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Latter-Day Saints Follows the Sad Trend of Sex Assault Lawsuits.

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Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Sex Abuse Lawsuit

All-Male Hierarchy Disciplines Sex Crimes as Sins.

Sex abuse in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) has been hinted at for decades. But now it is making headlines.

In April 2023, a stunning civil court win: A 39-year-old California woman called Jane Doe, sexually abused as a child for years by her Mormon stepfather, a bishop in the church, was awarded $2.28 billion by a California jury also involving her mother and the local Church.1

We are helping survivors of sexual abuse in Latter-day Saints join powerful lawsuits to hold the Church accountable.

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We’re changing the narrative about lawsuits.

How Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Damage Control Playbook Works.

Mormon doctrine still sticks to the idea that predators who confess such crimes in a confidential religious setting are sheltered under clergy-penitent privilege and, after that, attorney-client privilege. Speculatively, many thousands of survivors, both sexes and all ages, have kept quiet their whole lives.

The Church’s Sex Abuse Help Line is key to the coverup and hotly debated.2

“Operated by lawyers for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the service is drawing critics who say it does more to safeguard the faith from lawsuits rather than victims from harm.” – Salt Lake Tribune. And often it dissuades victims from going to the authorities.2

Mandatory child sex abuse reporting laws have resulted in an unknown number of predators being excommunicated but allowed to continue living, working, and abusing children for years, despite having confessed to religious officials in a church setting.


Associated Press, Nov. 3, 2023

The primary Mormon law firm is Kirton McConkie – known as the Church’s Damage Control Division (Salt Lake City, Utah, and Boise, Idaho). It is this firm’s job to help keep sex crimes hidden at the expense of survivors who are expected to live out their lives in trauma and confusion. To do this, lawyers use a variety of tactics, including prayer, shaming, manipulated doctrine, supportive rulings in 33 states, and hush money.3

But ultimately, it’s not the individual predator that Mormon leaders are protecting. According to court testimony and other documents obtained by the Associated Press (AP), the system aims to shield the collective Mormon Church from potential lawsuits that pose a financial threat to the Church and its $100 billion dollar coffers.

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A Hierarchy of Exclusively Men.

Underlying Mormon psychology believes that Eve (woman) is responsible for the apple debacle in the Garden of Eden.4

To say the role of Mormon women is complicated is an understatement. The Church’s official position supports gender equality within the heterosexual family unit. But the bottom line is a “divine woman’s ideal place” is in the home as a supportive, nurturing, tranquil beacon for her husband and his household.

Today, Mormon women cannot hold top leadership positions in the church or establish financial budgets without direct male supervision and approval.

A tradition of polygamy didn’t help, beginning in 1830 with founder Joseph Smith (who accumulated 44 wives, one of them being only 14) and his successor Brigham Young (55 wives). The Church banned the practice in the 19th century.

“The ongoing doctrine of polygamy reinforced the notion that women are a form of property, enabling men to amass dynastic, eternal power as gods through temple ordinances.”

Mormon Stories, Feb 22, 2022.

Children are also vulnerable in the most unspeakable way. “Mormon families suffer extremely high levels of incest,” according to former polygamy wives and survivors who have bravely come forward. Instead of being comforted by the horrible reality of widespread incest, those abused are often bombarded with lessons on forgiveness, and blamed.

Spotlighted Cases Show Depth of Survivor Shaming.

An earth-shattering report published by the Associated Press on December 4, 2023, revealed, with the help of a young Idaho survivor’s cell phone recordings, how the church uses a damage control playbook to keep its image clean. The AP acquired cell phone audio recorded by 38-year-old Chelsea Goodrich of Ketchum, Idaho, who alleges that her father, a popular Idaho dentist and Mormon bishop, sexually abused her for years.

The case is a reasonable template for hundreds of other Mormon Church child sex abuse cases, sometimes brought to light after many years.

“’The adversary I’m sure worked on me,” John Goodrich said, using a church term for Satan. “And that’s when it was going through my mind when I climbed in bed with Chelsea and was really aroused … with the intent of spooning and snuggling you but I didn’t… It was fun as heck, but it was wrong.” Later when police were handcuffing him, he protested that he did nothing wrong and was not ashamed of anything.

Despite receiving $300,000 of hush money from Kirton McConkie (sweetened from $90,000), in exchange for a signed confidentiality agreement with her and her mother Lorraine, and the promise to destroy the tapes, Chelsea says she is speaking out now to protect other children.

John Goodrich was arrested and facing a long prison sentence, but the charges were dropped when the bishop who heard his confession was discouraged from testifying under threat of being sued for millions of dollars for bucking clergy-penitent privilege. This happened in a recent Arizona case, among others.8

Other Latter-Day Saints Sexual Abuse Lawsuits in Headlines:

Unfortunately, American courts are all too familiar with Church bishops who refuse to report and the reality that these omissions can lead to more abuse and additional victims.

  • California (April 2023): Jane Doe (described earlier) was awarded $2.28 billion by a California jury.
  • Tacoma, Washington (Jan. 2023): The Church agreed to a $1.1 million settlement in a lawsuit brought by a man who was sexually abused as a preschooler (age 5) by a teenage volunteer in his ward. The assailant was a repeat offender.
  • Hawaii (Jan. 2014): Two men filed a lawsuit in the U.S. state of Hawaii against the Church, alleging that they were sexually abused as children on a church-owned pineapple farm in Maui from 1986 through 1988.
  • In January 2014, former bishop Michael Wayne Coleman was arrested and charged with luring a minor for sexual exploitation after a forensic examination of his laptop and cellphone revealed sexually graphic conversations and an exchange of nude photographs with a teenaged student in Brazil.
  • In August 2017, former bishop Erik Hughes pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two teenage boys from his congregation in Mapleton, Utah. The abuse occurred in June 2014 during his tenure as bishop. Hughes received concurrent 1–15-year prison sentences on the sexual abuse counts, and 0–5 years in prison for witness tampering.
  • On August 15, 2017, Mormon Leaks published a 316-page document which contained confirmed and alleged instances of child sexual abuse between 1959 and 2017.

These cases all provide a collective idea of the dark pattern in case after case, regardless of age or sex.

Seeking Justice is the Greatest Healer.

Thousands of hidden sexual abuse cases in the church are speculated across the country – all ages, both sexes. If you’re a silent survivor, you are a force to be reckoned with. This is a time to honor your innocence and courage, no matter how young or old you are (or were).

You have a voice and, wow, are we listening. We want to encourage you to take advantage of the widespread media flashlight now shining on the church, particularly because of rampant child sexual abuse.

When men and women trust us with their private story in strict confidence, we know what to do to help you get your power back. And we charge you nothing to walk you through the first steps and help you take the first steps towards healing via joining legal action.

What We Want to Do.

If you survived sexual abuse in the Latter-day Saints culture, we are here for you.

In the last eight years, we have worked with thousands of sexual abuse survivors across the country as they deal with their abuse and have seen how their lives change once they are unburdened from this dark secret and see justice served.

Civil legal action is a way to regain your balance of power. It’s a way to not only ask for compensation for the trauma you endured but also to change the systemic pattern of abuse in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and similar institutions.

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Sources

  1. Summer Lin, “Jury awards Riverside woman $2.3 billion in a sex abuse lawsuit that had involved the Mormon Church,” Los Angeles Times, April 27, 2023

  2. Peggy Fletcher Staff and Tamarra Kemsley, “Does the LDS Church’s sex abuse help line protect the faith or the victims? Debate continues,” Salt Lake Tribune, August 16, 2022

  3. Michael Rezendez and Jason Dearon, “Utah Law Firm and Law Firm Helped LDS hide abuse, lawsuit alleges,” Salt Lake Tribune/Associated Press (AP), October 12, 2022

  4. Staff, “Mormonism and women,” Wikipedia, current

  5. Rezendez and Dearon, “Takeaways from The AP’s investigation into the Mormon church’s handling of sex abuse cases,” Associated Press, December 3, 2023

  6. Ibid. “Recordings show how the Mormon Church protects itself from child sex abuse claims,” AP, Dec. 12, 2023

  7. Ibid. “Court cites clergy-penitent privilege in dismissing child sex abuse lawsuit against Mormon Church,” AP, Nov. 8, 2023

  8. Howard Fischer, “Judge tosses suit vs. LDS Church for not reporting confessed sex abuse,” Arizona Daily Star, Nov. 11, 2023