Mormon Bishop, 65, excommunicated for criticizing policy of asking sexually explicit questions

A Mormon bishop has been excommunicated for challenging church leaders on their policy of asking children sexually explicit questions during interviews.

Sam Young, 65, from Salt Lake City received news of his excommunication in a hand-delivered letter from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Sunday.

Young is protesting against the Church’s policy of conducting ‘worthiness interviews’ on children and teens, which he feels is a physically and emotionally abusive practice.

Members are asked a series of questions about their adherence to church rules, specifically its sexual code of conduct, alone in their bishop’s office.

Former Mormon Bishop Sam Young (pictured) reading his excommunication letter Sunday 

Sam Young became emotional as he announced he was excommunicated on Sunday

Sam Young was a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Church in Salt Lake City in Utah

Young (left)  became emotional as he held a press conference after his excommunication with his supporters outside the Mormon Tabernacle Church in Salt Lake City (right)

The interviews are required for all teenagers for worship in the church’s temples and for baptism into the faith of 16 million members.

Young, who posted a copy of the excommunication edict on his blog, said he will appeal the order.

In an interview with CNN, Young said he feels ‘supremely disappointed’ in the loss of his membership in the church itself and in the leadership.

He also feels ‘sadness for the victims who the church was rejecting by this verdict.

‘You are entitled to your opinion or position,’ the edict said. ‘But you cannot remain a member in good standing while attacking the Church and its leaders and trying to get others to follow you’. 

Young, 65, spent his life following Mormon cultural prescription. Born in rural Utah, he served as a church missionary in Guatemala and El Salvador, married in a church temple and raised six Mormon daughters.

But after discovering his daughters’ experiences with bishops as Mormon youth, he became an unlikely activist in the #MeToo era.

As a bishop in the early nineties, Young said he regrets inviting 12 to 18 year olds into his small office in a Mormon meetinghouse in Houston and asking them church-mandated questions about their abstinence from premarital sex.

‘It was wrong, so wrong. Young said. I regret I ever asked’. 

People (pictured) show their support  for Sam Young outside church on Sunday

People (pictured) show their support for Sam Young outside church on Sunday

While all bishops are required to ask whether members “obey the law of chastity,” abstaining from all premarital sexual activity, Young said more than 3,000 people said their bishops probed for the explicit details of their sexual conduct as children.

The church now offers the opportunity for youth to be interviewed with an accompanying adult.

But it has yet to condemn the practice of asking sexually explicit questions in interviews.

Critics (pictured) say the interviews are traumatizing, intrusive and unnecessary 

Critics (pictured) say the interviews are traumatizing, intrusive and unnecessary 

The church calls the practice of bishops’ interviews a ‘sacred responsibility’ and offers the opportunity for mentorship. 

But critics argue it is traumatizing and creates opportunities for grooming and emotional or sexual abuse.

In the excommunication edict, the president of Young’s district in Houston told Fox13 in a statement: ‘This action was not taken because of your opinion or position on protecting children.

‘The Church has a strong desire to protect children and, as you know, issued updated guidelines for interviewing youth earlier this year. 

‘The issue is not that you have concerns — or even that you disagree with the Church’s guidelines, rather it is your persistent, aggressive effort to persuade others to your point of view by repeatedly and deliberately attacking and publicly opposing the Church and its leaders’. 

The church took disciplinary action against Young when he took part in a 23 day hunger strike requesting a policy change, putting and end to the interviews. 

In July he subsisted only on an electrolyte mix of water, one teaspoon of salt, and one tablespoon of honey. 

Earlier this year, Young marched across Salt Lake City with more than 1,000 protesters, including eight of his grandchildren. He delivered three books of victims’ testimonies to Mormon church headquarters.

The testimonies contain two accounts of suicide that relatives claim were a direct result of mental health complications from interviews. 

It detailed 97 accounts of suicidal ideation and attempted suicide; and accounts from dozens of women who said they were blamed by their bishops when reporting rape or assault.

Hundreds more recorded in detail the explicit questions regarding masturbation, sexual intimacy and sexual orientation they were asked by bishops.