A member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says a Utah attorney’s adoption scheme is “sickening.”
Elder Ronald Rasband told The Arizona Republic that Paul Petersen’s membership in the church does not exonerate his conduct nor excuse any wrongdoing.
“We’re just as disgusted with it as anybody,” Rasband told the newspaper. “The details of this case are sickening.”
Rasband’s comments mark the first time the church has taken a public position on the case and he acknowledged the church will review Petersen’s membership.
Petersen is accused of human smuggling as part of a scheme that involved more than 40 pregnant women from the Marshall Islands brought to the United States to give up their babies for adoption.
Petersen, an adoption lawyer licensed in Utah and Arizona and elected Maricopa County assessor, was arrested last month in Arizona and faces 11 felony counts in Utah, including human smuggling, sale of a child and communications fraud. He also faces fraud, conspiracy, theft and forgery charges in Arizona.
Latter-day Saints officials reportedly acknowledged Petersen’s practice was rooted in his 1998 church mission to the Marshall Islands, where he said he learned the language and began facilitating adoptions.
A recent inquiry found that individuals within the church community previously had expressed concern about Petersen “and sought to distance” themselves from him years before his arrest, according to The Arizona Republic.
Rasband said Petersen’s alleged conduct was not sanctioned by the church and said no overlap was found between Petersen’s adoption practice and the church’s Family Services arm.
Read more of The Arizona Republic story here.