A petition by a former Mormon bishop has caused a stir this week. It calls for lay leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to stop asking about the sexual practices of young people in one-on-one interviews. This week, the church weighed in.
Sam Young is the man behind the campaign. He lives in Houston, Texas and served as a Mormon bishop in the 90s, a volunteer position which presides over a congregation.
Since then he’s learned it’s common for bishops and other church leaders to ask children and teenagers about their sexual activity during one-on-one worthiness interviews. Things like masturbation and pornography, sometimes introducing these terms to kids for the first time.
“It happened to my own kids and I wasn’t there to stand up and walk in and tell the bishop, never talk to my children about this," says Young, speaking on RadioWest Wednesday.
Young says while he was a bishop he wasn’t instructed to ask those types of questions, so he steered clear.
His petition, which now has 8,000 signatures, calls on the LDS Church to stop this practice to avoid potential harm done to kids and teenagers.
In response the church’s spokesperson, Eric Hawkins, released a statement expressing the importance of these worthiness interviews. And adding that, church leaders are instructed to be sensitive in these one-on-one settings.
“They are counseled to not be unnecessarily probing or invasive in their questions," the statement reads. "But should allow a young person to share their experiences, struggles and feelings.”
Sam Young doesn’t expect his petition will change church policy, but he thinks it will change the way some Mormon parents approach interviews with their children. Whether that means they ask to be in the same room as their child during a bishop interview, or opt their child out altogether.