Today is Maundy Thursday — the day in Holy Week when Christ presided at the Last Supper and washed the feet of his disciples.
The sacred act was a preface, a sign of what was to come as Christ lowered himself to not only kneel before his followers but to accomplish the lowly task, the women’s work, of cleaning the corrupt body.
He anointed them. He cleansed them. He ordained them.
And don’t imagine for a second that only men were present.
It is time again for Maundy Thursday. Time again for humility, and service and cleansing. Of ourselves, and the body of the church.
Last week MormonLeaks released a recording that a woman made as she interviewed her former president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Missionary Training Center (MTC), Joseph L. Bishop. It has been more than 30 years since he allegedly befriended her, brought her down to a basement room in the MTC and sexually assaulted her.
The woman says he tried to rape her. He has only admitted to asking to see her breasts, and to giving a “frisky” back rub to another sister missionary. Obviously, any of the above activity was at the least inappropriate, and perhaps criminal, for an ecclesiastical leader to participate in with a young woman under his authority and stewardship.
Even worse, though, has been the LDS Church’s response to this woman’s plight. She has reported his behavior to multiple bishops and stake presidents over the last 30 years. She has spoken with a general authority about it. She has called church headquarters to plead with them, and to find out what, if any, discipline Bishop received.
The truth is, the church never disciplined Bishop. Various leaders along the way failed to believe the woman’s story of an MTC basement room and a predatory president. Church members continued to sustain him each year in whatever priesthood calling he enjoyed. His ward members continued to sustain him as a high priest.
Nobody sustained the woman. We, as church members, abandoned her. We let her mourn and despair alone. We ignored her pleas for fairness and recognition.
We watched her leave the church, and then we blamed her for doing so.
How many more women and children have lived with such burdens, and for how long? Since this story broke last week, The Salt Lake Tribune alone has received numerous other stories of sexual abuse and harassment in church settings. Perhaps even 30-40 years’ worth.
It is devastating.
The Catholic Church had its own spotlight on abuse of authority and sexual sin. This is ours, except we are decades behind the curve.
Many are attacking the media, as they did during the Catholic Church’s scandal, as glorifying some sort of bias against the LDS Church.
I am not biased against the church that I love. I am biased against attacks on women. I am biased against cover-ups. I am biased against victimizing victims. And I am biased against hypocrisy.
Of course the LDS Church did not endorse Bishop’s sins, just as the Catholic Church did not endorse the predatory nature of a few of its bishops. But the Catholic Church’s slowness to respond gave sanctuary and opportunity to more abuse.
And we don’t have to make that same mistake.
This week is Holy Week. This week is the time Christians around the world pause to remember, seek forgiveness, and rejoice in grace and hope.
This week is also General Conference for the LDS Church — the biannual meeting of the general church membership. Regular meetings are canceled, and we gather as families and congregations to listen to messages from the general leadership, who are, ironically, mostly male.
Mary of Magdalene was the first to witness the risen savior. Many, including Christ’s chosen disciples, did not believe her good news. It was too terrible to imagine that he did not lie in the tomb. It was too impossible. Too incredible. But it was.
Eve was first to understand the importance of leaving the Garden of Eden. Mary the Mother was the first to receive revelation that Christ’s mortal mission was about to begin.
Women ushered in the gospel of Christ at almost every opportunity. Because women believe.
In return, maybe for the first time, we should believe women.
During this General Conference, if we hear about the evils of pornography but not the sin of abuse, our hearts will break.
If we hear about the mistakes of men but not of the church, our esteem will lessen.
I hope we hear that we all need grace, forgiveness and hope, including the body of Christ.