A former Mormon church leader in southern Minnesota pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old boy.

Michael Adam Davis, 36, of Kasson, is charged in Dodge County District Court with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, all felonies.

He's accused of assaulting the boy at the youth's home, where Davis often stayed. The alleged victim's family were members of the Church of Latter-day Saints (LDS) in Kasson and considered Davis "family," according to the criminal complaint.

Davis is a registered sex offender who was convicted of three sex crimes in Utah before moving to Minnesota, according to court records.

Michael Benjamin, an LDS member who lives in Rochester, attended the virtual hearing and said Davis pleaded not guilty to all charges. Benjamin, a therapist who works with child sexual assault victims, said the Mormon church must do more to root out sex offenders in its midst.

"This needs to be brought to light in many ways," Benjamin said. "Because I'm a therapist, I feel pretty strongly about kids who are victims of sexual abuse. And I feel passionately about how the LDS has handled situations like this historically.

"This isn't the first time the LDS church has protected abusers or put abusers in positions of leadership."

Davis was the Elders Quorum president in the Kasson church, according to court documents. The church keeps extensive personal records on its members, Benjamin said, and it's not credible that church leaders in Minnesota would have been unaware of Davis' criminal record.

Efforts to reach LDS church leaders Wednesday were unsuccessful.

John Reinan • 612-673-7402