A letter I sent to some national papers in England a year or two back, but nothing came of it, because the one that did reply, wanted proof or evidence of abuse. Sam’s present crusade to highlight this subject is totally justified. I share this letter in support of his great efforts.
This letter is regarding the systematic SEXUAL ABUSE (on an EMOTIONAL level) of children from 8 years of age and upwards – throughout their teen years and beyond into adult life….
I have been a life-long member of the Mormon Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) I was once a Bishop within this Church, but finally stopped attending (excommunicated) back in April 2006. I have written a book detailing how I discovered it was a false religion – built on lies and have since published a book entitled: ‘The Youngest Bishop in England.’ This, however, is not my point here…. I want to bring to your attention something which I feel duty bound to do something about if I possibly can.
It is NOT something which grabs attention when most people think, or mention ‘Mormonism.’ Usually, they think of tithing, or polygamy, or not drinking tea and coffee. What I want to tell you about is something all Mormons consider ‘perfectly normal.’ Now that I have become de-programmed myself, I can see far more clearly just how bad things really are…. It is the systematic SEXUAL ABUSE on an EMOTIONAL level, of all children from the age of 8 upwards and continues right through teenage years into adult life – for as long as a member lives.
This takes place during Church interviews, which are carried out routinely for all age groups, and for each gender, where one male priesthood leader sits alone with an individual in a private room and conducts a ‘worthiness interview’ with that member.
These interviews are conducted for various reasons. For example:
(1) A child is approaching their eighth birthday and is ready for baptism, so the bishop or one of his two counsellors needs to check they are prepared? Are they aware of the basic teachings and are they morally worthy?
(2) From the ages of 12 through to 18, each youth – male and female, are interviewed twice a year to encourage them to be ‘good Mormons’ and moral worthiness is checked.
(3) Every ‘calling’ requires a worthiness interview. (‘callings’ are voluntary jobs in the Church – and all adults have at least one. These change regularly)
(4) There are Chapels in every town, but only two Temples in this country… in order to be admitted to a temple, a person requires a ‘recommend’ (a piece of paper certifying worthiness) which is obtained after two interviews – one with a local leader and another with a higher ecclesiastic leader; these are renewed every 2 years. In both interviews moral worthiness is checked.
(5) At age 18, all young men are interviewed for advancement in the priesthood where moral questions are asked again
(6) A full-time 2 year mission is only possible after two thorough worthiness interviews (once more – by local and higher ecclesiastical leaders)
Apart from all this, the bishop or higher ecclesiastical leader, may interview anyone anytime for whatever reason they deem fit. In addition, any member who admits or confesses to some sexual sin (masturbation, fornication, pornography or adultery, or even naughty thoughts) will be thoroughly interviewed – repeatedly, if necessary, to encourage obedience and moral purity.
Consider these FACTS:
- Interviews are carried out on ALL individuals from the age of 8 onward, regularly.
- These interviews are held in private, behind closed doors
- The interviewer may well be a relative stranger to the person being interviewed
- The interviewer will always be male
- No proper training is given in order to conduct such interviews
- No police checks on the interviewer are ever carried out – no, not even thought of!
- No other adult, friend or parent is present
- There are a number of questions in these interviews, which require a yes or no answer… such as:
- Do you sustain your leaders?
- Are you honest in all your business dealings?
- Do you attend all your meetings at Church?
- Do you have a testimony (a very strong conviction) that the Church is true? (the only true church divinely restored on Earth)
- Do you pay a full tithing? (10% income if wage earner)
- Do you keep the ‘Word of Wisdom’? (Health code: no tea, coffee, tobacco and alcohol)
- Are you morally pure? (no naughty thoughts, pornography, masturbation or any sexual expression outside of marriage – including gay tendencies, or sexual distortions within marriage) and finally: Is there anything in your life that has not been previously dealt with, which should have been?
(this last question catches any past moral misdemeanours)
The problem is so far bad enough, but it gets worse… If, for instance, a very young girl says she plays (innocently) with her genitals, or perhaps a teenager confesses some inappropriate sexual sin, then the leader doing the interviewing is perfectly justified in probing the ‘details’ of this confession to ascertain whether further ‘disciplinary’ measures need to be taken? He may indeed set up more interviews either weekly, monthly or quarterly, to check on progress and repentance. It is (and becomes) a gross infringement of what most people in the street would call normal and acceptable development, and in addition, a gross infringement of what most people would call a highly intrusive interference to individual privacy and freedom.
I have no problem with interviews being conducted where purely religious matters are inquired about and general encouragement given, but I do have a problem with a person’s private, moral/sexual life being probed. It is evasive and highly disturbing that it should be happening at all in our post Jimmy Saville climate!
As a past bishop, I have conducted such interviews for 6 years and I have also (like all other members) been the recipient of this particular form of abuse. I have seen the consequences of this type of invasive interference on the lives of members… particularly the young. Can you imagine being a child or teenager and submitting yourself to a searching interview at such a tender age of innocent development – knowing perhaps you are not guilt free (remembering that much of the guilt is placed in a person by their religion and is not natural) and having someone whom you deem to be a ‘man of God’ tell you He (God) is not pleased with you and HATES your conduct, so you need to force yourself to be ‘pure’ in mind and body? There have been some pretty shocking stories where priesthood leaders have asked eight year olds whether they masturbate? Admittedly, this is rare, yet it highlights the insane situation where anything could be asked – even with the utmost sincerity and good intentions on the part of the leader!
The problem is, when someone asks a child or young teenager a question and they don’t understand the meaning, or the question, the person conducting the interview will then proceed to explain the meaning… thus, unnecessary distress and embarrassment takes place. Adults too suffer from such interviewing. My past wife (has since died of cancer) was very attractive and very shy… she hated these interviews, despite being ‘worthy.’ Fortunately, most of her interviews (for a temple recommend) were with a very kindly and sensitive male leader, who respected her character and shyness… but this is the point; it is so hit and miss. It is far from professional and the very idea of such intrusive and penetrating inquisitions being carried out where people’s private behaviour is scrutinised, is scandalous and even obscene. I have not even mentioned the humiliations that can, and often does occur when a particular ‘sin’ is confessed to a bishop, or when habitual tendencies which cannot be conquered, take place. In such situations, disciplinary Church courts will haul the individual up before a council of men, to examine the detail and determine punishment. Punishment might be excommunication, or disfellowshipment (loss of certain Church related privileges) Unfortunately, what was once ‘private’ becomes ‘public’ as other members notice a particular individual cannot attend the temple or is not permitted to take the sacrament. It adds additional shame and reproach to an already difficult situation. Under this priesthood inquisition will come self loathing. The Church’s paranoid scrupulosity for the moral purity of its members creates a strain of unbelievable self contempt, sadness, anxiety, guilt and self recrimination. Though some of the rhetoric is otherwise, sex still feels dirty in Mormonism. The sadness I feel is that so many young people grow up feeling that simply having a sexuality, is a sin and a burden! The inability to celebrate who you really are comes from being drowned under an ocean of distorted self appraisal. An appropriate and balanced perspective of being gifted, talented or decent is lost in a sea of guilt and madness. After all, God HATES what you are doing – and what you are doing so often feels like WHO you are… and inevitably, the two merge and become one! For gays, the strain is colossal. All gays are made to feel uncomfortable – not so much because all members are nasty or unkind – they are not, but because the entire Mormon theology is antipathetic to their nature. It is why Utah has the highest suicide rates for young people throughout America.
I’d be grateful if you can either pass on this info or refer me to anyone in the media you think may wish to expose this practise…. if I do nothing about it, I know I will always live with regret.
Lastly, it is not my intention to embarrass the Church (though God knows they need to be), but perhaps public awareness may make them more responsible and willing to change their policy and practise in this area.