A federal lawsuit filed by an American Indian who accused an LDS missionary of sexually abusing him in the 1960s has been resolved before going to trial. Summarized from media stories published July 26th, 2008 in the Deseret News, KXMB Channel 12 in Bismarck, ND, and KSL Channel 5. See my previous post for more background.
Fifty-three year old Ferris Joseph filed the civil case in federal court in South Dakota against the Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the LDS Church. He alleged that in 1968, when he was 11 or 12 years old, he was sexually abused by LDS missionary Robert Lewis White. However, he didn't remember it until he was told about it by his sister in October 2004. His sister is reportedly a devout member of the Church and should not be held responsible for what Joseph did with the information.
In a deposition transcript filed in court, White denied sexually abusing Joseph or any other boy and testified that he was celibate when he served in Flandreau in 1967 and 1968. LDS missionaries customarily are not allowed to be alone during their missions to better protect against bogus accusations of sexual abuse.
The main reason the trial had been delayed was so the South Dakota Supreme Court could decide whether the law dealing with the statute of limitations applies to the church as well as the alleged perpetrator. Because of a quirk in the law, the statute of limitations does not date back to the act itself, but dates back to three years after someone first "remembers" the act. The flip side is that it can render a person or the system hostage to someone's memory, which can easily be flawed. The controversial "recovered memory therapy" can easily implant false memories in people; one such person is the notorious ex-Mormon apostate Martha Beck, who, after psychiatric treatment, suddenly "decided" that her father, the distinguished LDS scholar Hugh Nibley, had "molested" her when she was a child, although her entire family denies it. Beck authored a salubrious anti-Mormon screed entitled "Leaving The Saints". [Ed. Note: I characterize Martha Beck as an apostate NOT because she left the Church, but because she continues to wage war against the Church. In contrast, Chad Hardy, who was recently excommunicated from the Church, is NOT an apostate because he took his excommunication like a man and expresses NO intent to wage war against the Church.]
However, the appeal to the South Dakota Supreme Court is now irrelevant because the LDS Church and Ferris Joseph have apparently resolved the dispute, so the federal magistrate judge has now dismissed it with both parties paying their own costs, according to the judgment. However, attorneys representing both sides refuse to comment on the terms or details of the resolution.
The failure of either side to discuss the terms of the agreement implies the possibility that the LDS Church caved in to what I call "judicial terrorism". This sets a dangerous precedent for the Church which is likely to be exploited by anyone wanting a quick buck. Already the Church is discussing a settlement with six Portland, Oregon men who sued the Church for $25 million over alleged "abuse". Notorious legal headhunter Kelly Clark is representing the interests of the "victims". And in February 2008, an unidentified Idaho man who suddenly "remembered" abuse after 40 year targeted the LDS Church and the Boy Scouts with a $5 million lawsuit.
I understand that the LDS Church leadership has profound respect for the tithes and offerings of the membership, and doesn't want to expend them frivolously, but if they don't start fighting these suits, they will be relentlessly and exponentially targeted by every loser and hustler who wants to parlay the abuse excuse into a lottery windfall. The grey corporate suits need to toughen up and start acting like Brigham Young would. The statute of limitations must also be changed to focus on the date of occurrence rather than the date of remembrance.