LDS church issues statement on former mission president accused of abusing young women

FILE: The LDS Church's Salt Lake City Temple.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement Thursday about a mission president who was dishonorably released and excommunicated following allegations of abuse in 2014.

A church spokesman confirmed Philander Knox Smartt III was removed from his position as a mission president in Puerto Rico after LDS church officials received reports of “deception and betrayal” and “immoral and sinful behavior.”

The exact nature of the accusations was not disclosed. The alleged victims, all of whom were over the age of 18, did not press charges, the church spokesman confirmed.

“We feel profound sorrow for what each of these women has experienced. It is particularly heartbreaking that they have suffered because of the actions of a man who should have been a trusted priesthood leader. As followers of Jesus Christ, we want to do all within our power to both alleviate suffering and prevent abuse,” the statement said.

Read the full statement below:

“We feel profound sorrow for what each of these women has experienced. It is particularly heartbreaking that they have suffered because of the actions of a man who should have been a trusted priesthood leader. As followers of Jesus Christ, we want to do all within our power to both alleviate suffering and prevent abuse.”

“This is a tragic and heartbreaking case of deception and betrayal that has impacted many lives. When Church leaders learned of what had occurred, the mission president was immediately and dishonorably released from his position, sent home and excommunicated from the Church. The victims, as adults, chose not to pursue criminal charges. The mission president was replaced by a General Authority who was sent to minister to those who had been affected. The sister missionaries who had been deceived and victimized were provided with ecclesiastical and emotional counseling, which continues to be offered to this time. The wife and family of the mission president have been assisted by the Church with the legal, emotional and personal consequences resulting from the immoral and sinful behavior of one man. We continue to ask members and leaders to embrace those harmed by such tragic situations with love, help, and the hope available through Jesus Christ.”