Introducing Timothy Birt, a mental health therapist who has run centers for sexually abused children for 14 years. He has fundamental concerns about bishop interviews from a moral, legal, and ethical perspective. His professional credentials: MS, LPC, LMFT.
Tim has worked hard to come up with thorough and well thought out suggestions. I present them for your serious consideration.
To those of us who have signed the petition or submitted a story, I ask you to join Sam Young by considering what you can do to help protect LDS children in your own ward or stake.
A) Consider asking for a meeting with your Bishopric and Stake Presidency. Inform them of the issues and concerns about current church practices of interviewing children about sexual issues. Let them know you have signed the petition. Give them links to the stories of harm to our children.
B) Consider sharing your own story with your church leaders, face to face, of how you felt having those interviews. Or share difficult feelings you may have had about the church focus on masturbation / chastity. Or the teaching that it would be better to die than to “lose your virtue” if you were raped or sexually abused. Or what it was like sending your own children into private interviews. Or how teachings about purity have affected your intimate relationship in adulthood. Or your own story of sexual abuse or assault or sexual harassment and how church teachings did not prepare you to heal or have boundaries. Consider sharing with them inappropriate questions asked by your church leaders. Or whatever YOUR experiences were and concerns are now. Then ask them if they can or will acknowledge how the practices of the church did YOU harm or impacted you personally or your children personally.
C) Consider telling your local church leaders that you don’t support the practice of one-on-one youth interviews that discuss sexuality or worthiness. Consider telling your local church leaders that you are uncomfortable allowing your under-aged children to be interviewed alone or asked inappropriate questions. Consider informing them that you will not consent to allow church leaders to request one on one interviews with your children.
D) Consider suggesting to your local church leaders viable alternatives used in other wards, stakes and churches to support spiritual development of our youth that don’t require one-on-one adult youth interviews. Namely the following options:
1) Don’t do interviews at all. Allow youth who want to go to the temple or have a calling or advance in the priesthood to do so if they desire to do so.
2) If Church leaders feel they are required by the Church to ask children questions, consider asking to have those questions submitted to the parent in writing in advance. Allow the parent to pass on questions they feel are appropriate for their children and let children respond in writing. The child’s response could even be in a signed envelope. Any followup questions can be handled in the same way.
3) Inform bishops and Stake leaders that they can communicate with youth in groups with parents and adults of the youth’s choosing in the room and state the expectations of the church for participation in temple work or callings and invite all those who feel they can follow those guidelines to participate and if they participate they do so with that understanding.
4) Discuss other ways church leaders could teach and support youth that follow standard safe sanctuary / child protection guidelines that require background checks, two deep leadership, no one-on-one contact between adults and youth, and are careful and respectful in discussing sexuality with youth.
E) If the Bishop / Church leader insists on interviews, ask that a parent or adult of the child’s choosing be present for the entire interview and advise the child they don’t have to participate in any interview they don’t want to have. Allow the adult to object to any inappropriate questions. In the rare instance where a child requests a private interview with a church leader, have two church leaders of the child’s choosing in the room so there is no one-on-one interaction which violates basic child protection principles. Note that church leaders can be essential outlets for a child to make an outcry of child abuse and must be trained to know how to report and handle these cases correctly. Consider informing the Bishop that he personally and the church collectively are subject to criminal and civil consequences if they mishandle reporting child abuse allegations and civil lawsuits if they violate confidentiality of certain things they hear as a church leader. Consider asking your Church leaders if they have been adequately trained about mandated reporting and confidentiality and if they are willing to follow the law? Consider letting them know you will hold them and the Church criminally and civilly accountable for their duties to follow the law in reporting child abuse.
F) Consider asking your church leader if they will commit to following basic child protection policies in their ward/Stake by NEVER being one-on-one with a child who is not their own in any capacity at church or in church service and having two deep adult leadership present when adults and youth are together.
G) Consider asking bishops and church leaders to not provide sex education or to delve into sexual activities in interviews with youth but to refer such issues to the parents. Ask your church leaders if they will commit to this agreement.
H) If a bishop or church leader insists on asking questions about masturbation or considers masturbation to be sinful and teaches that it needs to be confessed , consider asking the bishop / church leader to find in the General Handbook of instructions any policy that directly addresses masturbation and to read to you the exact words from the handbook. (Note: There is nothing in the handbook about masturbation specifically.) Then consider asking your bishop / church leader to commit to not asking about masturbation. Further, you can consider requesting that they and every teacher in the ward not mention or teach anything about masturbation and to refrain implying that it’s sinful. Ask if a youth attempts to confess masturbation as a moral problem or impacting worthiness in any way, that you request that the church leader inform the youth that masturbation is not addressed in the handbook of instructions and is a personal matter.
I) Consider Informing your bishop and stake leaders that you want to discuss the damage that has been done to members and youth by uninformed and hurtful teachings about sexuality and forgiveness. Inform them that 1 in 4 girls are victims of child sexual abuse and nearly all girls and women experience some sort of sexual harassment or assault during their lifetimes. The church teachings about sexuality and chastity do not address the reality of sexual abuse and harassment in its past teachings about “chastity.” Many lessons taught are profoundly inconsiderate and damaging. Boys and men are also abused and harassed and assaulted. Many unskillful teachings about sexuality (licked cupcake, chewed gum, hole in the board, a person’s clothing being responsible for causing someone else to act sexually inappropriately, males judged not able to control their sexual urges, etc.) are ubiquitous in our church culture and that such teaching are damaging.
Ask your church leaders to work with you to eliminate these antiquated and harmful perspectives and have trauma and consent informed teachings about sexuality as part of our church teachings and culture. Ask church leaders to evaluate church teachings and to discuss consent, respect, and responsibility and acknowledge sexual abuse and harassment.
Consider asking bishop / church leaders to have mental health professionals available to take referrals for those affected and to not attempt counseling or spiritual advising for victims of abuse or assault. Consider advising them that they are out of their depth and will cause harm if they attempt to counsel abuse victims.
Consider requesting changes to youth standards nights and lessons to be informed that there are victims of child abuse and rape and assault in the room when they are discussing “chastity” and to consider inviting mental health professionals to discuss in large groups how to address victimization.
J) Consider asking bishop / church leaders to hear accounts of how the church and its leaders in their ward’s have hurt members by worthiness interviews and harmful teachings on morality and chastity (licked cupcake) and ask them if they feel it would be appropriate to make a formal apology to those hurt by such actions and to work to address the issues raised by those who are hurt by such actions and teachings.
K) Consider suggesting that women leaders be involved when women need to discuss sexuality or abuse and not men.
L) Consider requesting that bishop’s doors have a window not just a peep hole and all rooms in the church where children may be behind a closed door with adults, have a window installed.
M) Consider requesting that all members called or allowed to work with youth have a criminal background check and youth protection training before they start their calling or responsibility. Consider informing your church leader that you may choose to not sustain any adult called to a position with youth who has not had a background check and youth protections training. Consider not sustaining anyone who has not had a background check when the calling is voted on in church.
N) Consider speaking up in your ward so that every ward and stake in the church has multiple people asking our leaders to protect children in these ways. Understand that when every church unit has multiple members and non members requesting these protections for our children, change will be more likely. This change can be bottom up and not wait on Salt Lake to make church wide changes.
If your local leaders don’t listen to your concerns or don’t implement requested changes to protect our children and redress harms, consider not voting to sustain such leaders in your local unit conferences. Publicly tell why you’re not sustaining them. The law of common consent is gospel doctrine and we need to use it. The Church would have difficulty bringing church discipline on all members who have concerns. When we act in unity our voices can be collectively heard. There are hundreds of thousands of us who will be willing to voice our concerns. We can begin doing so at the local level where we can make a difference.
If any of these recommendations are a fit for you, consider taking action. If they don’t, consider what you can do in your local church unit or community to make a difference. Please don’t wait for the church to change from the top, start the discussion to protect LDS children in your own local unit now.
17 thoughts on “Great Suggestions to Protect Our Children”
Or get the heck out of that church!
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You are absolutely right about that being a viable option. But, I’ve chosen to follow Jesus Christ in the Church of Jesus Christ. And…..I and my friends have children and grandchildren that are at risk with our current interview process.
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I understand some may choose to leave it, especially those who have been hurt by abusive leaders. But I want to continue to participate in my faith community with my family and I will one day have grandchildren who will likely be in the church so I choose to try to change it from the inside. That’s ok too.
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Hi Nancy, I am wondering why you feel so threatened that you want to drive people out of a place that is supposed to invite all in. This is not a discussion that is designed to degrade the church, but to improve the emotional well being of Christ’s most precious souls, our children. What specifically about these guidelines makes you feel so upset that you would make such a strong and unpleasant and unChristlike statement. My idea of Christ is that he would want everyone safe, loved and honored. He would want everyone invited in. There is not a single thing that an individual can do that would make Christ say “Get the heck out of the church” Please be careful what you say.
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Sherry and other Posters,
Thanks for your well-spoken comments in support of Sam’s Tsunami.
I encourage all of you who would like to “see clearly” to check out this website:
If you have a TBM testimony and want to keep it, DO NOT check out the website.
If you have a clear heart, with real intent, having faith in your own ability to discern right from wrong, you will see the Mormon Church described in alarming detail .. up one side and down the other. The website discusses Cults in general, but there is a sidebar link with details about the Mormon Church in particular.
The average human truly believes that they are simply TOO SMART to be mind-controlled. News Flash! We are ALL mind-controlled to some extent (in -or- out of the Church). It’s a question of how bad is it, and how much is it affecting our life and times deleteriously.
If you are a devout TBM, The Brethren OWN YOU.
The LDS Church is all about THE LEADERS and nothing about Jesus Christ.
“They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me”
That one prescient sentence describes what Sam is up against. In fact, it is the ROOT CAUSE of why LDS children NEED a Sam Young to protect them. The Brethren care ONLY about protecting THEMSELVES.
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Sam and Timothy,
Thanks so much for posting these suggestions. I wrote an email last week to my Stake President asking that he consider making changes. I will continue to push for protections for children in our community. I think Timothy has made some great suggestions here. The church, my church, cannot say that they have done enough to protect children until they put these kinds of protections in place. Now is the time. Please everyone, this makes sense no matter what has been done in the past…there is nothing wrong and everything right about putting these into practice in our wards and stakes. Change is ok and needed.
Protect the children!
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Timothy says “Note: There is nothing in the handbook about masturbation specifically.”
This is not exactly true. Section 6.7.1 says “A disciplinary council should not be held to discipline or threaten members who do not comply with the Word of Wisdom, who are struggling with pornography or self-abuse, or whose transgressions consist of omissions, such as failure to pay tithing, inactivity in the Church, or inattention to Church duties.”
I’m glad it says not to hold a disciplinary council for masturbation (self-abuse), but it is also putting masturbation on the same level of sin as the other things mentioned in the paragraph, most of which are a fairly big deal to active/believing members.
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Surely it is self-evident not to hold disciplinary councils for any of the above- mentioned “deviations” If one considers those to be none of anyone’s business; unless one were to approach ‘someone’ for help? Imagine being threatened with any form of discipline for failing to pay tithing or inattention to Church duties or masturbation for that matter. That is precisely why we are signing this petition to curtail the CONSEQUENCES of such interventions.Obviously auxilliary leaders would handle inattention to church duties.
I would just like to mention the fact that as far as we understood the situation someone is called as a bishop by virtue of his aaronic priesthood as the calling is administrative. It is as advisor to the priests ‘quorum that he is required to hold the melchizedek priesthood.
Possibly the situation is now out of control as far as youth interviews are concerned. My mother who is now 92, and active, once remarked that being a member in that church is actually voluntary; no-one can compel you to do anything. Children and young people are so vulnerable and to exercise unrighteous dominion as a church officer, is disgusting.
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Great find, Katie!
So “making love to yourself” is not a sin next to murder after all!
Just now, this occurs to me:
LIST OF SINS
-Coveting your neighbor’s wife
-Evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed
-Word of Wisdom infractions
So … checking the list … and checking it twice …
Yep! Does look like Masturbation is the sin next to Murder.
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Gary, You had me shaking in my boots, reading your list. I was in fearful anticipation that ‘Diet Coke’ would make your top 12. Nope. I checked it twice. So, I just took another swig of my favorite beverage.
Just a couple/three years ago I was swilling Diet Dr. Pepper like there was no tomorrow. That was around the time I discovered my untreated Diabetes.
If The Brethren actually WERE inspired, they would take Coffee and Tea off the WoW shitlist and replace it with a ban on Nutrasweet/Aspartame sweetener. I quit DDrP and rarely drink any diet sodas.
My fizzy drink of choice these days is lightly flavored carbonated seltzer water … 12-can-pak at Safeway for two bucks on sale. No sugar or sweetener. Many flavors. If you want more flavor, mixing with fruit juice works well.
It is annoying that The Brethren stick to the dumbass Word of Wisdumb while members are killing themselves with food choices that really ARE harmful to their health.
Oh . . . last night while I was handwashing some dishes in the sink …. I came up with my definition of Integrity. My next thought was to share it with you:
An integrous person is someone who always pleads guilty to the facts.
Most online dictionaries do not acknowledge “integrous” to be a real English word, but I hear it quite often, and it shows up in at least one online dictionary as a real word.
Church: Sam, you are an APOSTATE!
Sam: Well, that shows what YOU think. As for what I think, I plead guilty ONLY to the facts.
Looks like I just put words in your mouth. Just spit ’em out if they don’t taste good to you -or- go ahead and swallow them if they do.
Love you, my friend!
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Dear Sam & Tim,
What a thorough and complete enumeration of what has to change within the LDS Church … if the Church is to become Kid Safe!
Kudos to Tim for mapping the effective solution in great detail. There is nothing left to the imagination. Excellent job! Obviously the work of a caring and concerned professional with a seasoned understanding of the real-life issues relevant to PROTECTING LDS CHILDREN.
You are essentially asking The Brethren to cease the practice of generating powerful emotions of guilt and shame and then leveraging these powerful emotions to manipulate and control the members of their Church … not only child members, but adult members as well.
Actually FEELING guilt and shame … and/or FEAR of feeling guilt and shame is a core tenet of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by Joseph Smith originally, and today by The Brethren.
Never mind that Jesus did not treat people this way. “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.”
You are asking The Brethren to gather up all of their stones … and throw them in the ocean.
You are asking The Brethren to instead … follow the spirit and teachings of Jesus.
It remains to be seen if The Brethren will even publically acknowledge that an egregiously serious Trouble in Zion has been identified and exposed.
Sam discovered that the initial response of The Brethren was to direct their leadership hierarchy to simply ignore Sam and hope he loses interest and just goes quiet.
The record now shows what an inspired response that was!
I am not a prophet, but if I WERE a prophet, this would be my prophecy:
1. The Brethren will continue to ignore Sam’s “suggestions” … and for sure ignore Tim’s “ridiculous” action list.
2. A nontrivial number of Bishops and Stake Presidents are decent human beings with caring hearts who will feel a visceral response to the realization that LDS kids have been egregiously harmed and will continue to be harmed if nothing changes.
3. A nontrivial number of LDS parents will wake up with the realization that THEIR OWN KIDS are at risk of being harmed. Many LDS parents know EXACTLY what Sam and Tim are talking about … for the simple reason that “IT HAPPENED TO ME!”
4. The combined core values, love of children and sheer energy-of-intention of Bishops, Stake Presidents and Parents will coalesce into an unstoppable Wave of Change that will begin to TAKE EFFECT in wards and branches across the Church.
5. When The Brethren finally figure out that they have a MUTINY underway within their local leadership ranks, their PR counsel will advise them of the pros and cons of the following alternative courses of action:
a) clam up … do nothing … go radio silent; or
b) excommunicate Sam Young and threaten disciplinary censure of any Church leaders who vocally support Sam’s initiative; or
c) privately acknowledge that LDS children are unprotected and have been harmed (for their own good because they have sinned; the wages of sin is death), but also privately acknowledge they are on the WRONG SIDE of this controversy (reminiscent of Blacks and the Priesthood), and that they must make a COURSE CORRECTION to avoid being tried and found guilty (again) in that damned Court of Public Opinion.
6. What happens next depends on which choice The Brethren make … when confronted with these options. They will naturally want to choose b. They already tipped their hand with instructions to Sam’s SP and BP to charge Sam with the crime of Apostasy.
7. Their PR counsel will advise against follow-through to actually disconnect Sam from his Church membership. Their PR counsel will perform the “Headline Test” and read The Brethren a list of possible headlines that WILL appear in print if they ex Sam. Hearing these headlines will convince even The Brethren that punishing Sam is an obviously self-destructive decision.
8. In the meantime, the Sam Young Train has left the station and is gaining speed. SLC News Conference already happened. Sam Young ain’t kidding. Houston News Conference this week. Sam Young really ain’t kidding. It’s probably already TOO LATE to stop Sam’s PROTECT LDS CHILDREN from attracting national and international news coverage. Not a single media story will paint the Church and The Brethren in a positive light. Not even the Deseret News was able to print a non-obvious whitewash.
9. Under damning, painful scrutiny of worldwide media attention, The Brethren will reluctantly realize they have been CheckMated. Then in damage control mode, they will direct their best wordsmiths to craft a public statement that appears to obliquely address the issues surrounding Bishop interviews … without ever using the M-word … and without admitting any wrongdoing or bad judgment. Their statement will offload ALL responsibility for protecting LDS children to local leadership “as in the past.” If anything inappropriate has happened, it was the result of local leaders. (No … scratch that … too much of an admission.) The main goal of the wordsmithery will be to appear to respond, but to admit nothing and take no responsibility at the Church management level. The Church has done nothing wrong. (We never apologize.)
10. Bishops and Stake Presidents will feel MORE EMPOWERED to protect the LDS children in their own wards and stakes in whatever way they see fit personally. In effect, with The Brethren abdicating any leadership role and thus creating a Leadership Vacuum, local leaders will increasingly look to Sam and Tim for leadership.
11. More LDS Children will be protected. Fewer will be harmed. No thanks to The Brethren whatsoever. ALL THANKS to Sam and Tim and thousands of good-hearted Bishops and Stake Presidents with a clue about what Jesus would do.
There is still a possibility that The Brethren will choose alternative b … and go ahead and ex Sam. It’s also possible that the FP will not even consult with Church PR and/or refuse a request from Church PR for an “emergency audience … we gotta talk.”
In the meantime, Sam Young will be carefully watching The Brethren and planning his next move. Sam will continue to do a truly masterful job at making clear, accurate assessments and then strategizing effective, bulls-eye next moves. I suspect that some Beings in High Places are helping Sam from a place that might be out-of-sight, but certainly not out-of-mind or out-of-heart.
“I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.”
Thank God that at least one prophecy of Joseph Smith is coming true … as we speak … in 2018.
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My mom and dad said I need to record our interview, OK? Dictaphone (Cellphone) placed on the desk. Another one recording in the pocked or purse. Such as this one. https://www.spyguy.com/collections/audio-surveillance/products/usb-flash-drive-audio-recorder.
Bishops and Stake Presidents advertise themselves as counselors, and then go on to do great damage to children because they lack the training for the role they have taken on.
I believe these are good men with good intentions, but they precede in naive ignorance to the lack of skill in counseling they have, sometimes with tragic consequences. The Kip Aliason story is a perfect illustration of this problem.
The moral and legal landscape is changing on these issues. The danger of these interviews will in time be recognized by the courts based on hard science, placing The Church and its individual leaders in danger of liabilty for the advertised yet unskilled and highly inappropriate counseling of children.
Because of the Kip Aliason tragedy, blood has been on policy makers of the LDS Church for a very long time because they refused to change course after knowing better. Local leaders are given a pass because of their genuine ignorance until now, Sam Young has changed the equation to where they now know better as well.
If an adult wants to play with rattle snakes as a part of their religion as an actually church does, let that be their freedom of religion. But let not society permit children to be a part of such things.
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Consider not just talking to the bishop, to all the youth leaders. They are complicit in allowing kids to be pulled out of classes to be interviewed. Maybe have a handout and a form email to everyone working with kids, on the ward council, the stake high council, the Relief Society presidency the Primary presidency, and if you are itching to be exed, local newspapers as letters to the editor.
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