Victim Blaming: When Mormon Leaders Inflict Harm and Perpetuate Abuse

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, informally known as the “The Mormon Church,” has been historically known for its friendly people and upstanding ideals. This facade belies the harm and abuse that has been perpetrated by its own leaders.

Richard G. Scott was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the highest ranking body of men in the church after the First Presidency. Scott presented a talk entitled, “Healing the Tragic Scars of Abuse” at the April 1992 General Conference. Sixteen years later at the April 2008 Conference, he regurgitated a new version of the same talk titled, “To Heal the Shattering Consequences of Abuse.” Both talks contain numerous examples of dangerous, misleading, abusive, and uneducated advice, but the first is especially disturbing:

“The victim must do all in his or her power to stop the abuse. Most often, the victim is innocent because of being disabled by fear or the power or authority of the offender. At some point in time, however, the Lord may prompt a victim to recognize a degree of responsibility for abuse. Your priesthood leader will help assess your responsibility so that, if needed, it can be addressed. Otherwise the seeds of guilt will remain and sprout into bitter fruit. Yet no matter what degree of responsibility, from absolutely none to increasing consent, the healing power of the atonement of Jesus Christ can provide a complete cure. (See D&C 138:1–4.) Forgiveness can be obtained for all involved in abuse. (See A of F 1:3.) Then comes a restoration of self-respect, self-worth, and a renewal of life.”

The Mormon church should be held accountable for this heinous victim blaming and the ensuing mental and physical damage this has caused countless people! To suggest that the victim in ANY abuse situation holds responsibility for their abuse is dangerous and reprehensible. Likewise, it is horrifying to suggest that a VICTIM has any reason whatsoever to feel a loss of self-respect or self-worth.

These two talks by Scott continue to dole out abuse. Some examples are as follows:

  • Scott states that it is because of agency that others are able to abuse people. God conveniently takes himself out of the picture. In the quote above, Scott states that the victim must do all in their power to stop the abuse. If the victim has faith and prays and asks the Lord to stop the abuse, why does he meet the victim with radio silence? Why does this same god, when asked in humble supplication, help people find parking spaces and lost keys, yet the cries of abuse victims fall on deaf ears?

  • Scott states that with the right attitude, victims can overcome the results of their abuse. Clearly, he knows nothing about how the body processes and stores trauma, nor does he have the first clue about mental health and the way the brain works.

  • He states that victims may feel trapped but that they should know God does not want them to be held captive and will lead them to a solution. If God has the power to stop the abuse and provide a solution, then to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to it is, in and of itself, abuse.

  • More than once, Scott suggests that victims should seek help in the form of a priesthood leader. This is terribly damaging advice. Abuse victims need help from educated mental health professionals and from law enforcement.

  • Especially damaging is Scott’s suggestion that victims withhold judgment and forgive their abusers so that God might purge their hearts of hate. Forgiveness is personal. Only the victim can decide when, how, or even if to forgive.

  • Scott goes on to tell victims not to probe into the details of their abuse or talk about it in group settings, suggesting that repairs take place in private. He states that these acts of abuse are, “long buried and mercifully forgotten.” Mercifully forgotten? Again, he is clearly not trauma-informed in the least. Keeping these things quiet only serves to protect abusers and shame victims. VICTIMS SHOULD NEVER, EVER BE SILENCED!

Finally, this particularly monstrous quote from Scott:

“There is another danger. Detailed leading questions that probe your past may unwittingly trigger thoughts that are more imagination or fantasy than reality. They could lead to condemnation of another for acts that were not committed. While likely few in number, I know of cases where such therapy has caused great injustice to the innocent from unwittingly stimulated accusations that were later proven false. Memory, particularly adult memory of childhood experiences, is fallible. Remember, false accusation is also a sin.”

This sounds a lot like, “Abuse survivors make up memories and cannot be believed or trusted.”

To the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints: