Worthiness Interviews: A Poll

Hawkgrrrl Mormon 107 Comments

There has been a lot of discussion in the b’nacle about the worthiness interviews routinely conducted by members of the bishopric with the young men and young women.  In general, there seems to be some hand-wringing about this practice.  In your opinion, is it appropriate for an older man to be alone with a young woman asking her questions about her sexual activity?

The purpose of the worthiness interviews is to provide the youth with private access to the bishopric should they need to confess or confide anything to them or to seek their counsel as an ecclesiastical leader.  The standard questions include asking the young man or woman if they live the law of chastity.  More detailed follow up questions are not specified.

Some concerns about protecting the youth have been raised including:

  • that parents are not present in these interviews
  • that a same sex adult is not present in the case of young women
  • that there is an opportunity for abuse behind close doors
  • that the interviews are intrusive; the youth should not be asked sexual questions unless they come forward to confess something
  • that worthiness interviews in general are a control mechanism and pose a psychological danger to members
  • that a rogue local leader may go on a fishing expedition for sexual details, either due to a domineering personality or to satisfy prurient interests
  • that local leaders will provide psychologically harmful advice to the youth regarding masturbation or other sexual practices
  • that local leaders will not be attuned to individual needs of the youth or parents

Some concerns about protecting the leaders have also been raised:

  • the format also provides the opportunity for the false allegation of abuse
  • that local leaders are at least as uncomfortable with these discussions as are the youth
  • that local leaders may not take appropriate action if they become aware of abuse situations, especially if they disbelieve the allegations
  • And while we’re at it, even parents have expressed some concerns for themselves:

  • that parents who are uncomfortable with these interviews may be blackballed or viewed as not supporting their leaders
  • It sounds as though everyone (youth and bishops alike) dreads these interviews (and if people aren’t dreading them, maybe that’s worse).  Do any of you have a positive experience from these interviews that you would like to share?  Any bishops, previous bishops, parents, or previous youth out there with an opinion to share?

    [poll id=”68″]

    What do you think?  Discuss.

    Comments

    comments

    Comments 107

    1. I also think that a parent should be on the other side of the door, and that a time limit should be set. Not giving enough time for anything bad to happen.

      Just to be on the safe side.

    2. This is certainly a sticky topic. I understand that the church cares about people’s sexual lives as it represents a moral purity that is tied to doctrine. I’m fairly liberal on the subject of sexual purity and must confess that I absolutely do not understand the doctrine that drives it (despite my best efforts even when I was TBM).

      Having admitted this, I would probably choose to do away with such “worthiness interviews” altogether. Rather, I would push the idea that parents should talk with their kids about what it means to be worthy. When the time comes to get a TR, the bishop need only ask one question: “do you keep the law of chastity”? If the youth does not understand the details of what that means, the bishop could speak with the parents of the child or with a trusted youth leader (given the child’s consent). In the event that the child has committed something not in harmony with the law of chastity, I think the parents should sit in on the confession. If the child doesn’t want the parents there, a referral to an LDS Family Services counsellor would be in order.

      I understand the Mormon idea that the Bishop has the “keys” and authority to be a “judge in Zion,” but this in no way qualifies him for counselling on sexual matters. I think this is a little bit irresponsible on the part of the church to allow Bishops to continue to counsel in these matters. I suspect it will come back to bite them one of these days. Older male bishop, talking about sexual matters with a 14 year old girl just doesn’t make for a good situation by any stretch of the imagination.

    3. The only adults who should have this kind of authority in a CHILD’s life are the parents. Our two teenagers recently had temple baptism interviews. We told the bishop before hand that there were to be no questions beyond, “Are you morally clean?” He agreed and respected our wishes. We followed up with our kids, and he had kept his word.

    4. This is a tough one for me. On the one hand, all of my experiences with confession, with the exception of one, have been immensely helpful for me in turning over a new leaf and getting a fresh start. On the other hand, looking back I would not today feel half as guilty as I did for the stuff I’d confess. So I wonder if maybe the confession experience was beneficial because it was relieving me of artificial, unnecessary guilt I was carrying around. I was also glad confession was something I could do without parents in the room, as much as I love my parents.

      I want my children to be able to benefit from the experience of confession, but I don’t want them to carry around the excessive guilt I did about some things.

      All in all, I think there should be a narrowing down of what actually needs to be confessed, reserving confession only for the most serious transgressions.

      In addition, I like jmb’s suggestion about asking just one question regarding chastity: “do you keep the law of chastity” rather than asking any probing questions. If the answer to that question is “no” then I think it should be left at that, without any probing about what the specific indiscretions are. The Bishop can then counsel about the importance of chastity, etc. But the details remain undisclosed.

      Regarding whether it’s appropriate for Bishops to be alone with youth, I had an interesting experience with that recently. My 8 year old daughter told me she’d been interviewed by the Bishop for her baptism. For some reason, I was bothered that it had occurred without my knowing about it. I love my Bishop to death and trust him completely. Yet there was something about a man being in a room alone with my daughter without my knowledge that just bothered me. Perhaps I’m being an overprotective parent, but perhaps when children are involved, parents should be informed that the interview will be occurring and requested to be present.

    5. “In addition, I like jmb’s suggestion about asking just one question regarding chastity: “do you keep the law of chastity” rather than asking any probing questions. If the answer to that question is “no” then I think it should be left at that, without any probing about what the specific indiscretions are.”

      if you really know anything about teenagers, you’d know that they would never answer the question that was asked. They would answer the question they want to. Even as a parent, you have to probe.

      PinkPatient,

      “We told the bishop before hand that there were to be no questions beyond, “Are you morally clean?”’

      Do you do that for temple interviews as well? Tell the Bishop what questions he can ask?

    6. Jeff:

      The temple recommend questions are a standard set and members of the bishopric and stake presidency are instructed not to deviate from those questions. So in essence yes you can tell the bishop what questions he can and cannot ask.

    7. jmb – Agree wholeheartedly.

      I would do away with worthiness interviews entirely. I’ve seen the harm they have caused in my husband’s life as a youth. Youth are not really more likely to confide to a Bishop than to a loving parent; when confiding to a Bishop, it is typically under “duress”; and Bishops aren’t trained to handle these things. Bishop’s responses to same-sex attraction among youth is a perfect example.

      If there MUST be interviews, it should be wish a same-gender leader and the parents should have the option of being present. In regards to this, I also think that grown women should be able to meet with their RS presidents rather than the Bishop for interviews, callings, etc. I for one feel very uncomfortable in a tiny room alone with a leader of the Bishopric.

      It should probably be noted in all this that I have serious issues in general with “disfellowshipping” and excommunications as a policy. In my opinion, God doesn’t need us to “confess” to men our sins. We should have a better relationship with Him than that. And disfellowshipping only cuts a person off from fellowship within the ward when they need it most.

    8. The church handbook says this in regards to interviews:

      “Leaders should encourage parents to stay close to their children and counsel them, allowing local Church leaders to act in a supporting role.”

      The questions for the Youth limited use temple recommends are the same as for the adults.

    9. Hehe, in my blog reader the font was such that I thought the title was “Worthless Interviews”. Though, I wouldn’t say they’re worthless. I could see some reasonable changes. Thinking from a youth’s perspective, I don’t think I’d want my parents in the room during a confession. But I would understand having them in the room when the details of the rest of the repentance process were discussed. Parents should know about that kind of thing. But requiring it is a tiny step beyond feasible, in my opinion. What to do about youth whose parents have consented to their baptism but are otherwise disinterested in the church? The requirement wouldn’t do much for that family. There should be other people near regardless of who is in the interview or why they’re there. An interview that is extra-early or late wouldn’t be appropriate. I wonder if a parent sitting right on the other side of the door would be able to hear what’s going on. Were I a youth, that would foster the same apprehension as having my parents in the room. My parents were very loving, but I didn’t always reciprocate as a teen.

      As far as interviewing with other leaders, I think that would change the relationship between the youth and their leader. In particular I think of young women and the bond they tend to form with their leaders. I think interviewing with a YW president about very personal things would make that relationship at least a bit awkward. For adults, I could see the value of women meeting with the RS president, though that kind of runs contrary to the nature of bishops’ and RS presidents’ callings. You would get into the whole keys of a calling issue, and there would have to be some sizable changes.

      Aside from all this, it is an important thing for bishops to be reasonably and genuinely concerned for the welfare of the youth in their ward. They really can play an important role in youths’ lives if they carry it out correctly. (I suppose the whole point of all this, though, is to understand what ‘correctly’ is.)

    10. Have any of you ever conducted a worthiness interview? It’s a real drag, especially when someone confesses something actionable.

      Your suggestions for improvement are in no sense innovative, but merely reflect current best practices. The vast majority of Bishops and Branch Presidents have no desire to discuss sexual behaviors with fourteen-year-olds, and usually leave things at “do you live the law of chastity?” Most of these leaders have no desire to offer “theraputic” advice, and so focus their comments on helping the young souls in their care stop sinning.

      If you have issues with the concept of worthiness, that’s fine. But should you be offering advice on how to conduct worthiness interviews?

    11. I have no problem with the idea of Bishops counselling youth, I just don’t like the idea of them counselling youth regarding serious issues such as an active case of drug abuse, or anything sexual. The proper protocol should be for Bishops to immediately turn these matters over to the parents and then stay out of it. I am not opposed necessarily, though it would depend on the Bishop, to infrequent visits with the youth about spirituality. Discussions about the Priesthood or Young Women advancement, or even general and non-child specific discussions about chastity, I think are also fine. This is the role of clergy, and many ministers of many faiths take this prerogative and handle it appropriately (some don’t). I just don’t like the idea of Bishops probing specifically into the behavior of youth, and I don’t like the idea that as a culture we stress the idea that the real authorities who should be addressing “sinful” behavior with the youth, is the Bishop – you know, the accountant who lives across the street. In the case of adults, I have really no issue with Bishops asking probing questions, if the adult doesn’t like it they can/should leave.

    12. I always hated these interviews, whether I was the youth or the adult having to do the interviews. I think they should be discontinued as an invasion of privacy. The youth should be taught correct principles but they don’t need some authority figure grilling them from time to time to make sure they are on the strait and narrow. If they come to you for help, that is different, but to call people in for interviews is one of the practices we need to change.

    13. An excellent source for an answer to the main question is the LDS official site. Just plug in “Bishop’s interview” in the seach engine.

    14. How can a Bishop turn the matter over to the parents after a child confesses? That confession is a matter of privacy and the Bishop has no right to divulge it to any other person. The Bishop should encourage the child to go to their parents, but whether or not the child says anything to the parents is the child’s decision, not the Bishop’s.

    15. If our children are being interviewed, then it is our duty as parents to set guidelines for what is and what is not appropriate to discuss with our MINOR children. If our bishop had not agreed to our request, we simply would not have allowed our children to be interviewed. The adults handled this in a non-confrontational and understanding manner.

    16. In interviewing 12 and 13 year-old children for baptism trip interviews, 75% or so do not understand the term “law of chastity”. Remember, these kids are just out of primary. So, as an interviewer, it is a challenge to explain what it is in terms that would be considered appropriate for and older man interviewing the younger boy or girl and yet make sure that they understand the meaning.

      If a parent came to me and said we have taught our child the meaning of the law of chastity and ask that you ask them only if they are “morally clean”, I would tend to agree to do so, depending on how well I knew the parents. It would actually be a relief to know in advance that the parents have prepared them for the interview in this way. I have not been the Bishop, and quickly turn over to him the interviews that might be difficult. I also try, as a counselor, to do my interviews in a room where the door has a small window where passers by can see me and the interviewee. Actually all classroom doors in our building have been adapted to have such windows.

      There are other questions on the standard list that get the same deer in the headlights looks from the younger youth. The words per sentence are quite long–president only one with with keys; affiliate with those who oppose, etc. A lot has to be explained. The one which the youth often began to confess on is whether their conduct with their family is in harmony with the gospel. This is a chance to reassure and allay the tendency to harbor guilt.

      I think of the interview of a young youth as preparing the person for their NEXT interview. They know better what is expected of them not only to pass the interview, but how to be more “temple worthy” between this temple trip and the next.

    17. I don’t believe in a principle of privacy that generally suggests Children, or those in whom Children confide, have a right or obligation to keep serious matters of a childs conduct and/or welfare, secret from reasonable parents. The obvious exceptions to this would instances where parents are generally abusive and part of the problem. Other than that I don’t believe a child has those same rights to privacy. We wouldn’t tolerate the notion of school teachers not sharing important details regarding their students lives, so why would we give a Bishop a green light. Lastly, with Geb’s comments in mind, why would a Bishop want to? If I were a Bishop in a sticky situation with a youth who confided something to me, I would gladly turn the matter over to their parents, and just trust that they will take care of it.

    18. I’d like to see the YW leaders do the interviews for the YW. Although we love our Bishop, not all are terrific.

      I have some concerns with Bishopric interviews. Years ago in one my brother confessed that he was gay. The bishop then told his wife who told many people in the ward. Many details were shared. I remember being 12 or 13 (and not knowing my brother was gay) and a friends mom told me what was happening. When the other boys in the ward found out and started making fun of him he attempted suicide. I strongly feel that having all the neighbors know about this (I later found out he desperately didn’t want to be gay) that the gossip was a contributing factor in his suicide attempt. He never again went to church and has since joined another church. My husband and I have told our children not to confess to the Bishop. If there is a problem we are there for them and the Lord is always there for them.

    19. Rigel Hawthorne, thanks for being so considerate. And yes, DH and I explained chastity and being morally clean to our children before the interviews.

    20. I agree with Cowboy (20) in that the matter should be turned over to the parents. We hear so often the emphasis on the importance of parenting with the guidance of the spirit. The parents should be involved in the issue, as they are the ones primarily responsible for their childrens’ welfare. However, I would not say that bishops should have no role–that they should just stay out of it from the confession on. A bishop can be helpful in providing important spiritual guidance, particularly in the form of helping them along the path of repentance. But parents should be aware of the situation and involved wherever possible.

      And I want to echo my own comment about YW getting interviewed by their YW leaders: that can change the relationship between youth and their leaders dramatically, and could have a detrimental effect on the valuable bond between young women and their leaders. I’ve seen over and over how important and influential that bond can be for the young women, and it seems there has to be another solution that wouldn’t taint the youth-leader relationship with reservations about interviews.

    21. I would prefer having my TR interview with a female. Maybe the Stake RS President, or something like that. Its kind of creepy having a man, other than my husband, ask me about my underwear. I hate that part.

    22. #5 – Wow, Jeff, as sensitive as ever. You know, it’s possible that someone other than you might know something about his or her own child, even if it’s a teenager. Not likely, I realize, but within the realm of possibility. It’s good to know that there’s still someone in the blogosphere upholding the age old LDS mantra that people, especially children, can’t be trusted to make any decisions or interpretations without the handholding of an enlightened ecclesiastical leader. Tell me Jeff, why is it that the ripe old age of 8 is old enough to make binding covenants regarding what religion a person wants to belong to for the rest of his or her life, the breaking of which lead to damnation, but apparently a teenager isn’t old enough to be trusted to honestly answer a question about their chastity without being grilled like a common criminal in an interrogation room at the local precinct? The idea that children would lie about their chastity if asked an open-ended question but would spill their guts if poked, prodded and probed to an appropriately uncomfortable degree is laughable. If an adolescent doesn’t want to confess a moral sin of their own volition, then they aren’t really involved in the repentance process anyway, and a degrading fishing expedition for prurient details serves absolutely no purpose.

    23. I would not want my teenage daughter being asked about what she is or isn’t doing with boys. And I’m pretty sure I would feel that way whether I were active in the church or not. Just my personal view.

    24. When my Son met with our Bishop before we went to the temple, I told him he was going to ask if he was untruthful. As soon as he stepped out of his office my Son said: “He didn’t ask me that, Dad.”

      ‘Well, he asked me that.’ Was all I was thinking.

    25. Brjones, #25

      “Tell me Jeff, why is it that the ripe old age of 8 is old enough to make binding covenants regarding what religion a person wants to belong to for the rest of his or her life, the breaking of which lead to damnation, but apparently a teenager isn’t old enough to be trusted to honestly answer a question about their chastity without being grilled like a common criminal in an interrogation room at the local precinct? ‘

      Did I say that? Did I say grilled? Did I say common criminal? No, I didn’t. I’d advise you to worry about what you say instead of being so judgemental about other’s comments. You don’t have to agree with me, but you can keep your judgements to yourself.

    26. Jeff, sorry for the over the top rhetoric directed at you personally. My reaction was really in response to the policy and shouldn’t have been directed at you. I do think your comment about the nature of teenagers was a bit presumptious, though.

    27. Re: Jeff Spector
      “if you really know anything about teenagers, you’d know that they would never answer the question that was asked. They would answer the question they want to. Even as a parent, you have to probe.”

      I disagree with the generality here. I’m sure it’s true for some, but I personally was not like this at all. Quite the opposite. I absolutely understood the law of chastity (to an obsessive degree) and answered it honestly to the point of being ridiculous. I was one of those who was so worried about being “okay” that I saw the bishop over silly things (in retrospect).

      I agree with brjones that we don’t give teenagers enough credit. They don’t need to be probed especially if parents have taken the time to explain things to them, after all it’s their job and I would encourage that route. I think probing gives the impression of suspicion which implies distrust. Unless done very carefully it can hurt a likely already delicate relationship with a teenager.

    28. # 25 brjones
      Sep 29th, 2009 at 5:09 pm

      #5 – Wow, Jeff, as sensitive as ever. Y. . . children, can’t be trusted to make any decisions or interpretations without the handholding of an enlightened ecclesiastical leader.”

      A key principle in Mormon doctrine is that of free agency. We’re all free to reject any of the standard policies and practices of the church. I guess we’re also free to castigate those who suggest that perhaps the standard practices might be based on reason and wisdom. Still, we’re all free to do and say whatever we want.

      Asking a young man or woman who appears to be confused about what the law of chastity is questions to help them understand that law can be done tastefully and tactfully. The mere asking of such questions by a male priesthood leader does not make such leader a pervert. Maybe, just maybe, that leader is attempting to help the youth. I know, that’s a stretch, but it is possible.

    29. Furthermore, in about 75% of the youth interviews I’ve conducted, the youth didn’t have a clue about the definition of the law of chastity. My guess is that the parents weren’t as in charge of things (teaching) as some here have suggested they are.

    30. Mike B., I think that’s the point. I think most here would agree that parents aren’t taking that role because within the current construct that’s the bishop’s domain. I have no doubt that teens today don’t currently understand the law of chastity. What’s being suggested, I think, is that if the policy was one where parents were encouraged to clearly teach children and the children would evaluate their own worthiness, those kids would, in fact, know whether they were meeting it or not. Obviously honesty would be an issue, but isn’t it already? I’m still curious why 8 years old is old enough to make voluntary life altering decisions with eternal ramifications, but 14 or 16 is not old enough to interpret one’s own moral worthiness. I also think the voluntary nature of true repentance is implicated here. Don’t you ultimately want kids who confess their sins because they know they’ve done wrong and feel godly sorrow, not because they were asked a litany of questions and had it coerced out of them?

    31. Even the question: “Do you obey the law of chastity?” is too intrusive. After all, to an unmarried teen or adult, that question has only two meanings–1. Are you sexual with yourself, and 2. Are you sexual with others. Neither of these questions is anyone’s business. It is particularly unseemly for an unrelated older man (no matter WHAT his calling) to be asking these questions of girls and single women. No woman should feel forced to answer questions about her sexual activity or thoughts. That, in itself, is abusive.

    32. I suppose we should throw out the interviews, and just issue temple recommends to anyone that asks for them. We should just trust that anyone who asks for a recommend is automatically deemed worthy. Asking people questions is just too intrusive.

    33. #29, brjones

      “I do think your comment about the nature of teenagers was a bit presumptuous, though.”

      I am only going by my experiences with 4 teenagers, soon to have a 5th, a large number of Church interviews and doing the music at countless Church dances. Having some of the greatest kids I know ask me to play songs which were totally inappropriate and when asked about it, have them say, “really, why?” And when I respond, third verse, second line,” then they’d say, “Oh, yeah”

      That’s all, my own experience as a church leader, father and once, along time ago, a teenager myself.

    34. Re 35:
      “I suppose we should throw out the interviews, and just issue temple recommends to anyone that asks for them. We should just trust that anyone who asks for a recommend is automatically deemed worthy. Asking people questions is just too intrusive.”

      Actually, that is exactly what I would like to see. After all, in the early church there were no TRs. People went freely to the temple on a sort of honor system. It’s a rather strange concept to me that temple attendance is reserved for those who are worthy when those who are unworthy (sinners) need more attention from the Master.

      In any case, I don’t think that’s the general sentiment here. As a society we want to curb abuse, yet honor morality and priesthood authority. Sexual intimacy is a touchy topic around which much abuse circulates. There are many instances of priesthood sexual abuse in interview situations. It might be a good idea to try to ensure those situations don’t happen. Generally, I fall on the side of placing more responsibility on parents to teach their children (especially with moral issues) and absolve schools, and church leaders of this responsibility. It is a sad trend in our society (and one that plenty of conservatives whine about) that we are pushing responsibility for raising our children to the schools to alleviate responsibility for parents. Shouldn’t this same sentiment go for church leaders as well?

    35. Just wondering: Is there any rule against having another person present during an interview? Or is it just the custom that the interview be one-on-one?

    36. It distubsme that multple males in my ward have the right to know the sexual habits of my young teenage daughter, my college student daughter, or my 45 year old sister who is still single, whether this information is gathered from an interview question or a confession.

      As married men themselves, these leaders aren’t asked whether or not they touch themselves or when their last sexual experience was. The interviews of teens and single people are calculated to shame them into not having sex. Can’t we just teach people correct principles and allow them to govern themselves?

    37. Post
      Author

      jmb – “After all, in the early church there were no TRs. People went freely to the temple on a sort of honor system.” That’s kind of true, but with the caveat that it was truly a “recommendation,” meaning that your bishop subjectively thought you looked worthy (based on the whiteness of your teeth or some other such observation) and recommended you to attend. Members as young as 12 were recommended for an endowment.

      Additionally, some members were further recommended for a second anointing, meaning that no matter what they did from that time forward, they would be exalted. This became problematic because some people who received second anointing later committed grevious sins. Theoretically, the second anointings were discontinued, although there are some who say that they still occur secretly for only the highest muckity-mucks, which sounds like total conspiracy theory to me, but stranger things have happened!

    38. jmb275, 37

      “Actually, that is exactly what I would like to see. After all, in the early church there were no TRs. People went freely to the temple on a sort of honor system. It’s a rather strange concept to me that temple attendance is reserved for those who are worthy when those who are unworthy (sinners) need more attention from the Master.”

      Not exactly true, according to Edward Kimball’s article from the Journal of Mormon History, “The History of LDS Temple Admission Standards” (Spring 1998), members were “recommended” for Temple attendance by their local leader to the President of the Church. Aftrer 1891, Bishops and Stake presidents issued recommends to receive Temple Ordinances. The first official printed recommends came about in the 1920s.

      It’s still on the honor system as anyone is free to answer the questions truthfully or not.

    39. When you think about it, which other sins are there that warrant (by tradition) an automatic appointment alone with an unrelated man to talk about sex?

    40. I do not really have time to read all the comments this week. But did want to add my two-penny-worth. I think that in dealing with this issue it is best to be vague, or perhaps more accurately, I think we should stick to the question which is intentionally (I think) vague. It is possible to explain what the ‘law of chastity’ is and the Church have provided a number of sensitive and respectful definitions in the For the Strength of Youth Pamphlets and other places. As I scanned I noticed that someone mentioned keys and I understand to mean that a Bishop has the right to delegate some of that work. For example, if a young girl came to me with those sorts of issues I would perhaps ask the Young Women’s President/Parent/Relief Society President to be the one who deals with the issue in a discursive fashion (in that they would help them deal with the issue long-term) while I would be the person to finally decide what action needs to be taken. I think this still invovles counselling with the person that this is delegated to regularly. I get this from my Stake President who often uses Home teachers to help people through their repentance if they have a good relationship already.

    41. What I find most disturbing about this discussion as well as some others, is how the influence of the world and the over-sexualizing of society has begun to creep into the conversation. As it is somehow that standard that the church should abide by rather than the standards the Lord has set.

      Certainly, the church and its leaders should do everything in their power to prevent any form of abuse, there is little to no evidence presented that Priesthood interviews with the youth leads to abusive behavior. Does it happen, I am afraid it does. But not so much to warrant some of the suggestions being made here. The church, unfortunately, has had to take steps, at least here in the US, to prevent any opportunity for abuse to take place, they cannot totally prevent a determined perpetrator from acting out. Those people need to be caught and thrown in jail.

      But to paint interviews with such a broad brush in certainly unwarranted.

    42. #40 – Hawk, are you insane to broach a subject like Second Anointings? This makes me wonder if you just like setting the stage and then sitting back and watching the fireworks.

    43. Re: 40 and 41
      Thanks for correcting me. I knew that it wasn’t a free for all (I didn’t mean to make it sound like that), but I wasn’t aware of the specifics. Thanks for pointing that out. I could be wrong, but I was under the impression that it was more “available” to more people (partially because there were fewer rules to follow, e.g. WoW).

      In any case, in the interest of avoiding a threadjack I won’t continue with this topic.

    44. Barring perhaps the argument of Youth Temple Recommend’s for Baptisms for the Dead, I am not sure the Temple Recommend interview is really intrusive. I don’t see the problem with a Church maintaining requirements that members should adhere to a specific moral code in order to recieve the full benefit of membership, which includes interviews ecclesiastical interviews. Adults, who in good concience, submit themselves to a Church and it’s authorities, should generally take full responsibility for the worthiness interview. If they don’t like it or agree with how it is handled, then leave or don’t submit. It is these interviews in the context of youth that I find disturbing. It is in the case of youth that these interviews can lead to abuse more directly. More importantly, it diminishes the role and influence of parents, who are most often better equipped to address the sensitive pitfalls of adolesence with their specific Children. They will naturally be more concerned than a Bishop for the overall well being of their Children, and they will also be more intimately aware of their childs specific circumstances. That being said, it does not follow that an interview with clergy equals abuse. Bishops ought to be able to play a role in the lives of the youth, that role just ought to be that of a spiritual guide. Generally I think most Bishops do this, and would prefer not to get involved in discussions over the actual sexual habits of their youth. What really ought to change is just the culture of thought which directs youth to confess these very personal aspects of development with their neighbors, ie, the LDS Bishop.

      On a side note, I doubt very much that most or many LDS youth don’t understand the Law of Chastity, even if they don’t quite understand the word “chastity”. Having been a youth not so long ago, and interacting with several, I am here to tell you they know the “rules”. I would agree that sexually, teenagers are not at all rational, but it isn’t for a lack of understanding as much as it is for unequal distribution of blood flow. When teenagers act “stupid” during interviews or discussions about sexuality and chastity, don’t mistake their unwillingness to talk freely as sign of ignorance.

    45. Re: 44
      “What I find most disturbing about this discussion as well as some others, is how the influence of the world and the over-sexualizing of society has begun to creep into the conversation. As it is somehow that standard that the church should abide by rather than the standards the Lord has set.”

      To paint those concerned about sexual discussions between men and young girls with such a broad brush is certainly unwarranted.
      “But not so much to warrant some of the suggestions being made here.”

      Which suggestions specifically? Could you then put a number on how many it would take to warrant some of these suggestions? What if it were your daughter who was the recipient of such abuse? Would it then be worth worrying about?

      To me, even one incident is too many. What is so important about “explaining” the law of chastity to teenagers that we are willing to pay the price of probing them on such delicate issues that should be the domain of parents anyway? My suggestion is to push for parents explaining the law of chastity to their children and simply having the bishop ask the question “do you keep the law of chastity.” Is there some part of church policy or doctrine or the “standards the Lord has set” with which this idea does not align? After all, as has been pointed out, the question is the way it is for a reason. It is vague on purpose.

    46. Post
      Author

      Cowboy – “On a side note, I doubt very much that most or many LDS youth don’t understand the Law of Chastity” I kind of doubt this too, based on my own time as a YW. We used to delight in asking stupid questions to embarrass our teacher who was a little unprepared for frank sex talk. That was just us being deviants.

      However, I have heard a few things that give me pause. A friend of mine who was a bishop in a West Valley, SLC ward said that their stake did a survey to determine if the youth understood the gravity of different sins, what required a confession and so forth. The majority of those polled considered swearing to be worse than the sexual sins listed. And very few were aware what was a “confessable” sin and what was not – they just didn’t have clearly identifies boundaries. This was about 10 years ago, and perhaps their stake was some weird exception. It seems more likely to me that in areas where the church is prevalent parents may rely too much on assuming their kids will know things as part of tribal knowledge and so they don’t educate them. Not growing up in Utah, I can only say that the sexual naifs I have met in the church have all been from the great state of Utah.

    47. #48,

      “To paint those concerned about sexual discussions between men and young girls with such a broad brush is certainly unwarranted.”

      First of all, we are not talking about men in the plural, anyone who cares to ask basis. We are talking about one man, who has been called to be the Bishop of the Ward and has responsibilities given him as a result. I am in complete agreement that untoward questions and probing is not acceptable. But, in some cases, to accept a confession, some detail is required. Frankly, most men I know wold be embarrassed to have to have a conversation even with their own children about sex, let alone someone else’s. I have no problem with the idea that if it is clear that a young person has no understanding of the law of chastity and what it really means, then refer that child back to a parent for the discussion. And i would inform the parent of that fact as well.

      “Which suggestions specifically?”

      The suggestions that there would be no interviews, that Bishops should not ask morality questions, that we should just leave children and parents to their own devices, etc. The fact is that a great youth leader can have a major impact on the life of a YM or YW that parents can’t always have. It would be a shame to dilute the ability to have that impact over paranoia.

    48. “What is so important about “explaining” the law of chastity to teenagers that we are willing to pay the price of probing them on such delicate issues that should be the domain of parents anyway?”

      It seems most of the time Bishops are involved in delicate issues that are the domain of the parents are in families where the parents feel they are in crisis over their child’s behavior and are asking for shepherding. I am glad most people here can carry on conversations about sexuality freely and openly with their children. That wasn’t the case with my parents. Advantages I had were that we didn’t face issues of parental unemployment, parental mental illness, welfare/disability or fraudulent use of, blending mixed families, or providing care in the home for extended family. Where parents are tied up with other issues, the strength of the ward family becomes more important.

    49. “The fact is that a great youth leader can have a major impact on the life of a YM or YW that parents can’t always have.”

      The same could be said for a “great” school teacher, or neighbor, etc. I still don’t want them asking probing questions about a youth’s sexuality, especially in a way that circumvents the parents out of a false sense of “privacy”. Now, on the other hand, if you are a school teacher, or a Bishop, or a pizza delivery guy, and a teenager who is not your child, due to no probing on the adults part, volunteers information about themselves, then mabey there is a little budge room here. The best protocol is to get the parents involved, and then get out, but that leaves some room for basic counsel – not ongoing. If a kid who was not my son for instance, volunteered to me that he was considering sexual activity with his girlfriend, and wanted my advice. I wouldn’t blink an eye to give him my opinion that he should not be sexually active at his age, but then I absolutely tell his parents. In the future if he continued to bring these issues to me, then I would steer him towards his parents and request that he not bring these issues to me, once again emphasizing that he should not be considering this. So, I think this leaves some room for a Bishop and that is fine, however, the parents should be the ones dealing with this matter. We as a culture, should not be encouraging an alternative route. Just to expound one point, I don’t know that I would even object to the notion of a Bishop interviewing a teenager/child/whatever, following a sexual transgression, if the interview was prompted and attended by the youth and their parents/guardians. If your religious convictions tell you that in order to resolve this matter for you spiritually, a Bishops participation is needed, then this could be healthy, so long as the parents were involved first, and then throughout the process. Such an interview would not require that the details be too specific, just enough for spiritual reconcilliation. I think there area where boundaries are crossed is when a Bishop takes the initiative to interrogate a youth in order to determine guilt.

    50. “A friend of mine who was a bishop in a West Valley, SLC ward said that their stake did a survey to determine if the youth understood the gravity of different sins, what required a confession and so forth. The majority of those polled considered swearing to be worse than the sexual sins listed. And very few were aware what was a “confessable” sin and what was not – they just didn’t have clearly identifies boundaries.”

      I think this is a problem in many cases. Heck, as an adult, I still have a somewhat vague idea about what ‘should’ be confessed to the Bishop and what shouldn’t. I know when I did talk to a bishop as a teenager (who was my dad), he said nothing at all about what I confessed, but much more about avoiding where it could lead (sin y). Perhaps that meant that my sin x doesn’t need to be confessed to a Bishop, but sin y (which can follow from x) does? I’m still not sure. A few years later, still not quite up to perfection, I talked to another bishop about x, and he said if I did it again, I’d lose my recommend; I was more confused. Now, however, I don’t really feel I need to talk to any bishop about sin x now, and am not even sure it should be labeled a ‘sin’. But I do feel strongly that my ideas about sin x have come through long talks with God about His thoughts and mine, and what I need to change in my life right now. So I feel comfortable with my decision.

      My point is that at least in regards to chastity, there is *not* a clear standard of what should/shouldn’t be confessed to a Bishop about. (Ugh, sorry about the dangling preposition. 🙁 ) However, I think that this is possibly a good thing, but will be really hard for the youth unless we totally change how we talk about obedience, sin, and repentance (which would be a huge threadjack, and I won’t go there right now). Lists are easier to deal with, but I think they diminish our ability to relate with God (e.g. D&C 58:26-27 where God says, paraphrasing: Good grief folks, I gave you a brain, use it!!!!!).

      But as far as the interview goes, everyone (youth included) should:
      1. Know the questions before hand (word for word).
      2. Know why the interview is being given, and what the role of the Bishop is. I usually pretend that he isn’t there, and just pretend I’m talking with God. With my vivid imagination, it works out rather well.
      3. Answer all the questions to yourself before you go in, usually after a good bit of discussion with God first.
      4. Know the main times when you should confess to a Bishop: Murder, Adultery, Fornication (which should probably be spelled out to the Youth).
      4b. Know what does not need to be confessed (although discussion may be helpful) with a Bishop. I have a personal list of what goes on this list, but it may vary for others, so I won’t post it.
      5. Be told expressly that any other questions about any other topic is out of bounds, and youth should be told what to do if others are asked.
      6. Talk with the youth that their first place to turn should *always* be their parents. Then, and only then, they can turn to youth leaders (YM,YW, Bisopbric) for help.

    51. Re: 47 & 52 Cowboy
      It would seem that Cowboy is doing a better job than me of articulating what I think, so I will just voice my agreement with him. Well said Cowboy. A moderate stance that leaves responsibility with the parent, but leaves the door open for ecclesiastical counsel is what I’m trying to say.

    52. I had some pretty traumatic experiences with bishop’s interviews as a kid. In general, I think worthiness interviews are unreasonable and borderline abusive–ESPECIALLY because they discuss matters of sexuality. Even if they didn’t, the very idea of the institution “checking in” makes me extremely uncomfortable. The way I see it, my sins are between me, the offended party (if there is one), and God.

      If my daughter were to turn 12 tomorrow, I would probably prohibit her from attending worthiness interviews. Of course, I don’t mind the bishop meeting or interacting with her on a more general level, but I’d ask him to refrain from asking her worthiness questions of any kind. If she felt she had something she’d like counsel on, she could feel free to approach him of her own will and volition–and if it was something serious, I’d want to know about it.

    53. Interesting how this discussion focused on one question when my understanding was that tithing & WoW issues are more likely to be challenges for most members. As a youth I didn’t feel that the interviews were intrussive. The questions start with a review of one’s underlying testimony of the truths of the Gospel. If those aren’t understood and truthfully answered to the affirmative_ does anything else really matter?

    54. #52,

      “The same could be said for a “great” school teacher, or neighbor, etc. ”

      Of course, they can, but we’re not talking about those people. We are talking about Church!

    55. Part of the problem as I see it is the structure of church leadership. Bishops and counselors change every few years. “punishment” for sexual sins is often public, and people are gossiped about or formally discussed at meetings.

      Sometimes bishops ask clarifying questions that elicit TMI from confessors who are led to believe a confession should be thorough.

      The balance of power is too great. In the ase of youth interviews, all of their interviewers will be older, male, and married. By its very nature, the law of chastity prohibits any sexual behavior whatsoever, including thoughts. Since most people are sexual to some degree, just about everyone breaks the law of chastity if they are not married. The big problem occurs in uniform implementation. Some bisop require that their ward members confess everything from “trouble with thoughts” to masturbation and making out. Other bishops only want to hear about intercourse. Some bishops discipline lightly, and not at all. I had a bishop in one ward who disfellowshipped my single 40 year old friend for using a vibrator, while the next year I moved to a branch in another state wher I served with a sister in a RS presidency who was living with her boyfriend!

      This is a nosy, nosy church. We know too much about the sex lives of our teens and singles. It’d one of the perks of high leadership, it seems. It has to stop!

    56. Janet, #58,

      “This is a nosy, nosy church. We know too much about the sex lives of our teens and singles. It’d one of the perks of high leadership, it seems. It has to stop!”

      Really? I, for one, am not the least bit interested an anyone’s sex life. this is not an accurate statement. Plus, good leaders do not gossip about the members they have stewardship over. Typically, it is the members (young and old) themselves who spill their own beans.

    57. Jeff #57:

      The point was that just because an adult, other than the childs parents, can have a “profound influence” on a childs life, that does not give them license to tresspass the rights and obligations of good parents. Let’s take for example a situation where a teenager in a certain ward is seen, perhaps by members of their Priests Quorumn or Young Woman’s group, at a party/anything engaging in sexual behavior (I know, this isn’t likely, but for the sake of example). Now this teenagers peers take this information and pass it along to their Bishop. The Bishop now has a couple of options:

      1) They could ignore it

      2) They could call the teenager in question into an interview and begin inquiring into the teenagers sexual history.

      3) They could take the matter directly to the teenagers parents, and extend a polite invitation to help with the repentance process in concert with the parents, if it turns out that ecclesiastical “confession” is necessary.

      Well, it would be very irresponsible to just ignore information that when used appropriately could help avert a major teenage blunder, assuming that there is not good reason to question claims. That leaves us with either option 2 or 3. I am just politely trying to suggest that as a ward member with Children, I would personally tear the Bishops head off with my bare hands if the Child in question was my son or daughter, and he chose option 2. If my child was eighteen or older, then I would expect them to manage their religious affiliation without my direct assistance, but while they are under that age, I expect the ward leadership to respect my role as a parent as being primary to their role as Church leader.

      Unprompted interviews that come naturally with advancement could be managed in a way that take full advantage of parents as a utility to this process, so I see no real reason for Bishops to addressing the sexual history of their youth, particularly on either a one on one basis, or without notice to the parents.

    58. Jeff,

      Your post suggests that people just arbitrarily offer private information to church leaders. That’s what I find hard to believe! Don’t you think that people talk about their private lives to church leaders because they believe it is religiously necessary? If it’s uncomfortable for leaders who might not want to hear about their ward members’ sex lives but are REQUIRED to– how do you think the member feel? It’s wrong all around.

      Church leaders DO talk about discipline and problems with youth and singles with chastity issues. It’s the nature of the system.

    59. Janet,

      “Your post suggests that people just arbitrarily offer private information to church leaders.”

      I said nothing even resembling that. I said good leader do not gossip about information they obtain in private interviews and that people usually blab about themselves to others who may pass it along.

      “60, I do not like straw-dog scenarios that you then tear down. so, I’ll not comment on it.

      I would venture to gues that most active parents have no problem with Bishop’s interviews of their youth. And welcome the assistance to help their YM or YW through a trial. I think those complaining are a distinct minority.

    60. “I would venture to gues that most active parents have no problem with Bishop’s interviews of their youth. And welcome the assistance to help their YM or YW through a trial. I think those complaining are a distinct minority.”

      This is probably true, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re right. I’m not saying they’re wrong, but the fact that most members of the church accept something doesn’t mean it’s correct.

    61. Sorry to misunderstood, Jeff. It was you who claimed people “spilled their own beans”, which I took to mean that they were inordinately open with bishops about their private lives. If the system didn’t demand that penitents confess all sexual activity (unmarried) to bishops, stake presidents, etc., would people really voluntarily do so?

      I have a reeeaaaaaaally hard time believing that single adults and teens are blabbing about sexual escapades. Who wants to be called into the bishop’s office or a church court? The opportunity cost is too high. I have been in more than a dozen singles wards and branches in seven states. I’ve also been in leadership positions there and over YW in family wards. I have concrete examples of everything I have mentioned. I also know from personal experience how psychologically harmful these practices can be: attempting to shame young people into being asexual or ashamed of their harmless sexual activity.

    62. “I have a reeeaaaaaaally hard time believing that single adults and teens are blabbing about sexual escapades.”

      Really, you think that LDS youth and singles are THAT different from others? Especially if they are sexually active. They share information with their “friends,” even of an intimate nature and that can “get around.”

      “attempting to shame young people into being asexual or ashamed of their harmless sexual activity.’

      Isn’t chastity a commandment?

    63. From an objective standpoint, I agree with the majority of the comments in this thread. From an LDS internal consistency standpoint, though, I think Jeff is the only one with a leg to stand on. The church has laid down the program for dealing with the youth, and for repenting of “greivous” sins generally, and the church’s position is that those things must be shared with an ecclesiastical leader, to the degree of specificity required by that leader, acting in accordance with the spirit. I think it’s difficult to argue that the church should change its policy if you really believe it is inspired. I think there’s some room to play, especially with respect to possibly developing a set of clear cut rules about what should be asked, to whom and in what circumstances. But I think it’s tough to argue that bishops shouldn’t be asking these questions. Clearly the church program dictates that they should.

    64. From a conference talk by Elder Vaughn Featherstone:

      “I know one fine father who interviewed his 11-year-old son and he said, “Son, if you never masturbate, the time will come in your life when you will be able to sit in front of your bishop at age 19, and say to him, ‘I have never done that in my life,’ and then you can go to the stake president when you are interviewed for your mission and tell him, ‘I have never done that in my life.’ ”

      If this is the “church program”, I want no part of it.

      Horrible!

    65. I have no problem with the practice. in my reading of the comments, I see three issues.

      1. People who seem to reject the idea of the law of chastity. I’m a single guy and 30 and familiar with the arguments. I agree with Jeff, this is a commandment. If you reject this, then your concerns about asking about it are irrelevant because you reject the premise itself.

      2. The idea that a bishopric member asking general questions about one’s keeping the law of chastity borders on abuse. I don’t really understand this. What exactly is the basis for this claim? Awkwardness does not equal abuse. Asking does not induce guilt–though it may bring it to the surface, it already existed. A judge in Israel sitting as a representative of Jesus Christ asking about our fidelity to our commandments seems unproblematic from my perspective.

      3. The privacy concerns. There seem to be lots of strange ideas here. First, clergy in confessory positions are required ecclesiastically to keep the confidence of the confessional–church courts, etc., are extensions of this. [I’m not positive, but since most relevant law is based on catholic and protestant practices, there may be a similar legal restriction.] In this context, mandatory sharing with parents is outside of church and perhaps state law. (Encouraging adolescents to share with their parents is often a good practice; but to mandate would inhibit their relationship with God: it would mean that trying to do things to improve one’s relationship with one’s Heavenly Father would often involve problems with one’s earthly parents.) It is, moreover, an abhorrent idea: short of those situations which the law requires clergy to report, young men and young women deserve, indeed need, privacy from their parents–and their privacy is here only interrupted by their own decisions to confess, not by being asked a question.

      I actually see a great potential for parents to use a discussion with the bishop as a means of abuse and punishment were they allowed in, by revealing the child’s indiscretions for them or seeking reports from the bishop that they then act on. I think it is very good for teenagers to have available to them a non-parental figure who is bound to keep secrets (to the point specified by the law) and who can, as they seek it, help them through their challenges. Amidst all the hysteria over clergy, etc., abusing children, it’s useful to remember that most abuse of all kinds is committed by family members, particularly parents. Playing the probabilities game, it’s a lot more likely that breaking the confessional seal is more likely to lead to instances of parental abuse than clerical abuse.

      Last, the whole discussion seems to begin from the premise that this is unique to the LDS church. It’s not: as a catholic teenager going to confession, I was also sometimes asked some perfectly legitimate general chastity questions.

    66. Notably, bringing in parents into the interview would also eliminate an important potential opportunity for reporting abuse.

    67. TMD, as I see it, the answer to some of your questions is found in my post 67, above. Do you see nothing at all wrong with the concepts described in Elder Featherstone’s quote? If not, let me spell it out for you.

      1. Most people are sexual beings. Any church leader who would ask a question like the one suggested by Elder Featherstone is cruel and sadistic. That is an expectation that has caused LDS youth to commit suicide. Living up to impossible standards like that one and being bullied into never expressing oneself sexually is outrageous.

      2. For church leaders to ask that question of young men and women (or single men and women of any age) is hostile and condescending.

      3. In the Church, there are many different ideas about what is confession-worthy, what constitutes the law of chastity, and what is actionable. Unless there is forced sexual behavior, is there a good reason for people not to simply confess to God? Is it really worth shaming and degradation? Shame might be a powerful motivator, but it’s psychologically harmful. An individual might be “keeping the law of chastity” in one ward, but not in the other–simply because the leaders in that ward interpret it differently.

    68. Finally, there’s obviously a difference between believing in/accepting the law of chastity and being asked about it behind closed doors by a male authority figure. Do you not see the difference?

    69. 71: Frankly, no. Not if you accept the idea of the priesthood, the nature of the calling of bishop as judge in israel, etc.

      70: Your argument is based on a 34-year old conference talk by a 70? I don’t seem to remember many, if any talks like that in, oh, the past decade or so. Further, I’m not sure that question as such is asked these days. Further, if it were–or if a kid brought the subject up out of a sense of guilt, I think that a great many bishops would likely to respond in a way that would tend to decrease guilt rather than increase it.

    70. Moreover, I think you don’t understand shame very well. Shame motivates to hide, but once the underlying thing is made public, the continuance of it is dependent on the response of other party. And I think very few bishops would respond in a way that can be described as degradation–that’s a slander on 99% of those men who serve in these positions. So, should the matter come up, a loving response, even if it involves something of a repentence process, is more likely to relieve extent shame than increase it.

    71. Post
      Author

      brjones: “From an objective standpoint, I agree with the majority of the comments in this thread. From an LDS internal consistency standpoint, though, I think Jeff is the only one with a leg to stand on. The church has laid down the program for dealing with the youth, and for repenting of “greivous” sins generally, and the church’s position is that those things must be shared with an ecclesiastical leader, to the degree of specificity required by that leader, acting in accordance with the spirit.” Maybe. But the policy, BTW, began when it was also still perfectly acceptable for school teachers to hit kids with hickory switches as punishment for classroom misbehaviors that would now result in a diagnosis of ADHD, and it was a policy made in a time when a girl who was raped was blamed for provoking the attack through her mannerisms or dress. And that’s just US culture at large. We live in a time that in some ways is more enlightened than those days, and in other ways simply more litigious and more fearful with overprotective helicopter parents and sheltered children. Perhaps a modified policy would be best for all.

    72. Hawk, I could not agree with you more. I don’t like anything about the church’s policy, and there is no way I would EVER let a grown man take my child into a room and ask about his or her private sexual feelings and actions. But I don’t believe an LDS bishop is called of god and given authority to judge me or my children. Neither do I believe that LDS general authorities are directed by god to form church policies. If you do believe that, I think it makes it a much trickier analysis. I just don’t see how you say “I believe the church is led by god, but that archaic policy is not only not of god, but wrong.”. I see somewhat of a consistency problem with that. But again, I agree with your position completely, Hawk.

    73. TMD–re #67: it’s not just some old talk (LOL–aren’t scriptures even older? What does the age of the address have to do with it?) It’s practice, policy, and procedure.

      That talk has been quoted in YM manuals well into the 21st century.

      These are questions are asked of youth and missionaries, singles of all ages, divorced members–depending on the bishop, the questions are just as specific or they might be general. The fact of the matter is: just as the quote clearly suggests, the expectation is that church leaders somehow have the right to ask deeply personal sexual questions of its members.

    74. Also, even if the question is not asked specifically, the quote reveals very interesting insight into church culture.

      The reason this quote is so interesting is that it clearly shows how teens and singles are expected to be asexual, or accomplish the impossible. Yet, the concept is consistent with the law of chastity. The law of chastity prohibits any voluntary sexual thoughts and behavior by single people whatsoever, including masturbation. This puts most youth and singles in the position of either lying in answer to the question: “Do you keep the law of chastity?” or interpreting it however they want to.

    75. Post
      Author

      brjones – Inspiration is a tricky thing indeed. I don’t believe God dictated the CHI word-for-word, if that is what is meant by “God running the church.” That kind of inspiration is simply not something humans are generally capable of, if gods are the micro-managers that implies. Clearly the church is full of human policies and human inspiration as well as some divine inspiration. And if so, then to consider every policy as a mandate from heaven is extreme overreaching.

      I’m also not suggesting the Law of Chastity be kicked to the curb, just questioning the practice of 40+ year old men in positions of authority asking 12 year old girls intrusive and intimidating questions about their sexuality behind closed doors.

    76. “I’m also not suggesting the Law of Chastity be kicked to the curb, just questioning the practice of 40+ year old men in positions of authority asking 12 year old girls intrusive and intimidating questions about their sexuality behind closed doors.”

      I think this is wierd to suggest that there isn’t discretion used by Bishops in what types of questions they ask of verious age groups. It seems to me that what is appropriate and reasonable for a 16 or 17 years old may not be for a 12 year old. And, I expect our “inspired” leaders to know how to ask the right questions at the right time. Only probing when necessary. I know that someone here will cite some example where that did not happen, but I think, most of the time, discretion is used.

      Again, I will make a point I made earlier. We live in a highly sexualized society and teen sexual activity is out there, big time. While some here seem to excuse it as “normal,” the Lord has clearly taught it is not appropriate outside marriage. PERIOD.

      Another fact is there is more sexual abuse going on in homes by parents and other realatives than happens at Church or with Church leaders. A young person should have the opportunity to report that problem to an adult in a private setting.

      There may in fact be some bad apples in the barrel, but throwing out Bishop’s interviews because of that seems unreasonable and excessive. Perhaps if ALL parents were doing their jobs and ALL children were passive, totally honest compliant little angels, it would not be necessary. But that is not the world we live in. I am glad the naysayers on this blog seem to have no problems at home and all always engaged with their kids and know exactly what they are doing and thinking every second of the day. I applaud you and congratulate you.

      Not everyone is like you and thus might need the assistance of the Bishop or youth leaders from time to time.

    77. “60, I do not like straw-dog scenarios that you then tear down. so, I’ll not comment on it.”

      Jeff, there was nothing “straw” about the very realistic scenario, that members often tell on each other, and the enumeration of options a Bishop has at their disposal. Many “active” members don’t have a problem with it, you are probably right, then again many “active” parents don’t. Given that a Bishop won’t alway’s know what a particular parent would prefer, it seems that the best protocol would still be to give them the oppurtunity to choose, rather than hauling the youth in for an interview. If the youth and their parents want the teenager to pursue interviews with the Bishop that is something they could choose.

    78. Talking with parents first, might give some incite as to how best approach a worthiness interview with their children.

      Asking parents:
      their opinion on worthiness interviews (they might have concerns or misconceptions) ?
      if they discus worthiness issues with there children, ?
      nature of confidentiality ?
      ask them to wait outside the office during interview (office door should have a window)?
      explain that you do not plan on discussing sensitive issues unless the spirit dictates ?

    79. #68 –

      Regarding your third point on privacy. I don’t know how well we can compare the LDS confessional with that of mainstream Protestantism or Catholicism. In either of the Christian branches the clergy is neither lay nor chosen from amongst the congregation on cyclical basis. Many of them are professionally trained to deal with these issues, and are chosen apart from the congregation generally to serve in life long “callings”. So at least in that way they are a neutral third party. Now to be honest, I am not entirely comfortable with the idea of them asking intrusive questions of teenagers either, but I do see it as a better formula than what we LDS employ by having accountants, engineers, and small business owners thrown into a position where they are now expected to hear sexual confessions from the teenagers in their neighborhoods.

      Lastly I am not sure how habits have changed in the last forty years, but you should be aware that about every statistic you can drum up will suggest that 90 – 98% of all males masturbate. So, for Elder Featherstones “talk”, he should have completed the sentence by saying “…and if you can do all of that son, you’ll be the first one in our stake…but, the Stake President probablly won’t believe you, so you ought to confess to at least one time”. That was actually sort of the conversation I had with my Bishop about a year before my mission. I confessed the short accumulation of “sins” over my high school years, and somewhere in the middle I said masturbation under my breath. My Bishop just responded by saying, “yeah I wouldn’t have believed you if you hadn’t admitted that, no one escapes that. Do you have it under control now”.

    80. Jeff, I understand where you are coming from. I agree that most bishops are honorable men trying to do their very best. My own father was a bishop twice. The thing is, there is just no way for a parent to tell which ones might actually be abusers. Its not like they are going to come out and say it.

      Also, every child is different and there is no way for a bishop to know about a child’s specific needs unless the parents speak up. So, DH and I just politely laid down some guidelines that we felt were appropriate for our children. Our bishop was completely open to it and the conversation really helped us to form a better relationship with him.

      I just think, like with most things in life, its all in our approach. If DH and I had gone in with guns drawn, the conversation would not have been as productive. I try to assume the best about the people I am dealing with and hope they will do the same for me when I present a special request.

    81. Is it being argued that somehow Bishops interviews limit the amount of child abuse that occurs in their wards? I will concede that the instances of child abuse from a parent is greater than that of local Church leaders, but I am not convinced that somehow Bishops interviews naturally circumvent this, more than just adding insult to injury. I have a cousin whose father who had been a Stake leader, confessed to his wife that he had been having an affair, and then left for a few days. During that time his wife went to Church leader for “help”. When he came back he and his wife decided to reconcile, and what resulted was a few short interviews for the husband, where his wife actually recieved the brunt of Church discipline for “blowing things out of proportion”. About a year later due to other events the full context of this mans sexual indiscretion became public, and let’s just say she in no way blew things out of proportion. The point being, LDS Church leaders in most cases, even with best of intentions, aren’t even remotely prepared on how to deal with this sort of thing, so I find the abuse argument moot.

    82. I think there are two issues at play here, with respect to the ongoing argument between Jeff and pretty much everyone else in this thread. One is the issue of how effective bishops and other church leaders are in dealing with sexual issues; and the second is whether, regardless of an individual bishop’s skill in dealing with such situations, it is a necessary step in the process of spiritual advancement for teens to be forced to have such conversations with their bishops. It must be conceded that if the answer to #2 is in the affirmative, then much of this conversation is moot. We should be talking about ways to make the process safer and more comfortable for everyone, but not about whether it should be taking place at all.

      From a practical standpoint, which I think is what most people here are arguing (and let’s be honest, when you’re talking about your own child, that’s what you really care about), I think there are a number of legitimate concerns. First of all, although I appreciate Jeff’s point that the incidents of abuse or otherwise inappropriate behavior are relatively infrequent, that is little consolation to those whose children have suffered such abuses. Additionally, again from a practical standpoint, even an occasional incident of abuse is enough to warrant a parent’s desire to keep their children out of the system. If you were investigating a child care center and were told, we’ve had some instances of abuse, but they’ve been very few and far between, you’d never consider putting your child anywhere near such a place. Because there is no way to know if a particular person is an abuser, the consideration here is the same, with the added question of whether or not you are disobeying god’s will. Some close family members of mine grew up in a ward with a bishop that, it was later revealed, had serially molested many children, boys and girls, in the ward. At least one of these youths ended up committing suicide, and several other of the youths have had serious ongoing emotional issues as a result that remain to this day. I would venture to say that, regardless of the strength of those parents’ testimonies, any of them would pull their children from the system if they could go back and do it again.

      It seems to me, Jeff, that you’re arguing that both considerations cut in favor of a bishop’s direct involvement. I would argue that as to practical considerations that is a questionable proposition. From the perspective of the religious consideration, though, I don’t know what the alternative is if you believe that god requires such ecclesiastical involvement.

    83. Re: That was actually sort of the conversation I had with my Bishop about a year before my mission.

      I was in singles wards for a lot of years and it would seem the need, if there was one, to ask probing questions would have been far greater during those years. Not one of those interviews, be it calling, TR, or PPI involved probing questions. Perhaps I just have the ability to project a very innocent expression.

      I did have one interview with a Bishop when I was about 14 that involved probing questions. It came as a shock and was something nobody had prepared me for. I can’t say that it lead to any productive or useful counsel from the Bishop either. It seemed, from my adolescent assessment, only to satisfy his curiosity and make me feel guilty. It didn’t scar me for life, and it was nice that our ward divided and we got a new bishop. My mother, months after the division, quietly asked me what I had thought of that bishop. She told me that she didn’t care for him either. Leave it to a mother’s intuition to be spot on.

    84. When I had that interview I was eighteen years old, and was preparing for a mission, so I really have no problem with the interview. Same goes for singles wards, they are adults and so Church membership is their responsibility. Just to reiterate and then I will remain silent on this issue, the only trouble I have with interviews is when they are executed in a way that circumvents the parents. I am not convinced that such an approach enhances the propensity for the continuance of abuse, therefore I see no real reason for parents not to be involved.

    85. Brjones #86, EXACTLY. I loved your comment.

      Jeff commented: “It seems to me that what is appropriate and reasonable for a 16 or 17 years old may not be for a 12 year old. And, I expect our ‘inspired’ leaders to know how to ask the right questions at the right time. Only probing when necessary. I know that someone here will cite some example where that did not happen, but I think, most of the time, discretion is used.”

      I’m one of those who has a personal example where proper discretion at a young age didn’t happen, and I’ve gotta say, regardless of how rare or common my experience was, it makes me wary of the system–as well it should. The point is, it’s a situation where you’re just begging for all kinds of spiritual and sexual abuse, both overt and subtle. In my case, I think my overly-inquisitive bishop was a good man and honestly believed he was doing the right thing. And yet, looking back on it, the experience was inappropriate and plain wrong. And because I was so young, and because I thought I was bad anyway for having the “problems” I had, it took me till my late 20’s to realize just how inappropriate and icky that was.

      If we as a church discover that these sorts of inappropriate probings (and worse!) happen with ANY degree of regularity–and I think we can safely say they DO happen, at least occasionally–we have a God-given duty to protect our children before we protect institutional policies, no matter how well-meaning those policies are.

      Having said all that, going back to brjones’s comment, this takes for granted that these sorts of interviews are necessary at all. I personally believe they are NOT necessary, but are a man-made layer that functionally serves to distance people from Christ. I believe there is ONE mediator between God and man, and it is Jesus. A bishop should be there for counsel, guidance, and pastoral advice in the event a person voluntarily seeks it, but mandatory confession really rubs me the wrong way from a theological and practical standpoint. Of course, I’m not s’much a TBM and understand that mileage may vary.

    86. Religions derive their power by placing themselves between the individual and God, thereby setting themselves up as arbiter and judge of the individuals relationship with God. Worthiness interviews, which start with the youth, are the means of setting and enforcing this relationship.

      Certainly religious leaders can and do serve an important role in helping youth. Teachers, coaches, counselors play a similar role. These people should be a -resource- for families to draw on -when needed-. These worthiness interviews, on the other hand, inject themselves into the family dynamic un-invited to serve the purposes of the organization. When enough parents start pushing back they will join the other barbaric relics of Mormon history.

    87. I think this subject is getting rather old since we are not really coming to any meeting of the minds here. I will say this, if parents want to wish to have a say in who interviews their kids and what they discuss, I probably don’t have a real problem with that. After all, the family unit is the basic unit of the church and trumps the Church organization itself. It sounds like pinkpatient and her husband went about it in a good way. I am not sure others would handle it as well given the comments that have been made here. And it appears everyone has had “AN EXPERIENCE” which has somewhat dictated their feeling on the subject.

      90% of the bishops I have had have been men that I had known well for a long time, worked along side of and trusted completely. On the other hand, I had a bishop that, because of his somewhat indifference and poor council was in large part responsible for two of my children to no longer be interested in the church, their own behavior notwithstanding. So, I, too have had “AN EXPERIENCE” But I did not allow it to color my thinking on this particular subject. Because of the collective experiences that I have had over the past 27 years.

      The other observation that I would make is that it appears some think that being sexually active during the teen years is acceptable behavior and how dare anyone, especially the bishop, ask about it and traumatize the poor youth over it. It’s just normal behavior in spite of the Lord’s teachings concerning it.

    88. Jeff, you said:

      “The other observation that I would make is that it appears some think that being sexually active during the teen years is acceptable behavior and how dare anyone, especially the bishop, ask about it and traumatize the poor youth over it. It’s just normal behavior in spite of the Lord’s teachings concerning it.”

      I think you are referencing my comments, among others’. You are right in thinking that I believe that “being sexually active during the teen years is acceptable behavior” if “sexual behavior” is defined as including sexual thoughts and masturbation. People in the church interpret the law of chastity differently. Many people in the church DO think this is acceptable behavior, or at the very least is not the bishop’s business and should not be considered breaking the law of chastity. When there is ambiguity about this question and children/teens feel that they are degenerate and evil for normal developmental behavior, that qualifies as abusive in my book.

    89. “The other observation that I would make is that it appears some think that being sexually active during the teen years is acceptable behavior and how dare anyone, especially the bishop, ask about it and traumatize the poor youth over it. It’s just normal behavior in spite of the Lord’s teachings concerning it.”

      I don’t see this argument anywhere. Jeff, weren’t you saying something earlier about “straw-dog” arguments?

    90. That’s funny, Cowboy, since the post above you 92, admitted it. And it is woven throughout the comments. I didn’t create a scenario to argue against.

    91. Short of Pinkpatent’s comments on masturbation, there has been no advocacy for teenage sexual activity on this thread. Secondly, it is generally not inferred that an otherwise celibate person who masturbates is considered to be “sexually active”. By standard definition, I don’t think anyone would defend a position which encourages teenagers to be sexually active with each other. That has not been the point, the point has been quite broadly has been to determine whose business it is. As far as teenagers go, the debate has been regarding the appropriateness of ecclesiastical initiative that seeks to address sexual indiscretions of teenagers while circumventing the parents. In suggesting that there has been advocacy you have created a convenient scenario to argue against.

    92. well, I never assumed that anyone was advocating teen sexual behavior only that it was acceptable. For me, that is different. So you’ve already found two people who think that some sexual behavior is OK, and I thought, as I read some of the other posts that it was inferred. I never set up a scenario I only argued for the law of Chastity.

    93. Yep–’twas I.

      If everyone had a common understanding of exactly what the law of chastity entailed, the potential for emotional and psychological harm during interviews would not be as great. The definition usually given to teens and singles is “never be sexual, at all, under any circumstances, with yourself or others–don’t even THINK about it.” Yet, the definition in the temple or for married adults is a much different one.

      when kids and many single adults hear, “Do you keep the law of chastity?”, they take it to mean, “are you ‘morally clean’?” Thus the confusion and the frustration at having to open up about sexual thoughts and deeds to an unrelated male authority figure.

      If the temple recommend question were simply, “Are you sexually active?” I wouldn’t have as much of a concern about having that question asked equally across YW/YM and singles. Likewise, for marrieds, the question could be, “Have you (ever) committed adultery?”

      Less ambiguity; less cause for harm.

    94. Also, it should be made clear what “sexually active” means–that’s also where it gets messy, and where there’s opportunity for inordinate probing and judgment.

    95. “If everyone had a common understanding of exactly what the law of chastity entailed, the potential for emotional and psychological harm during interviews would not be as great. The definition usually given to teens and singles is “never be sexual, at all, under any circumstances, with yourself or others–don’t even THINK about it.” Yet, the definition in the temple or for married adults is a much different one.’

      Not really. the law of Chasity IS the law of Chastity. It is not ambiguous,only people’s interpretation is. Just as everything else in the church, we have the agency to choose how we answer the question and how we act, even the youth. The teaching is clear and we are free to do what we wish with it.

      Whatever consequence is derived from our choice will be what it is, we do not have control over that.

      “Also, it should be made clear what “sexually active” means–that’s also where it gets messy, and where there’s opportunity for inordinate probing and judgment.”

      We had a Stake president who held a fireside with the youth 14 and up and their parents and was very clear about what it meant, for that very reason. But, it seems many of you would deny the bishop the same teaching opportunity.

    96. Jeff, do you not agree that the definition given to teens/singles and the definition given in the temple are two very different definitions?

      Also, do you agree that if masturbation is against the law of chastity almost everyone has broken and continues to break the law of chastity, particularly teens and singles?

    97. Post
      Author

      “it seems many of you would deny the bishop the same teaching opportunity” I’m all for clarity of where the boundaries are, but personally, I think girls should hear this from their female leaders and/or mothers, and never this kind of lengthy specific conversation with an opposite sex adult man behind closed doors when the YW is very young (e.g. 12-15 especially). Probably not even in a mixed company fireside with YM peers. Again, if we’re talking specifics. Having been a YW, I can only say that the thought of an adult man (who is probably one of your friends’ dads) being sexual (even if he’s just explaining something in a clinical fashion) is creepy and uncomfortable at that age.

    98. “…waiting for Jeff’s unambiguous definition of what ‘chaste’ means for a 14 year old.’

      Sorry, that would be a losing proposition for me. I think you know what it is, you’re just baiting me and I will not fall for that.

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