Mormon Leader: Sexual Misconduct = "Non-Consensual Immorality"

Mormon Church

The Mormon church is under criticism about its approach to sexual abuse. Quentin L. Cook, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints governing body, referred, in his speech during a two-day Mormon conference, to sexual misconduct as "nonconsensual immorality" and compared it to "consensual immorality" which is also a sin according to him. 

"During my lifetime, worldly issues and concerns have moved from one extreme to another—from frivolous and trivial pursuits to serious immorality. It is commendable that nonconsensual immorality has been exposed and denounced. Such nonconsensual immorality is against the laws of God and of society. Those who understand God’s plan should also oppose consensual immorality, which is also a sin," said Cook, who is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. This type of comment could be interpreted as victim blaming or as someone trying to reduce the seriousness of sexual misconduct.

As New York Times reports, Natasha Helfer Parker, a Mormon who is a certified sex therapist in Wichita, Kansas, stated that even if Cook had good intentions, it was a poor choice of words that reflects the church's lack of education about appropriate ways to discuss sexual misconduct. Victims of sexual abuse should not be grouped with "immoral" acts, she said. "They need very clear language from leaders that places the onus of the responsibility on the perpetrator, not this indirect, kind of vague language," Helfer Parker said. "That just shows the level we're at as far as not being able to handle this issue appropriately."

The Mormon church is under scrutiny after women reported abuse in recent years to local leaders but no actions were taken against Joseph L. Bishop, former director of the Missionary Training Center. Bishop told police that he asked one woman to expose herself but denied raping her. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced updated guidelines for reporting sexual abuse which contain instructions on how local leaders should handle sexual abuse reports, but some say those guidelines are not enough and after the Cook's comments the church is facing even more criticism. 

According to Fox News, Crystal Legionaires, a 23-year-old former Mormon, said that she stood up during the church conference this weekend and shouted three times, "Stop protecting sexual predators," to bring attention to a topic she thinks the church is trying to ignore. Legionaires called Cook's comment troubling. "It can very much be construed as victim shaming," she said. "Instead of saying things like sexual assault or rape, they're using euphemisms as a way to try deliberately mask the truth. I find that really problematic and really frustrating."

Photo Credits: Temple Square

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