SALT LAKE CITY — For the second time in three months, LDS Church leaders are updating guidelines for how bishops interview children and youth.
The First Presidency is directing bishops to share a set list of topics and questions with parents and youth before a youth's first interview so everyone knows what will be covered, according to a letter sent Wednesday to general authorities and local leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The updated guidelines will appear in Handbook 1, the policy guide for bishops, who lead congregations, and stake presidents, who oversee bishops. The chapter "Guidelines for Youth Interviews" will be updated in online resources for leaders, according to the letter signed by LDS Church President Russell M. Nelson and his counselors, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring.
The new handbook section provides new direction to bishops and their counselors when they discuss obedience to commandments with youth. It states that they should "make appropriate use" of the set list of questions required in limited-use temple recommend interviews.
Limited-use temple recommends allow youth ages 12-18 to enter LDS temples to participate in a few of the ordinances performed there.
The updated handbook guidelines also instruct bishops to use the church standards and explanations in the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet.
"Leaders adapt the discussion to the understanding and questions of the youth," the guidelines state. "They ensure that discussions about moral cleanliness do not encourage curiosity or experimentation."
In March, the First Presidency announced significant new directions for bishoprics and stake presidencies conducting interviews with women and children, including how they counsel victims of abuse.
Those changes specified that children, youth and women may invite an adult to join them in what generally have been personal interviews. The changes also clearly stated that local leaders should never disregard a report of abuse and never encourage members to remain in an abusive situation.
A few days later, several hundred protesters connected to Protect LDS Children demonstrated outside the LDS Church Office Building in downtown Salt Lake City asking the church to direct bishops not to ask sexually explicit questions.
At the time, a church spokesperson said, "We condemn any inappropriate behavior or abuse regardless of where or when it occurs. Local church leaders are provided with instructions regarding youth interviews and are expected to review and follow them."
Wednesday's letter said church policy is that children younger than 11 generally are not interviewed except in preparation for baptism or to be sealed to their parents in the temple. These interviews are different in nature from youth interviews, and parents are typically present.
The letter reiterated the purposes of interviews with youth ages 12 to 18 and that a parent or other adult chosen by a youth can be present. Bishops or their counselors generally interview each young woman or young man twice a year.45 comments on this story
"Bishops have a sacred responsibility to lead, teach and inspire youth," the First Presidency said. "Effective personal interviews are one important way they do this. These interviews provide opportunities to help youth become disciples of the Savior, repent of transgressions and live the gospel of Jesus Christ."
Interviews also are required for temple recommends, priesthood ordinations and mission calls.
The First Presidency emphasized that parents have the primary responsibility to teach and nurture children.
Handbook 1 is not available to the general public or church membership, but church leadership published a significant portion of the chapter on youth interviews on the official Mormon Newsroom website on Wednesday. That included the full list of questions for limited-use temple recommends.