SALT LAKE CITY -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will require all leaders who oversee youth and children to complete training to prevent and respond to abuse, the church announced Friday
The online training will initially launch in North America, with other areas to follow. The training will be completed as new leaders receive assignments to work with children and youth.
“We take Jesus Christ’s teachings about children and youth very seriously,” said Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary general president. “He welcomed them into His presence and gave stern warnings against abusing, bullying or hurting them in any way. Jesus said of children, ‘Of such is the kingdom of God’ [Mark 10:14]. His deep concern for children and youth must continue to be our deep concern.”
Friday's announcement included references to Jesus Christ's love for children and the statement: "His Church does not tolerate abuse of any kind."
Church leaders sent a notice indicating all leaders in the following positions are asked to complete the training:
- Stake and district presidencies, bishoprics and branch presidencies
- High councilors
- Stake, district, ward, and branch Primary, Young Women, Young Men and Sunday School and Relief Society presidencies; elders quorum presidencies
- Secretaries, teachers, advisers, camp leaders, activity day leaders, music leaders, pianists and others serving in positions in the Primary,
- Young Women and Young Men organizations
- Teachers of youth Sunday School and seminary classes
The release also states that Latter-day Saint leaders registered in Scouting should also complete the youth protection training required by that group for 2019 before the faith ends its participation with the BSA in 2020.
Parents are also encouraged to complete the training, which is available here.
The release states:
"The training is designed to increase awareness, highlight policies and identify best practices for supervising and interacting with children and youth. It also helps leaders know how to prevent and respond to abuse. Leaders and specialists from child protection organizations, family therapists and other professionals participated in the creation and evaluation of the new training."
The new system includes notifications for local leaders regarding the members who need to complete the training, who should "ensure that members access and complete the training."
The Latter-day Saint faith has faced criticism regarding leaders' interactions with children, including an organized effort called "Protect LDS Children" that focused on doing away with one-on-one worthiness interviews between bishops and youth.
Sam Young, a former bishop and the founder of the group, said it's a step in the right direction.
“Score one for the children,” he told Fox 13 from his office in Houston. “This is really good.”
However, he argued it doesn’t go far enough.
“I’m looking at 30 minutes? Really? That’s what our training is? How important are our children? We are going to train people for 30 minutes,” Young said.
Craig Vernon, an attorney who represents people who sued the church over abuse allegations, also praises the training but believes it's not enough.
“In addition to telling people that it won’t tolerate abuse, the Church needs to show it as well. Protecting sexual predators harms survivors and puts others at risk. This must stop," he told FOX13 in a statement. "Youth leaders need to be directed to report abuse crimes directly to the police/child protective services and then report to bishops.”
The training begins with multiple-choice questions about situations adults may have with children during church services and activities.
“Sister Brimley is about to start her Sunday school class and there is only one young woman present. What should she do,” asked the first question.
Latter-day Saint leaders say they worked with child abuse specialists and other professionals to identify best practices on how to prevent and respond abuse.
In a statement, Young Men General President Stephen Owen said quote, “We…must do all in our power to bless and protect each child entrusted to our care. This online training is one important way we can help ensure our children have the loving parents and devoted leaders they deserve and need.”
Members will access the training by logging onto their church profile, so completed training can be tracked. Parents are also encouraged to participate.