No man who has been ordained to the priesthood of God can with impunity abuse his wife or child. Sexual abuse of children has long been a cause for excommunication from the Church.
Unfortunately a few of you may be married to men who are abusive. Some of them put on a fine face before the world during the day and come home in the evening, set aside their self-discipline, and on the slightest provocation fly into outbursts of anger.
No man who engages in such evil and unbecoming behavior is worthy of the priesthood of God. No man who so conducts himself is worthy of the privileges of the house of the Lord. I regret that there are some men undeserving of the love of their wives and children. There are children who fear their fathers, and wives who fear their husbands. If there be any such men within the hearing of my voice, as a servant of the Lord I rebuke you and call you to repentance. Discipline yourselves. Master your temper. Most of the things that make you angry are of very small consequence. And what a terrible price you are paying for your anger. Ask the Lord to forgive you. Ask your wife to forgive you. Apologize to your children.
“The home is the seedbed of Saints. There are not enough good homes. Children still come to some homes where they will be abused, not loved, and not taught the truth.
We are greatly concerned with the fact that the press continues to report many cases of child abuse. We are much concerned that there would be a single parent that would inflict damages on a child. The Lord loved little children, and he said:
‘Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matt. 19:14.)
Let no Latter-day Saint parent ever be guilty of the heinous crime of abusing one of Christ’s little ones!”
As you know, we have recently issued a booklet on child abuse. We deplore this terrible thing which seems to be growing in the world. Of course, it is not new. It has gone on for generations. It is serious, and we so regard it. Sexual abuse of children on the part of fathers, or anyone else, has long been a cause for excommunication from the Church. No man who has been ordained to the priesthood of God can with impunity indulge in either spouse or child abuse. Such activity becomes an immediate repudiation of his right to hold and exercise the priesthood and to retain membership in the Church.
I am glad that there is a growing public awareness of this insidious evil. The exploitation of children, or the abuse of one’s spouse, for the satisfaction of sadistic desires is sin of the darkest hue.
“The bodies and minds and morals of increasing numbers of little children are brutalized and abused by those who should protect them.
In it all, mankind has sown a bitter wind and reaps heartbreak, guilt, abandonment, divorce, addiction, disease, and death; and little children suffer.
If these sins remain unchecked, civilization will be led unfailingly to destruction.”
“A physician revealed to me the large number of children who are brought to the emergency rooms of local hospitals in your city and mine. In many cases guilty parents provide fanciful accounts of the child falling from his high chair or stumbling over a toy and striking his head. Altogether too frequently it is discovered that the parent was the abuser and the innocent child the victim. Shame on the perpetrators of such vile deeds. God will hold such strictly accountable for their actions.”
Permit me to read from another letter. Said the writer: “My husband is a good man with many outstanding qualities and character traits, but underneath it all there is a strong streak of authoritarianism. … His volatile temper flares up often enough to remind me of all the potential ugliness of which he is capable.
“President Hinckley, … please remind the brethren that the physical and verbal abuse of women is INEXCUSABLE, NEVER ACCEPTABLE, AND A COWARDLY WAY OF DEALING WITH DIFFERENCES, especially and particularly despicable if the abuser is a priesthood holder.”
“Any man in this church who abuses his wife, who demeans her, who insults her, who exercises unrighteous dominion over her is unworthy to hold the priesthood. In the marriage companionship there is neither inferiority nor superiority. The woman does not walk ahead of the man, neither does the man walk ahead of the woman. They walk side by side as a son and daughter of God on an eternal journey.”
Surely after all of the history we have read, after all of the suffering of which we have been told, after all of the exploitation of which we are aware, we can do more than we are now doing to lift the blight that condemns millions of children to lives that know little of happiness, that are tragically brief, and that are filled with pain.
And we need not travel halfway across the earth to find weeping children. Countless numbers of them cry out in fear and loneliness from the evil consequences of moral transgression, neglect, and abuse. I speak plainly, perhaps indelicately. But I know of no other way to make clear a matter about which I feel so strongly.