My daughter just turned 12. I brought her to the 30 year old general manager of the local car dealership, so he could ask her about her health and sexual history. I need to make sure she is growing up well. I, of course, didn’t want to influence these talks, so I left them alone. Before you start thinking poorly of my decision, this is a good man. He would never do anything with my daughter, he is married after all. I realize he doesn’t have any training or education in psychology, counseling or social work, but that is not an issue. He has been doing it for a few years and has some old books to give him some guidance. In fact, I am considering having my 8 year old discuss her sexual purity with him too!
Are you disturbed by this hypothetical story? Do you see red flags of her being alone with a middle aged man? You wouldn’t trust that a car salesman could adequately counsel a teenage girl about her sexual purity?
What if I told you this man was called by god? Well not called directly by god, but called by another who was called? This man had a ritual for this endowed power and everything. He still has not received any training, but is said to speak with god’s authority. Although he will admit he doesn’t always perfectly hear god’s word, but “he deals with it!” Now are you convinced?
No? This is the type of thing happening in the Mormon church right now. Mormon bishops are expected to conduct “worthiness” interviews with children starting from age 12. And now the church is considering lowering the age to 8.1 But what is a bishop and what happens in these interviews?
Bishops are the local leaders of the Mormon ward – like a pastor – but have no training. Typically, a Christian pastor holds a MA in ministry or related degree. This entails working under another minister as well as classes on pastoral leadership. Many times this includes how to set boundaries and when to refer to a professional counselor. Dustin Williams of Atheist Nomads Podcast covers this in Episode 310.
Mormon bishops are called by stake leadership. They serve unpaid for about 5 years, meaning they must still retain their day jobs. They must be properly married (sealed for eternity to their wife), must be endowed (ceremony to get their heavenly name), and must be temple worthy (hold a temple recommend card). Any 19 year old missionary at your door holds a temple recommend and an endowment. Surely there are other qualifications? According to the LDS website, yes. But the only qualifications are from 1 Tim. 3:1–7 and Titus 1:7.2
This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.1 Timothy 3:1–7
Worthiness interviews from these untrained men are conducted yearly with youth starting at age 12. Typically these meetings are one-on-one. Although, due to recent pressure, the church has allowed another adult in the room, but not required it.3 They include the child’s adherence to the Mormon health code and law of chastity. There are disturbing reports of the questions being asked; what underwear girls are wearing4 and 6-hour interrogations of intimate sexual relationships5.
Sam Young – recently excommunicated from the Mormon church6 – has a website dedicated to exposing the practice, changing the policy, and offering support to affected youth and families [protectldschildren.org]. Sam has also posted a list of 29 interview questions being asked (warning: explicit)6.
Now the church is sending out surveys inquiring about lowerIng the age of these interviews to 8 years old, so the child can “establish a trusting relationship with a priesthood holder“.1 Indoctrination needs to start early for a cult, see Steven Hassan’s BITE Model.
The Mormon church looks to be following the Catholic churches policy of ignoring the true problem, pretending their clergy to be blameless, and silencing or excommunicating any criticism. Worse, they are doubling down on the practice by considering to lower the age of their indoctrination. Parents and church members need to hold these positions of authority accountable. At best, these bishops are reinforcing a culture of sexual shame and at worst – well we know what ‘at worst’ could be.
If you are a victim – or know of a victim – of sexual abuse, please reach out to law enforcement authorities [US 911] or contact the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s CyberTipline [1-800-843-5678].