Sunday, April 1, 2018

Protecting our Children from Sexual and Spiritual Abuse

WHAT DO WE DO NOW?

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The "Protect the Children" march by Sam Young has come and gone. The LDS Church has made it very clear that their strategy now is to ignore the problem.  In fact, in the recent LDS Conference, President Russell M. Nelson made it very clear that he considers one-on-one interviews crucial to the church's mission.

I'm left wondering why?

Mormon leaders have long held that these interviews are necessary to protect the "sanctity" of the Temple. Now they are being held up as a way for members to gain important spiritual guidance. There are a couple of problems with these claims.

1.) We know that people enter the temple unworthily. Who? Well, Joseph L Bishop for one. Was the sanctity of the Temple protected from him? How about NewNameNoah, who played the part of a worthy member, and purposely lied to both a Bishop and a Stake President to obtain a "Temple Recommend" to show the problems with "spiritual discernment?" He discusses his purpose in this video.

And what about the "spiritual discernment" of President Spencer W. Kimball, who called this man to be the MTC President and allegedly knew Elder Bishop personally? Or what about all those Church leaders who came to speak at the weekly devotionals in the MTC? Where was their discernment?

So what value is there in relying on "worthiness interviews" in protecting the sanctity of the temple? Obviously, it didn't stop "unworthy" individuals from attending. And those tasked with guarding the temple didn't have the discernment to stop them. So in reality, the church is already relying upon members to self-police.

2.) There is no question that being able to talk about our experiences can have immense emotional benefits, and certainly discussion with others who have perhaps more maturity and training in sensitive sexual matters can help children process and deal with sexual trauma, or even make sense of consensual sexual experience. Mormon Bishops have no such training. Nor do they receive training. Which leads to my next point.

That's not the purpose of the interviews. The purpose is to "judge worthiness" an act of immense emotional risk for a child. Psychologically, being taught that one is "unworthy" is akin to mind rape. Once that belief takes root in a child, there is no taking it back. As sexual desire is instinctive and pervasive, every time a child is tempted by sex or masturbation, she/he is again "unworthy." It is a pernicious act to shame a child for consensual sexual behavior. It is unconscionable to shame a child for masturbation, an act so normal, that it is nearly universal. It is devastation to blame a victim for the crimes of her predator.  The church isn't "teaching responsibility," they aren't stopping "sin," they are only engaging in sexual voyeurism and applying sexual shame. They are instilling beliefs which result in lifelong damage. 
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Youth "worthiness interviews" are an act of spiritual terrorism.


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3.) Confession of sexual "sins" provides leaders who are sexual predators with valuable intelligence, in which (a point I've made in other blogs) is a risk of which cannot be overstated.) How much easier is it to manipulate a vulnerable teen if a Bishop is aware of "sexual impropriety" or "sin" when guilt is already instilled within a child? Particularly so, in the center of a culture which views "sexual sin" to be as serious as "the shedding of innocent blood" (murder.)

Given the fact that the church has released sensitive information regarding the victim of the Joseph L. Bishop, dating back to an incident of alleged sexual misconduct by the approx. 55 year old victim at age 17 (and this is the important part) obtained through a "worthiness interview" conducted 38 years ago, I am concerned that these "worthiness interviews" actually are part of a much darker purpose.

For generations, sexual behavior has carried with it, significant social stigma. The requirement of "LDS doctrine" claims that forgiveness requires a "full and complete confession." Now that we know the church isn't above documenting and using this information in a smear campaign against a victim, making "a full and complete confession" takes on sinister overtones. Perhaps, one-on-one interviews where "a full confession is required for forgiveness" is a method of gaining intelligence on members?  Any bets that "Brother Bishop" had access to this intelligence while called to serve as the MTC Mission President? Why else would he choose that particular victim?
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If the church is documenting your sexual sins, and we now know they are, do you really want to take a risk of sharing something sensitive with your bishop? 

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With the advent of the knowledge that the church has used intelligence gained through worthiness interviews as part of a smear campaign, members really need to take steps to protect themselves.

Here is what you can do:

1.) Tell your bishop that you will no longer answer any questions regarding sexual conduct. Inform him that the church has demonstrated unethical behavior and broken trust with its members in sharing information regarding the victim in the Joseph Bishop MTC sexual abuse scandal. Any questions regarding sexual conduct will result in termination of the interview. Inform him that it is his choice to refuse you a temple recommend, but there is no negotiation on this point.

2.) Inform the Bishop that your children are off-limits.  There will be no worthiness interviews with your children, either with or without your presence. If this means that your children will be unable to participate in church activities, remind him that the scriptures say "if the parents fail to teach their children, the sin be upon the head of the parents" and that you're willing to accept that risk. If he is still unwilling to let them participate, then remind him that you are their parent, not him. Help your children find other activities that they can participate in.  This is likely to result in church leaders attempting to subvert your children and have them called in for an interview without your knowledge.

3.) If your children find themselves being asked to come "interview with the bishop" teach them to respond with, "I'm not permitted to do that without my parents personally telling me I can." If they find themselves coerced into the bishops office and asked questions of a sexual nature, they are to respond with "My parents have forbidden me to answer any questions about what I do with my body. I need to leave now." Role play with them so that they know to stand up, walk out, and immediately find an adult they trust (or know that you trust.)

4.) If your child reports to you that they were called in and sexually questioned in a worthiness interview, strongly consider filing a legal complaint for sexual harassment of a minor.

No longer can you consider these "Worthiness Interviews" harmless. There are now hundreds of documented cases describing the damage people have lived with for decades, but were previously unwilling to share because of shame. 
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Since Church Leaders have no understanding of healthy boundaries nor are they willing to establish them, it is our responsibility to teach them.
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You are the parent of your child. You now have the responsibility for their safety. The church has broken trust with its members in revealing information obtained through a "worthiness interview." They have broken trust in protecting a predator.  They have broken trust in engaging in a smear campaign. Now you know and it is YOUR responsibility to protect them and yourselves. 

7 comments:

  1. Great work Max; this is a wonderful resource for any parents/members of the church.
    When I sued the church (unrelated to sexual abuse but abuse of power) they came back via their lawyers with a mild smear campaign against me.
    Our initial medical expenses when we were badly hurt in the accident in South Africa on our mission, were paid by the mission.
    We had to get a loan from our ward to pay back the mission.
    Church lawyers said we had failed to pay that back, (LIE - we have bank records)
    That they didn't keep records that long (8 years - LIE)
    They minimized my injuries etc.

    The church will do ANYTHING to avoid looking culpable and lying and smearing women has been their go-to since Joseph Smith.

    THEY SHOULD NOT BE TRUSTED.

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    1. Thank you, Jean. I'm actually not surprised about the smear campaign, as I know other victims of the church's machinations. Makes me think of a certain hymn..."Do what is right" and the fact that the church leadership has no idea what that means.

      The church has made a serious mistake here and I consider it orders of magnitude above even the smear campaign, and that is in demonstrating that they keep records of the results of "worthiness interviews" and USED THAT INFORMATION AGAINST A MEMBER!

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  2. To add to that list you made Max, I think a letter from the parents to the bishop informing him of their rules regarding their own children is in order.
    They could ask the bishop to sign it - that there will be NO worthiness interviews with their children. If he then breaks that trust the parents would have physical evidence that this was strictly against the parents rules.

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    1. I think that is truly a great idea.

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  3. I think the only time a records might be sent to the top Brethren and held there, is when something is serious enough, i.e. church court action against a member. Ordinary, every day minor offences (such as masturbation) do not get written down or sent off.... not unless there has been a change of policy since I was bishop about a 100 years ago?

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    1. I've been told that sexual sin, ie fornication and adultery, are noted, to prevent a member from moving to another place and escape punishment. Although that doesn't seem to work very well considering the sex abuse case in W. Va.

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  4. Truth Seeker said...
    My father had countless child molestation victims notched on the handle of his metaphorical gun. Multiple times my mother and we children told different bishops over a period of about 15 years. Many years and victims later my father was caught in a lie by his stake president and excommunicated. One short year later without one word of apology ounce or restitution he was re-baptized, made a high priest the same day and "called" to teach primary. Other religions perform background checks on those who work with their children. It's a good release of liability. It is also quick, easy, and no exclusive false claims to divinity have to be lied about. A police report of lewdness toward a minor and a report of accessory to a crime for parents who allow this questioning by any bishop, bishopric member, stake president, etc. may just be a part of the solution. Great proactive idea!! However, never allowing the questioning to happen at all would be so much better. "Grooming" our children to be boundaryless victims with inappropriate questions, some actual physical abuse occurrences, and later even changing the naked touching within the temples shows just how little regard Mormonism has for individual propriety. Your words here are very accurate and appreciated Max.

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