I converted to the LDS Church in Utah when I was 16. I had known since about age 5 that I was attracted to other boys, but it wasn’t until I bought my first set of scriptures just before joining the Church that I realized that my feelings were called “homosexuality,” which was the same thing as being “gay.” I looked up the word in the topical guide and bible dictionary and read every (limited) scripture there was about it; the message was not good. I realized I was a sinner, and that my new God destroyed entire cities just to eradicate people like me.
When the Bishop interviewed me for baptism I was afraid to tell him that I had a “problem.” “Is it masturbation?” was his quick response, and he asked me how often I did it and then instructed me that I needed to stop. Even after only taking seminary for about a year before baptism, the LDS culture had instilled me with a great sense of guilt and shame for masturbating and being attracted to men before I even joined. I had had many sexual encounters with other boys my age, some that were more than just “experimentation,” but I skirted around those stories as the Bishop pried because I was afraid that they would not let me be baptized if they knew I had. I made my same-sex encounters sound as innocent as possible.
When he asked if I thought I might be gay, I blatantly lied and said no. He said that I didn’t understand what I was doing because I was a child, and shrugged off my same-sex encounters (even though I didn’t tell them that the last one was at age 15).
I was a zealous LDS youth for the first year and a half after my baptism, but I became sexually active with men at age 17 after becoming obsessed with porn at age 14. I had learned how to masturbate by accident at age 5, and had been doing it regularly ever since, not knowing what it was until my teens.
I later confessed to a new bishop in my home ward that I was gay and sexually active. He told me I would never serve a mission. He asked me about what happened during gay sex–who penetrated whom, if there was oral sex, etc. When I asked why it mattered, he said that the severity of my sexual encounters would determine the punishment. He asked me who the other person was, and how I met them, and I refused to say. He asked if my partners orgasmed and ejaculated. He asked if there were more than two partners having sex at a time. Then he gave me a lecture about HIV/AIDS and how if I died in sin, I would not be saved. I strayed from the church later as a young adult, but came back at age 21. I have been active and holding a temple recommend for over 10 years, and I have never stopped masturbating or looking at porn for more than a few months. I used to feel so ashamed after doing it that I would isolate myself and refuse to talk to a God that I knew hated me and my sins. While some bishops have been understanding, I have learned over the years to tear myself apart about my masturbation habits and sexual thoughts. I’ve tried marking calendars when I have a “relapse,” going to ARP meetings held by the church, putting up parental blocks on my computer, and even taking one leader’s suggestion of laying on my hands when I’m in bed, as Mark E. Petersen famously encouraged. I am getting better though at seeing that masturbation is not a big deal and feeling less guilty for it. I don’t sugar coat my self-pleasuring habits with my bishop, and he is a saint who understands me well. I still tend to count the days since I last masturbated when the sacrament tray comes around on Sundays, and more often than not I still feel “unworthy” to partake of it, but for now I remain a Mormon. But talking about sex with ecclesiastical leaders is embarrassing and awkward even at 31 years old. It certainly should never happen with LDS children, and I oppose it strongly.