Is the LDS Church Increasing Its Appeal for Sexual Predators?

Sam and I at Sunstone

I have to say it: I really wonder about the direction the Mormon Church is moving.  It just feels the Church is regressing.   Two red flags have been raised recently: One is the disheartening excommunication of Sam Young in his effort to change policy about one-on-one interviews and the sexually explicit questioning of our youth.   That alone is enough but I see another connection to Sam Young’s movement to protect LDS Children, which brings me to concern number two: the Church’s withdrawal in the Scouting program (which had interesting timing—two weeks after the BSA announced they would no longer discriminate against women, the Church backed out.).

These two recent actions alarm me and let me explain why.

When the Church withdrew from the BSA program, they took a big step back in my eyes because the BSA required all the youth leaders (at least those working with the young men) to have background checks AND receive formal training—which is something the Church has NEVER required of its leaders outside of Scouting—and a direction Sam was pleading the Church to take.  Yet by being connected to the BSA, by default, this helped keep the Young Men leaders in check. It insured that the Church was a safer place and thus helped defuse predators from LDS congregations.

But now without these policies in place and by excommunicating check-and-balancing voices like Sam Young, the Church is actually publicly encouraging predators to join our Church communities.  Do we think they are not watching?  Well, they are.  Research confirms that offenders pay attention.  They look for weak policies and practices.  And the weaker they are, the more likely predators will seek out and find their way into these congregations.  They know what they are doing.   They know what they want and where to get it.  And what better place than the trusting practices found in the LDS Church?

Further, it’s so easy for predators to make themselves comfortable in our ward communities.  Let me explain how predators work.  Once they get in, they being to watch the children and look for signs of neglect or abuse.  Then the grooming begins.  Grooming is a form of manipulation.  It’s subtle and flattering.  Gradual desensitization is often used through charm, encouraging children down a path that will eventually become abusive in nature.  Predators will push boundaries with the child to see what the child will tolerate.  It’s a slow process as the child is desensitized.  They may expose the child to pornography and engage in progressively more invasive touch.  If they are a leader, they may even use sexually explicit questions approved by the Church, all in an attempt to acclimate and test the child.  They are very good at pretending to be “the good guy”!

We need to be concerned because the situation we have at hand now with the LDS Church is that we are not just increasing our appeal to sexual predators, but by the nature of our culture and doctrine, we are also simultaneously teaching our children to respect their Church leaders.   We teach them that our leaders give us good advice and that they are to be honored and heeded because they have wisdom, experience, but more importantly, they speak and act for God.  We tell them, “Respect the bishop.”  Or “Do what your youth leaders tell you to do.”  “If they say to do it, you need to obey them.”  So often our children, almost without question, take the role and words of a leader very seriously.

Predators appreciate these teachings of obedience and submissiveness in the LDS Church.  They expect it as well.  They expect that the children will not challenge them.  To help ensure this, predators (who cannot be identified by appearance or demeanor; please know that!) will also groom the parents of the child they are interested in.  They pay close attention to the parents—don’t think for a second that they don’t!  They will help the family as needed.  They will seem so nice and trustworthy to even you, Parents!  They love to be in your home and help you and will also make you feel special.  They want and need you to be on their side as well.  Pay attention to people who love your children more than you do!  This is actually a warning sign—don’t be deceived!

Further, it is very rare for an offender to be someone that the family does not know well.  They will work their way into your heart and home.  Gifts and favors will be offered.  Predators use attention and affection to help you break down safety rules for not just your child, but for you as well.

So where are we headed now as we increase our invitation to sexual predators, LDS Church?   Are we focused on our children?  Are we showing added awareness of our needs to respect their privacy, rights, and safety?  Are we implementing better policies?  OR are we continuing to remove barriers for sex offenders?  Are we simply going to continue to get rid of loud voices like Sam’s that are crying for increased protection and better practices?

It’s your call, Church members!  Use your voice.  Let it be heard where you stand!  Think and act for yourselves on these issues!  And if you detect something is not quite right, IT IS OKAY to question the actions and directions of your leaders and religion!  We all have ears, hearts, and voices for a reason.  Let us first hear, think, consider, and then speak.  If we want to effect change, we have to stand up and take action!



**Danna Hartline is the founder and creator of The Mormon Trauma Mama.  She is actively involved in advocating for those suffering from church trauma and is currently getting her Master’s degree in Pastoral Counseling from California Southern University.  She has spoken at many events on the very real issue  of church trauma in the LDS Church including the ADAM Conference, Sunstone Symposium, and the When Church Hurts summit.  She  is also a guest speaker in the Hushed Ones Documentary.  For more information on church trauma,  find an overview on the MTM  homepage which includes a presentation Danna did at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.  You can follow Danna on her Facebook page The Mormon Trauma Mama.

16 thoughts on “Is the LDS Church Increasing Its Appeal for Sexual Predators?

  1. Joann says:

    Church leaders so often cite pornography and the general moral decline, with ever more adult entertainment and graphic sexual content. I have long believed that as the culture becomes more immersed in sexualized media, those who were or are exposed to it, will work their way up into church leadership positions. The pool of males for leadership is different and more exposed to wanton sexuality than in the past. Let’s face it, everyone is now exposed to graphic sexual material, and from a young age. This means there is a higher percentage of our male leadership who are likely coming into church positions more sexualized than previous generations. The risk has become so great in those bishops office, way more than when our leaders were kids. Why can’t the church see this reality and deal with it?

  2. Nic Lowe says:

    Dana, my Friend, the original Mormon whistleblower has been terrorized and slandered for forty one years by the Mormon PR Machine on an international level. She is in LA but needs a place to stay while she writes a screenplay to expose what thed CULT did to her and her fiance back in 1977.. Do you know anyone who can understand her goal that can share their house with her. She can split expenses. Her STORY will win an Oscar, and be the final nail in Mormonism’ s coffin.

  3. Melissa L Bradford says:

    You have just told the story of what the pedophile who molested me as an eight year old child. Another type of child that an abuser targets are the sensitive ones. I told no one about the abuse, child predators are very good at instilling fear and shame. I didn’t even really understand what happened to me I just knew it was scary and felt wrong. At nine years old I ran in front of cars trying to die to go home to jesus. Although the man who molested me was not a member of the mormon church all the children in our neighborhood who this man groomed were. At twelve years old I was given the pamphlet titled Chastity during my first worthiness interview, one line is forever etched into my mind, it said “if you did not fight even unto death you had allowed your virtue to be taken”. After that pamphlet I didn’t just want to die, I wanted annihilation. An after life held no promise, I was too soiled, my sin in the eyes of the mormon church only a murderer had a worse sin.

  4. Karen Lynne says:

    What is happening here?! The Church is really disheartening me. They keep doing this. They just get rid of anyone who sees need for change and speaks up. Then they intimidate with fears of excommunication and humiliation. Groupthink seems to be all that is allowed these day. We are losing our best members! This has to stop!

  5. Suzie says:

    Not that I am disagreeing with you, your opinion is extremely important. But the BSA does NOT have a formal system for background checks.

    This is directly from their website

    The adult application requests background information that should be checked by the unit committee or the chartered organization before accepting an applicant for unit leadership. While no current screening techniques exist that can identify every potential child molester, we can reduce the risk of accepting a child molester by learning all we can about an applicant for a leadership position—his or her experience with children, why he or she wants to be a Scout leader, and what discipline techniques he or she would use. (

    The background check is just local leaders verifying a persons character at this point.

    There have been many cases of abuse that happened in the scouting program. I don’t see how what the church decided about scouting has any impact on abuse cases or on opening up an area for predators.

    • Stefan says:

      That is not correct. In order to be a Scout Leader you have to submit a signed, background check application that is sent to BSA and a full, legal background check is done. Lds Leaders are not allowed to sustain you to the calling until they receive word from BSA that you have passed your background check.

  6. Brenda Goodwin says:

    I’m surprised Sam hasn’t look into Joseph Smith and how he was able to convince teenage girls to marry him. All the classic child predator signs are there and if they refused him he would punish them.

    • Lynne McKinley says:

      Brenda – Joseph Smith actually fought polygamy. In fact, there was a high council court scheduled: Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball and John Taylor were going to be excommunicated for polygamy, but Joseph and Hyrum were conveniently murdered two week before the court. Complicit in those murders, and also in the poisoning of their brother Samuel Smith was Brigham Young. There is emerging evidence that Brigham Young got the $10,000 reward bounty on Joseph’s head, which was the basis of his wealth in Utah.

      After Joseph’s death Brigham and his cabal of polygamist pedophiles took over the church and rewrote history saying Joseph taught and practiced polygamy. (Why do you think Lucy Mack Smith and Emma would not come west with Brigham? They knew.)

      Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy Volume 3 is a continuation of both Richard and Pamela Price’s life’s work. Their son, David Price, assisted in the preparation of this volume. Well over half of a century in the making, this volume firmly establishes that (especially during 1842-1844 at Nauvoo) men and women nearest to Joseph increasingly turned against him and entered into multiple polygamy-related conspiracies against him. Some did so to falsely attach polygamy to Joseph’s name and to so weaken him through defamation that they could take over the Church. Others did so in order to enrage outsiders into a state of riot to destroy the Church. Yet others did so to vex Joseph so that he would succumb to their demands to change the Church so that it would officially embrace polygamy.

      These conspiracies included not just harmful words aimed against Joseph, but criminal acts too–including sabotage, racketeering, fraud, forgery, riot, false arrest, assault, death threats, and murder! Also of note in this volume is inclusion of the newest DNA evidences that refute the Utah LDS Church’s long-standing fable that Joseph fathered children by polygamous wives. 415 pages. Here’s the link, sorry it’s so
      long… ://

  7. Travis says:

    The Church of Christ doesn’t excommunicate good people for no reason. If your public focus (even if it is with pure intent) is going to hyper-focus and distract people from the purpose of the gospel you’re doing more harm than good. If you have a scratch you put a bandaid on it you don’t cut off your arm. I’m sure there are lots of areas the church can improve. Taking away private interviews all together and respect for leadership (which was explained as leverage in the article for groomers) will do more harm than good. The first fix for this problem when unworthy men are in positions of power is to make sure your kids can talk to you about what is going on. The church already put a bandaid on it which was allowing the youth to have a parent present. What if the parent is the one abusing and that meeting alone is where the child can finally express it? What if the bishop is a good man (which is in most cases) and the youth truly want to express repentance privately? We’re all in this life together and are suppose to help each other… but you have to remember you can poke holes in any policy made by imperfect men, and when you let that policy be your gospel then you will loose focus of the true gospel of Christ and the big picture of our purpose here. It’s better to be for something than against it. The church heard this problem and made their first calculated step. Society believes that if you yell loud or complain enough you’ll eventually get your way… but what if your way has just as many problems in the big picture? They are just different problems…

    • Amazing Momma says:

      Travis, no we should prevent instead of letting it happen first. After the abuse has happened, the damage is done. I think you’re being very naive. Putting all children at risk in a bishops office just because a few of them may be getting abused by a parent makes zero sense. An old man being alone with a child to ask sexual questions is NOT NOT NOT OK, ever. It is the parents responsibility!

  8. Tiffany Cole says:

    You are right on all points except the last one. It’s not ok to say something. Speaking out to protect children gets you excommunicated.

  9. Dinah says:

    Brenda and others, There is a wonderful book, “There Are Save Two Churches Only”, by D. Christian Markham which exposes the long standing sexual abuse and Satanic ritual abuse in our church. Also, you can acquaint yourself with the International Tribunal of Natural Justice and view the testimony of people like Kristy Allen and many others who have suffered at the hands of sexual predators. This is real. The LDS church places blame for polygamy falsely on Joseph. Joseph went door to door in Nauvoo reminding the saints that a man was to have only one wife. Please look up the testimony of Charles Wesley Wandell, assistant historian in Nauvoo and also in SL about the changes in the D&C and the history of the church ordered by BY. These changes satisfied the new order of things – polygamy and hierarchy. A good documented and resourced history of the LDS church is found in the book, “Passing the Heavenly Gift” by Denver Snuffer. The official “history” of the church is so full of holes and outright lies. To put your salvation into the hands of a multi-billion dollar corporation without understanding the obligations of that corporation to the Supreme Court is not wise. Gov’t has replaced the Lord as master. It’s a heartbreak to learn the truth, but we must have it, seek it. Be woke up!

  10. Karen says:

    The scenarios/ situations of grooming is standard behavior for pedophiles. This is not exclusive to the LDS church, or any other church/organizations. I do not see anything exclusive to the Mormon church as you imply.
    It is the parents responsibility to have a close relationship with their children. Close enough that you tell them that no one can touch, show porn, or otherwise molest. Close enough to go to the camp outs and various meetings.
    I’m a mother of 5 grown children with grandchildren. I teach them this same thing.
    If the parent just drops the kids off at church (and we’ve all seen it, all denominations) they have dropped the parenting ball.
    I am not saying this doesn’t exist. I am saying that it’s everywhere.

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