Ep 526 – Sam Young

Interview

Posted October 8th, 2018

Matt and Tom sit down with Sam Young to discuss his goals in protecting children, the effectiveness of his approach, and next steps post-excommunication.

Matt

Tom

  • Christian Braithwaite

    Just Fantastic!

    I think that the antagonistic Ex-Mormon community muddled Sam’s movement by enmeshing themselves with it for the simple fact that it was critical to the church, and helped create the “boogey man” that Matt referred to in this episode repeatedly. The combination of Sam’s uninformed (but well-intentioned) advocacy, and the antagonism from critics (for the sake of criticism) de-legitimized the movement, and yielded it much more ineffective than it otherwise could have been.

    • Matt

      A fantastic articulation of a concept I was trying to communicate.

      Words fail.

      Thanks Christian! ❤️

  • Delaney Darco

    There is something about Sam’s movement and #metoo that makes me worry, and it is all the negativity around sex. I know that consent is key, but I fear that the overall message that comes across is that sex is bad bad bad bad, except for when it isn’t. It’s very confusing as a child/teen. It’s exactly what the church teaches. It’s the shame around the issue that I wish we would address more poignantly. That’s my problem with the interviews, and therefore the young women’s/ young men’s program. Get rid of the interviews, you still have kids learning week in and out that the devil wants to use their own body against them, and that which feels natural is wrong. The shame is baked into Mormon Doctrine, and it’s not going away if we get rid of the interviews.

    Sam’s use of the word ‘grooming’ might be replaced by ‘normalizing’. But adults should be educating kids about masturbation, because we need more sex education. I don’t think that should be the bishop, but it still is a conversation kids need to have with SOME adults. The word “masterbation” itself shouldn’t make you shudder. The act itself isn’t dirty and shouldn’t be conveyed that way. Context is everything.

    With that said, I’m glad Sam’s advocacy has at least got parents in the church talking about the issue, for my own kid’s sake. And if I was a bishop I wouldn’t touch a one-on-one interview with the ten-foot pole in this #metoo movement era.

    • Dale Lowry

      I wonder if the conflating all types of sex is a result of being brought up Mormon, though? Certainly the idea that the daughters of the Lamanites lost their “virtue” when they were raped (Moroni 9:9) is one of the many places where non-consensual and consensual sex get conflated in LDS teachings. And there was something said in a recent conference—was it spring?—that conflated the two, as well. That’s what patriarchy does, is blur the line between consent and non-consent in a way that privileges people in power and disadvantages people who have less power.

      In other words, I don’t think Sam Young’s movement or #metoo are sex-negative at all. But when we’re coming from an environment with a lot of shame around any kind of sex, it becomes harder to discern “sex that is bad” from “sex is bad,” so the movements that name “sex that is bad” can come across as sex-negative.

      Not sure I’m making any sense, but I’m trying too…

  • Steven Retz

    Has not Sam
    testified of the wrongs of what have occurred from asking CHILDREN sexually
    explicate questions? Yea, he has boldly, and what was the LDS / Brighamite
    church done in response, they want to cast him out, and have said Sam Young is
    of the Devil and will not get back in his place where he belongs and we need to
    remove him from our ranks. All while at the same time protecting the one on the
    right of the picture. Who had his books sell in Deseret Book until recently as
    the LDS / Brighamite church trying to hide or be secret about what is going on.
    I have never read any of his books, but I can speculate it would of had things
    that mostly tickled peoples ears, especially considering he has not had the
    baptism of fire or if he once did he has lost it because of his sins and crimes
    against God and the people. A repentant man will confess of his sins, not hide
    behind the law or lawyers. Now also take a look at which man the LDS /
    Brighamite church is supporting and which one they are forsaking. To me this is
    a very dirty rotten fruit of theirs.

    https://seekingyhwh.com/2018/09/09/bishops-are-judges-of-israel/

  • Steven Retz

    Very good post, thank you.

  • Spencer Warner

    Thank you for this discussion. Matt is a hero.

    I do have one question for Matt – Is it fair to say that the interview process that Sam is trying to get rid of is normalizing children to grooming behavior?

    • Orrin Dayne

      I actually just hopped on to suggest using “normalizing”. I really like that word.

      While I think “normalizing” is a good word for Sam to use, I think using “grooming” in “normalizing grooming behavior” still risks the conflation that Matt was concerned about.

      I think more a more cumbersome phrase that adds clarity could resolve this, e.g., something that make clear that it’s normalizing adult/child interactions that a predator might later have with the child (I realize this isn’t perfect either, but just an example).

    • Matt

      I would say what I said in the episode. It’s bad adulting and or parenting.

      Adults do things that harm kids all the time.

      Just because a parent yells at a kid doesn’t mean that they are necessarily making it more likely for the kid to accept yelling of all adults.

      So no, I bristle at both normalizing or grooming behavior because kids really are able to distinguish between different people just like you are and they are able to have nuanced feelings and barriers to different people – just like you.

      The questioning is damaging in and of themselves. Full stop.

      It is not helpful to place it on the victim cycle, unless it was specifically used by an offender and then, it is the same as when an offender uses wrestling or tickling.

      We certainly wouldn’t say that a parent who rough houses or tickles or cuddles their kid is grooming them for others, but that is exactly what Sam is saying with the interviews.

      Here’s another example, offenders often use R Rated movies to groom their victims. Should we then say that any parent who lets their children watch R Rated movies are grooming their children? Of course not, but that’s what sam and others are doing when they say interviews are grooming behaviors or “normalizing” grooming behaviors. It strains credulity and the concept no longer has any meaning.

      • Spencer Warner

        Thank you for the additional clarification. I see what you are saying. I will be modifying the way I talk about this topic based on the episode and this conversation.

        The questioning is damaging.

      • Blair

        Given what you’ve said about not conflating the interviews with grooming, do you think Sam is still right to ask that the church stop one-on-one interviews with children (ie require another adult be in the room), or should he limit his protests to the sexual questions specifically?

        • Matt

          Stopping one on one interviews is a necessary principle in child protection.

          That’s what I was trying to articulate when I said that policies and practices need to be established for the entire church program.

          Again, focusing on only the interview is myopic.

          The principle is that no child should be alone with any adult in a corporate setting. Church’s are corporations my friend.

          That’s my point.

          My advice : we treat every institution the same as it related to children because institutions have abusers. Full fucking stop.

          That is a distinct and separate issue from having an untrained individual instructed by fucked out views of sexuality and intimacy ask a child about sexuality and intimacy.

          • Blair

            I get that they’re separate issues, but I have nieces and nephews who still attend, the oldest being… I think a mia maid now. To me their safety is all one issue. I had not great experiences in Bishops’ offices, and my sisters have told me about worse experiences they had. Not just in terms of sex-related issues either, girls in the church are NOT treated with respect by a patriarchal organization.

            I guess it’s true that part of me is rooting for Sam just because fuck the church, but even if I were past that I wouldn’t be past worrying about my nieces and nephews. I can’t articulate my concerns to my siblings without sounding like I’m criticizing them as parents, so I really hope Sam is successful before something damaging happens to them. I’m just saying I hope you can help him improve his message. Even if he’s not successful it’s absolutely worth trying and even a small victory can be an important one.

          • Matt

            🙏

  • Leslie North

    Awesome education and clarification on so many things. Thanks.

    • Matt

      Thanks much.

      #whatweknowpod

  • Nancy

    Yes the interviews are just one component of what is wrong about the Mormon church’s teachings about sexuality. One thing that I feel is overlooked is that by starting those interviews young it normalizes that level of institutional control over sexuality clear into adulthood. They are as much about control as sex , at least that is how it seems to me. We will miss you on this podcast Matt but wish you well. I hope to be where you are someday.

    • Matt

      Great point. And I think the one that should be emphasized more is the shame that is ingrained early (in part because of these interviews, but primarily because of chastity lessons) is a characteristic that allows Mormon kids to be shamed more which leads to shared responsibility which leads to concealment, which allows more persistent abuse.

  • gem2477

    Matt – quick question. Would you say Mormon / religious kids are more armed to look out for inappropriate sexual behavior / questions from a teacher or coach than to their bishop? I understand that there definitely are the same questionable situations out there, but my concern is that a Mormon parent and child are more likely to question a coach who asks sexual questions than a bishop who does.

    • Matt

      This is a fantastic insight that should be explored.

      Yes!!

      Often, mormon men will use sexual questions to titillate and break down barriers, therefore, groom.

      But usually the Mormon offenders, male and female use chastity lessons etc as shaming devices rather than grooming devices.

      Is that responsive to your question?

      • gem2477

        Yes, thanks.

  • Brittany Anderson

    I really enjoyed this discussion.

    I mostly wanted to comment because I really have been enjoying Matt’s insights on the episodes recently. I feel like he’s so genuine in his words and feelings and it makes the discussions even more enjoyable for me. I also appreciate someone pushing back against exmormons because it’s so easy to get into an echo chamber/groupthink. If you don’t want to talk about Mormon stuff I will still listen.

    • Matt

      This comment touches me because you recognize vulnerability and an attempt (at least) at authenticity.

      This makes my efforts worthwhile.

      ❤️

  • Brrrrr

    At what point in the process are parents notified regarding the content of these interviews? I get the impression Sam was never notified…

    I raised my kids outside the mormon mileu, no COJCOLDS no problem.

  • Sker

    Thanks Tom for being a Matt-whisperer and doing some push back. I also felt like you had more of a pulse on what Sam was actually doing overall. I also felt that some of Matt’s examples undermined what he was trying to say. Cooler minds than mine were needed to keep the conversation going. No doubt, Matt had some REALLY good information for Sam which needed to be shared, but I felt that, in a lot of cases, he was either being too aggressive or too defensive.

    Matt, as I said above, thanks for the information. I’m really glad you were part of the interview, despite how uncomfortable it was for me at times. I read where you said this shouldn’t be called ‘normalizing’ or ‘grooming’ but it seems that ‘bad adulting / parenting’ is too nebulous. Although I like ‘normalizing’, if this isn’t ‘normalizing’ isn’t there a better term we can use than the ones I mentioned just above?

    Sam, thanks for your work and for your thick skin and for not being an apostle.

  • Peter

    Matt commented that he doesn’t think parents shouting at their kids normalises it for them to accept other adults shouting at them, implying that a similar difference is at play if Bishops have conversations in worthiness interviews with sexual content than that doesn’t normalise such things when sexual abusers try the same thing with them. I think that’s self-evidently complete nonsense – of COURSE constantly being shouted at by your parents makes you used to it and less surprised or shocked by other adults shouting at you. OF COURSE having conversations with powerful adult authority figures where they are allowed to rummage around in your most private sexual experiences and even thoughts normalises that in other contexts. What we learn to regard as normal conduct in our home or trusted religious community becomes the normality we expect or tolerate elsewhere. Why would they be different?

    I am a huge fan of both Infants on Thrones and Sam Young and very grateful for both, but I think the overlap between the grooming the Church facilitates and even insists upon and grooming for sexual abuse as Matt defines it from his legal definitions and professional experience is far deeper than he allowed for in his analysis. Grooming is as grooming does. The dialogue rightly explored intent being a defining difference, but if the experience of the young person, or McKenna Denson for that matter smoothly segwaying from the conditioning of what was normalised for her in the context of years of worthiness interviews to being actually groomed by intentional sexual predators is the same throughout then intention makes diddlysquat difference from the perspective of the victim. They are all components of one system.

    I do however think there are some ways in which there IS voyeuristic intent involving a significant sexual dimension even when the interviewing is being done by people without an intention of personal sexual gratification. I have spent my life and several recent conversations related to the Protect LDS children campaign hearing bishopric and Stake Presidency members describing the buzz they get from administering the atonement to young people coming to them from a place of sexual shame.

    Although not exactly the same thing this feels like it has most of the hallmarks of typical sexual abuse:- A powerful adult authority figure roots around in a young person’s psycho-sexuality so that they can experience a spiritual or emotional high and smugly congratulate themselves that they are doing those young people a favour that they seemed to enjoy, while oblivious to the lasting wreckage they may have caused in those young people’s lives which will continue for many years after they themselves had forgotten all about the encounter.

    A young person has an encounter with a powerful and controlling adult in their lives who gives them an intense, intimate emotional experience in relation to the context of their developing sexuality which involves the removal of all the usual boundaries of privacy and then an shared emotional and spiritual high and intense feeling of ecstasy and release. Afterwards that continues for a little bit, but then over time becomes a much more complicated and troubling memory for them, particularly as they realise the impact that it has had or that they don’t want to return and do that again because it now makes them feel dirty and uncomfortable. And then that authority figure demands that they cooperate with a repetition of that intimate experience of shared reliving of sexual experiences and even thoughts followed by ecstasy and release of tension over and over again for many years. Totally looks like grooming to me, and the interviewers get off on it emotionally big time, even if not specifically sexually.

  • Zarahemna

    Not related to the topic but since it was brought up in the episode: I’m really sad to hear Matt will be leaving IoT. I hope it’s like when Randy always threatens to leave and he comes back every now and then!

    But I totally get that feeling when you’re over Mormonism and Ex-Mormonism. John Larsen spoke about it at length very eloquently years ago when he quit Mormon Expression. I think in general we are past the prime of Ex-Mormon podcasting, although I love that Glenn is still trying to keep it fresh and innovative. I definitely feel some fatigue from the years of drama and outrage at the Church, but at the same time I have a feeling my fascination for the religion isn’t going anywhere.

    • Matt

      Meh, call it a spin-off that gets published in two places.

      #whatweknowpod

  • TheMogabi

    Excellent interview. Thank you for holding Sam accountable. You are absolutely right that Sam sets his cause up to be dismissed as the “boogeyman.” Sam, thank you for being willing to listen.

    • Matt

      🕉

  • Josh Curtis

    Sam lost some major credibility right from the beginning when he said the word “masturbation” had never been said in his home!! How in the HELL do you raise 5 children and that word is never mentioned? So Sam never discussed sex with his kids? In my opinion that’s the major issue here…the shaming and cultural norm in Mormonism that sexual topics are taboo. If parents were more real with their kids regarding sexual topics, there would be no reason for bishops to discuss it. Breaking down social norms is easier said than done, but it’s essential to be open and honest with kids regarding sex.

  • MikeAlone

    When Matt broke up at 26:40 talking about a specific incident that illustrates what he deals with in his work, it tore my guts and might have even fractured my mind. I’d go broke paying for the therapy that such things would do to me if I was doing Matt’s job. More important, it told me everything I needed to know to write him out a Lifetime Pass cutting him slack and authorizing him forever to come across as angry and frustrated. When I listened to the Sam interview I had the same reaction others expressed relative to how Matt came across. This follow-up episode made it understandable. And following that vulnerable expression (the one at 26:40), hearing the emotion, followed by “teach me how to improve my tone…” – well, God give us more people like Matt.

    On the constructive side, I think one practical help in the original interview episode would have been to balance the criticisms of what Sam was doing wrong with more suggestions and encouragement for how to do it right.