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Hunger strike against LDS interview policy stretches to three weeks

A meeting to support Protect LDS Children in Salt Lake City on Aug. 12, 2018. (Photo: Larry D. Curtis / KUTV)
A meeting to support Protect LDS Children in Salt Lake City on Aug. 12, 2018. (Photo: Larry D. Curtis / KUTV)
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(KUTV) -- One man's hunger strike to speak with top LDS officials about changing the church's interview policy with children reached its three-week mark Friday.

Sam Young, an active member and former bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has not eaten any calories during that time. He is surviving on water and vitamins.

Young hosted a public meeting Sunday called The Samaritan's Party. The meeting resembled sacrament meetings that take place throughout the LDS Church every Sunday. It featured speakers, musical numbers and highlighted the parable of the Good Samaritan from the Bible. Former bishops offered their apologies for such interviews at the meeting. Several of those apologizing were present but a list of others, including a current branch president, were declared in a collective apology.

Each evening, since his fast began July 29, Young stands on a public sidewalk across from Temple Square in Salt Lake City and broadcasts live on Facebook. In those social media posts, he personally invited each of the LDS Church's top leadership to meet with him -- one each day from the Quorum of Twelve Apostles and First Presidency.

At the recent Sunday meeting, former bishops from LDS wards joined Young and spoke in support of his requested interview policy changes. Victims spoke about how they were harmed in different ways by the current church policy of interviewing youth.

Young is asking for two changes:

  • An end to one-on-one interviews with children behind closed doors, most often with lay clergy, bishops or branch presidents in local congregations;
  • Stop questioning about sexuality from LDS leaders in worthiness interviews.

In March, Young led hundreds in a march to the Mormon Church's worldwide headquarters in Salt Lake City to deliver a petition with 55,000 signatures supporting the changes and thousands of stories of those who were harmed.

On KUTV's Facebook page, many were supportive of Young's efforts but many were opposed as well.

"LDS church already changed it's policy, I don't know what the hell this old man is talking about," James wrote. A woman named Susan wrote, "Being a new member for 2 years I have not met with the Bishop as a child, but I have as an adult. I can tell you that I never felt anything inappropriate during any of my meetings!"

" I've always been invited to sit in on my children's interviews. I've let my children choose whether I came in with them or not," Jamie wrote.

" I don’t understand the “Hunger Strike”, is he going to starve himself until the Church changes its policy? Good luck with that, hope he is smart enough not to die," Jeff wrote.

" I am not an active member any more but this is stupid!! My talk about sex with my counselor in Jr High was the best advice I ever got and has carried me through my adult life," Melissa said on Facebook.

Young took a break but returned to the sidewalk Thursday to continue speaking.

How did Young handle interviews during his time as a bishop?

"I never asked any sexually explicit questions," he said. "The purpose of the interviews as far as I was concerned to uplift the kids. I never, ever, asked any child in five years and four months 'do you masturbate.' "

Young is on record stating that policy changes would also protect bishops. He says that most of them are good men dealing with a bad policy.

The LDS Church declined to comment for this story and stood by its earlier statement.

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