was a Mormon church member; found guilty of child sexual abuse

Personal information

  • Covey, Benjamin
  • Gender: Male

Case summary

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“Child sex abuse has been in the church since pioneer times. Hosea Stout mentions a Benjamin Covey who raped a couple of 12 year old girls, was excommunicated, then rebaptized, and then made bishop all within a year. However, pedophiles don’t generally change.

However, sometimes Mormon men went too far in their predations upon young girls. 56-year-old polygamist Benjamin Covey was excommunicated briefly in Winter Quarters in 1848 for having sex with two girls, both under the age of 12, whom he had been fostering in his home in Winter Quarters. (As a personal note, while still in Nauvoo, 46-year-old Covey— married to Almira Mack, first cousin of Joseph Smith— committed adultery with my 24-year-old 3rd great aunt, Diana Cole, and she became pregnant. He married her polygamously in January 1846 and she gave birth to their only child four months later in May. She died of tuberculosis in Winter Quarters a few months after her only child died and just as all the following occurred.).

Covey was called to face the church’s High Council at the Winter Quarter’s Council House on March 11, 1848, but church leaders were well aware months earlier of his miscreant behavior. Nauvoo’s police chief Hosea Stout recorded in his journal on January 28, 1848,that Bishop Daniel Garn and another man reported to him that Benjamin Covey “was practicing a wicked and abominable thing…and wanted us to look to it.” Stout informed Brigham Young, who then “wanted the matter looked into.” Five days later, Stout wrote that he had been investigating Covey’s case and “it is now plainly manifest that he is guilty of seducing two girls not over twelve years of age which was reported to the president.”

The High Council minutes report that they met on March 11, with Alpheus Cutler presiding. Theodore Turley and Frederick W. Cox were the council members appointed, respectively, to defend and prosecute him. Not all witnesses called had shown up, but it was decided to proceed anyway. After they testified, Covey “made his statement in reguard [sic] to the charges preferred [sic] against him.” Stout reported in his diary that day, “It appeared that two girls about the same age lived with him both of whom he had defiled, which is abundantly proven. He was cut off from the church with the understanding that his wives and children were under no obligations to him.” Brigham Young motioned that Covey be cut off and the vote by the church’s High Council to excommunicate him was unanimous.

Covey’s punishment for sexually abusing two very young girls under his care did not last long, however, and he was soon back in the good graces of Brigham Young and reinstated into full membership. Within two months of the trial, Young invited him to join his pioneer company to the Salt Lake Valley, which left Winter Quarters on June 5, 1848. Covey was then ordained Bishop of the Salt Lake 12th Ward on February 22, 1849, one year after his excommunication.

Covey’s sin seems not to have been pedophilia per se, but that he was not married to the two young girls he raped. Later, even “friendly” accounts from Utah report that girls as young as 10 were getting married to adult men there, although I was only able to document girls 11 and older marrying. Their stories of both acquiescence to and rejection of pedogamy will be told in future segments in this series.”

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LDS/Mormon church membership history

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LDS mission information

The accused did not serve a full-time LDS mission.

LDS temple marriage information

FLOODLIT is not aware whether the accused was married in a Mormon temple.

LDS church positions ever held by the accused:
LDS church positions held by the accused at the time of the alleged crime(s):
LDS church positions held by the accused at the time of being publicly accused:

Alleged crime(s)

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Alleged victim(s)

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  • Number of alleged victim(s) - note if approximate:
  • Average age of alleged victim(s) at time of alleged crime(s):


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Criminal charge(s)

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Criminal verdict(s)

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Criminal sentence

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Prison time

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Other court cases

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LDS church response(s)

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  • Alleged failure to report by local LDS leaders? no
  • Alleged misconduct by local LDS leaders? no
  • Alleged misconduct by global LDS leaders? no

FLOODLIT is not aware whether the Mormon church paid any settlement amounts related to this case.

View all Mormon sexual abuse settlements


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