LDS church in Salt Lake City

When two women came forward with stories of abuse, Mormon church leaders reportedly tried to keep them quiet to protect the abuser’s career ambitions.


Despite its supposed “zero tolerance” stance on domestic abuse, it would seem the Church of Latter Day Saints really dropped the ball this time. Two female members of the church – who both happen to be ex-wives of White House staff secretary Rob Porter – claim LDS officials tried to cover up abuse they faced at the hands of Porter.

Forced to resign last week amid the brewing scandal, Porter has continued to deny any allegations that he physically abused either of his ex-wives. With his resignation official, attention has now shifted to the Mormon church’s handling (read: ignoring) of the abuse. Church officials are under fire for putting the reputation of a prominent male church member above the safety of vulnerable female members – a grave violation of their professed “zero tolerance” policy on domestic abuse.

Photo of domestic abuse victim

Colbie Holderness photographed an injury she claims was suffered at the hands of her ex-husband.

Keeping Them Quiet

Jennifer Willoughby and Colbie Holderness each brought the abuse to the attention of Mormon faith leaders, desperate for help. But instead of confronting Porter or offering assistance, the LDS bishops took the side of the abuser and remained reluctant to believe the women’s stories. Most damning – they even tried to dissuade them from seeking justice, cautioning that it could hurt Porter’s career ambitions.

“When I tried to get help, I was counseled to consider carefully how what I said might affect his career,” Willoughby wrote in a blog post last year. “Friends and clergy didn’t believe me. And so I stayed.”

Willoughby tried to bring up her husband’s anger issues, but the clergy members seemed more concerned with Porter’s image than her well-being.

Holderness even documented the abuse – taking a picture of a black eye she insists was her husband’s doing. She says the Mormon church completely let her down.

“It wasn’t until I went to a secular counselor at my workplace one summer and told him what was going on that he was the first person, and not a male religious leader, who told me that what was happening was not OK.”

Why Men Get Benefit of Doubt

While the LDS Church has refused to directly address the claims of both women, they did release a general statement:

“It is difficult to speak to specific circumstances without complete information from all involved, but the position of the church is clear: There is zero tolerance for abuse of any kind.”

But this doesn’t seem to jive with behavior patterns within the church. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, a professional therapist and fellow Mormon, explains why clergy members tend to side with the husband during a domestic dispute.

“Since it is more likely that the bishop knows the husband (because they’ve been in church classes together, maybe even served together in callings),” Hanks said, “it is more likely that the bishop will sympathize with the male.”

A History of Cover-ups

Unfortunately, this story isn’t exactly a break from the norm. Religious institutions have a long history of engaging in, sanctioning, and covering up abuse. The most infamous example is of course the Catholic Church, which hid and then denied its own sexual abuse scandal for decades, defending scores of predatory priests in the process. But this problem runs much deeper than one single institution – it’s an unspoken epidemic.

Whether it’s battered women or helpless children, these tales of abuse reveal a terribly uncomfortable truth: that the individuals we see as “most holy” in our society sometimes act in the least holy ways.

Here’s a question: if victims of abuse can’t expect help from faith leaders when they need it most, how can the church honestly claim to be looking out for the most vulnerable among us?

 

73 comments

  1. John Owens says:

    Their efforts at being more publicly palatable notwithstanding, that group has a very long history of polygamous relations involving underage women, and since they will not drag the abusers out in the street and publicly disgrace them and then execute them, I’m afraid this behavior will continue.

    1. T'Keren Valmaz says:

      Hey Owen did you miss the ulc article last year about how every state in the US allows underage marriage with only the consent of the parents and the church with the child having no say?

      Every branch of the christian fiath across our country is marrying off under age girls often against their expressed wishes because the parents feel that is the best way to avoid the girls choosing their own path that will lead to sin in the eyes of their church.

      tens of thousands every year get forcibly married off against their wills in the so called bible belt for example.

      Ive no issue with polygamy if its only involving consenting adults same with poly amorous relationships open relationships and self sexual relationships of one. As long as its consensual between adults.

      The mormons however are willful followers of a conman who used the cover of faith to cycle through the daughters of his followers. Joseph Smith was a monster and its a shame he wasnt taken out alot sooner then he was.

      1. John Owens says:

        T’Keren Valmaz, I totally agree with your last comments about Mormons and Joseph Smith but I wonder where you get your data on the every state allowing underage marriage with only the consent of the parents and the church and the girl having no say. I think you have been misled about that. Parents and churches do not force young girls to marry. If the girl gets pregnant, they WILL pressure her and the supposed father of her baby to marry, but they do not force underage girls to marry, much less THOUSANDS in the Bible belt as you said. I would like to see where you got that information.

        I suppose polygamy would be acceptable to bisexuals but I wouldn’t know.

        1. T'Keren Valmaz says:

          Sorry Owens but Ive seen to many of your trollish posts to feel any urge to give you more then the bread crumbs especially because I know you posted in the ULC article last year about child marriage still being legal in every state in our country.

          Educate yourself. The information is out there. Just like the information that should put to rest your delusion that Obama is not a U.S. citizen.

          Or like how you think change is bad and religion should be taught in schools because its history.

          Now go be a good little solider of the Blue Mafia and help cover up another case of police corruption. Then go home and drink yourself into a stupor and beat whatever poor woman you have chained up there.

          1. John Owens says:

            You don’t know anything at all about what you are talking. Less than nothing if that is possible. You must have me confused with two or three other people. Either way, what I said is correct and what you are saying is schizophrenic and incorrect. I leave the woman-beating to the Muslims, and I have no clue what is the blue mafia, nor did I say religion should be taught in schools, nor did I say underage marriage is allowed in every state. As for Obama’s citizenship, it was never really established, and he DID say on a video that he was from Kenya. He could have meant of Kenyan extract but he said he was from Kenya, and Hillary Clinton referred to him as “the Kenyan.” That would not be a “delusion” as you say. That would be a mistaken opinion, were it proven a mistake, which it has not. I am not convinced either way. I am doubtful. What is obvious, is that you think you know things that are not true at all, probably because you are heavily medicated, or need to be.

          2. Bill Griggs says:

            T’Keren,
            I live in Virginia where someone has to be 18 to receive marriage certificate. If they desire and only if parents agree they can at 16. Unless pregnant in which they must all desire it, and this is the stand for All but a very few states.
            Beyond that, there must be some moral absolutes, just because I feel like it and I’m an adult doesn’t make it acceptable, and healthy for a society. But then I realize within the culture that we now find ourselves in. I would appear as though that I’m trying to explain oxygen to a Martian.

          3. Norma Battes says:

            Kenya?

            2018??

            SERIOUSLY???

          4. John Owens says:

            Norma Battes, I watched him say that on a video. Seriously. He was speaking to a group of young people. And Hillary referred to him as “the Kenyan” in one of her hissy fits when she thought she was going to jail. Seriously. If you weren’t wearing blinders you would know these things.

      2. Val Jester says:

        Please source the data you reference. Prime facie it seems rather suspect.

        1. John Owens says:

          I asked him for that, but all he did was babble foolishness.

      3. Pastor Tony says:

        You are horribly mistaken not every church is doing child marriages. And Mich. has no such law of allowing children to marry. My God does not encourage or support any such thing which would support child abuse. I will pray for your misguided soul….

        1. RAD Moose says:

          Michigan marriage age requirement laws restrict marriage to those 16 and older with parental consent.

        2. Norma Battes says:

          ” Michigan: If you are 16 or 17 years old, you can get married with written parental consent. If you are 15 or younger, you will need both parental consent and the approval of the probate court. ”

          The Spruce, 02/14/2018

      4. John Mathews says:

        M. Valmaz, I defy you to prove to me that a Methodist or Presbyterian mainline church has married underage girls against their will. To make a blanket statement concerning all Christian denominations is cavalier at best. The greater Mormon church has banned polygamy for over 100 years. Fringe sects of any denomination taint the impressions of so many gullible people. Please, don’t fall into that category.

      5. Mark L says:

        Hawaii was the last state to legislate against underage relationships (Statuatory rape). As for marriages, all states have exceptions for teens in love.

    2. Jim says:

      John, just a quick correction. The Mormons that engage in polygamy and underage marriages are members of FLDS, not LDS. I know, seems like a minor distinction, but it’s true. The fundamentalists are the ones to watch out for.

      Regarding this particular situation, it’s just another case of people in positions of power getting away with it. At least in this case, it was brought into the light for all to see. Porter is finished, and hopefully the church officials will be, too.

      1. John Owens says:

        That FLDS/LDS division IS a rather subtle distinction to the rest of the world, Jim. I realize it is no longer the practice of the larger group, but as you point out by mentioning the fundamentalists, it is a fundamental doctrine to which from time to time, people will return.

    3. C Bledsoe says:

      Oh John, educate yourself please! The mainstream Mormon church hasn’t allowed polygamy since the 1890’s . There are sects that have broken off in the last century that do. It’s best to read & review facts before one speaks.

      1. Rex R. Lippold says:

        Thank You CBledsoe, I’ve been trying to get that point across for 60 years now, you can’t blame the Church for man’s decisions. Any church for that matter, wow…what a sore subject.

      2. John Owens says:

        BLEDSOE! I realize that, and if you could read and think about what you are reading, you would KNOW I realize that. The DOCTRINE doesn’t die and those sects KEEP breaking off and going toward polygamy and underage marriage. YOU READ and review the facts before you open YOUR pie-hole.

    4. William says:

      You do know that the Mormon church doesn’t practice polygamy? Any member in a polygamist relationship is excommunicated immediately. There literally are no Mormon polygamists to drag out into the streets. Also there male dominated and unfair church court system favors women over men. While I completely agree with the facts of the story I feel like your comments were misinformed.

      1. John Owens says:

        Okay. We probably won’t be talking about this the next time another sect of the Mormons is arrested for having group marriages with underage girls, but I want YOU to remember what you just said. YOU are the misinformed one, probably because you choose to be.

    5. Mehgit (@mehgit) says:

      Polygamy, eh? Sort of like Moses & the other biblical fathers…. Lots more offensive behaviors than loving more than one spouse… .

      1. John Owens says:

        Moses only had one wife and never condoned polygamy. Just saying.

    6. Carol Howell says:

      No polygamy, one wife, no underage marriage, you are ignorant of the LDS Church history,

      1. John Owens says:

        You are ignorant by ignoring the offshoots of the Mormon Church, who DO practice polygamy and sometimes make headlines when they are arrested for their FUNDAMENTALIST practices.

    7. pablo Fumero says:

      That mormon … ahem… church has a history of mistreating women. They teach men superiority and women unable to earn grace in Heaven without the men. So when they protect abusive men, they are just following their … ahem… faith. People will believe just about any crap a church tells them.

    8. Rex R. Lippold says:

      How dare anyone accuse my church of such nonsense, I’ve been LDS all my life and have never seen anything that comes close to what is being said, We as a church the Church of Jesus Christ of Laterday Saints do not, I repeat, “DO NOT” practice polygamy, period. 150 years ago it “was” a commandment from our Father in Heaven for purposes of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints, not these so called Mormons you see on TV making fools of themselves , they are not associated with the Church in any way, 2. We cover up nothing , that is just not what we practice, Even I as a member have to realize that there is always someone not following the commandments and it hurts everyone, but that’s the person, not the Church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints. Pray for better answers to your questions and do a little research before posting accusation .

    9. Rex R. Lippold says:

      Your the perfect example of “Ignorance “. John.

      1. John Owens says:

        Rex Lippold, YOU are the ignoramus. I’ve seen them arrested on the news. It happened. It will happen again. Because that is part of the belief system. Moron.

  2. Greg says:

    It is apparent that that the devil is alive and well in the morman hierarchy and they seem to nurture it. It’s a shame .

  3. Diane Baum says:

    I was married for 25 years to an abuser. We were Catholic. When I went to a priest for counseling, all he did was talk to my then husband, quoted Scripture and then, my husband would come home, all indignant that I “told someone.” I finally left him and saw a different priest, telling him during Confession that I was seeking a divorce. His response? He said that I had to consider my husband’s soul and that if I divorced him, it would lead him to an occasion of adultery! Say WHAT? Responsible for HIS soul? What about MINE? Mine which had been so battered for so long that it was in shreds! That did it, I walked away from the Catholic church and have only gone back for funerals of friends or family. Jesus taught us to “love one another.” But if that love becomes tainted, run for the hills…and do not ever regret it!

    1. Jim says:

      Diane, good for you for two reasons. One, you got away from an abusive spouse, and two, you got away from an abusive church. If your faith is still important to you, remember that the two priests you spoke to are men, nothing more, and they have been taught from a playbook that is centuries old. Women were treated like property when that playbook was written. You’re better off without your ex and that church.

  4. T'Keren Valmaz says:

    Latter day Saints my shiny white hiney. There are only one true group of modern saints, The 3rd Street Saints!.

    But seriously folks, While I admit some of the nicest people at least on the surface Ive ever met where morons…oh cough excuse me I mean mormons obviously, They also where some of the most willfully ignorant and deluded people with a brick wall of faith between them and an open mind. Unable to accept or even comprhend people have differing views of faith no less valid.

    Many are hypocrites advocating islamicphobia because its not a real religion ignoring the many similarities their own faith endured only a hundred plus years ago.

    Its amazing how quickly people can forget their own history.

    1. Val Jester says:

      Again, please source your data from your previous post.

      1. T'Keren Valmaz says:

        Sorry Val but I have zero respect for yu based on your prior trollish posts Ive seen. The ULC did a fine article last year that starts the trail you need to follow if you really want to learn. But I suspect you wouldnt care no matter how much I might link and just call the articles biased as you only trust your own biased news sources.

        I also know since Ive seen your name altered at times that you more then likely change it to post under other names as well likely to act as support for your own posts.

        May the Darkness of the Void consume your heavenly soul and keep it safe in Oblivion.

        1. Val Jester says:

          Please lay of the cannibus. I have never changed my name and I have posted about four times. So a simple request for sourcing brings a barrage of empty accusations of being a troll? Please assure me that you possess more intellect than your words convey. When you finish fanning yourself and gasping, I would still appreciate your source. If there is none, just tell us.

          1. T'Keren Valmaz says:

            Really so its someone else using val jester and Valjester and valjester and not you changing your name back to it and mistyping it? That would be a big coincidence.

            As for 4 times? sorry Ive seen your name on these forums for months now.

          2. John Owens says:

            He did the same to me, Val, using very similar wording. He’s most likely heavily medicated, and a programmed malcontent. Heavy on discontent, very light on knowledge or fact.

        2. Mark L says:

          Sorry t kerem i agree w/ them.. Back your s_-t up.

  5. Chuck says:

    Ummmmm…Duh!!!!

    Mormonism is a Zionist (Satanic) cult and has been since the beginning. It has absolutely nothing to do with Christianity. The allegations of Satanism, child abuse, brainwashing through trauma and “sacrifice” have been going on forever, and very effectively covered up, to include some Utah governers covering it up.

    1. T'Keren Valmaz says:

      While I dont agree with your calling it satanism as the church of satan is perfectly open about its existence and members you are right that the mormons do consider them the modern chosen people like the jews and yes abuse to women and children is thick in their communities especially the more rural ones.

      SLC is justa cesspool of a place with too many churches. It makes Detroit look like paradise.

      1. Chuck says:

        The “Church of Satan” is more or less a gag to get people accustomed to the idea of Satanism being “normal” in society. The true Satanists hide behind organized religion. Wherever you see the word Zion, whether it be Jewish, Mormon, or any other denomination is talking about the Demiurge (False Old Testament God/Satan). I spent a few weeks at an Air Base in Utah and got exposed to the locals. They creeped me out at the time, and years later having gone back to school for psychology, I can more clearly understand what I was looking at. It is a straight up control mechanism cult. I also don’t think it a coincidence a lot of bodies turn up in Zion national park.

        1. T'Keren Valmaz says:

          You seem really confused as Jesus in the view of his followers was the son of that god you keep claiming is satan.

          Any theological scholar will be happy to explain that its the same god worshipped be it Jewish, Christian, or Muslim.

          Unless ofcourse you are saying that christians are actually Apollo followers as there is some interesting evidence to suggest the first pope was in fact a pagan follower of Apollo and built the entire catholic faith system to worship that god. Hence things like some of the oldest stained glass windows found in catholic churches putting a sun above all other figures.

          Frankly your own talk is no less creepy or culty then a mormons just an fyi.

  6. Val jester says:

    Under aged marriage is legal in every state, most with the permission of the parents. There is not one state that allows underaged marriage against the Minor child’s will. To assert differently is simply propagating an untruth.

    1. T'Keren Valmaz says:

      The childs consent is not remotely required as they are minors and have no right to consent nor deny it.

      1. John Owens says:

        Maybe not on your planet, but on ours, they cannot be forced to marry. Just FYI, this blog is being used on EARTH, mostly. Your Klingon customs do not play well here.

  7. Val jester says:

    Please just stop typing. You make yourself sound… well, not to bright. Case law and criminal disagrees with you.

  8. Ken Dixon says:

    “But this doesn’t seem to jive with behavior patterns within the church.”

    I think you mean “jibe with”. I suspect that there’s little if any “jive” happening in the LDS church.

  9. trish says:

    im still trying to find out how “trump is involved” per the little yellow tag under the original blog post states?. anyone?

    1. Charles says:

      He isn’t. Not sure why inflammatory political narratives based on falsehood needs to be passed on in this forum.

      1. Pastor Tony says:

        I agree move that conversation over to Facebook.

    2. Amber Fry says:

      In that he defended the man as innocent despite evidence is how he is involved.

      This seems to be the year to support and defend abuse victims. Good, it’s long past time for overall social shift to protect and defend.

      1. Charles says:

        So, we no longer have innocent until proven guilty as a core value? Frightening.

        Why not go ahead and impose a death sentence at the same time. Justice seems to be such a waste of time and effort.

    3. Lyn says:

      This man worked for the Trump administration and his secrets of being an abuser were kept by both Trump and his minions. As much as I admire the content of many of the posts here, it seems to be forgotten that this was a case of assault and battery of his spouses. Pathetic. If the LDS church WILL not police itself, and it is shown they will not protect their female members, the respect they receive should be removed. Why would anyone trust their word? Do we trust Catholics to police their own? No. And the LDS should not be treated any differently.

  10. Tim Barnebee says:

    There is too much hate in these posts, please , a little more introspection. And talk about grabbing the headlines to draw readers, it seems that unless President Trump was informed of this abusive behavior and did nothing, then he would share in our anger over these horrible actions. It only appears that another type of abuse was perpetrated by the author and editor of this story by alledging Trump was a party somehow to this matter.

    1. Porterhouse Carper says:

      Agreed …. and a result of this we will be terminating our membership

  11. kat2wolf says:

    This is disheartening. I haven’t logged in here in quite some time and I see political and religious attacks. I feel like I’m on Facebook…maybe less vulgar language.

  12. Mimi says:

    Just stop responding to fools, they can’t argue if there’s nobody to argue with.

  13. RVW says:

    I read this blog, now and then, and am so very disappointed in some comments, and disgusted with many. I notice that a good many of the more reasonable comments are rather brief. RVW

    1. Jim says:

      Yes, crazy tends to ramble.

  14. skipNclair says:

    About what one would expect from a phony religion. There was no need for anymore religions, after Christ died on the cross. So any and all that were formed after that date are phony. This phony one the Mormon, with its large fan base, is a real disgrace, as it gave up on some of its beliefs in order to gain statehood. So for the Mormorns, and the Muslim religions, how is my comment for politically correct?

  15. RAD Moose says:

    Some “churches” look at the downside for them as if the spouse that isn’t the breadwinner causes issues for the one that is, their income is going to go downhill.

  16. Keith Eash says:

    To anyone: This is not about the article above but just to clarify about Obama. It is true he was born in Kenya, not Hawaii. Also, his mother had denounced American citizenship before hevwas born, therefore he was not an American by birth and should not have been president. If they could find records on this he could still be arrested.
    Also, just to mention the Clintons and Obamas are the dirtiest politicians with so many cover ups up their sleeves and deaths. Hilary became Secretary of State only to appease het. BengazI affair pushed her out. Obama, no doubt was behind this election scandel involving the Russians. He didn’t want her elected. He’d rather have Trump.
    I realize this has nothing to do with the article above but the facts are there. You just have to do alot of digging to find them. It sounds like a conspiracy theory. All of these shootings, if the research is done could be tied to these liberal groups as a means to disarm America completely. Very hard to do because of the 2nd Amendment and the fact guns are are part of our culture. We are a revolutionary people because of this fact. Everything sounds like a conspiracy and I don’t buy that. There is so much cover up involved and no one really does investigative reporting any more. Those who do are looked at as idiots.

    1. John Owens says:

      Thank you, Keith.

    2. Cathe says:

      For God sakes find another topic to gripe about. Find a hobby, go pray for someone, volunteer time to a worthy cause. This is garbage.

  17. Bill Fox says:

    There is no criminal or civil documentation from the two ex-wives to support their accusations. This is why the FBI could not come to a conclusion that the charges were true. Had there been any documentation, the Secret Service would not have allowed the man to work around the President. If it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen. I’m sympathetic to the two ex-wives because there are financial reasons not to charge an existing husband with abuse. It does permanently damage his (or her) ability to earn a good living, thus alimony and property accumulation will be greatly reduced or non-existent.

  18. John Gile says:

    Please don’t jump to conclusions about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. My family has personally suffered an abusive relationship that our daughter went through with her abusive husband. It may not be realized by many but there are people in the world of a type or similar to a type called sociopaths. These are people who are VERY convincing in their talk and explaining away what they do to their spouses. Bishops in the church may not realize or have a reason to believe a wife is being abused. They are being lied to. We have personally witnessed it. But, at every point the church teaches that such conduct is never acceptable. I have been a member for over 45 years and know this is true. It may be said that if the church is true, this couldn’t happen. But even though a church authority and doctrine is true, it does not guarantee that members themselves are good or don’t make mistakes. If you want to know about something, please go to the source and find out before believing a negative report in a blog.

    1. Ken Dixon says:

      Well said. I’m not a member, but my friend of over 50 years is a bishop, and one of my sisters-in-law has raised three remarkable children to adulthood in the LDS faith. When I see “Mormon”, my thoughts are positive because of the examples they set for how to live one’s life..

      1. Keith Eash says:

        As with any faith, you have those who really live it, those who go through the motions but not really take it seriously, those who don’t practice at all but belong. I have met LDS in all three categories. I have met people in all christian denominations, and other religions exactly like I mentioned.

  19. Diane Baum says:

    After reading the above comments, it would seem that to mix politics and religion does nothing good for any one. The topic is about abuse, whether it is in a certain church, faith, creed, religion or nothing, the topic is about ABUSE. Women, yes but men also can be and do get abused. The goal is to prevent the abuse. How do we do that? We need to validate others. We need to be role models of positive support. We need to offer assistance to those who are in abusive relationships, to allow them to begin a new life free of the pain they endured while living with the abuser. No one deserves to be abused. Not in this or any other country and to hide behind a sect, cult, religion or whatever is certainly NOT why Jesus came in the first place! He came here as an example to others about what LOVE is…most certainly to show the men at that time how women are to be treated! If He were here now to read many of these comments, He would surely slap Himself upside the head! For those in a position of authority in churches, synagogues and more,listen up: when a person comes to you with a story of abuse, PLEASE do NOT tell them it was their fault, and most assuredly do not side with the abuser. Churches are to be a place of sanctuary, not a house of judgment for the one abused. Speaking from experience, it takes an abused person many years to recover…if at all. Let’s all show love for one another, let’s be a role model of courage and strength for those in need.

  20. Father Fred says:

    I think the Mormons often get a bad rap simply because of ancient history which propagates today like urban myths. (What is that about “Thou shalt not bear false witness”?) However, to be more blunt in this discussion, if each one of you were to vote on the age of consent, age of legal marriage, and age to bring children into the world, I would wager my best communion wine that we would literally have 100 different responses. As for the predator angle of this discussion, sure there are bad people. Just like there are bad people doing drugs and other vices. But I don’t think the few bad speak for the whole. And when it comes to making the argument for age, aren’t we simply offering our opinion, or is it based on laws or scripture?

  21. Rev. D J says:

    There is no excuse for abuse and, even worse, covering it up. No career is more important than a human life. Where is human compassion? How authentic is a religious leader or anyone else who thinks this is acceptable behavior?

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