SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will begin using new guidelines for bishops and other leaders in interviewing youth members.
The guidelines issued Wednesday to LDS church bishops, branch presidents and counselors in bishoprics and branch presidencies include a "Protecting Against Misunderstandings" section, in which interviews with children, youth and women are addressed.
"When a member of a bishopric or stake presidency or another assigned leader meets with a child, youth, or woman, he or she should ask a parent or another adult to be in an adjoining room, foyer, or hall. If the person being interviewed desires, another adult may be invited to be present during the interview. Leaders should avoid all circumstances that could be misunderstood," the "Protecting Against Misunderstandings" guideline says.
The guidelines also outline the key matters for discussion in interviews with youth, including priesthood ordination, seminary, missionary service and temple-related topics.
Late last year, a former LDS bishop petitioned the church to stop interviewing youth on sexually-oriented topics. The practice of asking youth about their sexual behavior results in sexual shaming, a therapist with decades of experience working with LDS families told FOX 13.
The former bishop, Sam Young, said the practice can lead to self-loathing and suicidal ideation.
In March, hundreds of people participated in a march calling for an end to the church's practice of one-on-one "worthiness interviews."
Young spoke to Fox 13 Wednesday about the change.
“I was very excited when you told me that,” Young said of learning about the change. “I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, this is so cool.’ And then I read the entire thing: ‘What a colossal disappointment it is.’”
Young said it’s the headline he has been praying for, but the details weren’t what he’d hoped to see.
“They made one change of substance that's a dinky substance, but they still did make one change that helps a teeny-tiny bit,” Young said.
The LDS Church says bishops should now share guidelines with parents and youth before the first interview, going over topics and questions that will be addressed.
“The bishop is supposed to share: it doesn't say must, it doesn't say required but it said they should share the guidelines for the interviews,” Young said.
Young says the closed-door, one-on-one interviews open the door to a world of trouble, leaving children vulnerable while being asked what he calls sexually explicit questions. And he said that while getting parents involved is a good thing, he argues how it's being done can cause more harm.
“They have it in their mind that yes this is perfectly OK, my parents know what's going on in here and they're good with it; so it further grooms, in fact, it's a sanctioned grooming with the backing of the parents,” Young said.
The last section says that leaders should avoid all circumstances that could be misunderstood. Young argues that going alone in a room and asking a child questions about sex can easily be misunderstood.
“It is hard for me to stand on the sidelines and just watch and listen to the continued persecution of our children behind closed doors,” Young said.
Young says he will continue pushing for change.
The guidelines issued Wednesday allow church leaders to use the church's list of "Interview Questions for a Limited-Use Temple Recommend," which includes a question about chastity, but does not go into specifics about sexual behavior. See the full list of those questions below:
1. Do you have faith in and a testimony of God the Eternal Father; His Son, Jesus Christ; and
the Holy Ghost?
2. Do you have a testimony of the Atonement of Christ and of His role as Savior and
3. Do you have a testimony of the Restoration of the gospel in these, the latter days?
4. Do you sustain the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the
prophet, seer, and revelator and as the only person on the earth who possesses and is
authorized to exercise all priesthood keys? Do you sustain the members of the First
Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators? Do
you sustain the other General Authorities and local authorities of the Church?
5. Do you live the law of chastity?
6. Is there anything in your conduct relating to members of your family that is not in harmony
with the teachings of the Church?
7. Do you support any group or person whose teachings oppose those accepted by The Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
8. Do you strive to keep the covenants you have made, to attend your sacrament and priesthood
meetings, and to keep your life in harmony with the laws and commandments of the gospel?
9. Are you honest in your dealings with your fellowmen?
10. Are you a full-tithe payer?
11. Do you keep the Word of Wisdom?
12. Have there been any sins or misdeeds in your life that should have been resolved with
priesthood authorities but have not been?
13. Do you consider yourself worthy to enter the Lord’s house and participate in temple