Guest post: what is Sam Young’s true cause?

By: the Pseudonymous George Rasmussen

A Houston businessman named Sam Young is currently staging a hunger strike on the sidewalks of Salt Lake City. Young describes himself as an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but I will leave it to you, gentle reader, to determine for yourself what the evidence shows.

Young is hoping to exert sufficient pressure on the Church to force the adoption of his demands. Please note that the Church put out a statement on Sunday that says Church leaders have met with Sam and that the Church will not be caving.

What are his demands? It is difficult to be sure because they have changed so much over the years, but we have some indication from a petition from October 2017:

“We call on the LDS Church to immediately cease the practice of subjecting children to questions about masturbation, orgasm, ejaculation, sexual positions or anything else of a sexual nature. This applies to all children up to and including age 17. There should be no one-on-one interviews with children. A parent or other trusted adult of the child’s choosing is to be present. We call on the LDS Church to publicly disavow this practice. We call on the LDS Church to ensure that all congregational leaders, as well the general membership, are informed that this practice is prohibited.”

(Readers, please note that Church policy clearly states that bishopric members may ask about chastity during temple recommend interviews. Children from the ages of 12 to 17 are asked if they follow the law of chastity, just as adults are asked. Claims that bishoprics are asking detailed sexual questions of members are wildly exaggerated, but all bishoprics have been informed of this issue. Bishopric members always have another adult nearby when doing temple recommends. It is clear that Sam Young has grabbed on to a cause that will bring him attention, but as this post will show, we have reason to doubt his sincerity on this and other issues because of his constant complaints about many Church practices.)

This petition is the first exposure most people had to Sam Young, but it wasn’t the start of his activism against LDS doctrines, teachings and practices. Young describes on his website how he lost his testimony in 2014. “Over the past couple of years, unexpected philosophical developments have shaken my life. They have been quite disconcerting.” He tells a tail of being set adrift and of being lonely and scared. He recollects that his family and friends couldn’t understand what he was going through.

In October 2015, Young began participating in the Mormon Stories Podcast Community on Facebook to work through his issues with the Church. That infamous page was started by Young supporter and friend, (prominent excommunicated podcaster) John Dehlin. The group is primarily populated by thousands of disaffected former or soon to be former members of the Church. Over the course of 2015, he says that he became more and more disillusioned with the Church. But, in February 2016 he made the choice to “follow Christ.” He did this in spite of the fact that he acknowledges that he doesn’t know if Christ really exists.

In order to understand Sam Young, one must recognize the perspective he set forth on May 19, 2016. In this post, he complained that he wasn’t be afforded his full rights as a citizen of the Church. “Jesus wants me to be an active part of the governance of His church…. In my church, I am a citizen not a subject!” On May 26, 2016, he expanded this by stating that, “Jesus values me and my opinion as an equity partner in his earthly organization.” I have seen him complain on countless occasions that based on his historic service in callings and his contributions of tithing that he should be afforded meaningful input and influence on Church teachings and practices.

Often, Young can be seen complaining that he was ready to “quit the Mormon Church!!!” over its teachings on gay marriage, but a gay friend told him to stay and perhaps effect change. So he did. This is where his public advocacy really started. Starting in the summer of 2016, Young has been voting opposed to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve at every conference of the Church he could attend. This started as a protest against Church doctrines regarding homosexual behavior and homosexual marriage, but soon blossomed to dozens of complaints against the Church. His reaction to the Handbook changes leaked by Aaron Brown in November 2015 was so violent that Young’s wife threatened to divorce him. This was his core cause.

At his most recent stake conference, Young exulted in the opportunity to sit front and center to vote opposed to the 12 with Elder Christofferson in attendance, and then complained that members of his stake didn’t seem enthused at his action. He complained bitterly online about how the congregation didn’t pat him on the back for his bravery.

In late 2016, I was surprised to learn that Sam had a temple recommend and was using it (occasionally). I had been watching his posts in the Mormon Stories groups for more than a year at that time and was shocked. He had shared his disbelief in all of the Church’s truth claims, and was candid that he was only in the Church due to family concerns. He clearly didn’t sustain the brethren and prophets, seers and revelators, and described Christ and the atonement as a fairy tale. He loudly cheered when his wife would do things that signaled baby steps away from the Church. He spoke about removing his garment, he spoke of breaking the word of wisdom; he applauded those leaving the Church.

Then, in January, 2017, he turned in his temple recommend. His reasons for doing so were convoluted. He said that he was sacrificing it to build the kingdom of God. It had become a distraction from what he was trying to accomplish in the Church, because members were complaining that he had one, so he gave it up so that he could focus on what he thought was important! At this time, it was that people were leaving the Church because the Church was being mean to them and not giving them a Sunday school class to complain about the things they didn’t like about the Church. I wish I was making this up.

As I mentioned above, through most of 2017, youth interviews were only one of a dozen categories of reasons Young was voting opposed in Church. The first time he ever mentioned it on his blog was on March 19, 2017. It was mentioned a couple of more times as the year progressed, but Young seemed to notice that his audience responded more to these things than they did to his long-winded and convoluted rants about common consent, or to his old, white, straight complaints about homosexual issues. He started focusing on this in October 2017 and put his numerous other complaints on his shelf. He found something with which he could get his 15 minutes, and he started beating that drum; which brings us back to 2018.

As more and more people signed his new petition, and the Church kept not caving, Young decided that he was going to organize a march in Salt Lake City. In a Facebook post that Young later deleted, he updated the demands from his petition to include a call for the entire First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve to resign their positions. Unfortunately, his supporters convinced him that this would make him sound more crazy than normal, so he reluctantly backed down, while privately saying that this is what he wanted. He had been voting opposed to the apostles for a couple of years at this point, so this is not surprising in the least.

For the march, Young hoped to get 1,000 people to walk with him up State Street on the Friday before the April 2018 General Conference. But, on March 26, 2018, the Church stole his thunder and announced changes that would allow youth to bring someone of their choosing into any interview, negating one of his demands. Concurrently, the Church also clarified the interview questions for youth temple recommends and other interviews that addressed the rest of Young’s demands, but neither was everything he wanted. So, instead of declaring victory and going back to Houston, Young doubled down and complained that the Church hadn’t done everything he had demanded and vowed renewed resolve.

This brings us back to the present. What is he doing now? He started a hunger strike and is posting Facebook live videos at a rapid pace. He has set up a camp chair on the sidewalk of South Temple and is issuing open invitations to apostles to come subject themselves to an ambush, consisting of whatever vile words or violent actions Young’s crowd may subject them to. One of Young’s supporters, Mike Norton, has recently offered to pay a cash reward to anyone who could give him details of Pres. Oaks physical whereabouts during a Mormon Stories podcast so that Mr. Norton could physically assault Pres. Oaks. Again, I wish I was making this up.

Also in the “you can’t make this up” category, Young also posted a video on Monday in which he gave $20 to a panhandler, flashing the bill in front of his phone camera in the process.

Young claims that he will finish his hunger strike when the Church caves to his full demands; or when ten currently sitting bishops publicly cave to his demands; or when his wife tells him to stop. (Apparently, she has already approved three weeks starvation.)

As for the Church, their response was sweet and to the point. The statement released points out that these demands have already been addressed and the Church has made changes in recent months (as I discuss above). It goes on to state that “Church leaders at every level — from Sam’s local bishop and stake president to a recent conversation with a general authority — have met with him to express love, to listen and to counsel with him. They have received and reviewed his materials and understand clearly his viewpoint. Further meetings with him are not necessary to clarify his position on this matter.” Clearly they are not going to show up to chat with Sam on some street corner in front of his hostile crowd.

So why is he doing all of this? Having watched him for years, and conversed with him on occasion, I have come to a couple of conclusions. Ultimately, Sam wants the Church to bend to his will, regardless of what that may mean or entail. If you look at this current cause of his in a vacuum (which I don’t) or take him at his word (which would be naive), his crusade is to protect youth from sexual abuse, which in his mind includes any shame a teenager may feel as a result of sexual sin, or any sin for that matter. His demand is that the church do away with all one-on-one interviews, because he claims to think that they are all harmful, and to eliminate any sexual questions of any kind, because they make people feel remorse for breaking the law of chastity, and since breaking the law of chastity is a “natural” thing, kids shouldn’t feel bad about it.

However, historically he has upset that the Church doesn’t take into account his opinion on things. I have seen him complain, over and over again, that he has spent years of his life in the Church and given it thousands of dollars, and he should have a say in how it is run. He seems to think that his opinion should count just as much, or more, than those of the apostles. He has bounced from one cause to another over the years, and never got much traction or acclaim until this. Now that he is getting attention he is going to keep making a bigger and bigger stink until the Church bends to him, at which point he would just start complaining about one of the dozens of other things he complains about, or until his supporters realize how quixotic this is and abandon him. There will always be a core of angry ex-Mormons or soon-to-be ex-Mormons that will love him, only because he is trying to give the Church a black eye. I am hopeful that faithful members will see him for what he is and avoid this “cause” like a plague.

This all reminds me so much of Nehemiah. Young is a modern echo of Sanballat, demanding that the apostles come down from their important work to do his bidding. The apostles are thankfully following the path of Nehemiah, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?”

51 thoughts on “Guest post: what is Sam Young’s true cause?

  1. As an aside: “The Pseudonymous George Rasmussen” may be the best internet handle I’ve seen this week. Well done, sir. Or madam, as the case may be.

  2. Sam Young is just the latest in a long line of people who think they should lead the Church rather than the Savior, speaking through his apostles.

    My very, very shy 13-year-old son has gone through two temple recommends. In each case, a member of the bishopric met with him with an open door and another adult nearby. As anybody who has gone through a temple recommend interview knows, there is only one question regarding chastity, and it is: “do you live the law of chastity?” My son — who turns red every time “girls” are brought up — had absolutely no problem with this anodyne question. “How are bishops supposed to know if you keep the law of chastity if they don’t ask?” he told me. It appears my 13-year-old has about 1000 times more common sense than Sam Young.

    Here is Church guidance on this issue:

    https://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/new-guidelines-for-interviewing-youth

  3. Great summary, thank you. I agree with everything you’ve written, except for, what feels like to me, an overarching lack of respect for every person who journeys differently than we. With that said, I’d like to add my perspective.

    With love, I reached out to Sam earlier this year to understand his perspective. We have since interacted multiple times online, and we have talked on the phone 3 separate times. Each time I’ve encouraged him to change his approach, offering him reasonable, alternative ways, based on Mormon doctrine and history, to more appropriately/effectively express his views. Yet sadly, every time Sam has declined my offer. I even personally gave him detailed feedback regarding the wording of his petition, and rewrote it for him. Sadly, he hasn’t listened.

    Why?

    Well, at this point it seems (at least to me, based on our history) that Sam is more interested in hurting the LDS church, and losing his membership, than he is interested in actually protecting LDS children. If Sam really wanted to protect LDS children, he would speak directly to LDS parents, instead of trying to force an apostle to meet him on the street. LDS parents (like me) will continue to ignore Sam, not because we don’t care about our kids, but because Sam’s approach is wrong.

    If Sam or his followers read this, I sincerely wish y’all the best. No hard feelings from me. Just asking for you to listen. Take care.

    And, if any active members of the church are interested in protecting LDS children and youth, please feel free to read my article here: https://goo.gl/kg58Kj

  4. Excellent post. If anything it shows that people like Sam Young aren’t really trying to “improve” the church as they are trying to shine a light on themselves.

  5. Outstanding! You have seen everything I have with him. I noticed that when he started using children, his “cause” picked up steam. It is interesting that he and his daughter claim there are thousands of active members that support him but don’t come forward out of fear… The only people I see supporting him for the most part are nonmembers and those that have left the Church.

  6. As a convert to the church at age 21, I never once felt anything but love and understanding from one-on-one interviews that I had. All of my bishops pointed me to Christ and helped me feel the Spirit and God’s love for me. Not once did I feel abused or judged. Now, as a father, I attend all interviews with my 13 year old daughter and 12 year old son. Nothing other than, “Do you live the law of chastity?” has ever been asked of them on the subject and the meetings are filled with love and friendliness. I don’t understand many disaffected mormons. I know everyone has had different experiences and some are valid. My experiences since joining the church, however, has me scratching my head as to whether these critics were brought up in a different church…

  7. RRR, yes. I have been listening to and reading the complaints of disaffected members and ex-members for two decades now, and a huge percentage of their complaints are based on impossible to confirm third party anecdotes. If you listen carefully, their claims are almost always, “well, my friend said her bishop was always asking her sexual questions.” Notice that this is hearsay.

    To be clear: I am NOT saying that inappropriate things never happen in Church. Church leaders are human and can and have made serious mistakes. But the disaffected seem very inclined to exaggerate all claims to justify questioning and/or leaving the Church.

    RRR and other readers, here are a few posts you may be interested in:

    https://www.millennialstar.org/the-contrast-between-the-on-line-mormon-world-and-the-real-mormon-world/

    https://www.millennialstar.org/about-that-claim-of-suicides-by-lds-teens-with-same-sex-attraction/

    https://www.millennialstar.org/jesus-doesnt-care-how-many-likes-your-post-gets-on-facebook/

  8. My lunch was doubly satisfying today. I thought of Brother Young as I devoured my nutritious lunch. Perhaps he will read the news release and decide it’s time to break the fast? One can only hope. 🙂

  9. I thought about including some particularly damning screenshots from the Mormon Stories facebook group, but wanted to keep it to sources people could go to themselves. Some online have criticized my assertion that Young lost his testimony in 2014, but if you look at the post I linked to, he does say that he lost his testimony. “In a poignant and sobering moment, that fateful November day, I realized that I “knew” nothing. Nothing was certain. Confusion. Disappointment. Sadness. Anger. Loneliness. All these emotions swept though my mind. Other than continuing to search and study, I didn’t know what to do. Anger continued to build. It frightened my wife and family. For a time, it harmed our relationship.”

    Young has stated that he loves certain of Christ’s teachings, and is adopting those to guide him, but he doesn’t think it matters whether he actually believe in Christ. He is doing what a lot of Christians these days do, worship certain of Christ’s teachings, and worship certain ideas ascribed to Christ, while denying the divinity of Christ himself. Pres. Nelson has warned about this recently in Conference.

  10. Some have complained that this is an ad hominem attack on PLDSC by giving factual background (supported by Young’s own blog) about PLDSC’s founder and driving force. Despite Young’s claim that this is all about the kids and not about him, the driving force of the narrative is his anger and vitriol, and most of the posts on the PLDSC facebook page include the hashtag “#samyoung” on them. He is clearly a big part of the narrative, and is using his claim to be currently an “active” member as part of the bona fides for his cause, plus playing heavily on the fact that he was a bishop 25 years ago. He is the SOLE public face of this. He claims he loves the Church and the brethren and is only trying to help. I think it is fair play to ask whether his actions and public statements are consistent with this. They are not.

  11. (Also, I don’t agree with much of what the Salt Lake Tribune does editorially, but a recent headline identified Young as an “Ex-LDS Bishop” rather than a “former LDS bishop.” Even broken clocks are right sometimes ….

  12. He will most likely be excommunicated by years end. Naturally, he will paint himself the victim of abuse by the tyrannical Church that does not let him run the show. Also good to see that Mike Norton is as unhinged as ever.

  13. I have never been formally diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, but I have so many Aspie traits that I identify as one. I have been blessed with many wonderful leaders over the years in church, but I have had some very traumatic experiences with others.

    I grew up making good grades in school but was very naïve as to the ways of the world. I was compliant and rarely got into any kind of trouble. My parents never gave me the “Birds and Bees” talk. I did not learn the plumbing of human reproduction until I read about it in my high school biology textbook when I was 16.

    But as I turned twelve years old, well-meaning but misguided bishops began grilling me on whether I practiced something that I will euphemistically call “self-pleasuring.” I had no idea what this act was. When I asked the leaders for clarification, they begrudgingly gave me technical answers which I still could not understand. All I could discern was that this was some dark, evil practice. Warnings against this act were also frequent topics in priesthood lessons, conferences, etc.

    In parallel, I was undergoing an early puberty. I began to erroneously feel deep guilt that any sexual urge or bodily reaction was related to this evil practice. I even began confessing to this “self-pleasuring” sin even though I still did not understand what it really was, nor had ever actually done it. I was able to serve a two-year mission, but even then I felt somewhat unworthy because of all the body-shaming warnings I had internalized from priesthood leaders. This was my first experience with church-related trauma. It is an example of the scrupulosity trap which can ensnare Aspies.

  14. I am a member of the church and I support the cause that Sam is heralding. I understand that everyone is entitled to have their opinion, but true Christlike behavior is hard to find and Sam is showing that here. While I may not agree with all of the tactics, this is an important topic. Utah currently suffers from an epidemic of you suicide that nowhere else in the country is experiencing. It is the leading cause of death for children between 12-18 years old. I don’t think the issues of the Protect the LDS Children movement and suicide are mutually exclusive. I believe they are intertwined.

    I was asked sexually explicit questions by my bishop as a child and teenager by multiple bishops. I didn’t know what the terms meant until those interviews. I felt repulsed and darkened by this behavior. Does every bishop engage in this behavior? No, but many have, and further abuses have occurred without recompense to the victims. The church has changed some policies, but the Leadership Handbook still requires priesthood leaders to ask children if they obey the law of chastity. The guidance from the Church and Kirton and McConkie still does not give leadership clear rules to stay out of the muck and the mire by instructing leadership to steer clear of probing questions. This puts the leader and the child in a dangerous place. It grooms the child for future abuse and it places the leader in a risky position of being too forward or construed as being a sexual deviant.

    More change needs to occur. Too many children have and are being hurt, no matter the intent of the leader. Some leaders are wise and steer clear or have open doors to their office or another present. This is progress but not enough.

  15. George, I’m saddened to see what turmoil you are allowing Sam to bring into your life and the way in which you are handling your issues with this man. Your response, especially bringing up Sam giving money to someone on the street to shame him, is demeaning to you, not Sam. I understand your concerns about defending your church. I understand you don’t appreciate the way Sam has gone about bringing up concerns to the church. I also understand you don’t think his concerns are valid, that some stories are not true and that the church doesn’t need to listen to concerns from members. But the way in which you handle your issues with Sam was not done in a way that Christ or especially the church would handle them. The church, although not ever agreeing with Sam, never shamed him the way you have. The church has stayed Christlike, loving, non-demeaning and shown integrity with Sam. Sadly, the article that you have written has not shown the same love the church has. I do think the church does, and should, listen to the concerns of the members. Not because the members “should” make changes in the church, but because the members do have legitimate love for the church, it’s members and the children. Unless the heads of the church are willing to listen to the members, our church becomes prideful and not humble. Please consider how the church has kept their integrity while also addressing this man’s concerns. If the church can keep their integrity while dealing with this disagreement, I would surely hope that a man, like yourself, who is claiming to be such a faithful servant to the Lord and who would take the time to write an article to defend the church he loves could keep the same amount of integrity. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with him, but once you throw in that he gave money to a homeless person as an example of what a horrible person he is- you lost my respect.

  16. “true Christlike behavior is hard to find and Sam is showing that here.”

    Really? How often does he preach repentance and holding true to our covenants?

    “Utah currently suffers from an epidemic of you suicide that nowhere else in the country is experiencing.”

    Idaho, Nevada, Colorado, Montana, and New Mexico all have higher rates of suicide. Suicide rates are up across the entire nation.

    “the Leadership Handbook still requires priesthood leaders to ask children if they obey the law of chastity.”

    And it always will. To say otherwise is to say the Law of Chastity shouldn’t be a commandment(which is what is really going on here)

  17. I’m glad he’s doing this. Disparage him all you want but he has true integrity. I support Sam.

  18. Johnny,

    I see NOTHING Christlike in Young’s behavior in this instance. I find it interesting that his only response to this was to film a video of himself publicly giving alms this morning. He misunderstood my criticism of him posting video of himself giving a panhandler $20 bucks as criticism of him giving money to a panhandler. I didn’t criticize the gift, but the publication of the gift. So what does he do? He doubles down and publicizes that he’s going to hand out $60 to panhandlers today. This is behavior directly condemned by Christ.

    Young has put himself front and center. He has shined the spotlight on himself, and he has been dishonest from the word go. He hasn’t been ignored, his local leaders have been far more patient and willing to listen to him than I would have been in their shoes. If I were his SP, I would have convened a disciplinary council in 2016 when his apostasy was obvious, and long before he starting pushing this issue in late 2017.

    He has confirmation, multiple times over, that the apostles are well aware of who he is, and what he is saying. He hasn’t been ignored, he just hasn’t been obeyed. And, it seems clear to me that this is the sticking point. He believes he should have a vote in how the Church is run, and this is all a big temper tantrum that he isn’t getting his way.

    He smiles, and acquits himself in an “awe shucks” manner, but at the core of this is a struggle for control, and he is using his crowd of disaffected to try to force the Church to obey him. If he could have gathered this kind of mob 18 months ago on lgbt issues, he would have died of starvation on the sidewalk of South Temple a year ago.

  19. JBS,

    As I mentioned to Johnny, my criticism was of Young posting video of himself giving money to the homeless. I mentioned it because it is illustrative of everything he is doing. His stated concerns have been effectively communicated. He has ample evidence that he has been heard. But, this hasn’t been about being heard, or it stopped being about being heard a long time ago. If that were the case, he would’ve stopped a long time ago. This is about control, and Young’s demonstrated belief that he should have control over Church doctrines, policies and practices. His publicly alms-giving is merely another evidence of his motivating principles.

    As for the rest of your comment, you read a lot into my post that isn’t there. You suggest that my criticism of Young is inappropriate because the Church hasn’t chosen to publicly criticize him, and yet you yourself criticize me despite the fact that the Church hasn’t chosen to publicly criticize me either. Hmmmmm.

    I do find your use of the word “shame” to be interesting. While I believe that Young should be ashamed of himself and his public actions over the last several years, I haven’t shamed him. I have merely pointed out the results of my interactions with him and his own public pronouncements. There are truly shameful things in his words and actions, and any shame is a result of his own actions.

  20. This article was hilarious and a great example of ‘Ad hominem’

     (Latin for “to the man” or “to the person”[1]), short for argumentum ad hominem, is a fallacious argumentative strategy whereby genuine discussion of the topic at hand is avoided by instead attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, or persons associated with the argument, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself.[

  21. Tom Irvine, thanks for your insight.

    Johnny: //”Utah currently suffers from an epidemic of you[th] suicide that nowhere else in the country is experiencing. “//

    This is simply untrue. Suicides & rates have been rising across the country, not just Utah, over many years: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2018/06/07/u-s-suicide-rates-rise-sharply-across-the-country-new-report-shows/

    And the best research on LDS-specific suicides and suicidal ideation (not to mention religion in general) make quite clear that this isn’t an “LDS shaming” problem:

    “Research in Utah suggests something quite different. For instance, the 2015 Utah Prevention Needs Assessment (a survey of over 27,000 Utah youths) found that teens who attended religious services more often (a few times a month to once a week) were less likely to have suicidal thoughts or suicidal attempts than those who attended less frequently. Further, teens identifying as Mormon were less likely to report suicidal thoughts or attempts.

    “Another more recent Utah study of 600 families with a teen (the Family Foundations of Youth Development study, 2016-2017) found the same: more religious teens and Mormon teens were significantly less likely to experience suicidal thoughts. Teens who had previously been Mormon (had left the Mormon Church) had similar rates of suicidal thoughts as their non-Mormon peers.”
    (https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900021663/op-ed-responding-to-ellen-on-mormons-and-teen-suicide.html)

    Does that mean we shouldn’t ask questions into why this is happening or how we might help? Of course not. But it’s important not to make false or misleading claims when trying to do so.

  22. Have any of you that are critical of Sam and his movement actually read any of the hundreds of accounts of abuse and suffering as a result of these interview practices? I suggest you do before you point a finger of scorn at Sam and others who feel similarly. I find George Rasmussen’s characterization of Sam and the movement to be completely off base and using ad hominem attacks to discredit Sam are purely juvenile. You can all live in your bubble and echo chambers and pretend that “there’s nothing to see here, move along folks.” The fact is that severe harm and trauma can and have come from these interview practices. I can attest to that personally. Bishops by and large are all well meaning and participating in a system as they are conditioned and instructed to do so. That system, however, is antiquated and broken. Any major change that has come about in church history has arisen from significant outside pressure. 1890 manifesto and granting blacks the priesthood are perfect examples. “Revelation” does not happen in a vacuum. We just call it that to make ourselves believe it was God’s idea as opposed to those who are fighting from within and without to end abusive practices. The Mormon God is always years behind the needed positive social changes.

  23. “Claims that bishoprics are asking detailed sexual questions of members are wildly exaggerated.”

    What is your evidence for this? Many people have spoken about their experiences in videos, others have submitted their stories on the website.
    What evidence do you have that these stories are exaggerated?

    In my experience, I would say that >95% of bishops do a good job. Even if that number is higher, there’s still opportunities for youth to be harmed.

    Even if Bishops simply ask “Do you keep the law of chastity?” Since members are taught that a full confession is required for full repentance, many members will volunteer sensitive, vulnerable details to an untrained man. Twelve year old women simply should not be talking about their masturbation habits with old men. You cannot eliminate that from happening, unless you take the measures Sam has presented–or similar.

    Also, I simply do not understand why the apostles are so unapproachable. How many examples of Christ and other prophets are there of them being publicly challenged?

  24. Well, it sounds like Mormon Derangement Syndrome (mDs) is in vogue. It is ridiculous the people who flee at every perceived provocation.

    The gospel is true it is bigger than mortals — so grow up pple or u’ll cut ‘the tie’ that binds & sink y/selves to H E (Hades) ❗️

    Jac 6.12!

  25. NOTE TO COMMENTERS: M* admins have allowed a wide variety of comments so far from a variety of viewpoints. This post is going viral, and we are not able to allow all comments. From this point, we will be very selective in the comments that are allowed, and at some point soon comments will be closed. Thank you for reading this post and commenting.

  26. Dan,

    The purpose of this article wasn’t to discuss the merits (or lack thereof) for Young’s cause. He has placed himself front and center, and a great many of his followers laud his courage, his integrity, and his heroism. He is the poster boy for this protest. In every press release, he describes himself as just a run-of-the-mill active member of the Church. He lauds his status as a former bishop to bolster his credentials to the only audiences that would care about such a thing. He actively uses his history, or rather a selectively retelling of his history, as ammunition in this effort.

    But it is not a truthful representation. I haven’t made his background relevant to the discussion. He has. His followers have. I find it all dishonest. But, he knows that most active members of the Church won’t give him the time of day if they knew who he really was. So he lies, and by lying he makes it a part of the discussion.

  27. The apostates have arrived right on que to defend their latest martyr for the cause!

  28. “Mormon Derangement Syndrome (mDs)”

    “The apostates have arrived right on que to defend their latest martyr for the cause!”

    “But it is not a truthful representation. … I find it all dishonest.”

    Is it not possible to respectfully disagree without calling names, being condescending, and dismissive?

  29. So, as a 12 or 13 year-old, I had a bishop ask me about the law of chastity and I didn’t really know what exactly what that meant, so he briefly and respectfully informed me what “fornication” and “masturbation” meant. I felt as uncomfortable as I would if anyone talked about those things with me, but I didn’t feel it was inappropriate- I just wished I had a better idea of what it was before I was in his office.
    What is a bishop supposed to do if the youth doesn’t understand the “law of chastity”? End the interview and have someone else explain? I guess I have seen how some of my own kids have felt uncomfortable when I have explained sex and chastity to them- so hopefully they don’t have to have that conversation somewhere else. But, what about kids whose parents have not adequately explained this to them for whatever reason (there are a variety of them). I’m NOT trying to defend bad behavior, but now I can see how a bishop could be accused, even if he is trying to explain the question. Can the bishop explain if there is another adult in the room?
    I know people have sufffered from people who are in power, but I think we need to be careful we aren’t wrongly accusing either. Bishops have a tough job.

  30. Amy, thanks for your comment.

    As for kids whose parents have not explained things to them, this illustrates the need for all of us to teach our children, and prepare them before they have a bishop’s interview. I think the emphasis on teaching in the home, that has really been at the forefront in the church is important — we can’t not talk about these hard subjects. I also had no idea about these things when I was 13 years old, as my parents never taught me anything about chastity as a kid. I figured things out on my own, would go sit in the stacks at the library trying to teach myself about the questions I had. We have to teach our kids though, with all of the media and access to info that people have today, if we don’t have an open line of communicate our kids are doomed!

    I would say that if a teen did not know what those things are — chastity, sex, masturbation etc, the bishop would need to follow up with the parents, and maybe talk to all of them as a family. And I think it would wholly appropriate for a bishop to be there, but have the parent explain things.

  31. It’s sad tale. Like Forrest Gump probably would say: “Apostate is as Apostate does. That’s all I have to say about that.”

  32. re: “not the church I grew up in,” or “not the church I joined”.

    I can somewhat echo the latter. I joined as an adult (over 21) in the midwest, and had two years of good EQ presidents, good bishops, and good stake presidents.

    I entered the MTC as a 2 year convert in the early 80’s. The MTC president who has been accused of rape was there as pres at the time. I arrived a few months after the alleged rape/attempted rape. He gave me the creeps. I wanted to report him for the hate-filled and manipulative spirit he had, but didn’t know what to do. I was totally unsurprised at the recent allegations (which the woman has actually been making for 30 years.)

    The management/leadership style of the mtc at the time was one of brow-beating and intimidation to keep the rowdy elders in line. That MTC pres ALWAYS spoke (I was there for 8 or 9 weeks) with anger, confrontation, condescension and arrogance towards the body of missionaries. So did all the branch presidents who spoke at the weekly devotional. So did my branch president every sunday.

    That was not the church I had joined. But the church was (and is) still true, so I gritted my teeth, and soldiered on.

    The MTC in those days was a culture of intimidation and unrighteous dominion from the ecclesiastical leadership.

    Others remember it differently. But I suggest that many who grew up in Utah were acclimated to that condescending atittude of adult-to-child in the church. And the MTC leaders treated the missionaries like misbehaving children, such that the “good kids” there at the time, easily filtered out or ignored the brow-beating. Whereas, as an age 23+ convert, being talked to as something other than an adult was shocking. Apparently, the high standards for missionary service were being ignored if _everyone_ deserved such brow-beating, because the speakers _never_ addressed “just” the baddies, they treated/addressed the entire body as if everyone was rebelious.

    Anyway, it wasn’t just the MTC pres. There was at least one BP who said something in a devotional which convinced me he was an actual wife-beater, because he was so filled with hate and unrighteous-dominion and bullying.

    The MTC was the most unchristian place I had been in since joining the church.

    For an MTC pres, who is called andsupervised by a G.A. (Bishop repoerted to Carlos Asay), shows that things can get VERY off track, even inthe true church.

    Moroni was right in that “If there are faults, they are the mistakes of men.”

    If you read John Dehlins back story, his problems started when he observed elders creating fake baptismal records, and the mission pres didnt do anything about it.

    I left the church shortly after my mission. It took a long long time to reconcile imperfect leaders, even a few real “baddies”, in the true church. Not everyone can make that reconciliation.

    Yes, many, perhaps most, disaffected members and ex-members go on to exaggerate and miscast/misrepresent to the point of lying.

    But when I came back to church and found the ex-mos and others, I had more pity on them than hate, because I recognize the seeds of their apostasy.

    There are still leaders in the church who have “bully” and “overbearing” type personalities. Fortunately, I have not detected any in the 15 or the General Authorities for many years.

    But they are still around at the stake and ward level in various places.

    Why?

    Because there are not enough perfect men to go around. The Lord has to make do with what WE give him.

    here’s a scenario that has probably played out many times:

    – You have a less-than-perfect-bishop-type-guy for a bishop, because….
    – the better man, who would otherwise be bishop, has been called to be YM pres, because the Lord considers youth more important than adults, so YM pres is critical and gets the higher priority.
    – There is a man who could have been YM pres, and freed up the current YM pres to be a good bishop, but that guy is inactive, and won’t/can’t accept callings.
    – And that inactive guy got disaffected because a home-teacher stepped on his toes.

    or it may have involved more steps than that. We are all inter-woven in a fabric. When any of us fails to live up to our fore-ordinations, others “down the line” feel the effect.

    Maybe I should have walked out of the MTC, gone to Salt Lake and denounced the mtc pres as a “baddie” based on his hate-filled leadership style. But back inthe 80’s, “emotional abuse” or “spiritual abuse” wasn’t in my, or in many others’, vocabulary.

    Even if I had, I would have been dismissed as rebelious and insubordinate myself.

    so yeah, poop happens, even in the true church.

    But also, with the ripple effect, we are ALL guilty, even if its for so much as a missed HT/VT contact.

    For lack of a home-teacher/minister, the kid grew up inactive; for lack of that kid, some ward eventually went without a YM pres; for lack of that YM pres, the good bishop had to be the YM pres; for lack of that good bishop, you got the one you didn’t like.

  33. Aren’t the criticisms already addressed by current practice? Parents are there. My daughter had her interview at 12 last week. They asked the law of chastity. Some things she didn’t understand. My wife was there and helped her. We then had a FHE lesson on it to clear some things up – we’d already taught the birds and the bees.

    I don’t doubt some kids might have been troubled by the questions – perhaps due to not having had their parents teach them about sex. However it’s just not clear how the recent changes don’t solve this.

  34. Bookslinger,

    J. Golden Kimball is reported to have said, in regards to leaders in the Church, “some are sent to lead us and some are sent to try us.”

  35. Clark,

    The criticisms are addressed by current practices. Young says that they didn’t meet his full demand, so he is going forward, but I think my post gives a more full explanation for why this is still happening.

  36. Bookslinger, I am sorry that you had that experience in the MTC. I worked there for 3 years in various jobs (mailroom, teacher, translator) I never saw any of that kind of behavior there. It has changed for the better.

  37. My sister’s response when the policy was announced was that she would never have let her son (then about to turn twelve) alone in the room with a bishop. I wonder if she’ll have the same view when he’s ready to interview for a mission.

    I remember the bishops who gave me my baptismal interview and deacon’s ordination interview to have been particularly warm in so doing. I hope I can emulate that if I’m ever called as a bishop or stake president.

  38. I went to one of his posts. Yes, the doggones, gee whizzes and aw shucks are very off putting. He is pleading, “like me, like me.”

  39. After denying the Holy Ghost and the shedding of innocent blood, sexual sins are the most abominable above all other sins. Alma reminded one of his sons: “Know ye not, my son, that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost?”
    Unless you live in a cave, you know that Satan will use any unchaste thing to achieve his goals. “And others will he pacify, and lull them away into CARNAL security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away CAREFULLY down to hell.” The mistakes of some men do not preclude the fact that it is the church’s duty and parents’ duty to warn teens against sin. What kind of LDS parent expects a Bishop’s interview to NOT address the obvious dangers of breaking the law of chastity–speaking of society in general and of future choices (“and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.” Book of Mormon again) and of the dangers of self-arousal and pornography. If a teenager is interviewed by a church leader and has not read and been taught from “For the Strength of Youth” or a lesson on chastity, there is something seriously wrong. It makes no sense. I am sure there have been some mishaps. I pray for healing for all involved in those situations.

  40. Well done! Among the many things your essay demonstrates and does so unambiguously is Sam Young intentionally adopting the role of “moral entrepreneur” of what has become “moral panic.” Moral panics require “fork devils.” Sadly, LDS bishops have been cast as “fork devils.” “Moral panic is both a public and political response to an exaggeration or distortion of the threat posed to society by some allegedly harmful individual or group. More specifically, moral panic includes an exaggeration of certain events by enhancing the empirical criteria such as the number of individuals involved, the level and extent of violence, and the amount of damage caused. ” Moral Panic: Who Benefits From Public Fear?” Scott A. Bonn Ph.D. Psychology Today Jul 20, 2015

  41. Joyce, there was (and probably still is) a big lack of connection/observation between the classrooms and the ecclesiastical side of the MTC. Also a big disconnect between the adminstrative side (secretaries, food service, mail room, book/supply store) and the ecclessiasrical side.

    Secretaries, store clerks, classroom teachers, foodservice workers never attended the weekly devotionals or sunday services that the full time missionaries did.

    In other words, there were no outside witnesses to see the Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde flip that the ecclesiastical leadership did. They could treat adults and non-missionaries just fine, but all elders were treated as if they were the worst… not wanting to be there, or not wanting to follow the rules.

    Eventually, I wrote it off to a couple of things.

    a) there were more than a few wild elders who needed the boot-camp drill sargeant type of treatment. Though that still seems odd to me in a Christian setting consisting of supposedly all volunteers. (Though given the huge amount of family, cultural, and church-leadership pressure, one could argue that missionary service was not entirely voluntary before 2002.)

    In a volunteer organization, when there are people who don’t want to be there, or don’t want to follow rules, leaders should give those particular individuals warnings, not condescend to, brow-beat, and emotionally abuse the whole group. And if the warnings aren’t heeded, you tell those individuals “Thank you for trying, but apparently this isn’t working out for you or us. We love you and wish you the best, but your service is no longer needed in the mission dept. We’re confident that you will find joy as you serve the Lord and His children in your home or school ward.”

    It took until 2002 for church leadership to finally enforce the stated qualifications for service that they had only given lip service to before.

    I still wonder, in those “wild and wooly days” were all those mission/missionary problems a “bug or a feature” ?

    and/or…..

    b) The Nephite disease was rampant in Utah, ingrained in the culture. Did Asay ever go to Provo and attend the weekly whole-mtc devotionals and sunday services of the branches in the MTC? Wouldn’t he have noticed something was spiritually wrong there with the mtc pres and the BPs when they gave talks? How/why did a rapist/abuser get away with being the MTC pres for so long ? Why was a wife-beater a mtc branch pres, and member of BYU faculty?

    I think the answer is as I gave in the previous comment. The Lord can work with only what we give him. Parents weren’t/aren’t raising perfectly mission-worthy kids. There weren’t/aren’t enough perfect men in Provo to run the MTC. Poop happens. Read the D&C: Joseph Smith admitted to mistakes too, and the Lord frequently chewed out church leaders in the D&C. Most of the 11 witnesses apostatized.

    Nor are there enough perfect people to run the wards and stakes.

    But it’s amazing how the work rolls on. As Meg has said, there is an “ablative layer” in/on the church that gets lost, sometimes/oftentimes through no fault of their own.

    I’m sure the Lord is very merciful towards those in the church who get wounded, lost or even spiritually killed via “friendly fire.”

    “Friendly fire” is the term I use for most of the spiritual wounds I got during my mission. And it’s taken me a long time to realize that I was also a source of friendly fire towards others. Ah, yes.. the forgiveness of my sins depends on me forgiving others.

    It’s a wonder, a miracle, a marvelous thing: the work still rolls on in spite of all these problems. So, again, are problems a “bug” or a “feature”?

  42. When I was a missionary in the MTC for 8 weeks in 1982 (under Joe J. Christensen), I experienced no un-Christian behavior from my ecclesiastical leaders.

  43. When I was in the LTM in Hawaii in 1973, I experienced nothing but support and love from the leadership. There was a guest speaker who said something I disagreed with, but it wasn’t a matter of browbeating. And the LTM president announced in nearly mournful tones the resignation of Spiro Agnew as Vice President of the US, while I nearly leapt to my feet and shouted hallelujah at the news.

    As to Sam Young, he will strut and fret his hour upon the stage, and then [be] heard no more. Or, for a biblical allusion, he will be like Theudas or Judas of Galilee, whose causes burned bright for a moment and then vanished into well-deserved darkness.

  44. Bookslinger, I did attend church most Sundays, devotionals and large group meetings as a translator. I was there every day of the week (most weeks) for three years. I stand by what I said, I did not observe what you’ve described, although I am sad that this was your experience.

  45. NW Clerk, It is my fervent hope that emotional, spiritual, and sexual abuse of missionaries never occurred before or after Bishop’s tenure. If he was the one who recruited/called BPs, I can see how his personality type multiplied among the leadership ranks at the MTC. He would have called people like him in terms of style.

    Even during his tenure, I’m confident that at least 99.5% of sister missionaries there would say he was never inappropriate with them.

    As to general impressions, we all look through different lenses. As a survivor of childhood trauma, my “lizard brain” triggers a physical reaction when I am in the presence of someone with manipulative or abusive tendencies. Call it gut feel, or Spidey Sense. Somehow the deep psych or unconscious mind “leaks out”, both in them and in me. They don’t have to be an actual physical/outward abuser, they just have to have that personality “type”. And even though they may keep it in check, never actually physically abusing, the spirit of that personality type leaks out and i pick up on it. Some call it a PTSD flashback.

    It’s also about the environment, or “water” we grow up in. If you grew up in the church in Utah, the MTC leadership style of the 80’s would not be totally foreign to you. You would have been acclimated to the Nephite disease without even knowing what it was or recognizing it as a 19 year old. That arrogance among adults-who-were-in-charge-of-youth would have been your “normal.” Or, if recognized, you could have easily shrugged it off and ignored it.

    Growing up unchurched in the midwest, converting at age >21, never being in primary, young men’s, etc., having only very “non-Utah” type LDS leaders for a few years, I saw the MTC through a very different lens.

    I didn’t know the term “lizard brain” or PTSD back then, but it was screaming at me. I ignored it.

    bottom line: I think the “moral panic” comment above is very good. We should love and pity the apostates/agitators, and whatever particles of truth are in their claims should be addressed, which I think the Brethren have done. But also, realize the agitators go on to greatly exaggerate, and eventually fall into the adversary’s traps. They become wolves in sheep’s clothing, vipers on the hearth, themselves.

    I think “George” is right to give us a Paul Harvey “Rrrrrest of the story!” about bro Young.

  46. Joyce, I’m glad that the bad atmosphere didn’t persist after Bishop. I also admit I processed the experience as an outsider, not growing up in the church, and not growing up in Utah or the Mormon-Corridor.

    I think Meg was there as a missionary about the same time I was. Her experience more matched yours than mine. But then she grew up in the church.

    That, and my own undiagnosed PTSD, may be a key in the differing perceptions. And … leadership acted as if all missionaries grew up inthe church.

    and I also give an “Amen” to the J Golden Kimball quote about some leaders are called to try us.

    I think the synthesis is that sometimes bad things do happen in the church, but they are few. And should be fixed/corrected when they come to light, which is what the Brethren are doing. The church is true. But it won’t be perfect as long as mortal humans are its earthly adminstrators.

    I have experience taking “concerns” or “a matter” to a stake presidency. I was well-treated at the meeting. And, apparently because someone else had the same concern (and who gave them permission to publicly mention their similar matter, whereas I did not), the stake pres addressed the matter/concern at stake conference. He did so in a wise, extremely diplomatic, and Christ-like manner. So… the system works!

  47. My comments above were meant to go with the related post by J. Max Wilson, “The Flip Side of the Coin – Mormon Youth Bishop Interviews & Abuse”.

  48. Just for the record, I was in the MTC in May-June of 1978 and never experienced anything like Gunslinger has described. I was raised in the church, but feel I have a good, intuitive sense for where people are coming from, especially when it comes to unrighteous dominion. I’ve come across it in the church, but very rarely (and even then it’s more of the way they process the world, not because they were trying to be deliberately malign).

  49. Looking at this from a culture perspective, I don’t think that Sam’s cause would have garnered much attention in the 60’s throughout most of the 90’s. In those days it was socially accepted to spank your kid and show tough love. Nowadays, parents are too afraid to discipline their children and or tell them no because it might hurt their feelings. Don’t talk about masterbation, because today’s youth wouldn’t be able to handle it. It’s unfortunate how times have changed.

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