A.P. Report Uncovers Scandal: '7 Years' of Sexual Abuse in the Mormon Church

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A Look at Sexual Abuse Claims Against the Mormon Church/Latter-day Saints

A Look at Sexual Abuse Claims Against the Mormon Church/Latter-day Saints

Nov 16, 2022

In recent years, sexual abuse scandals have surfaced in a number of religious denominations. From the Catholic Church to the Southern Baptist Convention to the Church of Scientology, odious allegations of systemic sexual abuse and misconduct have led to countless settlements and verdicts on behalf of survivors who endured unspeakable harm.

‘7 Years’ of Sexual Abuse in the Mormon Church

In August, the Associated Press (AP) released a damning investigative report which uncovered rampant sexual abuse impacting yet another religions denomination – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly known as the Mormon church).

Specifically, the AP’s investigation focused on the Mormon church’s “help line,” which was often utilized “for guidance” related to allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct. But calls made to the help line were actually directed to lawyers for the Mormon church who staffed the resource “around the clock,” according to the AP.

“The Associated Press has obtained nearly 12,000 pages of sealed records [from a child sex abuse lawsuit against the Mormon church in West Virginia]. The documents offer the most detailed and comprehensive look yet at the so-called help line… Families of survivors who filed the lawsuit said they show it’s part of a system that can easily be misused by church leaders to divert abuse accusations away from law enforcement and instead to church attorneys who may bury the problem, leaving victims in harm’s way.”

Some facts related to the Mormon church help line that were uncovered in the AP’s investigative report include:

  • Officials said in sworn statements included in sealed records that the help line is staffed by social workers who destroy records of all calls at the close of each day.
  • When the social workers receive calls about abuse that may present a risk to the church – such as abuse committed by prominent church members, abuse perpetrated during church activities, or especially egregious instances of abuse – the calls are referred to attorneys with the Salt Lake City law firm Kirton McConkie.
  • The church maintains that all calls referred to the attorneys are protected by attorney-client privilege, leaving no record of the accusations accessible to prosecutors or victims’ attorneys.

The AP’s report noted that the help line has been criticized by sexual abuse survivors and their attorneys for being “inadequate to quickly stop abuse and protect victims.” But, as the AP reported, the Mormon church has not only “stuck by” the help line system – church officials and their attorneys continue to maintain that bishops were never required to report abuse in the first place.

“These bishops did nothing wrong. They didn’t violate the law, and therefore they can’t be held liable,” William Maledon, an Arizona attorney representing the bishops and the church in a lawsuit filed on behalf of a sexual abuse survivor, told the AP. Maledon also reportedly referred to the suit as “a money grab.”

What is the Mormon Church’s ‘Clergy-Penitent Privilege’?

In the article entitled, “Seven years of sex abuse: How Mormon officials let it happen,” AP investigative reporter Michael Rezendes notes that secrecy surrounding the sexual abuse incidents existed largely as a result of attorneys in Salt Lake City advising multiple bishops that they were “exempt from reporting requirements under the state’s child abuse reporting law because of the law’s so-called clergy-penitent privilege.”

“Arizona’s child sex abuse reporting law, and similar laws in more than 20 states, says clergy, physicians, nurses, or anyone caring for a child who ‘reasonably believes’ the child has been abused or neglected has a legal obligation to report the information to police or the state Department of Child Safety. But it also says that clergy who receive information about child neglect or sexual abuse during spiritual confessions ‘may withhold’ that information from authorities if the clergy determine it is ‘reasonable and necessary’ under church doctrine,” Rezendes wrote in a follow-up piece.

Similarities in Mormon Sexual Abuse Cases

The AP investigation highlighted a Mormon sexual abuse case involving a survivor identified as MJ. MJ’s father – Paul Douglas Adams – was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and an admitted pornography addict. During a counseling session with his bishop – John Herrod – Adams reportedly revealed the years-long sexual abuse against his daughter.

The bishop, who was also a family physician, “followed church policy” and called the aforementioned help line. No action was taken on the part of Mormon church officials, and the bishop reportedly “continued to counsel MJ’s father… for another year, and brought in Adams’ wife, Leizza, in hopes she would do something to protect the children.” Ultimately, nothing was ever done, according to the AP report.

“Herrod later told a second bishop, who also kept the matter secret after consulting with church officials who maintain that the bishops were excused from reporting the abuse to police under the state’s so-called clergy-penitent privilege.”

While MJ has since filed a civil lawsuit for damages against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, inaction on the part of church officials allowed Paul Douglas Adams to evade any criminal prosecution.

“Adams was finally arrested by Homeland Security agents in 2017 with no help from the church, after law enforcement officials in New Zealand discovered one of the videos. He died by suicide in custody before he could stand trial,” the AP confirmed.

Yesterday, CBS 8 San Diego published an investigative report highlighting another Mormon sexual abuse case. The survivor identified in the article – Elizabeth – is a client of Dordulian Law Group. Her case is eerily similar to the one involving MJ.

The facts related to Elizabeth’s case include:

  • Her father, who served at a ward in Lemon Grove, abused her from the first days after she was born in 1983 to when she was a teenager.
  • He was eventually convicted of molesting her and spent 15 years in a California prison.
  • He was released in 2020 and now lives in a small home in Chula Vista.

“Now, Elizabeth wants answers. She says she wants to know why local church leaders in Chula Vista willingly turned a blind eye, discouraging her and her mother from going to the police after her mother caught her orally copulating with him at just five years of age,” CBS San Diego reported.

“Elizabeth, like other victims, says instead of action, church leaders told her father to read more scripture and go to counseling, essentially allowing the abuse to continue unabated for 13 years.”

Dordulian Law Group’s Civil Lawsuit Against the Mormon Church

Dordulian Law Group’s (DLG) founder and president – Sam Dordulian – is a former sex crimes prosecutor and Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County. He spoke with CBS 8 San Diego about Elizabeth’s case against the Mormon church.

“What we’re looking for in this lawsuit is some accountability, some responsibility to be taken by the church for all the things that they did wrong,” Dordulian said to CBS. “Elizabeth could have been saved, gotten into therapy, and maybe that would have impacted her life. And she would have had a different life than what she ended up experiencing.”

“Dordulian … a former Los Angeles County prosecutor who now represents sex abuse victims… says the LDS Church and other religious institutions can no longer hide from failing to report sexual assaults to the police,” CBS reported.

“Their response always is, ‘we have nothing to do with it. We can’t stop a perpetrator like this from doing these bad things.’ That’s utterly untrue” Dordulian said.

“All they had to do with all the knowledge and information they had is simply call the authorities. Or at least at a minimum, don’t tell the mom not to call the authorities. Let her go and report so somebody can give Elizabeth the help that she desperately needed,” Dordulian added.

How Can I File a Mormon Church Sexual Abuse Lawsuit?

Survivors of Mormon church sexual abuse have rights under California law. Regardless of whether your perpetrator was ever criminally prosecuted for sex crimes, a civil lawsuit with DLG may be filed in an effort to help you recover due financial compensation for various damages:

  • Hospital and medical care expenses (past and future)
  • Counseling or therapy expenses (past and future)
  • Emotional harm/psychological trauma
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost wages
  • Diminished earning capacity
  • Punitive damages
  • Reduced quality of life

Filing a claim for damages against either an individual sexual predator, an institution which enabled a sexual predator’s behavior, or both can be empowering for survivors – allowing justice to be obtained on one’s own terms.

To file your claim against the Mormon church or another sexual predator, contact DLG today at 818-322-4056 for a free and confidential consultation. There is never any upfront cost to you for our expert legal representation, and we will fight aggressively to secure a maximum financial damages award for your sexual abuse civil claim.

About DLG’s Proven and Trusted Los Angeles Sexual Abuse Attorneys

Led by Sam Dordulian, DLG is California’s premier and top-rated sexual assault and abuse firm representing survivors in all types of claims. With our unique four-tiered support network included as part of our legal representation, survivors have access to a number of important resources.

DLG’s Four-Tiered SAJE Team (Sexual Abuse Justice Experts) Approach:

  • Tier I: Litigation team led by Sam Dordulian, a skilled sex crimes attorney with more than 100 jury trial victories and over 25 years of experience fighting for justice on behalf of survivors. Dordulian and his team of sexual abuse attorneys offer unparalleled experience, dedication, and results.
  • Tier II: A licensed in-house clinical therapist with more than 15 years of experience assisting survivors of sexual assault and abuse.
  • Tier III: A licensed in-house victim advocate dedicated to the needs of all survivors.
  • Tier IV: A retired LAPD sex crimes detective serving as DLG’s in-house Chief Investigator on all sexual abuse cases.

DLG has secured more than $100,000,000.00 in settlements and verdicts for clients while consistently maintaining a 98% winning record. Some recent DLG Sex Crime Division case victories include:

Contact us today to discuss your Mormon sex abuse claim confidentially and without any obligation.

Our Sexual Assault Justice Experts are here to help survivors secure justice. Contact our top-rated attorneys online or by phone for a free consultation today.

At DLG, we believe, support, and fight tirelessly for justice on behalf of all sexual abuse survivors.

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