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.