Fighting all embarrassment and fear of repercussions, I want to bravely share my experience preparing for a church mission and meeting with the bishop as a 17-year-old boy.
Like all young boys in the church, I was asked by my local bishop about masturbation. This local bishop, mind you, had no license, no professional training, and frankly, no experience in the field of counseling. He was nothing more than a neighbor whom my parents trusted to interrogate me behind closed, soundproof doors about my sexual tendencies as a minor.
Long story short, I was honest with the man. Of course, masturbation was nothing infrequent for me, a 17-year-old boy. Yet, my bishop asked me to text him on a daily basis giving report as to whether or not I had masturbated in the past 24 hours.
In hindsight, I am ashamed that I ever even considered this request, yet alone gave in and followed it. My parents have no idea that this happened. I haven’t met a single other member who went through anything remotely similar.
At that age, all I knew is that this man was a gatekeeper to me going on a mission. Without his approval, it would be a no-go. I also knew that my parents implicitly approved of whatever happened behind the bishop office doors, because they encouraged me to go to my meetings and made no effort to ask me about what happened.
I feel that my story has a place in the current dialogue about the harm that bishop interviews impose on children. Truthfully, it was not until recently that I considered the degree to which my privacy and innocence had been violated as a child.