Legend for Consequences Suffered (CS):

  1. Inappropriate shame and guilt
  2. Childhood self-loathing
  3. Adulthood self-loathing
  4. Normalizing children to sexual questions by adult men. (Grooming)
  5. Sexual abuse. (Pedophilia)
  6. Impaired sexual relations after marriage.
  7. Years of recovery from childhood shaming.  Often lasting decades.
  8. Suicide Ideation
  9. Attempted Suicide
  10. Suicide of a loved one or friend.

#359 Name Hidden. CS: 4,5

We lost a generation of young men in my ward in NY in the 80s due to grooming and molestation by a bishop facilitated by one on one bishop interviews. He convinced several young men that there was a secret priesthood initiation involving oral sex. One young man spoke out and his parents took it to church court. The bishop brought in many character witnesses. The accusation was kept secret so no other witnesses came forward and no investigation (e.g. interviews of other youth) took place at that time. So the decision by church court was apparently to remove him from his calling and make it so he “never was bishop again.” He then moved to Pennsylvania, became bishop, and did it again. This time the accusations were proved true, and a serious investigation in our ward youth commenced. All the young men were interviewed. The extent of his depredation was widespread and his family, who I love, was devastated. So the system fails the youth. There is no window on the door to the bishop’s office. No youth should be interviewed without a parent present. Period.

#358 Steve H. CS: 1,2,3,6,7. Other: Loss of trust in the priesthood, the Spirits, and the Church.

When I was very young, my parents discovered I had been sexually abused by a female babysitter in our LDS ward.  When they reported this to their bishop, he advised them to not report the abuse to law enforcement because the family was a reactivation project and these allegations would hurt his efforts in bringing them back to the fold. The bishop promised my parents that I would be fine if they obeyed his council. Long story long, I was not fine. In fact, a male in the ward later abused me as well. Had I received professional help after the babysitter abuse, I would have known what is and is not appropriate touching and I believe my second abuse experience (which was far more detrimental to me) would have been prevented or at least less traumatic. What ended up happening was I did not report the abuses (plural) until I was a teenager, which means the perpetrators (plural) never faced any consequences for what they did to me, due to the statute of limitations, and I never received help when I needed it most.

“The only thought I had, growing up, was ‘get… candy.’ That was my only thought, in my brain, for the first 10 years of my life. Just get candy, get candy, get candy, get candy, get candy, get candy. Family, friends, school, these were just obstacles in the way of getting more candy.” I can relate to this bit from Jerry Seinfeld once you replace the word “candy” with “sex.” Read the bit again and replace candy with sex and you will understand my childhood as a result of not receiving help and education about what had happened to me. My earliest memories of existence are the thoughts that crossed my mind nearly every time a woman would walk into the room—thoughts such as, “Is she going to touch me and make me feel good like my babysitter did?” or “I know exactly what we would do if we spent “play time” together.

Please stay with me if the connection between my experience and this march/petition is not clear yet.

Mormonism’s #metoo movement—sparked the Rob Porter situation in the White House—confirms that even 20 to 30 years later, bishops still give counsel that puts victims in harm’s way. Porter’s wives reported the abuse to their bishops who, in at least one instance, warned her that filing a protective order could harm her husband’s career. This story is hauntingly familiar to my own: a bishop protecting and enabling an abuser while ignoring the needs of the victim. I struggle to think of anything more despicable than that. I don’t believe bishops intend for this to be the outcome; however, the current policies of the LDSChurch lead to outcomes like this more than they would care to admit. I know these outcomes are contrary to what the Church aims to achieve; I just don’t think they realize their own policies are working against them.

As a teenager, I reported my history of abuse to my bishop during one of these worthiness interviews. Rather than encourage me to tell my parents or report it to law enforcement, he instructed me read The Miracle of Forgiveness and he put me on a repentance plan to purge me of the godly sorry that I was somehow guilty of bringing upon myself. He recognized it wasn’t my choice to engage in those sexual acts, but that my purity in God’s eyes had been tarnished none the less and, therefore, I needed to cleanse myself through repentance. I have reported my abuse to most bishops I have had ever since then and not one of them knew what to do.

My story bolsters one of the many reasons for this movement: lay clergy will never be a good substitute for professional help. Let me share one more story from the other side of the interview desk to illustrate this point. When I served in a bishopric, a sister tried to report spousal abuse to me during a temple recommend interview and I didn’t put the pieces together until reading about the experiences of Rob Porter’s wives. Thankfully, I counseled her to talk to the member of the stake presidency about it in her next interview, but I did not report it to anyone and I should have. I was never trained properly on how to identify and handle something like that, yet I am now feeling immense guilt for not helping that sister.

Under current practices, members put way too much trust in the hands of someone who is not equipped to deal with certain matters, leading to parents delegating their responsibilities to talk to their children about their bodies and the proper view and role of sex in our lives. This leads to youth (and adults) not receiving the professional help and legal protection they need.

Current practices also set members up to blindly trust bad counsel, to their detriment. From a young age, we are told to trust the bishop, as he represents God, and surely God would never give us bad counsel, right? As young members, we are put in situations, often, where we meet with the bishop alone, teaching us to trust him more than our own parents. And when we doubt the bad counsel from the bishop (as common sense often leads to these doubts), we attribute our doubts to our unfaithfulness, leading to more guilt for questioning God’s will: not a healthy way to view oneself.

To wrap up this story that has not been easy to share but worthy of the cause, I call upon the church to make swift changes. If a bishop would ask that I repent for my role as a victim of sexual abuse, I feel it is fair for me to ask the church to repent for its role in the many stories like mine. Therefore, I encourage top LDS leadership to:

1) Recognize that your policies have led to disastrous outcomes for many individuals.

2) Feel sorrow for your part in these outcomes.

3) Confess your mistakes before God and man.

4) Do what you can to make restitution to the people you have hurt.

5) Abandon the practices that have led to this march and petition and maintain an unyielding, permanent resolve to never put your members in these situations again.

Here is a Facebook post I made when I first saw the page from ProtectLDSChildren:

It frustrates me that so many in our community object to sex ed being taught in the classroom by a professional yet don’t think twice before sending their children into these potentially harmful situations. If the sexual behavior of children needs to be assessed, leave it to parents and/or professionals.

With the national discourse surrounding sexual assault, I feel it’s the appropriate time to say that I have to count on two hands the number of times I have tried to address my own childhood abuse with a priesthood leader who did not know what to do. No reporting. No referral to counseling. Just awkwardness and guilt.

I encourage anyone reading this post to take a look at this petition—if for nothing else than to keep the conversation going and to raise awareness that this is a problem within the church. Bishops and other priesthood leaders should be trained better on how to recognize and respond to abuse, but they should not be initiating these creepy inquiries—especially when a parent is not present. If this continues, it will make it easier for parents to think they can delegate their responsibilities to talk to their children early and often about protecting their bodies—leading to missed opportunities to help a child.

#ChildrensRights #TalkToYourKids #SexEdWorks #CreepinessDoesnt

#357 Rachel. CS: 1,2,3,6,7

I am so thankful that people are finally speaking out about this problem. And it is a problem, a big one.

I became inactive in the church during my early teens, but due to a VERY inappropriate interview conducted by the bishop behind closed doors, I was driven to never return. Even after telling the bishop (repeatedly) that I felt extremely uncomfortable with his line of questioning, he still persisted to ask me questions of sexual nature. I left in tears, feeling shamed and violated.

To make matters worse, like many Mormon children, I never felt like could confide in my parents about certain things—especially sex. But, I pushed past these feelings, and decided to be honest with my mother about the interview. As I expected, she didn’t understand. She refused to believe that the bishop had any ill intentions. I remember her response like it was yesterday: “Well, maybe you wouldn’t have left the interview feeling so badly if you were refraining from the behaviors that he was questioning you about.”

No, Mom. It wasn’t that at all. Really.

Regardless of whether the “temple interview” is religiously justified by the church, the protocol isn’t appropriate. It’s wrong, and needs to change. A child should NEVER be interviewed alone behind closed doors with an older man… or by anyone. I am completely saddened by the abundance of stories coming to light, but for the first time in my life, feel like I’m not alone on this.

Thank you for all of your efforts to protect future generations of LDS children.

#356 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7. Other: Fear/anxiety in interactions with bosses or authority figures

My bishop touched me inappropriately during a private, closed-door, one-one-one interview in his office at a church stake center in Provo, Utah while I was a teenager.

He got a pass on his behavior and went on to ruin the lives of others. To this day he has not been held fully accountable.

My bishop was a respected planned giving attorney at LDS Foundation, the fundraising arm of Brigham Young University and the LDS Church (since renamed LDS Philanthropies).

During the interview, he asked me probing questions about sexual chastity and whether I was gay. He used these questions as a pretext to have me come closer to his chair, where he ran his fingers over my body explaining where it would and would not be appropriate to touch a girl.

I was very naive about sex at that age. My parents had never talked to me about sex and had provided me very little physical affection growing up. Hugs and kisses were a rarity and I didn’t fully understand human reproduction.

As the interview continued, it initially felt validating to be physically embraced by the bishop. But then I felt confused and vulnerable. As he started to outline “appropriate” and “inappropriate” “zones” on my body with his hands, I was paralyzed with fear. I didn’t know what to do. He was in a position of power and authority over me as my bishop there in that office. The Lord spoke to him. He had the power of discernment. Who was I to question this unusual teaching methodology?

A that very moment, I was blind, so complete was my obedience and so entrenched was my deference to ecclesiastical authority, both characteristics that were cultivated and reinforced through church doctrine and culture from a very young age.

When our stake president abruptly released my bishop a short time later (after another incident involving my bishop in 2000/2001 was brought to his attention by the Provo police department – but never prosecuted), the stake president told our congregation over the pulpit that it wasn’t our place to talk about the reasons for the bishop’s release or discuss it with anyone. He sternly warned, “Don’t speculate! Don’t talk about it amongst yourselves. Don’t go there!”

I later learned that the stake president’s warning was consistent with Handbook 1 of the Church Handbook of Instructions, a manual not available to church members but used by church leaders in administering church policy.

This instruction needs to be amended because it gets in the way of victims coming forward and receiving the help they need and because it has been used by stake presidents and bishops to justify misguided prohibitions on discussing abusive behavior all in the name of protecting the church.

Abuse can happen in the bishop’s office. It happened to me in the bishop’s office during an interview. So long as the church encourages private, closed-door, one-one-one meetings which involve discussions of sexual matters with minors, there will be huge risks.

It’s a terrible thing to experience abuse at the hands of a neighbor or a relative.

Experiencing abuse under the official sanction of a church youth interview adds a completely different dimension.

Thank you for reading my story. There is much larger story I have yet to share. But for now, this will do.

#355 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7. Other: Basically, I’ve become a pathological liar since I was trained in it as a small kid.

Although it isn’t quick or easy to deal with, I’ll make this story brief as if it were. So, read it in two minutes and don’t ever think about it again. But know that for me, it is my life, a daily hell placed there by the church and people who decide to do wrong things.

I was sexually abused as a kid. I don’t even know when it started. First time I remember, I was 8. It lasted several years. On a weekly basis. I was accustomed to it. Even liked it at some point, if you can understand that.

So, imagine the guilt when at baptism and at every level of priesthood ordination and every time I went to the temple, I was interviewed and asked about keeping the law of chastity.

Did I have sex? Did I view pornography? Did I masturbate?

Yes. Yes. And yes.

But not because of my own choosing. I did those things before I could even remember. I was born doing them. They were my whole existence as a kid.

And the ending to this story is that people who break the law of chastity are worse than murderers.

#354 Madison S. CS: 1,2,3,4,8

My story is not as bad as many others’ because I was lucky enough to have friends who told me what happened to them when they confessed to sexual “sins” and abuse. Growing up it was an open secret that if you told your bishop you did anything sexual, he would interrogate you with questions like “Did he digitally penetrate you? How many fingers? Did you orgasm?” I was horrified the first time I heard, but after hearing many other friends’ accounts, the questions basically the same, I knew I would never confess anything to my bishop. It was even worse for my friends who had suffered sexual abuse and assault. They got asked the same questions that you got if you had “sinned,” and it was really traumatic for them. After I was sexually assaulted, I was pressured to talk to my bishop about it, but I did not because I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle him asking all the details and treating me like I was the one who sinned. I also did not go to my bishop because he was constantly harassing me and making sexually suggestive comments about my appearance. Every time I saw him, he would tell me how pretty I was. I tried to pass it off as him being sweet and awkward, but his comments became much less innocent over time. He would invite me into his office while everyone else was in class. I remember feeling singled out and embarrassed the many times he did this. He would have me sit down and every time would tell me something like “You are so pretty, Madison” and then tell me how all the boys at school were going to try to do “inappropriate” things with me. But it was never left vague, he always would specify that a boy would (for example) try to get me into his car and park with me and start “heavy necking,” and how I should call him if they tried. This happened for over two years, starting before I’d even kissed anyone. It made me feel scared and targeted and ashamed, and contributed to the desire for self harm and sometimes suicide that occurred every Sunday.

#353 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,7,8,9,10

I grew up in a Mormon household. We were considered religious by my family friends outside of Utah, but moving back when I was 12 changed everything. My relationship with my bishops before we moved to Utah were very respectful and considerate of social boundaries. However, when I was 8 and before I was baptized, I had to interview with my bishop. He asked me questions about my worthiness to be baptized like if I believed in the Gospel, etc. We moved on and he asked me about following the law of chastity. I didn’t understand what he meant and asked him to explain. He read this phrase off a piece of paper that NPR talked about a few weeks ago. It was word for word the exact same. This same thing happened again when interviewed for doing baptisms for the dead. It happened again when I was the Beehive and Mia Maid President. It was uncomfortable, but I knew my parents trusted the bishop, so I didn’t say anything. When I resigned from the church, the bishop from my home ward began quizzing me about my sexual history with my boyfriend. All of my bishops were privy to my meetings with my therapist from the free BYU therapy center, even though it was supposed to be confidential. My seminary teacher in high school divulged to the class that my parents had divorced and I should be kept in their prayers. Then they played “Families Can Be Together Forever”. He found that out from two different people: my best friend’s mom and my bishop.

I have many more stories about how the LDS church exacerbated my mental health problems and encouraged my suicidal thoughts even as a young child. I could talk about how they protected my father instead of my mother when he was abusing her and us. I could talk about the times we went hungry during the Recession because my father and my mom were working 3 jobs, and the church required us to clean the chapel, pay tithing and encouraged me to work as a 14 year old so we could get food assistance from the bishop. I could talk about how I was shamed in high school and didn’t have any friends after someone said that I had sex with my boyfriend. I could talk about how we were never invited to ward activities because I have an autistic brother and we were poor. The amount of shame that I still feel about living my own life as a 22 year old is horrible. I still don’t feel perfect enough.

#352 Rochelle J. CS: 1,2,3,4,7,8

I had to confess to my older white male bishop that I had watched porn at age 13 without anyone else present. I left church early crying in shame.  Went home loathing myself only to find my mother who mocked me and shamed me because obviously I did something wrong since I left the bishop interview crying. Also I had to report every instance I masturbated in college to a very old white male, alone, for months.

#351 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,6,7,8

As a young boy, I only ever wanted to do what’s right, be honest, and grow in the church.

Around the age of 12, I had my first experience with pornography. I was naive and innocent, and was curious about some webpage my friends had found. I felt miserable, knowing that what I had seen was considered serious sin in the LDS church. Eventually, I sat before a bishop who I was desperately attempting to impress through my honestly. I was devastated that this bishop was not going to allow me to partake if the sacrament or pass it with my fellow deacons. I was released as the deacons quorum secretary, a role that I was very proud of (had a whole binder and everything). I was asked not to pray publicly and told that I must address these things with my parents.

Before this time in my life, I don’t recall ever experiencing depression. Due to my continued battle with pornography, however, and the subsequent “punishments” wrought by my church leaders, depression and anxiety became standards in my life, and I even occasionally contemplated suicide.

As I grew older, my desire to be obedient never changed, however I had been in inappropriate relationships with several girls. Each time I would participate in a sinful act, my shame, grief, and depression would increase. My second semester at BYU-Idaho ended prematurely when I confessed to my bishop of recent sexual sin, leading to expulsion. Eventually, a bishop told me that the door to serving a mission was closed. I was devastated. I worked diligently to be worthy to attend the Temple, and eventually my stake president allowed my to serve a full time mission, having seen me as truly penitent for my sins.

While on my mission, I frequently came forward to my mission president to confess my problem with masturbation. Eventually, he snapped and angrily told my that he was not interested in hearing it; there was nothing he could do about it and if I wanted to change I would change. I stopped bringing it up in subsequent interviews. Later, I told my mission president of a flirtatious married-but-separated woman living in our house, and that I felt it was inappropriate for us to be there. He rolled his eyes and told me to toughen up. He said he was not concerned and was not going to let us move.

In a moment of weakness, I found myself kissing this woman. Afterward, my sense of guilt was so great that I sent my mission president a text that night. He called me and scolded me, and bought me a bus ticket to the Mission home that night. After meeting with him in person, he told me I would be changing missions. I again felt miserable and depressed for my actions, but finished my mission worthily and as a leader in the new mission. I was given a reacceptance letter from BYU-Idaho upon reapplying.

A couple years passed and I met with my stake president at BYU-Idaho for an interview to be sealed in the temple. I was about to say with certainty that I was worthy this time to every question. When he asked me if there was anything in my life left unrepented, I told him that I had been through countless repentance processes with numerous church leaders, but I’m uncertain if one instance I simply had forgotten to address from years ago. He wanted to know all the details, including: oral or vaginal? Did I ejaculate? Did she orgasm? How long were we together that night? Etc. I answered his questions. He then wanted to call my old bishop (now a primary teacher) to ask if I was really repentant of this. For the first time, I stood up for myself against a church leader and told him that was unacceptable. I had done worse things and been through long and arduous repentance processes for each one; most of them occurred after this instance. I told him it was inappropriate to hold that against me. He then said, “as a member of the stake presidency, I represent Christ and have the power to pronounce you clean, and I do so now.”

I was sealed to my wife, but my testimony of the Gospel was and has remained nearly non-existent since that day. Had a leader responded with that message to a 12 year old boy, I may have avoided years of depression and shame for being normal and curious. Today, I love my wife with all my heart, but 4 years later, sex is not something I often share with her. I feel gross and guilty every time I do relating back to the lifelong guilt I have felt on the subject.

I have been permanently damaged from my meetings as a youth with bishops of the LDS faith. I grew up always believing I was broken. My desire to be open with people is shaken. Opportunities for healthy sex are missed. I have a general disconnection from people that I didn’t have before (due to always being an outcast in my own circles due to LDS publicly shaming of their youth).

Church leaders should not be the ones to “treat” the sexual problems of LDS youth.

#350 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7

I was a popular young woman, honor student and athlete in my high school with supportive and loving parents. In the summer before I turned 16, I attended a fireside about chastity in which masturbation was the focus. Since approximately the age of 14 I had engaged in some mild masturbation, completely normal and moderate in every way. But I had never thought of it as masturbation. It seemed healthy and normal and it never occurred to me that it was a sin. Until that fireside. I felt deep shame and anguish as I realized that I had committed the sin next to murder, that I was unworthy of attending the temple, that I was filthy before God. I was wracked with the pains of hell. After several weeks of emotional turmoil, I tried to set up an appointment with the bishop. My parents somehow caught wind and tried to dissuade me. Though they gently inquired, I refused to give up why I needed to see the bishop. They were quite progressive, although believing, and tried to tell me that I didn’t need to see the bishop and that I could repent directly with heavenly father of whatever was bothering me. They tried to tell me that it was not necessary for a teenage girl to confess to a mid-fifties man. But I knew better. I knew that there were sins that could only be absolved through proper priesthood authority. And I knew that I was the worst of sinners. Akin to a murderer. At this point, I still had never even held hands with a boy or skipped a class at school. And yet my anxiety and self loathing were crippling.

Eventually, my parents relented and helped me schedule an appointment with the bishop. I believe that my bishop was well-meaning. But the experience was traumatic for me. I recognize that what follows is not even particularly extreme, but it was still traumatic for me. My bishop did not like me or my family. He was very orthodox and my parents were progressive. I knew that going in and so it already started out strained. The bishop asked me incredibly invasive questions. He wanted to know where in the house I would do this, what time of day, and how exactly was it done. When I hesitated in describing in graphic detail the masturbation, he explained how he was trying to understand so that he could counsel me properly and change negative behaviour. The bishop made me read The Miracle of Forgiveness. And he disfellowshipped me. I was not allowed to take the sacrament during that time. The Miracle of Forgiveness gave me nightmares as that narrative made it feel almost impossible to ever be forgiven. And it doubled down on how serious my sexual sins were. I was filthier than I could have ever thought. I had to report back to the bishop every few weeks. I think that this sometimes extended to a month as my family holiday schedule took us out of town. Every time I met with the bishop, he would repeat the invasive questions and want to know how many times I had screwed up. My mom got really worried about me because she could tell that I was stressed, knew what a good kid I was, and saw that I wasn’t taking the sacrament. I told her nothing and continued to suffer through shame and self-loathing. Eventually, I realized that I had to just tell the bishop everything he wanted to hear, whether it was true or not, because he would never let me off the hook unless I did so. I was disfellowshipped for a total of approximately 3 months.

I felt dirty even after he declared me clean. One of the messages that I internalized was that I was particularly sinful because girls were not supposed to have those sexual urges like boys. Anytime I had sexual feelings, it made me feel ashamed because I felt that I was not pure and deeply flawed. These feelings carried into my adulthood and marriage.

#349 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2

My story isn’t exactly my story, although I am definitely a part of it. I am an ’empty nester’ now, but eleven years ago I was a single mom and still had a twelve year old son at home with me; a smart, sweet boy who tickled me with his ‘man of the house’ attitude and his need to protect me. I adored him…still do. There came a time when I lost my job and had to depend on the Church for assistance, which I will be everlastingly grateful for. I simply couldn’t have managed without help. In order to receive Church food assistance, I had to be very careful to fulfill all of my obligations to my ward, including making sure me and my son attended Church on a regular basis, and paid a full tithing on the unemployment I was getting. It was a very difficult time and sometimes I felt dehumanized, and kind of robotic in meeting the demands of my callings in Primary, as a Visiting teacher and also as assistant ward Librarian, working every Wednesday night to prepare ward handouts and announcements. There came a time when I noticed my son wasn’t taking the Sacrament and I became alarmed for him. I asked him about it, but he didn’t want to discuss it except to tell me the Bishop said he couldn’t take the sacrament or help with passing it for two months. I didn’t pressure him.

Over the next two months it was a battle to get him to come to Church with me, often pushing one or the other or both of us to tears, with me frantic because we needed the food and he humiliated to have to refuse the sacrament with his peers watching him, and not being allowed to help pass it (as a Deacon) to the congregation. He became moody and reclusive and for the first time I was worried about his state of mind. I kind of wondered if it had sometime to do with the Bishop’s interview he had had, so I decided, since he wouldn’t talk to me, that I would talk to him. I went into his room, sat on the side of his bed and spoke to him without asking him to respond. We had shared other conversations about maturing, but he was always kind of shy and reticent about such personal matters, so our chats were never too involved, as to avoid embarrassing him. They were just enough so I hoped he knew the changes he was going through were normal and to allow him to ask me questions if he wanted to. I told him I felt he should know that the thing boys do sometimes in the shower or alone in their room was just part of growing up, of getting to know his body and how things worked, that it was normal and didn’t make him wrong or bad. I couldn’t bring myself to say the word masturbation…I was raised in the Church after all, and those kinds of words were not to be spoken. It took me a long time to be able to say the word pregnancy out loud for Heaven’s Sake! He rolled away from me and just sobbed, the effort shaking his still childishly small shoulders. I sat with him, brought him tissue, and just let him cry. Later, when I kissed him goodnight, he held onto me as if he were afraid to let go.

Things improved. I let him skip two Sundays and made excuses to those who asked about him, including the Bishop. My son’s attitude toward me changed that day, as did my own, and we have been much more open with each other, learning to get past embarrassment with tricky topics. It was five years later that he was able to share full disclosure and came out openly to me as gay. He left the Church when he turned 18, and shortly after he came out to me I left, too, after some studying and finding other disturbing things about Church history in my efforts to understand. He had always been very chaste, even open and willing to share the story of his first kiss with me, which didn’t happen until he was 20 years old. I still find it infuriating that such a child as he was, an innocent trying so hard to please the Lord and me and to make things work for our little family, should have had to endure such shaming. It was wrong and it hurt him profoundly, causing suffering and self-loathing because of his normal, developing body.

This is his story, but it’s mine as well. I love my good, kind son, and often stand in awe at his strength, as his ability to push past shame and to embrace his own truth. Isn’t that exactly what the God who created him would ask of him?

#348 Name Hidden. CS: 1,3

As a youth, I went to my bishop to confess what I was taught to be “inappropriate” behavior with my girlfriend.

When I told my bishop I had done some things with my girlfriend, this was his line of questioning:

Did you have sex? No

Was it with your hands? Yes

Above or below the clothing?

Both On her top or bottom?

Both Was their vaginal penetration? Yes

How many fingers? Uhhhhh….

Did she orgasm?

Did you orgasm?

Did you have oral sex? Yes

Oral on her or on you? Both

Did you orgasm from her oral sex? Yes.

Where did you ejaculate? Uhhhhh…

It was extremely uncomfortable but at the time I thought that was part of the repentance process. I was supposed to feel uncomfortable, shame, and guilt.

I do NOT want my children to experience what I did, and I know others experiences MUCH worse.

#347 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,7,8. Other: Thoughts of self-castration

I was not abused during or because of these interviews, but the affects of these interviews haunt me to this day. Ever since my first experience with masturbation, these interviews caused me to hate myself. I was told how weak and sinful I was because of masturbation. I was yelled at and punish by my parents when the bishop informed them of my “sins.” I was humiliated in front of the entire congregation when I was not permitted to participate in the sacrament services. It was a very small congregation and there was just enough young men to take care of everything. Me sitting in the pews was noticed by all and everyone stared, or at least it felt that way. No matter what I did, I would always masturbate again and I thought I was eternally flawed and weak. I would often entertain the idea of castrating myself just so I would no longer have the sexual urges that made me a horrible person. I considered both physical and chemical means of accomplishing this task but luckily never went through with it. I hated myself from the age of 13 to the age of 31. That kind of shame for that duration of time has probably permanently injured me. I am mostly happy today, but hearing anything surrounding shaming people for natural feelings sends me into a rage.

I would also like to note that these interviews taught me how to lie. I had to choose between being a convincing liar or public shaming. It was an easy choice. The internal shame was still as strong as ever, but I did learn to lie to avoid the public shame. These “skills” carried into my marriage where I would lie to my spouse about the same exact things. This obviously did not create a healthy relationship and that marriage is over now even though I wish things turned out otherwise.

#346 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2

As a teenager, I had a healthy interest in sexuality and had sexual feelings. I masturbated, which I now recognize was normal behavior for a teenager, but I also was so guilt ridden about it, it actually made me sick. I tried so hard to stop, but my hormones were just too strong. For weeks, I would get physically ill and have nightmares when I “gave in”. I dreamed I was running through a field, and the voice of God would thunder overhead and I would be struck by lightning. I dreaded going to bishop’s interviews. I dreaded it when temple trips were planned. Going to church made me feel dirty and ashamed. I felt weak and undisciplined. Eventually, I accepted that this just felt good, and I didn’t want to stop. I also questioned why it was wrong, but was too ashamed to voice that question to anyone. At that point, I just lied to my bishop. It made me sad to lie, and it made me feel awful, but I didn’t know what else to do.

No one should have to be ashamed of their sexual feelings when they are perfectly normal. I plan on teaching my children that masturbation and sexual feelings are normal and nothing to be ashamed of. I spent years wondering if I would eventually be damned because of my “indiscretions”. Every time I had a temple recommend interview, I felt guilty and that I maybe should disclose my activities to my bishop. Now, as a middle aged woman, I’m so glad I didn’t. My youthful hormones are NO one’s business. It’s terrible that the church has made me feel this way for years, but I’ve come to accept I did nothing wrong.

#345 Name Hidden. 1,4

My story isn’t earth shattering but it was embarrassing and so very awkward. It was in the early 90’s as I was interviewing to turn my papers in to go on a mission. I am a female and I was 20 years old at the time. My bishop was older, probably in his 70’s. I am from a small town with literally three nonmembers in my entire town. My bishop happened to be my Grandpas brother, so he was sort of an uncle to me. I had participated in the ever popular act of “levi-loving” in my high school years with my boyfriend. If your not familiar with the term. It have also heard it called “dry-humping” Sort of acting out sex but fully clothed. As I confessed to my bishop, he clearly wasn’t familiar with the term. I tried to describe it, he still wasn’t understanding. I had to get more specific. He still didn’t get it. So I got even more specific using terms like “he didn’t enter me, but we went through the motions” It was awful! He needed to know details to determine if I was worthy to go on my mission. He didn’t know what to do with me.

#344 Name Hidden. CS: 1,7,8

In my teen years, my bishop interviewed me regarding masturbation and watching pornography. He would ask very detailed questions regarding how frequently I masturbated, how I felt, whether the pornography was “soft-core” or “hard-core”. He would tell me that what I was doing was a sin against god, equal to adultery, and that part of my “repentance” process was feeling extreme shame and guilt for the feelings I had. He told me that how I was feeling was within my power and that I should be able to control myself. He also said that it was probably because of being molested as a child that I had these problems.

The lasting effects of this caused me to become socially withdrawn, and unable to form stable, healthy relationships until many years later. The immediate effects was public and private shame (I was told I was not allowed to take sacrament and I was told I needed to tell my parents about my actions), and this eventually contributed to my attempted suicide.

 

#343 Lauren C. CS: 1,2,3,6,8 Other: self harm

You always heard about the boys that masturbate, and that always seemed more acceptable. Like it was something expected because men weren’t strong enough to control their urges. You never heard about the girls. And I figured out that it was something I enjoyed doing, and I did it. I knew it was wrong, but I had a hard time stopping. When I was a teenager, we got a new bishop. This started the inappropriate interviews. He would ask if I masturbated. I was mortified, and I straight up lied and said no. Then I would get the lecture on why it is bad. I would go home and feel completely disgusting. Not only was I committing this a grievous sin, I was lying to a man of God. When I started dating, the questions increased. Do you kiss your boyfriend? Do you kiss your boyfriend with tongue? Do you touch him or let him touch you above your clothes, do you touch him or let him touch you under your clothes? Do you make out, rub up against each other, do either of us get turned on? I left each interview (and I was the Mia Maid and Laurel President so I had more than the yearly interview) feeling like I was the worst person alive. I couldn’t quite place the guilt and self-loathing. I just knew that I was unworthy of love from anyone, especially my Heavenly Father. My prayers wouldn’t be answered, and anything bad that happened, I knew was directly related to my inability to follow the rules. I tore apart the razor I used to shave my legs, so It was just the small blade, and had a hiding spot for it in the shower. Almost every time I showered, without fail, I would pull that blade out and cut myself and cry. I don’t know why I did it, I felt like I needed to be punished, and I was hurting inside so bad, it was like I needed a physical manifestation of this pain. I continued to do this until my mid-twenties, even after I was married and had been through the temple.

As far as my relationship with my husband, I did what I was supposed to. I remained a virgin until we were married. But there were times before we were married that I wanted to have sex with him. I felt horrible that I even had that desire. A virtuous and worthy young woman wouldn’t allow herself to have those feelings. When we did get married, I still felt guilt. Now all those feelings I had that were sinful and horrible, were suddenly ok, and that was a hard shift to make. I still felt like no matter what I did, I wouldn’t be forgiven. During temple interviews we were asked if there was any sin we needed to confess of, and all I could think was, yes, I need to confess that I masturbated as a youth, and I let my husband touch my breasts before we were married. I still was convinced that these things that happened years before were staining my soul. After the birth of my twins I felt so much self- loathing and worthlessness that I swallowed an entire prescription of sleeping pills in a suicide attempt. After some counseling and medication I started to feel a little better, but then a fight with my father brought up all the feelings of worthlessness again a few years ago, and I once again attempted to take my life.

Even though I know now that there is nothing wrong with the things I did as a youth, and my relationship with my husband is amazing, I still am fighting those feelings. I am starting therapy yet again, to try and work through why, despite doing amazing things, and raising amazing children, I still feel like I have no value. And I know it all started in that closed office with that “Man of God” behind his stupid desk.

#342 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,7. Other: Reported abuse disregarded.

It’s hard to know where to begin, but I’ll try to be succinct.

I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of my oldest brother (11 years older than I), which lasted from before I can remember until I was around 7, when he left home.

I learned only as a teenager myself, when I began to deal with the trauma and repercussions from the abuse, that my brother had confessed to the local bishop as a young teenager. My parents were never fully informed about what he said; and to be fair, here, I don’t know exactly what my brother told this bishop. But he told him enough about his behavior that the bishop called my parents in to conference with them and to refer my brother to LDS social services.

My brother received support, encouragement, and was allowed to ‘repent’ and go on with a normal life. He is now married with kids of his own and has good standing within the church.

In the meantime, the bishop apparently told my parents that I ‘might not remember anything of it anyway’ and that trying to talk to me about it would only be harmful. I don’t believe my parents learned any details, and were merely given the impression that my brother was simply ‘curious’ and ‘expressed that inappropriately’. My mom told me later she thought that he had done something like undressing me when I was a baby, curious about the difference between boys and girls.

In reality, my abuser forced me to get him off in various ways for years throughout my childhood. There would be times when he wouldn’t bother me for a few weeks or a month, but he would always return. It didn’t end until he had left the house, regardless of what he told the bishop or his counselors at LDS social services.

I don’t understand so much about this. I don’t understand why my brother abused me the way he did, and I don’t know why he confessed his actions to the bishop. Most especially, I cannot understand why no action was taken to protect me, or even to speak to me or get me counseling or help. Yes, I was a child, but doesn’t that mean I should have had more protection? More concern for my mental and emotional health?

In the end, beyond all the pain and trauma and disgust that I still feel about all of this, my point is this: I don’t understand why we place normal, unqualified men in positions of power to counsel one-on-one with children and young adults, to hear confessions about matters in which they have no training and to which they can’t be expected to respond appropriately. A bishop is not a social worker, a therapist, or even a trained religious authority. They are (hopefully) good people, but entirely unqualified people, appointed to a position of enormous influence.

In the end, these stories and this petition are unmasking so much more than they may have set out to. The underlying sexism and the protection of abusers prevalent in these stories and in this church, along with the repeated placement of blame on women and young girls — this needs to change, and the individual interviews are part of it.

#341 Name Hidden. CS: 1,6,7

After reading the stories that are on here the problems in my life now make sense. The constant feeling of shame that has been with me all my life for no reason . The feeling of shame and illicitness that has always been with me has been a wall between me and my husband of 41 years. I should have been able to enjoyed our sex life not felt guilty and ashamed. I was in my late thirties before I got the courage to see what my own body looked like let alone touch it. The sad thing is I didn’t understand why I was like this until I started reading some of the stories and recognized what had been done to me . The interviews that I had were conducted with good intent but the damage has been life long and caused great distress to me and my husband over the years. No other child and young person should be damaged this way in the name of god when really men have got it very wrong.

#340 Name Withheld CS: 2,3,7

First off I am a female, addicted to porn for around 10 years. It all started when I was 11 I got an email that had porn in it.  I had already been a sexually curious kid and that email just started an addiction. I told my mom and friend about it within a few days because I knew it was wrong, I was still curious but I knew I needed to tell someone.

Well my mom said a prayer with me and my friend and that was it. Years passed and porn was so accessible in the early ages of the internet and I was apparently very sneaky. I never was caught and I even figured out masturbation and it became a HUGE part of my life. As the years passed of course I had the chastity classes in church, in conference, in any fireside, and at mutual. How to be worthy, what is okay and what is going to get you a one way ticket to the telestial kingdom which might as well be hell. Anything that wasn’t top tier celestial. I felt like the most awful person in human existence. I was starting to just accept the fact that I wasn’t going to make it and stopped trying to kick the habit.

When I was 14 I somehow got brave and went to my bishop and said I needed to confess. (Yes, I completely lied when they had asked all the chastity questions before. I had even gone to the temple and done baptisms for the dead.) I told him I had been looking at porn and I had been touching myself. I will never forget the way my bishop looked at me and said: “It is pleasurable, isn’t it?” He then wanted to know more details about how and when and what it felt like and I was SO uncomfortable. I stopped responding and he just gave me a blessing and I left. Went right back to my addiction.

I did not feel like I had gone through the whole repentance process the right way.. You confess, you pray and ask god for forgiveness, you NEVER do it again or else you have to start completely over from square one and god takes back any forgiveness. I was NOT going to go back to the bishop and tell him anything else. I went to my mom and she told me she tried masturbating once but it wasn’t really her thing, she then checked on me that night and reprimanded me for having the door closed and then we never spoke of it again. By age 17 I had my own cell phone that could go on the internet and my addiction was the worst it had ever been. I read back in my journal about how awful of a person I thought I was. How no one could ever love me. How if maybe I could just fix myself life would be better.

I joined the army and while at basic I was clean for 4 months! I also met people that gave me a different perspective on life and thought maybe I wasn’t all that bad.. Well when I got home I had a boyfriend and we had sex. This was even worse than porn in my mind and I just couldn’t handle the stress of being such a terrible sinner I had to go to the bishop. It was a new bishop, maybe it would be better this go around.. well me and my boyfriend were sitting there confessing and first words out of the bishops mouth was “Gosh dang it you guys!” He was incredibly disappointed. I remember sobbing and wishing we would have never told. He threatened my return missionary boyfriend with a dis-fellowship from the church and had to go to a disciplinary hearing that was scheduled that night. Our punishment for the time being was; no taking the sacrament for a year, no praying in public for a year, no temple recommend until further notice and we had to get married. So we did! Married.

I was 19 he was 23. We had been “dating” for 3 months. I had known him and his family for 6 years though thank goodness. I met him at church. The truly sad part is I was just so ready to do anything to save my salvation.. We got married 5 days later on Sunday after church in that bishops office. We had a reception a month later. It was not my dream wedding and there was family drama from his side. Later after my shotgun wedding my boyfriend wasn’t dis-fellowshipped, but we still had our year of public humiliation to wait out. We then had to go through the bishop and stake president to get cleared to go through the temple to be sealed, I had to re-live my awful sin and tell everyone what I had done. I worked so hard for acceptance. Now looking back I Just want to protect my children with every part of me. They will NEVER go into a bishop’s office. I will educated them on what is okay before the church does. I will be there for them when they have a life problem. This is such a scary thing and my life would have been so very different if this cause would have been around when I was a child.

#339 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,7,8,9

I wish I was brave enough to post my name, but my family is still unaware of my faith transition. I feel like a coward. My heart is beating rapidly in nervousness as I type this out. But I need to do it.

I grew up in an extremely dysfunctional family. My dad was a highly abusive narcissist and my mom just sat back and let it happen. I was essentially a co-parent with my mom. I developed severe bulimia that I nearly died from, along with severe OCD, depression and anxiety that would follow me for years (still does) as a direct correlation to my home and church life growing up.

I guess I would have called myself highly sexual from the time I hit puberty (I now know, I was probably just a normal, curious teenager). My first kiss was horrible. I had a boy two years older than me take me into his room when I was thirteen, pin my hands above my head, pull my shirt up, grope my breasts and begin yanking my pants down. Thankfully, my friend walked in and it was stopped. I am absolutely unable to explain the extreme guilt I felt. I was defiled. I didn’t really even understand at the time that I was taken advantage of, because the person I told of the encounter, the bishop, just punished me. I was told not to take the sacrament for several weeks and no temple recommend for me. I had to describe in detail what had happened. I was so ashamed and my anxiety was through the roof. This boy told everyone I had sex with him. I lost every single one of my friends in seventh grade. I remember he contacted me on messenger and said “you suck. You’re such a dumb slut. You told everyone we had sex.” I was so confused and had nowhere to turn.

Well, somehow this experience didn’t deter my sexual feelings. I wanted to feel desired by boys. I was so much taller and had developed much sooner than other girls and I was just sort of weird. Since people were calling me a slut anyway, I figured what I did didn’t matter.

I was extremely bullied all through junior high and high school to the extent of having many emails sent to me urging me to commit suicide because I was “better off dead, slut.”

I think I was pretty- though I didn’t know it. I was thin, but thought I was fat. My life at home was out of control and school was hell (enter bulimia as a way to gain control). I went to nearly every bishop I had pleading for help at home (I had a lot of bishops because my parents couldn’t ever afford housing so we moved a lot). My dad was so mean and so abusive- “PLEASE help me,” I begged. I got the same answers always- honor my father’s priesthood, I’m being dramatic, it can’t be that bad, because my mom stays.

Anyway, I had large breasts from the time I was 12. I was absolutely unaware of the effect my body had on older men at the time. I didn’t know I was dressing “sexy”. I wasn’t trying to be sexy! I was just trying to find something to wear while constantly growing and never having money to buy new clothes. During my 12-17 year period, I had two bishops. They both called me into their office monthly (not exaggerating) commenting on how my outfits were “turning men on” and I was “walking pornography”. Well, I just thought that was disgusting and not my problem. Additionally, my mom was always harping on me for dressing immodestly. I responded the only way that made sense- rebellion. Fine! If men were getting turned on- gross!!! Not my problem, and I will continue to dress how I want.

In the meantime, I was hooking up (Mormon version-making out, hand stuff for the most part) with any boy who would have me. I was disgusting and ugly in my eyes, and if boys were turned on by me, though I couldn’t understand why, I would take advantage and hook up with them, if only to feel wanted for a moment. I was in and out of the bishop’s office constantly. These two men questioned me incessantly every time I went in with a new confession. I would be nauseous with anxiety every time I had to see the bishop. I asked myself, WHAT was wrong with me that I couldn’t control myself? Why didn’t I love god enough to stop committing these sexual sins? These men would ask questions like:

-were your nipples erect? -did you orgasm? -how deep did his fingers go? -did you enjoy yourself? -how long did your climax last? -did your vagina get wet?

I have since found out both these bishops asked several of my same friends in the ward the same questions. But these were well respected and loved men- they were not wrong in my eyes, I was. I was told over and over that every time I committed another sexual sin, all the other sins were brought back on me. I am unable to explain the gravity of this comment. I was driven insane thinking of how immoral I was. My OCD and anxiety skyrocketed. I wanted to go to the lords house! I wanted to be good! But how could I do that when boys really only desired me when I used my body? I WANTED so desperately to be wanted.

Well, my boyfriend (now husband) and I ended up doing something really “bad” about three weeks into dating. This was my first time at anything like this. I knew I had crossed a line big time. I was SICK. We nearly broke up. I had JUST gotten my recommend back from a previous repentance process!

So once again, I made an appointment with the bishop, absolutely agonizing the days before my appointment over my grievous sin. The bishop told me my boyfriend had to be addicted to porn- where else would he get ideas like this? He said this is not husband material and recommended I end the relationship; this type of man that desired such sick, sexual things would surely grow up to be an abusive spouse and father. I remember this next part so well. This huge, 400 pound man leaned his head back, closed his eyes, and told me to describe in detail what had happened, asking probing questions along the way. I felt sick, but what could I do? This was gods representative- he knows what is necessary for me to be forgiven. (My husband is the best man and anything but abusive- I’m thankful I didn’t take the advice of my bishop).

Fast forward to when I am 21 and my husband is on his mission. I was at a party and someone spiked my drink. My friends described hearing crying and screaming from the upstairs room I was in. I deduced from this, and from the fluids on my dress, that I had been raped. I was devastated because how would my RM husband ever want me again?

This time, with a new bishop, I once again went in to repent. It honestly did not even occur to me that I didn’t need to repent because it had not been my fault. Once again, I was told that this may not had happened if I was being faithful to my missionary and dressed modestly. My heart was broken.

I can’t blame the church for my OCD and other issues. However, I CAN and will say they were ABSOLUTELY exacerbated by the policies of the church. I now know that in NO WAY is your worth attached to your sexuality- it just does not work this way. The teachinsg within the church regarding sexuality are harmful to every man and woman or child of any age.

I am not “out” to either side of my family about where I stand with the Church- the idea of what will happen when I tell them I no longer believe sparks too much anxiety. Thankfully, my husband wants to stay with me even though he believes.

These practices are HARMFUL and they do NO GOOD. The simple answer is no more interviews. I wish the church would drop their obsession with sexuality, but I know that won’t happen, so let’s at least protect our members, our children and STOP these interviews. A child does not need to think that they are any less of a person because they have sexual desires.

Yes, it may be “rare” that you have an actual story of physical abuse behind the door, but I am here to tell you that abuse doesn’t have to be physical! It can be mental- I believe what I suffered at the hands of bishops is abuse- and any of my non Mormon therapists will attest to that.

The LDS church should not be allowed to perpetuate this myth that they think family is the most important thing; they don’t think that. If they did, these interviews would have already stopped rather than receiving pushback from the church, and I’m sure this will result in the excommunication of Sam Young- what a travesty. If the church believed in families, they wouldn’t care if gays marry or if one race marries another- they would be happy more love is being created in the world. If they cared about families, they would make women feel equal to men, instead of having women give themselves to husbands in the temple. Please LDS business corporation, stop these interviews and do the right thing, for once.

#338 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,7,8

I was born in the church and presented as a very devout, chaste and faithful girl my whole life. It wasn’t an act. For the most part, I really was. But I had a secret : I masturbated.

I was never asked about this, and masturbation was never addressed in YW. I came away with the idea that masturbation was a male issue, and I felt like there was something profoundly wrong with me because I was a sexual being. I was afraid that I was some type of sexual monster and that if I ever dated I would immediately lose all control and go too far with a boy. So I didn’t date. I made it through high school having never done more than hold hands with a boy, all while privately struggling with white knuckle “sobriety” from masturbation (with many “relapses” and the crippling shame that came with that).

Once in college, I found it increasingly difficult to avoid all members of the opposite sex. I started dating. Dating brought my first sexual experiences (no actual sex, but kissing and touching that eventually went too far by LDS standards).

Over the course of a few years, I confessed my sexual “sins” to 3 different priesthood leaders. I never confessed that I masturbated. I felt that was far too taboo for a woman. All three bishops I spoke to asked very explicit questions that made me uncomfortable, but I answered them nonetheless because I felt I had to…

Did you climax? Did your boyfriend penetrate you with his fingers? With an object? Did he touch you over or under your clothes? Where did this occur? In your apartment? In your car?

All these questions in response to a confession of ‘passionate kissing.’

I was barred from taking the sacrament for 4 weeks. Twice when I moved wards, I was pulled into unsolicited interviews with the new bishops and asked suspiciously pointed questions that made me think that my previous bishops had talked, or put a note in my records about my previous transgressions.

Probably the result I hate most though is that I changed who I was. I turned off my sexuality. I pushed my boyfriend (a kind person that I loved and trusted and desired) away, and cruelly shamed and guilted him. I parroted the shame-based teaching I was taught even though they felt contrary to my true nature. I didn’t enjoy college or courtship. I went into hiding and denied a basic, healthy part of myself for too long.

#337 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,7

I grew up in a small town in Southern Utah. When I say small I mean about a 100 people small, give or take a few. Everyone in town was Mormon with the exception of a wife and kids of a Jack-Mormon that had moved there to sort of homestead. Their daughter, in fact, was the only other person within 25 miles of town my age

School was a conglomerate of several towns within a 30-mile radius and even that collection of kids was small but mighty in terms of Mormonism. I would estimate 98% of the school was Mormon. These were hard core Mormons, most multi-generational, most with polygamy in their history. The church, and everything about it, was a part of home, school and culture. Sometimes people didn’t live the rules very well, but nobody ever questioned its truth.

I grew up a pretty lonely kid. Although I came from a large family, my brothers and sisters were all significantly older than me, the youngest child. I had a lot of time to myself and I discovered masturbation pretty young. I never in my wildest imagination thought it was a bad thing, until about six months into my time as a Deacon when I suddenly learned in quorum meeting that playing with yourself was intensely horrible to God. Confusion ensued. When I’d been asked if I masturbated in my worthiness interview I didn’t even know what it was so I said no. I had not felt any guilt or worry that there was anything wrong with it, thanks a lot Holy Ghost, until I was taught I should by my priesthood leadership. In one short lesson, I went from a happy go lucky Deacon, to a sinner that now needed to confess and repent.

So put yourself in my shoes. I was facing the prospect of having to tell someone I pretty intimately knew, because of the smallness of where we lived, that I was playing with myself. This was a horrid weakness I had and I couldn’t quit, and I really didn’t want to except to make the guilt go away. Thus I learned how to lie and I learned how to lie well because there was no way in hell I was sharing this part of me with people that I saw multiple times throughout the week and often worked for in the summers.

Lying may seem like a small price to pay for keeping a secret that really was no one’s business but my own, but the great consequence was that as much as I believed in God, I also believed in Satan. I developed such a fear of him and his ability to possess me that it affected almost every aspect of my life. Sometimes I couldn’t eat, most nights I wouldn’t allow myself to go to sleep, until so totally exhausted I couldn’t fight it anymore. I just knew the moment I fell into slumber he would show up with his minions and possess me, and this thought was reinforced with multiple stories and testimonies by well meaning leaders trying to inspire, when in reality all they were doing was scaring the shit out of me. I realized by my decision to not confess and repent I was already in his power and it was just a matter of time.

This whole cycle taught me that I could lie and get away with it, I could find a way to swallow fear and loathing by being aloof and uncaring, that emotions, especially the big ones, needed to be avoided at all costs. It ingrained in me a “fuck you” attitude that even today can creep into my interactions, especially when people confront about emotions or question my honesty or integrity in even the smallest way. I’m 50 years old, out of the church for eight and still hyper defensive and self-protective because of the pattern established to protect myself so long ago. I still have problems with sleeping enough because of patterns and habit that developed years ago.

I no longer believe in God or Satan, or the church and its harmful policies. That brings peace and relief to my soul. What I do believe is that these infernal interviews are harmful in such a myriad of ways that no one can really know the full damage that is being done to individuals who have to subject themselves to this process to be considered “righteous”. Its so damn disturbing that the highest levels of leadership won’t open their eyes and ears to even consider the damage, past present and future that is happening in this process. My greatest act as a human, thus far in my life, is that I made decisions and took actions that will preclude my four children from having to experience this mess.

#336 Derek G. CS: 1,2,3,6,7,8

When I turned 12 I had a really cool bishop. During interviews he would basically say “I don’t want to know what you did just don’t do it again”. He was awesome. Then when I turned 16 they released the cool bishop and put in a bishop that was the complete opposite. This guy wanted to know everything. Even the stuff that had been “taken care of” with the previous bishop.

I was a pretty regular, normal teenager in that I had been fairly active sexually. I almost always had a girlfriend and we did normal teenager stuff but I was still a virgin. I felt pretty guilty about this stuff and decided I needed to confess to the bishop so I could go on a mission. He wanted to know every dirty little detail. He asked me questions like whether I had used my fingers on my girlfriends and if so how many fingers were used? Did they like it? Did I like it? Did either of us orgasm? How many times did this happen? He asked about oral sex in a very detailed way. What were their names, phone numbers and where did they live? I figure he wanted to tell their bishops but fortunately for me none of them were LDS. He wanted to know everything. He asked so many invasive questions it’s almost unbelievable to think about now.

Anyway I basically came out of that interview feeling like the worst human alive. It messed me up for a long time even after I was married in the temple. I was afraid of sex in many ways because I had been taught that it was so sinful in my youth.

#335 Name Hidden. CS: 1,3

I met my husband when I was 18. He is four years older than me and was a return missionary when we met at work. We became intimate and, after a few months of dating, ended up having sex. It was the first time I had sex with anyone and his too. I didn’t tell anyone about it, not my parents or friends. I think it happened a couple more times and then he told me that we had better go talk to our bishops about it.

So, we both made a plan to meet with our respective bishops the following Sunday after church. I was really scared to talk to my bishop. He was the father of one of my male friends that I had grown up with in the ward. I had lived in that ward all my life. It was very hard for me to get the words out that I had had sex with my boyfriend. He urged me on until I finally said the words. I remember the disappointed look on his face. I felt horrible. Some of what he said to me is a blur now but I have never forgotten one piece of advice he gave. He said, “No man wants a woman who is already used up.”

After that day I looked and thought about myself differently. I saw myself as someone who was now different and used. I could never go back to the way I used to be. I wondered, if it didn’t work out with my boyfriend, who would want me? It colored my thoughts and my decisions for many years. His advice didn’t motivate me to stop having sex with my boyfriend. I felt like, this is who I am now. I am already used up so what is the point? If he wants to have sex I should because I need to keep him happy because who else will want me? I ended up getting pregnant when I was 19. We got married, I had a baby a week after turning 20. I am 35 now.

#334 Name Hidden. CS: 1,3,4

From the Bishop’s Perspective

I had been serving as a Bishop for a few years when a 17 year old girl came to my office for a meeting that she had requested. I sat at my desk and she sat in a chair across from me, the door to my office closed and locked as always. She was upset and I asked her how I could help. From that point she told me that she had been performing oral sex on her new boyfriend and she felt very guilty about it. It was not my practice to ask for the details of the activity itself, but I asked her a few questions about how long she’d been dating this boy and if her parents knew him, those kinds of things. She had only been dating him for a few weeks and the boy had had other girlfriends before her. I don’t remember the details about this part, but I do remember thinking that she was quite naive and in over her head with a guy who was pushing her for a sexual relationship, which made me worry for her safety.

The next part went like this:

Have you talked to your parents? No.

Will you? No.

What if we talk to them together? No way.

Have you been to a school nurse or doctor? Why?

Do you know what an STD is, and are you aware of the risks of sexual activity? No, but it doesn’t matter because he loves me and has never been with any other girl like this.

Sister XXX (ward member and YW leader) is the high school nurse – will you talk to her? Not a chance.

So there we are. I’m 32 and she is 17. She has just explained to me that she is giving her boyfriend blowjobs, doesn’t see any risk (other than guilt) and refuses to talk to her parents or the school nurse. I remember feeling like I had a responsibility to at least explain that she was engaged in risky behavior since I was sure that this guy had plenty of experience, even if she was too smitten to believe it. But, what the hell do I say? I’ve never had any training about sexual health risks, I’m going on what I remember from my own high school sex education. I am a businessman, not a doctor, nurse or a therapist. Come to think of it, I’ve never had 10 minutes of training on the “repentance process” either. But I have a 17 year old kid in my office that refuses to talk to her parents. She is scared, vulnerable and looking to me for some kind of counsel and I feel pressure to protect her.

The next part haunts me. Feeling like I really need to help educate and protect her, I tried to explain to her that while the Lord is quick to forgive when we repent, that doesn’t mean we can’t still get pregnant or an STD. I bumbled my way through my explanation when she asked how any of those risks would effect her since she was only giving him blowjobs. This confirmed my suspicion about her naiveté. Again, I stumbled my way through an explanation about how a blowjob could transfer a disease. The whole time I was talking, I had a battle in my head: You are talking to a girl about blowjobs in the church – this is totally inappropriate – but she is at risk and won’t talk to anyone else. If I don’t help her, who will?

She left the office and I went home, too. To my knowledge she continued to date the boy and never did talk to her parents. I continued to feel like I had been put in a terrible situation with no way out. I worried about my lame attempt to teach and protect her, and worried that I embarrassed her and made it worse.

Many years later I still worry about that meeting. What does she remember from that meeting? Did I cause her more pain and shame? I certainly didn’t mean to, but what was I supposed to do? You are expected to give inspired counsel when you are the Bishop, right? And then I thought about how this could have gone really wrong. What if she had talked to a Bishop that was cruel? What if she talked to a Bishop that took advantage of her? She was totally vulnerable. In a way, she was lucky that she only got my incompetence and not someone who was a predator. In her situation, where she was afraid to talk to her parents, she was a perfect candidate for abuse. Also, what about me? What if she took my bumbling explanation to be a come-on? What if she felt threatened by my stupid explanation? If she alleged that I was making inappropriate moves towards her I could be accused of sexually harassing a minor, as a married man and clergy, no less. I could lose everything.

I think about training received by Bishops. I served in a Stake with a very strict Stake President who trained us constantly. I knew the handbook and could cite every meeting, report and procedure in a ward. When it came to welfare, I was thoroughly trained on what services and assistance were available and how to work with a family on their budget, job training and all of the resources of the “Lords Storehouse”. But I never received any training on how to handle transgression, abuse, family relationships or any human struggle other than money. None. One time in a PPI, I even asked my Stake President how he handled conversations about sin and repentance and he seemed bothered that I would dare ask, as though I should know that kind of thing. I never asked for help again. You’re supposed to go by the Spirit, don’t you know.

The whole system is dangerous. It is dangerous for youth who are at the mercy of an untrained bishop who has the authority and opportunity to say whatever he wants. And since he has no training, those private conversations could go literally anywhere. It is also dangerous for the bishops. These men, the vast majority who are good guys, are put in a terrible situation where they are encouraged to discuss sexual activity with minor children behind a locked door and without their parents. It is a recipe for all kinds of trouble, for the kids, the bishops, their families and the church itself. It needs to stop now.

 

#333 Name Hidden. CS: 1,6,7

When I was 18, I had my first sexual encounter with a boy. I was so scared to confess because I didn’t want my parents to find out, but eventually the guilt overcame me when I was in a meeting with the stake president about preparing for a mission. I told him I wasn’t worthy and he asked very probing questions and didn’t believe me when I told him we never actually had sex. I felt extremely uncomfortable describing all of the sexual acts my boyfriend and I had participated in but I knew that it was part of the repentance process so I told him all of the details anyways.

I then had to talk to my bishop about the same thing, and he became very angry at me. He then told me about my boyfriends previous confessions and that he believed my boyfriend was a sex addict. The council that he provided me was that my repentance process would not be complete until I had ended my relationship with this boy. I felt so guilty and ashamed and I left feeling worse about myself than ever before.

Rather than deal with the public shame of the repentance process around my parents and other close friends in the ward, I moved away before I was ready and became extremely depressed. A few years later after I got out of that relationship for unrelated reasons, and began dating another guy who was about to leave on a mission in a few months. We went a little too far one night, but decided to confess anyways because we didn’t think what we did was that serious. The stake president delayed his mission for 6 months and banned us from seeing each other, talking on the phone, or communicating in any way other than a weekly letter which was only agreed upon after begging and pleading.

We ended up secretly meeting up a few times and went too far again. We decided not to confess since the first time had made us both so miserable and messed up our life plans so drastically. He left on his mission and a month later I reported to the MTC for my mission. After only 1 day in the MTC, I felt so guilty and anxious I decided to confess. I had yet another meeting with someone in the MTC who asked many questions that made me uncomfortable and gave me a whole lesson on how kissing should be saved for marriage because it led to immoral sexual acts. They sent us both home. We were traumatized from the experience and had to deal with the fallout of our families being completely disappointed and unsupportive of our relationship. He had to attend a disciplinary counsel with men that he knew and had to go into detail about his sexual exploits. He was told that if he messed up again that he would be excommunicated.

At a certain point we decided that the expectations were set so high that we were basically doomed to fail anyways. Why would we go through even more hard times and sacrifice so much for a church that we weren’t even sure is true anymore? Especially a church that has only made us feel misery and pain instead of love and support when we make mistakes. We ended up getting married, and to this day still have not had sex due to the anxiety and guilt that I have subconsciously built up over years of nothing but negative experiences with my sexuality.

#332 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,7,8,9

I don’t know if my story is typical, at least the later parts of it, but the beginning part I believe, is almost common in the church, at least among those of my peers who, like me, and my oldest son, with whom I have discussed this issue, had the desire to be completely honest in worthiness interviews. I found myself incapable of lying to the various bishops by whom I was interviewed over the years, from age 12 to about age 48, when I stopped attending church.

My first bishop’s interview was at the age of 12. This interview introduced me to the concept of masturbation and I was informed at this time that this was a “sin” and if I participated in it I would be unworthy before god, and unworthy to participate in the passing of the sacrament, which was an ordinance that all 12 year old boys were expected to perform. I soon learned that masturbation was very difficult for me to avoid, and I subsequently entered into a cycle of sinning, followed by fear, guilt, and shame, and that followed by repentance, relief through confession, and hope that I would be able to abstain and thus become and remain worthy before god and the church. This cycle, begun at age 12, persisted and continued well into adulthood, the main difference being that during high school I discovered girls and sex, and so the level of guilt and shame only increased, as the sin of sex with another person was considered to be an even greater sin before god than masturbation. We were told in no uncertain terms that sex was “next to murder” in seriousness in god’s eyes. In my mind, that included masturbation, and I was constantly in a state of inner turmoil as I felt I was never ever going to be worthy as a human being and would always be defective no matter how hard I tried.

All of this led to self-loathing and PTSD. I was terrified, and I can’t express the depth of my terror, each and every time I contemplated having to talk to my bishop after I had “slipped up”, either by myself, or worse, with my girlfriend. I would avoid the bishop at all costs until I realized that it was no use and I would have to call and make an appointment, or just wait until I would inevitably run into him at church. I fully believed that bishops had the “power of discernment” and that they needed but to take one look at me and would know immediately and without doubt that i was guilty of a sexual sin. The oppressive nature of this kind of belief had deep and lasting negative effects on my psyche, causing feelings of fear, shame, self-doubt, and unworthiness as a human being. I often prayed for long periods of time begging, literally begging and sobbing on my knees for god to deliver me from my evil nature, to just take it all away from me so that I could be worthy of him and of the presence of all the other, more righteous people I was surrounded with in my church family and community and whom I was certain had none of these evil tendencies that I had. I was quite sure of this, and this was one of the most damaging aspects of the whole thing, in that I truly believed that I was alone in my evil nature, so that I felt less than pretty much everyone around me at all times. Imagine yourself having killed someone, actually murdering another human being, and walking around knowing your guilt, and keeping that secret, and how you would feel all of the time. This is how I felt much of the time as a teenager and young adult, and even into adulthood. Remember, I was taught that sexual sin was “next to murder” in gravity in the eyes of god, and if in the eyes of god, then in the eyes of the church as well. As a young man, how was I to know where the line between sexual sin and murder was? I took these things way too literally, but the church didn’t account for the different ways someone might view things. I had no idea, but have learned since, that many of my peers simply lied about their sexual activities. In my mind, that was never an option.

Fast forward many years, I’m in my forties, divorced, single, and again facing life alone, with no outlet for sex, which, having been married for several years, I had become used to having. Only now, I couldn’t. And, having attained a higher rank in the “priesthood”, having been called to the high council while married, any sin I commit would now be seen as even MORE grievous than before. So the cycle began again, for I was just as highly sexed as always, only now I had no legal partner in the eyes of the church, with whom to have sex. I was expected to remain absolutely celibate until I was married again. Alas, I could not, and began again the whole cycle of masturbation, immense guilt and shame, self-loathing, etc etc etc, until I would go visit the bishop, confess, be absolved, and on and on. I eventually did marry again, this time to a non-member, and partly because I felt constricted by my beliefs that it would be shameful to continue in the relationship without being married. I was no longer attending church on a regular basis, but still clung to my beliefs, in large part because I didn’t want to disappoint my mother and my brothers and sisters, some of whom I was still quite close with.

A couple of years into the new marriage I realized I was in trouble, because the marriage wasn’t working out and I realized how much I had felt pressured by my beliefs and the culture of Mormonism that I still carried within me, to get married when we truly should have just continued dating. I confessed this all to my wife and although we tried for a few more years to make it work, it wasn’t meant to be and we divorced.

During this time, near the end of the marriage, I had a complete nervous breakdown. I had finally realized that the church wasn’t true, and announced that fact in an email to the whole family. The backlash was immediate, and relationships with my family were quite strained for the next few years. I was quite angry with the church for the years and years of being lied to and misled, in what I considered, and still consider to this day, to be an intentional and deliberate misrepresentation of the facts of the history of the church and it’s true nature. Nevertheless, the guilt and shame I felt for leaving the church, and basically turning my back on my family and everything they hold dear, was overpowering, hence the nervous breakdown. I lost my ability to work and to function for a period of time, suffered anxiety, panic attacks, and depression, which lasted for about 4 years. I had suicidal ideation a few times, but fortunately never acted on it, except once when I turned on the gas on the stove and stood over it for several minutes hoping to pass out and fall asleep and never wake up. But I chickened out before losing consciousness and walked away, wondering at myself.

And thus ended years of dealing with the very real and damaging psychological fallout of being subjected to harmful teachings and intrusive and shaming interviews by people in whom I trusted to guide me in life. And people wonder why I had a certain level of animosity towards the church. Perhaps if they read this, they may begin to understand. On the other hand, I’m quite sure that at least a certain percentage of true believers would still fault me, as they tend to victim-blame, certain that the church itself could never be at fault. Blind faith is just that — blind.

#331 Jodi B. CS: 1,2,3,6,7

I was lucky enough that my father was my Bishop during my formative teenage years so the damage and shame I received as a youth was from other people in leadership positions or during lessons and not one-on-one interviews at an early age.

I never had negative experiences with a Bishop, but that changed my junior year in High School. By LDS standards I went farther with my boyfriend than “good girls” should go (for the record, and not that it matters … but it wasn’t sex). He felt guilty and confessed to his Bishop, unbeknownst to me. His Bishop asked him who he “sinned” with and my boyfriend willingly gave him my name. His Bishop contacted my Bishop who then called me into his office and manipulated a confession from me. I was put on informal probation, with public shaming being a huge tool in the Bishop’s arsenal — no sacrament, no praying in public, no trips with my YW class to the temple. I was told I was the “gatekeeper”. I was told it was my responsibility to maintain his self-control. He never received a punishment as harsh as I did, while he was just as complicit in the encounter.

I was socially punished for just kissing boys and was told I was “promiscuous”. I was treated as an outcast by my youth leaders who talked about me behind my back. The adults participated and encouraged the youth to shame and bully me.

When I was a senior in High School I had an aggressive boyfriend who ignored my “stop” and my “no”. Per LDS teachings, again, that required a confession to the Bishop. I was scared and waited until I moved away to college and put it off. Eventually that boy got guilty and confessed, again he told his Bishop my name. Again, I was called into an office without initiating it. If I had been properly educated in sexuality and consent I would have understood fully what had happened to me. My first sexual experience was assault … and I didn’t even realize it because of the shame that was placed on me. Had he been trained I would have received counseling and support for being raped. Instead, I was punished and shamed with huge heaps of guilt. Probing questions were assailed at me: Clothes on or off? What positions? How many times? Where were you? How long did it last? When was the last time? Did he climax? Did you climax? Where did he touch you? Where did you touch him? Did he insert his fingers? How many? Did he touch your breasts? Over or under clothes? Did you perform oral sex? Did he? What were you wearing? Did he ejaculate?

Why didn’t he ask the questions that mattered? Did he get consent? [NO] Did he use a condom? [NO]

He required I have a disciplinary council. It was never explained what that meant or how to prepare, I was only told a time and a place of where to be. I was told this sin was comparable to murder, that I was the same as a murderer.

A room full of men that I had never met then continued to ask me the same probing questions that my Bishop had asked. I didn’t feel love or supported, I only felt judgement and shame.

In the end, it was decided that I was disfellowshipped until further notice and told to read the “Miracle of Forgiveness”.

It took years to learn to reframe that it wasn’t just “premarital sex”, but rape. It wasn’t me losing my virginity, but someone taking it from me against my will. I believed it was my fault, because I was told it was my fault. I never thought to talk to someone else at the time. I was told my worth was tied directly to my “purity”. I was told that boys’ thoughts and behaviors were my responsibility to bear.

The sexual shaming continued into my marriage. I rushed into a marriage thinking that if I got married my sexual feelings would then be allowed and my feelings of self-loathing and inadequacies would disappear. I never received the tools on how to properly select a husband … YW lessons centered on the dress and the temple and never anything about the man or how he treated a woman. In my naivete those questions on what type of person he was never entered into the equation. He was cute and a member and he liked me, that was good enough. I never knew i should try to get to know him better. I didn’t know the qualities to look for, or the questions to ask. I found myself in a marriage that was mentally, psychologically, financially and sexually abusive.

Years passed and I was still married, and now with 4 kids. Slowly I began to realize the emotional and sexual abuse that I had been enduring for years — something wasn’t right and I needed help! I gathered my courage and reached out to my Bishop for help (I didn’t know where else to go, and had been groomed since childhood to put my trust in him). He counseled me that I needed to pray harder and be more faithful and that then my husband would treat me better. He blamed *ME* for the abuse that was inflicted upon me. Me, the victim. I was told it was my fault and that I must have done something to deserve it. I was counseled to buy new lingerie and to never say no to him. I was counseled to be more submissive.

I was told to fix problems that were NEVER mine to fix. No counseling or therapy was ever discussed or recommended. I was scared and hurting. I was desperately grasping for a safe and trusted hand. Instead of help, I was pushed back into the pit. In the end I was more damaged and traumatized.

Because of that damaging and destructive “counsel” I stayed in that abusive marriage for years longer. I endured more years of abuse that I had tried to flee only to be told it was my own fault.

I began self-harming in an effort to cope. It probably stemmed from the belief that i needed “punishment” because I couldn’t be who the Church told me to be for my husband because the abuse continued — it was my fault, clearly, I was doing something wrong. Maybe, I believed, if I punished myself enough then he wouldn’t have to. I continue to struggle with and still self-harm today, even though I am now in a stable and loving relationship. The scars constantly remind me of the feelings of my insecurities. The pain still remains and bubbles up at unexpected times.

I almost didn’t make it out of the abuse. If i had followed the counsel of my priesthood leaders I never would have. Every time they spoke to me it was to stay in the marriage and work it out, to submit and pray harder.

Because of the fact that sexuality in every talk and lesson in YW was discussed as bad and sinful, I never learned what was healthy and had no framework for what sex should be in a loving relationship. I was robbed of a normal, healthy sexual development. As a result it took me years to realize that what was happening in my marriage was abuse and not normal or healthy in any way. I didn’t realize that i was allowed an opinion or that i was supposed to get pleasure out of it.

After the end of my marriage I began to masturbate (for the FIRST time) in my early 30s. I was desperate to discover if sex could be pleasurable. I was desperate to take back control of my sexuality and bodily autonomy. I journeyed for over 2 years before venturing into dating, trying to find myself and who I really was — when I wasn’t being told what to wear, what to read, what to listen to, how to style my hair. Freedom was exhilarating. The self-discovery was necessary after anything that was “me” was pushed into a box and controlled. It’s now been 4 years, I’m still trying to recover from the damage.

The prying, inappropriate questions don’t stop when a person reaches adulthood. This isn’t just happening to children — though that is definitely when it starts and when the grooming begins. Even now, as a 35 year old adult, I was recently asked pointedly and explicitly about my sexual behaviors. Shamefully and cowardly, I lied, instead of telling him that it wasn’t any of his business. Lying seemed like the easy way to move past the ridiculous instead of engaging. Even still, he pressed the issue and wanted more details, trying to manipulate me into a confession. I only conceded to tell him that my boyfriend treated me with kindness and respect. He could choose to interpret that as he wished. It was true. Past Bishops didn’t care when sex was physically and emotionally harming me, why should they be involved when I’m in a loving and committed relationship with someone who treats me with kindness and respect?

We emotionally, mentally, and spiritually circumcise our YW … trying to cut out the sexuality in their lives that leaves them stunted and traumatized.

We teach them to submit to the “Priesthood”. I never received the tools to talk about sexuality in a healthy way. I never received comfort in bodily autonomy. The system sets up girls to be victims of abuse and dominance in their future relationships. It creates girls who are entirely co-dependent on someone else for their happiness and decision-making.

We publicly shame children and young adults for normal human behavior that should never have been asked to begin with by an adult man behind a closed door who has been taught to be an “authority figure”. Children shouldn’t be questioned about their sexual thoughts and behaviors. They shouldn’t be pressured to tattle on other youth. They shouldn’t be expected to talk about things they aren’t comfortable telling their parents.

We need to teach our youth that sexual thoughts are a normal part of human development. We need to teach them that knowing their own bodies is necessary. We need to teach them the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships. We need to teach them not to be ashamed of their own bodies. We need to teach them about consent vs coercion.

Most importantly, we need them to know that it’s NOT okay for an adult to ask invasive questions about your sexuality or sexual habits. NEVER, under any circumstances is that okay.

A man does not suddenly acquire a clinical psychology degree or an education in health and wellness, and yet he is elevated to this higher clergy status that is expected to act as a therapist and life coach.

This system invites older men to abuse. It provides a means for them to exert control over people and children. It creates an unbalanced power dynamic with a false sense of authority. Children are *groomed* from a VERY young age to “respect” the Bishop who is the “Judge in Israel” for the ward. They are taught he is God’s representative on earth. They are told to never question his authority. They are told he “holds the keys” and is guided by God. They are taught that he is the judge. They are taught he holds the spirit of “discernment”. They are given the fear of their eternal damnation hanging over their heads and eternally being separated from their parents in a different “kingdom” if they “sin”.

The problem begins when we are children, what we are taught in classes and told to trust in the “Priesthood” and therefore ultimately, the Bishop. It continues to harmful bi-annual interviews where prying questions are flung at impressionable youth — and lessons about sexuality are always negatively framed and full of guilt and shame. It progresses into adulthood and follows us into our marriages.

All of my experiences show the danger of how sexuality is taught and presented to the youth. Each experience was then further compounded interactions with Priesthood authority, by interrogations. The damage that happened as a result of the church and is interference in sexuality is extreme.

#330 Kik G. CS: 1,2,3,4,7,8

On many more than one occasion, I was subjected to inappropriate interviewing that effected me even into my adulthood. From around the age of 12 to about age 19, I tried to correct what I was told were my immoral actions. First was masturbation. At the age of 12, I clued my current bishop at the time, from the Vernal, UT area, to my “problems” with masturbation. I was asked various questions on how I would touch myself, or what kinds of thoughts were going through my mind at the time I was masturbating.

I looked up to these men as leaders and because of the way I was brought up, taught to not question motives or actions of church leadership. As I grew older, I added into the masturbation mix, the added pleasure for the church of me being gay. Then the questions started to include how another boy (was under the age of 16 at the time) would suck on my penis. What would lead up to that happening. How would he play with my balls? How would he deep throat me? Stuff that I didn’t even fully understand myself at the time. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t simply say that I was experiencing gay thoughts and was responding in kind to those thoughts. B

ut my leaders wanted to know more. They wanted the nitty-gritty of the encounters that I was experiencing. The question is…why? I was an adolescent youth growing up and experiencing very normal things that I was asked in details, like when he stuck his tongue in your mouth, did you enjoy it? Did you reciprocate with your tongue? Did you just keep it in your mouth, or did you also suck on his lips? Did you nibble on his ear? Did you like that? Questions that seemed endless and just painfully ongoing. I still recall those moments when, one on one, I would sit with the leadership. At the time I thought it was my immoral actions that were creating the angst in my life at the time, but I now understand that I was simply growing, in a very healthy way, that I needed guidance rather than shame and guilt. I dealt with that angst and guilt for more that 7 years within the church, and countless years after. I am now 36, going on 37, and those experience still shake me to my core. Fill me with grief and sadness for what I was subjected to as a youth…under the guise of help.

#329 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,7,8,9

I should start with a little bit of history before going into detail about what happened to me between my years as a young child through to adulthood. I was the first born child of an active addict. Her addiction was severe, and as a result she used throughout her pregnancy and when I was born, the withdrawal from the drugs caused me to have a stroke. Thanks to a wonderful grandma, I recovered physically and mentally. My birth mom continued to use throughout my childhood, and often brought strange men home when she was high. These same men would assault me any time I was in the house with her. There were times I was with my grandma, and during those times I was safe, warm, well fed, and loved. Her drug use escalated over a few years and by the time I was 3 and my brother was 2, I found myself taking him to a bus stop to ask to go to Grandma’s house because we were hungry. This happened twice before we were finally taken into state custody. My birth mom gave up her rights, and I ended up in the care of my now parents. Up until we were taken in by my parents, we were raised without religion, understandably so as I’d been conditioned to behave sexually around men and my brother experienced physical abuse. When our parents were advised as to what happened to us, they basically told the entire neighborhood and effectively ostracized us for years to come. My mom (who is bipolar and has a very innocent, childlike mind) bore her testimony in front of the entire congregation and detailed a lot of what they were told had happened to myself and my brother. This is really where the issues began. I found myself with 2 friends growing up in that ward, both of which had moved to the neighborhood years later and had no idea about the jarring announcement my well meaning mom had given. She only meant to express gratitude for the blessing she was given to not only have children, but to give them a life much more beautiful than they had previously.

Fast forward to my teenage years, where I had since learned why everyone looked at me so differently from the other kids. The mothers of the ward would usher their kids away from me and discourage them from inviting me to birthdays and things of that nature because they assumed I was inclined to behave in the same ways my birth mother did all those years ago. I had been pointedly told that I had been lucky I was baptized because my childhood sins we’re forgiven. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t the one sinning as a child. I thought I was entirely to blame for what happened to me, so when the flashbacks started as I was developing into a teenager, you can imagine it was horrendous. I didn’t know it then, but later this would be one of the reasons I attempted to take my life. This was the beginning of severe chronic depression which lead to therapy.

The rumors of my “sexual activity” didn’t really start until high school. I had just turned 15 that summer, and my parents noticed that I was wearing all black, dying my hair, and mysteriously wearing long sleeves all the time. I couldn’t sleep at night because I had nightmares about things that happened to me when I was only 3 years old. I was so angry at the world for allowing me to be hurt, conflicted because I was told it was my fault and my destiny, something I had chosen in the preexistence. I had started self harming. To this day, my arms and my thighs are littered with scars because the only way to make my pain real, was to give it a “face”. Giving a wound to match my injuries made me feel real, and human. I dyed my hair because it gave me temporary satisfaction, and to this day it’s still one of my go-to coping mechanisms. I hid the cuts from people around me because they didn’t care to understand what I was going through. My sophomore year began, and within the first month, I met Jordan. At first, he was more caring and understanding than anybody I’d ever met. He made me feel safe enough to tell him about my childhood, and even acted enraged at the thought of what I went through. He didn’t pressure me for sex, cuddling, or even kissing. I thought he was truly my soul mate. So when the isolation started to happen, I didn’t see it. One by one he picked off my friends. He did so in a way that I didn’t see his hand in it, and made him appear to be the only one I had left. I had no idea that while I cried in his arms about how lonely I was, he was the Mastermind behind it. He was the one starting the rumors that would eventually lead to me being physically, sexually, and emotionally assaulted for years to come. He was an excellent manipulator. The first time we had sex, I had told him no and his response was “But don’t you love me? This is what you’re supposed to do for someone you love.” I still said no, but it didn’t really matter. He had decided that he wanted sex, and my consent didn’t matter. He was at least gentle at first, but when I tried to struggle, he was swift to punish. He would hit the side of my head where my hair would cover any bruises, my ribs, my stomach, and sometimes my legs since I wasn’t allowed to wear shorts so the bruises were hidden. He would choke me to see how quickly he could make me pass out. He had tied my hands and cut over my old scars from my self inflicted injuries. He made me believe that what he did was love, was what I deserved, and was the only thing I would ever be good for. School became worse over the coming months (which turned into years and lead to my dropping out and registering at a different high school) as more and more people heard, spread, and created more rumors about me. I was slammed into a locker for refusing to give oral sex to one of my classmates. When I tried to report the incident, I was told that it wasn’t right to try and ruin the future of a young man who had his whole life ahead of him. They wouldn’t even pull the security footage. The girls would all whisper and laugh as they walked by me. Some guys would try to befriend me for awhile, but once they realized I wasn’t actually putting out, I was ostracized and more rumors were created and spread anyway.

(One of the positive things that happened, is my parents had put me in therapy when I started my sophomore year and I was slowly wading through the trauma from my childhood. While this was hard because I had consistent nightmares and flashbacks, it helped me long term to recover and it is a major reason I am alive today and able to talk about what happened to me)

During the summer after I turned 16, I was called into my bishops office for a meeting. When I closed the door, he said “Samantha, I have some concerns about some things I’ve been told.”. He proceeded to tell me that some other ward members had come to him and told him about how very sexually active I was, and that I had participated in some obscene sexual activities. Mind you, I thought I could trust my bishop because God himself asked him to lead the ward. So he had to be a loving, kind man, right? I started by telling him about therapy, and the fact that I was struggling with what I had gone through as a child. His response was that I needed to seek forgiveness from God so that I could fully forgive myself for what I had participated in. Because, you see, at age 3 I had been conditioned to behave in ways that rightfully should remain on street corners between consenting adults. Clearly I should be held accountable for that. Then he asked me about the rumors from school, at which point I started to break down. I hoped I was being heard for the first time so I told him all of it. I told him about how Jordan made me believe I could trust him and later removed every ounce of that trust. I showed him some of the scabs from the cuts. I had bruising on my throat from being choked out. The first thing he asked me, was what I had done to attract that kind of attention from a young man. When I said I hadn’t done anything, he pushed further and stated that young boys don’t behave this way unless they are tempted, and pushed too far. He followed up by telling me that I needed to repent for what I had done because I could never be allowed into the temple, I’d never have a happy marriage, I wouldn’t be a good mother to any kids I had, and I’d be excluded from the highest degrees of heaven if I didn’t repent and change my ways. He essentially told me that God was ashamed of me. That was the hardest blow, because I spent so much time on my knees begging God for relief from what was happening to me, only to be told that he didn’t care. I left the bishops office that day and I never went back. Instead, I continued going through the abuse alone. I stopped going to school because the ridicule was too much. I got to the point where I didn’t want to live anymore. Later that year, I attempted suicide for the first time. I grabbed all of the pills I could find in the house and I took them. In the note I wrote, I said that I was sorry for what I’d done and that I hoped they could forgive me for not being able to continue my life. Then I fell asleep. I must have slept for an absurdly long time and I woke up feeling very nauseated, but I woke up. My parents hadn’t even seen the note I wrote. I was still in my room on my bed. I got more depressed, but apparently my body didn’t feel much like dying.

I was able to work through some of this in therapy, but it wasn’t until I met my husband that I was truly able to recover. I met him my senior year of high school. I’d been going to a new school and things were a little bit better. We had almost instant feelings for each other and one night, we started to have sex but I was so terrified, I ended up sobbing. He was the first and only person to actually stop. He didn’t keep going until he finished and was done with me, he stopped and asked me what was happening. Slowly I started to tell him and he stayed up with me the whole night as it all came tumbling out. I was uncontrollably crying, but he didn’t care and he was the first person to tell me that what happened wasn’t my fault. That Jordan and everybody else was in the wrong. That there was no way I’d become the same type of person my birth mom was, that I could be trusted with kids, that I should never be ashamed of who I am, that I should love my body, that I was worth more than sex, and that any God who hated me for being raped wasn’t a God worth anyone’s time. Those were the words that made me want to live again. It’s been 6 years since I met him and I still struggle with intimacy, parenting, and depression. I still remember being told that God hated me for what was done to me both as a small child, and as a teen. I still feel like an outcast when I visit my parents in my old neighborhood. I will never raise my kids in the church because they deserve to know that whatever higher being there is, loves them and created them to be perfectly them. I made their bodies and brought them into the world and I will never make them ashamed of themselves. They will never know the pain I knew growing up. They will have so much more love, and if that’s all I do as a parent is show them love, I will have done enough. I will have done more than what was done for me in my time of need. And I hate seeing that so many other people went through the same things I did. I’m so sorry for your pain and even though I’m a stranger, know that you’re loved, too.

 

#328 Name Hidden. CS: 1,4,6

As a child, I wish I had known about the grooming processes that sexual predators use. The way they gain a child’s trust, maybe even their parents’ trust, before attempting anything inappropriate. Instead, the church indoctrinated me to believe that men have the absolute authority and the power to act in God’s name. I was taught to trust men who disregard my personal boundaries. I remember older men shaking my hand and pulling me in for a hug that lasted too long and the bishop calling me and my sisters “trophy wives”. Too many forced handshakes, hugs and words. Unwanted attention from older men became normal and routine. Saying ‘no’ was an option I didn’t know I had. Kids, especially girls, are not encouraged to refuse or disobey an adult, especially a respected member of the church. I had a babysitter who would tickle me so roughly that he would leave my skin red and sore. He made me so uncomfortable, but so did the men at church that everyone trusted and even worshiped, so I suffered silently through it. That babysitter was later on sent to prison for child porn and attempted kidnapping. I believe the church made me unaware of what is socially acceptable and appropriate behavior between a child and adult.

Interviews with bishops have always been uncomfortable. At age 12 I was left alone in a room with a middle-aged man, who was not a therapist or psychologist, to talk about sex and masturbation. I didn’t even know what masturbation was, so hearing about this for the first time alone in a room from a man was very scary. I was pulled into an interview, with another untrained middle-aged man, when I was in college. I had a boyfriend at the time and the bishop, wanted to know every detail of my sex life. I gave him honest information and thought the interview would end there, as it should have. He began to interrogate me further: Were you on top or bottom while kissing? Where were your hands? Did he penetrate you with his fingers? Do you pleasure each other orally? Do you pleasure each other with objects? Do you pleasure each other until you orgasm? Have you tried anal sex? Even at the time, I found his questions disturbing and invasive. I had already divulged private information, but it wasn’t enough for him. He pushed me for explicit details.

Some members have told me that bishops are prompted by god to ask certain questions. So, did god prompt the bishop to ask a teenage girl about what she does with her anus?

Because of Mormonism’s systematic mental/sexual abuse and oppression, I removed my name from church records.

#327 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,7

When I was a 12 year old I went to my father full of shame and confessed I had masturbated. His reaction led me down a path of intense self-loathing that lasted well into adulthood.

Because what he didn’t say was “Literally everyone, especially kids your age, masturbates sometimes.”

What he did do was make me an appointment with our bishop. Who made me feel like a sexual deviant who might, someday, with enough tears and self-recrimination, be made whole again.

I don’t remember very much clearly from that age. But I remember that in such detail. And I remember how I was. How badly I wanted to please God. To be a good priesthood holder. To be valiant. It was all consuming. It WAS my identity. And how utterly I felt like I had failed. And nobody offered comfort. Nobody told me “Hey, this isn’t really a big deal”. They were all grave and somber and it destroyed me.

From that point on every interview I had with any of my bishops in my teenage years included sexually graphic questioning. I was asked if I had masturbated with other boys, touched other boys, participated in oral sex, viewed pornography (including brief descriptions of the types of pornography I may have seen), and much more.

All of this had the net effect of making me feel like a deviant. If I seemed like the kind of person who would be doing those things (why else would Bishops ask me?) then it must be because I just seemed depraved. And I felt like I was the only one struggling with masturbation. All the other kids my age weren’t doing this. It was just me. So even if I abstained for months, if I had one slip up all my former sins returned. It crushed me. Ground me into powder.

All my self confidence went away. I didn’t regain even shreds of it until I was nearly 20. And it took me until my late 30s (and therapy, and leaving the church completely) to get over the idea that I was fundamentally a terrible person.

The thing that makes me angriest is I never questioned that these Bishops were doing the right thing. Because I had been taught they were God’s representatives. They had the priesthood mantle. If anything was wrong it was with me. Me at 12. Made to feel like a pervert for something so natural and ubiquitous to the human experience.

It’s not right. No kids should suffer through that. None of them deserve it.

#326 Ashley B. CS: 1,3,8

I became pregnant as a teen. The father is LDS and made great efforts to not be involved. He sent church members to my home to harass me into giving up my child. I was advised to talk to a Bishop that told me i was unworthy of being a parent. The harassment and abuse i went through by the Bishop and other church members caused more issues than the pregnancy or the choice to keep my child. I gave the LDS Church a second chance 6 years later. I was lead to a office with locks on the doors and no windows. I was advised by the bishop during that time that i was not welcome because I was an unwed mother and not worthy and that my children would need to attend church without me if I wanted assistance from the church.

#325 Craig S. CS: Other: Bishop falls in love

This is an odd story but it took me a while to connect the dots as to why I felt so passionate about signing the petition and wanting to march.

My dad was a Bishop when I was 12. He is an introvert by nature and we suddenly rose to fame and popularity because of my dad. It was a great 3 years but in the end he was released and disfellowshipped for what he did.

There was a Girl who had been caught “fooling around” with another man in our Ward. She was 14 at the time and the Wife caught her and her husband probably just making out I assume. (My dad wouldn’t tell me everything due to confidentiality on his end). My dad had to obviously interview both people and disfellowshiped the Husband in the end.

Couple years go by and my Dad is starting to fall for this same girl. She was flirtatious and “mature” in my dad’s eyes. She paid my dad A LOT of attention and my Dad liked getting it. His marriage to my mom was less then average and they were definitely not soul mates.

Fast Forward and our families become friends. We have Sunday Game night and the two teenage girls (she had a younger sister my age) even came on family vacations with us. My dad said at Church Dances he would always dance with her at least once. A Bishop dancing with some of the YW I suppose isn’t super weird but it is very odd in hindsight.

Anyways my dad and her start falling in love. They pass notes like stupid school kids. My dad even used me as his dumb pigeon boy. On a trip my mom reads a letter my dad forgot to destroy. Busted! Yelling and screaming and blah blah blah. The worst part is my dad wanted to marry this 16 year old girl in the temple!!! (Obviously once she was 18)

My parents almost divorced but stayed together for the kids. 10 years later they finally did divorce. The crazy part is my dad never did anything physically with her. He was emotionally in love with her. He was still disfellowshiped for falling in love with a teenager when he was almost 40.

This was a major black eye on my family. Once your petition got started I shared on my Facebook. My mom was so appalled and she called me an Apostate and thought I was trying to ruin the Church. I asked her if Dad would of fell in love with the 16 year to f he didn’t have closed door one on one interviews with her? She got mad and said I needed to leave that in the past. The next morning she signed the petition and told me that if signing a petition will save families she is all for it.

The power that these men get is sometimes too heavy to bare. They are just human and sometimes very carnal men. We place a huge responsibility on these men and they can effect so many people positive and negatively without even knowing.

My dad still feels it’s a Bishops duty to judge Zion. He does recognize that there should be a lot more training. He said he never asked YM about Masturbating until one 14 year old girl confessed to it. He then asked all YW if they masturbated. I don’t know how many lives he might of hurt.

The point of my story is that we put these men in dangerous situations and in my case it was my own family that got shamed and ruined because my dad was weak. We focus in the actual victims, as we should, but there are way more lives at stake than we realize.

Feel free to edit or rewrite this or just toss it. Your petition has helped me open up with my own family and spark much needed conversation within the Church. Keep up the great work and we will see you in March!

#324 Name Hidden. CS: 1. Other: Sexual Harassment

The following isn’t an experience about a Bishop interview, but an Honor Code Office interview on the BYU-I campus. This is an LDS owned private university. These meetings should be treated the same as the bishop interviews.

About 3 weeks before my graduation at BYU-I, I was called in to the Honor Code Office on campus. A few days prior I had engaged in consensual activities with my husband [boyfriend at the time]. A past roommate took it upon herself to inform the university. Within a matter of hours me and a couple roommates were summoned for an appointment with the Honor Code Office. We each had our own meetings. They were all one-on-one with this male official.

My appointment began with him telling me everything I was being accused of [having sex in school approved housing while being unmarried] and that I would more than likely be kicked out. He then proceeded to ask me about the accusations and told me he was going to investigate everything if I didn’t admit to the accusations. This came out in a very threatening manner which made me uneasy. Because graduation was so close, I debated lying my way through in order to stay. However, as they always take the side of the accuser and my better side wanting to be honest, I decided to tell the truth.

I told him I did engage in sexual activity therefore breaking the honor code policy I had signed in order to attend school. Then he leaned forward with his hands under the table and began asking me questions about my experience. Some of the questions asked were about what positions we had sex in and if we enjoyed it and how I felt afterwards. I was mortified to say the least. I honestly couldn’t believe he asked me questions like this. How could this LDS school official be asking me such invasive questions? All he needed to know was if I broke the policy or not. Not this kind of detail.

I had never heard of questioning like this happening before and would not have gone into that appointment if I did. I did not want to answer any of the questions, but he wasn’t letting me go until I said something so I tried to keep as vague as possible when answering so I could get out of there. Once my meeting was over, one of my roommates had to go talk with him and he was even more disgusting with her. I will not go into details as it is not my story to tell. They were far more intimate and specific than mine.

In both cases we were in the wrong as far as policy being broken, HOWEVER NO ONE has the right to ask questions like we were asked. They were invasive, they were embarrassing, they were INAPPROPRIATE.

Neither bishop nor BYU HC Office personnel should be asking these. Both my roommate and I tried to file a sexual harassment charge and have parents talk with him about his disgusting behavior, but the university wouldn’t do anything and claimed that the man had gone on family vacation the next day and was unavailable. No legal action was taken after that and as far as I know he remained employed. Following the meetings we were both kicked out of school even with graduation just weeks away. To this day, the experience leaves an awful taste in our mouths and are still shocked that it happened. I remember being so humiliated by the experience that I hid it from most people and tried to bury it away. It left me feeling so violated and disgusting. I honestly hope that no one else had to go through any kind if interview with that man as it was and can be traumatic.

#323 Sally T. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7. Other: mis-information, or perhaps a blatant lie used to coerce???

I went through those highly emotional and impactive teen years, in the 70s. This was when our LGBTQ brothers and sisters were still in the closet. A time when much that we now understand about our sexuality was misunderstood and frankly the LGBTQ community was demonized. (I regret that my opinions and likely comments as well; for several decades, were hurtful to the very being of my fellow children of God.)

I had a deep belief in the “truth” claims of the LDS church. I really believed they were getting ‘direct revelation’ from God himself…thus if the president or one of the other GA’s said something, I believed it to be true. (They were on the watchtower so of course had a better view than me). What I’m saying is that I ‘always’ deferred to what ‘the church’ said about things… I didn’t question: and furthermore, if I felt ‘contrary’ to what I heard, or read or thought, I had been trained to ‘trust the brethren’…not myself. So I was constantly trying to conform, to be good enough, to be righteous enough.

Of course basically ALL sexual feelings were “evil,” “sinful,” and “unrighteous” because only within the bonds of heterosexual marriage were they allowed. However my body apparently didn’t get the memo…so my sex drive (in my case, hormones going absolutely boy crazy) naturally, was alive and healthy.

After several talks and object lessons (yes I got the unwrapped stick of gum passed around the room…then someone given the choice of a new wrapped piece of gum or the already handled piece… Talk about a fear and shame based form of manipulation disguised as “teaching?) …Anyway…I was pretty darn pure, but then came the day when I had an orgasm…basically organically…we were literally only kissing…and WOW, Nature did that!…and nature also taught me how to repeat this most fabulous experience.

Enter the guilt trips, the shame, the talks and writings about all of these normal natural feelings being against God. So off I went to “confess” to the bishop because I was also taught that I couldn’t find forgiveness from this “serious sin” that was literally next to murder in seriousness, unless I confessed to my Priesthood leader.

Of course, I was told this man was special, he was a ” judge in Israel” and he was picked by God through direct revelation and further, he could receive direction from God about how I was to gain this ever elusive forgiveness. (So who was I to question that kind of clout?)

So off I went, in fear and trembling, to confess.

I want to interject here, that I had a love/hate relationship with masturbation. (mostly love followed by intense shame… So then hate) on and off (mostly on) through every minute of my single years. (I was again single after being divorced and after being widowed). Many of those Bishop’s were ‘easy going’…I actually think they ALL meant well…but oh the first one…his ignorance caused me decades of fear, shame and guilt. And though the mis-information he gave me is somewhat laughable today… It was ANYTHING but laughable when my innocent, naive mind was only 16 and 17 and 18.

So I went in to confess. I don’t recall what I was to do to fully repent… What I do remember as clear as can be are two things:

FIRST and foremost, was that my inner being was absolutely SCREAMING that this was NOT ok…the questions and discussions being held in this room, alone with a married man; the very nature of these type of ‘worthiness interviews’ made me uneasy to the core of my being. I NOW recognize that this was my Divine Self, that I can ALWAYS trust, doing it’s very best to get me out if these “rooms and interrogations.” But that wasn’t how I interpreted those feelings then. Then I reasoned; if this is God’s one and only true church, and this is God’s servant picked by God through revelation…then any horrible feelings I had were logically because I was such a sinner and the fault MUST be that I was out of line. Ouch ouch ouch! And the self-loathing deepened.

Thankfully I now realize that that sweet, sincere and innocent young girl had fear, shame and guilt thrown at her…and with little life experience, and even less trust in her own feelings and intuition…she was easily manipulated by those tools.

(As an aside…I had no healthy boundaries at the time, and only now, in my late 50’s am finally learning how to tell someone that they have no business asking me questions of a sexual nature! I’ve learned now that healthy, normal humans don’t ask others sexually explicate, probing questions…that information is MY business, and perhaps a partner, a doctor or a therapist if I deem it appropriate.

SECOND, and this is the part that may seem laughable today… But it was ANYTHING but laughable at the time. My bishop warned me that if I didn’t stop this most horrible, sinful behavior…(next to murder!) then I was (A) OFFENDING GOD, (dang, it was difficult to stay between those narrow lines when it seemed so many things made me unclean before the Lord…i.e. Sleeveless shirts, certain drinks, a two piece bathing suit, heck even too much loud laughter, let alone my incredible libido). I was also told that (B) my MEMBERSHIP in His kingdom would be in JEOPARDY. (Is that a great FEAR tactic or what?… I was going to be literally kicked out of God’s kingdom? – which in LDS terms is synonymous with the church… But I’d also lose my own family eternally too…because if ya don’t go to the Celestial you’re basically less than). So that was another huge dose of FEAR, SHAME and GUILT. And (C) I was informed by my bishop, who was a college professor (more knowledgeable than I) and an authority figure that I trusted, (Bishop’s are big deals) he told me in no uncertain words, that if I didn’t stop masturbating, it would TURN ME INTO A LESBIAN! It sounds absurd today, it was anything but absurd at the time, I had no reason NOT to believe him.

I had so much fear and shame that I don’t think I even shared this story with anyone other than one of my sisters, who was my confidant at the time…for decades. Couldn’t even say this had happened to me the fear and shame was of such a magnitude! I don’t know if I ever shared it even with my children’s father, who I was married to for 20 years…temple marriage by the way!

While my story is mild compared to so many others…the point is that too often these UNTRAINED men are NOT accurately informed, (I don’t know if this mis-information was handed down from the leadership of the church, like reparative therapy and many other horrendous pieces of counsel, or if mine was an isolated instance of ignorance being used against the innocent). What I do know is that I carried FEAR, SHAME and GUILT, especially for almost anything of a sexual nature…including AFTER I was married; for several decades. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone!

These were the burdens I carried with negative impact on my life, my marriages and my sex-life for decades…I don’t think I’ve overcome them even to this day.

It is my sincere desire that closed door, one on one interviews stop immediately. Personally I find this to be an unholy, and an impure practice. I know of nothing doctrinal that makes this an essential practice…I do know a ‘tiny’ bit of the damage done behind these closed doors… It can be avoided by putting an end to the practice.

Please protect the children!

#322 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,6,7,8

My nazi-TBM parents never gave me the birds and the bees talk. I was raised in an information vacuum that only included the church and nothing else. I knew nothing about sex and if the subject ever came up in any respect, it was quickly quashed in our household. The “masturbation” word had come up in General Conference and Spencer W. Kimball, Boyd K. Packer or some other GA would drone on and on about it. It was obviously BAD, but I had no fucking idea what it meant. I wondered if maybe it meant touching myself “down there” or rearranging “it” when it needed rearranging? Did it mean scrubbing “it” in the bath? How was I supposed to get clean if I didn’t wash? Why was it so important that the GAs constantly brought it up? I was so confused.

It came time for my pre-Deacon worthiness interview and when the Branch President (dad) asked me if I was masturbating, I hesitated because of my confusion. He probed with more questions and became very agitated and I blurted out “Yes. I do it.” He delayed my ordination for six months and forbade me from taking the sacrament for the same period. Back at home, he whipped my bare back and butt with a green willow that he made me cut myself down at the river. It had to be a good willow, sturdy, flexible and substantial. If it wasn’t good, the beating would be twice as bad. Those were the rules. I made sure it was a good one.

It destroyed me. I was consumed with guilt and shame over something I didn’t even understand. I was such a good obedient son. I tried so hard to be good but it was never enough for the church or my father. I hated myself because apparently I was a lousy son and a terrible Mormon boy. I found a tree in a private place about a mile from the house and rigged it up with a rope. When things got really desperate I would go there and stand with the noose around my neck.

I didn’t step off. (I’m so glad I didn’t step off!) But fuck, I hate the church and I hate my dad for doing that to me. I’m 58 years old now and I will carry this forever. I can’t shed it no matter how hard I try.

It isn’t always safer to have parents in the room. But still, I get really emotional when I read about the work that you are doing, Sam. Thank you.

#321 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,4,7,8,9

I grew up going to the Sugar Land wards of the Houston Texas South Stake. I was going in for my first temple interview to do baptisms for the dead. I was very naive and at the time didn’t know what self pleasure or masturbation were or what sexually active meant. I was interviewed by a man who I knew very well and looked up to, until the day of that interview. The bishop was harsh in tones and explained things that I was not mentally mature enough to process.

I have suffered from depression from a young age due to on going psychological and physical abuse from my step-father. Church was a safe haven from those things until the bishop badgered me about whether or not I was masturbating and if I had done it alone or in a group with other boys or girls. He asked if I looked at or owned pornography(I didn’t know what that meant at the time). The bishop explained in explicit detail what these were when I told him I didn’t know what he meant by these questions. I got my temporary recommend and went home with my mom. I felt awful and had the feeling I had done something wrong! I have never felt comfortable in a Bishop’s office since that day! I had many good bishops who just asked if I obeyed the law of chastity but that first one scared me. I felt terrible about myself. I went home and locked myself in my room and sat on my bed numb. I wanted to cry but I couldn’t. I had thoughts of suicide and even tried to overdose on my ADHD medicine to end my life! I failed, obviously! Went to a mental hospital for about a year and out patient treatment for another.

I was never able to get close to a woman romantically. My priesthood advancement interviews were also highly focused on sexual questions. I was asked if I had had homosexual relationships and if I had ever had sex with another man. Being still very naive and having had previous bad experience with these questions I said no not even knowing what the bishop meant by these questions or why he would ask them. However, I felt dirty, like I had been cleaning a dumpster! My mom and stepdad were no help completely busy with my five other siblings. I attempted to cut my wrists to kill myself but I ended up with a bad scar and a bad lie about a accident carving a stick and the knife slipped.

I started taking acid to deal with my depression that was brought on by the allegations that I was gay by the bishop and my peers. I felt shame about my body and started cutting myself because I was ashamed of my body. I developed a fear of the closed door interviews.

I finally left the church after 32 years of being a member since birth. I officially withdrew my name from the records of the church after the Leaders of the church denied baptism to children of same-sex couples. I urge the leaders of the church to stop these closed door interviews with children. It causes harm and no good comes from them! I cannot see how these interviews are in-line with the teachings of Christ.

#320 Cheryl N. CS: 1,2,3,4,5,7

You may use my name, I resigned from the Church a couple years ago and I am not afraid of the Church discipline or threats anymore. ” A current active bishop raped my 12-year-old daughter.

In the middle of a night at 3:30 am she came to me hysterical and told me what happened. I believed her. I called the Bishop the next day and asked to meet him in his office. His words in response to me, I remember exactly “Why, I haven’t done anything wrong?”

Have you ever asked a Bishop for an appointment and heard him respond like that? I had told him nothing about what the appointment was about. Weird response. I met with him and started asking him questions.  He became nervous and then afraid. When I told him I knew all about it, he broke down and sobbed and admitted it. I told him to tell his wife and stake president that night as I was calling them the next day. I also said that he needed to meet with my daughter’s therapist and validate her experience and pay for it.

He never paid a dime but he did meet with her. As a court-mandated reporter, she contacts the County he lived in and got his Foster Parent license pulled quickly. He only had girls in his home over the years. I called his wife I still remember her words “I know what he does and it isn’t so bad”!!! I called his Stake President and his words were “Haven’t you ever done anything wrong? How about cheat on your taxes….”

As a lawyer he started interrogating me, now I know it was to try to find dirt on me but there was none to be found. Then he said if I told anyone or tried to sue the Bishop or Stake President he would see to it I was excommunicated. I was a young TBM single mother at the time and my energy needed to be spent on healing my daughter and I was afraid of that lawyer SP. He just covered it up, no one ever knew about in that ward or stake.  He stayed the Bishop a few more years. He was given no Church discipline of any kind. That was quite a while ago and that man died when he was about 65. I had gone to my own Bishop and others in my ward about it and was told nothing could be done it was in the hands of that SP. A woman in the Church like me at the time or the girl harmed had no place to go with this info in the Church.  There were no women leaders that had a voice to stop it. I’ve asked several times over the years if the Church cared about stopping cover up situations like this, “Why don’t they have a woman or a woman led committee to review these threats and cover-ups that girls could feel they could talk too other than intimidating male leaders who may also be lawyers trained in interrogation?”

#319 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,4,6,7

One Sunday, when I was in Beehives, all the girls were brought together to watch a film called “Morality For Youth” (1982). The video used a group of teens on a river rafting trip as a metaphor for our lives being full of dangers that we had to protect ourselves from. Specifically, the movie warned us of dangers of a sexual nature. Quotes from the prophet, Spencer W. Kimball warned us against necking and petting, and masturbation.

I remember that I had figured out masturbation somewhere around the age of 8, and other than understanding it was meant to be private, had no idea that I was doing anything wrong. When the prophet said that it would lead to “the more serious sins of exhibitionism and the gross sin of homosexuality”, I was panicked.

Not long after the video, we all underwent Bishop’s interviews. I can’t say now whether this was part of the process instigated by the video or if it was just time to get annual teen interviews over with again, but I found myself in the bishop’s office. He ran down the questions, specifically asking about necking, petting, and masturbation. I had to admit everything. I felt terrible. How could God forgive me?

He was certainly surprised. I was maybe 13 or 14 years old. As an adult, I have to wonder if he had many girls of that age admit to masturbation. Maybe it was something he only expected from the boys. In any case, he scolded me severely, telling me I should be ashamed of myself. I sat in silent, humiliated tears.

Afterwards, I would struggle to be good, but would inevitably slip up. I never admitted to doing it again, even though I was asked at nearly every interview. The humiliation was just too terrible. Of course, knowing I was lying to the bishop made it even worse. I was a terrible person. God may never forgive me. I tried to talk to God about it directly, but I never felt like I was really doing the right thing. The only real way to be forgiven was to go confess. Sometimes, I would try to work up the courage to tell the truth, but I would always chicken out at the end, lie quietly to the Bishop and continue feeling miserable and worthless.

As I got older and started dating boys, there were more pointed questions about necking and petting. I had two Bishops as a teenager and both questioned my purity because I dated non-Mormon boys. (I grew up away from Utah. There weren’t many Mormon boys to choose from.) We really didn’t do much other than kiss and touch over clothes, but because of my guilt over occasional masturbation (Remember, every time you slip up, all your previous sins are added back as though you never repented!) I felt like a harlot.

That guilt drove me to marry the first Mormon boy who looked my way after high school, and kept me in an emotionally and sexually abusive marriage for years because I didn’t deserve anything better.

#318 Name Hidden. CS: 1,3,7

I had recently moved out of state to attend college when I was caught up in a sexual situation with a man in my dorm room. I performed oral sex on him and there were heavy petting and all of that stuff. After it happened I immediately was overcome with guilt. I made an appointment with my bishop to resolve the issue. What I did not expect were the sexually explicit questions I would be asked. He wanted to know if the man had ejaculated, whether he was going on a mission, whether I orgasmed or not, etc. I got the sense that he was enjoying this conversation. He pressed for more and more details, including how undressed I got and what parts of my body the boy has seen (???) I didn’t understand why he was so concerned with the boy when I was confessing MY sin and seeking reconciliation. He wanted me to tell the name of the boy because I mentioned that he was planning on going on a mission. I didn’t see how this was relevant. We were talking about me.

It was a 45-minute meeting of pure uncomfortable scrutiny. I told him every gritty detail of the encounter because he kept pressing for more information. After the entire ordeal, he told me to not take the sacrament for 3 weeks and to pray about it. Then he again asked me to reveal the boy whom I was involved with so he could speak to his bishop. Again, this had nothing to do with me or my salvation. He was more concerned about getting that boy on a mission.

Since this incident, I have left the church. This was one of many things that made my decision. Asking sexually explicit questions while alone in a room is not the way to help someone heal. It is wildly inappropriate and I cannot imagine a teenager being asked these same questions.

#317 Name Hidden. CS: 1,3,5,7

It was the late 80’s and I was about 4 years old. My mom was driving with only me in the car and I recognized that we were near the bishop’s house, as he babysat us quite frequently. I asked, excitedly, if we were going there and she said no and asked what we do there that’s so fun. I simply replied, “He touches my pee pee.” My parents then began asking my siblings about what I said (I was the youngest) and my parents learned that our bishop had molested or attempted to molest me as well as all of my brothers.

I never got a chance to make it to the bishop’s interview, I had already been molested. Needless to say growing up in the church was painful. I had so many confusing sexual thoughts and desires from such a young age but believed that those thoughts were evil and put there by the Satan. They weren’t. They were put there by my very first bishop. This bishop is in good standing with the church and is a CURRENT member.

#316 Name Hidden. CS: 1,3,6

Whenever I was in a romantic relationship in high school and college, I dreaded worthiness interviews. I hated being asked by the bishop if I was worthy and feeling compelled to confess that I had done things that were inappropriate. Looking back on it now, 20+ years later, I want to laugh and rage at the same time about what I thought was inappropriate. Such a terribly rigid, skewed sense of sexuality and romance. The relationships I had were normal and generally very chaste. But I felt compelled to confess everything. I knew that I would be questioned in detail, hence the dread. This happened with three separate bishops.

I do believe it pained the bishops to ask me. Is it necessary to put them through this? I could tell by their facial expression, tone of voice, and body language they were very uncomfortable. I wasn’t comfortable either, I was a minor, and I should not have been subject to those questions. But a bishop is an authority figure and I never considered that I could refuse the questions – I never even considered not confessing. I should not have been taught to accept that kind of questioning! I should not have been taught that the bishop is a perfect, wonderful, god-inspired man at all times.

My experience with sex has only been within marriage. It has been terribly hampered by the fear and guilt that was heavily programmed into me as a young adult in the church. I resent the fact that the first five years of my marriage were so fraught. That is not fair. Those were five years spent overcoming what I had learned (say no! Avoid! Shut it down.), when they should have been five years of beautiful intimacy with my husband. I don’t believe Heavenly Father wanted that for me. Or my husband. The consequences of these interviews speak to the fact that this is a hurtful, destructive practice. Please stop.

#315 Name Hidden. CS: 1,3,5,6,7,9,10

My story began growing up not only being molested by an older neighbor, but also in a house full of siblings who had all learned throughout their childhood how to masturbate with themselves and with each other. It was a sickness that slowly trickling down to every child born into the household. I was the youngest. I have no idea when it began with me but my first vivid memory was at six-ish years old. I was a bed wetter and running to the linen closet to get some clean sheets. I couldn’t find a shirt and covered my chest with my hands while I quickly rushed to find clean bedding. My brothers room was next to the closet and I remember being whistled at by several of them while fumbling around until I made it safely back to my room. This was normal and I never really knew any better until I became older. But at his point, it was too late. I grew up with an uncontrollable masturbation problem. I grew up enjoying it whether it was by myself or as a mutual agreement with a sibling. We were all tainted from birth and never understood any better, only that we had to hide it from everyone else. I grew up not knowing I could say no, not always wanting to say no.

In fifth grade, I finally told my mom about one of my brothers. She talked with our bishop, who was also a family counselor, and eventually my brother was sent away for a few years. But it didn’t stop with my other siblings. Shortly after this, I proceeded with my first bishop interview for my first temple recommend. The same bishop who I had gone through childhood therapy with. When I mentioned what I had done throughout my childhood, he quickly told me it was not my fault and that I didn’t need to mention that in future interviews. That made me feel good, so I didn’t think I had to tell him it was still going on with other siblings. Although he was also my family therapist during this time, he never counseled with me in ways to control my behavior, so I never told him it was still an issue. I was never asked either. His lack of helping me overcome this addiction at a young age set me up for some major interviews with future bishops who would never be able to understand my childhood. Who would never understand that I was addicted to masturbation and that I never knew how to say no to anyone, ever. Bishops who would never understand why I was promiscuous nor give me the proper guidance to help myself, to protect my self worth.

So fast forward through obvious youth interviews, multiple disciplinary actions and finally adulthood. A lifetime of self guilt and shame for my inability to control my own sexuality. I was temple worthy one time and spent the rest of my youth and single adult years on some form of disciplinary council. You see, bishops don’t care WHY you do this, only that it has to stop. But how do you stop an addiction you’ve never learned to control? Just stop praying in public and stop taking the sacrament, the two things that every church member has a privilege of participating in. Ordinances that are part of repentance and should never be part of the discipline. How do you become closer to the spirit if you can’t participate in the two most important aspects of attending church?

I got pregnant at 19 and knew I had to get married to someone I didn’t love. One more baby later and we were divorced in less than two years of marriage. Several years later, I found myself in the same situation. I had been going to LDS Social Services from my struggles as a single mother of two, so naturally they pushed me into adoption and quickly found a temple worthy family who my child could be sealed to. Forget about the two children I already had that couldn’t be sealed to me, right? Apparently they didn’t matter to the church, only the welfare of this unborn child. So instead of adoption, I married him, resulting in six years of hell. You see, this man I didn’t want to marry, this man I had prayed about countless times and received an adamant NO every time, he had to become my husband in order for me to keep my child. And then he molested them. The one thing I tried to prevent my children from ever going through, and it happened by the man I didn’t want to marry. The man I should not have married, but the teachings I grew up with, confirmed by both my LDS counselor and bishop, was that you marry or give your baby up for adoption. Our lives would still be hard if I kept my baby and didn’t marry him and went against the counsel of my church leaders, but the sexual abuse, physical abuse and mental abuse we all endured during this unwanted marriage would not have been a factor in my children’s lives. That could have been avoided. My prayers about marriage were clearly answered, but I guess that doesn’t matter when it comes to pregnancy outside of wedlock in the eyes of a bishop.

During and after my divorce, I relied on church assistance to help me get through on my own, to help my family regain their composure and learn to properly heal. I quit working for a year to help save the lives of my children, all of whom had attempted suicide. During this time, my bishops counselor, also a very close family friend of my parents and myself, told me I could no longer get any assistance and cut me off 100%. No warning, no food, no support, effective immediately. I finally had the nerve to leave my husband, knowing it would be a financial challenge among everything else, and they wouldn’t even support me long enough to get me through the most challenging point of mine and my children’s lives.

That was my breaking point and I decided once and for all that I could not keep listening to the guidance of my bishopric and it was time to do this on my own. I attended church one last time and couldn’t wait to get out of there. I was done. Nobody really understood why, but I knew without a doubt that my children would never endure misguidance simply because they grew up thinking the bishopric and church leaders were the law. They would not have to discuss their sexuality behind closed doors with a tainted bishopric, instead they would seek advice from me, their mother. I would parent them for the first time without the contradicting influence of my bishopric. My children would come to me, not a strange leader, when they became sexually active. They would be put on birth control or given the proper tools to ensure protection, not to encourage promiscuity, but to prevent. To be realistic of their childhood fears and understand the reality of the physical body.

I remarried again, but for the first time in my life, it was our decision to make with no guilt and no preconditioned reasoning except pure respect and love for each other. Our example of marriage is what our children will now grow up expecting in their own relationships. Our marriage was a choice, not a decision.

#314 Name Hidden. CS: 1,3,4,6

My sister was asked by her bishop if she masturbated before she was old enough to know what the word meant. Her husband (who is not LDS) has been so horrified by this story he will NEVER set foot in the church or allow his kids to be baptized. I was a student at BYU when I confessed to my bishop that I had made out with a boyfriend (looking back it was harmless but I had been taught to confess everything). My bishop wanted to know what body parts had been involved, whether contact had been made over or under clothing, and if I had experienced an orgasm. This type of conversation between a 19 year old girl and a 40-something-man is inappropriate on every level.

#313 Name Hidden. CS: Other: I feel like my issues are not directly related to the sexual aspect of worthiness interviews, so I didn’t check anything in this list.

I remember the first time I was asked if I masturbated.

When I was about 15 years old, I was very depressed. My bishop was a neighbor and family friend, so I called him and asked if we could set up an appointment to talk. I didn’t tell my parents I was doing this, and honestly I was scared even to call my bishop, but I felt I needed help and that he was someone I could turn to.

We met in his basement. I told him why I’d come, that it was because I was struggling with feelings of self-loathing: “I hate myself.” In response, the first thing he asked me was if I masturbated. I was shocked – I didn’t even know what masturbation was, but I was pretty sure it was something embarrassing. “No!” I responded. And the conversation moved on.

I’m certain I was asked if I masturbated in future bishop’s interviews, with multiple bishops, but honestly I don’t remember specifics. I became accustomed to it; I trusted my leaders wouldn’t ask anything they shouldn’t. And because I didn’t have any masturbation or sexual activity to report as a teenager and young adult, fortunately I was spared the discomfort of further graphic conversations.

But what if my answer had been yes – as it would be for many if not most adolescents? I shudder at the thought that I could have been led to believe that my self-loathing was my own fault, related to natural expressions of human sexuality.

The most disturbing thing to me is not actually that I was asked inappropriate questions. It’s that I was actively seeking help for real, persistent mental health issues (depression and anxiety), but my issues were approached through a framework of sin and purity. I was instructed to deal with my issues through prayer, scripture study, and righteous living — never directed to appropriate resources. I didn’t get a diagnosis or help from a trained mental health professional until well into adulthood (in my late 20’s).

My heart aches for the thousands (at least) of youth who are not receiving mental health support that they need and furthermore, are being made to feel that their human sexuality is shameful and wrong.

#312 Benjamin. CS: 1,4

When I was a teen, I attended EFY (Especially For Youth) church camps, which are commonly attended by Mormon kids hosted on church-owned university campuses. One year, when I was sixteen years-old, on the first day of the program one of our male youth counselors informed everyone in his group, that sometime before the week’s camp activities ended, he wanted a sit-down interview with each young man. I thought it was odd and inappropriate.

During the week I kept putting off his strange request. This meeting seemed unnecessary and intrusive, and frankly I just didn’t want to. Throughout the week each boy in our group meet with him, one-on-one. I never initiated the meeting and he’d bring it up during the week, mentioning the kids by name until everyone had meet with him.

On the last day, he informed us he’d be coming by our dorm that night to meet with the two kids who had failed to meet with him during the week, me and one other participant. That night, long after dinner, outside of regular program hours he came to our dorm and met with each of us individually. Taking me alone into a poorly lighted room, and closed the door. He pulled up two chairs and we sat across from each other, knee to knee, and he proceeded with his interview.

This “interview” consisted of the types of worthiness-style questions all Mormons are accustomed to being asked by their leaders. The interview started with the basic standard questions I had been conditioned to answer. I only obliged because he was so persistent, honestly I just wanted it to be over. The pressure he was placing on me, felt he was not going to back off until I gave in. I went through the motions and answered his questions as vaguely as I could to end the interview as soon as possible. As he continued his questions, they became more specific and more graphic.

He asked me if I had ever masturbated, I lied and said no. I knew this college kid, had zero priesthood authority over me. I felt it was out of his stewardship to ask me such invasive questions, that I felt compelled to protect myself by lying. He asked me again, I responded the same. He seemed annoyed, but persisted with his next question. He asked if I had ever had homosexual thoughts/feelings. I responded that I had not. Again, he seemed irritated at my response. He repeated the question, and I became extremely uncomfortable. He then grilled me about sexuality, about “worthiness” and “purity”. The interview ended shortly after that. The counselor offered a closing prayer, stood up, pulled me into a hug and excused me from the room.

His interview and lecture left me feeling both guilty and confused. I had only agreed to the interview in the first place, because I had been conditioned for years, that it was normal for an adult male to take people (youth & adults) behind closed doors and ask intrusive questions about their personal lives. Before the Protect the Children Project, I hadn’t considered sharing this personal story. Now however, I think it is important to question the safety of LDS youth at EFY & other church camps.

I consider myself lucky that this situation ended where it did. Interviews groom members of the church for inappropriate interactions with adults, and place people in vulnerable situations. These inappropriate interviews need to stop! Religious leaders need to avoid asking sexually explicit questions to their congregation. Second, leaders should always offer to have a second adult in the room, no matter the age of the person interviewed. What price are we willing to pay to protect our children?

#311 Name Hidden. CS: 1,3,6,7

When I was 16, I started dating a boy in my ward. I fell hard and fast, and really believed I was in love with him. 3 months into our relationship, he started pushing the envelope sexually. He kept pushing me and pushing me to have sex. One day, he picked me up from school and we went to his house. He started touching me in a way that I didn’t want him to. I tried to pull back several times, but he kept pushing me, telling me he loved me and wanted to marry me in the future. When he started taking off my clothes, I told him “no” several times. I told him I wanted him to go on a mission. I begged him to take me to the temple first. He kept going. And when he was raping me, I just felt horrible, crying silently. When he was done, he pulled away and sat on the edge of his bed, and wouldn’t even look at me. I left and cried for 4 days, 4 days in which he said nothing, ignored me completely. That Sunday, I went to church and after, he pulled me aside and said he felt horrible. He said we needed to go to the bishop. I agreed.

We made an appointment and went to see the bishop. I expected my boyfriend to take responsibility, to apologize to me and God and to promise nothing like that would ever happen again. I expected him to still go on a mission and take me to the temple after. But no. He spoke while I sat there, covered in shame. He made it seem like it was my fault. Like he was just a guy and I tempted him and I pushed him to have sex. And as a young woman, with all the lessons I’d ever been taught about women being responsible for saying no, women being the ones who “tempt” men with impure thoughts, women being responsible for lust, I felt completely responsible.

Sadly, the bishop took that view too. He said he wanted to meet with me every week. He took me out of the Laurel presidency, he forbade me to play the piano or pray in church, he told me I couldn’t sing with the ward choir and that I would not be allowed to take the sacrament or go to church dances or even joint mutual activities. He also told me that me and my boyfriend had to break up and never be in the same room without our parents there too. And the worst part, he told me that as part of my “repentance “, I had to tell my parents that I was no longer a virgin and that he would be instructing them on how to “protect me from sexual sin” in the future. I told them and my relationship with them was forever ruined. The bishops “protection” included grounding me from my friends, not allowing me to date at all, watching me constantly, not allowing me to watch any movies with romance themes and a whole other list of rules and conditions. He also told the young woman’s leaders what had happened, the president was the mother of my best friend since I was 3. So even my friends were aware of what happened.

The weekly meetings with my bishop were hell. On our 3rd one, he asked if I was pregnant. I had gotten my period that week, and I was forced to tell my bishop about it and the amount and consistency, to make sure it was a real period. He told me that he felt led to give me a pregnancy test and made me go to the bathroom to take it. It was humiliating, but thankfully negative. 3 weeks after that, my now ex-boyfriend was back to passing the sacrament. I was so furious. I went to my meeting with the bishop, and he told me that he didn’t want my ex to be excluded from serving a mission. So I asked “well what about me? What if I wanted to serve a mission?” He looked at me and said “I’m sorry, but some temporary decisions have permanent consequences. You will never be able to serve a mission, and if you don’t fully repent and change your attitude, you won’t be able to get married in the temple”.

I was emotionally done at that point, but I still went in for my weekly torture for another 4 months. I met someone and started dating him behind my parents back. At that point, I told my parents that I couldn’t take it, I didn’t want to be Mormon anymore. They told me to either break up with the guy or move out. So I moved out. My parents and I didn’t really speak for 4 years. When I met my now husband (a never Mormon), the emotional damage was so great that I honestly didn’t believe he loved me because how could anyone who loved me want to have sex with me before we were married. But my self esteem was so low, I thought it was all I deserved. Even after we dated, moved in together, got engaged and got married, I still didn’t believe he really honestly loved me. It wasn’t til our first daughter was born that I began to really accept that he loved me wholly and completely.

When I was 16, I didn’t even know what rape was. It wasn’t til I was 25 that I could call what happened to me “rape”. But it was. I said no. I said no several times. And the fact that we were dating and in love didn’t change the fact that what happened in his bedroom that day was rape. I got a letter from him while he was on his mission, telling me that both he and God forgave me for what happened. He is now married in the temple, I am sure he has children. But he is a rapist. And I was a victim. The bishop passed away 3 years ago, and I went to his funeral. As awful as he was, I can honestly say I forgive him, and in a weird way, I owe him my whole amazing, non-Mormon life. It’s thanks to him that I left, and I have an amazing life because of it. I have married the most amazing man in the world, who is wonderful, forgiving, loving and patient, and I never would have dated, let alone married him, if I had been stuck where I was. We have 2 beautiful kids, who have never been in a Mormon church but who are raised with unconditional love and no sexual shame.

My life turned out pretty awesome. But I’m lucky. I was suicidal for months. My self worth was damaged. I had to go to months of therapy to forgive the bishop, accept my husband’s love and to get a relationship back with my parents. These interviews and the sexual shame has got to stop. I would love to meet one person who it really has helped. It hurts so many. I pray this movement is the beginning.

#310 Melissa G. CS: 1,4,7,8,9. Other: Shame after a rape

I was raped when I was 17 by the Stake President’s 22 year old RM son. I was terrified to say anything to anyone because I was afraid I would be punished. When I finally told my parents, they helped me report it to the police, the police told me they didn’t believe me and that I was probably just a Mormon girl who had sex and now regrets it. They said they would have to go over to the guys house and talk to him but not to expect anything to come from it. I was suicidal, and extremely depressed and decided I would go see my bishop and see if he could give me any council to make me feel better. I knew it wasn’t my fault and I needed an adult to tell me the same.

When I stepped into his office he told me that the stake president had already called and informed him of the situation and had given him instructions on how my punishment should go. The bishop told me that although what the guy did to me was wrong, it was ultimately my fault and I needed to go through the repentance process. I was released from my laurel presidency calling, I was told I could not pray in public and that I couldn’t take sacrament, and that EVERYTHING that was said in these meetings were between me, the bishop and God. I was told explicitly that I should not tell my parents anything. I was also told to read the Miracle of Forgiveness and report to the bishop each Sunday. In those meetings each and every single week, I was asked what positions I was in when he raped me. I was asked what he inserted and where. I was asked if I felt pleasure. I was asked if I climaxed, if he climaxed, if I wanted it to happen. I was asked how scared I was. I was asked how angry he was. I was asked what kind of clothing I was wearing. I was asked what was taken off, in what order. I was asked if there was oral, or anal. I was asked so many questions.

I had to go see the bishop for 1 whole year. For 52 Sunday’s I sat in my bishops office while he asked me these questions. For 52 Sunday’s I was forbidden to tell my parents anything. For 52 weeks I had to endure stares and gossip about why I couldn’t pray or take the sacrament, both at church and at seminary. For 52 Sundays I had to also listen while being told how my rapist was doing. The bishop said it was to help me see that reporting a rape could mess up someones life. I was told a month into the forgiveness process that he was admitted into BYU. At 3 months, I was told that he was engaged. At 6 months I was told he was married. at 11 months I was told he was going to have a child.

The last Sunday I spent with the bishop he told me he didn’t think this process was working for me. He told me that he didn’t feel like I was being humble or sincere in asking for forgiveness. He told me I needed to go to the church’s Addiction and Recovery program to be fully forgiven. I finally broke, I told him no and that I wouldn’t be coming in again. He told me that I would never be forgiven if I left. He told me that I would be going to outer darkness. I left anyway because I couldn’t sit and listen to it anymore.

I spent 52 weeks being suicidal and depressed. It took 5 years of self loathing and hatred for myself to finally start to heal. It took a year of therapy telling me it wasn’t my fault and that the bishop was in the wrong. It took me 9 years before I could tell my parents what happened. It has been 11 years since I was raped, 11 years since I was put through the torture of meeting with my bishop. 11 years of learning to be okay. It has been 11 years, I will always remember what happened to me, every excruciatingly painful detail of my rape. But it will always be remembered with how disgusting the bishop had been in his treatment of me. They are intertwined. I signed this petition to get the word out. That interviews where an adult and child are alone are not okay in any circumstance. These interviews need to end. Now.

#309 Tosh K. CS: Other: I’m a gay man that was spiritually compelled to tell my leaders that I had sinned.

On my own volition and guilty feelings, I was compelled to tell my ecclesiastical leaders that I was gay and had been having relations at a park at the west end of 500 south in Provo. I had been a stellar student and believed with my soul that the church was true. I needed to tell my leaders what I had done. I went to a meeting with my BYU ward. Both counselors were still undergraduates at the Y. There was a scribe writing down everything I said. The questions could’ve stopped at: Did you have relations with men at this park? Which I would have answered yes, and be prepared to accept the consequences. I truly felt I needed a period of repentance in order to atone for what I had experienced. My bishop wanted to know if the transgression was oral or anal: as if it made some sort of difference. He then asked amongst fellow undergraduates if I had swallowed the semen, to which I answered no. He asked me if I enjoyed anal sex (all-the-while a scribe was jotting notes). This is my biggest fear: do they have physically written records of my admissions on file? I, on my own accord left the university. I left angry and bitter. It’s also why I haven’t had my name removed. It wouldn’t surprise me to have the church uncover these admissions to my family in the case I tried to separate myself from the church. Is that possible?

#308 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7,8

Local church leaders conduct worthiness interviews with their members, even the children. Every child in a Mormon congregation will have at least one interview with the presiding member of their congregation (Bishop or branch president) at age 7-8, and several more from the age of 11 to 18 prior to temple attendance or full-time missionary work, or for other reasons. These interviews continue into adulthood as “temple recommend interviews” and, for students at Church Universities and Colleges, their are additional “ecclesiastical endorsement” interviews. The practice consists of having unsupervised 1-on-1 meetings with a local man believed to be chosen by and called of God to have stewardship over them, meaning he, because of his priesthood calling, can have the Lord’s will concerning them revealed to him, called revelation, and encourage or command them to act on it or obey direction.

Considering the predatory and sex-obsessed characters that founded and have led the religion, I wouldn’t be surprised if, from the beginning, abusive and predatory men have used these worthiness interviews as cover, justification, and opportunity for shaming, controlling, grooming, and abusing children and other members. When you grow up believing a church leader can and will ask you anything and that you should answer truthfully under threat of eternal torment, you don’t think much of it when it’s happening to your or another’s children. I don’t know for certain, but I believe that more Mormon children are born than are converted, most often to Mormon-born parents. There’s a generations-old practice of blindly sending children alone behind closed doors with men in church leadership positions. This is the perfect storm for children to be abused, for damaging ideas about self, masturbation, sexuality, sin, and guilt to be taught as gospel and propagated, and for criminals to remain hidden.

I have suffered shame, and feelings of guilt, worthlessness, weakness, and dread. I thought I had poor moral character, lacked any fortitude, and had resigned myself to a life plagued with hidden shame and an eternity of anguish and regret, all as a teenage boy, over my natural sex drive (the Book of Mormon states that “the natural man is an enemy to God”), for masturbating, and for being too ashamed of myself to confess — lying in interviews about whether I had “sinned.”

Reading the stories of others makes me realize I may have dodged actual abuse because I felt too ashamed to confess to sexual thoughts and “self-abuse.” Would that I had been taught as a child to respect my body and self as my own, and to appreciate my nature as normal, natural, important, even as something to be honored, instead of hated, feared, controlled, and overcome.

Even as a young adult, both as a full-time missionary and a student at a church college, I, was brainwashed to believe that I was accountable to another adult, a leader, for my personal actions and private thoughts. Because it had always been this way, I didn’t understand the abusive dynamic of the leader-member relationship until after I left the church. And only recently, because of this movement, have I even considered the dangers of the practice of unsupervised worthiness interviews with regard to children and teenagers. I should never have been asked by an adult, especially as a minor, if I had masturbated or had sexual thoughts. Nevertheless, I was, and it is common among Mormons.

Mormon leaders have a history of sexual abuse and impropriety, a history of polygamy and child marriages. Mormons trust their leaders and make a practice of sustaining them, meaning “that [members] stand behind them, pray for them, accept assignments and callings from them, hearken to their counsel, and refrain from criticizing them.” Any and all writings critical of the Church, it’s leaders, or it’s practices are considered “Anti-Mormon literature,” a danger to be feared and avoided, not read. These stories, stories of members and former members, are “anti-Mormon” literature.

There is a good chance most Mormons won’t read these “anti-Mormon” stories. Mormon children are at risk of abuse. The combination of reverence for leaders, the practice of conducting unsupervised worthiness interviews, and the reported overtly sexual and probing nature of these interviews conducted alone with children should be cause for great concern. I join with others in calling for the complete cessation of unsupervised meetings with children and church leaders. A parent should be present if their child is interviewed, and church leaders should never be first to ask questions or even mention anything sexual in nature when speaking with a child.

#307 Chris M. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7,8

“’You asked me once,’ said O’Brien, ‘what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.’” -1984 by George Orwell. Those words hit me to my core when I read 1984 in my senior year of high school. Suddenly, I knew what I could call the bishop’s office it was my Room 101. I was the oldest of my age group and with a sudden drop in missionaries in a Los Angeles ward, my bishop decided to double down his effort on me.

I would be called into the bishop’s office on an almost monthly basis, but really it was whenever he laid his eyes on me. My church building had circular hallways. I lived in such a panic of running into him that I would only walk on one side of the building, making sure to be as far away from his office as possible. That didn’t matter, he would pull me out of Sunday school/priesthood, make me come in after church, or pull me out of youth activities. Nowhere was safe. If I crossed him in the hallway he would throw his hand to the wall blocking my path and then grab my shoulder. I would freeze every time because there was nothing that I could do. I was helpless. I would be questioned in hallways with people around me and no one would stop him. (Even 14 years later to this day I cannot tolerate someone touching my back or shoulders.) In his office, which is secured behind two doors with a white noise machine, I would endure hour long interrogations always being the same.

Bishop: “Do you follow the law of chastity?”

Me: “Yes.”

Bishop: “Do you know what that means?”

Me: “Yes.”

Bishop: “Describe to me what the law of chastity is.”

Me: “Well it’s remaining abstinent, not having sex, and masturbation.”

Bishop: “Do you know what masturbation is?

Me: “I guess, it’s touching yourself.”

Bishop: “Do you masterbate?”

Me: “No.”

Bishop: *stares at me*

Bishop: “Do you know what petting/heavy petting is?

Me: “Not really.”

Bishop: “It’s when you touch someone under or above their clothing. Do you do any form of petting?” Me: “No.”

It’s no wonder that I dealt with depression for a close to 14 years where I would struggle every morning with the strong desire to slam my car into the center divide on the freeway. I still have nightmares even though I haven’t stepped into a church building in years. I have panic attacks when someone shuts a door behind me trapping me in a room against my will. These are things I still deal with and I hate every second of it.

#306 Name Hidden. CS: 1

As an older teen I had sex with my boyfriend, J. I went to my bishop and confessed. The bishop asked for J’s name and ward, which I gave him. The branch president of J’s singles ward called him in for an interview where he asked J for details about what had happened. According to J, he asked what positions we had been in, what I looked like naked, what kind of sounds I made, and if I let J come inside me. J finally had enough, refused to answer any more questions and left the room. J went to the Stake President and complained about the questions he was asked. The stake president told him it would be taken care of. Two weeks later, J received a letter telling him he had been excommunicated. No court of love, no notice. I guess that was one way to keep the problem quiet.

#305 Michael K. CS: 1,2,4,6,7

During one of my earliest worthiness interviews as an adolescent, the interviewer asked if I masturbated. I needed a definition because I hadn’t experienced it yet. Then I was asked, “Have you ever tried to have sex with an animal?” (I don’t remember if they said bestiality first and then had to define it when I had no clue what they were talking about.) And I’ll be honest here, that idea never crossed my mind until that moment. I was pretty shocked, but said no, of course.

And I was asked this question many times growing up. I accepted it as a pretty normal thing.

I’d forgotten about it until now, but now I know that it’s not normal, and it’s not okay. I shouldn’t have been taught about what masturbation and bestiality are behind a closed door with an adult man with no professional training. And I shouldn’t have been groomed to think that these were normal and appropriate conversations.

#304 Name Hidden. CS: 1

Shortly before my daughter‘s 13th birthday, she came downstairs and found me in the kitchen making dinner. She had a horrified look on her face as she handed me her journal that have been bookmarked to a particular page. She slid it on the counter over towards me, burst into tears and almost collapsed on the floor. I scooped her into my arms and told her that no matter what she was telling me, I loved her unconditionally.

She said she couldn’t stand there and watch while I read. She ran to her bedroom and close the door. Trembling a little bit, I opened her journal and began to read. She wrote of horrified feelings and a total lack of self-worth because she had a problem with “touching herself”. She wrote that she lied to the bishop when he asked her about it in her most recent interview but that she knew she needed to go back in and confess this to him but she just didn’t think she could.

It was there in my kitchen that I realized almost instantly that this fundamental practice of untrained, grown men (this particular bishop was a dentist) having discussions about sexuality with children was wrong on so many levels. I literally became nauseous. I ran to my daughter’s room and held her tightly in my arms as she sobbed and sobbed. I told her there would be zero discussions with any church leaders and furthermore, she had done absolutely nothing wrong!

We proceeded to have a lengthy discussion about human sexuality and I told her she would never be speaking with a church leader behind closed doors again. She then told me how much she hated her very first interview when she was 12. At that time, the bishop asked her if she kept the law of chastity. She wasn’t familiar with that term so she asked what it was and proceeded to get a lengthy explanation that made her incredibly uncomfortable.

I struggled for weeks. As a parent, how could I have ever thought this was OK? Even if the church never changes its policies, my children will never be behind closed doors with the bishop again. Period. I hope and pray other parents take matters into their own hands as well. I find it incredibly ironic that there are safeguards galore in place in many church policies about men not being allowed to be alone with a single female. I wasn’t even allowed to teach a primary class with another man who wasn’t my husband. Men and missionaries aren’t allowed to visit single women behind closed doors. Ludicrous. Sure wish I could be there in March. Best wishes and keep up the great work, Sam & company.

#303 Drew B. CS: 1,8

My branch president said, “You can’t think gay thoughts, they will lead to going to hell.”

I was 7 years old when two older boys sexually assaulted me. These boys were over for a sleep over with my older siblings. I awoke to these boys trying to hold me down and penetrate. I was able to fight my way out of the situation. This situation led to me to feeling that I was gay. I was 7 and I didn’t even know what being gay meant. I simply assumed that because that happened it meant I was gay. Thinking I was gay was not the problem, it was what followed after that was the problem.

I was taught in primary that being gay meant “I’d end up in hell.” I overheard older siblings talking about what the church believed about gay people. So, after a few years of feeling this I went to my brand president. I wanted to tell him what happened and so I started with the statement of , ” I think I’m gay and I think a lot about this.” There were no questions about why I was thinking this and I was actually cut off. He seemed upset with me and proceeded to tell me how awful my life would end up if I kept thinking I was gay. Then I would end up in hell for thinking and behaving this way. He said that I shouldn’t talk about this with anyone as it would only cause trouble. I honestly didn’t understand why I was a bad person all of sudden. This guy had no damn clue how to talk about this issue and obviously had way too much power for an untrained person.

I was afraid to tell anyone about this situation. I worried I would be hurt if I told on these boys. As time went on I realized that I wasn’t gay. I also realized that even if I was gay there was nothing wrong with that. I saved enough money in high school to go get the help I needed and have sense worked past this. I have become a trauma psychologist who helped many through these situations now. The more I learned about trauma the more I realized how damaging that conversation was. One of the biggest issues was the trust I had in someone who is not trained to listen and navigate conversations in a way that doesn’t shame. I was a priesthood leader in the church on a few different levels and was astonished at how insufficient training was in interviewing youth. The LDS church needs to stop putting their local leaders in these situations.

#302 Ryan J. CS: 1,2,3,4,5. Other: Learning how to lie well when I never imagined developing such a casual relationship with lying.

I support the stories shared here, and am now willing to publicly share my own. After just turning 12, I was scheduled for my first “worthiness interview” with my bishop before becoming a deacon and receiving the Aaronic Priesthood. Having already been molested by a close Mormon relative at the age of 10, I was absolutely terrified to find myself sitting in a room with the door closed, and alone with a man who I barely knew. In his office, it immediately became much worse — more than I could have ever possibly anticipated or imagined — when he specifically asked me if I ever skinny-dipped with other boys, if I was keeping the law of chastity and most specifically, if I masturbated. When asked this question, my heart sank and my head was about to as well, but in a snap reaction, I managed to keep my eyes locked with his, and quickly responded back with, “Masturbation … what’s that?” With a look of surprise on his face, he paused for a second, and then proceeded to explain to me what it was. “Well, it’s when…” I was horrified, and before he could finish his sentence that included both the words “penis” and “hard,” I interrupted him and said, “No!” then chuckling. “No, I know what it is. No, I don’t. I was just kidding.” I felt totally paralyzed in this moment, but still managed to smile like a preteen prankster — a look I was going for — as he shot back a stern look in my direction, looking annoyed.

I knew I was done talking; I did not know how to keep on lying. At least with words. So I played up my body language of “you-should-have-seen-the-look-on-your-face-when-you-were-about-to-say-hard-penis” and he ended up buying my response as a prank–a prank successfully executed on him, with my preteen immaturity written all over it.

“Um, well then, I think we’re done,” he said. “Is there anything else you want to ask me?” Me: “No I don’t think so.” I wanted to get the hell out of there as fast as possible! In the hallway, I looked around to make sure no one else was around as my tears started to well up. As I was processing the shock of what had just happened, I wiped away the tears with my sleeve before heading out to the church parking lot where my dad was waiting in the car.

Confused, emotional, and pissed off, I spent the rest of the day trying to process what had just happened in that bishop’s office. And just like being molested around 2 years before this meeting with the bishop, I decided not to share this with my parents. Eventually, I was able to realize I was much less concerned with any shame or sin attached to masturbating, and more concerned with the bishop’s intrusive questioning — especially in an environment that reminded me so much of being previously molested — and that I felt my only option was to lie in order to protect my own mental and physical sovereignty.

As I said, I had hard time buying into the shaming, even the whole “uncleanliness before God,” related to masturbation. As quite an analytical kid from a young age, already possessing a wild imagination, and developing an artist’s brain, self-expression and personal identity were very important to me early on. Related to this, I considered masturbation to be a normal and natural part about myself. And most importantly, I was comfortable with how I felt about it. I certainly felt conflicted and confused after this disturbing encounter with the bishop, but for other reasons. For some strange reason though, I was very much a budding nuanced kind of believer; I told myself early on that if I was going to do Mormonism for life, I was going to do it on my own terms. But after my first worthiness interview with this bishop, this experience confirmed to me what I had already suspected: that in order to do Mormonism, I would also have to lie about other things, including not asking certain questions, which devastated me. I wasn’t good at lying, and I hated the thought of editing my conversations and ideas, not sharing my own curiosity with others, hiding things about myself, and not always being honest with my parents and my religious community.

Eventually, In a very distorted and unhealthy way, I learned to rationalize my lying to the bishop that day, in subsequent worthiness interviews — and in general after that point — as something common within my faith community and part of the culture. To me it made sense: the conformity, the silence on taboo topics and issues, the unrealistic expectations, etc. “No one is perfect, and everyone has secrets” I thought to myself, “…and I have mine, including my secret of being molested. It’s just what you have to do in order to do Mormonism your way,” I would tell myself.

Well, later on in life, this kind of warped way of thinking later showed some unhealthy consequences when the lying became second nature and so familiar to me, spilling over into other parts of my life. Something I have successfully sorted out today, but without question, the dynamics of these intrusive bishop worthiness interviews are wrong and inappropriate on so many levels, and should stop immediately! Again, these bishop interviews are wrong and inappropriate on so many levels! I never wanted to lie, but felt like I had to in order to protect something incredibly personal and a normal and important part of my young, budding sense of self. Furthermore, there is nothing responsible, compassionate, pastoral, or thoughtful in having preteens and teens alone in a room with an ecclesiastical leader — professionally untrained to handle such sensitive and vulnerable conversations with youth — and with no parents present! I wholeheartedly support this initiative and call to action, and I am willing to put my name and public face behind it!

#301 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,8

Like most teenagers, I masturbated. During a worthiness interview, I was asked if I had masturbated. I was honest and admitted that I had. I don’t remember the details of everything the bishop said, but remember him telling me I couldn’t take the sacrament for two weeks and that I needed to read the Miracle of Forgiveness and give him a full report about what I had learned. I was filled with so much shame when I read ( ch 6 pg 78) that masturbation often leads to mutual masturbation and then total homosexuality. I wondered when I’d start feeling the homosexual urges and felt such shame about myself. My sexual orientation never flipped to gay and it certainly did a real number on my self esteem.

#300 Carol. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7

I did not realize until I started typing how difficult this might be to share. I am flooded with so many emotions. I grew up in a very devout Mormon family. I was never sexually abused, but for some reason I discovered my sexuality in my childhood and began masturbating even before I was a teenager. The guilt and shame started young. I started dating at the Mormon appropriate age of 16 and discovered that I liked boys…a lot! This led to innocent kissing, which led to some minor petting/touching etc.

I was very involved in my ward and young women’s group and really was a “good girl”. I did not have the relationship with my parents that would allow me to discuss any of this with my parents. I knew that I was ” not morally clean” because of the masturbation and also the petting and even french kissing. In the 80’s french kissing was also labeled immoral and I remember seeing a video at a youth conference where french kissing was likened to SEX!….because of the exchange of bodily fluids. (as if I didn’t have enough to feel terribly guilty and shamed about). The shame and self hatred was something that I felt on a daily basis.

The fear that my secrets would be discovered after my death by my loved ones and that I would not be allowed into the Celestial Kingdom was the driving force that led me to approach my bishop after sacrament meeting one Sunday when I was around 17 years old. I loved and respected my bishop. My family had moved into the ward about a year prior and he had welcomed me with open arms. He was a cool bishop and a relatively young bishop in his early 30’s with a young family. Just to have made the appointment with the bishop was a great relief for me. I had heard so much that when one repents there is often a feeling of a big burden being lifted, and I was anxious for that to happen to me!

So later that day, I sat in the bishop’s office in a chair directly across from his big desk. I remember praying with him. I remember the incredible nervousness and awkwardness that I felt. I don’t remember how I began this conversation but I remember telling him that I needed to repent because I was not morally clean. That was when the questions began. The questions that I was not expecting or was I really prepared to answer. I truly wanted to repent but I had no idea that I would have to give details…every detail, and name. I was asked explicitly what I had done. Just to confess of “petting” was not enough. What body parts had been touched? And in what way had they been touched? Names? How many times? I was shocked and humiliated to share this. I dutifully responded to each question honestly, although it was terribly shameful and embarrassing to speak about things so personal with a grown man. He seemed so very interested in every aspect of my shameful experiences.

One of the last questions I remember being asked and one that came as a complete surprise even after all the prior probing was this… “Did you orgasm while doing any of this?” Seriously, I was so shocked and unprepared for that question, that the only thing that I could do in that split second was lie. “No!” I said. I definitely knew what an orgasm was and I knew that I did have an orgasm while petting but there was no way that I, as a naive Mormon girl, could confess that to this man, my bishop. I still wonder to this day why he asked that question. Why would an orgasm have any bearing on my sin or my repentance?

After that I openly confessed to having a “problem” with masturbation. At this point, after all the questions and probing I really expected to be rebuked and still am surprised by his response. He said something like “Ok, well that is something (masturbation) that you will stop doing as you get older”. Then I was counseled about appropriate dating and encouraged to talk to my parents, which of course I could not do. I walked out of the bishop’s office not feeling relief but instead feeling even more guilt and shame because of “my lie”.

The guilt and shame and self hatred continued, unknown to anyone, for years and years. It affected my self esteem well into my adult years. I won’t go into the details here but I finally was able to share this with a few good friends and move on. I now love myself wholeheartedly. One can never be sure, but I’d like to believe this bishop was a good man and just trying to do his calling and at the same time, I also believe that it was VERY VERY INAPPROPRIATE AND DAMAGING. And some days, I still want to have a face to face conversation with him, his wife, and children, who I knew very well because I lived in the same ward as a married woman for many years. Do they see this as ok?? How could anyone see this as OK?

Fast forward to 2018. I am 51 years old, divorced, engaged to a wonderful man, and also a grandma. I have since left the church and most of my children have as well, but I still have some grandchildren that are being raised in the church. That is the reason I am sharing my story. I’m fine, I’ve recovered, but the thought that this or even worse could happen to my precious grandchildren or anyone’s grandchildren or children is my motivation to share.

If you are reading this, thank you! Many that read will be like me and have their own experience. My heart has broken with each story I have read.

Some of you that read this will not have an affiliation with the church. To you, I share my story so that you will understand what happens behind closed doors within the Mormon church and the far reaching impact these interviews have had. It may not happen every time, it may not even be the majority…who knows…but it happens. And for some, so much worse has happened.

Some of you may be members of the church I once loved and believed. Some of you may have had your own experience. Some of you may be surprised, that this happens because your experience was different…or you may even question if it does really happen. Some of you may think it is my fault…because I had sinned…I got what I deserved. I don’t believe that any more. I know the difference between guilt and shame and the resulting damage of shame. I know the impact these interviews have had in my life and I personally know many others who can relate to my experience. If you care about children or believe in the teachings of Jesus how can you NOT stand up against this practice. I am no longer ashamed and will not step down. I am not against the Mormon church but I am disgusted by what these interviews are allowing to happen. It is not enough to allow parents to join their children during an interview. Not every Mormon child has a parent that will do that. What if it was your child? Your Grandchild?

#299 Name Withheld. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7,8,9

I was a 14 year old child. I was raped. Had just had a lesson on “virtue”, the week before. I was so traumatized. I didn’t tell my parents because of the whole “it would be better to have your child come home in a pine box than to lose their virtue”, rhetoric. I went to my bishop because I thought I had committed the sin second only unto murder.

I was asked if i was morally clean. I said no. He asked what happened. I told him that a boy I was acquaintances with had forced himself on me.

He asked what I had done to provoke the boy. He asked what I was wearing. He asked me to describe exactly what my rapist did to me. He asked me how I felt while it was happening. He asked if I orgasmed during the assault. He asked if I had had ever “done this” before. He asked if I liked it. Where did he, my rapist, put his hands? How many fingers did he put inside me?

Then he told me I had committed a serious sin and must repent for my part in it.

I was forced to repeat this in front of the bishop, his counselors and the clerk. Every time I was asked a question it was like being raped again. 6 months disfellowshipped.

That night I tried to kill myself, the first of many tries. Luckily, I never succeeded.

I can directly pinpoint years of suicidal ideation to this incident. My bishop should have called the police.He should have comforted me and helped me to see that it was an assault. No consent. Instead I was punished for my rape.

I know I am not alone in this. I know there are other survivors of sexual assault who have experienced the same issues with Mormon bishops. I cannot articulate the deep devastation this has caused.

#298 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,8

My childhood bishop was a good man. I write this story not to blame him but to blame the system that would put an untrained man in a room with young children asking sexual questions. In my first interview with him, he asked about masturbation. I didn’t know what that word meant, and I mistakenly thought that every time I had ever had an erection, I had masturbated. I proceeded to tell him in agonizing embarrassment about every erection I could remember (as a 12 year old boy, I never even woke up without one). Since I didn’t have the understanding at that age to explain otherwise, my bishop concluded that I had a years’ long habit of masturbating. He immediately jumped to questioning me about pornography, and he didn’t believe me when I honestly told him I had never seen it.

At the end of the interview, he told me I couldn’t take the sacrament for the next 2 weeks. This experience was absolute Hell. To this day, I remember the pew my family was sitting in, the order of my entire family in the pew, and which deacon passed us the sacrament. I had committed the sin next to murder, and now everyone knew it. Due to the events of that week, my parents decided to have the birds and the bees talk with me, where I finally learned the meaning of the word masturbation. I wonder now if my parents clarified my confession to the bishop, since that week he caught me in the hallway and told me to start taking the sacrament again.

Despite the sacrament ban being lifted, I felt continued unworthiness because the bishop hadn’t believed me when I told him I had never seen pornography. He was the representative of God, with the gift of discernment. He must know something I don’t! For weeks I racked my brain trying to remember what pornographic sin I MUST have committed. I finally remembered. I had once seen an advertisement in the back of the Reader’s Digest for Vagisil cream. That must be the sin the bishop was discerning. I sat on that sin for months, terrified of having to skip the sacrament again. Even more terrified of the possibility that I might get in a car wreck and die, condemned for an eternity in Hell because I was one step away from being a murderer. After months of anxiety and shame, I finally summoned the courage to schedule an appointment with the bishop again. An appointment solely to confess having seen one advertisement for Vagisal cream years earlier. This time the Bishop asked the right questions to figure out what I was talking about, and told me I had nothing to worry about.

Like I said in the beginning, I feel like my bishop was a good man. He was simply following the instructions of his church leaders. This compounded with a complete lack of training on how to talk with children (kids aren’t just tiny adults, it’s amazing just how much went over my head at 12 years old) led to extreme feelings of anxiety and shame for me and I’m sure many other

#297 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,6,7

I have many stories of shame from the Mormon Church. But one that sticks out, and pertains to this issue is this: I grew up in a prominent SLC Mormon ward. One day in YW they taught us about the important role us woman held in the church. We were the protectors of the men in our lives. It was our duty to protect them by refusing their advances. It was our responsibility to keep them pure and able to go on their missions. The Bishopric taught us that we held the power. In teaching and telling us this, it now became our problem and responsibility to keep the men worthy. It minimized our feelings and thoughts, and put immense pressure on us. It also took out the responsibility of men, and made their choices irrelevant and simply not accounted for. What I took away from this meeting is; that men have animal like sexual tendencies, and women do not. Women were built to be calm and in control, that we had the ability to stop sexual behaviors, and MUST.

Well, as you can imagine, I have struggled with enjoying sex my entire life. I always felt like there was something wrong with me. It was always a task, not something to enjoy with the person I loved.

A song from the play “Book of Mormon” describes it best. “Turn it off, like a light switch Just go click! It’s a cool little Mormon trick” I tried so hard to do this very thing. Turn off my feelings because I shouldn’t have them. I was supposed to protect the men in my life.

What an intensely confusing situation for a young woman. What shame it brought me every time I had feelings for someone. How I would torture myself with shame and guilt because I had sexual thoughts about my boyfriend. My mind was in constant torment and pain. I felt broken and out of control.

Needless to say, this meeting with the YW in my ward didn’t help anything, in fact, it probably made everything worse. A few girls got pregnant, a good majority of the youth had pre-marital sex. And so many have had broken marriages and miserably failed romantic relationships. I feel like we were set up to fail. I now wonder, what did the Bishopric tell the YM in my ward?

#296 Name Hidden. CS: 1,3,4

Long stories made short are the best when you’re still healing from the traumatic consequences you incurred. My first real boyfriend at the age of 21 was a priesthood holder. He attended church. He loved the lord. And he was a rapist.

Upon confessing my terrible sin to the branch president, he advised I should now marry this man since no one else would want me, not tell anyone else because it would only bring more Shane to my name for allowing it to happen, and apologize if I’d confronted my rapist about it. He surely could not control himself if I had been acting or speaking provocatively.

Skip forward 10 years. My best friend, male, was having difficulty in life. He was participating in activities that were out of his usual realm. He was involved in hardcore drugs. He was drinking every day. He was not functioning at life. He was not attending church. He was lying.

I was worried for his life. Not because he wasn’t going to church. But because he was going through something. Something I was unable to help him with alone. We ended up having sex one night.

I approached my bishop to confess my sins. He accused me of drinking and smoking and couldn’t believe I would be showing up to his ward after having sex one time with my best friend. I found out I was pregnant. I went in to speak with him again.

He reassured me that I was no longer his problem and was not welcome in his ward ever again. I was a terrible influence and he did not want me to lead other members astray with my terrible example. My best friend decided a baby wasn’t in his plan. I was fine with that.  But the very moment he found someone who wanted to marry him in the temple, his only requirement was to write me a letter to say he was sorry.

I spoke with his bishop before they were to be married. I wanted him to know that he didn’t pay child support. He didn’t pay medical support. He hadn’t met his son.

He didn’t need to do anything further to be seen as a member in good standing. Meanwhile, as I was unable to afford food and shelter for our son, my bishop reassured me that since I chose to have sex and a baby without being married and under the covenant, I needed to keep repenting and pay more tithing. That I was not worthy enough to receive any assistance from the church. When the temple interview says ‘IN GOOD STANDING WITH FAMILY MEMBERS’ that includes child support and alimony and tithing and medical support and any additional requirement included in a court of law.

The MORMON church inflicts pain and suffering on those who don’t fit the mold. The MORMON church regards sexual acts as worse than murder. Worse than murder. Worse than killing another human being. Yet behind closed doors they’re able to say and do whatever they please. They can rape a child or tell a child who’s been raped that it is their fault.

#ISTANDWITHSAM #PROTECTTHECHILDREN

#295 Name Withheld. CS: 1,2,6,8

When I was 4-8 years old I was molested by a neighbor kid. I remember being sick to my stomach, afraid to fall asleep at night for fear that I was going to hell. Right before I turned 8 I started getting really bad stomach aches and wouldn’t go to school. I was afraid of my upcoming baptism. I knew that I wasn’t worthy. My parents took me to the doctor and he told them I was faking it. I was so stressed. I didn’t tell the bishop in my baptism interview (who was my dad at the time.) I remember when I was being dunked in the water, that it didn’t count, because I didn’t tell my dad that I was being touched. I knew that I was going to hell. It plagued me for years.

When I was 18 a co-worker invited me to his house to watch a movie. He gave me a drink… then nothing… I woke up next to him… naked. I didn’t know what happened. I had no idea if I had sex or not. I didn’t even remember kissing. It was blank. I felt so much guilt I went to the stake president to tell him what happened (I lived with the bishop and felt uncomfortable talking to him). I told him about not knowing what happened, that it was just blank. He got really mad, slammed his fists on the desk and told me that I should be excommunicated. He had a disgusting look on his face and lectured me about being easy. I felt so much shame. It wasn’t until later I realized I was probably drugged.

I would also like to mention that my step-grandpa raped and molested my mom and aunts when they were little and then did the same thing to their kids years later. When it all came out, the bishop told them to not involve the law that he would take care of it. His punishment was 1 year of not going to the temple, but my mom / aunts / cousins are forever scarred by this man. His punishment doesn’t fit the crime. Mormon church needs to change the way they do things. Shame on you.

#294 Name Hidden. CS: 4

20-ish years ago, in the seventh grade, I had a history teacher. He was single, in his late 30s, and he was very interested in having kids come swim at his house, the ones who got good grades. He had several “hush-hush” parties of which he did not have permission from the school administration. Just he and a couple of students, to reward the ones who maybe got an “A,” or ones who “showed big progress.” What a nice guy, and how fair!” I thought! He was going above and beyond his job to give rewards to students. I thought he’d make a such good Mormon, Mormons are just like that. So kind, so generous. Surely, he should take the discussions. I could see how “improved” his life would be; maybe he could meet a young Mormon woman and get married in the temple.

I saw absolutely nothing wrong, no red flags at all, because I was used to being alone with an older man- a nice, caring, middle-aged man who asked deeply personal questions one-on-one with me a couple of times per year. This was very normal to me. How protected I felt, knowing I could talk one on one with not only my teachers, but my bishop, who was called of God, and his counselors as well. The world felt so safe, and Heavenly Father had blessed me in every possible way, was my thought.

A plot twist occurred here though. It was soon discovered that my bishop was having an affair with a ward member. The one who was a judge over me, who could question my chastity and “worthiness” was the one committing adultery, and had been for an entire year. I thought he was so righteous, a true man of God, and infallible. He was a bishop! How could this happen? This was a reality check for me as I suddenly recognized the very human tendencies of even “righteous” priesthood holders, even the most elect. The ones I am supposed to follow and to whom I should confess and discuss personal sins.

A few years later, the history teacher was arrested for several counts of sexual abuse of minors.

I am so fortunate that the abuse did not happen to me, but it terrifies me to think how close I came to subjecting myself to this because I saw no danger in the situation. I was perfectly willing to put myself in a completely abusive situation because of my own Mormon culture. There was actual danger all around me, and I could not see or discern the danger.

Where the rest of the world insists now that children/minors are never alone one-on-one with an adult—whether they be a professional teacher, coach, or physician—our church lags behind, and I believe all efforts should be made to stop one-on-one situations from occurring between minors and adults.

#293 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,6. Other: Attempted self-mutilation

I was lucky, like some others here were, that my bishops were never lascivious men asking too-personal questions. The self-hate and attempted self harm I blame firmly on my parents and on church doctrine.

My mom and dad had “the talk” with me at probably ten years old. They gave me the mechanics of it, and nothing else. Nothing about arousal, and their description of my anatomy was incomplete. They never told me about my clitoris. I became certain that because they hadn’t mentioned it, that it wasn’t supposed to be there. I thought it was a growth, and an ugly one at that. I was sometimes afraid that it could secretly be a cancerous tumor. So at about age 13 I found myself sitting in the bathroom, holding a pair of scissors, trying to decide if I could muscle through the pain in order to “fix” myself. Luckily, I knew I wouldn’t be able to, and didn’t harm myself. But that happened multiple times. And I dealt with hatred of my body.

At one point I was certain that God hated me because he had made me a woman. In my mind, women got the bad side of everything. Periods, menopause, childbirth, the humiliation and possibly pain of your first time having sex. I knew he couldn’t love me.

Appropriately enough, when I discovered the -actual- use of my clit at 18 was the first time I found I could actually love my body. Masturbation literally helped me realize that my body wasn’t a prison or a punishment.

And my parents still don’t know about any of this.

#292 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,7,8

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.

#291 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,6,7,8,9. Other: Self-harm

As far as I can remember, I was attracted to other boys – at least since age 6 – but I had no idea it was sexuality, let alone homosexuality. I discovered the term at 11 or 12 when reading ‘The Miracle of Forgiveness’, written by the LDS prophet Spencer W. Kimball, a required reading from our bishop to help the youth to ‘stay pure’. From the words of this so-called prophet, I was made to believe that homosexuality was a ‘crime against nature’, the worst sin next to murder, that I was abhorrent ‘in the sight of God’ and that I deserved ‘death penalty’.

From this point on, I was subjected to a continuing stream of homophobic discourses in the LDS church, worsening my (already poor) self-esteem. Those years were awful years of self-loathing, despair and loneliness. I was constantly reminded that I was broken and evil by everyone around me – especially by church leaders when they began to suspect that I was not ‘normal’ since I was not ‘masculine’ enough and not enough interested in girls. I was the target of bullying in church and in school, for which I was told by my mother and church leaders that I was certainly punished by God for some hidden sin.

I was subjected to sexually-oriented interviews by bishops and church leaders that only exacerbated the problem. I admit that those interviews were not systematic (some bishops were reluctant to address sexual questions), but it occurred to me from time to time. I had a one-to-one interview at age 13 with a middle-aged member of the High Council, sent by the Stake president, who went quite in details in the subject of masturbation and its techniques, telling me that I should not touch my ‘little factory’ under severe penalty from God (I assume the man talked to other boys as well). Some bishops asked me also sexual details, especially what sexually aroused me, in order to ‘help’ me with my problem. Those sexual-oriented conversations made me uncomfortable and reinforced my self-loathing. From these interviews, I was made to believe that masturbation led to homosexuality and that I should resist the temptation to be cured – and that homosexual thoughts (even not ‘sexual’) were as abhorrent as the act itself.

My attempts to resist masturbation urges at all cost and to suppress all homosexual feelings only reinforced my desperation and my loneliness. I hated myself and started to show self-harm behavior, as scratching and flagellating myself, hoping to get rid of my ‘homosexuality’. I really thought that God hated me and I started to ideate suicide for getting out of this awful situation. As suicide was also a ‘sin’, I did not dare to take my own life directly, but I thought it would not be a sin if I was killed ‘by accident’. I then started to behave dangerously – walking along a cliff or a high-speed road and other imprudence – hoping that an ‘accident’ will occur. It was a form of suicide attempt – fortunately the ‘accident’ did not occur.

It took many years for me to heal from this sick doctrine and to accept myself as a gay man – but I suffered for years (and still now to some extent) from the consequences of the psychological violence I was subjected to during my youth.

My story might differ a bit from the others, as I suffered more from homophobia than from sexually-oriented interviews alone, but these interviews clearly worsened the situation. These ‘worthiness’ interviews need to be modified, untrained middle-aged men should not be allowed to interfere with a child sexuality. And obviously all homophobic doctrines should be officially repealed.

#290 Charmaine F. CS: 1,5,6,7

I grew up in Australia, where members from the USA, and especially Utah were highly regarded, honored, and looked up to in my childhood Ward. When I was 14, and my father was the Bishop, a family from Utah moved into our Ward. The father of which, who would have been 34, was soon after called as Young Men’s President (I was then 15). This man was very charismatic, charming, good looking, and (seemingly) incredibly kind. He was also young, fit, fun, and all the Young Women (and the older women) adored this man. He was always making activities and mutual fun and seemed to genuinely care about us. I came from a very orthodox (strict) and very large family (9 kids) and as a young woman who’s father was constantly busy with work and his calling, and a mother who had always struggled to be close with us.

I was very sheltered about boys and my body, and especially about consent, and what grooming looked like. This YM President showed attention to me, seemed to care about my life and interests, and began to text-book groom me. He began to email me, creating a story about how sad and lonely he was, in a love-less marriage and how amazing I was. He told me he loved me, he told me I was special and beautiful – something a very shy, tom-boy and insecure 15 year old relished hearing!

Soon this YM President asked to “hang out” with me one Friday night, to which I said yes. After all, since I was a young child, my parents had always allowed and encouraged men to spend time with us younger children alone, unsupervised (I know right?). I ABSOLUTELY trusted my YM President – I looked up to him so much, and adored him. He was like an older brother or even Father. That Friday night he picked me up and we went into the city. As soon as we got out of the car, he stopped me, put his hands on my shoulders and kissed me on the lips. I was shocked, confused, embarrassed, but didn’t say “no”. In fact, it was flattering that this AMAZING guy kissed me (I was a nobody). We then walked to a restaurant but inside he began to kiss me again. It felt nice, and I kissed him back. Again, I was so naive and trusted this man completely.

That night was the first of many outings where things steadily increased in sexual intensity. He would spoil me with gifts, loving words and gestures, and referred to me as his “girlfriend”. I would occasionally feel horrible guilt about the “relationship” and try to distance myself every few months from him, but this man was always at my church, at mutual during the week, and he was also called as our Seminary teacher the following year. Not only this, but he began to DJ at church Youth dances so that he could keep an eye on who I was spending time with. I felt trapped, but combined with the unhealthy fear and shame based chastity messages at church and in my home, and his constant presence and pressure for contact, I essentially gave up trying. At that age, I had no idea what was illegal, but he would tell me that adultery was illegal in some countries, so I was so afraid I would be in trouble! Also, he would tell me that adultery is the sin closest to murder, so again, I was petrified I would be excommunicated for being an adulteress (and my father would be the deciding “Judge in Israel” no less).

Add on-top of these fears, the message of being “accountable” after age 8, enjoying most of the sexual contact, not having any clue what “love” looked like so I trusted his explanation of it, and that people would ultimately believe this “amazing” guy over me. These are just some of the difficult walls that prevented me from coming forward. On top of this, I felt I needed to protect him. It was a mess. This “relationship” continued into when I was an adult – I was well and truly trapped by then, completely emotionally and psychologically manipulated into what he wanted me to be and do. After some time I was ready to come forward to the Bishop and confess my transgressions at age 21. At this time I still had no words or idea that what had occurred was “abuse” or that it was even illegal! I told the Bishop I had been engaged in a sexual relationship with this man (he knew him) since I was 15/16. He told me that while I was not responsible for the abuse when it started, I was definitely responsible for not stopping it and yes, being an adulteress during my adult years. He encouraged me to read “The Miracle of Forgiveness” which had so many disturbing messages in it which set me back from my healing for decades. I was put on probation for 18 months. The police were never contacted, neither was I encouraged to get counselling. I believe these 3 last things culminated in so much confusion and shame that I ultimately went back to the person who “loved me” – I married my abuser. I believe that if the Bishop was trained, or had at least referred me onto a professional, I would have NEVER married my abuser (which is a whole other issue in the lds culture about being divorced and sloppy seconds) and I would have begun my healing and treatment at age 21, not at age 34. Please, lets change these issues for our children and grandchildren who do not have a voice!!

#289 Name Hidden. CS: 1,4

When I was 12, I went in for my first Bishop interview. When it got to the part about chastity he asked me if I masterbated. I had no idea what it meant or what it was and I told him so. He went on to explain in detail how I may have masterbated… with my fingers, with objects, with pencils, etc. I was freaked out and felt incredibly uncomfortable. I left feeling icky. But I assumed this was normal because I was always taught that Bishop’s were chosen by God. They were to be trusted. Every time I went into a Bishop’s interview afterward I would have horrible anxiety from the time the appointment was set until it was over. I would pretty much shut down and answer as quickly as I could. By the time I was getting ready to get married in the temple, I had years of trying to “survive” interviews. Sometimes that included not rectifying things that needed to be. The guilt I lived with was insane. I was sure I was going to go to Hell if I were to die because I hadn’t gone thru the repentance process and I had lied to numerous Bishops thru the years. Even after I got married and repented, I would have horrible anxiety during interviews. All because a man thought it was okay to paint a picture to a 12 year old about masturbation. I told my parents a few years back and they were appalled and asked why I never told them. I replied “Because I trusted that it was normal. How was I supposed to know different?” .

#288 Name Hidden

After being raped at 15. I felt like I was in the deepest darkest hell you can imagine. I talked to my bishop who said “why were you out with a boy before you are 16?!” “Are you sure you weren’t tempting him”, “where you keeping the modesty standard when he saw you?!”. I asked if I would be forgiven for this and he said that any sin is forgivable even the ones committed my by rapist and that he could be washed clean of his sins. I can’t explain the anger I have writing this. I spent years of my life feeling guilt for being abused. You have no right.

#287 Name Withheld. CS: 1,2,4,7,8

When I was 13, I was a very devoted little Mormon girl. I prayed every day, read my scriptures, dressed modestly, and got good grades. One day, I was thinking and realized that in previous years, I had intentionally viewed some things that were considered pornographic and masturbated on occasion (although at the time I didn’t realize it was bad, I just knew it felt good). A wave of horror came over me when I realized that pornography use and masturbation were things that had to be confessed to your bishop.

The next few days I felt so sick from shame and fear that I couldn’t sleep, eat, or socialize. There was no way I was going to tell my very TBM parents that I had committed such horrific sins, and so I decided that I would wait until my interview to become a Mia Maid to confess, which wasn’t for a year. During this year, I developed severe depression and anxiety. Although there were several factors contributing to the depression and anxiety, a huge part was the fear of having to confess to my bishop. I had never talked about sex with anyone ever in my life, let alone by myself with a grown man I barely knew behind a closed door.

A few months later, I started cutting and having other self-harm tendencies to relive my pain. I never told anyone because I thought someone would ask why or it would be dismissed as just an edgy teen phase, but inside I was hurting so much. I felt like I was carrying such a heavy burden. I thought only boys and men had sexual problems that had to be talked about with a bishop, and I felt like I was living a lie being a perfect little Mormon girl on the outside but actually having committed the sin next to murder.

I was so careful during this time because I was so worried I would get in some freak accident and die and go straight to hell. At one point, I was considering suicide. I had read stories of people having bad experiences confessing to bishops, I thought it would just be easier to die and ask for god’s forgiveness in person than through our bishop. Luckily I got through that. My anxiety worsened, however.

One day I was sitting in math class, and started to think about how my mia maid interview was coming up in several months. I got so sick thinking about it I had to run to the bathroom. I threw up and just collapsed on the floor crying and praying to god to not make me not have to talk to the bishop about masturbation. All of this happened when I was in 8th grade at the tender age of 13.

Finally, after a year of anticipation, my 14th birthday arrived and it was time for my interview. I walked into the church and sat outside the bishops office waiting for him to finish with the person he was meeting with. I was shaking so much. He finally had me come in. We said a prayer, and then we started talking about the gospel, what it means to be a mia maid, etc. The whole time I was just nodding because I was too scared to talk. Eventually he asked if I had a temple recommend, and I said no. He asked why, and I just said there was something I needed to talk about. I paused for about 15 seconds. I then said I had been using pornography and tried to repent but couldn’t. He then asked if I masturbated and I just whispered “yes” and buried my face in my hands. Then he asked when I did it, how often, if I had sex with anyone, and I answered his questions very reluctantly. I was horrified. Then he started talking about the repentance process and how priesthood authority is necessary to repent of these sins and so forth. He said that if I feel okay and don’t do it again, I didn’t need to do anything else, but to come back if it became a problem again. He smiled and asked how I felt, and I said “better”.

After I walked out, though, I went to the bathroom and cried. I felt awful. I was so confused. I was always told that after confessing your sins, you were supposed to feel relieved and happier than you’ve ever been. I felt worse. I went and sat down for sacrament. During announcements, he had me come up to the podium to recognize my advancement. He put his hand on my shoulder and told the ward how I was so faithful, sincere, bla bla bla, but I felt so ashamed.

I was under the impression that after you repent of something, it won’t be a temptation anymore. I was devastated when I felt the desire to masturbate again. I had been through so much and it felt like it had been wasted. I soon accepted that it was a trial that god had placed in front of me to overcome, and god wouldn’t give me a trial that I couldn’t handle, and so I just tried so hard not to, thinking it was a test from god. I did not want to have to confess it again and go through the shame and pain once more. It was hell trying to ignore my “temptations”.

After an entire year of complete abstinence from porn, masturbation, or even thinking about sex at all (which was extremely difficult), I became so frustrated and upset that I gave in and began looking at porn and masturbating again. After a couple days of this, I realized I would have to confess it again, but just ignored it and decided it would deal with it later because I was so mad at god. Why would he give me a trial I couldn’t overcome? Lucky for me, this is the thought that made me begin questioning the church, and shortly after turning 15, I abandoned my belief in the Mormonism (although I still pretend even now to be a TMB).

I do not believe it was the bishop who caused all this. He’s a great guy and I still see him every week at church. It’s the system that is harmful. No 13 year old should ever be made to think that they’re going straight to hell for doing anything remotely sexual unless they go behind a closed door with a man and tell them all about it. Bishops shouldn’t be made to, or allowed to ask sexual questions. Now, not too many years after this whole experience, and after a change in personal belief, I realize that it’s perfectly normal and healthy for a teenager to be curious and experiment sexually, and it wasn’t the grip of Satan trying to get me to masturbate. I’m so fortunate to have realized this while I’m young, and I would say I now have a fairly healthy sexuality. I’m also very lucky to have had a mild bishop who was kind and didn’t make me go into extremely graphic details. However, what took place that day was still very harmful, and no child or adult should ever be subjected to interviews like that.

#286 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,7,8

My story isn’t much different than the hundreds if not thousands that have already been told, with one big exception. I am a 60 year old male. I was born and raised in a small Mormon town in Utah. Upon reading some of the testimonies on the website, memories of my youth and my young adult life flooded my mind. “Thank Heavens this man is bringing this travesty to light,” I told myself. I was asked about masturbation and other sexual “sins” when I was interviewed to become a Deacon. Keep in mind this would have been in the early 1970’s. Being a late(r) “bloomer,” I hadn’t begun puberty yet. I recall leaving the Bishop’s office and was very shaken by the questions that I was asked. I didn’t know what masturbation was or what “petting” meant. When puberty did hit, I began what is the typical cycle of guilt, repentance, guilt, repentance which turned into my teenage trauma due to masturbation. It just never ended. I recall when I was about 16 or 17, I was at a General Priesthood meeting where the audio was piped into the local church house,. I was sitting next to my father. The General Authority talk was on the evil activity of masturbation and said that in the last days, those that participated in the activity would have their names written in the sky for all to see. That is when I wanted to end it all. As I walked home from the church, the tears just flowed. My life was over.

Somehow, I endured and made it through the missionary interviews and entered the LTM (MTC). This is where it got really bad. I felt I had totally repented and felt “clean” as a missionary. But as we know, the church just won’t leave it alone. The LTM branch president spoke to us the first week and scared the living hell out of us if we hadn’t confessed every little sin prior to entering the LTM. He went on and on to the point I was making things up in my head. I didn’t know for sure what I had done or not done or if I had even confessed it. So stupid me signs up for an appointment to “confess.” For what, I didn’t know. So I told him I had this challenge of overcoming masturbation, but felt that I had repented and I was in control. He began asking me about a laundry list of sins. One of those questions was had I had sex with other boys. I said no. But for good measure, I told him that at scout camp, many years prior, I recalled that scouts were flashing their private parts to each other in the tent. I told him that was all that happened. Boy, that was the wrong thing to do. He then proceeded to tell me I had to write a letter to my stake president at home and list everyone that was in the tent, what was done, in detail, and he would forward the letter to him. He also told me that all of my previous sexual sins of previous masturbation were now back into play, since I hadn’t confessed this scouting activity. “I will be in contact with you after I speak to your stake president,” he told me. You can imagine the hell I went through waiting to find out if I was going to be sent home in shame. I was so naive. The worst thing about coming from a very small town, is that everyone knows everyone. The stake president was my neighbor. I had known him my whole life. Everyone in the scout tent knows each other etc. It was hell. But, once again, I complied and endured. I was eventually sent on to my mission.

I had been on my mission about a year when I “stumbled.” Damn it. Now I have to confess. Again. You think I would have learned my lesson in the LTM and kept my mouth shut. I can’t tell you how angry I was at myself for requesting a meeting with the mission president. The day came, I was nervous, I told him. He asked me if I had struggled with masturbation prior to my mission and I told him that I had. He then proceeded to lecture me on that fact that masturbation causes homosexuality. My heart just sank. I had never shared with anyone my feelings that I might be gay. Never. In those days, I believed that those “sinful thoughts” where just the devil playing with my mind. I had a nice young girl waiting for me to come home for heavens sake. After the lecture from the mission president, I began convincing myself that I had brought this burden of gay feelings on myself. It was my fault. This was God punishing me for masturbating. Basically, it destroyed me. I became so distraught, that I could not finish my mission. I asked to be sent home. The mission president refused which forced me to contact my parents to have me brought home. By this time, I was not only ill mentally, I had made myself so sick that I was constantly vomiting accompanied with explosive diarrhea. My nerves and high level of anxiety did not allow me to function. All attributed to the fact that I thought, that I had made myself gay……by masturbating.

The following few years were hell. Another day’s story. This little sweet kid from a small Mormon town now felt he was beyond repair. Satan had conquered me. I was worthless. What if my parents found out? What if people in my hometown found out? It was now the early 1980’s. At this time there was a killer virus lurking about that was infecting young gay men that would eventually kill by the millions. At the time, no one knew about this virus, but it had already begun, quietly, massive destruction. In a few short years, the nightmare would begin manifesting itself. Since I had convinced myself that I was a “worthless” soul, I begun to have sexual experiences as a young adult in my 20’s. Long story short, in 1988 I was diagnosed with full blown AIDS. I was given 6 to 12 months to live. In my mind, I deserved it. It was God’s punishment for my masturbating as a youth and causing my “homosexuality.” So I thought. For me, it was my way of suicide.

There is a lot more to my story, but I will leave it at that. I don’t know why I am alive today. Upon my diagnosis there was no cure or treatment. But I have survived. Today, I live as a very happy, healthy and content gay man. I have been with my partner for almost 25 years now. To survive, I left the Mormon church years ago, but the hurt and the pain is still there. I could and should have learned to accept myself and learned to live in a healthy way like I do now. I am convinced my path of becoming infected with a killer virus began with that very first Bishops interview about masturbating. Something almost every young man experiences. But I didn’t know that. It took me years to let the anger towards the church to subside. Once I “let it go,” I began to be happy. I became acquainted again with that sweet little Utah kid. He was always there. I had just buried him in guilt and shame. I fell in love with a wonderful man who knew very little about the Mormon church. To this day, he just shakes his head in disbelief when I tell him my stories. But he accepts me, my virus and my quirky upbringing as a Mormon. He has taught me to love myself. He has showered me with his love which I believe saved me from a horrible painful death as a very young man.

Thank you for your work, Bishop Young. You will save countless lives. I hope that I can assist in anyway I can, including telling my story.

Oh, by the way, my very active LDS family, both parents and siblings, love and accept me and my partner as all good Mormons should do, but often don’t. I am very blessed.

#285 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7,8. Other: Feeling guilty after being raped as an Adult

As a teenager my parents found out that I was having relations with my boyfriend and forced me to see the bishop to confess my “sins”. I find it interesting that they refused to discuss anything with me and just wanted the bishop to be the barer of my news.

When I went in to see the bishop and started to share my story with him he immediately started taking notes, was sweating profusely and asked excessive details. I was desperate to please me parents and this was my first experience having to repent so I went along with it. I remember how nervous he looked and I felt like I was traumatizing him and myself all in the same moment. In hindsight though, the detailed questions he asked about my sexual experiences were totally inappropriate. He also kept asking if I had any same gender experiences and I repeatedly had to say no. I had to assure him several times that no I had not, and I could tell on his face he was disappointed.

The meeting went on for over an hour and I left feeling disgusted, ashamed of myself and definitely worse off than I was before entering in that room. I have suppressed that meeting for years trying to be complicit with the church and it’s way, but now that I have my own children I’m disgusted that this took place. Why was this grown man taking notes of a teenagers sexual experiences?

This practice puts children in a position of submissiveness towards grown males and set us up for a lifetime of unhealthy perception towards intimacy and relations with significant others. How am I supposed to teach my children to never be alone with an adult and to never let anyone take advantage of them while in the same breath sending them in to a closed door room with a grown man. This system is taking away our rights as parents and forcing us to chose between the church or our family. It needs to stop and it needed to stop decades ago.

#284 Jens A. CS: 1,2,3,4,5,7,8

“When I was 7 and my little brother was 4 we were molested by an “upstanding” male church member who was recommended to babysit us by other church members including ward leadership.

The bishop knew that this young man had been raped by his own brother as his other family members had told church authorities on numerous occasions. The bishop did nothing to intervene or contact police when he learned the young man had been raped continuously over a long period of time and instead allowed the cycle of abuse to continue by recommending him as a babysitter which resulted in his abuse of my brother and I.

My parents came home and literally caught the young man in the act but my entire family was so brainwashed that NOBODY called the police. Instead my parents told the same bishop who had recommended him. The bishop also did not call the police, instead the young man was told to not take the sacrament for a while and I had to see him in church the very next Sunday, and every subsequent Sunday after that.

The police were not informed until months later when my non-LDS aunt heard about it and informed her therapist who contacted the police.

This was in one of the Everett, WA wards in 1995, not sure which one.

Maybe if others, including my family members, see this story alongside countless others rather than as an isolated event it will open their eyes rather than put them on the offensive.” – Jens Anderson

#283 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4

I grew up in an inactive household. I was still baptized at eight. Never having been to church before or after that until the age of fourteen. I naturally discovered masturbation at the age of ten. It never felt wrong to me. Having not gone to church.

When I turned fourteen I moved out and lived with my uncle. I was encouraged to take seminary classes in high school. I am thankful for those classes because I gained truly caring and loving friends. Something I never had my whole childhood.

I decided to go on a mission. This is when i had my first interview. When my bishop asked me if i kept the law of chastity I said yes. I had no idea at the time that masturbation was part of that. The next interview was with my stake president. He asked me “Brother do you have any problem with masturbation?”. I felt instantly cornered. I said no and we moved along. After the interview I felt guilty and angry. I was angry at myself for not knowing that for the past nine years I was stamping my own ticket to hell.

I still went on my mission and managed to stop masturbation for a time. Every interview i had with my mission president he would ask me that same question. By the end of my mission I was no longer angry at myself. I was angry at the men who felt they needed to ask me the same question repeatedly. I felt i was never hurting anyone by doing what came naturally to me as a growing young man.

After my mission when I was engaged to my wife. We sat down with her bishop and he gave us a well rehearsed speech. About how women are like crockpots and men are like microwaves. From that point on our whole engagement was about not being alone together. Not spending personal time with the woman that I want to spend the rest of my life with. Bumping up our wedding day so we can be together alone.

The fact is that by making sex and anything related to it taboo. You make that the central focus of a teenagers life. You make children feel like shameful sinners from the start of their progress into adulthood. Being a father now I will never allow my children to be asked these questions. I will never make them feel ashamed of who they are or what they are doing. If what they are doing is a part of being young.

Stop manipulating young people’s emotions! Stop manufacturing guilt!

#282 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,7

My experience with “confessing” to my bishop at an interview came in teens. I was 16 years old. I wasn’t a child, but it affected my life and who I am today.

My then-boyfriend and I, both being active and devout followers of the LDS Church, kept “toeing the line” of the lds rules. We decided to go speak to our respective bishops. While his bishop stopped him from relaying his story, read him a scripture, and told him to stop the sin, my bishop shocked me by asking crude questions and wanting more and more details- where, when, how many times, what position, how I felt during “this part”, clothing involved, how many fingers… I left sobbing with an appointment with my bishop the very next week. And the week after. And the week after that.

I thought I deserved it, the shame. I thought that was what confessing to the bishop was. When my then-boyfriend told me of his experience, I was hurt, betrayed, and confused. We had done the exact same thing… Why was I treated differently? Why did I have to go back, week after week, to be able to take the sacrament again, and get a new temple recommend?

I went to those meetings for two months before I decide enough was enough. Every time he’d ask if anything new had happened and read me scriptures about sexual sin, a sin that I was taught to believe was one of the worse you could commit.

This lead me down a path of wanting to do what I was taught and be obedient, but hating myself and my teen urges in result of it. I no longer felt comfortable with my priesthood leaders and pushed away from any authority they had over me. Several weeks later, when my bishop pulled me from the halls of my church into his office and told me he was prompted that I needed to tell him about my current sins, I stopped attending that ward.

I ended up marrying my boyfriend in a lovely city hall (several years later).

#281 Name Hidden. CS: 1

I was extremely suicidal my freshman year. I left my house at 6am for seminary and got off the bus at 4pm followed by sports and lessons. As a 14 year old kid pulling 11-12 hour days was brutal. As the oldest in my family I tried so hard to be perfect, because “the natural man is an enemy to God”, “I could try a little harder to be a little better”, “I should not be so casual in my relationship with God.”

Despite this I struggled with a dark secret, though at the time I had no word to associate it with. All I knew from the strength of youth I was “arousing strong feelings that should only be expressed through marriage.”

I would resolve and repent a few days before youth temple recommend interviews so I could answer truthfully I was practicing the law of chastity. Of course I would relapse because this little thing made me feel a little better physically in my exhausted, sad existance…But at the same time I was horrified that I was becoming like Laman and Lemuel- past feeling.

Unfortunately I slipped up the night before a temple trip and was too scared to tell the bishop I’d thought inappropriate thoughts and touched myself. I was nauseous and terrified, I had condemned the dead because I’d done their work unworthily.

My first Sunday at BYU I was given a list of “Morality Terms Defined.” I read those unfamiliar words and finally found the word to describe the evil of evils I participated in since childhood . I was a scared, 18 year old girl, far away from home being called to repentance or face the judgement of God. I opted to live as liar and a coward, and felt so bad I was adding to Christ suffering. I was filled with so much fear and anxiety I was sick to my stomach for days after that first Sunday.

To add to the anxiety and shame, at EFY we were encouraged to ponder if kissing was breaking the law of chastity. And I knew kissing was a slippery slope to sex from YW lessons. Desperate to be a good moral daughter of God. I broke off every “relationship” before a kiss could be given. A month shy of my 27th birthday I finally had my first kiss. I did not feel guilty, and surprisingly did not have sex either haha. Now I’m desperate to get my second kiss 😉

#280 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7,8,9. Other: lost friends

My worthiness interview story only scratches the surface of how the Mormon Church destroyed my life. The details of exactly how my life was destroyed I left out because the memory is too painful to revisit but basically, I lost my one and only true friend as a result of the first interview described here and I have never recovered from that loss which has affected my life negatively ever since. It is my hope that what I do share of my story will help put the church on the “path to repentance” so that eventually no one else will get hurt like I did.

I’ve had two bishop interviews that crossed the line of being inappropriate. The first, while not too bad because I was never asked to go into detail (probably because I lied and said I did obey the law of chastity) still contained the “do you masturbate question.” I was 16 or 17 at the time. I was also asked if I keep the law of chastity and I really didn’t know what that was except that it had something to do with sex. I also didn’t know that masturbation and what I did was the same thing. The bishops interview was the first time I heard that that was a “sin”. *enter, guilt, stage left*

My struggle with right and wrong after interview one caused a lot of self hate and depression which is something I struggled with ever since. I walked down the road of suicide five times during my senior year of high school because of the guilt caused depression. My plan was to walk to the little marina about a block away from my house, jump in and wait till hypothermia set in. It was the middle of winter and temperatures were in the negative double digits sometimes. I don’t know much about freezing to death so I have no idea if my plan would have worked, and besides that, every time I tried, something always stopped me whether it was my little sister wanting to walk with me or just not having the courage to follow through. I really don’t like pain and the fear of it hurting overpowered my desire to end it. One time, this really obnoxious lady talking on her cellphone showed up just as I was about to jump in the water and I waited forever, with my feet hanging over the side of the dock, for her to leave but she never did so I gave up and decided to come back another day, but I never did.

Fast forward about two ish years. I was then in a relationship with my ex fiancé who was sexually abusive. He would bully me into having sex with him whether I wanted it or not. I tried talking to my dad about it because even though I knew it wasn’t okay for him to treat me that way I still felt like I had to have a priesthood holder validate my feelings. The fact that every male in my life had authority over me from the day I was born made me think that I had no control over my own life. I thought that any decision I made had to be approved by a male first, including leaving an abusive relationship. My dad told me, concerning my abuse, that “sometimes you have to do stuff you don’t want to in a marriage”. So I stayed in that relationship for another two years. Two kids came out of it, the second being the result of rape. Thank my lucky stars we never actually tied the knot.

After leaving the abusive relationship I eventually married a great guy, my now husband. We got sealed in the temple which made me start thinking a lot about my premarital sex “sins”. I was worried that because I hadn’t confessed my premarital sex (abuse/rape) to the bishop it meant that I was unworthy and therefore my temple sealing might be void. I wanted an eternal family more than anything so I made an appointment with the bishop.

I asked if it would be okay if my husband came into the interview with me and the bishop said “no, these aren’t your husband’s sins”. I immediately started to have a panic attack. The interview started and bishop asked me what it was I felt I needed to repent for. I told him and he asked how many people I had sex with, how many times/ month, how many times total (really, who keeps track of that?) what positions we used, did I have sex with my husband before marriage he asked other questions but I can’t remember them because by that time I was in full blown panic mode. All I can remember is that I kept wondering why he needed to know these details, and I wanted out of there. I wanted to be back with my husband where I felt safe.

I was an adult (22) at the time of this second interview and I could have decided not to do it, but the fear of being cast into outer darkness and losing my family was so bad that I felt I had no choice. Because of the things I learned in church, I thought that being sexually abused was God’s way of punishing me for having sex before I was married in the first place and I had to repent so that god would forgive me and take away the trauma and make it possible for me to have an eternal family. Instead I was subjected to even more trauma. The mind control that the church inflicts on its members is very effective.

I hope that the church can see the hurt that’s a direct result of its teachings and culture and make the necessary changes to correct the issue.

#279 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7,8. Other: Self harm/cutting

When I was 15, I was living in California and in a relationship with a non-LDS boy. One day, he forced himself on me. He was very manipulative and convinced me that I had been asking for it and that I needed him.

I was heart broken and felt broken myself. I felt that my life was over and I would never reach the kingdom of God. I decided that the only way to save my soul was to stay with him and eventually convert him because I was only ever supposed to have sex with one man in my life. I felt awful and hated myself. It was only made worse by having to talk to my bishop about it. He was basically a stranger and I had to tell him that I had broken the law of chastity.

He asked for details and what parts of my body had been touched and if my boyfriend had finished. I didn’t want my boyfriend to get in trouble, so I played down how he had forced himself on me. The bishop added to my feeling that it was all my fault. I felt shamed and loathed myself. I couldn’t understand why it was necessary for me to confess this to a man when repentance was supposed to be between me and God. I was told that I could not repent for this on my own though and that I would not be worthy to take the sacrament or go to the temple unless I finished the repentance process with my bishop and continued to follow up with him and talk to him about my sex life.

Because of the guilt and shame, I took to hurting myself. I started considering even killing myself. I convinced myself that I needed to stay with my boyfriend so that we could someday be married in the temple and it would all be forgiven. I felt that a nice returned missionary, the kind I had been told I needed to marry since I could understand words, would never want me. Returned missionaries want perfectly white flowers. My only hope at happiness was to stay with my abusive boyfriend and, if I had enough faith, God would help me change his heart and we’d marry in the temple some day.

I endured emotional and physical abuse by the hands of this boyfriend for two years before my mother sent me away to live in another state with my aunt. I continued to hate myself and feel shame for years more. I went to college thinking that a returned missionary would never love me. When I did marry, I married a man that was inactive. I think that our sex has been affected by the shame and pain that I associate with sex. I ended up leaving the church because I couldn’t believe in a religion that caused me so much pain and made me hate myself for what I am.

#278 Carrie B. CS: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8

I grew up in an abusive home. I was raped for the first time when I was 7. I spent decades trying to convince my “leaders” that it wasn’t my fault. They insisted that I must have done something and I needed to repent (after all, what’s the point of a worthiness interview if you don’t get to spread some shame?). All the shaming just made me more vulnerable to the abuse. They could have helped me. They could have helped my abuser. Instead they dealt lasting damage to my sense of self and my sense of worth. I couldn’t get away from the abuse and the abuser until after my kids had also been damaged. We are now dealing with the 4th major mental health crisis to hit our family of 6. My daughter is in the hospital and has been for 3 months with no end in sight. It didn’t have to be this way.

#277 Name Hidden. CS: 1,3,8

Of my own experience, I wish to say that it is not remotely as appalling as many of the personal stories bravely posted on the website. I have experienced abuse in the LDS church – the law was broken, I naively thought the Church would take meaningful action but that did not happen. I did not pursue legal action but should have. The person who subjected me to abuse was found worthy enough to go on a mission, and the apathetic Stake President who thought saying “forgive” was going to clean up that whole nasty mess, was made a Seventy. My experiences within the LDS church left me feeling completely humiliated. On occasion I was hysterical, angry and ashamed following interviews with the Bishop. Even though I had done nothing wrong I was made to feel like filth. The LDS church has an urgent, if unrecognised need, to address a purity system that tells young women that no-one will “condescend” to marry them because they are not virgins, even when they are victims of sexual abuse. When I requested that another person be allowed to be present at an interview, this was refused. I felt I needed a witness to the disparaging and demeaning things that the Bishop said to me. I felt ugly – very, very ugly. I find it hard to trust, even now. I went through a stage where the first thing I thought about upon waking was dying. I thought about writing to the First Presidency but they don’t want to be contacted. Referring issues to your own Bishop can be a problem, especially if the Bishop is the problem, but even if this is not the case – a Bishop has to care enough and be informed enough to refer the matter to a Stake President, who has to care enough and be informed enough to refer it to someone else, etc, etc, etc… This system does not work. From my own experience, it seems that all anyone wants is for you to just shut the hell up about what has happened and the pain it has caused you, and that silencing hurts too. And because of that tendency to silence and the ability to use ‘forgiveness’ like a weapon to further condemn and oppress victims of abuse, this website (Protect LDS Children) is so very important. This is an opportunity for the LDS church to humbly recognise the harm that some members of the Priesthood do – either by their own actions or through inaction (it is these men who “sully the reputation of the church”). This is an opportunity for the LDS church to develop appropriate policies and strategies for dealing with abuse whatever form it takes, taking into account international laws and regulations to achieve best practice. In a church reportedly worth billions, paying for criminal records checks would be a tiny drop in that billion dollar ocean – and surely is more important than a mall? When people are targeted because of a protected characteristic (such as race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability), they should feel confident that those in authority within the church are conversant with the law and trained to recognise the seriousness of the abuse (this is currently not the case and I know this from my own experience). Why is this issue important? Because telling people who are suffering the effects of abuse that they are “choosing to be offended” causes more harm, because panic attacks, depression and other manifestations of trauma are NOT a choice. President Gordon B. Hinckley once said, “I am not asking that all criticism be silent. Growth comes with correction. Strength comes with repentance. Wise is the man or woman who, committing mistakes pointed out by others, changes his or her course.” And here we are pointing to the leadership of the LDS church and we are asking them to be wise and change their course. The LDS church needs to ‘raise the bar’ when it comes to how the church combats abuse.

#276 Name Hidden. CS: 1,3

The first time I ever masturbated was on my Mission at age 21. I knew I had to confess to my mission president, but I sat there in silence for what seemed like a few minutes unable so speak. Finally, I blurted it out. My Mission President responded with, Do you think that is why you are not baptizing?

We were teaching more lessons then just about any mission companionship, activating several families in a newly split area and that was the response I got. A guilt trip. Stop asking inappropriate questions and using shame/guilt.

#275 Name Hidden. CS: 1,4

This story is about my daughter and it only happened a couple of years ago.

My 18 year old daughter decided she wanted to follow some of her sisters examples and decided she would like to go on a mission. She felt the need to speak to the bishop as she had some inappropriate experiences that were a bit touchy feely with a boy that she felt the need to confess. The bishop asked her what she wanted to see him about, to which she replied that there were things she felt she needed to confess… he then asked if it was things involving a boy! She agreed yes it had been, he then said “so it’s sex” she told him or wasn’t sex…he then said, “what was it then, oral, anal…” and according to my daughter listed other things she had never heard of!!! She was rightly shocked and felt uncomfortable, and told him that she didn’t want to say anything more. The bishop said that she would still need to come and tell him what had happened and that he felt she was lying!!

My daughter came home from that interview and told me that she didn’t feel the church was right for her. She left that week and never went back! She never told us for a few months after it had happened!!

After I became aware of this, I told our Stake President who said, “Oh dear, I think I may need to train him on how to talk to youth”

I am still astounded that his happened. The bishop never tried to reach out to my daughter after she left his office that Sunday and never went back to church, I’m sure he thinks she is guilty of something and doesn’t want to face him

I will never let a bishop interview my kids ever again.

#274 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,6,8

My experience with interviews has been all over the map. It ranges from mildly intrusive to absolutely inappropriate. At one point the proceedings of a church disciplinary council made me consider ending my life.

I grew up in Utah as a member of the church. I remember first being asked questions of a sexual nature at 8 years old in my baptismal interview. I was asked if I masturbated, and then had to have the bishop explain it because I had NO idea what he meant. Looking back, I simply can’t believe he asked a little 8 year old girl that question and denied her parents the opportunity to talk about it with her on their own terms. I still remember the way I felt when he defined ‘that funny word’ as “touching yourself in your private area to make yourself feel good”. It messed up my view for a long time. This sounds silly, but I distinctly remember after that interview an instance where I was getting dressed and accidentally brushed my hand down there. I thought I was in huge trouble because you’re not allowed to touch yourself! It is absolutely insane that an 8 year old could have such a skewed view because an adult was allowed to bring that topic up in private with absolutely no regulation or protection.

From the time I was in young womens (12-18) my dad was my bishop. My dad is the kindest, most loving person on this earth. And yet, he still felt the need to ask me questions of that nature to fulfill his “duty”. He didn’t want to know. I didn’t want to tell him. It created an awkward setting for us to discuss really important issues, and made me dread temple recommend interviews so I didn’t have to have that awkward exchange. When I finally did have something minor to confess to him involving my high school boyfriend, he was very kind, and avoided overly specific questions. I can’t imagine what would’ve happened to my teenage self if I had been asked questions by one of the two leaders I talk about next. I had already begun to have suicidal thoughts and began cutting myself over the fact that my dad and bishop knew I was “unworthy” and that there was something fundamentally wrong with me as a girl because I was having sexual thoughts and desires.

My dad confided in me once that his least favorite part of his calling was talking about the law of chastity with people. He didn’t judge them…. he just really didn’t want to talk about it in detail, especially with teenagers. It hurts me now to think that even though my sweet, awkward, loving dad really didn’t want to have those conversations and felt it wasn’t his place, he was forced to have them over and over again because he was trying to do what he thought was right. Just another perspective I’ve gained about why these interviews are so wrong.

My interview to leave on a mission was absolutely horrific. My stake president wanted to know details from “the age of 8 up until now”. First of all, who on earth remembers?! This stressed me out the most because it made me think “If I can’t remmeber every single time, there must be something wrong with me because I have TOO many instances to be worthy”. The interview commenced with “From the time you were 8 until now….. Have you ever lied? Have you ever watched pornography? Have you masturbated? Have you ever had sexual dreams? Have you ever indulged in fantasies? Have you ever French kissed? Have you touched another person? Where? Over or under clothes? How long? What were you wearing? Where were you? How many times? Did you become aroused by it? Did you orgasm?” By the end I was in tears because apparently I had so many indiscretions I couldn’t remember them all and I wasn’t worthy to even be in his office. He assured me these were all normal questions, and told me I was doing fine. I served a mission with these horrible questions on my mind every day. I was still a teenager then even though I was in college at BYU. I remember constantly thinking on my mission “Why am I the only woman on the planet who seems to struggle with sexual thoughts?” and it depressed me over and over again. I literally felt completely alone in the world. It was never to be discussed with anyone, except to the man in the chair who had the power to forgive you.

Fast forward to my church disciplinary council. I had all but left the church by this point, but was still clinging to a hope of returning. The ‘council’ was a room full of men asked me about my experiences with my boyfriend (now husband). I was literally shaking as I, a young adult woman, was sitting in front of a group of men asking me questions about positions, locations, outfits, ability to climax and how that was achieved, if there was anal or oral, and every other detail their twisted minds “needed” to know to make a decision.

That was the final straw. I did consider ending my life after that council, and I still have nightmares about those proceedings. I can’t even imagine what damage can be inflicted on young children and teenagers as they grow up and try to navigate their own puberty and sexuality. It almost destroyed me as a young adult. Whether it’s an experience like I had growing up where an awkward lovable man feels like he has to ask, or whether it’s predatory and dangerous…. it all absolutely needs to stop. It is setting children up for failure to become normal, well-adjusted human beings. It places them in a place of vulnerability that is not okay ANYWHERE else.

#273 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,7,8

I was born into and grew up in a very strict Mormon family. My mom had this view of the world that the less you knew about sinful, harmful stuff, the better. So when I was 11 and I got “the talk”, it lasted about 4 minutes. I knew what sex organs were, and roughly how people got pregnant. That’s it.

At 12 years old, I started masturbating. Without knowing what I was doing, because I don’t think I’d ever heard the word “masturbate” before, I certainly didn’t know what it meant, I didn’t even know what I was doing was sexual in the slightest. It took me 5 years to put the puzzle together, from context clues about how people used the word, and then a bit longer to realize that’s what I was doing. So at 17 I had the shock of knowing I was a sinner, and had been for years. And it was sexual sin too. After years of Mormon conditioning, being told over and over that women are not very sexual creatures, that sexual desires in women are an indicator of something wrong, that terrified me. I was disgusted with myself. I thought God must be disgusted with me too, he must hate me. I came out to my mom like this: “Mom, what’s masturbation? (she told me) Oh, okay. I’ve been doing that.”

Again, she was a very strict Mormon, so she insisted I had to confess to my bishop, and even set up the appointment for me. Within the week I was sitting in his office, and I felt like the worst, most pathetic, perverted person on the planet. I was terrified of dying in my sins, and ashamed that I would have to tell my bishop all about my low-down, sordid deeds. After some small talk, I finally spat it out. “Bishop, I’ve been masturbating.” I started sobbing immediately. He was quiet, probably uncomfortable by the nature of our conversation and by the fact there was an underage girl in tears about it. He asked me how long it had been going on. “Five years.” Again he was quiet. Again, I was visually distraught, and I felt like the creator and power of the universe was revolted by me.

Again, I was 17, and I was active in the church, I was a good kid. And this is the first thing he thought of to say. “Okay. So I guess in all those temple recommend interviews I gave you, where you said you were free and pure of sexual sin, you were lying to me.” If someone said that to me now, I would defend myself, and I’d probably get angry. No, I wasn’t lying, no one thought to tell me what masturbation was. But I was 17 and miserable and I already hated myself. So I just cried, and internally agreed with him. Yes, I’m a liar, I’m a sinner, I’m the worst most disgusting person who’s ever lived.

I didn’t have many meetings with that bishop, maybe three or four. I hated going to see him, it’s incredibly uncomfortable being underage and asked questions about how often you touch yourself by a 40 year old man. He asked me if I thought about anything particular while masturbating, if I’d ever been caught, if I used porn, all questions I’m sure he thought were helpful and useful, but came off as very, very inappropriate. I think I lied about most of them, which only increased my feelings of guilt. For the next three years of my life I tried to kill my masturbation “addiction”. I tried everything, but nothing helped me because I hated myself so much I wouldn’t fully try to “get better”, or what I thought was better. I thought I was a lost cause, and masturbation honestly became a way of self-harming. I would do it because I was a disgusting evil sinner who didn’t deserve to be anything better, and then afterwards I’d cry and beg god for forgiveness knowing it wouldn’t be given to me because I couldn’t stop.

A year and a half into college, I started to think I was going to, and that in a way I had to kill myself. Because in my mind, I couldn’t stop sinning. And the longer I lived, the more I sinned. The more I sinned, the smaller a chance I had at a good afterlife. Therefore, it was in my best eternal interests not to live as long. I never chose a specific date, there were never any attempts, but I always knew I wasn’t going to live through college, and after bad days I would find myself wondering if maybe next week I’d be brave enough, or maybe next month. It wasn’t entirely my bishop’s fault I went through such a nightmarish three years. The environment that I lived in, the people I interacted with, the things I believed at the time, they all combined to create the perfect storm. But everything he did with the expectation of helping me made things much worse. I would have been far better off without any interaction from him whatsoever. In closing, my story has a happy ending. I learned to accept that I am a normal human with a sex drive, and actually a pretty tame and manageable one. I stopped hating myself for that, I stopped thinking I deserved to die. I still have major sex anxiety, and I think I will for a few years to come, but I know I can and will get better.

#272 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,7

I started attending the LDS church when I was eleven years old right after my parent’s divorced. Growing up in the church I was given many lessons likening my sexual purity to my worth as a person. I was given an object lesson at the age of twelve where my beehive leader held up a cupcake and asked if anyone wanted it. The entire class did. She then licked it and then asked if anyone wanted it. No one wanted it after she licked it and she told us that, that is how our future husband would feel about us if we weren’t sexually pure. We would be a licked cupcake, unwanted and worthless. As a 14 year old, I was later given the same lesson, but this time with a chewed piece of gum as the object.

I had just turned eighteen years old when I started college for the first time. I was living in BYU housing in a BYU ward. I went in to meet my Bishop as a new member of the ward and he immediately started asking me very person, inappropriate questions. He asked me if I had a boyfriend. I told him that I had, but that I had broken up with him just a few weeks prior. He immediately started firing questions at me, not giving me a chance to respond before asking the next question. He asked me if my boyfriend and I ever laid down to kiss, then without waiting for a response, he immediately followed that by asking if my boyfriend ever touched my breasts under my shirt, under my bra or over my shirt. Then, again, without waiting for a response he asked if my boyfriend ever put his fingers inside of my vagina and very sternly told me that if my boyfriend had ever put his fingers inside of my vagina that the church no longer considered me a virgin and that I would one day have to tell my future husband that. He then went on to ask if I touched myself or ever put my own fingers inside of my vagina. He again, very severely told me that if I did, the church no longer considered me a virgin and that I would have a hard time finding a worthy priesthood holder that would want me if that was the case.

I was so shocked by his behavior that I just sat there stunned and mumbled that I had never done any of that. He stared me down like he didn’t believe me and then dismissed me from the interview. I went home that night and cried because I felt so dirty and violated. I had a very hard time feeling comfortable in Bishop’s offices, having to be alone with them afterwards. I know my story is not as bad as some others, but I wanted to share it so people can see that unfortunately not all Bishop’s are asking these questions in appropriate ways. If my daughter was ever in a situation like I was at barely eighteen years old, I would be furious.

#271 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7

My story isn’t necessarily traumatic (I’ve read FAR worse on here), though it can vouch for the negative effects that private worthiness interviews and shame culture have on developing youth and young adults.

As a young girl in elementary school, I stumbled across pornography through unrelated internet searches. I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into, but I knew it was “bad”. I was drawn into it pretty quickly; I spent quite a lot of time viewing it in secret and hiding it from my parents. Though I still have no idea why I had such a propensity toward that sort of thing at such a young age, I began messaging strangers on the internet and engaging in lots of inappropriate conversations, drawing lewd pictures, etc. Perhaps my parents figured it out, though they never engaged me in a direct conversation about it. I remember being in my mom’s room, an LDS video playing on the TV, and a young man talking about how he had just barely escaped hellfire by repenting of his pornography addiction. I remember this moment distinctly, it felt like a bucket of ice water had been dropped on me.

From that moment on (about 8 years old) I was convinced I had already been irredeemably condemned to hell, though I didn’t know how to tell anybody. I was too scared, guilty, and ashamed. I would picture the looks on my parent’s face when we met at the judgement bar, after they realized what I had done, and how I had botched our chance at becoming an eternal family. I spent a lot of nights during my pre-teen life sobbing myself to sleep.

Bishops asked me from a young age if I kept the law of chastity, if I had viewed porn, but I ALWAYS vehemently denied it (increasing my guilt). It was never a topic of discussion. Extreme self-hate and self-loathing caused me to attempt quitting cold-turkey multiple times. I would visualize all of my anger and resentment towards that area of my body, and eventually (around age 13) my feelings towards anything sexual turned into disgust and revulsion. Fast forward a few years, I was 18 years old. I was preparing to serve a mission (right after the age-change) and I had a bishop who gave me the CREEPS. This was in part because the other young women had divulged to me how he kept dogging them for the details about wearing bikinis or thongs, having them describe sexual sin in explicit detail, telling them their immodesty was causing older men to feel aroused, and harassing them to remove instagram pictures he felt were “inappropriate”. When he gave me my worthiness interview, he asked me if I had ever masturbated, which I hadn’t. He was CONTINUALLY asking me if I had ever watched porn, if I had even just SEEN it. When I kept lying, “No,” he wouldn’t accept it, and say, “Are you sure?”, “Lots of kids do it”, “You can tell me”, etc.

When I came home from my mission, he sat me down, and the thing he said next made my blood freeze. “I’m just as horny today as I was on my wedding night, 20 years ago.” WHAT THE HELL?? He said, “Do I blame God for making me this way? No, God put a fire in me that I can’t put out. He made men this way for a reason” He also cautioned me to find a husband that wouldn’t “take advantage of me when I wasn’t in the mood”, because according to him, “most men would do that” to me. I left the interview visibly shaken. My parents were upset about what I had told them.

Due to my extreme aversion towards anything sexual (after “overcoming” porn), I told them I could never marry a man if this is how men were. I did end up getting married due to gospel pressures, but had SEVERE issues with vaginismus “fear/pain during sex”. It took me almost three weeks, lots of crying, lots of coaxing, and lots of blessings to have sex because I DIDN’T WANT TO, and my muscles were so rigidly tense. I had to be a good wife; I eventually fought through the unpleasantness and pain, saying, “Just DO it already,” but I felt like my body wasn’t my own anymore. He divorced me soon after, I distanced myself from the LDS church, and shortly after was able to recover from years of shame and guilt. Finally, at 22 years old, I masturbated for the VERY first time, like a normal human being. I didn’t hate myself. Sexual interviews and shame culture have a lasting effect and 100% need to be abolished, or they will continue harming us and our children.

#270 Amanda W. CS: 1,2,3,4,7,8

I was in my teens when I started masturbating. My bishop at the time was very much interested in emphasizing how sinful masturbation was. He regularly visited my Young Women’s classes and instructed us on the importance of seeing a priesthood leadership should we ever do it.

I felt immense guilt and shame and avoided going for a time. However, after fooling around with a boy I liked (we never had sex), my mom found out about the masturbation and fooling around and said I should go confess to the bishop. I was doing my best to be a righteous daughter of God and so I went.

He met with me many, many times. More than once, he made me describe in excruciating, explicit detail when, where, and how I masturbated. He wanted to know how I touched myself. He wanted to know about my orgasms. He also wanted to know in explicit detail what I had done with my boy friend.

He focused particularly on my breasts. I am large chested and my breasts are very noticeable. He asked a LOT of questions about my breasts and nipples and whether my boy friend had stimulated them, whether it was without clothes on, whether hands or mouth was used, and whether I stimulated them myself when masturbating. Those kinds of questions are EXTREMELY INAPPROPRIATE for a 30 something man to be asking a teenager alone in a room together with a closed door.

He also talked to me in explicit detail about what happens when a man and woman have sex after marriage, how it’s good for a woman to pleasure herself when her husband is inside her with his penis, and so on. Again, for a young, naive, and very innocent young girl, this was horrifying and put images in my mind that I desperately wanted out.

This was abuse. It was sick, and wrong. The current interview practice made it possible.

#269 Lauren S. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7. Other: Silenced about sexual abuse. Blamed for my own sexual abuse.

I was 11 when a cousin 4 years older than me began sexually abusing me. It went on every summer for 3 years, worsening each year as he viewed stronger porn and got braver about his demands for me. He began to threaten me with physical pain if I wouldn’t comply. He was an “upstanding priesthood holder” and told me that no one would believe me if I told people what was happening. I knew he was right. He was a football star and in Seminary leadership positions. I was my parents’ “rebellious kid”. So I kept quiet for a long time.

Eventually I became convinced that he would soon rape me. Not only was this terrifying, but I knew I’d be thrown out of the house if I got pregnant. And the LDS church had always taught me that a girl who’s lost her virginity is a licked cupcake, chewed gum – impure and unwanted. I knew that whether it was my fault or not, this was how I would be viewed if I was raped.

So I told a trusted adult, who told my parents, who didn’t believe me at first. My dad, “the presiding priesthood authority of my home”, sat me down and told me that I must have misunderstood some sort of mutual encounter. I should let bygones be bygones. My cousin was preparing for a mission – I didn’t want to ruin that for him over a minor mistake, right?

And I was told I needed to repent.

I went to my bishop, hoping he would be more helpful. Unfortunately, my dad had gotten to him first, so he had a general idea of what he thought had happened. Nonetheless, he asked me to go into in-depth detail about everything that I was forced to participate in. He was, in fact, so concerned that I was lying to him that he made me tell everything twice. All my abuse, twice. All the times I unwillingly felt aroused, twice. All the times I did the things I was too scared not to do, twice. As a by-product of my abuse, I had learned about masturbation and sometimes engaged in it on my own. So that was discussed as well. Twice.

Finally he told me that he DID believe I’d been abused – but that I had multiple sins to answer for. First, I had clearly done something to attract this sexual attention and I needed to look deep in my heart to find the impurities that had caused this. Was I showing too much skin? Wearing tight clothes over my female curves? Leading him into temptation by being flirtatious? Secondly, he read me the quote by Spencer W. Kimball, “It is better to die in defending one’s virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle.” He said that I should have struggled more, spoken up sooner, refused to experience arousal. Lastly, I had clearly chosen of my own free will to masturbate.

In light of all of this, he would not be calling the police. But he would call my cousin’s bishop, in order to encourage my cousin to repent before his mission. By this point, I was so relieved that the abuse was finally over and so SO ashamed of my own sexuality that I didn’t protest the bishop’s decisions or demands. I spent years working on repentance with him, and many more years feeling horribly guilty, knowing I was to blame. Years hating my body and my sexuality. Years knowing that God was disgusted with me.

#268 Duncan S. CS: 1,2,7,8. Other: Perpetuated addiction.
I’ve always been interested in love. My whole life has been spent loving love, and naturally that love, as a child, was placed in God. As I grew older, I began to become interested with the sexual parts of my life, as a natural process of discovering myself. So, I slowly brought myself into the realm of pornography and masturbation, and it trapped me for 4 years, in this endless addiction that I couldn’t break hold of. And what perpetuated it, if I hated it so much?  These meetings with the bishop.

Every time I’d come in, he’d ask me the typical questions, then it would get to the sexual questions, these horrible probing questions, that made me hate myself every time they came up. I would sit there, knowing how horrible I was, how what I had done was the worst possible thing I could do. How could I do this, disrespecting God, being put on a pedestal with murderers and rapists? And so, this massive guilt, mixed with a high sexual interest, led to some of the worst years of my life. I would go to school, talk with my friends, make a happy smile, laugh, joke. Then I’d get home, masturbate, and hate myself for the ungodly creature I was. I wasn’t human, no. I was a disgusting thing, not a person.

After 6 months of this, I’d have a terrible meeting, and restart the whole process. My full growth as a human being was stunted, because I was told that I was a horror compared to many of the other members.

Slowly as time went on, I started to think about suicide, or self mutilation when any opportunity came up. “Oh, hey, that’s a car coming down the road. I should probably jump in front of it, get it over with.” I’d be cutting tomatoes and think “I should just use this tonight. Maybe I won’t be able to feel it all if I’m feeling pain.”

​I was continually trapped, with no hope for exit. In fact, I still am trapped in this.
​I know this will affect me for years, decades to come. I’m still trying my hardest, pulling against this addiction, and I think I’m making progress. I know I can break out of this cycle, and I hope many realize they can too. Several of my established relationships, platonic or romantic, have been hit hard by this, and to think, that one of the kindest men I knew helped start it all. I can’t think of him without shuddering, knowing what that meeting led to.

Did the bishop mean to affect me in this way? Absolutely not, I think. He was one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. He was doing what he was told, and I don’t blame him for this; he was asked to ask some questions which I don’t think he fully understood the implications of, and didn’t mean to hurt me or others. Because of these events, a year or so of research, I’ve been pulled towards absolute disbelief in the LDS church as a whole, and am now atheist, still struggling with the situation.

This took a lot of strength for me to write this.  As scary as writing this was, I’m happy that my story’s being told, in the hope that future people won’t have to ever tell a story like this. That future children can be protected from this.
#267 Name Withheld CS: 1,2,3,4,7,8

When I was a child, I considered suicide as an alternative route to admitting to a bishop a “sexual sin” I had committed a few years prior. I remember the shame was so great that I would often cry myself to sleep with fear of the eternal damnation I was constantly told would be my future.

As a a teenager I was questioned yearly on my porn usage, masturbation habits, and sexual relations. I never questioned why an adult needed to know what type of porn I watched or how often I touched myself, since I was taught to obey this so called authority figure without hesitation.

As an adult I am still recovering from years of shame, guilt, and mental turmoil that the LDS church has caused me.

#266 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,4,6,7,8,9

I am in the process of writing my story about the sexual issues and shaming that happened within the church. It’s really hard to do. I’ve been in therapy for years, and it still sucks. I still feel lost with it.

There are so many facets to it. Like old neighbor men asking about my virginity. That’s not the worst part. Just one part. I had this neighbor try to make deals with me. He said he’d take me out for hamburgers if I didn’t date or kiss boys. He would show up at my job, and ask me sexual questions. He would stop me on the street and try to get answers on what I was doing. I was so uncomfortable, but I thought it was normal!!! I was 16!!

Dating was awful in Utah. No offense guys, but Mormon men were the worst. Non Mormons totally respected my boundaries. Never pushed things. Mormon guys had zero restraint. There was one returned missionary I had to quite literally run from. Like run from his house and walk home.

I did have one good bishop. He never tried to pry, and he would hand me a new temple recommend every time I saw him. He told me whatever I was doing, he felt I just needed to be right with god and that I could make that decision. But the bishop that came after him, that wrecked me.

My family was and still is a mess. Throughout my teens I lived off and on with other families. I didn’t go to school after the 6th grade, until I put myself in community college at 16. Things were messy, but I tried to make something decent of my life. I stayed away from drugs and alcohol. I did the best I could. At 19, things slipped. Once. And I got pregnant.

I had a borrowed home. Borrowed family. I was living with neighbors who had surprised me on my 18th birthday by moving me out of my parents house. I had no education other than the one I was trying to build. What was mine, I could fit into my car. I. Was. Terrified.

I went to the bishop for help and guidance. What I got was shame. He told me I was a snake. That it was my fault. I had tempted the guy. He told me I could never be a good mother with this sin hanging over my head, and that the only thing I could do now was to give this baby to a worthy family. He set me up with LDS social services. They pushed adoption as my only option and on my first visit, had me start looking at temple worthy families.

I was distraught. It didn’t feel right. Neither did abortion. The guy and I decided to get married. I went back to the bishop to tell him. He was angry. Told me it was a mistake. That I was ruining that child. He said if we went through with it, that I should lie about our wedding date, so that this child would never know the truth. And so that other people would never know about that sin.

I tried to keep my head above water. My family is toxic. My mother is broken. She carries a lot of sexual shame that in my belief stems from her Mormon upbringing. She can never forgive herself, and took it out on us. My mother tried to stop the wedding. She threatened to boycott us. She took his parents out to dinner and told them we were throwing our lives away. She mounted a smear campaign to friends and family trying to stop us from getting married.

We got married. There’s even more there. Horrible things. But to shorten things… I flatlined. Emotionally I flatlined. I died. I developed severe anorexia. I numbed everything out. Ran and ran and ran. Abused and starved myself. I almost died so many times. I laid in a hospital bed with my heart rate at 18 bpm at one point. All because I felt so worthless. So broken. Unfixable.

I have been through a lot of treatment. I still struggle. Before that, I had hope that I could better my life. I was working to make a good life without the issues of my family. But after that, I lost it all. Whatever fragile foundation I had, totally crumbled.

I’m still rebuilding, 12 years on. My husband and I are still married. I have 3 beautiful girls. But I did lose one son. He was still born, because of my anorexia.

I blamed myself for years. I punished myself. I don’t want to anymore. I would like to be free of that burden of shame I didn’t need to carry. My children are healthy and happy. I have been a good mother. As much as I could be between punishing myself. I would like to turn this around now, and lay the blame where it belongs. And that is on a broken system.

#265 Jeanne A. CS: 1,2,3,4,6

I was a 17 year old good girl. Dating at Ricks college with a football player with 16 roaming hands. After months of dating and fighting him off I finally allowed him to touch one boob outside of my clothes. I felt like I had to tell the bishop so we went to see the bishop who – happened to be the football coach. I was shamed horribly by him who looked at me with a very stern voice and told me that it was MY responsibility to control my boyfriends urges. That the woman was always in charge of such things. That if he did anything that would keep him from going on a mission that the many spirits that he would have baptized on his mission – but didn’t get a chance – would be squarely my responsibility to answer for in the next life – (eternally paying!). He did not chastise his football playing pet one bit. Put it all squarely on me. It was clearly unfair, abusive and degrading. I felt incredible shame – unworthy to continue with my scholarship and didn’t go back to school after that. My self esteem was seriously affected by this awful and shaming experience.

After a hurried marriage and divorce at the age of 24 I was being interviewed by the stake president in Alberta, Canada. He asked me terribly inappropriate questions about what positions I used when I was married and did we engage in oral sex in my previous marriage etc. It was creepy and awful to be asked these questions that had nothing to do with my current situation which was that I wished to get a recommend to get married in the temple and was totally worthy to do so.

#264 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,7,8,9

I didn’t know what masturbation was at 11 when I went in for my “are you ready for the priesthood?” interview with the bishop. Little did I know when I walked into that office with my best Sunday clothes and celebratory new set of scriptures that this would be the beginning of years of group and individual shaming that would result in an attempt to shoot myself four years later and numerous other attempts.

The bishop explained what masturbation was in detail and in that interview I already felt like I had done something wrong just by knowing. LDS culture has a big taboo on any sexual conversation. My parents repeatedly dodged the subject and even when I would have learned about the subject at public school, they pulled me from the class by refusing to sign the parental consent waiver. I spent the next two weeks isolated and picked out of the class containing all my peers to sit in the library. As a twelve year old this felt like I did not deserve to know what sex was while all the kids around me got to know, joke about it, and mock my naïveté. It hurt. It hurt to not be included, it hurt to feel like I didn’t deserve to know this big secret everyone knew about, it hurt that I was interested in it and that everyone treated it like it was such a terrible dirty thing. I felt terrible and dirty and alone and I didn’t even know why.

Hours of being left alone with the computer turned my curiosity into something that I explored. It wasn’t the best place to learn but no one else would even speak to me about it. My mom found out. She screamed at me about how dirty and wrong what I had been looking at was, my dad hit me and I was locked in my room so that I wouldn’t taint the family with my presence.

The next day after school, my mom picked me up and took me directly to a Mormon sex addiction therapist. I spent the next three weeks meeting with him where he encouraged me to tell my bishop about what happened because he said. “It will make you feel better and at more peace with yourself.” In meetings with him I was introduced to so many sexually explicit terms. I was told that I was an addict (at 12) when I hadn’t even done anything more than explore something that no one would bring up/talk with me about. I was so ashamed. I let everyone down.

I took his advice and turned to the bishop to continue my ‘rehabilitation’. When I told the bishop what had happened he told me he was deeply disappointed. He said I knew better and that unless I was careful, Satan would destroy my family through me. He pulled me from passing the sacrament with the other kids my age and had me sit down so they could see. I was so embarrassed. Not only had I let my family down in my eyes, but all the other kids my age knew, my home teacher knew, my leaders knew, I knew. I began to think there’s was something deeply wrong with me.

I began self harming with the pocket knife my grandpa had bought me for scouts. I began to deeply hate myself. My bishop would pull me aside at scout meetings to ask if I hadn’t masturbated recently or had thoughts about sex. Once a very outgoing and energetic primary kid, it was rare to hear me talk at church or activities. I cut so deeply once that I severed a vein in my arm and my mom had to take me to the emergency room. I didn’t care. I lied to my friends and told them it happened at scout camp on accident.

The bishop pestering continued. When I was fourteen I got my dad’s 9mm from under his bed, took the safety off, and pulled the trigger. The gun jammed. I should have died. I was shocked and didn’t know what to do next. I put the gun away and pretended like it never happened.

The self harm continued. My dream from when I was a child was to go to BYU like my parents. My bishop had to interview me and send it in to the university. (I was 17 when I applied). He included things about my ‘problem’ and I wasn’t denied on the basis of ecclesiastical endorsement. I tried to take my life again, this time by walking in front of a school bus.

Years later I still struggle with shame associated with my body and sexuality. These interviews and shaming processes started me on a path that almost ended in the end of my life. I know I am not alone in these experiences because I saw it happen to more than me. Interviews weren’t the only sexually explicit conversation leaders had with me or others my age either; Masturbation and sex shaming was a regular priesthood lesson topic. The bishops also shared some really sexually explicit experiences of their own in hopes of ‘curing me’. This is such a pervasive problem in Mormon culture and ultimately was the thing that drove me from my faith. Don’t give up your life for shame someone else imposes on you. You aren’t dirty or wrong for experiencing something very normal and human. Healthy, appropriate education settings are important and this isn’t one of them. Thank you for listening to my story.

#263 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,7,8,9

I’m one of the lucky ones who had only good men as bishops throughout my life and yet I still did not escape unscathed.

I discovered masturbation by about age 4 or 5. My parents caught me and I then got the entire penis-vagina sex talk with a heaping side of the impending fires of hell. None of my bishops ever asked me about masturbation; I think they assumed that only boys do it. But I heard plenty from my parents and in seminary, which I was enrolled in a year early because of my sinful nature.

I suffered from constant fear of hell and fear of the final judgement when I knew my sins would be “shouted from the rooftops” and I would be sent to outer darkness and all my family would loathe the sight of me forever. I was miserable. I hated myself. I was scared. It didn’t help that I was being raised in an abusive home (physical and emotional abuse, as well as a lack of sexual boundaries). I was not able to stop masturbating despite trying everything I could think of. I knew God hated me.

I only confided in my bishop three times about anything. The first time I was 13 and I confessed that my father had a violent temper and that I was scared to tell the truth to the judge that was assessing the custody order. My bishop said I shouldn’t tell lies.

So that was that. (Two years later I attempted suicide because I could see no way out of the hell I was living in with my father. But I survived.)

The second time I was 16 and had just found out from two different family members that my father had sexually abused his younger sisters for years and it had been covered up by my dad’s mission president at the time, who only asked my dad to write home letters of apology. I was also told that the uncle I lived with when I was an infant had been accused of similar things but it too had been covered up by grandparents and church leaders at the time and all details were lost in the veil of “forgiveness.”  I had no idea if I was part of the buried secrets. But at the onset of puberty, as I began to get lots of attention from boys, I had begun experiencing ptsd symptoms and detailed nightmares of forced sexual encounters – despite my total lack of experience. I had never had sex, or seen pornography or had any other exposure to adult sexuality. So when I found out about my dad and uncle, I worked up the courage to go to the bishop about the suspected abuse  (different bishop this time) and also confess my ongoing masturbation problem. I was 16.

He was a kind man and I’m sure did not know how to respond. He simply listened and told me I was going to be okay and sent me home with a copy of Miracle of Forgiveness – which is a truly unkind and unhelpful book for a sexual abuse survivor, or anyone else for that matter. But he did his best.

The thing is, bishop’s are not trained counselors, child psychologists, or sexual abuse advocates and it is extremely inappropriate and unfair to burden them with problems that should be handled either by law enforcement or by someone with the correct training. We expect too much of them. We assume that their “mantle of authority” gives them a heightened spirit of discernment that qualifies them above people who are professionally trained to deal with sensitive interpersonal issues. This is madness. The lds church teaches that when you have a rash you see a doctor and when you need surgery you see a surgeon; but if you touch yourself or you’ve been a victim of sexual abuse then you speak with a man (who might be a plumber, farmer, accountant, etc) alone, while he’s wearing a suit and people are calling him “bishop”.

The third time I confided in my bishop was after my temple marriage and three children. I had discovered naked pictures left on my computer, thousands of text messages, phone calls, hotel bills, gifts sent via the Internet, etc. I was blindsided. It was obvious there was a fidelity problem in my marriage. I was devastated. My heart was broken. I went to the bishop in tears. He spoke to me in a very kind way and explained that I didn’t have proof that “sex” actually happened and that the best thing I could do was go home and try to be a better wife.

Looking back, the thing that bothers me the most about that conversation is how I felt he spoke for God and so he must be right, and then I took it on myself to fix problems that were not mine to fix. He too was a good man who was way, way, way out of his depth. He was a retired military officer who had no business giving marital advice that would be received as if from the mouth of God.

Please, please, please, let us protect our children, our teenagers, our young adults. Stop the inappropriate one-on-one interviews. Lives are being destroyed.

#262 Name Hidden. CS: 1

I had a boyfriend as a teenager that I “fooled around” with. I was told that in order to repent I would need to confess to my Bishop. My Bishop was a good man and I don’t think he got any pleasure in asking, but he did what he felt was required of him and asked very detailed questions about who touched who and where. I was incredibly embarrassed and ashamed. I am mostly past that, but it’s incredibly awkward for me to run into him when I visit home. I don’t think the interview needed to be that detailed. The sexual shaming in Mormonism lasted well into my marriage. I was robbed of normal sexual development.

#261 James H. CS: 1,2,3,4,7,8

I could say so much but I’ll keep it simple. I was indoctrinated into Mormonism as a child, I believed it because it was the only perception of reality offers to me. The LDS church taught me to hate myself when I was about 13 years old. I was lucky to get good kind bishops, but just the fact that the church pits itself against masturbation and paints it as an evil thing it infected my brain and made me think the same thing. I’m 24 and still struggle with my sexuality even though I’ve completely left the church. I realize that my experience was not as painful as many, but I think that all members who are taught to think that these natural processes are evil are affected very negatively. The church needs to change its stance because it is actively damaging so many of its members.

#260 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2. Other: Regular questions about masturbation led me to habitual lying.

I asked my children’s bishop not to ask them any questions related to sexuality. He refused my request, claiming that he had a responsibility as a bishop to address issues of sexual purity with the youth. We emailed back and forth a few times, and when he still hadn’t agreed to not ask my kids sexually related questions, I decided to use a different approach.

I sent an email to Christian ministers in our area, asking them if they had the same practice of asking youth about their sexual behavior. I received lots of responses. None of them said that they did the same thing in their church, and most of them said they thought the practice was inappropriate. You can read my email, along with the responses I received, at the following link:

http://exmormon.org/phorum/read.php?2,925430

I forwarded those responses to the bishop of my children. He ultimately agreed to stop asking sexually invasive questions of my kids. You can read more about my experience here:

http://exmormon.org/phorum/read.php?2,925488

#259 Ron B. CS: 1,2

My son when he was 13 went in to see his bishop for the yearly interview. This was in the Kaysville Height Bench ward. He came home all upset, and for the next couple days would not say why. We have an office in our home. In the office is a 4 ft. X 7 ft. Papiras Egyptian painting. It shows several Egyptian gods etc. our sone finally said we needed to take the painting down because it was causing him to have sexual thoughts.

We went in with him and asked what was sexual about the painting. He pointed out that on one of the female Egyptian gods profile it showed what could be conclude as a side boob and it was causing him to not be worthy because he had the thoughts and the bishop said he should never have sexual thoughts.

That was 18 months ago and we still have issues with the consequences of that interview today. Traveling through Europe visiting Catholic Churches where paintings and statutes exist where breasts are exposed. Trying to explain the difference in art that is 500 years old, vs. porn.

Please stop the practice.

#258 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3

When I was about 16 I had to delay my ordination to Priest because I confessed to porn and masturbation. Because of the delay, I had to tell my dad, who then had to tell my mom and we had this big crying pow-wow.

Fast forward about 6 months, I had been pretty good about staying away, however I had slipped up a couple times.

One day I came home to see my bishop, his executive secretary, and my parents standing around our family computer. I went upstairs to my room, but listened intently to what was going on. I heard the moment they discovered some of my browsing history (I didn’t know how to clear it).

15 minutes later my parents came up, we talked and cried for 3 hours, my sister at some point came up because she suspected what was going on, and got the full scoop. It was humiliating and devastating.

My parents took me to an anti-porn conference, where I ran into some other bishops from my stake who all knew my parents well (presumably they were getting useful information for others, but who knows). One of them was the father of one of my good friends, and it was incredibly awkward.

I had to read books about how to overcome my addiction. For about an entire year after that I didn’t look down when I was in the shower because I was afraid to look at my penis. I had tried so many times to stop masturbating and inevitably it just kept happening to the point where I decided to try something new. I also had a bad habit of popping my knuckles, and I asked God that if I could get that under control if he would remove my sexual addictions. Of course, his end of the bargain was not kept, and I eventually started popping my knuckles again.

HERE’S THE IRONIC PART: It wasn’t until I was 20 and halfway through my mission when I learned what masturbation actually was and tried it for the first time.

All this time I had been confessing to masturbation, but all I was really doing was getting aroused. The “porn” I was looking at, some might still consider porn, mostly bikini pics and the occasional topless pic, but never any videos or actual sex, obviously because I didn’t understand what semen even was.

This story is incredibly embarrassing to tell, but also very infuriating to think about. I had to do so much repenting and all that inner turmoil on, what I consider now to be, far less “deviant” than absolutely normal adolescent behavior.

#257 Name Hidden. CS: 1,3,4,6,7

When I was 17, I fell in love for the first time. This boy looked at me in a way that no one else ever had before. It was like his eyes bored straight into my soul and saw me, the me that I didn’t even see yet. It was like our souls met. And with this soul meeting, I wanted our bodies to meet, too. I was driven by my heart that felt like it was beating a hole into my chest and a sex drive that I didn’t understand that had kicked in at full speed ahead.

Being a good Mormon girl, I also wanted him to learn about the church. So in between touching him everywhere I could, I was sitting in on missionary discussions with him. My love for this boy and my desire to be with him in every way was real, and my testimony was real, too. I didn’t understand how I could be experiencing such paradoxical drives, but I was managing to balance them for awhile.

My Love was very willing to have the missionary discussions and very willing to kneel with my family in nightly prayer when he was over on an evening. When he agreed to baptism, I hoped that he was truly converted and that it wasn’t just for me. But when I saw him walk up to the Bishop a week later with his tithing, the look of earnestness in his eyes told me that he was sincere.

It was after he was baptized that we made love for the first time. It was sweet and pure and intimate and innocent. I know that innocent is a strange word to pair with having sex, and I can’t explain it, but there was an innocence to it. But with this next level of intimacy, a new guilt and insecurity began to rise in me. I was aware that I’d stepped into more sinful waters. I felt really guilty about wanting to convert him and make love to him all at the same time. The “he won’t respect you in the morning” admonition began to hover over me. My tenuous balance of polarities was starting to wear out. My bishop must have seen the strain on my face one Sunday night after sacrament meeting. He casually asked me to come into his office and have a visit with him.

I should have never gone in there.

Before long, i burst out with my all my anxieties and told him what I’d been doing. The bishop’s face registered true horror. He shook his head as if he was personally wounded by my behavior. That’s when the questions started coming at me: Did we have all our clothes off? How long had we been doing it? How many times had we done it? When was the last time that we had done it? Where had we done it?

Then he asked me how I could be teaching my boyfriend the gospel and doing it with him at the same time? And did we think that because he had paid his tithing that that made it ok? (This verified and confirmed to me that I truly was the hypocrite that I feared I was.)

The bishop shook his head and said that of all the girls in mutual, I would have been the last one he thought would come in with a confession like this. This was truly shocking and heartbreaking to him. He thought I was better than this. Smarter than this. He then told me that his two daughters (in my age group) would never do something like this.

Then he laid the real bombshell on me. He said that I could be excommunicated for this. (Yes, they were excommunicating unendowed teens in my Idaho town in the 70’s.) And that he was setting up a court for me on the next Thursday night. I. was. shocked. I knew that what I had done was wrong, but I didn’t know that I could be excommunicated for it! I was terrified now! Terrified of hell and outer darkness. When I questioned my bishop about this, he explained to me that the only thing I could do worse than this was to commit murder. Murder. Murderess. But, I didn’t feel like a murderer.

The bishop encouraged me to tell my parents everything. And if I didn’t, it would proof to him that I was not repentant and that he would see me at my church court in 4 nights time………in the court that my dad, a high counselor, would be sitting in. I didn’t want my dad to publicly find out his daughter’s shameful sexual secrets in a roomful of his peers, so to save my dad from that humiliation I resolved to tell my parents.

The Bishop’s horror was nothing compared to my parents’ horror. They asked me all of the same questions that the bishop had. And they also asked me if I had had a period since the last time I’d had sex. When I told them no, they talked about where they would hide me in case I was pregnant. I had brought dishonor upon them and upon all of my little brothers and sisters, for whom I was supposed to be an example. I told them that I loved this boy. My dad sneered at me, “What can you possibly know about love. You’re just a kid.” Then he told me that before that night, his vision of me was that of a beautiful girl all dressed in white. And now I looked to him as though I had been pushed down in the mud and trampled upon. Their looks of horror, disgust and grief went to not being able to look at me at all. And they sent me to my room.

The next morning, my mom came to my room, weeping. She gave me the book, The Miracle of Forgiveness. And she told me that this sin was next to murder. And that I could only be forgiven of this sin once. There were no. more. chances. If I ever “fell” again, I could not obtain forgiveness again. I would be cast into outer darkness for forever.

This was the moment that changed my life forever. It was like someone flipped a switch inside of me and I was never the same again. I lost my light, my security, my confidence, my joy, my sense of self. For the first time in my young life, I had acted independently and had made my own decision, and that decision had brought me to the brink of spiritual annihilation. I must never, ever, make another personal decision again. I could not be trusted. To be safe, I must give over the reigns of control of my life to those who were older, wiser, better, than I was. This was also when a lifelong battle of anxiety and depression began.

Because I had confessed to my parents, the bishop called off the court. But I was being watched. I must break off completely with the boy. I must not take the sacrament until given permission to do so again. I was to meet with the bishop regularly. And read the Miracle of Forgiveness. I was alone in my shame. I could talk to no one. No one must ever know the truth of who I was: dirty, unclean, unvirtuous, immoral, fallen. And The Miracle of Forgiveness made me feel more dirty, hopeless and fearful than ever. My parents kept telling me what a lucky girl I was to have the bishop I did. He was saving me. But I didn’t feel like I was being saved, I felt like I was being killed. The girl who was little better than a murderer was being murdered.

I went from living a joyful, passionate life to thinking, saying, and doing the things that I had to do to try to regain my acceptability before God. But it was hard to believe that that could be done, especially when my Sunday School teacher explained to me that when you sin, it’s like putting a nail in a board. You can extract the nail, but the hole is till there. You can fill it with putty, but the hole is still there. I would never be good and clean again. So I lived in fear. I feared falling again. I feared going to hell. I chose my future husband on the grounds that he was good. It was essential that I marry a good man because I was inherently bad. And if I had any hope of having good children, I would need to marry a good man who could pass on his good genes to them, because I had none.

I went into my bishop and stake president interviews for my temple recommend for marriage confident that I had chosen someone they would approve of. And perhaps by virtue of aligning myself to him, I would be acceptable to them, and to my parents and to God and I would have a chance to make it to heaven. I was truly horrified and embarrassed when the Stake President asked me about my confessed sins 3 years prior. How did he know anything about that? I had never spoken to him at the time. Who had told him about my private life? And why? And who else knew? I was horrified at the thought that a group of old men in my small town sat around discussing my private life!!!! I felt violated! As though I had been spied upon while I was naked by a group old peeping toms. And why was he asking me about it now? I had done everything I had been told to do. As always, I swallowed my shame and obediently answered his question. I assured him that I had remained “clean” ever since the incident.

Then he asked me a series of very strange questions: Did I take baths or showers? I took showers, I answered. When I washed myself, did I use my hands or a wash cloth? With my head starting to spin, I said, Wash cloth. And then his line of questioning got weirder. When I washed myself, he asked, did I like it? I had no idea how to answer this one. So asked him to repeat it. When I washed myself, did I find it… exciting? When I looked at him in complete puzzlement, he moved on to another line of questioning. It wasn’t until years later that I realized he was asking me if I was masturbating. I may not have been a virgin, but I had never masturbated and had no idea what it was.

When the sealer in the temple pronounced my husband and I married, I felt a wave of relief. Now I didn’t have to worry about burning any more…. as Paul had written, “Better to marry than to burn.” And I had worried about burning for years.

My wedding night was terrible as I pretended I was a virgin. Sex with my first love was wonderful and sweet. Sex with my husband was fraught with anxiety. I didn’t enjoy it at all. I decided that this must be more of God’s punishment for me. I had not been forgiven. Because I had had unsanctioned sex before I was married, I was being sentenced, by God, to never be able to enjoy sex again. I found, through the years, that even though I was able to spread my legs and have sex, and even experience orgasm, I have never been able to give my soul to it again. This has been a terrible blow to my husband, who was assured that if he waited until he was married to have sex, that all wants would be fulfilled through his wife. We have both been so unhappy.

My husband told me years later that on our wedding night, he knew that something was missing. That missing something was me. My bishop, my parents, and a very shamed and fearful me zipped my wicked, untrustworthy soul up tight, buried her deep, never to see daylight again.

In retrospect, my bishop did not set out to hurt me. Neither did my parents. They were doing what they thought was right. (However, I think that my stake pres. was a downright pervert.) But those good intentions did not save me from the lifetime of damage that was done. The church has been both a great blessing to me, and my worst nightmare. Though deeply conflicted, I have stuck with it all my life. Yet, even now, at age 58, I cannot think back on that time in my life without crying. Though I have tried, I have never been able to heal. I built my life on a faulty foundation of shame. And it has been very painful. I raised my children in the church, but I didn’t want them shamed and shoved into the same corner I had been. So before their bishop interviews (after having been told I could not accompany my children), I tried to prepare them and give them some power and personal autonomy that I never had. I told them that they were not obligated to answer any question that made them feel uncomfortable and that they could leave the interview at any time. And every time they went in, I was washed with guilt and confusion and anxiety. I would sit outside the door and cry and wring my sweat soaked hands together and examine my children when they came out for any trauma.

In many parts of Africa, God has instructed that young girls have their clitorises and outer labia cut off. Then their vaginas are sewn up, leaving only a small hole out of which to urinate and menstruate. Of course, this is done for their own protection by God’s command. If they live through this procedure, done with no anesthesia, they often live lives of physical and mental pain. THIS IS WHAT WE DO TO OUR YOUNG WOMEN MENTALLY, EMOTIONALLY, SPIRITUALLY. I know. I have lived it.

I have questioned the practice of sending children alone into a room with old men in authority to be asked sexual details of their private lives for decades. I have felt alone in my cries for decades. I have waited my whole life for a Sam Young to pick up my cross and help me bear it to our modern day Golgotha — the brethren in the high towers in Salt Lake City. I truly hope that we will not be unjustly crucified upon this cross, as Jesus was unjustly crucified by the religious authorities of His day. But come what may, I know that I am loved and accepted by Jesus. I know it. I know now that I have never been condemned by God; I have only ever been condemned by mortal men. I know that He is lighting my path and leading me to wholeness. I feel Him with me all the time. I know that He does not deem me His enemy. I pray that his servants in SLC also do not deem me their enemy. And that they will finally see that there is only one question and one appropriate course of action to take with a disciple who has lost his/her way. That is to say, “Where are thine accusers? Neither do I condemn thee. Go thy way and sin no more.”

#256 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,7

I was born in what many would view the ideal Mormon family. My parents believed in doing all that the church taught and I was raised with a view on reality that was very slanted through the LDS church lens. I am a very curious individual and it did not take me long as an innocent kid to be exposed to pornography and then seek it out to understand it, which I then found to naturally enjoy. I viewed porn and masturbated off and on for my entire middle school years, high school years, and beyond. It was a constant battle to not succumb to this “great evil.” I feel now that it ruined so much of what could have been my happiest years. I felt like I was the only one who struggled. I felt unworthy, unhappy, dirty, unloved and weak. Teenage years are hard enough as it is without all of those insecurities being thrust on you by the only belief system you’ve ever been exposed to! I never experienced sexual advances by bishops or other clergy but having to constantly return and report to a stranger how big failed again and tell him in embarrassing detail how and why I failed was miserable. This happened for over a decade and culminated in me even attempting to go to 12 step addiction recovery programs. I’m figuring out now it’s not a problem with me, I’m not broken, it’s natural and not a evil heinous shameful thing. Oh how I wish things could have been different, I would be a more social person with much less anxieties.

#255 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,6,7

I struggled with bishops interviews all growing up. The questions always made me feel uncomfortable, I hated being alone in a room with an adult male that I didn’t know well or trust. I felt so much confusion for not completely understanding what they were asking me.

Like others, I had no idea what masturbation was until a bishop described and discussed it with me. I had been doing it for awhile but again, I had no idea it was “bad” or would cause me to be unworthy of Gods love. I didn’t even know it had a name!

The bishop often would use me as a way to pry into my parents marriage over many years. Wanting to know details about what happened between them at home, then wanting to know even more during and after their divorce. Sharing their opinion about what they thought of my parents personal matters with me when I was only 14 years old. It always made me uncomfortable and worried. I was far too young to be dealing with such things.

When I was 16 I went on my first date with a friend. We attended a school dance. This friend was a convert and a big joker. We were dancing together near a bunch of other Mormon kids and he grabbed my butt knowing the others were watching. He knew it would get a rise out of them. The next morning at church the bishop called me to his office. He had been told by his son what had happened and then insisted on getting a detailed account of everything this friend and I had done together sexually. (Which was absolutely nothing) but he kept prying, assuming I was lying. I had never even kissed anyone. The mounting shame continued.

I went to BYU after high school. I ended up being sexually assaulted by a return missionary on our first date. I experienced my first kiss ever (at 19 years old) followed by my first sexual assault immediately after (I ended up being sexually assaulted by multiple return missionary’s while attending BYU). I didn’t feel safe to go talk to any bishop about them. I didn’t feel anyone would believe me. No bishop had believed me before.

I ended up struggling to continue to attend church. I’d do anything to get out of meeting alone with any man. I didn’t trust them.

I ended up meeting my husband a year later. During our engagement we ended up having sex. I was so ashamed and wanted so desperately to be married in the temple so I pleaded with him to go talk to his bishop and I would talk to mine.

We both ended up having disciplinary councils. I felt sick to my stomach as I sat in a room with 15 men, most of whom I had never met, being asked about the sexual encounter I had had with my fiancé. I felt sick to my stomach. I hated myself.

We were not allowed to be married in the temple. We had to wait till we had been married a year to be sealed. By this point I had so much sexual shame built up in me that once we were married I didn’t want to have sex. I felt broken and like I was a horrible person.

After years of having a really disfunctional sex life, within marriage, the last bishops meeting I ever had occurred when I took our 2 year old daughter to go visit family out of state and my husband stayed in Utah to work.

Within 2 days of being home with my family I got a call from my husband crying, he was sitting outside of our bishops office, ready to confess that he had just had sex with another woman. I was devastated.

With the encouragement of my mom, she got me to go talk to her bishop (who I had known all growing up). I explained to him what had happened. That I came to visit family and my husband had sex with someone else.

The next thing out of the bishops mouth surprised me. He asked me “how long are you visiting for?” I answered, “3 weeks” he sighed. Looked at me and said “what did you expect to happen leaving him for so long?” He went on to tell me that men need to have sex every few days. They cannot be expected to go longer than that without it. It was my womanly duty as his wife to be there for him (sexually) even if that meant not visiting my family.

There it was. In that moment I felt more broken than I ever had in my entire life. Instead of storming out I asked him what was I supposed to do next. He then told me to return home to my husband as soon as I could, to take this instance of infidelity and put it in a box in my brain. Then tuck that box away and never ever open it again.

The damage was done. It took a few more years after that and entering into therapy before I began to start to heal from the sexual shame I had developed. I’m still in therapy working on it.

#254 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,8,9

My parents are amazing people. They are always there for me (turning 30 this year) and have never judged or meant to harm me or my brothers in any way whatsoever. That said, the influence the Mormon church has had on their parenting was without a doubt very harmful.

I have been drawn to women from a very young age. I remember being 6 or 7 and being obsessed with Jasmine from Aladdin. I didn’t know why, but I was obsessed. As I grew up I found myself trying harder and harder to find pictures of women’s bodies. It wasn’t a perverted endeavor, as a young male I was simply extremely curious and amazed.

When I was 9 my parents became active in the Mormon church, my dad had been inactive and my mom joined for the first time. I was baptized before I knew what was going on, my mom was also baptized and we were an LDS family now.

I hated going to church and being told what to do. From the first time I stepped foot in a Mormon church I could feel the necessity to smile no matter how you felt. The appearance of happiness and “having it together” was the most important. I was good at appearances, I was really good.

As I grew up I naturally discovered masturbation and pornography. I remember lying at my aaronic priesthood interview about masturbation and pornography. I was a locked vault. My appearance never waivered. I was whatever the church wanted me to be on the outside and being who I was on the inside. A dangerous game to play as a kid who isn’t even a teenager yet.

This facade began to break down as I continued to grow older. I began to hate myself for not being able to actually be what everyone wanted me to be. I felt like a fake because masturbation never bothered me, because I knew at 14 I had no intention of going on a mission, and I was trapped in these expectations from my parents and everyone we knew. As my true self began to emerge to my parents I found myself constantly meeting with the bishop. Not because I felt any need whatsoever to confess my sins to this man, but because my parents confided in him everything that was going on and he requested to meet with me. Smoked a cigarette, meeting with the bishop. Masturbation, meeting with the bishop. I never felt myself to be a bad kid. Although my Mormon standards I was an apostate at 14. So I embraced it. I did what I wanted and didn’t even try to hide it anymore. Until something cracked inside me. I had sex with a girl at 16. This wasn’t even my first time but something about it made me feel guilty. Nothing bad happened, She was older, it was consensual, nothing bad. I just felt guilty. I actually told my parents what had happened. Wanting their advice or support or something. I got a meeting with the bishop. In this meeting my ability to block myself from the self loathing hatred that comes from not being Mr perfect Mormon was shattered. I was asked the positions we had sex in, how long it lasted, were we completely naked or just partially? He even asked where I ejaculated. In a condom or did I stop and remove my penis from inside her first? Sorry to be so graphic.

I felt like the lowest human on the planet at this point. After discussing these horrendous details with a man I didn’t even want to discuss anything further than a football game with, I hated myself. I was scum. How could I have done something like that to a girl? How could I have stooped so low to not be following the church’s teaching on chastity. That night I cut myself for the first time

I began cutting myself constantly. Wanting to try and get deeper and deeper every time. Not caring about the consequences. I would take pills kids at school would offer me. I didn’t know, or care what they were. I was worthless and had no future on this earth or anything to offer anyone. I tried to kill my self at 16. My parents got me help at a mental hospital. After some time I became less suicidal and things have been, for the most part, under control since then. I am now very happily married with children and can say my life is nothing like it was back then. My wife, who knew me through everything above, has helped me feel like a normal and wholesome person more than anything I was ever told in the church. I still have the scars from back then, but every day they fade and I can feel that pain fade with them.

I don’t blame the church or that bishop or even my parents for what happened. I made choices and did some wrong things. I do blame the church for making my worthiness more important than anything I was facing. My parents didn’t see, and I didn’t know, my depression and anxiety issues festering because that wasn’t important. What was important is that I was obedient to the church. Which blinded my amazing, loving, would die for me parents to what was going on. It told them sending me to the bishop was the most rational thing they could do.

I won’t let my children think there is anything wrong with them as they grow up and face the issues children and teenagers face. I will help them fight their battles and provide them understanding and help. I will not let any man, behind closed door or not, make them feel their entire worth as human beings is dependent on the church’s standard

#253 Name Hidden. CS: 1,4

When my son was almost 12, I went to speak with the bishop about the upcoming interview for my son. I asked what he would ask my son. He said he asked about the law of chastity and then said he asks each young man if they have ever looked at pornography. If they answer yes, he asks follow up questions such as when, where were they, how did they gain access to it, were they with someone else or alone. Then he said, if they answer no he asks them, “When?” He said they will usually then confess that they actually had looked at pornography.

I looked at him incredulously and asked, “So you trick them?!” He didn’t know what to say and got very flustered, crossing and uncrossing his legs, clearing his throat and finally said, “No, it’s not tricking them. I have an obligation to help them repent when they can’t on their own.” I told him the only obligation he has is to be there for them if they wish to confess anything of their own accord. He disagreed. I told him he was not allowed to ask my son any of those questions, including about chastity. I explained we, as his parents, had already discussed these things with our son and assured him that anything he might be feeling as he transitioned into young adulthood was a normal process and he shouldn’t be ashamed of it. I told the bishop that those things were to be taught and discussed by us as his parents or with someone our son feel comfortable with.

He refused, saying again that it was his duty to ask and we could sit for all of the interview expect that part. When I told my son what would happen, I asked if he was okay with that. He turned to me with a look of utter fear and said emphatically, NO!”

We soon stopped attending church after that. My husband was in full support of this decision.

#252 Name Withheld. CS: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8

I was molested by my older brothers for several years. One night my mother sat me down and asked me about it because my parents had caught one of my brothers trying to sneak into my room the night before. I had enough foresight to bar the door knowing he would come in. I felt intense and overwhelming fear, but also relief and gratitude towards my mother. She comforted me and told me it would be ok. However, a few days later she told me that we were all going to the church to talk to the bishop about it. I didn’t understand. My heart dropped into my stomach and everything started spinning. What had my mom just done to me?

Sitting outside the bishop’s office at 11 years old, I could literally see my heart beat against my chest. When it was my turn, I went in, alone, with a backward glance at my mom. The bishop began by asking me to tell him what had happened. I told him. He asked a few questions but I don’t remember all of it. I don’t recall invasive questions and he was very nice. His daughter was my friend. He was a licensed therapist for the church. But what I do remember is that he told me what happened was wrong and that I should never do it again. Did I understand? Yes, I understood, I said as I nodded my head. I was trembling and crying. We went home. And that was it. Nothing was reported. And nothing stopped. The rock in the pit of my stomach stayed there for most of my life. It is still there sometimes. It will always be there.

As an adult, I finally went to a real therapist, specializing in adults who were sexually abused as children. After several sessions, she diagnosed me with Dissociative Disorder and PTSD, saying it was her belief, as well as those therapists she practiced with (I had previously given permission for her to discuss my case in their weekly meetings) that it was meeting with the bishop that caused me to develop PTSD. The repeated trauma of abuse of course contributed to that, as well as being the main factor in my Dissociative Disorder, but the incredible fear of that meeting and being told I had been wrong to participate in the abuse fractured my young brain, heart and soul. PTSD is a terrible plight to live with. I struggle constantly as I try to cope with living with it. It seeps like oil spilled onto cloth, continuing an outward spread from the original blot as it pervades and pushes itself into every part of your life and affects everyone you love until it is much larger than it started.

I finally stopped doing things with my brothers when I was 12 or 13. I never told my mom anything personal again and I lost all trust in her.

When I was 16 my parents came home to me having an emotional meltdown. She set me up with lds social services. Can you guess who my therapist was? It was the same man who had been my bishop at 11 years old. He looked me in the eye and told me that I hadn’t done anything wrong, did I know that? I was shocked. Stunned. I sat there several moments while I tried to comprehend what he had said. Nothing reconciled itself inside me. What was he saying to me? Then after several moments I grew some courage, built on the rage that suddenly boiled up inside me, and said, “If that is true, can you tell me why you made me confess to you when I was 11?” He had absolutely nothing to say. He simply stared at me, shame faced. I left and didn’t go back. Had he managed to open his mouth and apologize and try to help heal me, I may have begun to believe him. But I didn’t because I didn’t know how to think anything other than I was dirty and gross and ashamed of my womanly body. He ensured that at our first meeting 5 years earlier.

I had been stuck for years in a cycle of masturbating, self-shaming, self-loathing and guilt; bargaining with God to forgive me secretly so I didn’t have to confess any more sins. I promised I would stop. But I never could. I was told by one of my brothers that the way I had dressed made it difficult for him to leave me alone. Even as a full grown adult he asked me why I had to wear spandex when I worked out? I became a little promiscuous in my youth. I did not do anything too wild, but I was seen as a rebellious youth by my leaders. My mother had told her friends, who told their kids, my peers, warning them about associating with our family. It was humiliating. Some of my brothers have had to deal with the legal fallouts of their actions as adult men when their behaviors again manifested in various ways. I have no gratification in this as they hurt others in the process, but I do have some pity as they should’ve received proper help, in whatever form that needed to be, when they were younger as I like to think it would’ve spared the innocent ones they later hurt. The church failed them all as well.

As a single adult, I was told the bishop wanted to talk to me. My boyfriend had previously been asked to come in and was asked about our relationship. He confessed to our sexual relationship. I felt I had no choice as I had been brought up to obey my priesthood leaders, so I went in and fearfully confessed. We were scheduled for a disciplinary hearing. During my hearing, I was asked if I had ever had an abortion. I’m still bothered by this question because I hadn’t, nor had I alluded to it. I was intelligent enough to think ahead and put myself on birth control. Unfortunately, putting this much thought into my actions is unusual and viewed by members to be willfully sinning rather than just succumbing to the heat of the moment. I was asked explicit questions and was alone with these men, most of whom I had known from childhood. They wanted names of others I had been involved with, which I refused to give them. I was again shaking, and threw up in the parking lot waiting for their decision. We were disfellowshipped because of the length of time we had been having sex and the measures we took to prevent pregnancy. We remained in the state of being disfellowshipped for many years.

The demoralization of this experience is indescribable. I humbled myself to the point of having no dignity in order to be brought back into full fellowship several years later. I could never look these men fully in the eyes again without being reminded that they knew all of my most intimate and humiliating secrets. There is still shame in me. There is still a little girl in me who is scared of authority. I will always struggle with knowing there are men out there who know my secrets. They were mine, and I shouldn’t have been forced to share them with anyone I didn’t want to for fear of being separated from God and my family. I shouldn’t have ever been made to feel guilty about the molestation at the hands of my brothers and I should’ve been protected from them instead of left in the same situation we were in. That’s not how it works, that’s not how any God I read about in the scriptures works

 

#251 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,4

When I was 8, just after I was baptized, I would look up pictures on the internet. I started finding “dirty” ones and found myself always wanting to look at pictures of women.

I knew it was wrong and that I, being a woman too, was sinning deeply. I was always hiding it and when one day my sister basically caught me (she never mentioned it but she knew) I told my mom in tears and so much shame about my sins. I begged her not to tell my dad. I remember for weeks feeling so much shame. I remember sitting on the playground not being able to play because I felt i didn’t deserve it. I was so upset because it was after my baptism and I wished I could have done it before. All day every day I would pray in my head for forgiveness and to please not send me to hell. I never told any bishop in my interviews as I hadn’t touched myself or looked at anything since.

It has brought me so much shame in my life, I left the church when I was 16 and immediately became sexually active. I to this day have a hard time feeling sexual without feeling shame and often I ask to be degraded sexually to be turned on. I have a fiancée who helps me overcome this to feel love and belonging when I have sex.

#250 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7,8

I learned to masturbate as an infant. It was no big deal to me. I only did it while alone. I had sexual ideas and daydreams when I was a child. I started to think these thoughts were bad. My bro brought porn mags into our room. He did not hide them well. I started to view porn and masturbate.

At 12 I had a priesthood interview and I admitted what I had been doing. I never gave my bro up though. My bishop used all the usual tactics. “The lord destroyed the old testament people who spilled their seed” “if you keep doing it you will turn gay”, “no worthy girl will want you”

At 14 my bishop pulled out a paper and asked me several questions. Then gave me grades.

Do you honor your priesthood?………..F

Do you honor your parents?……………..F

Collect fast offerings?………………………..D

Law of chastity(I was a virgin)…………….F

Do you study your scriptures?……………D

Pay tithing………………………………………….F

He gave me the paper and said “I am your judge in Israel and this is were you stand with the lord”

I had several interviews. Always failed. Never good enough. I’m still not good enough. At 55 I have had a horrible sex life. Divorced twice. I’ll be alone from here out.

I don’t know how much those interviews affected me in the end. I know my “unworthiness” has always been with me.

I hate myself and the Mormon church.

#249 Name Withheld. CS: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8

This happened more than 20 years ago. I was 11. My dad left us when we were young. My mom was an alcoholic and a prostitute. My family life was hell. I don’t know the whole story but my mom took the missionary lessons when I was young and got baptized. She went through cycles of try to get clean. She was always conning someone and doing whatever she could for money. She never admitted it, but I think she was in it for the welfare.

We went to church once a month maybe a little more. This was a new ward. We moved around a lot. I was shy, poor, not well kept, an easy target. This wasn’t the first time an adult took advantage of me. This wasn’t the worst thing sexually I had experienced. But it had the worst impact on my psychology.

The bishop had me alone. I don’t know why. I guess it was something for young women’s. He looked at me the same as some of the others. I knew his intentions. He asked me if I touched myself. I looked down. Not this again. Please God don’t let it happen here. I mumbled no. He told me it was very important I tell the truth. He asked me again. I looked down and mumbled yes, sometimes I guess. He smiled. What the fuck? He smiled?! That smile haunts me. He told me it’s ok. He said God made us that way to like it and it’s ok. He asked if I wanted to touch him that way. I looked at the door? Could I run for it? He sat up in his chair like he was ready to dash in front of the door to stop me. It’s ok he says again. It’s ok isn’t it? As he gets up and comes around the desk to sit in the chair next to me. Puts his hand on my knee.

I can smell his putrid breath and see his oily hair. His finger up my skirt and under my panties. He gets rough and I have to hold my cry in to myself. He then pulls out what I call the monster. Puts my hand on it. Then shoves my face down on it. I’ve done this before so I know what to do. I’m crying as he finishes. He must have known I was someone he could do that to. I never said a word. We moved again. But I never forgot. I decided God didn’t care about me if that’s what he let a bishop do to me. I’m doing better now. I have been to hell and back. But I’ve worked hard. I found a good therapist. I got clean. Thank you for putting up this website. My therapist told me writing this is a big step for me.

#248 Maddie K. CS: 1,2,3,4,7,8,9

I was 12 years old when I found out what masturbation was. I did not find out from the internet (not a thing at that time). I did not get curious looking at dirty pictures or even from being told by friends what it was. I was told in graphic detail what it was by my bishop. It is important to understand that my 2nd through 4th grades were taught at home as were my two siblings in their respective grades. I was completely and utterly socially inept and masturbation was never part of my mind. For my 12 year-old interview to receive the priesthood, I was asked many questions about sex of all kinds. I had a general idea in my naivety what these things were. Then came the question. You know the question: “Do you masturbate?” My mind was racing trying to come up with an answer. After several moments the bishop could see the ignorance in my eyes. He then said “Matthew, do you know what masturbation is?” My stammering continued. He let me know that masturbation is when I pleasure myself. So again, I sat there dumbfounded. My mind could not grasp what he was explaining. After several more moments of confused stares at each other (I am sure he is thinking in his mind what an idiot I must be) he continues to explain in graphic detail how I can masturbate and how I should feel when I climax. Still not responding, he spoke again letting me know what a terrible bad thing it was and, without an answer from my stunned face, the conversation turned to the church approved pamphlet about my “little factory”. It is worth a read and a good laugh now, but at that time, I was utterly traumatized. I’m sure that my deer in the headlights look made the bishop happy and without saying a word, he let me know how proud he was that I did not masturbate. This is my first memory of an interview with the bishop and it gave me a feeling that would become common in my life: incapacitating anxiety.

To continue, you need to understand a little background on my family. My mother has always had an extreme type A personality. I remember constant fights my parents would have in the motor home we had in the driveway. As children, we would sit in the living room staring at our parents screaming at each other while we looked out the over-sized bay window in the living room that over-looked the driveway where they would think they were spewing hatred at each other in privacy. When I was in middle school, we went on a road trip to California from Colorado for the weekend. In the middle of the lonely Southern Utah desert, our Suburban rolled in the early hours of the morning. It was a blur. It was traumatic. My sister had 5 fractures in her vertebrae. I was not wearing a seat belt, and with my leg stuck under the seat in from of me, my body turned in the accident and I could feel my knee snap as that was the only point holding me into the vehicle. As you can imagine, my knee was torn apart as my spinning body was unable to keep up with the rotational speed of the Suburban rolling. I blacked out. When I came to, all I could hear was other family members calling out to see where my sister was. She had been thrown hundreds of feet from the back seat of the Suburban. I tried to stand up to find her, only to step on my leg and have it completely give way underneath me. Once crumpled in a pile on the inside-side pillar of the Suburban, which was now on its side, I could see the extent of my injuries. As I was finally dragged from the wreckage by some passers-by, I waited for what seemed like an eternity for the ambulance to come thinking my sister was killed as she was still being looked for. Once the ambulance came I was loaded and I found out my sister had been found and was alive. We were both put in the same ambulance. We spent the ride to the Cedar City hospital, sobbing, screaming in pain, and just trying to hold each others hands. I can still smell every terrifying scent from that night and ordeal. I am sobbing just thinking about it. 25 years later, I feel that it just happened yesterday.

It is an incredible story. That is the easy part of the story. We found out later that we were the ones spared from real injury. We would find out in the coming months, that my mother received a substantial un-diagnosed closed head injury. This would shape the rest of the lives for everyone in my family and so many others. Before the accident, my mother was the type that could be the Relief Society President, Young Women’s President while doing things for dozens of others while doing everything we needed at home. After the accident, she became my personal tormentor and something worse than the devil.

I was not the exclusive target. My brother and sister were tormented for years. My father was abused in ways I am unable to comprehend. Verbal abuse was the weapon of choice of my mother. We never knew when she would fly into a screaming fits for hours letting us know that we were pieces of garbage and we would hear over and over how much we did not love her. We were scared to ask her about anything and we knew that if we brought up anything that was out of step with her or the gospel of the Mormon church, we would be the enemy and would be diminished for days, weeks, or even years depending on the severity of the issue.

After the car accident, the insurance company required that we see a mental health professional to talk about the accident. We needed to go for at least one visit, although they wanted us to go regularly. Before that visit, we were instructed for days by our mother about the evil these psychologists had in there hearts and that we would be in immense trouble if we were to reveal ANYTHING personal about the family, and most importantly, nothing about her. We did as instructed, kept our mouths shut, and after the one visit, life was back to the normal abuse. At the time I felt relieved by my silence. I should note that my father was just as abused as we were. Over the years, he stopped arguing like the rest of us and just tried to get over the yelling as quickly as possible. I understand why he just caved, but it was demoralizing for us. After the daily abuse from our mother, we would beg our father to help and put a stop to it. The reply we got in the mid 1990’s would be the same one we get today. “I know it’s hard, but……….”, just add whatever excuse of the day here. My father was unwilling to stop my mother because he just wanted it to stop as soon as possible.

You may ask what this has to do with my bishop at the time or interviews for that matter. Well, at this point, I knew that my father was unable / unwilling to protect us against the devil living in our home. After this went on for some time, one day I had been told over and over throughout the day after getting home from school that I was nothing but a piece of shit that could do nothing right. As I laid in my bed that night uncontrollably crying as I did most nights, it came to my mind that there was one person that could help me (I had prayed over and over for help, so I knew God was unable to do anything). I knew that the bishop was my advocate and that he could help. In the late hours of that night I called my bishop and for what seemed like the entire night (I’m sure it was 15 to 20 minutes), I laid everything out in a sobbing mess in a way only a teenager can utter. I begged for his help and comfort. Then came the damage my mother was never able to complete. All hope was taken from me. My bishop told me that she was my mother and that whatever happened was for my good, to always listen to my mother, and not involve him in this “issue”.

I was crushed. My soul had been deflated. Nobody could help me. I then did what I have done for the last couple decades: Smiled on the outside, but everything inside me went numb. It still hurt, but I did everything in my power to not feel. I learned how to stay at school for as long as I could. I never wanted to see my mother again, but she made sure to always be a painful part of my life.

Just a couple weeks after that I had my annual interview with the bishop where we talked about the usual. Nothing was asked about my mother. It did not matter. I learned how to just answer every question as I should so it would not get back to my mother. I had no relationship with the bishop. I was unable to confide in the bishop about anything. He was basically my father; he just wanted to make my mother happy so he would not need to deal with her. This is how I dealt with every other ecclesiastical interview I have had in my life. I should also point out that this same bishop is the one that guilted me into going on a mission at the age of 21 after my mother would not leave him alone about him getting me to go.

My heart and soul were gone after that. I never fought back to this “leader” that cared nothing about me. Not long after that, I went to high school and my friends did not line up with any of the kids at church. I would go to the parties with these friends, but I remained good in the eyes of the church. I was the designated driver. At these parties, I would see the bishops son and those of other leaders drink or have sex. When I would get to mutual on Tuesday night, I would be yelled and screamed at by the leaders. I would assume that they were told by the other youth my age doing whatever they wanted, that I was there. It did not matter that I was not doing any drinking or messing around. Of course they would be smiling over the shoulder of these leaders chastising me even though they were the ones doing what we were not supposed to be doing.

Fast forward. I am now 38 years old. I am married to the most amazing person in the world who would often get my short temper and un-loving comments. She is the one that has helped me understand who I am. She has lead me by the hand and shown me the unconditional love I never had at home growing up, or from my church leaders. I am now at a point in my life where I do not think about suicide on a daily basis. My wife went to law school a few years ago, and it was hard beyond words. I ended up being railroaded by my parents in the midst of having a brain tumor while helping them with a failing business. Some days I would just beg myself to just get through the next 60 seconds as they slowly ticked by. It seemed minutes would take years. I had no hope. But I knew that if I could get through another 60 seconds without killing myself, drugs in hand, that my wife would be able to get through law school and raise our children. That was the only thing I was needed for in this world; I had given up.

Last year as my wife was preparing to take the bar, I tried to find some peace. My dear wife helped me to understand that I did not have the opportunity to find out who I was. In this loving environment, I was able to find out that even though I was born as a male, I identify as a female. She is the one that helped me overcome the demons that were inflicted by my parents, bishop, and other leaders. Since the spring of 2017, I have had a number of struggles as I am transitioning to being female. I can only remember ONCE since then that I have thought about suicide. I went from trying to get from one minute to the next without killing myself to just being happy with me! I cannot go back in time, but I wish I would have had that support from my bishop when my parents were unwilling to do so.

#247 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,7,8

I didn’t even know what masturbation was until my bishop asked me. I lied because I was embarrassed and thought it was something I was supposed to know about. I looked it up online and discovered porn at an early age. I confessed to my bishop and ended up living in guilt and shame my entire teenage life. I thought that this was something only I did and there was something wrong with me, I thought I was despicable and unholy when compared to the other young men. I gave up on school and dropped out and got depressed enough to give up on life. The effects of those feelings still affect me to this day.

#246 Natalie B. CS: 1,6

I was told to confess to my bishop that my boyfriend touched my breast. I sat uncomfortably in front of my bishop who is also my neighbor as he asked fault and intrusive questions. My friend told me the bishop would be short and not ask for details but she was so wrong. I didn’t expect what I was asked and it shamed me and made me feel disgusting. I had trouble feeling comfortable sexually for years after I was married.

#245 Name Hidden. CS: 1,6

As a student at one of the Church’s universities I confessed masturbation to my bishop. I had slipped up a bit over the summer break. Prior to that I had done it around the age of 12 not knowing what it was, but as soon as they taught about it in Young Womens I felt terrible, quit the habit and confessed to my bishop then too.

Anyway, as I went in to confess to this bishop at the start of a new semester I was sick to my stomach with humiliation and dread at the uncomfortable conversation that was to follow. But I bravely forced myself to do it, and then was astonished at his response. He said I could no longer take the sacrament, pray publicly, make comments in class, he took away my limited use temple recommend, and told me to follow up with him every week. He also gave me the miracle of forgiveness and several talks to read. I left his office sobbing, humiliated, and determined to follow his instructions and repent fully.

The one thing he did let me keep was my calling as ward music leader. Our student ward met in the school’s drama theater. So each week after leading the hymns, I had to sit up on the stage as I refused the sacrament in front of everybody. During a Sunday school class the teacher called on me to say the closing prayer, and I had to decline in front of everybody.

I did everything the bishop asked. At that time I trusted any council from a bishop to be direct from Heavenly Father. Four months later of submissive obedience he finally returned all my privileges and my temple recommend. He often told me how impressed he was with my humility compared to other kids he had to discipline.

Fast forward a few years after I met and married my husband in the temple. I was always really depressed after sex, and I didn’t understand why. I started reading lds books on intimacy in marriage, and listening to podcasts by lds sex therapists. I learned that most women don’t experience pleasure from penetration alone. The clitoris is essentially the female penis, and if it isn’t stimulated, it’s like expecting a man to enjoy sex without anything touching his penis. It just doesn’t work that way.

After a few years of pondering, praying, and studying all I could about the churches teachings on masturbation and chastity, I finally realized something had to give. Either I was going to spend the rest of my life holding to the idea that masturbation is a sin, or I was going to try and have to convince myself and my husband that it’s okay if we use our hands on each other or even ourselves during sex. It’s been a long hard road for us, but it’s been really important for me to value my experience during sex as well as my husbands. At first we were afraid of what God might think of us. I still struggle with feelings of shame and embarrassment about that part of my anatomy, but we are trying to overcome that so that intimacy in our marriage can be an expression of love that goes both ways.

I wish I didn’t have the public shame and humiliation in my past that helped internalize these unhealthy attitudes towards myself, but I am glad I can give my children better. I will teach them that masturbation is not a sin so that they can have healthier happier attitudes about their sexuality for their marriages.

Children should never discuss masturbation with an ecclesiastical leader because it’s private. Children (especially girls) need to understand how their bodies work so that they can teach their spouses later in marriage. Just as the handbook says, sex isn’t just for having children, it’s for expressing love and bonding. If people think that masturbation is a sin, it may not hurt the man’s ability to enjoy sex, but it will make it difficult for the woman. She needs to be comfortable with her body, and understand how it works, because if she doesn’t know, there is no way her husband can figure it out.

#244 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,7,8. Other: Lost opportunities due to shame filled “best dating years.”

When I turned twelve years old, it was time for my Aaronic Priesthood interview. Everyone seemed to be talking about it like it was a big deal. For me, it was the first time I can remember ever getting the complete attention from the bishop.

Our bishop was newly called. He as the father one of my younger sister’s friends.

The day came for the interview. He took me in a his office and shut the door. He started off asking be some basic questions about my belief in God and Jesus and Joseph Smith. Then after a few more questions he looked out the window for a second then looked back a me and asked if I masturbated.

I had never heard that word before in my life. My playground friends had a term “playing with yourself,” but at age 12 I really didn’t know what that meant or why someone would do something like that.

I asked the bishop,, “What does that mean?” And he crouched forward and explained in vivid detail how a man masturbates.

He said, “Masturbation is when a young man grips his penis tightly, wrapping his hand and fingers around it so that it feels like his penis is inside a woman’s vagina. Then he slides his hand up and down over and over again and it feels really good.” He made a slight gesture with his right hand.

Terrified, I said “No, I’ve never heard of that before,” which was true. Although I had noticed girls at that young age I had never considered an idea like that.

The bishop then said, “Don’t ever do that. People who do that are breaking the commandments of God, and he doesn’t like that” That exchange seared into the memory of my childhood like a hot iron. I can still remember the dark blue suit the bishop was wearing that day.

I had a best friend who also turned 12 about the same time I did and had his interview the same day. We both joked about the interview. I asked my friend if he got any weird questions. He said, “Oh, you mean like do I play with myself?” We both giggled at how silly and awkward that question was.

Fast forward two years to my first experience with masturbation. I will skip the details, but remember feeling like I had discovered something wonderful, and then I realized it was what the bishop said God didn’t like. I had immense feelings of guilt. I was good Latter Day Saint, always keeping the rules. I remember realizing at that young age that I had an imminent annual interview with my bishop and I knew I was going to be faced with this question. I remember for months shaking his hand at church, smiling and saying “Hi” to him, but secretly in side being terrified that I would have to face him sometime within the year and explain that I had made God angry and that I was sorry and that I know His blessings were not going to reach me, but that’s where I was. I hated my birthday every year as it would roll around.

Then, it happened again. I remember thinking “Wow, this is incredible.” and then immediately starting to feel like I was involved with something I could not stop, and that God hated me for it. My family NEVER discussed sexuality. In our good Mormon home sexual education ended with the word “murder.” “God considers sexual sin next to murder.” The topic or anything related to it was unspeakable in our home. I remember being six or seven and getting in trouble for having the Sears catalog hidden in my closed toy box with a pencil stuck in the bra section.

I rationalized that maybe if I kept the practice to once or twice a year, maybe God would forgive me. Maybe I could still, somehow, make it to the Celestial Kingdom and be with the rest of my family, and not be left behind. I know I would still have to tell the bishop, but in my young mind, I would take the embarrassment and shame that built up though the year, and face him and be honest. I was willing to deal with that and pick up the pieces, wherever they might fall.

We moved to a different place my 15th year. The bishopric loved me. They gave me lots of attention and made me the Priests Quorum President. I got to help plan a major activity at youth conference that year. Scout camp was really fun.

All of this excitement would pale when I’d remember my impending bishop interview. I had a lot of good friends in the youth group. i could answer the questions right, except for this one subject. As the interview approached, I was terrified. I remember thinking I was going to look him in the eyes and confess, showing I was prepared for God to strike me down, and that I was fully deserving of it.

Saying “yes” to that same damning question again was awful. I remember shaking. He became uncomfortable. The next year it was the same experience. I hated my birthday. I hated my penis. I hated my hands. I hated myself.

I went on my mission where we had monthly mission president interviews. My mission was hard work, cold, and where I went nobody respected LDS missionaries. We were bible-bashed with often , laughed at, and when cars would honk we learned really fast not to look at them. For some reason I was masturbating more now…and every month having to face the Mission President with the same confession. He reacted like I was the only elder in the mission that masturbated. I felt like a 200 lb sack was placed on my back to carry because of this. [I can feel that same self-disgusted shame now as I type this which I haven’t felt since then.]

Towards the end of my mission I was asked to be an Assistant to the President. The Mission President told me he couldn’t tolerate that behavior while I was an AP and made me promise it wouldn’t happen from that time until the end of my mission. I promised, but knew it was a fatal, ridiculous commitment. I did my best but, somehow, the Mission President simply didn’t ask me about it for my last two months with him.

I returned home and started dating wonderful LDS girls in the singles wards at the Utah College I attended. Our bishop there was always asking about masturbation and porn. The internet was mainstream now and we heard talks every week about the evils of porn and masturbation.

A member of the bishopric told us in priesthood meeting that if our wives caught us masturbating they would divorce us. Years later I went on a date with a then-divorced woman who I knew from that same singles ward who told me she divorced her husband because she caught him masturbating.

A member of the stake presidency told us in priesthood meeting that if we had an erection while on a date with a girl we had gone too far, and needed to see our bishops and confess our sin. That sounded really wrong and suspicious to me, but’s that what we were told.

This became a really confusing time for me. I felt extreme guilt and shame. The girls I liked the most I had a difficult time being confident with and making solid eye contact with them because I was sure they could tell, by the spirit, that I was not a worthy priesthood holder and was not worthy to marry, because I masturbated. I hated myself. I was impeccable in every other part of life. I was in college, had a great job, paid tithing, attended all my meetings, went to the temple on dates, was honest, but was flawed because of masturbation. I knew nobody really would want me.

It was also confusing watching my roommates and others around campus date and marry some wonderful women. These guys would swear and talk on long rides to dances about “assess” and “tits” and other things that I found completely inappropriate and rude. They had amazing confidence around these women and one by one got married to them and disappeared.

I learned during some crude conversations with these guys that they lied their way through adolescence and their missions, never confessing anything sexual to their bishops. Some even made out with girls on their missions and were bragging about it. It took me years later to realize that confidence and character are two different things. Unfortunately, the former is much more appealing to a pretty young woman.

Once a bishop took my temple recommend away for a couple of months because I confessed to watching some adult cable movies and masturbating. I was dating a new girlfriend who became really upset that I could not attend a mutual friends temple wedding. I remember mentioning this to the Stake President and he shrugged his shoulders and said, “Just tell her you are working through something. It’s not a problem.” I remember thinking how absolutely clueless he was at the repercussions of having to explain to others in an LDS singles scene that you lost your recommend. Everyone would know I was almost a murderer.” The only thing worse was when I actually did tell her, and give the reason. She seemed to think masturbation was adultery and treated me like an adulterer. Apparently, she knew nothing about the topic. I was so confused and upset I told her to go find literature outside the church, like the library, and the come back and talk. That was an awful weekend.

I lived through those hopeful years on pins and needles. Lots of shame. I discovered I absolutely HATED discussing anything sexual with other men, especially church leadership in a closed room. To me it felt like two opposing magnets being pushed on to each other. It always and still does feel completely wrong. I don’t pretend to have been raped, but if there is such a thing as emotional homosexual rape than I have been raped and shamed by this church since I was a boy.

When I turned 26 I stumbled across an article on masturbation in a sports magazine. A study disclosed that 98 percent of all men in my age group masturbated regularly and 80 percent or so did it three times a week. That article changed my world. I was a good kid, never had pre-martial sex, never fondled a woman inappropriately. That article, for me, was like Joseph Smith’s description of having every sensation in his body touched by the light. I had a very specific, very clear eureka moment where I learned that I was very normal. I was completely normal. I was not broken and unworthy. I was not worthless. I was really just fine.

I gave myself permission to stop hating myself that day. Something within me split and I realized that what I was taught and what had been steeped upon me by the church that I loved was somehow very wrong. I couldn’t explain how the true church could have been wrong about this but it was. All of it was.

I started studying sexuality. I read about the Masers & Johnson studies and learned that there is a sexual spectrum and some people are zeros and some are ten’s and everyone is somewhere in between. The high numbers need to find each other, and the low numbers need to find each other. Further, I learned that many women masturbate and married couples masturbate together. It’s part of sex. I learned that the church had sent out an anti-oral-sex letter in the 1970’s and then quickly retracted it. I learned that Mark E. Peterson, a past General Authority around that time also said in a Stake Conference in Seattle, that in the 40 years he had been married he had never seen his wife naked.

Most damning of all, I learned that the church only started asking children about masturbation in the mid-80’s. I was among the first group of kids to get fed this poison.

#243 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,7,8

Like others here, I feel a little nervous to tell my story.

Interviews starting when I entered Young Women’s. All I heard until I was actually kissing boys was whether I was “keeping the law of chastity”. I didn’t kiss a boy until I was 17 years old, and that boy (who became my first boyfriend) touched my breasts over my dress one time. Once I told the bishop, he told my parents and made sure they gave me a copy of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments, and also made sure that I apologized to them personally. Maybe two years later, I was dating another boy and doing some dry humping (like you do as a Mormon teenager) with no touching over or under clothes otherwise. That same bishop, when I asked him what exactly was wrong with making out, explained to me that it was the ‘strong feelings resulted’ from the encounter. I asked him what he meant, and that’s when he began using the term “come to conclusion” (orgasm). Then he asked me if I had ever orgasmed, with who, and how many times. He asked me what it felt like. He even asked when was the most times I had orgasmed with one boy in one encounter. He asked me sometime in that same year how many fingers a boy could fit inside me, and asked for a description of how they touched my breasts. He told me men were like monkeys (of course, I heard this in YWs lessons too, along with the chewed-gum and licked-cupcake lessons), and that it was my job to keep from acting in a way that could make them have bad thoughts. This bishop was coming up to me in public for long hugs as recently as four years ago, but when I took my records out, he now acts like he doesn’t know me when he sees me.

I went to BYU. My bishop in my sophomore year there called a dress I wore to an interview (with cap sleeves, down to my knee) “provocative”—he used it as an example of why boys were consistently “thrown off” the straight and narrow path by my behavior and appearance. My roommate (less buxom, shorter) had worn the same dress to an interview the week before, had no comment like that, and that bishop actually attended her temple wedding.

After college, I became engaged to a very righteous boy, whose dad was a local stake president and is now a local mission president. This boy and I fooled around a lot. We had penetrative sex once. His family (five siblings and both parents) had a family council and warned him against marrying me, that our children would not be righteous because I was not a virgin (small town). We told both of our bishops that we’d committed the act. His bishop said to him, “What do you expect will happen with that kind of girl?” and my bishop told me I would need to have a disciplinary council. It was at this point, when my bishop pulled out a piece of paper and asked me to recount to him every sexual encounter I’d ever had in my life, so he could write it down (like: every guy. How many times each guy had touched me, and where. Every kind of sex, how many times. Eight years worth.) He then explained that I would read all of these things out loud to the council and then ask for their forgiveness. That’s when I left the church. I had no idea I could refuse to tell these men my private life. I thought for sure Heavenly Father would know if I were lying to them and punish me for it. But something clicked that day, and I’m so lucky. Don’t worry, I didn’t marry the guy!

 

#242 Jeremy C. CS: 1,2,3,5,6,7

Growing up in Utah I was regularly asked about whether I touched myself (even how I did it, and where) by my bishop and the counselors. I think I was asked about it starting around 8 years old, and all through my teens and into my twenties (I’m early 30’s now). I’m sure I was asked in every interview, which happens bi-annually, because I remember absolutely dreading the interviews and trying so hard to stop masturbating before the interviews. It was always just me and the bishop or counselor, never another adult. To this day I don’t understand how THEY felt comfortable doing that– taking a nervous and scared little boy / young man behind a closed door to grill him about how and where he touches himself, and if he’s ever looked at porn, and if he’s ever touched someone else or mutually masturbated with someone. As an adult that would make me feel very uncomfortable, but maybe that’s just me. Nevermind that my childhood ward was rural and these were farmers and blue collar workers, definitely not trained to deal with or talk about things like this.

The interviews were inappropriate and I dreaded them, but even more terrible was the GUILT and SHAME I experienced all throughout my formative years. I was a DANG GOOD KID. I never smoked anything, never tried alcohol (or was even in the room with someone who was drinking it), rarely cussed, rarely drank caffeine, never drank coffee, graduated seminary, held every male Mormon youth leadership position in the ward and stake level, was the staple perfect “young man” in the ward, sang in the choir, had a high GPA and ACT score, was accepted to multiple colleges, later served an honorable mission, etc. But my ENTIRE LIFE I felt like I was the worst person on the planet. I KNEW I was going to hell because I was routinely committing the sin RIGHT NEXT TO MURDER, and I couldn’t stop doing it for more than a month or two despite my absolute best efforts. I could never be whole or enough or worthy of love. I contemplated suicide many times, strategically considering it right after taking the sacrament, knowing that at least my soul would make it into heaven before I would be tempted to murder again (sin next to murder). At least I would be saved and see my family after this life, which I knew was out of reach if I died after having touched myself but before taking the sacrament again. thank goodness I was sensible enough to NOT commit suicide, but I entertained the idea. It was so tortuous to think I was going to hell and that I would never see my family again if I died in that “dirty” state, I loved (and love) them so much– what 10 year old little boy should grapple with blaming himself for losing his mother? I experienced deep depression and darkness knowing my inability to stop touching myself would eventually send me to hell and away from my family and friends who obviously weren’t sex pervert deviant murderers like me. I knew I was the only one with that problem, and absolutely had no escape from it.

I was so young, and was dealing with such high stakes and finalities while my body and brain were barely exiting the magic of childhood. I can’t even believe my young mind was meant to think those thoughts and feel those feelings and grapple with not only my own existentialism, but also with the unavoidable grief and anxiety that I knew would someday be mine unless I stopped committing this dirty deed. These are the “adult” topics that parents and caregivers are supposed to shield children from, not encourage their exposure without offering support or respite except from those who wanted to perpetuate these ideas (church leaders, believing parents, etc.). To this day I can vividly remember crying myself to sleep at the thought of losing my sweet mother because of my dirty habit, it makes me so sad to look bad at my childhood self. Oh how I would love and comfort and reassure him, oh the things I would say to him and the connection and love I would make sure he experiences. It’s so heartbreaking for me now, and it’s heartbreaking to me to know that there are still little boys like me who feel that way. It needs to stop! No little boy should see a future where he feels blamed for never being able to see or be with his mother again, or for forcing his mother to never see him again! It is so manipulative, even if only negligently manipulative. I love all my family, parents and siblings, but as a little boy we just love our moms the most.

It seems dramatic looking back, but really that’s how I felt and the mental cage I lived in. I feel bad for how I treated myself, and as an adult I would absolutely LOVE to have a child as “good” as I was– I really didn’t do anything else “bad” growing up. I was a good kid by all measures of the phrase, but nobody could ever convince me of that. I wish I hadn’t been so hard on myself for being a normal boy. I wish someone would have told me it was okay, or at least normal to feel that way. I wish SOMEONE would have pulled me aside and just told me that it was normal, but to not become obsessed. I’m lucky my depression and suicidal thoughts were never enough to take me to the point of action– I did self-harm but never seriously enough to kill myself. BUT everyday of my youth and adolescence I thought about what a dirty unworthy piece of crap I was, and of the future alone and in hell that I knew awaited me. It was always on my mind. Even “morning wood” was sexually deviant in my mind. It’s crazy looking back.

Yet EVERY DAY I wore a smile and pretended like nothing was going on. My parents are probably be in the camp of folks who oppose this movement saying “it doesn’t happen” or “it isn’t a big deal”. The truth is I would never tell them, they haven’t earned the right and trust to hear my story. In many ways they were enablers of all this by the environment in the home and by blindly trusting church leaders and outsourcing their sexual education, monitoring, and parenting to a large organization. My parents would probably be sad to know the burden I bore, but also think of it as a type of “righteous burden” that I had to carry. It’s sad on so many levels. I will NOT let my children or nieces or nephews feel this way about the normal functions of their bodies. If it ever comes up I will not be ashamed to be that person that I needed so desperately in my youth. No question about it, even if it alienates me from my siblings (their parents). I’m done allowing this to continue.

#241 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,7,8

My (now adult) son suffered public shaming as a teenager because he was honest in his interviews with the bishop when asked if he masturbated. Numerous times after being ordained a priest (age 16) and having been called in for a worthiness interview with the bishop, my son would be told he couldn’t administer the sacrament (bread and water) with the other boys his age, nor could he take the sacrament himself for weeks at a time. What the priests, boys aged 16- 17, do to administer the sacrament is highly visible to the congregation since they sit on the stand at the front of the chapel.

To make it worse, our ward had very few boys that age, and my son was well known among the congregants. Whenever he had been deemed unworthy in one of his bishop’s interviews (always because he had been asked about masturbation, and always because he answered honestly) he would have to sit in the pews on Sundays for week after week with my husband and me, not in front with his peers and not taking the sacrament, both highly visible public consequences. In essence, my kind, wonderful son was publicly SHAMED, all for confessing to a normal human behavior he never should have been asked about to begin with by an adult man behind a closed door, a man he had been taught was an authority figure. I remember sitting next to my son on those awful Sundays, seeing his bent back as he leaned forward with his head hanging down between his arms resting on his knees, trying to be invisible.

This mental image has became a symbol for me of how morally wrong and damaging is this practice of taking children behind closed doors one-on-one with grown men to be questioned about their sexual thoughts and behavior. One of my greatest regrets is that I didn’t see this sooner and put a stop to it. I now understand that I had been conditioned since my own childhood to see this horrible practice as normal, otherwise I never would have subjected my child to it. As of this writing, my mid-twenties son has experienced severe anxiety, depression, difficulty in relationships, sexual shame, and suicidal ideations as a result of his repeated public shaming as a teenager following closed-door bishop’s interviews. This practice needs to stop today!

#240 Name Hidden. CS: 1,3

I wasn’t a child when this happened, but I was still an impressionable, self-conscious young woman of 20. Starting a new semester at BYU, I was required to get an ecclesiastical endorsement from my bishop. I LOVED this bishop. He was such a friendly, genuine guy and frequently gave me awesome references and job leads.

The worthiness interview started off normal, chatting about school, work, friends… then he asked me if I was keeping the law of chastity. This was the first time I had to confess to sexual sins so I was really reluctant. He asked me yes or no questions and gathered that I made out with a boy in the dark while he was on top of me and that there was “heavy petting” involved (a term that always made me feel dirty). Also, he was a boy in our ward. Bishop pressed me for awhile trying to get me to tell him who it was, telling me it was hurting this boy more because he wasn’t getting the help he needed, but I stood my ground and told him that his sins weren’t mine to confess. It’s still very upsetting to me that I stood up for that boy before I stood up for myself during this next part. He moved on to ask me if masturbation was also a problem. I started crying and nodded my head. As far as I knew, I was the only Mormon girl to ever struggle with masturbation and I was absolutely disgusted with myself.

The following are his exact questions (give or take a word… but he asked every single one of these): “Do you watch anything while you touch yourself?” “What are you thinking about when you touch yourself?” “Do you use anything besides your hands?” “Is it penetrative masturbation?” “Do you try to make yourself orgasm?” “How many times do you orgasm per session?” “Have you ever done it in front of a partner?” I kept my head down and answered all of these questions 100% honestly. I had no reason not to; he was the bishop and he was doing his job and if I was uncomfortable with it, that was my own fault for having to confess in the first place. I do remember feeling particularly uncomfortable when he asked about orgasms, and I asked why that was pertinent? He explained that he was trying to determine the degree of the sin. I got banned from taking the sacrament for two weeks, with all my friends around me noticing as I tried to discreetly wave the guy past me. I still remember my anxiety telling me that everyone knew exactly why I couldn’t take the sacrament. I am still appalled that I ever felt it was okay or normal for me to tell him everything that I did. There is no reason he needed to know those details, but I gave them to him anyway. I still hate myself for it.

#239 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7

I am only sharing this anonymously because there are other innocent parties involved from whom I have not received permission to share this story publicly. I wish I could. I find power in telling my story and I wish I could put my name on this. Maybe someday.

When I was around 9 or 10 years old, my grandfather began molesting me. He would lean over me or lie next to me on my bed as I slept and touch my vulva both over and under my underwear. This happened on multiple occasions, both at my house and his. I would freeze and pretend to be asleep. He would then use his power over me and tell me he loved me most of all, to not tell others our secret. I don’t remember how long the abuse went on, probably a year or two. After that was a mix of shame and secrecy, a belief that I had been the cause of his downfall, that it was my fault he wouldn’t be with my grandma for eternity. I didn’t tell a soul for years.

Finally, when I was a grown teenager, in a moment of vulnerability I told my mom. We had been discussing my “going too far” (heavy petting over clothes while making out) with my then boyfriend. It was in this moment of honesty that I told her that her dad had molested me. To her credit, she believed me and tried to support me.

However, I think my mom had no idea what to do with this information. She defaulted to her belief in the power of the priesthood and called the bishop for a meeting just an hour or two after my telling her. We both went in, she joined me in his office for support. The story of my abuse was discussed. The bishop had very few words, just that it wasn’t my fault and that he was sorry that it had happened. He also seemed to have no idea what to do in this situation. No call for counseling or therapy to my recollection. No call to the authorities.

Then, because this story was all entangled with my admission of “sexual sins” with my boyfriend, he proceeded to ask my mom to leave the office, wanting to keep my confession “confidential”. He asked very pointed questions. Did you take off clothes? Did you touch each other with hands? Did he touch your breasts? Have you looked at pornography? Etc.

All these questions after having JUST told him about my SEXUAL ABUSE! He had no advice or recommendations for how to deal with it. He spouted the usual, read scriptures and pray and ask for the Atonement to heal me. He then told me to skip the sacrament for a few weeks because of my actions with my boyfriend. I complied and took this all as a necessary punishment because of my sins, not realizing the toll it was taking on me spiritually and emotionally. The shame and guilt I felt were mixed up in a crazy tangle of my abuse, my deference to the power of the priesthood, my thoughts of my deviant sexual impurity, my parents and bishops ignorance as to how to handle the story of abuse. If they didn’t know what to do, I certainly didn’t. I followed the bishop’s directives, never questioning him.

Looking back on this, I now know this added to my trauma. Revictimization. Bishops are NOT trained to know that this behavior is unacceptable. These questions are at the very best invasive to someone’s privacy, but at worst can leave someone scarred and re-traumatized. I was not advocated for. My parents loved and believed me, but they were also shocked and devastated at the news and couldn’t properly advocate for or get help for me. Maybe they believed it could all be sorted out by the bishop? I don’t know. I don’t know what my parents did, if they consulted with the bishop and what he advised them to do about this. I was so wrapped up in the shame of my abuse story and my sexual deviance, that I hardly remember what they did.

There is much more to the story that I won’t go into because this is already very long. For brevity’s sake: my parents confront my grandfather, he denies it, they still believe me, I receive no professional help (because… Atonement), he attends my two sisters’ weddings, he later attends my wedding.

Before my wedding, I went in for my temple recommend interview with the same bishop who I had talked to about my abuse. At the end of the interview, I asked him his advice on whether I should tell my fiance before we got married about the abuse at the hands of my grandfather. He said it was up to me, but suggested that I could keep it to myself unless it was affecting our sex life. After all, what was the Atonement for, if not to forgive and forget? More untrained advice, more naivete about a situation he knew nothing about.

So, I chose to let the Atonement take care of it, and to just continue on my righteous path, to marry, to begin my life as a wife and future mother. In reality, I was just stuffing it back down into the dark hole that it had been in for so many years. If we don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist. I didn’t let the man that I was soon to marry know of this dark secret that had been weighing down my soul for the majority of my life. I didn’t have the tools to talk about it, so I kept quiet. I proceeded, like a faithful handmaiden of the Lord, to do my duty to Him. Needless to say, it did affect my marriage and sex life.

Four months after my wedding, I went to my parents’ house to find them shut in a locked room. A few minutes later, my mom emerged, looking like she had seen a ghost. “What is it?” I asked, but I think I instinctively already knew. “More of the same,” was all she said. It is all finally laid bare, my grandfather had molested ALL of his female grandchildren, which included me and all three of my sisters. All of us cousins have a linked story of abuse. My whole extended family has suffered the consequences of a system that allows for these abuses to go unchecked, a system that is set up to (even if unknowingly) re-traumatize victims and does not help or advocate properly for them. My grandfather was finally made to answer for his crimes, but not by any help from the church. Again, way more to this story, which I won’t go into.

I am just now, decades later, confronting and dealing with this. After my faith transition out of the church, all the feelings and trauma re-surfaced, leading to deep depression and anxiety. The #metoo movement and all the stories of abuse have triggered me in a way that only abuse survivors can identify with. It’s incredible the power and damage this causes in every aspect of a life. But I refuse to let this define my life. I am taking back my power, and I am building a life on my terms.

The shame and pressure that I felt for years to just let it go and use the atonement to heal me are, in my view, harmful. The church allows this to continue with these interviews wherein shame-filled, abusive questions are asked behind closed doors. The power dynamic of these situations alone- a priesthood leader holding salvation/eternal life over someone until they have “properly” repented- should be enough to stop these interviews from happening, let alone all these individual stories, showcasing myriad abuses. Let’s cut this practice out of the church. Let’s protect the children.

#238 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7

When thinking about my baptism, I remember a few things about that day, but there is one huge thing I think about that day. Guilt. Down right guilt. That’s all I thought about that entire experience. I was supposed to be washed of my sins and be perfect. But I wasn’t perfect, nor would I ever become perfect. I had some huge sins on my mind at the time, yes, even at eight years old. In my mind, at that time, I could never over come them.

Most of my guilt was from the sexual questions asked during the baptism interview given by my bishop. At the time, I really liked my Bishop and his family. His wife even made my dress for my baptism. But all of my sexual trauma was on my mind during the interview, even though I refused to tell him any of it. I lied. That made my guilt even worse.

A Babysitter had molested me as a very young child. I totally thought it was my fault. Why would the Bishop ask me to confess my sexual sins if they weren’t my fault? I don’t think I’ve ever over come that guilt. It has stayed with me for 25 years. I’ve just learned to live around it. At the time, I felt like I joined the church based on lies, and continually lied my entire life. Every Bishop and Stake President interview from that time on, I lied about it. Every time I walked in the Temple, I felt nothing about guilt upon me for the lying.

I still don’t talk about those things to people today. I’ve mostly repressed it. Not even my husband knows exactly what happened, and I should probably be in therapy for it.

 

#237 Carter S. CS: 1,5,8,9,10

Attempted suicide multiple times as if you lust its as if you’ve already done it. and if a man lays with another man you are condemned.

I was taught that every time I had a gay thought that i was going to hell for it. Being a horny teenager and trying not to have any thoughts for a whole week so you could repent and finally kill yourself is harder than it sounds. Until you give up and try. 0/10 would not go back to church even if it were true.

#236 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,7,8. Other: Extreme anxiety

My story is nothing special. I didn’t look at pornography in my teens, but I woke up from a wet dream when I was 13 and reproduced it in the shower not long after. I later discovered that it was termed masturbation and learned in Sunday school, “For the Strength of Youth”, and Teacher’s quorum that it was a very serious sin and offence to God that made me unworthy. Every time I had a worthiness interview and I would be asked if I obeyed the law of chastity, my eyes would water and I would try so very hard to not cry. I lied, because I feared the shame of that leader knowing and that he would tell my parents. They would all know I was a “terrible person” for offending God by perversing his sacred trust. This is in regards to temple attendance and sacrament duties done unworthily. Upon hearing that I would be having an interview in the following week, I was filled with such anxiety and dread for days leading up to them. I hated myself for lying and for not being able to overcome masturbation. I attempted to stop at least a few hundred times. My self-esteem, self-worth, and self-confidence were completely absent in my teen years from being taught that I was committing horrible sins of sexual misuse and lying to the Lord’s representatives. These negative feelings for myself and the effects that they have caused have continued to the present day. These teachings and practices are harmful and need to stop.

#235 Heather S. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7,8. Other: Belief that sex of any kind is vile and evil.

Story #2. I was in 8th grade (13) when I had my first ecclesiastical interview. My uncle & his family had come from Seattle to do temple work, & he decided I was old enough to do baptisms with my cousins. I don’t remember being asked.

My mom set up temple recommend interviews. I felt dread because of sexual abuse when I was 8, & told my girl cousin that I was scared. She said that I couldn’t have done anything bad enough yet, but that was beside the point. She was less naive than I was, & told me to say no to whatever question I was asked. Otherwise, I wouldn’t get a recommend and all the family would know.

I don’t remember my bishop interview (a new, gentler bishop) but the Stake President was my intermediate school principal & my English/Civics teacher. I saw him 3 or 4 times a day, every school day. He was very strict. He asked me if I thought I was worthy to go to the temple. I was extremely nervous & almost said no, but shrugged my shoulders. He asked if I lived the law of chastity. I nodded yes. “ Do you masterbate?” I said no. “Do you know what masterbation is?” I nodded yes. “Define it.” I could not. He proceeded to define it as putting your fingers or any other objects in your private girl parts &/or putting fingers or objects in my bottom. I was shocked. Those things had been done to me but I hadn’t thought to do them to myself. Why would I want to! He asked if I let anyone else do those things to me. I remembered my cousin’s advice, saw myself disgraced in front of my family, and said no. A little probing “Are you sure? Are you telling me the truth?” I’m sure I looked as petrified as I felt. But I didn’t crack. I was sure he could tell, but he let me go.

I saw my SP/principal/teacher 3 or 4 times a day for a whole school year. I could never again make eye contact.

#234 Carrie. CS: 1,2,3,7,8,9

The story that has impacted my life the most is my husband’s story.

He and I met when he was 28 (I was 25) and it was basically love at first sight. After 3 weeks of dating he told me that he had been addicted to pornography/masturbation since he was 13. He told me about the self-loathing he felt after being told over and over for 15 years that he was unworthy. He told me about the suicide attempt at 15 and how he dropped out of high school (he got a GED later). He told me about how he had to BEG his Stake President to allow him to go to the temple so that he could go on a mission, because a year of Bishop counseling and trying and failing to stop masturbating did not fix him.

I did not understand the severity of the impact his addiction (and shaming) had had on him until we were married for a few years. He would get so depressed that all he would do was sleep all day and would be an emotionless shell for days at a time. I had to learn the questions to ask: Are you considering suicide? Do you have a suicide plan? Do you have the materials you need to carry out the plan? The answers were always: I am always considering suicide–the thought never leaves my mind, I have a few ideas, No I don’t have all I would need to carry it out–yet. At first he only had episodes like this once a year or so, and they lasted a few days. Eventually they started happening more frequently and they would last longer.

His second suicide attempt was In January 2013. He was sent (by the police) to the same mental health facility that he had been forced to go to after his first attempt at 15, and it was so awful for him that he attempted suicide a third time while he was inside the facility. He just wanted to die and he was so mad that everyone was trying to stop him. Meanwhile I was home with our 6-week old son.

He was always the most angry and depressed after church and especially after general conference. They preached shame from the pulpit and he never got a break from it. Once every 7 days (at least) he was reminded that he was worthless because of his addiction, and that he clearly wasn’t faithful enough because by this point he had been dealing with it for over 20 years.

The summer of 2016 was the summer when we decided to divorce (even though we still loved each other) so that he would finally be able to kill himself without the guilt of leaving a family in the lurch. My son was still young enough that the impact on him would not be as great as if he committed suicide later (it was inevitable, after all). I had finally accepted that I loved him too much to force him to stay on this earth with all of his pain. Thankfully this plan never came to fruition.

About two months after the decision to NOT get divorced, we decided to leave the Mormon church. It was for many many reasons and I honestly didn’t see the connection at the time between the church and his depression and suicide ideation. It has now been close to a year and a half since we chose to leave the church, and my husband has not had any significant episodes of depression or suicidal ideation during that time. It is the first time in our 10-year marriage that HE (and therefore WE) are truly truly happy. He has decided to go back to school to get a better job. We actually talk about growing old–a subject I always avoided because I knew that he wouldn’t make it that long. I am so sad that it took 26 years of shaming and self-loathing for him to get to this point, but I am so glad that he made it.

#233 Austin B. CS: 1,3,6,7,8

I looked at pornography in high school. My dad got a confession out of me by lying to me and saying that he would drive me to mutual but instead drove into a dark alley. He pinned me in a corner and forced me to confess. When I did confess to my bishop he told me I should avoid all women including my mother and sister because I was prone to be a rapist. In high school I got into a very toxic relationship with a girl who ended up raping me. I told my bishop and he said since I was a male that I liked it and I needed to repent. I was so depressed after this and wanted to kill myself. I tried to kill myself once but my best friend found me and saved me. I’m now married and my wife has slowly started to help me work through some of the deep damage my mormon experience has caused.

#232 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,7,8

My bishop asked me if I engaged in masturbation when I was about 12-13. He told me I can’t have the spirit with me if I don’t confess. I denied I ever did and left his office. I had constant guilt for years because “I’m so bad, not even God wants to comfort me.”

I finally confessed (to a different bishop) at 17 and tried to stop but couldn’t. I was in his office almost once a month for “counsel.” Nothing ever happened and he did what he thought would help but I hated his office.

I finally stopped and prepared for my mission at 19. I interviewed with a counselor of the stake presidency. (Just happened to be one of Bruce R McConkies sons.). He told me I must think back to the day of my birth and re-confess everything and think of anything else. He asked me to describe why it took so long to stop after confessing. He told me how awful it would be if I did that on my mission.

I masturbated once on my mission and I was near suicidal for the month I had to wait to see my President. I hated myself, why was I so weak.

After my mission I made out with my girlfriend. All of that guilt came back. I was a failure again, I failed my mission, my God and my family. I ran to my bishops office because I’m supposed to confess anything sexual to bishops. He was concerned, told me to be careful. We made out another night and I confessed again. He thought maybe something else is happening (nothing but kissing) and he spoke with the Stake Pres and put me on informal probation for kissing my girlfriend and future wife. I had so much guilt, my girlfriend had guilt for wanting to continue kissing. All of this hate and guilt because of the church’s obsession with confession.

#231 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2

When I turned 12 I had my first interview with the bishop so I could become a deacon. He asked if I masturbated. I had never heard that word spoken before, certainly not in a question directed to me. I must have looked puzzled because he then asked if I knew what that was. I didn’t. He quickly moved on with great tact. I as got older, the question was asked to me again, “do you masturbate?”. Naturally I felt it was a bad thing. Yet as I grew, my hormones did what hormones do. I felt guilty. I felt unworthy. I felt like I was a liar. A sinner who’d be damned to hell. There was a brief period where I felt like I might be better off just physically cutting it off. Finally I confessed. The bishop did not ask any probing details, just how long ago it was since the last act. It was a while ago, so he simply told me my sins were forgiven, and that was that. In later years I’d feel guilty for having wet dreams. Luckily I was able to rationalize those and move on, yet twangs of guilt haunted me despite my efforts to ignore them.

The bishop when I was a young teenager was a good man. In fact I can’t think of anything bad to say of any of the ward leadership growing up. They were all good examples, people trying live a Christ-like life. I feel it important to mention that because they are victims of the bureaucracy as well. They are pressured, more or less, by the authoritarian structure of the church to ask those questions.

Chastity questions leave both parties undignified and feeling awkward. End it now. At least my son will not have to endure such needless strife.

#230 Heather S. CS: 1,2,3,4,7,8. Other: Belief that sex is evil & next only to murder and that if sexual touch felt good in any way, that meant I was evil.

Trigger Warning: child sex abuse.

This is about church teachings being used by my abuser.

I grew up in a small Mormon town and was an innocent and naive child. When I was in grade 3, 8 years old, a teenage neighbor boy trapped me in my grandpa’s barn & molested me. I didn’t know what to do other than say stop, which he ignored. The next time he saw me, he said “come with me.” When I said no, he said “if you don’t, I’ll tell your dad & the bishop what you’ve been up to. When I told him he would be in trouble too, he said he would name his brother (my friend & playmate) and say I started it. He said the bishop will make sure you don’t go to heaven if I tell him but if you come with me I won’t tell. But if the bishop gets you in his office, he will make you tell everything & your dad & mom will know what you’ve done. Everyone in the ward will know. I was trapped.

The abuse went on for several months. My mom sent my sister & I out to play every day, so I had no safety. He was lurking everywhere, and would sneak up on me and crook his finger & say “you want to come with me.” I hid out at the library after school until the librarian told me to go home. I hung out at my dad’s garage until he sent me home. Then I would sprint for Home & try to get past his house, which was 2 doors down.

He got bored with digital penetration & tried to put his penis in me but I was too small, so he started penetrating me vaginally & anally with successively wider cylindrical objects that he said would make me bigger. It got to be extremely painful & I often bled. After each session he would tell me he was only doing what he could tell I wanted him to do. He always reminded me that, if I wasn’t good, he would tell the bishop what I was making him do.

One afternoon, he told me that it was time to “pop my cherry” and he stripped my pants off. I tried to bargain for just the fingers but he solemnly refused, saying that my behavior had led him to this & that the bishop had to know if I wouldn’t cooperate. He said he knew that his penis was what I “needed” and wanted.

I was petrified, I kicked him, screamed, grabbed my pants & tried to run, naked from the waist down. I told him I would tell the bishop myself. And, just like that, I was free of him. Forever.

But I was not free of my guilt & terror. I didn’t tell the bishop & prayed that he wouldn’t. A week or two later, the bishop came to talk to our junior Sunday School class. I was so frightened, I almost threw up. He told us he was there to talk about repentance & that we shouldn’t take the sacrament until we had repented of our sins. He said that we could repent of our little sins by praying very hard & never doing it again, but that we had to talk to him about big sins, & that we would know the big sins by how bad they made us feel. I had been heartsick & heartbroken for months. Mine was certainly the biggest of sins. Still, the bishop was a stern man & I didn’t dare talk to him. This was the first time I tried to bargain with God. I prayed & prayed & prayed for forgiveness, especially during the sacrament, not daring to take it until God let me know I was forgiven. After a few weeks of this, my Sunday School teacher stated (in front of the class) that I must really want to be forgiven because I was working so hard. She said she was sure Heavenly Father had forgiven me & I should take the sacrament. I was somewhat relieved and got on with my life but as a much more anxious child.

Then I went into MIA, where I quickly learned that sexual behavior was “the sin next unto murder.” I started to see myself as almost as bad as a murderer.

#229 Sara F. CS: 1,2,3,7,8,9

When I was 17 I slipped with my older boyfriend. I told my parents what had happened and they told me it was bad enough I needed to confess to the bishop. I’d never had an issue talking to a bishop before because luckily my mom and I were close enough she told me when it was ok not to confess to something or just say yes or no to get through a childhood interview. So I knew this time would be different.

I never did find out if I’d be in trouble because after my confession, instead of hearing comfort and what I needed to do to repent, the questions began. “Did he go over or under the clothes” did he insert fingers?” Would you have liked him to use his fingers?” Do you ever use you fingers when alone?” Ew, no no no! Finally in tears I told him I was feeling disgusting and to please stop those types of questions he said “do you know why you’re crying? Because you’ve realized you’re a slut. Does anyone respect sluts? Will anyone marry a slut?” I got up against his protests and left.

But it didn’t end there. This bishop has both a daughter and a niece my age went to my school. I noticed people talking about me and laughing as I passed. My friend came up to me and said “you really shouldn’t tell your bishop things anymore” when I asked why, she told me that his daughter and niece were telling everyone that at Easter get together he had told everyone about what I’d said, in confidence, in his office! He didn’t keep it quiet like he was supposed to! The bullying over being called a slut and whore at school thanks to this bishop made me feel I could never face these people again and his words “who would marry a slut” kept repeating over and over and over in my head. All because I came close to going all the way with my boyfriend but we were smart and stopped before it got to that.

I went home and took 20 pain killers, 30 sleeping pills, slit my wrists and waited in the bathtub. I couldn’t go to school and I was never gettting married now. My parents knew and thought I was headed in the wrong direction and kept forcing the idea of more meetings with the bishop on me. I wasn’t going back to that man just to watch him gleefully ask for details, and hear “slut” again. When I told our stake president he said I was a liar. So no one was on my side. I just been through what, for and LDS teenager is one of the worst things ever, mad parents, told I’m never getting married, a bishop who can’t be trusted, a school full of people who kept calling me a slut, and no one to support me. Luckily my mom found me in time and the ER dr.s were able to get the pills out of my system and the bleeding to stop and I finished up my junior and senior years of high school through BYUs distance learning program and i was allowed to go inactive until we had a new bishop. But first time I went to church 3 years later I had an anxiety attack and had to leave sobbing. I have never been in a bishops interview since. I chose not to get married in the temple to avoid a worthiness interview. That one bishop changed the whole course of my young adult life.

#228 Name Hidden. CS: 1,3,4,7. Other: Sexual self indentity..

I hesitate to relate this history, to talk explicitly about matters of a sexual nature, but am compelled to do so because church leaders did not hesitate to invade my young life with explicit words and judgments!

My story; Deacon, teacher, priest, elder, mission, 2 temple marriages that ended in divorce, single, approaching retirement..

First invasive interview at age 14, as an innocent juvenile who knew nothing about sex. Bishop listed all the slang words for masturbation, defined it, then told me sexual transgression was akin to murder in gravity. I didn’t know what he was talking about or why he was telling me this stuff..

With my first masturbation experience at age 16 (was a late bloomer!), I remembered in horror what he said and my young life changed at that point. I dreaded the subsequent and ongoing interviews with the “are you morally clean?”, or “do you live the law of chastity?” questions (code for masturbation), reinforced by church lessons, lectures by Mark E Peterson, and an absurd pamphlet “For Young men only”, by Boyd K. I believed everything I was taught, including self revulsion as I struggled to bury sexual feelings that had no legitimate outlet.

Indeed, in spite of what I now know, my life as young man (and as an adult) was affected by shame, guilt, and fear. I managed to fulfill a mission and church assignments in spite of feeling worthless, hopeful that my service would make up for my “immorality”. I never felt that Jesus accepted me, church was a place of great discomfort..

I think my poor level of self worth affected my choice of mates, and I spent considerable time single. I was in several bishoprics (ward clerk, singles ward), and remember struggling with being sexually pure, compelled to confess the sin of “self abuse” frequently. In each and every case the advice given was terrible, In every case I had to provide fair amount of detail, asked how many times, could I stop. The aha moment came when in my 40’s I got a call from my bishop, inquiring “how I was doing”.. It just hit me how absurd it was for 2 grown men to have this conversation!! I was never guilty of fornication or adultery, yet the dogma of “sin akin to murder” persists to this day!!

At age 62, I am still dealing with repercussions of these experiences. Over a long painful process, I have left the church. I have come to realize I was pretty normal, and a huge weight taken off. I’m not sure how to asses the injury I am surprised by the number of Mormon friends who have had similar experiences in their youth.

I am incredulous that these private interviews continue, uncontested, to this day. I am astounded that no legal action has occurred to stop this practice. I support your movement and glad to help or contribute..

 

#227 Alan H. CS: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8

One of my first interviews that I can remember happened when I was 12. I felt fine about meeting the bishop. He asked me if I obeyed the law of chastity. Fully believing I had, I answered in the affirmative. He questioned back with ‘are you sure?’ still fully believing in myself, I said Yep! Then he caught me off guard and asked ‘I believe you masturbate and don’t follow the law’

I was shook. 1) I had no idea what masturbation was. 2) I had been taught that bishops would receive revelation for you during these interviews, so I believed as an impressionable 12 year old that he must be right. I admitted my guilt, not even knowing what I was guilty of.

I was told I couldn’t pass or take the sacrament. That I was to read the miracle of forgiveness, and I was given plenty of quotes and stories about how ‘its better to die than lose your virtue.’

Then I fully believed I had done something wrong and was punished for it. I fell into a self hatred spiral that pushed me deep into suicidal and castration thoughts. All because I believed this bishop was inspired to ask me this question.

But now? I see it for what it truly was. A blatant abuse of power over a 12 year old boy. It was a disgusting act, and it shouldn’t have happened and it should never happen again.

I will not let my children be in a room alone and asked any sexual related question. Nope, not even if they obey the law of chastity. That is not their place, and I won’t stand for my kids to be treated how I was.

These questions don’t need to tolerated.

#226 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,7

I was fifteen lost my virginity to my boyfriend. I felt terrible about attempted baptism for the dead when others work so hard for a temple recommend so I confessed to my bishop. He ask me so many unnecessary details about the act. He asked me about thing I myself didn’t know about. I felt he was enjoying, too, but trying to hide it. He was writing in his large notebook. I didn’t even ask him not to tell my parents. He said, “Don’t worry I won’t tell your parents. If it happens again we will need to discuss it again, if you touch yourself we will need to discuss it.”

I didn’t go back, until one day when I was still 15.  I had been involved sexually with a boy, 19, about to leave on his mission. He was cool and everyone wanted to marry him when he came home so when he asked me on a date I got excited, I wasn’t looking for sex but he was aggressive and I gave in. His family found out. We were forced to come in to the bishops office together. He cried and cried and the bishop told me I ruined his life. The bishop asked me to come in again and the cycle went on until I left Utah. This idea of a very present patriarchy has damaged me of men for quite some time and put me in positions of abuse by many a member. My ex is mormon. My daughter attends church with him every other Sunday. I pray to God she never feels the way I did.

#225 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7

When I was in high school, I had a serious boyfriend. After about a year of dating, we mutually decided to have sex. Many months passed and my bf felt guilty and that he needed to confess to his bishop so he went and met with him. They met and the following day my bf said that his bishop had asked to meet with me too. I didn’t understand why his bishop wanted to talk to me. If I wanted to go to my bishop, I had my own ward and my own bishop that I would meet with if I chose. This made me extremely uncomfortable, but I just thought it was something that needed to be done I guess. We went to meet with his bishop. My bf went in his office first while I waited. Only about 5 minutes later, they came out chuckling and in good spirits and asked me to join them. When I joined them, the bishop started to question us. How often? What positions? Where? Who initiated? And so forth. After he was done with his questioning, he shared his “council” with us. He told me that boys are like bulls. That boys, especially young men, have high sex drives that are virtually out of their control and that it is up to me as a young lady to keep that in check and not allow him to do what he is more or less inherently meant to do. What!?

So us having sex was my fault? The bishop told me that I needed to go to my bishop or he would call him for me. I walked out of that office completely humiliated and I felt completely crushed and just…..dirty. My bf was relieved because he hadn’t done anything wrong. Although I’m sure this bishop was a decent man, there is no way he should be counseling youth. I went to my mom after and told her what had happened and what his bishop said to me. She told me that didn’t agree with him, but did nothing. But honestly, what would she do? Question a bishop? This event affected me for decades. Sex, which is something that should be beautiful and special, became something that made me feel dirty and impure even after marriage.

I have daughters now who are active in the church which I support, even though for doctrinal reasons I have left the church. It makes me hopeful that the church will change its practice of having authoritative men asking children about sexual matters. If a person chooses to share that information with a bishop because they trust them, fine. But to be sat in a room and asked these kind of questions is absolutely wrong and it shocks me that this practice has been allowed for as long as it has.

#224 Robin D. CS: 1,2,3,4,7,8

This practice destroyed my self-esteem, caused me to experience nearly relentless anxiety from age 8 on and led me to take desperate actions to “fix” myself of normal adolescent behavior deemed to be amoral. This extreme and relentless psychological distress eventually royally messed up the trajectory of my life as I took desperate measures to avoid additional ecclesiastical punishment. This must be stopped before any other child goes through this simply because they are honest.

#223 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,5,7,8

I want to start by saying I am an active member of the church. I debated about sharing this, because all of the people involved with one exception are good people who just made understandable mistakes. The current status quo and puts people in a position where bad things can happen.  That is why I support this petition.

My story begins in 19 78–79. At the time I was 13. A young adult male moved into the ward. He immediately volunteered to work in the Young Men’s program. Everyone, youth and adults, loved him. He spent his spare time helping youth with scouts, and doing lots of fun activities. Almost seemed like a big brother and not another grown up leader. He was so loved that I remember an entire testimony meeting where testimonies were shared…all about what a great guy he was.

The hidden truth was, this man was secretly molesting many of the young men in the ward. Indeed, experiences with him became my first introduction to the world of human intimacy. However I did not recognize it as abuse. He molested me on camp outs, usually I would wake up with his hands on my genitals. I had no idea what was going on at the time and rationalized this as something akin to sleep walking…in fact even though I remember all of this very well it was not until I was in my mid forties when a friend and I admitted to ourselves that we got molested.

At one point, the Stake President’s son caused some turmoil, saying he had been molested. Immediately all of the young men were summoned for interviews. We were all asked if anything had happened to us. I told the bishop that it must be a mistake…I said the abuser rolled around a lot in his sleep and ended up in awkward positions…All of the other young men also defended him. We simply were in denial. In the end…the Stake presidents son was accused of fabricating a story…the abuser stayed in his position and continued to be highly regarded by almost everyone at church.

A few years later concerns were expressed that the young men had an epidemic of masturbation going on. Again we were all summoned to the bishop’s office. This time we were questioned about masturbation. I WAS masturbating, but I did not want to discuss it. I considered it a serious sin, almost like murder. I told the bishop “no I don’t masturbate”, however he didn’t believe me…And kept me in his office grilling me for about 15 minutes… “are you sure you aren’t masturbating?”

Of this group of young men, I am the only one I know who remains active. I love this church, and the bishop is someone I highly respect.

However my friends have all left the church. There is a trail of drug addiction and other problems in this group. The Stake Presidents son who no date be believed has problems with drugs. One friend was caught molesting a little girl.

For myself things started to change for the better when someone FINALLY told me masturbation was not a serious sin. This happened on my mission. After that it took years/decades of struggling to deal with confusion over sexual issues.

As much as I love the church, I never once received helpful council about sex from a bishop…instruction sheets with advice such as wearing multiple layers of clothing when I slept in order to discourage masturbation, yes, but these instructions did not help…I had to walk this road on my own. When I realized I was going to have to solve it without ecclesiastical help…that was the beginning of real progress.

I am keeping my personal information private, however the name of the abuser was (withheld). He was eventually busted for pedophilia and child rape in Oregon and Greece. Later after being released from prison he was busted again in Bountiful. He was never brought to justice for his actions in our ward. You can look him on the Boy Scouts “Black list” that was leaked a few years back. If you know him, be careful. He an extremely effective con artist.

One leader from that ward apologized for this oversight years afterwards.

I humbly request that the church take this petition to heart. Please don’t assume there is nothing going on here, or that this is not a serious problem. I share this with sincere love and best wishes for the future of the church.

Thank you.

#222 Name Hidden. CS: 1,3,4,8

At twenty, I was depressed and hadn’t taken the sacrament since moving out of my dad and stepmom’s house 2 years earlier. I was sexually abused by my stepdad when I was 9, mom found out he’d done it to another kid and started asking me questions. The police got involved, I had to testify in court, talk about it over and over in graphic detail. It was awful. He was sent to prison. So I was punishing myself. I was a licked cupcake with dad issues and just wanted a father figure. Mine had remarried and I had to watch him be a parent to a new family while pushing me to the side. I didn’t stop the abuse, that was why I didn’t get to be part of the family anymore? I guess after 2 years the bishop noticed I wasn’t taking the sacrament and he asked for a meeting. I told him the story. My age, going to court to testify, him going to jail, everything. He told me to read the Miracle of Forgiveness. I knew what was in it from friends talking about it. That I should have fought to the death. I knew that if I read that book at that state of my depression I would have ended my life. So I didn’t. I would have these crying moments where I felt peace at the thought of killing myself. Like it was going to be over soon. That’s how bad it was. I slowly stopped going to church and stopped hearing the message over and over that I had no virtue. It saved my life. To this day I will never understand why a bishop would ever tell a child sex abuse victim to read (and believe) that they should have fought to the death before allowing themselves to be abused. I will never forgive him for that. These people are not trained. They have no higher authority telling them what to say and the right way to say it. It needs to stop.

#221 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,7,8

I grew up very active in the church and quite believing. I tried to do everything right. To the outside I was a model member, seemingly obeying the commandments, being an excellent student and also excelling in athletics. But starting at puberty there was one habit that I struggled with: masturbation.

I loathed myself for this. I became more and more devoted to the church and god, in trying to shake this habit. I felt so ashamed and hated myself for not being able to stop this behavior. I was so scared and ashamed that I never told my bishop, but I felt like dying every time after I lied in a bishop’s interview. Despite all my outward accomplishments I became rather shy, introverted, and completely devoid of self confidence. People liked being around me and enjoyed my personality, but I didn’t have any good friends because I was too scared to ask anyone to hang out, even people who had asked me previously. I can safely say most of this self perception came from the teachings on masturbation and the interview process. Yes, genetics and/or other environmental factors play a role, but this specific issue, and the magnitude of the response of the church was a major driving factor in my self-hatred.

I’ve since learned that it was normal behavior. But the shame drove it underground until it did become a problem in my life. Now that I’m grown and the habit isn’t an issue the truth is that the self loathing and shame response are still major issues for me. I struggle continually with depression, shame, guilt, perfectionism, and haven’t been able to make progress on these fronts.

Please, I implore you, don’t put children in the position I was in. Please don’t make them do these worthiness interviews. At the very least stop making it okay for an adult male to ask my daughters about their sexuality. Give them time to grow into the ideals you’re teaching them.

#220 Name Withheld. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7

My story

I remember being really nervous at bishops interviews as a youth because the prevailing belief was that bishops could ask ANY question they wanted because they were Gods’ representative and inspired and therefore refusing was considered rebelling against God. I. along with all my friends, dreaded those interviews. When asked if I had a problem with masturbation, I would say that I did not. Not because I hadn’t done it; I could do it just fine. I felt it just wasn’t a big enough problem to bring up and get reprimanded for. My church youth lessons, it seemed, were often about sexual purity and sexual sinning being next to murder, etc. My youth interviews were not as horrible as some of my adult interviews.

Since then, some of my Bishops and stake leaders have asked some really inappropriate things which I will list just a few here;

When I got married, my stake president made me promise to him that I would keep my covenant to wear my garments night and day even for intimate times with my wife on our honeymoon. ( I promised but felt guilty because I never kept the promise). He told me that he and his wife wear their garments even when they shower!

I lived across the street from a bishop in Utah and on Saturdays in the summer I would put-on my swimsuit to wash the car and play with the hose with my kids. That bishop told me I was breaking my temple covenants and I needed to wear my garments when I do that.

In about 1981, I was asked in a temple interview if I participated in “oral sex or any other unholy or impure practice”. That was an official legitimate question in the handbook for about 6 months and then removed.

During another recommend interview in 2012, my bishop asked if I kept the law of chastity to which I affirmed that I did. He followed with, “When was the last time you masturbated, and the time before that, and the time before that?” I was stunned at his question. I said why are you asking me this? (I was 57 years old at the time.) He told me that he was the bishop and entitled to know that information. He also said that everyone in the ward now gets asked this question in temple interviews. I told him that I would answer all of the official questions but not his additional questions. He said that if I didn’t answer, I would not get a recommend. “Then,” I said, “I’ll just wait until that question is removed.” I told him that I expected that it might take about 6 months for that question to be removed just like the oral sex question from 1981.

I then went to the stake president to complain but was told that that question was going to be asked in every recommend interview in our stake at the direction and approval of the Area Authority Seventy. I was incredulous and left his office saying again that I would wait until the question was removed just as I said to the bishop

A month later, the bishop called me into his office during Sunday school and asked if I was ready to get my recommend. I thought he had decided not to ask that question again, so I sat for an interview. But, again, after the chastity question he asked “When was the last time you masturbated, and the time before that and the time before that? And again, thinking it was none of his business, I declined to answer and left his office.

About another month later while I was helping prepare the sacrament before Sacrament meeting, the Bishop asked me into his office to see if I would like to renew my recommend. Again, he asked the same question and when I refused the third time he said that since I refused to confess he would have to restrict me from praying in church, preparing the sacrament, home teaching, and leading the singing (because he didn’t know what I might be thinking about the women in the congregation while I was leading the singing). It felt like I was back in the Spanish Inquisition and it was his job to MAKE me confess or else! By the way, this bishop was also an attorney; a sex crimes prosecutor, so I suppose that he was using the same tactics in the ward as he used at his job as sex crimes prosecutor.

I wrote to a member of the Seventy who I had befriended many years earlier and was over my geographical area and told him about what I considered inappropriate questions by my bishop and stake president. Soon thereafter, that Seventy happened to came to my city and met with my stake president who then informed me that I could now get my recommend without answering that question and I should make the appointment with my bishop.

A few days later, I met with the bishop, but to my utter amazement, for the 4th time, the Bishop asked the same question again! He demanded that HE WAS THE BISHOP and HAD to know this to see if I was worthy!! Well, we argued for about 10 minutes, but I left with a recommend. The stake president gave up his requirement to know.

Now when I am asked if I sustain my local leaders, I say “yes, I do, just like I sustain an injury or a headache. I suffer from or endure the burden of some local leaders.”

#219 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,5,6,7,8,9

Ugh, this is hard. I’m not really used to telling my story. But if I can help one child…

I was born into an extremely devout Mormon family. Extremely devout. We were never talked to about sex, nor about avoiding or reporting sexual abuse.

Unfortunately, my older brothers and sisters were the victims of sexual abuse from neighborhood babysitters. That abuse was repeated to younger siblings…including me. I was abused from the time I can remember, about 3ish, until I was 12, when my abuser went into the military.

After a year or so later, I finally had the courage to tell my parents what had happened to me for so many years.

I was immediately taken to the bishop so I could tell him what happened. If you are from a Mormon family, you know when you talk to the bishop, it’s because you have something to repent for.

My mom drove me to the church, but waited in the car. No maternal instincts to hold my hand, walk me in, and tell me it’s gonna be ok.

I was mortified. I had to tell this man, who was supposed to be Christ on earth, my deepest, darkest secret. A secret that I had only told my mom. I had barely (that same day) finally felt safe enough to tell. I cried so hard, having to tell that man, a complete stranger, my ugly, dreadful story.

His response was that I needed to pray for forgiveness for the part I had played in the situation. THE PART I HAD PLAYED.

I had played no part in it. I was a baby when this started happening to me. I was groomed by the church to always revere my “priesthood holders” and to listen to their council. Mine was telling me to stay silent, so I did.

My bishop did not report it. Never offered counseling. Never acknowledged my innocence.

These men need to have training if they are to deal with such enormous issues. Please, protect our children. Please report any such crimes. Do not stay silent for the sake of embarrassing your church. Please…

I know it’s a little off topic, not necessarily a worthiness meeting. But I am still scarred just the same.

#218 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,6,7,8

I hesitated to write my story because I wasn’t sexually abused. I decided to write it though, because my experience around these interviews has been a big contributor to my depression and constant feelings of shame.

I remember my first orgasm at 12 years old. I was downstairs watching TV and I was flipping through the channels when a fashion show on VH1 caught my attention. There were women walking down the runway wearing sexy outfits and I quickly became aroused. I remember reaching down and readjusting myself because it hurt. I immediately felt I had done something wrong because my bishop had explained what a great sin it was in my worthiness interview to become a deacon several months before. At the time of the interview, I didn’t know what he was talking about, but it immediately became apparent to me now. I quickly turned the channel as soon as I realized I was in danger of committing a serious sin. There was an unknown pressure building inside me. I tried to think of Jesus and started singing primary songs in my head but that didn’t help at all. The pressure continued to build and I didn’t know what to do. I decided to put a pillow between my legs to rub up against. This way I wasn’t touching myself so I decided it was okay. It took me all of 5 seconds of thrusting to orgasm. It was the most amazing feeling I had ever experienced. It felt like pure ecstasy for several moments, then a wave of shame came over me that I’d never felt before. I realized I had just committed a huge sin and I immediately fell into a deep depression that I’m still struggling with as a 36 year old man.

I couldn’t believe what I had done. I just wanted to die. My shame was so deep. I think I masturbated 8 times the next day. Each time I had the same experience. Pure ecstasy followed by pure shame. I remember going to church that Sunday and trying to look invisible when they were looking for deacons to pass the sacrament. I knew I wasn’t worthy but also didn’t feel safe to tell anyone. I got asked to pass the sacrament and I didn’t know what to do so I said yes. I remember being afraid to touch the sacrament tray because I thought the water in the cups would turn to blood, and that everyone at church would know what I had done. I managed to survive that encounter, but got to live it over and over, week after week.

Several weeks later, our deacons quorum leader taught a lesson about the sin of masturbation. I remember him almost yelling at us saying, “IT’S WRONG…and if you do it you are unclean and unworthy and you must tell the bishop immediately!” I remember telling myself that I’ll recommit to stopping and as soon as I do, I’ll confess my grievous sins to the bishop. I tried and tried, but wasn’t able to stop. I remember being so afraid to die because I was living in sin and I wouldn’t be with my family in the afterlife. I was a mess. Several months later, my worst fear came true. It was time for bishops interviews again. Boys were getting called out of class, one by one. I was so scared. There were a couple dozen deacons, so I was hoping I wouldn’t get called in that day. Luckily I wasn’t called in and class was over, what a relief! I decided again to stop masturbating so that I could go in the next week and tell the bishop that I had masturbated, but wasn’t masturbating. I wanted to show him I was truly sorry and had a repentant heart. Again, I wasn’t able to stop and continued masturbating that week. Masturbating was the only way I had to escape my shame. Sunday eventually came around and I was sick. Not only had I masturbated, but I was masturbating several times a day. I decided I was going to confess and just deal with the consequences. I walked into his office with every intention of confessing, but when the question came, I just said no. I couldn’t believe I lied to him. I remember feeling so overwhelmed with shame when I walked out of his office. I was so ashamed of myself. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. From then on I lived in constant fear of losing my eternal family. As the years went by, my depression got worse and worse. I carried that shame into all of my relationships. I never felt worthy of love.

It’s taken me years of therapy just to get to a place where I’m starting to accept myself. My depression is still a struggle, but I realize now, as an adult, that what I did was normal and healthy. I still get triggered into shame when I masturbate, but each time I remind myself that it’s an act of self care and a tiny bit of the shame gets chipped away. I really hope the church will stop these shaming and traumatic interviews. No kids deserve to experience what we have experienced.

#217 D. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7,8

The mission and stories of this website have validated my pain and my experience. This validation has brought about so much healing in my heart. This validation has empowered me to finally stand up to my shame and to stand up to the beliefs, people, and experiences which generated and nurtured my shame and say “No more!”. This is an invaluable gift for me. Thank you to all who have shared their stories and a special thank you to Sam.

My story: I was molested when I was 8. The abuse was introduced to me by another boy in my 2nd grade class. My life up to that point provided me with no frame of reference, understanding, or ability to cope with or even describe what happened. Like most 8 year-olds, I was a blank page, an empty vessel. Innocent.

Growing up, I developed a keen sense that the two most important things in my life, in the universe, were my family and the LDS Church. My parents were converts to the LDS Church and their faith was tangible. I saw through their actions and heard through their testimonies how much they cherished and loved the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, the sacred doctrines of the Church, the holy temple, and our divinely appointed leaders. Their love for the LDS Church was and is unconditional and to this day I know that in their eyes, the LDS Church and its leaders can do no wrong. Naturally, I matched my testimony and fervor to theirs.

Given the sexual abuse that occurred when I was eight, and frankly, given normal human sexual development generally, I discovered masturbation around the age of 10. I don’t recall feeling guilty or shameful. I do recall being scared that I had broken, medically, something about my body. That fear quickly dissipated when I woke up the next morning alive.

At some point during the next year, my mother discovered me masturbating in my room. Her response was dramatic. I remember her running to her room crying. It appeared to me that I had completely devastated her. I could tell that my actions deeply hurt her.

Later that day, when we discussed the incident, my mother informed me that what I had done was serious and that I would be required to meet with our Bishop to confess. The idea that what I had done was so serious that it required the involvement of the Bishop caused me to feel a great deal of shame. Clearly, my mother and the Church (the two things that mattered most) were ashamed of me.

My mother set up the appointment with the Bishop and drove me to the chapel. I was anxious about how the meeting would go and what exactly what would occur. I was embarrassed and I was terrified.

I do not recall many details about my meeting with the Bishop. The anxiety and terror of the situation was too much for me and I mentally disconnected. At the end of the meeting I was instructed that in order to repent I would be required to abstain from taking the sacrament for a couple weeks. I was shocked. First my mom, then the Bishop, and now my siblings, friends, and the whole ward would know what an awful person I was. It was humiliating.

My Bishop also gave me a pamphlet entitled “To Young Men Only”. I was to read the pamphlet and return on another occasion to discuss it. Most of the pamphlet was confusing to me, but I read it and at a minimum I understood that I had tampered with God’s sacred powers and because of that I was unworthy.

Over the next few weeks I jumped through the church’s procedural hoops. I guess I was forgiven, however, I felt debased and broken.

Eventually, I would masturbate again. I knew what the Church taught, which is that all my previous sins would be returned to me as if I had never really repented in the first place. The shame, therefore, was doubled. Over the next years, I would return to the Bishop’s office and confess again and again. Penalties were imposed each time and I believed that I deserved them. I was miserable.

Through the Bishop’s interviews, priesthood lessons, and my own study of the words of the Prophets, both ancient and modern day, I gained a firm testimony, one that stood for decades, of the following Gospel Truths:

1. That the Bishop’s words were the Lord’s words. Everything a Bishop said in the Bishop’s office was inspired of the Spirit. He had the Spirit of Discernment. He held Priesthood Keys. He was my Steward. My Leader. He was selected by the Lord through inspiration and revelation. When he condemned me, the Lord was condemning me. When he yelled at me, the Lord was yelling at me. When he debased, humiliated and shamed me, the Lord was debasing, humiliating, and shaming me; and,

2. That sexual sins, including lust, pornography, and masturbation, were more serious than any other sin save murder and denying the Holy Ghost. Ergo, I was guilty of sins next to murder. Murderers were the vilest sinners I could imagine.

Interviews with Bishops usually included a fact intensive interrogation. I had various Bishops insist that I share intimate details about masturbation and pornography. How many times? When? Where? How? What were you looking at? What were you thinking about? Some Bishops went completely out of bounds and asked disturbing questions about niche sexual topics which had never even entered my mind. These interrogations always evoked an intense and unhealthy level of stress and shame in the childhood me.

In one interview before my mission, with a Stake President, I was thoroughly yelled at. Although my confessions were voluntary and always accompanied with great remorse and a sincere desire to reform, this man knew my heart better than I did. He informed me that the reason I was not overcoming my problem was because I was prideful and unrepentant. He seemed determined to humble me himself. If bitter tears are any measure of humility, he was overwhelmingly successful.

My leaders thought I wasn’t serious about quitting or repenting. They had no idea. I thought about cutting off my genitalia or gauging my eyes out. For years, I contemplated killing myself. Paradoxically, I think the Church’s teachings on the afterlife spared me from making a serious attempt. I knew I would just end up in spirit prison feeling equally shameful there. I didn’t want death. I wanted annihilation.

These were dark emotions for a youth to suffer with, and they frequently became unbearable.

How is a sensitive child supposed to cope with such despair? I certainly didn’t need public shaming. I didn’t need religious fear-mongering. I didn’t need humiliating and debasing interviews. I didn’t need a neighborhood volunteer minister to assume that somehow his spirituality would compensate for his complete lack of education, training, or licensure in childhood sex counseling. I didn’t need a Church which encouraged and enabled this bizarre and absurd practice.

Decades of pain later, I finally found the courage to question the propriety of my leaders’ actions. This led me to consider the effect that those actions and the LDS Church’s practices and teachings had on me and my childhood development. This seems to be the beginning of a new chapter for me; one where I am empowered to reject shame and all of its various and sundry sources.

#216 Lindsay S. CS: 1,3,6,8

I was a young woman in college when a young, LDS man forcibly groped me, kissed me and exposed himself to me. Afterwards I didn’t process that it wasn’t my fault, in fact I felt guilt and shame and told no one of what happened until 8 years later, just a few months ago.

This shame was probably augmented due to a Bishop’s interview before my assault in which I was forced to confess a consensual, heavy make out session with another young man after he had confessed privately and given my name as his accomplice in this “sin” without warning me… I was then called to meet with the Bishop without knowing the reason or topic of the meeting. At that point I was just lectured and given a “slap on the hand” or a warning. But this time, my abuser confessed to the Bishop and gave him my name; I was again called for a private interview with the Bishop. The Bishop was a kind, well meaning man but this interview caused me severe psychological trauma that has affected me up until recent months of processing through my past. The Bishop told me that he had already spoke to my abuser, J., and that he had a pretty good idea what happened and didn’t need to hear my side of the story. He shamed me, told me I was on probation and could not partake of the sacrament in church for a number of months; in a kind way, he tried to understand why I was “doing these things”. I remember him telling me that I was bright and that my parents should be proud of my accomplishments…I told him I didn’t think they were. Although he made a great attempt, I’m sure he had no idea I had been forced and that he’d just shamed a victim and made me feel dirty and unworthy. At the time, I had been briefly single after breaking up with my LDS boyfriend. I felt like my feelings of self-loathing and inadequacy would disappear if I just got married in the Temple so I could get away from the disgrace of my sexuality. I got back together with my boyfriend and we were engaged shortly after. We had to confess more moral sins to our Bishop, a different one, during our engagement, but we were luckily deemed worthy enough to be married in the Temple. I married someone entirely wrong for me, had kids way too young, and found myself in a marriage that was mentally, psychologically and at times sexually abusive. I had more traumatic experiences with Bishop’s interviews when seeking counsel and support to divorce my husband. Again, a very kind, well meaning man with zero professional training. I almost didn’t make it out of my marriage, but luckily I found support outside the church and got out. I chose to leave the church and I’m still recovering from the years of indoctrination that led to my self loathing and misunderstanding of normal, healthy human existence. I’m doing better, but still getting over the programming of needing a male authority to tell me if I’m good enough and worthy enough. This shaming of children, teens and young adults needs to stop; it sets up our girls, especially, to be victims of abuse and dominance in their future relationships.

#215 Curtis C. CS: 1,2,7,8

Bishop and church GA’s shaming over masturbation caused me such self loathing over my inability to remain “pure” that I suffered from deep depression and frequent contemplation of suicide for most of my teen years. I blamed my depression on my wickedness (as the church taught), but could not stop the vicious cycle. It was not until after my mission that I realized it wasn’t me that was disgusting and despicable, it was the church’s uninformed policy of sexual shaming that is disgusting and despicable. Stop the masturbation probing in private interviews!

#214 Name Withheld. CS: 1,2,4,7,8

I was born in Salt Lake City, raised LDS. I’m 34 now. I have been atheist for almost a decade.

Around 14 I experimented with another boy. I had my worthiness interview with the bishop. When asked if I keep The Law of Chastity I tearfully confessed to what I had been taught was a sexual sin. I told the bishop I had gay relations with another boy. The bishop asked many questions and very specifically. Did you have oral sex? Who initiated it? Did you like it? What other things did you do?

Now I can’t remember all the questions verbatim, but I remember answering his questions while crying. I was thinking ” Why do the details matter? I thought any sexual act before marriage and especially with someone of the same sex was specific enough.” I didn’t understand why details would matter.

It took me nearly another 12 years to even realize how awful and messed up that interview was. I was in the church I didn’t question too deeply my religious leaders.

That same bishop told me at 17 having sex with a girl was just barely bellow murder on the sin scale.

One final seriously messed up experience. I had an interview 12-15 with my Stake President. He asked me about the Law of Chastity. I told him tearfully that I did indeed masturbate. He told me next time I had that urge to take a hammer and smash my hand with it. That way I would stop having the urge to masturbate.

#213 Name Hidden. CS: 1,4,7

My boyfriend and I had sex at the age of 17 for the first time after being together for almost a year. Before that I had never so much as gone to second base or “abused” myself with masturbation. I had an overwhelming feeling of shame and guilt and knew the only relief would come from repentance with the help of my bishop. I had expected a lecture about our bodies being temples and saving ourselves for marriage etc. but what I got was series of interrogating and a humiliatingly detailed line of questions. How many times did you have sex? Did he masturbate in front of you? Did you masturbate? Did you perform oral sex on him? Did he on you? Did you orgasm? How many times did you orgasm? Did you have anal sex? And then added that what I had done was a sin next to murder. He also informed me that I would need to stand in front of a court of 12 men and tell them what I had told him so they could determine if I would be excommunicated or not. I left in shock, confused and ashamed. But after a little time and once some of the shame started to wear off, logic started to take over. How could making love to my long-term boyfriend be even close to murder? I sure as hell wasn’t going to stand up in front of 12 men and tell those perverts anything. I ended up leaving the church at 18. I’ve been happily married for 17 years but the mental scars still live with me. I often mentally berate myself after sex with my husband. The thought ‘You’re disgusting’ will repeat in my mind.

#211 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,4,8

My bishop was hardcore on the masturbation interviews. They started at 10 because he wanted to be sure that he could “identify worthiness issues” before we became deacons.

In my interviews, my bishop started with 20-30 minutes of explaining what masturbation was – graphically describing how it could happen without us using our hands, that it could happen clothed, and that touching ourselves down there was never okay, and that it was particularly bad if we ejaculated. He then went on to explain that some boys were using Sears underwear ads and that they were improperly getting aroused from these ads, and proceeded to explain a variety of “inappropriate common sources” for arousal.

He then spent the remainder of the hour-long interview reviewing the various ways of masturbation he had discussed and asking if I had ever done that, and if I had ever been aroused from any of the sources he had discussed. He paused on each one for a yes/no answer.

All of this was in a closed-door session one-on-one with him. For an hour. I distinctly remember feeling like I wanted to run out onto the highway next to the church afterwards and try to get hit by a car.

#210 Landon H. CS: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10

Sam, July 2nd of 2017 was the first day I had been sober in over a decade. Between drugs and alcohol I had a heavy regiment of self-medication. There was good reason for that self-medicating. I continue that sobriety and am on day 205 as I compile this story the best I can.

2 1/2 of those years prior to July I was somewhere on that spectrum of “drunk” including being on formal probation for my second DUI.

I was touched in the Idaho Falls temple on my right Testicle when receiving my endowments prior to my mission in 2003. I was in the mission field only 4 months. Every prayer after that temple trip consisted of me wanting to die. I told my parents I’d been touched in there as I was rightfully shocked, and triggered I now know, the response to me telling them that I had been touched was replied to with, “that could never happen in there…”, well, it did.

I’d blocked out everything prior to the 5th grade as one of my abusers was very, very close to me. Another of my abusers is currently in a bishopric in Idaho. I have to be cautious in everything I share here as there is an on-going investigation by the Idaho State Police into what happened to not only me, but others in my age group in the Egin Bench Ward, as part of the Saint Anthony, Idaho Stake.

I was raped multiple times, and also hazed inside the Egin Bench Church house near St. Anthony, Idaho among other places in the ward boundaries. I was hazed with an American flag attached to a splintered flag pole. This abuse began as early as 3 years old and continued until the 8th grade. I have asked multiple people in that ward for help to piece this thing all back together, the only answer I have repeatedly got is: “Why can’t you just leave it alone?”

I was not the only one this happened to as many of the kids my age also show the same signs of this abuse. Alcoholism, “dry drunks”, black out rages, in-ability to hold down a relationship or job, people who just “can’t get their shit together”.

Having come back from a mission early I learned the word “forsaken” as I lost every relationship I had whether that was friend or family member. I even had an older brother try and “kick my ass” the day I came home. I couldn’t explain what was wrong with me. I had never had sex(that I remembered), smoked pot one time, and had drank one “fuzzy naval” before going on a mission. By all accounts I was “worthy” to go on a mission.

No one asked me or cared why I came home. They just cast me out. I drank for the first time 3 months later, and smoked meth for the first time within 6 months of being home. I fell in with the wrong crowd because I had nowhere else to go.

I stumbled through relationships and eventually quit alcohol and drugs to go through my 3rd disciplinary counsel 4 years after that. In 2007. Spent a year “repenting” in “disfellowshipped” status(for the second time), and finally earned my temple recommend back.

I was engaged, and went back to the temple with my cousin for his mission endowments. Anyone who understands trauma knows this triggered me again. I broke off the engagement that night and was drunk by 8:30 am the next morning.

I fell back into alcoholism and drugs for the next 10 years. 2 DUI’s. Multiple failed relationships. The underlying nagging question of “what’s wrong with me?” persisted. I left the church after reading into the early history of it in 2009. ( After seeing Joseph Smiths immorality in polygamy it’s easy to see how this type of abuse continues in the church today. A 39 year old man, Joseph Smith, marrying a 14 year old girl Helen Mar Kimble. Perhaps this is where the church feels it’s ok to continue to interrogate children.)

June 30th of last year I was high on MDMA at a concert in Colorado. It’s where I was “called to repentance” so to speak. I quit cold turkey the next day. I have remained sober since.

As part of dealing with the withdrawals from alcohol I ran, and ran, and ran. (700 miles since July 2nd, and down 45lbs).

In October I’d run out of places to look for my problems. I made an earnest prayer at a Christian church in Idaho Falls, Idaho – (Watersprings church) for the answer to my questions.

I received the answer I already knew, I just had blocked out.

Once I opened the door to those memories I was flooded with some pretty terrible things. Some of which I won’t share yet as an ongoing investigation is in play.

I tried to take my own life twice in November rather than face what I know will be a life time of recovery. It is only by God’s Providence I’m still here. Many still question “are you sure you’re not just making this up”? Well, two professionals have told me I know exactly what I’m dealing with, and as any survivor of sexual assault knows, many like to begin by blaming the victim.

I’m estranged from most of my family now, and many “friends”. I’ve also left Idaho in fear that two of my abusers are in elected office. You understand the risks of pointing a finger like that I’m sure.

Sam, what you’re doing is God’s work. You’re giving voice to people like me. You’re preventing some pretty terrible tragedies.

For the lost business due to your stand (as I’ve closed my recent budding real estate career I can attest to losing business because you stand against “The Church” and it’s practices), you’re helping build a kingdom not in this realm.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you, as you add to my story, and my life.

I trust in (H)is time and work.

Not LDS, Inc.’s.

To “The Brethren” and those who continue to peddle this “gospel” of yours, and allow abuse like this to continue as it’s buried in Bishop’s offices, Stake President’s offices, Your Offices, and LDS Family Services offices: may God have mercy on your souls.

#209 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,6,7,8,9

I was eight years old when I was sexually abused, I didn’t even understand what had happened really, I just knew it felt wrong and scary. I was very confused and somehow decided it was my fault because I had been baptized. I didn’t tell anyone what had happened, I was ashamed, I thought no one would love me if they knew. You see my child’s mind didn’t know what great lengths that pedophile goes to groom a victim, and they are very good at manipulation. I didn’t have the words for it at nine, but I ran in front of cars trying desperately to die, to go home to Jesus.

At the age of twelve I was given a pamphlet that stated that if “You didn’t fight even unto death you had allowed your virtue to be taken”, to my fragile, depressed mind this spoke of eternal condemnation, I had no hope of salvation. I was dirty and even God didn’t want me, I couldn’t tell anyone, if they knew how dirty I was they would reject me, so I held all that sadness inside, that pain.

Every time I had a bishops interview I wondered when they would figure out my horrible secret and condemn me. I was suicidal, I had multiple attempts besides running in front of cars. One time I overdosed on over the counter medicine, I honestly don’t know how I survived it, I should have died. I still didn’t tell anyone, I couldn’t. I married very young(17), and had a child six months after our wedding, I began to think that if I saved my ex-husband I could ride his coattails to heaven. My ex-husband and I went through the temple and I tried so hard to be a good wife and mother and a good Mormon, but I never felt good enough. More attempts, more depression, a spouse who abused me sexually, emotionally, psychologically, and financially and I stayed because I didn’t deserve anything better. There was no true pleasure in intimacy, I learned to distance my mind, it was the only way I could survive. I stayed married for 30 years to a man who degraded me because I was taught that I was soiled by virtue of just being alive.

#208 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,6,7,8

Growing up LDS, sex and sexual topics were a taboo topic that we never talked about in our home. When I began to experience sexual feelings, I felt like I must be a pervert. I was a young girl and young girls weren’t supposed to have such thoughts and feelings. It was understandable for boys to have these feelings but NOT for girls. This wasn’t something we talked about in young women’s class because girls just aren’t sexual like boys are. Girls were clean and innocent.

I remember laying in bed at night, crying and praying with all my heart for God to take these perversions away from me so I could be like normal girls. I told God I couldn’t bare the shame of telling a bishop because it would be too embarrassing and uncomfortable to tell any adult, let alone a grown man and I imagined God was shaking his finger at me for harboring a sin next to murder.

When I considered telling a bishop, I was afraid he would judge me extra harshly for being a perverted girl or worse, he might sexualize me. It just didn’t feel safe to put myself in that situation. I was already starting to get unwanted attention from grown men. I didn’t want to wonder if the bishop was thinking about my sexual struggle every time he looked at me from the stand. So, every interview, I’d answer the question dishonestly. “Yes, I was living the law of chastity”. I’d feel relieved it was over for the time being, but then go home feeling like I was going to hell for sure. I would definitely be spending eternity with murderers. I felt like I was living a double life.

I had a rocky and unstable childhood and always wondered if that is what I deserved for being unclean. Surely, blessings were being withheld. Though I kept my virginity all through high school and beyond, I could never shake the feeling that I was unclean and would never be a suitable wife or mother in Zion.

I ended up leaving the church after sending my boyfriend on his mission. He wouldn’t want me anyway, once he found out who I REALLY was. Through my transition out of the church, I began to learn that my feelings throughout my adolescence were completely healthy and normal, yet I still struggle with shame and intimacy. I resented the church for destroying my childhood and key parts of my self worth. I still do. It makes me sick to think that other kids are going through the same emotional torture that I endured.

#207 Marissa S. CS: 1,2,3,6,7

By all accounts, my childhood was pretty perfect. I grew up in the church, had awesome friends, leaders, and experiences.

My dad was my bishop until my early teens, then a friend’s dad was called and he was my bishop throughout high school. I went to him a few times after going “too far” with a boyfriend. The conversations were always really positive. He focused on god’s love for me and I always left feeling really positive and loved. I don’t think I was every FULLY truthful about EVERYTHING that had happened, but after making sure we didn’t have sex, the bishop never probed or asked me to be more specific. I was never punished or asked not to take the sacrament.

I really have no complaints about talking to the bishop in high school, but here are some problems I see now: I was taught from birth that the bishop is called of god and he’s my judge in Israel. God speaks to me through the bishop. We sang songs in primary about how much we love our bishop. We wrote him cards and did service projects in his honor. It was always a Special Day when the bishop came to visit us in primary! I felt like I HAD to go to my bishop to fully repent of things that I wasn’t even comfortable talking to my parents about, but was willing to sit in a room with the door closed with a middle-aged man and tell him that my boyfriend and I had taken off some clothes together. I didn’t even tell my parents about these meetings or that they were happening. And I believe my bishop kept everything super confidential, so he never would’ve disclosed to my parents that I’d asked to speak with him, so they never even had to opportunity to ask me what was going on or if they could be there. My parents absolutely trusted him and never would’ve thought to ask to be informed about interviews or meetings or ask to be in the room with me. I was lucky, in high school, that my bishop was so amazing. Other kids have not been so lucky. And even though I had some good experiences, is it really okay to teach children that you MUST love, support, and trust this older man to the point that they are willingly going behind a closed door and revealing private things that are sexual in nature? Parents are horrified to think that their children may be doing similar things with any other adult, but when it’s a man called of god and it’s in a church setting, we turn a blind eye. The church is true and this is the way it works, so this is what we do. No questions asked. What if he HAD been a pedophile???? When you believe a bishop is called of god, that question never even enters your mind because that obviously would never happen. But it obviously does.

As a freshman in college, I was dating a boy. We “slipped up” a bit, but it was all pretty normal stuff. No clothes had come off, and I didn’t feel guilty about it, so that was that for me. We were in the same student ward and after we broke up, my former boyfriend went to our bishop to confess what we had done. I was then called into the bishops office and he told me that he had spoken to my former boyfriend and that he needed to talk to me to make sure I could repent as well. I was floored by this. I thought it was MY choice to come to the bishop and I did not appreciate being coerced to confess. I was then asked very specific questions. What time of night were we together, where would we go to hang out, would we sit up or lay down when we kissed, would I ever get on top of him, did clothes ever come off, where would he touch me, over the clothes or under the clothes, where did I touch him, did I touch him under his garments, did he have an orgasm, did I know what happened when boys orgasmed or was I surprised, did I ever orgasm, and did I have a problem with touching myself. I was told that every time I masturbated, I took something away from my future relationship with my husband. I was given the Miracle of Forgiveness and I think I was supposed to go back and see him every month or something like that, but I just stopped going to church. I didn’t want to see him or my ex boyfriend in sacrament meeting. I didn’t feel loved or forgiven after leaving the bishops office, I felt weird and uncomfortable. I didn’t think I should have to talk about things when I myself didn’t want to or didn’t feel guilty about it. There were a lot of factors that went into me becoming inactive at that time, and that interview was one of them.

I’ve since gone back to church, gone inactive again, gone back, and then left the church for good. The crazy part is, whenever I haven’t been going to church, I’ve been so happy! All this guilt and shame and feeling like I wasn’t good enough that I experienced (sometimes without realizing it, or just not realizing where it came from) since childhood would just disappear. It was like this huge weight I didn’t even realize I was carrying around until it suddenly left. Despite my perfect childhood, I was really depressed as a kid and thought about suicide a lot and I had no idea why. Despite my loving bishop in high school, I had a lot of weird days when I would go back and forth between really loving and caring about my boyfriend and feeling like this sexual part of myself was natural and normal, and then being crushed with this guilt and shame that I was messing up and offending god. Even though I didn’t like my bishop in college and thought he was wrong, I couldn’t shake those words that every time I touched myself, i was taking away something from my husband. I was so confused and so unhappy while at the same time being totally happy and not confused at all because I was a member of the TRUE church. I was never really taught about sexuality as a woman or how to communicate, how to consent, how to enjoy having sex. There was always this gross, dirty part to sex while at the same time, it was beautiful and when you’re married you’re supposed to love it and have so much fun. It really messed with my head as a child and young adult.

When I met my husband, I found that I really did enjoy sex, but it wasn’t at all what I thought it would be and I still didn’t know how to communicate or ask for what I want. I’m still dealing with accepting myself as a beautiful, sexual being and totally, fully enjoying and wanting sex with my husband.

I had great experiences with bishops, I had a bad experience with a bishop. I will not be raising my children in the church, but it is so, so important to me that some actual policies and training get put in place so the children growing up in the church don’t have to play bishop roulette. No child should grow up thinking they’re not good enough. No young adult should feel forced to go into detail about sexual things. No child should be taught that it’s okay to go behind closed doors and talk to a middle aged man about things they’re not comfortable telling their parents. This is unacceptable and it needs to stop. Now. Before anyone else feels shamed or worse, gets molested.

#206 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,4,6,7

I had a Bishop that I went to after being sexually assaulted, as a child. My parents thought that this interview would help me, as nobody wanted to report what happened. They thought by talking to the Bishop this would help me heal. Instead, he asked me questions that were not appropriate or healing, I came away feeling awful. He put the blame on me. This has effected my life, it left me with years of shame, and depression. I believe if one of my parents would have been in the room in wouldn’t have happened. I believe these interviews behind closed doors shouldn’t happen!

#205 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,6,7

As a young man I felt incredibly guilty about masturbation. I felt like I was the only one with this “sin” and that it made me a horrible person. The Bishop interviews were humiliating and I found myself lying so that I could progress through the ranks of deacon, teacher, priest -like the other kids.

When I was 15 I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I never told anybody, but I thought that God gave me the disease as a punishment for masturbation. I thought that maybe God would heal me if I promised to stop and never did it again. I could go a few months at a time, but couldn’t ever “cure” myself, so the Diabetes was a permanent reminder to me of my sinful nature.

When preparing for a mission, the interview questions for worthiness got more specific, and probing. I fessed up to my “problem” and worked through the Bishop and Stake President extensively before I could send in my missionary paperwork. I received my mission call, I bought all of my mission suits and supplies, I gave a talk in Sacrament Meeting to say goodbye to my local congregation. Then I was overcome with guilt and confessed that I had “slipped up”. My mission got pushed off for 6 months. I had to face the people I’d said goodbye to and vaguely tell them that I was still going on a mission, but it was just delayed. Sometimes they asked more questions and I could only respond with shameful silence and vague acknowledgements. I still couldn’t “abstain” completely, so I ended up lying again so that my shame and misery could end. So that I could serve God.

I was married in the Temple. Sex was now supposed to be okay, but it was such a drastic change. We did our best to make it work well, but it was awkward. It took many years to develop our sexuality. It took many years before we were bold enough to try sex toys which was the best thing for our sex lives. We still haven’t resolved all of the damage from sexual shame and guilt, but we are working through it.

We left the Church, for doctrinal reasons, but one reason was to protect our children from growing up in what we see now as a harmful environment for sexual development.

#204 Michelle. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7,8,9,10. Other: Self harm

My story starts with me realizing early in my elementary years, that I liked boys and girls. I was also sexually abused by an older child during first grade. I told no one of the abuse until I was almost 30, except one bishop. A bishop who simply had no training or experience probably, with a young child coming to him with such a serious thing. He asked me all sorts of questions that were… Just horrible. For instance, he made me describe what my abuser did to me, and then ask me whether I enjoyed it or not! When I told him the abuser penetrated me with a pencil, he asked, And did that make you feel good? Ummmmm no! He asked me if I had been tempted to do it again, to myself. Again no! I didn’t even know at that point what sex really was. He was searching for where I needed to repent over being abused. He didn’t alert my parents, or anyone else for this matter, even though my abuser was in our stake. (My abuser was probably being abused himself) This was despite me telling him that my parents didn’t know, and that I was scared to tell them. Instead he counseled me to ask for forgiveness in my part of what happened. That I needed to repent. I had no part, I was a victim! Too bad for me. I was dirty then, and I for sure wanted no one to know about my dark secret.

As I turned 12, and interviews began, things became worse for me. Whether it was because of the abuse, or naturally, I was a sexually curious child. I discovered masturbation in elementary school. I didn’t realize until interviews started, how serious a sin it was. Next to murder no less! To communicate to a child, that they are barely better than a murderer is heinous. I stated cutting myself at 13. I was depressed and anxious about my eternal salvation! I was not measuring up.

Being bisexual, I “knew” was a grave sin. I only ever confessed to one bishop, that I liked girls. I was confessing that I had girlfriend. He of course, needed all the dirty details of what these two 9th grade girls were up to. Again, a bishop questioned me in great detail over which things felt good, or what I liked. Why did he need to know if it was a left hand or a right had doing the touching? He made me feel even more dirty with his questions and answers. I knew it wasn’t appropriate, but who would listen to a young girl over a bishop anyhow? Especially, a troubled child, a black sheep. During the interview, my bishop was profusely sweating, red faced and obviously aroused by my sins. He had a small, red notebook that he was jotting notes in. He assured me he was the only one who saw it, and it was to help him remember specific things about specific members…. I may not read upside down professionally, but I fail to see why he needed to make notes regarding two girls. He wasn’t noting my willingness to repent, or anything that pertained to my eternal salvation. it was my sexual experiences he was jotting down. I could clearly see that. This man held my salvation, and my entire life in his hands. I have never felt more desolate and alone then when he told me that I would be miserable in hell for all eternity, never to see my family again, and that my sins were approaching murderer territory. So of course at 15, I hurried home to finally end my misery by taking my own life. I had been cutting for several years by then. I felt worthless, unlovable, and wrong. I didn’t deserve to be with my family eternally anyway. They would be better off without me. There was something wrong with me, that I couldn’t fix. So began the first attempt of many.

I stayed stuck in the vicious cycle of sinning, repenting and having no sense of self worth for a long time. I finally left the church for good at 29. The final straw was, surprisingly enough, a bishop interview. I had been inactive for a while, and was looking to come back. So the bishop starts his questions. It quickly brought back such horrible memories. It felt horrible to discuss those things as a child, and it feels horrible to discuss them as an adult. As an adult, it was still difficult speaking up for myself. I got mad with him questioning me for the naughty details. Why do you need to know that? I left and never went back.

It has taken me years, and I am still working on it, to build up my self esteem. I have suffered intimacy problems from the shaming, I have self medicated by cutting, alcohol etc. I have made life decisions based on the “fact” the I am wrong, contrary to God’s plan, and not worthy. I have attempted suicide several times, and thought about it millions more. All because of good men, and bad men, with no training and some outdated views on sexuality.

I cry for myself as a little girl. I cry for myself as an adult. How sad to know from such a young age you are doomed. My body, and my heart are covered in scars. I have children of my own now, and you can believe that they won’t be going behind those damn closed doors alone.

My youngest brother took his own life at 15 in 2011. I am tortured over this. He left no note, and we can only guess. My heart breaks wondering if worthiness interviews had anything to do with it. I wish my parents had been more involved in the bishop thing, and that they would have talked more about sex with us as kids. It was such a mysterious and taboo subject. Those are things I can do differently for my children.

#203 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,7. Other: Extreme fear of Hell and punishment for normal developmental processes; anxiety disorder (OCD)

Some LDS readers might turn a blind eye to stories that don’t fit their worldview of ‘ultimate authority’ and blind trust in leaders. The gospel is the product being distributed through the LDS Church – all the rest is organizational behavior, which is imperfect and even damaging. I know; I have a doctorate in the field (as well as an MA in Counseling). I joined the church when I was 14. My mother had heard about it from a friend of her father. I remember thinking how weird it was to confess face-to-face to a bishop for certain sins. When I was a Catholic, all was behind a wall of sorts and they never asked questions; the process was for me; to unburden myself if I chose to do so. The Mormon process is about unburdening but also about gaining ‘forgiveness by the church’, which is really about membership and brand image, public relations. I never thought about that until much later. I remember being deathly afraid, obsessing over telling my bishop that I masturbated. I believed that if I didn’t, my salvation was in jeopardy. These thoughts plagued me, and I’m not using that word lightly. I finally forced myself to confess and it was a huge relief; I wasn’t going to Hell. I made the bishop in the image of God (idol worship?). I’d go back to masturbating and occasional pornography and the shame, severe anxiety would come back stronger until I relieved the shame through confession. Does the church understand that this is called ‘negative reinforcement’? Doing something to avoid a negative consequence becomes a habit. Extreme pain and shame causes addictions; the destructive habits that temporarily sooth and bring more guilt/shame that causes more addiction, that causes more shame? All of this is based on ‘never being good enough’. Turning developmental mistakes into shaming experiences has lifetime implications. Most members don’t have the knowledge in these addiction areas so it’s up to the church to take responsibility for it’s ‘system’ and align it with the higher values of emotional health, which will create stronger, more productive members!

Before my mission, my bishop asked me if ‘there were any more sins I wanted to confess’ – since he was all powerful, I assumed there were ‘buried sins’ I didn’t remember. He told me that if I didn’t confess these sins, I would ‘burn up’ in the mission field. I took that to mean guilt and Hell. The entire mission I scrupulously scanned my memory bank to ‘find sin’ so I could be forgiven. The assumption was ‘if I didn’t confess all sins I’d go to Hell’ – my point is that there are so many unintended consequences of these interviews with bishops, especially with trusting, emotionally dependent young people. It’s not just teens; older teens and even young adults might be harmed by the untrained bishop. I’ve been fighting to feel good about myself my entire life. I’ve accomplished much professionally and I raised a wonderful son – but the subconscious worry and fear of Hell, and the underlying shame of my developmental mistakes as well as more serious mistakes (from not dealing with shame and compounded shame from my choices) has plagued me. The combination of my shaming upbringing, predisposition to anxiety, shaming interview processes, and a Mormon culture of toxic perfectionism (never ever enough!) with zero tolerance for mistakes and a looming destination of Hell (God cannot tolerate the least of sin) – leaves one feeling helpless, hopeless, worthless, and stuck (can’t live with, can’t live without). It’s Hell on earth.

Here I am today, about 40 years later, and many of the sexual issues and the toxic perfectionism that I learned still haunt me. It can be difficult for some to pinpoint a ’cause’ for a given issue because shame, perfectionism, and poor self-concepts can be learned in many environments as well as through poor choices. The standard attribution for shame, when I was involved with the Mormon Church, was ‘sin’; something act caused it. That notion is internalized and unquestioned. The fact that I was even sitting in a bishop’s office meant that I had done something terribly wrong; that I had become an enemy of God. To me, it also meant that I was highly dependent on the bishop for my salvation! This created the assumption that I needed to confess all sins to ‘get relief’ from my obsession with sin. This was the beginning of my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I don’t lay the entire blame on the confession/repentance ‘system’ – I was predisposed biologically/neurologically, but being in a system and culture where ‘management by exception’ (fixing negative deviated behavior) is the norm can cause one to become ‘hyper-aware’ of doing bad things. My life was consumed by avoiding sin, especially masturbation and pornography, but by focusing on what I shouldn’t do, it actually became more of a challenge. The better approach would have been to focus on my personal, unique passions and enjoyable activities; to focus on more than morals and salvation was important for a young man. A life full of positive relationships, fun activities, and understanding the importance of ‘delaying gratification’ in order to love women and enjoy emotional intimacy would have been a much healthier approach than ‘not masturbating’ or ‘not having pre-marital sex’. These are glaring flaws in the organization, its policies, practices, and a mission/vision that did not emphasize the importance of healthy emotional relationships; everything was reduced to sex and avoidance of sin.

Teaching young people the importance of positive relationships, self-esteem, and about the addiction cycle would have helped me. When people are anxious, never knowing if they will go to Hell for having done minor sexual things like masturbation or occasional porn (I’m not minimizing this, but it is normal for the age and LDS Living even printed an article about the harmful effects of shaming and setting ‘perfection’ standards – it creates a need to escape pain with even more pornography or other addictive behaviors). The bottom-line is this: Bishops and even senior leaders are not trained in counseling or psychology. By not having this knowledge of reality, they are viewing life with incomplete ‘maps’ (assumptions) of the ‘territory’ (reality). They can create more harm than good in this system.

I’ve been caught in the addiction cycle for decades – Perfection standards – the reality of being a mortal (not living up) – shame – escape – back to trying to be perfect again (this is ‘black or white’ thinking – not accepting any developmental mistakes; I was either all good or all bad). I didn’t realize this until I was an adult. Still, my brain and Mormon scripting were conditioned to ignore my ‘secular learning’ and inner wisdom – to ALWAYS default to the ‘perfection’ standards. I’m so glad that young people today are seeing the unhealthy nature of ‘black or white’ thinking (absolutism in cognitive psychology). The outcome is always self-blame, shame, insecurity. We have to be able to accept the process of being human and not beat ourselves up for normal, minor errors. I’m not talking about adultery here! One may, however, commit larger sins due to the underlying, unresolved shame that becomes part of one’s identity (shame-based identity). Soothing, escapism comes in many forms when shame is carried around.

Better to train bishops if they continue their protocol. They need basic training in shame – tame – addiction cycle as well as Rogerian training that encourages individuation, natural mistakes/learning, and frames the entire process with the purpose of achieving healthy self-disclosure, unconditional love for mistakes, stop the fear tactics of eternity (because none of us know) and punishment; replace these with positive outcomes of fulfillment, creative living, uniqueness (not conformity), self-expression (not the conservative, sanitized cultural norms).

#202 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,6,7,8

Growing up a girl in the church I was never told that masturbation was wrong; I guess they thought only boys did it. So I started masturbating very young to help me fall asleep. Normal, natural, I didn’t think anything of it. When I was 16 I went for a temple recommend interview with a new bishop. He asked me about masturbation and I felt super uncomfortable. I didn’t know why he needed to know this but I answered honestly. He began questioning me on what I did and how I did it and what I thought about and if I watched porn. I left his office crying. His verbal assault left me feeling confused and humiliated and embarrassed about my body and my sexuality. No one should ever feel trapped like that. No one should be pressured into telling someone such intimate things. The things he said to me that day followed me for years, making me feel ashamed and guilty for being attracted to people, for looking at myself in the mirror when getting dressed or for looking down at my body when I showered. I wanted to claw my skin off. So that’s what I started doing. If my body was so sinful and disgusting I didn’t want it. I started with scratching at my skin but it wasn’t long before I found an old pocket knife. I destroyed my skin to remind myself that I had control, that my body was ugly and sinful, to distract myself from the pain I felt inside with pain on the outside. I still have scars. I want children to know that their bodies belong to themselves and no one else. That they are beautiful and worth taking care of. I want children to be encouraged to cultivate their sexuality in healthy ways. To know that their consent is mandatory. I want them to know that they are entitled to privacy and respect. I don’t want them to be ashamed or or disgusted by any part of themselves.

#201 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,7,8,9

This is a difficult story to tell. I am sharing it now in the hope that it’ll help put pressure on the church to change these horrid policies, or maybe make someone who has been through a similar situation feel less alone.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I had a crush on a boy in my grade. We’ll call him W. He was funny and charismatic, and lived just down the road from me. We were stuck in the awkward Mormon high school situation of “we can’t be in a relationship but we both like each other”.

W and I spent time with the same group of friends. Things were fine until one evening when he slipped his hand into my shirt. I was frightened, and didn’t know what to do. I just froze. We were with a dozen other friends, and I was terrified someone would see what was happening. Over the course of a few weeks, it progressed to W sexually assaulting me regularly. It was always in public, and I always froze. He was extremely talented at not being noticed.

Soon after, it progressed to W following me into bathrooms and pressing still farther. I fell into a spiral of depression and self-hatred. I was sure my family and ward would reject me if they found out what was happening. My grades tanked, and I stopped doing the things I enjoyed. I came very close to attempting suicide.

The pattern continued, and finally, my seminary teacher found me crying while hiding in the seminary building during lunch. He asked me what happened, and I told him the whole story. He called and set up an appointment with my bishop for me, to get help.

I met with the bishop and told him everything. I can’t remember what questions he asked. At the end of the meeting, he set up additional appointments for me.

The very next week, I walked in to talk with the bishop again, and W was sitting there. His face was covered in tears. I froze again. The bishop asked me to come in and sit down, and I did. The bishop looked me straight in the eye and said, “W doesn’t remember any of this happening, but he wants to apologize.” W turned away from the bishop to look at me. He apologized, but smirked the entire time. Then the bishop sent him out to speak with me privately. He warned me about the dangers of false accusations ruining lives. He went on to tell me the Lord wanted me to continue to be in W’s life, and that it was important that I forgive him.

Being a faithful young woman, I did my best to do so. I even took him to two school dances. I thought the discomfort and fear I felt around him was my own weakness and challenge of faith. The sexual assault is all W’s fault, but my bishop played an undeniable role in my trauma.

No one deserves to go through something like this, especially children. I’m thankful for everyone fighting to change this policy.

#200 Name hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9. Other: Unable to trust myself – always needing someone in authority to tell me what I needed to do

My story is complicated. I was sexually abused by family members when I was 5-7, but I didn’t know that’s what it was and didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t feel shame about the abuse, though I imagine my childhood that was full of anxiety and fear could have been because of the sexual abuse. It’s also possible, I was just an anxious person.

My father was not an angry man, but did lose his temper occasionally and became violent when he did so. We were spanked with hands and belts, but that wasn’t the terrifying part of how we were raised. I never knew what would make him mad enough to suddenly go a little berserk and tackle my brothers and beat them. Or to yell and shame and us with harsh and horrible words in his anger. I lived in fear of making him mad, but also constantly worried about protecting my younger siblings from my father’s anger.

At 8, I didn’t want to go into a room alone with my bishop. I felt uncomfortable, but my parents didn’t give me a choice. It worked out fine – my bishop was kind and loving and I felt warmth from him. At 12, I adored my bishop. He was very kind and personable outside of his office, so I don’t remember it being an issue. I don’t remember feeling uncomfortable with any questions. I still love the man that was my bishop more than thirty years ago, and love when I run into him every few years. He calls him “his Jen” and it feels like a grandfather or an uncle that I love deeply. At 14, In my bishop’s interview, I brought up my fear of my father. He talked to me about the importance of honoring my father. A few months later, my brother was hospitalized with a ruptured spleen after my father beat him. My brother was twelve, and I was terrified he was going to die. He was in the hospital for two weeks and when he finally came home was pretty much confined to the couch for a few more weeks. That didn’t change my dad’s behavior. I went to my bishop again asking for help, and he again talked only about honoring our parents and the importance of the family.

If my parents had been in the interview, I wouldn’t have told the bishop about my parents. So part of me wonders who I would have (or could have) gone to if not the bishop. At the same time, the bishop did not help me, so what would it matter if I could not go to him? Nothing got better at home, and I still lived in fear that one day my dad would accidentally kill my brother, and I had to protect my younger siblings from my father’s rage, and my life did not improve.

At 15, I developed generalized anxiety to all men. I couldn’t be alone with a man without having severe panic. The idea of going into the room alone with the bishop made me so anxious and afraid, I refused to do it. I lacked the words to explain what was going on, so everyone took it as me being a rebellious teen. I would have gladly gone to an interview if I could take a YW leader with me. I was not afraid of the questions – just of being there alone with the man. (This also makes it so the idea of two deep priesthood leadership sounds like an awful one to me. I love the idea of a child-chose advocate to be in the room with the bishop or counselors.)

At 18, I was sexually assaulted while attending BYU. I went to the bishop, but took a friend with me, because I still could not bring myself to go in the room. I’m glad he was open to that, and I appreciate the way he responded. He told me it wasn’t my fault. I wish he had left it at that, but he then spent the rest of our meeting time talking about my need to forgive the man that assaulted me.

At 19, I was married in the temple. He had an affair, and when we went to the bishop to seek his help, the bishop sent my husband out of the room and spent the next hour lecturing me on the importance of doing my duty as a wife. He told me I should be working less, going to school less, and doing everything to keep my husband happy in home and in bed. When I told him I disagreed, he took my temple recommend. A few months later, I apologized, I told him he was right and I would listen to and agree with whatever he told me to do as my judge in Israel.

At 22, I went to a new bishop to tell him I was afraid for my life. My husband had repeatedly threatened to kill me and hurt my younger sister. He’d also tried to strangle me and had been violent in bed. He gave me a book on Communication (Marriage: For better or worse), and never followed up with me again. He never asked me how I was doing and never said another word. I gave up hope that this life would ever be anything but suffering and hoped I could just survive it.

At 29, I had a bishop keep calling me into his office because he thought something wasn’t quite right. I took my husband with me, because it was just easier. After a few months, I went on my own. The bishop had been reading about domestic violence, abuse, eating disorders, PTSD, and more – all hoping that he could do enough research to understand what was going on for me. He helped me get into counseling. He got the church to pay for inpatient counseling. He did everything he could to help me feel like I was worth something to God and to him. He fought for my life in a way I had never experienced before.

When he was released, he spent hours talking to the new bishop trying to help the new bishop understand what I was going through. The new bishop helped pay for an apartment, so I could move out on my own. He continued to have the church pay for counseling services. He gave me his cell number and told me to call him any time. Eventually, he told me not to come to church, because it was upsetting and hard for me to sit in the pews next to my husband and listen to all of the lessons that had been used to justify so many abuses in my life. He arranged to have the sacrament brought to my little apartment by one of his counselors, so that no one else would know where I lived but the two of them.

Then the ward was divided. The new bishop told me I needed to go back to my husband because “temple marriage” was so important, and if I just paid my tithing I would be happy. He also told me he could no longer help me with rent since I needed to be with my husband and not living on my own.

So, I found a roommate and moved across the state. I got a divorce. I’ve worked really hard in therapy. I feel strong and alive and I don’t need the bishop or anyone else to tell me if I am worthy or what I need to do. I don’t go to interviews anymore. I occasionally go to church, but I don’t really feel like that is my spiritual home anymore.

I feel incredibly grateful for the two bishops who worked so hard to save my life. I just wish I had not been taught that the bishops would have so much authority in my life. I wish I had been taught it was okay to not sit alone with a man while he decides whether I am worthy or not. I wish I had not been taught to push away my own thoughts, feelings, and inspirations, and instead listen only to a man tell me. I wish I had never gone through the grooming process with a bishop, so that I didn’t go through it so willingly elsewhere too… I also wish I had never had so many “righteous” priesthood holding men all in good standing with the church do such incredible damage to my body and my mind.

It wasn’t bishops that hurt me, but they sure didn’t help. I wish I had had an advocate there to help me instead of having an untrained man with a calling to be the only one I could go to.

#199 Name Hidden. CS: 1,3

I suffered domestic violence since the first year of my marriage til the very last day of my marriage. 8 years of terror, fear and hell. The day I told him I want the divorce he raped me. He hoped I would get pregnant and wouldn’t leave him. I was called in every Sunday for interviews with my bishop, who was the same age as me. He has asked me extremely uncomfortable questions, e.g. if I give oral sex, blow jobs, which position, anal sex, how often and how long. I didn’t answer any of these questions and asked what they are needed for. His answer would be, that he needs to understand the situation a bit better. Still I didn’t answer these questions. I was told by this bishop to stay married to this person as 8 years marriage are nothing compared to the eternity. And I am suppose to fight more and keep trying. I said clearly that I do not want to be married with this man anymore. I was 28 years old and knew that I don’t want this kind of life anymore. The bishop told me I would not get divorce if the husband doesn’t agree on it. By law you do get divorce after 2 years not living together anymore, even without signature of one side. But I have been told that I am only the wife and it’s up to the husband to decide.

My father stepped in, after he has seen me coming out crying after every interview. He was sitting every Sunday in front of the bishops office, waiting hours and hours for me. He told the bishop that no more interviews are required and the bishop told my father it wouldn’t be his call. Then my father said he would from now on join the interviews. I have never told my father what the interviews were about. But he felt something was clearly wrong. The bishop didn’t allowed my father to join the interviews. And I did as my father told me and simply didn’t go to any interviews anymore.

I moved city and had a new bishop. This bishop as well asked extremely uncomfortable questions. I told him that I don’t want to keep repeating my past and that he could call my old bishop and ask him for a report. He as well explained me that the agreement of the husband is required to file divorce. Also didn’t I go to any further interviews with this bishop.

Few month later I moved to an other country. Again new bishop, asked uncomfortable questions. At this point I stopped going to church. I was tired of regular Sunday interviews. Month later I contacted my bishop informing him that I still want the divorce. He called me in for an interview and told me that he need to contact my husband to get his agreement. This was the last time I was inside an LDS building.

Same week I sent an email to the bishop and stake president, informing that I want to leave the church and don’t want to be a member anymore. They told me that it takes a few months, since I can’t do it from one day to an other day. As they need to make sure that i really wish to leave the church and don’t act spontaneous. They asked me to come in for an other interview. I refused. They send sisters and elder to my home. I didn’t open the door. And I clearly informed the bishop not to send anyone to my home. Weekly I sent an email informing that I want to leave the church. But they didn’t answer anymore. I sent an email telling them if they do not answer that my lawyer will contact them. Next day I received an answer saying that they have sent the papers in and I would hear back in a few weeks.

Few weeks later I finally received the confirmation that I am no longer a member anymore.

Never ever will I have again such uncomfortable interviews!

#198 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,6,7,8

Due to the detailed questions, interrogations and guilt shaming I received as a youth in the church, I know have psychological issues with intimacy. I had sex with my husband on our honeymoon and cried because I felt like I had committed a sin….I felt dirty. As a young teen I recall being asked very intrusive questions…..one of which stuck with me. “Did you climax…”. At the time I didn’t understand the extent of how damaging that question was and answered it willingly. Even into my young adulthood after confessing of sins to Bishop post marriage (I was married when I was 19 and a week before temple marriage we slipped up) I was asked very inappropriate details….I was asked how many times my fiancé (now husband) penetrated me…..again, I didn’t think much of it and answered willingly. This has to stop! I know my story isn’t half as bad as others but it still greatly had a negative influence on my life and has damaged my marriage.

#197 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,7,8,9

I still have not yet recovered from the damage these interviews caused me when I was younger. It damaged my confidence, shamed me from such an early age and caused me mental problems well into adulthood. At age 11, I attempted suicide because I thought I wasn’t “worthy” enough to go to heaven with my family. These interviews induce self-hate, self- loathing, depression because children are made to believe they have to be perfect to go into heaven with their family. The church doesn’t care about the damage these interviews do to their children’s mental state. Utah has the highest suicide rate among youth, and it is directly correlated with these interviews and the shame that comes from them.

#196 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,6,7

My experience going through the Young Men’s program in the LDS Church in California was probably about as good as it could be. I feel very fortunate to have had good leaders and a good father. Scouting was an important part of my experience. However, there is no question that matters of sexual development had a significant negative impact on me. I won’t lay the blame on any one person or institution, but there is absolutely no question that my personal emotional development was negatively impacted well into adulthood as a result of teachings and practices of the LDS Church. The impact on me began at about age 15 up to age 35 (at least twenty years).

My parents did not discuss sexual matters with me, at all. My interest in girls was normal. My discovery of sexual feelings was normal. However, leaders in the Church always made issues of sexuality ominous, scary and evil. Interest in girls (and their physical attributes and the sexual attraction) was treated as taboo and something that must be avoided.

My physical affection with a high school girlfriend came up in an interview and I was scared to death to discuss it with the Bishop. I had not fornicated, but was still extremely distraught to discuss my affections to her because I had been taught that necking/petting was a terrible sin. This made me feel like a terrible person, and something I had to hide for survival. I confessed and was given a brief probation.

Later in my youth as I approach the mission age I independently brought up the matter of masturbation, something with which I struggled. I felt I must be a wicked person if I was dealing with this. The taboo nature of sexual matters in the Church made me feel abnormal or perverted. My bishop handled it well and told me to avoid it but I was never told that it was a normal developmental thing. I did feel significant guilt and shame, which I figured was part of the repentance process. However, because it really never went away, naturally I thought, well, I didn’t really repent. I was not meeting the standard of repentance. Something is wrong with me. I’m a bad person. I’m a wicked person (all the while, I was engaged in worthwhile and good pursuits in life. This issue was the dark cloud that was always there making me feel bad).

When I interviewed with a member of the Stake Presidency for a final mission interview he asked me near the end of the interview if I had a problem with masturbation. It had happened 2-3 times a month prior to this interview. I was actually shocked by the question, wondering if the Bishop had told him about my problem. I thought my discussion with the Bishop were confidential. I told the Stake President (Counselor) that I had no problem and was good to go. I rationalized my behavior because I did not want to deal with the consequences of delaying a mission call. (The social pressure is incredibly high.)

The issue continued to haunt me as a missionary and caused me to feel unworthy, abnormal, sex obsessed, etc. I raised the matter with the Mission President who basically said “go take a cold shower.” He did not come down on me about it. I was an obedient missionary. Never got into trouble. Yet, I still felt like a failure due to this problem. I had no idea that other missionaries could be dealing with the exact same thing. I thought I was the only one who had this problem.

The issue continued into adulthood and college, etc. I raised the matter with other Bishops as well, thinking I had a serious sexual deviancy. There’s no question that it affected my self image, self esteem, self worth. No question. Had someone simply sat down with me and explained that sexual feelings are normal and healthy, that these are normal body functions and responses, I would have been relieved of a tremendous amount of stress, shame and guilt which would have been a major boost to my academics, career pursuits and personal motivation to engage in normal human relations. Being taught that anything that causes arousal before marriage is wicked in the sight of God made me feel like a reprobate!

The shame of this issue affected communication in my marriage. No question about it. Masturbation has been made into the monster of a problem in the Mormon culture (or vis-a-vis the Authorities). Frankly speaking, over time I realized that the Church authorities in my life really had no effective answer to my problem. I finally decided on my own that I would not worry about it any more. I would not consider it a problem. I even brought it up with my wife who said, “Huh, that’s just normal male behavior.” Wow, I had no idea she thought that and it broke down major barriers between us. I felt a huge weight leave me.

In conclusion, there is no question that my emotional and mental health was affected by this issue. Had issues of sexual development been addressed with me in a healthy and guilt free way it would have changed my life for the better. I would have been much more effective in dealing with other life problems. My marriage would have been much healthier much earlier. My ability to impact others for good would have happened much sooner. Overall, I would have been a much healthier and happier person.

Thank you.

#195 Name Hidden. CS: 1

When I was 15 I was physically forced into having sex with a 20 year old friend of my brothers who had been flirting with me and following me for weeks. I felt confused and wanted to talk to someone. I had a crush on this older guy but was too young for what had happened to me. I didn’t know if it was rape or that I had sinned. I tried to talk about it but was too scared.

My bishop at the time was hard nosed and shared details with his wife about other kids’ ‘confessions’ and I did not feel safe telling him what had happened. I never told anyone. This led to me giving up on my ‘virtue’ and I eventually engaged in a consensual sexual relationship with a boyfriend from the age of 17 to 19. I wanted to be in control of my sexuality. After we broke up, I decided to tell my BYU bishop. I told him of the experience at 15 and about my sexual relationship afterwards. The bishop acted appalled by my actions and immediately scheduled a council with the entire bishopric and the ward clerk (who was a BYU peer near my age). The council was a few days later with 3 adult men and the student clerk. I was 19. For the next hour I was grilled with questions that I now view as perverse but as a hurting 19 year old I thought I had to answer all of them. I had to answer how many times I had sex and describe details about the sex that are too invasive to list here. The entire time, the student clerk (who happened to be dating my roommate at the time) was taking detailed notes of my answers. The room felt like it was 100 degrees. My body felt hot with shame and I cried asking them if I had to answer questions such as did I orgasm? They told me if I truly wanted to be forgiven, I would detail my sins to them. And I did. Every last question I answered. The bishop told me that the fact that I had reached orgasm during sex made the sin greater!

After the torturous interview was over I was put on academic and religious probation for a year. They never offered counseling or even acknowledged my negative experience at 15. It was ignored. All they cared about was hearing the details of my climaxes and positions etc. I walked home to my apartment and crawled in the arms of my sister who lived there and cried for at least an hour. They broke me. I never felt loved by them. I felt dirty. I felt like a slut. I was so sad after that. Fast forward to the present day and I am a mother of 3 kids. I have grown and learned that what happened to me at 15 was an assault and what happened to me in that bishops council was another form of assault. I never allow my children to be interviewed alone with the bishopric

I am so glad that I was in my daughters baptismal interview because the bishop tried to ask her if she or anyone else had ever touched her in the swimsuit area. I ended the interview and said he was not the one to talk to my 8 year old child about masturbation or sex. She is 8!

I am currently wrestling with the church and do not trust bishops’ council on these matters. I don’t know if I want to be part of this religion anymore or if I want my children to be either. There are many issues I do not agree with and one on one interviews are part of that growing list.

Instead of being shamed and interrogated by grown men, I should have been guided to a therapist to deal with my assault. I still have never told anyone what happened in detail out of the deep rooted fear that I will be judged or questioned.

#194 Rhonda J. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7,8

I rarely had an interview by a bishop or by my own dad that was a bishop that didn’t have some extent of very uncomfortable questions having to do with boys and girls and sexuality. Fortunately I was never asked about masturbation but repeatedly asked over and over about sexual relations. Those did not even peak my interest until they became so interesting to every priesthood authority who got the chance to make sure that I thought that I was dirty and probably up to something. If I wasn’t then ….I surely was probably thinking about it after. I had to go home every time wondering what just happened to me. One thing I know is that as innocent as I was going in……I felt so disgusting, shameful and dirty coming out.

#193 Marissa. CS: 1,2,8,9

Growing up LDS, you are taught that sexual sins are one of the worst sins a person can commit, right below murder. When I realized at the age of 12 that by masturbating, I was almost as evil as a murderer, I was filled with so much shame. I was so filthy. I was worse than a liar, a thief, a bully, an abuser, or a drug addict. I felt disgusting and so immensely ashamed of myself.

I couldn’t live with myself because I kept doing this disgusting and horrible habit. I also never wanted anyone to know I would do such an awful, terrible thing. I didn’t want my bishop to know, and if I told him, he might tell my parents, and I definitely didn’t want them finding out their daughter was a filthy sinner. I would rather die than have anyone ever find out about it. And so, at 13, I tried to kill myself so that I could be in heaven and my terrible secret would die with me.

Thankfully, I didn’t actually know how to kill myself, so none of those attempts did any real physical damage. I struggled with depression and self esteem throughout my entire teenage years. I eventually developed other issues because of home and school, but the shame of masturbation was the main trigger of all my issues, and the shame still haunted me until I was 19 years old.

The fact that I could not fully participate in the church I believed was true without telling an older man about my personal sexual habits that I was so deeply ashamed of was very upsetting. The culture of shaming children for exploring a natural part of themselves is so harmful, and the practice of being required to disclose all of that very personal information in order to be forgiven and clean creates so much fear and shame.

At its heart, I believe the church is a religion based on love, forgiveness, and family, not shame, guilt, and condemnation. This needs to stop.

#192 Name Withheld CS: 1,2,3,4,7

While I was at college I felt extreme guilt for masturbation. Because of the LDS culture, I was raised to believe I had to confess my sins to the bishop. I went to my bishop and confessed that I had been masturbating. It was also expected to give detail, so I even included details of some of my habits, including the use of pornography. I felt absolutely awful.

After 30 minutes or so of my meeting with the bishop, I started to head home. But the guilt ate away at me and I realized I hadn’t told him everything. Sobbing and fearing excommunication for my actions, I drove back and confessed that I had watched gay pornography as well. I felt so incredibly ashamed and disgusting for participating in gay actions.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was homosexual. The church kept me so sexually repressed and ashamed that it took me awhile to learn that about myself. After I confessed to the bishop about the gay pornography, the bishop asked me if I had tried anything sexual with animals. It hurt me to even hear him suggest that I might have. Of course I hadn’t.

This story is only one part of the terrible bishop interviews. For several years I met with older men, alone, and discussed my sexual habits in detail, feeling dirty for all my choices. Enough is enough. Children should not be exposed to this, let alone in such an organized fashion. We need to keep our kids safe and unashamed for their sexuality. A healthy understanding of sexuality needs to be taught. Put an end to these interviews so we can avoid years and years of shame like I experienced.

#191 Name Hidden. CS: 1,4,7

My story is about the pain of ignorance- how we can hurt and be hurt by our false beliefs. It is about how I was hurt when I was sexually assaulted by my LDS boyfriend but blamed myself. It is about how I was hurt by my bishop who was not trained to see my vulnerabilities or the difference between consent and coercion when I went to “repent” of my “sin”. My story is about the shame I felt when I was told masturbation is a sin and felt compelled to confess to an older man details of my sexuality that should have remained private, that if anything should have been normalized. My story is now about forgiveness, not because the church has sought it or admitted they were wrong, rather it is a gift to myself. A gift to break the chains they placed on me when they said I was a sinner, when they deemed me unworthy and made me feel less than. Desmond Tutu said, “Healing and reconciliation demand an honest reckoning. Behavior that is hurtful, shameful, abusive or demeaning must be brought into the fierce light of truth.” The truth is the church continues to shame and abuse children in their ignorance and it must stop. I will start by no longer allowing them to define and judge me or my children.

“When I forgive you

You will no longer define me

You measured me and assessed me and decided you could hurt me

I didn’t count

But I will forgive you

Because I do count

I do matter

I am bigger than the image you have of me

I am stronger

I am more beautiful

And I am infinitely more precious than you thought me

I will forgive you

My forgiveness is not a gift I am giving you

When I forgive you My forgiveness will be a gift that gives itself to me”

Desmond Tutu

#190 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,5,6,7,8,9

While my story is a bit different, I feel compelled to tell it to you in hopes that maybe it will show light on another issue facing youth within the LDS faith.

One day, while my regular teacher was out for a teaching conference, my class and I were substituted by a different. He was an elderly man with graying hair and came across as trusting as any grandfather figure. He loved talking about his kids, both biological and adopted, and he loved giving hugs. One thing that he loved, that he didn’t tell us about – he also loved inappropriately touching children.

By the time the last bell of the day rang, I had been molested and sexually assaulted by this man. Being so young and innocent, I had no idea what happened to me, I just knew it was wrong. I felt I had done something wrong, that I was in trouble. I secluded myself from my peers as I felt like they were all staring at me. I felt like I had a disease and was contagious. I went home and showered, but could not get clean. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. My mother, concerned, sat with me to try and find out what was bothering me. After the floodgates, the shame, the guilt – my mother hugged me and told me I did nothing wrong. She promptly contacted the authorities and the school. I went through countless excruciating, uncomfortable interviews and my teacher had to come back early, which only added to my guilt and shame. I felt it was my fault, that I was an inconvenience to all those people.

A few days after the incident, my bishop, whom knew me since 4 and knew my family, came by my house to speak to me alone. We spoke on my front porch and he asked me why I was lying about a good, moral, LDS man. I stood there stunned and speechless. My bishop went on to advise me that lying was a sin and that if I wanted to join my family in Heaven, I needed to cleanse myself of sin. I broke. I ran into my home bawling and locked myself in a bathroom. My mother freaked out at the sight of her daughter so upset, she kicked my bishop out and told him to never come back to her house or around her daughter again. My mother tried talking me out of the bathroom for several hours. This was the date and cause of my first attempted suicide.

As the investigation pursued, it was found that the man who sexually assaulted me, being an active, temple bound member of the LDS Church, often took advise from his bishop regarding his unhealthy interest in children. He confided in his bishop and admitted to giving in to these interests with his own children. It was on the advise of his bishop that he work as a substitute teacher around children to help him get over these interests – of which exposed me to him. The investigation also drew out upwards of 34 other victims, from 4 different elementary schools. This mas was tried and convicted on 2 counts of sexual abuse of a child and was later convicted of sexual abuse against his children. During the course of the legal proceedings, his family took liberty to mail me threatening letters with bible versus included claiming I was a liar and a sinner.

In the aftermath, I suffered immense psychological and mental trauma. I endured years of therapy. I was never the same. I still suffer from severe anxiety, depression and PTSD. I have attempted suicide several times. I detach myself from emotional relationships which has put a strain on my marriage. Intimacy for me is emotional and traumatizing. I lost my faith in the LDS church, not on the day I lost my childhood or my innocence, but on the day my faith and my beliefs were used against me. The trauma inflicted by the LDS bishops who caused and reiterated the trauma from my abuse was far worse than any my the actual abuser caused.

I know I am not the only one who has been victimized due to a bishop giving misplaced advise to parishioners. Bishops are not properly trained to give such advise and the man who abused me should have been reported to the authorities at first mention of his actions towards his children. My bishop should not have accused me and threatened me the way he did. I know he did not know all the facts, but that just solidifies my point.

#189 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7,8,9

I began dating my husband when I was sixteen and he seventeen. I lost my virginity after we had been dating about a year. I felt an immense amount of shame and guilt and went to my bishop. He wasn’t loving. He was cold and condescending. He told me that I could go through the repentance process- which would be long, difficult, and miserable- but that I could never get my virtue back. I was beyond devastated. I felt like I had messed up my entire life. I contemplated and attempted suicide. After that interview, whenever my bishop saw me- even outside of church- he would get a certain look on his face and reference my boyfriend and dating relationship with him. He came and visited my home and made comments to my parents heavily hinting about what had happened. I cannot describe the shame and the feelings of vulnerability I experienced. I no longer felt comfortable around him and wished that I had never said anything.

The next year I was living in another city, attending a different ward. My mom had died and so I was living with relatives while attending college and working. I was still dating my boyfriend and we were still struggling immensely to maintain sexual boundaries. He was trying to prepare to go on a mission but we did care about each other and saw each other frequently. Furthermore, once that door of sexual relations has been opened it is very difficult to close it. When I went to that bishop he told me that people who really love each other respect each other enough to not have sex (this is a huge fallacy- people make mistakes and have hormones even if they love each other). He also shamed and guilted me and told me that I was ungrateful for what others were doing for me and the fact that I was still doing those things while relying on my aunt and uncle’s charity was wrong. He condemned me for keeping my boyfriend from going on a mission. He also made sexual comments that made me uncomfortable. Knowing what I do now, I feel that it could have opened the door to sex abuse. However, I had been taught my whole life to submit to bishop’s questioning and thought it was normal.

Months later my boyfriend and I decided to get married. We have been happily married seven years now. The shame and guilting and false doctrine I heard from my bishops has continued to haunt me. I have struggled with feelings that my life will never be as good as people who were virgins when they were married. It has left a lot of bitterness towards the LDS church. My husband and I were sealed in the temple and have three beautiful children, but I still struggle to escape the idea that I am not as good as others and that I gave up my “virtue.” I will never allow my children to have one on one interviews with bishops. It is not appropriate for a man in a position of power to be talking about things of a sexual nature alone with children and young adults.

I hope that others will question the bishop’s interview protocol as much as I have to protect children not only from sex abuse, but from shaming and normalizing the type of questioning and conversations that occur behind closed doors.

#188 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,4,5,7,8,9

Bishop’s interviews made me feel like my sexuality belonged to everybody but me. I lost my right to secrecy, and that has had dire consequences. From those interviews, I became so uncomfortable with sex, that I was already too weak to defend myself when I needed to.

Aged fourteen, I was raped by my best friend. There was nothing I could do to stop it, or prevent it; I’d completely frozen as soon as the conversation became too sexual and by the time he started his assault I wasn’t strong enough to do anything about it. Naturally, the first place I went for support was my Bishop. I was far too embarrassed to tell him what happened, so I described it loosely as a hypothetical scenario. With no gentleness he told my, I was to blame; the member of the Church should be the bigger person. This triggered years of self-loathing.

Unable to distance myself from my abuser, who I felt I should remain friends with – in an effort to guide him to the Church – he continued to use me, often and for years. When I was fifteen, I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, having attempted suicide. I stopped talking to him soon after that, and haven’t been in contact since. Over a year later I was diagnosed with Complex-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; a form of PTSD caused by long term abuse. In this case, abuse by the Church, and abuse by him.

#187 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,6,8

I was 14 when I was raped by a young man in my ward. I kept it to myself, shamed and fearful of telling anyone, because this young man was the son of my parents good friends.

Two weeks after that event, I returned home from family vacation with a message on the answering machine from the ward clerk saying the bishop would like to meet with me and to call to set an appointment. When it came time for that appointment, I went in determined to keep secret what had happened, because the one person (my best friend) that I had told said I must have flirted inappropriately or been wearing something revealing that made him believe I wanted that.

Immediately upon closing the door the bishop said “Is there anything you want to tell me?” I responded that there wasn’t. Then he told me this young man came to him and confessed we had had consensual sex a few weeks before. He said he regretted it and wanted to repent. I was shocked. I went from being determined to keep silent to wanting the truth be known instead of the young man’s story. So I told the bishop what had occurred. He asked so many questions and when I answered them to the best of my memory, he called me a liar. He told me God knew the truth and I was making it harder for myself. I remained with the truth of the story. This young man had come to my home after I missed seminary, I was home alone sick. Both of my parents worked full time 90 minutes from our home. He knew this. He came over and knocked on the door. I opened and he pushed his way in and took me right on the entry hall floor.

The bishop asked to see me weekly after that. I was dutiful, but each week he would ask again what happened and I never changed my story. I was put on bishop’s probation for 6 months. The young man was blessing the sacrament 6 weeks later. I was punished for “sinning gravely” then “lying” about it. After 6 months of punishment, shame, having to tell my parents the version my bishop told me to tell to them, I couldn’t handle it anymore and sought to end my life. After searching best ways to do so, I decided against it. Instead, I chose to tell the bishop I had been lying, I was scared of being punished, and that it happened just the way the young man said it had. I showed remorse and guilt. I prayed with the bishop to God for forgiveness and it was granted.

I carried that with me into my marriage, with the spouse I chose, agreeing to marry me even though I was “used”, because he too had so much guilt for masturbating through his teenage years that he believed no one worthy would want him, so he settled for me. We had our 18th wedding anniversary while separated. Our marriage couldn’t be sustained. I believe this occurrence played a part in that. I am grateful today, I recognize that I was a victim and I did nothing wrong. I found a counselor to talk to when I was 27. I sought help for a problem I hadn’t resolved from 13 years before. For that I am thankful.

#186 Alissa P. CS: Cover up sexual abuse

Told of sexual abuse in my home multiple times from 8 to 16. I was never taken out of the home. Case was sent to LDS family services where we did 1 supposed therapy session. No authorities were ever called. This bishop also was my high school counselor. It was overlooked until I was 15 and couldn’t take it anymore. He never helped me. I left my home on my own at 16 to live with a wonderful family. I was never sexually abused again.

#185 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,4,6,7,8

I didn’t realize what masturbation was until I was 13 and went to church. It began at the stake center, when I attended the audio portion of a general conference priesthood session. This was in the days when it wasn’t broadcast on TV. One of the speakers described a terrible, vile practice. Slowly I realized that he was talking about what I had discovered, all on my own. I felt small and ashamed, sitting in that pew and surrounded by men and boys who apparently had no idea that I was a guilty of a serious sin.

I resolved to rid myself of this burden by going to the bishop. He was concerned, and wanted to help. We met regularly to talk about my progress… and about my setbacks, in a cycle that repeated itself for years. It continued with the next bishop, and in college, and during my mission. One bishop asked how I discovered masturbation — “Did you learn it from other boys? Do you ever masturbate with other boys?” What? No! I discovered that my body feels good and responds to touch, all on my own.

At one point, when I was feeling most low, the guilt became too much. I began to think that I was destined for hell. Self-loathing led to depression. I planned out how I would end it all by ending my life. Before doing that I talked with my mother, and also with a friend. My mother told me that it was something all boys did. My friend confirmed my value and worth. It was enough to postpone my plans.

Later, I realized that what I’d learned from the LDS church impaired my relationship with my wife. Guilt over masturbation has been an impediment to our intimacy for decades. Things are better now, but I can’t help but wonder what might have been. We have a good relationship, but it took more than 20 years before we could talk about this. My closest friend in the world… and yet, the shame was so great I kept this from her for more than two decades.

#184 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,4,6. Other: Fear of sex, gynecological exams, etc

I remember having to decide whether to confess to masturbation at my baptismal interview a few months shy of my eighth birthday.

I decided to confess, since it was what god wanted, but chickened out when I was actually sitting in a room alone, across a heavy desk from my childhood bully’s dad, in my white “baptism dress.”

I went through with the baptism without telling anybody about the terrible sin I was carrying around, and promised god in prayer that I would stay clean and never do it again. Although eight-year-olds *are* champions of self restraint, I didn’t make it two weeks.

Guilt followed me through the next decade as I told myself that each interview would be the one where I would finally confess, and then failed as I sat across that desk from a parade of balding strangers.

As a Mormon girl, I felt like a profoundly broken person for having this “habit” (see: human need) at all, much less not being able to kick it.

Once I started having sex, I physically couldn’t do penetration because I would freeze up so badly (a condition called vaginismus). While my partner and I were able to overcome that, I still cry at every gynecological exam. And maybe worst of all, I didn’t ever think any of this was wrong until well into adulthood.

#183 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7,8

When I was 16, I was dating my first real boyfriend. We would make out often and each time got more intense. When we began touching under our clothing my boyfriend decided we needed to go talk to our bishop (we were in the same ward).

We went together and our Bishop reacted surprisingly appropriate. He didn’t want any details and told us we were teenagers and it wasn’t a big deal and to just be careful. This encounter was confusing to me at the time, but I am grateful for it now.

A year or so later, I was dating a different boy and again, we were making out a lot. I decided to talk to my bishop. This time the bishop didn’t just brush it off. He asked for details and I was told I couldn’t take the sacrament or go to the temple and I had to meet with the bishop regularly. This began my spiral into deep depression. The relationship I was in was abusive. The shame I felt from the bishop meetings was immense. I started counseling from LDS services and was put on anti-depressants. I felt worthless and like a failure. I couldn’t control myself. What was wrong with me? At one point I contemplated suicide.

I went through the same thing with 2 more bishops in college wards. The last bishop I had to speak with about my sexual sins, required me to do the LDS church’s 12 step program for addiction recovery. He labeled me a sex addict and I had never even had actual sex. 3 months of inappropriate conversations detailing my sexual encounters all the way back to my first boyfriend. I felt so ashamed and so guilty and I was so glad when it was all over with.

All the shame and guilt I felt during those 5 or so years, meeting with different bishops, all reacting and counseling differently, it has made an impact on me to this day. My sexual relationship with my husband has been harmed. I still feel so much shame and guilt about sex and it is unfair to myself and my husband. I still have nightmares about my sexual “sins”.

Our children should not have to suffer as we did and as we do.

My children will be protected fiercely by me and my husband.

#182 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,6. Other: Desire to self-mutilate

I began masturabting when I was six years old and somehow already knew that I was “filthy” and “unloved by God”. I didn’t know it was called masturabtion until I was 17 years old, at which point I went and confessed to my bishop whom I loved and adored. I was terrified and although the interview wasn’t invasive and he only told me that I was loved and sent me on my way.

I still hate that he knows and I can’t look him in the eyes still. The next time I confessed was to a different bishop. This one took away my temple recommend and sacrament privileges. I was so humiliated and confused as to why this interview went so differently that I volunteered to work every Sunday so my mother wouldn’t see me not partake of the sacrament. That lasted a year and then I went to college and met my husband.

When we started “going too far” we went and saw our bishop. He wanted to know how often, if my clothes were on, where we were, etc. and again my temple privileges were stripped from me. Although a virgin on my wedding day, I had a wedding outside the temple because I was not sexually pure. And on that day my friends and family came up to me and told me that my “real” wedding would be inside the temple. The years of church sex obsessed indoctrination on my young mind has caused years of self hatred, loneliness, isolation, actual self abuse, ridicule from my hypocritical husband, and a desire to cut my private parts. Even though I have been out of the church for 3 years now, I would still give anything to have my sexual drive destroyed.

#181 Name Withheld. CS: Punished as a rape victim

I’ll keep this short because I’m happy to have put the LDS church in my past. When I was 16 years old I was raped and impregnated by a 20 year old male acquaintance. I blamed myself. Based on the lessons regarding modesty and sexual morality at church, I concluded I must have done something to tempt him, or perhaps I was out too late and forfeited my right to the protection of the Holy Ghost as promised me at my baptism at 8 years old. I pleaded with God to help me during the event, obviously to no avail.

I learned I was pregnant shortly after and went directly and shamefully to my parents. They sent me to the bishop who doled out my punishment of having the sacrament withheld and being banned from speaking or offering public prayers until the baby was born (do the men who father children get this same term??).

This experience haunted me and destroyed any sense of self worth for 15 years. I was a licked cupcake, a chewed piece of gum, a board with permanent nail holes in it despite the atonement removing those nails.

To make matters far worse, I was convinced no worthy priesthood holder would ever marry me and therefore my son could not be sealed to me and would be eternally unsealed to me or any family. My fears for my dear baby and self-worth wear manipulated to the extent I relinquished my rights as a mother and chose a “worthy” LDS couple to be his parents. The bright side is that I have an absolutely wonderful relationship with my son today, I’m free of the LDS religion and alongside my husband have been successful at removing and protecting our 3 younger children from the abuses of the LDS institution.

#180 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,4,8

When I was about 15 years old, the Bishop of my Ward questioned me about generic immoral activity. When I said “no” to being engaged in such activity, he paused and asked, “Are you sure?” He said, “Let me be more specific, “Do you masturbate?” The question caught me off guard, so I lied. I said no. He turned in his chair, leaned back, and re-positioned in his chair. He said, “Are you sure? Lots of young men in the ward do.”

He then went through a list of about 4 or 5 of my male friends my same age and recounted what they confessed to him about masturbation. One-by-one. As a closeted gay teenager, this was horribly titillating and uncomfortable. I was scared to hear about the sexual activities of my friends, some of whom I had had crushes on. As he sat in his chair, he continually squirmed, and touched himself. I couldn’t see his crotch from where I was sitting, but I do believe, now, looking back, that he was touching himself as he recounted these stories.

I continued to deny ever engaging in masturbation, but I imagine the shock, discomfort and unease on my face let him know there was a secret I wasn’t sharing (being gay, that I masturbated, that I had crushes on the guys he described). He literally told me about the masturbation activities of four or five other teenage boys between ages 14-16. A few weeks later, in the church after our young mens’ group had finished playing basketball, the Bishop patted me on the rear end. It was deliberate, it was direct, and it was intentional, and I knew it. So, I reported this in a meeting with the Stake President. He laughed at me and said I was making a big deal out of nothing. So, when Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke at a Morningside devotional for our seminary, he said that we should know we could reach out to our leaders whenever we needed.

That night after school, I took him up on his invitation and called his office. He called me back and I told him what was going on and that I felt the Stake President had laughed it off. He was kind, but asked that I speak with Elder Richard B. Wirthlin instead. Elder Wirthlin called, I told him the story, and he summoned me to a meeting with the Stake President, the Bishop and my parents, where I was accused of being, “on the brink of apostasy,” and told that if I refused to recant my story and accept the Bishop’s apology, that they would have to convene a disciplinary council. The Bishop used his position and interviews to engage in perverted activities, and I was told by a member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles to be quiet about it or face consequences. The only solution offered to me is that one of the Bishop’s counselors would be present in all future meetings with me and that Bishop. That was the extent of the resolution. The Bishop  remained as Bishop for a few more years.

#179 Name Hidden. CS: 1,3

I attended the Provo MTC in July of 2007. I had a past that others in my life were unaware of and I was under the false assumption that I could fake my way through a mission. Feelings of guilt immediately overcame me after being there for a few days and I came clean to my branch president. One of the kindest men I have ever met.  He followed procedure and took me to the office of a member of the MTC presidency. I don’t recall his name but I remember his face and I remember how he treated me behind closed doors (it was NOT the MTC President). We sat in a chair, he pulled out a tape recorder and a notepad and began asking questions about what I had just confessed.

I had multiple sexual encounters with a girl I knew from high school prior to entering the MTC. I had thought that would be enough of a confession.  I knew I was going to be sent home and I was ready for the consequences, but he didn’t see it that way. He asked me every last detail about every single encounter I had with this girl. Locations, meeting spots, number of times we had sex. He asked me to describe in detail how each occasion went down. Asked how many times we had oral sex, if I had placed my mouth on her vagina, if she had sucked on my penis. Yes the way I’m describing it sounds childish, but these were the exact phrases he used. He asked if there was penetration and if so he wanted me to describe “how deep”. He claimed all of this was standard protocol and followed my confession with a 10 minute session of shaming about how I had broken my covenants and betrayed my Heavenly Father. I had lost my virginity, I had made myself undesirable to my future spouse.

10 years later, I realize none of this was done properly. Its caused severe bouts of depression throughout my adulthood that I never had to experience before this one encounter. This is something that needs to change. I was a 19 year old kid, I was impressionable, I thought this was how it was supposed to be.

#178 Name Withheld. CS: 1,2,3,6,7,8. Other: Seemingly irreversible damage to sexual identity

Growing up, I was not talked to about my sexuality in what I would consider a healthy way. I don’t fully blame my parents, because I was not an easy child to have serious or deep conversation with. I was the oldest and always felt it was my responsibility to be the example my family wanted me to be. For this reason, I found myself in the middle of a self-destructive cycle of projecting a perfect version of myself, and being talked about with high regard by my parents and neighbors. I was always the low-maintenance kid who made the right choices, the right friends, and who was headed for greatness. A mission was never not an option.

As I began getting “those” interviews into my teenage years, I found myself becoming nervous, as things like masturbation, a curiosity of my own sexuality, and increased interest in the girls around me had been increasing in relevance. So I had some dissonance building. I know I needed to be the righteous, valiant Priesthood Holder that everyone expected me to be, but I also had these inexplicable urges and interest in what I knew to be absolutely evil. This created a strong dichotomy inside, which has been extremely difficult to undo. I was a direct target of Satan. And more and more, as I grew up and found these issues only compounding in seriousness, I realized I was weaker than Satan. And being taught in church that light will always overcome darkness, my only conclusion was to believe that I was inherently flawed. I was a sinner and my only choice was to get myself help.

After talking about this with bishops over the years, it only made the guilt worse. Now I had a man looking at me every week who knew these intimate details of my life. I remember the first time I spoke about this with a bishop, he had a rule with me. Every week I broke the law of chastity, I had to refuse the sacrament when it was passed. I had to make a public spectacle of myself in front of my family members and friends who all trusted me and saw me as an example. I found so many ways to reason myself out of feeling guilty for this, but the better part of my teenage years were wrought with self-loathing for being such an inherent sinner and feeling more and more unworthy to marry in the temple, to serve a mission, and to raise my own family. I could not break this.

My mission proved challenging, but I was able to sink into what I can only describe as a sexually-numb state. I didn’t allow myself to think about sexuality. And when I did, the guilt was exponential. At one point I told my mission president about the issues I had been dealing with, and he downplayed them and told me that these things were common. He didn’t want to go into detail and just reassured me that these things were difficult for most men in the church, and I was no exception. For the first time, I felt like I wasn’t a freak for being unable to “bridle my passions” and commit myself to righteousness.

It took several more years of crafting clever responses in interviews, where I would steer the conversation away from being able to dig into my sexuality. I couldn’t answer those questions truthfully if they were asked directly. But if I was only asked, “are you keeping the law of chastity” then I would say “yes” and just assume their definition and mine were different. But as I began seriously dating my now wife, I found the guilt come back. I had over a decade of suppressed guilt and self-doubt, and now I was navigating serious territory. It took us years to be able to talk about this topic in a healthy way. I found my same justification permeating my relationship. When we would “sin” during our courtship, we would simply excuse ourselves by saying, “well that doesn’t have a name so we didn’t ‘do’ anything, technically.” But this made us both feel guilty.

Two years into my marriage I finally began to realize how normal my adolescence was. I spoke with people who had much more normal views of their own sexuality, and I found that the less I think and worry about these “sins” the less alluring they became. I started being able to treat my issues as non-issues, and I found my mental health and my marriage drastically improving. For the past few years I have been trying to re-wire my brain. I find myself judging others as I discover issues they have, and for feeling guilt when I do certain things or think certain thoughts. I know this is wrong and harmful, but these feelings are so deeply ingrained in me that I cannot undo them.

As a father, I will not treat my children’s sexuality with levity. I will not leave it to a bishop to discuss these serious issues with them, and I will CERTAINLY not let my children feel deep rooted, irreversible guilt for doing perfectly normal activities as they discover their own sexuality. I hope that in another decade I will be able to laugh at my upbringing and realize that it was a slight hiccup in an otherwise happy, healthy sex life. But for now, I deal with feelings of guilt, shame, and self-loathing on a nearly daily basis because of the questions my bishop asked me, the way he responded, and the years I spent hiding something totally normal from the people that loved me the most, and absorbing the feelings of trauma from being unable to avoid a perfectly normal part of development.

#177 Name Hidden. CS: 1,3,6

When I was seventeen years old, and dating my boyfriend, later to be my husband, I knew that I wanted to be married in the temple. I had been taught all my life that this is the ultimate goal, to be married for time and all eternity in the house of the Lord. I had one big problem. I had sinned. I had been taught that sexual relations outside of marriage were a sin and I knew that in order for me to reach my goal of going to the temple that I would need to repent. After a lot of conversations with my boyfriend, we decided that we wanted to correct out misdeeds. We both made appointments with our bishops.

I was absolutely terrified to go and admit my wrongs, but I knew that unless I repented that I would not be worthy to enter the temple. I remember sitting in the bishops office and explaining to him why I was there. After I was through my, bishop at the time started asking me very detailed questions about the sin. At one time he asked me a question that I didn’t understand, so he explained it, in great detail. This was not vague questioning. The questions made me feel awkward, shame, and like I had no worth. These were questions that I now believe were inappropriate, perverse, and astray. At the time I believed that this is what a bishop asked when one was repenting of a sexual sin, now as a thirty eight year old women, I know that this was not right. That this is not what a bishop should be asking a young girl. I was put in a situation with an authority figure, an older male and asked detailed question after detailed question about a sexual sin, alone in his office.

My parents were never asked to sit outside. Apparently bishops are counseled to not be unnecessarily probing or invasive in their questions.  This bishop must have not got the memo or decided that he wanted to get his voyeuristic pleasures from hearing from a young girls experience with her boyfriend. This experience hurt me as a young girl, a new wife, and is still impacting me to this day.

So what is my goal in telling you this, you might ask? I believe there needs to be change. I believe it’s the parent’s job to talk to their kids about things of a sexual nature, not subjecting your kids to be alone in a room with an authority figure, an older male discussing sexual things. Bishops are not trained to talk to youth about sexual things; my bishop at the time was a banker and I believe still is. Where was his training? I believe that most bishops are good people that are there to help but we should not be putting our kids in a situation where they might encounter a bishop that is using his power as a means to get his own sexual gratification. My husbands experience was opposite of mine. He had a good bishop who didn’t probe and helped him on his way to repentance. He was never asked was it oral? Did she cum? After an orgasm, would you still continue? Where were you when you would have sex? How did you feel afterwards? All of these things were asked of me, and more. I was made to feel that it was mostly my responsibility, because I am the girl and boys will be boys. I was disfellowshiped and my boyfriend got a slap on the hand. Why?

I am grateful that a former bishop from Texas is shedding a light on this subject. I hope that things will change and at the least, parents will really think about this and use their discretion. It hurts to read comments from people that say that this does not happen in our church. I am here to tell you that it does happen and it happened to me twenty years ago and has the potential to have lasting effects. I have decided that I will no longer be a victim. I can see that I am not the only one that this has happened to and until just recently have been able to share with my husband what happened to me fully. I should have spoken out, but I trusted my bishop and thought he was doing the right thing by asking me those questions and discussing sexual things with me. I should have spoken out and told someone. All I can do now is share my story and so hopefully people will know that they are not alone and they can prevent this from happening to their children. I am grateful for the great bishop and stake president that I have now; both are making sure that this does not happen on their watch.

#176 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,7

As a teen, I remember being asked if I masturbated in bishop interviews and these questions continued through the mission, my years at BYU, and singles wards after. I became accustomed to the questions and feared every invitation to meet with the bishop, suspecting I would again be asked. In my youth, I lied about my habits since the bishop was close friends with my parents and I couldn’t bring myself to confess. This led to feelings of guilt for not being honest with the bishop and in essence with god. I never had spiritual experiences others would testify about and I thought that my sins were the reason I did not feel the spirit. As a missionary, I felt like I was not an effective missionary due to my past sins and occasional slip of masturbation. I hated the interviews with the mission president for this reason. Following the mission, some bishops were more understanding and less concerned than others. I never felt good in the temple and again thought this was due to my sins. In interviews prior to marriage, when asked about chastity, my wife to be and I confessed to having done some petting and agreed to stop. As young adults, we were unable to keep our hands off of each other. In our last interview, we lied about having not touched each other in the weeks leading up to the wedding date. I again felt bad about going to the temple unworthy. As a father, I felt continued guilt and never felt comfortable blessing my children, etc. feeling I had never been forgiven of my sins for having gone to the temple unworthily.

I now see this questioning as totally unnecessary and harmful. There is no reason to shame and guilt children or adults for what is normal behaviour. It has had a lasting impact on me that I am just now able to get over. I am in my 50’s and allowed my children to be asked these questions under the belief that it was what god required and if I was able to survive the questions then they would too. I’ve since talked with my children and thankfully they state they were not questioned as youth and do not feel harmed. I hope this is the case and that they are not saying that to protect me from the anger I feel. I know a young man that committed suicide who was a friend of my oldest son and was in our ward. He was a kind kid and it breaks my heart that he took his life. He was gay and had beautiful artistic abilities and was studying art. I’m certain the teachings of the church and the hard stance his father took lead to his decision to end his life. The shaming involved in interviews, and willingness to not accept people as who they are must stop.

#175 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4

I lost interest in the church when I was a freshman in high school and began hanging out with the wrong crowd. I ended up drinking and smoking marijuana with a boyfriend I began dating my sophomore year. I lost my virginity to him when I was 17 and shortly after I had my heart broken. I thought the only way to heal was to repent and begin living my life righteously the way my parents wanted me to.

I asked my bishop to meet because I wanted to repent for my sins. After explaining that I had lost my virginity and drank alcohol and smoked marijuana he began to ask more sexual questions. He would ask if I had had an orgasm before and if I had ever masturbated. I had, but was too embarrassed to tell him. Every meeting he would ask again, “Is there anything you’re not telling me? I have to know everything in order for the Lord to forgive you.” I began to feel uncomfortable and decided to stop doing the meetings because they were making me feel worthless. He even told me “fornication is the worst possible sin besides murder.” That made me feel great.

I stopped attending church all together because I didn’t want to deal with the shaming and the guilt. I was always taught that repentance is between me and The Lord. If that’s true then why should I have to tell an old man about all the “dirty” things I’ve done? I’m 22 now and still don’t go to church for that reason.

#174 Tanner T. CS: 1,2,4,8,9

I was asked by my bishop, since age twelve, if I masturbated, looked at porn, or broke the law of chastity in any other manner. At twelve, I didn’t even know what masturbation was and I became very uncomfortable when the bishop explained the definition.

I lied to my bishop every yearly interview. These interviews were traumatizing because the questions made me uncomfortable, I was lying and expected the bishop to sense it, and the questions brought about self-hatred. I specifically remember shaking and having extreme anxiety before these interviews, even at age 16. I had suicide ideation that became overwhelming during ages 14 to 15.

I actually attempted suicide a few months after reading the strength of youth at age 15. A portion of the chastity section discussed how serious breaking the law of chastity was, second to murder. This was what threw my self confidence down a drain. I had never felt so ashamed but I still resisted telling my bishop of my sins.

I’ve now been exmormon for 3 years and am happier than I’ve ever been. For the most part, I’ve moved on. I don’t for a second blame my bishop for asking those questions.  He is a product of his time and the religion he was born into. Although when reminded of the trauma and pain I experienced, I do become upset at the LDS church as an organization. They are responsible for the curriculum and the questions asked in bishop interviews that made the emotional scars I have hidden with time.

#173 Mandi B. CS: 1,2,3,8

My son went in for his interview with the bishop in order to obtain the office of a teacher. He was asked if he kept the law of chastiy, he answered yes. The bishop then looked at him and said “This means masturbation too.” My son said without shame, “ Oh, I’ve done that. I didn’t know it was bad.” The bishop corrected him saying it was evil and told him to skip the sacrament, because he wasn’t worthy.

This was the beginning of my son’s down ward spiral into self loathing. Nothing like public shaming to do the trick. This son is a straight A student with many talents, seeks perfection regularly, pushes himself to exhaustion. He watched a music video online of a girl In a bikini dancing in the surf and had so much guilt that he went to the bishop and confessed to watching porn. I later had to explain to both the bishop and him that that wasn’t porn. The bishop told him to stop thinking about females, to stop viewing them as sexual beings. Bishop informed our son that he was “playing with fire.”

My son was taught by us to respect females, but that it was okay to see them as beautiful and even “sexy”. We never taught masturbation was “evil” or “self harm”. Our son couldn’t stop thinking about how pretty girls were or what it might be like to be in a relationship with one someday. Due to his inability to forget about girls and his penis he hated himself to the point of hurting himself: Burning his hands with very hot water, stabbing his hands with pencils, wearing tight bands on his arms, trying to hang himself, writing a suicide note planing to slit his wrists.

One night our small dog saved him, this was the night it all came to a head. We started getting help immediately. I sat in doctor offices explaining to them that we were LDS and what had happened. The medical professionals kept informing us that masturbation was healthy and normal. Luckily we moved away from that bishop. I wish I could say this was that mans only hurtful act against our family but it was not. Our son would quote prophets damning himself with their words and the words of his bishop. We were unaware of some of his bishop meetings, no one asked our permission. Our son suffered in silence for years. The bishop never touched our son but with his prying explicit questions drove our son to attempted suicide. For four years, he believed he wasn’t good enough for the baby Jesus or for the risen Lord thus ruining holidays. I wish I could turn back time and protect my child.

#172 Tyler R. CS: 1,2,4,7

In short, i was 9-11 years old and my parents found out me and my friends had found pornography.

They took me to meet with the bishop, a close family friend. He wanted to know all about it. He asked where I found it. I told him it was in some bushes along the highway. He asked where. I told him. He asked if I would show him. I then got in his car and he drove while I took him to the exact spot where I found the “dirty” magazines.

To this day I’m confused about how this helped anything. It sure made me feel like a complete creep and that I was the only one on planet earth who could be so disgusting. Someday I may ask my dad what that was all about.

#171 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,6,7,8

I was a new Convert and I had just turned 18. In my home ward all of the Moms had it planned out which boys from the Ward their Daughter’s were going to marry. It was my first introduction to the meat market. My first Sunday my Mom stood up and introduced me in relief Society. the lady sitting next to us jumped up out of her seat (!) and said “And she is for my son!” The Bishopric’s First Counselor’s wife piped up “But what about my daughter?!” It was the first time I felt reduced down to a Uterus.

Fast forward 3 months and all of the boys in my Ward were coming home from their Missions and they wanted to know who the new girl was. I started dating the one I was interested in.

At 18 I had already experienced sex and I had to learn how to turn off that drive. It was hands down the most trying time of my 15 year Membership. We ended up getting hot and heavy after one of our dates. Under the clothes groping. We both ended up feeling guilty because “One true Church…” and met with our Bishop. We went individually to our Disciplinary Counsels which were held at the Stake Center which was uber intimidating for me.

He went through his and was told he was to skip the Sacrament a few weeks. They adored him. He had just come home from his Mission, he was charming, attractive, all the moms loved him and the whole Ward watched him grow up.

Then I went in. I sat at a large table with what seemed like a mile between me, the entire Bishopric and a Member of the Stake. I was painted as promiscuous, as a temptress, that boys couldn’t control themselves around me and it was my fault and then I was told that they had already spoken to RM and just needed to clarify specifics with me.

I was then asked if my breasts were exposed, if my underwear was on or off, if I climaxed, if he climaxed, if I performed oral or if he performed oral, if there was penetration and if so for how long. Upon asking those questions then I was asked to explain what actually took place. Then they convened with one another and said that I was going to be Disfellowshipped until it was inspired that I had properly Repented and that I needed to do weekly meetings with the Bishop.

Mormonism took a normal girl with a healthy self esteem and relationship with God prior to joining the Church, and made her feel like she was worthless.

That night I went home and contemplated suicide for the first (last) time in my life. I felt like such a huge disappointment to God and that I was keeping “Righteous young men” from living a clean and honorable life. I absorbed and internalized every word they expressed to me in that meeting.

After this experience, I graduated high school and left to BYU thinking that it was just a fluke Ward. It wasn’t. Shaming is common within Mormonism.

#170 Name hidden. CS: 1,2,3,6,7,8

I’m a Mormon male who grew up in a small Mormon town in Idaho.

The first time I confessed was when I was 13. After a Deacon’s Quorum lesson about “self-abuse”, I spent a lot of time considering the things they had talked about and I really internalized the teachings that masturbation was very awful. I decided to confess to the Bishop and clean my life of this terrible vice. I was terribly scared to talk to him, but I felt so much guilt and shame about this horrible thing I was occasionally doing that I connived to make an appointment without my parents finding out so I would not have to explain to them why I was seeing him. When I finally did meet and confess, the Bishop told me that I should stop doing it as it could lead to me becoming a child abuser and then going to jail. I remember those two consequences specifically. He then called my Mother on the telephone and told her what I was doing. Not even my dad, no, my MOTHER. I’m sure he called my Mother because everyone in the ward knew that she was the boss in the family. I was mortified. I thought I was scared about talking to him, but going home after that interview was even worse! However, a weird thing happened that started a pattern of behavior that has continued. I slunk home and went to my bedroom, but later became so hungry that I had to go get something to eat. As I walked into the kitchen and saw my Mother, she glared at me as though I was the devil and then went about her work as though nothing were different. It was as though this topic was too embarrassing to discuss, so we weren’t going to talk about it. We never did. Even though I felt the tremendous guilt and scorn, we never had a conversation about it. Several years later, my dad gave me “the talk”, and I realized that my Mother had not spoken to him about the previous incident, or else he would have brought it up.

The second time I confessed was the Sunday before I was supposed to leave on my mission. The Stake President asked to interview me and he surprised me by asking “When was the last time you masturbated?” I was surprised so I said “uh, 2 or 3 weeks ago?” I don’t know why I said that because I’m sure it was more like the day before, but that’s what I said. I think I was shocked by the question and confused in my answer, because he had never asked me this pointedly before. He said “We will postpone your mission 3 months. Then you can go.” This was after my farewell and my date for leaving had already been announced to everyone. He called my parents, who lived across the street, over to the church and explained that, because of “personal issues”, my mission would be postponed for 3 months. Mother just glared at me and nothing was said. It was hard to explain to people why my starting date had changed without explaining everything. Three months later I left on my mission without another word or interview about masturbation. To this day, I wish I had replied “I’ve NEVER masturbated, of course!” It would have made things so much easier.

All of my earlier experiences with confession were only about confessing to masturbation. It was hard enough to do that, but I did not bring up the subject of my attractions to men and I am glad that I didn’t. I am also very fortunate that I did not confess to priesthood leaders while I was at BYU during the 1980’s. This was the time when “conversion therapy”, including electroshock therapy, was a being explored as a form of “treatment” for homosexuality in some circles at BYU, and there is the possibility that I could have been referred to counselors who would have guided me in that same direction. I had no idea at the time that this was going on, but in retrospect, I have learned that it was happening with increasing frequency during that time period at BYU. If I had been referred for this kind of therapy, I would have believed with my whole heart that I would be cured, and I would have been bought into the therapy with everything I had because I sincerely wanted to be cured so badly.

The third time I confessed was at my temple recommend interview for my marriage to a woman. I decided that, since I was going to be married in the temple, I had better “do this thing right” so I made a list of everything that I needed to talk about, and even things that I had already talked about in the past: regular masturbation, my attractions to men, and a previous experience with a BYU roommate, which I had confessed to an earlier bishop as well. I was so nervous: would I be disfellowshipped or have a church court? Would my marriage have to be postponed? I was sure that, after my previous experiences, my judgement would be severe, but it would be worth it, to finally be pure before the Lord. By the time the interview finally arrived, I was a mess. I was ready to confess everything. It took me about 20 minutes to tearfully explain my concerns to the Bishop. I laid it all on the line. After I finally finished, he paused for a few minutes, seemed to gather his thoughts, and then he said “Well, it’s a good thing you’re getting married”, signed my recommend, and with a handshake and a “Good luck, son”, I was out the door. I could not believe my good fortune! I was clean! Pure! Healed and whole! Ready to enter the temple and fully commit myself to the straight and narrow path.

I actually consider this the ultimate failure of the confession process because this was the last time someone could have helped change my life by saying “HEY, what’s really going on here?” I was pretty conflicted about my attractions by this point. What I really needed was someone to step in and help me change directions, but that did not happen.

Thus began a marriage to my wonderful wife that never should have happened. Every day I live with the guilt and shame that I’m not attracted to her. I gave everything in my heart and soul to NOT be gay, but of course, nothing changed. I wish I had known then what I know now.

An advisor, a counselor, or a bishop of children should have the tools to guide those children in correct ways. What happened to me was malpractice, and it changed my life for the worse forever. Please don’t let these terrible crimes continue on children today.

#169 Brian B. CS: Suicide of my Son.

I did lose a 14 year old son to suicide in 2014, this petition is correct about the risk of suicide attached to these interviews.

In my most painful moments searching for what sparked my Samuel’s end of life decision, the issues presented in this petition quickly rose high on the list to investigate. Not just one, but two Bishop’s testified while speaking at his funeral just how conscientious Samuel was during his Bishop’s interviews with them. Also comments in his chat logs before he died hint that he was effected by these interviews.

After over 3 years of grueling and intense research and pondering to understand, I place these interviews and the feelings of shame they produce as a major reason for his end of life decision. My haunting regrets tell me he might still be alive if I had not required that he participate in these interviews, God knows how I wished I had a Sam Young to enlighten me before his death.

#169 Name Hidden. CS: 1,3,4,7,8,9

One experience I had with being asked completely inappropriate questions in a worthiness interview was just after I had started attending singles ward. I had very recently come to understand, with the help of a friend, that what I had experienced through my high school years was not premarital “sex” but actually rape, in the context of domestic violence.

It took a lot for me to grasp that concept for several reasons. Chief among them was how the church had explicitly taught me to feel shame for the “loss of my virtue.” (“It is better to die defending one’s virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle.” Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle Of Forgiveness, p. 196) I believed it was my fault. My friend had tried to tell me that it wasn’t, but I didn’t know how to believe her. All I wanted, desperately, was to feel in my heart that my Heavenly Father was not angry with me, and that he still loved me.

I reached out first to my Relief Society President, who had become a good friend, and she told me that I needed to talk to our bishop because “only bishops are trained to give counsel in matters of abuse.” If only that were actually true.

In the first meeting I had with him, as I cried, and confessed to him my confusion and my shame, he listened, and seemed sympathetic at first. But then he asked me if in the course of those years I had “let” my boyfriend “have sex” with me, had I ever had an orgasm? I remember how shocked I was, and how hot my face felt all of a sudden. I was embarrassed and ashamed, but I wanted so badly to feel an inkling of the Lord’s love again, so I chose to be honest. I told him that I had. (I understand NOW, many years later that the body reaching climax is a purely physiological reaction and has absolutely nothing to do with desire or, more importantly, consent.)

He asked me how many times I had orgasmed. In four+ years? I told him I didn’t know. I hadn’t been counting. He asked me how many times we had had sex. I didn’t know that either. (The answer is actually “none” when you understand the rape and sex are not the same thing.) He asked me what positions we had engaged in. My jaw dropped. I could not believe that this was the conversation that was happening. Did he want me to tell him EVERYTHING from more than four years of abuse? It seemed that he did.

I stopped answering verbally as tears streamed down my cheeks, and I no longer felt like I could speak without sobbing. He listed positions and actions for what felt like forever, and I just nodded where the answer was yes.

Had I given him oral sex? Did he orgasm? Had I let him give me oral sex? Did I orgasm? Had we engaged in anal sex? Did either of us orgasm? Had I ever let him tie me up? Had I ever masturbated while he watched? Had he ever asked me to have sex with another woman? Had I ever had sex with an animal?

On and on and on.

When he asked me if I obeyed the law of chastity NOW, and I responded with a hopeful “yes!” his response was something like, “Really? You never think about these things now? You never masturbate while you imagine him touching you?”

I was humiliated, and the shame I felt was visceral. I was shaking, and lightheaded, the room felt as though it had shrunk down to the size of a matchbox, and I was very worried that I might throw up on his desk.

He told me that I was to abstain from taking the sacrament, and said we would need to meet regularly for several months, until he felt I was ready to partake again. Over the course of the next year, after every subsequent interview, I contemplated whether or not I should just go home and kill myself.

My relationship with the church, and with Heavenly Father never recovered from this period of shame in my life. I tried my hardest for years after this to ever feel worthy of God’s love. I prayed more earnestly, and more often. I read my scriptures twice, sometimes 3 times daily. I accepted any calling I was given, and dedicated myself to doing it wholeheartedly. I sang in the choir, attended every FHE and singles gathering I could manage, volunteered to clean the church when others couldn’t. I had 100% visiting teaching, and they even started assigning me to less-active women, who I befriended, regardless of whether or not they wanted to or could be “brought back to the fold.” I fed the sister missionaries, and studied with them. I went to institute. I paid a full tithe.

But there was nothing I could have done to ever feel forgiven for something that was not my fault.

I still struggle, years later, with issues surrounding self-worth. I’ve never been in a relationship that wasn’t abusive. Never had consensual sex. That’s what happens when you believe that everything awful that has ever happened to you has been your fault; you start to believe that you DESERVE for awful things to happen to you.

This is what your interviews are doing to people. It may have appeared, for a time, that my testimony was stronger than it had ever been, and that I was a faithful, faith-filled Latter Day Saint, but the shame that the church instilled in me stole years of my life, years of my healing, drove a wedge between me and the Lord, and very nearly killed me.

I’ve had my name removed from the records of the church now, and I’m a better person for it.

#168 Name Withheld CS: 1,2,4

Fighting all embarrassment and fear of repercussions, I want to bravely share my experience preparing for a church mission and meeting with the bishop as a 17-year-old boy.

Like all young boys in the church, I was asked by my local bishop about masturbation. This local bishop, mind you, had no license, no professional training, and frankly, no experience in the field of counseling. He was nothing more than a neighbor whom my parents trusted to interrogate me behind closed, soundproof doors about my sexual tendencies as a minor.

Long story short, I was honest with the man. Of course, masturbation was nothing infrequent for me, a 17-year-old boy. Yet, my bishop asked me to text him on a daily basis giving report as to whether or not I had masturbated in the past 24 hours.

In hindsight, I am ashamed that I ever even considered this request, yet alone gave in and followed it. My parents have no idea that this happened. I haven’t met a single other member who went through anything remotely similar.

At that age, all I knew is that this man was a gatekeeper to me going on a mission. Without his approval, it would be a no-go. I also knew that my parents implicitly approved of whatever happened behind the bishop office doors, because they encouraged me to go to my meetings and made no effort to ask me about what happened.

I feel that my story has a place in the current dialogue about the harm that bishop interviews impose on children. Truthfully, it was not until recently that I considered the degree to which my privacy and innocence had been violated as a child.

#167 Name Withheld. CS: 1,2,4

I was Mormon for the first 16 years of my life, and quit due to a few different things. I was also a “jack Mormon,” which means I was often late to church (it was 3 hours long!), didn’t read the scriptures (books), and didn’t pray regularly.

When I was 15 or so, I was invited to meet with our ward’s Bishop (he’s the guy who manages 1 area’s people). It was just me and him, and he started off with some extremely uncomfortable questions. “Do you masturbate? Do you look at pornography? Have you ever had sex? Do you think about sex?” You get the gist.

Note: I had been masturbating since age 12.

So, I emphatically said, “No,” and attested that I was a pure soul, which he was wanting to hear. Well, “Congratulations, you can now join us for Baptisms for the Dead at the sacred temple!”

Yay.

Well, that day comes, and I have to wear all white clothing. It’s me and 4 or 5 other kids my age, and we get led down into a cauldron room.

We all get changed into pool clothes (fully covered, white jumpsuits). Then they bring us to a side room and discuss which dead people are assigned to us. We were proxies to be baptized for those dead people to get into Mormon heaven.

Well, I just lied my dirty-ass-soul into a pure, Mormon temple, and would be ruining these dead peoples’ chances to enter heaven, for all eternity, just because I touch myself at night. That’s a lot of guilt for a 15 year old to bear. Compound this with my father’s passing, my sisters being excommunicated years before, my mom and brother had already quit, and that leaves just me, remaining, going to church.

I quit, shortly thereafter, and I haven’t gone back.

#166 Name Hidden. CS: 1,3

Last year when Trump was elected, a friend of mine started a website, I’m Not Just A Statistic. I shared a story of nearly being raped (but a dear friend sensed something was wrong and came into the room) that had recently come back to my memory. I try not to think about it, but again, it came up when this petition came about.

After the incident, I was feeling super guilty about what happened. I was feeling guilty because as a Mormon girl, you’re taught that your worthiness is directly connected to your purity. I wasn’t feeling pure, so I went to my Bishop. I told him about nearly being RAPED. He put ME on probation. I couldn’t take the sacrament for a year.

Sadly, at the time I didn’t realize how horrible it was that I was the one being punished for what had happened to me. This is probably that worst part of the whole incident.

#165 Name Hidden. CS: 1,3,7

When I was 17 I went to a “party” at a college-aged guy’s house. He was the friend of a friend of mine, a friend I’d expected to be there that night but never came. It was awkward just the two of us, drinking vodka he’d provided as we waited for more people to show up. In hindsight I realize no one else had even been invited, and that this stranger was a predator – but as an entirely naive teenager I stayed.

It has been nearly 13 years, and even though as an adult I’ve done everything from counseling and therapy to studying shame and shame resilience, I still can hardly bring myself to think it or speak it out loud: I was raped.

The details are pretty much as horrifying as you can imagine, and the next morning I was hung over and sick and came home to find my mom, waiting, furious. She knew I was going through a phase and that I had been drinking, and was at her wit’s end. Before I knew it our bishop was there – he was ALWAYS there when we needed “priesthood perspective” because my dad was not around. The bishop – this shy, mousy accountant – took me in to our home office and asked me if I had been drinking. I broke down, said I hardly even remember anything, but that I remember “having sex” and that I don’t even really know the guy, and that I felt sick. He asked probing questions like how many times we had sex, what I meant by sex (“oral on you, or on him, or actual sex.”) I told him I didn’t remember. He asked if he was my boyfriend and how long we’d been having sex, and I told him it was the second or third time I’d ever met him. As I cried and stared at my hands, he peeked his head out and asked my mom to join us. He told me to repeat what I had told him. When I couldn’t say it out loud to my mom, he told her. Their silent stares bore into me. Shame suffocated me. I wanted to disappear. He asked me to come see him weekly, to not take the sacrament until he said so, and challenged me to read the Book of Mormon. When he left, my mom didn’t say another word about it. To this day she has never said a single word about that night.

My parents – my dad was bishop for eight years – never spoke to me about sex, drugs, alcohol, or safety. What I knew about sex and drinking was what the Church taught, outlined in For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. I had heard the chewing gum and used car analogies, the weekly promises that no good RM would want someone premiscuous or troubled. They never told me that alcohol could be harmful and dangerous – just that I couldn’t have it. They never told me that there are men that prey on young women like me, that I must keep my guard up, to seek help in uncomfortable or scary situations – but only to dress modestly, and remain pure; that boys’ thoughts and behaviors were my responsibility as a young woman. I never felt like I could call on my mom for help because this was a place I should never be – and how incredibly damaging that has been in my life. My bishop, like my mom, has no formal training or education. He has had NO experience or education of victims of rape or abuse. He has NO ANSWERS other than the same tired challenge to “prayerfully read the Book of Mormon.”

The rage I feel toward him, my mother, the Church, has taken years to surface. Through years of regular therapy I now see that the only one who should be ashamed – obviously aside from the despicable rapist – with his pitiful attempt to “redeem” me, is the bishop. Let him delegate church callings, let him hold tithing settlement, let him sit up behind the pulpit, but DO NOT ALLOW HIM to destroy a child’s sense of worth and “worthiness” with his ignorant solutions and false authority. He has no answers, and has absolutely no right to speak to anyone about their experiences and traumas, ESPECIALLY CHILDREN, scared and hurting, desperately grasping for a safe and trusted hand.

As a mother I want to kick and scream over the abuse so many children are subject to behind those closed office doors. Shame is NOT the answer, it’s POISON – and it’s the only tool bishops have.

#164 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,4,8,9

I am writing on behalf of someone close to me who told me that he gets asked specific, vile questions regarding sexual behavior by the bishop of his church. Whenever his parents think he’s depressed, they send him to the bishop. He said he told his mother he doesn’t want to see him anymore and would rather see a psychologist, but she says, ”He’s fine, what’s wrong with him?” The bishop is a family friend, so he’s afraid to tell his mom the real reason why he doesn’t want to see him anymore. The shame and guilt has caused him great depression and thoughts of suicide, including one attempt. I believe that the practice of asking questions regarding sex to children as young as 8 is beyond ABUSIVE! Children should not be left alone with a man, talking about sex, period! Parents should not allow this!! This practice needs to end RIGHT NOW!!

#163 Name Withheld. CS: 1,2,3,6,7,8

When I was 12, I had a bishop in the Centerville Utah ward named _____. He interviewed me on several occasions. He asked me personal questions about masturbation, if, when and how often, and how and where, I did it. He made me come in to his office repeatedly and asked me if I had done it over the last week. After several interviews where I told him yes I did, he disfellowshipped me and made me not take the sacrament while sitting with my family. He made me come up to the stand and shake his hand after sacrament meeting. He made me Signal to him how many times I had masturbated in the last week.

He told me I would not have my disfellowshipment removed until I stopped masturbating. I eventually stopped going up on the stand to see him and started taking the sacrament anyway. It was too much for me to have my dad look at me every week and give me that questioning look about why I was not taking the sacrament. I started only attending sacrament meeting and leaving the church and walking back to my house where my family was all gone at church. There was a lot of shame wrapped around this.  I remember it like it was yesterday still. But, I’m over it. I left church a long time ago. I think this was one of the first steps pushing me in that direction.

When I was 18, I again had a different bishop who interviewed me for a temple marriage with my fiancé. When we had sexual contact he asked for details about that contact. He made me come in and tell him in detail how we had done it. I was again disfellowshipped and not allowed to get married in the temple. I got married in the relief society room. By this time I really didn’t care much about the church anyway. But it still was pretty humiliating. That marriage ended in divorce within two years. I think a big part of it was the sexual shame that I felt relating to the interactions when I was 12.

I then got engaged to another guy at 20 years old again the bishop asked me detailed questions about sexual contact. We didn’t actually have intercourse so we were eventually allowed to get married in the temple. But not after repeated interviews with details having to be shared. I went to the temple one time and was so horrified I never went back again. I think the only reason I married him was because my dad liked him and he would marry me in the temple. My dad told me no one would ever take me after I was so damaged. That marriage lasted for 12 brutal, abusive years. It’s been over 15 years since I divorced that man and I’m still not sure I’m completely over it.

What this tells me is that this is a common practice for bishops to ask personal detailed sexual questions of girls. I have no idea if the boys I was involved with are ask these questions, because I was ask them by myself and not supervise by any parent or partner.

#162 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4. Other: Thoughts of self-mutilation

I struggled with pornography and particularly masturbation from the age of 11, when I hit what I considered to be ‘early’ puberty. I’ve always had a strong sex drive. I also always kept every other commandment. From the age of 12, I went back and forth between periods of lying outright to ‘pass’ interviews and tearfully confessing to sin. As a teenager during a worthiness interview I was even told that my mother’s recovery from cancer partially depended on my being worthy of blessings from heaven. That fucked me up with crushing guilt for weeks and still hurts to think about (thankfully she’s fine a couple decades later).

I was never abused, never molested, but years and years of guilt around what I now consider to be completely normal for a teenage boy eventually made me so full of guilt and shame that I considered whether it wouldn’t be better to have my penis and testicles removed so that my ‘uncontrollable’ sex drive would finally no longer be a burden to me. I literally considered mutilating myself in order to comply with Mormon commandments, driven in large part by the guilt and shame that I felt in discussing masturbation with my bishops over the years.

#161 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,7,8,9

So I was always kind of a weird child(at least, in my mind) I can remember sneaking into our family’s computer room in the middle of the night when I was 9 to google pictures of naked women. Keep in mind that my parents had never had the sex talk with me. At this time, I didn’t even know what sex was yet, and considering I was 9, that’s really pitiful on my parents part.

Anyway, moving on, I started masturbating as soon as I hit puberty, somewhere around late 9/early 10 (I was a little early, so I’m told). I didn’t even know what masturbation was. All I knew was that my penis did this thing where the skin folded over the top and if I did it fast enough it felt amazing.

I remember being called in to have my priesthood ordination interview when I was 12, and one of the first things I was asked was if I followed the law of chastity. I, if course, answered “no,” because I don’t do good under pressure, and I’m extremely socially awkward, and my mouth slipped up. I quickly corrected myself, but apparently my uneasiness made me look suspicious, because my bishop then proceeded to ask me I don’t even know how many times if I was sure, to which I replied affirmative, until he asked “what about masturbation?”

Not knowing what he meant, I asked him, to which he replied with a visual demonstration using his pointer finger in place of an actual penis. After learning this important piece of information, I, of course, had to confess that I did, indeed, masturbate.

Upon learning this, he immediately told me that if I didn’t stop, not only would I myself to to hell, but I would drag my family down with me. After telling me this, he postponed my ordination for an entire year, during which I was instructed to “purify my soul,” by avoiding technology in any form, abstaining from sacrament, and a handful of other really ridiculous things.

Also during this time, I was threatened with disfellowshipment should I tell my parents or anyone else the reason for everything.

The absolute humility I felt, as well as my already existing social anxiety isolating me left me spraying into depression, and suicide attempt after suicide attempt. I’ve been hospitalized for mental illnesses 4 times, and even now, after having requested my records removed from church documents almost 3 years ago, I have a hard time accepting that I’m normal in those aspects and not some sort of sexual freak who should hate himself with the fiery passions of hell.

#160 Wade W. CS: 1,3,8. Other: Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder

I converted to the LDS Church in Utah when I was 16. I had known since about age 5 that I was attracted to other boys, but it wasn’t until I bought my first set of scriptures just before joining the Church that I realized that my feelings were called “homosexuality,” which was the same thing as being “gay.” I looked up the word in the topical guide and bible dictionary and read every (limited) scripture there was about it; the message was not good. I realized I was a sinner, and that my new God destroyed entire cities just to eradicate people like me.

When the Bishop interviewed me for baptism I was afraid to tell him that I had a “problem.” “Is it masturbation?” was his quick response, and he asked me how often I did it and then instructed me that I needed to stop. Even after only taking seminary for about a year before baptism, the LDS culture had instilled me with a great sense of guilt and shame for masturbating and being attracted to men before I even joined. I had had many sexual encounters with other boys my age, some that were more than just “experimentation,” but I skirted around those stories as the Bishop pried because I was afraid that they would not let me be baptized if they knew I had. I made my same-sex encounters sound as innocent as possible.

When he asked if I thought I might be gay, I blatantly lied and said no. He said that I didn’t understand what I was doing because I was a child, and shrugged off my same-sex encounters (even though I didn’t tell them that the last one was at age 15).

I was a zealous LDS youth for the first year and a half after my baptism, but I became sexually active with men at age 17 after becoming obsessed with porn at age 14. I had learned how to masturbate by accident at age 5, and had been doing it regularly ever since, not knowing what it was until my teens.

I later confessed to a new bishop in my home ward that I was gay and sexually active. He told me I would never serve a mission. He asked me about what happened during gay sex–who penetrated whom, if there was oral sex, etc. When I asked why it mattered, he said that the severity of my sexual encounters would determine the punishment. He asked me who the other person was, and how I met them, and I refused to say. He asked if my partners orgasmed and ejaculated. He asked if there were more than two partners having sex at a time. Then he gave me a lecture about HIV/AIDS and how if I died in sin, I would not be saved. I strayed from the church later as a young adult, but came back at age 21. I have been active and holding a temple recommend for over 10 years, and I have never stopped masturbating or looking at porn for more than a few months. I used to feel so ashamed after doing it that I would isolate myself and refuse to talk to a God that I knew hated me and my sins. While some bishops have been understanding, I have learned over the years to tear myself apart about my masturbation habits and sexual thoughts. I’ve tried marking calendars when I have a “relapse,” going to ARP meetings held by the church, putting up parental blocks on my computer, and even taking one leader’s suggestion of laying on my hands when I’m in bed, as Mark E. Petersen famously encouraged. I am getting better though at seeing that masturbation is not a big deal and feeling less guilty for it. I don’t sugar coat my self-pleasuring habits with my bishop, and he is a saint who understands me well. I still tend to count the days since I last masturbated when the sacrament tray comes around on Sundays, and more often than not I still feel “unworthy” to partake of it, but for now I remain a Mormon. But talking about sex with ecclesiastical leaders is embarrassing and awkward even at 31 years old. It certainly should never happen with LDS children, and I oppose it strongly.

#159 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,8,9

My story is short and not nearly as bad as others.

I’ve suppressed these memories for a long time now. I don’t remember much detail. Just the shame that came from it. I am now 21 years old. I have been inactive for about 3 years now and found this through the ex mormon subreddit on reddit.

I remember in elementary school stumbling across porn on the family computer. I must have been 9 or 10 at the time. I didn’t know what it was, I just remember seeing naked people and videos. I knew what I was looking at was strange and it made me uncomfortable. I wasn’t nearly old enough or mature enough to understand what sex really even was.

My mom ended up finding the porn history on the computer and freaked out. She was crying and asked me why I was looking at that stuff and she told me I had to go into the bishops office and confess my sins to him. I was confused and terrified because this is the first time I have ever had to go into the bishops office for anything bad.

I remember being alone with him in his office. I had to describe what I saw on the videos and how it made me feel. I just remember being extremely uncomfortable explaining any of these things to him. My bishop taught me what I was looking at was porn and I needed to repent.

I was so embarrassed. I felt like from then on I couldn’t be alone with my bishop anymore. I avoided any meeting that I would have to have. I dreaded the once a year birthday check up meeting. The tithing one was okay because my mom and sister were there too.

Even though I had repented. I still felt so dirty thinking about how my bishop knows the extreme details.

#158 Tyler W. CS: 1,2,7,8

I would’ve been 14 when I first found out that viewing pornography and masturbating were “sins.” I told my bishop and he encouraged me to tell my parents so I either told my mom or she found out, I don’t remember which. For the next 7 years though, I was trying my damnedest to keep myself from doing what is natural and healthy. For the next 7 years, I had extreme shame and guilt and on each Sunday I would get embarrassed when the deacon would come by with the bread and water trays and I had to wave him along as everyone else in my family took the sacrament. For the next 7 years, I would only be truly happy when I had gone a week or more without a “relapse.” Every Sunday for the next 7 years I would attend an Alcoholics Anonymous-type class for people like me who had a “pornography addiction.” For the next 7 years I would seek therapy for my addiction and the depression that came with it. For the next 7 years, I would feel suicidal every day because I couldn’t control myself enough to abstain.

To this day I still have depression and suicidal ideation. To this day I’m still too hard on myself. To this day I wonder how different my life would’ve been if I hadn’t been put through this process. Would I’ve been more confident? A nicer person? More giving? Better overall?

I felt dirty and like God hated me. After 4 months of “being clean,” I had a relapse and with it came extreme guilt. So extreme that that same night I wrote a suicide note. During all of this, I was struggling to understand my sexuality and I had added shame and guilt for acting out on my “homosexual urges.” My bishop tried his best to help and from what I remember his questions were as appropriate as the situation could allow. Even so – the retribution I received for doing a natural act and the negative emotions I inflicted upon myself are something no child should have to deal with. I had a good, fun relationship with this man before he became bishop but whenever I think of how the LDS church has hurt me, and I need a face to put all of this on, his is the one I see. To this day I still kind of hate the guy for doing what he was told to do.

My story is more mild compared to others. I was lucky but there’re others who weren’t and who are not today. The way these worthiness interviews are conducted needs to be changed. These untrained middle-aged men with no background checks shouldn’t be allowed to ask sexually explicit questions to minors. No child should have to endure the emotional pain myself and others have endured.

#157 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,8,9

While in high school I struggled with sexuality. I kind of liked girls and occasionally acted on it. I went to my bishop for support thinking that’s what I was supposed to do. It wasn’t normal to like girls, so I forced myself into relationships with boys which led to threats against my life, molestation from boys, and even rape.

After speaking to my bishop I felt like I was doing the right thing by having a boyfriend no matter how I was treated. The very next Sunday I came to church and my best friend and I were being called dykes and other derogatory names. We were no longer allowed to accompany each other to the bathroom or even sit by each other in class without ridicule from peers.

I found out that after speaking to my bishop he went home and discussed the matter with his family. His son was exactly my age and his wife was my class leader person. My friend instantly stopped coming to church. I was alone facing the ridicule. I remained solely in male-female abusive relationships. I finally stopped going to church after my therapist convinced my mom to not force me. I hated the church after that. No way a church that houses those kinds of people is a true church of God and Christ. To this day, I keep my feelings inside. I still find myself in abusive relationships. I am divorced as a result of my insecurities.

I have tried multiple times to kill myself over them. I have learned to live and found reason to do so.  But at 14 it was very difficult. The betrayal I felt with that bishop was strong. He would do temple interviews and ask questions about relations with both genders, I would always answer with what they wanted to hear and not the truth. I never understood those questions anyways. I didn’t know what half the terms they used meant and my parents wouldn’t explain it to me. I grew up confused, scared, and constantly wondering if living was worth it.

#156 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,8,9

The bishop I had from age 12 to mission departure was seemingly obsessed with the sexual purity of the youth in our ward. My biannual youth interviews with my bishop consisted of a long battery of questions deeply probing my activities. The most invasive and lengthy part of the interviews was a series of questions regarding sexual topics. I was asked if I had engaged in lustful thoughts, necking, petting, masturbation, homosexuality, pornography, etc.

I didn’t know what most of those words even meant when I was hearing them at age 12. I knew by the tone that they were bad. I denied everything, assuming that if I didn’t know what it was then I hadn’t done it. I spent some time after that first interview looking various things up in our family dictionary. (We didn’t quite have internet access yet.) I had actually engaged in what I’d call self-exploration quite a bit at this point in my life and felt incredibly guilty to realize I had been sinning for years apparently. I kept it my dark little secret. The interviews continued every six months on the dot.

Special lessons about the evil of masturbation and/or pornography were peppered throughout my tenure in the Aaronic priesthood quorums adding to the guilt and shame I felt. At around age sixteen, my bishop called me in for a spontaneous interview after such a lesson in priests quorum. He had been the instructor and he told me that he had been inspired during the lesson to call me in because he felt I was struggling in this area. This prompted my first real confession and gave me a real belief in the power of discernment because he was right. I had seen some playboy magazines a few times at school and had indulged in what he called self-abuse.

My confession prompted what I consider to be inappropriate inquiry into the frequency, duration, time, and location of my masturbation experiences. He also asked about what I thought about when doing it, whether I looked at and lusted over girls in the ward or at school. He asked if I was obsessed with breasts. Did I look at porn, was it softcore, hardcore, child porn, gay porn, bestiality, etc.? Did I have impure thoughts at church or at the temple during baptisms for the dead? Such attention to detail was painful to talk about. I was counseled to turn the shower water to cold, to wear pants with a belt to bed, sleep on my back and other silly preventive measures. I was given the assignment to read the Miracle of Forgiveness.

I dealt with the punishment on that offense which was incredibly shaming. My probation only lasted a few weeks but I felt like I was wearing a scarlet letter as I had to tell fellow priests I couldn’t bless the sacrament and had to sit with my parents as I abstained from taking the sacrament. From that point to my mission I lied to the bishop. I couldn’t handle the inquisition or the public shame.

This same bishop later taught me in euphemism that getting an erection was breaking the law of chastity because it meant I was going too far. According to him, it was like an alarm system in my body that would let me know the limits of the law of chastity. This was disconcerting because I would get aroused from just holding hands with or hugging my girlfriend briefly so I came to believe I was some kind of out-of-control sexual monster and started avoiding dating entirely.

I know my experience was super tame compared to the experience of many but it affected me greatly and still does to this day. I had other negative bishop experiences as a single adult but those are less relevant to this cause. Due to these experiences I spent years suffering in silence and thinking the worst of myself needlessly. I was shocked to find out as an adult that many friends of mine had not had similar bishop’s interviews at all. Few of them had to give the excruciating level of detail that was demanded of me.

By going to therapy with an actual professional I have since learned that I was actually a normal kid and had healthy sexual feelings and expressions. I didn’t know that until my mid-30’s.

#155 Name Hidden. CS: 1,6

When I was 12, our bishop was the type that liked to focus on sins and really make sure someone is pure. I was innocent and inexperienced, and I took pleasure in knowing that I could honestly answer all of the questions correctly. I also found the interviews to be very educational — he always had detailed answers for my inquiries on what “masturbation” and “petting” were. I wanted to stay pure, so I made sure I never did anything prohibited.

My period of (very mild) rebellion started when I was 19 and mostly consisted of making out with as many guys as I could. Being worthy for the temple was important to me, so I made sure not to do anything serious, though I got as close to the line as possible. I left these encounters with some guilt and consequently ended up in uncomfortable “confession” interviews with the bishop a few times. I now realize I mostly confessed to things I did not actually do. They were things the guys had done to me, which I hadn’t successfully stopped. I had no idea what the difference was between doing something and having something done to me. It was my fault, my sin, if I didn’t stop it from happening. And no bishop ever told me that it wasn’t necessary to confess someone else’s sins.

I have now been married for nine years. Our sex life struggles, and I have to think it’s related to all the years of guilt, repression, and feeling responsible for someone else’s sexuality. I am anxious about my children growing up in this construct — I just don’t want them to go through the pain I have gone through. And I know it can be so much worse.

#154 Matthew M. CS: 1,2,3,7,8

I joined the church when I was 12 years old, I had never masturbated or looked at pornography. I was certainly old enough to partake in these activities, I just had not arrived “there” yet. I was still a child who had not reached puberty. I had no idea that within a year my sexuality would be hijacked and used against me for the next 2 decades.

I don’t recall when I first learned that I would have to confess my “sins” to the Bishop. I still wasn’t sure what a Bishop was all the way. I was still learning about Joseph Smith, Angels, and Gold Plates. But along with my primary church education, I was also learning some things about my own biology. In the summer of my 12th year, my voice cracked, I sprouted a few new hairs, and my “little factory” started buzzing.

This was also the year I learned how to hate myself.

My excitement at becoming a teenager was quickly replaced with crushing shame and self-loathing at the prospect of divulging my masturbation habits to a man I barely knew. Prior to joining the church, I had been taught, at school, that masturbation was ok, normal even. But now I was learning that it was sexual SIN, and deeply offensive to God. I was conflicted to the depths of my soul but I wanted God to love me. If this was his law, I knew I was accountable.

During the weeks when I knew I had a Bishop’s interview scheduled, I would go into silent panic mode. Would I confess this awful sin? Could I even bring myself to make such a confession? Should I lie? And there was the non-stop bargaining with God.

I can’t lie. The Bishop has discernment, he’ll know if I’m lying. Plus, I am not a liar. I don’t want to be a liar!

I still vividly remember my first interview: The Bishop asked me if I followed the law of chastity. I lied and said, “yes.” Then he continued, “what about masturbation?”

My mind reeled, I can still recall the shrinking, disembodied feelings that rushed through me. I lied again. “No” I replied – certain he knew the truth. He was the Bishop, of course he knew I was lying. I felt so small, so worthless. But he let me off the hook easy and told me not to do it anymore without going any further in his questioning. I think he sensed my discomfort. (In retrospect, I am grateful this Bishop had at least some boundaries).

That was first of many interviews with many different Bishops. Sometimes the Bishops asked about masturbation, sometimes they didn’t. Sometimes I lied, sometimes I told the truth. But, it didn’t matter because my conscious was racked and the trauma that resulted was ever present.

My adolescence became defined by fear of these interviews. The shame seemed to hang over every moment, the self-loathing working its way ever deeper into my psyche. I began to hate myself – for being a masturbator, for being a liar, for being completely unable to end this awful cycle of shame. When I would pass the Sacrament, I felt like I was betraying God. I had been taught that an unworthy priest could make the sacrament “null” for the entire ward. I felt like a criminal.

Many times, masturbation was followed by sobbing tears of guilt – and thoughts of self-castration. Other times, suicide seemed like the only path to peace. This battle raged on, and on, and on.

As a single adult in the church (YSA), these interviews continued into my 30’s.

As I got older, I learned to handle things better. But still, at 26 the prospect of these interviews elicited much of the same emotion that I experienced at 12. The shame and self-hatred as present as ever.

In reading many of the stories here, I feel lucky. My story could have been much worse. My heart aches for those who endured physical sexual abuse along with the emotional torment. But if my story is indicative of anything, it’s this: The problem does not lie solely with Bishops, or “leadership roulette.” The problem is the system. The system is abusive and causes trauma. This system of sexual interrogation stole my adolescence and inflicted deep, lasting wounds. I am still sorting it all out.

 

#153 Name Hidden. CS: Other: Not sure what category(ies) this falls into.

My story is not as stark or traumatic as the ones I have read here, but the whole concept of an adult male asking a young teen female these questions is so inappropriate. I baby-sat for my bishops kids, so had a good relationship with him, but was appalled the first (and thankfully) only time he asked me about sexual purity. This was nearly 50 years ago, when I was 12 or 13. He asked me if I was sexually pure, and i said yes. Then he asked me about masturbation. Honestly I had no clue that female masturbation was a thing and told him so. He then proceeded to describe using objects like a tampon – or broomstick(?) – to penetrate and cause a sexual response. I was so embarrassed by the discussion I didn’t know what to think. It actually made me want to find out what he was talking about, but I didn’t because it was ‘evil.’ It took years for me to decide it was ok to use tampons, and i still get an uneasy feeling when I think of that conversation or having any kind of worthiness related interview with a male church leader.

And later I realized that female masturbation doesn’t require any type of insertion of fingers or objects into the vagina to stimulate a response, so his questions were at the same time both too specific and not specific enough to really get to the issue if you think it is one.

#152 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8. Other: Ask before sharing

I wasn’t shamed for consensual sex. I was shamed and “punished” for being sexually assaulted.

I was an extremely innocent, born in the covenant, true-believing young woman. I had just had my first kiss (more like a peck then an actual kiss) with a nice LDS boy who was my age and in my stake. It was exciting but overall pretty innocent.

At the time, I babysat a lot and never charged parents who needed a babysitter when they were doing service or attending the temple. I was babysitting that night. My parents knew I was sleeping over because I was babysitting pretty late. I woke up when he started touching me in places I had never been touched. At first, I pretended to be asleep but it was difficult the more aggressive and forceful he became. I was barely 15 years old and he was 35 (20 years older than me).

I was so confused. I felt dirty. I wondered if I was being punished for kissing a boy. Did I deserve this? Was this punishment for my “sin”? Soon after this happened, I had my regular recommend interview alone with my bishop. He asked about my worthiness. I confessed and told him about my first kiss with the boy in my stake. He asked if there was more. At first I told him no, but he pushed, saying he knew there was something that I wasn’t telling him. He said I needed to he honest with him. Believing he already knew, I told him about the night I was babysitting. He proceeded to ask me details. Where did he touch me? Did he use his mouth? His hands? How many fingers? Did my body respond? Was I wet? Did my nipples get hard? Was there penetration? Had I done anything to give this Adult a reason to think I wanted him? Why was I silent instead of crying out? Did I secretly want him to continue? Had I touched myself before this happened or since this happened?

WTF

Instead of helping me or providing me with resources, he made me feel like I had done something wrong. That I deserved to be punished. He said I shouldn’t take the sacrament for a while and he took away my temple recommend; something I still don’t understand. I was the Mia Maid President at the time and suddenly I couldn’t participate in temple visits with my young woman’s class, my friends, or with my family. I felt both personally and publicly humiliated. I was depressed and felt worthless for a long time.

Being sexually assaulted has obviously impacted my life but the shame, guilt, and trauma this bishop inflicted on me has impacted my life more than I can explain.

#151 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,8

I have a son that recently turned eighteen years old. I have a photo of the two of us that was taken ten years ago when I baptized him into our LDS faith. I keep this picture in my car because it was a really happy day for both of us. He is kind, intelligent and so very thoughtful. I was surprised when he turned fourteen and stopped taking the sacrament. He would never tell me or his mother why. I worried about his self-esteem because he seemed to be overly critical of himself for the smallest of mistakes. When he was fifteen he told me, with tears in his eyes, that he was depressed and no longer believed in God. I just told him that I loved him and felt impressed not to push church issues.

He stopped going to church with our family, however, recently he began attending a nondenominational Christian church with a couple of new friends. My wife was concerned and asked me to attend this new church and make sure that it was a good place for him. I asked him if we could go together one week and he happily agreed.

The church service was beautiful. It was focused on praising God and God’s grace. I couldn’t help but get a little emotional as I felt God’s love during the service. I watched as the minister blessed and offered communion to all those who wished to partake of it. I literally cried as my son, who hadn’t taken the sacrament in our Ward in years, accepted the bread and the wine. I had such a strong feeling in my heart that God was still carrying him in his hands.

During the drive home I asked my son about the experience. I told him he should also feel free to accept the sacrament in our Ward anytime he attended with us. He said that he stopped taking the sacrament when he was 14 years old. He told me that the Bishop had told him to stop taking the sacrament because he had admitted to masturbation during a youth interview. Over the next several months, without my knowledge, the Bishop would check in with my son at church to see if he had masturbated and my son would reluctantly admit that on occasion he had. It hurt me to hear of the shame and pain that my son experienced for what I believe to be a very normative behavior for a young boy going through puberty. Sadly, I should have done a better job communicating with him during this difficult time. My son said that it ultimately took approximately eight months before the Bishop finally happily declared that my son was “worthy” and could once again take the sacrament. However, by this time my son simply told the bishop that he didn’t want it anymore.

I told my wife about the church service, the beautiful communion and my talk with our son on the drive home. We both cried. We decided that this new church is where our son needs to be right now. While it hurts to know what my son needlessly endured, I can’t stop feeling grateful for the experience I witnessed in a small nondenominational Christian church with a rock band.

#150 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,5,7,8

The first time I was asked about masturbation, specifically, by a bishop, I was 12 years old. It was before my first temple trip, in a recommend interview. I understand that some people who support this practice think that the one-on-one interviews, (away from parents) are an opportunity for children who are being abused at home to talk to another adult without their parents over their shoulder. If bishops were given literally ANY kind of training about how to spot abuse, I *might* consider this a valid point. This is not what happened for me, though.

My bishop, who was newly called, and in his 80’s, asked me if I knew what it meant to masturbate, and I didn’t. He explained it to me, in FAR more detail than would ever be appropriate for anyone other than my mother, or someone like a doctor, or health teacher. I was SO uncomfortable. This was my first time ever being alone with this man, and he was asking me about whether or not I had ever become aroused by putting my “fingers, or anything else” inside me. I started to feel sick. I couldn’t speak, and the room started spinning. I ended up vomiting in his trash can, and instead of thinking “hmm, I wonder why this 12 year old CHILD is so uncomfortable with explicit sexual topics?” he took my sudden illness as a sign that his prompting to ask was correct.

It was not. My becoming physically ill at being grilled about sexual practices by a man I barely knew, and did not trust, was NOT a sign that I was guilt-ridden by my sexual sins. If that man had had ANY training, he could very easily have recognized that what he did in that interview was trigger a child who had been abused previously. I had already been traumatized, and he retraumatized me. And THEN, instead of getting me any kind of help, he continued to retraumatize me, over and over again, as he pulled me out of Sunday School, once a month for OVER A YEAR to repeatedly ask me questions about whether or not I was ‘still violating myself, and the law of chastity.”

This. is. Unacceptable.

#149 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7

My bishop started asking about masturbation at age 14. The interview I remember most vividly was my 14th birthday interview to advance in the priesthood. I don’t remember much about the interview except toward the end he got very serious and asked, “do you masturbate?” At the time I did, but there was no way in hell I was going to share my sexuality with my neighbor, even if he was the bishop. So I lied and told him, “No”. He asked again, and again I told him, “No”. He asked a THIRD time, this time with much more intensity, “DO YOU MASTURBATE?” Again, I told him No. At that point he became flustered and appeared angry with me, but stopped asking.

For me bishop’s interviews were only part of the equation. There was an immense amount of shaming in weekly Sunday lessons. During my 14-16 teen years I remember numerous lessons specifically on masturbation and nothing else. At that time it was a 4-5 teen boys, including me, and one male teacher in the room. Even at that time I was creeped out by it, but I didn’t feel like I could leave.

I had NO CLUE masturbation was normal. Because of written and verbal rhetoric of leaders and church teachings at the time (1980’s-1990’s) I thought masturbation was as evil as murder and I LOATHED myself because of these intense feelings that would not go away no matter what I did. I fought this needless shame until I got married. Masturbation was not part of my marriage, but it greatly impacted my sexual attitudes and behaviors. I was so repressed I almost imploded. I still thought sex was dirty on some level and would only do the missionary position and nothing else for the first few years. Fortunately, early in our marriage we moved past the church’s destructive thought patterns as a couple, and basically kicked the church out of our bedroom. When we transitioned out of Mormonism 15 years later our intimacy blossomed as it never could stuck in an oppressive religion.

#148 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,6,7,8

I started masturbating at age 13 or so. When I was first masturbating, I don’t think I even knew what I was really doing, let alone the idea that I was ‘sinning’. Shortly after, I realized/learned that it was a sin, and between bishopric changes, and ward splits, etc. I ended up having four different bishops throughout my teenage years. I would be truthful and respond “no” when I was asked if I obeyed the law of chastity in interviews. As I remember it, at least 3 out of the 4 bishops asked a follow-up question specifically about masturbation. If memory serves, at least one of them (maybe two of them) asked if I ‘climaxed’. I cannot overestimate how upsetting and taxing (both spiritually AND mentally) the pain, the anguish, and the torment was for me. Constantly bouncing back and worth between worthiness and unworthiness, knowing that my leaders for the most part knew exactly what I was doing, was hard for me to deal with on many levels.

I very clearly remember one time in the wee hours of the morning in my kitchen, when I was 15 or so, where I actually held a large kitchen knife up to my wrist. I remember feeling a ‘rush’ of emotion when I did that. It was the first time in a couple of years that I had really felt alive, since starting to ‘struggle’ with masturbation. I remember thinking that I didn’t want my parents/family to have to clean up the mess from all of my blood pooling all over the floor. So I thought maybe I could get up on the counter and have my blood from my wrist drain into the sink (I felt it would be a little more dignified, as there wouldn’t be a mess to clean up). Luckily the ‘heat of the moment’ passed, and I went to bed. Thinking back, I don’t think I actually would have done it, but I clearly remember thinking that not existing at all anymore would certainly be better than existing as a chronic masturbator.

I am finally, at age 31, getting mental help via therapy to hopefully deal with this emotional baggage, baggage that I now believe I have been carrying unnecessarily for nearly two thirds of my life. I hope and pray that the church will issue official instructions/updates to ecclesiastical interviews, stating that the details of chastity-related sin is not necessary. The way I see it, the leader may need to know if a law-of-chastity ‘issue’ involved a crime of any kind or not (especially if abuse was involved,not ‘self-abuse’ though Elder Callister…) , they may need to know if it involved another person/persons or not, and if it did, they may perhaps need to know what ‘base’ the ward member made it to, but past that no other details are needed.

The details must stop. I think that we are the last church (of our size or larger) that still does this practice of one-on-one private interviews, which carries the potential for damaging, detailed, intimate questioning, and it is just not necessary. It never was necessary, and it should stop.

#147 Name Hidden. CS: 1,3,6

I don’t recall inappropriate bishop’s interviews as a youth. I guess I am lucky in that sense. The interviews I did have as an adult and newly wed were a far different story. The church teaches that in order to be in good standing with God, and thus able to attend the temple, you must confess your sins to the bishop.

I had sexual relations with my then fiancé several months before and continuing until we got married. We waited until after we were civilly married to “come clean” to the bishop, whom neither of us even knew. We went in together and he asked all sorts of inappropriate questions like how often, what positions, did either of us orgasm, did either of us masturbate and a bunch more that I really can’t remember. After we were through with the questioning, we were told we’d need a disciplinary counsel where we’d meet with the whole bishopric, again none of whom we even knew, to further discuss an appropriate “punishment”.

As if being in the first interview with my husband wasn’t bad enough, during the actual disciplinary counsel, I had to be in there alone, surrounded by older men who were each asking highly personal questions.

During each of the interviews I felt like my privacy was being seriously violated, but I sincerely felt as though it was what I needed to do to right the wrong to be in good standing with the church. It was the most embarrassing and degrading thing I ever had to do. Each time seeing the bishopric member after that, I had this deep sense of embarrassment.

The embarrassment, guilt and shame continued as I had to spend the next year declining the sacrament. I felt as though everyone knew I had sinned. It’s like the scarlet letter of Mormonism.

I know the intention of the interviews are to help people come unto God, but I learned just to not say anything in further interviews that would result in the counsel or even a discussion about private matters. I always felt guilty for lying, which actually caused me to constantly feel “unworthy”. It is taking a lot for me to have a healthy sexual relationship with my husband. It’s something that I am still working on 9 years later.

#146 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7,8

Feeling emotional today! Since I was young and went through trauma I had the ability to forget a lot of things, well not forget, but push it far down it doesn’t come to mind. I was reading Sams post and a few stories and it hit me so hard that I too have stories to share of Bishop interviews.

For the first time in my life, I disclosed a part of the sex abuse to my boyfriend and I was shaking and felt so nauseous. Since the time I heard masturbation was wrong in YW, I went home and looked it up in the dictionary and felt sick that I did something so bad. From that point on I felt shame and guilt that was crushing me, it became my big dark secret no one could ever know. I truly felt like I was the only female in the church who masturbated or looked at porn. I was scared for the day I would get engaged because I wouldn’t be worthy to enter the temple.

After I confided the abuse to my boyfriend he encouraged me to meet with an lds therapist who I managed to tell her about the abuse. Then I was told I should meet with my bishop and I did. As I sat there sick to my stomach.  I couldn’t get the words out. It’s such an uncomfortable situation, sitting behind the desk as he stares at you until you speak. I couldn’t say it to him, I felt so sick inside and still blamed myself for what had happened as a child and then my secret of masturbating.

He called the lds therapist that I saw for information because I just couldn’t get the words out. Instead of being met with love, compassion, and confirmation that what happened to me was wrong and was not my fault, I was punished for masturbating and needed to stop immediately. I never went back to that bishop again and I went years before I verbalized the abuse or my secret to anyone again. In high school, I had to repent for being sexual with my boyfriend and the bishop asked me what parts of my body he touched, was it on the outside of the clothes or under, below the belt or above the belt. I was red in the face sobbing like I had committed murder and was now there to get my punishment.

I wished I had lied during those yearly worthiness interviews so I never had to explain anything to any bishop, but my guilt and shame was eating me alive. Fast forward to college and my soul mate comes home from his mission and we want to get married, but now I have to once again share my big dark secret to another person and I was scared to death he’d be so disgusted with me that he wouldn’t want to marry me, but I was met with the warmest embrace and was told what happened to me was wrong and that he loves me no matter what and nothing could stop him from wanting to marry me.

I knew I had to meet with my bishop to get approval to be married in the temple, but this bishop didn’t want to know my past and I was so relieved by this. I felt like I was really worthy and felt like wow I’m getting married in the temple, this is incredible. Then my fiancé and I do what the church calls levi lovin.  So I’m back in the bishop office repenting once again. He then looks at me and says we might need to cancel our temple marriage and I start sobbing thinking how can I tell all my family and friends we can’t get married in the temple. Then he tells me he’s just kidding and to not do it again till after we get married and sends me on my way. Biggest scare ever!

Now I’m married, but still battling masturbating and looking at porn.  So again, I go to a new bishop. He sends me to a 12 step addiction group and because I’m female I go in with the females. I sit there for over an hour listening to these women talk about their husbands addiction and how it’s ruining their lives and how much rage they have towards them. Then it comes to me and I so badly wanted to say, I’m in the wrong group, I should be in the room with your husbands! I lived with this shame and guilt until I found out the Church was not true. I’ve never felt more peaceful since leaving the church, knowing I’m a good person and I’m not evil, or controlled by Satan. Leaving the church was by far the greatest thing I could have done for myself!

#145 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7,8,9,10. Other: Loss of confidence in spiritual leadership.

I will never forget when a young inexperienced bishop’s counselor took it upon himself to come into our Deacons Quorum and “warn” us against the horrors of masturbation. This lesson was not in the manual. To this day, I have no idea why he felt compelled or authorized to give us such a lesson. I was an innocent boy of 12 and president of the quorum. I had not fully reached puberty yet and had never ejaculated. I did not know what the word “masturbation” meant. I soon found out. I sat frozen as he graphically described what masturbation was and how it made boys “evil”. He told us that sexual sins ranked right next to murder. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. Of course I knew that it was not alright to be sexual with someone besides your wife, but what he was telling me about my penis was just the opposite of my own beautiful experiences. To me, my penis and the pleasure I derived from stroking it while daydreaming of girls I loved and temple marriage was holy and special. In fact it was so holy that the bishop’s counselor’s words seemed sacrilegious and completely inappropriate. To me masturbation had no negative associations. It was a prayer of celebration for love and marriage. My own spiritual experiences with masturbation told me that he was lying. I knew inside my inner self could not lie to my heart and spirit.

The problem was that I was just a 12 year old boy. I was a deacon. What did I know compared to the bishopric? He was in the bishopric. He was Jesus’ mouthpiece. I was Jesus’ servant who held his holy priesthood. I loved Jesus and loved to obey him. My own tender testimony of love for my masculinity and my desire to marry and share love with my wife and family were totally crushed beneath the weight of authority. I was now an “evil” boy, who had been committing a sin next to murder in seriousness all though my innocent childhood. It was horrifying to realize I was so evil. Today I recognize this action by my priesthood leader as spiritual and sexual abuse of an innocent child. His authoritarian position invalidated my authentic inner spiritual voice. In that moment my priesthood leader created clinical neurosis in me that I struggled to heal far into my adult life. It was unquestionably abusive and damaging.

The tragic irony of this whole situation is that the top leaders of the LDS church sincerely want to help the youth be sexually healthy and have good marriages. Their failure to meet their responsibility to become medically educated about masturbation has resulted in one of the great social tragedies of Mormonism – unintentional and covert sexual and spiritual abuse of the youth. Masturbation was a hot topic for all us neurotic unintentionally abused Mormon boys. We talked amongst ourselves about our struggles with abstinence; our successes and ultimate failures. We repented over and over in an effort to feel worthy through high school, missions, college and into marriage. Our self-worth was seriously damaged.

One serious boy I knew told me he “knew he was naturally evil” because he tried and tried repenting many times over but could not remain totally abstinent. He begged God to take away his sexual desire or bless him with “wet dreams” like other boys (Even after months of abstinence he never had a nocturnal emission – his spiritual leaders were ignorant of the medical fact that a sizable percentage of males are completely incapable of having nocturnal emissions). Since he was “naturally evil” he accepted that drinking was no worse than masturbation and sadly found some solace for his internalized shame in alcohol.

Another close friend once in a moment of purging his guilt before leaving on his mission confided to me his own unique strategy. We lived in a farm community and he decided that since he had never heard that sex with animals was sinful he was safer to place a stool behind a cow to stand on and have sex with it than he was to masturbate. His dad, by the way, was our stake president and his uncle was a notable apostle. We had never heard of bestiality. He too was trying to cope. Today he is a respectable judge, family man and priesthood leader in his community.

As church leaders ignore the medical data of science about the psychological damage that masturbation abstinence causes, they ignorantly perpetuate some of the very things they seek to prevent. Youth turn to damaging psychological coping strategies to cope with the unbearable internalized shame that Mormon leaders create by labeling the healthy developmental process of masturbation as “evil” and associating it to the concept that “sexual sin is next to murder” (Such generalization without qualification is irresponsible by church leaders. There is an obvious difference in the social impact of various sexual behaviors, for example the extreme difference between masturbation and rape).

There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that masturbation results in any physical, psychological, spiritual damage or unhealthiness. Some Mormons leaders falsely equate feelings of guilt with “loss of the spirit”. These feelings actually are psychological responses that result from leaders “promising” individuals they will feel guilty. This is not the “loss of spirit” it merely is a psychological self-fulfilling prophecy caused by internalized shame.

This policy of LDS leaders interviewing about masturbation or sexual questioning is unquestionably damaging and the psychosexual shame leads to adult sexual dysfunction and even in some cases to suicide. This must stop!

#144 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7. Other: Suffered a crisis of faith. Bitterness toward LDS faith. Years of inactivity. Difficulty trusting LDS leaders. Damage to emotional and spiritual well being. Difficulty trusting men.

At different times in my life I have confided in several bishops about various spiritual and emotional concerns. Throughout my youth, and young adulthood, I have never had an interview with a bishop where the topic of chastity hasn’t turned into an inappropriate conversation.

As a teen, in order to qualify for different rights of passage such as receiving a patriarchal blessing, participating in baptisms for the dead, and accepting church callings I would attend bishop’s interviews. On more than one occasion during these bishops interviews (with different bishops) I would not only be asked if I had any concerns that I needed to address in terms of morality/law of chastity, but I would be directly and specifically asked if I had participated in “heavy petting”, “sexual intercourse”, or “masturbation”. On more than one occasion, if my answer to any of the above was yes, I would then be asked to provide specific details.

In regard to masturbation I was asked how frequent. I was asked to describe what I do to myself and asked to describe the “impure thoughts” I would have while I was doing it. I was asked if at any time I used any objects on myself etc… In regard to heavy petting I would be asked if articles of clothing were removed, if the “inappropriate touching” occurred above or below my clothing, above or below my waist, above or below my underwear and bra, if any “penetration” occurred.

I remember more than once, I left those interviews feeling very dirty, ashamed, and emotionally violated. I remember feeling angry and wondering why the bishop needed to ask so many specific details. I also remember justifying it by thinking that he must need to put me through that so that I would have a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and that it must be part of the atonement process. I also remember feeling extremely uncomfortable seeing those bishops at church and church related events afterwards, because I knew that they knew all of the specific details of “what I did”. This made me feel very ashamed, and embarrassed, and judged. I felt that I deserved to feel this way because I committed “sins”. I felt like I was damaged. I felt like I was unworthy. I felt like something was wrong with me, because I was struggling to control my hormones and that meant that I was a bad, and dirty, person. I remember not knowing that all teenagers (even a lot of teenage girls like me) had trouble controlling their hormones. I thought I was the only one and that I was bad and perverted.

Then in my late teens/early 20s I had other experiences with even more bishops that were not ideal. I confessed more serious sexual sins. Again, I was asked to explain all of the explicit details. Penetration? How far? Naked? Under or over clothing? Above below waist? Above below undergarments? How many times? How often? Ejaculation? Orgasm? Oral? On one occasion I was told by a bishop that oral sex is a form of sodomy. I was told that it is a greater sin than regular sex because it’s a perversion of a sacred act. That sex is sacred and oral sex is of the devil. That the devil is taking a sacred act and perverting it by turning it upside down. I asked this bishop why this is? I asked him why more people don’t know this? I asked him if married people are committing a sin by engaging in this, and he said yes. He said it’s a tool the devil uses to destroy marriages. He said it’s his way of perverting a married couple’s sacred intimacy. He told me that sex was meant for procreation. He said anything outside of that is of the devil and is meant to destroy the family.

Then this bishop gave me The Miracle of Forgiveness to read. (This bishop was over a college/university ward in Utah around 2000-2004. I assume he was giving this council to a lot of 20 somethings at that time. I could not have been the only one.)

On another occasion I went into my bishop after being drugged and date raped. I knew that what happened to me could reasonably be considered date rape. I had gone to the police, and to a rape crisis center where I was told as much. The detective was trying to get me to come forward with names, and to press charges, but I didn’t want to. I knew I wasn’t able to make good decisions about what to do in my frame of mind at the time, so I decided to not do anything about it legally. I was struggling with this on an emotional and psychological level in so many ways, it’s indescribable. I had questions about what fault I had in this situation. I wanted to know if I was spiritually responsible for what happened on some level, so I went to my bishop. Unfortunately, that bishop told me that I was partially at fault for what happened because I wasn’t standing in holy places. If I hadn’t put myself in that situation in the first place, I could have avoided the situation entirely.

The result of this particular interview spear-headed a lot of reflection on my testimony and faith in the LDS church. I started questioning the legitimacy of my priesthood leaders and the LDS church standpoint on these matters as a whole. Why would the police and rape crisis therapists be telling me that I hold no fault for what happened, but my spiritual leaders are telling me something different? Who is right? My spiritual intuition is telling me that I’m not to blame, but my bishop says otherwise. Why would those sources be saying different things? Aren’t they both of God? Shouldn’t they be more aligned? Why aren’t they? Come to think of it, I’ve felt this conflict before. What about all of those times I went to the bishop as a teen and felt really uncomfortable? If this bishop is asking/telling me things that doesn’t seem right/appropriate, maybe others have as well. Isn’t the church true? I started going down a rabbit hole. It was very difficult to piece together what was of God and what wasn’t. What should have been asked of me in bishops offices and what should not have and why.

I still struggle to trust bishops. As a general rule, I don’t confide in bishops to that degree anymore. I don’t trust them and don’t feel they are qualified to advise me on matters that are this personal, and quite frankly, I don’t feel that most sensitive and personal things are any of their business. If I feel like a bishop could help me in terms of providing me information about church resources then I will go to them and ask questions, but I don’t “confess” to them. I don’t ask them where I stand in the eyes of the Lord. I just go to the Lord with those things.

I have had to repair so much damage and have had to sift through so much bad advice and misguided and toxic opinions from bishops throughout my life, that it’s just not worth it to me anymore. Now that I have children, I will never leave them alone in a bishops office. I understand that church policy isn’t what it used to be, but I also know from personal experience that bishops and other church leaders interpret church policy in a myriad of ways, and many of them either don’t know it, or choose not to follow it.

I don’t think there is any excuse for what happened to me as a teen and a young adult when I went to bishops for spiritual guidance and help. I should not have been violated the way that I was, and I should not have been blamed for being raped. I have forgiven all of the bishops that acted inappropriately toward me and gave me really bad advice and damaging council. Looking back, I understand that bishops are human, and they make mistakes, and many of them throughout the years have been ill equipped to answer many of the questions that have been asked of them. I appreciate greatly that the church is looking into ways they can improve the handbooks and policies. I believe these changes are taking place because of stories like mine. I also believe that these changes are divinely inspired. I truly do.

That said, I still don’t feel that my kids are 100% safe from inappropriate situations inside of bishop’s offices as it sits presently, which is why I will always insist on being present in their interviews until they are 18 and maybe beyond that, we’ll see. As a general rule, I don’t leave my kids alone with adult/older males (or many females) outside of my immediate family, bishops are no exception. This is a matter of my child’s personal safety. I don’t feel that as a parent I should be asked to put this at risk. Perverts come in all shapes, sizes, and religious rank and affiliation. In a perfect world, I could trust that my child is 100% safe in the hands of a bishop, but we don’t live in a perfect world and bishops aren’t perfect. I also don’t say things to my kids like “the leaders of the church are the Lord’s mouthpiece”. I don’t tell them that they shouldn’t question the leadership of the church. If at some point someone would have told me that it’s ok to question the bishop, and that bishops are human and screw up a lot. That men should not ever make you feel uncomfortable, and if they do, it’s not of God. I think my crisis of faith wouldn’t have been a crisis. I think I could have avoided having so many damaging thoughts about myself, my sexuality, and my spiritual well-being. I think I could have arrived at the healthy place I’m at now, despite the trials I have been through, a lot sooner.

#143 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7

I grew up around the USA in Mormon communities from the west coast, to the south, and then eventually landed in SLC for a bit. The intrusiveness and inappropriate questioning from bishops in all of the places I’ve lived greatly impacted my decision to leave the church not quite a decade ago. From age 8, my baptismal interview included questions about masturbation, and then a brief conversation on what that was, as I hadn’t the slightest idea. Moving onto youth interviews for dances, for temple baptisms for the dead, and general interviews for just about anything deemed needing “worthiness”: ALL of the bishops that presided over the congregations I attended asked the same intrusive and inappropriate questions- all in one on one settings, that under any other circumstance in adulthood, would be considered sexual harassment at the very least.

This systemic teaching of bishops to intrude on an individual’s sexuality is incredibly detrimental and needs to stop. It destroys the self-worth of young girls who are taught that no “worthy” priesthood holder would want a “damaged” girl. It destroys the natural, instinctual urges of the human body and replaces them with guilt and self-loathing for men and women that lasts much longer and runs much deeper than can be easily repaired. The irony is that the LDS church is attempting to keep families together while sending youths unprepared, uneducated and damaged into marriages shortly into their twenties- thus setting them up for failing marriages and relationships.

The details of my story are no different than many other stories you can read here. The church court in which I was the only woman in a room full of 12 men who asked multiple questions and demanded complete honesty on how often my husband and I were having sex before marriage and if I’d orgasmed or not. The bishops during my youth years wanting to know the extent of each and every sexual activity I’d done (or not) with boyfriends, friends, or anyone else. These are the stories of Mormon youth. Anyone who thinks that this is going to change should look at the systemic use of continued shaming in the LDS religion.

If you want true happiness, go seek it out. Live purposefully, gratefully, and intentionally- without the guilt of a church that is antiquated, detrimentally selective in their practices, and flippant with the rules they pick and choose.

#142 Julene CS: Other: Shared grief with those who have suffered as a result of this policy.

Years ago, out of the blue, I got a clear impression that the present practice of clerical interviews on sexual matters, especially of young people, is wrong. I had always had comfortable interviews with my leaders; no boundaries were violated, but I knew of countless others who had experienced great harm from interviews. Some of these people are close to me, and the consequences they have experienced have been life altering in negative ways. As a response, I wrote the following letter to my local male and female leaders. I interviewed with many bishops and one stake president on this matter. They were respectful, but their responses were often, “Even if you have a point, there’s nothing I can do about it.” I’m glad to see someone doing something about it.

In this letter I emphasize the impact male administration has on the young girls and women of the Church. I recognize that young and older men have their own set of consequences to these practices, but I felt and still feel that the error in men interviewing females is more clear and less easily dismissed. By emphasizing this one side, I hope to make the arguments more compelling.

To my leaders,

A few years ago I witnessed the ordination of my fifth son, sixth of seven children, to the office of an elder. What an overwhelmingly beautiful experience! Men acting in righteousness and unity on the behalf of others is a wonder to behold! I can attest to the blessing of administrative priesthood as it manifests in this restored gospel. I affirm its validity and recognize the soul growth that comes from such service.

Concurrent with the feelings expressed above, I observe that there are certain practices and attitudes relative to present administration within the Church that are problematic.

Currently only men have stewardship over girls and women that requires them to certify their chastity to male leaders to enter the temple and, in the event of a sexual transgression, work through the repentance process with those leaders. And yet the Church affirms that gender differences are necessary and to be protected. Is the difference between men’s and women’s sexuality an example of the kinds of boundaries that the Church is seeking to protect? If so, then I question the practice of male stewardship in the conducting of interviews of girls and women where questions of their sexual purity are addressed.

According to present Church practices, during the critical teen years of a young woman’s life, the bishop is in the preeminent position within the Church structure to ask questions and give counsel on very sensitive issues of sexuality. The same is true to some extent of the bishop’s stewardship over adult women. And yet we want our young and mature women to retain their feminine sensitivities so they can temper and bring balance to male sexuality. I believe that they must compromise some of that sensitivity to submit to questions from their leaders on sexual matters. Is this serving the goals the Church has for female Church members? I know that inappropriate sexual behavior brings much heartache, and the repentance process necessarily includes discomfort, but there is an added measure of discomfort, if the young girls or women have retained their healthy sensitivity, that is experienced in these interviews and disciplinary councils that is not necessary for the repentance process. Moreover, young girls who have not transgressed sexual boundaries must submit to uncomfortable questions in regular interviews.

Implicit in my question is that bishops are less than qualified to serve in this capacity to women because of their gender. I realize that the Church teaches that bishops have the mantle of authority and under inspiration will handle the situation sensitively. A recent response by the Church to an online petition to end the practice of interviews of young people states, “[Leaders] represent the Savior in their ministry.” I have no doubt that most bishops make every effort to conduct themselves carefully in these interviews. Nevertheless, could it be that no man is exempt from the biases that his gender imposes on him regardless of all efforts to “represent the Savior”? Women, likewise, have biases through which their inspiration must be filtered.

I have heard of negative experiences women and girls have had where the bishop exhibited voyeuristic pleasure from the subject matter or have unknowingly crossed important boundaries of propriety that have caused harm to those interviewed. This greatly disturbs me, and I mourn for those women and girls who have suffered. I also acknowledge the damage that can be done to young men and grown men in these interviews through shaming the participation in very normal sexual behavior. This open letter, however, challenges the very notion of male stewardship in the conducting of interviews of women and girls. As one of my bishops candidly admitted, “I don’t understand female sexuality. These interviews make me uncomfortable.”

Could it be that the problem is a result of lack of clear delineation between feminine and masculine stewardships within the Church? Could women stand beside the men in true administrative partnership in these sensitive matters? I note that women minister to women in sensitive places in the temple ceremony. Why don’t women minister to women in the sensitive area of interviews and the counseling of sexual behavior?

It is evident that women, as keepers of the hearth and home, and who spend much of their lives absorbed in matters relating to conception, gestation, birth and raising of children, have a special stewardship relating to sexuality in general. This stewardship of women could be brought more fully into Church administration.

I do not seek for women to usurp the proper role and place of male administration. My only desire is to discover and magnify the proper stewardships that God has given to the women of the Church in order to love, bless, and serve others.

As a woman and as a mother, I ask for your sincere consideration of this very important matter.

Most sincerely

#141 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,7

As a teenager I was immersed in the gospel. I loved it. I loved the Book of Mormon. I spent much time memorizing passages from it. I was proud of my faith. But I masturbated from the time I was twelve years old. After much internal agony, I confessed to my bishop in my annual bishops interview. My bishop was helpful in providing suggestions for ending the practice. (Go to bed late and tired; keep yourself busy during the day.) But the practice continued despite my attempts to end it.

Some of my peers evidently had similar issues because the issue was a huge distraction in Priesthood meetings. Chastity lessons were held weekly (literally!). Attendees at Priest Quorum meetings were told that if they did not stop masturbating, it would destroy them. I took that teaching– and the practice– with me into adulthood. Well, it didn’t destroy me, but it certainly wasn’t helpful to my emotional and spiritual development. For example, everytime I thought of church, I thought of masturbation and how I shouldn’t do that. “It’s Sunday… time to go partake of the Sacrament… and then talk about chastity.” Or, whenever I saw the bishop– whether in or out of church– masturbation was brought to mind. “Hi Bishop, I know that you know that I masturbate… cause I told you in our special One-on-one.” Not very helpful for having a normal conversation with someone in your neighborhood. Or even… prayer. After masturbating, I would kneel in prayer asking for forgiveness and promise to discontinue the practice so that I could be a noble and pure servant. I found it difficult– impossible– to develop a healthy prayer-life.

After my mission I decided to no longer confess masturbation in worthiness interviews. For two reasons: first because I sensed that those to whom I confessed it really didn’t wan’t to have to deal with the issue, and second, because I decided it was really none of their business– or at least it shouldn’t be. As I grew older, married, gained experience, and associated myself with those not of the LDS faith, I adopted more mature and helpful world views. I have a wonderful wife who is satisfying to me in this regard. In distancing myself from the church (in regards to sexuality), I gradually developed a more gentle sex drive such that masturbation is no longer an issue to me (just in case you were wondering).

As for church leaders, I CANNOT not see them as inspired or called of God. It is simply not possible because church policy does not allow for it. It is impossible to know whether a leader is acting according to the dictates of their own conscience (i.e. the Spirit of Christ) or dictates of another human or corporeal authority. Much of my view is a direct result of participating in these church-mandated worthiness interviews. The interviews are, at best, a huge distraction.

#140 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,7

I don’t remember the first time that sexual questions were asked by my bishop, but I remember that just before my 12th birthday I was racked with shame, embarrassment, and dread because of an upcoming interview with my bishop.

I had held a secret for the last two years, and now I was about to have an interview to determine my worthiness to receive the priesthood and attend the upcoming youth temple trip. And in order to pass the interview, I was going to either have to hide my secret, or reveal the embarrassing thing to the bishop that I admired and looked up to. What was my big secret? On a random day, a couple of years before, in a few seconds of childhood exploration, I had rubbed my penis on a pillow.

Gasp! As a ten year old boy, I realize now that this was a perfectly normal thing to have done. But for a young man raised by an active and orthodox Mormon family, this was a serious transgression. And I had been feeling the guilt on and off since the day that I had done it. I thought that I was a bad person and that Jesus was going to come back any day now and I was going to be separated from my family forever. But now that I was 12, the dilemma was more urgent. Jesus hadn’t come back yet, but I was about to be asked by his representative if I had sinned (Which logically means that I had been asked questions regarding sexuality before then, even though I can’t remember the exact details). In my case, I had a dad who believed that sins should also be confessed to him, since the church teaches that he is “the patriarch of the family” and “the priesthood leader in the home” . So after a half hour of crying, I told him what I had done, and that I was nervous to tell the bishop. He said that it wasn’t a big deal and that the bishop didn’t need to know that. So I was off the hook! Except for the fact that I had to tell my Dad something that I otherwise wouldn’t have shared with anyone. I begged him not to tell my mom, I felt so disgusting.

The years moved on and the interviews became more explicit and more regular, and each time I had an interview scheduled or I was nearing another landmark in my priesthood progression I would still go into panic mode. The weird thing is that I had not done anything wrong, but being constantly lectured and preached at in young men’s about the terrors of anything sexual and then vetted in at least semiannual interviews gave me a sort of complex, I was beginning to feel guilt every time I was in church or participated in any church activity. I always felt that there was something I was hiding, and that’s why the bishops of my youth needed to dig so deep. And feeling guilt reinforced in my mind that I MUST be guilty. Then when I was 14 or 15, the strangest thing happened, and it would change my mind forever. I ejaculated during a workout for Track and Field. It was very strange but satisfying. It is commonly referred to as a “coregasm” because it occurs usually during intense exercise of the “core” or abdominal muscles. At the time of course I didn’t know that, I just felt a strange sensation and after going to the restroom realized that something had come out of my penis that wasn’t pee, and it had felt good, so this must be sexual. After that day, this would become frequent and regular as I worked out at home. The shame and guilt that I had felt before was nothing compared to what I was about to experience.

I spent the remaining years of my youth constantly feeling worthless and guilty, because I would ejaculate during intense exercise. I actually never masturbated at all while growing up, because I didn’t need to. Staying in shape never felt so good! And while I jest now, at the time I was in serious anguish. I now felt that I DID have something wrong with me and that I was hiding a serious sin. There was no way that I was going to tell my bishop that I liked working out because it would bring me to orgasm, but every time that I was asked by my bishop if I masturbated or “have you had any sexual relations? That includes having sex with yourself. Have you had sex with yourself?” (which is exactly how my bishop worded it) I would freak out inside and think that I was doomed for deceiving my ecclesiastical authority.

This guilt and shame carried on every day at seminary, every Sunday, every Wednesday at Mutual activities, every General Conference (basically every day of my formative years from the first time that it happened at around 14 or 15). Do you know what it’s like to think in the back of your head that you are lost, doomed, or damned for your entire childhood and teenage years?? Unfortunately, if you are raised LDS, the answer is probably yes.

The problems caused by bishops of the Mormon faith asking piercing and intrusive sexual questions of children and youth is a huge problem. But it is not the only one. The Church’s attitude on sexuality in general is the larger issue, the worthiness interviews are just a side effect.

The artificial guilt imposed on me by a church that claims to be “a hospital” for the spiritually broken caused me depression while growing up and on my mission while I was trying my absolute best to serve and love God and do what I thought he wanted me to do. It has provided a huge obstacle to my normal development. I can count on my hands the number of times I’ve been on a date with a girl in my life. I was always too afraid of being tempted to do something sexual, and I always felt dirty and guilty and not worthy of affection.

I remember the first time I interviewed for a temple recommend after my mission, I was still so guilty, even though nothing had changed and I had done nothing wrong. I left that meeting shaking and told myself that it would be the last time that I went through a worthiness interview again. I continued to attend church but after two years, when it was time again to renew my recommend, I let it lapse and I will not renew it. In all honesty I don’t believe in the Church anymore or attend meetings. I don’t believe that God’s one “true and living church” would ever put children and young adults into these situations. Jesus never did anything like this. Worthiness interviews were honestly one of the biggest reasons I began to mentally leave the church. I understand that this petition is not to attack the church or condemn its leadership, but for me, I’m done and I’m out. I know that these men are not led by God, they merely maintain the status quo. And they will change doctrine, policy, and procedure if they feel the pressure from membership. I still have family in the church and a younger brother who is 15 years old. The other day he sighed and said, “The bishop wants to see me this Sunday.” I know from experience what he must be going through and it’s not ok. I hope that you can grab the attention of leadership in Salt Lake for my brother’s sake (and for all the other kids) and cause some real change. Thanks for the time.

#139 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,6,7

When I was fifteen and sixteen, I became involved with a man who was ten years my senior. He was sexually abusive and would be sexual with me despite my protests. This went on for two years. I became very insolated and dependent on him and felt helpless to end the abuse cycle. I talked to my bishop about the situation and he told me that I was’t taking enough responsibility for my part in this and that I needed to repent. I was told that if I really didn’t want it to happen then I would have broken up with this man. The fact that it was statutory rape did not come up at all, nor did he think my telling my boyfriend no repeatedly, pushing him away, and even threatening to scream at times, and sobbing uncontrollably afterward, was indication enough that I wanted it to stop. I desperately wanted help. I was constantly being manipulated by this man and was seeking support and a way out, but instead I was told I was unworthy and prohibited from taking the sacrament pretty much indefinitely until I finally broke up with him for good, which was more than a year after coming in for counsel. Feeling so unworthy while dealing with such an awful situation was extremely difficult. My deep fear that it was really all my fault and I didn’t deserve any better seemed completely validated and supported by my bishop, who I believed spoke for God. Therefore, my feelings of shame and low self esteem increased as well as my feelings of isolation and despair, making it even more difficult to get out of my situation. BTW my boyfriend/ abuser/ returned missionary loved the way my bishop normalized his behavior and placed blame on me. He encouraged me to keep talking to my bishop and “repenting,” and used it to back up his brain washing manipulations!

#138 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7,8

My story starts in a place I imagine many stories start. In the bath tub. It was around five years old that I first discovered that playing with myself felt really good. It was also the beginning of a childhood wracked with intense guilt, shame and self loathing. “Dinkin” around in the bath, I heard Dad approach and quickly stopped. Dad came in, took one look at me: “name” have you been playing with yourself?” I was both mortified and amazed; how did he know? Dad must be magic or something. Years later I realized I must have had a little boner.

The masturbation only increased throughout my childhood and along with it, the shame, guilt and self hatred ballooned. I truly thought I was the only kid on the planet doing this, and I absolutely hated myself for it. I remember lying in bed, bawling, hitting myself on the head, over and over again. Why was I such a monster? Depression kicked in early on but I kept everything bottled up inside, not daring to share it with my parents or siblings. At one point I learned that the second coming was just around the corner, and that my “sins” were going to be shouted from the roof tops. I remember being deathly afraid of this happening. Everyone would know my filthy secret and I would be exposed for the sick freak that I was. At one point around 12, Dad told the family that sexual sin was second only to murder. I had masturbated so many times at that point that (in my mind), I may actually be worse than a murderer. I even remember wondering if I had made myself gay and started to question my sexual orientation. This was something that the current president of the church, Spencer Kimball, taught. Nope, turns out that no matter how many times I “sinned,” I still liked girls.

The thing is, reading so many stories of worthiness interviews has made me realize something: I can’t remember a single detail surrounding these interviews. I can remember the interviews being announced, I can remember sitting outside the bishop’s office, but not one single detail once I stepped foot inside. I know I did them often due to the natural childhood progression through the church. Not one detail. It is completely blocked in my mind.

What is also disturbing is that one of the bishops we had would take single boys with him to his racquetball club as a way to get to know the boys better. It always involved a shower afterward. I remember joking with the other boys my age that bishop so-and-so was a pervert, but I can’t remember one single detail about those multiple trips to the gym with the bishop. I am not saying any abuse happened, just that I somehow learned to block out uncomfortable situations.

It wasn’t until my early twenties, after I left the LDS church, that I found out that masturbation was normal. But a childhood filled with intense self-hatred, guilt, and shame had done its job. Now in my forties, I have struggled with depression all my life. Through counseling, medication, heavy exercise and meditation I have found a way to manage it, but it really feels like it’s here to stay.

The “Latter Day Saints” take on masturbation and sexuality is so incredibly damaging. These “worthiness interviews” have to stop, or at the very least, stop allowing adult men to interview children about their sexual habits behind closed doors. And stop teaching children that they are almost as bad as murderers for doing something that most of the educated world considers healthy and normal. The harm this teaching causes is real.

#137 Name Hidden. CS: 1,3,6,7

When I turned 16, I had my bishops interview for a temple recommend. I was asked if I had sexual intercourse and when I said yes, my whole world fell apart. My bishop wanted to know who the boy was. I didn’t want to tell. I knew it was not appropriate and it was not my place to share that information. The bishop called in the bishopric and I sat there, a 16 year old girl being drilled by a group of adult men wanting to know who I had sex with. It felt like an interrogation. It was an interrogation. It was a horrifying and intimidating experience for a young girl. I finally gave in and told who the boy was. Word spread very quickly and I was shunned by the church members. My best friends were not allowed to hang out with me. In that interview, I lost my religion, my friends and my family. My family supported the church and saw nothing wrong with how the church handled it. There was no love, compassion or understanding from the church. There was only shame. I left the church before my 17th Birthday. Many years later and I still carry the scars from that day. I struggle with my body image, with depression, with sexual relations, and relationships with my family.

#136 Name Hidden. CS: 1,4

I was inactive from the time I graduated High School until I was around 20. At that time, I decided to come back to church and “repent” for what I was taught was sexual misconduct with my boyfriend. The bishop of my YSA ward was like a father figure to me. He took me into his office alone and I confessed, keeping it very general. He proceeded to ask me extremely graphic questions that made me horribly uncomfortable. Questions like, “What color underwear were you wearing?” “Which one of you undressed the other one first?” “Did you climax?” “Did he climax” “Exactly where on your body and his body did he or you touch?” and he asked me to point to those areas. “What type of underwear were you wearing?” He asked me to recount as many instances, in detail, of sexual misconduct as I could remember. I was scared and terribly uncomfortable. But I was also taught to believe that talking to him and giving him these graphic details were the only way that I could be forgiven. I spent years feeling shame for my sexual experience and also years feeling shame for having recounted the experience with my bishop.

My son recently had a worthiness interview when he turned 12. My children are somewhat sheltered and he had no idea what pornography or masturbation were. The bishop asked him if he had ever experienced either of those things. He was confused and embarrassed that he didn’t know and my husband and I were forced to explain these things to him that we hadn’t yet determined he was ready for. I have since refused to allow private worthiness interviews for any of my children.

#135 Rachael CS: 1,2,3,4,7,8,9. Other: Shamed, rather than helped, after a rape

I was sexually abused at age 4 and again at age 7 by members of the Church. I learned early that extreme compliance was the way to keep safe. I was also raised to believe that bishops represented God in everything they said and did and that I could not be forgiven without seeing a bishop. Between my parents and the bishops I encountered, I was thoroughly indoctrinated to be completely obedient to bishops and to internalize the shame that was repeatedly put on me by these men.

When I was 16 I went and told the bishop that my boyfriend had raped me. Actually, I don’t know that I was even able to call it rape at the time, but I told him that I was physically held and kept from leaving and that my repeated ‘no’s were ignored and that I cried through the whole thing. I remember desperately hoping at the time that my bishop would tell me that it wasn’t my fault and help me get help. Instead, he asked for explicit details. He then told me that men can’t be held responsible for their behavior because their urges are too strong and that it was my job, as a ‘guardian of virtue,’ to make sure that my ‘no’s weren’t ignored. He read me the passage from The Miracle of Forgiveness that said that it was better that a woman die defending her honor than that she be raped. I was told to read the entire book, which was a shame-fest in and of itself. The most painful thing was that he then told me that I needed to write an apology letter to my rapist for putting him in a ‘bad situation’. The whole conversation was thick with shame, and the cherry on top was that I was to be publicly humiliated in front of my congregation for seven months, not being able to pray publicly or take the sacrament, and having to relinquish my calling in YW. I left that night being absolutely convinced that God hated me.

I went home drowning in shame and, after helping my mom do the dishes and telling her I loved her as a goodbye, I went and wrote the apology letter to my rapist and then swallowed 150 Aleve, intending to kill myself and go to hell, knowing that there was no way God would ever accept me into heaven. After about 1/2 hour, I heard a crystal clear voice in my head saying, “Please don’t kill yourself, Mommy,” so I ran to the bathroom and made myself throw up the pills.

On a few other occasions after that, with different bishops, I was questioned in explicit detail about my sexual indiscretions (almost all of them involving men who ignored my ‘no’s.) I was asked if I had an orgasm, if they had an orgasm, if oral sex was involved, and many other sexually explicit questions. I was told that I couldn’t be forgiven until I had explained everything in vivid detail. Every time I felt dirty and humiliated. While I did have a couple of respectful bishops who were embarrassed at the suggestion that I should go into detail, the others made me feel like it was totally normal to have to share with a bishop every last dirty detail and to take their shaming pronouncements as gospel. Ironically, the fact that I was drowning in shame most of my teenage years (largely due to the actions and attitudes of these bishops), made me feel less and less like I even had the right to say ‘no.’ This shame carried on well into adulthood.

One other thing comes to mind, and even though it happened at 23, I think my early conditioning in extreme obedience to ‘God’s anointed’ contributed to this later problem. I had married an abusive husband who raped me when I told him I was leaving. After we were separated, he told me he was coming to kill me. I dutifully went to my stake president and asked permission to get a divorce. He told me that I should stay, even though I had told him about the rape and the abuse. I went home that night and fell on my knees and begged God to set me free, but told him that ultimately, I would do what he wanted, and stay in the abusive marriage, even if it killed me (which at the time, I was fairly sure that it would.) The fact that I believed 100% that this untrained clergy member’s pronouncements were the explicit word of God on the matter had everything to do with years of conditioning to ignore my own feelings and intuitions and to trust completely (and blindly) everything these men said and did, even if it seemed inappropriate to me. Eventually, maybe a month or so later, after seeing my abusive ex-husband’s behavior with his own eyes, the stake president finally believed me and told me to get a divorce. But that period was the most scary and volatile period in the marriage, since my ex was very angry that I had tried to leave him. Now, I have PTSD, partly from enduring extra trauma that I shouldn’t have had to endure.

I know that there are children in the Church who are taught by their families to be strong and stand up for themselves. My fear is for the girls and boys, like me, who are eager to please and are brainwashed early to treat bishops as if they represent God himself in all things.

#134 Kip K. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7,8

We moved to a new ward when I was 13 and I discovered masturbation shortly after that.  I didn’t discuss it with anyone, but I gleaned enough context around the topic from friends and the church’s teachings on sex that I felt guilty and felt the only way to repent was through confession to the bishop.

I had a regularly scheduled priesthood advancement interview with the bishop before my 14th birthday.

I hardly knew the bishop.  He was old and unapproachable.  I felt very nervous, but I mustered up the courage to tell him that I “played with myself”.  He looked at me sternly and told me it was called masturbation and that it was a sin.  He asked when it started and how often I did it.  I said it was an accident in the shower about 9 months previous and it was often since then.

Out of the blue he asked if I was masturbating with other boys.  I was shocked.  No, I was not.  I didn’t want anyone else to know I did this.  About that point in the conversation I felt horrible and I don’t remember the rest of what he said.  I just remember feeling very small and very dirty.

Then the bishop said I needed to tell my dad and that woke me up from my mental shutdown and brought on anxiety.  The bishop went and got my dad while I agonized in his office.

My dad came in and I had to confess to my dad in front of the bishop.  I felt humiliated!  I stopped talking and listening, and the bishop had some conversation with my dad while I sat mute.

My dad drove me home and we went to my parents’ room where he told my mom.  I was already sobbing uncontrollably when we got in the room.  I don’t remember what my mom said either.  Just that she sat by me on the bed and comforted me.  And my dad “disappeared.”  I have a vague recollection of him pulling away and being behind me on the other side of the room.

The unspoken message I internalized from the bishop and my dad was that I was gross and disgusting and didn’t deserve their love or acceptance.

We moved again, and in one of my bishop interviews I confessed because I had been masturbating.  Eventually that bishop gave me a printout titled “Steps to Overcoming Masturbation.”

He specifically pointed out the suggestions of “sleep with your hand tied to the bedpost,” and a segment touting “a very effective technique called aversion therapy” followed by the suggestion that when you feel the urge, “think of having to bathe in a bathtub full of worms, and eating several of them as you do the act.”

I tried these things a lot.  They didn’t help me stop.  But they were extremely damaging to my sense of self and planted in my mind the idea that I was disgusting and awful.

I had deep depression throughout high school over this.  There were times when I would prefer to stay in bed all day and not face the world…until my mom dragged me out of bed.

I got into an obsessive cycle with masturbation.  Wanting to masturbate, but resisting it, finally giving in, totally shaming and beating myself up to the point of depression and self-loathing, and then turning back to wanting it because it was one thing that made me feel good and made the depression go away temporarily.

I’d confess to the bishop every time my 6 month interview came up and get told that I was a sinner and needed to stop.

This self-loathing and internal disgust has stayed with me for years.  My lack of self-worth had a significant impact on the relationship with my wife and was a contributing factor in our eventual divorce.

I have been in therapy for many years costing thousands of dollars.  I feel that the therapy, study and introspection is finally starting to pay off and I am gaining a measure of self-compassion with feeling of worthiness.

I recently learned that my dad masturbated as a youth and even some while married.  He never told me this while he was alive.  I can’t confirm by asking him, so I can only imagine he had been through similar experiences of shaming and self-loathing that I went through, and it kept him silent.

He missed an opportunity to normalize my behavior and provide me a measure of love, compassion, and empathy that I was desperate to have as a youth, but only found years later as an adult.

My kids will not get the same treatment that I received.

#133 Heidi H. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7,8

There are three bishops whom had the authority to declare the validity to my self worthiness: from taking the sacrament to going through the temple and onto serve a mission. The second bishop, whom I knew since the age of 6 was my best friend’s father. I shared family dinners with him, slept over at their house, went out to movies with their family, rode their horses on their family ranch, water skied behind their boat, etc. At the age of 19 I went to confession for being physically close with a male. I wasn’t sure “sex” had actually been exchanged. During much conversation and questioning, my childhood friend’s father, my bishop, asked me if the boy had ‘cummed.’ I had heard that term and after I left his office, realized the term was known to me. However, at the moment of questioning, embarrassment-shame-awkwardness took over and I had no idea what he meant. The bishop seemed embarrassed, “I think that is what they are calling it these days.” Then he clarified, “did the guy ejaculate?” Absolutely mortified I defied with , “No!” And that is still the truth. However, the boy and I still had sex because although his penis may not have been inside my vagina, the tip did touch the (inner labia.) this word wasn’t used but implied. I was told to be careful because I was a pretty girl and other boys will want to do this with me as well. The bishop, my neighbor and father figure is a good man. I didn’t feel he was doing anything out of context, just trying to be an obedient bishop and following the Book. The third bishop, I was 20 years old. This was a separate incident from the previous. I did have sex with another boy whom was a returned missionary. This boy, didn’t have my permission to put his penis inside my vagina. I never told him yes, but I did tell him no on several things he wanted to do, specifically sex. This bishop, took away my right of taking the sacrament, and disfellowshipped me. Then he had me come into his office one night a week, then extended it to every other week for almost a year. In these sessions I gave a full report on that week’s reading assignment, “the miracle of forgiveness.” This bishop was preparing me to be worthy for temple endowment and a mission. When I thought I might have gotten pregnant I let him know. I took a test and it came back negative. Following, the young man moved out of state and months later he called me to apologize for having sex with me when I didn’t want it. He said that his bishop whom he was talking to said that I might have made the pregnant thing up to keep him from moving. I corrected the bishop’s comment and said that wasn’t true, I in fact wanted him to move.

#132 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,6,7,8

At 17, I was repeatedly asked specific questions by my bishop when I went in to confess the things I had done. I was asked whether I spit or swallowed. I was asked whether or not I masturbated, how often, and what I used. I was required to visit with him weekly and sometimes twice a week. I was forbidden to take the sacrament for many months, while my father (who had a “prestigious” calling in our ward) received no restrictions for countless sexual improprieties with prostitutes. After my mother was told by the same bishop to “go home and be a better wife,” I felt like a woman was to blame for all things sexual and a man could not be blamed, because he simply couldn’t control himself. I felt worthless and wished I was dead. I kept making these mistakes and was told I had to do multiple things to repent, yet nothing was happening with my father. An LDS social worker that my mom insisted I go to because of depression told me I was like “the pot calling the kettle black.” At that point I truly believed that because I was born a female, I was loved less. I continued to make very poor choices for the next five years; dating boys who treated me poorly because I deemed myself unworthy of more. It’s been a long time and I now have daughters of my own. They will never experience the behind-the-door interviews I did. They will know their worth.

#131 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,6,7,8

When I was 17 I went to see my bishop after I felt my boyfriend and I had gone too far physically. He did ask me very specific details and also what I had done to encourage this and if I felt it was OK to exhibit that type of behavior around a son of God and a priesthood holder (implicating I alone pursued things and my boyfriend was an innocent participant). I of course already felt awful and was more than willing to repent. He continued with intrusive questions and at the very end said, “Congratulations you’ve taken down a future missionary.”

I will never forget that moment and how much shame and hatred I felt towards myself afterwords. 15 years later and I’ve never recovered from that. I’ve never felt worthy or that I was loved as a daughter of God. I’m still very active in the church but feel constant shame no matter how worthy I try to live. It’s so overwhelming I feel that leaving the church may be my only hope for happiness.

#130 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3. Other: Breaking mandatory reporting laws

I joined the Church at the age of seventeen hoping it would fix things.

I was being sexually abused by a teacher at my school who preyed on my vulnerabilities and exploited my trusting nature. I was aware that what he was doing was wrong, but never fought against it and never told anyone. It was something I kept entirely hidden, and there was slight hope that I would tell someone whom I was told I could trust.

The Missionaries appeared at my door and promised me a new life in a restored Church, which I gladly accepted. Before being baptized I had to go through the Bishop’s interview. When asked if I was keeping the law of chastity, I broke down entirely, believing that this was the right man to tell. I told him very simply that I was ‘having an affair’ with a teacher, and he asked for details. Where does he touch you? Does he penetrate you? How often do you do it? Did you do anything to make him think this was okay? I had to put my baptism back until I stopped it and repented for what I had done, because it was my fault that I wasn’t obeying the law of chastity.

I felt awful about the entire experience, shutting down more whilst the abuse continued. I felt as though it was my fault because I never tried to stop it. When I graduated, it finally stopped and I could be baptized, but even after my sins were apparently washed away I felt like I was dirty because of what I had done. Even now the feeling of guilt has never really left.

The Bishop also ignored mandatory reporting laws, having heard about an instance of abuse and doing nothing about it. It makes me wonder; how many other peoples’ stories has he heard, and how many continued because he never said anything?

#129 L.R. CS: 1,2,3,6,7,8,9

I was ten. I stumbled across porn for the first time, and had kept it a secret from my parents as I knew they would be ashamed in me if they knew their child was bisexual. I had always considered myself to be a more mature child, and I had heard that finding and occasionally watching pornography was “normal” for everyone, so I never really felt any guilt towards myself, because it really was “normal”. I was not addicted, but intrigued. Just like any other child would be. However, my mother found my search history, and was immediately infuriated. She and my father sent me to the bishop, where i was sat down one-on-one before a man i knew nothing of, and where I felt absolutely alone, uncomfortable, exposed, and judged. He continued to ask me why I enjoyed pornography, what specifically I would watch, and if i knew that what I was doing was not helping me follow god’s plan. I was, and still am, absolutely disgusted.

#128 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3

As a teenager I had sex once, I talked to my bishop about it and he told me the cupcake analogy and told me that I was of less value than if I had waited until marriage. I felt less than any of the other girls I grew up around.

A couple years later I was raped. Another bishop asked if I had messed up again and then asked if I had orgasmed during it. He asked if I had enjoyed any part of it and if I had led the boy on(I was seventeen at the time). He then proceeded to tell me that I was still clean and did nothing wrong even though I felt dirty. I stopped talking to that bishop and instead talked to my Stake president. He helped me feel better and find self worth again. Now I’m 22 and I had recurring feelings of self hatred and guilt from being raped. I talked to a third bishop and he gave me a timeline to forgive the boys who had hurt me and proceeded to give me all the reasons not forgiving would give me-hell, no peace, unhappiness, hurt. He didn’t take into account that I was still hurting and needing comfort and instead made me feel like I was at fault. Whenever I’m around bishops now, I feel judged and quite honestly there’s no trust there. I’m still trying to gain enough trust to go to tithing settlement rather than just texting my status. I have worked my self esteem back up and don’t want it hurt again.

#127 Name Hidden. CS: 4,6

I have a child currently at BYU-I. The bishop there has asked several students how often they plan to have sex after marriage (including our child). The bishop then proceeds to explain that it isn’t as often as the student thinks because of things like pregnancy and menstrual cycles. We know of at least 3 students this has happened to, young men and young women. This is a sitting bishop. It has caused a huge amount of pain and frustration and even questioning of our faith in our very active LDS home.

I fail to see how a ~50 year old man asking a 19 year old girl how often she plans to have sex once she’s married and the giving advice on the effect of menstruation on that frequency has ANY place in our church or ecclesiastical leadership.

#126 Name Hidden. CS: 1,4

I had great leaders growing up, often my dad, and I could refer to myself as the poster child for benevolent patriarchy- the system was working for me and I didn’t have many reasons to question it.

When I went to BYU I may have technically been an adult at 18, but I was still a young, naive teenager. I was in a ward with a bishop that pushed a chastity and purity message every week at church. I think a lot of us began to feel the messages must be specifically for me somehow. I had very minor “transgressions” I wouldn’t previously had felt the need to tell a bishop about, however I began to feel guilty at church with all the purity/repentance lessons. I know at least one of my roommates felt the same because the bishop told me that when I went to visit him. I awkwardly began talking to the bishop, and to my discomfort he began asking for details and wanting to know everything he could. I hated it and it made me feel so uncomfortable, but I thought maybe feeling such shame was somehow a required part of my forgiveness I sought. He wanted to meet with me the next week to continue discussing my repentance, and in fact wanted to start seeing me each week. I grew increasingly uncomfortable and began to drive home for the weekends just so I could attend a home ward instead of the student ward. I ended up moving apartments after fall semester just so I could have a different ward and bishop.

I tried to forget about the experience and suppressed the whole thing until in recent years as I’ve allowed myself to question priesthood leaders. I’ve taken my power back, but back then I was still a vulnerable youth, vulnerable to this institution that held my worth and ability to repent in the hands of a man.

#125: Name Hidden. CS: 1,3,6,7

When I turned 16, I had my bishops interview for a temple recommend. I was asked if I had sexual intercourse and when I said yes, my whole world fell apart. My bishop wanted to know who the boy was. I didn’t want to tell. I knew it was not appropriate and it was not my place to share that information. The bishop called in the bishopric and I sat there, a 16 year old girl being drilled by a group of adult men wanting to know who I had sex with. It felt like an interrogation. It was an interrogation. It was a horrifying and intimidating experience for a young girl. I finally gave in and told who the boy was. Word spread very quickly and I was shunned by the church members. My best friends were not allowed to hang out with me. In that interview, I lost my religion, my friends and my family. My family supported the church and saw nothing wrong with how the church handled it. There was no love, compassion or understanding from the church. There was only shame. I left the church before my 17th Birthday. Many years later and I still carry the scars from that day. I struggle with my body image, with depression, with sexual relations, and relationships with my family.

#124 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,6,7

I am a fairly sensitive person that also deals with a guilty conscience, and as a young man in the church those interviews caused many years of psychological damage on my developing mind. The guilt and shame I dealt with almost destroyed my self-confidence and self-worth, all because I was normal, I had hormones, I was attracted and desired the opposite sex, and did masturbate from time to time. I prayed and prayed and yet those desires never left. Not only did those interviews make me feel like some kind of sexual monster, but I also dealt with the guilt of having to lie to my bishops. Dishonesty was out of character for me, but admitting would result in the whole ward finding out because I wouldn’t be able to partake of or perform my sacrament duties. If I hadn’t have had things to take my mind off of the guilt and shame, such as good friends and hobbies, it scares me to think of how much worse it could have been for me, such as deep depression or possibly suicide.

Since leaving mormonism I have healed, I realize there was nothing wrong with me, I did nothing wrong, I was a great kid. I also realize that those men have no authority over anyone and those interviews are very inappropriate and damaging. Damaging to many young members that don’t have a choice in being confronted with such questioning.

#123 Name Hidden. CS: 1,3,6

“Ok. Me, too. By my brother, by one of my best friends in high school, but worst of all, by my bishop.

I was young (20) and engaged. A new bishop that I didn’t know had been called in my home ward. He called me in to meet with him. Asked some general questions. Then he asked if I had anything to tell him. I said no. He kept prying. Asked about me and my fiancé. I said things were great. He asked if I had anything to tell him about our relationship. Again, no. He then told me the spirit was telling him that I had something to tell him. He then proceeded to ask me specific sexual questions about things that my now husband and I were doing. I’m not even comfortable repeating the questions he asked me. As I was in tears across from him, he came around his desk and placed his hands on my shoulders as he told me that I was “on a slippery slope to hell” and I needed to get the book “A Miracle of Forgiveness.” I was broken. I was mortified. I went straight to my fiancé, sobbing, barely able to get the story out.

I’ll never forget that experience. It was horrible, to say the least. I’ve promised myself that my children will NEVER be in a position to answer to some random old man that’s a stranger about their sexual relationships, or anything for that matter.”

I shared this in a group when the #metoo campaign was going on. Although I wasn’t a minor, I was still young and impressionable and had a LOT of work to do to realize that I wasn’t, in fact, on a slippery slope to hell.

#122 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3

I was told from the time I turned 12 that masturbation was a sin. I discovered masturbation by accident before that time and didn’t even know what it was. When I finally made the connection I felt a deep sense of guilt and through numerous “chastity talks” from the bishop during our youth meetings, I felt that I needed to confess my habit to him. When I did, he told me that the Spirit had told him that I was having this problem. I felt crushed to know that he and God were having this supposed communication about how sinful I was. I never felt more shameful or worthless in my life than I did at that moment. I felt like I was a sexual pervert and probably the only person around who masturbated. Unfortunately, I was unable to break the habit, and I had to have regular check-ins with this bishop who made me feel the same sense of guilt and worthlessness every few months as we checked in. I never told my parents any of this – I suffered in silence. I felt like they would feel the same toward me that my bishop did and would restrict my privileges or not let me be alone in my room or bathroom with the door closed.

I am lucky that years later I had a bishop who was the polar opposite of this bishop. When I confessed to him, he almost seemed like he didn’t care that I was masturbating, but wanted me to know that I was far from the only person to have this “problem” and that it didn’t change how he or God felt about me. He showed compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and love. I couldn’t believe the difference. Rather than leaving his office full of shame, I left his office full of hope, knowing that I was worth something and that even if I messed up again, in the end everything would be ok. He didn’t ask for regular check ins but he did tell me I could come to him at any time or even call him if I needed help.

Ironically, the bishop who intervened the least was the one who helped me the most. Ecclesiastical leaders shouldn’t be going into detail about any sensitive sexual issues with teens. They should provide support and guidance for vulnerable kids in a more general way like my second bishop did. This not only protects children but protects the leaders as well and the church should implement policies and training in this direction.

#121 Name Hidden. CS: 1,4,6

When I was 19, I was working in a coffee shop. One of the regular customers, who was a non-member, but professed to be religiously observant, asked me out. I was lonely because all of my close friends had gone to university and I was working to try to earn money to be able to go a few months later. I also lived in a home where my father was abusive and my mother suffered from significant mental illness. My sex education was minimal and I was extremely naive.

I was flattered to be given attention by an older man who drove a nice car and who had money to spare. I was also working nights for the first time and the change in my schedule affected my judgement. I often walked around in a fog. To this day, I am not sure that he did not doctor my food or my drink, because I was definitely not myself.

I realize now that he was an expert at grooming and he incrementally broke down my defenses until I was doing things that I was profoundly ashamed of. Even though I was insistent regarding my boundaries, he continually pushed me to compromise. I had no idea how sex progressed and he pushed me pretty far, although we never had intercourse.

Our relationship ended when I moved to attend an LDS school. After a chastity lesson where a stick of gum was mangled and lost virtue was equated to this disgusting item, I approached my bishop to get some resolution for my choices.

I had no one to talk to and no one to trust as I was in a new place. I found the meeting to be demoralizing as blame was heaped upon me for what had done. He asked me increasingly detailed questions and I did not have the language or the understanding of what he was asking to provide the details he apparently wanted. At one point, I asked where the consequences were for the older man, but I was told there were none, because I was the member of the church who had let my standards slide; I suppose I was getting some sense of how I had been manipulated. My choices were attributed to my personal weakness and I thank God that I was not reported to the Honor Code office. I was mortified to be in a student ward where people could see me not taking the sacrament; it is embarrassing to not take it when you are being served by your potential dating pool, instead of deacons.

This older man continued to contact me even after I broke things off with him and again, I had no tools to know how to deal with someone who would not leave me alone.

While I served my mission, I still experienced panic and flashbacks when I had to teach discussions about the law of chastity, even though I should have been okay with being forgiven for what I had done. When I was preparing to get married, we were rushed to get married 6 weeks after our engagement, because my fiance had been married before and it was inevitable that we would not make it to the temple according to my bishop. I complied with the direction from our bishop out of fear that his expectations would come true. I should have waited, our relationship was a ticking time bomb, but I figured that if I was weak before, people who knew better were probably right. Sex continued to be a point of tension in our marriage and we ended up divorced.

I am almost 40 years old and I still experience panic and emotional distress when I think of that meeting with the bishop and how I was groomed and abused by this older man. I am grateful for the increased awareness today about sexual predators, but so much pain and stress could have been eliminated from my life if I had been treated with more compassion given the circumstances of my “mistakes”.

#120 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,5,7,8

#119 Name Hidden. CS: 1,8. Other: Introduction of inappropriate ideas / suggestions about sexuality

I lived in Kansas for couple of years as a military dependent. I was in a ‘part member family’. I was about 14 years old at the time. Our Bishop asked many of the young men about sexual practices such as ‘bestiality’, which at the time I had no idea what it meant. I was disgusted by it, but was curious if it was enjoyable given ‘why would a bishop ask this if it wasn’t enjoyable’. Thankfully I never investigated this further, but that kind of topic should NEVER have been brought up to a minor, who doesn’t have the maturity to process something like that.

The general tone of Bishop’s discussion about normal sexuality as a youth was generally negative and involved social ‘punishments’ for infractions, such as not taking the sacrament, not passing the sacrament, and other minor social changes that were ‘necessary for my repentance’. I remember distinctly ideating on suicide when I had normal sexual experiences (such as masturbation) because of fear of my unworthiness or fear that I was some how ‘damaged’. Even when I was fully ‘repentant’ and thought that I had ‘fixed my problems’, I actually thought that “dying right then” was a good thing so that I would be safe from further temptation. Again, in retrospect, I was completely unaware that I was experiencing normal sexual urges part of being a teenager.

During my pre-mission interviews, even though I had repented of all previous sexual sins, I was encouraged by my stake president to confess further about sexual experiences in a very humiliating way. I remember his stern face, almost angry expression about past sexual behaviors that are extremely normal for youth. This created an extreme amount of guilt and shame that was really unnecessary.

My experience with Bishops counseling members vacillated between bishops who were understanding and supportive men to bishops who thought shaming and belittling was the right solution. I have had some bishops who indicated that my sexual urges were childish manifestations of my youth that I would look back on with regret (priming my already rampant shame about what I deem normal sexual experiences and desires for a man). I’ve had other bishops that indicated that confession of simple sins like masturbation wasn’t really necessary, which was a surprise. The lack of consistency between leaders is very frustrating and led to an eventual decision to never involve an ecclesiastical leader in anything that I would ultimate work out with my Savior. To quote Jacob from the Book of Mormon, “the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel, and he employeth no servant there”. Ironically, when I made that choice (to not share any ‘sins’ or misdeeds with my Bishop), my problems with shame and guilt went away, and my desires to improve or address any unhealthy problems improved dramatically.

I want to be clear that I believe Bishops in the church and Stake Presidents are generally very good men. Clearly they are not perfect nor would I ever expect them to be. They are placed in a role of being a “Judge in Israel” that is fraught with problems – particularly since they are attempting to place themselves between Christ and the members and provide counseling as they interpret Christ would, and imperfectly at that. If my church chooses to continue allowing Bishops stand in place of Christ, I hope they introduce more compassionate, less intrusive, less explicit, and more loving approaches to counseling members than I’ve experienced in the past. I hope they introduce boundaries for what they can and can’t ask members about – boundaries that reduce shame, express empathy, and redirect questions to either parents or to God himself. Especially with our children who lack the maturity to process mature topics.

#118 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7,8,10. Other: Normalizing trust in socially accepted authority, sexism (trusting that men know better), extreme inappropriate guilt for normal and healthy sexual and mental behavior.

For those of you who haven’t lived in Utah, let me preface this story by introducing you to some facts of reality of living there. Utah County, a cluster of cities about an hour south of Salt Lake City, is somewhat the extreme example of these facts. You can’t drive a quarter mile without seeing a church building, wherein occurs not one, but at least three, gatherings of full congregations every Sunday. The following is a real statistic: over 90 percent of people living in Utah County are Mormon. I don’t know if this includes “inactive” members, who were once baptized but no longer attend church on a regular basis, but it paints a good picture of what it’s like being there. Everyone you know is Mormon.

I, like most teenagers, became mildly sexual at about the age of 14. This included normal desires, such as masturbation and possibly fooling around a little during an occasional make-out session. When my parents found this out (I forgive that they were from an even worse generation), I was required to confess this behavior in an “interview” with my ward’s Bishop (similar to the father of a local catholic church). Bishops are always male, and these interviews are always conducted one-on-one behind a closed door. As with almost everything I was taught in the Mormon church, I was expected to accept that this, too, was right and okay, and to ignore my very strong gut feelings that something was not right. I complied, confessed, and tried to change my ways. I liked pleasing my parents, and because of the positive external response to my changes, felt I was doing the right thing; but I also was a normal teenager. Trying to treat this mild sexual behavior as something very, very wrong led to feelings of guilt that I now recognize as extreme. Those feelings – unable to be completely resolved through prayer, fervent repentance, and social isolation (so I didn’t mess up again because of “bad” friend choices) – led to a behavioral backfire that created a vicious pattern in my life for the next 5 years. Do “bad” things; feel guilty; “clean up” my act; subconsciously resist the unreasonable ideals; backfire and do “bad” things again. Those backfires got worse and worse (though not as bad as others I saw going through the same thing), as I couldn’t find a balance between being normal and pleasing my parents. To my memory, the Bishops in my local “ward”, or congregation, were men who were generally good people, just trying to do the right thing and uphold the responsibility of overseeing an entire ward and all the decisions that go with that. I feel pity for the men who still agree to play this role, as the burden of knowing the “sins” of everyone around you is not a welcome thing when you have good intent, and, it seems, not the right action for a healthy psychological function.

When I was finally 18 and out on my own, the pattern continued for a year or so – at first the freedom led me to do things that I didn’t even want to do (think Rumspringa for the Amish). I was getting plastered drunk, having sex with strangers (usually older men) in dangerous situations, and then running from my negative emotions by overspending, which got me more depressed. All of this eventually led to me losing my job, partially because I was using my work computer (during work hours) to find men online. I wasn’t even 18 and a half yet, which led to guilt and shame, which led to moving back in with my parents and attending a church ward for young singles. I’m not sure why, but the Bishops I interviewed with at the “singles wards” were, for lack of a better word, creepy. Maybe because I was older, and could recognize it, or maybe because they spend inordinate amounts of time hearing about young singles’ sexual “deviancy”. The worst that happened in these interviews was that they asked for more explicit details than I felt was relevant in making decisions related to my “repentance process”. I had always assumed their process was correct because I accepted their authority. Anyway, I felt uncomfortable, in a way for which my heart held me accountable, and I finally realized I was leaving the church as a whole and never coming back. About ten years later, I can say that decision stuck, and I’ve never regretted it for a moment. The farther away I get from the Mormon church, the happier, healthier, and more stable I become. Everyone who’s been there, and isn’t anymore, mirrors my sentiments.

I am not usually an activist against something about which people should have the right to choose (such as religious practices), but this involves unwilling, underage, and socially pressured children. A big part of me wants to soften my statements by saying that the church can be good for people in some way, and that the one-on-one Bishop interviews are the only thing that needs to change or be done away with. But I can’t. I’m not a person who ignores their gut feelings anymore, and if I’m completely honest, I don’t see real, long-term good coming from any religion, especially one that, in many expert opinions, borders on “cult”. If you look openly at what fruit (effect) this church produces, it becomes plain how rotten the roots are.

I am lucky now to have a husband who, too, rejected the applied psychosis of the Mormon church, especially when it came to debilitating irrational ideals about sexual and mental health. We understand and help each other in a very unique way. I am also grateful to see many of my siblings turning towards a life that is truer to their heart, and that I know will make them happier.

I know there are much worse stories out there, both within and out of the Mormon church, but I still feel compelled to share mine to help others. Through seemingly extreme and almost constant efforts to reach a healthy psychological plateau in life, I know that I’ve cleared up the worst of the problems this has caused for me. However, even while writing this out, I can feel that doing so will help me just that little bit more, so I encourage anyone with similar experiences to share as well. It’s better on this side of things, I promise. 🙂

#117 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,7,8

I remember being asked in every interview if I was keeping the law of chastity. I had always answered ‘yes’ until I was 18. Me and my boyfriend at the time had engaged in some “inappropriate” behaviors, and I knew I had sinned. During my next interview I was asked if I kept the law of chastity and I obediently answered ‘no.’ I was then asked for more detail. I gave as little information as possible because I was so uncomfortable and didn’t feel like it was any of his business, other than if it was “all the way”. With each answer I gave he asked for more and more detail until I was basically describing the whole scene and how it exactly played out. I felt embarrassed, ashamed, and violated. Being a normal teenager, these interviews became more and more frequent, leading to me having panic attacks and wanting to kill myself anytime I was tempted to be physical with my boyfriend. I went through years of therapy. I still do not feel that I have a healthy relationship with sex because of my brainwashing.

#116 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7,8,9

I have a lot of stories, but I would like to share the two most important ones. Shortly after turning 16, I had my first kiss. It was totally innocent but, as a good Mormon girl, I believed that it was the height of sexuality. Of course, I never experienced anything more than that, even by myself.

The whole experience was awful, so I was extremely disappointed. He was a boy I was set up with, through ward connections (common in the wards I grew up in). It was a way of “reactivating” inactive boys in the ward. The relationship (if you can call it that) lasted about a month. One Sunday, after breaking up with him, I was called into the 1st counselor’s office. He was someone I had known since I was about 6 years old, so I trusted him completely (he really is a great man). He proceeded to ask me if I had anything I needed to tell him, since the temple trip was coming up soon. I figured this was my temple interview, so I said “No, not that I know of…” He continued to push me to confess something, but I had no idea what, so I told him that I had recently had my first kiss, but that it was just a kiss and that I had broken up with the boy so there would be nothing further. He seemed to believe me, and said something like “We might have a problem.” He told me that I needed to go talk to the bishop. The bishop was also someone I had known since about the age of 6. He ran the daycare I grew up in, so I knew him very well, and trusted him. I was waiting, with my mom, by his office door. He called me in, without my mom (even though I asked if she could come in). He asked me the same questions I was asked before, and I answered the same way as before. Instead of believing me, he said “That’s not what I heard.” My heart sank, I started shaking, and I burst into tears. All I could say was “What have you heard?” He suddenly looked concerned, called my mom into the room, and then took off down the hall. It turned out that two boys in my ward were spreading rumors about me. Mind you, I never fit in at church and I was extremely withdrawn. This situation completely shattered me. I never felt like I was good enough, after that, and I just wanted to end it all (the usual dark thoughts and minor suicide attempts followed). The boys weren’t punished, they just had to write me some short apologies.

The other incident was when I was technically an adult (I was 20), but are we ever REALLY adults within the church? I am 34 now, and only starting to feel like a fully autonomous adult after leaving the church this past May.

I was out with a friend one night. We were stupid enough to accept an invitation from some boys, to go to a party. I was going through a rebellious streak, and wanted to see what a party was like. I had never rebelled, so this was exciting. I knew I wouldn’t do anything too crazy, like take drugs or alcohol. I also knew enough to not accept any open drinks from them. I thought I was being SUPER safe. When we showed up to the “party”, it turned out it was just their house. Long story short, my friend and I were both raped. We didn’t talk to each other on the drive home, and I texted my mom that I would be spending the night at my friend’s house. I couldn’t face my mom. My friend and I couldn’t sleep. We just sat there, shaking, all night. In the morning, I tried to drive home, and got in an accident. It was minor, and I was at fault, so I sorted it out and then continued home. I was still shaking. I ran into the house, trying to avoid everyone. There were some men from the ward, helping us to move. I got into the shower as fast as I could. I used to watch CSI, so I knew that you shouldn’t shower if you were raped, but I didn’t believe I had been. In my limited knowledge of rape, you must claw their eyes out and scream for help for it to be considered rape. If you are merely locked into a house and scared out of your mind, it means you allowed it to happen. I got as clean as I could get, and fell into a heap on the shower floor. My mom was furious that I wasn’t helping to pack, and that there was a huge hole in the side of my truck. I just sobbed. She finally asked me what happened, and I tried to explain, away from the men. Being the good Mormon, she is, she was so angry that I let it happen that she started screaming “You got raped?! How could you let this happen?!” in front of the men, who were packing our cars. I completely broke down, and my mom finally took pity on me. She took me straight to the police station, and I gave my account. I gave them my clothes, and they sent me to the hospital. We got that all sorted out, after about 5 hours, and I went home and slept for about 3 days straight.

After a few days, I decided I needed to talk to a therapist. My mom told me that the bishop could set me up with one. This bishop was one I did not trust at all. My brother had some bad experiences with him, as a youth, and he scared me. I gave him a brief description of what happened. Instead of setting me up with a therapist, he asked “What did you do to lead them on?” Of course, I was filled with guilt and shame, I believed I had brought it on myself (I only got over this when I finally left the church). I decided to go with his repentance plan, which would last at least a year. He said that I just barely avoided a disciplinary action, by agreeing to go through with his plan. But first, I had to give him all the details, so he would know what we were dealing with.

I felt so violated, again. I had already gone through it in person, then at the police station, and now here. Again, I just wanted to be dead. I wished that I would die somehow, without actually having to kill myself. That’s all I really want to say about that. But I want to make sure that people know that growing up as a devout member of the church does not lead to happiness in marriage. I have a wonderful (non-member) husband, who only cares about my pleasure. I am still trying to deal with my inability to have any pleasure at all. My marriage has suffered so much, since I was not allowed to attend sex education, and never learned about how my body works. I am trying to play catch up, now, and my husband finds it difficult to understand that I don’t know how things work. I know this is a problem for women of any background, but it is so much worse if you are taught that you are evil if you have even the slightest thought about sex. Also, having lived though so much trauma, without a way to talk to anyone about it, has caused me to have flashbacks whenever I try to be intimate with my husband. I know people debate whether the church does more harm or good. I don’t see the good in the church. Some of the people are good, but the church itself is pure evil. Nothing can compare to the feeling of all the weight of the world being lifted off your shoulders, when you finally leave the church. I can’t wait until I am finally safe to resign completely.

#115 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,7

Beginning at the age of 12, I had annual interviews with my Mormon bishop. These were always one-on-one. The first time I was asked if I “Had any problems with masturbation,” I was 13. I had no idea what that word meant. These questions continued in annual or semi-annual interviews until I turned 18. The question always took the form of, “Do you have any problems with masturbation?” or “Have you experimented or been involved with masturbation?” As I got older, and went through the normal maturation process, I felt like a filthy pervert. Of course I couldn’t admit that to a grown man in a position of power over me. The social and family fallout would have been too much to bear. To cope with this, I lied. Every single time this question was asked between the ages of 14-18. These interviews created guilt and shame that I never spoke of for over a decade.

There were times in my teenage years where I wish I could have had meaningful pastoral conversations with my Mormon bishops about other subjects….I never sought out this contact, because I was afraid that even talking about unrelated issues (anxiety, mental health) would turn into an inquisition of my masturbation habits.

Though I don’t have children of my own, I would encourage all parents in the Mormon church to insist on being present for these regular, age-advancement interviews for Mormon youth.

#114 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,6,7,9

I was born and raised a Utah Mormon girl. I couldn’t have asked for better parents, or a better upbringing. I was always the easy child that never gave my parents any grief, and I always felt a strong inner commitment to never do anything to jeopardize that.

I always hated bishop interviews because they made me SO uncomfortable. Even though I had nothing to confess, the interview made me question, and wonder if I was fully keeping the law of chastity and being righteous enough (I had a high school boyfriend, and we did “passionately kiss”, but nothing beyond that.) Luckily for me, all the bishops I had never asked any probing questions beyond the standard “Are you keeping the law of Chastity?” I could sense that the bishops were uncomfortable, just like I was.

As a very self- critical person, I would always think of things I could do to be better, and be an example, and I was absolutely petrified of being separated from my family in heaven. In my late teens and early 20’s I would rarely kiss guys, because I still felt that I was doing something wrong.

Fast forward a few years: I am now married in the temple. I have been married for 3+ years and I am just starting to feel comfortable having sex with my husband and enjoying it without feeling a weird sense of guilt.

I realize my story is very mild in comparison to a lot of others, but the mental torment the church has caused me, for multiple reasons, is something I think about everyday. I hope one day to leave the church with my husband and raise my kids in an environment that does not make them feel unnecessary guilt for being a normal, healthy human.

#112 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7,8

I grew up in the LDS Church, though I was not very active. I would meet often with the Bishop and have personal interviews with him, often about sexual matters. It tended to be the focus of each meeting whether or not I was masturbating and how I would be blessed if I stopped. This lead to extreme guilt and shame each time I “messed up.” It impaired my thought process on what sexuality was – to me it became something evil and vile. Something only sinners do. But what was I to do once I got married? How was I supposed to all of a sudden switch from sex being a sin to something that is apparently holy??

I am also gay. A few weeks ago I went to lunch with my childhood bishop just to catch up on life and things. I had recently publicly come out on Facebook and we chatted about that for a bit. Then suddenly he asked me if I had any sexual relations with any of my mission companions. I immediately answered no but what I found so disturbing is how groomed I had been to talk about sexual matters with this man. I trust and like my bishop very much it’s just a little off to me that I’m talking about my sex life to a 55 year old. I don’t think that would be considered normal outside the LDS church and culture.

Because of the Church’s stance that “sex between a man and a woman is ordained of god” implied to me that sex with another man was an absolute sin and that “wickedness never was happiness.” This lead me to fight and mold to a standard that I could never attain and caused suicidal thoughts several times. “It’s impossible for me to like a woman. But if I don’t I will be damned for all eternity because I’m having sex with men! What do I do?? I have to remain “faithful!”

The Church’s stance on sexuality has been very poisonous in my life. It has caused me to shame myself and my sexuality. It has taken several years to come to where I am today – that I’m gay and that’s okay. The only solution I could find was to leave the church and it’s unhealthy sexual standards and interviews permanently behind me.

#111 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,6. Other: Strain on parental relationships

I remember when I was about to turn twelve. My friend’s dad was the bishop at the time. We grew up in downtown Salt Lake City, basically in Church headquarters. I had always been rebellious, but I liked going to church for the most part; I liked the people, and I felt the sense of community and belonging. I also liked boys and I wanted to have boyfriends from a young age. I knew that I would be expected to answer questions about boys if I wanted to get a temple recommend. I had been “boyfriend and girlfriend” with a boy from school for a couple of months. At no point in our relationship as eleven year-olds did we do anything remotely sexual. I think we may have held hands. It was summer break and we were kids who relied on parents to get to our friends houses, so I barely even saw my “boyfriend”. But in the weeks leading up to my twelfth birthday, I was getting extremely stressed out about the prospect of probing questions. I broke up with the boy because I was certain the alternative was lying to my bishop and going straight to hell. I avoided the tough questions, and got my temple recommend. The interview was not inappropriate in my memory, although it was certainly awkward to be scrutinized by my friend’s dad. He asked about the Word of Wisdom and the Laws of Chastity. I don’t think he went into detail about what these were, because at twelve, I already knew somehow. So I answered yes to all the right questions and I left with a piece of paper with his signature on it. Overall, the meeting itself was pretty painless. It was the anticipation of being asked such personal questions that made me so stressed out. And it wasn’t as though the stress was gone once the interview was over. That would be the first of many. I knew how it worked from all the times we had to wait on my parents during their temple recommend interviews. I knew about the constant check ins of our worthiness, and had really just accepted this as a part of life. But I, like most of the youth I knew, dreaded bishops interviews. There was always something to feel guilty about. I went to the temple for baptisms several times over two years. We were expected to revisit our bishop once a year. When I lost my virginity as a young teenager, I made a conscious choice to not renew my temple recommend. I decided that I would no longer be temple worthy, but I did not want to answer questions about it, and certainly had no desire to begin a “repentance process”. I just got really good at excuses for skipping baptisms every time the youth went. My friend’s dad did not pressure me, or pursue me for interviews. He was a good bishop with a decent amount of intuition and compassion, and generally didn’t pester the youth. But about one year later, he was made Stake President and my dad became the bishop.

My dad called me into his office for an interview within weeks of becoming bishop. My parents had caught onto my temple skipping, and were pressuring me to go back. I have always had a good relationship with my dad, and I never doubt how much he loves me. But when I was a kid I had experienced sexual abuse by a family member, my parents hadn’t exactly handled it well. I was wary that this opportunity to ask me a battery of questions in private would leave me open to more scrutiny of these events. I cried to my friends in a classroom down the hall before somberly walking into my dad’s office. I did not want to tell him I lost my virginity. I did not want to tell him about any of my sexual experiences, good or bad. It wasn’t normal to talk about this in my home, but it was somehow supposed to be normal behind closed doors in a ward building. I was fearful in anticipation of the shame and guilt, but worst of all, I felt like if I did tell my dad the truth, then he would either tell my mom, or he would have to lie to her about me. I resented the dynamic. When the time came and he started asking questions, we only made it through a couple points before I shut it down. It was clear to me that my dad was not ready for the real answers to the tough questions when we got on the topic of the Word of Wisdom. I really didn’t want to lie to my dad, so when he asked if I was adhering to the WoW, I said no. But in his follow up, I could see his innocent mind struggling to think realistically. With sadness in his eyes, he asked me if I drank coffee. Here I was, a rebellious teenager, attempting to be honest about something most teenagers do – I had tried alcohol, but my dad’s worst thought was, have you drank coffee? If he couldn’t handle going beyond coffee in the WoW, then he certainly was not prepared to hear that I was sexually active. It would have broken him to learn details of the life I was leading at that age, and I was in no mood to share freely. So I got up and left. I never had another bishops interview again, and I never went back to the temple.

So, this may not be the kind of story you were looking for. I was never taken advantage of inside of a bishop’s office, and I was never coerced to tell explicit details to a pervy member of the bishopric. That doesn’t mean I didn’t feel a real harm from these interviews. Having my dad as my bishop through my teenage years was a nightmare that put a huge strain on our relationship. Just knowing that at any point a man in power could call me into his office to question me about sex and morality made me anxious and distrustful. And thousands of kids go through this with their dad as their bishop, creating an incentive to lie to our parents. People often say that church is where they learned to lie. That was absolutely true for me, and it wasn’t my Sunday school teachers that I was lying to. It was the leaders with control over my temple recommend. It was the men in positions of power who were permitted to inquire with impunity about the sex lives of children. I knew by the time I was twelve that I just needed to answer yes to the right questions, tell them what they want to hear, and you can spare yourself the bad questions. I was uncomfortable about these interactions before I had ever sat through an interview. The pervasive shame and guilt surrounding these interviews is toxic, to the point that even in the best case scenario children are compelled to just say whatever they think the bishop wants to hear.

I don’t think the solution is to have parents in the room, because in many cases that would make honesty even less likely. I don’t think having a female leader in the room with females is an appropriate response, because we all know that young boys face abuse, too. I know there are mechanisms in place, such as having the bishops kids meet with a first or second counselor, to alleviate some reoccurring issues. But it is my opinion that there is no right way to have these interviews. Especially with how much leeway and grey area the handbooks leave. Bishops are not trained in any way. They are not chosen based on their skills or knowledge of any particular topic. When a man becomes a bishop, he does not suddenly acquire a clinical psychology degree, or an education in health and wellness, and yet he is elevated to this higher clergy status that is expected to act as a therapist and life coach. An adult man is suddenly supposed to navigate teenage hormones and sexuality with a couple dozen kids that aren’t his own, with no background or experience or training. The church doesn’t even do a good job at defining masturbation, so why expect the untrained bishops to handle concerns uniformly? It should not be a lottery whether you get a good bishop or a creep. It should not be left up to chance or one man’s “best judgement” to decide how sensitive questions are approached. If there can not be a consistent protocol that ensures the mental and physical safety of all persons under 18, then the interviews should stop. As it stands, they are a detriment to young members, and will continue to push people out. Religion is dying, and the Church needs to evolve it’s practices if it wants to remain relevant in modern times.

#110 Name Hidden. CS: 1,6,7

I pretty much lied about my masturbation habits. I felt pretty crappy about myself all growing up because not only was I “sexually impure”, but I was also a liar. This shame probably fueled my pornography use more than it curbed it.

Then, as I was preparing for missionary service, I got a “deep, searching” interview from the Bishop at the time. He was a wrestling coach and science teacher at my high school. I don’t think his line of questioning was abnormally detailed, but the effect was awful. What kind of pornography, how often, where, etc. Any lie-down hugs/kisses with girls? I already felt like I had made a huge mistake in confessing anything. I shut down and basically gave the least incriminating details I could muster until the bishop was satisfied. I wasn’t even technically a child at that point, but I felt like one. I felt shame and guilt. I resolved myself to never confess again. A secretive part of my heart was opened and I put on a rosy facade.

I consider myself lucky to have dodged searching interviews until I was older and to have otherwise have kept my sexual habits to myself. Although I no longer have faith in the church, I’m still struggling to overcome the effects of a pretty average or easy experience with worthiness interviews. Even after marriage, I’ve had trouble talking about sex. I think it has to do with that emerging adult’s resolution to keep sexual desire, especially details about it, a secret.

#109 Name Hidden. CS: Other: Stress and anxiety over children being subject to this practice

I wasn’t affected (that I know of) by being asked these questions as a youth or as an adult. But my heart was touched by hearing the many troubles that this practice causes others.

My concern went immediately to my daughter, an LDS teen. I wanted to take the step that so many others have taken by informing her bishop that he was never to be behind a closed door with my daughter and was to never ask any questions of a sexual nature at any time.

However, I was fearful and anxious because of the nature of our relationship and some past “bad” experiences with my daughter and her mom. I am an ex-communicated mormon, ousted for apostasy, my wife and daughter remain true to the LDS faith and believe I have been deceived by Satan. Other discussions around “church things” have ended in argument and harsh feelings. So for the last little while, talking about anything related to the LDS church was taboo. This topic is related to the church but its ultimately about my child’s safety so certainly it would be ok.

I finally built up the courage to ask my daughter if she had been asked questions of this nature. I wanted to have a discussion with her before messaging the bishop. I didn’t want it to seem that I was going behind her back.

I asked. She answered that she had been asked generally about chastity and pornography. I pressed and asked if she had ever been asked about masturbation. She said she had not. I tried to take the conversation to my ultimate goal of ending bishops interviews without me being present, by telling her that I didn’t think it was appropriate for her to be with anyone behind closed doors discussing anything. But before the conversation could progress, she excused herself to the bathroom, where she texted her Mom and said she didn’t like being with me alone when I’m criticizing the church. I know this because her mom then messaged me and relayed what my daughter was feeling. I left the house.

The gist is this … my daughter doesn’t feel comfortable talking to her dad alone about the appropriateness of bishop’s interviews, but she feels comfortable with that bishop asking her those questions.

#108 Name Hidden. CS: 1

This story is as an adult, but my last bishop asked wildly inappropriate questions to me during an interview. I felt sexually harassed, despite knowing that he had no right, even by Mormon standards, to ask those questions. I can’t imagine how he treats youth during worthiness interviews.

In my case, my wife had told him that I had viewed pornography. He called me into his office for “a chat” and then asked me about my pornography use. I had not told him anything about this, so it was a clear violation of confidentiality. He was also trying to force a confession.

I told him it was not any of his business.

He told me that if I didn’t confess every detail I would be subject to a disciplinary council. I knew what he was saying was untrue under church policy, but the threat was concerning to me because I didn’t want to cause my wife any embarrassment. I admitted I had viewed pornography.

He asked me if I had viewed pictures or videos. I said, “I fail to see why that is relevant”.

He told me it is important to determine if a disciplinary council is necessary or not. He said he needed to know how deep the sin was, and how to treat it. Given the threat, I told him.

He asked if I had viewed pictures of women with their clothes off. He asked if I had watched porn with two people in it. He asked if I had watched child porn (this makes sense, but it is the only question that does). He asked if I had viewed gay porn. He asked if I masturbated while watching. He asked how often I viewed it. He may have asked what positions people were using in the scenes. He asked far more, but I have blocked out as much of that experience as possible. After each question, he would muse aloud that he didn’t think that it would require a disciplinary council for what I had said.

By the end of the interview, I was furious. I knew I had been manipulated, but his threats of embarrassing my wife were too much. I knew he had abused his authority, had violated confidentiality with my wife, that he had forced a confession out of me, and I had every right to shut him down, but I didn’t because of his threats. There is no doctrinal reason for the level of details he asked. Is there really a difference in repentance if I had viewed one kind of porn, rather than another? How does him knowing what porn I had viewed help him know how to minister to me more effectively? Is there a special method for helping people who had viewed gay porn, and a regular method for hetero porn? How does one calculate the severity of a sin based on these sorts of details? More importantly, how does a forced confession help anyone repent of sin? Is it repentance if I have to be prompted to give him his answers? This man is no servant of Christ, else he would have acted like one and left it at “do you follow the law of chastity?” and ministered to me from there.

I felt violated at the end of the interview. I felt like he had forced his way into something that was not his business. As a result, I hate that man. I hate how he threatened me. I hate how he belittled me during the entire interview. I hate how he snidely remarked that my answers didn’t require a disciplinary council, as if that lessened the nature of his threat into something benign. I hate how he self-righteously declared that I was “passable” under his invasive inquisition. I hate how I was sexually abused by this man, in the sense that he used his power and office to exert unrighteous dominion and control over me. And I hate myself for letting him.

And the thing that really gets me is that I am a 30 year old man. I know how to stand up for myself. I cannot imagine what men like him do to innocent children who stumble upon porn in their adolescence. I know most bishops are doing the best they know how. I imagine they are good men, overall. However, I also imagine that the bishop who sexually harassed me also thought he was doing the best he knew how. The LDS worthiness interviews invite this sort of abuse. They provide the means for abusive men to exert control over people when there is no ecclesiastical justification for doing so. Worthiness interviews invite abuse, and I can’t help but feel rage thinking about all the youth who are subjected to this at an age when they cannot distinguish when the questions go to far. And even when they can discern inappropriate questions, I feel rage thinking about how powerless they are to stop it.

#107 Name Hidden. CS: 1,8,9

After having to switch to a different bishop, (the Bishopric was changed in the middle of my mission interviewing process), I showed up to a meeting where the new bishop acted like he had no knowledge of the things from my past that I had been working on with the previous bishop. (After a few years, I realized he knew right from the beginning and that the bishops had talked about me and my private matters with other people). I sat down and he immediately started throwing questions at me that made me uncomfortable. He was prying to know what the old bishop and I had talked about, so I told him. I had sex and I went through the repentance process with the old bishop already. Since the old bishop had told me I had been “forgiven”, I saw no reason to talk with the new bishop about it. But he asked me what happened, who it was with, what we had done, how many times, where it was done. I told him that I was getting uncomfortable and he couldn’t understand why. I told him I wanted to leave and he told me that I HAVE to talk to him about this. I felt so gross leaving that meeting, wishing that I hadn’t even started the process in the first place. Since I knew the bishops had communicated about my situation to each other, the new bishop should have and most likely did know that the process was over and done. But he kept prying to know what we did and where we did it and why (and pretty much everything short of which position we did it in). I felt shame and guilt throughout this entire process. I did attempt suicide because I felt so awful about myself and growing up in the church made me feel like when I did have sex I made the ultimate mistake! No person, but especially no child, should EVER be made out to feel that their actions that come naturally to humans is a reason to take their own life.

#106 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3

I suffered needlessly for many years through a cycle of shame and guilt for what was normal behavior, but I was made to believe I was largely alone in, and was extremely serious.

#105 Travis G. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7. Other: false and insufficient sexual education

I was born and raised in an LDS home where both parents served LDS Missions. I learned at a very early age that my parents disagreed about LDS Doctrine, and not only them but they disagreed with local Church leaders and Teachers, and all of them disagreed with the Brethren during General Conference, who even among them would contradict each other. This is the backdrop for my story.

My first experience with inappropriate sexual behavior was in Kindergarten. I still remember very vividly walking to school with Beth on the other side of the street from where I live. She was in my class and we walked and talked and we were both happy. Then two older boys came up from behind us; they grabbed Beth lifting her in the air who was screaming in fear and panic, and pulled down her panties and were about to remove her dress until her bowels released. The boys just laughed and laughed. I was frozen with shock and horror. To this day I empathize with abused women as well as children. Beth and I never talked or associated after that experience. What do little kids talk about after something like that?

Walking in on my mother naked was the next vividly remembered experience in which I was again frozen with shock. I was taught to be extremely modest. I was not allowed to leave the house without a belt on my jeans because as my mother told me I was “naked”. People think I’m joking when I tell them, but that is how extremely strict my parents were.

While at a Little League Baseball practice a teammate wanted to take me away from practice to show me something. The other boys were giggling and laughing. I just wanted to play ball, but peer pressure got me to consent. I was taken to the bushes at the edge of the park where sitting on top was a magazine. I still remember very vividly the picture that the magazine was opened to. A man and a woman both naked, the woman kneeling before the man giving him what I would not learn for decades later is called oral sex. One day while my Mom was driving us kids home, she suddenly stopped and pulled over and ordered me and my brother out of the car. She gave us both a garbage bag and ordered us to pick up any trash the rest of our walk home as my mom drove off. I refused to pick up any trash leaving it all for my brother behind me. Then I came across a magazine. It was opened and again I vividly remember the picture of a naked woman shaving her private area. I felt ashamed for having seen it and did not want to be seen picking it up let alone touching it that I again just walked away from it not even thinking that now my younger brother will now see it.

My mom would provide us kids with activities to do at the Kitchen table while she did other chores around the house. She provided us with the Sears catalog and told us to cut out pictures from the catalog and put them to paper. I search through the pages and came across the woman’s intimates section. I quickly turned the pages in shame and embarrassment not wanting my siblings to see me looking at women in their underwear. Yet interestingly my favorite childhood toy became my sister’s Barbie Fashion Plates. One day at school during my 5th Grade year, boys from other classes came into our class and the girls were escorted out to another class. This was very unusual, intriguing and mysterious. Then the female teachers started telling us about our genitalia showing pictures of drawings of them. We were not shown the genitalia of females only males, nor was the female body or genitalia discussed. I felt so ashamed that I turned away from the pictures and tuned out the teachers. When it was over the teachers told us to stop picking on a couple of girls who had developed abnormally. I was friends with both of them and had never picked on them as I was being accused generally along with all the other boys. So I was made to feel guilty for associating with them and thus stayed away from them after that.

One evening my parents separated the girls from us boys. My dad said that at our age we might have dreams that would cause us to wet the bed, so that if we had any questions feel free to ask. That was it. My sisters on the other hand told us that mom had told them graphic details about their body and our male body and about having sex and even mom said the “p” word describing the male genitalia. I was denied a sex education.

Then at the beginning of my teens sometime after being ordained a Deacon. I was called into my Bishop’s Office he asked me if I’d viewed pornography. In shame and in what I believed was honesty I bowed my head and softly said yes. I was then disfellowshipped from the Church and was denied taking the sacrament. The guilt and shame caused me not to sit with my parents any more and I sat clear in the back so that no one would see me and see that I was not taking the sacrament. I was clueless that my behavior of separating from my family, not passing the sacrament, and sitting in the back was already blatantly obvious that something was wrong.

My childhood teachings led me to believe that women and there bodies are evil and shameful even great works of art are evil. It would not be until I took a Greek language class at a University that I learned the true definition of pornography. It is two words: ‘graphy’ means “to display”, ‘porn’ means “prostitute”; but prostitute is also a Greek word made up of two words: ‘pro” means “before or in front of”, ‘stitute’ means “carving in stone”, thus comes the words: Statue and Statute. The Ancients would write their Laws by carving them in stone to preserve them. So pornography means “A display before a carved writing”. But pornography was never used as a Greek word. It was first used in the late 1800’s for a person’s disagreeing claim for someone else’s written statement. In the beginning of the 1900’s after Evangelicals lost their court battle to have Creationism taught in the public schools, they started a movement and started to define pictures of immodest and naked women as pornography. Then the U.S. went through the “Sexual Revolution” of the 1960’s where depictions of sex was added to the definition of pornography, and in the late 1970’s movies were being made depicting women opposed to sex, but then when in the course of being raped they changed their thinking and feeling to like it and want it. That mentality was on the minds of my male classmates in grade school. I was clueless then what they were talking about. And in High School Art Classes one boy would brag about how he would trick girls into having sex with him considering them “dumb and stupid” and another boy would tell how he aspired to become a Gynecologist when he grew up so that he could see women naked. On TV now I see some Parents Empowered Commercial where a mother is teaching her daughter that the dangers of alcohol is that the daughter’s brain is not fully developed. That’s not the real danger. When I was in High School the boys told me that one is to get a woman drunk to loosen her up to agree to sex when otherwise she would say no. And then I hear about BYU who punishes females students who report being raped.

With all of this craziness there’s no wonder that I was clueless how to even have sex in my first marriage; neither of us knew and it drove a wedge between us leading to divorce. Then in Mormon cultural society being divorced is a shaming and guilt laden experience as single women shun you as the sinner which was taught to them by their mothers and Church leaders. The ban on divorced persons serving Church Service Missions finally being lifted is long overdo but back in 2000 when I had to be directly approved by President Hinckley in order to become a Special Church Service Missionary and was, that was a relieving feeling lifted from me for all my thoughts of guilt, regret and shame for being divorced even though I didn’t cause or initiate the divorce. But I can’t help but feel for all the LDS women whose abusive husband divorced them and all that they go through and feel incorrectly only to have it compounded by the Church refusing to cancel the Sealing, needing permission from that man to remarry. When I remarried the policy had changed requiring me the man whose ex had gotten the Sealing cancelled decades ago, to get the ex’s permission. She of course tried to prevent the marriage with contradictory lies to my Bishop and the First Presidency separately which fortunately I was able to provide the documentation of her lies. But the fact that she had been granted such power to make false accusations that I had to prove my innocence was heart crushing. She had moved on with her life, but tried to deny me, the victim, from moving on with mine. I’m sorry to say but despite finally remarrying after decades my new marriage that finally got approved by the First Presidency despite the opposition, is ending after two years. I married a good, pure Mormon girl, who despite having three kids of her own from a previous marriage has been indoctrinated in the extreme Mormon indoctrination and I’m accused of being “Satan” and “in league with Satan” as she spreads the defamation to everyone. This Mormon cultural problem that was had from before my youth will not leave me, nor leave me alone. This Mormon problem goes beyond Bishops questioning children about sexual behavior. LDS Prophets need to correct the teachings and the doctrines and the practices either taught by them knowingly or unknowingly so that not only do Bishops behave appropriately to children and teens in interviews, but also that parents, family, friends, neighbors, and society behave appropriately to each other and to children in properly and appropriately educating rather than making sex a secretive, dirty and sinful, and shaming experience. You cannot teach a boy to stay away from a girl as an object of evil, but then say Marriage between one man and one women is beautifully ordained of God. If women are the image of Heavenly Mother why then do we shame and cause guilt about a woman’s body? We ban and censor masterful works of art, but then teach that Adam and Eve were naked in the Garden and didn’t have shame for their nakedness until after partaking of the fruit and Lucifer pointing it out to them, so that the art of Adam and Eve in the Garden have to be covered up or risk getting labeled as pornography. I have learned that my childhood shock and shame came from false and insufficient sexual education, such that the true evil in sexual behavior is to physically violate another and also to turn the beauty and glory of the human body and sexuality into an evil that must be concealed from our knowledge.

#104 Jacob F. CS: 1,2

My childhood bishop asked me if I masturbated. I said no and he stared at me for a good 15-20 seconds in silence. It was very awkward and I felt like he assumed I was lying. He then asked if I was sure and stared at me in silence again. It was very uncomfortable. I wasn’t traumatized, but I was only 13 or 14 years old. It’s not appropriate for children to be subjected to this type of shaming. It’s not the bishops concern whether or not a teenager is masturbating.

#103 Name Hidden. CS: 1

I learned of this practice when my son who is now 39 was asked a question about masturbation during his 16th birthday interview. This was his interview to be ordained a priest. This question effectively caused my son to no longer want anything to do with the church. My son shared the fact he was asked this question within our family. This caused quite a stir among his younger brothers. The next brother to be called in for an interview was very nervous and did not want to go talk to the bishop. I approached the bishop about the questions being asked. This was a new bishop and he explained why they felt the need to ask such questions and he indicated he would explain to my son the reasoning. There was never any offer to eliminate the questions! I prepared my sons and offered them the choice of not answering the questions and also not going in for the interview. Three of my four sons were asked this questions. We were living in Texas when the 3 sons were interviewed! At the time it happened I encouraged my sons to lie if they chose to and told them it was none of the bishops business. It totally turned my sons against the church and also made them feel awkward toward the leaders of the church. Coincidentally while this was happening a member of the church reported her young daughter had been molested by the ward clerk and the bishop asked her not to go to the police. Fortunately the mother did, but there was no help given from the local Bishop in the prosecution of the clerk and in fact he was left in his position during the legal process! I have asked my name to not be shared because of the embarrassment it might cause my sons. They have all left the church but protecting their privacy is important!

#102 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,6,7

I was a high school student wanting to go to BYU. As part of the admissions process I had to obtain an ecclesiastic endorsement from my stake president. In my opinion, a stake president should be a source of support and encouragement to a young person. I expected to be greeted warmly and congratulated on my desire to attend a church-sponsored university. Instead, I entered the stake president’s office and felt like I had just stepped into a police interrogation room. The immediate line of harsh questioning took me completely off guard. “Do you masturbate? Have you ever masturbated?” etc. The tone was not that of someone who loves or cares about me; it was that of accusation, distrust and contempt. I was so confused about why masturbation had anything to do with whether or not I could be recommended to go to BYU. What about my lifetime of dedicated church activity and service? What about my beliefs and desires? What about my academic achievements and aspirations? No, none of that mattered one bit. This was simply an interrogation, attempting to dig out some kind of forced “confession” of masturbation engagement and/or history. I left that interview feeling disgusted and worthless. I thought I was doing everything to “please” the Lord at that time in my life, and his official representative could not have cared less. All he wanted to do was dig up details on whether or not my little factory had been inappropriately activated. This was the most extreme case I experienced, but in each youth/missionary interview with stake presidents and some bishops there was always a direct focus on asking about sexual activity and masturbation. Again, I was trying extremely hard to do everything that God expected of me, and I viewed these interviews as a way for his earthly representative to give me some kind of reassurance that he was pleased with my valiant efforts. Nope, nothing but a masturbation interrogation. I felt nothing but contempt and distrust. The “consequences suffered” which I marked in conjunction with this story were very real and had a heavy impact on my well-being.

#101 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,7,8. Other: Eating Disorder

When I was a young child, I explored my body and quite by accident found something that felt good. I didn’t really think anything of it, and it became part of my routine. When I was about 15, I learned that what I had been doing all these years was called masturbation, and it was a sin “next to murder.” I felt incredible shame and guilt, and I was too embarrassed to talk to anyone because I had been taught my whole life in the LDS Church that this was only a “boy problem.” I concluded that because I’m a girl, the sin must be much, much worse. These thoughts and feelings significantly contributed to the eating disorder I battled at the time. Out of guilt, I finally made an appointment to confess to my Bishop (who awkwardly enough was my neighbor and friend’s dad) when I was 17. When I got into his office, I was too scared to talk to an older man about these very personal aspects of my life, so I just sat there and cried while he asked yes or no questions to try to understand why I had come in to see him. I could tell he felt just as awkward about the situation as I did, and once I got over the initial embarrassment, I felt guilty for putting him in that situation too. This happened repeatedly over the next five years with another 5 or so bishops. Some were awkward like my first bishop, others were stern, one sent me to therapy, and one even wanted to meet with me twice a week so I could discuss with him all the times I “slipped up” since we last met. He asked detailed questions like “were you on your bed? Or in the shower? What were you thinking about?” Totally inappropriate, and completely traumatizing.

#100 Scott D. CS: 1,2,3,4

As I was preparing to serve a mission, it was very important to me to be honest in my interviews with my bishop. I did not think I would be able to serve with a clear conscience if I had lied. Despite confessing to occasional masturbation, my bishop said he felt comfortable recommending me for service. He told me nearly all young men masturbate and he felt that it was infrequent enough that he was confident that once I arrived at the Missionary Training Center and experienced the intense spiritual atmosphere there, I would be able to put it behind me. I next met with my Stake President who was not so accommodating. He insisted that no young man be called on a mission who was not completely free from this practice. He wanted to meet with me every two weeks or so to discuss my progress. At one of these meetings he asked, “Are you viewing anything in connection with this?” I confessed to him, just as I had to my bishop previously, that I had struggled with watching erotic movies on cable television (this was before the internet). He then said to me, “If you do not overcome this, the day will come when you will not be worth a damn to anyone”. I wasn’t sure if I believed him. I was pretty certain my mother would always love me regardless of anything I might do to disappoint her, but those words have stuck with me ever since. I never suffered suicidal ideation as a result of this, but I could certainly see something like that happening in a similar situation. What an awful thing to say to a teenager!

#99 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,7

Until my worthiness interview prior to becoming a priest at age 16, my father had never so much as mentioned the word “masturbation” to me. But then my father became the bishop of our ward and took on new responsibilities and duties which apparently included teaching his son about sinful sexuality.

“Do you know what masturbation means?” he asked.

“No, I’ve never heard of it,” I lied. I probably knew more about it than he did. I’d been masturbating since I stumbled across pornography at age 9. My face felt hot with embarrassment and shame as I sat there forcing myself to make eye contact. I could see my dad was unconvinced. He went on explaining what it was in fairly general and euphemistic terms. I shook my head to confirm to him none of what he described sounded the least bit familiar to me. He paused as if considering another approach. “Do you know what sinning in ignorance means?”

“No,” I said. “I don’t.” But of course, I did. Or at least I knew his definition. But I wasn’t ignorant. I’d racked myself with guilt for the last 7 years of my childhood every time I’d so much as conjured a sexual thought or lingered on one that happened to be passing by. I’d listened to my dad’s sermons about sexual thoughts being equally as grievous of a sin as physical adultery and second only to murder. I listened as he described again in detail how everything I’d been doing for the last few years maybe wasn’t so bad if I didn’t know it was a sin. It would at least be easier to repent. Of course, now was my chance to fess up, now having the greater light and knowledge that what I was doing was evil and wrong. I shook my head. “Nope, never done any of that.”

My dad never brought it up again. The next time I was asked about my masturbation habits, it was by our new bishop– a good family friend and neighbor since I was a kid. The same guy who took us on hikes as our young men leader and told us funny stories around the campfire at scout camp. Another man who’d never worried about my private sexual life until it became his job.

Yes, the children are absolutely the victims of these lines of questioning. No two ways about it. But sometimes we’re not always the only victims. Awkward, well-meaning, and sometimes idiotic dads have been caught up in this too. Kind, regular dad’s who wouldn’t even broach these subjects with their own kids feel obligated by God to do so with every kid in the neighborhood. This is so incredibly wrong. And it MUST stop.

#98 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,7,8,9

I am a lesbian. I say this as a matter of course as an adult, but being called names like duke and lesbo was very painful as a teenager. I was teased and called names by the other teens in my ears until, at age 13, I refused to attend church. I eventually agreed to go to sacrament meeting, but I stuck close to my dad and wouldn’t attend either of the other two meetings.

I decided that I legally had to go to school, but I didn’t have to go to church. Adults in my ward knew I was being bullied, but they did nothing to protect me. The fact was that I wasn’t just being bullied by the other young people, I was being bullied by the bishop.

I never have and never will be able to fit into the sexual stereotype of a nice Mormon woman. I am not that feminine. My bishop would call me in to his office and criticize the way I sat, walked, talked, cut my hair, etc. Sometimes he would criticize me in front of other youth. It made me feel ashamed and destroyed my self esteem. I realized I could never fit into the church no matter how hard I tried. I suffered with depression and attempted suicide three times. Today, I can say, “Yes, I am a lesbian.” And feel much better about myself.

I haven’t set foot in a church since I was 21.

#97 Name Hidden. CS: 1,3,4,6,7,8

When I was 18 I had my first boyfriend. We went what I thought at the time was ‘too far’ one night and I felt soo guilty. I had been taught all my life that I needed the bishop to fix big mistakes. So I made an appointment. I went in and told my bishop that things went to far. He then started asking very personal questions. How far? Was I fully clothed? Was my boyfriend fully clothed? How long did my boyfriend touch my breast. Did he touch anywhere else? Did I enjoy it? Where did I touch my boyfriend. Soo many details my bishop asked. I felt very uncomfortable but because he was my bishop and I needed him to help me repent, I gave him all the details he wanted to know. Then he told me I couldn’t take the sacrament for 4 months and he took away my BYU endorsement.

My boyfriend talked with his bishop and only had to stop taking the sacrament for one week and was able to keep his endorsement.

Even though technically I was an ‘adult’ at the time I feel like I was so childlike in many ways. I had been groomed my whole life and told that the bishop was a man of God. That I needed to repent serious sins to him. Not to question his authority. It didn’t even cross my mind that his questions could be inappropriate. I ignored my own inner feelings that told me his questions were out of line and obeyed because that is what you are supposed to do

#96 Bryce B. CS: 1,2,3,4,7,8,9, Other: impaired sexual relations (I have never been married), hating myself for being gay

Growing up a gay Mormon child is really difficult. The first person I came out to was my bishop, a man from our neighborhood whose house I played at when I was a child. I came out to my parents soon after. I was 15. After that, I told each of my priesthood leaders throughout the years in an effort to be open, honest, and have them help me change my sexuality. It was difficult when my dad became my bishop. In my last interview with him before I left on a mission, I “confessed” some things to him that he didn’t know about. It never crossed my mind that these interviews could be inappropriate in any way. It was the bishop! He was guided by god! It was awkward and made me very uncomfortable, but that’s standard for any interview with a closeted gay Mormon. At the time of these interviews I appreciated the guidance and encouragement I received but the only real thing that I gained from them was a deep and complete rejection of who I am. It wasn’t just these interviews of course, but they served as a way to formalize the church’s rejection and condemnation of me for being sexual, for being gay, for being me.

#95 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,8,9

My story didn’t start in the Latter-Day Saint church though it did end that way. It started soon after my 9th birthday. As a newly baptised child with a convert mother, I was new to the world of Mormonism and its many facets. My father (divorced from my mother) was an adamant anti-mormon who hated the church and what it stood for.

Around the age of 9 my father started doing very inappropriate things with me. Watching me shower, leaving porn around the house for me to find, and telling me how much of a beautiful young woman I was becoming. This abuse escalated and by the age of 12 I was being molested and raped repeatedly on a regular basis. Around this time I received the ‘candy bar’s analogy in Young Women’s class which is similar to Elizabeth Smarts nail in a post analogy. I felt sickened…and broken. Did God really view me as used trash not to be wanted?

Close to my 13th birthday, I escaped the horrors of my father as he lost parental rights for another unrelated matter. Soon after, I started to self harm. As a normal and curious 13 year old, I also experimented with masturbating. Both became a vicious cycle for me. Guilt and shame for masturbating lead to self harm. During this time, Bishops I had asked me about masturbation. I always denied it, as I feared that my admittance to such a thing would lead to my admittance of my abuse at the hands of my father.

At 17, I finally snapped. Mentally exhausted from the guilt I was carrying… I tried to commit suicide. After this act… Help seemingly came crawling out of the woodwork. I couldn’t hide what I knew any longer and I shared what had happened to me to my bishop. He was sympathetic and offered counseling to me…but never counseled me to go to the police or to find help outside the church. He also chastised me for waiting to repent of my masturbation sins and said “The burden is lighter if you confess early. You could have been saved so much guilt if you had come to me sooner”.

As if it had been my fault to be scared…my guilt holding me back from mental happiness.

A few years later when I turned 21…I wanted to serve a mission. I had moved away from my home ward and moved across the country to a BYU ward. I thought my past was behind me. I was healing and finally thought I had found Gods forgiveness. During one of the first interviews for the mission process, my bishop asked if I had ever ‘self mutilated’ before. Flustered… I answered that yes I used to self harm or ‘cut’…but that I was 4 years clean. He turned bright red, coughed, and reiterated…asking if I had any sexual sins I needed to repent of.

I responded that I used to do so, but felt that I had put them behind me. He kept pressing me for details and finally asked when I had started to experiment with masturbation. I told him “10 years old”. Shocked…he asked why I started so early. Clearly uncomfortable… I answered him honestly and told him about my abusive father. He was quiet for a moment and told me he couldn’t in good conscious send me on a mission without me getting psychologically cleared by LDS Family Services. He set up the meeting and I went. That meeting set my healing back the farthest it ever had been. They asked intrusive questions about the nature of abuse. How many fingers were used…if a penis or mouth was involved…if I enjoyed it. I felt sick. Did God really need me to go through this again?

After the ‘therapy’ appointment…I had another meeting with my bishop. He told me that LDS family services had cleared me for service in the mission field, but that he received revelation that I needed to repent for “actively participating” in the abuse..as well as the “self mutilation” that followed. I walked out and never went back.

For months afterwards…I had flashbacks and night terrors. I was swallowed in self loathing. Maybe God saw in to my heart and I DID actually want the abuse. Did God love me then?

No man, woman, or child should have to suffer like this. At first I thought the problem was ME. I DESERVED this anxiety and guilt over such sensitive topics. It was Gods church after all.

No. The problem is NOT me. Its not those abused and neglected. The problem is unchecked power given to those who could seriously harm a child or someone else. The debate on whether or not the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day saints is the true church of God should be set aside. This isn’t about that. This is about the children…just like me.

#94 Name Hidden. CS: 1,3,6

When I was 17 years old, I had gone “too far” with my boyfriend of the same age. He was not LDS and he didn’t think much of it other than an expression of his love for me. I was disgusted with myself and as a dutiful Mormon girl I went to tell my bishop. He asked me for a lot of details, including whether I had “climaxed.” I was very naive and wasn’t positive I even knew what that meant. I told him I didn’t think I had. He said because I had not climaxed, I didn’t need to have any discipline or consequences and to just pray for repentance. I was relieved but when I went through the temple to marry my boyfriend so I wouldn’t risk sinning again (who by then had joined the church to marry me) a year later, I felt horrible the entire time. I felt I had not been forthcoming enough with my bishop and so my repentance process hadn’t been complete. After marriage, our sex life was horrible. I felt such shame and guilt and it took me 15 years and leaving the church to ever have an orgasm. The shame I had for my body, the idea that “climaxing” was so horrific , shamed me deeply. This elderly man had put in to my mind that doing such a thing would have made me so horrible, that it caused a deep mental blockage that impaired me for a long time. My husband has always been patient and supportive of me and I am glad we can now have a normal, healthy, sex life with my only partner in life.

#93 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,6,7

I was asked as a young man by my bishop if I had a problem with masturbation. I really didn’t know what it meant and had never done it or even knew it was a thing until I was asked by him, who was also a family friend. As I matured I still did not do it but felt a lot of unnecessary guilt even for just touching myself and felt I needed to lie to this bishop/family friend about this normal teenage behavior to save myself from embarrassment. I feel this was very inappropriate and caused me huge amounts of anxiety and guilt for probably 10-12 years. I never felt worthy, even though I wasn’t actually doing it. Later in my young adulthood when I actually did do it once in a while, I still felt the need to lie about it even when asked the vague “Do you keep the law of chastity” I took that to include “Do you masturbate”. Bishops interviews were the only time in my life where I would lie. I had no idea how normal it was for young men until after my mission where it was talked about openly among my friends. I still never admitted to it or confessed it.

I eventually couldn’t stand the guilt and confessed it to a bishop at the age of 24. This guy was an incredible man who told me it was normal, that virtually every guy does it and to not feel guilt, shame or unworthiness and to not feel the need to ever confess it. This changed everything for me. No more shame or guilt, all because of one great bishop. Every young man in the Church deserves to hear this from a priesthood leader they look up to. I am so glad my young son will not have the same experience that I did.

Church leaders, please use your positions to do the right thing by clarifying this policy and ending inappropriate questions.

#92 Name Hidden. CS: 4. Other: Introducing masturbation to my child.

My son turned 12 and was getting his priesthood interview. He is on the high functioning autism spectrum and was quite nervous about the interview. I reassured him that it will be ok. He asked what the Bishop will ask, I said “basic things like, do you believe in God, do you sustain the prophet…stuff like that, all you have to do is say YES to everything, it’s easy.”

Content with that instruction he felt confident as he went into the interview. Until the Bishop asked him something he didn’t understand. “Do you masturbate?” not knowing what it was, he remembered what I told him and he said “Yes” the Bishop said “You do?” he responded…”umm yes.” Thanks Bishop swell job there.

#91 Name Hidden. 1,2,5,7. Other: Intense guilt caused by constantly policing my thoughts for things I’d have to admit to the bishop – like being attracted to other women.

My brother, M, was sexually molested as a child by somebody in our ward. We found out that my brother had been molested when his abuser wrote us a letter – after having confessed to his bishop, who did not report the abuse. My brother’s abuser served no jail time, despite having confessed to molesting and raping several children. Meanwhile, my brother began to molest one of our siblings. When this came out, he talked to our bishop, who was a social worker and therefore a mandated reporter. The bishop did not report my brother and did not even encourage my mother to seek therapy for my brother or for the sibling he molested.

Years later, I came to this same bishop because I was “struggling” with an attraction to other woman. It was just he and I, in a room, and I was 17. He told me to “do whatever I needed to do” about my attraction to women. Then he leaned in and threatened me with the eternal retribution that was certain to come when I acted upon my sinful desires. He urged me to take his phone number and call him when I was feeling suicidal over my life choices, as I surely would. He told me of the time when I would see Jesus face-to-face, and pay for my sins.

All the behavior by this bishop was wildly inappropriate. He never should have been alone with me discussing sex in the first place, and the process of coming out did indeed drive me to thoughts of suicide – not because of the consequences of being queer, but because of the fear and depression I had to overcome after leaving the Church and un-learning all the twisted doctrine I was taught.

Additionally (and this is hearsay, but reliable hearsay), several of my friends were harassed by their bishops growing up. A good friend of mine confided that she was part of a sexual exchange between the bishopric; she was the bishop’s daughter, and they would pass around their daughters and friends of their daughters to be raped and molested during after-church meetings. This is obvious an extreme example, but when you give people license to be alone and indulge in sexual fantasies with children, predators will take advantage of that.

Older men should NEVER be interviewing underage children about sex, especially alone.

#90 Name Hidden. CS: 1,4

When I was young, I was abused by a stepfather. Later, as an adult, I came forward with my story and he was disfellowshipped for one year. During that process I learned that my stepfather had confessed to our bishop, a man who later went on to become the stake president, around the time that I was in middle school. That bishop apparently went on to absolve him of guilt, all without ever speaking to me or my mother. The abuse did not stop, and in fact, was worse after that time frame. I often think how different my life could have been if that man had done something to help me.

When I was 18 I went in to talk to my BYU Bishop about the abuse that I had suffered. The shame and guilt that I felt was very strong and my boyfriend at the time suggested that I talk to my bishop about how I was feeling.

After shakily recounting my story for virtually the first time in my life, he said 30 seconds of platitudes and then asked who the young man in the foyer was. Then he proceeded to press me into confessing to sexual sin. I was a little taken aback after letting myself be so vulnerable and sharing my most well kept secret. I said no, there was nothing I needed to confess, but he wouldn’t let it drop. He reminded me that I would pretty much go to hell for un-confessed sexual sins and went into some detail about what exactly constituted sinning, which was very uncomfortable for me to endure as I was already pretty afraid of adult males. He just wouldn’t take no for an answer and kept saying “are you sure?” When I replied no. I was so angry and depressed afterward—I had looked to him for help in desperation and gotten a dose of shame in return. And also, it was just creepy. I mean, maybe you should wait for someone to actually come in for a confession before you start asking for the dirty details.

#89 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,7. Other: Impaired sexual relations outside of marriage

When I was 14, a counselor once asked me if I knew what masturbation was in a region dance interview. I said yes and he made me explain exactly what it was- he said if it made it easier I didn’t have to look at him when I said it. I told him it was touching yourself. When he asked if I had a problem with that, I said that I didn’t.. not anymore. I had masturbated before and felt guilty enough about it that I had stopped. He then stated he needed to talk to the bishop and see if I would be able to go to the temple that weekend with the YW. I went home and told my parents, they had heard it before because like I said I had been guilty and already confessed to them.. I was terrified. Not just of what would happen, but I was terrified of what would happen after. What would I tell an imaginary future husband? Mormon boys wanted-expected to marry virgins. Did masturbating count as losing my virginity? What if I could never get married in the temple? Would anyone even want me if I was not a virgin? I would be lucky if anyone ever decided they could overlook my sins.

That night the bishop called me to tell me I could go, but needed to see me. When I met with he bishop, he asked me how it started, where I masturbated and with what. He decided that I was forgiven and I went home.

I cried myself to sleep for years. Well into my 20’s I can’t fall asleep without the tv on because eventually I learned that could distract me enough to let me fall asleep. I absolutely despised myself. I was dirty and disgusting and unlovable. I never dated in high school and once I was in college, my first boyfriend pressured me into a lot sexually. And of course I didn’t say anything, I was lucky anyone would have me. I still have trouble saying no to men when it comes to sex. Still have trouble thinking I deserve to be loved.

#88 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,7

I had to bring up instances of when I had masturbated during my teenage and pre-mission years to bishops and a stake president. The emotional and psychological toll this took on me was often unbearable while growing up and even while on my mission. The shaming and guilt I suffered for many years could have been avoided were it not for this damaging practice from the LDS church. Those were years that I could have spent enjoying life more fully and will never get back.

#87 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,7,8. Other: Impaired intimacy (sexuality, dating, friendships)

I discovered masturbation at age 11 before I had even heard of it. My parents had given me “the talk” and I knew that a man ejaculates sperm during sexual intercourse, and sex was only supposed to be for marriage. I put two and two together and I began to worry that I had done something bad. But it felt so good that I kept exploring. I was too embarrassed to tell my parents, so I kept it a secret. A year later, my curiosity got the best of me and I started viewing pornography. It wasn’t too long before my parents caught me. What follows is a course of events that continued from the time I was 12 to when I was 17.

I still remember my mother sobbing uncontrollably, wailing that her son was a porn addict and was going to end up being a child molester or a rapist. She started dragging me to seminars and BYU Education Week classes about overcoming sexual addiction, and stacking my nightstand with maturation books by Brad Wilcox and John Bytheway. She was going to fix this problem, even if it meant sleeping on the floor of my room (which she did on one occasion). My dad pitched in by making me give a daily report of my abstinence as he drove me to school each morning, and lecturing me whenever I slipped up. This only served as a constant reminder of my failure. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how much anguish I poured into my prayers or how many hours I read the Book of Mormon, I always failed. The blame was on me, since Satan can’t tempt anyone above their ability to resist (1 Corinthians 10:13). I was weak, and it was my fault for not being strong enough.

The emotional toll of losing my privacy, disappointing my parents, and my self-inflicted guilt paled in comparison to my visits with the bishop. Every several weeks for 30 minutes, he would drill me about the times and places I got stimulated, the type of pornography I watched, and the number of times I had masturbated. He spoke with graveness as though I had committed murder, and accused me of being flippant to Christ’s atonement. As a repeat sinner, none of my previous attempts at repentance mattered: I was guilty of all my former sins (D&C 82:7). God would not forgive me until I stopped completely. If I didn’t, I would not be endorsed to earn the Eagle Scout rank, I would not serve a mission, I would not go to BYU, I would not get married in the temple, and thus I would be eternally barred from the Celestial Kingdom. And even if I did get married civilly, I would be a lousy father and an unfaithful husband. Oh, and don’t even think about killing yourself: you’ll still have sexual addiction in the spirit world (Alma 34:34), and if you don’t repent there you’ll certainly be damned.

The cheerfulness of my childhood was incinerated by guilt and despair. Every time I masturbated or watched porn just reinforced my belief that I was a sinner on the path to Hell. When my bishop put me on probation and I stopped blessing and passing the sacrament, my friends and neighbors began to wonder and distanced themselves from me. I was humiliated and all alone. No one would see me for who I was except that I was a person “struggling with issues”. My depression spiraled into suicidal thoughts: I would make jokes about killing myself, although I knew better and my bishop’s threat of eternal damnation kept me from actually doing it. To compensate, I became obsessed with screamo and death metal music. I never cut myself because I was too afraid of the attention it would bring. The last thing I wanted was more people involving themselves in my problems.

By this time, after seeing all the misery and pain his son was enduring, my father decided to reevaluate his beliefs about the definition of sin and question the church’s policies. He recognized that I was being emotionally abused, and took the argument to my bishop. According to him, I hadn’t suffered enough: I needed to suffer more in order to fully comprehend the weight of my transgressions and only “godly sorrow” would bring me to true repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10-11). My dad exploded. When he finally came home from the argument, he sat down with me and told me that I didn’t ever have to visit the bishop again. And if anyone ever asked about my so-called problems, I should lie to their face. “It’s none of their damn business,” he said.

From then on, life got better. I realized how I had been brainwashed into believing something as harmless and normal as masturbation or sexual curiosity were in a class of sin second to murder in severity (Alma 39:5). Over time, I felt less guilty when I masturbated or viewed porn. And most surprisingly, as I felt less guilty about those things, I started doing them less frequently. My depression eventually subsided and happiness returned. I found hope again, and renewed vigor to do something great with my life. I recently graduated from BYU and I’m extremely proud of that accomplishment. Yes, I lied to BYU and didn’t truly live the honor code, but my father’s words ring true: “it’s none of their damn business.” Never again will I confess anything to a bishop. I’ve lost trust in the system, and I’m sure as hell not going to play leadership roulette.

I’ve since let go of the past and forgiven my parents and bishop. I don’t hold anything against them, as they too were brainwashed to think and behave a certain way. They acted out of concern for my future and well-being, despite failing to distinguish my torment from the process of repentance. I also had to forgive myself and let go of my guilt for not having any friends, not enjoying the wild freedom of my adolescence, and not having a pleasant high school experience. I can’t think of those years as being “wasted” and hold a grudge against myself. No, I have to move forward. As time has gone by, I have realized the strength and wisdom those years gave me. I am assertive and quick to denounce any destructive falsehood that crosses my path. Guilt is Satan’s greatest weapon and I shall stand against it. I have become a defender of truth and protector of the innocent.

I still view porn and masturbate occasionally, but my thoughts no longer dwell on them. And you know what that means? I’m a normal human being! It turns out that I’m not a rapist or child molester as my mother feared I would become, and neither am I a sex-crazed pervert who views all women as objects. On the contrary, I feel my life has been renewed with meaning and ambition. I strive to be a respected member of my community and do my part to make the world a little better. I feel more connected to God than ever before, and every day I’m discovering new ways to become more like Him. I embrace my sexuality and value it for the spiritual and pleasurable gift it truly is. One day, I’ll find the girl of my dreams and share it with her. And let me tell you, I’m going to be the best father and most devoted husband she’s ever known.

#86 Name Hidden. CS: 1,3,4. Other: Renewed shame and memories of past sexual molestation. She felt like she was molested again.

This is a story of two of my daughters who were interviewed by the same Bishop. One daughter was asked if she masturbated and what objects she used. This daughter was adopted and was abused by men as a young girl. She felt molested emotionally by the Bishop. This was traumatizing for her and turned her off to the Church.

Another daughter had been molested as a five year old in the church by a fifteen year old boy scout. The Bishop asked her details about her sexual relationship with her boyfriend. She felt the energy coming from the Bishop was molesting as well and brought up the past trauma of her molestation in the Church building. This was very traumatizing and lived with her for a long time. She still brings it up.

Both daughters are out of the Church. Not solely because of this experience but it definitely played a part.

#85 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,4

My 11, almost 12 year old grandson, came across a picture of a naked woman on the internet. Having been taught that pornography was a sin, he had a lot of guilt. However, being a curious preteen, a few weeks passed and he went searching for a similar picture. He felt “prompted to confess.” I don’t know exactly what was said in that interview (the parents had no knowledge of this interview), but I do know that he had great shame and suffered for 2 years. On the way home from a priesthood meeting, his dad could tell he was extremely disturbed, withdrawn and depressed. Finally, he told his father what had happened and he reassured him that it was normal to be curious and that he hadn’t done anything wrong. This young man had 2+ years of needless suffering of guilt and shame. Fortunately, the damage was limited due to the way it was handled by the father and his dis-allowance of any more interviews.

#84 Name Hidden. CS: 1,4

My story is probably typical of many Mormons who came of age in the 80s. In the early to mid 80s, I was asked about law of chastity questions on an annual basis. I was introduced to the concept of masturbation largely by my Bishop (though we covered it briefly in 5th grade sex-ed). I was given the Packer “little factory” handout to understand puberty and wet dreams. Whenever I had a wet dream, there was a lot of shame and embarrassment involved and I would wash my underwear to try to hide this from my parents. Between 6th and 8th grade, most of what I knew about sex came from my annual interviews and the pamphlets. My bishop was not a pervert, he was simply doing his job as he understood it. Mine is not the terror story that you will hear elsewhere, but in spite of that I do believe that these communications would be better handled by parents and public institutions (such as doctors and teachers).

#83 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,6,7,8,9

At the age of 17, I was raped by an acquaintance of mine. I told my bishop, hoping to get some sort of help.

Instead, because of his invasive and unnecessary questions, I was made to relive that horrible day, forced to tell this man I barely knew explicit details of whether I had ever touched myself before, what was done to me, how my body reacted, and how long each different act lasted

Afterwards, rather than giving me resources for counseling, or encouraging me to go to the police or even my parents, I was told that I needed to repent for what had happened.

I was not allowed to take the sacrament for an entire year. I was given an addiction recovery book and told to go through the steps in it to help me with my “sexual problems”. I was made to meet with the bishop at least twice a month to discuss my “progress” (more invasive questions about whether I was touching myself, if so, how? And how often?)

In addition to all of that, I was made to feel such shame for any sexual feeling that occurred within me, that when I eventually married I was unable to even undress in front of my husband without intense feelings of self hatred and disgust.

#82 Quinn P. CS: 1,2,4,7

My first “worthiness” interview happened when I was 12 years old. Worthiness was assessed by answering questions from the Bishop, an older man who, we were told represented Christ. My parents encouraged this interview and it was a standard practice for young people to have these interviews every six months. I had no idea what was to come.

He asked if I paid a tithing or 10% of what I made. I had a job and reported that I did tithe or give the church 10% of everything I earned. He smiled with approval. Other questions followed that focused on obeying my parents, attending all my church meetings, and having a strong belief about the LDS founder Joseph Smith.

He looked very uncomfortable when he asked me if I looked at pornography or pictures of naked girls. I said no, but felt very awkward that he would ask.

Then he asked, do you ever “touch yourself down there, you know, at night when no one is watching.” I didn’t know what to say. Down there? Was he talking about my penis? Was he saying that masturbation made me unworthy? Where was he going with this? I felt anxiety well up within me.

I blushed and hesitated. He took the opportunity to explain that Heavenly Father made our bodies to do wonderful things and that we had a light that could light other lights. When we masturbate or stir up those sexual feelings, Heavenly Father is displeased. We must confess that sin to God’s representatives to be forgiven. I nodded in agreement.

He then asked me, “will you honor the law of chastity by never touching your penis to excite it in a way that displeases Heavenly Father?” I said yes and nodded in agreement. I just wanted this to be over.

Walking away from the interview, I felt very awkward. This wasn’t right, but I didn’t know why. I tried to talk to my father about the interview, but as a true believing Mormon, he had no interest in questioning what the Bishop might have said or asked. I felt I had no one to turn to.

Like normal teens, I enjoyed masturbation. But the Bishop and the LDS church placed a narrative on this practice that made me unworthy when I did. Occasionally I would confess this to have a Bishop tell me to imagine that Jesus was there when I felt tempted. Let’s just say such a practice had little effect.

What was the price I paid for believing the Bishop? It’s hard to say. I struggled with girl relationships as a teen and later into young adulthood. I had low self esteem. When I felt attracted to a woman, what if I couldn’t control myself and violated Heavenly Father’s commandments and fell from his favor? LDS literature on the topic only fueled this shame culture. The book Miracle of Forgiveness should be renamed It’s a Miracle If You’re Forgiven. It’s a total shame job that aligns all too well with the LDS understanding that we’re separated from God and our behavior will bridge that gap. Maybe.

Shame has been a constant and deep focus of most of the healing work I’ve done as an adult. Clearly LDS leaders should stop this practice, but should also question the belief that they are separated from God. What kind of God would kick us out and demand impossible behavioral standards as the means to return? It’s time to question the narrative because one, it’s not true and two, it’s harmful.

#81 Name Hidden. CS: 1,3

Not sure if it matters because t happened when I was an adult. After I had finally told my parents that I had been raped they convinced me to go to the bishop to hopefully get a recommendation to a counselor through the church. I did get the recommendation, but was also told I needed to atone for my sins for what had transpired. I left the bishop’s office sobbing.

#80 Name Hidden. CS: 5

I wish I could share the details but the victims don’t want to go public. A man I loved and trusted as much as my own dad was a Bishop while he was molesting his own children. There is no question about this, he admitted to it when he was confronted. Who knows how many other children he abused behind closed doors. If you think a Bishop has some kind of special angel trust power, think again. Don’t trust anybody at church with your kids behind closed doors.

#79 Jimmy W. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7,8

Three stories in one…

When I was young, I anticipated the day I would drive a car. I would sit in the car in the driveway and practice shifting the gears. When I became a scout (12-13), I had an assistant scoutmaster who was just one of the older boys (somewhere in the 16-18 age range). He took an interest in me and could sense my interest in driving. He would take me home from activities and let me steer the car. As time went on, he would let me drive the car, but scoot real close saying he needed to be able to grab the controls, if necessary. He took me to Sizzler and bought my dinner. We went to the lake one time and he stopped and bought himself some beer and whatever soda I wanted. I thought he was just being nice, but later figured out he was trying to date me. On our trip to the lake, he made up a story about studying psychology and that he wanted to ask me questions to practice. He told me that I couldn’t tell anyone else or he might get in trouble since he wasn’t licensed. He started asking me questions about if I masturbated. I didn’t know what he was talking about until he re-phrased it as ‘jacking off’. Then I lied. He asked other questions that, I later assumed, were intended to check out my sexual orientation. I only wanted to drive cars and liked the food and attention. One day, my dad told me I couldn’t hang out with this guy anymore. I found out from the other scouts/deacons that he had been caught, sexually molesting another boy and released from serving scouts. Last I heard, this guy was serving time in jail as a sex offender.

Throughout my youth, I was asked questions by the bishop about whether I masturbated. I usually lied because I knew what the church taught and I didn’t want to deal with the shame of others knowing. I would read in the Old Testament about how “if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out” or “if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off”. When I would feel like my masturbation was out of control, I would think that I should just ‘cut the offending member off’. Then my problem would be gone. Other times, I considered suicide because we all remember being taught that we would be better off dead, than unclean. One time the bishop asked me if I had problems with masturbation. When I lied that I didn’t, he said “Oh, it comes easy now”, then started laughing and said he always wanted to say that. His oldest daughter was my best friend from kindergarten until about fifth grade, so I was a little shocked that he would joke about something that really caused me so much shame. I remember being told that I would have to have not masturbated for one year before I could serve a mission, so I did pretty well and the one or two slip-ups didn’t keep me from going. While on my mission, I masturbated a few times. I was careful because I had heard of other elders being caught and if I knew, and everyone else knew what that elder did, I didn’t want those things spread around about me. I remember feeling so guilty. One day after masturbating the night before, we had a baptismal service at the chapel downtown, I was asked to conduct since I was a DL. After the service, the District President stopped me in the hall and commented on what a wonderful spirit he felt from me. I thought, “If you knew what I did last night, you wouldn’t say that.”

I was first married in early 1980’s. We built our first home and moved in in 1987. Shortly after moving in, I recall going in for a temple recommend and the bishop pulled out a photocopy of a letter under signature of the previous first presidency. He asked me to read it to myself. It was a letter from January of 1982 and no one else had ever shown this to me nor had I heard of it in over 5 years. The letter was saying that the first presidency says oral sex is an unholy and impure practice and if we are doing it, we aren’t worthy to enter the temple. The bishop asked me what I thought and I said “If that’s what they want, I’ll obey.” The bishop said he didn’t want to discuss it with the wives and asked me to pass it along to her. Being the obedient one, I said I would. Later, this letter came up with one of the counselors as we were taking the deposit to the bank and he told me that he and the other counselor told the bishop they didn’t think it was right. So, at the urging of his counselors, he called church HQ and was told that that letter had been rescinded within one year. The bishop never told me to ignore that previous meeting. My wife at that time, now felt that ‘missionary’ was the only position approved by God and the new information didn’t change that. She would then be frustrated that she couldn’t achieve orgasm through missionary position sex and would be angry at me and consider me a selfish lover, all while not allowing me to try anything else to bring her satisfaction.

The first story shows the danger of teaching our youth that it is perfectly normal to discuss our sexuality with someone older. The second story demonstrates the damage that the teachings, compounded by the interrogations, do to our youth and adults. The final story, while not about youth interviews, shows the damage that happens to couples when churches and organizations interfere in our God-given sexuality. The interviews AND shaming teachings need to STOP!!! If we stop the interviews without proper teaching, the shame will still go on.

#78 Logan H. CS: 1,2,3,4. Other: Sexual abuse as an adult

I was taught and groomed to believe that men were standing between me and god. That they were acting as gods representative. I do not remember large parts of childhood, however looking back on symptoms, I see some traits of red flags of abuse or mental instability (I assume abuse, but I don’t have evidences nor the memories).

Leading to young adulthood, I was sexually violated by a friend’s neighbor. He was a youthful father of four. Our friends spent a considerable amount of time visiting him and his family and participating in their activities. One time I went with him and his kids camping. The other friends couldn’t make it, so I went alone. That night, after he put his kids to sleep, he touched my groin. I froze and couldn’t move. All I could do was say that I wasn’t comfortable and that I didn’t want to do this. My mind was racing with guilt and shame; what did I do to make his happen, what is so wrong with me? I didn’t respond to him, I never consented, and I cried. He masturbated while touching me after me telling him I didn’t want this.

I blamed myself. I cried a lot. I went to counseling at university primarily to deal with this.

Now being in a further place in life (although still not healed because I don’t know if there is such a thing a healing after that), I would blame the institution for teaching me that priesthood holders and men with priesthood are acting for god. I saw him as being infallible and I blamed myself.

After the incident he asked for a private conversation. He took me in his car and told me that he would like to choose if and when he tells his family what happened. He said that he knows them better than I do, and he would like for me to leave it up to him.

#77 W.H. CS: 1,2,3,6,7

Looking back now, I can see that I have always been very interested in sex. Even as a young kid of six or seven years I liked being naked and exploring my body. I was very curious about how girls were different than boys. I liked to experiment with things that would cause erections. I don’t remember feeling guilty about any of this until I was caught by my mother at one of these times that I was playing with myself. I don’t recall exactly what she said to me, but I got the message that my behavior was not appropriate. This caused me to be much more careful to not get caught. It also introduced some associated guilt — although not a lot.

It is also important to my story to note that I was a very conscientious kid and very susceptible to feelings of guilt. I worried about things a lot. In therapy I have since learned this amount of worry to be very unusual for young kid. And due to the indoctrination I received, I was worried that I would be found worthy before God. As I grew older I was very worried about being righteous enough so that the Holy Ghost could be with me. I desperately wanted His guidance, protection, and inspiration as promised by the doctrine I was taught.

Essentially, I was not instructed by my parents about sex. Sometime around when I was twelve my mother gave me, with very little of her own comment, the “For Young Men Only” pamphlet that was a reprinting of Packer’s famed “don’t masturbate, little factory” conference talk. I suspect that document has single-handedly destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of church members. It definitely had a devastating effect on me. Also at that age other anti-masturbation messages started coming from church sources. My cousin had a book that I read parts of that also condemned masturbation and said that confession to a bishop was required to receive forgiveness. The condemnation of “playing with yourself” was mentioned by my deacon’s quorum teacher on at least one occasion — along with weird and uncomfortable eye contact. Perhaps unusually, it was not brought up in bishop interviews.

As I hit puberty my interest in sex accelerated. Due to the vacuum of parental instruction I looked for information everywhere I could. I looked up “sex” in the encyclopedia and studied every related reference. I found other books in the house that mentioned a few things sex-related. Eventually, I came across pornographic magazines, which I studied cover-to-cover multiple times. I still have burned into my memory those first images of naked women that I saw in those magazines. However, combined with the excitement and enjoyment of porn was intense guilt. For a while I actually made a deal with myself that I would read a chapter in the Book of Mormon for every time I read through the magazine — as a way to counteract the evil with good, I guess. Eventually, the guilt got so bad that I destroyed the magazine.

The “little factory” aspect of the For Young Men Only pamphlet got extra attention from me. I kept expecting to have a nocturnal emission, but it never happened. I began to wonder if something was wrong with me. It also seemed to cause quite a lot of curiosity about semen and orgasm.

When I was thirteen, I discovered somewhat by accident how to masturbate to the point of orgasm. This was very thrilling, but the guilt, shame, and self-loathing intensified exponentially. And so began a decades-long battle of trying to stop masturbating, inevitably failing, and feeling guilty, over and over and over. Because of the endless church messages about the requirement to be worthy/pure/righteous, I felt constantly ineligible to receive inspiration. This was very upsetting to me. I was tormented endlessly by it. I wanted to receive inspiration but felt like it was locked away from me due to my sinful state.

When I was sixteen I decided that something had to be done. I wanted my patriarchal blessing but I knew I had to properly repent of my masturbation sin first. To that end, I managed to stop masturbating for the period of a month or so, and then I made an appointment with the bishop. I went through the embarrassing process of confessing to him about my masturbation sins. In retrospect, he did fairly well to not intensify the shame except that I could tell from his comments that he fully expected me to start masturbating again. He failed to express faith and confidence in me. Instead, he wanted to meet with me weekly to “help me be accountable.” He also probed into whether I looked at porn or anything like it (which I wasn’t at the time). Fortunately, the weekly meetings never happened and were dropped.

I went through other white-knuckled periods of stopping masturbation prior to being ordained an elder and prior to my mission. In the latter case I again confessed my sin to my bishop (a different bishop from when I was 16). His response was minimal. Something like: “You stopped right? Good.” How refreshing that was!

My mission president Clark Thorstensen had a very manipulative tactic in his interviews. At one point he got wind of a “relationship” between myself and a member girl. (She and I became platonic friends, but nothing more.) He got wind of this (probably my companion informed him) and in a subsequent interview with me he tried to get me to confess by the following manipulative method. He said something like this: “Elder, I have heard that you have a romantic relationship with, oh, what’s her name… Jody?, Janna?, Judy? …” He was saying names similar to my friend’s in order to get me to supply her name and in the process provide an implicit confession. It was a power play. He tried this technique on me several times. Not expecting such a thing, I fell for it the first time, but thereafter I just sat there and let him spout names without responding until he gave up. I talked with other missionaries about it and found that several others had the same experience in their interviews. It was evidently one of his favorite tactics. He was the first case where I was severely disappointed and disillusioned with the devious behaviors of supposed “men of god.”

President Thorstensen had other elders spy on me. One day my companion heard through the bathroom door the sound of me masturbating. He might have had his ear to the door, for all I know. As I emerged from the bathroom he asked something like, “Were you doing something bad?” Flabbergasted, I asked, “What?” and he said, “Nevermind.” However, in my next interview with President Thorstensen he point-blank asked me if I masturbate. I paused and then answered in the affirmative. In fairness, his response could have been much worse. He admonished me to immediately stop and said he had a really helpful “Steps in Overcoming Masturbation” document that I should read. He never did give me a copy of it, but I previously had happened to come across and read this absurd document since it was sitting around in one of my apartments. It is still available to read on the internet today. The author is anonymous but has been attributed to Packer. At this particular point in my life, I knew I was not going to stop, so I didn’t try. President Thorstensen continued to ask me about masturbation at every subsequent interview. In each instance, I lied and said that I had stopped doing it. This caused guilt, but I felt I had no other viable option.

Post-mission the guilt over masturbation continued. I tried stopping several more times. At one point, I made the error of admitting it to my girlfriend at the time. I even asked her to ask me about it periodically to essentially be my “accountability buddy” to help me stay “sober.” Understandably, she did not like being burdened with this. I strongly suspect she went to our Institute teacher with the issue (we attended a class together). During institute class one day this teacher brought up masturbation and went on about how evil it is and why would anyone do it. It was very out-of-context with the rest of the subject matter of the lesson. It was very weird and uncomfortable. This girlfriend broke up with me soon after. The masturbation issue probably played a substantial part in her rationale for ending the relationship. This breakup had a devastating effect on me. My level of self-loathing soared to new highs and my self-esteem hit new lows.

It was in this unstable and unhealthy state that I eventually found and dated the woman who would become my first wife. From the start it was a dysfunctional relationship, but we got engaged anyway in part because my self-esteem was so low that I didn’t think I could do any better. Somewhere along the line I informed her about my “past” problems with masturbation, but I assured her that I had stopped (which was, of course, a lie). One morning a few days prior to our wedding day, my fiance caught me in bed just after I had masturbated. She got very angry and threatened to call off the wedding. I lied and told her the semen was from a wet dream. She accepted that explanation, but it was clear that the stakes were high that I could never get caught masturbating. And so, right from the beginning, my first marriage was built on deception.

Not long into my marriage, I added internet porn use to the masturbation. This got difficult to always keep hidden. Occasionally, my wife found my porn. Each successive time she caught me, the fallout got progressively worse. She eventually forced me (with threat of divorcing me) to confess my porn use to the bishop. This was a particularly unpleasant interview since this bishop was also a co-worker. I confessed to porn use and masturbation and was placed on the humiliating and shaming “probation” where I couldn’t take the sacrament, participate in priesthood ordinances, say prayers at church, etc. I had to promise to stop masturbating and viewing porn. I was forced to meet with him monthly where he asked again about how I was doing with my “habit.” He left my church status open-ended with no timeline given for restoring it. I successfully stopped masturbating for a month or two, but eventually started again. I clearly remember a feeling of sheer terror right after that first time masturbating following the confession. I felt like I had lost my marriage and my very soul. I knew I couldn’t go through confessing again and starting over, so I determined to lie. It was more than six months of interviews until my bishop finally restored my church status.

There is no question that my mental and emotional state was negatively affected by the years of guilt, shame, and self-loathing. As my horrible first marriage dragged on and the ever-present guilt persisted, I became more and more depressed. I was terrified of leaving the marriage because I was sure, in my despicable and sinful state, no one else would want me. I felt trapped in a living hell with no escape. I didn’t care much if I lived or died though I never made a suicide plan or attempt.

A number of years later, I eventually broke free from both the toxic marriage and harmful church. Once free, I began to see how absurd, unhealthy, and damaging the masturbation ban truly is. It makes me angry and sad to think about all the emotional turmoil expended in the futile and unnecessary attempts at trying to stop masturbating! So unnecessary! How different my life could have been! How much healthier my emotional state would have been! What a terrible waste!

I further think the church’s condemnation of pornography is counterproductive since it serves to make it more forbidden and thus more enticing. If the church just dropped talking about it and preaching against it incessantly, “porn abuse” among members would probably diminish organically over time.

Indeed, I have concluded that all aspects of the sexuality of its members is none of the church’s business! The obsession with “worthiness” and a demand for purity is one of the church’s worst offences. Yes, the probing questions asked in interviews by bishops, stake presidents, and mission presidents are unquestionably way out of bounds. But more fundamental are the horrific doctrines and teachings that intrude into the private lives of the members. The members and leaders are both conditioned to think that this intrusion is required, normal, even a “blessing!!!” This is the root of the problem that ultimately needs to be addressed. It should never be normal for a person to think it’s ok for an institution to dictate or inquire into sexuality!

#76 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,4,6,7,8

My first experience with church leaders asking me about pornography or masturbation happened when I was about 12. I had always been curious about sexuality since most of my friends in middle school were not members and they looked at pornography regularly. My bishop asked me if I looked at pornography or masturbated when I interviewed to become a deacon. I had looked at stuff, but had never masturbated. After he went into more detail what that meant I became more curious and asked my friends at school if they did it. Of course they did, so I went home and tried it. Throughout the next few years I continued to have meetings with bishops and they would continue to ask me questions about pornography or masturbation. The self esteem issues began around age 15. I had been listening to church leaders in my interviews and classes talking about how masturbation and sexual sins were some of the worst things you could ever do, and slowly I began feeling like I was less than everyone else in church (because I didnt believe anyone else was dealing with it). Luckily I had really great friends, so I didnt ever show signs of the self hate, but in secret I always felt like I was not deserving of the good things in my life. I figured that anyone who found out about what I was doing would never want to talk to me again. I never wanted to have a serious relationship, because I felt like I would not be able to control myself with the girl, and as long as I was masturbating by myself in secret it would be better than ruining someone else’s salvation. I was actually able to stop looking at pornography for two years, simply because I felt like it between ages 16 and 18, but I started again when I went to college. There were times where I had felt like suicide could fix my issues, because I was always worried I would take things too far with someone else or that I would never be able to break my “addiction” (which is what my leaders would call me looking at porn 1 a week or less).

When I was on my mission I did really well not looking at pornography. I messed up a couple times, but my first mission president was an amazing man who never made me feel less than anyone else because I messed up. My second mission president came in with 6 months left in my mission. Numbers dropped, and he decided it was because there was a pornography problem in the mission. I was a zone leader at the time, and had helped revive two dying zones in the mission because I was hard working and a good leader to others. When the president decided that pornography was the problem he interviewed every single missionary and went as in depth as he possibly could with any problems people had with it. I admitted to him that over a 20 month period I had looked at porn 4 times. He ripped into me, telling me that I was a terrible missionary, and asked me how I could possibly preach the gospel to others when I was filled with this sickness. Luckily I had an amazing companion, who when I told him what happened with the president he basically said the president could screw off, because we were doing amazing work for the people.

After my mission, I realized that the most common response from bishops was “try not to do it again, pray when you get tempted.” I decided that I didn’t need to go talk with them anymore if I slipped up and would just take care of it with God. Once I started dating my now-wife though, we messed up after about 6 months of dating and had sex. When I went and talked with my bishop the interview just went way too in depth. He asked me if I orgasmed, if she orgasmed, how many times we had sex, where we had sex, what positions we were in. I do not think that he had any weird motives behind the questions, but I did not think the extra questions were necessary since I had already established that we had sex. I was then forced to go to the BYU honor code office as part of my repentance process, which again I thought was unnecessary and that I could just handle it between me and the Lord.

My wife and I dated for a long time, but after the first time we were pretty good about not slipping up. My self-esteem issues were a big problem for us though, because in my head I was a terrible person who committed sexual transgressions all the time (I would masturbate maybe once a week). I became very lazy with our relationship because in my head I always felt that she would leave me because of my problems (luckily my wife is the most amazing woman in the world and she never did).

As I look back on my experiences, I have realized that the biggest issues with pornography or masturbation have been caused by the church itself. If my bishops had not gone in depth into masturbation when I was 12, I probably wouldn’t have tried it so often. If I had not been made to feel like a terrible person because I looked at pornography, I wouldn’t have looked at it as often as I did (it was a stress reliever for me). If I wasn’t made to feel like a second class citizen to everyone else because my issue was brought up at every possible chance, I would’ve enjoyed my teen years more than I did. My wife and I could’ve gotten married much sooner than we did, as the only thing holding us back was the repentance that we felt we needed to go through to make up for what we had done. My whole life I have felt shame. I have purposefully ruined relationships, because I “knew” I would never be good enough for me. I have since left the church, and slowly I have been gaining back my self confidence. I believe the bishops need to stop asking these questions, but I also believe the church in general needs to stop laying so much emphasis on restrictions to sexual behavior.

#75 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,6,7

I turned 12 and was given a copy of the “For the Strength of the Youth” pamphlet as I entered the Young Women’s program. Shortly after, I was interviewed by our bishop (a kind man, who was the father of a friend of mine) in preparation for a temple trip the youth were doing. I honestly can’t remember what he specifically said to me in regards to chastity during that interview, all I can tell you is the effects of it devastated me for the next decade.

At 12, I had no idea what the term “masturbation” meant. Once I was alerted to it in the pamphlet by the interview, I looked it up and realized with growing horror that I had been unknowingly committing a sin “next to murder”. I felt sick, and dirty and unworthy. A private activity that I had done without shame or second thought, for several years was a vile sin? I immediately resolved to stop, with the plan to return to the bishop having conquered my habit, to seek forgiveness.

The following years were a merry go round of abstinence and relapse, shame and self-loathing. I had a calendar that I marked for every day I could be chaste. The days I succumbed were blacked out in marker. Try as I might, I could not completely quit. The shame and guilt built and built, but I could not bring myself to face my friend’s dad to confess. Instead I wrote several anguished letters, which I never sent. In my young mind, I was going to have to stand before God and my family some day and confess to this sin. I also believed that my relatives who had passed away might be watching and seeing my actions. These beliefs messed with my mind in ways I didn’t even fully understand, and many years later it affected marriage relations with my spouse. All this – because I masturbated a few times a month. Yes, a few times a month.

I avoided bishop’s interviews like the plague. I never again returned to the temple as a youth due to my belief in my unworthiness. I carried these burdens and unhealthy associations with normal human sexual pleasure into my marriage. Luckily, I was married to a man who had grown up with a much healthier view of masturbation that I had. He helped me unravel some of my shame and insecurities, but it wasn’t until we had been married for 10 years and were beginning our journey out of the church that I told him the full story of my teenage struggles. Leaving the LDS faith, and their harmful ideas about human sexuality behind has made me able to brush off the last vestiges of sexual shame that I had been hanging on to.

#74 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,3,6,7

I turned 12 and was given a copy of the “For the Strength of the Youth” pamphlet as I entered the Young Women’s program. Shortly after, I was interviewed by our bishop (a kind man, who was the father of a friend of mine) in preparation for a temple trip the youth were doing. I honestly can’t remember what he specifically said to me in regards to chastity during that interview, all I can tell you is the effects of it devastated me for the next decade.

At 12, I had no idea what the term “masturbation” meant. Once I was alerted to it in the pamphlet by the interview, I looked it up and realized with growing horror that I had been unknowingly committing a sin “next to murder”. I felt sick, and dirty and unworthy. A private activity that I had done without shame or second thought, for several years was a vile sin? I immediately resolved to stop, with the plan to return to the bishop having conquered my habit, to seek forgiveness.

The following years were a merry go round of abstinence and relapse, shame and self-loathing. I had a calendar that I marked for every day I could be chaste. The days I succumbed were blacked out in marker. Try as I might, I could not completely quit. The shame and guilt built and built, but I could not bring myself to face my friend’s dad to confess. Instead I wrote several anguished letters, which I never sent. In my young mind, I was going to have to stand before God and my family some day and confess to this sin. I also believed that my relatives who had passed away might be watching and seeing my actions. These beliefs messed with my mind in ways I didn’t even fully understand, and many years later it affected marriage relations with my spouse. All this – because I masturbated a few times a month. Yes, a few times a month.

I avoided bishop’s interviews like the plague. I never again returned to the temple as a youth due to my belief in my unworthiness. I carried these burdens and unhealthy associations with normal human sexual pleasure into my marriage. Luckily, I was married to a man who had grown up with a much healthier view of masturbation that I had. He helped me unravel some of my shame and insecurities, but it wasn’t until we had been married for 10 years and were beginning our journey out of the church that I told him the full story of my teenage struggles. Leaving the LDS faith, and their harmful ideas about human sexuality behind has made me able to brush off the last vestiges of sexual shame that I had been hanging on to.

#73 Name Hidden CS: 1,4

In a private interview with my bishop as a child, he asked me if I obeyed the law of chastity. I was young and didn’t know what it meant and just said yes. He kept asking questions to see if I understood the law, which I could not answer. So he went into detail describing sexual acts that others could perform on me and asking if I allowed for that. When I said no, he asked if I masturbated. Again, I didn’t know what that meant. He in detail described how I could touch myself for pleasure.

#72 Amy P. CS: 1,2,3,5,6,7,8,9

I was inspired by former Bishop Sam Young’s campaign to end teen interviews with bishops for the plethora of reasons he has outlined. I have been wanting to share my own personal story on this topic for 38 years, but it has been very difficult to find the words, process the emotions, and not end up in a heap of depressive and suicidal thoughts after reliving and recounting the events. That said, I was able to get down on paper what happened to me several years ago and the lasting impact it has had on my life. I hope my story helps other victims feel less alone and might spur the church leadership into stopping their troubling practices when it comes to children and teenagers.

I was sexually molested by my bishop when I was nine years old. I was attending a ward party and was playing in an empty classroom. I was drawing pictures on the blackboard – something I was not supposed to be doing. The bishop came into the room and closed the door behind him. I was overcome with fear. He scolded me that I shouldn’t be drawing on the board. I said I was sorry. He came closer to me and I froze. He began touching my hair and told me I wouldn’t get in trouble if I didn’t say anything. He then began touching my chest and then his hand went down my pants, and he fondled my vagina. I just froze. I couldn’t scream, I couldn’t run, I was so frightened. It seemed to last forever, but in hindsight it was probably only 30 seconds. He told me again I wouldn’t get in trouble. Once he left, I started shaking and crying. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to get in trouble for something I shouldn’t have been doing. A few weeks later I was asked to give a talk in church. I had to sit on the stand with him. I was terrified. I told my mom I didn’t want to talk. I couldn’t tell her why. I gave the talk and my voice trembled the entire time. He sent me a thank you note after the talk. He would try to shake my hand when my family would come to church. I begged my mom to let us sit in the back of the chapel as far away from him as possible. I made every effort to avoid him after that. I feared for my life as a child and found it very hard to be alone, especially at night. Social situations started to become very difficult for me. I didn’t want to be alone without my mom or siblings. I became more withdrawn in the few years that followed. My teachers would tell my parents I was very well behaved but shy and withdrawn. I would tend to play with other children that were also shy or that had disabilities. They felt safe to me and I knew they would not hurt me. For several years, I would sleep on the floor of my parent’s bedroom. I had long beautiful hair, but I kept thinking of him touching it and asked my mom if I could get it cut. She took me to the beautician and I cut it all off. I didn’t want to be reminded of him touching my hair. I tried to look as unkempt as possible for the next few years. I thought if I looked ugly he would stay away from me.

A few years later, my father was called to serve in a student bishopric. He started physically and emotionally abusing me and my younger siblings when I was a teen. I would wake up nearly every day to his voice screaming at me telling me I was a bitch, a whore, an asshole, etc. He would beat my brother with 2x4s. He threw rocks at me and my little sisters leaving bruises. These are just a few of the horrible things that happened in my home. (It was only as an adult that I found out he was having multiple affairs with college students during my teen years and I strongly suspect his terrible behavior towards his family was because of this.)

The abuse became so extreme that at the age of sixteen I reached out to the new bishop for help. It took so much courage for me to sit in his office and ask for assistance. I was deeply depressed and was having reoccurring nightmares about the sexual assault that happened to me when I was nine. I thought he might be able to help me and help my family with the abuse by my father.

I told him about the former bishop that had sexually assaulted me. His response was that it happened so long ago that I needed to forgive and move on with my life. I told him about my father and the current abuse in my home. He also dismissed me saying that I needed to be an example to my father. He told me that my dad was in a pit and it was my responsibility to help pull him out. I left his office receiving no assistance. No call to the police. No offer of counseling services. No effort to contact my father and help stop the abuse.

I left his office more distressed than I had ever been. I felt like he was my last hope of getting help and went home and attempted suicide by overdosing and trying to asphyxiate myself.

At seventeen, I could no longer take the abuse in my home and so moved out. I dropped out of high school to hold down a full time job to pay for my little apartment. I was able to offer sanctuary to my siblings from time to time. But, the abuse continued for my siblings and I was hated even more by my father for trying to help them.

I would like to end the story there, but childhood sexual abuse and the various other abuses from my father have had a pretty devastating impact on my life as an adult. While it’s difficult to untangle the abuse from the subsequent depression, anxiety, and PTSD in my life, I certainly attribute much of the mental health challenges I have experienced to the tumultuous childhood and teen years I survived.

There have been episodes of crippling depression and multiple suicide attempts during my adult life. In an effort to find some peace and healing from my past, I made the decision to resign from the church. While I was going through that process, I consulted my bishop and husband on why I was doing it. My husband was very supportive and told me he thought it was the right thing. The bishop, on the other hand, told me I was being influenced by Satan and was making a huge mistake by leaving the one thing that could provide healing for me. It was almost more than I could take and I attempted suicide again because I felt like there was no hope. I would be left without an eternal family if I resigned, but if I stayed in the church I knew I could never truly heal. Nearly every Sunday I would have a panic attack and end up in tears after the three hour block. I felt like there was no escape. At my husband’s encouragement, I finally resigned. I received a letter from my bishop saying he was sorry about the abuses in my past and again said I was giving up the most important things in my life and eternity by making this decision. A few weeks later I received the final letter from church headquarters telling me they had removed my name from the records of the church and that all my temple blessings and sealing had been cancelled. It was the final act of violence they would ever perpetrate on me.

It has been 5 years since my resignation. And while things are not perfect (because no one’s life is), things are getting better. And as my therapist reminds me nearly every week, I am a fighter and survivor. Not everyone makes it out of these types of situations with their lives, so I feel very fortunate.

#71 Colleen M. CS: 1,2,4,7

When I was 15 years old I confessed to my bishop during a worthiness interview to having made out with a boy. This grown man asked me detailed questions about what we did, who the boy was, where we did it, how often we had done it, how it made me feel, and if I planned to do it again. I gave him all the details he asked for, he told me that as long as I didn’t do it again I would be ok, and he sent me on my way. The following week in young womens we had a lesson about chastity and saving ourselves for marriage, which was not originally scheduled. We were taught that if we didn’t keep ourselves clean, no good man would ever want us.

Not long after that, I started to hear rumors about my actions at school. I had not told anybody what I had done. I broke down and told my mom when I was just so upset about the things being said at school, and she said she already knew. The bishop had called her and told her everything I had done, and not to let me go to my friend’s house any more, as my actions were with her older brother. We finally figured out that this bishop had also told his wife everything, at their home, where their son, who was my age, heard. He told one person, and it spread from there. Because of the questions this old man had asked me, and then not keeping those confessions secret, I was, from then on, slut shamed at my school.

The following year, I was raped. Because of what had happened when I told someone about my sexual behavior before, I didn’t dare to tell anyone about what happened to me. I didn’t tell anyone until three years later when my college roommates and I talked about our rape experiences, which four out of five of us had. It took me a long time after that to process in a healthy way what had happened to me and then become an advocate for other girls going through the same thing.

#70 Name Hidden. CS: 1,2,7. Other: Lasting fear and anxiety about sex, damage to relationships and friendships

I grew up in a traditional Mormon family. As a teenage boy, I could always tell I was a very sexual person. I had an intense curiosity about sex from an early age and no one to talk to or ask questions to. This led to experimentation. I began masturbating before I had even hit puberty, not knowing that it was a sin and somehow not making the connection that it was linked to sex. By the time I was 14, a friend of mine had agreed to making out and petting. In addition, another friend had informed me that the church frowned upon masturbation.

Overwhelmed with guilt at what I had done, I met with the bishop and confessed to him that I masturbated and had broken the law of chastity with someone. Feeling an intense level of shame and crying profusely, I had written a letter to give to my bishop so that I didn’t have to try and talk through the tears. He refused to read it, instead asking me to read it to him and then beginning a series of prying questions about what, specifically, had occurred.

“Did you touch her breasts? Did you kiss her breasts? Were either of your shirts removed? Did either of you take off your pants? Did you touch her butt? Did you touch her genitals? Over her underwear or under them? Did you insert a finger into her? Did she touch your penis? Did your mouth come in contact with her genitals? Did hers ever come in contact with yours?” The questions kept coming, and I answered them as best as I could, embarrassed and worried that withholding information would be cause for spiritual punishment and an inability to repent. He pressed me for a name of the person. When the questions were finished, the bishop told me he wanted to start meeting with me every week about masturbation. And so I did. Every week, he would ask how many times I masturbated, whether I was thinking about specific people when I did so, and whether I was having sexual thoughts about girls on a day-to-day basis. I began an effort to shut out thoughts of a sexual nature.

This continued for several years, with phases of “winning” the battle and phases of “losing” the battle. At some point, the bishop advised me to text him every time I made a mistake and masturbated. With each slip up, I became more discouraged, more hateful of myself, and more embarrassed by the texts I would send him. While the bishop seemed to mean well, these regular meetings tore apart my views of sex. Every sexual thought became dangerous and in need of repression, and my self-worth became tied to my ability to abstain from masturbation. At some point I entered a relationship, and would do things such as cancel dates with her or stop talking to her if I had masturbated that day. I’d often tell her that she deserved someone better than me, someone who didn’t do those things – and that was frequently my justification for abandoning our relationship for days a time. I would confess to her when she had popped into my head while masturbating, expressing disgust that I had treated her as an object. This was one of the major contributing factors to the demise of our relationship.

The longer this went on, the more impossible it was to quit, and the more angry and depressed I became. The cycle continued for years, and to this day I find that I have a habit of repressing my own natural thoughts and feeling a sense of self-loathing when they arise. I have developed an intense fear of sex that I don’t know how to overcome.

I came to find out that when I had shared my original story with the bishop about the girl who I’d experimented with, he contacted her bishop who pulled her in for an interview and interrogated her with many of the same questions that I had been interrogated with. She later told me the details of those questions, which were amazingly more intrusive than my own, when I felt that a simple “I have broken the law of chastity; I didn’t have intercourse, but I definitely crossed a line and need to repent” would have sufficed. She was embittered at me for causing an involuntary confession from her to her bishop that she wasn’t ready to make, and experienced similar shame and lasting self-loathing for what had happened between us.

#69 John B. CS: 6,7. Other: Questions about bestiality while preparing for my mission

I was raised LDS and was a believing devout member as I prepared for my mission in my senior year of high school. I left for my mission a week after I graduated. During the interview process to determine my worthiness to serve as a missionary, I was asked by the counselor of the stake presidency if I had ever had sex with animals. This was after all the normal Mormon experience of being asked if I masturbated, had sex, touched a girls breasts, touched a girls vagina, had homosexual sex, and asked again about masturbation. But the question I got next does not seem to be the equivalent of the former experience that in had grown accustomed to as I went through the interview process speaking with bishops and now stake presidents and stake presidents counselors.

The interviewer, a counselor in the presidency that has now moved onto leading a mission, began asking about very specific sexual behaviours that I had ever experienced with animals. I can remember feeling incredibly uncomfortable. This person that I should be able to trust asked me specifically if I had ever had sex with any of my dogs. He asked directly and specifically about the dogs. I answered no I had never had sex with a dog, and he then asks if I had specifically had sex with any other animal. I told him I had not. This made me so uncomfortable. I didn’t know how to feel about this line of questioning other than confused.

As I got home from my mission and i was able to open up to a small group of people from my ward about their experience and they also shared that they had also gotten this line of questioning from the same leaders of the stake at the same time. The three closest friends I had growing up in the church all indicated that they also received similar questions as they were preparing for their missions.

I don’t really know how to feel about this now other than violated. If I had such a problem with my entire future as a Mormon on the line answering this question, how could I do so honestly. I never had sex with an animal but I have never felt more vulnerable while answering these questions. I hope that after 18 years they are no longer asking any prospective missionary this question. I felt like I had done something wrong from the question alone.

That “guilt” response I had at that moment stuck with me for several years. I felt so confused. Why was I being asked the question. I still don’t know but I know that question changed me. Irreparably it changed me. I hadn’t ever thought of that before that interview. After the interview I can not say that I had never heard of bestiality. I learned that lesson from the Stake presidency counselor. I don’t think often of the situation now but it seems very wrong that this line of questioning was used I my stake for my peer group. This seems so wrong. But who is a seventeen year old to say this interview is wrong or not. I obviously had no idea the difference.

#68 Name Hidden CS: 1,2,4,6

When I was 6, my brother and I played “doctor”. I had no idea at the time there was anything wrong with the game, we were nearly playing make believe. We did the normal children’s game of “I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours”, and on the count of 3 we quickly gave each other a brief glimpse of the private parts of the opposite sex. Unbeknownst to us, our mother had observed the incident and never let us forget. This caused me considerable guilt and shame over the years.

Fast forward to my first youth Temple recommend interview. When the question of Chastity was asked, I confessed the incident to my bishop at the time. He wasn’t overly concerned, seeing as I was six at the time. He said that my baptism had washed the ‘sin’ away, and not to worry about it any more.

Fast forward to my Temple Wedding Recommend interview at BYU. The interview was much more probing, and the Bishop wanted to know if any moral sin that had/or had not been resolved by a previous bishop. I responded that I had cleared up any previous moral issues with my other bishop, and that I felt worthy to enter the temple for my Temple Marriage.

This bishop again reiterated that he was appointed as the Judge in Israel, and that he, and he alone, would decide if I had properly repented. I told him about the incident with my brother when I was six yrs old, which, quite frankly, I had almost forgotten about. This bishop decided that I had not properly “repented”, and that my baptism didn’t cover an incident such as this.

As part if my repentance I needed to meet with him for the next few weeks to go over the necessary steps of repentance. I was humiliated. I felt dirty, shamed, and was very angry with my childhood self (even though at the time I had no idea I was doing anything wrong).

Each time I met with this bishop he would also ask me about masturbation, even though I didn’t have a problem with it. Every time I answered that I felt morally clean, he questioned me further, clearly not believing me. It was humiliating and shameful. I felt guilty for no reason whatsoever.

Grown middle aged men should never be asking children, teens, and young adults sexually explicit questions. This practice needs to stop. It has harmed far to many individuals.

#67 Jon M. CS: 1 Other: My Girlfriend at the time had extreme guilt and shame.

I was never asked any probing questions. All of the Bishops and Leaders that I had were quick to ask the question and move on. I have heard stories from other friends and people in those wards that were opposite of mine. I just think they knew I would not tell them anything, so why bother.

I did have an experience though with a Church Court that was very inappropriate.

At the time I was active in the Church. I never fully believed. Even growing up. I went more for the social aspect and because it was expected. I held callings, served as best as I could and acted the part. And also because I was in love with my girlfriend at the time. Well, we ended up having sex. It was a constant thing for us for a year. We never considered it bad because we have talked about getting married. Well, she had some very religiously strict LDS roommates who found out we were having sex and decided to force her to tell the Bishop. She went and was scheduled for a Church Court or a ( Court of Love ) as members call it. It was far from that.

I went with her to be her support, since I was also in the ward so I was apart of why she was there. I was never asked to meet the Bishop or have any sort of interview or Church court. We walked in and sitting down were the Bishop, his 2 counselors, the executive secretary, and a man from the Stake Presidency. So it would have been 5 men to one woman if I would have not been in the room. They started out with a prayer and some small talk and then it started. They stated the reason she was asked to come to this, they said she had done a very serious sin and was at the pinnacle to being excommunicated and all the fear factoring they could say to make her feel worse. Then the questions started.

They were simple at first. They asked how long were we together, how long we have known each other and if we were each others first sexual partner. She answered with a few words and they did not seem to like that approach. They started asking more detailed questions on where we were, who was on top, did she orgasm, what positions and so on. She had a hard time answering, while I was sitting next to her livid. I finally stood up and told them that this interview or Church Court was over. I said you have no reason to know what positions, times, where, when and how we did it. I told them that we were not going to help them get ideas to use on their wives or girlfriends and we walked out. I think i dropped a few F’bombs at the time as well.

My girlfriend did not get excommunicated. She got a call a few days later and was told that she could not pray or take the sacrament for a month. That she and I had to leave each other by 11:30 at night to stem temptation of more sexual occurrences. She did not attend Church for that month due to the guilt she would feel about not being seen taking the sacrament or praying in class or when called upon.

These probing interview questions have to stop. Just ask the one question about obeying the law of chastity and if the interviewee asks questions tell them to ask their parents, doctor or significant other. They do not need details.