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Mormon apostle Jeffrey R. Holland may be the first LDS leader ever to mention "female genital mutilation."

In a Sept. 11 speech at a four-day conference in the United Kingdom titled "Religious Persecution: The Driver for Forced Migration," Holland told attendees that sexual attacks do not happen only during war.

"Instances of female genital mutilation, removable [sic] of bodily appendages, and honor killings persist during times of peace," the obviously emotional apostle said, "God knows of [the women's] suffering and weeps with them."

The inclusion of female genital mutilation — in which the clitoris is pricked, cut or even eliminated — startled Chad Emmett, who teaches geography at LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University.

Emmett wrote about female genital mutilation (FGM) among global Mormons for the online journal Square Two in which he concluded that no LDS higher-up had ever spoken about the topic.

"I have not yet found any official mention of FGM by Mormon leaders (in conference talks, Ensign articles, the Handbook of Instructions, or letters from the First Presidency)." Emmett wrote. And there isn't much evidence of FGM being practiced by Latter-day Saints in countries where it is common.

Some Mormon girls in Indonesia have experienced the "mildest form ... pricking," Emmett concluded from his research, but was "unable to confirm if FGM has been practiced among Mormons in Africa."

The BYU professor did discover that other Christian leaders in Africa had spoken out against the practice, but not LDS officials.

Until Holland.

Sadly, Emmett noted on his blog, the apostle's statement did not get much publicity.

The FGM statement came "at the first of a speech that mainly focused on two other important and current issues — helping refugees and religious persecution, both of which have received considerable attention over the past year by church leaders," Emmett noted on his blog. "Unfortunately, this groundbreaking statement about FGM did not get mentioned in either of the main church-produced articles about the speech."

While the issue hasn't received much attention among top LDS leaders, Democratic Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada — a Mormon — has taken it up as a political cause.

Reid crafted a 1996 law, banning FGM in the U.S. for girls under 18, Emmett wrote. "He also sponsored the Girls' Protection Act, which banned vacation cutting [sending girls abroad for FGM]. This law passed as part of the fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act."

The activism and statements by Reid and Holland, the BYU professor hopes, "might be the beginning of church efforts to help stop the horrible practice of FGM."

Peggy Fletcher Stack