Great day at my ward meetings today. Wonderful people. Warm handshakes and plentiful hugs. Of course, I wore my Protect LDS Children name tag. As you can see, I grabbed the wrong one this morning. I’m not Bertie Criddle. That’s my mom. My mistake wasn’t pointed out until I returned home. I laughed and laughed.
One of the speakers on today’s program approached me after the meeting. He said, “Sam, you made the elephant move. That almost never happens from the ground up. I want to understand how you made the elephant move. Can we go to lunch this week?”
Very cool and very supportive. Our luncheon is scheduled for this Wednesday.
A sister I’ve known for years approached me and gave me a hug. Whispering she said, “Thanks for the work that you are doing.” I had no idea that she was familiar with our cause.
No longer is there a division between high priests and elders. Twenty-two men were present in our meeting.
The instructor started off with this question, “What are some of the things that are unique in our Church?”
Oh man! My mind immediately jumped to a statement that I wanted to blurt out. I held off in order to collect my thoughts and….well, I was nervous. It had been awhile since I’d made any controversial comments.
“Book of Mormon,” someone called out. It was written on the chalk board.
“Prophets.” “Revelation.” “Nature of God.” Each in turn were recorded.
Finally, my resolve congealed,
“Here’s something unique to only our church. The bishop taking children behind closed doors and asking them sexually explicit questions.”
The instructor, “Ok.” The chalk went silent and the subject was changed to the real topic of the day…revelation.
Several points about personal and prophetic revelation were discussed. The contrast was made between Nephi and his murmuring brothers. One of the elders made this comment:
“Sometimes I feel like murmuring until I get more information and can see the whole picture. It helps me understand revelations I’d previously wanted to murmur about.”
Suddenly, a personal revelation burst into my brain. My hand shot up.
“I really appreciate the comment about having more information. If I’d known that sexually explicit questions were being posed to 4 of my daughters, all alone behind closed doors, I would have done things much differently. I know now and have received the revelation that I should have received years ago to protect my daughters when they were children.”
The instructor responded,
“That’s why I’ve decided to teach my kids about chastity myself. I don’t want them learning about it in the bishop’s office.”
What an amazing 3 hours. Validation and awareness-creation in every meeting.
Protect LDS Children has a three pronged TBO strategy. Top down, Bottom up and Outside In.
Our members can affect great things from the bottom up. Here are two calls to action.
- Send a letter to your bishop to set boundaries. Three sample letters are shown below. Then, share your bishop’s response on the Success Stories Page.
- Look for opportunities to bring this topic up for discussion…in classes, with friends, with neighbors. Today, I didn’t go to church with the intention of making the comments that I did. Two opportunities magically presented themselves.
Regarding sending your bishop a letter or email: Imagine if 1,000 members across the country did this. Imagine in 10,000 members did. This will make a huge impact.
Thousands of letters to bishops will protect tens of thousands of children.
Thousands of conversations in priesthood and relief society will protect tens of thousands more.
We can do this. We have already made the elephant move. Now, the elephant just needs to move to the right place and offer full protection to all of our children.
BTW, congratulations on causing the historic baby step that the Church has made. You are awesome!!!
Sample Letter #1
Our family has decided to set the following boundaries with regards to our children.
- Our children are not to participate in any one-on-one interviews with anyone in the stake, including the bishop.
- We are to be notified in advance of any interviews with our children.
- One of us must to be present in all interviews with our children.
- No sexual matters are to be discussed during any meetings involving our children.
These limits have been discussed with our kids. We and they fully expect that these boundaries will be respected.
Please let us know if you have any questions.
This decision does not diminish our esteem for you as our bishop. We appreciate and thank you for your dedicated service.
Sample Letter #2
I wanted to reach out to you regarding my children. You no doubt have heard about the recent campaign to change the way our youth are interviewed. I assure you, we do not have an inkling of nefarious deeds taking place in our ward. It is our effort to teach our kids appropriate boundaries and direct topics of conversation. _______and I have decided to set some boundaries with regards to our children.
*Our children are not to participate in any one-on-one interviews with anyone in the stake, including the bishop and stake presidency. This also extends to counselors. Please be sure that they are aware.
*We are both to be notified in advance of any interviews with our children. Consent from both parents are to be obtained before an interview is to take place.
*One of us must to be present in all interviews with our children.
*No sexual matters are to be discussed during any meetings involving our children.
These limits have been discussed with our kids. We and they fully expect that these boundaries will be respected. Please make this known that this is our family policy and this is to be followed by future leaders as well.
With love and appreciation,
Sample Letter #3
You may have read in the news that there are a growing number of people both inside and outside of the church who are voicing concern about the policy which allows private one-on-one worthiness interviews between children and bishops. These interviews include explicit questions about sexual themes and there is concern that this arrangement is a setup for two major kinds of abuses. The largest movement, under the heading of ProtectLDSChildren.org, recently delivered over 50,000 signatures of support to the brethren at the Church office building calling for policies to be updated to safeguard our kids.
Changes to policy can take time, but I would like to discuss what we can do now to protect our children in keeping with our parental charge to love and care for our children. I would preface this with a brief synopsis of the sort of harm we are wanting to avoid.
The first and most obvious sort of abuse which has been facilitated by the private and isolated nature of these interviews is sexual assault, pedophilia and rape. This is called overt abuse. It is understood that most Bishops are not predators, just as most scout leaders and most Catholic priests are not predators. However, in Scouting and in the Catholic church, they learned by hard experience that predators exploit permissive policies to prey upon the vulnerable. In our church, the same is true of those Bishops who have been discovered to have abused children in this manner – the existing policies facilitated their abuse. Just as Scouts and Catholics revised their policies to safeguard against predators, LDS church policies require revision.
The second form of abuse which results from these interviews is harder to identify, however is much more prevalent. This is called covert abuse.
Imagine a parent chastising a toddler every-time she stumbles while learning to walk – telling the child that they are wicked, weak and worthless at every misstep. We could see this as a form of verbal and emotional abuse – even though the parents may be well meaning in their attempts to help the child get command of their ability to walk. The child would internalize the message of failure and worthlessness and it would shape how the child viewed herself and her worth. It is a fact that everyone who ever learned to walk stumbled along the way, and those stumbles were part of the normal development of the child – but the child would not understand that reality. They would imagine that they were the only ones who kept stumbling as they developed and it would cause a form of dissociation which results in a hatred of themselves and a sense of worthlessness which is harmful.
This is the reality faced by many youth who are navigating puberty and are faced with leaders who demonize aspects of normal human sexual development under the heading of sexual purity. These leaders may be well meaning but they are untrained and ignorant of normal human sexual development or the traumatic psychological effects of inappropriate shaming.
Just as the obvious sort of verbal and emotional abuse may lead to a life of self-loathing, insecurity, depression, self harm or anxiety and dysfunction – covert sexual abuse resulting from these interviews can be just as destructive.
My wife or I will be present in all interviews, whether with you or one of your counselors. Even if an interview is to be brief, one of us must be present. This includes formal interviews (such as at birthdays) or informal (such as a quick pulling in from the hall for a class presidency re-arrangement).
If in the event one of my children requests a meeting with you and also requests that someone other than me or my wife be present, we will allow them to choose who should be present (such as a counselor, or YW president or advisor, etc.)
Explicit questions about moral worthiness will not be asked to my children. The very nature of determining “worthiness” insinuates that a child may be unworthy. My children are good kids and I know that God loves them. Even if they do make mistakes, as we all do in life, I do not want them to ever feel that they are unworthy before God. They are always worthy of his love, no matter what. My wife and I, as parents, can help them with the repentance process and to accompany them to visit with you if that is needed.
I am requesting that you do not ask explicit questions about masturbation, sexual orientation, or any other intimate sexual activity. These are items that we will discuss with our children in our home, as their parents. I do not think it is appropriate for a young boy or girl to be in a room alone with a man, any man, and be asked these types of questions.
Children are not under covenant to obey the Law of Chastity. That is a temple covenant. We will discuss chastity in our home with our children. What it means, and how it relates to them. However, I do not want them being asked by an adult man if they are sexually pure. I believe that this type of questioning could possibly play a role in a child at some future point being groomed by other adults (whose intentions are evil) if the child feels that it’s OK to discuss sexual topics with an adult man. Now, maybe you never would ask these explicit questions. But there are plenty of Bishops out there who do. And it is damaging. It is damaging to a child’s sense of worth, and it could be damaging to their sexual development that could cause relationship and mental health issues both in the present and later in life. It is damaging that a child may develop a sense that they are not worthy of God’s love, as was the case for me during my teenage years.
With love and appreciation,