The General Authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ do not condone abuse of any type. General Conference talks over the last several decades have made clear that abuse is not the Lord’s way and is never acceptable for members in good standing [a search for “abuse” in the General Conference section of lds.org produces many talks which address this concern].
Before 1995, training provided to local leadership was less formalized, leaving local leaders to determine how to deal with offenders and how to counsel victims. Since that time, the governing handbooks have clarified the strong position of the church that protection of victims is a primary priority for local leadership.
In 1995, a Handbook* was published concerning this issue. In one of the sections, the stance of the Church against abuse was given teeth by instructing that abusers should not be given callings or have a temple recommend until they have repented.
Clear instructions were provided to local ecclesiastical leaders. Any aberrant teachings or counsel by Bishops or stake presidents, with their many responsibilities, have risen from their own thoughts and interpretations of doctrine, scriptures, and instructions.
Victims of the evil acts of others are not guilty of sin. Church leaders are counseled to be sensitive to such victims and give caring attention to help them overcome the destructive effects of abuse.
Leaders are also counseled to ensure that illegal activities are reported to the appropriate government entity.
The Church as an institution does not condone such abuse, nor insist that spouses stay in abusive situations. The eternal progression of a woman is NOT dependant on staying in an abusive relationship. However, individual bishops may well not understand this, and may give hurtful advice.
The Ensign article of June 1996, The Invisible Heartbreaker, references the 1995 booklet published by the Church, Responding to Abuse: Helps for Ecclesiastical Leaders, which states that even non-physical abuse is recognized as a serious problem. This article gives practical information to victims on how to deal with emotional abuse. Following the principle outlined can improve the situation.
The online and in-person Spouse and Family Support Group of the Addiction Recovery Program also gives those who have suffered from abuse helps for healing and for dealing with the effects of abuse.
In addition, professional counseling services for victims may be available through LDS Social Services or appropriate local entities.
*This handbook, and a DVD on Child Abuse, should be available for viewing by request to local bishops, stake presidents, or branch presidents.
Ellen Allwardt Thorson is a happily remarried 70-year-old great grandmother who serves as transcript coordinator for FairMormon conference presentations, and occasionally answers questions that are received at FairMormon based on her life experiences.