Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Mormon Church – also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the LDS Church – has unique organizational structure and culture. Historically, the Mormon Church has been an insular religious community. Most male members in good standing will become “priesthood holders”, gain authority and “callings” to leadership over others within the church.

Unfortunately, too often, abusers manipulate trust and reverence to prey upon children. Certainly recovery from Mormonism also becomes a challenging task with such incidents. Historically, LDS bishops and stake presidents have insisted on handling allegations internally and have strongly discouraged intervention by outside authorities.

The response by the local LDS church (at either the ward or stake level) is often to remove the perpetrator’s “calling” without informing the rest of the ward or stake the reason for discipline. Whatever the intent, such actions can allow predators to continue to victimize children. Too often, those who are abused within an LDS congregation feel that nothing will be done if they report abuse and instead suffer in silence.

Abuse Dating Back



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In 2007, we began fighting for those abused in the context of the Mormon Church in 2005, and since then have represented several dozen men and women who were abused by missionaries, home teachers, bishops, Scout leaders and others in positions of LDS callings. In 2007, Kelly Clark, with the help of two other skilled attorneys from our firm, won major pretrial victories against the LDS Church on disputed legal questions such as the statute of limitations, punitive damages and– most significantly– won a ruling from the trial court, backed up by the Oregon Supreme Court, that the Church release its financial records. Perhaps not surprisingly, the case settled immediately after that decision.

Beginning in 2007, we brought a case on behalf of six men against the LDS Church, with claims of harboring a serial child abuser in Portland, a Scout leader, who had confessed to his bishop to molesting 17 boys in the troop, and yet was allowed by this bishop to resume Scouting leadership within only a few months. The LDS settled out of that case in 2009, and in 2010 we proceeded to trial against only the BSA, winning a record verdict of nearly $20 million, including punitive damages of $18.5 million.

Since that trial, we have continued to advocate for survivors of abuse in the LDS context, and in 2012, for example, our firm defeated comprehensive motions brought by the Church in a case in federal court in Boise, Idaho. Again, that case settled just after the court’s ruling, as we were preparing to head to trial. Read the Oregon Supreme Court decision about this case here.

Those who’ve survived Mormon abuse often have conflicting feelings of doubt, shame, anger, and an aversion to religion. At the same time, many remain deeply loyal to the Church. But all have been betrayed by an authority figure from that Church. This dynamic leads to much confusion and disillusionment for survivors of abuse in Mormonism. We understand this confusion, and while we never suggest that a person abandon his or her faith, we do believe that, for some survivors, securing justice for themselves and accountability for their abusers and those who may have enabled it is an important part of the healing process.

If you have suffered abuse in the LDS Church and would like to talk to someone about your options, please send us a message today or call toll-free at 1-888-407-0224.

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