Two-Deep Leadership for Protection – What About Home Teaching?

I would encourage local leaders to strictly observe the principle of two-deep leadership that is so thoroughly taught by BSA. In this dangerous world, it helps protect youth from harm as well as leaders from false accusations. We must repeatedly train our leaders to ensure that they have two-deep leadership on Scout events, Mutual events, and so forth.

Now what about home teaching? We often assign young men to be partners to older men other than their fathers. Are there risks that we need to start thinking about? It’s an awful thought, but I suspect it’s not too early to start worrying about this. At a minimum, I would suggest that leaders be wise and cautious in the assignments they make. I would also suggest that senior companions make it very clear to the parents where they will go in their visits, and stay out of isolated settings.

Given some of the tragic events in my state of Wisconsin with clergy and school leaders, and even some apparent cases of false accusations against good people, I hope you’ll forgive me for a little paranoia. We need to do more to protect our youth and ourselves.

Here’s one tip for those rare situations where two-deep leadership seems needed but also seems impossible. A cell phone can be a useful tool: call somebody or have a young man call somebody during the time of concern (e.g., a ride home alone) to establish a public record that things are OK.

Oh, it’s terrible that I would even think to raise such issues – but dozens of lives have been shattered here and in many parts of the country. Sexual molestation and alleged sexual molestation are terrible threats. Let’s wake up and be more cautious and even over-protective.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

19 thoughts on “Two-Deep Leadership for Protection – What About Home Teaching?

  1. I absolutely agree. I sometimes think about that as my boys go off Fast Offering collecting or Home Teaching. Good Mormon? or protective parent? I try to feel the spirit on that, but I am not as spiritually sensitve as I ought to be.

    On a related topic. (I think) Mormons are far too casual about their children around the meetinghouse. There is the consideration for the building issue – I get so frustrated at children running wild, especially playing on our wonderful rare stage, practically swinging from our expensvie curtains. But more to this point, if I were a pervert, I know where I would shop. Lots of beautiful children unsuperivised in and out of the building. Are we nuts??

  2. I completely disagree with this paranoia. It calls to mind a message by Pres. Hinckley where he described a fearful man who stocked up his house with survival gear, cut down all the trees and bushes, installed floodlights, and waited around the clock for someone to attack. Do you remember that one, Brother Lindsay? It was a metaphor for something he wanted the saints to avoid. Your approach is also rather infantilizing of our teachers and priests.

    Here’s an alternative: Parents can talk to their children. A few weeks after I joined an LDS-sponsored cub scout den, my mother asked me if the leader ever did anything inappropriate. It was an awkward, embarrassing thing to answer, and surely she would have preferred not to talk of such things as well, but the path was open to address problems if they had existed. This beats treating every man as a dangerous hidden pervert and damping important service and interactions between the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood brothers.

    You have a great site, but this post leaves me cold.

  3. John,

    There is a scriptural basis for Jeff’s concerns. The apostle Paul said to “avoid even the appearance of evil.”

    Parents asking their kids if anything inappropriate happened is fine. Because small inappropriateness usually preceeds a big transgression. However, interviews after the fact can be too late.

    It’s also for protecting the adults against false rumors and accusations.

    Two of the things I’ve learned over the years:

    1) Sometimes they are, but molesters usually aren’t the ones you suspect.

    2) Molesters usually “groom” their victims over a period of time, and use “incrementalism”. Incrementalism is starting out with good touch and very slowly transitioning to bad touch.
    The analogy is boiling a frog starting with cold water.

    We had a young-adult male investigator in my mission who was seduced by an older man, and from listening to the young-adult describe their relationship, I could tell that the older man had groomed him over a long period of time. So eventually the young-adult saw nothing wrong with it because it seemed natural to him and he felt like he “owed” it to the older man for all his so-called “kindness.”

    Children like it when adults pay attention to them. So a child will not always complain or think it improper when an adult pays _undue_ attention.

  4. Paranoid? Sometimes. I had two experiences like this at church in the past 7 years. Once a young man passing through needed a place to stay. We got him supper and i took him to the local shelter. He signed up at the shelter, and I was visiting with him for a few minutes the shelter manager came up and said the young man had to leave immediately.

    The shelter had run a quick police check and the young man was on the state registry as a child molester.

    That young man had attended church in our ward before. We had no idea our children were not safe that day. Young children should not go to the bathroom w/o an adult present. (Trusted adult)

  5. Of course the rules are for our protection. Remember our Heavenly Father is watching out for us and wants to immediately bless us. Don’t give heed to paranoia and fear, after all we all know where fear comes from. I prefer to have faith in God.

  6. Faith in God is a most righteous desire and goal. But also–being aware of something so prevalent in the world and being cognizant that it can happen in even this Church–perhaps this qualifies as a token of the works without which faith is dead.
    Also, perhaps you have never had the horror of a false accusation of sexual impropriety. We have had. There is little or nothing you can do to defend yourself unless someone is with you to testify in your behalf, which is not paranoia but a good and valid reason to go “two by two.”

    I was appalled to hear someone tell me, some years ago, quoting their “therapist” who specialized in dredging up “repressed memories” (a theory somewhat debunked now, thankfully) that “You can always tell–If he admits doing it, of course he’s guilty because no one would admit it otherwise. If he says he didn’t do it, well of course he’s guilty because no one wants to admit it.” I know that sounds perfectly outrageous and off the wall, and it is.

    So, he’s stuck either way. It is not an enviable position to be in.

    “Be Prepared” is not just a really cool Scout motto, nor does it apply only to year’s supply or wearing high boots to avoid snake bites.

  7. At 8:17 PM, August 05, 2005, Anonymous said…
    People who are chaste usually have no problems answering questions about their chastity

    Hey–They would if they’d grown up in my family. “Things like that” were spoken in the type of hushed, secretive tones that signalled huge embarrassment was called for. Worked every time.

  8. Allowing one’s child to be interviewed by a Bishop one on one is tantamount to abuse.

    It shows how far gone members are when they willingly allow middle-aged men to question their teenage sons and daughters about sexuality, masturbation, etc.

    What kind of organization allows this? And what kind of parent accepts it?

  9. Sarah, I’m sorry if you had a bad experience with a Bishop. I had a bad experience with an Assistant Branch President at the MTC. His arrogant, condescending and manipulative treatment was a source of bitterness for years. His offense took me many years to get over. However, the church is still true, Jesus is still the Christ, and I finally accepted Jesus’ Atonement as payment for the way that well-meaning dolt of a Branch President treated me. I finally called upon the power of the Atonement to be healed, and it worked.

    But I don’t think you bring up the subject in hopes of eventually forgiving whoever hurt you, and overcoming your hurts and resolving your concerns. Whether your bishop was a well-meaning dolt, or whether he had malevolent intentions, I’m sorry you got hurt over it.

    But your carping about Bishops and teens is right out of the RfM playbook. Please take it elsewhere.

  10. Please forgive my ignorance—but what is the RfM playbook?

    The word in our Ward/stake is for boys to go to BYU to get their mission call. Then they can escape local leadership.

    I sure wish I knew how to log in as a blogger or other so I did not have to sign anonymous.

  11. previous Anon:
    Go to and sign up and create a profile. You do not have to create a blog, just a profile. Then whenever you leave a comment, you can enter your Username and Password.

    RfM is “Recovery from Mormonism”, it’s a web site and bulletin board (forums or message bases) where a lot of bitter ex-members hang out and feed off of each others’ problems and pity. But instead of resolving problems, finding solutions, getting answers, healing the hurts, forgiving their offenders, (and repenting of their own sins) they would rather bash the church as “it can’t possibly be true” instead of dealing with things.

    Not all ex-members are bitter. But that crowd usually is.

    At one point I was thinking of joining that board so I could help people find answers and resolution within the framework of the church, but it was made known to me in no uncertain terms that that’s not what they want.

    Not much has changed since Joseph Smith’s time. The church’s most vociferous and bitterest enemies are disaffected former members. But what can be really frustrating to observe is that often times the offenses they catalog were real, and someone really did do them wrong; but they just didn’t know how to forgive, to let it go, and to use the power of the Atonement as the victim to seek healing.

    For most of the RfM’ers it’s easier to believe the church is false/wicked than to forgive some well-meaning dolt, or even a ‘bad-guy’ in the church and keep on believing the church is true.

    It’s also easier to to deny the faith than to repent of embarrassing sins.

  12. Anonymous

    You couldn’t be more wrong.

    The myth of JS is no different than the myth of the “offended” member.

    Those who speak ill of the church have come to the realization that they’ve been lied to by the doctrine, history, dogma, practices, and prophets of the church.

    Not “offended”. Lied to. The awakening is not unlike the five steps one goes through when a loved one dies.

    So keep telling yourself that it was just some “dolt” who offended somebody. And just keep telling yourself that JS was a prophet.

    Reality will hit you over the head.

  13. Anonymous said: “It’s also easier to to deny the faith than to repent of embarrassing sins.”

    I see. All of those who are leaving the church are just weak sinners who take the easy way out. Meanwhile, paragons of virtue like you, steeped in sanctimony and self-righteousness, soldier on. Just the sort of “us vs them” attitude that made them leave in the first place.

  14. Church leaders, in my experience, are trained to be fairly tactful in asking people about how well they are living the Gospel. Asking if they are living the law of chastity or being morally clean, and then briefly explaining what they means if there are questions, is much different than talking dirty like some old pervert. I’m sorry if some of you have had less wholesome interviews, but I’ve never experienced an interview that came anywhere close to being inappropriate, in my opinion.

  15. The RFM harping about how the Church has “lied” to us all reminds me of a phase I went through around age 6 or 7. I became convinced that my dear mother was a horrid liar, and began keeping a chart with tick marks for every time she “lied.” My indignation began one summer day when I asked for a popsicle. She said not now, but I could have one when we got back from shopping later that day. A couple hours later, we returned and ate lunch. It was probably a big lunch – I was a big eater then and was fairly overweight. I then asked for a popsicle and she said no, probably because I had already eaten too much. I protested but she said I would have to wait a while longer. While I can safely report that, over the years, I have eaten dozens of popsicles since returning from the store that summer day, I was nevertheless outraged at my mother’s lie and felt betrayed. While her words “after we get back” were hardly meant as a promise or, shall we say, a “prophecy,” the temporary delay in its fulfillment convinced me that there was a fatal flaw with my mother, though she is truly an honest and highly moral person. Over the next week or so I began scrutinizing her every statement, looking for more examples of “lies,” and was up to a count of about 60 when I came to my senses. I’m not quite sure what did it – it may have been a Primary lesson on forgiving or honoring your parents. Wait, I think it was something I heard in a lesson about if we don’t forgive, we have the greater sin, or not judging unrighteously – something like that. The chart came down, the “watching for evil” mentality was dropped, and I soon found that I was not such a victim as I had thought.

    Unreasonable expectations, honest misunderstandings, and natural human flaws can, with the right lens, be magnified into massive “lies.” As we use that lens to view everything around us, eventually we turn it toward God, the source of all lighht, and, like those who stare at the sun through a magnifying glass, quickly go beyond merely warped vision to total blindness. Forgiveness, patience, and faith are required if we are to avoid the bitter traps of condemning others unjustly.

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