Abuse, Spouse and Child

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Abuse is behavior that deliberately threatens or injures another person. It may be physical, emotional, or sexual. Some forms of physical and emotional abuse include beatings, neglect, and threats of abandonment. While it also may take varied forms, sexual abuse of another adult usually involves the use of force or intimidation to coerce sexual activity. Sexual abuse of a child, on the other hand, includes any sexual behavior between the child and someone in a position of power, trust, or control (see Child Abuse: Helps for Ecclesiastical Leaders, Salt Lake City, 1985).

Individuals who abuse their spouses or children violate the laws of both God and society. Church leaders have counseled that even more subtle forms of abuse are evil-among them, shouting at or otherwise demeaning family members and demanding offensive intimate relations from one’s spouse (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Keeping the Temple Holy,” Ensign 20 [May 1990]:52). Church members guilty of abusing others are directed to seek the counsel of their bishops and, where necessary, professional help. Church disciplinary procedures may need to be instituted to help abusers repent and to protect innocent persons.

While the causes of abuse are myriad and complex, all forms of abusive behavior are antithetical to the spirit of service and sacrifice exemplified in the life of the Savior Jesus Christ. Because it is often designed to control another person, abuse is inconsistent with agency, which is central to God’s Plan of Salvation. In a revelation given in 1839, the Lord said, “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned” (D&C 121:41). Abuse is a serious sin and cannot be ignored, but abusers can be forgiven when they truly repent.

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