Grass Roots Changes in the Mormon Church

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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, aka the Mormon Church, still has a policy in place that requires congregational leaders to regularly take children behind closed doors and ask questions of a sexual nature.  There is no requirement to notify parents when these “worthiness” interviews take place.  The meetings are usually one-on-one unless the child “desires” that another adult be in the room.

Except for the vague instruction that they should not be “unnecessarily probing,” there is no limit to what untrained Mormon leaders can ask a child.  As a result, many bishops continue to ask totally inappropriate, shaming and harmful questions like those found HERE.

The Mormon Church MUST change their irresponsible and outdated policies that have harmed so many children.

Fortunately, there is anecdotal evidence that thoughtful parents and local Mormon leaders are stepping up to protect children on their own.  Here are 3 recent examples.

#1:  Stake president instructs, no one-on-one, no sexual questions!!!

Message receive this morning, July 13, 2019:

Sam, just thought I would drop you a line.  I have followed you for a while and have appreciated your efforts and thought you would enjoy hearing some positive news.

I was recently put into a bishopric in a Utah ward.  During my interviews with the stake presidency, I was determined to tell them that I would not do one-on-one child interviews and would not ask sexual questions.  If that were to be an issue, I could not accept the calling. 

To my great surprise, I was told by the stake presidency without any prompting from me that while I would be doing interviews with children, under no circumstances was I to ever interview a child without a parent present and I am not to ask questions of any sexual nature.

While I don’t know if that same advice was extended to the new bishop I was relieved to hear that from local leadership.  While it is a small step, it made me feel like if enough local leaders feel this way the church will change regardless of the brethren…common consent will eventually win!

#2:  Bishop eliminates one-on-one interviews

A message received yesterday:

Hi Sam, 

I have a family member who is the executive secretary to his bishop.  In their ward there has to be a chaperone for interviews with all minors and all women. Basically their bishopric has decided that if a minor or any female meets with any member of the bishopric, one of the other members of the bishopric or the executive secretary has to also be in attendance as a “chaperone” as they put it.

I know this isn’t being done everywhere and that it may not be the policy at a stake level.  Either way I know I’m happy to see it’s being done in that ward and a good step.

#3:  Bishop asks all parents to be in interviews

Recently the Mormon church sent out a survey soliciting opinions about a “proposed change” to the age for “worthiness” interviews.  Following is one of the public comments on 2KUTV’s FB page.

My brother in law is a bishop.  Every interview with a minor, he invites the parents/guardian to join them. Sometimes they refuse and other times they join. He says he interviews the same.

Good for the bishop.  There is no policy to ask parents to be present in the interviews.  He has chosen a path of protection for both the child and himself.  I can only hope that this bishop has also ditched the sexual questions.  To ask them in front of parents would be doubly shaming for the child.

Help Us Stop Child Abuse

*Protect Every Child (PEC) is no longer a lonely voice.   A COALITION of 7 organizations have rallies to our cause.  If you are part of an association who is working to protect children or support survivors, please let me know if you would like to be added to the coalition.  PEC applauds and supports the good works that all these organizations are doing to stamp out child abuse.

*Climb a mountain and save a child.  Climb a mountain, a hill or a driveway.  Unfurl a banner, take a picture share it everywhere you can.

*On October 5, 2019, bring your banners to Salt Lake City and March for the Children.  Please register in advance.  This will be an historic event.  The first major march aimed at halting child sex abuse.  Be one of the 5,000 participants shouldering our sacred responsibility to protect every child.

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Banners on Kilimanjaro

 

On June 5, 2019, 4 men reached the summit of Kilimanjaro with a common purpose:  Call for universal protections for every child against overt and covert sexual abuse.  This supremely important message was consecrated with a prayer, the text of which is shown below.

This was the hardest physical thing that I’ve ever done.  For six straight days, we hiked long hours to reach the launching point of the final ascent.  It began at midnight and took 8 1/2 hours of non-stop, seemingly vertical plodding to reach Uhuru Peak.  We dubbed it the death march.

The climb was difficult.  My sore legs will completely recover.  But the children who are sexually abused will live with the consequences for decades.  Please join me in doing what is in our power to stop the horrors.

Prayer for Children—Written by Gina Colvin

(Read at the 19,341 ft. summit of Kilimanjaro)

Mother, Father God, upon whose majestic ancestor mountain we stand, we bring before you our concerns for the children of this world and the unduly dangerous roads that many will innocently cross today.  

We ask a blessing of care over them.

We call to mind their bodies and the terrible vulnerability of our young people;

May governments, institutions, communities and families guard these tender children’s bodies well.  May their bodies be furnished with every good and lovely grace of protection and care, so that they might grow straight and strong, unencumbered by the traces of evil left upon them by the hand of avarice or neglect.

We bear in mind the spirits and souls of our children:

May all of those in positions of guardianship and care, nurture with great gentleness the Divinity and sparkle of God within, that is each child’s birthright.

We ask a blessing upon the minds of our precious youth;

May their teachers and guides be well formed and wholesome  in their own thoughts and ideas, so that all children are protected from ignorance, impoverished intellects and tyrannical ideologies that put them out of step with their true identities and belonging.

We ask a blessing on the hearts of our little ones; 

May our children be made free to feel joy, and compassion, wonder and peace at all of your creation.   May they encounter their inevitable suffering with clear minds so that they are well positioned to transform their suffering into wisdom.

And finally, we ask a blessing upon the children and adults who have been harmed by abuse, war, neglect and poverty.

Bless their broken hearts and bodies to find kindness, generosity and healing.   

And may they find deep assurances from the Source of all Compassion that they are, each of them, the Beloved.

In the name of the Creator, Pain Bearer and Breath of Life.

Amen

How can you help?

Sign the new Petition:

Climb a mountain, hilltop or driveway.  Unfurl and banner and share it.

Come to the March for the Children on October 5, 2019 in Salt Lake City.  This is the big one.  If we have 5,000 marchers, the national media will be all over it.  Institutions will be warned.  Huge awareness will be raised.  Children will be protected.  Past victims will take solace.

 

A bishop recognizes the harm he did and hopes for forgiveness.

Kaden Parker 2 YReligious leaders are waking up.  The message below gives great hope.

Sam,

Tonight, I came face to face with the bishop who asked me at age 7 about masturbation. He told me he is aware of Protect Every Child (and my affiliation with it) and hopes he will one day be forgiven for the harm he caused to any youth for questions he had no right to be asking. He also said he has signed the petition. Our work continues to roll forth and people’s hearts are changing.

Much love, _______

This is huge!!

Thanks go to my friend who confronted her years-ago bishop.  I commend this bishop who is willing to listen, learn, seek forgiveness and then fight for changes to protect children going forward.

Please join this past bishop and tens of thousands of others to protect children from covert and overt sexual abuse.

Sign the PETITION.

Climb a mountain, unfurl a banner, raise awareness.

Register to attend the March for the Children on Oct 5, 2019 in Salt Lake City.

Sue the Hell out of the Mormon Church

RyanWhiteOn March 30, 2018, one thousand child protection advocates rallied at the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City.  Books were delivered into the hands of the official Church representative.  These volumes contained hundreds of first hand stories recounting the horrific harms done to children behind the doors of Mormon bishops.

Effective with the delivery of these tragic stories, the Apostles can no longer publicly feign that they are unaware of the dangers their policies expose children to.  Indisputable evidence is now in their hands.  And everybody knows it.

It’s inexcusable that this continues to happen:

In December 2018, Bishop Jeffry Bryan Head was arrested and charged with two counts of forcible sex abuse and two counts of lewdness.  These crimes were committed while he was a serving bishop.  The victims were boys in his congregation.  Gross, disgusting, criminal behavior that will affect these children the rest of their lives.

Bishop Head is only one in a long line of Mormon bishops who have abused children.  When will the Church do what is right?  These crimes were facilitated by one-on-one interviews where sexually explicit questions are fair game.  NO OTHER CHURCH allows this behavior.  The Mormon leaders should have made appropriate policy changes  the day we delivered the evidence of their wrong-doings.

So how is it that the church will finally be dragged into the modern world of truly caring for children’s safety?  If a child is abused, here’s my recommendation:

SUE THE HELL OUT OF THE MORMON CHURCH

They don’t seem to listen to anything else.

It’s inexcusable that this continues to happen:

In April 2019, a “lifetime registered sex offender was arrested for sexually assaulting a minor.”  He was a leader in the local Mormon congregation.  Why was he allowed to work with the youth?  Because the Mormon Church requires NO BACKGROUND CHECKS on anybody.  Not on the congregational leaders.  Not on the regional leaders.  Not on any adult who works with children.

This is inexcusable.  The Mormon Church has become a safe hunting ground for pedophiles.

If a child is abused, here’s my recommendation:

SUE THE HELL OUT OF THE MORMON CHURCH

They don’t seem to listen to anything else.

Help Stamp Out Child Sex Abuse in Religious Institutions

Protect Every Child has mountainous plans  to save children in 2019.  Please stand up and make a difference.

  1. Sign the New Petition.
  2. Share and talk about the petition.
  3. Climb a mountain, unfurl a banner, take a picture and share it.
  4. Come to the March on October 5, 2019 in Salt Lake City.

The march will make all the difference in the world if….lots of people show up.    The media pays attention to numbers.  So do institutions, politicians and society at large.  And large need to be our numbers for October 5th.  The lofty goal is 5,000 child protection advocates marching the streets of Salt Lake City while waving the banners that have been unfurled high on the mountain tops.

 

My Apology for Racism–F&T Meeting June 3, 2018

Black and White

Last weekend I was in Portland for a Protect Every Child event.  It was marvelous.  About 50 child protection advocates climbed to Multnomah Falls and unfurled many banners.

While I was there, the topic of past racist policies of the Mormon Church came up.  It reminded me of a fast & testimony meeting from just a year ago.  I stood and read the words below.  Obviously, I thought it was a pretty good testimony.

However, a few tattle-tales in the congregation disagreed.  They ran to the local leaders to report me.  The stake president called me in and told me not to bring up any more issues in future testimonies.  He instructed me to only bear testimony of the Church, Joseph Smith, the current prophet, the Book of Mormon, etc.

Some context.  At the Fast & Testimony meeting one month before, I had born witness of my love for the teachings and example of Jesus Christ.  As soon as the meeting was over a prominent member of the congregation rushed over to me.  In a patronizing tone he scolded, “Without a full-throated witness of the restoration, your testimony was like tinkling brass.”

June 3, 2018 Testimony:

Last month I shared my testimony of the teachings and example of Jesus Christ. I took some flak for not having mentioned the restoration or the prophets.

Today, I’m going to correct that.

I want to give our current crop of apostles and prophets a strong shout out of support. Last Friday, the church held an event to officially celebrate the 40 year anniversary of the reversal of our church doctrine that forbid black men from receiving the priesthood and prohibited both black men and black women from entering the temple.

This ban on church privileges was lifted in 1978. I had the honor of sitting in a Houston chapel during general conference when Elder N. Eldon Tanner presented the lifting of the ban for a sustaining vote. My hand was proudly raised in support of changing our policy. This is a great example of the Law of Common Consent in action. All policies and major decisions are supposed to be presented to the membership for approval or disapproval. I love this empowering element of the restored gospel. So, there’s my full-throated endorsement of a glorious principle that came directly as a part of the restoration.

Now, I want to express my appreciation and respect for our current apostles and prophets. 4 years ago, the apostles did something very gutsy that no top leadership has ever done before. They published an essay on LDS.org entitled Race and the Priesthood. It condemns our past racism. It disavows our past racist doctrine, teachings and practices. That’s a disavowal and condemnation of what all the past prophets and apostles from Brigham Young on have taught regarding black people being cursed with a dark skin. Hallelujah!!!

Unfortunately, until 4 years ago when this essay was published, I completely believed our racist teachings that are now officially condemned.  I’m glad that the church celebrated the lifting of the ban.  However, I wish that there had also been an official full-throated apology for our past racism.

Today, I offer my apology and the apology of many, many of my friends.  We are sorry that we were gullible enough to believe that our white skin was a reflection of our righteousness in the pre-mortal life.  And that a black skin was a reflection of the opposite.

I’m sorry that these disavowed practices, which I fully supported, marginalized an entire race for 150 years within the church of Jesus Christ.

I offer this apology in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Three months later, I was excommunicated.

Adam & the Bishop

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For the sake of anonymity, I’ll call this boy ‘Adam.’

His story is #4 on ProtectEveryChild.com  and #1054 on ProtectLDSChildren.org.  During my correspondence with Adam, he gave me his permission to publish it here.

First, I want to thank the 1,067 victims who have shared their stories of abuse.  You made it safe for this man to write and share his story.

When I first read Adam’s narrative, my shock quickly turned to anger and sadness.  It’s a mixture of emotions that I have become very familiar with.  The anger drives me to fight my damnedest to eradicate all practices that facilitate this horror.  The sadness draws my empathy to the surface.

I asked myself this question, ‘How much grooming did it take before the bishop felt safe enough to do what he did to this child?”

Tears come as I write this. I am going to climb mountain after mountain after mountain, literally and figuratively, to stop more stories like Adam’s from being written in the heart of a child again.  Please, please join me.

**Strong Trigger Warning**

**Disturbingly graphic sexual story below.

**DO NOT READ if you could be re-victimized

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**I read the story because I wanted to understand what our children can face all alone with a Mormon bishop.

When I was age 11-15, I had different experiences with different bishops. I have never had the courage to say anything, and I also have never had a place where I can feel safe to talk about it. These men are part of my family’s community still to this day, and the encounters were so long ago (I am now 24) that is just doesn’t seem like it will even help to approach them.

My first bishop was a very jovial and traditional Mormon bishop (he told pioneer tales and frequently called up youth to recognize them for their valiant examples of faith in sacrament meeting).

I had an instance where I had confided in my bishop about seeing a pornographic picture and how it was hard to get it out of my head. He kept asking me how the picture made me feel, even though I told him it made me feel yucky and scared. When he obsessed over this I assumed that he was trying to fish out of me some secret evil thought that I thought in order for him to help me repent.

Even though we had an opening prayer, he stopped the meeting and said that we needed to pray. He asked me to pray and to ask God to make me feel the same feelings I felt when I looked at the photo so that I could remember them and repent. When I opened my eyes mid prayer, I he apparently had scooted his office chair in front of me, and he had his legs spread with an obvious erection just a foot away from me. Most terrifying, his eyes were open while mine were closed, and he was smiling. After the meeting concluded we both stood up, and he shook my hand.  Now that he was standing his pants were loose enough for the erect penis to be literally pointed right at me. I kept repenting for even noticing it and it made me feel even more perverted, like it was a test

The second encounter has brought me immeasurable sorrow and still as I am typing this makes my stomach feel like its in ropes. I was 15. This time it was a different bishop. He later on became a member of my stake presidency and was known for his strong connection to the youth and his tenor voice as he sang in the choir. I was entering his office because I had “heavy petted” a girl in my high school consensually, but I felt grief stricken by it.

He told me that I could not fully repent unless I saw him and told him the details of the petting. Instead of asking how long and things he started asking me details that at the time I thought were part of the process (I thought I was supposed to feel humiliated, and conflated that with godly sorrow). His first humiliating question was “Did your hands smell differently?” I told him that I din’t know. He assured me “I know its embarrassing but I want you to know that as a judge in Israel the Lord knows your thoughts, and withholding details will disqualify you for the atonement.”

I didn’t know what to say because I didn’t smell my hands. He then asked me if “they smelled like tuna, and asked me if I sucked it off of my fingers, or asked her to suck it off of my fingers.” I told him neither. He seemed irritated but went on to ask me to describe the girl’s anus. I had never went near that area. He told me that I needed to tell him everything.

After about 20 awkward minutes of him projecting his fantasies, he asked me to read in the scriptures. We read about the people looking at the snake on the stick and how it healed them. I don’t remember what part of the bible it was. But he told me that I must never tell anybody but that the lord was going to give me a special opportunity because “He loved me and that I was favored among my peers, and destined for great trust.” He then gave me a blessing with the chair in the center of the room.

As he was giving it, and his hands were on my head, I remember feeling on of his hands leave my head, and then return. On the back of my head I could feel something warm poking me. I didn’t realize, but he had pulled his penis out, and it was touching my head. I remember my hairs all standing on end as in the blessing he said “The Lord now commands you, Brother _______ to look and be healed, as the faithful in ancient times,.” And that “this opportunity was sacred, and that others had not the faith as I did, and would not receive this opportunity.” When he said amen, I quickly got up and turned around to quickly shake his hand, but he swiveled around fast enough to slap me in the face with his erect penis. It didn’t hurt, but I remembered that I didn’t know how to react and said “oh woah I’m sorry!”

I wanted to weep or to just leave the bishops office, but he started bombarding me with compliments and “revelation that the lord gave him of my valiance.” He told me that if I look at “what the Lord has provided” that his priesthood keys would “discharge a blessing of forgiveness.” (Looking back I feel as though he must have planned to ejaculate, but it never happened.) After looking at his erect penis (I can still fully visualize it in my memory) I remember he told me that the Lord was lifting my burdens. He then situated a bag of starburst over his penis, and asked me if I would like one. He had pulled open a hole to insert his penis and was wanting me to reach inside. I declined and said that I am “not hungry” an he protested that I love starburst (He had given them to all of the youth before and I loved the pink ones.) I remembered he stood up, and let go of the bag of candy, and it spilled out on the floor but the bag was still on his erect penis. He then sat down, and we had a closing prayer. I DISTINCTLY remember him asking me to pray, and to include asking BOTH of us for forgiveness for the “many sins” that “the Lord showed unto us” that day.

I have gone to therapy and have declined giving them incriminating details. However, the process has helped me to feel like I am not guilty even though I still feel like its my fault to this day.

My friend Adam, it was never your fault.  Your story will help fuel the drive to protect children of the future.  For that, I am grateful.

Take Action

+Please sign the new PETITION.

+Share the PETITION with friends and family.

+Climb a mountain, hill or driveway.  Unfurl a banner, take a picture and share.

+Register for the Children’s March on Oct 5th in Salt Lake City.

Together, we are going to save future children from the horrors of child sex abuse.

Pennies

Three Pennies

Yesterday, I took a long walk.

Came across a penny on the roadside.

Almost unnoticeable.

Nearly unrecognizable.

It was marred and scarred.

Run-over and stepped on.

Smashed flush with the surrounding debris.

Later, I came across another.

Further on, one more.

At some point, each had been cast aside.

Maybe long, long ago.

How many travelers had passed them by?

I stopped.

Bent down.

Picked each up and examined.

Then a tear.

Though marred and scarred,

Their worth was undimmed.

Their value as bright as any other.