Child sexual abuse may well be the most emotionally
wrenching form of any abuse because of the vulnerability and innocence
of children, because of the amount of physical pain inflicted on them,
and because of their inability to deal with the accompanying
psychological and emotional pain.
Estimates about child sexual abuse vary, but figures
from the Boy Scouts of America and the National Committee for the
Prevention of Child Abuse indicate that one in four girls and one in six
boys will be sexually abused before age eighteen.1
"Women from highly religious homes are just as likely to be abused
as nonreligious women." According to one study of eighty-nine
married Mormon women from "very religious" homes, 26 percent
had been sexually abused as children.2
The problem of abuse by a trusted authority figure,
the clergyperson, is a specialized category of child sexual abuse.
Estimates of clergypersons guilty of child abuse are highly imprecise.
One estimate is I to 2 percent, about the same percentage as child
sexual abusers in the general population.3
Another, not limited to child sexual abuse, is that "between 10 and
23 percent of clergy nationwide have engaged in sexualized behavior or
sexual conduct with parishioners, clients, employees, and others within
a professional relationship."4
Mormonism, with its lay priesthood universally shared by all males over
age twelve who are willing to be involved, probably should be considered
against the profile of a lay, rather than a clergy, population.
The first statements made in General Conference by
General Authorities on the subject of child physical abuse came in 1985.
Since that time, similar statements, general and brief, have uniformly
denounced child abuse as a sin, ordered perpetrators to stop, and
expressed sympathy for the survivors—without, however, providing
specific counsel about assisting the healing process, suggesting any
kind of preventative measures, identifying diagnoses for the early
detection of and intervention for perpetrators, and without
acknowledging that Church officers are among those who profit from their
position of authority and trust to find children to exploit. The Church
has no publicly available policy and no guidelines on procedures to help
LDS families know what resources are available to them from the Church
and what kind of help their ecclesiastical leaders can and should give
them. Rather than dealing straightforwardly and helpfully with the
topic, it has rather taken the position of deploring the behavior but
leaving survivors and their families in the hands of local leaders who
may or may not be equipped and motivated to deal with the problem.
This volume is divided into two parts. The first is
an overview of the problem of child sexual abuse in the Church, and the
second consists of three intertwined reports of multi-generational
sexual abuse. A returned missionary, Scott McCallister, told his father,
Jack, that the ward bishop had sexually molested him during
"worthiness interviews" for years as a teenager. Jack’s own
bishop had done the same thing to him and had also, he later discovered,
sexually approached Jack’s own father. When they tried to get help
through ecclesiastical channels, they were rejected and threatened; when
they exposed on-going abuse, Merradyth McCallister was excommunicated
and Jack McCallister resigned from the Church. The Hales family in the
same ward had undergone a separate trauma when Roseanne Hales Campbell
(pseudonym) discovered that her husband was ritually and sexually
abusing their five young children. The children also named Scott’s
bishop as someone who was present during the abuse sessions. Roseanne
fled to her family in Texas for safety but was stigmatized as
"crazy" by the McCallisters’ stake president. Mary Snow
Plourde, whose sisters had been sexually abused by a stepfather and
whose mother had been institutionalized when she protested, defended the
McCallisters, helped track down the court record of the divorce and
custody hearings, and made public Scott’s bishop’s police record
when he was arrested for exposing himself and soliciting sex from an
undercover policeman on the University of Oklahoma campus. She was also
Part I has the dual intention of serving as an
introduction to the problem of sexual abuse within the Mormon community
and serving as a resource. It is organized as follows:
- Statements about child abuse made in general conference by General
Authorities, beginning in 1985 and some discussion of the possible
Church-state interface in Utah with impact on family policy.
- Policy statements from the General Handbook of Instructions and
other manuals, available to leaders but not to members,
- Ensign articles and other official statements.
- Criminal investigations of Mormons involved in child sexual abuse.
These cases are available in public sources; the Mormon Alliance did
not investigate them.
- Statements by parents and others who have spoken on the record
about the reluctance of ecclesiastical officials to take action on
- A summary of an article on ritual abuse by Noemi P. Mattis and
Elouise Bell, an internal memo prepared by Glenn L. Pace of
the Presiding Bishopric in 1990 summarizing his interviews with
survivors of ritual abuse, a summary of the Utah Attorney-General’s
investigation into ritual abuse, and the case of a ritual abuse
survivor who obtained signed confessions from her parents and
blocked them from serving an LDS mission.
- Considerations for a public policy by the Church in regards to
child abuse that would be more helpful than those currently in
existence and the recommendations of the Mormon Alliance.
Although I do not feel neutral about the topic of
child sexual abuse, I have tried to present the information, compiled
from a number of publicly available sources, with minimal commentary.
In some cases, the information may seem exhaustive;
in others, the information may seem skimpy. These results reflect the
resources available. The goal, particularly in dealing with the
published reports and newspaper accounts, was to arrange the material in
chronological order as events happened (rather than as they were
reported). Because not all newspapers are easily available, a goal of
the writing was to present all of the information available in the
Newspapers do not identify minors by name. We have
assigned individuals pseudonyms to avoid the repetition of "the
victim," "the girl," or "the teenager," which
can easily become confusing if more than one abuse survivor is involved
in a case. In all cases, we are completely unaware of the true names of
any of these individuals. The pseudonyms were drawn at random from the
student directory of a Utah high school with more than two thousand
students. Any potential resemblance between these names and the real
names of the unnamed teenagers is accidental. Each name is identified
parenthetically as a pseudonym on first occurrence with an additional
notation in the source footnote about how it was chosen.
In Part 2, Roseanne Hales requested anonymity for
herself and her five young children. No action has been taken on her
membership or that of relatives, although considerable tension exists.
She also requested that ecclesiastical and civic officials and other
individuals named in her case be referred to by pseudonyms. The
McCallisters and the Plourdes, whose intertwined stories make it
necessary to apply the policy to all or to none, graciously agreed.
The following names, used in Part 2, are pseudonyms:
Quentin Adair, Donald Adams, Gordon Bell, Matthew Boyle, Henry Butler,
Roseanne Hales Campbell and Peter Vaughn Campbell and their children:
Trent, Charlotte, Preston, Tyler, and Gabriel; Arnold Clinton, Lincoln
Elliott, Calvin C. Fleming, Roy B. Franklin, Leon Marshall Fulton, Bruce
Graves, Carter and Nancy Green, Keith and Gloria Hales, Willard and
Maxine Hales, Neal P. Hancock, Earl Harrison and his son Garrett, Melvin
Knott, Curtis James McLean, Wallace Leonard Mercer and Bernice Mercer,
Stanley Dennis Powell and Sylvia Powell and their children: Randy,
Lindsey, and Nicks; Gerald Putnam, Norman Russell, Albert Webster, and
Merrill and Meg Woodford. Any resemblance between any of these
pseudonyns and the names of real persons, living or dead, is completely
The real names of General Authorities, a few of whom had distant
involvement with the case, usually as correspondents, have been used, as
have the names of therapists, attorneys, and the McCallisters’ bishop
and stake president in Henryetta. Oklahoma Silver Ward and Oklahoma Park
Stake are pseudonyms, but the correct names of the towns, cities, and
communities are given.
Notes for Introduction: (Click
the Back Button to return to the note reference.)
1 Marion Smith,
"Blame the Victim: Hushing Mormon Sexual Abuse," Event (Salt
lake City), 28 March 1996, 8.
2 Karen E. Gerdes,
Martha N. Beck, Sylvia Cowan-Hancock, and Tracey Wilkinson-Sparks,
"Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse: The Case of Mormon
Women," in Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work 11
(Spring 1996): 4041. The study of eighty-nine women is Marybeth Rayne,
Freda M. Steward, and M. A. Pett, "Sexual Experiences of Married
Mormon Women," Sunstone (April 1995): 35-43.
Start Extending Rules on Sexual Misconduct," and "Ex-Priest
Sentenced as a ‘Sexual Predator," (sidebar), Deseret News, 15-16
November 1994, A-8.
4 G. Lloyd Rediger,
Ministry and Sexuality: Cases, Counseling and Care, as quoted in
Standing High Council, "Preventing Ministerial Sexual
Misconduct," Saints Herald, August 1993, 3.