I was 9 the first time my parents made me go confess masturbation to the bishop. Nine years old. They told me that sexual sin was 2nd only to murder, and my feelings of self-worth went right down the toilet. I felt doomed and terrified. Guilt over my occasional masturbation destroyed me growing up. I went to confess to at least 5 more bishops over the remaining years of my youth.
Two of those times I had nothing new to confess, I just needed help with the guilt. One bishop told me, “Wow. Girls masturbating is rare. (which is completely false) That means you have a good sex drive and will have a very lucky husband some day.” 😡😡😡 Who says that to a Child?
Another sat me in his office in the front of his house, closed the door and left the room unlit. There was a little bit of natural light coming in the room as the sun set but he never turned a light on. It was quite dark in the room and felt very strange. He then asked me to tell him in detail about every instance I could recall, that I had masturbated or done anything else that I felt guilty about. To just get it all out so I didn’t feel guilty anymore. It was so uncomfortable and I was there for nearly two hours trying to get it all out and listening to him talk to me about sexuality and how it’s healthy. I was 15.
One bishop told me, “I can’t help you. I’m not a therapist” and sent me away. He was correct. He wasn’t a therapist. But for me it was the first sign that the whole thing had greatly contributed to mental illness.
When I went in for my mission papers interview with my stake president he was one of the bishops I’d confessed to as a youth. He asked me the law of chastity question and then said he didn’t believe me when I told him I had nothing to confess. I truly didn’t. He sent me away without signing my papers under the guise of needing more detail in the medical section of my paperwork. But then he also said he felt there was more than I was telling him. I left the interview and didn’t serve a mission. I still deal with unfounded guilt. I’m just sad that it took me another 27 years to learn how unfounded it really is.