Protect the Children

This is so important. And I have been afraid to write about it for fear of not approaching it in a way that many of the people I know and love will actually read it. Many of them have probably sworn off reading what I write :).

But please do continue and read about it. It matters a lot. Maybe read this first if you are thinking of not reading my post further.

On Friday, March 30, 2018 beginning at 12:00 PM MDT the March for the Children will take place in Salt Lake City. Here is what will happen:

“We will gather at the park adjacent to the Salt Lake City/County Building, then march five blocks to the LDS Church Office Building. There, we will deliver the signatures recorded on the Protect the Children Petition. We will also present the Sacred Stories of Sacred Children — childhoods destroyed behind closed doors in worthiness interviews.”

This is the link to the Protect the Children petition. As of the moment I write this, there are 18,398 signatures on it. Vaughn and I have signed it. We are numbers 984 and 985.

Many of the people who signed it are anonymous. Many of them cannot risk the persecution they would face from some family, friends, and community for signing this vital petition. What a shame that they have to fear.

Here is the website with the explanation of why this must be done, and the stories of the terrible damage done to so many children because of the practice of conducting one on one closed door interviews between a grown man and a child where sexually explicit questions are often asked. At the moment I write this, there are 422 stories on that site about the damage done from these interviews. Sam Young, who has been the force behind this cause, has read over 2500 of these stories, but many people could not share their stories publicly for various reasons.

If you have not heard of any of this before, you can read all about it on the links above.

I have seen many strong, active members of the LDS Church support this. I have also seen many strong, active members of the LDS Church take extreme offense that this practice of children being interviewed one on one behind closed doors, and often being asked sexually explicit questions, would be questioned in any way.

Many of them say that nothing like these stories of damage ever happened to them, or their children, and that there is no reason for all this furor.

To that I would say, you are disregarding and disrespecting what has happened to so many other children! Terrible things have happened. Sometimes horrific abuse has been enabled because of these interviews. Other trauma, humiliation, shame, depression, and lifelong sexual issues have also occurred because of this practice – even when the Bishops are well meaning and good men, which, of course, most of them are. Still, the nature of these interviews, even the most well meaning of them, have harmed children. They have harmed at least some of my own children, and the children of friends of mine, and my friends themselves.  And I would suggest that if you do think the interviews have not harmed your children in any way, that you ask them their experiences and how they have felt because of them.  I did not know until I asked.

Many say that since these interviews happen at all, they must necessarily be a good and required thing, because the Brethren know what they are doing. Since the Prophet cannot be lead astray, they believe, then these interviews must be OK.

To that I would say that some of the highest leaders themselves have said that they are not perfect, that mistakes have been made in the past. For example, the Priesthood ban. That ban stood from when it was instituted, during Brigham Young’s tenure, until 1978. Here is what the Church’s own essay says about that: “Following the death of Brigham Young, subsequent Church presidents restricted blacks from receiving the temple endowment or being married in the temple. Over time, Church leaders and members advanced many theories to explain the priesthood and temple restrictions. None of these explanations is accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church. . . . Soon after the revelation, Elder Bruce R. McConkie, an apostle, spoke of new ‘light and knowledge’ that had erased previously ‘limited understanding.’ . . . Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.”  Many, many other changes have been made over the years in the Church, to revelations as well as policies. A change can be made here.

Many say that we must have these interviews because people cannot be baptized or advance in the Priesthood unworthily, and the sanctity of the temple must be protected.

To that I would say there are other ways to do the same thing, without the one on one private interviews between a child and an untrained adult man talking about, and asking about, sexually explicit issues. Two-deep policies, where at least two adults must be in the room, so that no one can isolate a child are part of that. Also, making sure that certain explicit questions are not asked and not discussed would help. There are many suggestions for modifications to the current process that would still allow for the same result – LDS Church standards of worthiness to be upheld.

Many say that this should not have ever been brought up at all, or at least not brought up publicly, because it makes the Church look bad.

To that I say a few things. Why in the world is it OK to protect the “good name” of an institution over protecting the safety, mental health, and even lives of children (there have been children who have died by suicide because of these interviews and the attendant humiliation and judgement and hopelessness they feel)? It is also clear that this is a time in our world when hidden things are coming to light. Secret works of darkness are being exposed. A change in the policies surrounding these interviews would actually help the good name of the LDS Church. It would actually protect Bishops, too. If the Church would say they have realized the problems inherent in the current procedures, and change them for the good of the children, they would be lauded for doing that.

Continuing to hide these things, to not deal with them, is starting to backfire terribly. Cases of abuse have already happened many times, but the membership of the Church in general, and the public at large do not hear of them for several reasons. Sometimes they are ignored, and the people who were abused have no idea what to do, because they love the Church and don’t want to make it look bad, so they do nothing. Sometimes the victims are blamed. Sometimes leaders tell people to let it go, and the people do because they believe in following their leaders. Sometimes legal cases are brought and people are paid and NDA’s put in place, and people are silenced that way.

There are scriptures that talk about the hidden things being brought to light in the last days. Certainly in the world we are seeing some of the hidden things of abuse and assault coming to light recently. The internet age has also added to all of this. It is so much harder to keep things secret now.  Policies of secrecy and hiding away anything that seems nefarious or even a little damaging to the reputation of the Church are going to have to change. Truth will eventually out.

That was certainly evidenced by the recent leak of the knowledge that a former President of the MTC, who held many other very important callings in the Church throughout his life, has been at the least molesting women for decades. High Church leaders knew and did nothing. The cover-up of his terrible deeds for decades not only hurt all the women he molested, it also hurt him. He got very little help over his lifetime for what he admits was a sexual addiction. He does not deny his deeds, although he says he doesn’t remember some of them. He, as well as the women, have continued in agony. He is now an old man, and he fears he and his family will now be destroyed, and that he cannot be forgiven. The damage done by the cover-up by the Church of this man’s deeds has done incalculable harm. And this is just one instance, and I know it is not a lone instance. The only reason I can think of for this cover-up was to “protect the good name of the Church.” It has backfired. It certainly seems to me it is time to become transparent about these and many other things.

I think this is ultimately about what our hearts are set on and what we love. The Savior surely loved children.

If I am feeling well enough, I hope to be at the March for the Children on March 30th. I hope any of you who read this and live close enough will also come and support this cause.

This is an excellent article pertaining to this issue. It is written by Dr. Ben Salazar, licensed psychologist in private practice, and assistant clinical professor at Brigham Young University’s Counseling and Psychological Services.

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