Church provides more details on Arizona abuse case
For generations, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have spoken in the strongest terms about the evils of abuse and the need to care for those who are victims or survivors of abuse. From the thunderous rebuke of former President Gordon B. Hinckley to the recent words of healing offered by Patrick Kearon of the Presidency of the Seventy, our feelings are clear. We echo those sentiments and teachings today. Our hearts are broken when we learn of any abuse. This cannot be tolerated. This cannot be excused. The Savior Jesus Christ wants us all to do better and be better.
It is important to us that our members and friends understand how deeply we feel about this subject. It is also important that they have accurate information on how we approach this issue.
Church leaders and members are instructed in the Church’s “General Handbook” that their responsibilities with respect to abuse are as follows:
- Ensure that child sexual abuse stops;
- Assist victims to receive care, including from professional counsellors; and
- Comply with any reports required by law.
Since the Church released its first statement on the Associated Press story, many have wondered what was incorrect or misinterpreted in their reporting. The information and details below are provided to help the media, members, and others understand how the Church is addressing the subject of child abuse, particularly as it relates to this specific case.
Where did the Associated Press story go wrong?
The PA story has significant flaws in its facts and chronology, leading to erroneous conclusions.
We are puzzled as to why or how such a respected media source as The Associated Press would make such egregious mistakes in reporting and editing.
Each of the facts below are contained in public documents in the pending case and are taken from the sworn testimony of Leizza Adams, the victims’ mother. The Associated Press was directed to these repositories before they published their first article, but they chose not to include any of them. These repositories, accessible and familiar to the Associated Press, are the source of the following facts:
- In late 2011, Paul Adams made a limited confession to his bishop about a single past incident of child abuse. The Bishop then called the helpline, where he was instructed on how to fully comply with Arizona’s reporting laws. In accordance with this advice, from this point on the bishop made several attempts to intervene and encourage the denunciation, in particular by:
- Advise Paul Adams to repent and seek professional help;
- Asking Paul Adams to report (he declined and also refused to give the bishop permission to report);
- Encouraging Paul Adams’ wife, Leizza, to report (she refused and later served jail time for her role);
- Encourage Paul Adams to leave the house (which he did temporarily);
- Urge Leizza to seek professional counseling for Paul and their children, which would trigger a mandatory report (they declined).
- In 2013, Adams was excommunicated for his behavior and lost his membership in the Church.
- Before and after his limited confession, Paul rarely attended church or spoke to leaders.
- It was not until 2017, nearly four years later, that Church leaders learned from the media of the extent of the abuse, that the abuse had continued and that this was a second victim born after Paul’s excommunication.
The PA story ignores this timeline and sequence of events and implies that all of these facts were known to a bishop as early as 2011, a clearly erroneous conclusion.
The suggestion that the helpline is used to ‘cover up’ abuse is completely false.
- The Church’s Abuse Hotline has everything to do with child protection and nothing to do with a cover-up. It has been around for more than a quarter of a century. His goal is to :
- Comply with the various laws on reporting child abuse in all 50 states and provinces of Canada, meeting the needs of victims and their families whenever possible, while reporting abuse in accordance with the law.
- Encourage victims, family members and perpetrators to seek professional advice and self-report abuse to authorities.
- Report abuse directly to authorities, regardless of legal exemptions from reporting requirements, when a child is known to be in imminent danger. The helpline regularly reports cases of child abuse to the authorities. Outside experts familiar with the Helpline have regularly praised it.
- Even where reporting is not required or even prohibited by law (because the confession “belongs” to the confessor), the helpline encourages leaders to look for ways to ensure that these three purposes are met. achieved.
- Those who serve on the helpline are the parents and grandparents themselves and include former government child abuse investigators and child abuse prosecutors. Some are even survivors of abuse themselves. The idea that there would be any incentive on their part to cover up child abuse is absurd.
We strive to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, who spoke forcefully and repeatedly about the precious value of children and condemn those who mistreat them. These are the ideals that characterize our understanding and approach to the issue of child abuse. What happened to the Adams children in Arizona at the hands of their parents is sickening, heartbreaking and inexcusable.
The Church issued a strong response because this is a subject where there can be no hashing, no trace of apathy, and no tolerance for any suggestion that we are negligent or do not enough on the issue of child abuse. This is a question that touches our hearts and is so deeply offensive to all that we value. We will not sit idly by while others misrepresent or completely misrepresent the long-term efforts and commitment of the Church. Nor will we tolerate the Associated Press or any other media making such gross errors about the details of such a tragic and horrific incident as the one that occurred in Arizona. We are constantly striving to be better and do more, and we invite others to join us in these efforts.
“Countless numbers of [children] cry out in fear and loneliness in the face of the harmful consequences of moral transgression, neglect and abuse. I speak clearly, perhaps indelicately. But I don’t know of any other way to clarify a matter that is so close to my heart.
“…there is the terrible, inexcusable and diabolical phenomenon of physical and sexual abuse.
It’s useless. It is unjustified. It is indefensible.
“…there is the terrible and vicious practice of sexual abuse. It is beyond comprehension. It is an affront to decency that should exist in every man and woman. It is a violation of what is sacred and divine. It is destructive in children’s lives. It is reprehensible and worthy of the harshest condemnation. (President Gordon B. Hinckley; save the childrenGeneral Conference, October 1994)
“There is no place for any type of abuse – physical, sexual, emotional or verbal – in any home, any country or any culture.
“The abuse was not, is not, and never will be your fault, regardless of what the abuser or anyone else may have said to the contrary. When you have been the victim of cruelty, incest or any other perversion, it is not you who need to repent; you are not responsible.
“You are not less worthy or less precious or less loved as a human being, or as a daughter or son of God, because of what someone else has done to you.
God does not see you now and has never seen you as someone to be despised. Whatever happened to you, He is not ashamed of you or disappointed in you. He loves you in ways you haven’t discovered yet. And you’ll find that out by trusting his promises and learning to believe him when he says you’re “precious in [His] sight.” (Patrick Kearon: We can be more than conquerors. General Conference, April 2022)