Right about now, there are people marching on Church Headquarters over the fact that bishops meet with and interview LDS youth regarding worthiness. I totally get their cause. I don’t necessarily understand starving myself in order to prove a point, but I get the purpose behind it. We want to protect our kids from predators. Plain and simple. All of us do.
But… if we don’t think it through, we might end up doing more harm than good. The fact of the matter is that there are predators everywhere. School teachers, principals, friends, parents of friends, people loitering in bathrooms, and the list could go on and on. And yes, of course, there are going to be a few bad apples out of the thousands upon thousands of bishops that serve throughout the world. But to “throw the baby out with the bath water” is a bad idea. The LDS church has already taken steps to ensure maximum safety for our youth. They have made it so that another adult can be in the youth interviews. They have also given a standardized set of youth interview guidelines that do not contain any explicit questions. Bishops are to follow those procedures.
Having said all that, think about the effect of not having bishop interviews. For me personally, my bishops during the ages of 16-22 were in many ways, life-saving. Spiritually and physically. I hated the thought of meeting with the bishop, but in every situation, the bishop I had treated me with the utmost respect and love. There was never anything strange or weird or problematic. They literally helped me find a path of health and happiness, free of guilt and worry. They helped me steer clear of the most pressing dangers of our day. I can’t ever remember having met with a bishop and leaving feeling worse than before I met with him. It was always a healing experience in which a great outpouring of the atonement was the result. I know that this is not the case 100% of the time, but I feel like it is the case a good majority of the time. I feel horrible for anyone that runs into one of these wolves in sheep’s clothing.
If there are bad bishops out there, then, of course, they should be exposed, ousted and punished. And quickly. The number one concern is to keep kids safe. But what about all the good that bishops do in the time that they dedicate to the youth and young single adults. Can you imagine a world in which older, wiser, men and women are unable to meet with and counsel the younger generation about the dangerous pitfalls that await them in the world? One of the primary concerns that the apostles are dealing with right now is the plague of addiction. Some of the addiction is to drugs and the like, but pornography is the primary addiction. Can you imagine how many bishops have been responsible for helping kids and young single adults out of the dark chains of addiction? Can you imagine how many more porn addicts there might be in the world without the intervention and care of a good bishop? Many times, it is the bishop and the bishop alone that comes to know of these problems in the youth. The parents have no idea, and most kids want to keep it that way. The problem might continue for years and years if left unaddressed, and usually, it is a trusted third party that makes all the difference. In many cases, a bishop.
According to the organizations that are entrenched in fighting pedophilia and human trafficking, it is the slow but ongoing unchecked interaction with porn that is leading Americans to become the world’s leader in the demand for child and sex trafficking. According to the experts, it starts young with soft porn, moves to hard porn in the adult years, and then ends with the enactment of what they’re seeing on screen. Before Ted Bundy was executed, after having admitted to being raised in a good family, he said it was his unchecked obsession and exposure to pornography that led him to where he was at in his life at the time of his last prison interview.
My point in bringing that up is that we have no idea how many youth are being saved from a life of addiction, a life of pedophilia, and a life of violence just by having a bishop to talk to. The good bishops far outweigh the bad. Youth that might have gone down a path of hell and misery are put on a path that changes their life for good. The press never covers the life stories of those that have had their life altered for good through the care and diligence of a bishop. We only hear about a bishop here and a stake president there that turned out to be a dirtbag. Because that’s what sells in the media.
I’m as suspicious of people (especially men) nowadays as anyone. We live in a sketchy world for sure. But I just hope the LDS bishops of the world, who serve as volunteers and sacrifice much of their time, don’t get a bad rap because of such a small minority. I hope that we give them the credit and support they deserve so that they can continue to help, support, and defend the youth of the church as they have done for so many years. Take the offenders seriously, remove bad actors from leadership, create policies that protect both the youth and the bishops. But for God’s sake, don’t remove ecclesiastical leaders from the lives of our kids in any religion or church. For me, those interviews meant the world to me.