In a effort to protect children and youth more directly and effectively, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Friday the launch of an online training course required for all adults who interact with children and youth in church assignments.

“The training, which is initially being launched in North America (with other areas to follow) is to be done as new leaders receive assignments to serve children and youth,” a church press release said.

The church does not tolerate abuse of any kind, according to the release.

“Each leader will log in with his or her Church account so completion of training can be recorded,” the church statement said. “Local leaders are notified if the training is not completed. The training can be accessed at ProtectingChildren.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.”

“We take Jesus Christ’s teachings about children and youth very seriously,” said Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary general president in the release.

“He welcomed them into His presence and gave stern warnings against abusing, bullying or hurting them in any way. Jesus said of children, ‘Of such is the kingdom of God’ [Mark 10:14]. His deep concern for children and youth must continue to be our deep concern.”

In a notice that has been sent to leadership in the U.S and Canada, the church asks that all Latter-day Saints with the following callings or assignments complete the training:

Stake and district presidencies, bishoprics and branch presidencies

High councilors

Stake, district, ward, and branch Primary, Young Women, Young Men and Sunday School and Relief Society presidencies; elders quorum presidencies

Secretaries, teachers, advisers, camp leaders, activity day leaders, music leaders, pianists and others serving in positions in the Primary, Young Women and Young Men organizations

Teachers of youth Sunday School and seminary classes

The church also said that Latter-day Saint leaders registered in Scouting should also complete the required Boy Scouts of America’s Youth Protection training through the remainder of 2019, after which the church will no longer be participating in BSA.

Parents and others are also being urged to complete the training online.

Latter-day Saints asked to serve in any of the previously listed positions are to complete the training after being appointed to their assignments, according to the press release. Local leaders are expected to shoulder the responsibility to ensure that members know how to access and complete the training.

The church has recently been called out by a number of people who have claimed abuse by leaders, including McKenna Denson, who claims she was raped and abused by her mission president at the Provo Missionary Training Center. Her lawsuit, while finding President Joseph Bishop not guilty, still proceeds against the church itself.

Former LDS Bishop Sam Young was excommunicated over public protests against church leaders holding one-on-one interviews with youth. The interviews, in part, ask if the youth are involved in sexual activity, look at pornography and discuss sexuality.

On Jan. 20, 2018 the church released the information to local leaders and updated the church’s handbook of instructions. The handbook now instructs bishops to share with youth and parents the following information about interviews:

“Parents have the primary responsibility to teach and nurture their children.

“Typically, the bishop or one of his counselors will interview the young man or young woman at least twice a year for the reasons outlined in “Purposes of Interviews” below. A bishopric member may also meet with youth to answer questions, give support, or extend assignments.

“To help youth prepare spiritually, interviews are required for sacred matters such as temple recommends, priesthood ordinations, and mission calls. Leaders work with parents to help youth prepare for these interviews.

“Parents encourage their children to meet with the bishop when they need his help with spiritual guidance or with repentance.

“If a youth desires, he or she may invite a parent or another adult to be present when meeting with the bishop or one of his counselors.

“Key matters for discussion during these interviews “include the growth of the young person’s testimony of Heavenly Father, the mission and Atonement of Jesus Christ, and the restored gospel.”

Friday’s announcement signals additional concern from the church about the safety of children and youth in the church.

“The training is designed to increase awareness, highlight policies and identify best practices for supervising and interacting with children and youth,” Friday’s release said. “It also helps leaders know how to prevent and respond to abuse.”

According to church information, leaders and specialists from child protection organizations, family therapists and other professionals participated in the creation and evaluation of the new training.

“Jesus blessed and prayed for children ‘one by one,’” said Brother Stephen W. Owen, Young Men general president, quoting a “Book of Mormon” passage. “We, too, must do all in our power to bless and protect each child entrusted to our care.”

Daily Herald reporter Genelle Pugmire can be contacted at gpugmire@heraldextra.com, (801) 344-2910, Twitter @gpugmire

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