“Do you agree to submit to your husband emotionally, spiritually, physically–as well as sexually?”
That was a question that was asked to me in a BYU-I office when I was 22 years old.
Sexually? Like how?
I had a rock on my left hand that I looked at and twisted nervously. I was dumbly, naively, and brain-washedly ready to get married to a man I’d known for only three months. And here I was, in a classroom I had taken a Book of Mormon class in three semesters prior, looking into the eyes of a Stake President I had only seen on a couple of occasions during my entire four years at the university.
It was my pre-nuptial interview, and the questions were rapid fire.
Yes, I said to the questions.
No I said, when he asked me if I touch myself. I didn’t, and like many Mormons and Christians alike, I believed and still believe in that principle.
Saying it was another thing, though. Yuck.
Have you ever touched your fiancé under his clothes? If so, have you repented?
No doubt my face was red.
But I was lucky. You know why? This stake president was a good man who had a good heart. He was reading the questions given to him, but he was a good man. Not everyone is so lucky, though. Some bishops in the LDS church, like many other churches, are crooked. Some people take advantage of the young–some even go as far as to abuse, or molest, or become excitable by this type of conversation. Not my stake president.
But I was a lucky one.
So today, imagine my disgust when I learned via Facebook Live that Sam Young, the LDS priesthood holder who began the organization Protect LDS Children, was excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for his efforts in putting an end to sexually explicit questioning between a child and authority of the church while alone in a room.
Sam, like so many of us, saw the error. Children as young as 8 (that’s when you are baptized) are subjected to interviews with bishops, stake presidents, and other church hierarchy that include questions about masturbation, sexual activity, relationships, pornography, and other things that could “hurt” or make them “unworthy” of entering into certain covenants, taking part in certain activities, or ultimately entering the temple.
At 8 years old, I didn’t know what masturbation meant. At 8 years old I still had polly pockets, listened to Britney Spears, and scribbled stories in a notebook. I was a kid.
I was a lucky one that I entered in to the church when I was a bit older and had my skin-crawling interview at 22 instead.
Sam wants to disavow it. I stand with him.
Sam Young is an avid church member and former bishop who held a temple recommend, the priesthood keys (a rank among male church members that ordains you with certain rights to offer blessings, perform ordinances, and prepare and pass the sacrament during church services). Not once while I have been following him and his campaign have I seen him bash church leadership, speak against the Savior, or threaten to leave. Instead, Sam has diligently sought to change something worth changing and to speak out for countless kids who have yet to step foot into their own interviews.
I’ve followed Sam since the beginning, silently cheering him on from the “ex-Mormon” sidelines, all the while watching as other friends of mine who are still in the church believed in his mission too, but also backed up the church. This issue has been a fence-riding issue, and it’s unbelievable how many people say the church is wrong in this aspect and Sam is right, yet still stay locked into the church when the church decides to give Sam the boot. Time and time again the LDS church has rid itself of those stirring the pot to make positive change. Time and time again I’ve seen it’s members blindly say, “I will still follow.”
If your heart is flagging you down–if you no longer believe in the mission or the paths its taking–why are you staying?
And the slope is slippery–and dangerous.
As a former member of the church, I remember the mentality of always following the prophet. I was like one of the 50,000 people who gathered at Safeco field last night to listen to President Nelson speak, grasping at his words like a drowning man to oxygen. I remember how it felt to have someone LIVING–on this earth–who was like Christ himself. I obeyed everything down to a science. I sang the songs. I took notes on the counsel. I wept when I fell short. I apologized about 30 times to a bishop when I got a tattoo on a whim.
they threatened to kick me out when I left my husband and started a relationship with someone outside of the church. In order to come back I had to face disciplinary council. After all the years I gave them, that was what I was given.
A letter in the mail.
So yeah, I clung to Sam’s mission.
And although being outside of the church is the best thing that could have happened to him in my opinion, I know the anguish he is feeling. I know how his wife must feel, and his children. I know he feels lost and empty this afternoon. I know he is mourning his friends, his ward, his callings. It’s a huge loss.
And that should make us angry. Especially you, if you’re reading this, as a church member.
Sam Young stood for a purpose that Christ himself would stand for. In Matthew 18 verse 6 it so clearly states, “But whoever offends one of these little ones, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
We live in a time where our children are exposed to so much–the media, social media news feeds, offensive music, drugs, sex at an early age, inappropriate clothing, trendy “games” and “challenges” and…shall I go on? It’s terrifying having a child right now.
Church is meant to be the safe place. Not the place where they go to feel more insecure and inadequate. Not the place where they are punished so severely for sins or mistakes that they eventually, after years of oppression, dive so deeply into it those vices that there is no escaping, falling into deep depressions, or choosing suicide.
Church shouldn’t be the cross.
It should be the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus preached and told children to come near and where he loved on those who approached him.
Church shouldn’t kick out those who strive for goodness.
It should listen, and pay attention–and evolve to become more perfect.
Isn’t that the point?
I cried for Sam today while watching him choke up over the words in the excommunication letter. I held my newborn baby as he slept, and whispered a quiet prayer that I am no longer deceived by the institution that causes so much dissension, grief, abuse, and broken hearts. I thanked the Lord that my son will never know that.
From baptism at barely 18 years old to temple ceremonies at 22 to 27 and all the years in between of religion classes, devotionals, fasting, and following the voices of those you love and respect and pray for–I know more than most what Sam is going through in his journey out of the church. You fall in love, over the years, with the place you’ve placed your entire existence. You fall in love with the concept of eternal families and become terrified when someone goes astray, convinced they will no longer reach Heaven. You miss the lessons and the comforting quotes and the companionship of a culture that really is warm and inviting and tender to those inside the walls.
But then you taste the fruit, and your eyes are opened and you see the nakedness and the sin and the manipulation and the hurt children–and you’re no longer the same. You simply cannot go back.
We should be outraged.
Not only at the fact that Sam Young was excommunicated today after his efforts and advocacy for protecting children–but outraged that the church refuses to listen, or change. Outraged that church members are coming up with excuses to defend church policy that puts our kids at risk. Outraged that we blame the victims and that when people leave or get kicked out, we chalk it up to “they are offended”.
OUTRAGED that voices are suppressed, that fear is a tactic, that women are silenced, that children are put on trial, and that another good man was kicked out for actually saying something when no one else had the nerve to.
That’s the truth of it.
It IS offensive to me.
I’m sorry, Sam. I hurt for you. And I’m offended FOR you.
By their fruits you shall know them. I was taught that often in my classes and devotionals and missionary discussions. It’s handwritten in my Bible. I’m glad I was taught that and I’m grateful for that one piece of wisdom I clung to.
For I have finally tasted the fruit–
And the core is rotten.