I had a great childhood with really supportive, loving parents and kind church leaders. I also struggled silently with the shame and guilt that came from worthiness interviews. Up to this day I’ve struggled immensely with a variety of things that came from talking about my own private sexual development.
I started masturbating at around age 12. Had no idea what it was, and of course I explored porn during these years. In my annual interviews, the Bishops always asked if I masturbated, and I responded that I didn’t, because I didn’t know exactly what it was.
When I was a priest, around 16, it dawned on me what I was doing every other day or so. I felt horrible, afraid that I was going to hell and my parents would be so angry that I wasn’t pure. I remember young men lessons that were focused on masturbating and my leader saying “stay away from it, don’t even go there”. I remember thinking that this is it, I’m done with this and I want to clean up and go on a mission. I even got rid of the Victoria’s Secret catalog I had next to my bed in my room!
Discussions and questions in interviews really started to pick up as I turned 18, getting ready to be ordained an Elder and put my papers in for a mission soon after that. I was still masturbating on my regular schedule, but the guilt and pressure got worse, I felt bad even with an erection in the morning. The first time I told my Bishop about it was when I was interviewing to become an Elder, he held me back and delayed it the ordination a whole Stake Conference cycle. My mom asked me why I wasn’t sustained during Stake Conference and I shriveled up inside, it was so embarrassing. That night I cried for who knows how long. So, at this point, I resolved that I couldn’t face the Bishop or my parents if he delayed me anymore, and I started lying about it. I was promptly ordained an Elder, and got my mission call and left rather quickly.
The MTC was torture, every interview I got asked “Elder, is there anything that you want to tell me?”. Every talk about repentance stood out, every talk about how important it was to get your transgressions resolved while you are at the MTC than out in the field.
In the field, the stresses of being a missionary got to me and I started masturbating again after a hiatus while in the MTC. It would happen about every week. The fear of god was inside me that I’d be sent home if I told anybody. I finally got the courage to tell my mission president about it. He didn’t send me home! I’d feel liberated and free! Thinking that I have the power over this! However I’d jump right back into the old behavior the next week and feel even worse. Tell my mission president again etc..Why was I repeating this over and over again? Did I miss something in the atonement? Was I not worthy for Jesus’s redemptive powers?
I became almost fanatical about finding ways to stop. I realized that when I fasted, I didn’t have any desire to masturbate. I started starving myself for up to 5 days at a time, multiple times a month, calling it a fast and coming closer to God at the same time.
Fast forward; I came home after my two years and got back into life, school, got a job etc. I became depressed with dating, masturbating, eventually getting into porn. I would go to my bishop to confess, he’d always say thanks for coming/you are awesome, pray harder, read your scriptures, go to the temple more etc… It’s a terrible and hurtful cycle to be in. Expecting that you’d be saved through the atonement and repeatedly kicked back out, was devastating. I tried inflicting pain on myself to stop. I was having trouble keeping girlfriends, at each breakup I’d blame my self that I wasn’t clean enough, too perverted and it’s what I deserved. This was the low point, my rock bottom and in desperation to end the pain I debated ending it all through suicide.
This has impacted me more than I had ever imagined it would. Although I have the most amazing, supportive and perfect-for-me wife, the ability to communicate, react and cope with sexual matters in my marriage has been deeply impacted, all stemming back to the established self-worth I had developed because of these interviews. What hurts the most is that nobody did see or could see what was broken in me, that the system wasn’t working for me and it was only doing more damage.
I am finally owning this part of my life that was not mine for so long.