Excommunication Summons

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Tonight, two long-term friends of mine delivered this notice to my home.

Dear Sam,

This letter is a formal notice that the stake presidency will convene a formal disciplinary council in your behalf, the result of which includes the possibility of excommunication, disfellowshipment, formal probation, or no action.  The reason for this council is that you are reported to have acted repeatedly in clear, open and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders.  You have, among other things:

  1. Encouraged others to vote opposed to Church leaders.
  2. Organized more than one public “action” that expressed opposition to the Church or its leaders.

We will convene the council at 6pm on Sunday, September 9 at the Lexington Building in the stake offices.  If you are not able to attend at this date and time, please let me know as soon as practicable.

You are invited to attend this disciplinary council to give your response to the above.  Although we welcome your attendance, it is not required; you may also submit your response in writing.  Whether you attend is of course your choice.

Disciplinary councils are sacred, confidential, ecclesiastical proceedings.  If you do choose to attend your attendance and participation are conditioned upon your agreement to respect the process and abide by the standards governing the proceeding, including the following conditions:

  1. Everyone who attends the council including you and me, will sign an acknowledgment that the council will be conducted privately and confidentially and will not be recorded in any form.  Anyone unwilling to do so will not be allowed to be present at the council.  If you decline, you will not be allowed to be present, and any statement on your behalf to the council will have to the submitted in writing.
  2. You may call witnesses, one at a time, whose testimony is relevant to the issues I have set out above.  However, any such witnesses must be identified to me in writing by name, ward and stake, at least three days in advance.  You must also provide to me, in advance and in writing, a description of the subject matter on which they will testify and the content of their testimony.  In order to offer testimony, witnesses must be members of the Church in good standing.  I will abide by these same rules in regards to any witnesses that I may call.
  3. Any proposed testimony from witnesses must relate to the specific issues described above.

I anticipate that it will take about 15 minutes for the evidence in support of the above issues to be presented to the council.  You will be afforded three times that, or 45 minutes, to give your response.

As mentioned above, if you choose not to attend the council in person, you may submit a written response that will be read to the council.  I will read your statement word-for-word, without any comment from me, for up to 45 minutes.

I feel inclined to let you know that, if it is your ultimate desire and if you wish to avoid this process entirely you have the option to request that your name be removed from the records of the Church.  If you should make such a request, the council will be cancelled, and I will work with you to supply all of the information that you need to bring about that result.

Sam, I know that Heavenly Father lives and loves you.  We are his children.  His work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.  I know that His son Jesus Christ is central to God’s plan to help us return to Him and live with our family forever.  The atonement of Jesus Christ is real.  He is our Savior and Redeemer.  No matter the course you decide to take in this life, and no matter the outcome of this disciplinary council, as His representative in the stake where you reside, I stand ready to help you and your family in any way that I can.  I will be here to meet with you and to work with you to help strengthen your relationship with Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.  My hope is that you will choose to change your course and to return to the covenant path.

Sincerely,

President Houston Texas South Stake 

Fast 23 days.  Stand up to protect children.  Speak out against a dreadful policy.  Work to help the healing of countless kids who were severely wounded behind closed doors.  Document the horrors.  Apologize.

And what do you get?  Excommunication!  After all, we are the Mormons.  At least we used to be.

Image of the Complete Letter

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“I have lived my entire life loathing myself”

 

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I hope you loathe no more, my friend.  This day, you have courageously taken action.  Commendations and congratulations from the entire Protect LDS Children movement.  Thank you for taking a stand to prevent the rising generation from being shamed into self-hatred.

Today, the following letter was sent to this brave man’s entire bishopric and stake presidency.  Every letter like this moves the church closer to grass roots changes.  I highly encourage all to do the same.  You can find additional letter formats HERE.

Gentlemen,

I am writing on a matter I consider to be of the highest importance and worthy of your attention. Please understand the real concern that has motivated me to write this to you.

Let me preface this by saying I have no issues with bishop **** at all. I consider him a friend and a good person. This is not about the leaders of the ward or the stake specifically.

The Mormon church has a policy to protect its money and those who handle it. Two men are always present.

The church has a policy to protect its members who teach children and those children from harmful and inappropriate situations. Two adults are always present and/or the doors are open.

The church policy won’t let children be alone with adults who are not their parents.

Except when it comes to bishops.

Bishops can call out and interview any kid in the ward at will unless they have otherwise been proscribed from doing so by the parents.

Please do not be dismissive of this concern at this point.

There are predators in all organizations and at all levels.

You often can’t know who they are.

Some will say that discernment is real and will prevent this.

If that were the case there would not be an issue, but history shows that discernment is not real and predators get into positions of ecclesiastical power all the time in this church.

Real children in YOUR stake are being hurt every day YOU fail to act to prevent it.

The good news is that it is easy for you to end the pain of those who are being hurt right now.

NO one on one interviews EVER!

NO sexually explicit question EVER!

Bishop **** and I have discussed this a bit. I sent him a video where these explicit questions (News Article) were laid out in plain English. It has a pornographic and dirty feel to it. The man leading the charge found out his daughters had been asked these questions without his knowledge and it set him off. Bishop **** said he had never been asked, asked them himself, or known someone who was asked these questions. I said to him and I say to you all, I have. It was me. I was asked many of these embarrassing and deeply personal questions before I was old enough to even process what I was hearing. I have been ashamed and resentful of myself my entire life because I have never been worthy.

Let me repeat that for you:

I have lived my entire life since my early adolescence loathing myself for my inability to be good enough. The church’s perfectionist/puritanical culture, namely its hurtful and disgusting interview policies, as well as its policy of public shaming and shunning has left me a 44 year old man with no sense of self worth or confidence in my ability to be better by your standards.

The atonement failed to make any difference in me. I have plead with God since I was a child to be relieved of the burdens of my sins, and it has failed me my entire life.

I believe you will blame me for this.

I moved around a lot as a kid. I had a lot of bishops. Most, if not all of them, went into excruciating detail about my personal habits of masturbation and later other sexual intimacy. Do not be dismissive of this. The church itself has had policies of inquiring about the sexual interactions of its married members in their own bedrooms. It is easy to confirm this online through church resources.

I was never physically touched. I was merely made to hate myself. I have friends who have harmed or killed themselves over this issue. It is real. IT IS GOING ON IN YOUR CHURCH NOW. Children are being raped and molested in YOUR buildings. Adult men and women are being made to feel worthless by YOUR worthiness interviews. Teens in YOUR care are, right now, contemplating suicide because their self worth has been determined to be ZERO by YOUR standards.

You can fix it:

NO one on one interviews EVER!
NO sexually explicit question EVER!

Asking about the law of chastity is one of those questions. It is unnecessary and harmful. Yes, even that one. I made a decision at one point that I was never going to be different despite the public shaming and shunning policy, so I would just lie and hope to eventually become better. You are not helping people be better. You are killing them.

Worthiness is self determined even now. You should only ask one question in an interview: “Are you living up to the standards of the temple?”

If they say no, you should teach them your doctrine of faith and repentance. You should teach them they have worth. You should teach them why your gospel is good. Not shame them. Not humiliate them publicly. Not treat them like a pariah. Not give them a reason to kill themselves or even lie to you.

Children are dying and adults are living hollow lives under your watch as long as you do not make this change. Every day you do nothing, children are sexually assaulted in YOUR buildings. Your bishops and you will find yourselves accused of things you have not done as well. It will happen. Please help.

My children will not be alone with the bishop. He knows this and we are all agreed. The problem with the church’s policy change of late is that it puts the duty of protection of the child on the child. That is not right. I think you can agree that a child faced with the authority of the bishop will not choose to have their parent present. It has been tried. When asked they all refuse. It is not their responsibility. It is YOURS and their parents. But their parents will not look faithless in the face of your authority. They will not ask for this unless they are pushed or you make it OK.

You may ask “How will we know if they have . . . ?” The answer is: “You don’t need to know.”

Save lives. Do what is right.

Thanks for your time,

Russell A.

Awareness is building!

Keep the momentum growing!!

Please Share!!!

 

A Mother’s Apology

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At the August 17th Temple-side Chat, a mother read the following apology.  It touched me and many others.  Her words eloquently express how I feel, too.
Thanks Angie!
Sam,

As I have been watching, reading and participating somewhat in this important Protect LDS Children movement, I have also been learning. I have learned about normalizing and grooming and organizational culture. I have learned to respect the deep and lasting damage that even well intended guidance can inflict on a child (and an adult, for that matter.) I have also seen the value of belated apology as a critical acknowledgment of harm. Perhaps my over-due apology may make a difference.

A primary thing I learned from the LDS Church is to “liken” things unto myself. This involves introspection and application. I have finally been introspective with this movement. I do not have an abusive story. I did grow up in the LDS culture. I believe this pushed me to be complicit in the harm. I want to apologize.

I am in my early 70s. I grew up in Utah surrounded by LDS relatives past and living. It was a wonderful, happy childhood. I learned to be obedient and to put pleasing God before all else. It was joyous. I didn’t feel at all suppressed. Except, there were things we didn’t talk about.

The first time I said the word “sex” my mother almost drove into a nearby building. I never said it to her again. I learned to always value the spiritual over the physical. As I got older, I learned that my mother hated sex. I learned, from one prophet, that sex was strictly for having children. When anything physical started to feel good it made me angry at the betrayal of my body. I partly credit luck that I married someone who’s stuck with me nearly 50 years. We are the parents of six adult children. I address this to them but hope it may have broader application. Surely I am not the only unwittingly complicit parent.

I apologize that it never once occurred to me there might be a problem with the private one-on-one interviews. I hope our children did not experience shaming and sexual questioning. But, the fact, is I don’t know. And even if I had been progressive enough to attend the interviews I don’t know whether good sense would have overridden respect for priesthood leadership.

I apologize that I bought into the normalizing of a leader’s right to ask and a member’s responsibility to answer. I recognize how vulnerable that left our children.

I apologize for being so anxious about the narrow moral guidance I was hearing about at church that I missed out on more fully nurturing the whole child.

I apologize for not educating myself about normal sexual development and passing that along as a joyful part of growing up.

I apologize for focusing so much on the learned parental responsibility to return God’s children to Him that I lived in a constant state of inadequacy and didn’t fully embrace the here-and-now joy each child brought into my life. A fact that probably led to more taking problems to the bishop and less taking them to me.

Mostly, I apologize that my focus on returning our children to heaven led me to put “insurance policy” Church callings before strengthening here-and-now family ties. Perhaps if the focus had been on the now instead of the hereafter I would have been that more progressive, involved parent. Truthfully, I didn’t know I wasn’t.

Most of our children exist in that version of the LDS world that considers this work anti-Mormon and will not even respond to comments about it. Still, we are here and we know this movement will make life better for our grandchildren.

I look forward to a new normal where we respect our humanity before our supposed spirituality and better love one another.

Thank you for the dedicated work and sacrifice of yourself and so many others. And special appreciation to those brave individuals who shared their stories to raise awareness and make this movement real.

~Angie Lund

The Samaritans’ Feast

pastries.jpgOur action is coming to a close.  What a wonderful 3 weeks it’s been.  Awareness has spread mightily.  Healing all over the place.  Parents taking action to protect their own children.  The apostles….well, they have remained silent behind their palatial walls.  That’s OK.  We are moving forward without them and calling them to follow.

Last night, Aug 17, was our final Temple-side Chat.  Every one of them has been marvelous.  Hundreds of fine human beings graced the chats with their presence.

Tonight, Aug 18, 2018, the final evening of our Hunger Strike & Spotlight will take place.  I’m calling it The Samaritans’ Feast.  It’s my way of saying ‘thank you’ for all the support during my fast.

Where:  City Creek Park.  Corner of State St. and North Temple in SLC

When:  6:30pm MT.  Live Stream begins at 7pm

What:  I will be providing a meal; sandwiches, chips and drinks.  Enough for at least 160 people.  And…..

I’m also providing exactly the kind of dessert feast that I personally would envy.  Six hundred and forty bite-size pastries from Gourmandise will be brandished in a colorful and appetizing array.  I’ve never beheld a sight like this before.  Anxious to see it.  Anxious to see my super supportive friends enjoy the tastes, flavors and aromas.

The pastry selection includes:  Tiramasu, Napoleons, Marzipan slices, Mocha Slices, Chocolate Mousse Slices, Passionfruit Mousse Cake, Mini Eclairs, and Mini Fruit Tartlets.  Yum!!!

I really need your help here.  Come!  Bring your kids.  Let them see what the Good Samaritan is all about.  Let them rub shoulders with true Samaritans.  Let them see normal human beings who are truly heroic.  I’m talking about all of us who are trying to help others.  And….they are certain to enjoy those amazing pastries.

I also need your help with the food.  My fast doesn’t end until Sunday afternoon, the 23rd day.  So, no leftovers for me.  It’s your job to consume the entire Samaritans’ Feast.

I truly want to give a huge shout out to my Samaritan friends.

Thank you for making the Hunger Strike & Spotlight a big success.

 

 

Last Night I Met Jesus

Protect Our Children Flower bedI have never met Jesus.

Last night, I met a man badly shamed in his childhood. He sat in His humble chair.  He honored me as I washed His feet there.   I met Jesus last night.

I have never hugged Jesus.

Last night, I hugged a full grown man.  Wounds of shame from long long ago still fresh on his mind.  He sat in His well-worn chair.  He graced me with the chance to wash His feet there.  I hugged Jesus last night.

I have never seen Jesus.

Last night, I saw a woman with deep trauma from her youth.   She sat in Her nondescript chair.  She allowed me to gently wash Her feet there.  I saw Jesus last night.

I have never been hugged by Jesus.

Last night, a woman hugged me and violently sobbed as she did.  She sat in Her old lawn chair.  She gave me the honor to wash Her feet there.  Last night, Jesus hugged me very tight.

Last night has passed.  Such a sweet peaceful night.  Is Jesus real?  Well….to this much I CAN attest.  I have met Him.  I have hugged Him.  I have seen Her.  She hugged me tight as She sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.

Today, I mourn that I can’t meet LeeAnn.  I can’t hug LeeAnn.  Assualted by her bishop at 14, the shame was too great.  Her life was taken by her own hand.  Oh…that She could sit in Her old lawn chair.  Oh…that I could tenderly wash Her feet there.

Today, I mourn that I can’t see Sam.  I can’t be tightly hugged by this innocent young man.  Shamed and bullied he took is own life when merely 14.  Oh…that He could sit in His humble chair.  What an honor it would be to wash His feet there.

 

Temple-side Chat with Jesus

EmptyChairFor 15 nights, I invited the 15 apostles to come to temple square and meet with adults who have been hurt as children.  Over those 15 days, upwards of 800 people, members and former members gathered with anticipation.  Every night their hopes were dashed.  They were greeted by an empty chair.

The apostles are fully aware of the thousands of children who their policies have dreadfully hurt.  They are fully aware that their protocols continue to put our kids in harms way.  They continue to refuse to even recognize their victims.  The apostles remain in their comfy ivory tower and look down with, what appears to be, dismissal and disregard for the masses.

Well, fine.  If that’s the way they want it, I am going over their heads…directly to the master of the universe.  For the last 4 nights at Temple Square, I’ve invited Jesus to join us.  

Will he actually show up?  I don’t have certain confirmation.  However, I’m pretty sure He will not disappoint.  A chair will be awaiting Him.  Not a red velvet throne fit for an apostle.  Nope.  A lowly camp chair.  The same humble seating that the apostles treated with disdain.

Tonight’s Temple-side Chat with Jesus will include 3 significant events.

1) Christ will occupy the empty chair.  I hope.

2) This night will be my Ezekiel evening.

3) A new ritual will be established and continued for the last 4 nights of our Chats.

If you are a victim or survivor of abuse and shame please come. The next 4 Temple-side’s are designed specifically for you.

This is all something completely new to me. I’m a little nervous and also very much looking forward to it.

Of course, you can watch it on FB livestream.

Wednesday 8/15, 7:00pm, South Temple St, SLC

PLEASE SHARE

Samaritan’s Party: Apology & Challenge

good-samaritanSunday August 12, was another historic day in Mormon history.  A gathering was held entitled “The Samaritan’s party.”  You’ll discover the significance of the title below.  Hundred’s joined together to hear the words of survivors, therapists and Mormon bishops.  The music was very touching and inspirational.

President Russell M. Nelson was invited to come.  Hopes were high that he would show up.  The format of the meeting was set with him in mind, very similar to a Mormon sacrament meeting…without the sacrament.

Even though President Nelson failed to arrive, many said the meeting was the most spiritual they had ever experienced.  Many shed tears.  I shed hard tears.  I’m not sure how a gathering like this could ever be duplicated.

You can witness it yourself on Youtube.  The actual program begins at the 46:30 minute mark.

Historic?

Several items made this an historic moment in Mormondom

  1. It marks 16 days of a hunger strike by an ordained Mormon bishop to change a dangerous policy that has harmed many many children.
  2. The sitting head of a Mormon congregation publicly called for the policy to change.
  3. Thirty-nine Mormon bishops openly apologized to past victims for the shame, self-loathing, sexual abuse and other horrific trauma that they have endured.
  4. An ordained Mormon bishop issued a second open challenge to the apostles of the Mormon Church.

I don’t have the transcript of the many wonderful speeches.  However, I do have the text of the Bishops’ Apology and the Samaritan’s challenge.

Bishops’ Apology

As Bishops having been ordained by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with humility and boldness, we apologize to you, the thousands of children, now adults, who were harmed by bishop interviews.

We didn’t understand how our words and actions could be dangerous and damaging.  We know now.  Some of you were groomed for tragic sexual abuse.  We apologize.  Some were sexually assaulted by their own bishops.  How can we apologize for something so unconscionable?  We.are.sorry. 

We recognize that thousands were mercilessly and most often inadvertently shamed.  Shamed into self-loathing as youth.  Oh how we apologize for that.  Many were shamed into making very poor life choices.  Some were shamed into taking their own lives.  To the parents, we sincerely apologize.  Many of you have suffered for decades with open wounds from what happened to you behind closed doors.  We are sorry and offer our sincere apology.

You are worthy.  You were always worthy.  We see you.  We hear you.  We give you voice.  What happened to you was wrong.  So wrong.  Hand in hand with you, victims of our dreadful policy, we now march forward to protect the children and youth of today.  Our sorrow is not expressed in words alone.  Hopefully, you will recognize our contrition by our actions.

We love you.

Many bishops, branch presidents and councilors have come forward to publicly declare their apology to you.  We will now read their names.  (Names are found below.)

The Samaritan’s Party—Sam’s Address and Challenge to the Apostles

30  A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.

33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,

34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

What a gorgeous parable.  One of the many reasons I love the teachings and example of Jesus.  We are all gathered here as part of the Samaritan’s party.

For decades, church policies have struck down our children as wounded on the side of the road.  For those same decades, we had no idea that these little ones were stripped of their self-worth and left for half dead.  My dear wounded friends, we see you now.  Unlike the priesthood in Christ’s parable, we are attempting to act as the Samaritan.  We come to where you are, we bind your wounds with compassion, validation and apology.  We now see you.  We will not pass you by on the other side of the road.  We love you.

Now, as an ordained bishop in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, on behalf of my wounded friends, I make my 2nd challenge to the apostles of my church.  The 1st being 29 Questions  

Dear apostles, you are special witnesses of Jesus Christ.  That should carry a special responsibility.  On this 16th day of my fast, I challenge you as special witnesses to embrace Christ’s parable of the Good Samaritan.  Act like the Samaritan.  As Jesus said,  “Go, and do thou likewise.”

  Certainly, you must see the wounded on the side of the road now.  Thousands of their stories were painstakingly delivered to your doorstep last March.  I challenge you to cross the road.  Bind up their wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set them on your own beast, bring them to an inn, and take care of them. 

They were not beaten by thieves.  Rather, they were wounded and stripped behind the closed doors of good men.  Good men without understanding.  Good men following an unfortunate mandate emanating from your office.

So, here is my 2nd challenge to you, dear apostles:  Be Samaritans, not priests who pass by on the other side of the road.  Cross the road and join this party of Samaritans.  I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ whom I serve, Amen.

Program Order

  • Jeni Gozart:  Program Conductor
  • Melissa Draper:  Music Director
  • Martine Dirick Smith:  Music Conductor
  • Technical Director:  Tim Coray
  • Where Can I Turn For Peace:  Opening Hymn
  • Lisa Mayo Murphy:  Opening Prayer
  • Melodi Diamond:  Survivor #1
  • Tara Workman Tulley:  Therapist
  • Jessalyn Speight:  Survivor #2
  • Melissa Draper & Tamsyn Spackman:  Instrumental, Jesus Once Was a Little Child.  Violin and Keyboard.
  • Brian Bresee:  Survivor #3–Son died of suicide.
  • Tammie Johnson Ellis:  Therapist
  • Bishop Stuart Smith:  Bishop’s address
  • Bishop Bill Moore:  Bishops’ Apology
  • Bishop Earl Erskine:  Reading of Councilor names
  • Bishop Russell Bennion:  Reading of Bishop/Branch President names
  • Kristen Jenson:  Vocal, You’ll Never Walk Alone
  • Jaimee Echert-Griffin:  Survivor #4
  • Bishop Sam Young:  The Samaritan’s Apology
  • A Child’s Prayer:  Closing Song
  • Emily Micklos:  Closing Prayer

A special thanks to members of the choir and other musicians  They all contributed to wonderfully sounding music.

Bishops Who Publicly Apologize

  1. Lane Bagley
  2. Eric Bendorf
  3. Russell Bennion
  4. Joshua Biggley—Canada
  5. Vince Cockbain—South Africa
  6. Brian Cowley
  7. Matthew Crandall—Currently serving as Branch Pres of the Tallin Branch in Estonia
  8. Earl Erskine
  9. Sebastien Faudin
  10. Mike Hancey
  11. Rick Hansen
  12. Heber Henke
  13. Scott Hoyt
  14. Matt Ireland
  15. Steve Johnson
  16. Kirby Justesen
  17. Tom Kauffman
  18. Kevin Kloosterman
  19. Mike LeBaron
  20. Jared Lusk
  21. Isaac Mathews
  22. Gary Mitchell
  23. Bill Moore
  24. Bryant Richard Newell
  25. Garth Ogzewalla
  26. Bart Pascoal
  27. Brent Patterson
  28. Kevin L. Priddy
  29. Scott Purvis
  30. Casey Randall
  31. Bill Reel
  32. JonathanReid
  33. Robin Richey
  34. Russ Ryan
  35. David Silsby—UK
  36. Stuart Smith
  37. Wally Taylor
  38. Frederick Volcansek
  39. Sam Young

Councilors Who Publicly Apologize

  1. Benoit Allmbert
  2. Ammon Buehler
  3. Reed Burk
  4. Jamie Lee Christensen
  5. Thomas Christensen
  6. Wade Christensen
  7. Curtis L. Craven
  8. Rob Thomas Damascus
  9. Matt Dana
  10. Scott Davis
  11. Dean Doll—Canada
  12. Brock Ebmeyer
  13. Wagner R. Ferreira
  14. Abe Gardner
  15. Matt George
  16. John Griffith
  17. Greg Hanning
  18. John Harwood—Australia
  19. Chad Hastings
  20. Joseph Hollenbaugh
  21. James Jenson
  22. Peter Jeppsen
  23. Kevin Johnson
  24. Ron Johnson
  25. Bryce Kerby
  26. Jake Malouf
  27. Joe McCaul
  28. Paul Miller
  29. David Murdock
  30. Ben Rogers
  31. Douglas S. Satterfield
  32. Tyler Slack
  33. Jeremy Steenblik—Currrently serving as 1st bishopric councilor
  34. David Vance
  35. David Wilson