SALT LAKE CITY — The Texas man who conducted a three-week campaign this summer publicly opposing a policy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints now faces possible church disciplinary action on Sept. 9.
Why has a Houston-area church leader called a local disciplinary council for Sam Young, a former church bishop? It isn't because Young wanted the church to end sexually explicit interviews of children, as he said and a Newsweek headline stated, according to a church official.
Instead, Houston Texas South Stake President David Frank Hruska said the disciplinary council will consider whether Young is in apostasy based on reports that he has repeatedly acted in "clear, open and deliberate public opposition to the church or its leaders," according to the notice Hruska gave Young. The church considers disciplinary councils to be private. Young posted Hruska's notice on his blog.
Young said Hruska warned him in January that his actions endangered his standing in the church, also often called the Mormon church. Young's bishop issued a similar warning a week before what Young said was a 23-day hunger strike drawing attention to his opposition to the youth interviews with church leaders.
Young said he got a knot in his stomach Wednesday night when he received a text that leaders wanted to visit him but said he's had months to steel himself for the possibility of excommunication. He said he will defend himself during the council meeting because "I'm not an apostate."
Young is the director of Protect LDS Children, which is asking the church to change its policy on interviewing children and youth to "no one-on-one interviews, no sexually explicit questions ever."
But research suggests that when youths have positive interactions with adult leaders who are religiously active they have positive outcomes and become well equiped to handle challenges as they become adults.
Local church leaders conduct interviews to assess worthiness for baptism, confirmation, missions, advancement in the Young Men and Young Women programs and temple attendance. They also use the interviews to counsel, advise, support, inspire and guide children and youth, the church has said.
"My contention is I'm not opposed to the church or its leaders," Young said Thursday. "I'm opposed to a policy." However, he allowed, "I can see how someone can interpret what I'm doing as opposition to the apostles."
Young has encouraged others to join him in voting opposed to general and local church leaders when church members are asked to sustain those leaders, Hruska said in the notice. Most recently, Young has written and said he voted in opposition to church leaders in a Houston-area meeting when a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was present.
Young also organized a march on church headquarters in Salt Lake City. Hruska said both expressed opposition to the church or its leaders.
During the strike he also characterized the church's position as "insane," called it "the most extreme, unsafe church in America," said "I would not join the church today" and encouraged others not to join.
Young has referred to the march and the hunger strike as "actions," short for direct action, a form of protest that creates confrontations in an effort to draw publicity and intimidate the opposition.
Church disciplinary councils are not held to punish wayward members but to help them return to harmony with the church and its leaders, according to a church website. Hruska's notice said Young's council could decide on one of four outcomes — excommunication, disfellowshipment, formal probation or no action.
In March, days before Young's organized march, church leaders issued a new policy regarding interviews with youth and children:
"When a member of a stake presidency or bishopric or another assigned leader meets with a child, youth or woman, he or she should ask a parent or another adult to be in an adjoining room, foyer or hall. If the person being interviewed desires, another adult may be invited to participate in the interview. Leaders should avoid all circumstances that could be misunderstood."
Young said he gathered more than 3,000 stories of abuse and sexually explicit interviews into 15 bound books . They were hand delivered to church headquarters with nearly 1,000 marchers.
"We condemn any inappropriate behavior or abuse regardless of where or when it occurs," said a church spokeswoman who received the books from Young. "Local church leaders are provided with instructions regarding youth interviews and are expected to review and follow them."
Church spokesman Eric Hawkins issued a statement on Thursday:
"Because of the personal nature of church disciplinary matters and to respect the privacy of those involved, the church does not provide information about the proceedings. Church discipline is administered by local leaders who are familiar with the individual and his or her circumstances."
Hawkins said more information about church discipline is available on mormonnewsroom.org.168 comments on this story
Young said he takes the law of chastity seriously. However, last month he announced that he had come to believe that asking someone if they are living the Biblical law of chastity "is a sex question, period."
Three-quarters of sexual assault victims are assaulted by family members or others they know well. Some question Young's tactics because one-on-one bishop's interviews have been a safe place for children and youth who have used them to report abuse by a parent or another person close to them.