Where is the outrage?

depression

Earlier this week, the Mormon Newsroom released a statement regarding the potential end to the long-standing Boy Scouts of America (BSA)-LDS Church partnership, citing the recent decision to allow openly gay men to serve in leadership positions. As discussions popped up across social media, individuals in favour of the split reasoned that those who are attracted to the sex of the minors should not be in isolated situations with them. Many assured me their concerns were not due to prejudice and bigotry. In fact, they would be the same if men were to oversee and be in isolated situations with young women.

The problem with this assertion is, of course, that LDS men are frequently in isolated situations with young women and hardly anyone bats an eye.

It has been a little over 11 years since, as a teenager, my single’s ward bishop asked to meet with me after church. I obliged. Once behind closed doors, he asked if he could give me a worthiness interview. Confused at the timing (I was not in need of a temple recommend renewal, nor was I to receive a new calling), I again obliged. As he went through the temple recommend questions, special emphasis was placed on the question regarding the Law of Chastity. I responded that I did, indeed, keep the law of chastity. As a never-been-kissed, always-careful-to-double-date young woman, there was little doubt in my mind that I was chaste and pure before God.

Unfortunately, my answer was not sufficient for my bishop, even after pointing out my very limited physical contact with the young men I had dated. He asked if he could clarify the question and then became more specific. “Had I touched anyone in their sacred or private parts?” “Had anyone else touched me in my sacred or private parts?” “Had I touched myself in my sacred or private parts?” To each, the response was “no” because I knew I had not broken any commandments regarding chastity, but behind every no was a heap of questions. Why was he asking me these questions? What did all of this even mean? Did he mean hygienic touching? Gynecological exams? Changing my baby brother’s diaper?

I know some readers may believe me to have been naive and they are right–as a young woman with very little sexual exposure and even less dialogue around sex, I was very naive. And innocent. And so very much like my other uber-concerned-about-being-righteous church mates. Unfortunately, I was also in the presence of a man and sexual talk with men was verboten. Unfortunately, he was also my priesthood leader so he was given official sanction to have this conversation. Unfortunately, I believed that since God had called him to this position, called him to conduct this interview and called him to go off-book, God and my bishop must know something that I don’t know about my sexual purity.

As I left church that day, I felt Dirty. Shameful. Unclean. Unchaste. Unworthy. But I didn’t know why.

In the days and weeks following that interview, symptoms of an anxiety disorder began to appear–unexplained stomach aches, night sweats, night terrors, loss of appetite and an overall fixation on ridding myself of this horrible, icky feeling inside of me. Week after week I would dread going to church, but would do so because I so desperately wanted to feel clean. Week after week I would head into my bishop’s office to try to find out what I had done wrong, confessing every inkling of an impure thought in hopes that it would make me feel better. Every week he turned me out of his office again, having heard my mildly lurid confession, just to see me again the next week. Every week I felt more and more trapped and more and more unworthy.

It wasn’t until a decade following this incident that I realized what happened and the guilt and shame finally subsided–that interview was inappropriate. Taking girls and women behind closed doors with middle-aged men, asking about sex and masturbation, is perverse. It’s abusive. And it’s upheld, even required, by the Church I trusted to keep me safe.

There is a big conversation to be had about keeping our young men safe and I can understand parents are concerned about the perceived threat to their sons. What I can’t understand is the lack of outrage about the threat of abuse right under our noses. As the Newsroom releases statements about our young men with the overtone that it is for their safety, I wonder, “where are the releases about protecting our girls?” “Where is the acknowledgement that this abuse happens every. single. week under the guise of righteousness?” “Why are the same people who are concerned about the possibility of the abuse of their sons so dismissive when I mention the very real abuse of their daughters?” “Why am I told that I should have known better and taken measures to protect my young, innocent self?” “Why does no one seem to notice or even care about our girls?”

I wish my answers didn’t always dead end with the fear that we don’t notice or care about our girls because we don’t actually notice or care about our girls.

Amy

Mother, writer, dreamer, hopeless romantic, opera singer, reader, researcher, lover of Jesus, Mormon and a feminist. I spend my days taming toddler tantrums and kissing boo boos. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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207 Responses

  1. E.D. says:

    “I wish my answers didn’t always dead end with the fear that we don’t notice or care about our girls because we don’t actually notice or care about our girls.”

    Unfortunately, that is the conclusion to be drawn. Unequal funding, modesty shaming, perverted “worthiness” interviews, and sexism throughout are unrecognized and unaddressed by the people who could actually make changes.

    Winning at local leadership roulette is not enough.

    • Sally says:

      I am a woman in the LDS church who doesn’t feel that women are forgotten in the church. Almost everything that is done for young men is to help them prepare to be good MEN, good husbands and fathers. To teach them to man up and take care of their families. I guess they have a lot of faith in the goodness of the women of the church. I love being a woman and mother and am grateful for the great priesthood leaders that have blessed the lives of our sons AND daughters.

      • Courtney says:

        Sally, none of your comments touch the actual content and point if this article.

        I was raised in a very Mormon community and had similarly inappropriate interviews with my Bishop – at the age of 13! I had no idea what most of the things he asked about were, but I remember feeling guilty afterwards. In ANY other context this sort of middle-aged man to young girl talk would warrant a call to the police and a neighborhood watch meeting.

    • Boooyaaa says:

      I’ve had a bishop do this to two of my three boys. One boy wouldn’t ever meet with him. He took one of my boys, who I was fostering at that time, to the end of a dark cul de sac to teach the freaking law of chastity. You think he was reprimanded?

  2. Heidi Christensen (really) says:

    I am in awe of you. You have told the story of millions of women in the LDS church. As a victim myself I did not move to stop my 2 girls from meeting alone with their bishop from the age of 12.
    My daughters interview in a single adult ward in Meridian Idaho the summer of 2011 was the last straw for me. She was asked for graphic details about her sexual relationship with a young man. Members should know this is a disgusting yet denied practice in the church.
    To the LDS church I would ask for an explanation for asking my daughter, my niece and my two younger sisters the specific positions used during the act of sex, did they enjoy it, did they orgasm? Are you offended? Then why aren’t you also angry?!

    • Samantha says:

      I agree. Asking specific details is nothing more than wanting to engage in a type of voyeuristic pornography and forcing the confessor to participate against their will and humiliating them at the same time. It is so very very wrong.

    • Julie says:

      I was asked similar questions and never went back. Not glad to know it’s happened to others, but relieved to hear that it didn’t mean there was something wrong with me when my bishop asked me if I’d “come to completion”, how many times, how many fingers had been inside me, what they’d felt like, and if I enjoyed it. Sickening today, ten years later.

      • Heidi says:

        Julie,

        Thank you for speaking up. Thank you for being so honest. I believe telling our stories is the only way anything will change.

  3. Cruelest Month says:

    It is shocking to me how our community tolerates closed door weekly opportunities for untrained leaders to abuse and groom our brothers, sisters and children for abuse.
    A TBM friend recently shared her discomfort with a Bishop interview. Her husband was deployed serving USA far from home. Was her Bishop concerned about her welfare and that of her children? He initiated an interview to ask if she was masturbating while her husband was gone. An older man alone with a young mother wanted her to know he couldn’t stop thinking about whether or not she was masturbating.
    !!!!!
    Let’s stop setting or members up for abuse. Youth should never be interviewed alone. An interview with a Bishop, especially initiated by him, should always include a witness selected by the member.

  4. Alisa says:

    I was required to meet every six months for “worthiness interviews” with my bishop between the ages of 12-18. That means every six months, behind closed doors, I as a child, and a very naive and sexually pure child at that, was required to answer questions about sex to a middle-aged married man. Alone. The sadness is that this groomed me. I learned to quiet the alarm bells that naturally arise when someone asks you something they shouldn’t. I learned to silence my inner voice. I learned to trust men, older men, above myself when it came to matters of talking about sexuality. By the time I was sixteen, and still pure in regard to dating practices, I started crying in these interviews.

    When I was 23 I began seeing a psychotherapist who was 35 years older than I was. He was Mormon. He had been in bishopbrics and other leadership positions. He also was inappropriate. On our second session, he told me that it’s a woman’s fault if a man gets turned on. He spoke of his erections and his fetish for lady’s butts. He told me he liked my butt, and that my long waist made for good curves down my backside. He asked me intimately about my body parts, my orgasms. He was a sex therapist. I thought that was his excuse. I trusted him. For four years I trusted him. Because I had been taught since I was twelve to silence my inner voice, and to disclose all sexual things to older men who hold the priesthood. I cannot explain how long it’s taken to try to undo this damage. I’m am still dismantling this damage. It’s so upsetting that this is what I was taught a good Mormon girl does and says and how she trusts those older men.

  5. Tessa says:

    To those who keep saying these women and girls should have reported their bishops, I don’t think you understand the extent to which young women in this church are taught to accept the actions and questions of men in authority. Even as an adult I feel the pressure to do what my bishop wants, to answer his questions, to comply with his request. As a young woman, I can’t imagine standing up to an adult man in authority over me.

    Are we really putting the burden of maintaining appropriate behavior on minors who have been taught all their lives to defer to authority?

  6. Brooke says:

    This is extremely eye opening to me as a mother. It is so important to have an open dialog with children about everything, including what is and isn’t appropriate in a bishop’s interview. Youth should be primed by their parents before going into any situation to know that if something, anything, makes them uncomfortable that it is inappropriate, and that they don’t have to stand for it! These bishops and stake presidents are wrong, but your children and mine don’t have to be effected by it. Knowledge is power.

  7. JP says:

    This is truly awful and had this happened to me in my younger days, I would have felt and thought exactly the same way.

    Off topic, but another thing I noticed in the statement was this line: “As a global organization with members in 170 countries, the Church has long been evaluating the limitations that fully one-half of its youth face where Scouting is not available.” As I read this I realized that they had their statistics wrong. They are worried about the male youth in countries where there is no Boy Scouts (presumably where they got their 1/2 statistic) but what about the actual 1/2 of the youth that have never been able to participate? They completely forgot about the girls. In reality, 3/4 of all youth can’t participate in BSA.

    • E.D. says:

      Because the girls literally don’t count.

    • Uebermom says:

      I for one hope if the church separates from the Boy Scout program that they can replace it with something as spiritually cultivating as the Personal Progress programs they have in place for the girls.

      • Yvonne says:

        They DO have a program as spiritual for the boys, it is called Duty to God and has been around as long as Personal Progress and it helps the young men learn how to do their priesthood duties.

        Scouting in the US and Canada has always been the ACTIVITY arm of the Aaronic priesthood, not the program itself. However, not very many leaders have actually done their training to correctly understand the Scouting program and so often the Scouting program isn’t implemented as it should be.

        I have been to quite a few trainings in Utah County over the last few years around Scouting and the Aaronic Priesthood and the Come Follow Me program. They were never meant to be three separate programs, but to work in tandem with one another to create a whole program for the young men. Whether or not the program is implemented as it is meant to be is entirely up to the leaders.

        One more thing, Scouting has been used as an outreach to nonmember boys and less-active boys in a ward’s boundary. Do you think a “more spiritual program” is going to get non-member and less-active boys inside an LDS chapel? I don’t think so. However, Scouting, when implemented correctly DOES that! When my dad was an 11 year old Scout leader a few years ago they had invited a less-active boy to the Scouting activity at the church. That boy had so much FUN that he went and got his non-member friend to come to the chapel to participate as well.

    • Sam says:

      What are you talking about? There are Girl Scouts programs as well? The Church typically does boy scouts for boys and personal progress for girls. To suggest that the Church is being sexist somehow by that statement is asinine and an incredible reach.

      • JP says:

        The full statement is here: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-re-evaluating-scouting-program and nowhere does it reference Personal Progress or other Church sponsored programs (Girl Scouts is NOT Church sponsored). It refers only to BSA.

        To again quote the statement that only applies to BSA: “As a global organization with members in 170 countries, the Church has long been evaluating the limitations that fully one-half of its youth face where Scouting is not available.”

        It is pointing out the limitations faced by the youth for whom Scouting is not available. BSA is only available to 1/2 of the male youth of the Church due to geography. BSA is available to no female youth of the Church. Either they are saying that the female youth that live in areas where the BSA program is available enjoy the same benefits that the male youth obtain from BSA (1/2 youth-both male and female living within the geography that has BSA enjoy the same benefits provided by the BSA while none of the youth living outside the area of the BSA enjoy the benefits of the BSA), or they did their math wrong. (1/2 of male youth cannot participate in BSA due to geography+ 2/2 female youth cannot participate due to gender=3/4 of all youth cannot participate in BSA.)

      • Sam says:

        First things first, this isn’t really a Church Statement, as mentioned in the ‘statement’. I agree the wording is confusing in parts and the PR person probably should have a better editor. Why would the BOY-Scouts of America organization be referring to women? How can you even begin to imply that the church is sexist here, they are clearly talking about boys because it is a boy scout group. It’s truly remarkable the lengths people go to make things sexist or offensive.

      • JP says:

        First, I find it interesting that if it’s not a Church statement, the opening line on the press release is this: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released the following statement today…”

        Second, I am fully aware that the statement is about the BSA program and is referring only to the boys of the Church as you point out.

      • MDearest says:

        BSA troops sponsored by other churches/schools/neighborhood groups have allowed young women to participate for many years. Only the LDS troops restrict young women from joining. By any normal definition, that is sexist.

    • Dalma says:

      Because girls are not boys
      Remember, BOYscouts??

      • Ziff says:

        Yes, and the statement said “fully one-half of its youth.” So youth = boys? And girls are what, appendages to youth?

    • Cori says:

      I took this statement to mean that, in parts of the world where Scouting isn’t a thing, half the LDS youth (the half that are boys age 12-18) are in the same activity programs as the other half. The subtext seems to suggest the Church will probably shortly make a change, bringing parity to youth programs throughout the world.

      Not quite on topic, but I sense there will be ENTHUSIASTIC support for that. Every friend I’ve chatted with (that doesn’t have a child who is about to complete his Eagle) is absolutely on board with getting away from BSA…and has been for a very long time.

      LDS boys who want to participate in Scouting are then free to do exactly what LDS girls who want to participate in Scouting have always done: Find a troop, join, participate.

  8. Sam says:

    This blog is frankly, misleading. While I am sure it is the case that the extreme minority of Bishops overstep their bounds with some individuals, it is not true that “Taking girls and women behind closed doors with middle-aged men.. is upheld, even required, by the Church I trusted to keep me safe.” A parent is always welcome to be in a bishop interview. It doesn’t make any logical sense to be outraged by something like this when almost all instances result in a good experience. I would ask any who oppose this to explain to me their solution. Let the young man or women have their sin dwell inside them without being able to repent? Any parent knows that guilt does nothing but harm to their child. Posts like this only divide us as a church by highlighting extremely infrequent instances and disregard the goodness that comes from a bishops interview in nearly all cases.

    • E.D. says:

      This type of behavior is not infrequent. Almost everyone woman I know has at least one instance of inappropriate questioning at some point (youth or adult). As others have said, I don’t think all priesthood holders are doing it to “get off” but due to absent/improper training and their own childhood experiences, they believe it is their right to go off-book.

      Plus if you think asking questions about other people’s underwear habits is inappropriate, then every endowed woman and man has been asked something inappropriate.

      • Barbara says:

        For the record: I have confessed sexual sins to several bishops and never felt uncomfortable. But none of them asked me additional questions. After my brief explanation, the conversation immediately went to where to go from there…nothing more was said about the “sin”. The fact that I had come to the priesthood holder was enough for them to know I was repentant. I have NEVER been randomly called in for any type of chastity interview.

        My heart aches for these women who have been abused by the very men who are supposed to be the best examples in our church. No budding testimony could stand up to experiences like that. I truly hope that this is not a frequent occurrence. Up until reading these comments, I never thought to mention bishops, specifically, to my children when discussing dangerous situations. However, I have always taught my children that it doesn’t matter who the adult is when you feel uncomfortable, just leave and immediately come to me.

        I will be sure to use the office of bishop or stake president or RS presidents or YW presidents as examples of adults who regardless of their present positions STILL have no right to make you feel uncomfortable or ask uncomfortable questions.

      • Rusti Nale says:

        I never have had this experience. Not even when I voluntarily went in for an indiscretion I had done. I am not denying that it does happen, but to say “Almost every single woman” seems a little to general to me. For someone to read this article, it leaves the impression that all Mormon leaders are perverse and trying to use the details they learn for their own twisted gains. My daughter never had this happen to her neither. Both parts of this article sicken me, because I do believe that 90% of our leaders are good honest men, I do not doubt this happens. Remember…this happens in EVERY religion, not just the LDS church. However, this article is not about men in leadership roles in all religions. It is clear to me that this another chance to get on the bandwagon to rip apart and bash the Mormon Church train.

      • Ifrit says:

        So if you’re right, and 10% of the leaders are abusing their authority, let’s act to protect members from the 10% instead of hemming and hawing about “well most of them are great” and “But all religions have this problem!” Overcome the reflex to immediately make sure the church doesn’t look bad, and instead say, “Yes, this is a real problem. What do we need to do to fix it?” 10% is enough to cause a big problem! If One woman out of a hundred has experienced this, yes, that is a minority, but IT IS STILL A PROBLEM and we must take action. I can only imagine what might happen with this current policy in countries with a more misogynistic culture and less centralized oversight for wards. Act to protect the kids, not the church.

      • Amy says:

        Rusti,

        I actually believe that most leaders are also goo, honest people. I don’t believe this happens to every woman, but the potential is there for it to happen to ANY woman. There are not safeguards in place to prevent it happening and when someone steps forward to say that it does happen, they are shut down, and told that they are trying to destroy the church. I have very few hard feelings for leaders of the Church. I do, however, have a hard time with the lack of safety and support to both prevent abuse and help victims.

      • MDearest says:

        The implication of the newsroom statement is that we want to protect our scouts from potential impropriety by not calling otherwise qualified leaders who are gay, because it’s possible that such leaders might see the scouts as sexually attractive. Yet, as Amy points out in the OP, the exact same potential exists for young women with male church leaders, particularly when you have an untrained adult male regularly monitoring the sexual growth of an adolescent girl with almost no oversight.

        Thankfully abuse is not the norm, but one doesn’t have to search a great deal to find many cases where it has occurred. It does, however, raise the question of why we wouldn’t be alarmed enough to mitigate (or even see!) the problem of this potential abuse of our girls, yet we automatically shut down any possibility of such abuse of our boys. Or, to look at it from another angle, why do good, respectable heterosexual men get the benefit of being seen as honorable, but good, respectable gay men are suspected of being predators?

    • Kimberly says:

      They can’t ask God for repentance through prayer, Sam?

      And as I mentioned in an earlier comment that you must not have read, it is nowhere near common knowledge that you can insist on someone to accompany you into the interview. I’ve heard countless adults express surprise at that. Teenage girls are much less likely to know about it.

      In any case, being asked to recount details of your sex life (and believing that the person asking you holds the keys to your repentance, so you must comply) is humiliating. This is especially true with girls, given that they are required to talk to an adult man about the type of sex they’ve had, and also given the power differential between a priesthood holder and a girl or woman who currently has no prospect of holding the priesthood.

      • Sam says:

        That is correct, they can not get forgiveness from all sins through prayer. Here’s a quote from LDS.org in the youth section about the steps to forgiveness. Many youth feel more comfortable confessing their mistakes to their parents or youth leaders. Although your parents and leaders can provide necessary support and counsel, the Lord has declared that the bishop is a common judge in Israel (see D&C 107:72, 74). He has the responsibility to determine the worthiness of the members of his ward. By ordination and righteous living, the bishop is entitled to revelation from the Holy Ghost regarding the members of his ward, including you.

        “The bishop can help you through the repentance process in ways your parents or other leaders are unable to provide. If the sin is serious enough, he may determine that your privileges in the Church should be restricted. For example, as part of your repentance process, he may ask you to refrain from partaking of the sacrament or exercising the priesthood for a period of time. He will work with you and determine when you are worthy again to resume those sacred activities….Don’t try to excuse yourself or rationalize your way out. You may be thinking, “It would be too embarrassing to tell the bishop what I have done. He thinks I am a better person than that. He will be shocked if I tell him what I did. He won’t like me anymore.”

        I promise you he will not condemn you. As a servant of the Lord, he will be kind and understanding as he listens to you. He will then help you through the repentance process. He is the Lord’s messenger of mercy to help you become clean through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”

        Again, yes, some sins need to be discussed with a bishop or other priesthood leader. If you disagree, fine, but that means you are disagreeing with the repentance process that is absolutely crucial aspect. Also, to reiterate, a youth member can have a parent in the room as well.

      • Kimberly says:

        “That is correct.”

        You’re reading my words but not taking a minute to even toss them around in your head. I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt that you’re not so obtuse as to have failed to recognize a rhetorical question. I would bet my life that I’m as familiar with the scriptures and with the doctrines and policies of the Church as you are.

        I know how it’s done now, and I know most of us can’t conceive of it being done differently in major ways, even though we ostensibly believe in continuing revelation that has occasionally been truly revolutionary. Our spiritual imaginations have largely been reduced to the missionary age being moved forward by one year and by the possibility of a two-hour block. We, the followers of Joseph Smith, who we believe translated gold plates that changed the face of Christianity stretching back hundreds of years, and who incidentally ordained his first wife, Emma (using the exact word “ordain”), reject the idea that women ever should or will have God’s stamp of approval to even mediate the confessions of women.

        Your appeals to tradition and authority are hollow and circular and have no basis in canonized doctrine. You sound like Bruce R. McConkie in “Mormon Doctrine”, confidently writing, under the mantle of apostleship, that black people would be eternally limited to the status of servants to white people.

        And yes, again, men have no business asking girls (or boys) whether they have masturbated or had orgasms. In a church where Girls’ Camp attendees are frequently required to wear tshirts and shorts over their swimsuits because of supervising priesthood holders, you’d think this would be obviously inappropriate to everyone.

    • Samantha says:

      It is actually not misleading. This happens all of the time. And like someone else said – usually not even maliciously but by untrained leaders, especially when dealing with victims of abuse.
      I think the structure of the interviews themselves are set up to allow and encourage grooming and abuse. Are most bishops decent men just trying to do what they think is right? Sure. But just the idea that is ok to question a child behind closed doors about their sexual thoughts and feelings and they have to answer them in order to remain in good standing – is- abusive and grooming.
      Even if they have a great bishop one time who never goes off book, they are taught that this questioning is allowed and ok. So that later when there is a bad one they think that this is what is supposed to happen, they don’t know any different and so walk away hurt. Just the thought of a grown man asking my son about whether or not he masturbates makes me angry and in my opinion crosses a line.
      If our youth feel guilty about something and feel they need to talk to a bishop about it, then they can make the appointment and tell the bishop what they feel they should tell him without him asking details or leading questions. Then he can give them advice or spiritual instruction (pray, read scriptures, abstain from sacrament for a time etc). They gain forgiveness through prayer and refraining from committing the sin again. God forgives them, not the bishop.
      And most youth never know they can leave an interview, not answer a question, or have someone with them. This is NOT widespread knowledge. It needs to be taught to our youth regularly in YM/YW lessons, but instead they get the leader worship. As in “must follow the preisthood, they will never lead you astray, they have spiritual authority over you/can get revelation for you, chosen by god to lead, etc etc etc. ” and this helps trap them into feeling that they must be wrong in feeling uncomfortable instead of questioning whether or not the leader should be asking them this in the first place.

      • Samantha says:

        And apparently I have formatting issues so none of the spaces between paragraphs showed up. Sorry about that.

    • Cathy Cowles says:

      You repent to the Lord – a bishop has no authority to hear confessions nor to ask for one. No man has that right. Even Catholics no longer have confession.

    • Cyl says:

      My last few bishops have been less than enthused about a parent being present at youth interviews. I tell them it’s not optional. In my experience, it is not the norm for a trusted adult to attend the interview with the child/youth.

      • Samantha says:

        Yes, Our bishop in our old ward told me I was being unreasonable when I told him my boys were not be interviewed without me present ever, unless they specifically tell me they don’t want me in there. He said he felt it was unnecessary. I said it didn’t matter, I was their parent.
        So he decided to pull them out of Sunday School and interview them behind my back and lie to them telling them it was ok and they didn’t need me. I was furious, and was so happy to move away two months later.

    • Heidi says:

      You’re wrong. This happens much more often than you think. It’s hard to look at the truth when it goes against what you were taught. This kind of reaction is exactly why young girls and women stay silent.

    • fishiefishies says:

      It is *not* “the extreme minority of Bishops [who] overstep their bounds with some individuals”; my singles ward bishop eight years ago overstepped so much that he went waaaay off-book with TR interviews and then not only withheld temple recommends but also *required people in the ward to go to Addiction Recovery meetings* for masturbation. I had been Mormon my whole life, but at age 31 I had no idea that 1) leaders aren’t supposed to go off-book for TR interviews, 2) masturbation isn’t a punishable offense, or 3) I was allowed to have someone else in the room with me during an interview. I didn’t learn #1 and #2 until I was almost 38, and I learned #3 about 15 minutes ago. And he was not the only bishop who (it turns out) asked me inappropriate questions that (it also turns out) I didn’t have to answer. I was very, very trusting and obedient and I thought these men were inspired; I fully believed it was my duty to tell them everything I’d ever done so I could be “clean” or “worthy”.

      “Almost all instances result in a good experience”; bad experiences happen in “extremely infrequent instances” and “goodness … comes from a bishops interview in nearly all cases”: I would ask you to explain how, exactly, you know this. There is no way of knowing, unless you directly ask someone, how they feel after a bishop’s interview – and even if you do, many will think that any negative feelings they may have are their own fault for not being “clean” enough, so they won’t admit to having a bad experience. Or they may not feel bad because they could answer the bishop’s probing questions with a “no,” not realizing that the bishop shouldn’t have been asking those questions in the first place.

      • effervesent francois says:

        thanks for sharing. You and others here help validate my own traume with leaders. I think there is progress–Bishops are instructed to avoid details about chastity in their question; having someone in an interview with you is better known; I’m glad to hear about the abuse line because too often a stake president covers for his bishops, by what I have experienced and heard from friends. I think that always having a 2nd person present with a few sensible exceptions ought to be the norm–a Bishop can say too many impactful things that a parent doesn’t know about. For years now I have given myself permission to share myself only in safe situations.

      • Porter says:

        This is exactly the point I wanted to make. It is totally improper to reach conclusions about how extensive this problem is based on anecdotal stories or your own experience. The church keeps these cases very very quiet, and always settles out of court. Its the fact that you haven’t heard about it more doesnt mean anything. Read the other stories in these comments, and you will see it happens all the time.

    • Kristi says:

      Sam, you said that “A parent is always welcome to be in a bishop interview.”

      When my son turned 12 and was being interviewed to get the priesthood, I went to the interview with him. He (my son) wanted me there with him. After talking generally about what it means to have the priesthood, the bishop wanted to ask the “worthiness” questions and told me that I had to leave. I tried to insist that I was going to stay, but then my son told me I should go. And so I did. So please don’t tell me that I am always welcome to be in a bishop interview with my child.

    • Kristi says:

      Also, you said, “Posts like this only divide us as a church by highlighting extremely infrequent instances and disregard the goodness that comes from a bishops interview in nearly all cases.”

      Here on this thread, we have several women telling you about their experiences with this sort of abuse by their leaders, and you are discounting them by telling them that their experiences don’t really matter and to talk about them is divisive. Obviously it happens more than you think.

      • Sam says:

        No, I totally understand what is happening on here. This is a blog where verrrry few women go within the Church that feel like they are being dealt wrongly with. Nothing new, we’ve had these people around on all “issues.” Similar to reviews for restaurants, only people who comment are those that have had drastic experiences. It is not reflective of the majority of what goes on, if it was it would be talked about more than just a random blog. I only commented because I find it insulting that so many would bad mouth the church.

      • Liz says:

        Sam, thoughtful critique (as exemplified in both the OP and most of the comments) is completely different from bad-mouthing, and your comment is completely dismissive of every single personal experience that’s been shared on here. You’re getting close to being in violation of our comment policy (specifically #4: This is not the place to question another’s personal righteousness, to call people to repentance, or to disrespectfully refute people’s personal religious beliefs.), which I invite you to review here:
        http://www.the-exponent.com/about-2/comment-policy/

      • Kristi says:

        Sam, How many women are you listening to? Apparently none of the women here. If it happens to even one girl or woman, it’s happening too often. And you have several women telling you that it happened to them. Glossing over it and pretending it didn’t happen doesn’t make it go away. Keeping it quiet leads to more abuse. If it was your wife or daughter, would you just tell her, “Well, don’t talk about it, because that is divisive.” I hope that with all your vast experience with “nearly all” the bishop’s interviews with women of the church, that you actually listen to the women who are telling you that it happened.

      • Sam says:

        Evident that either I’m not being clear or being misinterpreted. I am not dismissing any persons stories or saying that they are false on here. Nor have I questiined anyone’s righteousness. I am simply saying that this idea that most bishops overstep their bounds is simply not true. If someone writes an article about BYU soorts, it will attract BYU fan. Similarly, if someone writes a blog on how they’ve been mistreated by a bishop, naturally it draws those who have something to say about that. It is not however reflective of the majority of the 15 million members experience.

        And I read your rules before and can’t believe I am the one you are saying may be in violation of them Liz. Go look at the comments, I’ve been the one that has been the most insulted by far. Kimberly compared me to Bruce R, Kristi is questioning my abilities as a parent and Jenny saying “the patriarchy runs deep” with me is deeming my parents and family as sexists who didn’t raise me right. So don’t come at me just because I happen to disagree.

        Finally, the fact that many of you have assumed I am a man is rather telling. You have no idea, can a women not think differently in your minds? I have no problem with a blog where people can openly express themselves, but disagree that it is a voice for the “voiceless” I’m not sure how anyone can say that. Look on the stand at General conference, muktiple women. Local level ward councils, muktiple women. Our church is by far the most inclusive to women of any religion that I am aware of. And so it saddens me that some of you have do not recognize that.

      • sister survivor says:

        Our church is by far the most inclusive to women of any religion that I am aware of.

        Then maybe you should study some other religions. For starters, check out the ones that actually ordain women.

        iow, this doesn’t say anything about the church. it says something about your awareness.

    • @intorainbowz says:

      No one ever told me I could have someone with me. When CPS interviews a child in the state of Utah they are required by law to inform the child they are allowed to have a support person present. Huge difference.

      I am disturbed that people are denying these stories exist.

      When my husband was deployed I was asked if I was mastubating, if my husband was mastubating, and what we did on Skype. Thankfully at that point I was 35 and got up and left.

    • Jenny says:

      The Patriarchy runs deep with this one…

    • Amanda says:

      I fully agree with your statement. I am fortunate enough to have only had positive experiences with my bishops. My bishops asked simple yes or no questions that were pertinent to the sin in question. Details were not asked because a sin is a sin regardless of how it occurred (i.e. position, pleasure, etc.).
      I’m sure there are some leaders who overstep their bounds, but I honestly and truly believe that they are few and VERY far between.

      • Ifrit says:

        As a married woman at a BYU ward, I was asked by a Stake counsellor how often my husband and I had sex, and then pressed for details as to whether I was engaging in any behavior that might be inappropriate. I immediately started looking within myself for the guilt I assumed must exist, and ended up “confessing” feeling aroused while thinking about having sex with my husband and promising not to do it any more. He just smiled and nodded. I felt uncomfortable, but assumed that since he was called of God, he knew better than me, he must have a reason for asking, and I was wrong to not like it.

        Lavina Fielding Anderson was excommunicated as a result of publishing SEVERAL VOLUMES of accounts of spiritual and ecclesiastical abuse within the LDS church.

        I have probably read hundreds of these accounts just shared online myself.

        That is just the women who realize they have been abused and are willing to speak up.

        And, ultimately, efforts to dismiss the problem by insisting it isn’t widespread show an amazing lack of empathy. ONE case should be enough to prompt sincere internal review by the church at every level. Instead, we have women coming forward in waves, and a hostile response from those who would rather believe we are either lying or making a mountain of a molehill than look at the organization of a religion they want to believe is flawless, insistence of “the church is perfect, the people aren’t” aside. If that is the case, the structure of the church needs to be adjusted to allow imperfection in its people without exposing the innocent and vulnerable.

      • Cynthia says:

        I have only had positive experiences too. From my youth on, from what I can remember, they always had an adjoining door open during interviews. They never asked me about inappropriate things; however, I’m pretty sure that the leaders I had when I was young were very strict about how the questioning was done.
        I never felt uncomfortable or anything at those interviews.

      • KäferFahrer says:

        IFRIT you really should tell someone about that Stake Presidency counselor’s line of questioning…creepy and inappropriate. I was wisely taught as a bishop that we do not tell people how to have sex just that it should be only with their spouses.

        I had people try and ask/confess what was and wasn’t okay in the bedroom and I always said that unless they felt abused or coerced I did not need to hear about details.

    • JustStop says:

      I get SO frustrated with FEMI-Nazis. The whole idea that something bad happened to me by a bad person in a priesthood leadership position = men are bad = the church is corrupt = they don’t care about protecting women and children = our solution is better. My parents taught me growing up to be cautious about men and asked us if anyone we knew had ever “touched” us. For a long time, I was scared that all men saw me as a potential sex partner or were interested in my body. My teen years involved me afraid of boys because if we were alone then they were going to want to take things too far. There are bad people in the world both in and outside of the church. That does not mean that you throw the baby out with the bath water. Bad things happen to innocent people ALL.THE.TIME! Do I refuse to send my children to school because a teacher might molest them? No. Do I teach my children to fear men because men have penises that will cause them to forego rational thought? No. I teach my children to pay attention to how they feel, their intuition, and if they feel badly then something is probably not right. Most importantly I teach my children what is right and that they can know to stand up for themselves when something is wrong. I know this may come as a shock to you all but women in the church have abused children under the stewardship of their callings too! Do we stop women from being alone in a room with children?? No. People who are looking for an opportunity to take advantage of another will find a way to do so. That’s unfortunately the nature of living in a fallen world.

      • Amy says:

        Just Stop,

        I don’t recall anyone saying that men = bad. In fact, I believe that most of the leaders of the Church are good, honest people. I do, however, believe we have a problem of lack of structure to prevent abuse and little to no supports in place to offer when it occurs. This isn’t about individuals, this is about a systematic problem that needs to be addressed.

      • Ifrit says:

        We *should* have rules that forbid women from being alone with children at church. It’s common sense. It’s the legal rule for teachers and social workers in many states. It’s the rule they follow at the summer camp my girls are at right now: no counsellor, male or female, is alone with a child at any time. Why the church does not already follow the same rule is amazing to me. What we are discussing here does not preclude having that. What we are discussing here is the hypocrisy of *the church itself* stating that gay men should not be left alone with boys (does that make President Monson a “FEM-nazi”, because he doesn’t trust gay men’s penises?), while allowing the practice of private interviews of girls by older men, about topics that everyone *knows* are going to be sexual, WHILE THERE HAVE ALREADY BEEN MANY ACCOUNTS OF WOMEN TRAUMATIZED AND ABUSED IN THIS SITUATION. All this “man hating” stuff you’re bringing up isn’t even in this post or in the comments.

      • Jamie says:

        While I appreciate the sisters voices on, I agree with those who have said these instances are extremely rare. Rare enough to the point that the benefits far outweigh them. I understand that Amy and others have had traumatic experiences but it makes no sense to me why we would tarnish the repentance process fundamentals because of a few cases. Where do you all suppose we draw the line? Our daughters will be involved in job interviews, teacher interviews, interviews for graduate schools etc. Do we change those as well?

        What I find odd is that feminism at its core is usually about inclusion and being made equal (at least thats what they say). But here we have multiple people upset that women are treated the same as men in interviews and yet there is outrage. Anyway, I have held both ward and stake level positions in young women and have never been involved in a case this dramatic. After talking with friends after reading this, we all agreed. Again, not to say it doesn’t happened, but not as prevelenf as it seems some make it out to be.

      • Ifrit says:

        So it would “tarnish the repentance process” to ask parents in with the teenagers? Or ask a woman to help conduct the interview, or even sit in on it, for goodness’ sake? It would “tarnish the repentance process” to make it clear in no uncertain terms that victims re not to be blamed for their rapes, that it is inappropriate to ask rape victims or *anyone*, even people who have transgressed sexually, for details like “how many fingers did he put inside you” or “did you orgasm?” That makes no sense. It would be so easy to make a few changes, that would help future girls and women from feeling violated. Why not just do it?

        As for your bit about feminists and equal treatment–the men and boys shouldn’t be put through this either! That was not within the scope of this article, since this article is a rebuttal to the church’s insistence that it is not safe for the boys to be under the guidance of an adult who is attracted to males. The fact that people let the girls be interviewed alone about sexual topics by men, and defend the practice when instances of abuse are brought to light (complete with accusations for the victims…we must be Bad Wimmin otherwise we wouldn’t say such things!), while insisting the boys aren’t safe, should be obviously problematic. Yes, please, put a second adult in with the boys. No sensible organization sends children alone into a closed room with one adult to ask them about sex. And no sensitive organization should expect that of adults.

        As to “it’s not prevalent”, how many abused girls are acceptable to you? 1 out of 100? 1 out of 1000? Is 1 out of 10,000 girls abused or traumatized in these interviews okay with you? Or should we just change the policy so that it is far less likely to happen?

      • JUSTSTOP says:

        I will concede that there needs to be more information available to the general membership about what should be considered inappropriate questioning from priesthood leaders. Also, it is necessary to have protections in place that might prevent some abuses from occurring. That said, I truly believe that someone intent on inflicting these abuses will find a way to do so. My purpose in relating my parents influence on my subsequent fear of men was to demonstrate that it can be more damaging to cause irrational fear of what **could** be. I don’t want my sons to be afraid that if they should require repentance involving the bishop then just be prepared to flee should his questioning get freaky deaky. Instead of putting obvious warning labels on EVERYTHING I would prefer to teach them to always trust their instinct when something feels wrong no matter what, no matter where! That is a parent’s job! No church can prevent bad people from doing bad things but I can arm my children with the knowledge of their right to always leave when something isn’t right and that I will not judge them, or better yet, I will always have their back. Let’s not talk about where individual leaders have done wrong, let’s talk about what we as parents can do to help our children recognize right and wrong and then know they CAN/SHOULD act on it and not fear repercussions!

    • Ana S. says:

      I will explain, Sam. You shouldn’t be confessing your sins to a man, you should be confessing them to God. It’s not the Church of Men of the Latter-day Saints. To believers, it’s GOD’s church. There are two problems with what you said. Parents are most certainly NOT allowed or expected in bishop’s interview unless they throw a fit and insist. Our bishop told us specifically that our son would be coming in alone and what he told the bishop would not be discussed with us outside the bishop’s office. And, having served in a RS presidency and two Primary presidencies in 3 different wards, I can testify that these interviews with the youth are ONE-ON-ONE. Your ward may be an aberration but it is NOT the normal operating procedure. To claim it is is deceptive and if you believe in Mormonism, you believe Satan is the father of lies and that liars go to hell. You’d better be VERY sure of your claims church-wide, not just in your ward, lest you be led astray and lie. Secondly, youth are REQUIRED to attend these interviews if they want to go to camp, on temple trips and be considered worthy to pass the sacrament or go to other functions like temple dedications etc. There is no choice for the children or their parents. Other churches let a “sinner” confess to a church leader if moved on by the spirit – if they want to change. Mormons are forced into these interviews which is a sure sign that it’s about spiritual control and brainwashing, not about spiritual growth. If someone chooses to confess and ask for help, and can bring support if desired, and can leave if uncomfortable AND if the leadership is trained (which Mormon leaders decidedly are not) in helping people, psychology, counseling etc., then this interview practice wouldn’t be so roundly condemned by good people and people like you wouldn’t be using half-truths and faith building rumors to justify the practice.

  9. Becky says:

    This is why having female bishops or counselors would be great! I had good bishops when I was young, but I was mortified to discuss sexual issues with a man and this caused me a lot of unnecessary stress and guilt because I couldn’t find the courage to admit I had sexual thoughts. I believed that the very fact that I felt uncomfortable discussing sex in any detail with my bishop meant that I must be sexually impure.

    I do think it’s important for youth to have ecclesiastical leaders that they can consult in private. When I was younger, most of my bishops actually left the door slightly ajar with a counselor in the next room, but that’s actually rather awkward since you don’t know how much the counselor is overhearing. Having parents attend meetings isn’t always a great solution either. In some cases, youth may want to disclose family problems or abuse in the home.

    I wish we emphasized bishop’s responsibilities as spiritual advisers and downplayed them as spiritual judges. For most of my life I have felt very icky and threatened in the bishop’s office, and some ecclesiastical leaders have definitely taken on a patronizing “interrogator” role, as if they were going to intimidate me into revealing my hidden sins with intense eye contact, an aggressive tone, and clever “supplementary” questions. Honestly, this has made it much less likely that I’ll discuss my intimate spiritual issues with them, even when I’m looking for spiritual guidance on things that don’t have to do with my personal worthiness.

    • Kimberly says:

      I’m all for having female bishops (or, for now, having Relief Society presidents/counselors interview girls and women), and I definitely think that would make things less uncomfortable.

      That said, is it ever okay to interrogate someone about their sex life? Even as a parent, I would never in a gazillion years ask my teenagers whether they’d had oral sex or orgasmed or whatever. I’ve given them extensive sex education and have let them know that I’m completely open to any questions or concerns they might have, but the details they do or don’t give me are for them to decide. I think expecting anyone to recount their sex life by chapter and verse on command is extraordinarily disrespectful and creepy.

      And teaching kids to recognize signs of grooming and abuse is all well and good. I’m a big fan. But when we also teach them that it’s okay for your parents to put you on the spot, or your bishop to put you on the spot, or your stake president to put you on the spot, is it any wonder that they’re vulnerable to other authority figures they trust? We as parents often contribute to that outcome.

    • Kimberly says:

      Oh, and girls (all girls, but the LDS interview process ramps this up a few notches) are particularly vulnerable in this area because by they are well used to having their sexuality scrutinized to a breadth and degree that boys don’t experience. Both Mormon culture and the broader culture inculcate a resignation within girls that their bodies are meant to be commented upon.

      See also: modesty discourse, which is disproportionally focused on girls. The For the Strength of Youth pamplet is a perfect example of this, and that’s the tip of the iceberg. These things are parts of a whole. To Amy’s point, Mormon girls mostly go unnoticed and unremarked upon when it comes to their abuse, but when they’re seen as sirens to boys and men, it’s practically all anyone can focus on.

      • Sam says:

        Hold on, I thought this was all about making the child feel comfortable? Would a boy not be intimidated by a female bishop like a women is to a man? And lets stop with the apostasy of suggesting a female bishop or priesthood keys to females in relief society to conduct worthiness interviews. This is pure contradiction to our doctrine. I am not attacking anyone but I need to be blunt about this. Temple attendance should clear this issue up for anyone also. Women and men have their distinct roles within the Church, neither is greater than the other. Men having the priesthood does not inherently give them blessings that are not available to everyone. A man can not use his own priesthood to benefit himself, it is all for the service of others. Women have the sacred opportunity to have kids and nurture them, I would argue that this is likely more valuable in God’s eyes.

      • Amy says:

        Sam, can I ask why worthiness interviews are needed at all? There are no formalized worthiness interviews anywhere in the scriptures. Even when Jesus speaks to the woman caught in adultery, he never asks her anything about her worthiness. He needed no details, only to assure her that he would save her from her accusers. Why are we not to confess to God rather than Man?

      • Sam says:

        Amy, that’s where you are getting hung up… It is not about confessing to a man, it is about having a personal reflection for ourselves. They are acting as judges in Israel, it is an on earth judgment for ourselves that give us an opportunity to evaluate where we are at. As far as the “why”, I encourage a simple search on LDS.org “worthiness interview” and you will get multiple results to explain that to you. If we are supposed to leave it up to just the individual than why do we have judgement day after we die?

      • Amy says:

        From what I can see, we have worthiness interviews because we have had them for a while now. The questions have changed over time and the age at which they are conducted has changed as well.

        To be honest, I have little desire to engage in a conversation where “because that is the way it is” is used as reasoning to put women and girls (and men and boys as well) in a position ripe for abuse. This is especially a problem when there are literally no women involved in creating the structures that house these experiences.

        Also, lest this go unsaid, I don’t advocate for this solely for the interviewee. These interviews put the bishops themselves into an untenable position. The practice needs a major reevaluation. One only need through the comments in this thread to know this is not an isolated problem. If someone truly cares about preventing abuse (and I have read a lot of asinine comments this week about protecting our children from gay persons), then we need to tackle this, and now.

      • Yvonne says:

        Amy,

        You said, “There are no formalized worthiness interviews anywhere in the scriptures. Even when Jesus speaks to the woman caught in adultery, he never asks her anything about her worthiness. He needed no details, only to assure her that he would save her from her accusers. Why are we not to confess to God rather than Man?”

        There IS a precedence in the scripture for judges. Exodus 18: 13-26 shows how worn out Moses was getting from hearing all of their inquiries for the Lord (and in the case of temple recommend interviews that is us inquiring of the Lord if we are worthy to enter his temple) and Jethro instructed him to call judges to judge the people.

        That being said, Deborah was a judge in Israel when there were no righteous men to be judges. There IS also a precedence for female judges in Israel.

    • Kimberly says:

      Sam, I said nothing about female bishops interviewing boys. I said I was all for female bishops, which I am. As I wish this post and these comments were able to make clear to you but clearly aren’t, women putting forward proposed solutions, with an authoritative voice equal to that of men, would be much more likely to address the very power disparities against which you’re throwing up a brick wall.

      • Sam says:

        Kimberly, I never suggested that I knew more than you religiously and I am not throwing up brick walls. As far as women in the priesthood go, go back and listen to general conference talks during the “ordain women” movement from both men AND women denouncing it as a mistake to take part in or even entertain the notion. Also you referenced ability to interview as a “stamp of approval” from God. Again, giving an interview is no stamp of approval, the interview is mainly for the individual being interviewed to evaluate themselves personally. And Amy, women do have a say in all of these matters, do you honestly believe that our church is so misoginistic that we do not value or listen to womens opinions? That’s a rather bold claim to make against the church.

      • sister survivor says:

        do you honestly believe that our church is so misoginistic that we do not value or listen to womens opinions?

        Yes. That’s what is being said.

        Here’s your chance to prove that you actually do listen to women’s opinions. Are you going to take seriously what a bunch of women are telling you, or are you going to believe what makes you feel good?

      • Munga says:

        Sam,

        Your comments re Ordain Women and the recent Conferences are “off”.

        After the church PR department had mischaracterized the first Ordain Women direct action which was to ask to attend priesthood meeting, I think all the women knew that the church leadership could continue to mischaracterize the movement. When has the church ever really said sorry, even when it has done awful things?

        The second Conference that the Ordain Women did a direct action asking to attend priesthood meeting again, there was more open opposition from the pulpit by the leadership and the women who serve the leadership. At no point did they ever explain that they had petitioned the heavens to ask how the women are to become priestesses as promised, or how women are to be equal with our husbands, as the leadership has professed.

        So, nothing about the Ordain Women questions have been answered by any of the leadership at all.

        and no, women don’t have a say in the matters, because yes the church is misogynistic-ally constructed to cut women out of decisions that affect them.

  10. Thank you for speaking about this when others would be afraid. Always think for yourself. Make your own morals, don’t listen to the narrative that priesthood leaders can never lead you astray. They can and they will.

  11. Antonio says:

    Heartfelt, Amy. I can only imagine the damage done to you at such a young age.

    This cradle-to-grave supervision and the lack of accountability by leaders in the LDS Church open doors to emotional abuse. And much of it is happening in the form of interviews.

    It comes to mind the teachings of Eliza R. Snow when she was president of the Relief Society: the Society should be self-governed, with women seeking counsel from other women and not bishops (http://goo.gl/ErjelP).

  12. Many people have mentioned the options of bringing an adult to the interview or stopping the interview if the questions are inappropriate. I do not know if these are real options–I don’t know of any policy requiring priesthood leaders to allow parents at interviews, although I think most would consent if the parent or child asserted themselves, and I hope most would consent to end the interview if a child asked to stop, but how would a child or parent know they had those rights?

    I have written before about informed consent procedures. If we continue doing worthiness interviews in the church, I believe that we must be responsible about it and follow informed consent procedures, so all parties know and understand their rights. http://www.the-exponent.com/introducing-informed-consent-to-bishops-interviews/

    The two-deep leader policy of the Boy Scouts is a wise measure. The one-on-one interview system of the Church is irresponsible in contrast. I also think it worthy to note that since the Boy Scouts is the activity arm of the Church Young Men program (in many places), boys benefit from this two-deep policy. In contrast, the Church does not sponsor Girl Scouts (which also has a two-deep policy) but instead has its own Activity Days and Mutual programs for girls, which do not have a two-deep policy. This is just one more way that caution and care are directed toward boys without equal caution and care for girls.

  13. Julie says:

    Thanks for this post. I had similar traumatic interview experiences leading up to and through my first sexual encounters as a teenager—and it’s one of the reasons I have a hard time going with my parents to their ward on holidays. Because the two men that asked me a variety of disgusting questions always want to say hi and give me a hug.

    • Munga says:

      no kidding, Julie. The same dirty minded guys who know they have you cornered into answering their obviously invasive questions WANT to act like you can just chum around and be friends afterwards. It’s the complete mind-game of “we’re going to walk out that door and pretend that what happened in there was ok” ughhhh.

      And ignore Tim. Don’t acknowledge them or let them touch you. They have no understanding of respect and boundaries and feel free to say that to their faces.

      • Munga says:

        Oh my, Tim! Poor you! You mean, you have been systematically disenfranchised??? Say it is NOT SO. A feminist blog is the PERFECT place to talk about the disinclusion of some males from the patriarchal structure that gives males power over ALL the women and girls. These girls don’t need a forum if YOU are not served first, after all. You just keep it up.

    • Marni says:

      Larry, you are hurting my brain.

      That Law of Chasity discussion is for adults not children.

      Any time a bishop asks a question, no matter how euphemism’d about sex, call the cops and throw away the key. We need to get these predators off the streets and off the stands.

  14. Sandra says:

    I won’t even write here the inappropriate behaviour and words of bishops who knew of my abuse and turned a blind eye, or the panic caused every time I had to be interviewed about it because they just didn’t have enough details. As much as I believe the gospel, my experiences behind those closed doors have lead me to question my membership.

    I’ll be honest, this made me want vomit and brought back all those panicked moments of being blamed for my assault and abuse, being told women were inherently sinful and evil, that my husband could do what he wanted to with me…for the right amount of money. I think our church needs to have a deep look at how they treat women in general, but especially how they deal with survivors of abuse. Belonging to a church that is a patriarchy, after my personal experiences, has opened up a lot of questions for me….and this article also made me mad, very mad, because I agree with her.

    • KäferFahrer says:

      Sandra, for many people the reality of sexual abuse is hard to grasp and imagine. Leaders as well as others even professionals do not know how abuse affects each person because our backgrounds and makeup are so diverse. As a man my abuse was dismissed and in many ways still is even by family.

      Those of us who have been abused have varying reactions and effects that no one person, leader or professional can fully ascertain. Being asked to relive abuse by retelling details for some is cathartic for others it triggers PTSD. Yet amateurs and professionals all use the same tell it all or how did you feel technique.

      I don’t really have any answers just had those thoughts come to me and since I have major issues with mental health “professionals” I can’t really join the bashing of lay leaders as a whole while openly condemning the voyeurs who have no need for details.

  15. William Bramhall says:

    It is unfortunate for you or “Any” young woman to be abused in this regard. But, Heavenly Father “KNOWS” every one of our thoughts and actions. That bishop should still be reported.

    • Ifrit says:

      “God knows it happened” is pretty cold comfort to the women who have been traumatized in this way. Change the structure. Get rid of the sexual questions and putting women and minors alone with a man, or even multiple men. Put the parents in the room. Use women as interviewers. Stop the suffering rather than using God’s knowledge of it as a way to put off our own responsibility.

  16. JA says:

    The church would do well to have a seperation of scouts and church, so I support the outcome. Our church funds and young men programs are too tightly woven into the BSA. Frankly, the reason for the seperation may have less to do with their fear of predators and mostly to do with a fear of being sued by the ACLU. The unfortunate thing is that they should have separated a lifetime ago out of pure desire to gender equalize the whole system, but for some reason it’s not until they are under threat that changes like this are “inspired.”

    I’m heartbroken to read so many instances of inappropriate use of bishop power. Makes me sick. If I had daughters, or even sons, I would be going with them to interviews. Not only to monitor, but to model how one works with church authority in a strong, but respectful way. Makes it clean for everyone involved.

  17. ashley says:

    Thank you so much for your bravery in this post. One commenter pointed out that this is not rare in any sense of the word, and I agree wholeheartedly. As a 26 year old adult I am only beginning to remember and realize the inappropriate questions that I was asked during interviews, and the damage that the worthiness interview process did to my forming sexuality.

    Once again, the church makes clear that it is indeed homophobic, and that it does not care about the safety and security of its women.

  18. Munga says:

    … so for all those reasons people named (mostly the structural, planned and systematic exposure of young people to invasive and thus abusive bishops) and my own knowledge of bishops (my dad having done a lot of abuse as bishop, as I can well remember) I’ve told our kids and the leadership of the ward that they will never have approval from me to have any closed-door or private conversations with any of my minor children. And for myself, – I still go to church but if they want to talk to me they can write an email. I WILL file charges, no matter how innocent they claim it was.

    The people who are OK with the current system should not have any power in our lives. Abusers “show” themselves by cooperation this abusive system that puts the vulnerable at the mercy of the powerful and creates powerless people by class… which Jesus would never do.

  19. hollie says:

    I had a child out of wedlock and never encountered such questions. I know the church is true and that doesn’t always mean there are the best people in leadership roles. Sorry you had to go through that shouldn’t of had to.

    • Ifrit says:

      I’m glad you never had to suffer through this, but just because you personally have never experienced it does not mean there isn’t a systemic problem that needs to be corrected. In addition, pointing out a systemic problem is not the same thing as questioning whether or not the church is true. To respond to “girls are being traumatized and abused in Bishop interviews” with “I know the church is true” is a fallacy, and a damaging one at that. If you know the church is true, defend it; not by supporting a structure that is being shown to hurt members, but by rooting it out.

    • Steve says:

      Hollie,

      Were you bullied (“counseled”) into giving your child up for adoption? I have heard that LDS family services works relentlessly to coerce single mothers into relinquishing. The LDS Church does appear to hold the position that every single child in the world born out of wedlock should be separated from their natural mother and placed for adoption.

      Also, where do you live? I wonder if the pressure to give up the child is stronger in the Mormon corridor than it is in other parts of the country. Then again, Mitt Romney lived in Boston and he tried to coerce a woman into giving up a child that she clearly stated she wanted to keep. He threatened her with excommunication and she ultimately left the Church.

      • Pbj says:

        I live in Utah County and when I became pregnant and was looking at being a single mom, I refused to speak to my bishop until after my son was born – I didn’t want to listen to reasons I should give him up. Though I did talk to LDSFS for counselling. They became uninterested in helping me after I announced my decision to keep my child.

  20. Annie says:

    “The leaders behaved badly” is vindicating to hear from other leaders but that doesn’t get us anywhere. “The policy of male leaders having that much power over other members, and the practice of grooming young girls through patriarchal doctrine to be psychologically and utterly submissive to, and unaware of abuse” would be a much nicer thing to hear, but I’m not holding my breath. Because this is how church leaders solve problems in the church: http://youtu.be/JxyiHLg59ks

  21. Sarah parkinson says:

    Call me a naive mother, I didn’t realize our church leaders were so ignorant when it comes to our youth. My 11 year old daughter was asked to a interview with the bishop the evening before Father’s Day. He wanted to see her on Father’s Day. We already had an appointment that day with the young women to explain the program and welcome her into young women’s. We also needed to drop by our dads to wish them a happy Father’s Day. Because of our busy day we declined the interview and asked for a different date. We were told that our bishop really needed to see her before she turned 12. Well, her birthday being the Day after Father’s Day would make her 12 so our bishop insisted that he see her that day.
    My daughter was anxious about having an interview alone with him, and I like a stupid fool told her it would be fine. I waited outside while the bishop interviewed her. When she came out of his office I asked her if she remembered to have him sign her faith in God book. (She had been working on it since she was 8 and his interview was the last thing she needed to complete the award)
    My daughter shrugged her shoulders at the same time my bishop said he wanted to talk with me. I went into his office, we never sat down or shut the door. He told me that my daughter didn’t know about the law of chastity. I was stunned he was even asking her about that. He then told me that I would need to go home and teach her about it because he had deeper questions to ask her about it and couldn’t ask her until I teach her. He said he wouldn’t sign her faith in God award until he asked her the deeper questions about chastity.
    He then had to leave as it was time to start sacrament meeting.
    I was upset with him. He is holding an award away from her until he can ask deeper questions about chastity?!
    I was a concerned mother. If she didn’t know about it, she probably is a pure virgin 11 year old girl. Any normal thinking human being could look at her and know she didn’t need deeper questions about the matter. He is holding them against her award.
    It’s not like she dresses immodest. She is an awsome kid who goes to elementary school, plays with barbies, is good to friends, cleans her room, cleans two bathrooms, mows her grandparents lawn without being asked. She is an awsome daughter!! I wish I was half the person she is when I was her age.
    I later shared my concerns with a ward leader, I was told causally that he probably wanted to ask her about heavy petting and masturbation. Excuse me? Why are we asking little girls about this?
    In essence, if you take out the pretty word chastity and replace it with the real subject matter, sex then my bishop said to me…. Your daughter didn’t know about sex, I need you to go home and teach her about sex so I can ask her deeper questions about sex. What a pervert!!!!!!!!!!!! Really, are we treating our tiny young girls like this? Never a congratulations, you worked hard to complete your faith in God award, I’m proud of you. ……. Only let’s talk about sex!!!!!
    I’m so upset at myself to be so naive! My bishop also talked to her about boys and told her they would start looking good to her.
    Needless to say, there will never be another interview! I don’t care about her stupid award and neither does she. If being worthy to get a temple recommend means my daughter has to put up with this line of questioning every 6 months then I’m out!! I could care less if she Marries in the temple. If she is subject to jerks like this for all these years she will be better off not going there.
    Hide your kids!!!!

    • Alicia says:

      Yes please hide your kids from THIS bishop, but not the temple. What that bishop wanted to ask and what the ward leader confirmed is not appropriate. I have never had an experience like your daughter or these other women have had with a bishop. I have had numerous interviews for temple recommends throughout my adult years in the church (one each year for renewal of my limited use recommend, and then most recently for my own endowments) , each with a different bishop or counselor due to moving, ward splitting, or calling of a new bishopric. Every time it was explained to me that yes/no questions would be asked, the leader would take out the reference book with the recommend questions and ask those questions and wait for my yes or no answer. When I answered yes to the questions that were all read right out of the book, word for word, no further detail was asked of me to determine my worthiness. I do not believe the perverse actions mentioned on this feed are the norm. Sadly there are situations of bad people, or even simply misguided people in some cases, who get into positions of power and abuse it. Sarah I hope you understand that temple recommend and worthiness interviews will not all be like that bad experience and that you will have a different bishop at the time when your daughter is ready to enter the temple. Please don’t let the horrific experiences by the abused aforementioned deter you from helping your daughter prepare to enter the House of the Lord, whether it be to perform baptisms for the dead as a youth or to receive her endowments as an adult.

      • Munga says:

        I’ve had talks with our four kids (13-22 now) about the interviews and the temple, as separate issues, too.

        First, we discussed the yes/ no format and the regularly allowed diversion from that format as inspired (the loophole for predators).

        Then, we discussed the temple, which abuses women by teaching that women are meant to serve men, and that God placed women under men. (patriarchal and ecclesiastic abuse). I specifically said that if I had known (and not been betrayed by everyone who I thought loved me) what awaited in the temple, I would have chosen death. No one should be abused that way, ever.

        The kids have chosen to not participate in worthiness interviews because of their nature which preserves opportunities to abuse, and never to participate in temple ordinances until they are no longer abusive.

    • Tim Rollins says:

      @Sarah Parkinson: That interviewer is NOT a bishop: He is a pervert/pedophile grooming future victims. Report this IMMEDIATELY to the stake president, and to the Stake President. if he refuses to help, go to the Legal Department at Church Headquarters at 1-800-453-3860, extension 2-1911. i used to train bishops and the stake presidency on these matters once upon a time or two.

      Id Church Legal says they will not talk to you — but to bishops and stake presidents only –then share with them with the events that happened,. and tell them that the BISHOP is the OFFENDER, and the STAKE PRESIDENT is an active ENABLER by not swiftly acting on it.

      If you — as a member are either a school teacher, a first responder or in a number of occupations (depending on your state) that mandate reporting), then call it in, and don’t even BOTHER calling Church Legal.

      Just call Law Enforcement and let THEM deal with that rogue Bishop for ‘going off the reservation’. It’ll be interesting to see what a search warrant on his laptop, smartphone, electronics and his paper materials will turn up…and the stake president — in the interest of protecting the good name of the Church will not hesitate to throw that bishop under the bus in a heartbeat once he’s asked to come in for questioning WITH HIS LAWYER…

  22. The Law of Chastity is clearly given and defined in the endowment ceremony, the Highest Possible Authority!
    “that the daughters of Eve, and the sons of Adam shall have no sexual relations except with their husbands or wives to whom they are legally and lawfully wedded. ”
    That is it. That is all that should ever be inquired. Only to couples claiming to be legally married, and any possible adultery. Any other sexual discussion between youth or adults should be reported to legal authorities for prosecution.

    • Munga says:

      Larry, you are hurting my brain.

      That Law of Chasity discussion is for adults not children.

      Any time a bishop asks a question, no matter how euphemism’d about sex, call the cops and throw away the key. We need to get these predators off the streets and off the stands.

  23. Annie says:

    Recap: Women relate actual instances of abuse, and offer suggestions to prevent said abuse from continuing. Men tell women they are being misleading and divisive.

    This is why we can’t have nice things….like knowledge of our Heavenly Mother.

    • Ifrit says:

      Hear Hear. And it’s the same script any time the women try to bring up anything similar.

    • Munga says:

      The Tim thing was hilarious. take-away: Yes, women have been promised priestesshood since forever, but it doesn’t matter because men have the priesthood to themselves because ya know, because. But women, your voices are TOTALLY VALUABLE! Of course, nothing promised to you is meaningful because…because. Then he head-pat feminist she-bear, Kimberly, who can school him to the movement’s bedrock. Man-firmations bobbing over a battleship.

      these attitudes – the way Tim treated Kimberly – and the way the bishops more often than not sexually invade our girls are abuse-culture. Tim showed how the grown women are treated, while the girls are isolated and invaded with “worthiness” checks.

      This is why I got my daughter out at 16. She still goes to church and even got her Young Women’s Medallion, but the bishops and anyone who cooperateswith these abusive policies are just vaunted and protected predators and anyone with working senses knows it. Save the children.

  24. Rachel says:

    It is exactly this type of shaming and grooming that results in so many women (not just in the LDS faith but any patriartical faith) the be raped by their husbands. The constant grooming that men hold the authority brought on by a call of God that so many end up feeling like they have to blindly follow. Yes, everyone should be outraged. When I was a girls camp there were many men from the bishopric that would be there the whole time, how is that any different from openly gay men attending boys camp? If the argument really is about keeping children safe because adults that are attracted to their gender cannot be trusted to be alone with them… It’s all more gaslighting, they want to make an issue like Boy Scouts public so things like this can continue to go unaddressed. I for one and glad I left the church over 16 years ago.

  25. Chris says:

    This is an extraordinary amount of ecclesiastical abuse occurring in the LDS Church. Bishops and stake presidents are allowed to abuse women repeatedly and NOTHING is being done to stop it. When reported to higher authorities, as I did, we are threatened with excommunication. The Church is fostering abuse and NO ONE is stopping it. If they speak out about it, as Lavina Fielding Anderson did, they are excommunicated, and NEVER allowed back into the Church unless they state that all of the brethren are infallible.

    My son-in-law is a distinguished physician in SLC and sees abuse of women by the bishop/stake president husband repeatedly.

    These women need to document the abuse and report it to the authorities whenever possible. Many need to get away, because if they stay in the home, they are abused by all of their ecclesiastical authorities in their area for reporting their abuse. There is absolutely no where in the Church that abused women like this can turn for help.

  26. Alan says:

    The real reason the Mormon Church can’t tolerate gay scout leaders is because the Mormon Church expends so much energy maintaining a man/woman divide, and gay scout leaders influencing children “disrupts” that.

    When a young scout looks up to/idolizes a scout leader, and that man is gay, and maybe even “gay-married,” the official Church worries NOT that the man is a pedophile, or that the kid could potentially “turn gay” — because that kind of homophobic nonsense is old, even by the Church’s standards of homophobia. The real issue is that the kid will question “gender” — the way he relates to other males and females. Boyd Packer spoke of the strong link between feminism and gay-rights in the early 1990s, and while he obviously denounced both, he was spot-on with the salience of the link.

    This post about men overseeing the sexualities of their flock, creating the problem of potential abuse points directly to that link. Not only do these men oversee women’s sexuality, but they also ensure everyone’s sexuality is targeted toward heterosexuality, or not at all. The existence of the gay scout leader in the Mormon community (who is ostensibly “acting on his attraction”) forces introspection on the whole gendered system. It’s easy to say “we don’t discriminate, but we have our beliefs,” and it’s another thing to actually enact that “lack of discrimination” by putting your children in the hands of someone who’s beliefs are different than yours. But rather than deal with that as a Church — the Church might rather cut ties to an organization they’ve been linked to for a century.

    In the end, there’s no way to “balance” the issue. Church leaders tried in Salt Lake by supporting gay rights + religious liberty, they try by excommunicating feminists, but eventually, the energy to maintain the Mormon form of heteropatriarchy will be unsustainable in 21st century America.

    • Emily U says:

      Alan, these are my views as well. The tension right now is pretty unbearable for me and I’m not finding the stamina to stick around and see how things will resolve.

  27. sister survivor says:

    Not only is what is described in the OP flat-out abuse, it’s like a textbook example:

    Stockholm syndrome is a syndrome that tethers survivors of trauma and abuse to their abusers in order to survive. This syndrome is created from what Patrick J. Carnes, Ph.D calls “trauma bonds,” which are bonds that are formed with another person during traumatic emotional experiences. These bonds can leave us paradoxically seeking support from the source of the abuse. Biochemical bonds can also form with our abuser through changing levels of oxytocin, dopamine, cortisol and adrenaline which can spike during the highs and lows of the abuse cycle.

    https://onmogul.com/articles/what-abuse-survivors-don-t-know-10-life-changing-truths

    Ultimately, the source of the abuse is not just certain leaders but the church itself, because when you appeal to higher authorities for help, the leaders close ranks. Protecting the role of bishop or stake president–which is to say the power structure–is more important than protecting the well-being of any individual. This is the choice Sam, for instance, is making: he is defending the role that enables the abuse, and he is blaming and condemning the victim.

    Experiencing problems in your marriage? See your bishop. He’ll help.
    Having trouble with a particular sin? See your bishop. He’ll help.
    Not getting along with your parents? See your bishop. He’ll help.
    Starting to have doubts about a certain doctrine or practice? See your bishop. He’ll help.

    But what if he doesn’t? See your stake president. He’ll help.

    And if he doesn’t? Maybe you’re asking for the wrong thing. Maybe it’s your fault. Maybe you should look harder at yourself to figure out what you’re doing wrong.

    Is it any wonder that so many women find it so hard to leave, even when they’ve been abused and betrayed again and again? Trauma bonds that complex are very hard to break.

    Which is why we need to be generous and understanding when our sisters finally do leave, and why we must wish them well and never ask anyone who feels abused to stay because the church needs them. That’s just one more message that the church matters but their well-being doesn’t; that just compounds the abuse.

    Honestly, if we noticed and cared about our girls, I think we would help them leave. I think it’s hard to claim you really care about and notice the girls in your stewardship when you ask them to belong to an organization that has abused so many of their mothers and grandmothers and aunts and sisters and friends, and would very likely abuse them were it not for extreme vigilance. How can an organization so injurious to their dignity, self-respect, and emotional well-being possibly provide them with salvation?

  28. Name * says:

    Comment

  29. A says:

    I too went through something similar with my singles ward bishop just recently. In November of 2014 I was sexually assaulted by a boy I was dating and I was becoming very depressed very quickly. I wasn’t sure what to do. I felt disgusting and dark, and hated myself. Before that incident I was married to a very verbally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually abusive man. I had begun being very distrusting of men. All the men that had done me wrong were members of the church and returned missionaries, and I didn’t understand. I decided I would go talk to my bishop to get council. When I told him about what had happened to me he asked me, “Well how do you dress when you’re with these boys?” I honestly couldn’t say anything for a minute. I’m an endowed member of the church. I wear garment appropriate attire, and even if I didn’t the way I dress should have NOTHING to do with me getting sexually assaulted or abused in any way. The interview left me feeling even more alone and worse than before. The next sunday my bishop watched me take the sacrament. I have to have gluten free bread so when I didn’t take the regular bread (because they hadn’t brought my tray by with the gluten free bread) he noticed. He didn’t watch me the rest of the time but after the meeting he pulled me aside and said he saw I hadn’t taken the sacrament and that we needed to talk. The sacrament is something that is supposed to be super sacred and a personal experience. I didn’t understand why he was watching me. Needless to say it has left me feeling uneasy and unsure about a lot, and I really wish I didn’t.

  30. Xena says:

    After reading these comments…it is clear that these interviews are a remnant of polygamy. Older men getting their kicks off of very young women. It’s about power and control.

  31. Warren Ward says:

    Grow a pair, girls!

    Boy! Talk about trying to find fault with the Lord in every detail in the operation of His church you have to look hard! You just don’t want to admit you did something wrong. Otherwise you would have been proud to answer these questions.

    • Ari says:

      Warren,

      Unfortunately, for these women whom you say need to “grow a pair”, it is not hard for them to find fault with bishops based on their experiences.

      Your ignorance on the topic is evident by your comment. I’m positive, if you have a daughter or cared about your daughter and heard that a bishop did this to her you would not be okay with it. What these men are doing (Bishops who are abusing their power) is disgusting.

      When you say that these women just did not want to admit they something wrong…I got a good laugh out of that.

      Most of these women were going in to see their bishops to confess, meaning they were voluntarily admitting they had sinned. They felt guilty and wanted to feel clean again, and they had been taught that the way to do this is to go see the bishop. Instead, they were probed for details on their sexual misdoings. The end result from these meetings left them far from feeling “clean”.

      Even if they weren’t and were called in to see their Bishop, why should they have to answer multiple questions on the same sin? Isn’t one enough? Saying yes, I did that and yes I will stop doing it. Asking, “How many fingers did he/you use”, does that affect how much longer their repentance process will take? It shouldn’t under any circumstance.

      The issue is very clear here, SOME Bishops are abusing their authority. Women and I’m sure some men who have gone through these detailed and uncalled for interviews probably feel like they never want to go to a Bishop again with problems they’re having. Who would want to when once required to answer disgusting questions regarding sexual experiences?

      There is no reason for detailed questions. A confession that they broke the law of chastity and feel guilty about it is sufficient.

      Also, who would be “proud” to answer questions like that? If anything, you should feel guilty, not proud.

      Sounds to me like you could be one of the Bishops asking these questions to teenage girls. Otherwise, you wouldn’t think it’s perfectly fine. Or, maybe hearing about sexual harassment is a turn on for you? Either way, your point of view is distasteful.

    • Kimberly says:

      “Grow a pair, girls!”

      Do you talk to the Lord with that mouth?

    • sister survivor says:

      Grow a pair, girls!

      We have “grown a pair.” That’s why we’re telling our stories.

      Grow a pair of your own and find the courage to listen.

    • Ifrit says:

      How disgusting. Grow a pair indeed.

    • Ifrit says:

      Also:

      Any man who would call a group of grown women “girls” shows he has no respect, and deserves none in return.

    • anon for this says:

      So when I talked to my Bishop about being sexually abused as a child, and when he asked me detailed questions about the abuse, I should have just “grown a pair” and admitted I did something wrong?

  32. Rixa says:

    I told my bishop that I would be present at all interviews (unless my kids specifically asked me not to attend) and that he is not allowed to ask them any questions regarding sexuality while they are minors. And once they are adults, they can choose if they want to be asked or want to respond to sexual quesitons.

  33. Jason says:

    I’ve become very uncomfortable with the idea of giving an accounting of myself to some middle aged guy, although I am for better or worse chaste. I’ve let my recommend expire and have no plans to renew. If it’s that uncomfortable for me, I can only imagine what it is like for a young woman, whether or not she’s given in to some very human temptations.

    tl;dr it’s super weird for *boys* to be alone being asked those questions. How much more so for girls.

    • Ifrit says:

      It’s true. I have no sons, but I never would want them alone with any adult, man or woman. It’s just not right, and it’s not safe. Every other reputable organization–schools, etc–gets it. So why isn’t the LDS church implementing policies that will keep its children safe?

  34. Beth says:

    I don’t think this problem is endemic. I’ve never had an inappropriate interview like you’ve just described, never as a young woman, nor as an adult. I agree that the bishop you encountered was wrong, and I agree with a previous poster that we should teach our children that they don’t have to have such in- depth conversations with a bishop unless asked for.
    I’m not going to put this in the same category as gay leaders with teenage boys on extended overnight camping trips. One is obviously asking for trouble ( as would be men camping in tents with teenage girls). The other is a few minutes of talking alone that rarely results in trauma ( sad when it does, but a woman leader could’ve easily have had the same sort of guilt- inducing conversation, and rarely does it happen at all.)

    • Ifrit says:

      I’ve read probably hundreds of these accounts; several from friends. And that’s just from a group of people on the Internet who are actually willing to speak up about being uncomfortable. But I do not believe that high numbers should be required to prove this is a real problem. How many girls have to be traumatized or abused before it’s a big enough problem to simply not conduct interviews in this manner. Is 1 out of 100 acceptable to you? Is 1 out of 1000? Your children’s school would not allow a teacher to sit alone in a closed room with a child and ask them such questions. Social workers must talk to children in pairs by law. At my girls’ summer camp, bathroom trips happen under the watch of at least two counsellors at a time. This is common sense. Why isn’t the church applying it? We shouldn’t be using our willingness to expose our children to possible danger as some sort of proof of faith, which is what many people who react against this ida seem to be doing. “But the church is true.” Yes, and…? This should stop you from sending in the parents and a second interviewer why? “But it hardly ever happens.” And if this is true, why should that matter? Once again, is it acceptable for 1 girl in 10,000 to be traumatized by the current interview policies, or is it better to just change them?

      • nrc42 says:

        “We shouldn’t be using our willingness to expose our children to possible danger as some sort of proof of faith.” Brilliantly put. Do you mind if I quote that in discussions with others?

      • Ifrit says:

        Not at all. Glad to help.

    • Ziff says:

      You don’t think this is a common problem because you personally haven’t experienced it? This doesn’t seem like a very compelling argument to me. I think there are clearly lots of reasons why people wouldn’t be forthcoming in telling everyone around them that they’ve experienced ecclesiastical abuse at the hands of their leaders.

      Even if it is rare, as ifrit points out so well, it’s still something to be concerned about. And I really don’t think it’s as rare as you think it is.

  35. Erin says:

    For me, it was what a bishop DIDN’T do that was awful. I went to my bishop as a 16 year old, hoping for spiritual guidance because I was molested when I was younger and felt really guilty about it. I didn’t fully understand that what had happened wasn’t my fault. My bishop was visibly uncomfortable at the mention of sexual abuse. He turned his head away from me and changed the subject. I left that room feeling further convinced that I was the one at fault. The institution taught me to go to my ecclesiastical leader for support, but in reality it was the worst thing I could have done at that time because of his response. (I fell further and further down the shame spiral for years.) I shouldn’t have been talking to my bishop, who was ill-equipped to handle my situation.

  36. KäferFahrer says:

    Amy that story is definitely NOT how I was instructed to conduct worthiness interviews! I am both sorry you experienced this and feel compassion toward you. Absolutely nowhere does the handbook instruct Bishops to probe into lurid details exploring every possible sexual act or angle. You were right to be having the reactions you were having and it was your spirit rejecting the violation of your purity.

    At times a prompting will trigger an extra question or two and when someone reveals a problem that may affect worthiness seeking intimate details of the violation of the law of chastity is voyeurism not spiritual guidance! A bishop should be concerned with if the problem was a momentary lack of judgement or if it has become a habitual problem or if there is someone else is acting in a predatory manner against the person. The return to worthiness is a process that does not and should not require reliving or exploring details.

    Now that being said it does not sound as though the bishop also molested you which would have been even worse. I do object in to claiming that any and all worthiness interviews are also some form of mental abuse under the guise of “righteousness”. If your or anyone’s bishop is asking questions not listed on the list you should ask if he is feeling prompted to ask more than is there since you already affirm that you are living the law of chastity.

    • KäferFahrer says:

      Also keep in mind that you were already a YSA aged woman and had difficulty recognizing the very inappropriate conversations for what they were. Imagine that with a 13 year old boy on a week long scout camp with a predator there every day and night.

      • Amy says:

        You are right, I was YSA age (18 years old) and I was not physically molested. I didn’t tell my story to illustrate how bad it can get. Compared to some, my story was fairly mild. I told my story because it illustrates the power dynamics that are at play here–trusting young person (in this case, a young woman), who has been told her whole life that her ecclesiastical leaders are called of God, can receive inspiration for her, etc. These are subtle messages that someone else is an authority on our lives. So when this man asked probing questions, I *believed* that God was instructing him to ask them. When I left the interview feeling icky, I internalized it to mean that *I* had obviously done wrong, though I didn’t know what that was.

        As for our young men, I don’t want to excuse the truly awful situations that have occurred but again, we spend a LOT of time talking about how to prevent the abuse of our young men in a program that has safety structures in place to prevent abuse as much as possible (two-deep leadership, group activities rather than solo excursions, etc). There literally are no safety structures to prevent the abuse possible in worthiness interviews outside of hoping people go by the handbook and even then, they can “receive inspiration” to go in another direction. Since we raise our youth to believe that this process is *required* to ensure their eternal good standing before God, there is just too much power imbalance to hope for the best.

        As for our scouts, statistically speaking, the most likely demographic to commit acts of pedophilia and molestation are actually heterosexual males. Of course, no one is immune but to pretend that this is a problem inherent with gay men is to ignore the actual numbers. We are willing to give heterosexual males the benefit-of-the-doubt when it comes to asking our daughters intimate questions of a sexual nature, but we do not give that same benefit-of-the-doubt to gay men leading a backpacking trip (and with other leaders present!). I really wish I could read this some other way than “we are more concerned for our boys than our girls” but as the comments keep coming from those who are literally telling women they are causing the problem, that it wasn’t that bad, etc., I’m not really sure how else to process that.

  37. mya says:

    Another reason why the Mormon church is perverse. Sickening what they do to the young people in the church.

  38. Marti says:

    I always thought I was alone before reading this and all of the comments. I was raped when I was 13 and had to give every single gritty detail to my bishop. Several times, and answer every question. Nobody ever got me help. No trauma counseling, and no punishment for the person who raped me. The conclusion was that it was my own fault because I had put myself in a bad situation by willingly kissing the person. When he went father despite my protests, it was my fault because I had tempted him. I ran home without pants, hiding from passing cars in people’s yards because i was so ashamed. My parents knew, and even though the bishop is supposedly sworn to secrecy, I felt like others knew too. Several young women were no longer allowed to spend time with me. I’d walk past people in the hall and they would turn to each other and whisper. I had to go to relief society until I started my next menstrual cycle to prove that I hadn’t been impregnated. Because if I was pregnant, I could no longer be a “young woman”. Id have to be in the relief society. I had to show my mom a bloody tampon as proof. I was stripped of my calling as the 1st counselor for the beehives. I was denied the sacrament and was forbidden to pray in public. One girl who was probably 20 reached out to me once and was extra nice after that happened. She saw me leave the bishop’s office with swollen eyes and sobbing so badly I couldn’t breathe right and could no longer even speak. I was told I wasn’t worthy of a return missionary but maybe if I worked really hard and prayed for forgiveness and repented for my sins, I’d be able to one day marry in the temple.

    • Kristi says:

      Oh, Marti, I’m so sorry for what your young innocent self had to bear. All my love and support for you.

    • sister survivor says:

      your story has to break every heart who hears of it.

      This has to change. This can’t happen to anyone else, and someone in power has to apologize to you.

    • effervesent francois says:

      I appreciate hearing these concerns, so I understand what some of the issues are in Leadership. It seems incredible to me that Safety is not emphasized in interviews–12 step programs and government programs are much more effective, it seems, or at least diligent.
      My understanding is the the present interview question on chastity for youth is simply to ask if they are chaste and refer them to the Strength For Youth which doesn’t even mention MB by name now.
      Do youth even know they can have someone peresent during interviews?
      As for Scouts, if there is a concern about gay men leaders, won’t that be a bigger concern when boys have to go to neighborhood troops?

      • effervesent francois says:

        By the way, I’m glad to know that there is an abuse hotline. Too many leaders cover for each or discount reports of inappropriate behavior.

    • Steven says:

      This is unbelievable! It is almost the exact thing that started to happen to our daughter with her BYU Bishop. But we stepped in when she confided in us and I knew the legal definition of rape and I was able to make waves by calling her Bishop’s Stake President. That Bishop was released because we threatened legal action, but it appears this is a pattern in the Church. Instead of reporting these crimes to the local police they blame the young women involved. This needs to be exposed in news organizations from Utah to New York and LA and back again. Nothing will change until then and leaving the Church is not answer enough because there are too many young people growing up in our Church who will face this some day. I never thought I’d say this but our Church seems more and more like a cult to me.

  39. nrc42 says:

    I am literally crying reading these stories. It breaks my heart to know so many girls have been robbed of their innocence by the same organization that claimed to offer hope, healing, and the exclusive pathway to God.

    There are so many things the church could do to prevent these sorts of things, but they don’t and won’t because changing things would be an admission that things weren’t perfect before.

    No one with any real power seems to care.

    Sometimes I’ve had hope that things could change from the ground up, if there were enough members advocating. But lately I just feel like the church is too far gone. There can be no grassroots change in an absolute top-down hierarchy where half of the voices are expected to be silent and submissive. Nobody cares. Those in pain are silenced and accused. It all seems so hopeless.

    I’ve been desperately looking for a reason to stay with the faith and the people of my birth, but lately I see so little of God there.

    • effervesent francois says:

      I empathize with you. I have gone through deep disgust also, in my own way. Please feel free to seek out safe people–I promise you that Heaven has provided them for you. I have learned to keep the Essentials of the Church that are special and avoid the insanity. It’s worth the effort. We once moved out of a stake to avoid unhealthy leaeders. You do what you have to do-give yourwelf permission!
      Bless you!!

    • E.D. says:

      This is one of the main reasons I had to finally step away. If it was the one true church, we would be better or at least try to be better. The response to Any Opposed last conference was sad and wrong. Deflecting criticism to people (stake presidents) who can’t do a damn thing about it shows that the leadership has no desire to anything besides maintain the largely toxic culture.

  40. Jenny says:

    The Boy Scouts will be better off without an alliance with the church. The church is hiding in their perceived purity – just as the Catholic church has.
    At 12 and being asked in a worthiness interveiw by my bishop, about masturbation, and then telling him that I did not know what masturbation was, because I didn’t. He proceeded to explain in detail what it was as well as explaining, in detail, other sexual acts. I was mortified, scared, embarrassed and SILENT because he was God’s chosen one – to watch over me. After years of abuse in marriages in the church and being told that I needed to stay in the abuse due to eternal consequences, I now have PTSD. I cannot go near a church without becoming physically ill. I am so angry that this is still happening and that the parents are buying into this. Why? Why?

  41. Emz says:

    My step daughter has been sexually abused for a few years by her mothers new husband (her stepdad). She has ONLY talked with the bishop with either me, her YW leader, my daughter or her Dad in the room with them. You don’t have to go in alone. EVER! It’s always a choice. We just need to educate the women in our lives to not have to put up with potentially negative scenarios. When I was 16 my bishop called me in for a random interview and tried like mad to get me to confess to something he thought I had done. He argued with me until I got pissed off. I tried walking out but he stood in front of the door. I physically moved him from the door. I told him he would never see me again. I walked out and didn’t go back to church for 10 years. It was unfortunate that a human that I shouldve been able to trust treated me that way. It’s unfortunate that I let my anger towards his ignorance keep me from the Gospel that I loved. Such is life while we are humans on this planet. Know more, do more!

    • Ziff says:

      I’m sorry your bishop was so awful, EMZ. Good on you for standing up to him.

      I like the idea of educating people that having a parent sit in on interviews is a choice, but I think it’s the bishops who will have to be educated first, as many clearly don’t believe this.

  42. Matthew says:

    So I’m a 40 year old single white Mormon man who’s been active most of my life. I grew up with two older sisters and a mother who is as tough as they come. I’ve never served in the Church in a Bishopric. I would be horrendously uncomfortable asking any woman or girl any of those kind of questions. I don’t understand why anybody would do such a thing. I’ve honestly never considered and have been ignorant of any such thing happening to a woman or young girl. This saddens me very much. The saddest part is that the author of this article didn’t mention going to her mother or father with the story of what happened. If I were a father I would be horrified by hearing that this happened and even worse that my child didn’t feel she could confide in me to tell me or her mother what hasharing Of course I have no idea what the parents reaction would have been. At Church I typically avoid the young women and girls because I don’t want anybody to think I’m some kind of a pervert. Equally I’m very careful when I deal with any young men or boys. There was a Bishop who thought I’d be a good Scoutmaster, but he had to really fight to give me that calling because I was single. Apparently he had to seek approval from the Stake Presidency. I got the calling mostly because nobody else was willing to do it. I was very uncomfortable at first, but as it turned out I was very good at it. I was in a position of sacred trust. I always followed the rules of 2 deep leadership and built many relationships of friendship and trust with the boys I had the privilege of working with. I worked with one boy who didn’t have any kind of a filter when he spoke. If it was on his mind it came out his mouth. He once asked me what a vagina looked like. For a moment I was shocked and dumbfounded, then it came to me, “You know, you need to ask your mom that question. Do you know why?” The boy replied, “No, why?” I answered, “Because she has one and is an expert. She can tell you all about it.” I then pulled the mom aside at church and explained to her what happened and that it was probably time for “the talk”. She was a little embarrassed, but knowing her son well thanked me and assured me that they would have the talk. Later she told me that they opened up the anatomy book and she explained how girls work. I laugh about it now, but at the time I was pretty uncomfortable. I would think that it’s so important that children should feel comfortable enough to confide in their parents about their questions or anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. In Scouting I was surprised at how uncomfortable the adult men I worked with in Scouting were about discussing the 3 R’s of personal safety, part of that is talking about sexual abuse and molestation. I had some parents attend the meeting to help with the discussion and it was very open and honest. I also encouraged parents to talk to their boys about the subject of sexual and other forms of abuse. I don’t think you can be uncomfortable discussing these issues with your boys and girls. The world is such an evil place anymore. I was a Scoutmaster for 7 years and loved every minute of it. It was a lot of hard work, but it was so rewarding to me. I wasn’t perfect and I made mistakes, but I did the best I could. My assistants and I dealt with some very difficult issues, one such was dealing with a boy who was a huge bully and had been sexually molested. We were scared to death that he might act out on the younger weaker boys, it was so hard to try and help this boy while at the same time keep the other boys safe. That situation kept me up at night and caused some gray hairs, but somehow we got through it and were able to discreetly never put this boy in any situation where he could hurt any of the other boys. That experience aged me a bit. I tried my best to build trust so that if there ever was a situation that the boys would feel comfortable coming to me, my assistants or better yet their parents. As a single man I’ve had a unique experience in the Church, I can neither damn or defend what others have done in the past, good or bad. I can however do my very best to try to understand these kind of issues while keeping my own sacred faith. Thank you for sharing. It helps me understand better. I’m so sorry for your pain, God bless you.

    • Steven says:

      You sound like you are good and innocent man. We are similar in age but I have an adult daughter and 17 year old son. This post struck our family like lightening because of our experiences which I outlined above. However, one thing I have remembered is that when I was a very young man, I was called into the Bishop’s office for a worthiness interview for doing baptisms for the dead. The Bishop asked me if I had done anything inappropriate with any young women, and I told him how when I was 5 I played doctor with a neighbor girl and I had seen her private parts. He asked what I had seen and what I thought about it and then asked me if I ever masturbated. I didn’t know what the word even meant at that time, so he asked if I ever touched my private areas to make myself feel good. I didn’t even know that was possible at that time either, but as I think about it now, I can’t believe I learned about that from a Bishop at such a tender age. Something needs to change in our Church, and pronto!

  43. Rain_77 says:

    Interesting viewpoint. I spoke to my wife and asked if she experienced anything like this growing up. She looked at me incredulously and said, “Are you serious?! No, never.” I asked if this had ever come up in conversation with her close friends or acquaintances. The answer again was “no, never.” I showed her the article and she was surprised as I was.

    This was the first I had heard anything like this before.

    I am not trying to make light of what the you experienced or how you felt during it. But in response to the question you pose why there isn’t more outrage, perhaps the answer is because what you experienced is extremely rare.

    • Steven says:

      Based on the comments on this thread alone, I don’t think this scenario is as rare as you think. Think about your original worthiness interviews for baptisms for the dead. Would you want your son or daughter to be asked those kinds of questions behind closed doors by an adult man who may or may not be attracted to young women, or even young men for that matter? Remember Bishop’s and even Stake Presidents have fallen into such traps and there are cases where a Salt Lake Stake President was even arrested for picking up a prostitute, and Bishop’s have been caught in both heterosexual and homosexual affairs. It is particularly distressing if your child needs to ask the Bishop what the law of chastity means or what other unfamiliar terms mean. How would that make you feel to have another adult male having those conversations with your child? At the very least I think the Bishop’s should have a script and they should not deviate from that script. If the child has questions about sexual terms and such, the Bishop should simply notify the parent. It disgusts me that some men might get their jollies off of hearing lurid details of the young people they are supposed to be serving. And in cases where rape is alleged, EVERY Bishop should be instructed to immediately contact the local police about the crime as is now mandatory if the Bishop becomes aware of the sexual abuse of a child.

  44. Portia says:

    I am not Mormon and I’m not even sure how I ran across this but I read it in horror!

    I hope if you have children who may be called into meetings like this you give them permission to firmly decline until you can be with them or at least equip them with smartphones and tell them to inform the adult that they will be recording the meeting.

    How ironic that this is happening so frequently in a group that objects to the Boy Scouts. The Boy Scouts who train their leaders carefully and have firm policies about any adult ever being alone with a child!

  45. Jennifer says:

    Just because you, your spouse and friends have never experienced anything like this does not mean it doesn’t happen. I grew up in the church and never had any problems with it, but my teenagers have, my nieces, and my cousins.

  46. Darc says:

    This is an extremely well-written article and breaks my heart because it is true that women and girls are either abused or ignored, especially in the church, but I am further sickened by the comments in this thread. If you or your loved one was subjected to this treatment why in the bloody hell are you still a member of this so-called church? You do realize that this organization was founded by a pedophile and apparently continues to harbor them to this very day, right? Contact REAL authorities, have people arrested — even if the charges don’t stick it will bring attention to the problem — then take your families, get out and don’t look back. That’s what I did and that’s my advice to all of you. Good luck!

  47. Gigi says:

    My friend has a blog. Her post that resonates the most with me follows. It might has well have my name on it. I felt the exact same way.

    “Mormonism was the idea of purity. As a young child, I knew I was completely pure and without sin. It’s pretty sweet to feel sure that you are right with God. What an incredible peace I lived with. Until I turned eight, that is. At that point I became peppered with sin. Soaked in it, if you must know. I might struggle and pray all day, but as an eight year old, how could I be expected to understand a message from God telling me that I was or was not fully forgiven? How could I know?
    There was no peace about my purity any more. There was only doubt and anxiety. I think of the little girl I was – lacy peach dress for church, white tights, black shiny shoes, hair in ringlets from the painful curlers I wore all night. I wanted so much to please God. I tried so hard. Why didn’t he make it a little clearer whether or not I was good enough?
    In my years as a young woman I was introduced to the finer points of sin. What is masturbation? My bishop informed me in the privacy of his office. Just little me. Twelve years old. There for a temple recommend. What was sex for procreation, compared to other evil kinds of sex? Special Relief Society lesson, combined with young women. Thirteen years old. Why did these messages about sex have to be tied to messages about God? We don’t question that. It is God who tells the priesthood leaders what we need to know and what we need to do – and not do.
    For years I feared ever having to confess sin to a bishop. I couldn’t imagine anything more degrading. And then I got into trouble, so, of course, my worst fears were realized. Off I went to recount my misdeeds to my priesthood authority, the only one with the keys to remove the stain. Wait – doesn’t Christ take away sin? Not in cases of serious sin. For that we need our local spiritual leader. I had become a serious sinner. So I confessed.
    Maybe I should say more about how that hurt. Maybe I should describe how frightening and horrible it was. Truthfully, I don’t have words. I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to remember. I had become so offensive to God that I could not be forgiven unless a man interfered for me. It feels every bit as awful as it did then. I had no dignity and no privacy. I kept no self-respect. I had none for myself because my church showed me none. And the church represented God.
    Eventually I grew up. I don’t mean that I became a legal adult. I mean I grew up enough to make decisions by myself. Sadly, it came a long time after the legal age. I did finally make peace with God, too. It turns out He wasn’t all that bothered by my sin.
    The church teachings about purity are great if you are less than eight years old or if you have crossed over into a spiritual realm of really feeling God speak to you. Until then, peace is a pipe dream.
    In a scripture verse that baffles me, Isaiah wrote, “Great shall be the peace of thy children.”
    He wasn’t talking about me.”

  48. Gigi says:

    Another fascinating, relevant observation on my friend’s blog. This is just a portion of this particular post. The realization is so disturbing.

    “…
    Do you sustain the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator and as the only person on the earth who possesses and is authorized to exercise all priesthood keys? Do you sustain members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators?

    Well, no. For the first time in my life, the answer was no. I wasn’t sure. I was sure I didn’t believe the revelation about polygamy. I was doubting the temple because of polygamy, so I guess that is the same as doubting the prophet who established the temple. I was doubting current authorities because they didn’t have the obvious inspiration to clarify the stupidity of polygamy. They claim to have keys of authority, so I was doubting keys. Keys mean priesthood, so, yes, I doubted everything in those questions.
    And then it hit me. To attend the temple, you must have faith in more than Christ. You must have faith in prophets, seers and revelators. This was astounding. Since exaltation depended on temple ordinances, this meant that exaltation depended on more than just faith in Jesus. Exaltation depended on faith in men, too.
    With a rush of realization, I saw the obvious truth of what I had not seen before. Several scripture verses came racing forward in my mind:
    Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)
    “redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah” (2 Ne 2:6)
    “salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ” (Mosiah 3:19)
    “there is no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ.” (Mosiah 3:17)
    Despite those verses in the Bible and Book of Mormon, the LDS church teaches that salvation comes in and through Jesus AND prophets, priesthood, ordinances, and the temple. That’s very different from saying that it comes “only in and through” Christ. By adding onto Jesus as the source of salvation, the LDS church has diminished His role compared to that in other faiths, try as they may to say otherwise. Mormon teaching interprets faith in Christ as meaning faith in the things that Christ has commanded. They teach that Christ Himself has commanded that baptism should be done by Mormon authority. Temple endowments and sealings must be performed for exaltation because Christ commanded it. To a Mormon, faith in Christ means faith in Christ’s church. To a non-Mormon, faith in Christ means faith in Christ.
    …”

    • Amelia says:

      Such an important insight. And exactly why I personally believe the LDS church has gone way overboard in its emphasis on obedience and the authority of the church and its human leadership. Too often we fail to distinguish between Jesus Christ and his prophets and apostles (and on, right down to the local bishop or Sunday School President). I do not believe that Mormon doctrine, as represented in the scriptures and historical teachings of the church, actually embraces the idea that salvation or exaltation comes through its leaders rather than Christ. And I think how we understand the word “sustain” in that specific temple recommend question, and how we understand the whole temple interview process more broadly, is symptomatic of the larger problem. Sustain does not and should not mean that we offer unquestioning or unexamined obedience to the prophet, apostles, and other church leaders. Instead, it means that we support them, regardless of whether we agree with and obey exactly their counsel. And the whole interview should be an invitation for self-examination and open discussion, rather than being nothing but an easy litmus test where if you can’t answer a quick yes or no as dictated by social conventions you don’t get a recommend.

      Ugh. This is one of my biggest pet peeves regarding contemporary Mormon practice. The church and all of its aspects, including temple recommend interviews and the temple itself, should be on opportunity to reflect and contemplate and examine, not an opportunity to show that you pass a worthiness test. I would argue that doubters and questioners have every bit as much right to be in the temple as those without doubt or question. The thing that should matter is that they pursue the opportunity to go to the temple with hope in their heart and a questing spirit that will guide them to greater understanding, no matter their starting point.

    • Melody says:

      BAM! There it is.

  49. Bobbie says:

    Thank you…

  50. Leslie says:

    Wonderful and spot on. Thank you for speaking up, writing this and allowing conversation that this is not okay!

  51. Wade Owen says:

    The dichotomy of a culture that restricts personal discussion about sex and sexuality, while enforcing an invasive, male-centric interview system is abhorrent.

    Consider the symbolism and location: The Bishop is “God’s servant”, who sits behind a big desk, wearing the authority symbols of the white shirt, tie and suit, and undoubtedly has a picture of Christ and the LDS First Presidency behind him. “God” is on his side, is the message.

    There is no two-up leadership. There is no balance of power. The bishop is the counselor, confidant, judge, jury and executioner all rolled into one. There is no effective appeals process or controls. Have you ever heard of a bishop being held accountable for what he says/does in an interview situation? The situation is ripe for abuse and abused it is.

    • Jeremiah says:

      But he’s not. He has councilors. He’s not Kim Jung Il

      • Wade says:

        Counselors do not sit in with bishops on youth interviews. Counselors perform half-yearly youth interviews, while the bishop has responsibility for annual youth interviews. I have never seen a case where a bishop and a counselor sit in on the same interview. Executive secretaries or counselors sit in the clerk’s office out of earshot during interviews.

        It is interesting to me that two-up leadership is always require for scouting activities, but this most intimate and probing experience is performed alone. Neither the interviewer, nor the interviewee is protected.

        I know that most bishops and counselors are good people and most interviewees may be culturally accustomed to this format and therefore don’t feel the rage, however I would make the case that enough abuse and voyeurism takes place in these questioning situations that the format is inconsistent, relative to other church situations, and dangerous and overdue for change.

        I do not have statistics, because they are not kept, but a lot of anecdotal information, and personal experience points me to this perspective.

        I know also that I’m a little off-topic from the article, which speaks more to the invasive nature of the questions relative to the youth and unpreparedness of young girls.

  52. jks says:

    I agree that more needs to be done to protect girls from abuse like you describe.
    I disagree that every bishop’s interview is abusive.

    • Amy says:

      I don’t believe that every interview is abusive in and of itself. I do believe the process itself is inherently abusive.

      • Wade says:

        Every day, I am protected by a passive restraint system while driving, yet I have never been in a seriuos automobile accident. Those passive restraint systems were put in place for all of society to protect a few from high-impact, yet low-probability incidents. Still, based on personal perspective, it’s possible as a driver to not perceive the need.

        LDS Bishop Interviews are analagous.

  53. Ziff says:

    Amy, thank you so much for shining a light on this disparity of concern, and the lack of checks on what bishops ask teens (or adults, for that matter). I really hope we can have this practice changed.

  54. Cindy says:

    So very insightful – thank you for this article.

    I had a similar experience during an Institute interview with a leader I respected and trusted. It was years later that I was told it had been completely inappropriate for him to have asked me those questions. My opinion is that, firstly I was an extremely passive “people pleaser”, add to that not having parents in the church there was more opportunity for “perverted” questioning without any comeback.

    This person also took advantage of hugs that were boob crushers, also inappropriate, yet we were programmed to trust the priesthood and leaders. I wasn’t equipped with the language or assertiveness to stop it and felt I was to blame.

    I had unwelcome attention from a boss at work years ago too, and regret not having guidelines or HR rules which were instituted years later. I worked on becoming more assertive later in life and to help overcome the feeling of guilt and blame I shared these experiences (when appropriate) to empower others during my business training sessions.

  55. Alisa says:

    This post has been sticking with me for days because it is so important. I also just learned that these questions of sexual purity are given to children as young as 7 years old in preparation for baptism, oftentimes alone without a parent present. I cannot imagine how a 7.5 or 8 year old could possibly ever be guilty of violating the law of chastity. Why are there not age-appropriate baptism questions, such as, “When the kids at school won’t let someone play, will you tell that person that they can play with you?” Asking about keeping the law of chastity to a child is an abuse itself.

  56. Alisa says:

    In Utah, the age of sexual consent is 18. All sexual activity between minors is considered non-consensual because we as a culture and society have determined that children and minors are not yet developed enough to consent to sex. A family member works with an in-patient juvenile sex-offender unit here in Salt Lake, where sometimes patients have sex with each other. All of it is considered non-consensual. There is no such thing as consensual sex under 18 in the eyes of the law, even when both participants are minors. That’s the law we’ve deemed appropriate here in Utah.

    I cannot believe that we are asking 7.5, 8 year-old children pre-baptism, and then sixth graders at 12 years old, about their sexual sins. Where there cannot be consent, there cannot be sin. Let me say that again to drive it home: Where there cannot be consent, there cannot be sin.

    Stop asking minors under the law about their sexual sins. They can’t consent to sex. They can’t be sinning. This has to stop.

    • Ziff says:

      Amen. Great point, Alisa.

    • Cruelest Month says:

      Yes Alisa! I would add that if sexual abuse is suspected a report should be made to child welfare so that a professional trained in forensic interviewing can interview the child. A licensed therapist might also interview a child to determine if a report should be made to child welfare. Interviewing children about sexual abuse requires very specialized skills. Serious emotional trauma can be inflicted upon a child when untrained/unskilled/unspecialized Bishops are involved in this process. All of this is also true for rape and sexual assault. These should also be disclosed to professionals that specialize in rape treatment, investigation, and prosecution.

  57. Erin says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience. My daughter’s been attending YW’s every so often and I’ve been waiting for the day the bishop or bishopric calls her into for a talk. I REFUSE to let her be talked to without me or my husband present. Hasn’t happened yet…

  58. Bryant h says:

    I think the point made in this argument is fair. I think we have to believe that most of the bishops are just trying to do their best. Obviously no one is perfect and something bad has been said by some bishop some time and some where. But I guess we just have to have faith. If we don’t feel comfortable with out kids having interviews with the bishop, maybe we could accompany them during the interview, or maybe we could accompany our spouse. I don’t think that anyone purposefully tries to make girls feel shamed. And what always helps me is trying to develop a relationship with my bishop so that during an interview if I want to say what’s on my mind instead of just yes or no, I can. Also, responding to some other comments, we can only be saved through Christ and all of the ordinances are types or symbols of Him and/or His atonement. Without his grace, being baptized would just be a bath in white clothes. Anyways that’s my two cents

  59. Tom Wom says:

    Just published the truth about my experience in scouting.
    Love wins!! 😉
    #scoutsdishonor
    Scoutsdishonor.com

  60. Germanicus Agricola says:

    I’m sorry, but I’ve been interviewed in personal worthiness interviews for over 35 years and I have never experienced anything like what I am hearing. I don’t think everybody here is lying but I have to wonder about what some folks are saying. If anything, most of the Bishops I talked to were embarrassed to even bring up the questions about worthiness and even more uncomfortable talking in any depth about them. That being said, the Bishop does have the responsibility and priesthood authority to ensure somebody is worthy to partake of the sacrament or to get a temple recommend. If he fails in his calling as “judge in Israel”, he will bring upon himself the judgement of God. If somebody feels they have been inappropriately questioned, they should go to their stake president. If they don’t feel they got a fair hearing, then take it to the next level and then the next…..I don’t doubt in any large organization, there are some rogues and idiots, but what I am hearing doesn’t quite match up with my experience. Go ahead, hit me. I can take it…..

    • Amy says:

      Of course, I can see *no problems* with having to talk about inappropriate interviews, which take place only with a man in a position of power, alone with more men in positions of power.

  1. January 11, 2016

    […] Where is the Outrage? […]

  2. January 26, 2016

    […] Where is the Outrage? (47%) […]

  3. October 30, 2016

    […] on the Exponent blog centered on church policy. The post that received the most comments in 2015, Where is the outrage? by Amy, pointed out that “taking girls and women behind closed doors with middle-aged men, […]

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