LDS bishop charged with misdemeanor

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    By Nate Bertasso

    A local leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly failing to report an incident of child sexual abuse.

    Bruce R. Christensen, 60, was accused in documents filed Friday, July 7, in the 3rd District Court.

    He allegedly neglected to contact authorities when a woman told him her estranged husband sexually abused her 13-month-old baby in July 1999.

    The woman disclosed the information to Christensen when he served as a LDS bishop of the Salt Lake 21st Ward.

    In a statement released by LDS church public affairs, the LDS church said, “A preliminary review indicates that Bishop Christensen handled the situation properly, in accordance with Utah law and church policy.”

    Christensen is the second Salt Lake-area LDS bishop charged for failing to report child abuse this year.

    Bishop David West Maxwell of Sandy faces trial this month that he failed to report abuse when a 15-year-old girl in his ward told him she had been sexually abused.

    State law requires a person with knowledge of child sexual abuse to report the crime. For those that do not comply a penalty of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine is provided.

    Clergy are only exempt from the law if their only source for knowledge of the abuse comes from the perpetrator’s own confession.

    The LDS church public affairs said local church leaders are trained to comply with all reporting requirements.

    Since the 1970s, the LDS church began speaking out against child physical and sexual abuse, according to the public affairs department.

    In 1985 the LDS church published materials to help local leaders know how to deal with abuse within their congregations.

    In 1989 the LDS church set up a help line for victims and local leaders seeking consultation in their efforts.

    In addition to booklets and videos, the LDS church began training locals leaders in the United States and Canada during 1991 and 1992.

    Jonothan Topol, LDS bishop of the Orem 7th Ward, said he is constantly being trained by leaders and receives bulletins regarding the handling of child abuse regularly.

    The LDS church now offers videos to train leaders and help them know how to use the 24-hour Help Line and properly report abuse to authorities.

    The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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