U.S.

Mormon Bishop Sam Young Excommunicated for Wanting to Stop Sexually Explicit Interviews of Children

A former Mormon bishop has been excommunicated from the church after campaigning for the end of one-on-one “worthiness” interviews in which children are asked sexually explicit questions. 

Sam Young, who previously staged a 23-day day hunger strike to protest the policy of Mormon leaders speaking to children and youths alone, confirmed his excommunication from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints following a disciplinary hearing.

Young, founder of "Protect LDS Children," said in August that he had been sent a letter informing him that a formal disciplinary council  would convene on his behalf to discuss his future in the church following his public outcry aginst the interviews, which can involve bishops asking children about masturbation or pornography.

A decision was scheduled for September 9 but was delayed. In a news conference streamed online a week later, Young opened the letter announcing the council’s decision in front of a crowd of supporters, confirming he had been formally accused of apostasy.

“It is likely that this is the first time in Mormon history that a disciplinary council’s decision has been opened in public by the accused,” Young said. “Usually excommunication is viewed with shame and dishonor, my case is diametrically different.

“Whatever decision is rendered, whether its excommunication or exoneration, I will wear it with a badge of honor. It will be my reward for standing up to protect our children and for having given a voice to the countless children of our past who’ve been so badly harmed behind closed doors.”

Reading the letter, Young said: “The decision of the council is that you be excommunicated for conduct contrary to the laws and order of the church. This means that you are no longer a member of the church and do not enjoy any privileges of membership.

“This action was not taken because of your opinion or position in protecting children” the letter continued, prompting boos from crowd. “The issue is not that you have concerns, or even that you disagree with the church’s guidelines, rather it is your persistent, aggressive effort to persuade others to your points of view.

Young told the crowd, “They are wrong about that. It was taken only because of my outright public opposition.” The council previously told Young that the council is going to be held because he acted “repeatedly in clear, open and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders.”

As well as the 23-day hunger strike, Young led a march of hundreds to deliver a petition signed by more than 55,000 people to the world headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in downtown Salt Lake City, demanding an end to the one-on-one interviews.

Excommunication usually lasts a minimum of one year before anyone can be considered for readmittance into the church.

Earlier this year, the church announced it was changing its policies with regard to the worthiness interviews, including ensuring children could now ask that another adult be present in the room.

The church also made public a list if questions that should be asked during the interview, including “do you live the law of chastity?”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said it did not comment on disciplinary cases.

Church spokesman Eric Hawkins told Newsweek: "Because of the personal nature of Church disciplinary matters and to respect the privacy of those involved, the Church does not provide information about the proceedings. Church discipline is administered by local leaders who are familiar with the individual and his or her circumstances."