My first memory of worthiness interviews was being terrified at 7 when masturbation was explained to me in graphic detail but my parents insisted that I go ahead and be baptized. I was young, I felt powerless… This normalization made me an easy target I guess, it was years later that this normalization would have a real world effect. A missionary in our ward had been taking special interest in a few of the young women in our ward. I didn’t think anything of it except that each of the ones he took an interest in behaved differently later. I was riding home in the back of our families van, one missionary was near the front and the other missionary was placed in the back of the van with me. We’d just been through a lesson where they talked about the power of the Priesthood and he was whispering things to me, that to be honest I’ve forgotten because I felt incredibly uncomfortable. You see, his hands were in a place they didn’t belong but I didn’t feel like I could speak up. I was terrified that somehow I’d brought this upon myself.
When he reached down and began to touch me in ways that were inappropriate, I felt physically sick. I didn’t know what to do and because he was a Priesthood holder and a Missionary? I panicked. I kept trying to hold his hand to keep his roaming hands from touching me again but he kept going, trying to disengage my hand from his or move my hand where it didn’t belong. I fought to keep calm, I fought to prevent anything further from happening but the whole time I felt dirty and sick. I couldn’t find my voice. I was so glad when my parents dropped them off that I could hardly breathe. But then I started to think about how dirty I was, how disgusting I was that I’d “tempted” a missionary and the guilt and fear began to eat at me. I went to the Bishop (I wasn’t alone there were other girls in the ward also). We were told not to talk about it and that the missionary would be punished. I didn’t see him again but I will never forget his name. I heard he was sent home for his inappropriate behavior but not before he’d been transferred to another ward. All of the Young Women were then lectured about how our dress would make the young men have inappropriate thoughts, how our actions could be “misconstrued”, those of us who had been traumatized by what had happened were given an extra knowing look, as if we were especially evil. Those of us who had “tempted” this missionary had to refrain from sacrament, I felt humiliated and dirty. For years, I kept it to myself, only telling a very small group of people as it ate me up inside. I hated myself, I began to self-destruct. It took years to fully look at it and be “ok”. I wanted to die and I hated myself.
I’m better now, I’ve had therapy but the shame, the brutal heart-ache of feeling like I was unworthy left a lasting mark on my psyche. I thought I was alone, that it was just my Bishop who had blamed me and those of us who were effected by this Missionary. It tore me apart to find out there were others all over the world with a similar story. At first I was terrified to write this. I felt that other voices who had experienced my pain should write instead but today I found the courage to write. I admit, I still sometimes feel ashamed that I didn’t fight back that I didn’t scream or make a sound. I know this is a normal reaction and I’m still working through it with therapy but I should never have been put in this situation and someone should have been on my side. The church’s reputation should not have been more important than the people harmed in this missionaries wake.