Church Tradition Has Private Counseling with Children on Various Personal Matters, Including Sex
Sam Young, a practicing Mormon who authored the petition, included this preface: “This petition is not meant to disparage the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or its leaders in any way. Rather, its purpose is to call for major changes to one particular practice.”
Imagine being a 12-year-old child. You are in a room alone with an older man asking you explicit questions about sex, questions you may not even understand. Now imagine being a teenager and being asked by an older man about your sexual activity, in excruciating detail. You are told that if you are not completely honest, you will not be found “worthy” and will dishonor your family and your religion.
This is not a fantasy for Mormon children. It is official church doctrine. But a group of concerned Mormons would like to change this tradition. An online petition is being circulated that would end a practice of private interviews of children age 12 to 18 with LDS bishops that include revealing discussions about sex.
The group has a couple of different issues with the tradition. First, the men holding the interviews, Bishops, while given instructions on sensitivity, are not trained therapists. They don’t necessarily have professional training and some Mormon therapists have stated this puts youth in a difficult position or creates an environment for exploitation. Given the accusations the LDS church has covered up sexual abuse towards children, it increases the possibility of risk.
LDS Church spokesperson Eric Hawkins said in a statement, “In these interviews, church leaders are instructed to be sensitive to the character, circumstances and understanding of the young man or young woman. They are counseled to not be unnecessarily probing or invasive in their questions, but should allow a young person to share their experiences, struggles and feelings.”
Given the recent, continuous amount of sexual assault and harassment from men to women in power imbalance, it seems like a germane time to begin this program. There are currently about 8,400 signatures. The group is hoping to gain around 10,000 signatures to coincide with a rally in Utah.
The Mormon Church has put out an official statement that puts the tradition as an important part of the church, but does not answer the arguments made by the petition.