Jeff Benedict: What if it was your daughter?

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  • Making Mary Pleasant Grove, UT
    March 3, 2018 9:39 a.m.

    I am heartened to see that there are Bishops who do a better job of handling these situations, but the simple truth is they are not trained in the topic and really have the handbook to use.

    Apparently there is room for discernment on this subject and if abuse in any form is absolutely condemned by this Church, then that implies there should be discipline. Every single time, from every single Bishop.

    Second, the Bishops I had advised marital counseling. In abuse situations, the abuser uses what is said in marital counseling against the victim and makes the situation worse for victim and increases the danger of the situation. What needs to preceded marital counseling is abuse counseling, then marital.

    Finally, as long as we are saying "that's just some Bishops", we are allowing abuse to continue. That means that we, those priesthood leaders (and by extension, the Church) are condoning that abuse.

    Want this to stop? Stop saying, "that's just some Bishops".

  • marathonmom Castle Rock, CO
    Feb. 21, 2018 11:36 a.m.

    Thank you for this much needed article. I found myself asking the same question of local church leaders. Emotional and verbal abuse are far more insidious and destructive than physically abuse. I experienced both. It took me years to muster the courage to finally call the police, fortunately with the support of my bishop at the time. However, within two weeks of my abuser’s arrest and conviction for domestic violence he was issued a temple recommend. While he told his twisted story of denial and victim blaming in his white shirt and tie, I faced an emboldened abuser in all his rage alone in court and at home as he violated the protection order. No disciplinary council or action of any kind enabled him. No voice. No protection. I got out of the marriage, but not out of the abusive relationship with the father of my children. Women in or finally out of abusive marriages need Priesthood protection the only way leaders can really give it—accountability.
    I applaud the Church’s zero tolerance stance on abuse from prophets and general leadership of the Church. However I mourn the suffering of those of us who are not heard, believed, and protected when that policy is not implemented.

  • dski HERRIMAN, UT
    Feb. 21, 2018 8:41 a.m.

    This is a good reminder that there is no room for abuse in any relationship. Knowing that is impossible because of our frailty as being humans, there should not be any inch of tolerance for any kind of abuse in our mindset. For so long, women have been thinking abusive husbands will change. That mindset must change. It should be, if you touch me once I’ll call the police and the divorce lawyer on my way out the door. Abusive people have psychological issues before they get into relationships. The monster usually shows up after the knots are tied. Sometimes the monster shows up during the time one party is vulnerable because she is deeply in love and she is thinking with her heart not her head.

    The bottom line is, we should generate the mindset of “touch me not”, physically, or psychologically.

  • Resilience Saratoga Springs, UT
    Feb. 20, 2018 11:26 p.m.

    I’ll add this to my previous comment and with some thoughts that others have mentioned. Bishops are not trained or paid professionals. But when someone is living right and trying to do right and in my case had no idea her husband was living a double life and became amine to the mental and emotional abuse the counsel is to always work it out. That cost me dearly. But even when it was revealed what I was living with I was still counseled to stay. Of course there are other sides to every story. In abuse there is only one side as long no one is lying about abuse taking place.
    But my husband was such a manipulator he would go to the bishop and say whatever story he came up with and then the bishop would ask to meet with me. I had no idea why! They would never say what my husband told them. They just believed him without asking me. I would have known he was lying a lot sooner. They would lecture me like I needed to do more. But I didn’t even know we were having a fight! Later, my husband had said he did that to justify what he was doing and to build the foundation for if anything came out about him they would think I shared responsibility for his actions! He never changed

  • Glenn L Nauvoo, IL
    Feb. 20, 2018 1:37 p.m.

    I’m impressed that this article was approved by the Editorial Board of the Deseret News. I’m grateful for it. As a Bishop, and during many years in a stake presidency, my experience was the same as Deanvrtc stated — the guidance from Salt Lake City was clear against all kinds of abuse. I wished the Handbook had included more examples of the harder to quantify emotional abuse, possibly the most rampant variety, and often the most damaging.

    It’s easier to quantify physical abuse but nonetheless desperately needed to deal aggressively with emotional abuse, both in protecting those suffering, and using discipline to help the perpetrators. In my experience cases of emotional abuse by both men and women, mostly men, far exceeded actual physical abuse, and were often more damaging.

    Kudos for this being made a more visible, openly discussed issue.

  • JohnInSLC Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Feb. 20, 2018 10:14 a.m.

    “what were the motivations of the two women in making this public now?”

    desert suburb:

    Uh, probably the fact that they reported it to their ecclesiastical leaders AND the FBI some time ago, and still nothing was done. The #MeToo movement seems to have created sufficient momentum for abused women to turn over a lot of rocks themselves—rocks that cover up bad behavior. The irony is that the higher the profile of the abuser, the heavier the rock.

  • Faith&Hope Lawrence, KS
    Feb. 20, 2018 9:05 a.m.

    Abuse takes many forms and bishops and leaders, the best people anywhere, give counsel but don't dictate. A person has to be guided by leaders but you must follow the spiritual promptings received. Seek out help in multiple places if possible in such situations. Don't be afraid to speak up. Do not suffer in silence.

  • AZ Eagle ,
    Feb. 19, 2018 8:08 p.m.

    The Red Queen shouted at Alice, "Off with her head!" And the executioner was summoned. This case seems to be similar. Before we all throw stones, maybe we need to listen to his side of the story. After all, this is America and not the land of the angry Red Queen.

    "Innocent until proven guilty." Don't we all want that to be said of us, if we are accused? Then why are we so quick to condemn anyone else before the judge and jury have been presented with all of the evidence?

    Let us all put down our rocks and let both sides be heard before a jury, if that is what is required in this case. There shouldn't be any stoning today by anyone, unless that person is perfect and has never made a mistake. Even then, that person didn't throw a stone. He told the accused to "Go and sin no more." Maybe we can learn to do the same?

  • patriot Cedar Hills, UT
    Feb. 19, 2018 12:44 p.m.

    domestic physical abuse is one thing but what about emotional abuse? Men who abandon their wives leaving the woman with nothing after she puts the man through school. Lawyers just take your money and do nothing. Utah needs a new law to protect wife abandonment. It too is abuse.

  • Appreciative reader Boise, ID
    Feb. 19, 2018 11:32 a.m.

    As an LDS bishop, I'm grateful that the Deseret News is publishing this content. The perspective here needs airing and we can do so much more to protect and empower women.

  • EPoint Roy, UT
    Feb. 19, 2018 6:24 a.m.

    Why isn't every person's reaching out for help taken seriously? Victims must be protected. Should we really exonerate as Hatch reportedly did, before proper consideration of the complaints or accusations made? The expediency of politics makes victims of us all.

  • FromWA Olympia, WA
    Feb. 19, 2018 2:23 a.m.

    I really appreciate this article, and have enjoyed your books. I know Rob Porter, we were good friends his freshman year at BYU (he transferred after his freshman year to Harvard before going on his mission). We did most things together that year and I have mostly great memories of him from that time. I have to admit that when I first read the Daily Mail article when it came out that I didn’t want to believe it. I wanted to make up reasons why my old friend couldn’t have done this. Yet, within a couple of hours I had given up hope of these things not being true. I now have to balance the truth of all the good things I know of him with new reality of him doing things I could never defend.
    I say this because it is easy for us to judge and condemn others for their reactions, but the sheer fact we are humans causes us at times to not respond properly. This instance has given me a chance to reflect on my own reactions to situations where information that would contradict my previous beliefs, and a chance to talk to my daughter and sons about how they should respond to situations of any abuse. Help them to know what is right and wrong and to get help.

  • jparry Provo, UT
    Feb. 18, 2018 6:14 p.m.

    Thank you, Jeff Benedict, for this blog post/article. I'm puzzled that no one has expressed here in the comment section any outrage at Senator Hatch over his unconscionable statement defending Mr. Porter and attacking anyone who suggested Porter's wives were telling the truth. Hatch, like Pres. Trump, are enabling abusers with their politically and self-motivated defense of Porter and others like him far more than the stray bishop who exceeds his authority by telling a woman that she should stay in an abusive marriage.

    I trust the way in which LDS Church will probably redouble its efforts to educate and regulate its bishops. Who will do this for Sen. Hatch and Pres. Trump? I'm not hearing much from Utah's other congressional delegation or, more important, Utah's voters.

  • mancan HC, UT
    Feb. 18, 2018 4:17 p.m.

    "What if it was your daughter?" is a great question, but even parents can give bad advise or downplay the severity of a situation. My best friend was emotionally abused by her husband for more than a decade before he decided to file for divorce; they might still be married if he hadn't. The abuse started on their honeymoon and only got worse. But when she told parents about it, they said she should tough it out and make things work. Her father did go through a time of being mean and emotionally abusive but eventually changed after they were separated for a while. So their experience tainted their advise. When abuse starts, the marriage is over. If a man gets help and changes, then maybe the couple can reconcile. But it is far better to just move on and start fresh before children are born and become collateral damage to the abusive crossfire of a man who does not deserve to be married.

  • sister GRASS VALLEY, CA
    Feb. 18, 2018 2:13 p.m.

    I have been on both sides of a "lay member in authority" - when I have walked into a room with either a Bishop, Stake President, or General Authority and have almost been knocked to my knees at the power of the Spirit - I have been counseled by a member of LDS Social Services and been gravely insulted (which they knew and apologized).
    My bringing this up is to illustrate that WE must feel the Spirit of our meetings and act accordingly. ALL who are abused need that inspired action.

  • Desert Suburbanite Mesa, AZ
    Feb. 18, 2018 1:55 p.m.

    Mr. Benedict, a couple of comments.
    First, where were the fathers of these women? Why did they not act to secure their daughter's safety. Did the young women tell their father's what was going on? If my daughter were in that situation the first thing out of my mouth would have been either:
    A. "Pack a bag, I'm coming to get you." or
    B. "Pack a bag, there will be a ticket waiting for you at the airport. I be waiting for you when you get here."
    Second, it seems that you have never been in a Bishop's shoes. If you had, you would understand that they cannot defend themselves in a situation like this, they have to take the details of what was said to the grave. Because of that, we only have Ms. Holderness, and Ms. Willoughby's version of what was said by them and to them in a confidential interview. What they say happened in those interviews needs to be taken with a huge grain of salt.
    Finally, what were the motivations of the two women in making this public now? One of them was quoted as saying that she didn't want Mr. Porter to lose his job, and yet she did something almost guaranteed to cause him to lose his job. There seems to be a stench of political motives here as well.

  • NeilT Ogden, UT
    Feb. 18, 2018 9:10 a.m.

    A second thought. The Proclamation on the Family does address the issue of spousal and child abuse. It must be an important issue if the brethern felt inspired to include it in such an important document. Well worth reading.

  • DHuber Palmyra, NY
    Feb. 17, 2018 9:58 p.m.

    Almost always Bishops have never themselves been divorced. Perhaps if more men who have been divorced were called as Bishops they could give perspective that divorce is not the end of life.

  • happymom123 Clearfield, UT
    Feb. 17, 2018 11:49 a.m.

    This is a wonderful article and thank you for sharing. My former Bishop saved me for continuing staying with someone that was down right mean. No he did not go out of his way to tell me to leave my marriage, that was not his place. His spiritual counseling and guidance and many prayers is what caused me to make the decision to leave the marriage. In fact it was my bishop that told me that I was experiencing emotional abuse and I was too close to the situation to see this. It wasn't until after the marriage ended that I had nightmares and looking back on the situation and what I went through did I realize what a nightmare of a marriage it had become. I didn't want to go through another divorce, but they gave me no choice. No amount of counseling was going to save this marriage, because the other person kept saying how much it was all my fault. That was one of the constant things that I heard all the time. Another thing I was told is that I did not fulfill their needs every single day and all day (it was their sexual state of mind) and then used the church teachings against me. It is amazing how much the gospel has been my great strength and healing so many years ago.

  • P Bundy Albuquerque, NM
    Feb. 17, 2018 9:22 a.m.

    If it was my daughter "Brother" Porer would not have been physically able to serve in the White House. Shame on all who have protected this monster and his reputation.

  • NeilT Ogden, UT
    Feb. 17, 2018 8:27 a.m.

    deanvrtc. My wife was physically abused by her ex. When she went to her Bishop she was told to keep quite about it as he did not want to lose a good scoutmaster. These situations happen. Impartial 7. Bishops can and do have discernement. They are also human. Lets not accuse all Bishops of being incompetent when it comes to dealing with abuse and other difficult issues.

  • John Pack Lambert of Michigan Ypsilanti, MI
    Feb. 17, 2018 7:22 a.m.

    What of husbands who have proactively taken steps to change their behavior? It is one thing to not blindly hope for change, but sometimes it seems that even those who proactively seek treatment to change and dismissed as irredeemable.

    This also points to why reports of what is going on that just tell a little of what has occured do little good.

    We need to keep in mind two things. We only have one side of the story and so have no clue what the full counsel of the bishops involved was. More generally people can only give counsel based on what they know. One has to wonder if some people would see a referral to LDS family services as somehow minimizing the issue when in fact it is being done because the bishop knows what is going on is beyond his level of expertise.

  • BioPowertrain Detroit, MI
    Feb. 17, 2018 3:39 a.m.

    @LoveLondon -- I agree with your viewpoint. A couple more thoughts:
    (1) a man should never attack a woman with physical violence. Ever.
    (2) no one should ever verbally or emotionally abuse their spouse or.children or parents either.
    (3) The public dialogue on domestic abuse needs to grow from "don't abuse" to "do be civil". No one wants to talk about it, but the ways some of my dear sisters of the human race treat their husbands and children and other family members (parents-in-law etc.) is not just part of the problem, it is its root cause, and because it doesn't get condemned it doesn't get addressed or resolved, and marriages then doesn't truly improve. No one who has a gift for nailing their husband with acidic mean-spirited words and behaviors,m in the most sensitive parts of his soul will ever have a happy life.
    (4) Having said that, rude and abusive communication has always been and always will be a problem, so men need training on how to deal with mean-spirited or controlling attacks effectively, i.e., without like-kind reaction in word or deed.

  • MendonMick Mendon, UT
    Feb. 16, 2018 4:55 p.m.

    Dear Resilience, thank you for your comments. I'm so sorry you've had to endure such terrible things. You're not alone, and I know people care and want to help. I hope things are going better for you. I know nothing I can say will help you feel better, but wish it did. I wish you peace, love and happiness on your journey. Thank you for being courageous and sharing.

  • MendonMick Mendon, UT
    Feb. 16, 2018 4:35 p.m.

    Excellent article, and comments posted. Thank you for your insight.

  • Spalding55 Placentia, CA
    Feb. 16, 2018 4:19 p.m.

    An excellent article.

    The lessons here are one; all allegations need to be taken seriously regardless of whom the alleged perpetrator is, and two; make sure the victims are out of any potential harms way before dealing with any other extraneous issues such as someone’s career, saving the marriage and such.

    As a school counselor, I was trained to know and I understood that there were certain issues students had that were beyond my expertise, and the best thing I could do was to help get them to someone who had the expertise in those issues. Based on the stories I have heard concerning bishops handling abuse, the bishops who followed what I was trained to do did the best job helping these victims.

    Years ago, a church members needed a referral from a bishop to get church counseling and support services. I don’t know if that is the case now, but if it is, it might be worth the church to revisit this policy and allow church members to solicit these services directly.

  • Frank Walters Salt Lake City, UT
    Feb. 16, 2018 3:08 p.m.

    I feel badly for Bishops. They're not trained as marriage counselors yet members of the congregation expect them to be. They do their best, and saving something as important as marriage should be a high priority. But never, ever, should abuse be tolerated. It has no place anywhere, especially not in a marriage. Now, is the right answer divorce? I have no idea, each situation is unique and different. Counsel can be offered but referrals to professionals and possibly even law enforcement should be offered. Again, I don't know the answers.

    I hope that all of this 'movement' helps people realize that they can and should be talking about abuses that happen. I hope that we, as a society, learn that we cannot tolerate abusive behavior like this. We need to change how we treat each other. And we also need to be careful to not carefully examine both sides of the story. It's easy to put on a happy public face while hiding dark secrets and different behavior. It's also easy to want out of a situation and to make up a story. But who to believe? We only can know if we really get to know people, if we care about them. Again, a very big deal with a lot of unknown.

  • Deanvrtc Vancouver, WA
    Feb. 16, 2018 3:03 p.m.

    I'm sorry, but I have never once personally met a mormon bishop or stake president who would turn a "blind eye" to ANY spousal abuse....EVER!!! Maybe there has been some, and if so... shame on them....but never in my experience. I have met with many, many, of them during my life. I have been both a bishop and a stake president and I can tell you from direct knowledge, there is zero tolerance for such ugliness in direction from SLC. Thousands of volunteer bishops and stake presidents do their best to move the abused to safe ground and away from violence. It's never ok to abuse...ever. The God I worship never expects any spouse to live with or endure abuse..I'm certain of that.

  • andyjaggy American Fork, UT
    Feb. 16, 2018 2:51 p.m.

    I thought that was a fantastic piece.

    I am willing to give most bishops a pass since as was stated, they are not professionals councilors or therapists. I agree with many of the other comments in regards to how we often act like the bishop is our personal or family councilor. I have never in my life felt the need to go to the Bishop over these types of issues, if I am having family problems I will go to a family counselor, if I am having mental health issues I will go to a doctor or therapist, etc.... if I was being abused I would go to a lawyer or counselor, etc.... the bishop is our spiritual leader and as such is really only qualified to help us in spiritual matters. Of course there is some overlap and I think the bishop may have a place of support to play, but I would never solely take his advice on these matters.

  • LoveLondon Murray, UT
    Feb. 16, 2018 1:34 p.m.


    I am sorry to hear that you had such an abusive marriage, and I am glad that you left that marriage. Nobody should be treated like that. I hope you don't think all men behave this badly. There are many decent men out there. My father has never hit a woman. I have never hit a woman. And as far as I know my brothers have never hit a woman.

    With all this talk about physical abuse lately I think we need to address another form of abuse that is even more prevalent - verbal and emotional abuse. When it comes to this type of abuse I think men and women are equal offenders.

    I once dated and was engaged to a girl who told me that she had always dreamed of marrying someone who was better known in Salt Lake City and made more money than I did. Both of these statements I consider very demeaning. I eventually decided to break off the engagement and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

    These types of comments are what I would describe as subtle abuse. That said, they are still abusive.

  • One of Vai's Cousins DC, Washington
    Feb. 16, 2018 1:33 p.m.

    Fantastic article. Admittedly I am no longer a practicing Mormon. But I have a very hard time understanding the rationale of members relying in essence on the counsel of their neighbor (Bishop or SP) for some of the most important decisions in their lives. Particularly when that neighbor has zero expertise in the area being discussed. Just a supposed “mantel” that gives such tremendous unwarranted authority. Religion does much good. But the reality of relying on your local leader for such consequential decisions has had and continues to have very negative impacts.

  • Impartial7 DRAPER, UT
    Feb. 16, 2018 1:26 p.m.

    "That statement doesn’t surprise me. Mormon bishops are not professional clergy. They are lay ministers. And many of them are not experienced in recognizing or dealing with the insidious nature of spousal abuse. "

    While that's a very accurate statement, you won't hear that from the LDS church. In fact, members are taught that bishops have the "power of discernment" and many blessings that give them superior insight to matters. Of course it's not true, but it's what is taught.

  • Resilience Saratoga Springs, UT
    Feb. 16, 2018 12:36 p.m.

    I loved this. I have found myself having to ask my bishop and stake president exactly this. “What if I was your daughter, since it’s not enough I’m a daughter of God?”
    My husband was so abusive mentally, emotionally and sexually. For years I was told to go and make that marriage work! How does one make a marriage work with an abuser? I finally found out that my husband was an addict of all kinds of things He had been having all kinds of affairs and paying for sex our entire marriage. I was so relieved that I finally had an explanation for the devil I was living with and it wasn’t my fault! I knew I was finally going to be validated by these church leaders.... wrong! I was told to go and give him 6 months and to work this marriage out! With a person that pays for sex? No! I couldn’t believe it! I felt like a 10 year little girl who was being sold at auction to the very fat, sweaty dirt bag. No church counsel could get me to stay. Some of these men have the same problems. Men are excused for these types of acts because they are men! I was even told if I so chose to divorce I would eventually be forgiven by Heavenly Father. That’s additional abuse and victim blaming and shaming.

  • Karen R. Houston, TX
    Feb. 16, 2018 12:31 p.m.

    Thank you for a thoughtful, knowledgeable piece. One addition I'd make: For some it won't be enough to ask the question that Mr. Benedict suggests because sadly, often the cultural default to not believe the female (or to blame her) extends even to parents, male AND female.

    We need to change the default. The evidence supports giving the female the benefit of the doubt. Domestic violence is not a rare occurrence.