LDS Church responds to hunger strike protesting bishops worthiness interviews with kids

    The LDS Church released a statement in response to media inquiries about Sam Young and others staging a hunger strike over one-on-one, behind-closed-doors meetings between clergy and children. (Photo: Larry D. Curtis / KUTV)

    (KUTV) — The LDS Church released a statement in response to media inquiries about the man staging a hunger strike over one-on-one, behind-closed-doors meetings between clergy and children.

    Sam Young is in Salt Lake City staging a hunger strike asking the church to end the practice of ecclesiastical leaders conducting worthiness interviews in a one-on-one setting.

    In the statement, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — often called the Mormon church —said they share the goal of protecting children with Young but have already spoken with him about his concerns and have no further need to meet with him.

    Young, who is an active member of the church and a former bishop in the Houston area, started the hunger strike to draw attention to closed-door interviews that he says are unique to the LDS Church and groom children and teens to be taken advantage of by sexual predators. He started to tell his story.

    In the statement the LDS Church noted changes it has made to its interview policies since Young's creation of a petition to stop the interviews.

    Children and youth are precious. We share a desire to protect them, to help them grow and develop faith in the Savior, Jesus Christ and to live good and moral lives. This includes building good relationships with ecclesiastical and youth leaders who can provide support in many settings including personal interviews.

    In the statement, the church said Young's bishop, stake president and a church general authority have all met with him.

    "They have received and reviewed his materials and understand clearly his viewpoint. Further meetings with him are not necessary to clarify his position on this matter," the statement said.

    Young refuted part of that statement Sunday night. He said he spoke to a general authority by phone for about 90 minutes Friday but has not met with one about these matters. He had met with his stake president and bishop and called them good men. He also said he was asked not to disclose the content of those conversations and urged church transparency.

    Young said he will still invite apostles to meet not only with him each evening of the hunger strike but to speak with those present at Young's daily street report across the street from Temple Square in Salt Lake City. Sunday that included at least a handful of people that spoke up about abuse they said they were subjected to in youth interviews.

    Young initially invited Elder Ulisses Soares from the church to meet Sunday. He has now invited Elder Gerrit W. Gong to meet on Monday.

    The church's statement indicates they will not attend the nightly street meetings.

    Young said Sunday others have joined the hunger strike that will mark its third day on Monday.

    "There are four of us that are now fasting for our children," Young said.

    He said Sunday marked two more days of children being groomed and shamed.

    "Only in our church; if we were counting in the Episcopalian Church or the Catholic Church or the Baptist Church, it would be zero day after day. In our church, this is day two of it continuing on," Young said.

    Young sponsored a marching protest in March where he delivered victim's stories of abuse from interviews and as a result of grooming from interviews.

    In the statement the LDS Church pointed to its June changes to its guidelines for interviewing Mormon youth.

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