“Former LDS bishop calls for church leaders to stop interviewing teens about sexual practices”

“Former LDS bishop calls for church leaders to stop interviewing teens about sexual practices” December 2, 2017

 

A ward meeting house
A typical LDS chapel, where typical LDS people worship and serve (Wikimedia Commons)

 

There’s a campaign brewing:

 

“Former LDS bishop calls for church leaders to stop interviewing teens about sexual practices”

 

I’ve read online complaints about sex-related questions in bishops’ worthiness interviews for quite a few years now.

 

I have to say, though, that I never experienced anything like the “predatory” questioning — to borrow a term used in the article (by someone with whom I agree) — that’s alleged by some critics of the Church.  Nor did my wife.  (I just asked her, and reconfirmed what she’s told me previously.)  Nor, so far as I’m aware, did any of my children.

 

Could it happen?  Of course it could.  And, presumably, it has.  After all, there are thousands and thousands of bishops and branch presidents and members of stake presidencies in the Church, each of them conducting scores of such interviews every year, and they’re constantly being rotated into and out of office.  Any number of things can happen, given those numbers.

 

In all my life, though, I’ve personally heard of one such case, told to me by a friend who’s about my age:  He was living overseas about five decades ago, in a branch where he was the only young person, and, in interviews, his branch president sometimes asked him whether he had ever engaged in x .  Often he’d never previously even heard of x.  So he looked blank and didn’t know how to respond.  So the branch president would then explain what x was.

 

Wholly inappropriate.

 

(For the record, incidentally, my friend turned out alright.  Some kids might have been damaged by such an experience, but he wasn’t.  He wasn’t traumatized.  When he told me about it, he was laughing.  He’s gone on to hold high leadership positions in the Church and even more prominent leadership positions outside it, internationally.  I won’t name him.  But he can easily be found on Wikipedia and elsewhere.)

 

When I myself served as a bishop, I never asked intrusive questions nor demanding intimate personal information from anybody.  Now, granted, I presided over a college-age singles ward and never interviewed children.  But I certainly wouldn’t have asked inappropriate questions of them, either.  I usually just asked whether the person that I was interviewing kept the law of chastity.

 

There were a handful of situations where the interviewee would ask me how, exactly, chastity might be defined, or whether engaging in y might be a violation of it.  On a few rare occasions, sensing a hesitant answer or some other uncertainty, I myself might ask what the law of chastity meant to the person I was interviewing.  Or I might ask if he or she had any reservations or felt that he or she should expand upon a simple Yes or No answer.  I never probed inappropriately.  I always tried to be sensitive, and I honestly think that I was.

 

During my time of service as a bishop, of course, some of my more implacably hostile online critics entertained themselves — excited themselves? — from time to time by fantasizing anonymously about my supposedly voyeuristic interviews with ward members and about how miserable and oppressed my congregation must feel.  I was, they liked to imagine, a peeping Tom and a pervert who loved to hear salacious details about the romantic lives of college-age kids.  (That, I suppose, was why I had applied for the position as a bishop!)  But such nonsense said far more about them than it did about me (and it spoke rather eloquently, too).

 

In any case, while I think that we need to guard against inappropriate and unnecessary detail during worthiness interviews with young people — though not only with young people — I’m not really aware of a crisis in the Church in this regard.

 

However, I would be interested in hearing what others have to say on this topic.  (Though I’m quite uninterested in mere anti-Mormon rage.  I hope that comments, if any, will be calm and measured and civil.)

 

Posted from Park City, Utah

 

 

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