SALT LAKE CITY — The LDS Church is responding to media reports that cite accusations of misconduct against sister missionaries by a mission president in Puerto Rico in 2014.
Philander Knox Smartt III was removed after less than a year as president of the Puerto Rico San Juan Mission.
“We feel profound sorrow for what each of these women has experienced. It is particularly heartbreaking that they have suffered because of the actions of a man who should have been a trusted priesthood leader. As followers of Jesus Christ, we want to do all within our power to both alleviate suffering and prevent abuse,” Eric Hawkins, a spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said in a statement.
“This is a tragic and heartbreaking case of deception and betrayal that has impacted many lives. When church leaders learned of what had occurred, the mission president was immediately and dishonorably released from his position, sent home and excommunicated from the church. The victims, as adults, chose not to pursue criminal charges,” Hawkins continued.
“The mission president was replaced by a general authority who was sent to minister to those who had been affected. The sister missionaries who had been deceived and victimized were provided with ecclesiastical and emotional counseling, which continues to be offered to this time. The wife and family of the mission president have been assisted by the church with the legal, emotional and personal consequences resulting from the immoral and sinful behavior of one man.
“We continue to ask members and leaders to embrace those harmed by such tragic situations with love, help and the hope available through Jesus Christ,” Hawkins wrote.
Church officials did not elaborate on what Smartt was accused of doing.
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