When I was about 13 or 14 years old, I went in for an interview with our very charismatic bishop that everyone in the ward just loved. In particular, everyone said he was “so good with the youth”. My reason for going in was not to confess anything, but either for a birthday interview or because I had a youth calling, I can’t remember now. Anyway, he was so charming and flattering with me and the interview went on for a really long time. Even at my incredibly inexperienced age I thought to myself, “Is he flirting with me? No! He can’t be! He’s the bishop and married and I’m just a kid! How ridiculous!”
He went on to tell me how well I interviewed and what a good impression I made and how grown up and mature I was for my age. I was pretty okay with everything so far….just a little surprised that this was the sort of thing that got talked about in a private interview with the bishop. I thought it would have been about spiritual matters at least.
But then he began talking about me in a way that made me incredibly uncomfortable. He talked about the way I dressed. He said that I dressed very well. That I was a beautiful young woman and that I dressed in a very feminine way, yet I was always modest. He brought up a green dress I owned and told me that was a particularly good dress on me. (I was not wearing the dress at the time, so he was remembering me in it from church.) He told me that I had to be careful to always dress modestly because boys would always be looking at me and wanting to “do things to me.”
I was shocked and completely embarrassed. I still played with Barbie Dolls and I had never even thought of myself as an object of desire and I wore the clothes my mother bought and made for me. I never worried about that sort of thing….dressing in such a way to make boys want to “do things to me”!! At the time I was in the awkward in between phase of growing up and definitely didn’t want any attention over my changing body. And suddenly here I was, with a grown man I hardly knew at all, and he’s talking to me about my body! I wanted the ground to swallow me up.
I said to him, “Oh no! That’s not true.” (As in, it’s not true that the boys look at me in any way in particular) At this point with almost shining eyes he nodded his head and he said, “Yes they do. The boys look at you and they imagine things about you. So you need to be sure that you dress modestly.”
At this point I was just wondering what I could do to make him stop talking to me like this. I think he must have seen the look on my face and the way I suddenly stopped “giving a good interview and making a really good impression.” I just sort of retreated into my shell and the interview, thank goodness, came to an end soon after that.
My mom seemed concerned when I came home because I had been gone for so long. I didn’t tell her about the part that made me so uncomfortable. Just that Bishop ———–, said I’d “get every job I ever interviewed for” because I made such a good impression.
But the main impression I was left with was that I was pretty sure that the Bishop was “creepy” and that I did not want to be alone with him again. I also knew everyone loved him and thought he was the best thing to happen to our ward and that I was probably the only person to think so badly of him. Then I worried that I was being unrighteous. After all he was my “Judge in Israel” and who was I to say that he wasn’t right? Maybe he was just honestly trying to warn me about boys?
But in any case, the idea that if I ever had something of a sexual nature to confess to him, I’d rather go to hell than tell him about it!! I remembered the way he looked at me when he assured me that boys do “look at me and imagine things about me”.
What if I ever did anything wrong in that area and he was the one I had to tell about it? I could not bare the thought so then and there I decided to just be perfect so I would never have to put myself in that situation. I couldn’t have articulated it at the time, but I completely sensed that I was not safe with that man and that if I ever gave him the tiniest opening…like talking myself about my own sexuality, I very well may have been perpetrated on by him. He was testing the waters with me, or grooming me.
I say this with quite a lot of confidence because only about a year latter this very bishop, beloved by the ward, was excommunicated when it came out that he was having multiple affairs with women in the ward. He was very much a sexual predator. In fact the full extent of his actions were kept from the youth, but I knew then that my instincts had been right about him.
I don’t think I need to say that I never wore that green dress again.