Sex Offenders in Church Leadership is Not News

READER POST: To gain perspective on the church’s problem with sex offenders in leadership, it’s good to take a look at religious news. The Southern Baptist conference is finding itself in deep yogurt on this topic, with journalists and Monday Morning Quarterbacks alike taking great delight in pointing out the issues that led to repeated and sustained cover-ups of pastoral abuse.

Also in the news, Pope Francis convened a four-day summit on the Catholic church’s problem with child sex abuse this week. According to people who attended the event, Francis himself spent 30 minutes on the theme of child abuse’s prevalence in society, noting that, “We are thus facing a universal problem, tragically present almost everywhere and affecting everyone.”

While no concrete action was taken, one of Francis’s eight guidelines for moving forward was, “What is the seriousness of this problem?” One would think that could have been established before a four-day summit was necessary, but perhaps God’s ways are not One’s ways.

The Church of Latter-day Saints is responding to its own crisis with similar alacrity and transparency. The newly-released online version of the Ensign contains an article on protecting children from sex abuse. It has many lovely suggestions, including getting help for our own addictions and making sure our children see us pray.

The safety suggestions imply that the most likely threats to children are primary teachers and strangers wandering the halls. One of the helpful suggestions for mitigating these threats was:

Parents and leaders should counsel together and decide if there are additional precautions they can take to minimize specific threats. For example, many Church buildings have windows in classroom doors. If your building does not, you may consider leaving the doors slightly open during classes and talking to your local facilities-management representative to see if installing windows is an option.

Much like Pope Francis, the leadership of TCoJCoLDS hopes that everyone except those in seats of power and influence will please address this issue and take responsibility right away. Rather than bothering to instruct facilities-management representatives to install windows in each classroom, leadership invites parents to go begging for basic safety precautions from budgets that are generally stretched beyond their limits.

I don’t know if there were windows in Primary classrooms at the Millward Pond ward in Lehi, Utah. But I’ve never seen a window on a bishop’s office door. David Moss, recently arrested on human trafficking charges, was bishop there until his arrest hit the news last Tuesday.

Every Sunday, Bishop Moss would pull women and children into his office, one at a time, to discuss their underwear, their sexual behavior, and their worthiness to stand before God in his holy temple. Moss was entrusted with the power to intrude into the sexual lives of boys and girls as young as 12 years old, unsupervised, unaccountable to anyone.

If you can’t see how dangerous it is to have a man in authority who describes himself to prostitutes as someone who “has run girls before,” read this and take it to heart or stay far away from children.

The cause of rampant child sex abuse is clear—men are put into positions of unaccountable authority over the vulnerable, and the faithful expect these men to police themselves and each other.

But this is not the system that Jesus set up in the gospels. When the disciples wanted to know which of them was to hold authority and wield God’s power, Jesus told them that whether it was by his mouth or the mouth of a child, it was the same. “And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.” Mark 9:36-37

Jesus never told us to forgive and move on when children were harmed. He had a very different message for us. He said to gouge out my eye before I let a child be harmed. He suggested cutting off a limb and leaving it behind before causing a little one to stumble.


“But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!

Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.

And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.

Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.”

Matthew 18:6-10

Jesus never equivocated on this. The idea that child abuse is a sad and universal reality we have to reconcile ourselves to is in opposition to Christ’s teachings. When someone suggests that we shouldn’t give up celestial glory just because of a few bad apples in leadership, head over to the gospels to remind yourself that Jesus gave no exemptions. Each of us is commissioned to protect children.

He essentially tells us that if interviews and the temple privileges they earn us are a potential stumbling block to children, then we should give up the interviews and the temple rather than burn with them both in everlasting fire.

These churches keep telling the same old story. It’s a story that directly contradicts the teachings of Jesus.

Don’t let it be your family’s story.

~Megan Coelho~

READER BIO: Megan is a writer and hobby historian who is raising and home educating seven kids on the side. Her experience leaving two lifestyle churches compelled her to seek her voice and she found a Divine Mother along the way.

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2 Replies to “Sex Offenders in Church Leadership is Not News”

  1. The highest ranking catholic in Australia Cardinal (hasn’t been defrocked yet) George Pell has just been sentenced to 6 years in jail for child sex abuse. The churches don’t seem to be able to deal with their responsibility, so society will. Big loss of moral capital though.


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