Former LDS Bishop goes on hunger strike in effort to convince church to end ‘worthiness’ interviews with minors

SALT LAKE CITY -- Sam Young is a former Bishop with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and he is behind a hunger strike calling for change within his faith.

He is also the founder of a group that calls itself, "Protect LDS Children."

Young and members of the group started a hunger strike in hopes of influencing the LDS Church to stop allowing bishops to do one-on-one interviews with minors to determine their "worthiness."

Church leaders counsel youth and often conduct a series of interviews, which Young and many other former and current LDS Church members say are inappropriate.

Young claims bishops often ask very detailed sexual questions to young church members which he and his supporters feel can leave minors susceptible to psychological trauma and predatory behavior.

He founded ProtectLDSchildren.org after hearing numerous accounts of past and present church members who said they experienced sexual abuse by bishops, or were severely traumatized by being shamed or continuously interrogated by bishops regarding sexual issues.

"Inside I knew I wasn`t as bad as they made me feel," former LDS Church member Nicky Miles said. "And when those lines of questioning came, it actually was damaging at the time, but it continued to damage."

Young plans to fast until church leaders listen to his pleas and change the one-on-one interviews.

He believes any sexual questioning with a minor should only be done with a parent or guardian present, if at all.

One of Young's concerns is that bishops are not trained to conduct interviews in which youth confide in them about sexual abuse.

He wants the church to change its policy and rely on trained therapists to help in these sensitive matters.

Young hopes the hunger strike will call the church to action.

"I am calling my fellow members to step up and not just protect our children, but protect the good name of the Church," Young said.

The LDS Church issued this statement in response to Sam Young's hunger strike:

"Children and youth are precious. We share a desire to protect them, to help them grow and develop faith in the Savior, Jesus Christ and to live good and moral lives. This includes building good relationships with ecclesiastical and youth leaders who can provide support in many settings including personal interviews.

In recent months, the Church has taken important steps to improve these interactions and to strengthen the relationships between young people and their parents and leaders, and will continue to do so.

Church leaders at every level—from Sam’s local bishop and stake president to a recent conversation with a general authority—have met with him to express love, to listen and to counsel with him. They have received and reviewed his materials and understand clearly his viewpoint. Further meetings with him are not necessary to clarify his position on this matter.

The Church will continue to look for ways to guide, inspire and nurture young people by strengthening homes, providing positive role models and offering activities and learning opportunities that build character and deepen faith in Jesus Christ."