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Why A Former Mormon Bishop Is On A Hunger Strike

A man in a blue shirt and hat startes into the distance.
Lee Hale
Sam Young wants Mormon leaders to stop all one-on-one interviews with anyone under the age of 18.

Sam Young, a former Mormon bishop from Houston, is currently on his fifth day of a hunger strike to provoke change in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Young believes that Mormon leaders shouldn’t be asking sexually explicit questions in interviews with children and youth.

It’s common practice for local Mormon leaders, most often a bishop, to ask children and youth about their sexual experiences in one-on-one interviews. These questions often focus on pornography use and masturbation with the purpose being to determine “worthiness” and encourage living within the standards of the Church.

Young argues that these questions create needless shame and, in the worst cases, can create a grooming relationship with potential predators serving in these leadership positions.

In recent months the LDS Church updated its interview policy, clarifying that children and youth can invite another adult to accompany them. But Young says that doesn’t go far enough.


Young summarizes what he’s advocating for in 10 words: “No one-on-one interviews. No sexually explicit questions, ever.”

His hunger strike comes after several attempts to get the attention of LDS Church leaders. His previous efforts include an online petition and a march to Church headquarters to deliver written testimonies of Mormons who felt that one-on-one interviews on sexual topics had done them serious harm.

Each night of the strike, Young is inviting a different top leader of the LDS Church to meet with him — and whomever else would like to join — across the street from Temple Square at 7 p.m. He hasn’t had any church leaders take him up on his offer but he is still holding out some hope.

Young said the issue and his advocacy are worth the risk of putting his standing with the Church in jeopardy.


“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.”

The LDS Church issued a statement on Saturday in response to the hunger strike, saying Young has previously met with a number of church leaders and that no further meetings with him are necessary.


Lee Hale began listening to KUER while he was teaching English at a Middle School in West Jordan (his one hour commute made for plenty of listening time). Inspired by what he heard he applied for the Kroc Fellowship at NPR headquarters in DC and to his surprise, he got it. Since then he has reported on topics ranging from TSA PreCheck to micro apartments in overcrowded cities to the various ways zoo animals stay cool in the summer heat. But, his primary focus has always been education and he returns to Utah to cover the same schools he was teaching in not long ago. Lee is a graduate of Brigham Young University and is also fascinated with the way religion intersects with the culture and communities of the Beehive State. He hopes to tell stories that accurately reflect the beliefs that Utahns hold dear.
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