Spouse and Child Abuse

by W. John Walsh



  “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and [that] he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” [1]


Latter-day Saints believe that those who physically, emotionally, sexually, or spiritually abuse other people “violate the laws of both God and society.” [2]   Where necessary, “Church disciplinary procedures may need to be instituted to help abusers repent and to protect innocent persons.” [3]


Since abuse is normally used as a way to demonstrate power and control over another person,  and thus deprive them of their agency, it is antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  While abusers can be forgiven if they truly repent, the road to forgiveness is “a very difficult, long, agonizing process and is usually embarrassing.” [4]   Few abusers complete the repentance process and most face the damnation of hell. [5]


Abuse is not limited to the most egregious forms of behavior. Inouye and Thomas noted:  “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.” [6]   President Gordon B. Hinckley has often spoken out against abuse:


“There appears to be a plague of child abuse spreading across the world. Perhaps it has always been with us but has not received the attention it presently receives. I am glad there is a hue and cry going up against this terrible evil, too much of which is found among our own. Fathers, you cannot abuse your little ones without offending God. Any man involved in an incestuous relationship is unworthy to hold the priesthood. He is unworthy to hold membership in the Church and should be dealt with accordingly. Any man who beats or in other ways abuses his children will be held accountable before the great judge of us all. If there be any within the sound of my voice who are guilty of such practices, let them repent forthwith, make amends where possible, develop within themselves that discipline which can curb such evil practices, plead with the Lord for forgiveness, and resolve within their hearts henceforth to walk with clean hands.”  (CR Apr 1985)


“I feel likewise that it ill becomes any man who holds the priesthood of God to abuse his wife in any way, to demean or injure or take undue advantage of the woman who is the mother of his children, the companion of his life, and his companion for eternity if he has received that greater blessing. Let us deal in kindness and with appreciation with those for whom the Lord will hold us accountable.”  (CR Oct 1982)


“I do not hesitate to say that no one who is a professed follower of Christ, and no one who is a professed member of Christ's Church, can engage in the abuse of children without offending God, who is their Father, and repudiating the teachings of the Savior and his prophets.... Discipline with severity or with cruelty inevitably leads not to correction but to resentment and bitterness. It cures nothing; it only aggravates the problem. It is self-defeating.” (Ensign, June 1985)


“Then there is the terrible, inexcusable, and evil phenomenon of physical and sexual abuse. It is unnecessary. It is unjustified. It is indefensible.” (CR Oct 1994)


“And then there is the terrible, vicious practice of sexual abuse. It is beyond understanding. It is an affront to the decency that ought to exist in every man and woman. It is a violation of that which is sacred and divine. It is destructive in the lives of children. It is reprehensible and worthy of the most severe condemnation. Shame on any man or woman who would sexually abuse a child. In doing so, the abuser not only does the most serious kind of injury. He or she also stands condemned before the Lord.... If there be any within the sound of my voice who may be guilty of such practice, I urge you with all of the capacity of which I am capable to stop it, to run from it, to get help, to plead with the Lord for forgiveness and make amends to those whom you have offended. God will not be mocked concerning the abuse of his little ones.” (CR Oct 1994)


In conclusion, abuse of any kind is a grievous sin and perpetrators will eventually be held accountable before God for their heinous actions.

(See Basic Beliefs home page; Teachings About the Family home page)

[1] Matthew 18:6, The Holy Bible, The King James Version, Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1987.


[2] “Abuse, Spouse and Child,” Jeanne B. Inouye and Robert K. Thomas.  Encyclopedia of Mormonism, New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992.


[3]   “Abuse, Spouse and Child,” Jeanne B. Inouye and Robert K. Thomas.  Encyclopedia of Mormonism, New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992.


[4] Kimball, S., The Miracle of Forgiveness.  Salt Lake City, Utah:  Bookcraft, 1969, p. 220.


[5] All those people who sincerely and truly repent will be saved in the celestial kingdom of God. (See Smith, Joseph Fielding, Doctrines of Salvation Vol. 2, Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1954, p.132 - p.133)  Unfortunately, most people will not repent.  “Most of the adult people who have lived from the day of Adam to the present time will go to the telestial kingdom.” (McConkie, B., Mormon Doctrine, Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1966, p. 778.)  Before receiving the telestial glory, all of its inhabitants “are thrust down to hell” (D&C 76:84) to pay for their personal sins. 


[6] “Abuse, Spouse and Child,” Jeanne B. Inouye and Robert K. Thomas.  Encyclopedia of Mormonism, New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992.