SALT LAKE CITY – A movement to end controversial one-on-one interviews between LDS bishops and children is growing in Utah.
The group, Protect LDS Children, recently updated the public on their efforts. Since launching a petition in December of 2017, more than 11,000 people have signed and about 5,000 of them are from Utah.
Sam Young, the founder of Protect LDS Children, is a former bishop for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from Houston who spoke to supporters in Salt Lake City. He says worthiness interviews, where sexually sensitive questions are asked, are an invitation for abuse.
“Do not shame our children," he said. "We know the damage that is being done. It’s out in the open.”
Young shared a story posted on his website about a Las Vegas father who lost his 14-year-old son to suicide.
“I place these interviews and the feelings of shame they produce as a major reason for his end of life decision," one poster on that website said.
“Parents, bishops, take action today: Do not allow this to happen to your child,” Young said.
Natasha Helfer Parker is therapist who has worked with LDS families for 20 years.
“The natural result of that unfortunately is sexual shaming," she said.
She says these interviews can cause psychological and emotional harm.
“In the LDS structure, the norm is to expect to be asked those questions, and you're in a setting where the bishop is asking you questions in a sexually explicit nature, the child assumes that they need to answer," she said.
For years, Amy Hall carried guilt after she says her LDS bishop abused her.
“I know how difficult it is to speak up," she said.
She says it’s never too late to tell someone.
“Give yourself permission to be a survivor instead of a victim, and that's what's helping me," she said.
Young says they’re not trying to disparage the LDS Church or its leaders. They just want them to stop the practice of bishops asking probing questions during youth interviews.
Fox 13 reached out to the LDS Church for a statement, but did not hear back. The LDS Church issued a statement last month in relation to bishop's interviews with youth, saying in part:
"Personal interviews are an important part of ministering to those in a congregation... for youth, a bishop meets with a young person at least annually to teach, express confidence and support, and listen carefully… There are times when a discussion of moral cleanliness is appropriate—particularly if a young man or young woman feels a need to repent... Bishops are counseled to not be unnecessarily probing or invasive in their questions."
Until changes are made, Helfer Parker says parents should do their part and speak up if they feel uncomfortable.
“Parents take authority into their own hands to educate themselves and to be able to have boundaries set with their ecclesiastical leaders," Parker said.
On March 30th, the group is planning to march from Salt Lake City Hall to the Church office building to deliver a petition to church leaders.