When I was 7 or 8 years old I was molested by an older neighborhood boy as well as a babysitter. As I grew up and learned at church concepts of sexual purity, I was devastated to find out that I had committed the sin next to murder. Also, I could not remember my exact age when it happened, and felt a terrible uncertainty of my guilt, thinking that if it happened before I was baptized I was not accountable, but if it happened after, I was fully accountable. I spent many sleepless nights trying to remember how old I was when it happened. I learned that it was better to be dead and clean rather than alive and unclean. I learned that since I was a “willing” participant and didn’t fight to my death, that I had lost my virtue. I was probed about masturbation by every bishop I had during my young adult years. I lied, compounding my feelings of guilt. I imagined myself as a terrible sexual deviant, worthless and likely to never to find the strength to confess and repent and live righteously enough for salvation. I wondered if I should kill myself, since any good Mormon parents would rather see their child in a coffin than find out they had committed sexual sin.
When it was time to go on a mission I knew I had to confess. It had occurred to me at this time that perhaps what happened to me when I was little would count as being “molested”, even though I didn’t fight it, since I was so young. But I didn’t really know what the rules were for this kind of thing, and I feared that the judge in Israel would see it differently. So I explained what happened, and the first words my bishop said were, “So, you used to experiment with homosexuality.” I died inside. My hope of being told that it wasn’t my fault was dashed. I was the guilty one. He then went on to dutifully tell me that even the most vile of sins can be forgiven, and we read scriptures to prove it. I left feeling the weight had grown and become permanent, even with the promise that I could be forgiven if I repented correctly. All those years I had been right to feel so guilty and ashamed.
I did develop homosexual feelings as I grew up. I had been taught in church that homosexual feelings were evil and sinful and wrong, and that gays were bringing upon our nation the wrath of God. My seminary teacher in the late 1980’s proudly told a mission story where he decked a gay man that made a pass at him, and put him in the hospital. He went on to say that in his view, the solution to the growing scourge of homosexuality was to line up all the gays and have them shot. This line elicited an eruption of cheers from the boys in the room, while one girl left crying.
I decided against killing myself and in my late 20’s told my story to my parents. I expected the worst, but my father (a former bishop) told me that he would love and accept me no matter what, and that if I needed to leave the church and be gay in order to avoid suicide, that I should do that. I was honestly shocked, having assumed I was to be cast out of my family and condemned, even though I’d never “acted” on my feelings. Over time with therapy and lots of self-discovery I came to love and accept myself as bi-sexual. I am married now, and my children will never be alone with a bishop while they are minors. I am also doing all I can to counter-act harmful teachings about sexuality they may hear in church. I will never fully recover from the shame and guilt and suicidal feelings that I grew up with. It shaped me way too much. But I can do everything in my power to change the culture and policies of the church to protect children now and in the future.