When I was a teen, I attended EFY (Especially For Youth) church camps, which are commonly attended by Mormon kids hosted on church-owned university campuses. One year, when I was sixteen years-old, on the first day of the program one of our male youth counselors informed everyone in his group, that sometime before the week’s camp activities ended, he wanted a sit-down interview with each young man. I thought it was odd and inappropriate.
During the week I kept putting off his strange request. This meeting seemed unnecessary and intrusive, and frankly I just didn’t want to. Throughout the week each boy in our group meet with him, one-on-one. I never initiated the meeting and he’d bring it up during the week, mentioning the kids by name until everyone had meet with him.
On the last day, he informed us he’d be coming by our dorm that night to meet with the two kids who had failed to meet with him during the week, me and one other participant. That night, long after dinner, outside of regular program hours he came to our dorm and met with each of us individually. Taking me alone into a poorly lighted room, and closed the door. He pulled up two chairs and we sat across from each other, knee to knee, and he proceeded with his interview.
This “interview” consisted of the types of worthiness-style questions all Mormons are accustomed to being asked by their leaders. The interview started with the basic standard questions I had been conditioned to answer. I only obliged because he was so persistent, honestly I just wanted it to be over. The pressure he was placing on me, felt he was not going to back off until I gave in. I went through the motions and answered his questions as vaguely as I could to end the interview as soon as possible. As he continued his questions, they became more specific and more graphic.
He asked me if I had ever masturbated, I lied and said no. I knew this college kid, had zero priesthood authority over me. I felt it was out of his stewardship to ask me such invasive questions, that I felt compelled to protect myself by lying. He asked me again, I responded the same. He seemed annoyed, but persisted with his next question. He asked if I had ever had homosexual thoughts/feelings. I responded that I had not. Again, he seemed irritated at my response. He repeated the question, and I became extremely uncomfortable. He then grilled me about sexuality, about “worthiness” and “purity”. The interview ended shortly after that. The counselor offered a closing prayer, stood up, pulled me into a hug and excused me from the room.
His interview and lecture left me feeling both guilty and confused. I had only agreed to the interview in the first place, because I had been conditioned for years, that it was normal for an adult male to take people (youth & adults) behind closed doors and ask intrusive questions about their personal lives. Before the Protect the Children Project, I hadn’t considered sharing this personal story. Now however, I think it is important to question the safety of LDS youth at EFY & other church camps.
I consider myself lucky that this situation ended where it did. Interviews groom members of the church for inappropriate interactions with adults, and place people in vulnerable situations. These inappropriate interviews need to stop! Religious leaders need to avoid asking sexually explicit questions to their congregation. Second, leaders should always offer to have a second adult in the room, no matter the age of the person interviewed. What price are we willing to pay to protect our children?