A petition is gaining traction with over 5,000 signatures that demands the practice of one-on-one interviews between Mormon leaders and children be stopped.
The petition argues the meetings which occur behind closed-doors are not appropriate and may be serving to shame children. Sam Young is the founder of the petition and a former bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Young led a drive for the petition near the Temple Square in Salt Lake City Friday and Saturday, a property owned by the church.
Serving as bishop from 1991 to 1996, Young said he only ever asked child interviewees if they followed the church's "Law of Chastity." He insists his questions were never explicit but was later surprised to learn that many other church youths had been asked explicit questions about masturbation and sexual activity.
The real shock for Young came when he asked his daughter if she had ever been asked by a church bishop if she masturbates. He explained her response, "She said, 'Yeah.' She was 12-years-old, she didn’t know what it was, she went to the internet – you can find all kinds of stuff on the internet that I didn’t want my 12-year-old exposed to.
Young explained how the question led his daughter to look up masturbation online which led her to pornography, she also confirmed she was asked similar questions from age 12-17. "I was incensed at that," said Young. "I felt a betrayal of my parental responsibilities – they’d been abdicated and confiscated."
Young also maintains a blog which he shares multiple testimonials from other youth who say they too were asked about sexual matters at young ages by church leaders. During his question for signatures, Young said he even encountered people who didn't know about the question's existence or denied it altogether.
In some cases, youth who were questioned about sexual matters in their youth said they have struggled with shame and feelings of inadequacy well into adulthood. Some of the worst experiences even drove children to thoughts or attempts at suicide.
It might not be a lot who consider suicide," Young continued, "but why are we doing this if even one kid is going to commit suicide?"
St. George News asked the church’s Public Affairs Department to comment but they declined.
"I’m not an activist. I’ve never done this kind of thing before," Young said as he explained that he started the petition to help children of future generations.
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