At age 12, I was so excited to be ordained a deacon. The Bishop brought me into his office. I don’t remember anything from that interview except that he asked if I knew what masturbation was. I had no idea. He must have not told me because I just remember when I got home asking my mom what it was. She was completely shocked and I’m sure embarrassed. I remember going back to Sacrament meeting and seeing one of the members of the Bishopric and walking right up to him with a smile on my face a say “Hey, I know what masturbation is!” I remember he was stunned and quickly grabbed me and pulled me into a side room and told me not to say that word in public!
I laugh about it now but it was the start of something that caused me horrible emotional and spiritual pain for decades. I remember the first time I actually masturbated to orgasm when I was around 14. The guilt I felt was horrific. I thought for sure I would go straight to hell. I made a promise at that moment that if God would forgive me for this one time, I would never do it again. The next time, I made the same promise and actually told God that if I did it one more time it would be “strike 3 you’re out!” and God could send me to hell forever.
I hated myself so bad as a teenager. I was trying so hard to be clean and pure in my thoughts. I prayed harder than any teenager I’m sure. My Book of Mormon was read AND read many times over. I fasted so many times asking for God to change my thoughts and made promise after promise to him that “this last time WAS my last time” only to fail him again within days or even hours. I was a teenager!!
When my time for going on a mission came up, my Bishop was awesome. In fact, he never asked me if I ever did this or that, he just said “next week I’m going to interview you for a mission. I want you to come prepared to confess anything you feel needs to be confessed so that you can be free of sin and feel clean.” I worried myself sick all week because the WORST sin I had ever done was masturbation. I’d never done more than kiss a girl. But I was a vile sinner because I couldn’t stop masturbating. The next week my interview came up and my Bishop started by saying “I want you to know that anything you tell me you’ve done in your past I probably have too. So don’t feel I will ever judge you or make you feel terrible for anything you’ve done.” That calmed me down so much and so I confessed. And he actually smiled and told me I was worthy to go on a mission. I felt amazing afterwards, but knew I had to control the habit before going.
The interview with my Stake President didn’t go as well. I was asked point blank about masturbation and told that I wouldn’t be able to go until I had stopped completely. I promised him I would and he put my paperwork in for my calling. Three months later me and my family are in his office to be set apart. I had honestly slipped up a few times in those months but felt I was going to be able to abstain completely with God’s help. As my family and I sat in his office, excited to be ordained a missionary for the Church, he told me he wanted to talk to me privately. My heart literally sunk! I was scared to death what this meant! He actually in front of my family took me into another room, leaving them there alone and I’m sure wondering WHY the Stake President took me away to talk privately. I was so scared. He asked me point blank if I had masturbated any time since our last interview. I lied and told him no. How could I face my family if I had said yes and then he denied my mission based on a few times masturbating???? I begged God to forgive me for lying, but I had to! He sat still for what seemed an eternity, and then said “OK, let’s set you apart”. I’d never been so ashamed in my life. What should have been the happiest moment of my life up to this time was horrific. Needless to say, I went on my mission and masturbated several times over the next 24 months. Each time I did I recalled my Stake President looking at me and asking me if I had masturbated. The guilt caused me depression and misery throughout my mission. I wanted to go home so many times, but couldn’t face the consequences had I done so.
I just don’t understand how these “leaders” and “men of God” think that shaming a young man about doing what I now know is a very normal and healthy act could be “of God”. It has taken me decades to get to where I am today. But the shame and guilt I felt as a young man has carried with me my whole life. A simple innocent young 12 year old, excited for the opportunity to become a deacon, should never be asked if he knows what masturbation is. The interest is now piqued and experimentation begins. He spirals downhill over and over again, breaking promises with the Lord over a simple act that never should have brought guilt. Please Sam, keep going and stay strong! We need you and support you in this great cause and movement to stop these one-on-one interviews with our kids.