By Tony Peterson
Ever since Mitt Romney ran for President, it seems that there has been a much brighter spotlight on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (or the Mormon Church). Some of the news has been very good (Mormon relief efforts in areas stricken by natural disasters), and some of the news has been very bad, “Rob Porter”. My purpose in writing this essay is to show that you can be a believing, active, leader sustaining member of the church, and still be supportive of the petition and cause put together by Sam Young, called “Protect LDS Children.”
This petition has many aspects that align well with my beliefs, and there are a few places that they don’t align. Yet, I have come to the conclusion that signing it is the right thing for me to do, and I would encourage my practicing LDS friends to do the same. This petition and cause seeks to fundamentally change the way that ecclesiastical leaders perform interviews on Mormon Children and Adolescents. It does so in the name of protecting the children.
First off, I would like to say, I support, sustain, love, and appreciate every leader I have in the church. This goes from the quorum presidencies, all the way up to the first presidency. I believe that for the most part, God has selected absolutely amazing people, who are willing to put in the equivalent of a second full time job in order to serve those under their watch. I believe that a majority of leaders in the church are wonderful, worthy, men, who are doing their best to serve God, and agree that if anyone were to hurt a child, it would be better for them, had a millstone been hung by their neck and they had been drowned in the depths of the sea.
Additionally, I believe that there has only been one perfect being on earth, and that would be Jesus Christ. This means that everyone, from the lowliest person, to the prophets of god, have all been given flaws and faults that can be used to take away from the message they are sharing with the world. While many in the church will profess that they don’t believe their leaders must be infallible, they are also not willing to deal with the consequences of what that means.
Personal Revelation is a key component to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is evident from many sources such as Nephi in the Book of Mormon. He was directly commanded by God to kill Laban, and steal his property, with the saying “It’s better that one man should perish, than that an entire nation would suffer in unbelief.” Nephi was given a prompting by the spirit to do something that was directly contradictory to the teachings of the church, yet it was necessary for him to fulfill his personal path as directed by the Holy Ghost. At the time, the commandments of the church were not changed to remove killing and stealing from the list of commandments, rather Nephi was commended for following his personal revelation.
We also have a history of bottom up revelation. The most glaring example would be the Word of Wisdom, which was famously proposed to Joseph by Emma, after she grew tired of cleaning up the mess from spitting tobacco in the rooms where the leaders of the church would meet. Emma was an amazing woman, but she was not the prophet called of god. Yet one of the most defining teachings of our religion started as an idea presented by someone who did not have the authority, to those who did have the authority.
Last, and certainly not least, I believe that the church absolutely needs policy changes like this in order to navigate the rough waters ahead of them. I have heard numerous stories of heartbreak from both leaders, and those whom they interview. Children and young people, traumatized by the experience of being alone in a room with a middle-aged man, being asked very intimate questions. That can be scary, overwhelming, and harmful. Additionally, I have met leaders who have had their entire lives ruined by accusations that later proved to be false. They spent their life’s savings, and countless amounts of personal emotional capital in resolving the issue.
The church has a big target on its back now that people perceive a weakness to exist in this area. A very influential ex-Mormon has offered to pay children (and adults) if they were to record their interviews with their bishops and send them to him. He will then comb the submissions finding the worst and most shocking recordings possible, and publicly release and promote them with the intent to harm the church. He has done this in other areas, and has every intention of expanding into areas such as this. These policy changes would significantly reduce the danger from such recordings.
The Boy Scouts of America have set an example that would be very easy to follow. They regularly put all leaders through a training session that teaches that if a youth or any youth are in the room or on an activity, there must be 2 deep leadership at all times. This policy benefits the children, the leaders, and the Boy Scouts of America. Most LDS men are familiar with the program, so instituting it would not be difficult.
Our Bishops act as Judges in Israel. I believe they are blessed with discernment that helps them do the best they can. However, this is not a perfect process.
If I were to write the petition myself to change the policy, it would be rather simple. I would ask for the following points:
- All interviews between a priesthood leader and any child or youth under the age of 18 must include an adult (usually, but not always a parent) who has been selected by the youth/child to act as their advocate before the bishop. This would ensure that in every circumstance, a second adult would be present. This would protect the church and the leaders from false accusations. It would also make most of the heartbreaking stories listed on protectldschildren.org impossible, due to the presence of another adult. All sides are protected.
- Bishops should continue to ask basic questions about whether the law of chastity is being followed. If the child does not know what that means, they should be referred to the parents or guardians, who would have access to a pamphlet that very clearly defines the church definition of chastity. Any line of questioning that goes into any moderately to extremely graphic detail would be strictly prohibited.
While Sam’s petition has a few things more than this, and some things that I don’t completely agree with, I believe that his petition is one of the best efforts I have seen to try to change something in the church that truly has potential to benefit all parties involved.
The world needs people who disagree in some fundamental ways to find places where their interests overlap, and where true collaboration can result in a system that benefits all involved.
My first Mission President once taught a Zone Conference on how to differentiate between Gospel Principles, Church Practices, and Personal Preferences. We learned that focusing on Gospel Principles would bring people closer to Christ than would be achieved by focusing on Church Practices or personal preferences. The requests in this petition and call to action reflect well the gospel principles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and simply ask that some of the current practices or preferences be changed, without affecting doctrine.
For these reasons, I have signed the Petition to Protect LDS Children, including my unhidden information.
I may not agree with all of it, but that’s OK. There are many times I don’t agree with my wife, yet we find ways to work together for the betterment of the family. I would like to thank my new friend Sam Young for helping me see ways that we can make the church a safer place to worship for the members and leaders who worship there.
And…I would like to thank my new friend, Tony Peterson, for his loving patience with me. It enabled us to converse without fear and long enough to climb the hill of common ground.
Join the March for The Children
Help Tony & I assure that the children of the future don’t repeat the dreadful experiences of the children in our past.
Make plans for this historic event. On March 30, 2018 we will gather at the Salt Lake City/County Building. Then march 5 blocks to the LDS Church Office Building. Upon arrival, we will present 2 items to church officials:
- The signatories on the Petition to Protect The Children–Stop Sexually Explicit Interviews of Mormon Youth
- Sacred Stories of Sacred Children. A record of childhoods destroyed behind closed doors.
Register here so we can get an accurate count ahead of time. Our goal is 1,000 marchers. It’s going to be big.
How can you help make this all happen:
- Share the march info everywhere.
- Bring your friends & family.
- Encourage friends & family in Utah and surrounding states to join in
We are making Mormon history. Come make it with us. It’s a once in a lifetime event.
***Please Share the March-For-The-Children FAR and WIDE***