“Abuse,” Eternal Marriage Student Manual (2003), 3–8

“Abuse,” Eternal Marriage Student Manual, 3–8


Selected Teachings

Abuse Defined

“Abuse is the physical, emotional, sexual, or spiritual mistreatment of others. It may not only harm the body, but it can deeply affect the mind and spirit, destroying faith and causing confusion, doubt, mistrust, guilt, and fear” (Responding to Abuse: Helps for Ecclesiastical Leaders, 1).

President Gordon B. Hinckley

“I have in my office a file of letters received from women who cry out over the treatment they receive from their husbands in their homes. They tell of the activity of some of these men in Church responsibilities. They even speak of men holding temple recommends. And they speak of abuse, both subtle and open. They tell of husbands who lose their tempers and shout at their wives and children. They tell of men who demand offensive intimate relations. They tell of men who demean them and put them down and of fathers who seem to know little of the meaning of patience and forbearance with reference to their children” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1990, 68; or Ensign, May 1990, 52).

Elder James E. Faust

“Any form of physical or mental abuse to any woman is not worthy of any priesthood holder. … This, of course, means verbal as well as physical abuse” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1988, 44; or Ensign, May 1988, 37).

Policy toward Abuse

President Ezra Taft Benson

“A priesthood holder who would curse his wife, abuse her with words or actions, or do the same to one of his own children is guilty of grievous sin.

“‘Can ye be angry, and not sin?’ asked the Apostle Paul (Joseph Smith Translation, Ephesians 4:26)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1983, 61–62; or Ensign, Nov. 1983, 42).

“If a man does not control his temper, it is a sad admission that he is not in control of his thoughts. He then becomes a victim of his own passions and emotions, which lead him to actions that are totally unfit for civilized behavior, let alone behavior for a priesthood holder” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 62; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 47).

“What does it mean to love someone with all our hearts? It means with all our emotional feelings and our devotion. Surely when you love your wife with all your heart, you cannot demean her, criticize her, find fault with her, nor abuse her by words, sullen behavior, or actions” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1983, 63; or Ensign, Nov. 1983, 43).

President Howard W. Hunter

“Any man who abuses or demeans his wife physically or spiritually is guilty of grievous sin and in need of sincere and serious repentance” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 64; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 51).

President Gordon B. Hinckley

“Question 6: What about spouse and child abuse? …

“We are doing all we know how to do to stamp out this terrible evil. When there is recognition of equality between the husband and the wife, when there is acknowledgment that each child born into the world is a child of God, then there will follow a greater sense of responsibility to nurture, to help, to love with an enduring love those for whom we are responsible.

“No man who abuses his wife or children is worthy to hold the priesthood of God. No man who abuses his wife or children is worthy to be a member in good standing in this Church. The abuse of one’s spouse and children is a most serious offense before God, and any who indulge in it may expect to be disciplined by the Church” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1998, 92–93; or Ensign, Nov. 1998, 72).

Causes of Abuse

President Ezra Taft Benson

“Another face of pride is contention. Arguments, fights, unrighteous dominion, generation gaps, divorces, spouse abuse, riots, and disturbances all fall into this category of pride” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1989, 5; or Ensign, May 1989, 6).

President Gordon B. Hinckley

“I am glad that there is a growing public awareness of this insidious evil. The exploitation of children, or the abuse of one’s spouse, for the satisfaction of sadistic desires is sin of the darkest hue” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1985, 67; or Ensign, Nov. 1985, 51).

Avoiding Abuse

President Ezra Taft Benson

“To our temperance we are to add patience. A priesthood holder is to be patient. Patience is another form of self-control. It is the ability to postpone gratification and to bridle one’s passions. In his relationships with loved ones, a patient man does not engage in impetuous behavior that he will later regret. Patience is composure under stress. A patient man is understanding of others’ faults” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 62; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 47).

President Gordon B. Hinckley

“There must be self-discipline that constrains against abuse of wife and children and self. There must be the Spirit of God, invited and worked for, nurtured and strengthened. There must be recognition of the fact that each is a child of God—father, mother, son, and daughter, each with a divine birthright—and also recognition of the fact that when we offend one of these, we offend our Father in Heaven” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1991, 97; or Ensign, May 1991, 74).

“Question: ‘What are you doing to reduce [child abuse]?’

“Response: ‘We are doing everything we know how to reduce it. We are teaching our people. We are talking about it. We have set up a course of instruction for our bishops all across the nation. All last year we carried on an educational program. We have set up a help-line for them where they can get professional counseling and help with these problems. We have issued a journal dealing with child abuse, spouse abuse, abuse of the elderly, the whole problem of abuse. We are concerned about it. I am deeply concerned about the victims. My heart reaches out to them. I want to do everything we can to ease the pain, to preclude the happening of this evil and wicked thing. … I know of no other organization in this world that has taken more exhaustive measures, tried harder, done more to tackle this problem, to work with it, to do something to make a change. We recognize the terrible nature of it, and we want to help our people, reach out to them, assist them’” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1996, 72; or Ensign, Nov. 1996, 51).

Elder Neal A. Maxwell

“Familial patterns of abuse and unrighteous parental dominion obviously affect us profoundly. But these need not enslave future generations. Deprivation does not mean automatic and perpetual ruination. Emancipation is possible. God can heal us, if we will submit to him. This is not to diminish the degree of difficulty encountered in bringing about desired change, but in that very difficulty lies the need for faith and patience” (Not My Will, But Thine, 62–63).

Elder H. Burke Peterson

“The Man of Power is one who presides—

“By persuasion. He uses no demeaning words or behavior, does not manipulate others, appeals to the best in everyone, and respects the dignity and agency of all humankind—men, women, boys, and girls.

“By long-suffering. He waits when necessary and listens to the humblest or youngest person. He is tolerant of the ideas of others and avoids quick judgments and anger.

“By gentleness. He uses a smile more often than a frown. He is not gruff or loud or frightening; he does not discipline in anger.

“By meekness. He is not puffed up, does not dominate conversations, and is willing to conform his will to the will of God.

“By love unfeigned. He does not pretend. He is sincere, giving honest love without reservation even when others are unlovable.

“By kindness. He practices courtesy and thoughtfulness in little things as well as in the more obvious things.

“By pure knowledge. He avoids half-truths and seeks to be empathetic.

“Without hypocrisy. He practices the principles he teaches. He knows he is not always right and is willing to admit his mistakes and say ‘I’m sorry.’

“Without guile. He is not sly or crafty in his dealings with others, but is honest and authentic when describing his feelings. …

“Each husband, each father, should ask some questions of himself to see if he may be on the borderline of unrighteous dominion:

  1. Do I criticize family members more than I compliment them?

  2. Do I insist that family members obey me because I am the father or husband and hold the priesthood?

  3. Do I seek happiness more at work or somewhere other than in my home?

  4. Do my children seem reluctant to talk to me about some of their feelings and concerns?

  5. Do I attempt to guarantee my place of authority by physical discipline or punishment?

  6. Do I find myself setting and enforcing numerous rules to control family members?

  7. Do family members appear to be fearful of me?

  8. Do I feel threatened by the notion of sharing with other family members the power and responsibility for decision making in the family?

  9. Is my wife highly dependent on me and unable to make decisions for herself?

  10. Does my wife complain that she has insufficient funds to manage the household because I control all the money?

  11. Do I insist on being the main source of inspiration for each individual family member rather than teaching each child to listen to the Spirit?

  12. Do I often feel angry and critical toward family members?

“If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then we may need to evaluate our relationship with our family members. For one who holds the priesthood, the best test as to whether he is trying to control the lives of family members can be found by examining his relationship with the Lord. If a man feels a reduction or withdrawal of the Holy Ghost (manifested by contention, disunity, or rebellion), he may know that he is exercising unrighteous dominion” (“Unrighteous Dominion,” Ensign, July 1989, 10–11).

Sister Aileen H. Clyde

“If charity is not always quick to our understanding, it may occasionally be quick to our misunderstanding. It is not charity or kindness to endure any type of abuse or unrighteousness that may be inflicted on us by others. God’s commandment that as we love him we must respect ourselves suggests we must not accept disrespect from others. It is not charity to let another repeatedly deny our divine nature and agency. It is not charity to bow down in despair and helplessness. That kind of suffering should be ended, and that is very difficult to do alone. There are priesthood leaders and other loving servants who will give aid and strength when they know of the need. We must be willing to let others help us” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1991, 107; or Ensign, Nov. 1991, 77).