Recently, I was contacted by a struggling member of the church. Here, I’ll call him Ron. He asked if we could get together for a one-on-one Talkeria. Over the past year, Ron had been going through a painful and lonely faith transition…and wanted to talk about it. I still view it as a great tragedy and travesty that there is no safe space inside the church for discussion. We met for 3 hours.
This good brother has a young toddler. During our chat, he made this startling statement. “I’m going to leave the church before they get their hands on my baby daughter.”
I had never heard such a grim and jarring statement describing someone’s reason for getting out.
Mormon Stories #732, Scott Duke
Today, I heard something that made me think of my new friend, Ron. Over the past couple of days, on the drive to and from work, I listened to a Mormon Stories Podcast. In it, Scott Duke shares his fascinating and heartrending faith journey. Heartbreaking on several fronts.
My attention was riveted until Scott shared a grim and jarring statement made by his Stake President. He was being interviewed for his calling as a missionary. Of course, masturbation was discussed. Remember, what follows was said by a man who is viewed as having great authority—the Stake President. The target of his comment was a young, inexperienced, and normal young man.
The Stake President’s words caught me totally off guard. “If you don’t overcome this, the day will come when you are not worth a damn to anyone.”
To My Six Children
This Stake President’s chastisement is totally out of bounds. It has the potential to do great damage. If this were ever said to a loved one of mine, my retort would be: “It’s YOU, Mr. Church Leader, who is not worth a damn to me. Stay away from my child.”
We have a dreadful ritual lurking behind the closed doors in our church buildings. An untrained man, in a position of authority, takes an innocent child behind those closed doors, alone, without a parent present, without parental permission, and asks the child about his or her masturbatory predilections. This is a gross and dangerous practice.
Life may be like a box of chocolates. But, some candies are corrupt and reprehensible. You never know what you are going to get when the door swings shut, isolating your child, alone, with an adult male who may say something idiotic like, “the day will come when you are not worth a damn to anyone.”
Why Are We Waiting?
As the only true church, we should be on the cutting edge of what is good, right and safe.
Fortunately, we jettisoned polygamy when society demanded it. Mercifully, polyandry never caught on. Fortuitously, we granted black people the priesthood 10 years after civil rights laws were passed.
Our society has moved beyond grown men asking inappropriate questions to children in private. I do not know of another church that engages in this unfortunate practice. I’m ashamed that my church still does.
Why are we waiting for this alarming custom to go away on its own? It won’t. I encourage my adult kids, and every other thinking and concerned adult, to end it RIGHT NOW….for your children’s sake. Especially, for my grandchildren’s sake.
My friend, Ron, has now left the church. He was not willing to wait for the changes. His child was too precious to him.
What To Do
- Don’t let your child be interviewed without your permission.
- Be present, in the closed door room, during the interview.
- Inform your bishop of your conditions for youth interviews. You are to be present. No discussion about masturbation or other sexual matters. That is to be between you and your child ONLY.
- Inform your child that they are to let you know whenever any church leader requests a meeting with them.
- If inappropriate questions are asked, stop the interview immediately.
A couple of months ago, I wrote about someone else’s experience regarding their child’s inappropriate interview with a bishop. It recounts the altogether appropriate response from an involved and loving father. HERE is the link.
14 thoughts on ““I’m Going to Leave Before They Get Their Hands on My Baby Daughter””
Back in the 90s, when I was a teenager (and before cell phones) I would go into the basement on the Sunday’s I knew I would be called in for these interviews (you knew because it would be right before your birthday and half birthday) and I would take the phone off the hook and hide it under a stack of pillows so no one would hear the indications that the phone was off the hook. I worried holes into my stomach. I still jump when a phone rings. Just the expectation of these meetings psychologically damaged me. No one in my family knows this.
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Your startle response from a ringing phone has a name.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I experienced a similar reaction as a grown adult years ago whenever my phone at work would ring. There was a good chance that my physically violent wife would be calling me … very possibly in beginning stages of yet another brewing episode of unbridled rage.
My heart would start racing. The feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach would put my body on high alert. Then I would pick up the phone because I had been conditioned to understand that if I ignored her call, my eventual punishment would be even worse.
Upon her command, I actually would leave work, go home, and get the crap beat out of me, and then return to work.
I realize that sounds insane, as indeed it is.
My PTSD experience has nothing particularly to do with the Church per se. I mention it because your phone-a-phobia and mine have a common denominator. Terror and Trauma. I will say that being raised b.i.c. by active TBM parents pre-conditioned me to subserve my own will to the command of authority figures. First the Church, and later to my eternal companion.
Terrorizing and torture are well-understood tools of cult brainwashing intended to destroy the otherwise personal boundaries and individual autonomy and free will of the target/victim. The Brethren operate a program that on the surface promotes Free Agency, but in reality employs clever and devious methods to literally DESTROY your ability to even have your own thoughts, let alone feel the freedom to act on your own volition or make your own decisions in your own best interest.
Thank you for sharing, Aubrey. My heart goes out to you. On behalf of The Brethren who never apologize for anything, I am truly sorry that was done to your beautiful, young, innocent, vulnerable human spirit.
You did not deserve to be treated like that.
Not then. Not now, Not ever.
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Thanks for reaching out to Aubrey in empathy. I really appreciate it, my friend.
Oh my, Aubrey, I’m so sorry about you experience. It hadn’t snapped to me that these interviews take place in conjunction with birthdays. What a terribly traumatizing birthday gift, year after year after year. My 4 older kids were teenagers in the 90s. I feel fortunate that I was their bishop. Never once did I ask and kid or adult about masturbation. Why this is even a thing in the church is a great puzzle to me.
“No one in my family knows this.” I had no idea that my younger kids were asked until 2 months ago. Since I was never asked I never gave any thought to the possibility that my children were subjected to these inappropriate closed door sexual grillings. It’s one of the reasons that I’m sounding an alarm. It floors me that any members who are aware would tolerate the practice.
All my best to you Aubrey. May the damage heal.
General News Release:
Let the word go forth from this time and place, that Gary (that would be me) recently returned to Oregon from Houston. While there, I experienced (for the second time) the distinct honor and pleasure to sit across a restaurant table from Sam Young for the space of approximately three hours.
Without being able to help it whatsoever, Sam gifted me with the experience of feeling my own heart and soul resonating effortlessly and naturally under the influence and in the presence of a TBM … which in this case means nothing less than . . . a Truly Beautiful Man.
It is an understatement to describe Sam as a true and natural Pearl of Great Price. And it was not only me whose day was blessed by interaction with this TBM. The server was a young lady whose arms were covered with artfully crafted tattoos. Sam took notice and complimented the girl on her body art with a charm and wit that ended up doing nothing short of “making her day”. Sam even physically touched the girl’s arm to point out a particularly well-done area of the design that adorned her.
She returned to our table frequently and gave us her most excellent attention and service. “Can I refill your drinks? Are you sure you wouldn’t like something more?”
I got to watch and witness first hand, up close and personal, this display of naturally flowing love and compassion in real time. In between the frequent visits by the colorful server, I took the opportunity to describe to Sam what I was seeing unfold before my eyes. I was consciously endeavoring to figuratively hold up a clean and clear “mirror” pointed at my new friend, to hopefully gift him with a glimpse of something truly wonderful and beyond priceless.
My intent was, in some small way, to help Sam more fully comprehend what an amazingly kind, generous, compassionate, empathetic, accepting, embracing and non-judging lover of his fellow earthly sojourners … is the heart and soul of one Sam Young.
To our charming server, I described briefly how Sam and I met on his blog, and how later on, I just “happened” to have other business in Houston a month previously, and how we met for the first time. And again, now, a month later. I used the word “Bromance” to describe to our server the instant bond that spontaneously drew Sam’s and my attention and brought us together in person.
To do what?
To celebrate each other.
Sam and I very literally celebrate each other’s being and existence . . . especially when we are gifted with the opportunity to spend a few hours of face time … basking in what feels like a warm glow of resonating energy flowing between our eternal essences.
As we mutually reviewed the Readers Digest version of our respective bios, the similarities of our young Mormon milestones are striking indeed. (I could make a list you would not believe possible.) The rapidity with which we recognized and bonded deeply with each other empirically suggests that perhaps we are continuing a close relationship that predates this lifetime . . . which is a topic for a whole other blog.
Truly Beautiful Man
When the “only true church” rejects or ejects a Truly Beautiful Man with the inexcusable audacity to not only emulate, but literally exude in spades, the core values and behaviors lived and taught by the Lord Jesus Christ . . . something is distinctly rotten somewhere.
And . . . my fellow Sam Young bloggers . . . it ain’t in Denmark.
Sam is a great person, it’s been my privilege to have known him and his family for many years. I count him as a dear friend who has inspired and motivated me to be a better person. I count myself fortunate to know him. The wonderful thing is there are many in the church just like him (and outside the church as well). As I think back on my youth and even now when I’m not as young as I used to be, I can name many who have made me feel the way Sam has. I’ve been inspired to be a better person, to not judge, to treat everyone as my friend. It saddens me to hear stories like this because this is so far different from my or my kids experience with Bishops, Mission Presidents, Stake Presidents and overall general membership. The reality is that we do need always be mindful and aware of situations surrounding our children. Having served as an executive secretary for a Bishop whenever I arranged appointments for youth I would 1st touch base with their parents and let them know about the upcoming interview, and coordinate the time with them and then let the youth know. I don’t see a problem with parents sitting in interviews with their children and I also don’t see a problem if parents decide to let their children go alone if they are comfortable and given the choice of doing so. I do feel parents should be active in their kids lives and discuss how interviews went if they don’t happen to go with their child. Unfortunately the negative always seems to draw the most attention, the squeaky wheel as it were. While the hundreds and hundreds of other things that go smoothly aren’t paid attention to. I don’t mean to belittle or make the seriousness of the above mentioned situation seem like it doesn’t happen. I think it’s great to be aware of what is going on with our kids and take the necessary steps to help our kids and ourselves feel comfortable with a particular situation. I do fear that as members we can sometimes be too trusting with our kids, thanks for shining a light to something we should be more aware on.
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Thanks for your kind comments. They inspire me!!! I don’t think I know who you are, but would love to.
You are absolutely correct about the good and amazing people in the church. Wonderful folks.
“Thanks for shining a light to something we should be more aware of.” I only can wish that the light hand been shining when my kids were growing up. There are many things in the church that do go right. But, if we never call out the wrong, it will only grow worse.
All my best to my anonymous friend, Sam
I could not agree more with all of this. I have left the church and my eyes have been opened to a few things that seemed so routine as a child…well…and by routine I mean, I knew I had no say in the matter, so I just grinned and bore the embarrassment and intense anxiety I felt any time I walked into a Bishop’s office. I have a daughter turning 12 in a couple weeks and I have put my foot down where her safety is concerned. As her mother, I feel that it is my job to make sure she is never put into a position where she could be harmed, and sticking her in a room with a man, who’s power and authority is simply man/culture created, is just asking for her to come into harms’ way in some form or fashion. I have severe PTSD from things that happened to me, and they pale in comparison to some of the horrific stories I have heard from other people, at the hands of these “good men” on power trips.
Thank you for your thoughts. This mother appreciated them.
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It still shocks me that so many people have had the same experience as you with regards to probing interviews. Where was I for 62 years? Totally active…totally clueless…including 5 years as bishop. I had no idea this was going on behind closed doors in the church. I had no that my kids were being asked by my adult male friends if they touched themselves between their legs. It’s disgusting to even write that this happened. Unfortunately, I can’t have a do over. What I can do is call out to my kids for them to protect my grandkids.
Thanks for your comment!
I left for exactly the same reason. My daughter was two. I was not going to raise her the same way I was raised. Fortunately, my husband came to the same conclusion 6 months later.
I was also asked inappropriate questions and not believed, by a bishop at BYU. We were in a tiny boiler room in the basement of one of the Heritage Halls. It was so small our knees were almost touching. He was sweaty and wouldn’t stop trying to make me admit to masturbation, which I refused to do.
This is not the only reason I did not want my daughter, or any of my children, raised in the church. But it was a big one.
I was a teenager in the mid 70’s and recall being asked about masturbation and was very uncomfortable being asked and having to answer this question. Almost all normal teenage boys have done this. This question continued through the mission and also BYU wards. I remember feelings of unworthiness that I now recognize I should not have had. These feelings stayed with me for far too many years. Before marriage, my now wife and I engaged in petting but avoided sex. We were asked details about where we touched each other by the bishop and felt very uncomfortable when asked for details by the stake president. Again, very serious feelings of unworthiness for a very normal action. We were threatened with having to change our wedding date and knew of another couple who did change their date by about a month and sent out new announcements. The response of bishops and SP’s should be to encourage holding off until after the wedding when you will be free to do all you want rather than threats of date changes and shaming. Again, the feelings of unworthiness stayed with me for years since we were not completely honest with the SP on the frequency of what we did. It was easier to lie than to have to tell family and friends we would have to change the date (start the rumor mill). It hasn’t been till recently that I’ve been able to free myself from these shameful feelings. I have a wonderful wife and we’ve been very happy for 25+ years with a very normal and active sex life. Thankfully these questions did not inhibit either us from engaging in normal relations. I’ve never shared with her these feelings and have kept them to myself. Having read the CES letter and the Essays I’ve come to the belief that the church is a total fabrication. I’ve not left yet, but see it in my future. I agree with you Sam that we should not allow our children to be subject to such questioning. My children are all in college and I regret that I did not think at the time to protect them from these shameful practices.
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Sam – what a great saint u turned out to be – your willingness to be there for those struggling with real issues sets the standard we all should be up to – God bless – hope to keep our friendship going for a long time
Sam, I have known you for over 20 years and I have been reading your blog. I find that I agree with many of the things you write and some of the things I don’t agree with. Recently, my wife and I had a long discussion about the LDS church of which we are both members. Two of her kids have left the church as well as her ex. She has contemplated leaving the church as well. I too was thinking about leaving but then I had to tell myself that I DO believe in the Gospel as it is found in the scriptures. However, the church is run by imperfect men who I feel are making more and more mistakes.
I feel what you have been trying to do and are still working at it is exemplary. Recently, I was in China and had a great opportunity to watch the Communist Party at work. It was very subtle in the way that it controlled the people. After a week in Beijing I was able to make a comparison between the LDS church and the Chinese Communist Party. When leaders are replaced they are replaced with those who will continue to follow along the established lines. I find that in the LDS church as well. In fact, it seems that you need to be fairly well off, have made considerable accomplishments in your professional life, and be part of the “good ol’ boy” network to rise in the LDS church. (Don’t get me wrong…I don’t want to hold a high position)
For several years now I have noticed that men can’t serve in a calling requiring the person to hold Melchizedek if they have facial hair. While I was in grad school I didn’t make it to church very often because of the school load, work load, and family load. Not once was I contacted to see where I was or how I was doing. I have participated in disciplinary counsels or counsels of love where I felt uncomfortable with the detail of the transgression that was being demanded.
In the above situations I fail to see the love of Christ. I see the egos of men basking in the power and authority given them. I am not saying that all of these leaders are bad but I also do not think these directives come from my loving Lord and Savior.
I firmly believe in the gospel but I also believe that we need to get back to the grassroots of the gospel as it was taught by Jesus Christ. I personally would not want to be in the position of leadership because I’m sure it is not an easy position to hold. I also think that it is easy for the leaders to enact some of their own judgements and pet peeves and as is taught as an unspoken law, one does not question the leaders. This does not allow for checks and balances.
This is my journey. Even though I don’t go to church like I have been taught to, I still know that my Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ love me. They want me to live with them again someday. I am still a good person. I don’t cheat on my wife or abuse her but under the LDS tradition I am inactive and will be judged more heavily on that fact.
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