Sisters Speak: Interviews with the Bishop

Posted by on January 28, 2013 in authority, women | 35 comments

(As the editor of the Exponent II magazine‘s Sisters Speak column, I would love to hear your opinion on the following questions.  Note: I might email some of you commenters asking if I might quote you in the magazine.) 

I have three very young children, and I’m already nervous about the bishop interviewing them when they are teens. Specifically, I worry about the chastity question. I don’t feel terribly comfortable with the idea of a man they don’t know well asking them personal questions about things of a sexual nature. I particularly don’t want my kids feeling dirty and sinful if they have engaged in a certain amount of self-exploration, which I consider to be a normal part of development.

So how to handle the interview? One thought I had was that I could make it clear that no interview takes place without me or their dad in the room. This would probably head off any extended or probing questions of a sexual nature. Another thought was that I would tell my kids beforehand that they are never to talk with any adult about things of a sexual nature, and that if the bishop asks about it, they should say, “My parents have instructed me that I’m not allowed to discuss that sort of thing with adults I’m not related to.”  My last thought was that I could tell them that the bishop is going to ask them if they are obeying the law of chastity, and that if they are not engaging in sexual acts with other people, then they can tell the bishop that they are keeping the law of chastity.

What advice do you have for young people going through these interviews, or for their parents who want to help them get through them in healthy ways? How did/do you yourself navigate these interviews and the chastity question? 

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35 Comments

  1. I honestly appreciate you putting out there the idea of “My parents told me to only talk about that with adults I’m related to.” I think if you went a step ahead and informed the bishop of this family rule as well you could probably find a compromise?

  2. Also, I teach the 15-17 year old sunday school class in my ward and they ASKED me to give a chastity lesson. I started it by making them laugh handing out Chocolate eyeballs left over from Halloween saying “Remember: however sweet the temptation, Jesus is watching you” which amused them the most because since October I had been finding ways to make getting rid of all our left over Halloween candy a part of each lesson. Then we talked about peace. I didn’t give them any of the TERRIBLE quotes I found in my research about if a woman has a choice to die or be raped she should die! We talked about great public make out spots where things can’t get to out of control, we talked honestly about the effects early sexual intercourse has had on their friends (we live in SoCal where losing your virginity at 14 is not uncommon), and how loving someone is beautiful, but did doing that specific thing seem to bring any PEACE to their peers lives? I wish they could change the question to be “are you at peace with the body your heavenly father has given you, and do you have peace about the choices you are making with it?” then they can say yes, or no, and if they are a GIRL I think you ask if there is anyone in the ward she would feel comfortable talking about that with, her mother, or a Young Women’s leader? As a teenage convert I was unfamiliar with the routine and when asked about chastity I felt the need to admit I wished my boyfriend would touch my boobs. As an adult, I can not figure out WHY I would EVER have been put in a conversation with a grown male stranger that could take a turn like that. We need to encourage our children to live the commandments to seek peace and have common sense boundaries about what conversations our children should have outside of our family.

    • Alissa,
      Thanks for your insight and wisdom. I love the way you taught chastity, and I also love this. “We need to encourage our children to live the commandments to seek peace and have common sense boundaries about what conversations our children should have outside of our family.” Yes. I fear my child would feel the need to tell this stranger man things that are unimportant and embarrassing and then have to live with having to see that man continually. Your example perfectly illustrated that.

  3. I would be open, honest, and frank. I would advise children, teens and young adults that it is appropriate to set boundaries, even with a Bishop. Let them know that if a Bishop(or anyone else for that matter) pushes them and ask inappropriate or prying questions during an interview it is okay for them to get up and walk out and let as many people(as deemed appropriate) know as possible.

    • Thanks, Diane. I agree that prepping the kids beforehand is key.

  4. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I had a really hard time with this as a youth, and now as a YSA. I moved around a lot as a kid, so I never knew any of my bishops for more than a year or two – definitely not enough time to feel comfortable talking to them about my chastity. I barely talked to my own mother about that stuff for goodness sakes.

    I really like the idea of having the young women’s leaders be the ones to address those questions in interviews with the young women. I know that, at least for me that would have made a world of difference. For young single adults, I’m not sure what the solution would be…those same questions are asked in interviews with my branch president AND my stake president, with whom I am even less comfortable (I think I’ve met the man twice…).

    • I like the idea of involving women leaders in these interview situations as well.

  5. Such good questions. Just having a conversation about it before the interview would be miles ahead of what I got for preparation as a teenager. But then, my mom’s conversation with me about sex consisted of, “Did they talk to you about this stuff at school?” (Yes) “OK then.”

    I like your idea of telling them the bishop will ask a question about chastity, and if they aren’t engaging in sexual acts with another person, to answer yes, they are keeping it. I can imagine lots of bishops following that up with, “Do you know what the law of chastity means?” So I’d tell my kids to answer, yes. If the bishop wants to talk specifics, I’ll tell them to reply that their parents do not want them to have conversations about chastity with any other adults. I hope the bishop would then drop it.

    I really, really, really hope my kids get good leaders and bishops as teenagers. My ward is filled with great people so I’m optimistic that they will, but also believe that my kids will hold what they hear from their parents at home to be true over and above what they may hear at church. I trust their smart, discerning spirits to be able to identify what’s true and what isn’t.

    • Emily U,
      You’re right, I bet many bishops would follow that up with “Do you know what chastity means?” Your idea for how to help them through that is perfect.

  6. I don’t think any church leaders–no matter the position– should be asking these questions of ANYONE. Why do Mormons have no boundaries?

    My last week at church, after pouring my heart out to my singles wars bishop, he looked at me and said, “I think your problem is you just need someone to…well, you need to…you just just get married (ie, get laid).

    I realized that the Church does not respect boundaries. I turned in my resignation and never looked back.

    Funny thing is: I wasn’t talking to him about the law if chastity at all. I was going over my doctrinal problems with the Church.

  7. When you have a minute, you might sit down with your Bishop and review with him the kinds of things he is supposed to ask about in a youth interview. They are found in Handbook 1. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind. Among other things, discussion about obeying the commandments should address being modest in dress and action, refraining from any kind of sexual activity, refraining from viewing, reading or listening to pornographc material. If you aren’t comfortable with your teen discussing those subject matters, you really handcuff and lose out on possible teaching moments. I know many people think their teenager “can tell me anything.” Maybe. My practical experience is that there are many things a teenager does not want his/her parents to know about. As bishop, we have to keep confidences, and though we are to encourage youth to talk to their parents about moral transgressions, some elect not to. Finally, just something to think about: Do you own your child? Are they not an independent member of the church with their own record and record number? Doesn’t the Bishop have as much authority and obligation, in dealing with church matters, to your child as he does to any other adult? Please don’t misinterpret or be offended. The purpose of the church and leaders is always to assist and strengthen the family, working through and with parents. Never to supercede or replace them. (Handbook 2, 1.4) I would just hope parents are equally determined to accept that assistance.

    • ” Do you own your child? Are they not an independent member of the church with their own record and record number? Doesn’t the Bishop have as much authority and obligation, in dealing with church matters, to your child as he does to any other adult?

      I find your question pretty obnoxious, Parents are legally responsible for their children until they reach the age of consent, If a child were in legal hot water where police were involved, the police or any other legal authority would not be able to question a child with out the parents being present present. So it goes with out saying if a parent leaves the church, they have every right to rescind and to ask for the resignation of any minor child.

      Its a parents right until the child reaches the age of consent(18) and can live and function on their own to make decisions with regard to spiritual, emotional, financial for any stated children within the family unit. No, Church authority anywhere has the right to usurp or to undermine that authority Period, end of story. I think any good Bishop would understand where appropriate boundaries are and should be.

      • Well I guess you misinterpreted and took offense, anyway. I very clearly said church leaders are to assist. But what if parents teach their child that premarital sex is acceptable. Do I go along with what the parents teach or do I try to teach chastity? I am simply saying that I have an obligation to the child. Please don’t skew and twist my words in a way they weren’t meant.

      • Idiat,

        You ask me not to skew or to misinterpret, yet, on the other hand, you keep insisting that you have the right to go against what the parents are teaching the children at home if it doesn’t mesh with your own ideas of how the doctrine should be taught and played out in the home. And my answer is still the same, No, you don’t. You would still be usurping parental authority.

        Since you want to throw hypotheticals as to what the scope and reach of a Bishop should be let me ask you this what if you or any other Bishop insist that parents don’t seek medical assistance for any minor child in their care and instead rely on the power of prayer, and that child dies are you willing to do the jail time for that parent when their butts are called before the court for manslaughter? If the answer is No, than you know that you don’t have the right to counsel minor contrary to parental wishes..

        Personal revelation comes from with the family unit, and for you to insist otherwise is as close to skirting with unrighteous dominion as one can get

    • Idiat, I appreciate your input. It sounds like you are or have been a bishop. Can you see why some parents would be nervous about these sexual questions? When you did these interviews did you press about masturbation? That’s really what i’m concerned about.

      Of course I don’t own my child like I own a car. But I am responsible for the health and well being of my child, and i want to protect them from situations in which they might feel they were pressed in inappropriate ways, which could very well result in them turning away from the church. I also want to protect them from feeling like they need to unload on the bishop every time they touched themselves or had a sexual thought.

  8. “I particularly don’t want my kids feeling dirty and sinful if they have engaged in a certain amount of self-exploration, which I consider to be a normal part of development.”

    The logic behind this argument appears to be that behaviors which are normal should not be conisdered immoral. I cannot agree with that. Just because something is normal, it should not be considered moral. After all, the natural (wo)man is an enemy to god. It is by putting off the natural (wo)man, or changing normal developmental behaviors, that we become more Christ-like. Using your argument, not only maturbation but fornication as well as lying, stealing, shelfishness, and even physical abuse should not be conisdered sinful because they are a normal part of development.

    “Another thought was that I would tell my kids beforehand that they are never to talk with any adult about things of a sexual nature, and that if the bishop asks about it, they should say, ‘My parents have instructed me that I’m not allowed to discuss that sort of thing with adults I’m not related to.’”

    What I thought when I read this is that you are teaching your children to not trust your bishop, who probably has your kids’ best interest in mind, because he’s going to ask standardized yes or no questions but it’s ok to talk about sex with creepy uncle Lester when he comes for the family reunion.

    • I think what the author meant about “normal part of development” is more akin to something like a girl getting a period and sprouting dark public hair (which is normal) and less about physical violence and sleeping around being a “normal” part of human development. A woman shouldn’t feel dirty or unclean because she has a menstrual cycle, nor should she feel dirty or unclean or immoral if she wonders just what, exactly, she looks like down there and gets out a hand mirror to poke around and have a look.

      xox

      • *pubic. Not public. Sorry.

      • The author can correct me if I’m mistaken, but I’m sure that “engaged in a certain amount of self-exploration” refers to masturbation. Having a period and sprouting hair is not engaging in self-exploration in any way.

      • I think you are both right. Like Heidikins alludes, I am concerned about my 12 year old daughter feeling like she’s dirty or sinful because she touches herself occasionally as she’s trying to navigate her new body and all that comes with it. Or when she gets a mirror and looks down there, like she says. But Really is also semi-right about my take on masturbation. I don’t think it’s a confession worthy sin if it happens a few times. It might be if the kid has a problem and can’t stop, but if it happens occasionally, I’d rather my kid just deal with it him/herself and not go through the humiliation of having to tell this to a stranger man they will have to see and interact with repeatedly. It seems to me that more bad might result from that than good.

  9. I’ve told my children that when asked probing “chastity” questions, they can reply, “There is nothing in my life that I need to talk to you about with regards to that subject”… I believe that the chastity questions are the reason my 16 year old daughter has stealthily avoided the “birthday” interview for the past three years. (It helps that we’ve had our ward split last year and the new bishopric is not too coordinated)
    As a YW president, I am thinking I might suggest to my girls that if they are uncomfortable being alone with the Bishop, I would be glad to accompany them to the interview. If these are as perfunctory as we are told, it shouldn’t be a problem…

    • Telling your children that there’s nothing they need to talk about when it comes to chastity questions comes across as adversarial. I hope that isn’t your intent. What is your child going to do as she/he tries to go to the temple? “I don’t feel like I have to tell you anything because my mother said I don’t have to.” Is he/she going to carry that attitude into adulthood? Sounds like a child I once had in primary. I asked to him to stop doing some disruptive behavior and he yelled “I don’t have to do anything you say. My mother said I don’t have to listen to anyone but her!” I agree that areas of chastity are sensitive. But if you’ve already made the Bishop “the enemy” there’s a problem. Some interviews are perfunctory. Depends on the nature of the relationship. Most bishops spend lots of time with the youth. They know them better than you think, or at least they should. And if they don’t, then it would behoove us as parents to encourage a good, confortable relationship.

      • I’ll let Kirsten speak for herself, but I think you misunderstand her intent. if I were a parent I’d take a similar tack. Of course the understanding would be that if my child on her own felt like she had made a mistake based on her understanding of chastity (and it would be my responsibility, not the church’s, to help her understand what chastity is), and felt that way before she sat down with the bishop, and if she felt like discussing that mistake with him would help her in her repentance process, then she should discuss it with him when he asks about chastity. But if she did not go into the interview feeling like she had sinned re: chastity and that, if she had, discussing it with the bishop would help her repent, then she needn’t offer any information beyond “there’s nothing in my life I need to discuss with you with regards to that subject.” And I would specifically teach my children that the bishop is not supposed to ask questions beyond, “do you obey the law of chastity?” (no questions about masturbation, no questions about how you kiss your boyfriend or how long or where, etc.) and that if he does she should tell him that she has nothing to discuss with him about chastity and then tell me after the interview that such specific questions were asked.

        And before any child of mine had any interview with a bishop, I would have a conversation with the bishop. I would ask him to tell me what questions he usually asks in such interviews. If I felt any were inappropriate, I would ask him not to ask my child that question. I would furthermore tell him that unless my child answers the basic chastity question (do you obey the law of chastity) in the negative, there are to be no additional questions about chastity. And any questions after a negative answer must be open ended opportunities for my child to discuss her behavior in a way that feels comfortable and right to her and never, under any circumstance, to involve questions looking for specifics. A bishop does not need specifics to help a member who is hurting due to sin to repent. Certainly not about sexual acts. And as the parent of a minor I would not tolerate him asking for such specifics and would do everything in my power to help my child understand that asking for such specifics is inappropriate. I imagine that attitude might not make me popular with bishops but I frankly don’t give a damn. What I do give a damn about is my child’s health and well being, including spiritual and psychological. And I don’t think having an ecclesiastical authority, no matter how kind and loving, grill a teenager about her sexual activities is all that conducive to spiritual or psychological health.

        I think it is a mistake for parents to cede authority to church leaders in these things. Parents are under no obligation to let a bishop ask anything he wants just because he’s bishop. Member are under no obligation to offer information they do not feel the bishop has a right to no just because he’s bishop. Interviews with bishops and stake presidents are supposed to be an opportunity for self-reflection and assessment, as well as a chance to talk to someone *if* you feel it will help you spiritually progress. They are not supposed to be a confessional where you pour out every little action that you think he might think was sinful. He has no right to such an accounting.

    • Kirsten, that’s a great response. And suggesting that you can come with them if they want is a terrific idea. That would probably make a lot of YW feel better about these interviews.

  10. I really liked this piece, because I appreciate the amount of thought and responsibility the author has put into raising the her children. I like reading the response other people have given and I thinknit is great everyone is thinking about this with there kids . I also will accompany my children to these early interviews. Here ‘s why
    -I am not teaching my kids that other people have any ownership over there sexuality. I don’t thinkt that is healthy.
    -Last time I checked my kid wasn’t actually going to be interviewed by Jesus, but merely an imperfect human being. Mistakes happen, and this system wherein we give grown men the chance to ask teenagers about the color of there underwear is not a foolproof system. I want to help both my bishop and my children avoid these mistakes.
    -Isnt it possible that by putting my children in the mindset that the bishop can make mistakes can help them in the future?I don’t think it is teaching your children to be wary of the bishops authority, but merely by acknowledging that this well meaning system is imperfect. Then someday in the future when my children see some instance of ecclesiastical wrongness they can have a chance of staying In the church. Magical thinking can only last so long when faced with the realities of adulthood.
    -Someday my kids will get old and tell me they are ready to go to their own interviews. It will make me feel better knowing that we have gone together their first few years and they have seen a model for how these interviews are supposed to go. I think we all know that being baptized at a the very young age of 8 doesn’t make you a member with the same roles and responsibilities. As a adult member. Otherwise we would be sending young kids to the temple. We do that, instead we wait until you are an adult to have you practice temple attendance. A lot of youth interviews seem to be, at least in part, establishing a pattern of bishop/member of interaction that are far more common in adulthood. By accompanying my children to interviews/teaching them about appropriate boundaries I am working with the bishop to help them establish a pattern that will help them be ready to have more personal interviews when the enter an age where that is truly appropriate.

    • Please excuse my typos. Typing on the kindle is not a skill I have acquired

    • Jenna, You make terrific comments. All the ones you list are reasons why I would like to either be involved with these interviews or to have prepped my kids somehow beforehand. These youth interviews have potential to be pretty invasive in a way that might leave my child feeling violated. (I know a youth who felt violated after the bishop pressed about masturbation. He has since become completely inactive.) I want my kids to have positive experiences with their leaders, and asking these questions is my attempt to get advice about how to make the interview as positive an experience as possible.

  11. After hearing about some people’s very-creepy experiences in a Bishop’s interview, it does make me wary to send my daughters off unaccompanied. But I also believe that I will not be the only one to influence my daughters’ behaviors (sexual or other), given that there will be times my girls in the natural separation that occurs with individuation, will not want to talk about things with me.

    What about having an even more frank conversation than anything that has thus far been suggested? Something like this (adapted, of course, for different ages, to be age-appropriate, and of course to be infinitely more casual than I’m writing here, and probably over the course of multiple conversations):

    “One of the reasons we talk to the Bishop is because he’s been asked to be a judge, to make sure that those who are entering the temple are worthy. In our church, we believe that sexual intercourse should be reserved until after marriage. There is a range of sexual behaviors leading up to intercourse, however, and we’ve been counseled to avoid those–stuff like touching a boy’s penis or allowing him to touch your breasts. Some bishops will be uncomfortable asking you specific questions, so they may just say, “Do you obey the law of chastity.” He may follow up with, “Do you know what the law of chastity is?” What do you think, daughter of mine? Do you know what the law of chastity is? What do you think you might tell him in this situation?

    “Masturbation may come up in an interview, too. In the FSOY pamphlet, that’s where it says not to arouse sexual feelings in your own body. There are lots of people in the health field who have said that masturbation is normal–that touching yourself or exploring your body is a normal thing to do. I don’t want you to carry shame for being normal or for having a healthy knowledge of your own body. I would be concerned if masturbation was a habit, mostly because it can be used as a way to deal with emotional pain–and if you’re in that much pain, there may be some better ways to deal. If you find that you’d like some resources to deal more effectively with stress or pain, let me know and we’ll see what we can do for you. However, if it’s something that happens from time to time, well, in those cases I personally believe that it’s not something you need to discuss with the Bishop–it’s between you and God, and if you feel guilty (which you may not feel) I’m of the opinion that you can work it out with God. If you feel prompted by the Spirit after praying that you need to discuss this further with the Bishop, well, you’re your own person and I respect that. You might think about talking to one of your YW advisors first, or one of your aunts if you’ve got stuff you don’t want to talk about with me.

    “Most bishops, I believe, are acting with your best interest and truly want to help you make choices that will lead to happiness, whether around sex or any other subject. There have been bishops in the past, however, who have abused their position of authority–a very few have sexually molested others, or they’ve asked very personal, intimate follow-up questions about sexual behaviors and it just gets a little creepy. This has nothing to do with the person being interviewed, and everything to do with said bishop. I love you, and am concerned about your experiences with church. I’d like them to be as positive as I can. I’m happy to attend the interview with if you’d feel more comfortable. However, please know that if, for any reason, the Bishop makes you uncomfortable, you do not have to stay there. Neither your father nor I will be upset with you if you choose to end the interview. Let’s brainstorm some things you might say to the Bishop if you want to stop the interview. There are worse things than not going to do baptisms next week with the youth, and we can take whatever time we need to to work out how to have a comfortable interview with a Bishop.”

    • (Obviously what I wrote assumes that my daughters are keeping the law of chastity. I would take the same tone in discussing whether she’d been engaging in sexual behaviors–maybe give examples of questions that might be inappropriate, asking questions, brainstorming together, etc.)

  12. Honestly, what steps I take at the time will depend on who the bishop is at the time my children are interviewed. I would trust my current bishop to be appropriate. However, I know that there are many, many bishops who have crossed the line during personal/temple recommend interviews.

    I personally know several women in real life who were asked inappropriate questions that were NOT in the handbook during interviews.

    Early in my marriage I made my husband come in with me during the temple recommend interview with our bishop. He was visibly surprised but didn’t make any comment. When I later had the second part of the interview with a member of the stake presidency I went alone. Why? Because our bishop made me extremely uncomfortable and I didn’t want to be alone with him. I couldn’t pick any of the stake presidency out of a line up but I had no problems meeting alone with any of them because they did not give me the creeps.

    I found out later on after this interview some things the bishop said to my friend during her temple recommend interview that were creepy and inappropriate and crossed the boundaries of good taste. I’m glad I trusted myself and insisted my husband went with me.

    So, when it times come for my children to be interviewed if I don’t like or trust our current bishop there will be a problem. I suppose I will insist on being present or simply forgo the interview process altogether. I really like our current ward and although there are one or two men I wouldn’t trust with my children I have a better chance of winning the lottery (even though I don’t buy lottery tickets) than they do of being called to a leadership position let alone bishop.

  13. I am very open with my kids about natural sexuality (age-appropriately). I don’t skirt the issue, all anatomy is called by its proper name, and I help them understand that sexual feelings are natural. I also believe self-exploration to be both natural and moral, when not taken to extremes, or involving pornography. My kids understand this, and we are very straightforward about it. I have seen too much guilt and woefulness in my family members and friends from giving in to this natural activity. This is one area where I definitely disagree with the church’s position, and find it narrow minded and outdated, as well as harmful to our kids. The harm lasts into marriage, stunting mutual sexual growth as it is overshadowed by lingering feelings of shame over touching and exploring ones own body. This is particularly true for women, and I find it to be a travesty. I emphasize chastity, and celibacy before marriage, but I also emphasize that sexual feelings and relations are not something to be ashamed of.

    I am responsible for my kids. The very idea of an adult man talking to my kids alone, behind closed doors makes me extremely uncomfortable. It is my job to watch out for my kids’ physical, mental and spiritual well being. The bishop is there to help and guide, I realize this, but ultimately, my children are minors, and the same rules that apply to minors in society also apply in church, in my opinion. I circumvent this part of our tradition and culture in the church by being proactive. I have already said that I teach my kids straightforwardly about sex and sexual feelings and chastity. In the same way, I am straightforward with the bishop. When he calls to set up and appointment for a baptism, an ordination, a worthiness interview for baptisms for the dead, etc, I tell him that we are happy to come in, however, I would like a few minutes to speak with him before my child does. In that few minutes, I let him know that I have dialogues with my children about sexual matters, and if they have any concerns, they talk to me about them. I tell him I absolutely do not want him asking my child about their sexuality. I let him know that if my child has a need to clear up a transgression, he will arrange to come see the bishop when the need arises. I tell him that if he asks my child about sexual matters of any kind in one of the aforementioned interviews, we won’t be attending any more interviews. Usually, the bishop is a bit taken aback at this point, so I do let him know that we admire and respect him, and sustain him as our ward’s leader, but we feel that there are limits to what he should be discussing with a minor child.

    Many disagree with me in my ward, and I am sure there are some here who disagree with me. I don’t mind. Some say I am too involved and a “helicopter parent”. I don’t mind that, either. This church is already so damaging to the long term sexuality of its members, that if I can do anything to curb that while they are young, I will. Children are not old enough or mature enough to make healthy decisions about sexuality. They do need guidance. They do need limits. They do need straight talk about sex. They need to know what is natural, and what are perversions. They need to learn to avoid immoral thoughts and actions, but they also need to know its okay to learn how their bodies work and not be ashamed. They need someone to talk to when they have questions, or have done something that makes them unhappy. But I don’t believe the bishop is the first line of defense in these cases. It is the parents that need to have these open discussions, that need to set the limits, and need to teach responsibility, not an adult man they barely know, and who has no training in the subject. These are my kids, and they are my responsibility, and so I will do what I believe is necessary to protect my children.

  14. Kay, Anon, and Gr8Scot,
    Thanks so much for your insight on this. This is all very illuminating to me. I love hearing these different options for handling these interviews.

  15. I think there is value to having teens occasionally discuss important issues with a trusted adult without a parent present. I want my children to be comfortable talking to me about anything, but if, in spite of my best efforts, they don’t, I would be relieved if they opened up to someone like a bishop. To prep them, I would explain that bishops are directed to maintain confidentiality, with a few legal exceptions, but teens are not, so they can talk to me about the interview afterwards if they have any questions or concerns about what the bishop said. I would let them know that they have the right to decide whether to participate in the interview, to refuse to answer a question or to end the interview early, just as participants in a survey may. I believe it is important to know the agenda of a meeting, so I would go over the guidelines for teen interviews from the Handbook with my teen before the interview. The interview guidelines are in Handbook 1, which is not available to the public, but I would request the passage about teen interviews or obtain it through other means.

    • April,

      I appreciate what you are trying to say and for the most part I wholeheartedly agree, however, just because a Bishop is a Bishop doesn’t mean that they are anymore trustworthy than someone who doesn’t hold any sort of ecclesiastical authority over someone particularly young girls. (Young girls and boys for that matter) especially if they are raised in the church are not raised to question authority. Many do not understand the nuances of what is appropriate questioning vrs. questions that may or may not cross the boundaries of an adult male grooming his next victim.

      And, whether or not a Bishop is ordered to maintain confidentiality is up for grabs is well, all he has to do is talk to one person before something gets spread like wild fire.

      But, I do like your idea that questions be discussed ahead of time so that they can prepare much like a job interview, however, unfortunately, not everyone has access to people who may or may not have access to interview questions are appropriate so there’s the dillemema

      • I should clarify that these are the guidelines I would employ if my bishop were a “trusted adult.” If I had reason to believe that the bishop could not be trusted because he had a history of breaking confidence or other inappropriate behavior, I would not want my children interviewed by him. However, thinking back to the bishops I have had in my life thus far, while I have had differences of opinion with some of them and frankly disliked others, I have not yet had one with whom I feel unsafe, so that has not been an issue for me yet.

        I do not agree with the church’s policy that regular members may not read Handbook 1, including the section on youth interviews. Parents should have a right to learn the content of an interview before they agree to allow their minor children to participate. That is common sense. That is one of the many reasons why I have read Handbook 1 as an act of civil disobedience and if the bishop does not voluntarily let me read the current edition when I request to before my child participates in a youth interview, I will obtain a copy myself and read it.

        The current guideline for youth interviews is in Handbook 1, Section 7.1.7. In this modern era of Internet sharing, I have found that if ye seek, ye shall find. I posted about some of the things I read in Handbook 1 here: http://www.the-exponent.com/chiv1-trivia-game-2010-edition/

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