The Latest: Protesters urge Mormons to protect children

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Latest on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints conference (all times local):

10:35 a.m.

Several hundred people are calling on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other religions to implement stronger rules to prevent child abuse.

A group called “Protect Every Child” gathered several blocks away from where the faith’s twice-annual conference is underway in Salt Lake City. It is led by Sam Young, who was kicked out of the religion last year after his public opposition to closed-door, one-on-one interviews of youth where he and his followers say inappropriate sexual questions are sometimes asked.

Former church member Stuart Shellenberger or Arizona held a sign that read, “Protect every child. No sexual questions.”

Church leaders have defended the interviews as an important way for bishops to determine youth’s obedience to God. The church changed the policy last year to allow children to bring a parent or adult with them.

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9:12 a.m.

The president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has rolled out a dizzying number of policy changes during his first two years at the helm of the faith, leading to heightened anticipation for what he may announce at this weekend’s church conference in Salt Lake City.

The twice-yearly conference kicks off Saturday three days after President Russell M. Nelson announced that women can now be official “witnesses” at two key ceremonies: baptisms and temple sealings for married couples. The move is considered to be a small but important step toward breaking down rigid gender roles in the religion.

It added to a long to a long list of noteworthy moves made by the 95-year-old former heart surgeon since he assumed the post in January 2018.

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