Hi Sam. Thanks for being a force for good. My story is not one of childhood. I was on my mission. But what it shows is how much power the church has to keep things quiet when it comes to anything that might make the church look bad.
A SHORT HISTORY ON ME: I was born in the church; raised in Smithfield, Utah. From early on, I was a future leader in the church. Solid. I graduated from seminary. I served a mission in Chile. I climbed each leadership rank very quickly. 2 months after training– District Leader, two more months–Zone Leader, two more months–Assistant to the President (AP). I was called as an AP with only 12 months under my belt (including MTC). When I came home, I continued as a strong member of the church. I was married in the temple as a virgin at age 33. And I’d say I’m above-average good looking, so the virgin part was a not an easy accomplishment. I continued taking callings and loving the church up until about 2 years ago. This isn’t a story of my faith crisis, so suffice it to say, I learned that many of the things I had born bold testimony of on my mission and after, were frankly not true. It destroyed me, and annihilated my faith.
POINT OF CLARIFICATION: Before I relate the following story, I have to make it clear that this had zero impact on me losing my faith. In fact, it wasn’t until after I lost my faith that I began to realize how inappropriately the church handled the crisis. I’m only now beginning to feel the long-term effects of that huge mistake. And personally I believe the mistake was made in order to maintain the good name of the church. In other words, the church cared more about the church’s good name, than my physical, psychological, sexual, and emotional well-being.
HERE’S MY STORY: I had 6 months left on my mission when I was released from calling as AP. Only a few days after being assigned my new companion, my Mission President (MP) called me and said, “Are you ready to have your life changed?”
As it was, there was a need for a “struggling elder” to be with someone who the MP felt could exercise the patience and faith to help him get through the mission. All he told me was that he’s been wanting to go home, but they had talked him into giving it a little more time, and called me to be his companion. Things went relatively well. I noticed pretty quickly that he could experience intense mood swings. I learned his triggers and did my best to avoid them.
After about 3 months together, I noticed something strange. It was the middle of the night, and I saw something that appeared to be a light. I turned, it turned off. I was half asleep, so I feel back asleep quickly. A couple nights later, I noticed it again. This time, I simply peeked to see what it was, showing no signs I was awake. My companion was shining a red light down on me. I had no idea what was going on. Regretfully, I just brushed it off as one of his weird quirks, and went back to sleep. In total, I remember it happening maybe 4 or 5 times (that I know of). Then, one night, I was awakened by a strange feeling. As I came to, I realized something was terribly wrong. My companion was reaching down form the top bunk, and had his hand through my garments, fondling my penis. As soon as I recognized what was going on, I jerked and swung my arm down at his arm. He noticed I had woken up and quickly popped back into his bed. I lay in shock for a few seconds before I stood up, and walked into the bathroom to splash water on my face. I just wanted it to be a nightmare, and wake up. But it wasn’t.
I did exactly what I should have done. I walked back in the room and told him we were calling the MP to know what to do about this. He tried to act like nothing had happened, saying “What are you talking about? You’re scaring me.” I pitied him in that moment. But I just told him to stop pretending. I called the MP right away and told him I needed to talk to him, in person, now.
After ensuring my MP that this was an emergency meriting a midnight meeting, he told us to bring some extra clothes, and hop a midnight taxi to the offices. We met at the mission offices and after a series of interviews–me explaining what happened and my companion telling his side of the story–my MP told me they were going to talk to the first presidency in the morning, and that my companion would likely be going home.
He went home. I went to the mission president’s home for a couple days. I did an interview with the MP a few times a day while I was at his house. I slept, rested, and read my scriptures in between the interviews. After those couple days, he asked me if I was ready to take up the work again, and I, being the star missionary he expected me to be, didn’t blink. I wanted back out into the field right away. And so it was. I finished my mission as a Zone Leader and Trainer, and finished super strong, putting it all behind me.
Only now, some 20 years later, do I wonder if that could have been handled better. To this day, I’ve never even told my mom what happened to me on my mission. The only people that know are my wife (after 8 years of marriage), and one friend I told a few weeks ago and I don’t even know how or why it surfaced.
I have so many questions now. Should I–at the very least–have had the chance to talk to my mom? Did I ever give myself the chance to heal from this? Was the good name of the church more important than my mental and emotional well-being? Should I come forward with my story to help the church understand there’s a need for change? Why do I get a sick feeling when my nephews get so excited for their missions? Is it healthy to only report “the good” side of the mission? Would therapy now make any difference? Would the church every be vulnerable enough to admit that it might have handed things unfairly in my case? The questions don’t stop.
I want to know what I should do from here. I feel like I should do _something_. Telling my wife last year, reaching out to the abuser and becoming friends with him on Facebook, and this letter now are the only three things I’ve ever done that I would consider actions of healing/processing. I wonder what else I can do? I wonder just how changed my life really has become from that call made by my Mission President 20 years ago.
Sincerely, Life Changed