LDS Church leader, 98, decries abuse in global talk, but turns heads for sitting at the podium

LDS Church leader, 98, decries abuse in global talk, but turns heads for sitting at the podium

Russell M. Nelson, the 98-year-old president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, decried sexual abuse in a brief message to the group’s biannual General Conference Saturday in Salt Lake City.

In his brief Saturday morning address, the independent Salt Lake Tribune newspaper reported, Mr. Nelson decried abuse as “a grievous sin.” The remarks came after the Associated Press investigated claims that an LDS Church bishop, or local lay pastor, failed to report the case of a church member who confessed to raping his two young daughters to legal authorities.

“Let me be perfectly clear: Any kind of abuse of women, children or anyone is an abomination to the Lord,” Mr. Nelson added. “He grieves and I grieve whenever anyone is harmed. He mourns, and we all mourn, for each person who has fallen victim to abuse of any kind. Those who perpetrate these hideous acts are not only accountable to the laws of man but will also face the wrath of God.” 

Mr. Nelson, who became the oldest leader in LDS church history on April 14, was seated in a tall chair behind the lectern, something that quickly generated an official comment from the headquarters of the 16.8 million-member denomination.

The church — whose members are popularly known as Mormons — released a photo of the leader seated at the podium and directed inquirers to Mr. Nelson’s official Facebook page.

“Some noticed that I sat on a chair to deliver my message this morning. What a help that was!” he wrote. “I will admit that sometimes even small adjustments—such as a chair—help those of us who ‘age on stage’,’” he added.

“I may not ski black diamond runs anymore, but whether standing or seated, I delight in speaking and hearing words of truth,” Mr. Nelson said.

The meetings, which are held in April and October of each year and are broadcast globally, represent a gathering point for members of the church to hear spiritual messages from leaders.

Mr. Nelson, a noted heart surgeon and medical researcher before his full-time church service, turned 98 on Sept. 9. He became church president on Jan. 14, 2018, following the death of his predecessor, Thomas S. Monson, age 90.