“And notwithstanding this great abomination of the Lamanites, it doth not exceed that of our people in Moriantum. For behold, many of the daughters of the Lamanites have they taken prisoners; and after depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue -” – Moroni 9:9

In March of 2016, Dr. Andrea Radke-Moss, a professor of history at Brigham Young University-Idaho, revealed at a conference that Eliza R. Snow was possibly gang-raped by anti-Mormon thugs while the Latter-day Saints lived in Missouri.[1] As the woman who reorganized the Relief Society and as a proponent of women’s suffrage, Eliza R. Snow remains a prominent figure in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; thus, Dr. Radke-Moss’ revelation shocked many in the Church’s historical research community. From this explosive claim last year about Eliza R. Snow, to Elizabeth Smart’s famous story, to BYU’s controversial handling of sexual assault claims, a historical review of the Church’s responses to reported sexual assault is timely and relevant. [2]

This review will show that the Church’s response to sexual assault has changed over time, moving in a positive direction that is both more humane and more Christ-like in its approach. This is not to say that earlier responses should be condemned; they were clearly the product of their time period, though we can be happy about their supersession within the Church. And this is also not to say that the Church of the present day has a perfect approach, either. Rather, this historical overview is useful in seeing just how far the Saints have come in addressing this important issue.

Mormon women’s history is still a young field, though growing, and information about sexual assault in the nineteenth century—a somewhat taboo topic even today—is sparse. The earliest known mention of sexual assault or rape in LDS culture comes near the end of the Book of Mormon in a description of an ongoing war between the Nephites and the Lamanites. In it, Mormon, an ancient LDS prophet, recounts to his son Moroni how their own people, the Nephites, had been raping prisoners of war. The phrase, “depriving them… of chastity and virtue,” came to define the core of the Church’s response to crimes of a sexual nature. Mormon also describes chastity and virtue as “most dear and precious above all things.” This principle that sexual purity was priceless and that depriving someone of it was one of the most heinous crimes imaginable, determined how both Church leadership and membership responded to survivors of sexual assault and rape.

In addition to the official responses of the Church, some unofficial responses of Church-affiliated institutions and individual members will be reviewed. This is because both principle and practice are of interest in conducting this historical overview. This review, while not entirely comprehensive, aims to bring greater insight and context to the Church’s official and cultural relationship with survivors of sexual assault from 1830 to 2016. While the Church largely mirrored the larger societal context throughout its history in the way it has responded to sexual assault, the focus of this article is on the response of the Church and its members and not on that broader societal level of analysis. Passages from Church texts and from member recollections were chosen to give representation of both positive and negative aspects of those responses. This review is divided into three time periods to show the positive evolution in the response to sexual assault: 1830-1950, 1950-1990, and 1990-2016.

Responses to Sexual Assault: 1830 – 1950

“She was promised honor above all women, save only Emma.” – Alice Merrill Horne [3]

The earliest known account of a modern-day LDS church member being raped is that of the 1838 possible gang rape of Eliza R. Snow by anti-Mormon ruffians in Missouri. Historians have speculated the brutality of this assault left Eliza R. Snow unable to bear children. This event may have also been what prompted the first prophet of the Church, Joseph Smith, to offer Eliza R. Snow marriage to himself as a polygamous wife. By the account of Alice Merrill Horne, a personal friend of Snow, the offer was born of the deepest compassion for Snow. She describes Smith’s reaction thus:

The prophet heard and had compassion. This Saint, whose lofty ideals, whose person had been crucified, was yet to become the corner of female work. To her, no child could be born and yet she would be a Mother in Israel. One to whom all eyes should turn, to whom all ears would listen to hear her sing (in tongues) the praises of Zion. She was promised honor above all women, save only Emma, but her marriage to the prophet would be only for heaven. [4]

Horne’s recollection suggests that in response to the vicious sexual attack on Eliza R. Snow, the prophet Joseph Smith offered her compassion, healing, honor, and promises of both earthly and eternal glory.

Other than Joseph Smith’s compassionate response to Eliza R. Snow, sources on Church leaders’ official responses to survivors of rape and sexual assault remain scarce; the next known statement from an LDS official did not come until 1910. Then church president, Joseph F. Smith, spoke to the fifteenth annual joint conference of the Young Men’s organization and the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association, and stated the following about protecting young girls from rape and sexual assault:

[T]he guardians of those little girls at least should look after them and see that they are… under the protection of some chaperone or experienced individual, whose duty it is to care for their honor, their purity and virtue, and see to it at once that they are taken care of and prevented from going out into the darkness of the night to associate with creatures… more vile than tongue would be permitted to tell here today;… boys whose greatest pride is to destroy virtue and boast of it, and this is too often the character of boys that you will find playing with the little girls on the street at night… How shall you prevent it? Teach them to come home at evening… under the care of father or mother… and shield them from harm to the utmost. Now this is the best way that I know of to stem this evil. [5]

When looking at this quote within the context of sexual assault and rape, President Joseph F. Smith clearly denounced perpetrators as vile. He also suggested that the best way to prevent sexual assault was to protect young girls from entering an environment where they might be hurt. While his intentions were laudable, in light of present-day understandings about sexual assault, President Smith’s statement could be seen as perpetuating a double standard between men and women, where women continued to assume the majority of the responsibility for their own victimization. This “feels” very different than the reaction of the Prophet Joseph to Eliza R. Snow’s experience.

During the same 1910 Young Men and Young Women conference at which President Joseph F. Smith gave the sermon previously discussed, Dr. J. Lloyd Woodruff gave a sermon titled, “What can be done to stem the tide of evil that is sweeping through the land?” In it, he gave advice to parents concerned for their daughters’ sexual welfare:

Others again say the innate purity of a young girl will warn her of the evil in others. Now, I will grant there is a great deal in this, and I will go further and say that the spirit of the Lord will not only warn, but will not permit her to be contaminated by the evil in others, but she must be first warned that there is this evil… Tell her that a very large percentage of this number [of young men] who are impure are sepulchures [sic] of filth and sin. [6]

Even should this paragraph have been about consensual sex, imagine the reaction of a young woman in Dr. Woodruff’s audience. There was no mention of changing these impure young men so that the desire to deprive a young woman of her sexual virtue would be changed. Instead, the responsibility for preventing sexual aggression was placed on the shoulders of the woman at risk. The implication in Dr. Woodruff’s words was that if the spirit of the Lord will always warn a woman of danger, and if her parents and leaders have told her of “this evil,” then a woman who was sexually assaulted must have failed to heed the warnings she was given.

This mentality of victim-blaming was also connected to the way women were expected to conduct themselves in public during this time period, especially in regard to modesty. Women’s fashion was a hot-button issue in the Victorian era—the era in which the Church was founded—and this was reflected in sermons throughout the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries by Church leaders about the importance of modesty and being well-groomed. While heavy emphasis was placed on the importance of LDS women being modest and presentable, leaders and members of the Church also emphasized a seemingly contradictory message of the danger inherent in focusing too much on clothing. This second theme displayed itself in narratives throughout the Young Woman’s Journal. One 1913 article written by Milton Bennion illustrated his perception of a “proper woman” and echoes a common societal response that Church members often mirrored. He describes his requirements for women’s dress thus:

The habit of excessive attention to dress and fashion is one that is easily acquired by young women; and, when once acquired, is likely to persist. Before acquiring such a habit it may be worth while to reflect upon the place and purpose of dress in civilized life… The body is the instrument of mind and character. Its health and development is, therefore, most worthy of appreciation; but any kind of dress that distracts attention from that part of the body… is hardly to be commended as a social custom. [7]

Despite its strong sexist overtones, this passage and others like it on their own likely were seen as injunctions against pride. However, Bennion went on to connect women’s dress habits with suggestions of impurity:

Purity of character is a requirement of women that is pre-requisite to all others. The loss of this is the greatest calamity that can befall a woman… A woman who would have the esteem of men must, first of all, guard against even a suggestion of impurity.[8]

Bennion implied that the first line of defense for women against rape or sexual assault was to dress modestly. His words echoed, as seen in earlier responses to survivors, the words of Mormon at the end of the Book of Mormon. Because the loss of chastity and virtue in women was not something that could be recovered from, (at least not in the minds of Bennion and many of his contemporaries who arguably derived this mentality from interpretations of Mormon’s words in Moroni chapter 9) women who dressed immodestly—even if they survived rape and sexual assault—were treated with contempt and disdain. This linkage can be clearly observed in a story published as part of a 1919 Church lesson plan for young girls. It told the following story:

A young girl while riding on the train recently was observed to be quite inappropriately and scantily dressed. A young man, a stranger, came and sat opposite to her and in a few moments made a remark that which brought the blood to her face and she angrily rebuked him. The young man answered, “I beg your pardon, I thought I had the right to speak so, by your dress you had the sign.” This young girl was an innocent girl, doubtless pure in her thoughts, but by her careless dressing had brought on herself this unpleasant experience. [9]

This “unpleasant experience” went unacknowledged as an incident of sexual harassment for which the young man should have been roundly chastised. The story and its publication placed the blame, once again, on young girls who, according to cultural messages from the Church, “should” have been more attentive to their dress, rather than on the man who should have acted respectfully towards the young girl regardless of her clothing choices. Even though these messages were in line with the acceptable norms of the time period, these attitudes and stories contributed to a damaging rape myth that hurt women then and that persists to this day, that is: Women dress to entice men and, therefore, are accountable for the ensuing harassment, sexual assault, or rape.

The perpetuation of this myth may have gained additional traction from institutional changes in the Church that affected women’s leadership roles during this same time period. [10] In the late nineteenth century, most of the male leadership of the Church went into hiding because the practice of polygamy provoked persecution from the United States government. This allowed women of the Church to take the forefront in representing the church. [11] Later on, after polygamy was rescinded, male leaders were able to emerge from hiding and start taking a more active role in policy and governance of the Church. These men started slowly removing the authority previously held by LDS women. For example, more articles were published by men in magazines like the Woman’s Exponent and the Young Woman’s Journal—publications previously dominated by women. With women’s voices far less pronounced in the Church by the 1920s, victim-blaming policies written by men perhaps went uncontested.

Responses to Sexual Assault: 1950 – 1990

“With proper support and help, victims can reach a resolution and live happy lives with normal relationships.” – Maxine Murdock, in consultation with the Relief Society General Board [12]

The gradual replacement of female-run organizations and outlets reached its zenith in 1945, when Amy Brown Lyman was asked to step down as President of the Relief Society after the revelation of her husband’s infidelity. Lyman had been a strong leader and voice for a female perspective, but with her removal, the Relief Society was folded into the general body of the Church and placed under the authority of the Priesthood over the next several years. Perhaps these reactionary moves in muting women’s voices were related to how very little was said on the topics of sexual assault and rape after 1920 until the late 1960s.

In 1969, Apostle Spencer W. Kimball published his book, The Miracle of Forgiveness. The book, released by Church-owned publishing firm Bookcraft, remained a lauded piece into the 2000s, only going out of print in 2015.[13] The Miracle of Forgiveness emerged in a time of great anxiety for the Church—its leaders felt that second wave feminism, the campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment, and the sexual revolution threatened the institutions of family and motherhood. As a result of this anxiety, Spencer W. Kimball’s book took a predictably harsh tone toward sin and sinful behavior as Kimball sought to make his views on the Church’s stance on issues of sexual purity and morality absolutely clear. The Miracle of Forgiveness contained the following paragraph about survivors of rape and sexual assault:

Also far-reaching is the effect of loss of chastity. Once given or taken or stolen it can never be regained. Even in a forced contact such as rape or incest, the injured one is greatly outraged. If she has not cooperated and contributed to the foul deed, she is of course in a more favorable position. There is no condemnation where there is no voluntary participation. It is better to die in defending one's virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle. [14]

In light of present day understanding, Spencer W. Kimball’s analysis was problematic for a number of reasons. It assumed that rape was essentially the same as consensual sex, and therefore cost the survivor her virginity in either case. It assumed that a “true” survivor of sexual assault and rape was one who struggled and fought—and perhaps even preferably died fighting. The overly simplistic discussion about the difference between cooperation and contribution revealed a deep (and common) misunderstanding of consent.

Despite the severe problems with this conception of rape and sexual assault, this passage from The Miracle of Forgiveness unfortunately fit well with other advice the Church gave to women and girls at the time. One LDS woman related how church lessons about chastity affected her after her rape in the early 1970s:

I felt guilty at church because when I was 10, I was sexually molested by an older cousin and also raped by a man who was a “family friend.” Then came the onslaught of Church lessons about the law of chastity, shooting at me in rapid-fire succession as if from a firing squad that had found me guilty. “Once you lose your virginity, you can never get it back.” “Which would you rather have, a used car or a new car?” Our “family friend” pedophile convinced me the rape was my fault. He insisted that if I ever told anyone, I’d be in trouble. So I didn’t tell anyone. And I felt guilty—horribly guilty—since I assumed I’d committed “the worst sin next to murder.” [15]

A news article about another young female member of the Church related how following this counsel from Church leadership strongly influenced her reaction to danger:

[A] young LDS woman… accepted a ride from a fellow she knew, only to find out that he was taking her to be raped. She jumped from his car, traveling at fifty miles per hour on the freeway, fortunately escaping with cuts and bruises, and later said she did that because she had been taught that it is better to give up your life than to be raped. [16]

The idea that rape forever contaminated a survivor, and therefore it was better to be dead than alive and “impure,” was clearly capable of producing devastating effects when renewed as part of the Church’s backlash against the sexual revolution in the 1960s and 1970s.

However, not every sermon from the pulpit in the 1970s followed this line, and in this we can begin to see the origins of the changes made in the 21st century. Gordon B. Hinckley, then an apostle and later to become prophet and one of the Church’s most vocal denouncers of all forms of abuse, gave a sermon in 1978 that contained the following passage:

Every social worker, every duty officer in the emergency room of a large hospital, every policeman and judge in a large city can tell you of them. The whole tragic picture is one of beatings, kicking, slamming, and even of sexual assault on small children. And akin to these are those vicious men and women who exploit children for pornographic purposes. I have no disposition to dwell on this ugly picture. I wish only to say that no man who is a professed follower of Christ and no man who is a professed member of this church can engage in such practices without offending God and repudiating the teachings of his Son. [17]

Elder Hinckley, in an era where policy said that woman who survived rape were at least partially accountable for the crime, spoke for the complete innocence of child survivors of sexual exploitation and abuse. He placed the blame for the sexual assault squarely on those who deserved it: the perpetrators. Elder Hinckley continued his pattern of defending child survivors in a 1985 conference talk, where he affirmed:

Sexual abuse of children on the part of fathers, or anyone else, has long been a cause for excommunication from the Church. No man who has been ordained to the priesthood of God can with impunity indulge in either spouse or child abuse. Such activity becomes an immediate repudiation of his right to hold and exercise the priesthood and to retain membership in the Church. [18]

Again, Hinckley unequivocally defended the total innocence of child survivors of sexual assault, this time assigning religious consequences, like removing the right to hold and exercise the priesthood and potential excommunication, to the perpetrators of such assaults. Furthermore, he adds “spouse abuse” to the mix, and given that he is addressing men, he appears to also be addressing violence, including sexual violence, perpetrated by men against their wives.

Unfortunately, despite Elder Hinckley’s positive influence, Elder Kimball’s flawed perception of adult survivors of sexual assault carried on well into the 1980s. In a 1985 letter to all general authorities, stake presidents, and bishops, now-President Kimball stated:

Persons who consciously invite sexual advances also have a share of responsibility for the behavior that follows… Persons threatened with rape or forcible sexual abuse should resist to the maximum extent possible or necessary under the circumstances. The extent of resistance required to establish that the victim has not willingly consented is left to the judgment of the victim, who is best acquainted with the total circumstances and their effect on his or her will. [19]

Despite these echoes of the Miracle of Forgiveness, even by 1985 the discourse on sexual assault had begun to change within the Church. In 1981, the official LDS magazine for adults, the Ensign, published an article written by Maxine Murdock and the Relief Society General Board. The article, titled “When it Happens to One Among Us…: A Discussion of the Most Common Misunderstandings about Personal Assault,” was six pages devoted entirely to debunking rape myths. One passage contradicted the assumption of survivor’s complicity in Spencer W. Kimball’s 1985 letter to Church authorities:

There has been a popular myth that assumes that if a woman is raped, she probably invited it in some way. (Like most such myths, this one exists because of its convenience; it frees the non-victim from having to care or trouble himself about the tragedy.) In fact, one young sister reported that a member of her ward remarked that any girl who was personally assaulted deserved it. He evidently felt that a woman always has control over the circumstances that can lead to personal assault. The truth is that no child of God, old or young, deserves this experience, no matter what the circumstances… the idea that a woman actually “asks for” or invites and enjoys the kind of humiliating treatment that I deal with, that I read in the police reports and hear from the victims themselves—being threatened or coerced, even exposed to injury or death—is simply not true.[20]

The contrast between Murdock’s 1981 Ensign article and the 1985 letter could not be more stark, demonstrating how competing worldviews within the Church would eventually resolve in favor of a changed approach. For example, concerning the exhortation to fight to the death against sexual assault, Murdock notes, “We must understand that even though a woman may have decided she would rather lose her life than be raped, she may very well not have this option.” [21] In one simple sentence, Murdock made it clear that a person did not have to fight so hard that they died in order to be a “true” victim of rape. Instead, Murdock approached the plight of a rape survivor with a more mature understanding of consent—one that did not see rape as sex in any way and did not cost a survivor their “chastity.” Murdock addressed this particular rape myth with startlingly bold language:

But a loss of virginity is not a loss of chastity where rape is involved. If a woman is robbed or mugged, she does not hesitate to report it to family and legal authorities and receives understanding, sympathy, and support from her friends, her family, ward members, and church leaders. But in the case of rape she may wonder, “Will my husband (or boyfriend) forever think of me as unclean?” Unfortunately, some Latter-day Saint wives or girlfriends have been rejected in this way. I know of some tragic instances where innocent victims have actually been told, “No righteous Latter-day Saint man will ever want to marry you now.” Sadly, others as well as the rapist can be brutal. [22]

In a sense, Murdock pointed out how far many LDS members had come from the day when Joseph Smith offered himself in marriage to rape victim Eliza R. Snow; Murdock called the rejection of rape survivors just as brutal as the rape itself.

While Murdock’s rhetoric in the Ensign represented a clarion call to a new way of approaching sexual assault, often, local and general authorities of the Church responded to assault cases hesitantly and with some degree of uncertainty. President Kimball’s letter left many of the Church authorities to which it was addressed confused about how to properly help survivors of rape. One such authority, B. Kent Harrison, was a professor of physics and astronomy at BYU and a bishop at the time of Kimball’s letter. Dr. Harrison wrote a letter to Ardeth G. Kapp, president of the Young Women, in 1986 to ask for help:

I was just discussing… the lack of availability of helps for Church leaders in handling cases of rape, incest, or spouse abuse. (The First Presidency statement on rape… still leaves many questions unclarified.) There was a recent pamphlet sent to bishops, etc., on child abuse, but it said little or nothing about these other matters… I would like to see something put together on such matters, both for Church leaders and also for the lay members… Where do I start? Whom do I ask? One of the apostles, or do I start lower down? [23]

Dr. Harrison offered to write a supplement to the pamphlet on child abuse to address the issues of rape, but there was no indication that he was ever authorized to do so. For much of the remainder of the 1980s, unfortunately, many bishops and other Church authorities were left on their own to interpret President Kimball’s letter and subsequent Church policy.

The Church acknowledged this confusion and the growing need for clarification in a small way when it included a section on rape and sexual assault in the March 1989 edition of Handbook 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops (Handbook 1), the Church’s guidebook for administration within the Church. The section was titled, “Victims of Rape or Sexual Abuse,” and Dr. Harrison noted in his papers that this was “the first time that such a heading has appeared.” [24] The information contained under that heading remained sparse, however, and did not provide any resources for Church leaders to turn to when interacting with survivors:

Victims of rape or sexual abuse frequently suffer serious trauma and feelings of guilt. Victims of the evil acts of others are not guilty of sin. Church officers should treat such victims with sensitivity and should help them regain their sense of innocence and overcome any feelings of guilt. [25]

This short statement represented a great deal of progress in the response towards survivors of rape and sexual assault within the Church. Gone was the implication that a survivor was somehow complicit in his or her own rape. Also gone was the gendered assumption that only women were survivors of sexual abuse, and that only men were perpetrators, since the statement was couched in completely gender-neutral terms. It was significant that the official policy of the Church indirectly acknowledged at a relatively early time (1989) that men could be survivors of sexual abuse as well.

Despite the positive progress of this new addition to Handbook 1, problems with the Church response remained. Dr. Harrison noted that this might have been because the Church was not vocal enough about its revised policy:

Not all members or leaders may be cognizant of this development, however, and much education needs to be done. For example, it needs to be clearly understood among Church members that if a woman says “no”, [sic] regardless of circumstances, that she is not inviting sexual relations, and that sexual relations following such a statement constitute rape. [26]

Dr. Harrison was not the only bishop in the Church that desired greater clarity from Church leadership. For example, in December of 1989, Bishop Kenneth McCarty wrote a letter to the First Presidency highlighting the need for clarity in the official Church response to survivors at this time of uncertainty and confusion. McCarty’s letter described a situation in which he was called to discipline a young married woman for violating the law of chastity. As he followed the Church policy that generally recommended excommunication for repeated violations of this nature, McCarty took this decision to the Lord in prayer:

As I paused during the course of my prayer to listen for the answer, a voice came to my mind as clear as anyone has ever communicated with me. The voice asked in a firm tone, “Who do you think you are?” I was so taken back because of the strength of the voice that I was overcome with emotion… As I listened intently, the voice counseled, “You don’t even know this girl.” (And it was true. She was new to the ward and I had only known her for a short time.) The voice continued, “You don’t know that this girl was molested when she was three, but I do” the voice said. “You don’t know that this girl was raped when she was sixteen, but I do”, [sic] the voice continued. “She is my daughter, do you think that I would let you excommunicate her when she needs my Church now more than any time in her life?” [27]

McCarty was a humble bishop seeking to follow the counsel of Church leadership and policy in judging this woman’s actions. However, that counsel failed to take into account the specific sequelae of severe trauma that many survivors of rape experience, which often include sexual promiscuity. [28] Fortunately, the Lord, in His omnipotence, was able to provide the counsel necessary for Bishop McCarty to properly help this young woman instead of excommunicating her. Unfortunately, not every bishop in the Church was as open-minded and humble as Kenneth McCarty; therefore, much clearer policy on how to respond to survivors of sexual assault and rape was still a great need within the Church as it moved into the last decade of the twentieth century.

Response to Sexual Assault: 1990s – 2016

“Victims of assault or recipients of unwelcome sexual attention should be treated with sensitivity, compassion and respect and should feel that those to whom they disclose the assault are committed to helping them deal with the trauma they have experienced.” – Statement from the Church on sexual assault, 2016 [29]

Church members like Dr. Kent Harrison and Bishop Kenneth McCarty brought the need for greater clarity to the attention of Church administration, so in the 1990s the Church launched a renewed effort to handle responses to survivors of sexual assault with more kindness and less blame. Just as women like Mary from Grantsville led the defense of rape survivors in the nineteenth century, so too did women lead the same movement in the 1990s, and this time they led at the pulpit. At a 1992 regional women’s conference in Oregon, Chieko Okazaki—the first counselor of the Relief Society general presidency—gave a sermon titled, “Healing from Sexual Abuse.” Okazaki’s sermon acknowledged the realities of sexual assault and rape in ways that no general authority of the Church had previously done. Up to this point in the history of the Church, sexual abuse had been acknowledged as something that happened mainly to young children—even advocates like Hinckley had only mentioned sexual abuse of children. While explaining the need for members of the Church to be sensitive to survivors of sexual assault, Okazaki expanded the common age-based assumption by saying:

I would hope that every teacher in the Church will remember that in his or her classroom is almost certainly at least one person who has survived sexual abuse. With that person in mind, think of the stories you tell, the questions that you ask, and perhaps most importantly, the assumptions you make… Think of a twelve-year-old boy who is physically and sexually abused by an uncle who is the stake patriarch. How does he deal with his confusion during a lesson which teaches that we should obey our priesthood leaders because they want what is best for us? Think of a woman whose husband beats and rapes her. What feelings go through her mind as a Relief Society teacher explains that it is the wife’s responsibility to maintain the spiritual atmosphere in the home and to support the priesthood? To these confused, despairing children and adults in pain, the teachers speak with the voice of the Church. Such messages have a great potential for increasing their pain and despair. [30]

Okazaki carefully constructed this paragraph to show the wide range of survivors, emphasizing that survivors could be young boys, perpetrators could be Church authorities, and to acknowledge the reality of marital rape. While she did this, she also reminded members of the Church that they “speak with the voice of the Church,” and therefore have a great responsibility to minimize the pain and despair of the many survivors of rape and sexual assault in their midst.

Sister Okazaki’s words had an immediate impact. In a 2005 interview, Okazaki described the reaction of the members who attended that conference:

There was silence. You could hear a pin drop. And then you could hear sniffles, people crying. There was a woman in the front row who just burst into tears and cried through the rest of the talk… [After the talk] they were saying, “Thank you so much for opening this up. Thank you so much that I don’t need to hide by myself, and worry and be concerned about me being the person who was wrong and that I did something really bad.” They just recognized that somebody finally had opened this topic up and that now the Church would know that it’s a problem that it’s okay to talk about and that they were okay. Each one said something like, “Thank you so much for talking about this in public to everybody, so that we don’t have to hide.” [31]

The power of Okazaki’s sermon was such that Sheri Dew, then the vice president of publishing at Deseret Book, asked Okazaki to record the talk so the company could distribute it on a broader scale. The outpouring of gratitude continued for years, as Okazaki reported in the same 2005 interview:

Even today, every time I speak, at least two women will come up afterward and, no matter what I was talking about in their meeting, they’ll say, “Thank you so much for that tape.” And I know exactly what they mean. They’ll say things like: “You put me over the hump. I’ve gone to the psychotherapist for a long, long time, and look at me today. I feel fine. Thank you for that tape.” [32]

By speaking so openly and honestly in “Healing from Sexual Abuse,” Chieko Okazaki opened the floodgates, and other Church leaders began to respond to survivors of rape and sexual abuse with greater intensity and frequency. Looking back, it is noteworthy that the strongest and most successful voices for change in the Church’s approach to sexual assault came from women, in particular Maxine Murdock and Chieko Okazaki.

One way the Church manifested this change was the authorization of Dr. Anne L. Horton, in conjunction with Drs. B. Kent Harrison and Barry L. Johnson, to write a detailed guide about responding to abuse for Church leadership. In May of 1992, the three researchers held a workshop on family violence at BYU’s annual women’s conference. Participants in the workshop were encouraged to submit questions they had about the Church’s response to survivors of abuse—they submitted 78 questions of varying intensity. The list was shared with Dr. Harrison and his co-editors, as well as with Elaine Jack, president of the Relief Society. It included questions that revealed the depth of the frustration and powerlessness the women of the Church felt in regard to sexual abuse:

When will the church address the issue of abuse and treat it before it happens? If the family is the center of the gospel and most important unit, why doesn’t the Church have special courses or classes or special “Couple conferences” like the youth conferences. There must be a focus on the couple and building developing strong respectful, loving relationships. [sic] We must be taught what abuse is and how both can recover and go on in love and unity. I have been through 12 years of abuse and four Bishops who have done nothing to my husband. The message to him is “you aren’t an abuser, go on with your life”. [sic] The message to me is “you are valueless, stop complaining”. [sic] I take my plea to the Lord and cry and tremble and seek His love and guidance. Although he is my strength, it is very lonely and very frustrating. [33]

When given the opportunity to speak without fear of judgment or reproach, this woman expressed how the Church response to 12 years of reported abuse made her feel powerless and worthless. Another woman, even though her abuse was acknowledged, still felt frustrated with the Church’s response to her because it did not acknowledge the feelings of anger and rage that came with her abuse:

I see one of the biggest problems of healing within the gospel to be the pressure to immediately love and forgive our abuser. Without acknowledgement of the understandable anger or rage that we have and the encouragement to find a safe place to express those feelings. So often I see this frowned upon. How can we teach others and ourselves that it is okay to feel our feelings and to be where we are and that forgiveness takes time? [34]

Many of the women who submitted questions had no faith in their local Church leaders’ abilities to handle cases of abuse. They asked questions like the following:

What is the church doing to educate Bishops in counseling the abused victims in particular those who are sexually abused? … There still seems to be such a lack of knowledge of Priesthood leaders in dealing with abuse. What is being done and what can the individual do to help educate? … What can we do (or is currently being done) to educate young men and grown men about abuse? … My experience [with bishops] has most often been destructive instead of helpful. How do we help Bishops do their job? [35]

These kinds of questions rapidly became more common—especially after Okazaki’s talk—and they made it clear to Church leadership that answers had been delayed for far too long.

To their credit, Church leadership took up the challenge. When the guide edited by Drs. Horton, Harrison, and Johnson—Confronting Abuse: An LDS Perspective on Understanding and Healing Emotional, Physical, Sexual, Psychological, and Spiritual Abuse (Confronting Abuse)—went to print in 1993, Church leadership sent a copy of the book to every bishop in the church. [36] The book represented a vast improvement over the small pamphlet on abuse sent to bishops in the 1980s; it contained thirty-one articles about counseling and treating survivors of abuse. Nineteen of the thirty-one articles dealt either directly or indirectly with survivors of sexual abuse. It covered topics that Chieko Okazaki had only recently discussed, such as marital rape, ritual or cult abuse, incest, sexual abuse of elders, male survivors, and legal support for survivors. [37] Not only did Confronting Abuse cover a wide breadth of topics, it also detailed several possible treatment plans for bishops to refer to when helping a survivor of rape or sexual abuse.

In 1994, Howard W. Hunter, president of the Church at the time, publicly affirmed what the Church had already privately affirmed when it distributed Confronting Abuse to its bishops. At the October session of that year’s General Conference, he said:

No man who has been ordained to the priesthood of God can with impunity abuse his wife or child. Sexual abuse of children has long been a cause for excommunication from the Church. [38]

While President Hunter publicly confirmed the Church response of excommunicating perpetrators of sexual abuse, he still limited his words to the sexual abuse of children and spouses, leaving the fate of members who sexually abused non-spouse adults vague.

The fate of Church members who abused non-spouses may have been vague in President Hunter’s sermon, but at a pathbreaking BYU devotional in 1995, Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone was completely clear about the fate of survivors of sexual abuse. He said:

A person who has been involved in incest, who has been involved in abuse of any kind against his or her will, and let’s include rape, there is no transgression—not as long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof. [39]

Elder Featherstone is unequivocal: survivors of sexual abuse and rape are completely innocent before God.

A direct clarification of the proper protocol for disciplining perpetrators of rape and sexual assault did not come from the pulpit until 1998, when President Gordon B. Hinckley gave a sermon during the priesthood session of the October General Conference. He included the following passage:

We are doing all we know how to do to stamp out this terrible evil. When there is recognition of equality between the husband and the wife, when there is acknowledgment that each child born into the world is a child of God, then there will follow a greater sense of responsibility to nurture, to help, to love with an enduring love those for whom we are responsible. No man who abuses his wife or children is worthy to hold the priesthood of God. No man who abuses his wife or children is worthy to be a member in good standing in this Church. The abuse of one’s spouse and children is a most serious offense before God, and any who indulge in it may expect to be disciplined by the Church.” [40]

This was the first time that consequences were publicly assigned to perpetrators of spousal and child abuse, and though it did not specifically mention it, it can be reasonably assumed that sexual abuse fell under the umbrella of abuse discussed here.

Hinckley’s 1998 sermon, despite the progress it represented, did not give specifics of the discipline perpetrators of sexual assault could expect to face from the Church. A sermon that he gave in May of 2002 included a more specific response to perpetrators of abuse:

How tragic and utterly disgusting a phenomenon is wife abuse. Any man in this Church who abuses his wife, who demeans her, who insults her, who exercises unrighteous dominion over her is unworthy to hold the priesthood. Though he may have been ordained, the heavens will withdraw, the Spirit of the Lord will be grieved, and it will be amen to the authority of the priesthood of that man. Any man who engages in this practice is unworthy to hold a temple recommend. [41]

President Hinckley made clear that should an LDS man ordained to the priesthood of God commit abuse against his wife in any way, including the sexual abuse of his wife, that man immediately lost access to his priesthood authority, and his temple recommend should be revoked.

In 2003, the Church response to survivors of rape was thrust into the national spotlight with the recovery of a kidnapped member of the Church, Elizabeth Smart, who was held against her will for nine months and raped three or four times per day. [42] Because her kidnapping and return were widely followed nationally, it is likely the Church saw the need to more clearly articulate a survivor-focused response to cases of sexual assault and rape.

This return to a survivor-focused response appeared in the manual True to the Faith, which was published in 2004 as an introductory guide to Church policies and doctrines for members. It contained the following passage about sexual abuse:

Be assured that you are not to blame for the harmful behavior of others. You do not need to feel guilt. If you have been a victim of rape or other sexual abuse, whether you have been abused by an acquaintance, a stranger, or even a family member, you are not guilty of sexual sin. Know that you are innocent and that your Heavenly Father loves you. [43]

This passage harked back to the Church’s 1989 policy about survivors of sexual assault and rape, and it bore many similarities to that policy, such as its gender-neutral language. Importantly, it made clear that survivors of rape or sexual assault were not to blame, regardless of the circumstances surrounding the assault. The victim-blaming policies of the nineteenth and twentieth century Church were officially supplanted by the release of True to the Faith in 2004, though the seeds of that supplanting had been planted decades earlier.

After the release of True to the Faith, officials of the Church spoke frequently about abuse, although specific references to sexual abuse were largely left out. Instead, abuse was used as an umbrella term that presumably included sexual abuse. Many of the sermons given by Church officials in this period followed a similar pattern as this talk given by Apostle Richard G. Scott in 2008:

If you have been abused, Satan will strive to convince you that there is no solution. Yet he knows perfectly well that there is. Satan recognizes that healing comes through the unwavering love of Heavenly Father for each of His children. He also understands that the power of healing is inherent in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Therefore, his strategy is to do all possible to separate you from your Father and His Son. Do not let Satan convince you that you are beyond help. Satan uses your abuse to undermine your self-confidence, destroy trust in authority, create fear, and generate feelings of despair. Abuse can damage your ability to form healthy human relationships. You must have faith that all of these negative consequences can be resolved; otherwise they will keep you from full recovery. While these outcomes have powerful influence in your life, they do not define the real you. [44]

These messages contained much that was laudable: there was healing for survivors of abuse, acknowledgment that abuse influenced survivors’ lives long after the abuse, and that survivors of abuse were not defined by that abuse. However, it is possible that by not explicitly mentioning sexual assault and rape, and, rather, lumping these under the general term “abuse,” the Church may have unintentionally paved the road to significant controversy over its responses to sexual assault years later.

This controversy came to a head in spring of 2016, when the Women’s Studies Honor Society at BYU held its first Rape Awareness Event. At this event, a young woman stood up and shared that she felt she was treated terribly by officials of the university after she was raped. Inspired by this young woman, many other survivors of sexual assault and rape began to share their stories of mistreatment at the hands of Church officials and BYU administrators, and the Church was dragged into the national news in a very unfavorable light. [45] Shortly after the controversy broke, the Church released the following statement regarding its response to survivors of sexual assault:

Let us be perfectly clear: There is no tolerance for sexual assault at BYU or in the Church. Assault of any kind is a serious criminal offense, and we support its reporting, investigation and prosecution to the full extent of the law. Victims of assault or recipients of unwelcome sexual attention should be treated with sensitivity, compassion and respect and should feel that those to whom they disclose the assault are committed to helping them deal with the trauma they have experienced. [46]

This statement served as a public call to action to support survivors of sexual assault and rape. It served as a direct rebuke to bishops, stake presidents, and BYU administrators who may have failed to implement the Church’s zero-tolerance policy and treated survivors with disdain and doubt. [47] In a sense, this was the final clash of the old and the new paradigms for understanding sexual abuse within the Church; this was the moment where the Church, at least in its official rhetoric and policies, renounced the legacy of earlier statements that had perpetuated the mindset of victim-blaming.

It was a call that BYU decided to answer firmly and decisively. The university organized an advisory council, and after six months of work that included consultations with prominent researchers of sexual assault such as Dr. David Lisak and Dr. Lindsay Orchowski, the council released 23 recommendations for improving the university’s response to survivors of sexual assault and rape. [48] Administrators at BYU accepted all 23 recommendations in full, and they started to implement them immediately. [49] These included trauma-informed, survivor-focused suggestions:

Create a new victim advocate / confidential advisor position (with corresponding budget support) outside the Title IX Office. This position would be housed in Counseling and Psychological Services and would be available to provide information and help to sexual-assault victims regarding support resources and reporting options.

Add to the Sexual Misconduct Policy an amnesty statement regarding possible Honor Code violations occurring at or near the time of a reported sexual assault.

Share with officials of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the findings of the advisory council regarding ecclesiastical leaders’ varied responses to sexual-assault reports. [50]

Once these policies are fully implemented by BYU, a stronger culture of support for survivors of sexual assault and rape should begin to form for both the university and for the broader Church.

Near the same time that BYU began to revise its response to survivors of sexual assault and rape, the LDS Church revised its official policy on the topic in Handbook 1. The revised policy read:

In instances of abuse, the first responsibility of the Church is to help those who have been abused and to protect those who may be vulnerable to future abuse. Victims of sexual abuse (including rape) often suffer serious trauma and feelings of guilt. Victims of the evil acts of others are not guilty of sin. Church leaders should be sensitive to such victims and give caring attention to help them overcome the destructive effects of abuse. Stake presidents and bishops make every effort to counsel those who have been involved in abuse. These leaders may refer to the booklet Responding to Abuse: Helps for Ecclesiastical Leaders and the pamphlets Preventing and Responding to Spouse Abuse and Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse. The DVD Protect the Child: Responding to Child Abuse also outlines the responsibilities of leaders and other members in preventing and responding to child abuse. All ward councils are asked to view this DVD and discuss it according to the guide on the back of the DVD case. [51]

This new policy heralded a significant expansion of the insufficient three-sentence policy that Handbook 1 contained in 1989. Not only did it focus on helping survivors of sexual assault or rape, but it also provided resources to aid bishops and stake presidents in that task. The Church has also provided a hotline for legal and counseling advice to bishops and stake presidents; the Church mandates these officials to call the hotline for advice after any member discloses an experience of sexual assault or rape.

With these new policies in place in the Church and at BYU, the Church has nearly come full circle in its response to survivors of sexual assault and rape. The new policies emphasize compassion and healing—the very things the first president of the Church, Joseph Smith, offered Eliza R. Snow in the 1840s. However, much work remains yet to be done. Consider again the words of Elizabeth Smart, this time from 2016:

I think the power of faith is amazing, the hope and the healing that it can bring to people… But I also think there's another side of it that can be potentially very harmful… [G]irls in particular, tie their worth to their virginity, or, for lack of a better word, purity. I did make that promise to myself that I was going to wait until marriage… then I was kidnapped and I was raped, and one of the first thoughts I had was, “No one is ever going to want to marry me now: I'm worthless, I'm filthy, I'm dirty.” I think every rape survivor feels those same feelings, but having that with the pressure of faith compounded on top—it was almost crippling. [52]

The Church policies that currently govern the response to survivors of sexual assault and rape are more humane policies that do not blame victims and ensure that perpetrators are punished. Now it falls to individual members of the Church to work decisively to change the culture surrounding sexual assault and rape within the church. The Church has provided resources such as the DVD and pamphlets listed in Handbook 1. Members should take advantage of these in addition to seeking help from outside experts in understanding the plight of survivors of rape and sexual assault. As they do, a nonjudgmental culture conducive to healing and safety for all survivors of sexual assault and rape will grow stronger. In the case of its response to sexual assault, this historical review has shown an impressive course correction taken by the Church, one that was facilitated by a greater willingness to listen to the voices of women in its midst.


“‘And Whosoever Shall Offend…’: An LDS Perspective on Family Violence” Submitted questions, Provo, UT, 1992.

“Church Responds to Coverage of BYU Sexual Assault Issue.” Mormon Newsroom. 19 May 2016. http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/mormonism-news-getting-it-right-may-19-2016.

B. Kent Harrison. “Dear Ardie.” Letter, Salt Lake City, UT, 1986.

B. Kent Harrison. “Notes on rape in an LDS context.” Personal notes, Provo, UT, 1990.

B. Kent Harrison. “Rape and LDS Teachings.” Square Two 9, no. 2 (2016). Accessed 17 April 2017. http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleHarrisonRape.html.

Brigham Young University. “Report of the Advisory Council on Campus Response to Sexual Assault.” Official report, Provo, UT, 2016.

Cabrera, Ana and Weisfeldt, Sara. “Punished after reporting rape at Brigham Young University.” CNN. http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/29/health/brigham-young-university-rape/.

Danielle Wagner. “Elizabeth Smart Shares how Chastity Lessons in our Culture can have Harmful Lasting Effects.” Available from http://www.ldsliving.com/Elizabeth-Smart-Shares-How-Chastity-Lessons-in-Our-Culture-Can-Have-Harmful-Lasting-Effects/s/83107. Internet; accessed 17 April 2017.

Dobner, Jennifer. “Elizabeth Smart says she was raped daily.” Daily Herald. 2 October 2009.

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Vaughm J. Featherstone. “A Man After God’s Own Heart.” Available from https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/vaughn-j-featherstone_man-gods-heart/. Internet; accessed 12 November 2017.

Gordon B. Hinckley. “What are People Asking About Us?” Available from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1998/10/what-are-people-asking-about-us?lang=eng. Internet; accessed 17 April 2017.

Gordon B. Hinkley. “Personal Worthiness to Exercise the Priesthood.” Available from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2002/04/personal-worthiness-to-exercise-the-priesthood?lang=eng. Internet; accessed 17 April 2017.

Hall, Dave. "A Crossroads for Mormon Women: Amy Brown Lyman, J. Reuben Clark, and the Decline of Organized Women's Activism in the Relief Society." Journal of Mormon History, Spring 2010, 36, no. 2, 205-49. Accessed February 28, 2017. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23291145.

Hellewell, Emily. “National Expert Meets with BYU Leaders on Sexual Assault.” Available from https://news.byu.edu/news/national-leader-sexual-assault. Internet; accessed 17 April 2017.

Hinckley, Gordon B. “Behold Your Little Ones.” Available from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1978/10/behold-your-little-ones?lang=eng. Internet; accessed 17 April 2017.

Hinckley, Gordon B. “Questions and Answers.” Available from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1985/10/questions-and-answers?lang=eng. Internet; accessed 17 April 2017.

Horton, Anne, ed., Harrison, B. Kent, ed., Johnson, Barry, ed., Confronting Abuse: An LDS Perspective on Understanding and Healing Emotional, Physical, Sexual, Psychological, and Spiritual Abuse. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993.

Howard W. Hunter. “Being a Righteous Husband and Father.” Available from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1994/10/being-a-righteous-husband-and-father?lang=eng. Internet; accessed 17 April 2017.


Jenkins, Carrie. “Message to students, faculty and staff: Advisory Council study of sexual assault complete.” Available from https://news.byu.edu/KJWletter. Internet; accessed 17 April 2017.

Kimball, Spencer W. The Miracle of Forgiveness. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969.

Kimball, Spencer W., Romney, Marion G., and Hinckley, Gordon B. “Statement on Rape.” Letter, Salt Lake City, UT, 1985.

Laurie. “Laurie's Story.” Mormon and Gay. https://mormonandgay.lds.org/articles/lauries-story.

McCarty, Kenneth. “A Bishop’s Viewpoint.” In Reflection 1, no. 3 (1991): 3.

Murdock, Maxine. “When It Happens to One Among Us…: A Discussion of the Most Common Misunderstandings about Personal Assault.” Ensign, October 1981, 36-41.

Okazaki, Chieko and Prince, Greg. “There Is Always a Struggle.” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 45, no 1 (Spring 2012): 112-160.

Okazaki, Chieko. “Healing from Sexual Abuse.” Presentation at a Regional Women’s Conference, Hillsboro, OR, 1992.

Radke-Moss, Andrea. “Eliza R. Snow as a Victim of Sexual Violence in the 1838 Missouri War– the Author’s Reflections on a Source.” Juvenile Instructor. March 07, 2016. http://juvenileinstructor.org/eliza-r-snow-as-a-victim-of-sexual-violence-in-the-1838-missouri-war-the-authors-reflections-on-a-source/.

Scott, Richard G. “To Heal the Shattering Consequences of Abuse.” Available from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2008/04/to-heal-the-shattering-consequences-of-abuse?lang=eng. Internet, accessed 17 April 2017.

Stack, Peggy Fletcher. “LDS classic ‘Miracle of Forgiveness’ fading away, and some Mormons say it’s time.” Salt Lake Tribune. http://www.sltrib.com/home/2762815-155/lds-classic-miracle-of-forgiveness-fading.

Stapley, Jonathan A. "Women and Mormon Authority." In Women and Mormonism, 101-17. Salt Lake City, UT: The University of Utah Press, 2016.

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Turchik, Jessica A. and Hassija, Christina M. “Female Sexual Victimization Among College Students: Assault Severity, Health Risk Behaviors, and Sexual Functioning.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence 29, no. 13 (2014): 2452.


[1] Andrea Radke-Moss, “Eliza R. Snow as a Victim of Sexual Violence in the 1838 Missouri War– the Author’s Reflections on a Source,” Juvenile Instructor, March 07, 2016, http://juvenileinstructor.org/eliza-r-snow-as-a-victim-of-sexual-violence-in-the-1838-missouri-war-the-authors-reflections-on-a-source/ —-- [Back to manuscript].

[2] Ana Cabrera and Sara Weisfeldt, “Punished after reporting rape at Brigham Young University,” CNN, http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/29/health/brigham-young-university-rape/. --- [Back to manuscript].

[3] Radke-Moss, “Eliza R. Snow as a Victim.” [Back to manuscript].

[4] Radke-Moss, “Eliza R. Snow as a Victim.” [Back to manuscript].

[5] “Officers’ Notes,” Young Women’s Journal (Salt Lake City, UT), 1910, p. 403. [Back to manuscript].

[6] “Officers’ Notes,” p. 398. [Back to manuscript].

[7] “Observations Concerning Women,” Young Women’s Journal, 1913, p. 330. [Back to manuscript].

[8] Ibid., 331. [Back to manuscript].

[9] “Honor Womanhood,” Young Women’s Journal, 1919, p. 668. [Back to manuscript].

[10] Dave Hall, "A Crossroads for Mormon Women: Amy Brown Lyman, J. Reuben Clark, and the Decline of Organized Women's Activism in the Relief Society," Journal of Mormon History, Spring 2010, 36, no. 2, accessed February 28, 2017, http://www.jstor.org/stable/23291145. --- [Back to manuscript].

[11] Jonathan A. Stapley, "Women and Mormon Authority," in Women and Mormonism (Salt Lake City, UT: The University of Utah Press, 2016). [Back to manuscript].

[12] Maxine Murdock, “When It Happens to One Among Us…: A Discussion of the Most Common Misunderstandings about Personal Assault,” Ensign, October 1981, 40. Murdock’s article was republished by SquareTwo in 2013 and can be accessed at http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleMurdockSexualAssault.html. --- [Back to manuscript].

[13] Peggy Fletcher Stack, “LDS classic ‘Miracle of Forgiveness’ fading away, and some Mormons say it’s time,” Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com/home/2762815-155/lds-classic-miracle-of-forgiveness-fading --- [Back to manuscript].

[14] Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969), 196. --- [Back to manuscript].

[15] Laurie, “Laurie's Story,” Mormon and Gay, https://mormonandgay.lds.org/articles/lauries-story. --- [Back to manuscript].

[16] B. Kent Harrison, “Rape and LDS Teachings,” Square Two 9, no. 2 (2016), accessed 17 April 2017, http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleHarrisonRape.html. [Back to manuscript].

[17] Gordon B. Hinckley, “Behold Your Little Ones”; available from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1978/10/behold-your-little-ones?lang=eng; Internet; accessed 17 April 2017. [Back to manuscript].

[18] Gordon B. Hinckley, “Questions and Answers”; available from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1985/10/questions-and-answers?lang=eng; Internet; accessed 17 April 2017. [Back to manuscript].

[19] . Spencer W. Kimball, Marion G. Romney, and Gordon B. Hinckley, “Statement on Rape” (letter, Salt Lake City, UT, 1985). [Back to manuscript].

[20] Murdock, “When it Happens,” 38. [Back to manuscript].

[21] Murdock, “When it Happens,” 39. [Back to manuscript].

[22] Murdock, “When it Happens,” 39. [Back to manuscript].

[23] B. Kent Harrison, “Dear Ardie” (letter, Salt Lake City, UT, 1986). [Back to manuscript].

[24] B. Kent Harrison, “Notes on rape in an LDS context” (personal notes, Provo, UT, 1990), 4. [Back to manuscript].

[25] Ibid. [Back to manuscript].

[26] Ibid., 4-5. [Back to manuscript].

[27] Kenneth McCarty, “A Bishop’s Viewpoint,” In Reflection 1, no. 3 (1991): 3. [Back to manuscript].

[28] Jessica A. Turchik and Christina M. Hassija, “Female Sexual Victimization Among College Students: Assault Severity, Health Risk Behaviors, and Sexual Functioning,” Journal of Interpersonal Violence 29, no. 13 (2014): 2452. [Back to manuscript].

[29] “Church Responds to Coverage of BYU Sexual Assault Issue,” Mormon Newsroom, 19 May 2016, http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/mormonism-news-getting-it-right-may-19-2016. [Back to manuscript].

[30] Chieko Okazaki, “Healing from Sexual Abuse” (presentation, Regional Women’s Conference, Hillsboro, OR, 1992). [Back to manuscript].

[31] Chieko Okazaki and Greg Prince, “There Is Always a Struggle,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 45, no 1 (Spring 2012): 125-126. [Back to manuscript].

[32] Ibid., 124. [Back to manuscript].

[33] “‘And Whosoever Shall Offend…’: An LDS Perspective on Family Violence,” (submitted questions, Provo, UT, 1992), 1. [Back to manuscript].

[34] Ibid., 3. [Back to manuscript].

[35] Ibid., 6-8. [Back to manuscript].

[36] Dr. Greg Hudnall in discussion with the author, March 2017. [Back to manuscript].

[37] Anne Horton, ed., Kent Harrison, ed., Barry Johnson, ed., Confronting Abuse: An LDS Perspective on Understanding and Healing Emotional, Physical, Sexual, Psychological, and Spiritual Abuse (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993), vii-x. [Back to manuscript].

[38] Howard W. Hunter, “Being a Righteous Husband and Father”; available from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1994/10/being-a-righteous-husband-and-father?lang=eng; Internet; accessed 17 April 2017. [Back to manuscript].

[39] Vaughn J. Featherstone, “A Man After God’s Own Heart”; available from https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/vaughn-j-featherstone_man-gods-heart/; Internet; accessed 12 November 2017. [Back to manuscript].

[40] Gordon B. Hinckley, “What are People Asking About Us?”; available from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1998/10/what-are-people-asking-about-us?lang=eng; Internet; accessed 17 April 2017. [Back to manuscript].

[41] Gordon B. Hinkley, “Personal Worthiness to Exercise the Priesthood,” available from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2002/04/personal-worthiness-to-exercise-the-priesthood?lang=eng; Internet; accessed 17 April 2017. [Back to manuscript].

[42] Jennifer Dobner, “Elizabeth Smart says she was raped daily,” Daily Herald, 2 October 2009, http://www.heraldextra.com/news/state-and-regional/article_947aa289-48f1-522f-b434-f37911dbffa1.html. [Back to manuscript].

[43] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, True to the Faith (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2004), 6-7. [Back to manuscript].

[44] Richard G. Scott, “To Heal the Shattering Consequences of Abuse”; available from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2008/04/to-heal-the-shattering-consequences-of-abuse?lang=eng; Internet, accessed 17 April 2017. [Back to manuscript].

[45] Cabrera and Weisfeldt, “Punished after Reporting.” [Back to manuscript].

[46] “Church Responds” [Back to manuscript].

[47] Erin Alberty, “BYU students who reported sex assaults say they faced presumption of guilt,” Salt Lake Tribune, 19 May 2016, http://www.sltrib.com/home/3897390-155/byu-students-who-report-sex-assaults. --- [Back to manuscript].

[48] Emily Hellewell, “National Expert Meets with BYU Leaders on Sexual Assault”; available from https://news.byu.edu/news/national-leader-sexual-assault; Internet; accessed 17 April 2017. [Back to manuscript].

[49] Carrie Jenkins, “Message to students, faculty and staff: Advisory Council study of sexual assault complete”; available from https://news.byu.edu/KJWletter; Internet; accessed 17 April 2017. [Back to manuscript].

[50] Brigham Young University, “Report of the Advisory Council on Campus Response to Sexual Assault” (official report, Provo, UT, 2016), 2-4. [Back to manuscript].

[51] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Handbook 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2016). [Back to manuscript].

[52] Danielle Wagner, “Elizabeth Smart Shares how Chastity Lessons in our Culture can have Harmful Lasting Effects”; available from http://www.ldsliving.com/Elizabeth-Smart-Shares-How-Chastity-Lessons-in-Our-Culture-Can-Have-Harmful-Lasting-Effects/s/83107; Internet; accessed 17 April 2017. [Back to manuscript].

Full Citation for this Article: Brimhall, Holden (2017) "Historical and Contemporary Responses to Sexual Assault by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," SquareTwo, Vol. 10 No. 3 (Fall 2017), http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleBrimhallHistoricalOverview.html, accessed <give access date>.

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