SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) — A new policy introduced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints requires background checks for any leaders who serve with children, youth, or vulnerable adults.
This comes after years of pushing for change from church members in the U.K. According to a website for the “21st Century Saints,” (a podcast for members interested and affiliated with the church) the podcast hosts have been contacted by many members who have been affected by physical, emotional, and sexual abuse within the context of the church.
According to their website, they have launched a campaign to help support the church in improving and implementing practices to keep children and vulnerable adults safe from abuse.
It seems that the campaign has had some success in the U.K., as the church is introducing a new policy aimed to solve those problems.
According to a letter from Europe North Area Presidency, the updated policy introduces a “mandatory DBS” (Disclosure and Barring Service) for anyone serving with younger and vulnerable members. They stated the policy also “[ensures] that individuals with a history of violent or abusive behavior are not allowed to work with vulnerable people.”
Douglas Stilgoe, “Nemo the Mormon” podcast host and an outspoken advocate for this new policy said he hopes this will lead to change in other countries.
“We have these close-knit communities where people trust one another. They treat it like an extended family, but you don’t really know these people. And so, you know, this idea of discernment within Mormonism has clearly let us down up to this point,” Stilgoe said. “It’s time now to step in and actually do some proper checking for the safety of those children.”
The Church has released the following statement:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has zero-tolerance for any form of abuse. To strengthen existing prevention measures, the Church has updated safeguarding policies and procedures in the United Kingdom, Channel Islands, and Isle of Man.
The Europe North Area Presidency called on all Church members to create a positive environment for the young and vulnerable. In a letter to the Church’s Area, regional, and local leaders based in the UK and the Crown Dependencies they said, “As disciples of the Lord and leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have a sacred responsibility to care for and protect our children, youth, and any other vulnerable members so that everyone may feel safe and protected.”
Updated procedures announced within the document ‘Safeguarding Policies and Procedures of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the United Kingdom’ include:
- Introduction of mandatory DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checking for those serving with children, youth or vulnerable adults, ensuring that individuals with a history of violent or abusive behaviour are not allowed to work with vulnerable people.
- Calling and training of Stake Safeguarding Specialists, responsible for multiple congregations.
- Enhanced training and education involving Family Services on safeguarding and abuse prevention, and recognising signs of abuse and responding appropriately.
- A lesson for all adults attending local congregations, to reinforce safeguarding principles with ward members, under the direction of the bishop.
- Stressing current reporting obligations and the role of the abuse help line, always maintaining open communication and transparency in all matters related to safeguarding.
The Church’s existing policies and procedures and the doctrines that underpin safeguarding measures are contained in the General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and in other Church materials.
The Europe North Area Presidency invited “all members and leaders to join with us in creating a safe and nurturing environment for all members of the Church and those others who worship with us. Together, we can uphold our sacred responsibility to protect and care for one another.”
The church has not announced whether they will be introducing any of these policy changes Globally.