A news conference was held on January 18th by LDS Bishop Sam Young. In October of last year Young launched a petition to end the practice of closed door one on one interviews between LDS bishops and children. Young’s petition particularly focuses on the practice of asking children about their sexual behavior. Young’s initial goal was to reach 10,000 signatures. He reached this goal on Christmas Eve. The petition has continued to gather signatures, and as of the writing of the article there are over 11,900 signatures.
Young was joined in the news conference by Joelle Casteix, the Western Regional leader of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. When she learned about this practice, Casteix shared that her reaction was, “I was appalled.” She further said, “There is no institution that I know of, no public school, no private school, no religious institution, not the Catholic Church, not the Episcopal Church, not the Lutheran Church, that allows this kind of practice. No sports team allows an adult and a child to go behind closed doors one on one, and especially to ask sexually explicit questions. In fact, this practice is considered a grooming behavior. A behavior that predators use to blur sexual boundaries, to normalize sexual behavior, and then to initiate sexual assault. To trick children into believing that sexual assault is OK. Now, the bishops of the Mormon church, 99.9% of them are good men, but that .001 percent who are not, are taking advantage of that grooming behavior and are destroying children.”
Young indicated that he has gathered 173 stories and has published them on his website at http://protectldschildren.org. He also requested that parents take action to set boundaries with their Church leaders with regard to these interviews and has provided a template for a letter to be shared by parents with their leaders. It is available on the same website.
Young announced that he targeting to organize a group of 1,000 individuals to march from City Hall to Church headquarters on March 30th to present the petition to LDS Church leaders.
In December, the Church released a response to questions about the interviews. They said, “Personal interviews are an important part of ministering to those in a congregation. They offer an opportunity for a leader to know an individual better and to help them live the gospel of Jesus Christ. Leaders are instructed to prepare spiritually so they can be guided by the Holy Ghost during these interviews. Leaders are provided with instructions in leadership resources and are asked to review them regularly.
Interviews are held for a number of reasons, including for temple recommends, priesthood quorum or Young Women class advancement, callings to serve in the church or when a member requests to meet with a priesthood leader for personal guidance or to help them to repent from serious sin… In these interviews, church leaders are instructed to be sensitive to the character, circumstances and understanding of the young man or young woman. They are counseled to not be unnecessarily probing or invasive in their questions, but should allow a young person to share their experiences, struggles and feelings.”
The full Protect LDS Children press conference can be viewed here: