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The following was written by David Dollahite for the Deseret News. To read the full article, click here.
Some have called for the end of one-on-one LDS bishop interviews with youths because, among other reasons, the subject of sex could be discussed in these conversations.
However, research and experience suggest that ending these interviews would hinder the spiritual development of LDS youths. Bishop counseling, even on sensitive matters, is part of a broader constellation of ecclesiastical mentoring that serves as an important tool for healthy adolescent development within the LDS tradition. With contemporary youths facing a host of escalating emotional and social challenges, society should be calling for an increase in positive adult-adolescent interactions, not an end to them.
We should, of course, continually help adult-youth relationships to be as healthy as possible for youths. Personal ecclesiastical interviews must be safe spaces free from abuse or inappropriate behavior of any kind. Sadly, a few have violated positions of trust and others have, through ignorance or insensitivity, crossed lines of propriety in discussing sexual matters. This year, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints took steps to ensure that youths are permitted to have an adult accompany them into personal interview settings. And, anytime a bishop meets with a youth, another adult or parent must be nearby. This summer, the church also published a uniform list of questions that bishops ask youths prior to their receiving an endorsement to enter an LDS temple. It appears the church is wisely balancing the need to protect personal boundaries without losing the benefits that come with meaningful mentorship derived from candid pastoral conversations.
Research suggests that when youths have positive interactions with religiously articulate and active adults, they are better equipped to navigate life’s challenges. Looking at a study of 3,370 American teens from various faiths, conducted by sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Denton, Princeton Theological Seminary professor Kenda Creasy Dean observed that, among those studied, Mormon teens “were the least likely to engage in high-risk behavior and consistently were the most positive, healthy, hopeful and self-aware teenagers.”
To read the full article, click here.