5 Ways the LDS Church Is Abusive


Recently I listened to a debate concerning abuse in the LDS church. It turned out to not be a debate, instead both sides just stated their talking points. However, it did get me thinking about whether there is abuse in the LDS church and how I would define it.

What Is Abuse

In talking about abuse then it is very helpful to establish simple workable definitions. This was one issue with the debate I listened to. The definitions were simply very broad so everything fit and yet nothing fit at the same time. Yes most of our society is technically abusive. However, life is not sunshine and rainbows all the time and we learn to persevere anyways. This though shouldn’t diminish from the clear abuse that happens in our lives. It just highlights that not everything negative is abusive.

In this discussion though I want to focus on abuse using the following simple 3 definitions:

  1. Offensive or insulting
  2. Engaging in or characterized by cruelty
  3. Involving injustice

As with any discussion like this, people will see what they want to see. However, it is my hope that we can approach this subject in a neutral way and see things for what they are.

Pay To Access God

In the LDS church, tithing is required to be allowed entrance into the temple and to participate in any non-trivial calling in the church. This means 10% of an individual’s income must be given to the church for the member to be considered in good standing. Of course, the specifics are up to the individual however it is still 10% regardless of how you define things.

The issue is concerning the non-negligible amount of people who can’t pay their tithing regardless of how you define things. This group of people must decide whether they want to be members in good standing or meet their basic financial needs. This may seem a bit contrived however inflation is making it more difficult by the month. This is also much more pronounced in other countries than the United States. I have a family from Poland currently living with me through the work away program and they have many stories to tell concerning this.

For many though this is of course not a problem, however for many others this is abusive and discriminatory. They must decide whether they want to approach God or meet their basic needs. Many will say these individuals should seek assistance from the church in these cases and I would agree. However, what guarantee is there that the church would even assist in every case? I seriously doubt the church would help entire congregations of members.

I have even heard stories from Bishops who requested additional fast offering assistance and were turned down. What should the individuals do in this case? Should they continue to dig a deeper financial hole by paying tithing or should they pay their bills and get a solid financial footing first? We like to say that God will provide. However, didn’t God provide correct tithing laws to begin with and we have corrupted them?

Most of us can’t comprehend what it is like to not be able to pay our bills. If you were to approach God, do you honestly think that he would ask you whether you paid enough money to the church, or do you think he would ask you what kind of person you have become? Tithing as a requirement to receive, what is seen as an essential ordinance, is clearly abusive. The LDS church, which is likely the richest church in the world, doesn’t need the money from those that can afford it the least.

Must Accept Doctrine

In the LDS church we are told many times that the church is the “only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth”. This is a misunderstanding of D&C 1, however it is still repeated or alluded to in some form almost every week. During almost every fast and testimony meeting this idea is also spoken of by individual members. They will commonly praise the church or praise God for the prophet. This of course feels pretty good to be part of the winning team and most don’t really think twice.

The idea of thinking you’re the best group or best church is not a problem since it is a relatively common idea among all groups of people. The problem though is when the church says or does things, that are wrong or damaging, and the members essentially have to comply and go along with it. Of course everyone has a choice, however if you are part of the “best” church then why would you want to leave that church even if they were wrong about something? You also are not even allowed to say the church is wrong about something. That is immediate grounds for disciplinary action. Would any right-minded bishop allow members to use fast and testimony meeting to share their testimony about how the church is wrong about something?

If the LDS church was the “best” church, then could they even be wrong about something? If you think they are wrong about something, then you must be wrong instead. God wouldn’t allow his church to be wrong so the fault must lie in our understanding or beliefs instead.

This perverted logic is used, to some degree, by many people to justify apparent contradictions. In some cases, I do think it is true that the individuals can have a false understanding. However, in many other cases it is the church that can be the wrong one. However, again because, in the eyes of the LDS members, there is no better church to belong to then the members must stay and comply. They must believe and obey. They must remain and remain silent.

I don’t see how this is not abusive. Members are locked in and become fully committed to the group. Their entire sense of self can belong to the group and every time the group changes, they themselves must change as well. If they don’t then they could be shunned from the group by other zealous members like themselves. This would be disastrous in their eyes. I am not suggesting that groups can’t have their own beliefs or ideologies. However, I am saying that when groups establish themselves as the “only true” group or as God’s church then the line between healthy and unhealthy choices is seriously blurred.

Shunned by Group

I was disfellowshipped from the LDS church because I started to see things differently and share these new ideas in church. Nothing I said or did was radical and everything I spoke about was supported by LDS scriptures. However, my leaders never asked to discuss anything with me. Instead, they told me to sit down and be quiet.

I remember meeting with my Bishop at the time and offering to discuss things with him. His response was maybe if he wasn’t Bishop however since he was my leader then he wouldn’t, and I must listen to him instead. Of course, I didn’t expect everyone to see the greatness of my new ideas. However, I did expect at least a basic discussion. Instead, there was no discussion, and I was punished for not complying with my leaders.

As a disfellowshipped member now I can’t pray in church. I can’t talk in church. I can’t use the priesthood. I can’t take the sacrament. I can’t participate in lessons. I can’t sustain leaders. I essentially can’t do anything except sit and be quiet. All because I started believing differently. How is this not abusive? I honestly think this is the most abusive of them all. You either comply with the group or are shunned into compliance. This is why there is so much group think in the LDS church.

This is exactly like a marriage where you start believing something different from your spouse. As a result, you are told that you can’t eat with the family. You can’t speak in the house. You can’t assist in family decision making. You can’t lead your children anymore. You can’t be with the children privately and you can’t participate in family activities. You can however sit in the corner and think about the errors of your ways. Would we not see this as abuse? If this is abusive then why is it not abusive when the LDS church does it?

Hide Abuse

The LDS church is like any other kind of large organization. They use their immense wealth and power to control public perception and limit consequences as much as possible. This is normal, to a degree, in our society however should churches be doing it? If they make a mistake, or a mistake is done by a member, then shouldn’t they own up to it and make it better in the future? Doing anything else is to effectively lie to the members and act like it never happened.

It recently came to light that the LDS church has an “abuse help line” that leaders can use to ask for advice on how to handle reported cases. In 2022 a lawsuit uncovered that a member reported to his Bishop that he was sexually abusing his daughter. The bishop used the help line and was told not to report the abuse to the police or child welfare. This allowed the father to continue his abuse with the daughter and to start abusing his young daughter. Isn’t part of the repentance process supposed to be making things right and suffering the consequences? In this case though none of that happened.

An investigation into this help line found that they have a blanket policy of destroying all records of calls at the end of each day. Along with this then any serious calls are immediately forwarded to a law firm on retainer so that the call is immediately covered by attorney client privilege. This of course protects the church and not the victim. Does it make it godly if evil is hidden by God’s church?

Can anyone seriously imagine Christ sitting around with his apostles and discussing the minimum legal requirements for them in a particular situation? This is effectively what the LDS church does today. They want to minimize their legal responsibilities and maximize the gain for themselves in every situation. While I can’t say no other organization does it. I can say I don’t think God would be doing it in their place. As we all know, the legal world is unfairly biased towards those with power and resources. The LDS church has excessive amounts of both.

Without a doubt this is abusive. If a predator is in our midst and the church does nothing except the minimum required by law, then they are culpable for any future incidents. I honestly don’t care about the laws in this state or that state. Laws are supposedly made to protect the citizens so if that is not happening then they need to change. If the LDS church wanted to do the right thing and the laws prevented them from doing so then they should violate the laws, in favor of doing what is right, and then use their power and resources to change the law. Hiding abuse is also abuse.

No Common Consent

In the LDS church we have no vote and no way to voice our opinion. We are told what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. In many ways this simplifies things and can be helpful. However, what if the group is wrong? What if the new policy or practice is actually bad and the old way was better? Are we even allowed to think that?

In recent times the LDS church has made major policy decisions and the way we are notified of them is to be told that they were already decided and are going to be adopted shortly. Of course, the church can make their own decisions and I am not suggesting they can’t. However, it blurs the line when they expect our time, talents, and financial contributions to support these new programs and practices that are frankly inferior to the previous ones.

As an example, the church recently separated from the BSA and formed their own young mens program which in my opinion is a disaster. I completely understand the need to separate from the BSA. However, the LDS church went from a very structured program to a very unstructured program. The youth now are supposed to direct themselves and as a father of seven I see that the youth do in fact need a little structure and guidance. Why couldn’t they instead form their own version of a similar program?

Likely this decision looked really good on paper, and they also likely asked some sycophantic leaders to trial the new program and give their feedback. Does anyone think though that they would receive honest feedback? If a leader came to me and said that God had a new thing for me to do, however they wanted my opinion on it first. How can I honestly answer in any way other than glowing praise? Am I allowed to say anything negative if God supposedly wanted the change?

Another example is that of the 2015 policy of excluding specific children from baptism into the church. I can’t imagine how anyone thought this was a good idea. However, what if you were a bishop and a child from this excluded group wanted to be baptized. You can’t baptize them according to the church. It is not allowed. How is this not abusive? How is this even Christlike at all?

A last example is the declaration, out of nowhere, that the word “Mormon” is a “victory for Satan”. This is quite perplexing considering the “I’m a Mormon” campaign just a few years prior. Now we must stop using the word “Mormon” and instead refer to the church using the much longer full name. This is abusive to my intelligence honestly. If Joseph Smith, who clearly founded the religion, was okay with the word “Mormon” then the word is probably okay.

This concept is very much like a marriage where your spouse does whatever they want and tells you that you have to deal with it. They may consult you to some degree first, however in the end you know that your only remedy is to go along without whatever they choose. Would we not claim this is abusive? If this is abusive then why is it not abusive when the LDS church does it?

Author: Patrick