INFORMATION ABOUT THE MORMON ALLIANCE
The Mormon Alliance was organized on 4 July 1992 to counter spiritual and ecclesiastical abuse in the Church and to protect the Church against defamatory actions. During the next few months, the trustees established a broad range of supporting purposes: providing a comprehensive definition of spiritual abuse, working to reconcile leaders and members who were out of harmony, establishing a Membersí Bill of Rights, providing a forum for a reasonable and tempered discussion of governance in the Church, critiquing general conference, and identifying and documenting cases of spiritual and ecclesiastical abuse. Janice Merrill Allred and Lavina Fielding Anderson, two of the trustees, became co-chairs of the Case Reports Committee in the fall of 1992 and still serve in those positions.
The current activities of the Alliance including publishing a quarterly newsletter, publishing an annual Case Reports volume, of which this is the third, and sponsoring four quarterly meetings: in January, April, August, and October. The April and October meetings are scheduled for the first Monday after general conference and are devoted to a lively and far-ranging critique of the general conference just concluded. The August meeting is held in conjunction with Sunstone.
The purposes of the Alliance are currently defined as: to identify and document ecclesiastical/spiritual abuse, to promote healing and closure for its survivors, to build more sensitive leadership, to empower LDS members to participate with more authenticity in Mormonism, and to foster a healthier religious community.
Although the terms "ecclesiastical abuse" and "spiritual abuse" are used somewhat interchangeably, they have different emphases. Ecclesiastical abuse occurs when a Church officer, acting in his official capacity and using the weight of his (less frequently her) office, coerces compliance, imposes his personal opinions as Church doctrine or policy, or resorts to such power plays as threats, intimidation, and punishment to insure that his views prevail in a conflict of opinions. The suggestion is always that the member has weak faith, or inadequate testimony, and lacks commitment to the Church. Spiritual abuse occurs when a member, through the actions of another, is made to feel limited or lacking in free agency, diminished in value in the eyes of God, unworthy to pray, unworthy or incapable of receiving answers to prayer, outside the influence of Christís atonement, and excluded from the Saviorís love and grace.
Eight factors characterize most abusive encounters:
The Church, particularly on the ward level, works amazingly well most of the time as communities of compassion and belonging; but in the remaining fraction, where an ecclesiastical officer succumbs to an appetite for unrighteous dominion, the Church offers no structural safeguards against abuse and very seldom even any recognition that the memberís rights can be violated. In this way, the Churchís hierarchical structure, as manifested in the "priesthood pipeline," is systemically vulnerable to the temptation to inflict abuse, We hope, by documenting cases where benevolence fails, that we can strengthen members as they set about healing from ecclesiastical abuse and also encourage less absolutistic views of authority by both members and leaders.
We encourage those who feel that their situations can be defined as spiritual or ecclesiastical abuse to contact us. Our procedure in working on a case report consists of three steps: First, we want to listen and understand. Sometimes that alone meets the needs of those who feel unheard. Second, we want to document what happened, and when and whereónot only the factual reality but also the emotional reality of what it felt like and what it still feels like. We encourage respondents to write their own stories or, if itís easier, to talk through their experience with a committee member who will then work with the respondent on drafting the account. When both parties are satisfied with its accuracy, then it goes into the file as a case report. A third step is publication of selected cases. At that point, we return to the respondent, provide the context in which the account would appear, and ask for any updates that might be necessary. The respondent is free to withdraw at that point, to rework the account with whatever assistance is necessary, or to approve the case report as it stands. The respondent will sign an affidavit attesting to the truthfulness of the information contained in the case report, to the best of his or her knowledge, and giving permission to publish the report.
Those writing their own experiences should be as complete, clear, and detailed as possible. We have found that we usually need to ask clarifying questions on the following points:
Privacy for oneself and family members is frequently an issue because speaking out in the current environment of the Church is fraught with a certain amount of risk. Although we cannot accept anonymous accounts as documented cases, we do offer a wide range of options when it comes to eventual publication, including total or partial masking of names, places, and other identifying information.
Contact the Mormon Alliance at 6337 Highland Drive, Box 215, Salt Lake City, UT 84121, or contact the co-chairs of the Case Reports Committee directly: