Mormon Wellness Project: 008: Bishop Interviews

Today on the Mormon Wellness Project, Wendy Perry tackles the hot topic of LDS Lay leadership interviewing young children behind closed doors and asking questions that are sexual in nature.  What is appropriate and what isn’t?   And how can we better help our children with healthy boundaries?  Today we dive in!


Wendy Perry, M.Ed. LPC, is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Texas.

This content is informational. It is not intended to serve as any psychological service/advice/diagnosis and is not a substitute for consultation with your healthcare provider. No informational material can be applicable to everyone or describe the behavior of all people. This content described behaviors and symptoms that are common within certain personality conditions. The information detailed here may change (based on other research studies) and my differ from the opinion of other experts. also the licensure boards are weirdly picky about how we write out credentials.


11 thoughts on “Mormon Wellness Project: 008: Bishop Interviews

  1. Thank you. Timely & Needed.
    Although not 100% clear what the recommendations are.

    Sounds like nowadays the only thing said is:
    Are you keeping the law of chastity?
    Should the answer be no, then please consider talking to a therapist. So we’ve pretty much outsourced this responsibility.

    I suppose all we need to do is steer clear from anything that might suggest arousal. As a guy I feel uncomfortable with that solution, because many things may be triggering… so if we just normalize those feelings and don’t make such a big deal out of it… we can just move on and not fan the flames. Otherwise just acknowledging that we are triggered can be considered sin and shameful.

    I suppose this whole podcast gives me a queasy feelings, heaven forbid we let our bishops offer some sexual education, yeah but licensed therapist are okay because they’ve been trained.

    No, I don’t think I’m happy with that conclusion… but perhaps a better conclusion would be to inform the interviewees of some basic rights. You don’t have to talk about anything you don’t feel comfortable about (that goes for both parties) and at any moment your entitled to end the interview.

    If I’m ever a Bishop I will want the parents or a third party as a witness during my interviews with the youth. Worst case scenario leave the door slightly open.

  2. Some good suggestions here. Thank you. And thank you for commenting so I know areas where im not clear. I made a misstep if folks think im suggesting referring to a therapist. Heavens no, I just meant to point out where talking to untrained leaders might be problematic. I think the only question should be “do you think your faith is sufficient to be baptized, or go to the temple, etc. Can’t think of a reason to refer for therapy, unless abuse is reported in which case Bishops are already pretty good about that but could be better. Some sexual physiological reactions are normal, is not that my point? I just prefer it not be happening between 47 year old males and teens and kids. Intimacy is created when any two people discuss sex, and once in a blue moon it does lead to people getting hurt, or confusion or displaced intimacy between spouses.

  3. Wendy, thank you for your podcast. I enjoyed this one and the other ones you have done. In my view, David’s comment illustrates a major divide with this issue and one that I think you touched on, but may be the subject of another podcast entirely (or series). Are temple recommend and bishop’s interviews for the member or for the church? I think members and bishops would view this differently. If for the member (I’m in this camp), the questions all require introspection. If the member feels guilty or has questions about something, the bishop is there as a resource and can guide the person to answers or to a professional counselor if needed. The ultimate decider in these things is the member, if they feel worthy, if they feel these things are resolved, the bishop is there to help and doesn’t need to press for details or ask extra questions because that is not his role. If these interviews are for the church, the bishop is using his power of discernment to see if the member is worthy, ask additional questions, pick up on queues and is the ultimate decider. The bishop can interrogate, get details and takes all of these factors into consideration when making the ultimate decision on worthiness. This is the old school view, but a lot of people still hold it. I would argue that the church is moving toward the member-oriented view, but many people (including church leaders) hold to the church-oriented view.

  4. Great points. Think of the progress in changes regarding asking couples questions about their sexual practices for temple recommend. That has been completely done away with. Does anyone want to go back to the way it was when they asked you if you engaged in certain practices? Or go back to the days of asking you about birth control? When we take they the long view we see the leaders are really very open to changing ecclesiastical practices. It’s always the members who nudge them along though isn’t it? Can I use your comment on the pod anonymously or would you like to come on the podcast. Very well thought out comment and articulate. Thank you!

  5. My wife was a therapist for LDSFS for some time and when I had my “faith crisis” I let her know that every interview I ever had with the bishop, where ever I was at the time, I was asked about masturbation. Every time. She was never asked and that knowledge surprised her. She doesn’t think masturbation is anything that should be asked and she also told me that our bishop at the time had to be informed that he was not to ask any questions along that line. Sexual questions are not allowed.
    My bishop balked and stated that the CHI required them to be specific. I told him that if he did, I would not allow them to be interviewed at all and if there was ever a conflict between my wishes for my children and the CHI, I win each time.
    As far as I know, no questions were asked, but my family left the church within a year.

  6. This issue of mandatory and invasive interviews for Church youth, along with idea of “worthiness” being determined by Church authority is 90% of the reason I stopped going to church years ago. It was incredibly traumatizing for me as a youth. Even when the bishop is caring and supportive, if he pries into a youth’s (or adult’s) sexual life because he believes it’s his duty or it’s a stake policy, it can still be a sexual and psychological violation to a sensitive member. Even when the interviewee is not even looking at porn, masturbating, or otherwise sexually active! (Trust me, I know first-hand.) There are other reasons for not mandating private interviews for youth as well as delving into their sexual behavior, but the shame and emotional trauma that can occur is a huge one. The harm caused can last years and even decades.

  7. I Really appreciate you taking the time to comment here. I agree on all points. Man we have smart articulate listeners! Thanks Matthew!

  8. Any leader who abuses his position to ask sexual questions to ANY member is a PERVERT, and a Sex Abuser, even if an obedient pervert, or just because… “everyone’s doing it!”

    For any leader to ask sexual questions of children is inexcusable. But, asking for specific details, is grooming them extra hard. He IS a True Sex Abuser (molester) at that point. “…as directed by the Spirit…” does NOT guide this twisted behavior.

    For an organization to ignore or defend or justify telling leaders, in writing, to ask these questions, and to get very detailed, and, as directed by the spirit for salvation purposes, is an extra higher level of PERVERT. (kidnappers of children, directed by God, come to mind first…)

    For any such organization to direct and condone this behavior in writing with and official release…? Well, “It would be better that a millstone…” Where’s Jesus!? Locked in the trunk of our shiny official Jesus Mobile, safe and sound from us blaspheming Him by questioning His leaders and esp Him?

    Where’s the line? Where does God’s Army turn into Christ’s bullies?

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