Skip to content

298: Tim Birt – Mormonism’s Negligence on Sex Abuse

The Church has claimed to be the “Gold Standard” on handling of Sexual Abuse.  They have also said that “No religious organization has done more” than they have to prevent and respond to abuse.  The Church has also stated that “While clergy-abuse cases continue to grab headlines, the Church has had almost no child abuse problems with its clergy.”  Yet we know from data points like this list of known abuse cases within the LDS Church along with the following cases

Recent Joseph Layton Bishop abuse scandal

Lawsuit involving alleged cover up by LDS Church of abuse

Utah Bishop convicted of sexual abuse

Stories From over 500 victims

List of several cases with links

Groups says there is a cultural problem with Mormonism’s mechanisms

So a Church member might ask what are the unhealthy mechanisms within our faith?  Here is a list to get that conversation going

– Unhealthy views of normal sexual developments as sin
– A lack of accountability to current sex abuse standards
– One on One interviews and the unhealthy boundaries and unsafe space that creates
– Deeply inadequate training
– An unhealthy framing of worthiness
– While there is a hotline for leaders to call there is no mechanism for members to call on their own.
-no openness to hear or implement the constructive criticism of outside voices who are informed and enducated on sexual abuse to point out needed policy and procedural changes.

A More comprehensive list is as follows:

Prevention efforts Home/Church
*Church dissuades members from discussing sensitive matters
* Resources given not available for member download / dated / not best practice
* No Background checks required for adults working with youth or leaders
* No training required for youth workers or leaders
* No reporting mechanism on training or non ecclesiastical complaint resolution
* New two deep leadership “Should” not must for working with youth,
*Bishop still exempted from no one-on- one
*No guide for safe scouting for older boys or girls.
* Overnight policy still not consistent with BSA
* Policies are not public
* No member or youth training on abuse / consent part of the curriculum

Regarding the change to allow an second adult to attend an interview “if the person being interviewed desires”
*Inadequate change as it is left up to the person being interviewed to ask for a second
adult to be in the room.
*Still allows one-on- one interviews
*Doesn’t protect the bishop
*Sexual explicit questions still allowed no guidance on content of questioning.
*”Leaders to void all circumstances that could be misunderstood” Unclear use of
language – Church must be example of ability to talk about abuse and sex with adults
*Sexual shaming worthiness questions still allowed

– Reporting Abuse
“When abuse occurs, the first and immediate responsibility of church leaders is to help
those who have been abused and to protect vulnerable persons from future abuse”
* Bishops not qualified to help abuse victims or protect vulnerable
* Reporting is required by church has poor track record
* No training in mandated reporting
* + Members should never be encouraged to remain in a home or situation that is
abusive or unsafe GOOD MESSAGE
*Call to hotline immediately is new directive but may still protect Church liability
*Referral to mental health is good but resources need to be maintained of qualified
therapists and resources given
*NDS’s or Non-Disclosure Agreements keep membership/society from generally knowing the breadth and scope of abuse in the Church
*Leaders unqualified to “help abuser repent or cease abuse — Should always be referring to professionals
* Resources listed are only available to church leaders not members or public
* Policies are not open to public

If the Church wants to be seen as being serious about abuse, its prevention, and the support of victims it will need to lay its authority hold over members on the altar and take seriously the conclusion that it is not only inadequate on such an issue but that outside voices have valid criticisms of current policies and procedures as well as suggestions for a healthier paradigm.

Resources for further learning about this issue and how we can be better:

Protect LDS Children and Concerns about Child Interviews in LDS Church
(See )
-Recommendations for parents/members to protect their children by advocating with bishops / Stake
(See )

– Response to “How Mormons (the Church) Approaches Abuse” (Mormon Newsroom resource)
I give 16 recommendations to improve the LDS Church’s child protection policies and practices
Church Resource: (See )
Tim’s response: (See )
– Preventing and Responding to Abuse (Church resource issued 3/26/2018 discussed in this podcast)
– Mormon Mental Health Podcast discussion of “Preventing and Responding to Abuse” Church Resource
point by point discussion by two clinicians of the document (Natasha Helfer Parker and Timothy Birt)

– Dialogue Article on Abuse:
Day, Terence L. “Bones Heal Faster: Spousal Abuse in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints” Dialogue. 46:01
– Investigating A Claim of Child Abuse at Church – An Inside Perspective

– Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE)
– Trauma Focused – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Children’s Advocacy Centers

– Recommendations for Church Child Protection policies from other Churches:

Community of Christ
United Methodist Church (Safe Sanctuaries)
Episcopal Church
Presbyterian Church
United Church of Christ
Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake

– Phone links:
Trevor project LGBT support / suicide: 866-488- 7386
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-656- 4673
National Children’s Alliance (CAC INFO): 202.548.0090
LDS HOTLINE: 800-453- 3860 ext. 2-1911
LDS GENERAL COUNSEL: 800-453- 3860 ext. 2-6301

– Tim Birt’s Info:
– (See )
– (See


2 thoughts on “298: Tim Birt – Mormonism’s Negligence on Sex Abuse”

  1. I’m too burnt out on this topic to want to listen to this episode.
    I’ll pass this time, but thanks for putting something out there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *