Victim Sues LDS Church, Sex Abuser

Tuesday, July 2, 2002 BY ELIZABETH NEFF

A child sexual abuse victim filed suit against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Monday, accusing Mormon leaders of providing a safe harbor for the pedophile who abused him.

The plaintiff, identified only as A. Doe, claims defendant Mitchell Blake Young abused him between 1987 and 1992, when he was 6 to 12 years old. Young was convicted in 1993 of sexually abusing the boy and is serving a term of up to 15 years in Utah State Prison for the crime.

Filed late Monday in 3rd District Court, the suit names Young and his father, Gordon Young.

The suit alleges Gordon Young encouraged A. Doe's mother to entrust her children to Young for religious instruction, despite knowing his son was on probation for molesting children in Arizona.

The suit also alleges church leaders knew Young had sexually abused children for more than a decade when he began abusing A. Doe, who is a Salt Lake County resident now in his 20s.

The case is the latest in a string of lawsuits that accuse the LDS Church of failing to report sexual abuse of children to law enforcement.

Church spokesman Mike Otterson declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying he had not yet seen it. "We are determined to pursue child abuse in the church where it exists, and we have an unsurpassed record in doing it," Otterson said.

The church has said it encourages members to report abuse to law enforcement and now has a system that flags the membership records of those with any reported child abuse complaints. The church also set up a toll-free number for leaders to report abuse.

According to the lawsuit, Gordon Young and the LDS Church knew of Young's abuse of children as early as 1975. That year, the suit said, Gordon Young received complaints that his son had abused neighborhood children in the Butler 20th Ward in Salt Lake County.

In 1980, the church sent Young on a mission to the Whitefish Bay area of Canada, where the church received reports he was sexually abusing children from a nearby tribe, the suit said. The church recalled Young from the mission but failed to report him to authorities. Instead, he was "cured" through counseling and therapy, it said.

In 1985, in Maricopa County, Ariz., Young was convicted of sex crimes against two children, ages 4 and 7, and was sentenced to 5 years' probation. Then-Butler ward Bishop James H. Woodward wrote a letter to the judge volunteering to monitor and supervise Young and urging against a prison sentence. The letter did not disclose the church's prior knowledge of child abuse allegations against Young.

In 1986, Young met A. Doe's mother, a single woman in the Butler 20th Ward. Gordon Young hoped to "cure" his son by marrying him to the woman, who had just immigrated to the United States, the suit alleged.

Gordon Young told the mother his son was a religion instructor to gain her trust, the suit claims. Young was often left alone in his father's Utah home with her children, and there he sexually abused the plaintiff, the suit alleges.

Although church leaders knew Young's unsupervised contact with the plaintiff and his siblings was a violation of his Arizona probation, the contact was not reported, the lawsuit said.

In April 1988, Young pleaded guilty to new criminal charges of sexual misconduct with a group of four boys in the locker room of a Salt Lake City youth center. That information was deliberately concealed from the young mother by the Youngs and church leaders, and the abuse against her son continued, the lawsuit claims.

The suit asks for unspecified damages.

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