There’s been a lot of Bloggernacle discussion of late about the Church’s “accidental” news re-release, that touts itself as “the gold standard” when it comes to how the Church handles sexual and child abuse cases. Apparently the Church had already published this article in 2010 and then republished it again last week as a current news release. The Church claims there was a “glitch” in their system and that it did not intend to re-publish the article.
Some are suspicious, however, that this release was no accident at all and that the Church has some news agenda it’s trying to push or a news story it wants to get ahead of. Utah has the highest rate of child sex abuse in the nation after all, as one blogger reminded us this week. In my experience with how the Church PR machine operates, I can almost guarantee the Church is feeling vulnerable on this issue and wants to paint a different picture to the world than the awful reality.
On one occasion years ago I spoke with a Church PR representative by phone at Church Headquarters. I was working on a research paper and was very surprised when this brother stated that the Church often intentionally leaks news stories in order to provide context for a message it wants to get out. The leak is made to seem to be a mistake. The Church then conveniently responds to the leaked story with its canned message and/or simply relishes that it got its story out when it wanted to. I don’t know if this is a common practice throughout the PR industry, but as a young grad student not living in Utah and not from Utah, my initial reaction was how dishonest this seemed and I was surprised that the Church would employ such underhanded tactics. I thought my church would be straight-forward and without guile.
Perhaps the Church’s most recent leak or re-release, as it’s been called, was in hopes to get ahead of this very troubling story that just came out about emeritus GA, Elder Lynn A. Mickelsen. The video below is about 14 minutes long and if nothing else it demonstrates the influence the Church has on Utah lawyers, judges, law enforcement and LDS clergy. The story is unnervingly credible. I highly recommend you take the time to watch it.
As a bishop, I saw firsthand how the Church actually handles child and sexual abuse. I was required to call the LDS Hotline on several occasions. In one such instance I was transferred directly to Kirton & McConkie, the law firm that represents the Church. The advice I received was actually outstanding — aligning with doctrine and scripture. I was shocked, however, when the counsel that I was given was not followed by the Church. It quickly became obvious to me in this instance that the Church was only looking to avoid embarrassment and cared nothing about helping victims or reforming perpetrators.
These types of experiences have helped me trust less in the arm of the flesh and have caused me to turn towards God and His Son for comfort. May good people everywhere stand as witnesses of Their Names, especially in defense of those too weak and tender to defend themselves.