I grew up in the LDS church with parents, siblings, friends, and many other family members. I was taught from a young age that men in the bishopric are called of God and that they answer to him. I was raised to trust bishops by my church family. When I turned 12 and I entered Young Women’s we spoke often of purity and the importance of seeing the bishop if we made a mistake. We were also given a pamphlet about guidelines and purity. I was taught that sex, heavy making out, touching, grinding, or seeing/showing private parts were very serious sins if not done with a married partner. I was taught that sex was “sacred” although it was often affiliated with being filthy. I was told the chewing gum analogy (once you have done any kind of sexual act you are now like an old piece of chewed up gum and therefore less attractive to men), I was told that chaste return missionaries would have to be willing to forgive me if I wasn’t a virgin when it came time to marry, I was taught that sex in movies and TV was vile and wildly inappropriate. I was even told on several occasions that it is inappropriate to kiss someone before marriage, and that every bit I give to another person before marriage takes a little more away from my Value despite any repentance.
Although we spoke about this at length over the years I was also never given any idea as to what to expect or how the process was actually supposed to go. I was simply instructed by word and things in writing that I was to go to our ward bishop and confess and do whatever he instructed me to do to repent. Every time I entered the bishops office for a worthiness interview or for a meeting I specifically requested to repent I completely trusted the bishops I had to guide the conversation and give me direction as to what to do. I had 2 bishops from my recollection that completely/totally humiliated me and went far too far. I know that now but I did not know it then. I assumed it was part of my punishment for breaking the law of chastity. That I deserved to feel completely worthless, ashamed, and disgusted.
As I sat there in my Sunday clothes confessing my “sins” alone with my adult male bishop in an office at our ward building I would cry and cry from total and utter humiliation. I would hiccup and have to take timeouts to reign in my hysterical sobs. I honestly cannot accurately describe how disgusting and painful it was. I was asked for very explicit details: How long did it last? How did it make me feel? Where was I touched exactly? Where did I touch exactly? Over clothes? Under clothes? How did the other person feel? How did the other persons body react? Then what happened? Then what happened? Then what happened? Do I still think about it? Why am I doing these things? (Jeez I dunno maybe because I’m a human being who has hormones, attractions, and feelings? Maybe that’s why?) Who instigated? Why didn’t I say no? Who is this boys bishop so we can contact him (to which I would always answer that I didn’t know…I never felt it was my place to “rat” anyone out over something that was consensual). What can I do so it doesn’t happen again? Do I realize I’ve contributed to another person being unworthy and needing to repent?
Every detail was supposedly important to my repentance process. I was told that I had to not only take responsibility for my actions but that I was also partly responsible for the other person sinning as well. These meetings were never short and although I hated them I returned every time I felt the need because I thought my eternal salvation was at stake. After all sexual sins can be almost as bad as murder or so the church often teaches.
The effects of these interviews and the things I was taught in church are long lasting and far reaching. Although I am married I still feel guilty and sick to my stomach after sex. Every. Single. Time. Sometimes for hours. I feel like I’m going to throw up and I feel shame. It never goes away and I fear it never will. I felt like I was a slut when I was a teenager, even though I was still a virgin when I got married. I know intimately how deep the damage goes from these interactions. I also know now how sickening and wrong it is to judge someone else’s sexuality and what they do with it as an adult much less a minor.
A few years ago I told some select friends in a FB group for former Mormons and my younger sister about these bishops interviews. I expressed how upsetting it was that we were required to give very explicit detailed accounts of anything sexual we did. Everyone in the FB group and my little sister told me that was not ok. They said it wasn’t not how those interviews were supposed to go. I was angry and felt even more violated than I did before. I can only describe it as feeling as if I was taken advantage of. I had some solace though that this was not a normal practice and that it wasn’t happening to other people. Then I learned through a friend on FB about Sam Young and his mission to stop these interviews through his organization Protect LDS Children. I learned that hundreds of people had the same experience and that the Church Presidency is/was aware of it and refuses to stop it.
I’m 34 years old now. I left the church years ago but on mostly good terms with a general affection for the good I thought they did. Now I feel nothing but disgust. Now I’m angry and I have every right to be. I’m angry at a Church that claims to care so much about protecting children when really all they care about is indoctrination, control, and protecting grown men. I’m angry that their only response to this issue is that kids can choose to have a parent present during the interview…although this is still not commonly told to children…only if they somehow divinely know to request it. Oh and by the way who wouldn’t want to go to their parent AND their bishop to report sexual sins as if it wasn’t humiliating and terrifying enough already. Right. That sounds like a great fix. Let’s subject minors to more shame. It’s time this changes and those responsible are held responsible. It’s time to stand up for what’s right.