"Do you have any problems with masturbation?". Decades later I can still remember the feeling as a 12 year old deacon when my 65 plus year old bishop asked me that question as part of a standard worthiness interview. I supposed 12 year olds in the digital era figure things out earlier than I did, but at the time I had no idea what the word or concept meant. Fortunately for me this is the end of any negative or awkward experiences with Bishop's interviews. The bishops I had were truly inspirational men and great role models for me. I will always be grateful to have had their influence in my life.
Unfortunately there are others who have not been as lucky as me. Bishops do not receive formal training and come from many different backgrounds. All assume a significant mantle as a judge in Israel. This power dynamic can be especially problematic in youth interviews. When an older man holds the power of the judgment of God without training the results can sometimes be negative. For whatever reason some Bishops feel a need for an excessive amount of information regarding sexual practices. I can only assume that they feel this is necessary so they can then make the best decisions about judgment and the repentance process. The problem is that this type of sexual prodding can be more damaging and traumatizing than the sexual sin itself. The culture of victim blaming (which is fortunately changing) has also been a problem in Bishops interviews.
In addition having a Bishop meet alone with a youth creates a system where predators can flourish. Even one instance of abuse is too many. The LDS Church has such safeguards for male primary teachers. It's better safe than sorry.
Sam Young, a former bishop and a father of 6 daughters has organized a petition asking the Church to revise its practice. Including another adult in the interview process is a small change but could have a significant influence in the lives of tens of thousands of children and youth. I have signed the petition and encourage you to do the same. The petition can be found here. His recent op-ed in the Daily Beast can be found here. Sam Young is collecting stories of the negative influence of such a practice and unfortunately the stories are flooding in. Now certainly some might be fabricated or exaggerated but we also have to keep in mind the thousands and thousands that remain untold. A single tragedy is too much. Tragic stories of the negative influence of intrusive and abusive Bishop interviews can be found here. If you don't have other plans on the 30th of March, then join the march! The main march will be in Salt Lake but there are rallies in other locations across the US. Most importantly, if you are active in an LDS congregation be a positive agent for change. Bring up the topic in a ward council, as a parent discuss the issue with your Bishop and sit in on the interviews. You may have a perfect Bishop but others are not so lucky and your actions can help change a system into such that could protect them from future abuse. The LDS church has already taken a baby step in the right direction by announcing that an adult may attend the interview if the interviewee requests. I can only hope that the next steps are still coming and that it will be mandatory to have a 2nd adult sit in on youth interviews. The Me Too movement and the transparency of the digital age shine light on the dark deeds of predators. This can be discouraging but at the same time we should recognize that it is up to us to make positive change. Despite the focus on the dark deeds of abusers we should remember that there has never been a better time to be a Mormon. The Mormonism I experienced is better than the one my parents and grandparents grew up in. I'm asking for your help to ensure that the Mormonism my children grow up in will be even better. Protect the LDS Children.