was a Mormon church member and physician in Rexburg, Idaho; was accused of sexual abuse by at least 133 women and children (some as young as 13 years old) over a period of 30 years or more; admitted to sexual abuse; found guilty of misdemeanor battery; sentenced to 30 to 60 days in jail and two years probation; the Mormon church placed him on probation and took his temple recommend

Case Summary

In 1996, LaVar Withers was charged with misdemeanor battery. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 days in prison. He was also ordered to serve two months probation. He paid $15,500 in fines in lieu of a suspended four-month jail term.

“Over 125 women and children (some as young as 13 years old) came forward to the Rape Crisis Response Center to tell of abuse by Dr. LaVar Withers over a thirty year period, from the 1960s to the 1990s.

Numerous women had told their Mormon bishops of Withers’ abuse through the years.

Some victims alleged that Mormon Church officials ignored their pleas for help or actually discouraged them from pursuing charges against the doctor.

Withers attended grade school in Rexburg, Idaho and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Graduating from Madison High School, Class of 1955, Ricks College and Brigham Young University, he received his medical degree from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In 1970, Withers began serving as first counselor in a Mormon bishopric in the Blackfoot, Idaho Ninth Ward in the South Blackfoot LDS stake.

Withers was on the high council and there were complaints that the local church authorities were protecting him.

“Following Miller’s advice, she that same day called Young, a dentist. Stake presidents sit above bishops in the Mormon hierarchy; Young’s great-great-grandfather was the Mormon pioneer Brigham Young.

“I’m not going to mince words,” Andrew began. Then she told her story, and offered to take a polygraph test. According to Andrew, Young mainly expressed his sorrow and appreciation for her call, right up until she told him she meant to notify the police.

“I wish you wouldn’t do that now,” Young responded. “I’d appreciate you letting me take care of things from my end.”

In an interview months later with the Idaho Statesman newspaper, Young didn’t dispute this account. Yes, he agreed, he “may have said do not go to the police immediately,” because Mormon doctrine stresses forgiveness. “When people have a hurt, they should leave it alone. Put it away and look for the good.”

Andrew wasn’t happy with Young’s request. But in the end–“being a co-dependent Mormon female” she later observed wryly–she agreed to wait.

Only for a month though. Having not heard from Young–she never would–Andrew in mid-February visited the police and prosecutor Steve Clark, who was still evaluating the Withers case. She also started talking to other women.

One contact led to another; the stories multiplied. At a meeting with Clark, Andrew was stunned to learn that since she’d filed her formal complaint, Withers had apparently molested yet another woman, a Ricks College student named Katherine Proctor.”

Idaho criminal court case: CR-1996-531

Idaho civil class-action court case: CV-1996-979 – dismissed without prejudice

  1. Allegations against bishop investigated - The Times-News - 1996-09-13
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  3. Salt Lake City Messenger, issue #91, November 1996
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  4. Shame and Silence in Rexburg - Los Angeles Times - 1996-11-25
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  5. DID REXBURG IGNORE TALK OF ABUSE BY M.D.? - Deseret News, 1995-12-11
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  6. Mormon Court Case Overviews
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  7. accused was a bishopric counselor in 1970
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  8. Los Angeles Times - 1996-11-26 - pp. A1, A14, A15
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Sources excerpts

Images: LaVar Withers LDS sex crime case

Mormon Sexual Abuse Map

International map of locations where active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints perpetrated or allegedly perpetrated sexual abuse or other sex crimes, or where LDS leaders failed or allegedly failed to help abuse survivors.