896: Christopher Swallow – Abused by Lowell Robison who was still Allowed to Serve as Mission President
March 30, 2018
During the 1980’s and 1990’s, Lowell Robison engaged in predatory sexual behaviors with several male cousins/BYU students. In 1995, Lowell Robison was called to serve as a mission president to the Mexico Leon mission (1995-1998). Christopher Swallow and his brother were two of his victims. When Christopher and his brother learned that Lowell Robison had been called as a mission president, they met with Elder Earl C. Tingey (LDS General Authority) at LDS church headquarters to report Lowell Robison’s sexual abuse. Zero support was given to them as abuse victims, and no change was made to Lowell Robison’s assignment, and he served out a full term as mission president.
In this Mormon Stories Podcast episode, Christopher Swallow tells his story.
Note: Multiple people have contacted Mormon Stories Podcast to stories similar to those of Chris. One example included below.
With the passing of Lowell Robison last week, I reached out to my childhood friend to let him know of the death. He directed me to your episode #896 regarding Lowell Robison. We have pretty much the same exact story as was told in your episode #896. Same sketchy trailer with sheepskin, etc. But I’ll up the ante with frequent invitations to play raquetball at the local club after which Lowell would insist we shower before going home- in a locker room communal shower. Not all that unusual… except that Lowell would wear his eyeglasses the entire time while showering. As an adult, we now get it and see exactly what was going on, but somehow back then we just thought it was weird. The sketchy trailer episodes were actually some of the last interactions we had with Lowell as we thought that was just too out there for us. We very seriously doubted the legitimacy of the import business. We went together and when asked to basically rub the sheepskin on our private areas, we turned in such a way that Lowell wouldn’t see. We asked why we would need to do that, and Lowell answered that the wool would be used for burn victims who couldn’t wear other clothing while being treated.
Talking about these incidents years later we understood that it was predatory/grooming behavior. In 2001 this childhood friend and I had interviews with an area authority (John Carmack) regarding our memories and discomfort with Lowell’s behavior. We knew of three other kids in the neighborhood who had also been “invited” to the trailer. Those who were willing to drop their pants for testing were invited back multiple times. These kids were also contacted and interviewed about their experiences by Elder Carmack. Elder Carmack took the info to “the brethren.” I don’t know who they were- I would guess the Provo, Utah presiding Seventy at the time. A couple weeks later I got a call back from Elder Carmack telling me that they had interviewed Lowell and determined that he was extremely embarrassed and sorry that we thought there were any intentions other than … running his own clinical trials? They said that it showed extremely poor judgement on Lowell’s part, asked us to not bring it up again (?!), and proceeded to call him either as a stake president or a councilor in the stake presidency. No one better to serve as the high priest/judge of a stake than someone who exhibits extremely poor judgement, right? That was the last I heard of this until episode #896. Disconcerting to say the least.
Until 896, I was not aware that this situation had already been kicked around at the highest levels of church leadership and disregarded. Which means the matter was either swept under the rug, or the church keeps no records of serious allegations against membership or leaders regarding abuse. So, you have these brothers/cousins, you have us (the neighborhood/ward kids), and you have this other long lost Swallow relative- who all reached out to the church at the GA level. Third time was the charm I guess with Elder Bateman taking some kind of action.
I’m a faithful member of the church, but understand there are problems within the church that need to be addressed. I suppose the church organization is as complex as its members- a bit of good and evil in all of us. I’m not interested in sharing this story personally, but if it helps your organization to bring any more transparency, honesty, and perhaps additional policy change then I’m ok with you sharing the additional details. I wish to remain anonymous. Not for fear of repercussion, but out of respect for Lowell’s wife, Kathy, and his son. I think she was just as manipulated as the rest of us. But there are undoubtedly others out there, and many more beyond Lowell, so it’s important for the church to recognize there have been some egregious oversights and to make necessary and well publicized changes. I think things are changing- no solo meetings with the bishop, etc. But none of these experiences with Lowell happened while he was “on duty.” So only changing “in church” behavior doesn’t go far enough.