reference).
Despite the confession, I have seen people excuse the behavior, or blame McKenna for what happened. Why should she be blamed? She was groomed to trust her male leaders completely. This is Sodom and Gomorrah thinking.
McKenna describes a secret basement room in the MTC, with a bed and TV, which the Church denied existed, but a former MTC employee testified of its existence. Why on Earth deny something like that? You can easily verify it’s veracity. Not being willing to investigate is Sodom and Gomorrah thinking.
Some people said well, why did she wait so long to talk about it? The answer is, she didn’t and the Church repeatedly failed McKenna. She has been trying to seek justice for years. She reported it to her Bishop, Bishop Leavitt and did all that she could, but found no recourse. Here is an interview of Bishop Leavitt who decided that her story wasn’t worth believing and couldn’t sully a man’s reputation over “something like this”. This is Sodom and Gomorrah thinking.
In a press conference, it is revealed that the Church knew about previous sexual issues that Mr Bishop had supposedly repented of, and yet he was still approved by the First Presidency to be the MTC President. That’s like asking a recovering alcoholic to start bartending. To approve of putting him in that position of authority (assuming Mr Bishop had actually repented) put Mr Bishop in a position to relapse which he did. (Again assuming he was once sincere. I personally doubt it due to the cavalier way he confessed.) Not only that, putting someone at risk of a relapse put the women of the MTC in danger. The leaders who called Mr Bishop, and the following approval engaged in Sodom and Gomorrah thinking.
I have heard reports from people that in their ward (congregation) that there are men who are known sex offenders being called to sensitive positions, such as the Bishopric, which needs approval from The First Presidency, even after this story of McKenna came out! Some people were successful in convincing their Bishops to release these sex offenders. These reports were given in confidence, so I have no link, however, here is a related newsstory. To allow such people to have authority over our children,t, is unconscionable and is Sodom and Gomorrah thinking. Even after they have repented since relapses happen and some repent only to gain trust to have access to easy victims.
Now, one would think that ultimately the church would act honorably. That’s what our members are trained to think. This is Christ’s church. Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church. So, of course the Church will do the right thing and excommunicate Mr Bishop. But no, instead, the Church dug up dirt on McKenna, which sends a message that if any victim speaks out dirt will be dug. To engage in any kind of character assassination against a victim of rape is Sodom and Gomorrah thinking. Especially since there was a confession from her rapist!
You would think that with such an obvious confession, and with how Mr Bishop had previously repented of sexual abuse sin, but continued in sex abuse sins afterward, deceiving everyone, he would be excommunicated forthwith. But no. That has not happened. A known serial rapist, who has admitted to his crimes, has NOT been excommunicated. Instead, what we got only two of sentences in a talk in General Conference last April I quote “It is commendable that nonconsensual immorality has been exposed and denounced.19 Such nonconsensual immorality is against the laws of God and of society” (referencing the #MeToo movement according to the footnote).
Aside from the issues of refusing to call rape, rape, and sexual assault, sexual assault, you put your money where your mouth is. If you really believe it is “commendable” to “denounce” and to “oppose” such things, then you will follow that up with, and this is why Joseph L Bishop has been excommunicated. This is why we are changing how we do worthiness interviews, we’re going to change how we train Bishops, and men, be men, and don’t allow rape or any other form of sexual violence or sexual harassment to happen on your watch, etc. But no, that hasn’t happened. To refuse to do so is the worst kind of pride, the kind that perpetuates and allows these things to continue when you have the power to change it, and that, is Sodom and Gomorrah thinking.
So yes, here is my Church, the one that gave me so much truth, engaging in Sodom and Gomorrah thinking. I am convinced that if these male sex offenders were women, they would be ex’d fast. I am convinced that if these male sex offenders were hurting boys or young men they would be ex’d so fast. But no, it’s male sex offenders against women, and we have a church culture that tells women that WE are responsible for the sexual actions of men by the way we dress and act. Elder Holland in a talk discusses how incorrect that is, so incorrect that it makes him want to throw up! Here is a link to where that section starts, and it lasts for about 5 minutes, but he throw up line comes up within the first minute. This kind of thinking is a precursor to Sodom and Gomorrah thinking, and oh, how we are paying the price.
We need now more than ever that kind of intense no nonsense attitude Elder Holland had in that talk linked above. We need Elder Holland, Elder Uchtdorf, and the others to stand up and say no more, and to repent as a church, to make public apologies, and to make the necessary changes in order to remedy this awful thing of Sodom and Gomorrah thinking. Otherwise the soul of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will die while still living on, like an insect infected with a parasite that takes over the host’s mind (1, 2). And if that happens, the Church as in institution will be as Samson from the story of Samson and Delilah, where Samson was given great blessings and promises of doing great things and saving many souls, will not bear fruit due to the egregious erroneous choices made that prevented him from fulfilling that life’s mission.
The Prophet and Apostles can choose, now, to do the hard thing, the brave thing, the right thing. I ask the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to choose be true men of faith, to be true men of virtue.