SALT LAKE CITY – The Mormon church for the first time Wednesday posted the list of questions lay leaders are supposed to ask youth during closed door, one-on-one interviews that have come under scrutiny because sexual questions sometimes arise.
Only one of the questions seems directed at finding out about a young Mormon’s sex life: “Do you live the law of chastity?”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints posted the 13 questions that were previously only sent to local leaders along with updated guidelines and a letter from church President Russell M. Nelson encouraging the leaders to share the questions with children and parents before the interviews.
Mormons are taught under that code not to have sex before marriage, engage in passionate kissing, touch another person’s private parts or arouse “emotions in your own body” that are supposed to be reserved for marriage.
Homosexual relations also are forbidden even if a person is married or in a relationship.
In the updated guidelines about the interviews, leaders are told to ensure that “discussions about moral cleanliness do not encourage curiosity or experimentation.”
The religion changed its policy earlier this year to allow children to bring a parent or adult with them to the interviews after a group of Mormons and ex-Mormons demanded an end to the one-on-one interviews and a prohibition on all sexual questions.
Parents were only allowed in a hallway or adjacent room under old rules. Youth can still go in alone if they choose.
The group welcomed the change, but said it didn’t go far enough to keep children safe. About 1,000 people marched to the church’s headquarters in Salt Lake City in March to deliver petitions demanding an end to the so-called “worthiness” meetings that they argue can lead to unhealthy shaming of youth.
Adults have recalled being asked detailed questions about their sexual activity or being punished after acknowledging masturbation.
Sam Young, a Mormon father from Houston who is leading the campaign, said the guidelines and instruction to share them with parents and children is encouraging, but still missing are clear instructions for leaders not to ask sexually explicit questions.
The chastity question seems innocent enough, but still introduces the topic of sex into the conversation and opens the door for inappropriate conversations, Young said.
“If that’s the only question they asked, that would be an improvement, but nowhere in there does it say to stop after the question,” Young said.
Church officials say the interviews allow bishops to get to know youth better and determine their religious habits and obedience to God. They usually happen twice a year starting at age 12. The bishops are instructed how to handle the meetings and swear to keep the conversations confidential.
Nelson said in his letter that the interviews help young Mormons “become disciples of the savior, repent of transgressions, and live the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The rest of the questions relate to the strength of a person’s faith and adherence to the religion’s health and spiritual guidelines. Only one question has been recently altered; a simplification of an inquiry about whether youth support anyone who opposes Mormon teachings, church officials said.