Sam Young, a former bishop in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, on Sunday told a crowd of supporters in downtown Salt Lake City that he has been excommunicated after his sustained campaign of protesting church policy on how Mormon leaders conduct private interviews with youth.
Reading from a letter he had received from a church disciplinary council, Young learned of the verdict that he be excommunicated, a decision that he’d anticipated.
“The decision of the council is that you be excommunicated for conduct contrary to laws and order of the Church,” Young read from a letter which was prompted by Young’s relentless activism under the group name Protect LDS Children.
This type of gathering in downtown Salt Lake City has been a common occurrence for Young over the past year. Despite living in Houston, he has made the trip repeatedly for a number of protests, marches and most recently a 23-day hunger strike.
Young’s message has been that the Church-sanctioned practice of male church leaders interviewing youth and children behind closed doors and asking questions that concern their sexual activity is both inappropriate and dangerous.
Speaking with KUER in August, Young said he was willing to put his own standing in the Church on the line for the cause. “The children’s safety is more important than my membership," he said. "I don’t want to lose my membership [but] if I have to in order to speak out and advocate for a policy change well fine, I’m willing to do that.”
Excommunication strips a Mormon of their membership in the Church and all the privileges that come with it. Young is no longer allowed to speak in church meetings, attend the temple or operate under the authority of the priesthood in any way.
In response to Young’s church discipline, Mormon officials previously released the following statement:
"Because of the personal nature of Church disciplinary matters and to respect the privacy of those involved, the Church does not provide information about the proceedings. Church discipline is administered by local leaders who are familiar with the individual and his or her circumstances. If helpful, you may refer to this resource on the subject of church discipline."
For some onlookers, the Church’s verdict had a direct impact on them as well.
“We’re resigning today,” said Mandi Bastian, who was joined by her husband Lynn and three of their sons.
The Bastians have considered resigning their membership in the Mormon Church for some time but days ago decided that if Young was excommunicated it would be the last straw.
The Bastians’ decision was prompted in part by the experience one of their older sons had during private interviews with Church leaders. Mandi said their son was needlessly censured for masturbating and that the shame that followed nearly drove him to suicide.
“I’ll be damned if they go through it,” Mandi Bastian said, gesturing toward her sons. “That I let one of them go through it, I have so much guilt.”
Young said he wasn’t surprised by the verdict, but wasn’t happy about it either.
“I’ll lose some credibility in the Church,” Young said. “Maybe a lot of credibility.”
But Young said the momentum can’t be stopped now. He said he’s proud of the light he has shined on current Church policy and, looking back, he wouldn’t have approached it any differently.