A few years ago I was serving as first counselor in a bishopric. The bishop happened to be out of town and asked me to sit in the meeting with the Stake President and other bishops. I don’t recall all that was on the agenda, but one item has stuck with me over the years. The bishops were talking about youth worthiness interviews and one bishop confidently announced that he asked every young man when he last masturbated. Not if he had kept the law of chastity, but when he had last masturbated.
At the time this struck me as invasive, inappropriate, and voyeuristic. I should have spoken up, but I was only sitting in for the bishop and so I kept my mouth shut. Afterwards, I reflected on how I would feel about a bishop asking one of my sons the pointed question and I talked with my sons about what questions I thought were appropriate in priesthood interviews and asked them to come to me if they were asked questions in an interview that were inappropriate or made them uncomfortable.
A few weeks ago a former LDS bishop from Houston Texas, Sam Young, began a petition to stop the practice of asking detailed sexual questions of youths in interviews. He has also written a letter to the Church’s First Presidency asking for the same. Just over 10,000 individuals have added their name to the petition. I added mine.
Since the petition was released I have read many accounts of completely inappropriate interviews taking place with youth as young as eight. I am not easily shocked, but some of the detailed questions asked of these individuals by their bishops did not have any real bearing on the issue about which the bishop was counseling and were both abusive and voyeuristic. While most interviews are conducted appropriately, modifying the policy to restrict the type of questions asked, and/or to have parents present when interviews take place would eliminate many problems.
Bishop Young states the following on the petition website:
“For decades, it has been common place for Bishops and other local leaders to pose questions of a sexual nature to children. There are reports of this happening to children as young as age 8. These questions are being asked by an older man, all alone with the child, behind closed doors and often without the knowledge or permission of the parents. Almost universally, these men have no comprehensive training.
Here is a list of potential harm. All the risks below are actual consequences that have been experienced from sexually oriented interviews with LDS children.
- Attempted suicide.
- Suicidal ideation.
- Inappropriate shame and guilt.
- Childhood filled with self loathing.
- Adulthood filled with self loathing.
- Normalizing children to sexual questions by adult men. (Grooming)
- Sexual abuse. (Pedophilia)
- Impaired sexual relations after marriage.
- Years of recovery from childhood shaming. Often lasting decades.
Society-at-large recognizes that the Mormon practice of sexual interviews with children is wholly inappropriate. It’s a dangerous and damaging practice.
It’s time for us, as Mormons, and friends of Mormons, to stand up for our children…to stand up and require that children be protected.
We call on the LDS Church to immediately cease the practice of subjecting children to questions about masturbation, orgasm, ejaculation, sexual positions or anything else of a sexual nature. This applies to all children up to and including age 17. There should be no one-on-one interviews with children. A parent is to be present.
We call on the LDS Church to publicly disavow this practice.
We call on the LDS Church to insure that all congregational leaders, as well the general membership, are informed that this practice is prohibited.”
I would ask that each of you take a step back and reflect on the appropriateness of the current LDS Church youth interview policy. I ask that you add your voice to the petition at:
The Morgan County News