I wrote yesterday about characteristics of children which can help them draw closer to God and receive revelation. Some of those same characteristics also make them susceptible to being abused.
What could be more heart-wrenching and even infuriating than the thought of a trusting and defenseless child being victimized and harmed by an adult! No wonder Jesus condemned child abuse in the strongest possible terms:
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.Matthew 18:6
Book of Mormon prophets also emphasized the importance of caring for children:
- Jacob condemned the men among his people who “lost the confidence of [their] children” (Jacob 2:35) and “grieved their hearts” (Jacob 3:10) because of infidelity.
- King Benjamin emphasized parents’ duty to take care of their children, providing food and clothing and teaching them “to love one another, and to serve one another” (Mosiah 4:14-15).
- Jesus instructed parents to pray with their families, so that their “children may be blessed” (3 Nephi 18:21).
- Multiple prophets emphasized the innocence of children and commanded adults to repent. (See Mosiah 3:16-18, Mosiah 15:25-26, Moroni 8:10-11.)
Last October, President Russell M. Nelson reiterated the position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on abuse:
Abuse constitutes the influence of the adversary. It is a grievous sin. As President of the Church, I affirm the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ on this issue. Let me be perfectly clear: any kind of abuse of women, children, or anyone is an abomination to the Lord. He grieves and I grieve whenever anyone is harmed. He mourns and we all mourn for each person who has fallen victim to abuse of any kind. Those who perpetrate these hideous acts are not only accountable to the laws of man but will also face the wrath of Almighty God.
For decades now, the Church has taken extensive measures to protect—in particular—children from abuse. There are many aids on the Church website. I invite you to study them. These guidelines are in place to protect the innocent. I urge each of us to be alert to anyone who might be in danger of being abused and to act promptly to protect them. The Savior will not tolerate abuse, and as His disciples, neither can we.“What Is True?” General Conference, October 2022, italics in original
I spent some time on the website abuse.ChurchofJesusChrist.org this morning, and this is what I learned:
- “We all have an obligation to prevent abuse and protect others from abuse.”
- It is important to build strong relationships with our children, so that they will feel safe talking to us when they find themselves in uncomfortable situations.
- Children need to know that they have bodily autonomy. For example, “you should not force children to express affection (such as give a hug or kiss to someone) if they do not want to, even if you don’t want another person’s feelings to be hurt.”
- When someone is abused, they may feel guilty. They need to be taught that what someone else did to them is not their fault.
- It’s important to set standards for technology use and teach children to use technology safely and productively.
Today, I will discuss with my wife our family’s practices to prevent abuse, including strengthening my relationship with our children, improving our technology standards, and encouraging our children to talk to us or another trusted adult if they are mistreated.
Bravo! I applaud every authoritative condemnation of abuse — especially
child sexual abuse — and only wish that we were hearing strong
statements like President Nelson’s in the 1990s. But there is still much
to be done. The help line is for bishops. We need one for members,
especially since bishops are often ill trained to intervene effectively.
The assumption behind the bishops’ help line is that they’re always part
of the solution. Sadly, they are sometimes part of the problem. We also
need a serious overhaul of the curriculum so that children as young as
nursery age are getting age-appropriate lessons on “good touching” and
“bad touching.” Teens need to have lessons on sexual feelings that go
beyond “sex is bad.” Women especially need lessons on identifying what
constitutes emotional abuse.
Every item you drew from the website is clear and helpful. But it it not
yet enough …
Well, speaking of enough. Enough of this! Thank you for your sensitivity
to this problem that falls with especially heaviness on children.
Love your use of Paul’s sculpture
Thank you for the feedback! I had a hard time writing this post because I just don’t like thinking about this topic. My natural impulse is to avoid the topic entirely. President Nelson’s reminder and the reminder on the Church’s website that we all have a responsibility to prevent abuse was particularly impactful to me. I know I have more to learn about preventing abuse, detecting warning signs, and helping victims of abuse get the help they need. I appreciate your insights on what we can collectively do better.