In wake of reports of misconduct by a mission president in Puerto Rico circa 2014, the LDS church has released a statement Thursday morning, April 26.
“This is a tragic and heartbreaking case of deception and betrayal that has impacted many lives,” Eric Hawkins, a spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said in the Church’s statement. “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.
“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.”
Philander Knox Smartt III had served for under a year as president of the Puerto Rico San Juan Mission before being relieved of his duties in 2014 due to unspecified conduct with missionaries, according to Deseret News.
Elder W. Craig Zwick, a General Authority at the time, replaced Smartt as interim president of the mission until President Bruce Boucher was called to replaced Smartt as mission president.
“We feel profound sorrow for what each of these women has experienced,” Hawkins continued in the statement. “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.”