Appropriate Discussions With Your Bishop

So for the first time with this blog I’m going to talk openly about an LDS church policy/traditional/cultural norm.  I hope this isn’t too off putting for some of you. Sunday in church I was part of a discussion of the appropriateness of certain discussions between kids and their Bishop.

Sunday School

The Sunday School lesson we were having led to a discussion on families and raising kids.   Then we went into protecting kids from sexuality and such.   It was kind of a discussion on how parents are responsible for teaching them VS. “it takes a village” mentality.

One man spoke up and said his bit about how we need to not assume kids aren’t hearing or talking about sexual activities.  How Bishops have stopped asking IF they’ve seen porn, but rather asking what porn they’ve seen – they now assume everyone has seen it from somewhere.

Then he kind of generalized that we need to be discussing with kids the same things that they are hearing about from friends or media (movies/music/etc).   He didn’t say it this way, but what that means is if they are hearing about “blow jobs” (or oral/anal sex, condoms, masturbation, etc) at school, then parents or leaders need to be able to use the term and talk about it with them.   He didn’t use these terms in church, but that is what I believe he was trying to say.

STOP GENERALIZING!

And I agree with him.   The LDS church has a cultural history of generalizing about sex and not really speaking to kids about these issues.   I’m not sure if a leader ever used the term “sex” when I was growing up, instead they’d just generalize and say things like “keep yourself clean” or “obey the law of chastity.”   There was no specifics about anything.

I don’t know if my leaders were embarrassed, or just naïve.   But that lack of detail meant I was naïve as well until I experienced things for myself or had them described by classmates.   That is poor preparation indeed.

Don’t believe me?  Studies say that 80% of young kids don’t think of oral sex as “sex” at all.   So if you aren’t specific with them, what do they know? Is “petting” such an obvious term that you think you don’t need to describe what that means?  In a kids mind they could still be living the law of chastity and also regularly pleasuring their “partner”.   That is a problem.   We need parents AND leaders who can have these discussions with kids and tell them what is and isn’t acceptable.

Youth based magazines are publishing articles about explicit sexual acts (This Teen Vogue article for instance).  As much as I love and support the ideal, our response can’t simply be “be virtuous.”

Bishops Interview

Back to Sunday School.  After the one gentleman said his bit, another man spoke in an effort to agree that we can’t be vague with kids, only he went further.  He said something along the lines of this:

Now days you even have pushback against Bishops. They say that Bishops shouldn’t be asking about specific sexual acts, saying that Bishops shouldn’t talk about that in interviews, but only be very basic. But that’s their job!

To this I couldn’t disagree more.  I didn’t even raise my hand but just jumped in saying something along the lines of this:

I’m going to push back on that. My oldest is a 15 yr old girl. There is no way any middle aged man should be having sexually explicit discussions with her. In groups, fine. More explicit discussions, fine. But one on one? No way. Aside from asking about the law of chastity, no man should be questioning my daughter about explicit sexual acts.

Group vs One on One

While I think we DO need to be specific with our youth, and talk to them using the same terms they hear elsewhere, I don’t think it should be in one on one settings between youth and unrelated adults.   Meaning a parent is fine one on one with their kid, but any other leader/adult better be in a group setting.  Any church leader better be in a group if they are going to talk about explicit things like masturbation, anal/oral sex, intercourse, etc.

But what about worthiness interviews?  Well, a Bishop needs to ask if they obey the law of chastity.  That is part of their job.  But questioning about specifics beyond that should be left out.  If the kids answers yes, they live the law, then move on.  If the Bishop is concerned for some reason that the youth might not realize what constitutes violation of this, then it better be explained in a group.  When a youth answers no, they aren’t living the law of chastity, have a plan to involve someone else, preferably a parent.

I would totally support any Bishop who had a group event and told all of his youth, “When I ask ‘Do you live the law of chastity?’ I don’t simply mean ‘sex’ in the traditional sense.” and then went on to talk about the various other activities that would be chastity violations.  Be blunt. Say things like, “Anal sex qualifies as sex, and needs to be confessed.”  If we can assume they are encountering porn, we can assume they are hearing sexual terms that we MUST be prepared to talk about and give guidance about.

Parental Involvement

Also set another expection as well.  Tell them, as a group, that if they come in to talk to you as the Bishop, answer No to the law of chastity question, and start confessing a sexually explicit event, then you are going to stop them and ask for permission to bring their parents in.   There is no reason not to, other than being afraid a parent will be abusive upon finding out, and then that should be known and dealt with too! But get permission for someone else to be there, another Bishop or the SP if necessary, but don’t be alone!

There is no reason that confessions MUST be one on one!  None.  A confessor can have anyone with them.  A parent, a leader, a friend.  Anyone who helps them feel better and safer.   The parents are going to be a youth’s best support moving forward anyway, so ASK to get them involved.   If the kid refuses, fine, but TRY!

All explicit questioning for a simple worthiness interview should be off limits. Under no circumstances should a Bishop ask searching questions about explicit sexual activity from a youth on a one on one basis.

Outside the Norm

I know that this is outside the normal cultural happenings in LDS circles.  But I don’t think I’m wrong.  It should be easy to see that middle aged men should NOT be asking young girls explicitly sexual questions in settings where they are alone together.   Give training and set expectations in a group, where kids are with their peers, and then when alone simply ask if they are following those guidelines already set out.

I recently read a harrowing account of an interview held very poorly.

“when will the Church finally stop having young women and young men face middle-aged or older men in private rooms for interviews about their sex lives? My youngest daughter refuses to go into a Bishop’s interview with our current Bishop because his questions were so intrusive.

In her last interview with him, he asked her “Do you keep the law of chastity? My daughter answered in the affirmative. He then asked follow-up questions about female masturbation, oral sex, etc. She felt cornered and trapped. She thought he was accusing her of those actions, that he did not believe her initial answer. It was days before I found out, she was depressed for days before she finally confided in her mother and myself.”

I concur with his conclusion as well, “That form of interview is a form of sexual assault.”  The type of probing questions asked as follow up are totally inappropriate as given in this account.

I don’t know if you all agree, but now you have my take on the matter.

Take-Aways

Get over the ridiculous notion that confessions need to be private one on one things… they don’t!  Have another person there.  A parent would be ideal.  Don’t go into sexual details alone.

Be blunt, specific, and to the point, but do it in groups.  Private settings between adult men and teenage girls isn’t the setting for talks about sex.

Be adult enough to have the discussions with all youth AND their parents.  Set good expectations and boundaries so kids know what path any confession will follow.

Be open and truthful.  There is no room for shyness or embarrassment in these discussions.  These youth are becoming adults, show them how to have an adult conversation about adult topics while maintaining respect and worthiness.  Model adult behavior.

 

Your thoughts?

 


Follow Up

 

Julie proof read this and brought to my attention that she has seen a petition going around asking the church to end these interviews all together.   I assume that is what the gentleman I referred to was talking about when he said there is pushback against Bishops.   I didn’t know about the petition, and therefore haven’t read the petition nor know if I agree with it.

It is a Bishop’s duty to ascertain the worthiness of his members, including the youth.  It can’t be scrapped, but it can be improved.  We are wrong to suppose that it must be done one on one.  It doesn’t.  Repentence doesn’t require it at all.  The interviews must take place, but when it is known, or becomes known, that sexual activity is going to be discussed there is no reason another person (agreeable to the confessor) can’t be brought in.

From Basketball Court to Hallway – The Journey Continues

Both Joshua and Kristie tried out for their school basketball teams.  Both failed to make it.  But they both wanted to play, so we were left with Jr. Jazz basketball through the recreation centers.   Andrew was signed up as well since he wants to do everything his older brother does.

Andrew – Kindergarten

So we started practices this week and today was the first set of games.   Andrew was at 9am this morning.   He is in Kindergarten, and his is in an “instructional” league.   They only meet 1x per week for an hour on Saturday mornings.  They do 30 minutes of instruction with their coach and a 30 minute game with another team.

It was totally awesome.  Both boys and girls were all smiles (and some confused looks) when the game started.  It was mayhem of the best kind.  Most of the kids tried to dribble, but some didn’t bother.  Two of Andrew’s teammates were bigger than all the others and got quite a few rebounds.  They would just grab the ball and sprint to the other end of the floor, no dribbling attempted, and throw up some monster heave at the hoop.  And of course there was the sliding, jumping on balls, an occasional mild push (nothing serious or with ill intent).  They were just having fun playing “monkeyball” as we called it as teenagers.

The officials were awesome as trainers.  They were helping kids understand how to throw in the ball from the sidelines, telling them to dribble, and coaching them about game play.  At one point they did blow the whistle on one of the big kids and explained he needed to dribble when moving with the ball, and then gave him the ball back.

Others were more skilled and would dribble and take some good shots.  Andrew was one of these and scored a few times.  I told him on one trip down to try passing, and he ended up with his first assist by passing to the other kid who seemed to have some skill/experience.

To help the kids on defense they gave them all colored wrist bands.  Each player on one team had a different color, and it corresponded with the same color on an opponents wrist.   So if you had the blue band, you guarded the player on the other team with blue.   It was a cool coaching aid.

The kids had a blast, got to practice some skills, gained some hands on experience, and had good instruction from coaches and officials.  It was a grand time for everyone!

Kristie – 6th Grade

Kristie’s game was at noon at a different location.  Hers is a “competitive” league and they play four 8-minute quarters.  They got the schedules and team rosters on Monday and practiced once this week.  It was the same for everyone, so no team had a ton of time to practice before games started.

Both teams only had 5 girls.  (Kris actually only had 4, but another girl there saw them short handed and jumped in to play).  This game was much less of a “blast” and for the first time ever, I got thrown out of a youth sports event.

Getting Thrown Out

These girls are not Kindergarteners.  Next year they will all be trying out for middle school teams if they want.  They aren’t here for “instructional league.”  And yet the officiating was EXACTLY the same as for Andrew’s game.

There were absolutely NO fouls, traveling, or other such calls made in the first half.  The officials, two teenagers, did nothing but call possession when the ball went out of bounds and call a few jump balls when girls got tied up.   One of them was never even in position under the basket … he simply wandered around aimlessly, often giving us two officials up near mid-court.  He also seemed too scared to blow his whistle; the other one would make possession calls from across the court at times.  

When this officiating incompetence became clear to me near the end of the 1st quarter, I started talking to the official as he came by.  At first it was the wanderer.   He was right in front of me when I said, “You know they play sloppy like this because you let them.  If you’d blow that whistle they could learn to play better.”

Not even a response from him.  Not a word or a look in my direction.  He was happy to ignore me, ignore the game, and just get a paycheck for being there.  He was a lost cause.

About midway through the 2nd quarter they finally moved around enough to have the other official (who at least wasn’t afraid of his whistle) come past me.  To him I asked, “How are they supposed to learn to play the right way if you keep letting them play it wrong?”   He at least looked at me.  He replied, “Hey man, just leave me alone.”

Um, no.  I responded again, “Even on our team, could you call a foul, travel, anything?  Call it on my daughter, but call SOMETHING.”

“They aren’t doing anything wrong though.  I don’t want to hear another word from you.”

Nothing wrong?  I know Kristie had traveled at least half a dozen times, double dribbled twice, and committed who knows how many fouls.  Every girl out there was the same.  Pushing like crazy, hacking arms, walking all over with the ball, sliding every time they stopped.   It was bedlam much like Andrew’s game, ONLY THESE WERE 6TH GRADERS!!!  I was having none of it.

“You don’t see anything wrong?  You should be ashamed to get a pay check for this!”   **WHISTLE BLOWS**  He T’s me up to the desk and throws me out.   The second the whistle blew I was on my feet and walking out but told him one more time, “Ashamed.  You should be ashamed to get paid for this.”

My Expectations

I completely understand not seeing a foul, missing a travel, etc.  That happens.  I officiated high school games in Arkansas and it has happened to me.  Especially with only 2 officials instead of 3.  This wasn’t the case though.  These two had either made a decision to call nothing, or were incapable of seeing what was obvious and calling it.

I expect 6th graders to be officiated to a higher standard than Kindergarteners.  I’ll use Kris as my example, but it applies to every girl there as well.  How is Kris supposed to get better playing like that?

How does she learn NOT to travel if she isn’t penalized for doing it?  She won’t even recognize that what she is doing is wrong if it is allowed to happen.  Same with dribbling, carries, double dribble, etc.

And defense?  How will she learn to play good defense if she is allowed to play bad defense?   She won’t develop the instinct not to hack someone’s arm if the whistle isn’t blown.  They won’t learn good defensive posture and positioning if they learn that it works just fine to hang on somebody.  It is the officiating that teaches them where the line is between acceptable actions and penalties.

Kris will try out for the middle school team next year.  If she shows up and has been used to the standard of being able to travel, she will surely do it and be judged poorly by a coach.  Calling fouls and penalties on MY DAUGTHER will make her better. PLEASE DO IT!

And what about the highly skilled player?  You are robbing that one too.  If Kristie develops a killer cross over and pull up shot in the lane, she is robbed if the defender is allowed to hang on her as she changes direction to go by.  Kris would then learn by experience that the skill she worked to develop DOESN’T work, because the official allowed the defender to stop it without penalty.   So she doesn’t develop and her learning is stunted.

When bad officiating is present both the skilled and unskilled are penalized and will fail to improve.  What might be acceptable for Kindergarteners and some older grades should definitely be gone by the time they reach 6th.   This was worse than the 3rd/4th/5th grade games I officiated back East.   Just disgraceful.

Ejection Rescinded

So I sat in the hallway and watched the game through the open gym door.  At  halftime the official came to talk to me.   I explained to him what I just explained above.  He explained that he didn’t want to be yelled at.  I told him I hadn’t yelled.   I asked if I could come back in.  He said “Fine, but I don’t want to hear anything.”   Fine.

He walked in and then walked to the other court (behind a giant curtain).  When he came back he was with an older man in a green striped shirt.  He came walking over to me.

“Are you going to throw me out too?” I asked.

“Throw you out?  No! I’m the site supervisor though, would you tell me what is going on.”  So I told him about the utter lack of officiating, of my “be ashamed” insult, and of my expectations for players this age.  I also told him that when I pay to enter the league that I expect them to use that money for competent officials.

He totally agreed with me on expectations.  He said he would watch the game and see if he could see what I was describing.  When we were finished, he disappeared for most of the 3rd quarter but stuck his head around the giant screen a few times to watch for a moment.   During a time out on the other court he came over again and asked me about it.  I told him, still not one foul call.  I said one girl on our team lost control of her dribble at mid court and bounced it over her shoulder where it rolled down her back, she turned and picked it up and kept dribbling, all with no call made.   He looked aghast.   Nothing had changed.

Improvement… but still WOW!

So he made a change.  He took over the table at our game and sent the other kid to the other court.   During the last quarter break he talked to the officials and I could see he was trying to train them a bit.

To start the 4th, nothing had changed.   This supervisor had to call out from the table a few times, “That was a travel, you HAVE to call that.”   His presence and officiating from the table was the only thing that made it bearable in the 2nd half.   They were forced to at least LOOK like they were trying since the boss was there.

The one official that threw me out actually got better.  He called a few travels, and 2 fouls in the 4th quarter.  He might have hope with some training and experience.  The other was just as hopeless as the first half.   He wasn’t in position to see the plays, and he never blew his whistle except for possession calls when the ball went out of bounds.  He seemed like he was trying because the supervisor was there, but just didn’t have ANY idea how a basketball game should be played.  It was that or he just really didn’t care at all.

Afterward the supervisor came to me again.  He said that he has to write evaluations and a report after each day.   I had to provide my name and such so it could be recorded I was thrown out.  He said he will make sure there are improvements for next week and going forward.  He didn’t apologize for officiating being as atrocious as it was, but he did agree that it was unacceptably poor.

Joshua – 8th grade

Josh’s game was at 3pm at yet another location.  This team is largely made up of Joshua’s friends at school.   One of their Dad’s is coaching, but he told me, “I don’t know anything about basketball.”  So he is listed as being in charge, but he told me to please take over and help.  So now I’m unofficially coaching Joshua’s team.

This game was great.  Officials were good.  They missed calls of course, everyone does.  But they knew the game and made it fair.   The teams were fairly close in ability too.  Both teams have a couple of decently skilled guys, and a handful of question marks.   But even the question marks have decent skills and largely know the rules by this age.

The other team had one main scorer but it turned out Josh was able to shut him down.  The few times Josh had to come out for rotation of substitutes this guy would score and they’d take the lead.  Josh would come back and his scoring would stop and we’d take the lead.  It was fairly back and forth like this.

We were down 5 with about 3 minutes to go when I told the coach, “We’re at the point now that if you want to win we need to put Josh, Dallen, and Jarren back in.”   So he did.   The other team stopped scoring and with 25 seconds left we took a 1 point lead.  Josh fouled their decent player (and only other scorer) with 8 seconds to go.   Luckily he missed both (after making both shots on his previous trip to the stripe).  Our boys couldn’t handle the rebound though, and it was fumbled and ended in a jump ball, opponents possession.   2 seconds left and they called timeout.   They were given directions to not allow anything inside and to harass the scorer.   They got a pass in to another player who missed badly as time expired.   An exciting game made better by victory.

I made a point of shaking the officials hands and telling them good job.  I did rag one about a (correct) moving screen call though.  Who calls that in Jr Jazz?

Conclusion

I got ejected (kind of) from a youth sporting event.   I deserved it, but I wasn’t wrong either.

I’m not sure what to think of the fact that the boys had competent refs but the girls didn’t.   Was it a fluke that they had two bad refs? Or has Marv Jensen decided girls don’t deserve the same quality as the boys do?  I sure hope that isn’t it and assume it isn’t.

My other interactions with Marv Jensen Rec Center have all been positive with quick correction to the few errors made, so I hope that this is remedied as well.  ALL the kids deserve competent officials regardless of age or sex.  It is something I expect to receive as a customer paying outlandish prices.  And of the 6 officials I saw today 4 of them were great.

I’m sure I should conclude I was wrong to be insulting.   I was.  My characterization of their performance was spot on, but I could have left out the insult.

I’m glad I spoke up though.   The supervisor would have had no idea how bad things were otherwise.  Sure, he might have heard a complaint about bad officiating, but every official hears that.   But my being ejected drew enough attention for him to see it for himself and to realize it wasn’t a hollow complaint.  Hopefully it will spur some training (or firing) so that the customers (the kids) can get the most out of their experience.


A Late Night Knock

You’ve had a late night knock before, right?  An unexpected knocking on your door at an hour when nobody should be knocking?  Or perhaps a phone call.   At some hour of night when you initially think, “Who in the world would call now?” and then you think, “it must be an emergency to call now!”

And so you jump out of bed and rush to find your phone.  As you move, each passing second is an eternity as your brain plays its game, trying to figure out what the emergency could be, who could be hurt, “what if (loved one) died?”, and on and on, until you find your phone (hopefully it just a wrong number).Have you had this happen?

My Late Night Knock

Last night I had something similar happen with me.  While Julie and the kids watched a movie (Boss Baby), I went to bed early, around 8pm, because of a really bad nights sleep the night before.

I was vaguely aware of Julie climbing in bed and Bella jumping up near my feet.  I was sleeping soundly enough though that I was back out again just as soon as they settled down.

At some point later I had woken from a nightmare and was laying in bed.  I had started to drift though.  You know that hazy part of sleep where you think you are awake but your dreams are real to you too?  That is where I was lingering for an unknowable amount of time (this is common for me).

So I was just lingering in that haze when I thought I became aware of someone moving down the hall next to our room.   I was aware of it, but not acknowledging that it was real of course.  Then came a knock, hard and loud, on our bedroom door.

Momentary Panic

Because of that haze, my brain hadn’t fully registered someone being awake and in the hall.  So when that knock came I almost jumped out of my skin.  Bella was instantly up as well and barking as if there was an intruder.  While my brain knew it was just a child, my body didn’t care.  My heart started pounding in my chest, by fear level was amazingly high, my muscles seemed locked and frozen.

Julie, also startled by the knock, started to get out of bed to check on her child.  I wanted to scream at her not to open the door, to tell her that HE must have found us and not to let him in, that we needed to hide.   But I was too frozen even to do that.  I didn’t say a thing.

I’d like to think that it wasn’t entirely fear make made me freeze, that my brain was also acknowledging that it must be a child needing it mom, and therefore let Julie get up and leave without me saying anything.  Julie opened the door and called out.

A Sick Kid

It was Kristie.  Poor angel had knocked on our door to wake us and then ran into the bathroom to puke.  Julie found her with her head hanging over the toilet.  She had knocked just once, apparently not trusting herself to open her mouth in the hallway.  She knocked as she hurried past.

Julie tended to her for several minutes as a good mother does.  I, like a lazy father, just lay in bed.  The panic passed within 5 seconds, but it could have been 5 hours for as long as it felt.  During those minutes that Julie helped Kris, I was trying to calm down and find sleep again.

No luck though.  The panic was short lived, but the seed had been planted for nightmares to continue throughout the night.   Even falling into the hazy awareness was intimidating to me.  Having already woken from one nightmare early wherein I had been taken captive, I wasn’t eager to sleep again.

Night Time Games

So for help with nightmares I turned to one of my ‘prescription drugs’ – a video game.  I had a therapist give me a ‘prescription’ for them anytime I needed an escape from the trauma or stress.   When my thoughts turn dark or ugly, or when I have moments like last night, then they are a great way to just shut my mind down and be distracted from the trauma.

I’m not proud of telling you that I played on our XBOX from midnight until after 4am.   When most people think of the type of person who would do that it probably involves a lot of unflattering adjectives and thoughts of uselessness.  You know how they’re portrayed in TV and movies.

I like to think that I’m different though.  I’m not hooked on the game.  I don’t “have to complete that quest,” or “need to get that level,” or “I can’t get left behind,” or whatever it is that drives most ‘gamers.”

The distraction is necessary for me though.  I need an escape from mental images of my kids being tortured.  I need to escape from thoughts of hurting myself.  A distraction from the pain coursing up and down my back.   So I think I’m a bit different in my gaming.   For me it isn’t an addiction or disease, for me it is the medicine.

I guess I could have been out shopping on Black Friday instead, but honestly, that just seems like the nightmares brought to life.

Take Away

So… I guess the point is this, if you’re going to wake me at some ungodly hour with a phone call, text, or a late night knock, then someone better be dead or dying.  Anyone other than my kids doing this to me had better have a good reason, or we’re going to “have a few words”.

“Snakes and My Birthday”

Thanksgiving Program

Today Andrew had a Thanksgiving program at Kindergarten that parents were invited to attend.  They sang a few cute songs and went through the alphabet with each kid naming something related to Thanksgiving; for example Andrew’s part was saying “N is for November”.

After the alphabet was complete they went down the row again asking each kids to name something they were thankful for.  First kid says, “My Mom.”  Next kid does the same “Thankful for my Mom and Dad.”  Each kid says the same thing… until they get to Andrew.

What is Andrew thankful for?  “Snakes and my birthday,” he says with a great big smile.

What the What?

I at least I know his birthday is coming up and he’s excited about that.

But never in my life have I know Andrew to like snakes.   Never seen him hold one, heard him talk about one, or desire to own one.   As far as I know he doesn’t dislike them either, nor have a fear of them.   To my knowledge he is fairly ambivalent toward snakes.

So I have no explanation why he broke from the ranks of the “Mom and Dad” crowd to add his grateful for the legless reptiles.   Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad the kid isn’t afraid to stand out from the crowd; to not follow along like a sheep.

But snakes?  What the what??

My son, the snake lover!