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Former Latter-day Saint bishop who opposed 'sexually explicit interviews' loses excommunication appeal

By Liesl Nielsen, KSL.com | Posted - Nov 13th, 2018 @ 9:10pm



SALT LAKE CITY — A former Texas bishop for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who was excommunicated for public opposition to the church and its leaders was told Sunday that his appeal of that disciplinary decision was rejected.

Sam Young’s local church leaders met with the former bishop at a local church Young used to attend and told him that the First Presidency, the highest governing body of the church, had reviewed his appeal and “affirmed the decision of the (disciplinary) council” to excommunicate, according to a post on Young’s blog.

Young’s church leaders told the former bishop they were sent a letter with the decision but they did not have any written communication to give to him, Young’s blog post reads.

The church would not comment on the decision due to the confidential nature of disciplinary hearings, but church spokesman Eric Hawkins said what happened was “consistent with the process for an appeal to the First Presidency.”

Young also asked for a copy of the written record of his disciplinary hearing, and the local leaders said, "I don’t know. Those are confidential on our part," according to Young's blog.

Young’s membership was removed from the records of the church following a disciplinary council in Houston on Sept. 9 after church leaders received reports that Young had consistently acted in “clear, open and deliberate public opposition to the church and its leaders,” according to a notice Young was given by his church leaders earlier in the year, which he later posted to his blog.

The decision came weeks after Young engaged in a three-week hunger strike to oppose the way the church conducted interviews between leaders and children.

Young is the founder and director of Protect LDS Children, an organization that has asked the church to change its policy on interviewing children and youth to "no one-on-one interviews, no sexually explicit questions ever."

Leaders in the church, often bishops, will conduct interviews with youth to offer counsel and guidance, and to assess worthiness for activities like baptism, entering the church’s temples or serving a mission.

The church changed its interview policies in March, and one of the changes allows children and youth to bring an adult of their choosing to a bishop's interview. In June, the church released a standardized set of questions for bishops to use in interviews with youth. The church said the interviews are meant to help with youths' personal and spiritual growth. These can include worthiness questions, but should not “encourage curiosity or experimentation.”

“In recent months, the church has taken important steps to improve these interactions and to strengthen the relationships between young people and their parents and leaders, and will continue to do so,” a statement released by the church in July said.

One of the interview questions is, “Do you keep the law of chastity?” which Young initially said he believed was appropriate but has since said should not be included. He also opposes 23 other “sexually explicit” questions he said other church members had been asked at some point and submitted to him, according to a post on his blog.

Young has also led several marches and protests in Salt Lake to oppose the interviews and draw the attention of high-ranking church leaders — one of whom spoke with him about his protest.

“Church leaders at every level — from Sam’s local bishop and stake president to a recent conversation with a general authority — have met with him to express love, to listen and to counsel with him. They have received and reviewed his materials and understand clearly his viewpoint," the church's July statement said.

On Sunday, Young’s leaders invited the former bishop to return to activity in the church “in the prescribed way,” as specified in the letter he received when he was excommunicated, Young said in his blog post. The “prescribed way” includes joining “the covenant path” and repenting, Young wrote.

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