The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a letter and resource document Monday to LDS Church leaders in the United States and Canada. The resource document includes an updated version of guidelines first issued in 2008.
The letter released Monday begins by referring to the letter and guidelines issued previously.
“In 2008, the First Presidency issued a letter encouraging Church leaders to reach out in love to assist those who were suffering from abuse,” the letter reads. “This global issue continues to be of great concern to us today. Our hearts and prayers go out to all who are affected by this serious problem.”
The letter encouraged all priesthood and auxiliary leaders to familiarize themselves with church policies and guidelines concerning preventing and responding to abuse and included a revised statement of those policies. The letter instructed bishops and stake presidents to go over the information with their stake and ward councils.
The policy document defines abuse as “the mistreatment or neglect of others (such as a child or spouse, the elderly, or the disabled) in a way that causes physical, emotional, or sexual harm.”
The three-page document outlines church doctrine concerning abuse with scriptural references and directs bishops and stake presidents to ensure that anything they teach regarding abuse is in line with the stated doctrine.
It also states what leaders and members should do to help prevent abuse at home and at church, how to respond to abuse, how church leaders should handle policy and legal issues and lists additional resources to help church leaders and members in dealing with abuse.
The letter’s release comes on the heels of allegations made by a woman that Joseph L. Bishop, a former Missionary Training Center president, sexually abused her in 1984 while she was a missionary there. A Brigham Young University police report released March 22 states that Bishop said he asked the alleged victim to expose herself to him during a 1984 encounter but that he didn’t rape her. Craig Vernon, an attorney for the alleged victim, denied that his client exposed herself and said Bishop ripped off her blouse and raped her.
On March 23, the LDS Church confirmed it is investigating a second accusation of sexual assault against Bishop, also dating back to the 1980s. The church said the woman first reported the abuse to her local leaders in 2010, but Bishop denied the allegation, and no action was taken by the church against him. According to the church’s statement, leaders provided the woman with emotional support and professional counseling.