The Pace memorandum was a 1990 memorandum written by Glenn L. Pace, a general authority in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), describing to a committee of the church the complaints of sixty members of the church that claimed they had been subjected to satanic ritual abuse (SRA) by family members and other members of the church. The state of Utah conducted a 30-month investigation of the claims after the Pace memorandum was leaked to the press in 1991, concluding that there was no evidence found to substantiate the testimony of the alleged victims.
The SRA moral panic began in the 1980s as children in the United States, subjected to coercive interviewing techniques at the hands of zealous social workers, made unsubstantiated allegations of bizarre Satanic rituals and horrific sexual and physical abuse at the hands of day care workers. As the decade unfolded, clients of believing therapists began to make similar allegations, which are now generally seen as confabulations caused by iatrogenic therapeutic techniques such as hypnosis and automatic writing rather than the discovery of repressed memories. Despite the similarities between the allegations of adults and children, investigations produced only circumstantial, and in many cases contradictory evidence of the patients' disclosures. The court cases surrounding SRA allegations (such as the iconic McMartin preschool trial) were among the most expensive and lengthy in history and produced no convictions or convictions based solely on the testimony of children that were frequently overturned or dismissed upon appeal. The panic subsided in the late 1990s, but in the early 1990s while it was still a substantial concern, adherents in the LDS Church began telling leaders of the church that they had been subjected to SRA by their relatives—often parents—and other members of the church.
The Pace memorandum
In July 1990, Pace, who at the time was a member of the church's presiding bishopric, fulfilled a request by the church's Strengthening Church Members Committee by writing a memorandum about his investigations into alleged incidents of SRA among Latter-day Saints in Utah, Idaho, California, Mexico, and elsewhere. The memorandum was leaked to the press in October 1991. In his memo, Pace stated that he had met with sixty victims who had recovered memories of ritualistic abuse during their childhood. Pace reported that children were being "instructed in satanic doctrine" and that as eight-year-olds they were "baptized by blood into the satanic order which is meant to cancel out their baptism into the Church". Forty-five of Pace's witnesses claimed to have witnessed or participated in human sacrifice, including the killing of babies. Pace said that the alleged perpetrators included "Young Women leaders, Young Men leaders, bishops, a patriarch, a stake president, temple workers, and members of the Tabernacle Choir" and that some of the abuse took place in church meetinghouses. Pace wrote that "when sixty witnesses testify to the same type of torture and murder, it becomes impossible for me, personally, not to believe them."
Pace compared these allegations to stories in LDS Church scriptures about secret combinations and Cain's combination with Satan to become Master Mahan. Pace also suggested that the alleged abusers were using and corrupting the oaths in the church's temple endowment ceremony as part of the Satanic abuse, and that many victims had flashbacks when they attended the temple for the first time and were asked to participate in the ceremonies.
In 1991, the Utah State Legislature appropriated $250,000 for the Attorney General's office to investigate the RSA allegations in the state of Utah. Over a 2 1⁄2-year span, the investigators interviewed hundreds of alleged victims, but none of the incidents reported were corroborated with any evidence beyond their testimony, and the 1995 report stated that there was no evidence from any of the alleged victims that would warrant an investigation of homicide. Mike King, the coauthor of the report, told news media that the specific accusations against church leaders were "absurd", and Jerry Lazar, the head of psychiatry at LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City, said he "has never been able to independently verify memories of satanic ritual abuse".
The LDS Church has made no official statement related to the allegations related in the Pace memorandum. However, one commentator has suggested that apostle Richard G. Scott's sermon in the April 1992 general conference of the church may have been related to the SRA allegations. In his remarks, Scott warned Latter-day Saints:
I caution you not to participate in ... improper therapeutic practices that may cause you more harm than good. ... Detailed leading questions that probe your past may unwittingly trigger thoughts that are more imagination or fantasy than reality. They could lead to condemnation of another for acts that were not committed. While likely few in number, I know of cases where such therapy has caused great injustice to the innocent from unwittingly stimulated accusations that were later proven false. Memory, particularly adult memory of childhood experiences, is fallible. Remember, false accusation is also a sin.
In 2018, at least six people sued the daughter of church president Russell M. Nelson for participation in SRA in the 1980s. While the church was not named a defendant, the suit claimed that victims approached apostle Neal A. Maxwell, who gave them a priesthood blessing and told them to "forgive and forget," and also insinuates that Nelson used his influence to cover up the abuse. The church released a response statement stating that the "allegations of interference or cover up are baseless and offensive."
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- Salt Lake Tribune. 1991-10-25. pp. A1. Missing or empty
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- Scott, Richard G. (1992). "Healing the Tragic Scars of Abuse". Ensign. 31.
- Walch, Tad. "Decades-Old Bountiful Case Alleges Church Connection to Abuse Allegations", Deseret News, October 4, 2018.
- Spiewak, Jim. "Daughter of LDS Church President at Center of Decades-Old Sex Abuse Cover-up Allegations", kutv.com, October 5, 2018.