SALT LAKE CITY — The LDS Church is again updating guidelines for how its bishops should conduct interviews with youth and children.
In a letter addressed to local leaders Wednesday, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints informed local leaders of an update to the guidelines for how they should interview and counsel with LDS Church members. The change will be added to the church’s section related to interviews in the "Handbook 1" manual, which is used by local leaders of specific geographic areas, including bishops and their counselors.
The letter says “bishops have a sacred responsibility to lead, teach and inspire youth,” and points to “effective personal interviews (as) one important way they do this.” Before each youth's first interview with their bishop, the leader is encouraged to share with the youth and his or her parents the various topics and questions covered in an interview.
The new guidelines put a particular emphasis on the role parents play in these interviews and in helping their children prepare. The previous guidelines for interviews encouraged parents to “stay close to their children and to counsel them, allowing the leaders to act in a supporting role.”
The guidelines released Wednesday emphasize that parents “have the primary responsibility to teach and nurture their children.” They also encourage parents to “counsel with their children regarding worthiness and help them repent and improve.” The bishop and his counselors, the guidelines continue, are there to “support parents in these efforts.”
“Interviews provide an opportunity to reaffirm each youth’s limitless potential as a child of God,” the guidelines say. “Interviews also provide an opportunity to inspire youth to develop plans to draw closer to Heavenly Father and to improve in all areas of their lives.”
As part of the interviewing process, the bishop and his counselors are instructed to refer to LDS temple recommend interview questions, along with standards outlined in the church’s "For the Strength of Youth" pamphlet.
Similar to previous guidelines, the new text instructs leaders to adjust and adapt the interviews to address questions the youth have and to fit interviews to the youth's understanding. It also reiterates that all conversations about “moral cleanliness,” should be asked in a way to not “encourage curiosity or experimentation.”
The guidelines also simplify one of the questions asked during a temple recommend interview regarding support of "groups and persons whose teachings oppose those accepted by" the LDS Church.
Those preparing to serve a full-time mission for the church will continue to meet with the bishop and will be asked a series of 16 questions that relate to church beliefs, potential legal issues and overall health and wellness. The church adopted the 16-question approach in October 2017.
The guidelines, however, adjust the language relating to missionary service, saying that “young men are encouraged to serve, and young women may be recommended to serve.” Previous language instructed the bishop and his counselors to “encourage young women to support young men in accepting mission calls” and say “young women of eligible age who desire to serve a mission may do so, but they should not be pressured to serve."
In March, the LDS Church released an update to its handbook to instruct bishops on how they should counsel victims of sexual abuse and how they should conduct interviews with women and children. Among several changes, the update allowed members of the church to invite another adult — generally a parent or leader — into the interview with them.
Typically, youth are encouraged to continue to have an annual interview with the bishop, and another interview six months later that could be completed either by the bishop or one of his counselors.
More information can be found on Mormon Newsroom.