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Sam Young announces he was excommunicated by local church leaders

SALT LAKE CITY — A Texas man whose 23-day hunger strike punctuated his protest of one-on-one bishop's interviews with children in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Sunday that he has been excommunicated for apostasy.

Sam Young, 66, an office products salesman and former church bishop, received the decision of a Houston-area church disciplinary council late last week but said he didn't open it. He traveled to Salt Lake City to open and read the letter during a press conference across the street from Temple Square.

"The decision of the council (is) that you be excommunicated for conduct contrary to the laws and order of the church," the letter said, as read aloud by Young during the press conference broadcast through Facebook Live.

The church's public affairs department in Salt Lake City Sunday had no comment, but referred back to its statement last week about Young's disciplinary council:

"Because of the personal nature of church disciplinary matters and to respect the privacy of those involved, the church does not provide information about the proceedings," the statement said. "Church discipline is administered by local leaders who are familiar with the individual and his or her circumstances."

Young conducted an 18-month campaign calling on church leaders to stop the practice of bishops holding one-on-one worthiness interviews with children behind closed doors, saying they put bishops' careers and reputations at risk and endangered and shamed children, some of whom he said were abused or later committed suicide. Young's website, Protect LDS Children, gathered more than 22,000 signatures on a petition asking for an end to the practice.

"The whistleblower has been kicked out and labeled with the brand of apostasy," Young said Sunday. "I'll wear that as a proud label."

The disciplinary council was held Sept. 9 in Sugar Land, Texas, by the Houston Texas South Stake. The council's letter said Young was not excommunicated for his opinion or position on protecting children.

"The issue is not that you have concerns or even that you disagree with the church's guidelines," the letter said. "Rather, it is your persistent, aggressive effort to persuade others to your point of view by repeatedly and deliberately attacking and publicly opposing the church and its leaders."

Young said he has not attacked the church or its leaders, only a policy. He said he would be aggressive and outspoken and added, "I invite my church leaders to return to the covenant path."

He said he is "pretty sure" he will appeal the local council's decision to the church's First Presidency within the required 30 days.

"I'm not quitting," he said, though he added that he will return to work as a business owner after nearly a year of full-time focus on the issue that included a march on the Church Office Building north of Temple Square.

On March 26, four days before the march, the church's First Presidency updated its policies on interviews with children or youth. It clarified that an interviewee can request another adult to join an interview with a member of a bishopric or stake presidency.

Young welcomed the update but led 800 to 1,000 people to church headquarters to deliver books to church leaders containing 3,000 stories he said he collected of sexually explicit questions or abuse.

In June, the church again updated its policies in Handbook 1, the policy guide for bishops and stake presidents. The First Presidency directed bishops to share a set list of topics and questions with parents and youth to prepare them for a youth's first interview.

To read more about the purpose and practice of disciplinary councils in The Church of Jesus Christ, click here.