Dealing with Abuse

The Church has spoken out against abuse by everyone, particularly members. But abuse happens. And there are factors that make it difficult for abused persons to be believed.

Sunday evening I had a chance to hear Jennie Willoughby speak, the first time she’s publicly discussed the abuse in her marriage with a dominantly Mormon audience.Jennie reports that she didn’t notice anything untoward in her whirlwind courtship with Rob Porter, a rising legal professional with strong ties to Mormon leadership. A recent convert, Jennie didn’t notice Rob wasn’t taking the sacrament when they first met. The fact that Rob had a prior failed marriage didn’t raise red flags. One instance of anger during their courtship seemed understandable at the time. In retrospect, it was a precursor of the terror that would ensue.

Weeks after marrying Rob, Jennie burst into tears in a temple recommend interview when asked if there was anything of concern in her relationships with family members. 1 The stake leader, who had been Jennie’s bishop when she joined the Church, requested Jennie talk with her Bishop. Jennie admits that she wasn’t able to clearly articulate to her bishop the way in which she was being verbally abused or the ways in which intimate relations between herself and her husband felt wrong. Jennie separated from Rob. When Rob destroyed the window in the door to her apartment in anger, the police warned her she may not be safe. But Rob apologized and they reconciled. Then an angry Rob grabbed Jennie by the neck when she was in the shower, terrifying Jennie enough to take steps to end her marriage.

I myself have been involved in toxic situations. This week my physician asked how I came to have a fracture to my eye socket, an old injury the eye doctor noticed earlier this year. I honestly don’t know whether the injury occurred in the late 1970s, when my father beat me, or in the early 1990s, when my first husband beat me. I have suffered no other accidents that could account for that sort of damage to my eye socket.

I am not the most abused woman I know. A girl raised in my neighborhood, Janet Christiansen Abaroa, was brutally killed, almost certainly by the man she married in the temple. A sister-in-law was raped twice, once at Church. My daughter’s sister-in-law was also raped at Church. When I consider lesser violence against women, I can name dozens of family members, friends, and acquaintances who have suffered, often at the hands of those who were ostensibly good Church-going men. And women can be abusive as well.

Abuse happens. But why are the abused too often denied the help they need? And what can be done to reduce the problem in the future? Continue reading

Notes:

  1. I’ve been asked this question in interviews, but forget the exact wording.

Freshening the Bench

In recent times, new apostles tend to be called from the Presidency of the Seventy. So I was intrigued to see a lot of movement in that body this past weekend. The future membership of the Presidency of the Seventy will be slightly younger and less Utahn. A majority of Presidents of the Seventy as of August 2018 will hail from outside the United States.

Those who will not be shifting until August are noted in italics.

Former Leaving Now Joining Future
Gong
(’53, CA)
Gong
(’53, CA)
 Gay
(’51, CA)
Gay
(’51, CA)
Gay
(’51, CA)
 Soares
(’58, Brazil)
Soares
(’58, Brazil)

 Cook
(’57, UT)

Cook
(’57, UT)
Cook
(’57, UT)
Clayton
(’50, UT)
 Clayton
(’50, UT)
Clayton
(’50, UT)
Kearon
(’61, UK)
 Kearon
(’61, UK)
 Kearon
(’61, UK)
Christensen
(’56, UT)
 Christensen
(’56, UT)
 Christensen
(’56, UT)
 Vinson
(’51, Australia)
  Vinson
(’51, Australia)
Robbins
(’52, UT)
 Robbins
(’52, UT) 
 Robbins
(’52, UT)
Teixeira
(’61, Portugal) 
 Teixeira
(’61, Portugal) 
 Uceda
(’53, Peru)
 Uceda
(’53, Peru) 
 Uceda
(’53, Peru)
 Godoy
(’61, Brazil)
Godoy
(’61, Brazil) 

Elder Gong (’53, California) and Elder Soares (’58, Brazil) left the Presidency of the Seventy to become Apostles. Elder Gong is the first LDS Apostle of Asian ancestry and is notable for being born outside of Utah. Elder Soares is the first LDS Apostle of South American origin.

In addition to country/state of birth, a fuller picture would look at the regions where these leaders have experience. In that sense, the Presidents of the Seventy have experience that spans the globe, as always. But their lens will no longer be dominantly a Utah lens, as has been the case in the past.

As mentioned during Conference, 40% of the General Authority Seventies now hail from outside the United States.

The quiet advancement of women’s voices in the Church

With all of the changes in the Church over the weekend, I am struck by how Church leaders have quietly increased the role of women in the Church.

The merging of Elder’s Quorum and the High Priests means there will be one fewer man at ward council. Women’s input will become more prominent.

The ending of Priesthood Executive Committee (usually just men) means ward council becomes even more important.

The Church has quietly signaled that more input from women is expected at the ward level.

The institution of ministering visits (rather than home and visiting teaching) also includes more involvement in ministering from young women. These young women will be trained at an earlier age how to minister in the Lord’s way. In our ward, and I would imagine most wards, visiting teaching numbers are much better than home teaching numbers, and a lot of the reason has to do with the dedication of women to ministering to the needy in the Church. Will the institution of ministering visits increase the outreach of active ward members to the less active? I would guess yes.

The Church continues to build new temples, even as membership growth stalls in the United States. Temples are the places where women are guaranteed to use the power of the priesthood to bring blessings to their ancestors, and women are more likely to go to the temple than men.

Like most active members, I welcome and embrace any changes announced by the prophets. We are living in amazing times, and it will be fascinating to see how this all plays out.

A temple for Russia!

For nearly six years, I have watched General Conference with bated breath. As President Monson announced temple after temple, I waited but the words never came. I was happy for all of the incredible places in the world getting temples, but came away from each conference disappointed.

I served in Novosibirsk Russia under a visionary Mission President- who not coincidentally had been set apart by President Nelson. President Gibbons came to Russia with a single and divinely inspired goal – to help build a district and eventually a stake in Siberia. He promised the members that if they remained faithful, one day they would see stakes and temple dot Russia and specially in Siberia.

After six years, I had lost hope. After years of progress in constructing stakes and districts, the government crackdown was savage. First came anti-Mormon propaganda on TV. Next came an effort to label members of the church tratiors to the national fabric. An aggressive ban on proselytizing followed. And within just the past year, family history centers were shut down and meeting houses raided after evidence of criminal conduct was manufactured and planted.

With each unfulfilled conference prayer, I began to doubt whether God would truly be faithful to the promises he made through his divinely called servant. Today, President Nelson, a true Prophet of God, showed that it is not God that is unfaithful to his promises.

It is so appropriate that President Nelson would be the one to announce the building of a temple in Russia. He was the apostle instrumental in the opening up of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union territories to missionary work in the late 80s and early 90s. One of his many granddaughters served in Russia. He has spoken to the saints there on many occasions and has used their stories in conference.

I can’t begin to express how much this announcement means to me personally and to the saints in Russia. My Siberian Brothers and Sisters are probably currently as far from an operating temple as anywhere in the world. In 2010, the Church dedicated the Kiev Ukraine Temple which somewhat eased the burdens of travel. But worsening socio-political circumstances have dashed that dream. And even with a temple in Kiev, the distance is over 4,000 miles from the center of my mission. Those faithful members ride the trains for days and spend a week at the temple doing work night and day. Their faith and example resembles the early pioneers. It will truly be a glorious day to have a temple in Russia.

There will likely be opposition to the building of the temple. When a temple is built, a portion of the world is sanctified and set apart for the holiest purpose imaginable. Satan rages. But God will triumph.

I also celebrate the announcement of new temples to be built in Argentina, Nicaragua, the Philippines, the USA (UT and VA), and India, but for me the temple announced in Russia makes all the difference!

And another Announcement!

Not an April Fool’s Day joke.

Home and Visiting teaching are no longer.

Priesthood, RS and YW will now do Ministering.

No prepared lessons from the Ensign. No visiting in every home. Visits done will include and be supplemented by phone, email, etc. No visit number reporting every month. The Church cares that we minister and care for others, not so much in how we do it.

The Church will email more details out to every member they have an email address for.

Also, details will soon be available at LDS.org