Hunger striking former bishop faces excommunication for Protect LDS Children movement

A former LDS bishop who staged a 23-day hunger strike to protest the church's practice of one-on-one, sometimes sexually explicit interview with youth, could be excommunicated. (Photo: KUTV)

UPDATE 12:05 p.m.,The LDS Church has responded to the possible excommunication of Sam Young. The full statement is in the story.

(KUTV) — Sam Young, a former LDS bishop who staged a 23-day hunger strike to call attention to his church's practice of interviewing youth behind closed doors and asking questions about sexual activity, may now be excommunicated.

Young posted a photo of a letter from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on social media, notifying him that a "formal disciplinary council" would be held to address his actions.

The letter read, in part:

This letter is a formal notice that the stake presidency will convene a formal disciplinary council in your behalf, the result of which includes the possibility of excommunication, disfellowshipment, formal probation, or no action. The reason for this council is that you are reported to have acted repeatedly in clear, open and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders.

The church sited its grievances against Young, stating that he had:

  1. "Encouraged others to vote opposed to Church leaders."
  2. "Organized more than one public “action” that expressed opposition to the Church or its leaders"

Young wrote about the letter in a blog post soon after:

Fast 23 days. Stand up to protect children. Speak out against a dreadful policy. Work to help the healing of countless kids who were severely wounded behind closed doors. Document the horrors. Apologize. And what do you get? Excommunication!

Young made headlines in recent months for his hunger strike and for protests staged to call attention to the church's youth interview practices.

In an interview with 2News, Young said he felt betrayed by the letter.

“In the letter I received from the stake president, he said I’m on trial for because I am openly opposing the church and its leaders. That’s ludicrous. I’m not opposing the church. This is my church. This is a good church, except for one crappy thing,” Young said, regarding the policy of bishops meeting with youth to discuss sexual activity.

Young said his hunger strike gained attention, which was one of his goals, but he never heard anything from the LDS Church until now.

“Rather than engage me in any conversation, rather than address all the problems they have caused in people’s lives, they ignored all that,” Young said.

The LDS Church had previously responded to Young's strike with a statement noting changes it had made to interview policies since Young's creation of a petition to stop the interviews.

UPDATE: On Thursday, it also released a statement regarding news of the disciplinary action from church spokesman Eric Hawkins:

Because of the personal nature of Church disciplinary matters and to respect the privacy of those involved, the Church does not provide information about the proceedings. Church discipline is administered by local leaders who are familiar with the individual and his or her circumstances. If helpful, you may refer to this resource on the subject of church discipline.

Updated guidelines stipulated that youth and women could request that another person be present during interviews with a bishop. The guidelines also require that another adult be present in an adjoining room, foyer or hall when a bishop is interviewing youth or women.

Young responded to the updated guideline at the time, calling the new policy a small improvement.

"This is another teeny tiny baby step. It does not curtail one-on-one interviews. It does not eliminate sexually explicit questions. We still remain the only institutional Christian church on the planet that subjects our children to this dangerous and damaging practice. It has got to stop," Young wrote in response to the announcement.

Previous protests of the interview practice included a march on the Church's headquarters in Salt Lake City, in which nearly 1,000 current and former LDS members implored the Church to end one-on-one interviews and the use of interview questions that addressed topics sexual in nature.

A family therapist told 2News members of the mental health community, particularly those who serve the LDS population, had been concerned about church leaders asking sexually explicit questions in one-on-one youth interviews long before Young started his crusade to bring attention to the practice.

"I think what he (Young) is asking for is incredibly useful," said family therapist Natasha Helfer Parker. "I don’t have an opinion about how he is getting it, but as far as the cause and what he standing for, I think it is common sense."

Young's disciplinary council with church leaders is scheduled to take place Sept. 9.

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