This story is as an adult, but my last bishop asked wildly inappropriate questions to me during an interview. I felt sexually harassed, despite knowing that he had no right, even by Mormon standards, to ask those questions. I can’t imagine how he treats youth during worthiness interviews.
In my case, my wife had told him that I had viewed pornography. He called me into his office for “a chat” and then asked me about my pornography use. I had not told him anything about this, so it was a clear violation of confidentiality. He was also trying to force a confession.
I told him it was not any of his business.
He told me that if I didn’t confess every detail I would be subject to a disciplinary council. I knew what he was saying was untrue under church policy, but the threat was concerning to me because I didn’t want to cause my wife any embarrassment. I admitted I had viewed pornography.
He asked me if I had viewed pictures or videos. I said, “I fail to see why that is relevant”.
He told me it is important to determine if a disciplinary council is necessary or not. He said he needed to know how deep the sin was, and how to treat it. Given the threat, I told him.
He asked if I had viewed pictures of women with their clothes off. He asked if I had watched porn with two people in it. He asked if I had watched child porn (this makes sense, but it is the only question that does). He asked if I had viewed gay porn. He asked if I masturbated while watching. He asked how often I viewed it. He may have asked what positions people were using in the scenes. He asked far more, but I have blocked out as much of that experience as possible. After each question, he would muse aloud that he didn’t think that it would require a disciplinary council for what I had said.
By the end of the interview, I was furious. I knew I had been manipulated, but his threats of embarrassing my wife were too much. I knew he had abused his authority, had violated confidentiality with my wife, that he had forced a confession out of me, and I had every right to shut him down, but I didn’t because of his threats. There is no doctrinal reason for the level of details he asked. Is there really a difference in repentance if I had viewed one kind of porn, rather than another? How does him knowing what porn I had viewed help him know how to minister to me more effectively? Is there a special method for helping people who had viewed gay porn, and a regular method for hetero porn? How does one calculate the severity of a sin based on these sorts of details? More importantly, how does a forced confession help anyone repent of sin? Is it repentance if I have to be prompted to give him his answers? This man is no servant of Christ, else he would have acted like one and left it at “do you follow the law of chastity?” and ministered to me from there.
I felt violated at the end of the interview. I felt like he had forced his way into something that was not his business. As a result, I hate that man. I hate how he threatened me. I hate how he belittled me during the entire interview. I hate how he snidely remarked that my answers didn’t require a disciplinary council, as if that lessened the nature of his threat into something benign. I hate how he self-righteously declared that I was “passable” under his invasive inquisition. I hate how I was sexually abused by this man, in the sense that he used his power and office to exert unrighteous dominion and control over me. And I hate myself for letting him.
And the thing that really gets me is that I am a 30 year old man. I know how to stand up for myself. I cannot imagine what men like him do to innocent children who stumble upon porn in their adolescence. I know most bishops are doing the best they know how. I imagine they are good men, overall. However, I also imagine that the bishop who sexually harassed me also thought he was doing the best he knew how. The LDS worthiness interviews invite this sort of abuse. They provide the means for abusive men to exert control over people when there is no ecclesiastical justification for doing so. Worthiness interviews invite abuse, and I can’t help but feel rage thinking about all the youth who are subjected to this at an age when they cannot distinguish when the questions go to far. And even when they can discern inappropriate questions, I feel rage thinking about how powerless they are to stop it.