LDS church excommunicates man who has accused leaders of promoting ‘abusive’ policies

In this file photo, Sam Young, center, speaks to a group of people during a march to the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, March 30, 2018 | Associated Press file photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A Mormon man who has spent the last year fighting to change the way The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints conducts youth worthiness interviews has had his church membership revoked.

At a news conference Sunday afternoon, 65-year-old Sam Young, a lifelong church member, read aloud the verdict of a church disciplinary council notifying him of his excommunication for conduct “contrary to the laws and order of the Church.”

A crowd gathers in support of Sam Young, who was excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, Sept. 16, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Fox 13 News, St. George News

“It’s likely that this is the first time in Mormon history that a disciplinary council decision has been opened in public by the accused,” Young said before a gathered crowd of supporters and media across from Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

Young said the church rewarded him with excommunication for standing up for children who have been “so badly harmed” behind closed doors, adding that he would wear his ouster as a “badge of honor.”

In 2017, Young launched the “Protect LDS Children” campaign starting with a petition that has so far garnered over 22,000 signatures imploring church leaders to stop the faith’s practice of closed-door, one-on-one interviews between adult men and adolescents that often include questions of a sexual nature, such as asking about masturbation or pornography.

As he read the verdict of his disciplinary council, Young became emotional and offered fiery rebuttals to the accusations levied against him.

In the letter signed by the stake president of Young’s Houston-area congregation, he is formally accused of apostasy from the church. The letter states the action of excommunication wasn’t taken for his “opinion or position on protecting children.”

“No, they’re wrong about that,” Young said in response. “It was taken only because of my outright public position.”

The letter states:

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

“I don’t oppose the church or its leaders. I oppose a policy that is harming our children,” Young said. “You better believe I am going to be aggressive and outspoken when children’s lives are at stake.”

The letter concludes by inviting Young to “repent and return” by demonstrating that he has stopped actions that undermine the church and its leaders.

Sam Young points toward the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during a news conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, Sept. 16, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Fox 13 News, St. George News

“I’m not going to repent,” Young said. “For me, it is impossible. My integrity would forbid me from repenting of following Jesus Christ and protecting our children.

“I invite my church leaders to return to the covenant path and mourn with those that mourn. Comfort those that stand in need of comfort. Stand as a witness of Jesus Christ at all times and places. That was my baptismal covenant.”

After reading the excommunication letter, Young read from a prepared statement explaining his position and advising the church to stop what he calls “abusive” worthiness interviews.

“This has been orchestrated by the very people who felt their authority was threatened by me – the leadership at the very top,” he said, referring to the church’s highest governing body, the three-person First Presidency. “They have shown their true colors.”

“They continue to mandate one-on-one interviews where sexually explicit questions are approved and facilitated,” Young said, explaining that he confronted church leaders with a list of questions asked during the interviews, including questions about masturbation, sexual activity and pornography.

“They responded with silence.”

Young is asking the church to require at least two adults to be present during all youth interviews and exclude any questions of a sexual nature, which he says are abusive and have the potential to shame children into depression, anxiety and even suicide.

A woman protests near the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of ProtectLDSChildren.org, St. George News

“I also presented the apostles with several thousand horror stories of how their policy has wrought dreadful damage,” Young said. “They ignored these accounts. … No compassion was uttered for the victims.

“Our practice has put many kids in a shame cycle that causes their self-worth to spiral lower and lower.”

The church recently made policy changes and clarifications to its policy governing the youth interview process, including allowing children to ask a parent or adult to be present with them. Church leaders are also counseled not to ask unnecessarily probing or invasive questions but questions of “moral cleanliness” are sometimes appropriate.

However, Young said those changes don’t go far enough and warned church leaders at the local level to cease the practice or face the possibility of investigations into child abuse and forever-tarnished reputations.

“Bishops, be warned. People are now watching,” said Young, who himself served four years as a bishop in the 1990s.

“The church will not be able to prevent teenagers from recording masturbation interviews,” he said, noting that he is aware of at least three instances in which church youth have used their cellphones to record interviews wherein inappropriate questions were allegedly asked by adult male lay leaders.

Young said bishops face the possibility of parents reporting them to law enforcement for conducting interviews in which any sexually explicit questions are asked, which could be leveraged by audio evidence.

In a previous statement, the church said any leaders who become aware of incidents of abuse are directed to seek guidance from professional counselors and legal professionals in how to identify, report and respond to abuse while referring the alleged victims to professional counseling when necessary.

Read more: Facing excommunication, former LDS bishop says Mormon leaders could learn from Catholic Church

Young concluded by offering thanks to people who he said suffered shame or abuse in their childhood and are now coming forward to prevent a similar fate for the next generation of church members.

Young said he wasn’t hoping for excommunication and wanted to be exonerated but he will take his dismissal as a means of creating further awareness for his cause.

“I have been excommunicated from the church,” Young said, “but they have no power from preventing me from the cause of protecting children.”

Young said he will likely appeal the disciplinary council’s decision to excommunicate. Any such appeal would ultimately be decided by the First Presidency.

The church has declined to comment on Young’s disciplinary proceedings, citing respect of privacy for those involved.

Email: jwitham@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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19 Comments

  • AnotherReader September 17, 2018 at 8:51 pm

    Exactly to whom was this a surprise? Certainly not Mr. Young, despite claiming so. You actively protest against the your Church leaders and attempt to stop people from joining that Church, you’d be a fool not to think you’re likely on your way out.

    • Chris September 18, 2018 at 9:48 am

      nowhere has Mr. Young expressed “surprise” at his excommunication. this entire episode is an unmitigated public image disaster for the church.

      • Real Life September 18, 2018 at 2:35 pm

        It certainly is a very bad look for the church.

  • ladybugavenger September 17, 2018 at 9:12 pm

    I would say this is is best accomplishment in his 65 years! You’ve been set free!

  • Arcana September 17, 2018 at 9:19 pm

    We are so proud of you, Sam! Keep fighting!

  • Melissa September 17, 2018 at 9:31 pm

    Sam Young has been excommunicated for exercising his rights under the law of common consent. This is supposed to be a democratic element within mormonism. Mormonism is a theocratic religion. It has ambitions to rule the government. It committed atrocities during the periods when they were able to gain governmental authority. If the LDS church were in charge of the United States right now, it would be like the president being appointed for life, with elections only being held as unanimous formalities. Bills and ideas for improvement could only be submitted by the president, not from the people. Any proposals and appointments from the president and would be sustained under pain of being declared a traitor and permanently separated from family and community. In pioneer days, people like Sam were not just excommunicated. Some ended up dead. This is why the LDS church has long been considered a subnational authoritarian regime. Think twice before giving the LDS church your unquestioned support.

    • comments September 17, 2018 at 10:59 pm

      Yup, mormonism in it’s purest form does require a theocracy ruled over by a prophet king. That’s what brigham young had and that’s what warren jeffs had. They were the supreme rulers with their authority supposedly given to them by god himself. The sexual enslavement of women and girls seems to be a fundamental part of true mormonism also. They probably have more in common with Islam than about any other religion. LDS really is just ‘mormonism lite’ when it comes down to it. They’d do a lot more shady stuff if they could get away with it, but for now they’re perfectly content just raking in the money and peddling their BS where they can.

    • ladybugavenger September 18, 2018 at 11:50 am

      It’s a cult

  • No Name September 17, 2018 at 11:21 pm

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has faced opposition since its beginning and will continue to do so…
    Every person has the right to his or her opinion!
    My suggestion is whoever reads this seek to live your life in the way that brings you inner peace and lasting happiness.

  • Striker4 September 17, 2018 at 11:33 pm

    Opinions are opinions and everybody has one

    • Kilroywashere September 18, 2018 at 12:24 pm

      I have no opinion on this one. Nothing new here. Mormons do what Mormons do. Just glad I am not a part of the drama. As the Monty Python song ” always look on the bright side of life” goes, Dan Pardo, tell us what this man has won! That’s right Sam, your prize is to keep and retail 10% of your income for the rest of your Life! And all tbe accrued interest too! Not a bad outcome.

  • Henry September 18, 2018 at 9:03 am

    I wonder if the mormon church is so insulted by his actions that they would return the tithing he paid over his lifetime,with interest? ………………………………………….sounds of crickets……………………………………

    • comments September 18, 2018 at 1:10 pm

      LOL!

      • comments September 18, 2018 at 1:11 pm

        NO REFUNDS. It actually says that on the tithing slip.

        • ladybugavenger September 18, 2018 at 7:55 pm

          No way lol, really?

          • comments September 18, 2018 at 11:16 pm

            yes, the exact language is a bit more wordy than “no refunds” but that’s what it says, at least the last time i saw one.

  • Red2Blue310 September 18, 2018 at 8:31 pm

    If Jesus read this he would ask who is in charge and tell those who “think” they can excommunicate anyone, they are wrong. Unbelievable.

  • 42214 September 18, 2018 at 8:36 pm

    Sounds like Sam’s excommunication was his lucky day. Go live a normal life and be free of the cult.

  • Dennis September 18, 2018 at 10:05 pm

    Move along, nothing to see here folks.

    LOL

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