Behind Closed Doors–Don’t Let It Happen!

Closed Door

I have a good friend of many years.  He and his family have not been to church in a long time.  Our friendship began a few months after his disaffection, maybe a decade ago.

One time we talked about why he was not active.  “I have some concerns with my bishop.”  He didn’t elaborate.  I didn’t pry.

I hadn’t talked with him in maybe a year.  Out of the blue, he called a few days ago to chat.  How timely.  Later that day I was planning to release my Walrus post.  So, I was feeling really chatty.  A meeting was arranged.  I shared my faith journey.  His eyes were wide with riveted attention.  My experience was totally unexpected and shocking.  But, I believe it was a pleasant shock.

He said, “Sam, I think you can now understand me.  I’m going to tell you why I quit going to church.”

Here’s his story.  The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

As you  know, I didn’t grow up in the church.  I’m an adult convert.  After my baptism, my wife and I weren’t terribly active.  At some point, we decided that church would be good for the children.  We searched out the local ward.  Made our first visit.  Met the bishop.  Right off the bat, Jeni (his wife) and I were called into the nursery.  I was not excited about taking care of other people’s kids.  Our youngest had just entered the young men’s program.  Never-the-less, we accepted.  

One day Jeff (his youngest) told me that he had an interview scheduled with the bishop.  He was extremely nervous.  I reassured him that I’d be right outside the bishop’s office.  If he became uncomfortable at all, he could just come get me.  Of course, I wasn’t worried in the least.  After all, he was going to have a talk with the spiritual leader of the congregation.

My Jeffie entered.  The door was closed.  I waited.  Within a few minutes the bishop’s door opened.  My flustered son rushed to my side.  “Dad, he asked if I have ever had sex with another boy.  Then he asked if I masturbated.”

I was livid.  No one has a right to interrogate my child in this way.  I confronted the bishop.  Leaned over his desk and shouted, “If you ever ask those questions to my kids again, I’ll beat you to a pulp.”  I walked out the chapel door and never returned.

A Dangerous Culture

Until the past couple of years, I was not aware that this practice had become common—for bishops to ask 12 to 18 year old children about masturbation.  Just envision it.  An untrained older man taking a 12 year old girl, behind closed doors, without the parents’ knowledge or permission and asking, “Do you touch yourself down there?”  Maybe that sounds perfectly natural and acceptable to you.  If it does…good luck with that.

For those of you who are NOT ok with turning children over to an adult male, with no training, to be taken into a private, closed room to be quizzed about sexual matters…starting at 12…please continue reading.

In my growing up years, never once was I asked these types of probing & inappropriate questions by any church leader.  My wife was never asked either.  I served as bishop for over 5 years.  Thankfully, I never asked one single kid about touching his or her privates.  It never entered my mind.  Hopefully, I would have recoiled at the idea if I’d been directed to do so by the higher ups.

Why would it be dangerous for your child to be quizzed about masturbation by an older man, in a private closed room without your authorization?  And remember, he has no training.  Do I really have to elaborate?  Society in general recognizes this as risky, unsafe, and unhealthy.  We should recognize it as…unholy.  Heaven forbid that we have a sexual predator in priesthood leadership.  It’s rare.  But, it has happened many times in the church.  Why risk it?….Don’t!!

There’s another big danger.  This practice grooms children for the sexual predators lurking in the real world.  Our child is trained that it’s OK for a trusted  older man, in a white shirt and tie, to talk to her in private about her private parts.  This is an unnecessary, gross, and hazardous practice.

What To Do

  1. Don’t let your child be interviewed without your permission.
  2. Be present, in the closed door room, during the interview.
  3. Inform your bishop of your conditions for youth interviews.  You are to be present. No discussion about masturbation or other sexual matters.  That is to be between you and your child ONLY.
  4. Inform your child that they are to let you know whenever any church leader requests a meeting with them.
  5. If inappropriate questions are asked, stop the interview immediately.

To My Children

I know that this may sound uncomfortable.  Your children, my grandchildren, are more precious than a little discomfort with church leaders who may not understand.

Stand up for your kids.  They will be in your life for the rest of your life.  The leaders won’t.  Eventually, the bullet points above will be adopted by our church culture, just as they have been adopted by society in general.  Until then, don’t take what appears to be innocent risks.  They are dangerous risks.

P.S.

My good friend gave me permission to share this story.  He read the entire post and approved it.  For various reasons, his name is not being shared.  However, he extended this invitation.  “If anyone would like to ask me any questions, send them my way.  I’ll chat with them on the porch over a cold drink.”

I consider this man a real hero of a dad.  Standing up for his child.  Conside this comment I received today:

“Reading that story about your friend made me so angry at the church, but it also made me so happy that the young man in the story had the confidence to walk out to his dad as soon as the interview went in that direction. What a great example of good parenting. The father told his son to come out if he felt uncomfortable, and the young man did just that, even though he was in the presence of an “authoritative” figure. He was clearly raised well. I hope that I can raise my daughter to be confident and wise like that.”

19 thoughts on “Behind Closed Doors–Don’t Let It Happen!

  1. I am 100% with you Sam – even more so for young women. I do predict this will change in the next few years as it is just creepy at the least and an area ripe for some law suits.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amen! I have felt this way for years! Personally, I feel that making sexual actions such an issue, and making it shameful, has led to the increase in pornography. Shaming a huge issue.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree completely! This behind-closed-doors-interviewing of minors by a white-shirted-male-authority-figure-church-leader is a dangerous practice. It puts the girls in a position on submissiveness. It gives the boys the idea that they, at some point, will also have “authority” over females as they may see their future as a boy-version of the white-shirted man sitting on the other side of the desk. Not to mention the shame, guilt, and confusion that can torment our precious youth as a result. This can lead to a smorgasbord of sexual dysfunction.
    Thanks for your bravery, Sam. If this effects one person to be the 3rd person behind that closed door, it’s a job well done.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Sam, I had an experience many years ago that is somewhat related to what is being discussed here. This didn’t happen to any of my children, but it happened to me. We were living in Hawaii at the time and I needed a temple recommend. When my interview with the bishop was concluded I rose from my chair to leave. The bishop came quickly from behind his desk and placed his hand over mine on the door knob, making it impossible for me to open the door. To my shock, he leaned in and kissed me smack on the lips. I was more than stunned! He then let me open the door and I left his office. When I went to the Stake President for his signature on my recommend, I reported the whole incident to him and told him I wouldn’t be comfortable to have another recommend interview with the bishop. He chuckled and said, “Oh, that is just the Aloha way”. I assured him I knew exactly what the “Aloha way” was, and a kiss squarely on the lips was not it! Nothing ever came of this experience, but I did not return to that particular bishop for another recommend. I was much younger and naïve at the time, but in today’s world I would have slapped his face. It pains me that these kinds of things have happened and may still be happening behind closed doors with priesthood leaders.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Carolyn – sorry this happened to you. But as I guy I would just have to tell you a MUCH more effective way than slapping his face to get his attention would be to give a knee to his groin. And I am not kidding.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. When I was in Aaronic Priesthood my bishop seemed to always ask in some degree or another about masturbation, homosexual sex, and/or group homosexual masturbation (alas all too true in my last interview with him). Nothing happened other than being totally wierded out by him, but I never did tell anyone. It’s not just girls that it’s a problem. Heck, even when I went to go get interviewed to get married in the temple the SP asked me about homosexual sex. I was like WTH!, can’t I get away from these people?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. When I was a youth my brother couldn’t be found after church. When we did locate him he was chatting in a room with a young lady. I remember because I was surprised that mom wasn’t mad about lost time or nor lack of consideration of others. Instead she focused on the fact that it wasn’t smart to be alone behind closed doors with a girl. It wasn’t good for the reputation of either the young man or the young lady. I had never thought of it.

    When I was a scout leader we made a big deal of “two deep leadership”, meaning no leader should be the sole leader. Even with a group of boys there should always be at least two leaders, two teachers, etc. This was for the safety of both the youth, and the leaders. Again, I hadn’t considered it before, but I was learning.

    I’m sorry I didn’t learn sooner, and I wasn’t more tuned-in to this as a parent. I’m afraid I could have failed my own children. It didn’t ever occur to me to ask if they were comfortable with their interviews. I never told the bishop that I wanted either my wife, myself, or another Ieader to be in the room when there were interviews. But if I had to do it over again I sure would! Not because my kids have ever said anything untoward happened, but because it is just not safe nor healthy. I would not take the gamble now.

    Unfortunately, I understand that some children have more to fear from parents/guardians than their leaders. Privacy to be able to express themselves without a parent listening could be a problem for some. But such interviews could still be set up with at least two adults. Maybe rooms should be built with glass doors/windows so there is a place for privacy with at least a little more safety. But, even that doesn’t address probing and suggestive questions. The church should make it clear these are *not* appropriate, and are *not* what being a judge in Israel means.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ahhhh yes… I remember I always hated that part of the interview process over the years with the various bishops. It always made me feel very uncomfortable. I always wondered why they thought these were necessary questions to ask a minor. This has been going on for far too long, (I’m 55), and they definitely need to revamp the interview process, for everyone’s protection and peace of mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So, I’m 9 years older than you. Never asked once. How random are our practices. The church correlates the heck out of almost everything. Why not this? These questions should be correlated right out of existence.

      Like

      1. Random practice? I don’t think so. The Strength of the Youth pamphlet fully supports this grilling the youth, and beyond. I really do believe it is instructed and expected but that certain bishops and SP’s with scruples and a connection to Christ refuse to defy and betray Christ by complying with “the commandments of men and doctrines of devils” (D&C 46:7)..

        Yes, this is a test for leaders, and for members,youth and adults, to see whom we will follow, just like in Lehi’s dream where he was tested by a leader in a white robe to “follow Me” (Nephi 8:5-9). Moral of the story: Don’t be immoral by following the leader in white, just follow Christ

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I was under the impression that bishops and stake presidents, missions presidents etc. were still being instructed by higher ups and the bishop’s handbook to ask these perverted questions of youth and adults. So, it is just tradition, which BTW the church refuses to instruct leaders to not take part in under any circumstances? Sound like they need a stout class action law suit and some stout media attention?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Is it tradition or a dictate from the higher ups? That’s part of the problem…we don’t know. What happens to kids behind closed doors varies from ward to ward and stake to stake. The practice is never discussed openly with parents. This is a prime example where the Law of Common Consent should be applied.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s