LDS Church announces policy updates regarding abuse

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Dani Jardine
The First Presidency of the LDS Church released an official letter and resource document Monday updating church policy on preventing abuse. (Dani Jardine)

The LDS Church announced policy updates Monday directing church leaders on how to better prevent and respond to abuse while conducting interviews with members.

The updated guidelines allow children, youth and women to invite an adult to participate in an interview with a church leader if they are uncomfortable interviewing one-on-one with a male leader.

The church’s official statement said the letter and resource document sent out Monday is part of a “continuing effort to counsel leaders.”

The document emphasized that church leaders should never disregard any reports of abuse. It also stated leaders should never counsel members to not report criminal activity to law enforcement.

The document is an updated version of guidelines first issued by the church in 2008.

The resource document stated, “When adults are teaching children or youth in Church settings, at least two responsible adults should be present. The two adults could be two men, two women, or a married couple.”

Prior to this announcement, church policy only disallowed a single man from teaching youth or children. This updates the policy to include disallowing women teaching youth or children alone as well.

The letter, which was signed by church President Russell M. Nelson and his counselors, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring, stated,

“To ensure the safety and protection of children, youth and adults, we ask that all priesthood and auxiliary leaders become familiar with existing church policies and guidelines on preventing and responding to abuse.”

BYU Title IX Coordinator Tiffany Turley said she appreciates the church’s new emphasis on preventing abuse.

“I think the more we talk about these things, the better,” Turley said. “It’s a great thing the church is doing, putting it out there as a reminder that abuse is never OK and never in line with church doctrine.”

Turley said she’s glad the church is reminding leaders and members of the resources available to them.

“I think that in the past with a lot of these situations it was often times a situation where leaders didn’t know how to respond, so there’s emphasis on, here’s actual church policy,” Turley said. “It will be incredibly useful.”

This announcement came a week after a woman’s sexual assault accusation against former MTC president Joseph Bishop was made public.

Turley said she sees this recent church outreach as less policy change and more policy emphasis.

“People are talking about (the change) in the context of new policy, but what they’re really doing is reminding leaders of polices that already existed,” Turley said.

Bishop Jim Stone, bishop of the Provo YSA 138th Ward, applauds the policy update. He said it’s always good make members as comfortable as possible.

“Having somebody else in an interview that they feel comfortable with is great,” Stone said.

Stone said there are many situations where having another adult accompany someone to a bishop’s interview makes sense, but sometimes sensitive issues are dealt with in these meetings that might make the person being interviewed want to interview alone.

Stone said he is also glad of the change now requiring two women be present when teaching children or youth in Church settings.

“Everybody has weaknesses and it’s good to have back up and support for every situation,” Stone said.

The new directives are now church policy and will be included in Handbook 1.

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