BY EJ DICKSON
”He would come over to me to exorcize the demon, » alleges the former patient. « He’d cover my mouth and nose until I felt like I couldn’t breathe.”
IN 2012, WHEN she was 29 years old, Mia Chard was at a crossroads. As a child, she had been sexually abused, and she spent years suppressing the trauma, until it all seemed to bubble to the surface. She was working for the church, saving up for a master’s degree in social work, and didn’t have a lot of money to pay for therapy. So she did what many people in the Church of Latter-day Saints do: She approached her bishop to ask for help.
In the tight-knit LDS community in which Chard grew up, bishops are unpaid clergymen and leaders of local congregations, known as wards; they are among its most well-respected members. So when Chard’s bishop recommended that she see Maurice Harker, the founder and director of Life Changing Services in Farmington, Utah, a picturesque suburb outside Salt Lake City, Chard did not think twice.
A plainspoken, heavy-set man now in his early 50s, with intense brown eyes and a swoop of gray hair, Harker was fairly well-known in the LDS community. In addition to his private counseling agency, he also ran support groups, including groups for men struggling with pornography addiction, with bishops frequently recommending his anti-masturbation manual, Like Dragons They Did Fight.
Former patients who spoke to Rolling Stone described him as ultra-charismatic and likable, opening every meeting with, “What’s cool about you this week?” And with his master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling, his former patients felt comfortable discussing taboo topics. “His style felt like he knew what he was doing,” says Chard. “He made me come out of my shell a little more than others had in the past.”
Chard began meeting with Harker on a weekly basis, which after a few years increased to multiple times a week, and then daily, because, she says, Harker told her she was not improving with treatment. They spoke about her depression and anxiety and her history of suicidal thoughts, and Chard says Harker began telling her that all of her negative thoughts could be attributed to a demonic influence. Occasionally she would disassociate during sessions — a habit she had developed following her sexual abuse that she refers to as “going to a spot in her head.” In the winter of 2015, it was during one of these dissociative episodes that, she says, the physical abuse began.
“Anytime he felt like I was being mean to myself, he would come over to me to exorcize the demon, in a way. He’d cover my mouth and nose until I felt like I couldn’t breathe,” she says, describing how he’d hold her down during sessions. “He’d drag me to the floor and be on top of me, and I’d be fighting back because I couldn’t breathe. If he thought the demon was still there, he’d do it again.”
In an eight-minute audio recording of a 2019 session, reviewed by Rolling Stone, Chard can be heard choking and attempting to speak. A man Chard identifies as Harker is heard saying, at the seven-minute mark, “Have you had a blast? Are you proud of yourself?”
According to a police report Chard filed in May 2021, the details of which she confirmed in conversations with Rolling Stone, Harker would do this multiple times a session, with her coming to his office three or four times a week for years. Harker was a wrestler in high school, and occasionally, Chard told police, she got a black eye from being jostled by his elbows, photos of which she supplied to Rolling Stone; in 2017, she claims, she sustained a broken thumb in one of their sessions, requiring surgery, records of which she also supplied to Rolling Stone. She says Harker urged her not to tell anyone about what happened in the sessions, and after each one, she would apologize for the demon inside of her and promise she’d never let the demon force her to reveal Harker’s tactics. “‘I know,’” Chard says Harker would tell her, “‘I trust you.’”
Throughout it all, she says, their dynamic was deeply complex, often collapsing traditional therapist/patient boundaries. “It’s hard to describe, but he was both abuser and comforter,” she says. (Harker declined to comment on Chard’s allegations, citing therapist-patient confidentiality, though he did say that “Any dramatic, physical interaction — such as physically restraining a client — would only occur under extraordinary circumstances; for example, if there was immediate risk of self harm or harm to others.”)
Chard is Harker’s only patient to come forward with allegations of physical abuse. But others say they have experienced what they describe as deep psychological harm under his and his organization’s care, later having intense feelings of shame and self-loathing as a result of Harker and his groups’ religiously infused teachings about porn, sex, and masturbation specifically. “[Harker and his groups] implanted this whole idea of being at war with myself,” says Anthony, 32, who sought therapy from Harker in 2007, when he was 17 years old. “They said I was at war with Satan, but really it was against my own body, my own hands, my own psyche.”
“It’s hard to describe, but [Harker] was both abuser and comforter,” says former patient Mia Chard.
Chard says she trusted Harker, largely due to his standing in her community and the fact that he is a trained therapist. She kept seeing him for the next four years, until February 2021. “There were a few times where I thought he was gonna kill me because he was so angry about this demon. I thought he was going to break my neck,” she says. “Whenever he’d get that out of control, I’d be worried for his welfare. How was he going to tell people a client died in his office?”
At the end of 2020, Chard and a friend were discussing an experience he had had with his own therapist when she told him about her experience under Harker’s care. “She had sort of realized what was going on and was coming to terms with it,” says the friend, who asked not to be identified. He encouraged her to file a police report, which she did with the Farmington PD in May 2021.
In the report, in addition to detailing how she sustained the black eye and a broken thumb under Harker’s care, she also refers to sustaining bruises and having lost consciousness as a result of the 2019 incident that she had recorded on her phone; she provided the audio recording to the police as part of her report. Both the police department and the Davis County Attorney’s Office declined to press charges against Harker, with the county attorney stating there was “insufficient evidence” to prove the force he allegedly used would have resulted in Chard losing consciousness. (The Farmington Police Department did not return a request for comment; the Davis County Attorney’s Office declined to comment.)
That spring, Chard says, she confronted Harker during a call, a recording of which she provided to Rolling Stone. In it, the man she says is Harker seems to admit to various instances of physical violence during sessions. Six minutes into the 42-minute call, she mentions the “first time you ever covered my mouth and my nose so I couldn’t breathe, I was disassociating. Isn’t disassociating a normal part of trauma?”
“I didn’t know what to do,” the man says, adding the “degree of dissociation was so beyond what I’d ever experienced.”
“But that’s all fancy words. I couldn’t breathe,” says Chard.
“I know,” he says. “I know. I know.”
A few minutes later, she asks him if he remembers giving her a black eye; he responds, “I do now.” In the recording, he also owns up to more general boundary violations while treating Chard: “I’m mortified. I’m embarrassed. I’m angry and sad at myself. I’m horrified by making your life worse. [The] fact that I didn’t even know how to set the boundaries correctly is horrifying to me. I knew that every time, and I knew I was failing at that as well.”
That year, Chard also reported Harker to the Division of Professional Licensing (DOPL) to request that Harker lose his license, a case that remains open. In response to a public records request for complaints against Harker, a representative for DOPL tells Rolling Stone that the agency “has not taken any formal administrative action against Maurice Harker. Further, I can neither confirm nor deny an investigation.” For his part, Harker tells Rolling Stone that he has “been cooperating with Utah DOPL regarding concerns raised by a client,” adding that this is his first DOPL complaint.
“I’m frustrated with the whole system,” Chard says. “I feel like I’ve given them a lot.”
THOUGH MAURICE HARKER DESCRIBES his specialty as marriage and family therapy, under the umbrella of Life Changing Services, Harker operates a slew of programs for those struggling with porn addiction, though he refutes classifying it in those terms — “pornography addiction,” he says, is not a diagnosis this organization “hang[s] its hat on,” though he acknowledges that the term is used, including “in marketing where we are all subject to the SEO game.”
Nonetheless, many of these groups are devoted to the evils of masturbation, which in the LDS church is considered a violation of the law of chastity, a severe transgression that can bar an individual from important religious rites. Life Changing Services’ support groups include Mothers Who Know, for concerned moms; Men of Moroni, for men who struggle with pornography addiction and masturbation; WORTH, for their wives; Sons of Sacrifice, for “men with same sex attractions who want sexual self-mastery”; and Sons of Helaman, for young men between 13 and 24, which is also marketed as a “sexual self-mastery training program.”
Life Changing Services, which was incorporated in 2007, currently has 40 employees and 40 contracted independent clinicians to provide its multi-tiered services, from therapists to “Personal Warrior Trainers” — unlicensed mentors who provide personal coaching to clients. Although it is not technically affiliated with the church, it squarely aims its services at the community. In a series of emailed responses to questions from Rolling Stone, Harker said that while his practice has “no formal affiliation” with the church, it aims to “provide resources based on what we’ve found effective” to bishops and other ecclesiastical leaders. By incorporating the language of the church in its resources and treatment materials, he says, Life Changing Services aims to be “sensitive to the culture we serve.” “We find that with the background of our clientele, acknowledging these beliefs is often an important part of helping people find success within therapy,” he says, adding that his company is “ethically obligated to include the belief systems of our clients in the process.”
The church has also been instrumental to Life Changing Services’ success, at one point fully or partially funding therapeutic services for at least half of Harker’s clientele, according to three former employees. For years, the church regularly recommended clients to Life Changing Services, funding therapy for many of Harker’s patients through bishops, according to interviews with three former employees, Harker’s own website, and company records reviewed by Rolling Stone.
One of Harker’s former employees, Marshall Lamm, who ran Sons of Helaman groups from 2012 to 2016, estimates that a quarter to half of his clients were referrals from bishops. Six of the former clients who spoke with Rolling Stone were referred to Harker’s practice in that manner between 2007 and 2021, though not all of them worked directly with Harker. “The idea is that they are helping young men overcome issues with porn. They’re paying to get a better or more worthy member of the kingdom,” Lamm says. (Harker says that “a significant portion” of his organization’s clients “are not church sponsored or church referred at this point,” saying that “around 90 percent” now come “through self-referral and are self-funded.”) Harker has also given presentations and “fireside chats” at LDS churches across the country, which confer on his organization a sense of strong standing. “It almost seems like priest craft — making money off of the gospel,” says Grayson O’Very, a former Personal Warrior trainer for Harker. “He’s selling salvation.”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIGKTWRqqvQA video of Maurice Harker from Life Changing Services’ YouTube page addressing pornography use.
Some former clients acknowledge some positive aspects of their experience with Life Changing Services, and according to Harker, “there are thousands of graduates of these programs who are very pleased with their outcomes, and only a small handful who have complaints.” Crystal Legionaires, 27, who attended Sons of Helaman as a teen, says the group provided “a form of camaraderie. We were trying to support each other and be there for each other.” Another former member who later was employed by Harker says he “felt a lot of brotherhood and acceptance” within the group. “I latched onto it during this vulnerable period” of adolescence, he says.
Such recollections, however, are also intermingled with feelings of shame, self-hatred, and even, in some cases, thoughts of suicide as a result of undergoing treatment. As part of therapy with the Sons of Helaman program, for instance, former members say it was standard to be promised pizza parties if they succeeded in abstaining from masturbation for a week, only for this reward to be revoked if just one member of the group failed. Per the Sons of Helaman website, parents would also receive a letter informing them if their sons who had successfully graduated from the group experienced a “lost battle” and masturbated, which would require more paid sessions. “This can be painful, but it’s worth it for young men to regain the peace and freedom … and reaffirm their [Sons of Helaman] self-mastery,” the letter reads.
Only four of the eight former clients Rolling Stone spoke with were directly treated by Harker, yet all of the former clients we spoke with allege that under his leadership, they were told by Life Changing Services that they struggled with pornography and sexual addiction, neither of which are official diagnoses in the DSM-V, the American Psychiatric Association’s manual for mental illness. (Harker says, “I do not clinically diagnose 1:1 clients with porn or sex addiction” and, as for Sons of Helaman and his organization’s other groups, he says “[w]e do not provide official diagnoses for enrollees in these programs because they are not therapeutic groups.”) Several of Harker’s individual clients and members of his groups say they were also encouraged to engage in lurid and violent sexual imagery to ward off any sexual desires, a method also documented in Harker’s book; one client also said he was told by Harker that when he masturbated, it was as if Satan was molesting him, and that Satan was a “pedophile acting through [his] hands.”
Most clients were adolescents when they entered Sons of Helaman, and they recall being forced to share their pornography and masturbation habits in communal settings with older boys and men, many of whom were known, in the group’s militaristic parlance, as “generals.” “It was unhealthy for someone my age to be having a convo with grown men about that stuff,” says Jeremy, 29, who attended Sons of Helaman in 2010. “If [I said] something like, ‘I used M and P’ [shorthand for masturbation and porn], they’d ask, ‘What was going through your mind? What type of porn? What type of masturbation? What were you thinking about?’ Really inappropriate stuff.”
“We’d talk very explicitly about what we’re we doing when we watched pornography, what happened when you were tempted,” says Bryan, 32, who joined Sons of Helaman in 2007, when he was 16. “I was so innocent and sheltered. I was trained to defer to authority. If this person wanted to talk about sexually explicit things, I’d be like, then yeah, that’s his calling for us.”
When asked about former members having said they felt intensely uncomfortable having to share “triggers” in these group settings, Harker says, “we don’t encourage detailed conversations about sexual behavior of any kind,” adding, “[it’s] counterproductive and unnecessary.” But Bryan says the explicit language used by other members of the group would later strike him as unusual, as did the fact that his therapist gave him and other members his personal phone number in case they were “tempted.” “He was extremely involved in the nitty-gritty of my porn and masturbation habits,” Bryan says of the group leader.
Six former clients who spoke with Rolling Stone say they were referred to Harker by bishops after having made confessions about their porn use. “It’s one of many clinics practicing unethical therapeutic behavior in regards to sexual health in a geographical area that caters to religious standards instead of ethical standards and professional standards,” says Natasha Helfer, a sex therapist who was excommunicated from the church last year for providing evidence-based sex therapy, and has worked with former clients of Harker’s.
Helfer says her clients who have gone through such programs have then dealt with issues such as premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction as a result of “internalized sexual shame.” “For some people it can really do a number. [They have] self-hatred to the point of suicidality,” she says. “I have had men who have tried to castrate themselves.” (“The idea that our methods are unethical is based on an inaccurate understanding of what we do,” says Harker. “This is probably a controversial or strange approach to a person whose personal or professional values are not strongly informed by the faith and culture we primarily serve.”)
Despite the lack of evidence supporting Harker’s methods, bishops employed by the church regularly referred members to his practice, with Harker specifically including resources for bishops on his website. According to one of Harker’s former employees, the church continued to do so after Chard came forward with her abuse allegations in 2021.
In January, Chard was put in touch with Justin Starr, a lawyer for the church, and the two began exchanging emails. At first, she says, she was encouraged by Starr’s response. After she reported Harker to the DOPL, Starr assured Chard the church’s relationship with Harker was still under review.
In a statement to Rolling Stone, the church says that when Chard first contacted them, the church “immediately began investigating and supporting her efforts to contact and work with authorities,” as well as contacting the agency directly “to confirm that it was investigating.” “The Church hoped that DOPL would promptly revoke Mr. Harker’s license,” the statement reads, adding that it learned “DOPL’s process” would take six to 12 months. (Eighteen months later, it still hasn’t concluded.)
When asked if the church will continue referring clients to Harker, a representative said that it “has now sent a letter to all leaders in Utah instructing them to stop referring anyone to Mr. Harker, to stop paying for any treatment he provides, and to not invite him to teach lessons or present in church meetings.” The statement also noted that it had sent Harker a cease-and-desist demanding that his company “stop representing that the Church or Family Services has approved or ‘vetted’ its providers or programs, which is not true.”
“For some people it can really do a number,” says one therapist of religious-based programs. “[They have] self-hatred to the point of suicidality.”
Chard, however, says she has heard nothing to this effect from the church. During her last communications with Starr in August, when she pressed him as to whether the church would stop referring congregants to Harker or his practice, he declined to respond, citing “duty of confidentiality” to the church, per their emails. (Starr did not respond to a request for comment.)
“They have shut me out of information on what action they will take,” says Chard. “I feel like I am yelling into a void. It has damaged my faith. I feel invalidated and re-victimized.”
AMONG MEMBERS OF THE LDS Church, part of Harker’s appeal was that he was able to elegantly blend church teachings and scripture with ostensibly evidence-based principles. “He’d put himself up as an expert or a practitioner with experience in neuroscience,” says a former outreach specialist for Harker who worked for him in the early 2010s, and asked to remain anonymous due to his continued relationship with the church.
In group therapy sessions, Harker would note that Satan uses temptation to flood your brain with chemicals, resulting in “chemical reactions [that] can compromise the clarity of the cognitive and decision-making processes,” as he also explained to Rolling Stone. Only by exercising “warrior mode” — pushing your brain to fight back against an influx of lust chemicals from the devil — can you “[rise] up from defeat and go on to win the battle” over temptation, he said, though he cited no specific studies or research to this effect, instead linking to a free online copy of his book.
Many researchers say that there is no hard-and-fast science on pornography addiction, nor is there diagnostic criteria for what constitutes a pornography addict. That’s largely because there is no consensus in the research community as to whether or not one can become addicted to pornograpy to begin with, says Erick Janssen, a professor in human sexuality at the University of Leuven in Belgium. Though some pornography addiction therapists and anti-pornography groups have suggested that the brain undergoes a similar neurochemical process when someone looks at porn as it does when someone takes narcotics, Janssen says such comparisons are “such an incredible oversimplification of how our brains work that I don’t even know where to begin.”
Despite the lack of consensus surrounding porn addiction, a flourishing industry of private practices and clinics aimed at treating it has popped up. Many, though not all, of these practices are religion-based, which tracks with what we know about who is more likely to self-identify as a porn addict, according to Joshua Grubbs, associate professor of psychology at Bowling Green State University, who studies the social construction of addiction. “We see it very clearly in study after study that conservative religiousness predicts less use of pornography and report higher levels of addiction,” he says. “People who are more conservative are more likely to view it as wrong, therefore they are likely to view themselves as an addiction. It’s something of a vicious cycle.”
With the rise of online pornography and internet use in general, Harker carved out a niche as a mental health counselor within the LDS community treating any and all porn use as an addiction, and advocating for total abstinence from porn as a solution. Harker’s former outreach specialist says that, when he was working there, the church was dealing with lots of kids struggling with porn use, and that Life Changing Services was viewed as nothing short of a panacea: “You’ve got these kids reaching adolescence, looking at the internet, looking at porn. You’ve got bishops getting youth confessing to porn addiction in their office. Bishops were overwhelmed. So we were saying, ‘Let’s offset your burden.’”
One of these young men was Anthony, who was 17 when he was referred to Harker by his bishop after he confessed he was masturbating a few times a week. His therapy sessions were subsequently paid for partially by his ward, he says. Anthony was a few years away from going on a mission, and he says that masturbating regularly would have disqualified him from service. “There was immense psychological, spiritual, emotional weight attached to my purity,” he recalls. “Any time [I masturbated], it was a big deal. I was unclean and needed to be cleansed through the atonement of Jesus Christ.
When Anthony first met Harker, he “thought he was a badass,” he says. “He was easy to talk to, charismatic. I was like, ‘Oh shit, I get it.’” At their very first meeting, Anthony says Harker gave him a scenario to stop himself from masturbating: He should imagine he was walking down a hallway at school and watching a female classmate being sexually assaulted. He would try to push the assailant off her, only to have him laugh in his face, saying he could “learn something.”
The goal of such explicit imagery, according to Harker, was to stir up what the LDS refer to as “righteous anger,” which would prompt young men like Anthony to step away from their computers, as rising up to defend women and his family “was what Sons of Helaman was all about,” Anthony recalls. The aggressively militaristic language, if not the lurid sexual detail, resonated with him. “I’ve come to realize I’m in the middle of a war,” he wrote in a journal entry from that time. “This is the war in heaven. There is an enemy who wants to kill me. This is no game. My death is his goal. I am on the battlefield. Each time I slip I lose a battle.”
Though neither Harker nor the church explicitly advocates for conversion therapy, some former members of Sons of Helaman say LGBTQ+ kids were encouraged to use the same practices as Harker used for porn addiction to suppress their same-sex urges. One of them, Legionaires, who later came out as trans, says her time in Sons of Helaman spawned a cycle of self-hatred and shame that lasted for years. “By the time I was 16 and flunked out of the group, I thought I was effectively useless and worthless,” she says. “The depression I was feeling, the immense amount of shame, separated me from the church and made me feel inferior and led me to leave.”
Sons of Helaman adhered to a strict hierarchy, with members who had been abstinent for 12 weeks or longer being given medallions upon graduation and referred to as “generals.” Several former members said generals had high status in the group, and would frequently return to mentor younger members. Bryan, the former member, says that he was uncomfortable when, during a one-on-one coaching session, another, older member of the group who ranked as a “general” grabbed his thigh, and says he ultimately left the group as a result. “This boy was like a leader of sorts. He had been there for so long and people trusted him,” Bryan says. But he never told anyone about the experience, in large part, he says, because the church had trained him to always defer to male leaders: “[I] just respected authority first and most of all.”
Harker says he was unaware of this incident, that he’s “sorry that happened,” and points to Sons of Helaman having an extensive quality control system “where we check on enrollees in several ways to make sure ours is a safe environment for clients. Only a few minor incidents of impropriety have been reported in our organizational history, and they were quickly addressed and resolved,” he says, adding that he would characterize them as “minor in a very literal sense — things like one young person making an inappropriate joke that offended another.”
As a result of his time in the group, Bryan became obsessed with the idea that he was impure, which he says lingers to this day. “Castration crossed my mind,” he says. “Like, ‘I wish my whole horniness was taken away from me.’ We would talk about it openly. We felt like absolute shit. Depression, anxiety, self harm were the norm. We’d show up and feel like horrible, horrible humans.”
Even the older men in Life Changing Services’ groups were not exempt from these internalized feelings of self-hatred. Matt, a dentist practicing in the Midwest, who asked to have his last name withheld, says he joined the adult group for porn addiction, Men of Moroni, after his wife caught him watching porn and became convinced he was a sex addict. Though he was put off by some of the extreme language of the group — specifically, Harker’s claim, in his book and in therapy, that watching pornography would rewire his brain to the extent that he would be in danger of raping his wife — he wanted desperately to fix his marriage, and abstained from masturbation for about a year. Plus, he liked and trusted Harker, whom he viewed as having an imprimatur of authority due to his master’s degree and his position on the fireside chat circuit.
“He’s Mormon. He puts himself out as an expert,” says Matt. “He will tell you everything that is wrong with you and fix you. He has church authority, and that gives him credibility.”
About 10 months into the program, however, Matt started to feel an intense sense of self-loathing, which gave way to thoughts of self-harm. “If you’re identifying every little thought that comes into your head as a demonic personal flaw or addiction, you start to hate yourself,” he says. “I thought about suicide at about 10 months in because I was buying into this stuff deeply. You start to believe something is deeply broken with you.”
https://www.youtube.com/shorts/Sv0H96bh32UA recent YouTube short from Life Changing Sciences featuring Harker discussing Satan’s influence.
Matt’s marriage started to crumble. “I loved my wife, and she thought I might rape her or my children. She thought I had this horrible monster inside me. She never looked at me the same again,” he says. He says he shared his feelings with Harker, who attributed them to his porn addiction and porn having “permanently damaged” his brain. It wasn’t until he Googled his symptoms and realized he was exhibiting classic signs of depression that he realized, as he puts it, that “I was not dealing with a real health professional.”
At that point, however, Matt says he had sunk thousands of dollars into both Men of Moroni and marital therapy with Harker. He angrily confronted Harker, requesting his treatment notes, only to be told by Harker, he says, that Harker had no treatment notes, because he had never formally diagnosed Matt with any mental illness. (Though Harker says he would be unable to comment on this specific allegation, saying he would need the patient’s consent to discuss treatment, he noted that it seems unusual that he’d “have absolutely nothing on file. I try to be diligent with my notes.”)
Matt was flabbergasted. Up to this point, he says, he had believed Harker had diagnosed him with porn addiction, and that he was a porn addict. He was even more appalled when he started researching porn addiction, only to find there was a lack of consensus that it was a legitimate disease in the first place.
When asked whether he formally diagnoses clients with porn or sex addiction, Harker denied ever having done so with participants in Sons of Helaman and Men of Moroni: ‘“We’re not diagnosing,” he says. “We’re educating and coaching people on how they can adhere to their values system.” He says that such groups do not constitute therapy, but are rather “training/coaching/psychoeducation groups supervised or led by clinicians who are not acting in a clinical capacity,” he says. “This is understood when they enroll.” But Matt disputes this. “Imagine somebody told [you], ‘You have cancer,’ and you feel like you’re gonna die, and then you realize it’s just an allergy,” he says. “The mental trauma of someone telling you you have a disease and finding out it’s not a real disease — it’s freaking maddening.”
Matt later went to see a psychiatrist, who diagnosed him with depression. But the damage had already been done: Matt and his wife divorced just a few years later.
“Imagine somebody told [you], ‘You have cancer,’ and you feel like you’re gonna die,” says one former client. “And then you realize it’s just an allergy.”
AS TIME WENT ON, Harker’s practice grew. As he opened locations in various cities throughout Utah, he would increasingly delegate therapy to “coaches,” or “mentors,” who, two former employees say, would be trained via Life Changing Services’ internal process. To those involved with his groups who had ascended to higher ranks, he would waive the therapy fee if they agreed to sign up to be coaches, though they were not professionally licensed.
“It felt like a multilevel model program, [and] it felt very driven by money and profit,” says the former outreach specialist for Harker. “Once you had enough sobriety, he’d cut your fee if you volunteered to coach other people. It felt irresponsible to put that on clients who didn’t have any credentials to be doing that sort of thing. It felt motivated by money.” Harker disputes this characterization, saying, “Our organization is a business — not unlike many other mental health care organizations in the United States. It would be dishonest to say that our motives are 100 percent altruistic all the time — but, we’re not all about profit. The model described here is actually something that costs us revenue.”
Sometimes, according to a former Personal Warrior Trainer who spoke to Rolling Stone, the lack of formal training would create complex situations that they did not feel equipped to handle. Grayson O’Very, who received “Eternal Warrior Mentor Certification” through the company two years ago, says he was once assigned a client whose wife was intensely suicidal, and that every hour of his day was spent trying to make sure she didn’t harm herself. The client told him he had been receiving couples’ counseling from Life Changing Services, though O’Very questioned the quality of such treatment in such a dire situation and suggested they seek outside help. “These mentors were diving into deep water they weren’t qualified to swim in,” he says.
O’Very and another former employee say that in recent months, the practice has been somewhat beleaguered, which is in part why he put in his notice with Life Changing Services last month. (His last day was Friday.) In addition to facing the pressure of a DOPL investigation, Harker is also facing litigation from Ben Smith, a former therapist previously employed by Life Changing Services, who alleges that when he left the organization earlier this year, Harker made “false and defamatory” statements about him to his clients to interfere with his business practices. According to Smith’s complaint, Harker “contacted Mr. Smith’s clients via text, email, call, and/or voicemail” and informed them that Smith had “performed an illegal act by improperly accessing patient information.” On April 1, Harker sent an email to his Personal Warrior Trainers encouraging them to call Smith’s former clients.
“The sudden and confusing actions of our once beloved fellow warrior, Ben Smith, are like unto a perfect sniper shot opportunity for Satan to take our warriors out,” Harker wrote in the email, which was reviewed by Rolling Stone. “We do not want our fellow Warriors to miss out on the brotherhood and principles of Men of Moroni. We don’t want them to miss out on working with you. (And we don’t want you to miss out on the income opportunity for you if they unenroll.)” Of the email, Harker says, “in an open marketplace, we have the right to seek to retain existing clients in an instance where they are being drawn away.” He otherwise declined to comment on the suit except to say, “We are confident that we will prevail once the complete set of facts are before the court.” (“With ongoing litigation, we just can’t comment,” an attorney for Smith told Rolling Stone. )
For her part, Chard is still waiting to hear from DOPL about whether Harker will willingly surrender his license, or have to undergo a hearing in front of the licensing board, in which she will likely have to testify. She is also still waiting to hear directly from the church about whether it will sever ties with Harker or Life Changing Services. Indeed, Harker says that, although local leaders in Utah have been told to stop referrals to him, “specifically, as an individual therapist” church leaders have told him that “this instruction does not include referrals to Life Changing Services more broadly — particularly our training groups.” Of the DOPL investigation itself, he says, it has “not demonstrably affected our work to date … I am learning a great deal from these interactions, and am confident we’ll be able to navigate them well.” (The church did not respond to questions from Rolling Stone asking to clarify whether it will sever ties with Life Changing Services in general, and not just Harker.)
Chard, however, is not satisfied with the church’s response. “It’s disappointing if they choose to not also terminate their involvement with Life Changing Services, as that is created by Maurice Harker, under the direction of him. It is his ideology that has created every one of those programs.” She is still a member of the church, though after everything she’s gone through, she is “trying to decide what next steps are for me but I feel stuck,” she says.
“I’m scared because I know the culture of the church, and what we are taught is to never say anything bad about the church or bring up anything that could have them portrayed in a negative light,” she says. “But the way they are responding is wrong and change needs to happen in how they fund mental health services. Something has to change.”
OCTOBER 3, 202