My story starts in a place I imagine many stories start. In the bath tub. It was around five years old that I first discovered that playing with myself felt really good. It was also the beginning of a childhood wracked with intense guilt, shame and self loathing. “Dinkin” around in the bath, I heard Dad approach and quickly stopped. Dad came in, took one look at me: “name” have you been playing with yourself?” I was both mortified and amazed; how did he know? Dad must be magic or something. Years later I realized I must have had a little boner.
The masturbation only increased throughout my childhood and along with it, the shame, guilt and self hatred ballooned. I truly thought I was the only kid on the planet doing this, and I absolutely hated myself for it. I remember lying in bed, bawling, hitting myself on the head, over and over again. Why was I such a monster? Depression kicked in early on but I kept everything bottled up inside, not daring to share it with my parents or siblings. At one point I learned that the second coming was just around the corner, and that my “sins” were going to be shouted from the roof tops. I remember being deathly afraid of this happening. Everyone would know my filthy secret and I would be exposed for the sick freak that I was. At one point around 12, Dad told the family that sexual sin was second only to murder. I had masturbated so many times at that point that (in my mind), I may actually be worse than a murderer. I even remember wondering if I had made myself gay and started to question my sexual orientation. This was something that the current president of the church, Spencer Kimball, taught. Nope, turns out that no matter how many times I “sinned,” I still liked girls.
The thing is, reading so many stories of worthiness interviews has made me realize something: I can’t remember a single detail surrounding these interviews. I can remember the interviews being announced, I can remember sitting outside the bishop’s office, but not one single detail once I stepped foot inside. I know I did them often due to the natural childhood progression through the church. Not one detail. It is completely blocked in my mind.
What is also disturbing is that one of the bishops we had would take single boys with him to his racquetball club as a way to get to know the boys better. It always involved a shower afterward. I remember joking with the other boys my age that bishop so-and-so was a pervert, but I can’t remember one single detail about those multiple trips to the gym with the bishop. I am not saying any abuse happened, just that I somehow learned to block out uncomfortable situations.
It wasn’t until my early twenties, after I left the LDS church, that I found out that masturbation was normal. But a childhood filled with intense self-hatred, guilt, and shame had done its job. Now in my forties, I have struggled with depression all my life. Through counseling, medication, heavy exercise and meditation I have found a way to manage it, but it really feels like it’s here to stay.
The “Latter Day Saints” take on masturbation and sexuality is so incredibly damaging. These “worthiness interviews” have to stop, or at the very least, stop allowing adult men to interview children about their sexual habits behind closed doors. And stop teaching children that they are almost as bad as murderers for doing something that most of the educated world considers healthy and normal. The harm this teaching causes is real.