Chapter 4
Home Up

VOLUME 1, 1995

Chapter 4


Twenty-two recent cases of criminal prosecution of Mormons for various forms of child abuse have come to our attention, all summarized from newspaper accounts or other publicly available documents. They are: 

  1.  Richard Kenneth Ray of Mesa, Arizona (1984), 

  2.  Robert Gene Metcalf of Meyer, Arizona, 1988-89, who was convicted twice of sexually abusing his children and stepchildren in two separate marriages; 

  3. George P. Lee (1986-89), a General Authority excommunicated "for apostasy and conduct unbecoming a member," who was later charged with sexually abusing a child; 

  4. Arthur Frank Phillips of Mesa, Arizona (1992-93), who fondled the breasts of a girl in his Mormon Sunday School class; 

  5. Robert Michael Tubbs of Slaterville, Utah (1991-92), who sexually molested sixteen boys in his Mormon Scout troop; 

  6. Mark Edward Morgan of Springville, Utah (1994), a distributor of Mormon greeting cards, who fondled a boy he was hiring, claiming that he was fitting him for a uniform; he had a history of child molestation in Thailand; 

  7.  Michael Shean, an attorney and former bishopric counselor in Santa Maria, California (1995), had been excommunicated once for sexually abusing a boy but was pronounced "cured" by his LDS Social Services therapist and was reinstated; he was convicted of sexually molesting juvenile clients; 

  8. Ralph Neeley of Beaumont, Texas (1994) who was sentenced to life imprisonment for molesting an eight-year-old in empty rooms of their Mormon meetinghouse while services were going on; 

  9. Christopher J. Bearnson of Azusa, California (1993), who was convicted of sexually molesting two girls on a Young Women’s campout where he was one of the priesthood chaperons; 

  10. Arlo Atkinson of Mesa, Arizona, a bishop who impregnated a teenager whom he took into his home because she had already been sexually abused; (11) James F. Adams, Jr., active Latter-day Saint of Beckley, West Virginia, who sexually abused his two children for five years beginning in 1988; in 1989, he confessed his behavior to his father, who was also his local bishop, to his stake president, and to his job supervisor, also a Mormon; and 

  11. Eleven others about whom only incomplete information is available.

The Mormon Alliance has conducted no independent investigation of these cases, and we report them here only to provide background information on the fact that Mormons in a variety of circumstances are involved in a variety of types of sexual abuse. We acknowledge that the information in most cases is incomplete and that Mormons have no monopoly on such situations. However, what all of the cases seem to have in common is that the perpetrator’s membership in the Church and, in many cases, leadership position gave him access to children and youth and increased his power over them.


Richard Kenneth Ray, a lifelong Mormon, was molested at a Boy Scout camp when he was twelve. "Because of the church’s teachings against masturbation and premarital sex, he would always feel guilty about the one encounter when he was a victim. He never told anyone." He graduated from Mesa High school in the National Honor Society, served a two-year mission, and married his wife about three months after he met her upon his return. They had three daughters. "His wife said that she tolerated twenty unhappy years of marriage because of the church’s teachings against breaking up the family." During those twenty years, Ray later told the police, he sexually molested thirty-three children, three calves, and a dog "because of his guilt about masturbation and adultery."

He began sexually abusing each daughter when she was about six, beginning with fondling, then kissing her genitals, and then moving on to oral and vaginal sex. One of his daughters began sleeping under her bed to get away from him. He also abused his nieces, his daughter’s baby sitters, his daughters’ friends, and his friends’ children.

He confessed to two, possibly to three, Mormon bishops in 1976 that he had molested another relative. They did not notify the police. Throughout this entire span, Ray was very active in the Church and had constant callings.

In 1984, his wife regularly babysat a two-year-old. "On one occasion, he manipulated his penis around the child’s mouth until she opened it so he could put his penis inside. Another time, he removed her clothing, placed his penis between her legs and rubbed it back and forth." The child’s mother became suspicious when the toddler began to "seek out [her] father’s penis." About the same time, stake president Alan Farnsworth received a telephone call from two Mormon bishops in Virginia who told Farnsworth that "Ray had molested his niece while he was on vacation." Farnsworth called Ray in. He confessed. Farnsworth persuaded him to go the police.

Before Ray was sentenced, the court received a barrage of letters from LDS Church members and officials, some written on Church stationery, asking for leniency.

All praised Ray as a hard worker, a good provider, a man who had even helped to bring about several adoptions.

W. Dale Hall, an LDS high councilor at the time, wrote that Ray had been "a great influence for good" in the lives of hundreds of young people. "In view of the good things he has done throughout his life, I believe firmly that the sooner he is let back into society, the better for all it will be." …

Ray was sentenced to fifty-eight years in prison. His wife received two years probation for having known at least part of his secret and not reporting it.

One of Ray’s victims sued the Church for negligence, and after arguing in vain before the state Supreme Court that its bishops were protected by clergy confidentiality, the LDS Church paid an undisclosed settlement [in 1990]....

Salt Lake City psychologist Lynn Johnson, who was treating the emotional damage done to one of Ray’s daughters, [commented]…: "If the father is exonerated or excused in the least degree, this will be a terrible blow to [his daughter] for the reason that she will not only be constantly fearful that he will confront and harm her, but more importantly, she will then feel a return of the inappropriate guilt. She will then feel that this awful thing has happened; and if her father is not to blame, then she must be."


Robert Gene Metcalf was convicted in California in 1974 of sodomizing a young boy. In 1975, he married Gail Coen, mother of four. Three more sons were born to this marriage. He was an active Mormon, and it was his second marriage. In 1978, "Gail Metcalf walked into the living room and discovered her husband engaged in anal intercourse with a thirteen-year-old boy who was living temporarily with the Metcalf family. At the time, Metcalf was wearing his sacred temple garments." He was excommunicated and sentenced to six years in prison. Gail divorced him and obtained a court order that kept him from visiting her or their children for six months after his release.

Before the six months were up, however, Metcalf had married his third wife, who had three children by her previous marriage. They took up residence in Meyer, where Metcalf had the reputation of being "a good provider who looked after his wife’s three children as though they were his own." Large, stocky, and genial, he was a good neighbor in a cowboy hat, active in the Church. He "took charge of [musical] performances the Church put on to raise money, . . - helped out with the Boy Scout troop, and oversaw the lambs his sons were raising to earn money and learn responsibility."

In late 1987, Gail Metcalf "developed a brain tumor and needed extensive medical treatment She contacted her local bishop, Grant Shumway in Phoenix, to discuss what might happen to her younger children while she was hospitalized" and Don Excell, Gene’s branch president in Meyer. She says her bishop and stake president "ordered" her to send her children to live with Gene. She did. "‘We are trained in the church to be submissive. … It is a patriarchal system. I was trying to abide by church leaders’ rules that they had set down and told me what to do,"’ she says. According to ... the Church’s local spokesman, the bishop "listened" and "counseled her on options" but "‘we do not tell people what to do with their children."’ Gail made "numerous" calls to Grant Shumway and also to Don Excell. In August 1988, she sent her children to Gene for about eight months.

That same year, Gene’s six-year-old stepson told his mother, her parents, and "his church leader in Meyer that Metcalf had periodically masturbated him and had forced him to masturbate Metcalf, often in the cab of his truck." No one reported the incident to anyone outside the church. According to another source, Metcalf had also molested Scouts in the Church troop of which he was Scoutmaster.

In 1989, Gail Metcalf’s children told her that their father had been fondling them and their stepbrothers. Gail called the police, and Metcalf was convicted for a third time on sexual deviancy charges.

… An array of people lobbied on his behalf. Many of them had official connections with the Mormon Church. Former Prescott city council member Perry Haddon was one of those people.

Another was former state senator Boyd Tenney, who described himself as a leader in the LDS Church. Tenney testified that Metcalf was an asset to the community who was likely to exhibit proper behavior in the future.

The prosecutor ... had a question for Tenney:

"What information do you have that a man who has been a child molester since 1974, notwithstanding the fact that he’s had a Church that’s done everything in its power to help him, what makes you think that now he is going to miraculously be healed and not commit further felony child molestation offenses against other innocent children?"

Tenney answered, "I have seen miracles happen in that direction, and I believe that he could become one of those miracles."

The court did not. Gene Metcalf was sentenced to thirty-seven years in prison.

His third wife sat in the courtroom with tears running down her face, clutching a teddy bear. She had not wanted him to receive a prison term. She had testified earlier that her children needed him.

Gail brought suit against Excell and Shumway in 1990; its outcome is not known.


George Patrick Lee (his middle name was assigned by teachers at the government boarding school on the reservation) was born 23 March 1943 at Towaoc, Ute Mountain Indian Reservation, Colorado, to Pete Lee and Mae K. Asdzaat-chii Lee. His father had four children by a first marriage, his mother two surviving children of four by two previous marriages. Lee was the second of their nine children. The family was poor, sometimes desperately so. His father was both an alcoholic and a shaman. Lee became a star example of the LDS-sponsored Indian Placement Program, an effort to place elementary- and high-school-aged Indian students from reservations in LDS homes throughout the West where they were clothed, fed, and educated at the expense of the volunteer Mormon family. At age twelve, Lee was placed with the George and Joan Harker family of Orem. He graduated from grade school, junior high, high school, and BYU with a B.A., and earned a master’s degree from Utah State University and a Ph.D. from BYU in educational administration. He served in the Southwest Indian Mission, an area which included the Navajo reservation, and married Katherine (Kitty) Hettich, a Comanche, in the Salt Lake Temple (Spencer W. Kimball, then an apostle, officiated at the ceremony), and they became the parents of seven children. Silent Courage, his autobiography, ends with his calling on 3 October 1975 to the First Quorum of the Seventy, the first (and so far only) Native American to become a General Authority. He was thirty-two and president of Ganado College on the Navajo reservation at the time. His calling was widely attributed to the long-time interest that Apostle Spencer W. Kimball had in Native Americans. Kimball had become president of the Church twenty-two months earlier.

Lee was excommunicated on 1 September 1989, thirteen years and eleven months after becoming a General Authority, on charges of "apostasy and conduct unbecoming a member." Five years later, on 11 October 1994, he pled guilty to attempted sexual abuse of a child and was placed on eighteen months probation. He was the first General Authority in the twentieth century to be excommunicated since Apostle Richard R. Lyman in 1943 for adultery and the first General Authority to be excommunicated for apostasy since Apostle Amasa Lyman (Richard Lyman’s grandfather) in 1870.

What happened to the glittering "success story" of the "redeemed" and spiritually authoritative young General Authority, seen by many as the literal fulfillment of Book of Mormon promises about the rise of the "Lamanites" in the last days? Below is a chronology pieced together, except where noted, from public records.

As a General Authority, Lee spoke only six times in general conference in almost fourteen years, at intervals of six months, two years, two years, two years, and three years. He had not spoken for almost four years when he was excommunicated. This pattern of public visibility should not be automatically susceptible to a negative interpretation. At the October 1976 general conference, a policy was announced of "reconstituting" the First Quorum of the Seventy by transferring all Assistants and beginning to call new seventies to that quorum (and later to a second quorum as well). Six months later in April 1977, the general conferences were cut from three days, the usual length for most of the twentieth century, to two days. Thus, the number of available speaking slots decreased by a third. From that point on, typically all members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve who were physically able addressed the conferences with other General Authorities speaking as time permitted. Speaking assignments could be three or four years apart before a Seventy s turn came up.

However, the topics which Elder Lee addressed may, in retrospect, show some significance. Speaking as a General Authority, Elder Lee gave the following six addresses:

1. "My Heritage Is Choice" (Ensign, November 1975, 100-101), his first address as a General Authority, was explicit and proud about his ethnic identity. He began by quipping, "I finally realized how General Custer must have felt," and expressed pride that he was "a child of the Book of Mormon people. I have found my true heritage; I have found my true identity." He also expressed pride as "a descendant" (presumably spiritual) "of Red Cloud, Sitting Bull, Chief Joseph, Chee Dodge, Chief Crazy Horse" and assured Indians on "reservations and in the cities of our country and through the islands of the sea …. .. that Heavenly Father loves you." He called on all members of the Church "to join hands as children of God" and warned, "You will not find [the] United States in paradise. - - - I will not find an Indian reservation in paradise. - - -You will not find China in paradise."

2. "‘But They Were in One,"’ (Ensign, May 1976, 99-100), again contained ethnic references to "my people," bore a strong testimony to the greatness of Spencer W. Kimball, and described "heaven" as the "brown faces and white faces together" that he saw in the tabernacle. Then he issued a strong call for social justice, reminding his hearers of the ideal Book of Mormon condition in which poverty was eclipsed by sharing and service, and asking, "Will you go out of this building and out into the world and deal justly with your fellowmen7 Or will yoti compromise gospel principles and standards?"

3. "Staying Unspotted from the World," (Ensign, May 1978, 27-29), delivered when he was president of the Arizona Holbrook Mission, was a strong appeal to young people to "let virtue and purity be your shield and armor, and you will be invincible," to pray continually (he told of being mocked by his own brothers for praying in the hogan, but "a Navajo boy, coming from very simple, humble, poor circumstances because he was on his knees, became a polished instrument of God"), to "stand up for the Lord, even against your own flesh and blood, even against your own brothers and sisters, even against your own loved ones and friends" (he described fighting off four of his brothers who tried to hold him down and pour liquor into him), to "become obedient to your parents, to your priesthood leaders, and to the Lord," and to search the scriptures. "You’re too choice, you’re too innocent, you’re too sweet and too pure to lose." I was then on the editorial staff at the Ensign. The talk that Lee had originally prepared and had submitted to the magazine staff and translators was a ringing call for the "Gentile" members of the Church to become the "nursing fathers" and "nursing mothers" to the Lamanites that the Book of Mormon assigned them to be and which, to this point, Lee implied, they had failed to do. A few days later, this "social justice" address was withdrawn on instructions from the First Presidency’s office and replaced with the address to young people that he actually delivered. Magazine staff members speculated that the reason for the substitution may have been the accusatory tone in which Lee called the Mormon Gentiles to "repentance" for their mistreatment of the Indians.

4. "‘Acquaint Thyself with Him, and Be at Peace" (Ensign, November 1980,65-66) quoted six scriptures from the New Testament and two from the Old Testament but none at all from the Book of Mormon, made no references to Indians or Gentiles, and contained no ethnic allusions. Instead, it cataloged the sins and dangers of the last days and urged members "to develop a more personal relationship with the Lord." (Ironically, he was immediately followed by Elder Gene Cook speaking on "Miracles among the Lamanites," a description of conversions in Latin America.)

5. "‘Behold My Beloved Son, in Whom I Am Well Pleased,"’ (Ensign, November 1982,73-75) was a strong affirmation of the centrality of Christ’s atonement and of Elder Lee’s testimony of Christ’s divinity.

This same general conference, October 1982, was the last conference addressed by President Kimball. At age eighty-eight, he underwent surgery for subdural hematomae that greatly impaired his ability to speak. He attended some sessions with decreasing frequency and, finally, not at all, until his death in November 1985 when he was succeeded by President Ezra Taft Benson, who promptly called for a rededication of members to the Book of Mormon. During Kimball’s final illness and afterwards, the Indian Placement Program was sharply curtailed, a number of Indian services at BYU and on the reservations were cut back or eliminated, and, according to Lee, full-time missionaries were removed from Indian reservations. Lee gave only one more talk in general conference

6. "Can There Any Good Thing Come Out of Nazareth?" (Ensign, November 1985, 22-24) reminded his listeners that the Saints have always been "scorned for no other cause than for preaching the truth in its fulness and purity, and for standing up in defense of holy and pure principles revealed from God." He pointed out that Jesus was poor from the manger to the cross," and then launched into a series of personal expressions, some of which he repeated as part of his defense at his excommunication and which, in retrospect, carry a double message: "I will pray for our critics and enemies. I will be patient and long-suffering toward them and will return kindness, prayer, and righteousness. ... There is no priesthood of the Son of God that authorizes any one man to oppress another or to intrude upon his rights in anyway. We ought to be a brother and a friend to all men everywhere. We ought not to entertain a ‘Big I’ and a ‘Little You’ feeling toward our neighbors and fellowmen. .. . If there are any in our own flock who err, let us try to reclaim them by kindness and long-suffering. If there are any among us who have a bad spirit, let us show them a better spirit.... Amen to the priesthood or the authority of any man of God who exercises control, dominion, or compulsion upon a fellow being outside of the Church or upon a fellow member in the Church in any degree of unrighteousness."

He did not address a general conference again. Immediately after his excommunication, Lee released two hand-written letters, undated and unsigned, that had obviously been written in the heat of emotion and which contained numerous spelling and punctuation errors. The two had considerable overlapping material.

The first document is a fifteen-page letter that he had written to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve some months earlier, consisting of an introductory statement and two lists of rhetorical questions/accusations, the first numbered "a" through "w" and the second 1 through 51, followed by a plea for understanding and acceptance. In a newspaper interview at the time of his excommunication, he said he had landed in trouble for questioning Church leadership "two years ago," or about the fall of 1987.

The second is a twenty-three-page document that he had read at his disciplinary council setting forth his theological views, asking a number of rhetorical questions and listing ten reasons why he felt the other General Authorities had already rejected "the fullness of the gospel."

Both letters charge Church leadership with abandoning or neglecting the scriptural mission to the Indians and usurping their proper place as "true Israel" as the Gentiles are only "adopted" Israel. They had neglected the poor, abused their priesthood authority, and been guilty of "pride, arrogance, and unrighteous dominion." Harshly, he accuses: "You are slowly causing a silent subtle scriptural and spiritual slaughter of the Indians and other Lamanites. While physical extermination may have been one of (the] Federal governments policies long ago, your current scriptural and spiritual extermination of Indians and other Lamanites is the greater sin and great shall be your condemnation."

Both letters identify disagreements and events which, although they are not dated, suggest a sequence. According to the first letter, at some point, he was instructed "not to pray or talk about Lamanites or the poor." One woman in an East Bench ward in Salt Lake City about 1984-85 told me that Lee "offended" the members of her congregation when he spoke at her ward’s reunion by accusing the members of being materialistic and greedy and of turning their backs on the poor. She felt that he primarily blamed the women in the audience and contemptuously told the men to "say no" when their wives asked for "another fur coat."

He charges that someone among the General Authorities (not necessarily a single individual) wrote a letter "falsely" accusing him of "polygamy and teaching false doctrine." (A teacher at BYU told me that Lee had interviewed her when she was hired. She recalled her confusion at being asked questions about her belief in polygamy. Possibly he had made a number of such comments or brought it up in a number of settings.) In an interview immediately after his excommunication, Lee said that these charges of "polygamy" and "‘immorality"’ were made after he was already "in trouble." Apparently, Lee then "faithfully and honestly opened up to you in his attempts to answer your questions and false accusations with a presentation on the chalkboard."

Apparently a cycle of unresolved conflict then began. Lee claims he was put "on probation without fair hearing" by someone whom he accused of "delight[ing]" in "acting as judge, jury and executioner at the same time." It is not clear who imposed this discipline. The logical body would be the seven-man presidency of his quorum, though he later refers to meeting with "apostles" and protests different "disciplinary practices, rules and traditions … for the 70’s … [than for] the twelve." He was excommunicated by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve.

Nor is it clear what he means by "probation" although he claims he was "stripped … of all assignments after he spoke out in a meeting because he was hurt and was being punished without the Lord’s justice and mercy." Lee then "sincerely and humbly apologized and asked for your forgiveness and love in a wonderful June meeting," said he "fully and completely trusted you and told you he sustained you 100% as apostles and prophets," and promised that he "would never teach... what he shared with you." Those present in the meeting told him that he was forgiven and was "completely off probation." However, he says, he was denied an assignment in an area presidency, "prohibited … from dividing and reorganizing stakes and denied … week-end assignments except that he went with someone else."

A few paragraphs later, he repeats that he had been denied "certain important assignments such as dividing and reorganizing stakes since 1975." Although this date is extremely clearly written in his own handwriting, it cannot be correct. He was not called as a General Authority until October 1975. It seems improbable that a General Authority would be immediately denied one of the most routine functions of a General Authority as soon as he was called. A more likely date would be 1985, after Ezra Taft Benson became president of the Church.

He also says he had been called "‘apostate’ ‘rebellious’ ‘sick’ ‘crazy’ ‘listening to the wrong voice’ ‘speaking against leadership’ ‘dark clouds over your head’ and etc." He describes "heartaches, mental and psychological stress" caused to him and his family and says he had experienced "disdain, snobbery, ridicule, rejection and conditional selective love" from the other General Authorities.

He describes his hurt, warns of "arrogance" in how he had been treated, and concludes this first letter with an impassioned plea for acceptance. "I am crying out to you. I need your full trust, confidence, and unconditional love. I feel like the only person who completely trusted me was President Kimball.... To me you are not a true disciple or an apostle of the Lord if you refuse to let go of your hostility or unkind feelings toward me." He expressed complete support for them, described defending them in the field, and longed to "receive all of my assignments back, this time with no strings attached," promising in return to accept any assignment and … go anywhere, anytime faithfully. … I’ll even go back to Australia [he had served as a member of the Pacific Area presidency, headquartered in Sydney, Australia, typically a three-year appointment], to Philippines, to China, to Russia, just anywhere."

Over the next several months, the situation was not resolved, although he was made second counselor to Elder Loren C. Dunn, president of the North America Central Area. It is not known what events precipitated the calling of the disciplinary council. Lee’s second letter, apparently read at this disciplinary council, repeats considerable material from the first letter. He describes what he sees as the different roles of "true Israel" and "adopted Israel," and then brands as "false teachings" the doctrine that all members of the Church can be the "‘remnant of the House of Israel."’ He then accuses the General Authorities of fostering a "white supremacy, racist attitude, pride, arrogance, love of power, and no sense of obligation to the poor, needy and afflicted," of usurping the chosen place of the Lamanites, of "betraying and turning your backs on the very people on whom your salvation hangs," and of profiting from their positions by expense-paid trips, "board memberships and meetings, royalty from written books, and all donations and gifts from friends, speaking engagements and etc."

At the end of the meeting in which he read this letter, on 1 September 1989, Lee was excommunicated by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve for "apostasy and conduct unbecoming a member." There is no way of knowing what, exactly, either charge meant, given their refusal to be explicit. According to an article in the Deseret News, "Church officials declined to comment on the specifics of the excommunication, saying that such actions are private and they desire to avoid further embarrassment to Lee or his family. But they said the action was taken only after lengthy and considerable study, thought and deliberation. It was not a precipitous action." They also "emphasized their commitment to Indian or ‘Lamanite’ people, not just in the United States but all over the world." These church officials were not identified; but Bruce L. Olsen, managing director of public communications, said, "‘The work among the Lamanite people of the world has accelerated, and great progress is being made."’ He was probably the "church spokesman" whom the article quoted as saying, "The Indian people are loved by LDS Church leaders and the Church has, and will continue to have, strong and significant programs for them."

The question of sexual impropriety came up immediately. Responding to a reporter after his excommunication, Lee specifically denied that the excommunication was for "‘moral misconduct."’ He said "Mormon officials had accused him of polygamy and ‘immorality,’ both of which he denied. When those charges didn’t stick, they accused him of apostasy." In 1993 when criminal charges were filed against Lee, a Church spokesman said "they were unaware at the time [of the excommunication] of the sexual-abuse allegations." Despite the Church’s silence and Lee’s denial, however, it is not impossible that allegations of sexual misconduct were known among the other General Authorities, for simultaneously with the period of probation and the pattern of intensifying ostracism, Lee was turning to children for sexual gratification and had been doing so since at least 1986, three years before his excommunication.

According to newspaper accounts spanning the time period between the filing of charges and Lee’s plea bargain, there may have been additional victims. A story published two days after he was charged states: "Other possible victims are alluded to in the report, but officials say that for now, only incidents involving the l2-year-old will be prosecuted." A second newspaper story quoted sheriffs officials as saying "others allegedly have made similar allegations against Lee." A third news story, published in May 1994, reported that Lee’s attorney had filed a motion "asking the judge to exclude ‘any evidence of other misconduct or bad acts concerning defendant’s sisters-in-law … for the reason that said incidents, even if true, are irrelevant.’ The motion did not elaborate on the ‘misconduct or bad acts."’

The case for which Lee was prosecuted was his sexual abuse of a neighbor child, identified in this account as Karen (a pseudonym). As related, sometimes piecemeal, in newspaper accounts, this is what happened: In 1986, when Karen was nine her family lived near the Lee family in West Jordan, in Salt Lake Valley. She was near the age of one of the Lee daughters, and her brother was close in age to one of the Lee sons. According to David Sanders, Lee’s attorney, George Lee "‘was a good friend to the family for years and assisted them financially."’

Karen testified that she knew he was a "‘a religious leader,"’ and prosecutors filed the charge as a first-degree felony "because he ‘occupied a position of special trust to the victim’ as a Church leader. . She considered ‘Brother Lee’ a family friend and important man in the Mormon Church, of which she is a member."’

Beginning in 1986 when she was nine, she says, she accompanied Lee’s family to Lake Powell. In the motel, Lee lay down on the bed between his daughter and Karen and began "‘telling us stories and scratching our backs."’ Then he "‘put his hand inside my panties, on my buttocks," Karen testified. After that incident, Lee "called her into the bathroom. ‘He told me that I shouldn’t tell anyone because the Lord had told him to do it and it should just remain between the Lord and him and me. I thought it was what I was supposed to do."’ She sometimes gave excuses to avoid visiting the Lee home and tried to stay with Lee’s daughter when she was there because she "felt safer." Karen also accompanied Lee and his daughter on church assignments outside Utah where he also fondled her.

At some unspecified point, Karen’s family moved to Phoenix. Then during the summer of 1989, Lee came to her home while he was on a church assignment and offered to take her and a brother back to Utah for a month-long vacation with his family. The month in question is not reported in the newspaper accounts; but since Karen accompanied Lee and his daughter to a conference assignment, at least part of it must have been in either June or August, since General Authorities are on vacation during the month of July. In either case, Lee was within weeks—and possibly within days—of excommunication.

During that trip, she went camping with the Lee family. Lee disappeared for a day and a night, then returned and brought her, her brother, and two of his children back to their West Jordan home. That night, he called Karen into his bedroom and had her sit on his bed. He told her that he had hiked to the top of a nearby mountain where he spoke "‘to the Lord and he told the Lord he’d fallen in love with me.... I was confused and taken aback about him speaking to the Lord and the Lord saying it was OK."’ Lee then began talking to her "about polygamy. ‘He said that it was going to be brought back to the Earth and we’d be asked to live it."’ She left the bedroom and went downstairs to the bedroom she was sharing with Lee’s daughter. Unable to sleep, she returned later to Lee’s bedroom, woke him up, and said, "‘I don’t want my father to have to take another wife.’ He said, ‘You don’t have to worry about it. He won’t have to."’ Lee then told her to lie beside him and caressed her breasts. Frightened, she left the room and returned to her bed, where she fell asleep. Still later that night, Lee woke her up and said "‘he was sorry he’d ever started touching me and that he’d never do it again."’

However, "almost every day" for the month, he continued the fondling: in her friend’s bedroom, in the family room, in the pool at the Deseret Gym, on a Heber Creeper train ride, and in hotels when they traveled to Canada. She testified later that there were "more than 20 touching incidents" that month.

Once as Lee wrestled with his daughter and Karen, he playfully held a pillow over his daughter’s face with one hand, kissed Karen’s neck, and put his hand down her pants.

However, after that month-long visit, the abuse ended. On 1 September 1989, Lee was excommunicated and did not see Karen again. He disappeared for four months in the Southwest. "‘I isolated myself like Moses did. … I had a real nice time going one-on-one with God,"’ he explained in an interview when he returned in early 1990. He found a job as principal of Tuba City High School in Arizona, while his wife and children remained in West Jordan.

In 1990, he became the running mate of former Navajo tribal chair Peter MacDonald. After a scandal forced MacDonald to drop out, Lee launched a write-in campaign that drew 11,000 votes and placed him third in the election. His success encouraged him to plan a 1993 campaign for tribal presidency.

Then in November 1992, Karen dreamed Lee was chasing her through a forest. "‘I was getting scareder and scareder. He was getting closer and closer,"’ she described it. The next morning, she told her parents. They reported the abuse to the Utah Department of Family Services. According to Sheriffs Deputy Rod Norton, "The FBI and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints assisted with the investigation" and the sheriffs report was filed in January 1993. Actual charges against Lee were not filed until Thursday, 29 July 1993. He was charged in Third Circuit Court with aggravated sexual abuse of a child, a first-degree felony that carries a sentence of five years to life in prison.

Lee, who was in Arizona when the charges were filed, promptly "negotiated a deal with school officials to resign in exchange for six or seven months of pay," and returned to Utah to surrender himself. Bail was set at $1,500, and he was released under orders to have contact with no one under eighteen and only supervised contact with his five children under eighteen. Because three other boys were staying with the family, he was required to find temporary living arrangements. Lee described himself as "‘confused by the charges"’ and claimed that he "was never alone with the girl." According to Sanders "the girl fabricated the incidents" and "‘my client says he is absolutely innocent."’

Lee’s wife, Katherine, stood beside him as he made his statement to the press and accompanied him to court with nine children. She expressed the family’s support:

"‘We love him very much. He’s been my husband for almost 26 years now. He’d tell me if he’d done something wrong, and he says he’s innocent."’ She expressed concern about the expense of defending against the charges and worried that they might have to sell their home.

On Friday, 30 July, the Tuba City Unified School Board, which had renewed his contract for a year in June, "reneged" on their deal with Lee, according to Sanders, voting to dismiss him "for cause." One unidentified board member commented, "‘He’s been disappointing to a number of us,"’ but a prepared statement by the board stated: "‘The district has no knowledge considering the truth of the allegations against Dr. Lee or the facts of those allegations.... In addition, the district has no information which would lead it to believe that conduct similar to that alleged against Dr. Lee’ in Utah ‘ever took place’ in Arizona." In addition to being fired, Lee also lost his chance for the tribal presidency. Poised to announce his candidacy in August 1993, he lost in the primary election after criminal charges were filed.

After his first court appearance and processing for bail in early August 1993, Lee issued a statement that he was "‘innocent before God. … This is my Garden of Gethsemane, and my people have gone through a lot of Gardens of Gethsemane. … What I’m going through is really nothing new for my people. … This is a trial in the valley for all of us, but the Great Spirit will help us." He predicted that "‘what’s happening to me may be a turning point for Indian people"’ and claimed, "‘This will trigger some great and powerful things. Get ready, get prepared spiritually and any other way. … The Great Spirit is about to bless you with some great things. … This also, I feel will set in motion a chain of events which will bring the anger and wrath of God against the Gentile nations. The ‘perpetrators or those who are doing this to me and my Indian people will be dealt with and punished by God. … They cannot get away with this. … I will overcome this one for myself, for my family and for [the Indian people]."’

His attorney, who had recommended against speaking to the press, said "he did not know who his client was specifically referring to, but suggested: "‘He identifies himself often with a lot of problems Indian people have. Indian people oftentimes have been treated unfairly or accused falsely and have been persecuted like he is now, but not necessarily for this particular crime."’

Lee refused to explain the "wonderful events," the "wrath of God against the Gentile nations" or whom he meant by "the perpetrators." He also "declined to answer a question about whether sexual improprieties played a role in his excommunication."

Katherine Lee, who was present with the children at the press conference, told reporters that Lee "loves children and has always taken them on trips. ‘It’s always a huge group. He’s never one-on-one with any child.’ She also balked at the allegation that her husband spoke with the girl about polygamy. She said that while he occasionally discussed polygamy as an aspect of Church history, he never espoused the practice. ‘I’m a one-man woman and that’s the way it will be whether he likes it or not,’ she quipped.... ‘Any wife would be disturbed’ at the allegations ... but said she is standing by him and knows he is innocent."

The immediate reaction of Lee’s supporters was anger at the Church. According to Romero Brown, a political supporter from Window Rock, Arizona, the charge was "‘obviously a political plot’ by the LDS Church to discredit Mr. Lee." He further claimed, "‘We were expecting something like this"’ because the Church was trying to "win back fallen members" who were part of Lee’s "‘huge following."’ According to Romero, the Church wanted "their tithing money." He also alleged that "state and federal officials also are scheming against Mr. Lee because he supports Indian sovereignty."

The preliminary hearing was held on 16 December 1993. The Salt Lake County attorney’s office tried to have the hearing closed to press and public, but Third Circuit Court Judge Robin Reese denied the motion. Karen, the state’s only witness, "wept several times" during her testimony. She told police that Lee had touched her breasts, buttocks, and genitals that night in his bed but, on cross-examination, told the defense attorney, Ron Yengich, that she was "sure" only that he had touched her breasts. Lee was bound over for trial.

In May 1994, he asked that Kenneth Rigtrup, the LDS judge of Third District Court scheduled to hear the case, disqualify himself and that no other LDS judge be appointed. "Lee said he has reason to believe he could not receive a fair and impartial trial because of potential bias and prejudice. ‘I am a former member of the Council of the Seventy, was excommunicated, and since that time I have made statements derogatory to the Church,"’ Lee wrote. Rigtrup had offered to have the case assigned to another judge in January "to avoid any potential claims of prejudice," but Lee did not accept the offer. Prosecutor James Cope said "the motion appears only to be an attempt to delay his scheduled trial."

When the case came to trial on 11 October 1994, Lee, now fifty-one, in a surprise move, pleaded guilty to attempted sexual abuse of a child, a third-degree felony. Seventeen-year-old Karen, who was in court with her parents, prepared to testify, "wept with relief’ as he looked directly at her, admitted "to touching the girl’s breasts for sexual gratification," and told the judge, "‘I want to say, your honor, that I’m very sorry. I’m sorry for whatever difficult times that I’ve put them through. None of this will ever happen again."’ Judge Kenneth Rigtrup placed Lee on eighteen months probation, and ordered him to pay a $1 ,850 fine, complete sex-offender counseling, write a letter of apology to Karen, and pay the costs of her counseling.

Assistant Salt Lake County Attorney Greg Skordas told the press: "‘The victim never wanted him to go to jail. She wanted him to get help, and she wanted someone to believe her."’ Prosecutors felt positive about accepting the plea bargain because they were not sure of a conviction. It was Karen’s word against Lee’s—" ‘not a slam-dunk case,"’ as Skordas put it. His boss, Salt Lake County Attorney David Yocom added that Lee was still considered "a ‘pillar of the community. - . . There is a tendency to believe someone like Lee, and that makes the state’s burden more difficult."’

Lee wanted to serve his probation in Arizona but would have to get permission to do so from his Utah probation officer. Lee and his attorney refused to comment, but Yengich in a news release said "Lee continued to enjoy the support of family and friends."

Many questions remain unanswered: Did Lee abuse other children besides Karen, including the sisters of his wife Kitty? Were there abuse victims earlier than Karen? What was the influence of his abusive activities on his "apostasy" and vice versa? What did other General Authorities suspect or know? What kinds of interventions did they attempt during his "probation" and why was he placed on "probation"? What support has been available for Kitty Lee through her bishop, stake president, and ward members? What efforts at fellowship and reclamation have been made by Lee’s former quorum? Since an abuser frequently abuses his own children, what therapeutic diagnoses have been offered to his children? And what kind of ecclesiastical support have Karen and her family received during their ordeal?

Sadly, one question has been answered all too clearly. Is ecclesiastical office any guarantee that a man will not become a sexual abuser? The answer is, "No."


A few days after Christmas 1992, fourteen-year-old Stacy of Mesa, Arizona, received a telephone call from her Sunday School teacher, forty-three-year-old Arthur Frank Phillips, He "often told her she could be a model." He persuaded her to meet him at a bakery, then drove her to Kleinman Park where he "‘explained that he helped a lot of girls out in the past with modeling."’ Part of this "help" would involve taking nude photos of her. He assured her that he was married and did not want sex but he removed her shirt and bra and fondled her breasts.

She didn’t stop him because "it happened so fast and she was frightened."

Phillips told Stacy not to tell anyone of the incident because "the Mormon Church frowns upon modeling and might construe what happened as sexual abuse." Over the next few weeks, he telephoned her, but she refused to see him or return his phone calls. However, she became depressed, even "suicidal," and told her boyfriend about the experience. In February Stacy’s father brought her to a Mesa police station to talk with detectives. (The newspaper account does not say who told him.) At the request of detectives, she arranged a second meeting with Phillips that was secretly tape-recorded. After he was arrested on 17 March, a camera was found in his car.

He was indicted on a charge of sexual abuse, a Class 5 felony, and two counts of solicitation to commit commercial sexual exploitation of a minor. One of those counts was a Class 3 felony because it includes a charge of committing a dangerous crime against children; the other was a Class 4 felony. He was found guilty of solicitation to commit commercial exploitation of a minor; but in a plea agreement, the charge of sexual abuse of a minor was dropped.

At sentencing, Phillips told the judge: "‘I would like to apologize to all of those who I have hurt. I made a stupid mistake. I am not going to re-offend, I know that."’

He was sentenced to a year in jail, placed on probation for four years, and ordered to register as a sex offender. "‘You basically abused your position with the church," Judge David Grounds told Phillips. However, Grounds "allowed Phillips to be released from jail on work furlough."

Neither story mentions whether the Church has taken any disciplinary action against him.


On 17 February 1994, Robert Michael Tubbs, age forty-two, of Slaterville, Utah, was sentenced to a prison term of six years to life and ordered to pay therapy costs for sixteen boys he sexually abused between June 1991 and August 1992 when he was a Boy Scout leader in his local Mormon ward. Investigation began in May 1993 when a Mormon bishop reported that he had received a letter from a boy saying Tubbs had molested him. Tubbs admitted to the deputy that he had been molesting boys since the early 1970s. In 1985, he had been assistant Scoutmaster in 1985; he was stripped of his Scout membership after an allegation of sexual abuse in 1990. No charges were pressed for lack of evidence, but Tubbs was told "never to take part in scouting activities again and told to receive counseling by scouting officials." He transferred activities from his ward in Slaterville to nearby Harrisville; the crimes for which he was convicted occurred with Harrisville Scouts.


Mark Edward Morgan, thirty-seven, of Springville, was charged on November 14,1994 in Fourth District Court with "first-degree aggravated sexual assault of a child under 14," for allegedly molesting a twelve-year-old boy in a ShopKo dressing room in Orem.

Morgan was an independent distributor for Ramah International, a company that manufactures Mormon-message greeting cards for LDS missionaries, the recently baptized, and baby blessings. He hired the youth "to help him cart boxes of cards to stores because he has a bad back, said [Michael] Esplin, [Morgan’s attorney]. But Morgan wanted the boy to be dressed appropriately when they called on store managers, so they went to ShopKo to buy him some clothes. The molestation allegation stems from when the youth went in a dressing room to try on clothes."

According to Esplin, Morgan denies the charge in the Orem case but admitted an earlier history of legal charges on child abuse. According to an order signed by Thailand’s Ministry of the Interior, Morgan entered the country in June 1989 on a temporary visa and established a halfway house for orphan children. In 1990 he was arrested for operating the facility without permission, pled guilty, and was sentenced to three months in prison. In January 1991, he was convicted of "indecent behavior" with children and was sentenced to three years in prison. After serving twenty months (his attorney claimed he was "incarcerated there for several years before he got to trial"), he received a "royal pardon" signed by the queen in August 1992 and was ordered out of the country by Thai Immigration Division on 28 August 1992.

Carmen Cooley, Morgan’s ex-wife, made an earlier attempt to get ZCMI to remove the cards, but "was turned down." Then, two days after Morgan’s arrest on 16 November, Cooley wrote a letter revealing Morgan’s police record and his association with Ramah International, and sent it to the First Presidency, ZCMI officials, and the media, demanding that ZCMI remove the cards and claiming that "Morgan created Ramah in the 1970s ‘to support his sexual deviancies with children. It is something more than ironic that these "LDS" cards represent wholesome morality and that as customers plunk their money down, little do they realize they are contributing to this child molester’s triumphs," Cooley wrote. She also claimed that Morgan is a member of North American Man-Boy Love Association. This group, founded in Massachusetts sixteen years ago after a mass arrest of men charged with having sex with boys, "wants to legitimize sex with minors,... Land] end the ostracism and stigma of men sexually attracted to young, consenting boys."

Supporting Cooley was Howard Ruft, Mormon publisher of Ruff Times, a financial newsletter based in Mapleton, Utah, with a circulation of 20,000. In an interview with the Tribune, Ruff said he went to Thailand on a business trip in the late 1 980s, read "a heart-wrenching newspaper story" about Morgan’s orphanage, and used his newsletter to raise $65,000 for the orphanage. Before releasing the funds to Morgan, however, Ruff investigated Morgan’s background and obtained "plenty of legal documents" to establish Morgan’s "sexual appetite." He personally applied pressure in "Washington and Thailand" until Morgan was prosecuted. The royal pardon was hardly a personal vote of confidence in Morgan; the queen pardoned 25,000 convicts on her sixtieth birthday.

ZCMI, responding to the pressure, pulled its line of the greeting cards on 22 November. It did not carry a large number, and its last order had been placed in July, according to the Deseret News, June, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. The LDS Church owns about 51 percent of ZCMI stock. Deseret Book carried the Ramah cards until three years ago when it discontinued the line "after a professional difference of opinion, said Deseret Book president Ron Millet."

Morgan’s mother, Rae Morgan Barney, who owns Ramah, did not say that her son was innocent but claimed that Cooley was trying to "discredit" him. She said that her son has no ownership interest in Ramah and is not its employee but is an independent distributor for Ramah and other cards. According to the Deseret News, Barney said that Morgan volunteered not to distribute cards until the matter is settled; but according to the Tribune, "After his arrest, his affiliation with Ramah was terminated, a Ramah spokesman said Wednesday." Morgan’s attorney Michael Esplin once represented Morgan’s mother in a divorce case which resulted in her acquiring ownership of Ramah. He called her "an innocent victim of the campaign against her son" and claims that "‘no Ramah profits ever went to Morgan’s Thailand orphanage or to any other of his activities."’

Morgan posted $10,000 bail on 9 November and was scheduled for a court appearance before Judge Joseph 1. Dimick on 20 December 1994. "Prosecutors say a plea bargain is possible."

Morgan also uses the name of T.M.Young.


In April 1995, Michael Shean, a Mormon who engaged in homosexual activity as a Scout, then continued both homosexuality and pedophilia through a marriage, the births of four children, the establishment of a law practice in Santa Maria, and extensive Church service and community service, pled "no contest" to four counts of sexual misconduct. He was scheduled for sentencing on May 30 but the case was continued to July 6. (case number SMO 88-761, Santa Barbara County, 805-568- 2220). In October 1994, a grand jury had indicted him on twenty-six counts of lewd and lascivious acts with at least nine minors; in a plea bargain, prosecutors dropped twenty-two of the counts, and he pled guilty. As of May 21, no action had been taken on Shean’s Church membership.

The Santa Barbara (California) News-Press devoted 169 column inches, including four photographs, two of them in color, to his case on Sunday, 21 May 1995. The writers, Scott Wilson and Rhonda Parks, point out in the second paragraph that "some 15 people close to him" knew for fifteen years of his sexual sins but "accepted as an article of Mormon faith that his forbidden urges could be healed.... They may have missed an opportunity to stop a man described by prosecutors as a predatory child molester."

The article does not mention if Shean, born in 1936, served a mission, but he married in the temple; he and his wife, Jayne, had four children.

He was a counselor in the bishopric in January 1980 when two full-time missionaries told church leaders that Shean had been sexually molesting them. Clark K. McCune, a Lompoc dentist and president of the Santa Maria Stake, "immediately summoned" Shean to a high council court. Shean confessed, not only to their charge but admitted to "decades of extensive homosexual pedophilia." He was excommunicated, but no one reported Shean’s activities to the police. Shean moved from north Santa Maria (First Ward) to Lake Marie Estates (Second Ward) after his excommunication.

Acting on the recommendation and referral of the stake president, Shean began weekly therapy sessions with Paul Bramwell, an LDS Social Services clinical psychologist in San Luis Obispo. Bramwell was one of three church-approved psychologists recommended to Shean. Bramwell, whose California license expired on April 30, 1995, has been transferred to American Fork, Utah. A member of an adjoining stake who knows Bramwell considers him to be "a fruit loop as a therapist" and reports another case in which he counseled a gay youngster in his early teens to make himself unattractive to those in his high school who were picking on him for his effeminate behavior by eating large quantities of candy to develop pimples. The youth initially followed this advice but found it unsuccessful. He has since left the Church, lives out of the country, and is openly gay.

The course of Shean’s therapy with Bramwell is described in letters from Shean, Jayne, and Bramwell to Mormon Church leaders after thirteen months of therapy and during the twenty-two months required to fully reinstate him.

In April 1981, Bramwell wrote to Nolan Phillips, Shean’s bishop and a special agent with the FBI in Ventura, informing him that "Shean’s therapy has been a success and "recommending rebaptism: He added:"’I would have no hesitation allowing him (Sheanj to work with my own sons.... However, to ease the minds of those who may be hesitant, I would ask that Mike not be allowed to work with youth for the next five years.... It is my opinion that permanent change has taken place in this man."’

Five months later, Bramwell explained in a letter to President SpencerW. Kimball in September 1981: "The focus of the treatment was to eliminate sexual desires for male partners, the abandonment of dual sexual lifestyles, [andl the development of exclusively heterosexual interests in his wife.. .. I feel we accomplished all of these treatment goals in the 13 months of active treatment." This letter also stated that Shean’s confession to the high council (and presumably to him) had admitted "‘sexual improprieties with primarily adolescent boys over a period of many years.... There was almost a compulsive urge to describe all of his homosexual involvement throughout his lifetime. Unfortunately, he was not able to view this behavior as adolescent exploration and thus began a twenty-year quest for sexual gratification through male partners. Because of his understanding of the unacceptableness of the behavior, Mr. Shean began to develop what became an elaborate and successful set of procedures to hide his homosexual behaviors."’

Writing in his own behalf a month earlier (August 1981) to Kimball, Shean said:

I knew that the things I had done were wrong and abominable in the sight of the Lord, but I convinced myself that I could fight and win the battle in a secret war. … In the months before I was called before the High Council court I had come to grips with the gravity of the offenses that I had committed, and the eternal consequences of it all. … Spiritually I never doubted the actions [excommunication] of our Stake President and the High Council court ... But on many other levels, emotionally and intellectually, I struggled greatly with the decision. I felt that I wasn’t the same person who had committed the actions with which I was charged [by the missionaries]. I had fought the battle for so long, and had finally gotten beyond its grasps [sic] and had come such a long way, that it didn’t seem fair, or just, or right to take away all the things I valued beyond all else.

There have been times in my life, though, when I have been blessed with the power of the Lord. As a missionary and teacher I have felt the power of the Holy Ghost. I know by firsthand experience that the heights that the light of the Gospel brings will far exceed the depths of solitude and grief that I have felt and so, I do humbly seek those things.

Shean, Jayne, and Bramwell wrote "several letters during this period testifying to [Shean’s] mental health and pleading for rebaptism." Although the letters, according to the News-Press, are "emotional" about Shean’s "growing understanding of his homosexuality, Shean never mentions pedophilia in the letters. Nor does Bramwell." Jayne Shean wrote to the First Presidency: "You need to know, Brethren, that I have forgiven my husband completely for his transgression. It was, of course, very difficult for me to understand, at first, how he could have been involved in the kind of activity which led to his excommunication. But, as we worked together, in counseling and in private, I came to understand the reasons why those influences entered his life, and I feel confident that this experience [excommunication] has been exactly what he needed to be able to start over so that he can reach the great potential I know he has, both within the church and in other areas."

Shean was rebaptized in November 1981 with no restrictions on his association with youth. In May 1983, he and his wife wrote to the First Presidency seeking a restoration of priesthood and temple blessings. "Having experienced the depths of solitude and remorse," Shean’s letter states, "I fervently seek to be once again counted among those who stand in holy places." The restoration of blessings was granted in June 1983, twenty-nine months after his excommunication. Before the year’s end, according to "sworn affidavits included in criminal court records," he was sexually molesting a sixteen-year-old boy in the ward whom he had invited to his house for haircuts and whose parents he considered "friends."

For the next eleven years, Shean coached baseball at Righetti High School and for Little League teams, taught seminary and Sunday School, and represented juvenile clients who could not afford private attorneys. His coaching services included a dip in the hot tub and a personal massage. One of these teenage clients filed a claim of sexual misconduct against him in August 1994. The investigation among his young clients and the youth he had coached "eventually included nine alleged victims." In September, sheriffs deputies armed with search warrants served on him at home and his law office confiscated instruments of the alleged crimes: a hand-held vibrator, creams and lotions, child pornography, notes and appointment books, and the letters written by Shean, his supportive wife, his therapist, and his ecclesiastical leaders between August 1981 and May 1983.

"Multimillion dollar lawsuits" have been civilly filed by "at least four of Shean’s alleged young victims" against him. Both Bramwell and Shean’s wife have been named in four and the Mormon Church in two "for failing to warn law-enforcement officials about Shean’s acts." The letters were not made public during the criminal trial, but "will be important evidence in the civil cases." An attorney representing one of the four plaintiffs provided them to News-Press. "Several victims" are also suing two of the baseball leagues where Shean coached as a volunteer. The Babe Ruth League of Orcutt, California, near Santa Maria, had settled one case for $25,000 at press time. The paper provided no details about the civil suits except for the mention of two brothers who claim that Shean, then coaching their baseball team, sexually molested them beginning in the spring of 1989 when both were under age fourteen.

The News-Press identified two ethical issues as providing the heart of the legal conflict. First, how absolute is the principle of confidential communication in a religious confession if public safety is an issue? For instance, in one California case, the courts did not exonerate a minister for not going to the police when a man told him he planned to kill his girlfriend, then carried out his threat. Wayne Dewsnup, current president of Santa Maria Stake, provided a written statement about the case:

"‘There are procedures in the church to deal with such matters in an appropriate way and we are following those procedures.... While we recognize this tragic situation and many people have been hurt, there are still many details that are being investigated."’ The paper identifies the Church position as absolute when confession is involved: "In choosing not to tell law enforcement about Shean’s private admission to them, church officials followed internal guidelines requiring confessions to remain confidential," the writers say.

The second issue is the nature of homosexuality. The News-Press writers point out that "church officials apparently made little distinction between homosexuality and pedophilia. … The idea that homosexuality is a treatable disorder is not accepted by the nation’s three largest psychiatric professional associations" (the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Psychological Association). Consequently, because it is not a "disease," it cannot be "cured," even though such a belief is a tenet of the Mormon Church. In contrast, pedophilia "is considered Iby experts] a disease, though one highly resistant to therapy." The Church must defend itself against the charge that it conflated homosexuality with pedophilia as a psychological disorder that could be cured." According to "lawyers for Shean’s alleged victims, … his therapy was medically unproven and did nothing to stop a public threat. Attorney Steve Hamilton stated: "‘The church failed to report prior incidents of child molestation in order to protect its image and reputation in the community. … They essentially committed a cover-up. In doing this, they exposed the entire community to potential future sexual misconduct."’

According to David Magnusson, a partner in the Santa Barbara firm of Haws, Record, Williford & Magnusson, who is representing Bramwell, "State law in 1980 did not require doctors to report child abusers, only their victims. ‘His [Bramwell’s] position was that there were no reporting requirements, if there even was something to report." Deputy District Attorney Eugene Martinez, who headed the criminal case against Shean, "argues that Bramwell committed a misdemeanor by failing to report his patient. He [Shean] was cautious, he courted his victims, he sorted out those least likely to tell on him... He was very predatory. … Bramwell did have an obligation to report him."’ The statute of limitations has expired for prosecuting Bramwell criminally. His license in both California and now Utah were in good standing.

The Church’s attorney, John McNicolas of Westwood, refused to comment on the lawsuits.

The article quoted Don LeFevre, director of Church Public Relations: "‘Forgiveness is a matter between the individual and the Lord. He will forgive who [sic] he will forgive. But a banishment is not meant to be forever. In fact, we are encouraged to rally around a person who has been excommunicated to help bring them back into the church. But forgiveness must be preceded by penance. And there is a lot of penance involved."’

The article also quoted Joseph Nicolosi, a clinical psychologist in Encino, California, who had spoken to an enthusiastic audience at BYU and a skeptical one at the University of Utah in February. Nicolosi claims that homosexuality is a "‘gender disorder"’ resulting from inadequate "‘attention, affection [and] approval … from their fathers."’ According to the News-Press, "Nicolosi, like the Mormon Church, makes little distinction between the roots of homosexuality and homosexual pedophilia, saying that both are psychological disorders stemming from father-son dysfunction."

According to Dario Bejarano, Shean’s attorney and former law partner, "The Mormon faith once helped his client assuage private agony. In refusing to contest the criminal accusations against him. - . - Shean is embarking on his next search for spiritual forgiveness. ‘His religion is very important to him. That’s part of the reason for entering these pleas. He not only feels he needs to be right with himself, but with his God and his church. Seeking repentance is very important to him."’

At the court hearing on 6 July, the case was continued pending psychiatric evaluation. Shean appeared impeccably suited and surrounded by his entire family. In August he was sentenced to a maximum of fourteen years in prison with parole eligibility before that time. It is not known whether any action has been taken on his Church membership.



Ralph E. Neeley found his victim in his Mormon ward in West Beaumont, Texas.

In October 1992, he befriended Natalie (a pseudonym),’ aneight-year-old. Over the next six months, he would "fondle the child under his coat as she sat on his lap in a church pew. Neely also admitted to performing sexual acts with the girl in unoccupied rooms of the church, at the Jefferson County Airport, and at his apartment." On one occasion, he "went to her bedroom window and shone a flashlight in on her." He also admitted that he would follow Natalie’s parents when they took her to school, take Natalie from the school, "drive her to another location, and perform sexual acts on her, then return her to class before the tardy bell rang." The abuse apparently ended in May 1993. Neeley called a police officer on 21 July and reported that he had "sexually assaulted a child." The next day, he told the officer he had been "‘having an affair"’ with a child at church.

Neeley pleaded guilty on 10 January 1994 to a charge of aggravated sexual assault on a child. He was later excommunicated.

He admitted "having sexual contact with a child in Arkansas 20 years ago. Court records show that a charge of indecent exposure filed against Neeley was dismissed in February 1990."

Criminal district Court Judge Larry Gist said "Neeley had a virtually uninterrupted pattern of deviant sexual behavior for 20 years, and only stopped when he got caught." He said this was "‘the worst case of child molestation’ he had seen. ‘You are what every parent fears.... You are the guy that takes advantage of people’s trust—especially at church."

Gist sentenced him to life imprisonment. The forty-four-year-old Neeley, whose attorney had recommended "ten years deferred probation and attending a sex offender program," collapsed and had to be taken out of the room to recover.

The police officer, Sergeant Bill Davis, to whom Neeley had confessed, described Neeley "as the worst pedophile he has investigated in his twenty-two years as a police office. … ‘This is something [Natalie] will have to deal with [for] the rest of her life. … It’s most appropriate that he be incarcerated the rest of his life, not for one child’s sake, but for all the children he might have come in contact with were he a free man.

Natalie’s mother filed a civil suit against both Neeley and the Church, claiming that "church leaders did not report the incident to police or to the girls’ parents. Church leaders say they encouraged Neeley to go to police or the Church would report him. They also say they cooperated with police during their investigation

The civil suit was originally scheduled for trial August 8. Only days before it actually went to court, the Church settled out of court. As part of the settlement Natalie, her parents, and other parties agreed not to talk about the terms or the amount.


In August 1992 when Heather (a pseudonym) was thirteen and a Beehive in Azusa Third Ward, California, she went with the ward’s Aaronic Priesthood and Young Women on a camping trip to Prado Regional Park in Chino, California. Christopher Bearnson, age twenty-seven, married and the father of three, drove his van up separately to provide priesthood presence during the three or four days of the camp. According to a newspaper report, at the time of this incident he was "accorded the honor of praying at temple" (apparently the reporter’s attempt to explain what holding a temple recommend meant). The girls slept in tents. Bearnson slept in his van. On the last night of the camping trip, he "invited four of the girls, including [Heather] into his van for a private party, offering to give them massages. He began rubbing Heather’s back, then the sides of her breasts, then her buttocks. When he put his hand on her thigh and began moving it up, she "jumped." After he had touched her, he asked her "‘if I liked him,"’ said Heather, who broke into sobs while giving her testimony. "‘1 just looked at him and he said he was going to take that for a yes."’ The judge called a recess after Heather broke down on the stand.

Heather’s mother, Patsy Miller, named him and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as defendants in a $1 million lawsuit. Heather’s mother said that the bishop, Bradley Cuder, called her on August 6,1992, which would have been immediately after the camping trip, and asked her to bring Heather to see him. "He said he was trying to get acquainted with all the youngsters in the church." During the private interview, Heather told the bishop about the molestation; afterwards, in tears, she told her mother what Bearnson had done. Patsy, furious, phoned Cuder and "yelled" at him "for not telling her sooner that her daughter had been molested. [She] also was furious with Cuder’s response: He said he had wanted to talk to [Heather] first. He also said he told [Heather] it was up to her to tell her parents." In a deposition and in court testimony, Cuder claimed that he did not hear about the abuse until "several weeks" after the campout.

One of the newspaper accounts said: "There is no limit on the amount of the award that the plaintiffs could receive if they win." The two points at issue were Heather’s violated trust in an authority figure from church and also the Church’s negligence. The Church settled for an undisclosed amount.

Heather wasn’t the only one who alleged that Bearnson fondled her. Marni (a pseudonym) had been on these camping trips before and testified reluctantly that two years earlier, in 1990 when she was fourteen, she and another girl, Jennie (a pseudonym), had gone to Bearnson’s tent, lain down, and pretended to be asleep. Bearnson slipped his hand under her shirt and rubbed her breasts, she testified. According to another version, he "had grabbed and fondled [her] breasts and rubbed his genitals against her."

Marni’s reluctance to testify is manifest by the fact that she had been served with a subpoena but did not appear. Her mother said she had run away from home; but when the judge issued a warrant for her arrest, Marni’s mother "located her."

Her testimony both confirmed and contradicted testimony by two earlier witnesses. Jennie, who had testified earlier, said that Bearnson had also exposed his genitals. Marni said he did not. Marni’s older sister, Peggy (a pseudonym), although still a teenager, was a chaperon on the camping trip. She noticed that Marni and Jennie were missing, began looking for the girls, found them in Bearnson’ s tent but testified that Bearnson was asleep. To the contrary, Marni says, he was "awake the entire time."

Peggy said she had told other chaperons about finding Marni and Jennie in Bearnson’s tent, then told "other adult church members," and finally went to talk to the man who was then bishop, Robert Wise. As she remembers, "‘he told us nothing had happened that night[;] and if anything happened, it was the girls’ fault."’ According to another report of Peggy’s testimony, Wise told her: "‘Chris Bearnson is part of the priesthood.., and nothing like that happens in our church.’ The bishop suggested that she had made up the story to get attention. Wise denied ever talking to the girl about the incident. Both he and Cutler denied they knew of allegations against Bearnson before the 1992 campout."

Peggy also apparently told the court (the report does not make the source of this statement clear) that Wise "allegedly ignored the fact that, according to Mormon doctrine, a lone adult male is forbidden from ever being alone with females other than his wife."

Peggy’s and Marni’s mother, Susan-Lyn Gasparrelli (not a pseudonym) also testified that she "went to Wise to voice her concerns. When he told her he was not taking any action, she became angered and got into a ‘heated argument’ with him," The "issue of notice" was "the crux of the case against the church: … did Church members in authority know of [this] alleged 1990 molestation?"

John P. McNicholas, the Church’s attorney, read to the jury a letter Peggy had written (its date and her reason for writing it were not reported) describing Bearnson as a canng individual whom she fully trusted and could ‘never see Chris as doing such a thing."’ Susan-Lyn had written a similar letter, describing Bearnson as a respectable and trustworthy man." Peggy said she had written the letter before learning that he had molested Marni and that she would "not write that letter now." The news account does not say when Susan-Lyn was supposed to have written her letter nor why. However, both Marni and her mother "claim they repeatedly told Bishop Robert Wise of improper activities."

A fourth teenage girl was also "involved in" the same 1992 incident with Heather and also sued Bearnson and the Church but settled out of court the day before jury selection began. Part of the settlement was agreeing not to discuss the details.

Bearnson’s guilt was not in question. As part of the police prosecution before the civil suit, Bearnson had pleaded guilty in 1992 to one count of committing lewd acts with a child and was placed on five years’ probation; and "the church stripped him of his status," which presumably means he was excommunicated. He was placed on five years’ probation.

Testifying in the civil suit, which was heard in late October and early November 1993, Bearnson, weeping, admitted giving Heather "a backrub" and touching "the sides of her breasts, . . . her buttocks," and also one of her thighs.

Heather said she "is now afraid of boys, scared to go to church and has bad dreams. ‘I thought Church was like the most wonderfulest place on earth. And people who go to church, they had to be good, and I found out that wasn’t true."’

Stephen Garcia, Bearnson's attorney, and McNicholas worked to discredit Marni’s and Peggy’s accounts, which formed the basis of accusations of negligence against Church officers. Garcia called their account "a ‘smoke job’ and a ‘fictional work."’ However, the judge found Bearnson liable on all three complaints against him: sexual molestation, battery, and infliction of emotional distress.

The jury was instructed to decide if the Church was guilty of the same three complaints, plus a fourth—that it was negligent in "hiring and supervision." A fifth charge, "negligent discharge," was dismissed "on the basis that no evidence showed the church should have excommunicated him." (The report does not clarify whether this means Patsy Miller charged that the Church should have excommunicated him after the 1990 incident or whether that he had not been excommunicated after the 1992 incident with Heather—although in the latter case, it is not clear what being "stripped of his status" might mean.)

According to the Los Angeles Times:

The Mormon Church has been found liable for the molestation of a 13-year-old girl by a church elder.

A Pomona Superior Court jury Wednesday said leaders in the Azusa third ward of the church acted with "conscious disregard" for the girl’s rights and safety.

"1 thank God for this," said the girl’s mother, Patsy Miller.

"Now it won’t happen to other kids," said her daughter, now 15.

The jury "slapped the LDS Church with actual and punitive damages." Even though a second phase of the trial would determine damages, the Church settled before a trial. "The settlement reportedly involved the payment of millions of dollars. Court records on the case have been sealed, at the church’s request."

Lisa Davis summarized:

Church members rallied around Bearnson. One chaperone even said that she would still be comfortable with Bearnson as a chaperone for her own daughters.

(Heather’s] family moved and changed their telephone number to get away from the barrage of angry calls from church members. … [Later in the article, Davis says the family has moved twice and still has an unlisted number.]

(Marni’s] mother, who also settled with the Church … [said]: "It hurt me to think that he had his hands on her. … The church knew he had molested those girls before. I’m angry that they let him be there with the girls. If you can’t trust the Church, who can you trust?"


Ellen (a pseudonym) had been molested twice by the time she was fourteen. … Confused and distraught, she and her family turned to bishops Arlo Atkinson and James Stapley, who also is a Mesa city council member, Atkinson took her into his home in Mesa. She would live with his family, and he would help shepherd her through the court proceedings that followed.

Two months later, he began "a sexual relationship" with her. It did not stop, even after she tried to commit suicide. When ward members became "suspicious" about the amount of time Ellen was spending with Atkinson, she moved back home but the sexual relationship continued. When she became pregnant, she "concocted a story" about date rape and was placed in a state foster home. The foster mother intercepted "sexually explicit" letters from Atkinson to Ellen and contacted the police. Atkinson was excommunicated from the Church, served 132 days in jail for "sexual misconduct with a minor, and was sentenced to three years’ probation. When he was out of jail, he moved to California but continued to telephone and visit Ellen. During the visits, he continued to have sexual relations with her. Ellen placed her child for adoption. She filed a civil suit against Atkinson, Stapley (his role is not explained), and the Church, but continues to "suffer excruciating mental anguish." Some ward members blame Ellen. They say she was "promiscuous. "


On 16 January 1996, a civil suit asking for $150 million in damages and $600 million in punitive damages was filed in Raleigh County Circuit Court, West Virginia, on behalf of an eleven-year-old girl, Jane Adams and her mother, Rebecca Adams, acting for her and also acting as an individual.

Two main groups were named as defendants. The first group consisted of Raleigh General Hospital, a wholly owned subsidiary of HCA, Inc., which is in, turn, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hospital Corporation of America, headquartered in Delaware. The medical facilities are named as defendants since (1) Adams, an employee of Raleigh General Hospital, confessed his incest to his employer, a Mormon, and (2) Jane was treated for vaginal injuries characteristic of sexual abuse. Neither the employer nor the emergency room personnel reported the abuse as they were required to by law.

The second group consisted of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop, Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas S. Monson, James E. Faust, Boyd K. Packer, and Merrill J. Bateman. These individuals were named in their official capacities as members of the First Presidency, as president of the Quorum of the Twelve, and as Presiding Bishop respectively. The suit alleges negligence on the part of these individuals and groups that resulted in harm to Jane; no local leaders were named in the lawsuit. Jane and Rebecca’s attorney, Michael Sullivan of Columbia, South Carolina, explained, "Their acts were probably more representative of instructions they received from Salt Lake City on how to handle this problem."

The convicted perpetrator, James F. Adams, Jr., pled guilty to thirty-seven counts of child sexual abuse in a criminal action in 1994 and is currently serving "a sentence of 75 to 185 years in a West Virginia prison." He was also fined $30,000. The sequence of events, as alleged by the complaint and as reported by press accounts, is as follows:

James F. Adams, Jr., married Rebecca in the late 1970s or in 1980. Frederic was born in 1981 and Jane was born three years later. In September 1988, James, age thirty-two, and Rebecca agreed to a formal separation that gave physical custody of the children, then ages seven and four, to James. The documents give no details about the marriage, why Rebecca agreed to give James custody of the children, where they were living at the time of the separation, and whether Rebecca ever visited the children or had any contact with them.

James’s father, James F. Adams, Sr., a bishop in Beckley, West Virginia, asked a fellow Latter-day Saint, Kenneth Holt, if he could help James find a job. At the time, Holt was the president and chief executive officer of Raleigh General Hospital. Holt agreed; and in October, James moved into his father’s house and began working as a licensed and certified radiological technician at the hospital. "Within weeks" he began to sexually abuse Frederic and, at some point, Jane as well. The divorce became final in late 1988.

In April 1989, James purchased a house in Crab Orchard, West Virginia, and moved there with the children. The complaint mentions James’s mother but describes no interactions between her and the children. From late fall 1988 until February 1994, James "sexually and physically abuse[d] both children despite the fact that high officials of both … [the] LDS Church and Raleigh General Hospital had actual knowledge of the sexual abuse of [Jane] and her brother and had reason to believe it would continue without [their] immediate intervention" (Complaint 11).

During the summer of 1989, James "became romantically involved" with Margaret Sutton (named in the complaint), whom he had met at Church. Margaret had at least one son by a previous marriage, although the documents do not state whether she had been divorced or widowed. They became engaged "within weeks of their first meeting." Adams and his "family regularly attended the LDS Church services and tithed to it" during the five years covered by the abuse.

On 28 July 1989, Dena Dodson, who had been tending Frederic and Jane for six months, learned "from the children that their father was physically and sexually abusing them both." She made an audiotape. About six weeks later on 8 September 1989, Dodson had a candy-striper at the hospital deliver a note to James containing a copy of the tape and a demand for $20,000. If he did not comply, she threatened to expose his abuse. James got the note at work, went home, and beat Frederic for exposing the abuse. He then told Margaret that he had sexually abused both children and was being blackmailed for it. He also telephoned to his father, who drove immediately to James’s house. Margaret was present when James told his father the same facts: that he had sexually abused both children and was being blackmailed.

James, Sr., told James, Jr., to (1) hire an attorney, (2) tell Holt at the hospital about the abuse and blackmail, and (3) tell Blair Meldrum, the stake president. According to the complaint, James, Sr., gave James, Jr., this advice because he "perceiv[ed] the threat posed to [James, Jr.] and the Church by the blackmail attempt" and felt that Meldrum could help him "in containing potential damage to the Church’s reputation." James, Jr., obeyed his father. The complaint continues: "Both Meldrum and Holt were well known to the Grandfather. The Father barely knew either of them. In making these arrangements, the Grandfather was secure in the knowledge that his friends, Holt and Meldrum, would remain silent about the sexual abuse of [Jane] and her brother. And true to the Grandfather’s belief, neither Holt nor Meldrum ever reported their knowledge of the abuse of [Jane] and her brother" (12).

Dena Dodson next telephoned Holt and told him that she had an audiotape of the children describing their sexual abuse. Holt’s response to Dodson is not reported, but he told James, Jr., that if she came to the hospital, he would "have security remove her." Dodson also told "a Nurse Maynard" at the hospital about the audiotape. Neither Holt nor Maynard reported the alleged abuse, as they were required to do by law.

James, Sr., asked Meldrum to meet with his son because James was sexually abusing his children. Meldrum came to West Virginia to meet with James, Jr., who "fully disclosed to Meldrum that he has sexually abused both children" and also reported on the blackmail attempt. According to the complaint,

the purpose of the meeting was to contain evidence of the sexual abuse … and to begin the healing of the Father. … Meldrum, deviating from church policy and procedures, instituted no church discipline against the Father, made no inquiry into the health or safety of the children, made no attempted protect the children from further abuse, made no attempt to persuade the Father to confess to police or to seek professional counseling, made no attempt to persuade the Father to either leave the family residence or allow the children to leave, and made no report of his knowledge of the sexual abuse of [Jane] and her brother to proper state authorities. Instead the Father and Meldrum discussed how they might suppress disclosure of the evidence the babysitter had obtained. Later, Meldrum would assure the Father and his fiancé [sic] that "the blackmail problem had been dealt with."

Incredibly, this same high church official would elevate the Father to the position of an Elder of the Church only months after receiving the admission of sexual abuse. In 1991, this same cleric would grant the Father a "Temple Recommend" so he could be married in the Mormon Temple in Washington, D.C., this too in violation of church policy and procedures. (13-14)

"Within days" of this meeting, Adams "attempted to tell" the principal at Jane’s school that he was sexually abusing Jane and Frederic, because he was "concerned that the blackmailer might approach school authorities." The complaint does not say whether Dodson in fact attempted to tell the principal, whether she dropped her blackmail attempts, whether she was prosecuted for attempted blackmail, whether she made any effort to inform the proper authorities about the abuse of the two children, or what happened to the audiotape. The complaint also does not say why Adams apparently failed in his attempt to tell the principal that he was abusing the children.

After the meeting, President Meldrum assigned "two LDS Church counselors" to work with James. It is not clear whether these men (both held the Melchizedek Priesthood) were home teachers, high councilors, therapists, counselors in the bishopric, or someone else. The complaint says only that they "were held out to be able to diagnose and treat the secular problem of pedophilia and incest with a mixture of secular and religious treatment." The religious portion of the treatment apparently consisted of their priesthood authority to "heal the sick and afflicted by the power of God" (14). Meldrum assured Margaret Sutton that "these counselors would treat and cure the father," and she continued her engagement with him based on that assurance. They met regularly at the Adams house "for months" with James. Jane, Frederic and Margaret were not present at these sessions. The counselors did not report the abuse.

While these counseling sessions were going on, "the sexual and physical abuse of [Jane] and her brother continued without interruption" (15). At some unspecified point, James also began abusing drugs.

These events occurred during the fall of 1989. In 1990 (month not specified), Child Protective Services (CPS) went to the Adams house and "found severe problems but not enough to remove the children from the home." The complaint does not specify why the agency acted at all or what they were looking for. Based on Meldrum’s assurances that James would be cured, Margaret was willing to marry him; and their temple wedding was performed in April 1990 in the Washington D.C. Temple.

At some point during the next year, 1991, Adams "began stealing drugs from … Raleigh General Hospital on a regular basis. Once again CPS visited the home and reported [that] the children were at times left alone without food." Again, it is not clear who complained to the agency, why the caseworkers took no action, where Margaret was, and why there was no food in the house. Also in 1991 (month not specified), Frederic was admitted to the hospital; James had knocked him unconscious "for failing to properly measure soap powder." James admitted that he had hit Frederic to the attending physician, who failed to report it.

Also during 1991, Margaret telephoned Sister Holt, wife of James’s employer, to tell her that James "was stealing drugs and drug paraphernalia from the hospital and was physically and sexually abusing both children." He also hither son "with a baseball bat in front of [Frederic]" and was either violent or threatened violence toward Margaret herself. Sister Holt may have been the source of the earlier reports to CPS, since the complaint specifies that "while on the telephone with [Margaret], she had heard the Father violently striking [Frederic]" and that she "report[ed] physical abuse of [Jane and Frederic] on numerous occasions to CPS" (16). On all of these occasions, however, she reported only physical abuse and never disclosed the sexual abuse or drug abuse. The Church paid for Margaret to receive counseling, although it is not clear when the counseling occurred or what it was about.

Margaret and James were divorced over his "drug abuse and violence directed towards the wife and children." The complaint is not clear whether these factors were specifically named as causes in the divorce proceedings or when, exactly, the divorce occurred. It says "after approximately one and a half years of marriage," which would date the divorce during the fall of 1991. However, Margaret apparently retained contact with the children; for in 1992 (month not specified), she brought Jane to the hospital "with a ‘bruise of the genitals and tear in the vagina’; a most unusual injury for a seven year old girl. This injury was not reported to state authorities as required by law" (16).

In 1993, James began drinking and continued to abuse drugs. According to the complaint, he was active in the Church during this time. During the summer, Frederic told Margaret that James was sexually abusing him and Jane, which should presumably have come as no surprise to Margaret, but she "was too frightened of [James] to reveal the abuse. That Thanksgiving, Margaret was present when James, Sr., and James’s mother "admonished [James] about his abuse of [Jane and Frederic]." Again Margaret did not report the abuse.

In early February 1994, a heavy snowstorm delayed the opening of school. James videotaped himself performing "sexual (anal) intercourse" with Frederic, sexually "exploit[ing]" both children, masturbating both children, sodomizing Frederic, performing oral sex with both children, forcing Jane and Frederic to perform cunnilingus, forcing Jane to have oral sex with James and Frederic, forcing Jane "to use sexual devices, such as stun guns, dildos and related devices" on herself and Frederic, forcing Jane "to engage in sado masochistic acts and exhibition of the genitals in a sexual context," and "intentionally touching the sexual organs" of both Jane and Frederic. According to press accounts, the videotape lasted fifty-five minutes.

A few days later, Frederic showed the tape to Margaret. Margaret telephoned Rebecca in Alaska and told her the children were being sexually abused. Rebecca immediately telephoned the West Virginia State Police, and two troopers confronted James at work. "He readily confessed to sexually and physically abusing his children" and was promptly arrested. Rebecca also called Holt and told him that James had been sexually abusing the children. Holt, who did not know that James had been arrested, once again failed to report the abuse.

The police seized the videotape as they searched the house for evidence. Before the trial, James

was repeatedly visited by Church officials, including but not limited to Stake President Meldrum. These officials urged [James] to plead guilty to all thirty-seven charges against him to protect Defendants LDS Church, COP [Corporation of the President], and CPB [Corporation of the Presiding Bishop] from embarrassment and possible civil liability and also as not to interfere with the flow of tithes the LDS Church received each year.

Church officials agreed to appear and testify at [James’s] trial. Stake President Meldrum disclosed to authorities the substance of [James’s] admission.

After a fifteen minute meeting with his lawyer, [James] entered a plea of guilty to all charges. He is presently serving what is effectively a life sentence. (19)

James pled guilty in June 1994 and was sentenced in August. In 1994 (date not given, presumably after sentencing), Meldrum wrote a supportive letter on Church letterhead to the State Parole Board which "alludes to [James’s] ‘problems’ with his children, his efforts to overcome these problems, his confiding in and counseling with Church leaders and his relapse into pedophilia." The complaint suggests that there was no period during which James abstained from sexually abusing his children and from which, therefore, he could relapse.

Approximately a year later, Adams petitioned for a new trial "on the grounds that he was influenced by agents of the … LDS Church to plead guilty so as not to embarrass the Church and to further suppress evidence of the sexual abuse of [Jane] and her brother." This request was granted (19). According to an Associated Press account, the prosecutor’s office granted the trial request "so they could seek more jail time." A new trial was scheduled to begin 29 April 1996.

The last page and a half of the statement of facts deals directly with the alleged conduct of the Church when faced with sexual abuse. Jane’s and Rebecca’s attorneys claim that the Church, the Corporation of the President, and the Presiding Bishopric, "by deviating from their own guidelines for dealing with sex offenders and by suppressing evidence of sexual abuse of and by LDS Church members, ratified [Adams’s] conduct and granted him tacit approval of his continuing sexual abuse."

Furthermore, the "numerous lawsuits throughout the country" complaining of "failure to report the sexual abuse of children" constitute notice that sexual abuse is a serious problem and that the church’s policies are either not being followed or are ineffective. The complaint accuses:

In these cases, Defendants have raised constitutional defenses they know to be without merit, have engaged in protracted litigation solely for the purpose of inflicting the maximum emotional trauma on the Plaintiff victims of sexual abuse, have routinely entered into secret settlements totaling millions of dollars to silence these victims and further suppress evidence of the nature and extent of the problem among its members. These settlements are routinely reached "on the courthouse steps." Defendants’ General Authorities are the architects of these legal strategies designed to inflict the maximum emotional trauma on the children Plaintiffs in order to extract a favorable settlement

Further, LDS Church, [Corporation of the President and Corporation of the Presiding Bishop] have been advised by their own attorneys and clerics that they must address the widespread problem of sexual abuse of and by church members. Defendants have vigorously resisted this advice....

West Virginia counsel has advised Defendants that they are mandatory reporters of child sexual abuse under state law. This advice too was rebuffed. Even in the face of this advice from local West Virginia counsel, the LDS Church’s General Authorities persisted on advising local clerics, including Stake President Meldrum, [that] they need not report evidence they received of the sexual abuse of children.

[They] have commissioned and received written reports on the problem of child sexual abuse among LDS Church membership. The reports indicate [that] the problem is widespread. These too have gone unheeded, their authors dishonored and disbelieved.

[They] have, at the highest levels of the LDS Church, engaged in a calculated strategy to hinder or obstruct vigorous investigation of complaints of child sexual abuse of and by its members; have attempted, by entering into secret settlements with victims, to suppress evidence of the nature and extent of child sexual abuse among its members; have ignored repeated warnings by its clergy and legal counsel that this problem needed to be addressed candidly and vigorously, all to preserve the image and wealth of [the Church].

The next eighteen pages of the complaint specifies fourteen counts: three counts of negligence on the Church’s part, breach of contract, "outrage as to all defendants," "negligent training and supervision," "voluntary assumption of duty," "civil conspiracy," "gross negligence," and parallel counts relative to the hospital.

The specifics of the counts against the Church are that the Church’s agents "had reasonable cause to suspect" that the children were being abused and neglected and "therefore had a duty to report as "mandated by state law" (21). The existence of the "Helps for Ecclesiastical Leaders" handbook and "the common law duty of a master to control the acts of his servants, established a duty of reasonable care owed by Defendants to [Jane]" (22). The complaint also argues that the Church had "sufficient control over both [Jane] and [Adams] to effectively protect [Jane] from [his] sexual abuse. [The Church was] able to compel [Adams] as a member of its church to, among other things, regularly attend services and donate one tenth of his income to [it] and to subscribe to its teachings, policies and procedures. This special relationship gave rise to a duty in [the Church] to protect [Jane] from the intentional misconduct of [Adams], … said intentional misconduct being known to and its continuation foreseeable by Defendants" (24-25). The complaint also argues that the Church "had a duty to train and supervise its hierarchal clergy in matters both secular and religious as they relate to the organization’s worldwide operations, including but not limited to:

assisting victims of child abuse, reporting incidents of child abuse to proper authorities, making church leaders familiar with state child abuse reporting statutes, and intervening in families plagued by sexual abuse of children" (27-28). The adoption of guidelines in 1985 "for handling victims of child sexual abuse and sex offenders" constitutes recognition by the Church that it has a responsibility to protect children.

The breach of contract count argues that the Church had "unilaterally contracted with [Adams], a member in good standing of the LDS Church, to take certain steps to protect [Jane], a third party beneficiary to the unilateral contract, from the harm of sexual abuse and neglect The consideration for [the Church’s] promise was the continued membership in the LDS Church by [Adams] and his obligation to pay one-tenth of his income to [the Church]."

The "voluntary assumption of duty" argues that the Church defined its protective duty in its own manuals, speeches of General Authorities, and practices and voluntarily assumed that duty but breached it, "without excuse or justification."

The count of civil conspiracy, though applied to all of the defendants, singles out the Church to allege that it "conspired, at the highest levels, to develop legal strategies to 1) thwart comprehensive investigations of sexual abuse of and by members of the LDS Church, 2) engage in legal tactics Defendants know to be without merit for the sole purpose of extracting favorable settlements from victims of sexual abuse and 3) suppress evidence of the failure of Defendants’ policies for dealing with the problem of sexual abuse. This was done so as not to interfere with [its] recruitment efforts or to interfere with the enormous flow of monies received.., in the form of tithing or corporate profits from secular business entities owned and operated by [the Church] worldwide, said monies totaling billions of dollars annually" (31). The complaint had earlier asserted, without citing a source, that the Church "owns businesses generating approximately four hundred million dollars a year" with tithing adding $4.3 billion to that sum (6).

The "outrage" count, which applies to all defendants is that they "while acting within the scope of their employment, intentionally and without cause or justification, intentionally suppressed evidence that [Jane] was the victim of sexual abuse or failed to report said abuse and did so with reckless abandon for the consequences to [Jane.] … Defendants’ conduct was outrageous and intolerable in a civilized society" (26).

One phrase occurs frequently, with variations: "injuries . . . were inflicted by the Defendants in an intentional matter, with malice, willfulness and in wanton disregard of [Jane’s] rights to be free from physical and sexual abuse" (31). The plaintiffs demand a jury trial.

When the Associated Press filed its story on Wednesday, 17 January 1996, it included a statement from the plaintiffs’ attorney: "This is a prime example of an organization hijacked by its own success," lawyer Michael Sullivan said. "When confronted with evidence of sexual abuse, the church closed ranks in a conspiracy of silence to protect its own reputation at the expense of these children."

Don LeFevre, spokesman for the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said the church had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment specifically on the case.

"The church is not in the business of covering up," LeFevre said, "We teach our members to obey the law." On Wednesday, 17 January, Bruce L. Olsen, managing director of Church Public Affairs issued a statement:

We express our sorrow and deep concern for the innocent children apparently terribly abused by their own father. Such heinous treatment is beyond comprehension and the father has been excommunicated from the Church.. The Church teaches that children should be lovingly nurtured and protected. We join with decent people everywhere in condemning abuse of any type.

We are also appalled at the allegations by the plaintiffs’ attorney that the Church or any of its leaders is in any way responsible for these shocking acts. We vigorously deny all such allegations and are confident that we will be fully vindicated.

Actually, the Church is in the forefront in combating abuse. Over the past few years as abuse has become more prevalent in society in general, the Church has established a number of programs to assist its local leaders in dealing with abuse cases that may arise. And we have distributed nationwide radio and television public information programs on the overall issue of abuse.

The statement, as reported, did not describe these programs, nor did the statement claim any programs to help members (as opposed to leaders) deal with abuse.

In the Reuters’ wire story, Sullivan also commented, "At the very least, someone should have stepped in to get the children out of that house. To leave them there at the mercy of their father is unconscionable."

Sullivan also stated that a separate suit would be filed on behalf of Frederic Adams, now fifteen, that "he does not expect to settle with the church because his clients want to publicize and expose alleged problems, and that the purpose of the suit was to change the way the Church does business. We want them to recognize that the present system isn’t working." He added, "This case is about making huge institutions and the people who work for them aware of their responsibilities to the victims of sexual abuse."

The accusation in the brief of exhausting, harassing, and intimidating action on the part of the Church’s attorneys has yet to be proved. However, it is clear, even from the incomplete records cited in this chapter, that the Church has settled at least some legal claims against it in actions that are closed thereafter to public scrutiny while other cases are pending. Marion Burrows Smith’s investigative article included a report that President Hinckley, addressing a regional priesthood leadership meeting in Calgary, Alberta, in September 1994, while he was first counselor to the ailing Howard W. Hunter, responded to questions from the floor. One concerned child sexual abuse. President Hinckley reportedly warned leaders that if they had "the least inkling that people have a problem with this ... then they should be left out of Church positions. … [These cases are] costing the Church millions of dollars in lawyers’ fees and settlements. … The Church is being sued for millions. … We have more lawyers than we know what to do with."

Smith also reported that, in December 1995, the Church joined eight other churches in filling an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief with the Texas Supreme Court to support the petition of the Catholic Church that it be held immune from any civil suit involving the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests, "even if the abuse has been reported to church hierarchy and continues to occur," The Catholic church and the eight supporting petitioners "claim that the First Amendment right to religious freedom exempts them from liability even though case law holds them and their agents responsible for criminal acts." Summarized Smith: "Churches which preach family values send a highly contradictory message when they spend long hours and big bucks to hide a danger that destroys children. Many victims of abuse have pleaded with their church leaders to use church resources for therapy of victims instead of using the money to fight legal baffles against the victims."

She related the experience of a California lawyer:

I had a stake president who wanted to testify in a sexual abuse case that had gone on for many years and involved many victims. He had been very careful not to talk to the perpetrator alone and not in a priest-penitent relationship and felt that privilege did not apply.

The day he was going to sign the affidavit we had prepared together, he called and said that a ‘church attorney’ told him he couldn’t testify. He gave me the phone number and asked me to call the attorney.

When I did, [the Church’s attorney] said he believed the privilege [of confidentiality] belonged to the priest and the penitent I disagreed and said that even if the privilege did apply in this case, the stake president/priest had waived the privilege. The Church attorney said, "No, I’ve instructed him not to do so." I asked, "You mean you have veto power over a stake president’s inspiration and calling?" He said he didn’t think of it quite that way. I replied, "I don’t doubt that one bit"


At least eleven more cases since 1990 have been indexed in a national database (photocopies of screen print-outs in my possession).

• In 1989, thirty-six-year-old David James Borg, a Mormon Scoutmaster in Sierra Vista, Arizona, pled guilty to a charge of molesting two boys, ages thirteen and fifteen years old, at his home and on scouting trips for five months in 1988 and admitted that there were at least twelve more victims. He was convicted and sentenced to thirty-four years in prison.

• In 1990, fifty-year-old Larry Gilbert of South San Jose, California, pled innocent to molesting four girls (the ages of three are given as eight, eleven, and twelve). A high priest group leader, he was accused of molesting the girls while he babysat overnight at their homes, One parent said, "I never would have left him alone with my children if he weren’t a high priest We considered him our family."

• In Charlotte, Tennessee, Robert D. Campbell, whose title is given as "Mormon president of missionary in Idaho" [sic] was charged in 1988 with sexually assaulting two girls ages seven and nine "at prayer meeting." Campbell told the girls not to call the police. After he was arrested, the "church asked girls to take a lie detector test" The plea entered was "drop-pretrail [sic] diversion." It is not clear what action, if any, was taken.

• Robert Eric Longman, a Mormon missionary in Corpus Christi, Texas, from Longandale (state name not given), molested a three-year old in a bedroom while two other missionaries talked with the mother. He entered a plea of "no contest" to the charges, filed in May 1989, of indecency with a child. He was sentenced to eight years probation, a $1,000 fine, and required to pay $400 in court costs.

• Eric Patric Avant, age twenty-nine, of the state of Washington, was sentenced to twenty-six years in prison for molesting eight boys as Cub Scout leader in his Norfolk, Virginia, ward. He had "accosted" more than thirty others, according to parents. He had been convicted of "sodomizing an eleven-year-old boy in 1979, but Church members didn’t check his background, nor did they register him with the Boy Scouts of America." The BSA requires that Scout-masters complete a registration form and keeps a file of Scouting officials convicted of sexual crimes. The families of three of the boys sued the Church and the Boy Scouts of America for $35 million in 1989, for negligence. The amount of the settlement, in 1992, was "unknown." The Church sponsors more troops than any other organization in America. Don LeFevre, commenting on how Scoutmasters and assistants are called, observed, "‘Sometimes you win some. Sometimes you might lose some. If an individual is not upfront about his or her past, it’s a matter of the honor system."

• Two teenage boys in Oregon sued the Corporation of the President in 1989 for $3 million on charges of negligence. They charge that the Church hired James Francis Hogan as a janitor, knowing that he had been observed hugging and kissing young boys between 1977 and 1985, a span of twelve years. The amount of the settlement is unknown.

• Richard Lloyd Dilley, thirty-one, of Washington State, a Scout leader in a Mormon ward, pled guilty in 1990 to one count of third degree child rape and five counts of child molestation for "repeated" offenses over a two year period of the five foster children in his care. He had previously been dishonorably discharged from the Navy for abuse.

• [Date missing] John Allen Midgett, a thirty-year-old Navy petty officer, was sentenced to thirty years in state prison for sexually abusing eight girls between the ages of five and ten in his Mormon Sunday School class, beginning in 1986. Sobbing and trembling during his ten-minute statement to the court before sentencing, he said he had been powerless to control his behavior because he had permitted the "disease" of sexual addiction to overcome him, "‘I rationalized that if the children did not realize it was wrong then it was not wrong,’ he said. ‘I know you don’t understand how I could do that and as I look back now I honestly don’t either. … I can’t look in the mirror without hating myself … I, as you, will always hate the man I was."’ He thanked the parents who turned him in because he "lacked the courage to do so himself. … ‘Being turned in was the answer to my prayers,’ he said. ‘I am so thankful to you for doing that You saved me when you saved your children from me."’ The prosecutor sought a sentence of fifty years, while Midgett’s attorney requested a sentence of eighteen years; thirty years was a compromise that reflected the judge’s appreciation of Midgett’s confession, which spared the children the trauma of testifying in court, but the continuing danger he would present to girls "mandated a lengthy prison term." Midgett has been excommunicated.

Only one parent addressed the court, a mother who said her daughter had been a cheery, trusting six-year-old before the molestation scarred her for life. ‘Now she’s afraid of everything. - . . She can’t take dancing lessons because she’s afraid. She can’t leave the house because she’s afraid. She can’t leave me because she’s afraid. We’ve been through hell, and my little daughter will be going through this for the rest of her life because of you. If she can’t trust you, her Sunday school teacher, who in the hell can she trust?"

• Jimmy Earl Brooks, 52, who was living on a boat docked in the Galveston area and is described as "associated with the Mormon Church in Galveston," was charged on 22 July 1994 with molesting four children. He had earlier been arrested in Georgia, California, New Mexico, Florida, and Tennessee, on charges ranging from exposing himself to aggravated sexual assault, usually involving children under age ten. Police from Morristown, Tennessee, had been looking for him since March 7, when he was charged with the aggravated sexual assault of eight children. His modus operandi was to "teach Sunday School at … churches around the country, which is where he came in contact with most of his victims.... Brooks was able to make friends with families and talk them into going sailing with him, usually at night," according to investigator Connie Guelfi of the Galveston Police Department. "While parents sat on the stern of the boat, Brooks would go into the bow of the boat with some of the children.".

• Richard Peterson of Mesa, Arizona, was preparing to serve a mission when he was arrested for fondling a five-year-old. According to a court-ordered psychological evaluation, Peterson had spent the previous year counseling with his bishop, Steven Smith, over his sexuality, about which he felt extremely guilty but about which he was simultaneously obsessed. He watched an erotic movie, then, "frustrated and curious, chastised by his bishop and church because of [anl indiscretion with his girlfriend, forbidden to masturbate, he unfortunately turned to an innocent five-year-old girl." The girl’s family received such "a barrage of abuse" that they have moved twice and still use an unlisted telephone number.

• Larry Judd, a Mesa, Arizona, school teacher, was constantly involved with his ward’s Boy Scout troop and Young Women’s camping program. He admitted molesting twelve girls over a period of about twenty years at girls’ camps, where he volunteered as the priesthood chaperone. He "would make excuses to go into the girls’ cabins at night or to be alone with one, even for a moment." He would slip his hand into their bathing suits to fondle their genitals or fondle them over their clothes. Once he "attacked a sixteen-year-old in the church Scout room." The court received forty-five letters testifying to his good character. The family of one victim had to move from the neighborhood. One mother told the police: "‘People just kind of keep insinuating, don’t, don’t rock the boat here; he’s a good man, you know.’


Although these cases, documented from public sources, are fragmentary, they establish that Mormon men are not invulnerable to pedophilia, that even carefully brought-up Mormon children are not safe from pedophiles who use the Church to approach them, and that the American legal system, while it may not be the first resort for distraught and angry parents of abused children, is being employed more frequently. In none of these circumstances is the Mormon Church unique. Rather, it shares these characteristics with many other American denominations.

The first lawsuit filed against an American clergyman for sexual abuse of a child occurred in 1984. Now, at least one such suit is filed each day.

Law suits against churches seem like very cumbersome and unsatisfactory ways of dealing with clergy abuse. But some observers see them as inevitable when angry and frustrated parents hear the message that their church is not really interested in helping their child as much as it is interested in damage management and image manipulation. A law suit, some feel, is the only way to get the attention of an unresponsive organization.

What lies in store for Mormonism? Observers of Mormonism point out the extraordinary amount of trust most members have for leaders, the high level of loyalty that makes injured members hesitate to seek legal redress, and the generally sympathetic and supportive response of local leaders. All of these reasons suggest that candor and helpfulness in dealing with allegations of sexual abuse can defuse and diffuse potentially explosive situations. Almost certainly, nonresponsiveness or dismissiveness from bishops and stake presidents to whom allegations are brought will lead LDS parents who feel betrayed to seek other avenues for justice and help. As some of the victims in this chapter have already done, others will almost certainly lead to the courts.