March for Change

I was going to write up this whole blog post about the Protect LDS Children movement, but someone at the Washington Post already did it, and better than I probably could’ve covered it, so I’ll just echo their thoughts here, YES STOP THE INTERVIEWS WITH YOUTH! and I’ll include their text below:

>>> SALT LAKE CITY — About 1,000 current and former Mormons marched to the church’s headquarters in Salt Lake City Friday to deliver petitions demanding an end to closed door, one-on-one interviews between youth and lay leaders where sexual questions sometimes arise. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints changed its policy this week to now allow children to bring a parent or adult with them to the interviews, but protesters said that doesn’t go far enough to keep children safe. The policy change followed recent revelations that a former prominent missionary leader was accused of sexually assaulting two women in the 1980s. The ex-leader denies the allegations.

Protesters carried signs such as “Mormon children we have your back” and “No more closed doors,” saying the so-called “worthiness” meetings can lead to unhealthy shaming of youth. Some cried as they recalled being asked detailed questions about their sexual activity or being punished after admitting to masturbation.

“This is my church and it has many good things but it has one thing that has to be eliminated,” said campaign organizer Sam Young, a Mormon from Houston, urging an end to one-on-one interviews and all sexually explicit questions.

Church officials say the interviews allow bishops to get to know youth better and determine their religious habits and obedience to God. They usually happen twice a year starting at age 12. Questions cover topics such as school, sports, hobbies, education goals and family issues, but sometimes delve into sexual behavior because of the church’s strict teachings on abstinence before marriage.

The protesters said they delivered 55,000 signatures on petitions and 15 copies of a book with people’s stories of inappropriate encounters during the interviews to a church representative from the public relations office.

The event came a day before a twice-annual church conference that will be the first since new church president Russell M. Nelson assumed the post in January.

The march had been planned for months by Young, who launched the public campaign last year after he said private attempts to get church leaders’ attention failed.

Allan Mount, a 36-year-old Mormon father of four from Murray, Utah, said he’s a loyal member of the religion who plans to teach his kids the importance of chastity. But, he said the line of questioning that too often happens in the meetings isn’t necessary.

“There’s too much shame attached it,” said Mount. “You can have a healthy understanding of how you should responsibly act sexually without there being shame involved.”

Robin Day, 40, traveled to the march from Arkansas. At one point, he broke down in tears as he relived not being allowed to pray in church or visit the temple when he admitted to his bishop as a teen that he masturbated. He eventually left the church.

“I was told I was lying to God if I don’t confess,” Day said.

Mormon spokeswoman Irene Caso said in a statement Friday that the religion “condemns any inappropriate behavior or abuse regardless of where or when it occurs” and that church leaders are given instructions for youth interviews.

The statement also seemed to be open to change: “As with any practice in the Church, we continually look for ways to improve and adjust by following the Savior in meeting the needs of our members.”

Scott Gordon, president of FairMormon, a volunteer organization that supports the church, said he agrees that bishops shouldn’t be asking inappropriate sexual questions but disagrees with Young’s demand to require that parents be in every interviews and a ban on questions about a teen’s sexual activities.

“What they’re asking is a step too far,” Gordon said. “It’s making the assumption that bishops are sexual predators. They’re not.”<<<


2 thoughts on “March for Change

  1. That is an interesting article. I think in interviews with youth the ecclesiastical leader should be in a room with a door with a window and another witness nearby. I think youth need to be able to talk to their leader in confidence without a parent because sometimes they can open up to their Bishop better.

    Also true is that a bishop may have one idea about sex and sexual intimacy when the youth’s parents may have taught and believed slightly different views. Its a balancing act for sure. Sex should not have so much shame and taboo secrecy.

    1. I appreciate you taking the time to read.

      Here’s something else interesting: Worthiness interviews didn’t start asking sexual questions until the late 1970’s. This is not a doctrinal issue, and is unique to our generation. The church can end it as easily as it started it.
      Source –

      Taking a look at other doctrines, is there a single doctrine in the LDS church that hasn’t changed and evolved over time?

      The nature of God has changed. Polygamy has changed. The First Vision has changed. “Indians as descendants of the Lamanites” has changed. Blacks and the priesthood has changed. Those are just the tip of the iceberg of things doctrinally supported in scriptures that has changed over the years. Many others could be mentioned.

      Basically, they should stop all worthiness interviews, bishops are not qualified to deal with these issues. Bishops should be a “shepherd” not a “judge in Israel”.

      Instead the mormon church could use counseling services and have an actual psychologists who is trained. A Bishop will be a much better shepherd if he is able to just refer people seeking help to qualified professionals.

      And in case of abuse? They should work closely with professionals, social services and law enforcement, not just call a specific number which is used to help protect the name of the LDS organization, and not help the victim.

      If the LDS organization refuses to do away with the interviews then they should at the very least require that 2 adults are present unless the youth explicitly asks to not have a 2nd person there. That request should be documented and someone could be outside the door looking in through the glass window. Right now it is still a single interview unless the youth requests a 2nd adult.

      Think about it, how is confessing in front of 2 people more weird than being alone with a 50 year old man who’s just a general construction manager with no professional training as a clergyman? Would it really be that weird for a 14 year old girl to confess to a bishop with her mom, or dad, or Young Woman’s leader there too?

      But ultimately? As I sated before, worthiness interviews shouldn’t be implemented at all. A person’s worthiness should never be called into question by anyone. Pinning your worthiness, or worth as a person on someone else’s opinion seems like the first step on a path to co-dependence. If our sins are to be confessed, they should be confessed to God. Bishops are just middlemen. Are their prayers expedited faster to God? Are LDS members prayers less important?

      Even if you just use Book of Mormon examples, look at Alma the elder. He committed awful sins, leading the people astray, drinking, women, and his confession was to God, and God alone. Based on this, the scriptural foundation for confession, is that it is between the individual and God.

      But let’s be honest, every change to worthiness interviews, if implemented would be a tacit admission that past interview practices were unnecessary.

      Putting up walls around salvation and forcing people to pay dues (financial or mental) to get through the gate is the Church’s entire model as it stands. Tacitly admitting that those walls are at least partly man made is tacitly admitting that the model is not based on absolute authority from God.

      Yet eventually the Church is going to feel immense pressure to roll back some of the interview standards–pressure from within and, perhaps, eventually pressure from without in the form of government intervention to prevent abuse. So they are walking a fine line and they know it.

      Anything that a teen would feel uncomfortable sharing with a second trusted adult present should not be shared one-on-one with an untrained non-parental grown man, even if that grown man is trusted. He is a grown man, the teen or youth is a child. The interaction is therefore ALWAYS inappropriate. Bottom line is that even the very best, most well-meaning bishops are warping children’s views of what is appropriate contact with a grown man and what isn’t. Even the good ones are paving the way for predators.

      Just my opinion.

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