Guest post: A Bishop’s interview that hurts the children

This is a guest post by Michael Davidson

[We are in the hallway of a chapel, just outside of the bishop’s office. The bishop approaches with his keys in his hand to open the door, but is stopped by Bro. and Sis. Jones before entering.]

Bro Jones: Bishop! So glad we found you. Can we have a quick word with you?

Bishop: Sure, I have a couple of minutes before my next appointment, come right in.

[All three enter the bishop’s office and take their seats.]

Sis. Jones: Bishop, you know that we love and appreciate everything you do for the members of the ward, and in particular, our youth.

Bishop: Thank you for saying so, Sis. Jones.

Bro. Jones: Absolutely, but we are concerned about a couple of things.

Bishop: Oh, what’s that?

Bro. Jones: Well, we are a bit uneasy about certain Church policies regarding interviews with our kids. This is what we want to talk to you about.

Bishop: [with a look of concern] What seems to be the problem?

Sis. Jones: With all due respect, we don’t believe that you have the proper training or experience to discuss matters of “worthiness” [Sis Jones does air quotes] with our children, and we wanted to talk to you about that as Robert, Jr. is turning 12 this week.

Bro. Jones: As a result, we just wanted to tell you that we will not be allowing you, or anyone else in the ward or the stake, to meet with Robert one on one. If you have to meet with him, one of us has to be present and we will not tolerate you asking any inappropriate questions related to his “worthiness.” [Bro Jones does air quotes.]

Bishop: As you say, Robert Jr. is turning 12 and I was planning on visiting with him about being ordained a deacon this afternoon, as well as to get a recommend to go to the temple. You would be welcome to attend if Robert Jr. wishes to have you here.

Bro. Jones: I don’t care whether he wants us in the interview, one of us will be or it won’t happen.

Sis. Jones: I think Robert, Jr. is in the hall, can we just do this now?

Bishop: Sure, why not. Call him in.
[Sis. Jones walks to the door and opens it.]

Sis. Jones: [in a sickly sweet voice] Sweetie! Come on in! We are going to do your interview now!

Robert Jr.: [under his breath] Give it a break with the sweetie stuff, will you?

Robert Jr.: [surprised] Dad, what are you doing here?

Bishop: Hi Robert. Your parents have asked to sit in with us while we do your interview for ordination to a deacon and to get your first temple recommend, is that alright?

Bro. Jones: [abruptly] Don’t answer that, Robert.

Sis. Jones: Bishop, we already told you that we were going to be present. So, let’s just move this along, Ok?

Bishop: Right …. let’s just jump right in then. Robert, do you have faith in and a testimony of God the Eternal Father; His Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost?

Bro. Jones: [abruptly] Don’t answer that, Robert.

Sis. Jones: We don’t feel comfortable with you asking him that question. There is so much pressure on kids in the Church to say that they know one thing or another. Can you imagine the shame you will be putting on him if he can’t answer this question in the way you are asking it?

Bishop: This is just the form question that I am asked to use.

Sis. Jones: Oh yes, we understand, but we’ll just tell you that we feel comfortable with the state of Robert Jr.’s testimony about God … so let’s just move along, shall we?

Bishop: Well, um….ok. Robert, do you have a testimony of the Atonement of Christ and His role as Savior and Redeemer?

Bro. Jones: [abruptly] Don’t answer that, Robert.

Sis. Jones: Didn’t we just talk about this? What if little Robert just doesn’t know for sure, or has ideas about Christ that you wouldn’t necessarily agree with? Why are you putting this pressure on him? We, as his parents, are super comfortable with Robert’s thoughts on Christ. Move along.

Bishop: …… okay …… Robert, do you have a testimony of the Restoration of the gospel in these, the latter days?

Bro. Jones: [abruptly] Don’t answer that, Robert.

Sis. Jones: Why are you browbeating my poor child? How is he supposed to know what happened or didn’t happen in the 1820s and 1830s? It’s not like we can trust the Church to tell the truth about these things. I haven’t even been able to force little Robert to even read the gospel topics essays.

Bishop: Robert, do you want to answer these questions?

Robert Jr.: Of course I —

Bro. Jones: [abruptly] Don’t answer that, Robert.

Sis. Jones: I think we are progressing on rather nicely. No need to talk about these things anymore. Let’s move it along.

Bishop: [drops something on the floor so that he can bend over and roll his eyes without the Jones seeing him]
Alright, next question: Robert, do you sustain the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the prophet, seer, and revelator and as the only person on the earth —

Bro. Jones: [abruptly, while leaning forward in his chair] Don’t answer that, Robert.

Bishop: — who possesses and is authorized to exercise all priesthood keys? Do you sustain the members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators? Do you sustain —

Bro. Jones: [abruptly, starting to get to his feet] Don’t answer that, Robert!

Bishop: — the other General Authorities and local authorities of the Church?

Bro. Jones: [abruptly, standing, face flushed] DON’T ANSWER THAT, ROBERT!

Sis. Jones: I must say that I am quiet incensed at your boldness bishop! This is clearly beyond the pale. You are merely trying to reinforce the heteronormative patriarchal order of the Church in defiance of more enlightened modern knowledge that teaches us to break down such hierarchies that foster bigoted beliefs and practices. I will not sit still and allow you to subject my precious little Robertkins to such violent language.

[Robert Jr. drops his head and sighs, mumbling]

Sis. Jones: [seeing Robert, Jr.] Don’t you worry honey, we won’t let this mean bishop bully you.

Bishop: You know, I don’t know that we should continue. This seems to be a bit too much drama in this, so maybe we should stop for now.

Bro. Jones: But are you actually done? We want to get this over with so we can move on.

Bishop: We have only gone through four of the thirteen questions ….

Sis. Jones: Let’s finish this, but just remember the ground rules we laid down earlier, Bishop.

Bishop: Ok, question 5. Robert, do you live the law of chastity?

Bro. Jones: [standing abruptly so that his chair is knocked over, turning to look directly at his son] DON’T ANSWER THAT, ROBERT. [then turning back to the Bishop] I ought to punch you in the nose!

Sis Jones: I will not sit here and allow you to demonize aspects of normal human sexual development under the heading of sexual purity. Just by asking that question you are leading my precious-wecious-widdle-Robertie-wooo-wooo to a life of self-loathing, insecurity, depression, self harm or anxiety and dysfunction. [standing up] We warned you about asking any “worthiness” {Sis Jones uses air quotes] questions. Just asking such a question insinuates that my tiny-little-developing-baby-Robbie-gonzo-bean-cutie-pie may be unworthy. He is a good kid and I know that God loves him. Even if he does make mistakes, as we all do in life, I do not want him to ever feel that he is unworthy before God. He is always worthy of his love, no matter what.

Bro Jones: [gesturing wildly] Robert Jr. is not under covenant to obey the Law of Chastity. That is a temple covenant. We will discuss chastity in our home with our children. What it means, and how it relates to them. However, I do not want them being asked by an adult man if they are sexually pure. Asking him this question is damaging to his sense of worth, and it could be damaging to his sexual development that could cause relationship and mental health issues both in the present and later in life. It is damaging because little Robert may develop a sense that he is not worthy of God’s love.

Bishop: All because I asked if he lives in accordance with the law of chastity?

Sis. Jones: I have had enough! [grabs Robert Jr. by the arm and starts dragging him from the room, Robert Jr. resists but doesn’t have the mass to do so successfully.]

[Bro Jones backs out of the room, looking menacingly at the Bishop who remains seated. After Bro. Jones closes the door behind him, the bishop takes off his glasses, rubs his face and audibly sighs. After a few moments, there is a knock at the door.]

Bishop: [voice slightly elevated in volume as the door is shut] Yes! Come in!
[the door opens and Bro Jones steps though, but remains standing]

Bro. Jones: [in a forced calm voice] So … when will we ordain Robert Jr. as a deacon?

Bishop: [pausing to put on his glasses] As it stands now, we won’t be.

Bro. Jones: [taking a step forward] What! You can’t be serious.

Bishop: As a heart attack. How am I supposed to know whether or not he has a testimony or is living the kind of life expected of a priesthood holder if you won’t even let me ask him the basic questions?

Bro. Jones: How dare you! Who do you think you are! [Bro Jones spits on the floor and walks out, slamming the door behind him.]

[editor’s note: Most of Bro. and Sis. Jones’ dialogue was lifted from the Protect LDS Children website, or Sam Young’s personal blog. If you would like to know more about Sam Young please read this post.]

17 thoughts on “Guest post: A Bishop’s interview that hurts the children

  1. Brilliant. Thank you so much for writing this (well, rather, gathering all the comments from the “protect LDS children” website). According to their own words, their activism isn’t really only about actually protecting children, but is cloaked in more insidious motives.

  2. As an FYI, much of this is taken nearly verbatim from a form letter of the PLDSC website that is available for people to print out and send to their bishops. I have no idea if anyone has actually sent this letter, or had such a conversation with their bishop. PLDSC is encouraging just such conversations.

  3. As priceless as the enemies of the Church are pathetic sometimes… Well done, thank you.

  4. I’m not sure why MillennialStar is wasting time on this guy. Surely there are more informative and interesting thoughts about people/things that can be written.

  5. Quiltstack, unfortunately Sam Young has fooled a lot of well-meaning people with his antics. And one of the clear purposes of this blog is to defend the Church from people who attack it, like Sam Young. If you don’t like a post, the best thing to do is stop reading it and go on with your day.

  6. Nope, won’t go on my way. I’m a faithful reader of MillennialStar.
    I don’t know if what’s his face is even known around here in So Calif. I’ve heard no one talk about the situation within our Stake. It may be big in Utah where he pulls his stunts, but not so much other places. I learned about him solely through this site.
    Just wanted to give my two cents.
    PS I enjoy your posts.

  7. -While I think Sam has obsessed on this issue and imploded, why does it seem MS posts seem to attack the messenger, instead of focusing on the message? (see the referenced post Granted, that is what this post “what is Sam Young’s true cause?” on July 31). I recognize that this post is focused on the message, but it is so ridiculous that I couldn’t take is seriously.
    -Just wondering if the MS staff think the new interview guidelines are warranted and useful? If so, do you think they would have been generated without Sam’s voice? I’m not saying the clumsy, caustic, disrespectful, demanding means of Sam justify the ends, but I cannot ignore the obvious correlation, if not causation.

  8. Sam Young is not my topic … so I agree with Quiltstack. But, it is important as Geoff said to inform people of who he is, and what he’s doing. I have several friends outside of the Utah area who have been snookered by him and his cause. They are openly denouncing the church at this point. It’s very sad.

  9. I am a little bit surprised that this was posted right in the midst of the news about the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal. Do we really think it never happens in our church? The easy way around this problem is to have the youth who is being interviewed pick the other adult they want in the room. Other churches have figured this out and are protecting the children better than our church does.

  10. You have a much, much, much greater chance of being abused by someone in your own home than by a bishop.

    For those kids being abused by one or both parents, does anyone really think having a parent present in a bishop’s interview is a good idea? Serious question.

  11. It just dawned on me that the Plan of Salvation, embodied by God’s Kingdom on earth, held together by obedience to Commandments, is there to #protectgodschildrenfromsin, all the while respecting our free agency. The Lord reveals adjustments to Church procedures where and when needed.

    If parents do not prepare their children for such interviews (and ask age-appropriate questions themselves), maybe they are not doing their job or one or both parents are not active in the church or non-members?

  12. +1 on parents making sure their kids are ready. Open (and loving) communication about pretty much everything was something my own family unfortunately had to discover. My older children suffered for it. I can admit that now, though not without shame. Parents who try to shelter their kids do them no favors.

    Talk. To. Your. Kids. About. Everything. If they ask you a question, answer it. They need to know what’s what, and need to know they can get the plain truth from you. If you won’t do that, you’ll lose them.

    That means *you* need to get the straight truth about everything, and learn how to teach it plainly (if kindly). That comes from the basic behaviors Christ himself taught and modeled, and which have been reiterated over the pulpit at least annually since the sacred grove: pray, study, contemplate, attend actively, and love. Parents that fail to do that become terrible parents and raise emotionally brittle kids, and then blame others to cover for their guilt.

  13. “Parents that fail to do that become terrible parents and raise emotionally brittle kids, and then blame others to cover for their guilt.”

    I’m sorry, I am all in favor of the best parenting possible, but making such a judgment is a rock thrown too far for me.

  14. I know I’m late in commenting to this but I find it quite disingenuous that the same people who have problems with Bishops asking questions about the law of chastity are the same ones advocating for comprehensive sex ed in public schools where they will learn much more explicit info than what is being asked by a bishop. And in many cases those things will be celebrated and even given time to be experimented with. After all, “kids will be kids, we can’t expect them to be able to control themselves.”

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