1,000 march in Salt Lake City over Mormon youth interviews

About 1,000 Mormons and former Mormons march to the church's headquarters in Salt Lake City on March 30, 2018, to deliver petitions demanding an end to one-on-one interviews between Mormon youth and lay leaders and the sexual questions that sometimes arise during the meetings. | Associated Press photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — 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.

Jesse Stay, a former scout master, shows his support with about 1,000 Mormons and ex-Mormons before marching to the church’s headquarters to deliver petitions demanding an end to one-on-one interviews between Mormon youth and lay leaders, March 30, 2018, in Salt Lake City | Associated Press photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

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.

Laurie Shipp, left, and Jody England Hansen appear with about 1,000 Mormons and ex-Mormons before marching to the church’s headquarters to deliver petitions demanding an end to one-on-one interviews between Mormon youth and lay leaders, March 30, 2018, in Salt Lake City. | Associated Press photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

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.

Robin Day cries as hundreds of Mormons and ex-Mormons gather before marching to the church’s headquarters to deliver petitions demanding an end to one-on-one interviews between Mormon youth and lay leaders, March 30, 2018, in Salt Lake City. | Associated Press photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

“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.”

Written by BRADY McCOMBS, Associated Press

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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17 Comments

  • radioviking March 31, 2018 at 8:11 am

    Bishops should not be sitting alone in their office with a child or youth. The bishops must stop asking sexually explicit questions. No other organization in the USA does this. This is grooming children and youth for predators to abuse them. Even if a bishop never touches or abuses a child or young woman or young man the experience of sitting alone in a room with an adult man has groomed that child or youth for another pedophile to abuse them.
    .
    This policy change will be a win-win for the LDS Church as well. We are in the 21st century now, and this policy needs to end. Most men who serve as bishops are good men who will never hurt a child, BUT there are some bishops who have abused children and/or youth. The LDS Church needs to ensure that the abuse NEVER happens again! The BSA do not allow an adult male to be alone with a child or youth, but why does the LDS Church still allow this practice? This is simply inappropriate.
    .
    If this policy change can prevent the abuse of only one child, IT IS WORTH IT! What would Jesus do?
    The LDS Church needs to do what is right.

  • comments March 31, 2018 at 2:14 pm

    Uhm, let’s see, 50-some year old bishop sitting in a little locked room “interviewing” your 12 year old, asking explicit details about his/her masturbation habits? Why are you a member of this cult in the first place!? No one is making you stay. And it’s a very expensive cult/club to be a part of if you do it the prescribed way. And those weird, masonic cult temple rituals? Is that really worth 10% of your gross income? Magical golden plates, talking rocks, angels floating down in the forest telling ol’ Joe to marry as many 14 year olds as he can. Why bother? These people in these photos need to get a life. Most of them don’t look like active LDS’ers anyway. They look like rabid, man-hating feminazis, a lot of them.

    • comments March 31, 2018 at 2:20 pm

      And that sign in the photo about Jesus asking about orgasms. That is just obnoxious as hell, and unnecessary. I highly doubt that woman was asked about that personally, and she’s just being an obtrusive loud mouth. I’d pose the same question to her, WHY ARE YOU LDS? WHAT REASON DO YOU EVEN HAVE TO BE LDS IF YOU DON’T LIKE THE WAY IT’S RUN?

      Need to have LBA come in here and lecture you people about female nature. I’m sure a lot of you lefties will squeal, SEXIST! even though LBA is a woman. haha 😉

  • dogmatic March 31, 2018 at 2:32 pm

    When I was 12-13 years old My LDS bishop asked me if I masterbated, I said no, than he asked me if I ever lied and I said no. I think this is when I started questioning my faith, it was the lying part that bothered me the most.
    True Story…….

    • comments March 31, 2018 at 5:40 pm

      It is kinda ironic a bishop asking if you lie, considering the whole religion/cult is based on fairy tales put forth as actual historical events. That ol’ Joe was a cleaver one–some kind of conman genius of his day.

  • Utahguns March 31, 2018 at 3:59 pm

    “I was answered that I must join none of them (other religions) , for they were all wrong, and the personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in His sight: that those professors were all corrupt . . .” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, vol. 1, p. 5-6).

    OK…so you think you’re right and everybody is wrong?

    Then why do Mormons profess The 11th Article of Faith which reads as follows: We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

    Nobody in the last 30 years has been able to give me a straight answer except, “You need to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it”….

  • Rebekah March 31, 2018 at 4:26 pm

    This just wrong on the protesters part not the church’s. People need quit being in fear and thinking everything is about sex and abuse. The bishop can only ask certain questions. These meetings are not required and if you think a bishop or his counselors are strangers that’s your choice for not getting to know them. The only way you can talk about sexual thing or abuse is if the teenager talked about it first. All the protesters need to grow up and learn what common sense is. This goes for all the protesting that’s gong on right now. To all protesters go research what your protesting for before you do it because all of you have know idea what your protesting for and being a follower. Just because the one person who starts the protests thinks they know everything doesn’t mean everyone else has fallow blindly and believe them and make idiots out of themselves because of one person twisted thinking.

  • Rebekah March 31, 2018 at 4:31 pm

    The meetings are not required and the only way the bishop would know anything personal is if the teenager told him. The Bishop is not allowed to ask those type of questions. I have personal experience with this. If the bishop asked those type of questions the bishop is in the wrong not the church. It’s sad that people bash and leave the church because of the people. The church it self didn’t do anything. That’s just blaming God for the ignorance of the people.

    • Real Life March 31, 2018 at 8:58 pm

      Blaming God. LOL! What a crazy “religion”.

  • Rebekah April 1, 2018 at 9:14 am

    If you are taking it that I said I was blaming God. You have it all wrong. I said because of the ignorance of people. This goes for any religion. If a person is going to defined there beliefs and there religion by the bad actions of a few individuals is very sad. Instead taking action against those individuals they are taking it against the religion as a whole and then in turn is blaming God.

  • Rebekah April 1, 2018 at 9:17 am

    If you are taking it that I said I was blaming God. You have it all wrong. I said because of the ignorance of people. This goes for any religion. If a person is going to defined there beliefs and there religion by the bad actions of a few individuals is very sad. Instead taking action against those individuals they are taking it against the religion as a whole and then in turn is blaming God and not the actions of those individuals.

    • ladybugavenger April 1, 2018 at 4:50 pm

      I understand, it’s like people blaming guns for mass shootings when they should be blaming the person firing the gun.

  • Mike P April 1, 2018 at 11:14 am

    Do these “Lay Leaders” at least keep their hands above the desk when interviewing these kids?

  • Rob83 April 2, 2018 at 9:32 am

    It’s my understanding that Jesus was upset when people were being taxed to enter a temple. What is that 10 percent requirement for being able to enter into the temple considered to be? Along with the purpose of temples to begin with, we’re only used for animal sacrafices, to repent, that all became exempt when Jesus became the sacrifice and saves us all. Complete cult and mockery of God in my opinion. The Bible is the only book given to us from God, no other book is to be added in relation to it. Come on people do your research please. I was LDS and am now not and have never been closer or have had more love for Jesus as I do now. I was too bogged down with all the requirements to be perfect, now I know that I am a human and Jesus died for my sins and I will still be with him when I die, thanks

    • ladybugavenger April 2, 2018 at 10:09 am

      Amen

    • Utahguns April 3, 2018 at 5:37 am

      It was 2007 Superbowl Sunday. My wife, a couple of friends and I were watching the game.
      Then the doorbell rang.
      It was three men from the local mormon ward telling me they wanted to come in and talk about how they can put God in my life.
      I said “God is already in my life” ….showed them the Crucifix hanging on the wall and said that I read some chapters from Genesis two days ago.
      They said, “But you need to hear the word of Joseph Smith, too determine your true faith that awaits you”.
      I just closed the door.

      Who in their right mind peddles anything on Superbowl Sunday?
      TV commercials maybe….

      I think mormons would reach more people if they took an ad out during the Superbowl.

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