Thursday, January 25, 2018, I met with my Stake President(SP) and Bishop(BP) to discuss my concerns about youth interviews. The meeting lasted 3 hours. These are very good men. I would vouch for them anywhere. The Stake President is the local representative who speaks on behalf of the Church with regards to me.
At the outset, I asked if they were recording the interview. I believe that on two occasions, my phone conversations with Church headquarters have been recorded. The SP assured me that he was not recording.
I told them that on three recent occasions, during meetings with Church representatives, I have been told that the conversations were to remain private. This, even though the discussions were about church policy. No longer am I willing to keep private things that are not private. I told the SP this and then asked if he would like me to record the meeting. That way, when I wrote or talked about it, I wouldn’t get anything wrong. He asked me not to record it. I didn’t.
I then presented the book ‘Sacred Stories of Sacred Children.’ It contains 250 stories of horrendous consequences suffered by our youth. They quickly flipped through the book, not stopping to read. Both the BP and SP said that they believe the stories. That was very good news. I could only guess that they had read them elsewhere.
I briefly described a few of the stories. Instances of sexual assault by bishops, suicide and severe trauma. The SP responded, “Shame on those men.” Well, I certainly agree with that. And I take it one step further, “Shame on the system that enabled the actions of these men.”
At that point, I invited them to join with me to protect the children. That invitation was quickly brushed off the table for any consideration.
Then we launched into a long back and forth about why I thought the current policies are dangerous and damaging. Followed by their defense as to why they are necessary and good. Conclusion? No changes will be made.
During this discussion, they brought up two valid points that I agree need to be addressed.
- My writings were hurting people. I asked, “Who am I hurting?” The SP said that I’d hurt him. He then read from my most recent email to him. It had hurt his feelings to the core. I could see that. My letter had been harsh and angry. I had written it from the backdrop of being ignored for months and then reading another horrific story of a damaged child. It was legitimate for him to call me out on this. My anger should be focused on the correct target….the disgusting policy. I’m committed to do better on this front. The offensive letter had been posted on my website. I decided to take it down, which I have. The SP did not make this request.
- How are voluntary confessions to be handled? I don’t know the answer to that question. It does need to be addressed. However, the vast majority of the youth interviews are NOT voluntary confessions. 13,000 of us are calling for the immediate stop of what is happening today. Then, we can sort out how the few and far between voluntary confessions are handled. Never-the-less, I still believe that they should not occur behind closed doors, all alone with the child.
The SP expressed concern about my change in attitude…the anger in my writings, the image of a roaring lion. I didn’t respond in the moment. But, how in the world can 1,000 stories NOT change my attitude? If a person can read story after dreadful story and not be changed, they are capable of something I am not. Yeah, you bet I’ve changed. My heart has been broken a thousand times. It’s now full of empathy and compassion. While my belly is full of fire to protect our children.
Finally, my agenda had been aired….over and over again with no meeting of the minds.
Then the Stake President launched into his agenda.
SP: Sam, do you want to be a member of the Church?
SP: Sam, are you an apostate?
SP: You are an apostate!
ME: No, I’m not. I’m speaking out about the need to change a policy.
SP: You are an apostate!
He then flipped to the definition of apostasy in Handbook 1:
“Apostasy refers to members who repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders.”
SP: Sam, are you an apostate?
ME: No. I’m not speaking out against the Church of its leaders. I’m speaking out against a policy.
SP: You are an apostate.
He ended up reading the definition of apostasy a few more times. It quickly became obvious that there was no debating this issue. I had been officially declared apostate by the official Church representative.
SP: You can’t continue speaking in public about this. We will have to protect the good name of the church.
- In the face of hundreds of children being harmed…the Church will not change anything to protect this happening to our children in the future.
- I have officially been called apostate and told to be silent.
- With the repeated warnings of apostasy, the stage for my excommunication has been set.
- The SP had wanted my wife to be present. I am so glad that she was not there to witness the thinly veiled threat made to her husband.
My Public Response
- I agree that we need to protect the good name of the church. How about that? The Church’s reputation is being trashed by a dreadful policy that is doing severe harm to our children. My fellow Mormons…join with 13,000 of us to protect the good name of the Church. If this policy is not eliminated, those who didn’t speak up for change will be responsible for the bad name the Church is now accruing.
- I am not going to be silenced. Our children’s protection is more precious than my membership. I have made the temple covenant of sacrifice. This is not a time to waffle on that promise. If called to do so, I’ll sacrifice my membership for the benefit of the kids.
- Whatever the Church decides to do to me, I forgive them in advance. My Stake President and Bishop are great men, having to operate within the system that they have been dealt.
P.S. Dear Church leaders, If I got anything wrong, please let me know. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a recording to assist in writing this piece.