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Seeking to end his suffering, the Navajo boy turned to a Scoutmaster, an LDS social worker, even his birth mother, hoping to escape the beatings and sexual assaults he said he was enduring in a Mormon church-sponsored foster home.

None came to his rescue.

"I had nobody," he recalled Tuesday of the attacks that occurred nearly four decades ago.

This week, that boy, now an adult and identified only as LK, became the fourth Navajo to sue the LDS Church, alleging he was abused while enrolled in the faith's former foster program for American Indian children.

The lawsuit asserts that LK, who was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1976, was taken from his Navajo Nation home in 1978 and placed with a family in Roy, where he was molested and whipped by his foster father.

Court papers filed Monday in the Window Rock, Ariz., Navajo Nation District Court say the abuse began when LK was in seventh grade and continued for at least year.

Named as defendants are the Corporation of the President of the Utah-based faith and LDS Family Services, the church's social-services arm.

In a statement, LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins said the denomination has "zero tolerance" for abuse of any kind and works to prevent it.

"We have not yet seen the lawsuit and therefore cannot comment on any specifics," he said. "The church will examine the allegations and respond appropriately."

LK's foster dad, who is identified in court papers as "R-Foster father," is not named as a defendant because he is deceased.

The lawsuit is the third filed since March on behalf of Navajos who participated in the Indian Placement Program —  also known as the Lamanite Placement Program — which saw thousands of children placed in Mormon foster homes in Utah, Idaho and New Mexico.

According to the lawsuit, the aim of the church program to "convert Native American or 'Lamanite' children and assimilate them into their culture reflects teachings in the Book of Mormon, a book of canonized scripture unique to the Mormon religion."

The voluntary program began in 1947 and ended in about 2000.

Each of the lawsuits alleges the church failed to take actions to protect victims from abuse.

In addition to LK, the alleged victims in the civil lawsuits involve RJ and MM, male and female siblings from Arizona, who assert they were abused in the late 1970s and early '80s, and a Navajo woman, BN, who says she was repeatedly molested and raped between 1965 and 1972 while in foster care and by health care providers in Utah.

LK, who is using a pseudonym to protect his identity and his family, said Tuesday he sought out the New Mexico attorneys representing the other alleged victims after hearing about their lawsuits.

"That's when I said, 'I'm not alone,' " LK said after a news conference held by his lawyers in Salt Lake City. "I had to get my voice heard."

LK said the abuse changed his life, particularly after the adults he confided in failed to help him.

During a Christmas visit, LK said he told his mother that he was being physically abused and wanted to leave the program and go home.

"My mom said, 'It's for your schooling, it's for your education,' and I cried," he recalled.

To cope with the feelings he hid deep inside, LK said, he drank. "I became an alcoholic. I self-medicated to suppress."

Despite the program that "broke me," LK said he later brought his own family into the LDS Church and retains some affection for its teachings and values.

However, he said, he recently took steps to have his name removed from church membership and has relied more deeply on his Navajo traditions.

"My culture, my tradition is really important to me," he said. "That's what they took away from me."

All three lawsuits seek written apologies from the LDS Church — to the plaintiffs and to the Navajo Nation — for harms caused to the individuals and to the Navajo people and culture.

The suits also seek unspecified financial damages and changes to church policies to ensure that allegations of sexual abuse are first reported to police, not church officials or lay leaders.

The plaintiffs also want the church to establish and fund a task force to work with the Navajo Nation to enhance and restore Navajo culture.

Last week, attorneys for the church asked a federal judge to block the first two lawsuits from advancing in the tribal court, arguing the cases allege abuse that occurred away from the reservation.

"They can file their suit in Utah courts, the proper forum, and seek relief there," the church's attorney David Williams wrote.

The plaintiffs' lawyers, Billy Keeler, of Gallup, N.M., and Craig Vernon, of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, countered Tuesday that the cases should stay in Navajo court because the decisions about the children were made on the reservation.

"We believe lots happened on the Navajo Nation," Vernon said. "They recruited the kids on the Navajo Nation, they baptized the kids on the Navajo Nation … There were a lot of disclosures to LDS social services about the abuse on the Navajo Nation and we presume decisions were made on the Navajo Nation to place [those kids] with different families."

Vernon and Keeler said they could have filed the lawsuit in Utah, but they would have been blocked by statute-of-limitation issues.

The attorneys also said that, like LK, a number of other alleged victims have come forward to report abuse while in the Indian Placement Program, but it remains unclear whether additional lawsuits will be filed.

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