In one of life’s little ironies, someone who has deceptively posed as member of the Church on this blog has made several (deleted) efforts here to stir up fear about the possibility of child-abusing Satanists posing as faithful members of the LDS Church. Look, this is a dangerous world. There are hypocrites who pose as good members when they in fact are not. We need to be cautious to protect ourselves and our children, and we need to recognize that established safety principles for child protection (e.g., those of the Boy Scouts) are vitally important. Right here in my home town, in the high school my kids attend, the long-trusted police liaison for the high school, the man who had close access to the most troubled and love-starved kids in the school, turned out to be a predator with homosexual leanings who sexually abused many boys. That case was just exposed this year. And Wisconsin is still rocking with the tragedy of sexual abuse from multiple Catholic priests who infiltrated the priesthood and exploited the access their position gave them to abuse young men. (Heterosexual abuse also occurs frequently, but the homosexual version has been particularly traumatic in my part of the world in recent months.) So yes, there are grave dangers when wolves in sheep’s clothing are on the prowl.
As for the allegations of ritual child abuse among religious groups (Mormon, Catholics, etc.), this became a very hot topic back in the 1980s. A Satanist scare swept much of the country, not just the Intermountain West. One educator from Wisconsin told me about the big money that consultants were making as they fueled and exploited the scare. They were frequently hired to train educators on the dangers of the occult. Naturally, they drew large audiences – it’s much more interesting to hear someone describe shocking stories of burning babies rather than sharing tips on teaching syntax (people still remember the stories about the babies, but when was the last time you or your kids heard anything about syntax?). In saying this, I do not discount that there have been very evil people, including Satanists, who have done evil things. But there has been a great deal of hype and overreaction, including highly publicized stories that turned out to be clearly fraudulent or devoid of any support. And there were “therapists,” “experts,” and consultants who made big bucks fanning the fires of fear. Ironically, the LDS Church may have set itself up for undue criticism from anti-Mormons by taking sensational allegations of ritual child abuse too seriously. (Note: Allegations need to be taken seriously – and as a former Bishop, I can attest to repeated training about the need to listen carefully to reports of possible abuse and immediately call the Church’s child abuse hotline for guidance. My experience in dealing with the folks in Salt Lake on child abuse cases confirmed that Church truly is very serious about dealing with this problem and protecting children.)
For those who wish to delve into this complicated and sometimes disturbing topic, there is a responsibly written article (free from, say, the pornography you might find one some of the anti-Mormon websites that deal with this topic in a way that surely pleases ol’ Beelzebub himself). The rather scholarly article is “A Rumor of Devils: Allegations of Satanic Child Abuse and Mormonism, 1985-1994” by Massimo Introvigne, presented at the Annual Conference of The Mormon History Association (MHA), Park City, Utah, May 21, 1994.
If you are interested in this topic, please read the entire article. To whet your appetite, here are two paragraphs from near the end (references deleted):
It is not surprising that anti-Mormons, including the Tanners, use the Satanism scare in Utah (in itself a part of the national Satanism scare) to attack and embarrass the LDS Church. It is, also, not surprising that the same conflict between believers (mostly in the mental health profession) and skeptics (mostly in academic settings and among sociologists) on the factual truth of the survivors’ claims, which has been going on at a national level in the United States (with international connections) for more than a decade, has reproduced itself in Utah. What is surprising is that the main religious organization in Utah, the Mormon Church, has apparently decided to align itself with one party in the controversy, and has released official and semi-official documents proclaiming that survivors should be believed. As sociologist Jeffrey S. Victor has observed, the Mormon Church position is somewhat unique. Although individual activists and members of the clergy of many denominations have supported the survivors’ claims, so far no Church has ventured to take an official stand. As mentioned earlier, authoritative voices in the Evangelical community, including Christianity Today, have rather sided with the skeptics. In the Roman Catholic Church, the commission appointed by four Vatical Secretariats to examine “cults” and new religious movements decided to hear in a session held at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska on May 10-12, 1991, as the only expert on the Satanism scare, the skeptic Anson D. Shupe, whose report was warmly endorsed by the commission . The attitude of the Mormon Church is, as Victor remarked, “paradoxical”, since they are “lending authoritative credibility” to anti-cult and counter-cult sources who normally also attack Mormonism as a “cult” . In the first LDS Church document (unpublished, but mentioned in Bishop Pace’s memo) dates back to 1989, it seems that the first interest of the Church on ritual abuse may have been connected to the Lehi case, based on allegations made by children. The concern of the Mormon Church on a sad and widespread phenomenon such as child abuse is understandable, although we have mentioned that child abuse does not appear to be significantly more frequent in Utah than elsewhere in the United States. Nothing in this paper is intended to minimize the very real danger of child abuse, nor to suggest that Churches should not be involved at their best in fighting and preventing this tragedy. It is also possible, as some cases outside Utah seem to suggest, that occasionally abusers scare children by using Satanic symbols and paraphernalia. However, there is no evidence of national or international Satanic conspiracies. What is more dangerous, looking for such conspiracies may lead the efforts astray from the identification of real perpetrators on a case by case basis. It had been suggested that when social workers, therapists and law enforcement officers become too concerned in finding evidence of Satanism, they may end up by making the defense of the guilty abuser easier (and, sometimes, by prosecuting the innocent) . It is also essential that stories told by children about abuse that occurred in the last few weeks be not confused with stories told by survivors about abuses that they claimed occurred decades ago. The two narratives belong to different categories. . . .
At the May 1993 meeting of the Mormon History Association in Lamoni, Iowa, LDS sociologist Armand Mauss noted among other evidences of a Mormon “retrenchment” from the 1960s to the 1990s an increased “susceptibility to fundamentalist ‘scare’ scenarios.” Mauss – who used “fundamentalist” in the national meaning of “conservative evangelicals”, as opposed to the Utah meaning of “polygamous splinter Mormon groups” – argued that an “indication that [LDS] church leaders, as well as the folk, might be susceptible to fundamentalist scare scenarios can be seen in the credence which a member of the Presiding Bishopric gave a couple of years ago to stories of satanic child abuse.” Mauss, who does not believe that these stories are factually true and rather supports the “general debunking of such satanism stories by social scientists”, sees in the church involvement in the Satanism scare evidence of “the process by which folk fundamentalism gets disseminated upward into the leadership echelons and then back downward to the folk with an authoritative aura.” Mauss, on the other hand, does not believe that “folk fundamentalism” reflects the collective consensus of the general authorities, nor of the whole Quorum of the Twelve. The lack in recent years of “a full and vigorous First Presidency” has, Mauss thinks, made it very difficult to rein in the “folk fundamentalist” preferences of individual general authorities, but this does not necessarily mean that these preferences are shared by the majority of the brethren.  An indication that cautious voices on the Satanic abuse issue also exist among general authorities came from Apostle Richard G. Scott’s speech at the General Conference of April 1992. Although Elder Scott deplored the “tragic scars of abuse”, he also cautioned against “improper therapeutic approaches,” “leading questions,” and “excessive probing into every minute detail of past experiences”. The LDS Apostle argued that such techniques may “unwittingly trigger thoughts that are more imagination or fantasy than reality. They could lead to condemnation of another for acts that were not committed. While likely few in numbers, I know of cases where such therapy has caused great injustice to the innocent from unwittingly stimulated accusations that were later proven false. Memory, particular adult memory of childhood experience, is fallible. Remember, false accusation is also a sin” .
As for those who try to distort the Church’s response to the Satanism scare to suggest that we have a serious problem or that the Temple is a Satanic place because of alleged imitation by Satanists, get serious. This is a low and dirty tactic to paint others as evil when evil is what they were fighting.
The Church is not perfect, and there have been lapses among its units in dealing with all sorts of problems, including abuse. I can’t accept some of the complaints that critics have made, but there have been abusers and victims. The good news is that the Church is vigorously working to fight such problems. The fact that some of its leaders might have been too inclined to believe some possibly outlandish accusations – if my understanding of the article is correct – can at least be taken as a sign of the sincerity of Church leadership in wishing to protect children and root out evil.
As for comments, the fact that I have raised this topic and provided a resource for further reading does not mean that I will entertain endless RFM allegations of child abuse from Church leaders, links to foul and vulgar sites, pornographic discussions, and the like. Please remember that I have no desire to give more bandwidth to sites aimed at tearing down my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, or His Gospel or His restored Church. Comments with such links will simply be deleted – but you are free to create you own blogs with your own rules.