Written By: Reverend Anton Sawyer & Nicole West
Since both Nicole and myself have spent most of our lives living in what some call the “Bible Belt of the West,” and others call “Mormondor”—i.e. Utah—it’s sad to report that neither one of us has been particularly surprised by the revelations that the higher-ups of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons) knew about sexual abuse amongst their flock and did nothing to stop it. And as you may know, their standing is nothing new as evident in the outcomes presented by Nicole when she wrote about her firsthand experience with abuse and the Mormons, which you can read here.
Though the main story presented below takes place outside of Utah, it’s important to remember that the body goes where the head tells it, and the head of Mormonism control is in the Beehive State. And for those who have never been, Utah is a cesspool of inauthenticity whose core is to be found in the state’s predominant faith—where appearances become reality. One side-effect of this way of life is how far people are willing to go in protecting their outside appearance at all costs, even if it is detrimental to others. Take this attitude up the ladder to the highest echelons of those who run the Church and the thought of major cover-ups protecting those who are in charge of the faith isn’t too far a stretch of the imagination … no matter how horrific the crimes that are committed.
The story below is the epitome of ghoulish and could very well surpass the levels of infamy that the Catholic Church has already established when it comes to protecting its own at the cost of any sense of normalcy for the rest of the victims’ life. And that’s an understatement. Be aware that the details you’re going to read will induce feelings of rage and confusion. You’ll ask how anyone of any religious ideology could allow for these transgressions to occur. The answer you need to keep at the forefront of your mind when these kinds of reasonable questions occur is simple: power. Given that as of 2021, 89 of the 103 seated lawmakers in the state of Utah are members of the Mormon Church, literally everyone in the state is impacted by Church teachings which influence those who make the laws. That’s a lot of power to lose if things go sideways. If the head dies … you get the idea.
So, what happened exactly?
In an attempt to maintain complete transparency, all research and statistical fact-checking for all articles can be found in the bibliography linked here.
If you can spare a few bucks to support a starving artist, buy me a coffee!
MJ was a tiny, black-haired girl, just 5 years old when her father admitted to his bishop that he was sexually abusing her. The father, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and an admitted pornography addict, was in counseling with his bishop when he revealed the abuse. The bishop, who was also a family physician, followed church policy and called what church officials have dubbed the “help line” for guidance. But the call offered little help for MJ. Lawyers for the church, who staff the help line around the clock, told Bishop John Herrod not to call police or child welfare officials. Instead, he kept the abuse secret.
“They said, ‘You absolutely can do nothing,’” Herrod said in a recorded interview with law enforcement.
Herrod continued to counsel MJ’s father, Paul Douglas Adams, for another year, and brought in Adams’ wife, Leizza Adams, in hopes she would do something to protect the children. She didn’t. Herrod later told a second bishop, who also kept the matter secret after consulting with church officials who maintain that the bishops were excused from reporting the abuse to police under the state’s so-called clergy-penitent privilege. Adams continued raping MJ for as many as seven more years, into her adolescence, and also abused her infant sister, who was born during that time. He frequently recorded the abuse on video and posted the video on the internet. Adams was finally arrested by Homeland Security agents in 2017 with no help from the church, after law enforcement officials in New Zealand discovered one of the videos. He died by suicide in custody before he could stand trial.
This begs the question as to how this could legally occur.
As I’ve written about previously when it comes to terrible acts occurring in a legal sense, it’s all about the way the laws are written. Those who have money and power are able to understand the legal system in ways that most people aren’t. If you are a multi-billion dollar corporation like the Mormon Church, you are going to have the best attorneys money can buy, and therefore will have advanced warning of the potential loopholes you’ll need to exploit if needed. When it comes to the Adams disclosure, we once again see how poorly written laws got manipulated.
The seven years of secrecy in the Adams case began when church attorneys in Salt Lake City advised Bishop John Herrod and later Bishop Robert “Kim” Mauzy that they were exempt from reporting requirements under the state’s child abuse reporting law because of the law’s clergy-penitent privilege. Arizona’s child sex abuse reporting law, and similar laws in more than 20 states, say clergy, physicians, nurses, or anyone caring for a child who “reasonably believes” the child has been abused or neglected has a legal obligation to report the information to police or the state Department of Child Safety. But it also says that clergy who receive information about child neglect or sexual abuse during spiritual confessions “may withhold” that information from authorities if the clergy determine it is “reasonable and necessary” under church doctrine.
Oh, and about those aforementioned attorneys? They made their presence known.
William Maledon, an Arizona attorney representing the bishops and the church in a lawsuit filed by three of the Adams' six children, told the AP last month the bishops were not required to report the abuse. "These bishops did nothing wrong. They didn't violate the law, and therefore they can't be held liable," he said. Maledon referred to the suit as "a money grab.” For most reasonable human beings, withholding such information, although not violating any laws, shows complete moral bankruptcy.
Of course, like any good corporation, the Mormon leaders closed in ranks and tried to muddy the waters (even further than Maledon’s statements) by minimizing and repeating pre-planned talking points in their official statement regarding the abuse. "The AP story has significant flaws in its facts and timeline, which lead to erroneous conclusions. We are puzzled as to why or how a media source as respected as the Associated Press would make such egregious errors in reporting and editing." The statement then continues with facts "missed by the Associated Press." Claiming, "in late 2011, Paul Adams made a limited confession to his bishop about a single past incident of abuse of one child. The bishop then called the help line, where he was advised about how to fully comply with Arizona’s reporting laws. In compliance with that counsel, from that time forward, the bishop repeatedly tried to intervene and encourage reporting."
They continue with finger-pointing, though none of their targets are based in reality. At least, any reality which could have impacted the eventual outcome in a less-harmful way.
“The AP story ignores this timeline and sequence of events and implies that all these facts were known by a bishop as early as 2011, a clearly erroneous conclusion." There is one element to their statement that truly shows the snake eating its own tail. "[We] comply with the various laws of child abuse reporting in all 50 states and the provinces of Canada, ministering to the needs of victims and their families where we can, while reporting abuse consistent with the law." See the confusing laws above. Rinse and repeat.
Outside of the gross negligence that came from Mormon leadership, the biggest aid to this repeated rape came from the notorious “help line” that Bishop Herrod was told to call. To be honest, the fact that it’s even called a help line is a joke. A more appropriate title for this help line would be the “cover your ass hotline.”
When calling the help line, “There would be a page containing various topics to discuss and handle,” said Harold C. Brown, then director of the church’s Welfare Services Department. The Protocol instructs those staffing the help line to tell callers they are to use first names only. “No identifying information should be given.” Under the heading “High-Risk Cases,” it also instructs staffers to ask a series of questions, including whether calls concerned possible abuse by a church leader, an employee, or abuse at “a church-sponsored activity.” The protocol advises those taking the calls to instruct a “priesthood leader,” which includes bishops and stake presidents, to encourage the perpetrator, the victim, or others who know of the abuse to report it. But it also says, in capital letters, that those taking the calls “should never advise a priesthood leader to report abuse. Counsel of this nature should come only from legal counsel.” Which would mean giving a call to another great humanitarian like William Maledon, attorney at law.
It's important to remember that the information in this article is just from one case. There have also been legal actions brought about with similar evidence of negligence popping up in West Virginia and Oregon around the same timeframe as this one from Arizona. Yet, for those of us who have been members/indoctrinated into the Mormon Church, widespread child sexual abuse in the Church is not a recent happening. As a child, Nicole was abused by her step-father who held the priesthood in the Mormon faith for years with just a slap on the wrist befalling her attacker—even after the abuse was found out. She, like many others, did as they had been instructed to: pray to God to ask for the abuse to stop.
I think the sickest element to all of this is how ingrained in the Mormon philosophy it is that through the power of prayer, God makes all things possible. From birth, children are indoctrinated through various means to unflinchingly follow the word of God, knowing they will receive heavenly rewards—not rape. One example comes in the form of a primary song called “A Child’s Prayer.” The last lines of the first verse feed the children all the reassurance they could need with “Heavenly Father, I remember now, something that Jesus told disciples long ago, ‘suffer the children to come to me.’ Father in prayer I’m coming now to thee.” Imagine your head being filled with that and you praying to be left alone only for that God to remain silent while the most dehumanizing actions are taking place. This is the perfect recipe for a mentally and emotionally devastated adult.
Maybe that’s what happened to all the Church leaders since their actions during these assaults show nothing but mental and spiritual instabilities.
If you can spare a few bucks to support a starving artist, buy me a coffee!