Beginning at the age of 12, I had annual interviews with my Mormon bishop. These were always one-on-one. The first time I was asked if I “Had any problems with masturbation,” I was 13. I had no idea what that word meant. These questions continued in annual or semi-annual interviews until I turned 18. The question always took the form of, “Do you have any problems with masturbation?” or “Have you experimented or been involved with masturbation?” As I got older, and went through the normal maturation process, I felt like a filthy pervert. Of course I couldn’t admit that to a grown man in a position of power over me. The social and family fallout would have been too much to bear. To cope with this, I lied. Every single time this question was asked between the ages of 14-18. These interviews created guilt and shame that I never spoke of for over a decade.
There were times in my teenage years where I wish I could have had meaningful pastoral conversations with my Mormon bishops about other subjects….I never sought out this contact, because I was afraid that even talking about unrelated issues (anxiety, mental health) would turn into an inquisition of my masturbation habits.
Though I don’t have children of my own, I would encourage all parents in the Mormon church to insist on being present for these regular, age-advancement interviews for Mormon youth.