Punished for protecting kids?
August 31, 2018 9:42 AM   Subscribe

A Mormon Bishop faces excommunication for wanting to stop sexual interviews of children. Starting at the age of 7 years old, youth in the Mormon Church begin worthiness interviews. These interviews happen behind closed doors and include questions of a sexual nature about masturbation, sexual thoughts, and chastity.

Sam Young, a former Mormon bishop who staged a 23-day hunger strike in protest of the church’s policy to conduct one-on-one interviews with children involving sexually explicit questions, has been warned he faces being excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Young, founder of Protect LDS Children, has been a constant critic of the church’s practice of allowing Mormon leaders to interview children and youths alone. Critics believe this practice can be emotionally abusive, have a history of sexual abuse, impair normal sexuality, and promote shame, guilt, self loathing and the potential for youth suicide.
posted by ShakeyJake (43 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
When the fuck are we as a society going to stop allowing abusive, immoral, and loathsome behavior solely on the basis that the behavior is a matter of religious belief? At what point do we decide that "faith" is not an excuse for ruining children's lives?
posted by holborne at 9:54 AM on August 31, 2018 [76 favorites]


When we, as a society, realize that this shit does more harm than good. The people committing the abuse, at least in this case, likely believe they’re doing the right thing.
posted by SansPoint at 9:59 AM on August 31, 2018 [3 favorites]


Wow. I was raised outside of religion, so maybe I'll just never get it. I used to take a very careful approach to these topics. But...by the time the latest round of Catholic church sexual assault news hit, I started wondering openly why anyone would trust the Catholic church with their kids. Covering up abuse is enabling abuse.

As a person who knows little about Mormonism, I'll say that Sam Young makes a lot of sense to me and fighting this is not a good look for LDS. The only time an adult should talk to a child about sex is if they're making sure the kid knows to have it safely and consensually. And as a general rule, kids should know that an adult who tries to initiate intimate conversations about sex should be treated with caution and avoidance. It's crazy that anyone would want to muddy this distinction with one-on-one, parent-endorsed "sexual interviews," yeugh.
posted by grandiloquiet at 10:03 AM on August 31, 2018 [13 favorites]


Maybe set the number of abuse allegations and lack of follow up/ house clearing with threats to remove tax exemption status under the idea that religions don’t systematically abuse people, cults do.

I know it’s pie in the sky (ha) but I was thinking how the hell do you take action against an establishment religion behaving in wild, decades long bad faith and criminality without bringing up the specter of actual religious persecution?
posted by The Whelk at 10:06 AM on August 31, 2018 [11 favorites]


The only time an adult should talk to a child about sex is if they're making sure the kid knows to have it safely and consensually

Honestly and sincerely, while I'm not Mormon, the way this is being framed /does/ raise a lot of red flags around religious persecution - not intentionally, but from a lack of understanding or perception of the validity of religion.

There are a lot of secular scenarios when adults will ask children questions about sexual matters without other adults present. Doctors will ask parents to leave the room to ask if teenagers are sexually active. Therapists will ask parents to leave the room in order that kids communicate honestly with them about the things that are going on in their minds and lives. And of course, social workers investigating abuse will need to ask questions like that.

For those of us who are religious, many major religions have similar scenarios - where an adult in a position of authority will ask questions about various elements of life, including sexual practice, without parents present to ensure the honesty. The Sacrament of Confession (or reconciliation as it is called these days) in my own religion requires being alone with a priest so that you can tell everything you have done without having to fear temporal punishment for it. And that has absolutely caused some problems with horrible people that will have to face judgment both temporally and spiritually, but that doesn't mean the practice itself is inherently bad, any more than it's inherently bad for doctors and therapists to ask questions.
posted by corb at 10:24 AM on August 31, 2018 [14 favorites]


The Sacrament of Confession (or reconciliation as it is called these days) in my own religion requires being alone with a priest so that you can tell everything you have done without having to fear temporal punishment for it. And that has absolutely caused some problems with horrible people that will have to face judgment both temporally and spiritually, but that doesn't mean the practice itself is inherently bad, any more than it's inherently bad for doctors and therapists to ask questions.

Let's see.

Doctor: highly trained, certified, licensed by the government, can be removed from practice by overseeing civil authorities when they are found to have abused their status.

Therapist: highly trained, certified, licensed by the government, can be removed from practice by overseeing civil authorities when they are found to have abused their status.

Priest: ...

One of these things is not like the other ...
posted by tocts at 10:32 AM on August 31, 2018 [80 favorites]


And that has absolutely caused some problems with horrible people that will have to face judgment both temporally and spiritually, but that doesn't mean the practice itself is inherently bad, any more than it's inherently bad for doctors and therapists to ask questions.

My take on this is that the fundamental rule about the responsible acquisition and use of sensitive personal data, in a professional context, is that it is justified and proportionate. A doctor or therapist should never ask questions about a child's sexual conduct without clear justification. I find it very hard to accept that routine inquiries into the sexual lives of children meet any of the criteria that a responsible organisation would use in considering whether they are justified. That's not because it's a religious organisations, it's because these inquires are, in themselves, unjustifiable.
posted by howfar at 10:38 AM on August 31, 2018 [18 favorites]


I should add that "we have to do it because God wants us to" is religious special pleading. I respect people's right to their metaphysical beliefs, but attempts to use these as justification for actions in the temporal realm is not appropriate in a legally secular society.
posted by howfar at 10:41 AM on August 31, 2018 [22 favorites]


Doctors and therapists should only ask about sex inasmuch as it relates to a person's physical and mental safety. Any further questions about sex...would actually be pretty inappropriate.

I guess you could extend that argument to overseeing the "spiritual" safety of these practices, but, again as a nonreligious person, I can't believe that the value of probing minors' approach to sex is equal to the potential for harm. I'm sorry, because I don't even know that there's anything for me to debate here. I just don't understand why anyone would sign their kid up for this.
posted by grandiloquiet at 10:44 AM on August 31, 2018 [5 favorites]


I know Sam (as an acquaintance) and like and respect him, and I support his efforts on this and other issues. I agree with what he's trying to accomplish here, completely. I also think, because he and I are both former Bishops and because I've followed his journey for several years now, that excommunication is and has been his goal, in part because he knows that bringing it on himself will get this issue the publicity that it deserves and needs. That is not to say I think it's right of the church to initiate any kind of disciplinary proceeding against him - I don't, and it's both morally wrong and pragmatically foolish of it to do this to him.

Interestingly, as has been the pattern with several other high-profile LDS Mormon public protest figures in the last several years, the disciplinary proceeding comes at the same time as the church is taking some limited steps to change its policy on the issue the protester is protesting. The church insists that protests like this will not move the needle - that only God can do that, but it then moves the needle, even as it banishes the protester.

From this June: First Presidency Releases New Guidelines for Interviewing Youth
And the actual written policy referenced by that press release, here.

When I was a Bishop, the training on interviewing and the ministry was pretty extensive considering that all Bishops are lay leaders with separate professional lives, and that training included explicit, repeated admonishments by top church leaders that a Bishop should never ask explicit questions about sex. But that training gets ignored a lot, in part because, by the time a Mormon man is called to be a Bishop, he generally already has deeply-ingrained ideas of what the Bishop's role is and what interviews and the ministry should look like, formed by his own interactions with Bishops throughout his life. I was fortunate growing up to have somehow never been asked a single question about sex by a church leader, and my views on the matter have always been closely aligned with Sam's. But he and I are definitely the exception, not the rule.
posted by The World Famous at 10:44 AM on August 31, 2018 [56 favorites]


Maybe set the number of abuse allegations and lack of follow up/ house clearing with threats to remove tax exemption status under the idea that religions don’t systematically abuse people, cults do.

The Mormon Church used to have racial descrimination as an offical policy, right in plain view. It was part of Jospeh Smith's original fabrication that Native Americans were evil due to their darker skin, and discrimination against all people of color followed.

Presixent Jimmy Carter threatened the tax exempt status of any institution practicing racial descrimination, and I recall that he specifically called out the Mormon Church on this in interviews. A case with Bob Jones University took this to the Supreme Court, and when they had to remove racist descrimination from their official policy, other institutions, inculding the Mormon Church, followed suit.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Jones_University_v._United_States
posted by ethical_caligula at 10:47 AM on August 31, 2018 [20 favorites]


The Mormon Church used to have racial descrimination as an offical policy, right in plain view. It was part of Jospeh Smith's original fabrication that Native Americans were evil due to their darker skin, and discrimination against all people of color followed.

The church's institutional racism excluding people from temple rites and priesthood authority based on race originated with Brigham Young, not Joseph Smith, and were based primarily on common religious beliefs of Christian groups at the time regarding the "mark of Cain" and similar.
posted by The World Famous at 10:50 AM on August 31, 2018 [10 favorites]


I mean, we allow all sorts of child abuse as long as it’s called religion. It’s not like there are any fundamentalist takes that are, uh, nice to women, or that allow men to develop and have feelings. Literally there are entire communities that object to the idea of consent.

It is genuinely unclear to me why the right to practice your own religion includes the right to impose it on your children. Seems like one of those norms that needs changing.
posted by schadenfrau at 11:16 AM on August 31, 2018 [16 favorites]


I mean, not that I would have any freaking clue what to do with those kids.

But I’m glad this guy is doing what he’s doing, because what the actual fuck.
posted by schadenfrau at 11:17 AM on August 31, 2018 [3 favorites]


I grew up in Utah -- as a non-Mormon -- and thought about this kind of thing a lot when I was younger. But this is my first time thinking about it as a parent. And this thought isn't specific to Mormonism, but:

The thought of encouraging an adult outside of my family and close family friends to pass moral judgment on my kid is so utterly alien.

I know, that's just the way it is for billions of people, maybe still for most Americans. But the idea of declaring to my kid that another person -- a representative of an organization and a belief system, sure, but still, a person -- has moral authority higher than my own, and then letting that person sit down with my kid and ask them about the naughty things they've been doing and tell them what to do differently....

I'm not saying it's wrong. I'm sure there are a lot of benefits -- my kid is always more compliant with other people than with me, so if I was sure I agreed with what the other adult would say, that could be really useful. But I can't really get my head around what seems to me to be a kind of abdication.
posted by gurple at 11:20 AM on August 31, 2018 [6 favorites]


The Sacrament of Confession (or reconciliation as it is called these days) in my own religion requires being alone with a priest so that you can tell everything you have done without having to fear temporal punishment for it.

When I was a good young Catholic boy of twelve or thirteen, I went to Confession and hesitantly, shamefully, confessed to having (gasp!) masturbated.

I did not do this because I was seeking advice on how to deal with my burgeoning sexual feelings. I did it because I had been taught I would go to hell if I died and such a sin was not absolved.

Even if I had been looking for advice, I did not receive it, nothing about how to deal with such feelings in the future; only that I was to say so many Hail Marys.

I found this quite traumatizing at the time, and can still remember the shame I felt at having to admit that.

It will not surprise you to learn that I did not stop masturbating. But I never again confessed any sexual "sins," and not too long after quit going to Confession altogether, although it would be many more years before I left the Church entirely.

I certainly acknowledge that youths may sometimes find it helpful to confide their sexual feelings in a trusted adult of their choice, when done willingly and without coercion. That trusted adult may even be a member of the clergy.

I do not agree that the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where children feel obligated to confess such things under threat of eternal damnation, and where they may have little to no choice as to who their Confessor is, is such a situation. In fact, I see little practical difference between the Mormon interviews under discussion here and a Catholic child going to Confession.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:20 AM on August 31, 2018 [50 favorites]


yeah i spend a lot of time wondering about various rumors about various adults and leaders in the church from my childhood. i was asked about my sexual thoughts and activities in every one on one with a bishop i can remember. i was probably 14 at the last one. i.. do not have a healthy relationship with my sexuality. among other things.

i don't care what your religious practices and culture say should be done. we know as a society how to prevent high risk situations like these. children have basic human rights that exist outside of their parents' desire to inculcate a common ideology.

i don't think it's helpful to pick nits about the church's deeply ingrained white supremacy either.
posted by polyhedron at 11:39 AM on August 31, 2018 [16 favorites]


When I was a Bishop, the training on interviewing and the ministry was pretty extensive considering that all Bishops are lay leaders...I was fortunate growing up to have somehow never been asked a single question about sex by a church leader, and my views on the matter have always been closely aligned with Sam's

My experience in the Mormon church were similar. My wife's experience was much more exploitative. She confessed to going to far with a high school boyfriend and she was asked questions like "Were you wet and aroused? Did you have an orgasm? Where did he ejaculate? Do you fantasize about this experience now?" In adulthood she was so offended she refused to allow this man at our wedding or reception even though he was still Bishop, neighbor and friends of her parents.
posted by ShakeyJake at 11:40 AM on August 31, 2018 [23 favorites]


In fact, I see little practical difference between the Mormon interviews under discussion here and a Catholic child going to Confession.

My children are being raised in the Mormon church, and I know for a fact they do not expect that any interview they will have with any church leader will include confession of anything. And I've had detailed discussions with our local Bishop about the substance of the interviews, and then I sit in on the interview. I've never been Catholic, but I've had a lot of exposure to Catholic practice in a few different geographic areas, and the Mormon interviews under discussion here differ significantly from what I understand to be the typical Catholic practice of Confession. I'm not sure this thread or the material linked in the post has enough detail about the interviews or their intended purpose to draw conclusions about their similarity to Catholic confession. That said, I think people's cultural expectations for what a private interview with clergy will be like are formed outside the expectations of a religion's organization, and I've known lots of Mormons who did believe that they had a duty to confess sins to their Bishop - which is a long way of saying yes, I think you're right to some degree, but that there's a lot of detail and nuance that's not being discussed here.

My wife's experience was much more exploitative. She confessed to going to far with a high school boyfriend and she was asked questions like . . .

I know lots and lots of Mormons who have had that experience. When I was called as Bishop, my predecessor Bishop sat me down so he could "train" me and gave me a binder with interview tips and the like, and his "advice" included asking those sorts of very detailed questions, prying into sexual acts, etc. I found it totally inappropriate and reported it up the chain of authority and was told at every level that what he was doing was inappropriate and that I should not do that nor feel that, by not doing it, I was deviating from the program.

But I'd guesstimate that the vast majority of LDS Bishops approach the calling like that guy, and not like I did.
posted by The World Famous at 11:51 AM on August 31, 2018 [18 favorites]


(None of which is to suggest that I did a super fantastic great job or that I made no errors of judgment - I did my best and avoided those practices that I thought at the time were wrong, but it's been a while and I often think about things I wish I had done differently.)
posted by The World Famous at 11:53 AM on August 31, 2018 [8 favorites]


@The World Famous

It's really a thankless job that I'm glad I never had. I admire people like Sam who are welling to make such a personal sacrifice for what I believe is a worthwhile cause. We'll never know but I suspect there are many many children who will never attempt suicide because of improved policies.
posted by ShakeyJake at 12:08 PM on August 31, 2018 [5 favorites]


I was raised LDS, and I recall, when I was 12 years old, our ward's youth group was going to the temple in Salt Lake, and if I wanted to go, I needed a temple recommend. I met with the bishop, who asked me repeatedly about masturbation. He asked me so many times that I got nervous and feared he already knew anyway, and I finally told the truth. I didn't get the recommend, went on the trip, but didn't get to go in the temple when all of the other kids got baptised in the names of dead people. I don't remember feeling sexually violated or in any way abused. I just remember feeling stupid and manipulated, and wishing I would have lied about it like all of the other kids did.

When I left my parent's house 5 years later, I never went back to LDS church, except for a couple of funerals. This stuff is just one more in a long list of reasons I want nothing to do with it or anyone else who tells me what to think or who thinks they have all of the answers.
posted by dubwisened at 1:36 PM on August 31, 2018 [19 favorites]


I was also raised LDS but I don't consider myself a mormon anymore, and I haven't thought about worthiness interviews for a long time... but I will never forget the bishop that asked me (as a college-aged adult) if my masturbation habit (which I had self-disclosed, 'cause I was a 'good' mormon) was because of abusive parents, in a very leading way. I suspect he thought he was doing the world a service, looking for sexual predators, but that interview really gave me pause. I really should've taken the hint and lied my way through these interviews like I know most of my peers did.

For the record, my parents aren't perfect, but they are some of the kindest and most giving individuals I know, and emphatically not abusive. The LDS church doesn't deserve them, and yet they remain.
posted by Aleyn at 1:46 PM on August 31, 2018 [10 favorites]


I'd like to thank those of you with personal insights into and relationships (both present and past) to the Mormon faith and church for adding so much specificity and depth to this thread. It makes the conversation massively more useful and valuable.
posted by howfar at 2:19 PM on August 31, 2018 [19 favorites]


I grew up Mormon and I never knew this as an actual policy until just this very minute. I always just figured our Bishop was some sort of moderately active pervert. As an adult, I can't imagine following through on this directive no matter how much of a believer I was.
posted by ga$money at 2:25 PM on August 31, 2018 [9 favorites]


To clarify, I knew that you had to get an interview with the Bishop for things like temple recommends. I did not imagine it included an expectation (real or just perceived through precedent) of asking questions about masturbation. We used to joke among ourselves about whether the bishop has asked you about masturbation yet. I just figured it was sort of his preoccupation. When he asked me about it, which I remember very clearly, I was able to answer in all honesty that I didn't masturbate and stuck to that story with increasing embarrassment. In the small and religiously homogeneous Utah town where I grew up, masturbation was something you accused other people of doing as a joke and an insult, something to be ashamed of. It was not something anybody admitted to doing. So I didn't do it until I was older than probably most boys started.

Ironically, I'm pretty sure my bishop asking me about it put the idea in my head and eventually lead to me trying it out. So, thanks, I guess? Come to think of it, there's a personal history of religious figures telling me not to do something leading me to try it and like it: Dungeons and Dragons, punk rock, masturbation, alcohol and drugs, premarital sex, and probably a few other things I'm forgetting.
posted by ga$money at 2:43 PM on August 31, 2018 [13 favorites]


I was raised LDS and am no longer a member of that organization for several reasons, including this sort of interaction.

My hackles raise at turning this abusive aspect of control-by-shame religions into a slippery slope argument leading to religious persecution because a religious leader is the same as a medical and mental health professional.

They are not. At all.

As a teenager/YA I had conversations about sexual health/activity with my doctor and my therapist. None of those conversations made me feel like I was going to hell.

These conversations start when you are like 12-13 years old, confused about everything because Puberty, and make you feel ashamed and guilty for becoming a teenager and adult. You can't not participate because then you can't do (weird) things like baptize dead people, or level up in the LDS priesthood, or any of the Mormon Milestones they judge your spiritual worthiness by. And if you don't do those things, then you are shunned.

And on top of these shame conversations, if you happen to trust one of these men enough to tell them about any sort of sexual abuse, good luck. I have a friend who made that mistake. They did not even involve the police because their bishopric convinced their families that it was a spiritual matter and would be dealt with accordingly.
posted by apex_ at 3:09 PM on August 31, 2018 [17 favorites]


It is genuinely unclear to me why the right to practice your own religion includes the right to impose it on your children. Seems like one of those norms that needs changing.

I’d be interested in seeing this thought expanded. Let’s say that as a society we revoke parental authority to “impose” religion on their kids. You have a highly religious couple who is very involved in their church. They have a baby. Sunday rolls around and they get ready to go to church....then what? They are forced to pay for a babysitter to watch Junior while they go worship? Or do you think they can take Junior with them but not baptize him? Or they can take Junior until he’s old enough to speak for himself, but the minute he throws a fit and says “Church is boring! I don’t wanna go!” then they are legally obligated to get a babysitter? Or are you saying they can choose to bring their kids to church and baptize them, but they can’t let church leaders talk to them one on one? Like, it’s just illegal to let this certain adult talk to my kid?

I know a lot of pastors. One of them took chaplaincy classes in seminary and filled his electives with classes on helping people through crises. A major area he focused on was supporting grieving children. Now, he’s not a counselor and would never present himself as one, but in a pastoral context he often meets with kids dealing with a death or parental divorce and helps them process that loss. In your ideal society, is that no longer allowed? “I’m sorry, I know your pastor could be helpful in this situation, but that would be imposing your religion on kids”?

I’d really like to know what this more enlightened society will and won’t allow.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 4:01 PM on August 31, 2018 [12 favorites]


I’d really like to know what this more enlightened society will and won’t allow

I'd be ok with starting by making sure that people who believe themselves to be mandated to interfere in children's sexuality show themselves to be suitable and qualified.
We could expand from there.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 4:09 PM on August 31, 2018 [6 favorites]


The problem is not religion. The problem is not Christians. The problem is not Mormons.

The problem is that our society venerates men in authority, and arranges to shield them from both scrutiny and negative consequences.

Some use religion to get away with the vilest sorts of abuse. Some use pop-celebrity status. Some use political influence. Some use academic standing. Some use medical credentials.

Religion not remotely unique; it just gets a different kind of coverage because it's got immunity from some kinds of investigations. But over and over, we've seen that "can be investigated to the full extent of the law" is worthless when the victims are considered unreliable and harms to them are considered unimportant--which includes most children.

Religion gets extra flak because people of different religion, or of no religion, will demand to know, "how could you trust your child to some stranger whose claim to authority is a pack of wacky superstition," as if government chains-of-command or academic credentials somehow prevent creeps from getting power over children.

The problem isn't the "superstitions." It's not even that communities close ranks around abusers because they can't disentangle their faith from the abusers who've broken their trust--religious communities aren't the only ones that do this. (Cops, doctors, actors, politicians, school staff, boards of directors - all of them do the "protect our own" dance when accusations go public.)

The problem is that, over and over, we send the message that some measure of deliberate harm is acceptable, even sexual abuse - if the abuser is high enough status, and the victim is low enough.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:34 PM on August 31, 2018 [25 favorites]


Religion, though, is a force multiplier. It can drive charity and good works, but it can also be weaponised by sociopaths and predators.
posted by acb at 4:40 PM on August 31, 2018 [4 favorites]


Thank you for making this meta.
posted by Sassyfras at 5:27 PM on August 31, 2018


I remember coming out to a 70 year old cattle rancher during a bishop's meeting, and have him take out the offical salt lake manual...that was 18. I was asked from 12 onwards, it just taught me that queerness was rewarded by lying.
posted by PinkMoose at 5:45 PM on August 31, 2018 [2 favorites]


"I’d really like to know what this more enlightened society will and won’t allow."

Peter Alethias I always look for your thoughtful and compassionate comments on religion, you are a credit to your faith and challenge my knee-jerk responses. You raise a good point. My feeling is that in a more enlightened society children would get to hear the alternatives more clearly. They would be aware of other ways as genuine alternatives.

I don't think it's realistic or kind to expect parents with genuine beliefs to do this task of arguing against their own faith. But I wish so much that as a girl child I could have found out (that some people think) men are not appointed by god as my superiors, that god will not torture me in hell for rebelling against this, that there might be people out there - however few - who saw god as a loving mother not a punishing father. Is it too much to ask that children should at least know that there is something different out there, even if they are denied it?
posted by communicator at 12:24 AM on September 1, 2018 [8 favorites]


This will sound bonkers but I remember an episode of Doctor Who - probably late sixties or early seventies - where the Doctor and his companions interact with a kind of god-figure. And this figure is shown with the face of a young women - actually a girl child, as I was at the time. I remember the electric shock that went through me. It turned my world upside down. Its like - The Empire of Old Men, the God of Beards, does not cover the entire world! Though ironically I bet that decision was a shallow joke made by some rich privileged guy working at the BBC. But it rocked me.
posted by communicator at 12:30 AM on September 1, 2018 [3 favorites]


The idea that The One would have "gender" is laughable.
Religion is SO guilty of making their gods too small.
posted by Goofyy at 6:29 AM on September 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


I too was raised in the church and I too left the church. I cannot overstate the harm done to me by interviews with Bishops (and their smaller counterparts, Branch Presidents). The things I was asked, the things that were described to me, the way justice was denied for my molestation by a priesthood holder, the way things I said were used to lessen in church punishment against my abuser, the way 2 teen girls manipulated a bishop into forcibly ostracizing me from activities in the church to settle their petty disagreements with me, all of it. It is too often an abusive practice and it needs to stop. My only saving grace is that I never confessed to being queer because the church hates women so much I didn't even realize being attracted to other girls was the same thing as being gay so I didn't realize it was something to confess.

I agree with The World Famous that how these things go depends a lot on the local culture. The only problem is that my local culture was led by a man who will very likely be the president of the church one day, a man I know to have known about some of the things done to me, and seemingly agreed.

If the lower clergy of the LDS were paid, they'd be facing scandals like the Catholics. "Keep it a church/family matter" would be a phrase known by everyone and associated with massive abuses in the church. Oh - and they use the religious persecution angle to silence victims, by convincing them that the police/justice system wants to tear apart LDS families specifically and they would use this "spiritual matter" to bring harm to the church. Again, this isn't all congregations, but it is enough. too much. and a story I have heard from so many people from so many different areas that it can't just be a couple bad apples.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 12:50 PM on September 1, 2018 [11 favorites]


"I’d really like to know what this more enlightened society will and won’t allow."

Let's start with not allowing things that we know to be harmful to child development and work from there.
posted by schadenfrau at 1:05 PM on September 1, 2018 [5 favorites]


I think when confession ( or interviews) public or private are part of a religion it is not a Good Thing. In any religion it becomes a control/compliance/ blackmail thing people are going to be abused more in such settings and it will start sooner. Sometimes I suspect that rape is a feature not a bug in patriarchal systems. It’s a pay-off.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 1:25 PM on September 1, 2018 [2 favorites]


Let's start with not allowing things that we know to be harmful to child development and work from there.

So… you're proposing that we drop the constitutional mandate on the separation of church and state, then? Might want to consider that one carefully, that's quite the double-edged sword you're holding.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:45 PM on September 1, 2018


Those children can grow up and go to Mormon-owned colleges, and have their academic standing at risk in bishops' interviews as well as their spiritual standing and standing in the religious community.

Current example: https://www.sltrib.com/news/2018/08/05/her-mormon-college-upheld/

As a student at one of those schools, interviews are not optional. Before you can register for fall classes every year, you have to turn in an ecclesiastical endorsement, signed by your bishop.

I went to BYU, after having grown up Mormon. It was eye-opening for me when the one non-LDS person I met there told me what it was like for her to get her ecclesiastical endorsement. Her pastor (I forget what denomination) told her no one on earth had the right to declare her "worthy" or "unworthy" of anything. The pastor said he would sign her endorsement form before hearing anything she may want to tell him about what's going on in her life, and if she didn't feel like sharing, that was fine, and his signature would stay on the form regardless of anything she might say or not say. Because that's how Jesus treated people: everyone worthy, everyone welcome, no questions asked.

I have the deepest respect for everyone who loses their membership in the LDS church by taking a stand against a harmful practice. "Only God can change it." OK, players. Watch God change it. God has no hands but Sam Young's hands, and everyone else who stands for something and puts their shoulder to the wheel.
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 4:58 PM on September 1, 2018 [24 favorites]


So… you're proposing that we drop the constitutional mandate on the separation of church and state, then?

No? What a bizarre rhetorical overreach.

I confess that I am not a lawyer, much less one who has anything to do with custody or children’s rights or anything even remotely relevant, but I am nonetheless fairly confident that, if, say, parents subjected their children to physical torture and claimed it was part of their religious practice the state would go “absolutely not, we’re taking the kids and you are going to fucking jail.”

(REALLY don’t want to be wrong about that one.)

And further, that what we recognize as grievous harm (which I have just made up as the standard that applies, but you get the idea) mirrors and reflects the biases and power structures of society at large rather than, you know, actual harm.

The harm done to children who are abused mentally, emtionally, and sexually is still harm with real consequences for their health. The major difference is that it’s not immediately visible. The causal link isn’t as visceral. But it still kills plenty of those kids, even if it’s years later—call it stochastic murder if you want.

But more than the invisible nature of it, there’s the way people don’t really see misogyny or homophobia as traumatizing. They fucking are. Particularly when it’s systemic and institutionalized and on purpose.

This isn’t an abstraction about freedom of religion, or about slippery slopes and legal precedents. It’s literal, actual, life long injury sometimes leading to premature and painful death, and we allow it to happen to children because, on some level, we think it’s ok to abuse women and queers.
posted by schadenfrau at 8:37 AM on September 2, 2018 [7 favorites]


The only thing I want to add to that wonderful comment, schadenfrau, is that while institutions like this obviously hate queer people/women/queer women, the suicide problem among mormon teens also hits straight boys. The messaging around porn and masturbation has led to many awful outcomes, disproportionately among straight boys, IME. For a lot of reasons that are easy to get at, boys/men are leaving the church at a higher rate than women and so it's difficult to compare apples to apples (not even mentioning how you'd work out which boys/men who left are queer or not). I just wanted to make sure that was included in the conversation. Purity culture, the patriarchy, insular religious environments, oversized powerful leaders, etc, it hurts everyone.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 3:45 PM on September 2, 2018 [3 favorites]


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