I was raised from birth in the LDS Church. Having been told I was so lucky to have been born into such a wonderful organization for as long as I could remember, I believed it, and in many ways it kept me from leaving for several decades.
Around the age of 12, I had my first private interview with my then bishop. He was a rather abrasive person in general. To this day, when I see him I get a tense feeling and sick to my stomach. He asked me (quite aggressively) if I practiced masturbation, and acted in such as a way that he would find out if I was lying.
Being that young, I didn’t even know what it was, so he described it to me in excruciating detail, all the while emphasizing how disgusting it is in God’s eyes and how I should never do it or fear eternal wrath. That’s how I learned what my body was capable of.
Initially I was terrified I was going to be sent to outer darkness simply because I’d had wet dreams before, so I thought I had done this supposed despicable act in my sleep and that God would banish me forever, even though I couldn’t control it.
This was the first of numerous interviews where this particular bishop was able to practice emotionally abusive behavior on the youth of the church. When I came out at 14, I went to him trying to find out if there was anything I could do so I could be “fixed”, so my parents wouldn’t find out. I had always been taught that being gay was a sin, wrong, disgusting, and everything negative that it was possible to be, and this was confirmed week after week from the pulpit, especially during the whole Prop 8 ordeal. This excuse of a human being listened quietly while I told him that I had a crush on another boy in my school and that I didn’t know why or how it had happened.
He then proceeded to tell me that I must be a pedophile, because gay men are all pedophiles, and that I must have been touching my younger brothers. He suggested that I ask my parents to move me to a different room in the house so that I didn’t “act out” on my siblings.
Through years of therapy and being heavily medicated, I have finally been able to feel normal about myself and my sexuality, and I sincerely hope that nobody else will have to go through the same things I did as a young child. Being taught to hate yourself when there’s nothing wrong with you is absolutely despicable, and this policy needs to change. Thankfully I never suffered physical or sexual abuse at the hands of clergy, but the emotional scars inflicted in my years of attending the LDS church have definitely stunted my growth as a functioning human being and I am grateful to have escaped and been able to work closer to feeling comfortable in my own skin.