SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Despite his excommunication from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, former bishop Sam Young is taking his mission to the mountaintops of Utah, decrying practices by his former church and other religions he says facilitates harm to children.
Young, a Texan, once went 23 days without food in Salt Lake City, publicly protesting sexually explicit questions he says are sometimes asked by adult Latter-day Saint leaders to children in what are sometimes called “worthiness interviews.” He has claimed his daughter was twelve when she was asked by a bishop, without Young’s knowledge, if she had ever masturbated.
Young said he has heard many stories of people who say they were psychologically harmed by adults asking them sexually explicit questions in interviews. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is currently surveying members and leaders, seeking feedback about whether parents should be in the room with children during interviews. It is also considering lowering the age of eligibility for periodic interviews to age 8-11.
Young said he is happy the Church is seeking member feedback and is OK with lowering the ages of children being interviewed as long as there are no sexually explicit questions asked.
Now, Young and his nonprofit, Protect the Children, are expanding the reach of their message beyond the Latter-day Saint faith.
“There need to be strong policies in every religion,” Young declared.
Through Aug. 3, the group is inviting anyone who supports the cause to hike prominent peaks of the Wasatch Front, raising flags and voices against child sex abuse.
“‘High on the mountaintop, a banner is unfurled,'” said Young, quoting a popular Latter-day Saint hymn. “We have a mountainous problem in our society with child sex abuse,” he said.
Young is also partnering with the Zero Abuse Project and the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), organizing a march from Salt Lake City Hall to the state capitol against child sex abuse. The march is scheduled for Oct. 5.
“It’s the first major march that is dedicated to our children…dedicated to eliminating sexual abuse of our children,” declared Young at a press conference Sunday.
Young says he would still be an active member of the Latter-day Saint faith had he not been excommunicated. He said his faith in Jesus Christ, who he says condemned the abuse of children, drives him daily.
Officials with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints did not comment on this story, but the Church has said in the past it has a “zero-tolerance policy” when it comes to abuse.
For more information on upcoming Protect the Children hikes, click here.