After reading many of the stories here, I find myself fortunate, and I realize that it could have been so much worse. But the shame that I felt surrounding topics of sexuality were still potent.
I was only 11 or 12 when I learned about the church’s stance on masturbation. I learned it in the mid 90’s in an early 1990’s version of “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet. I had already discovered masturbation before reading that pamphlet, and I remember feeling so disheartened about it at the time because I started to feel like I was an abomination before God. I did not get asked about it by a Bishop until I was 14 years old. But by then the shame that had built up around it was so great that I had learned to lie about it to avoid (what I had imagined) would be the shame that would occur if they had learned the truth. The important thing that I want to emphasize here is that the shame does not have to start with LDS leader questioning. It can start from reading the printed materials.
I remember struggling with the guilt associated with masturbation throughout my time as a youth in the LDS church. The guilt surrounding it had driven me (of my own volition) to read books like “The Miracle of Forgiveness” and that only made the problem of self-loathing worse for me. This was a book that I first read when I was only 15, and I came away from that thinking that God can never love a person like me because I felt like I was a sexual deviant.
I never had any other “moral” (as the church would define it) issues as a young man. I had such a low opinion of myself that I never tried dating at all in high-school because I was afraid that if I was having issues with masturbation, I would not be able to maintain my self-control around a young woman. And I also felt that I was utterly unworthy of any LDS young women to date.
I did finally “confess” to my bishop a year before I left on my mission, and thankfully nothing too horrific happened. But in doing so, he brought it up again as I was submitting my papers to go on my mission which made things difficult because I was convinced, at the time, that I needed to be completely clean in order to be successful “sharing the gospel” and when my mission was not as “successful” as I had, at the time, hoped it would be I again blamed my inability to completely overcome my supposed “problem”.
As a result of all of this guilt and shame, I did not have my first romantic experience until my later 20s. I still feel the effects of that delayed emotional development to this day for something that was completely normal and that because of this I missed out on completely normal experiences that a young person would have naturally have had while growing up. And to this day I still have trouble making emotional connections with people. All for something that was truly a non-issue. That my legacy of the churches stance on masturbation.