Monday, December 18, 2017

The gay Mormon man and the Bishop's interview

The LDS Bishop’s interview experience is getting a lot of press lately. I would be a little freaked out by it as well as it is explained by those who have not been through the process. It is not going into a locked room with an older man and talking about sex. Let me speak of my experience.

This isn't me, by the way.
Goes to show that there is usually a desk between the two.
I went through that interview every two years from the age of 12 on, and again when I went on a mission x two: Bishop and Stake President. On top of that, I was interviewed several times – once with my parents present when I was baptized at the age of eight. As a family we had yearly interviews with the bishop. And I have had an interview every two years since my mission to get/maintain a temple recommend.

The interview in question is to establish worthiness to enter the temple or to be advanced in priesthood authority and responsibility. My understanding is that the same questions are asked girls as they are advancing through various young women organizations. There isn’t a separate interview for girls or boys. It is the same interview.

Yes, there are questions about whether or not one is morally clean and yes, they were a little embarrassing for me to answer. I was never unduly uncomfortable in the interview with one exception: The very mention of the word masturbation made me want to pass out. This was the late seventies and I was not hip.

On my LDS mission I was assigned the task to interview potential members of the church for baptism. I realized that I was uncomfortable with those words as a leader as well.   
I was raised a Mormon. Worthiness interviews are part of the culture and still are.  As a husband and a father I have been asked by a family member to accompany them to such interviews. Of course I said yes, and I went with them to their scheduled appointment. Sometimes I got a funny look from the leader doing the interview. Most times there was not a bump. And this was years ago before any of this #metoo came to light.

Anyone can be accompanied by an adult or a family member if they so wish. And they have always had the ability to have someone accompany them.  It just hasn’t been part of the culture. But culture can change and is already changing. And yes, leaders can always be more sensitive to feelings of he/she being interviewed.

However, the law of chastity is clear and must be followed before anyone can attend the temple or advance in the priesthood. The questions won't change for content, though they might go through a revision of sorts for clarity. There are questions that need to be asked. "Are you morally clean?" is one.

I hear from some that the interview can be problematic. I get that. I hear that there has been abuse by some bishops. My experience in the church is that these are one-off scenarios.  They are not the norm. And in a culture that is becoming hyper-aware of potential for abuse, they will be fewer and fewer.  And that is as it should be. Should this conversation be happening?  Yes.

Here is the rub: You may or may not agree that this is a question that Mormon leaders have a right to ask. I think they do. You may feel that someone being interviewed has the right to refuse to answer. I agree.  However, someone who is not morally clean can’t get a temple recommend, and the structure is clear.

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