I’m a Mormon male who grew up in a small Mormon town in Idaho.
The first time I confessed was when I was 13. After a Deacon’s Quorum lesson about “self-abuse”, I spent a lot of time considering the things they had talked about and I really internalized the teachings that masturbation was very awful. I decided to confess to the Bishop and clean my life of this terrible vice. I was terribly scared to talk to him, but I felt so much guilt and shame about this horrible thing I was occasionally doing that I connived to make an appointment without my parents finding out so I would not have to explain to them why I was seeing him. When I finally did meet and confess, the Bishop told me that I should stop doing it as it could lead to me becoming a child abuser and then going to jail. I remember those two consequences specifically. He then called my Mother on the telephone and told her what I was doing. Not even my dad, no, my MOTHER. I’m sure he called my Mother because everyone in the ward knew that she was the boss in the family. I was mortified. I thought I was scared about talking to him, but going home after that interview was even worse! However, a weird thing happened that started a pattern of behavior that has continued. I slunk home and went to my bedroom, but later became so hungry that I had to go get something to eat. As I walked into the kitchen and saw my Mother, she glared at me as though I was the devil and then went about her work as though nothing were different. It was as though this topic was too embarrassing to discuss, so we weren’t going to talk about it. We never did. Even though I felt the tremendous guilt and scorn, we never had a conversation about it. Several years later, my dad gave me “the talk”, and I realized that my Mother had not spoken to him about the previous incident, or else he would have brought it up.
The second time I confessed was the Sunday before I was supposed to leave on my mission. The Stake President asked to interview me and he surprised me by asking “When was the last time you masturbated?” I was surprised so I said “uh, 2 or 3 weeks ago?” I don’t know why I said that because I’m sure it was more like the day before, but that’s what I said. I think I was shocked by the question and confused in my answer, because he had never asked me this pointedly before. He said “We will postpone your mission 3 months. Then you can go.” This was after my farewell and my date for leaving had already been announced to everyone. He called my parents, who lived across the street, over to the church and explained that, because of “personal issues”, my mission would be postponed for 3 months. Mother just glared at me and nothing was said. It was hard to explain to people why my starting date had changed without explaining everything. Three months later I left on my mission without another word or interview about masturbation. To this day, I wish I had replied “I’ve NEVER masturbated, of course!” It would have made things so much easier.
All of my earlier experiences with confession were only about confessing to masturbation. It was hard enough to do that, but I did not bring up the subject of my attractions to men and I am glad that I didn’t. I am also very fortunate that I did not confess to priesthood leaders while I was at BYU during the 1980’s. This was the time when “conversion therapy”, including electroshock therapy, was a being explored as a form of “treatment” for homosexuality in some circles at BYU, and there is the possibility that I could have been referred to counselors who would have guided me in that same direction. I had no idea at the time that this was going on, but in retrospect, I have learned that it was happening with increasing frequency during that time period at BYU. If I had been referred for this kind of therapy, I would have believed with my whole heart that I would be cured, and I would have been bought into the therapy with everything I had because I sincerely wanted to be cured so badly.
The third time I confessed was at my temple recommend interview for my marriage to a woman. I decided that, since I was going to be married in the temple, I had better “do this thing right” so I made a list of everything that I needed to talk about, and even things that I had already talked about in the past: regular masturbation, my attractions to men, and a previous experience with a BYU roommate, which I had confessed to an earlier bishop as well. I was so nervous: would I be disfellowshipped or have a church court? Would my marriage have to be postponed? I was sure that, after my previous experiences, my judgement would be severe, but it would be worth it, to finally be pure before the Lord. By the time the interview finally arrived, I was a mess. I was ready to confess everything. It took me about 20 minutes to tearfully explain my concerns to the Bishop. I laid it all on the line. After I finally finished, he paused for a few minutes, seemed to gather his thoughts, and then he said “Well, it’s a good thing you’re getting married”, signed my recommend, and with a handshake and a “Good luck, son”, I was out the door. I could not believe my good fortune! I was clean! Pure! Healed and whole! Ready to enter the temple and fully commit myself to the straight and narrow path.
I actually consider this the ultimate failure of the confession process because this was the last time someone could have helped change my life by saying “HEY, what’s really going on here?” I was pretty conflicted about my attractions by this point. What I really needed was someone to step in and help me change directions, but that did not happen.
Thus began a marriage to my wonderful wife that never should have happened. Every day I live with the guilt and shame that I’m not attracted to her. I gave everything in my heart and soul to NOT be gay, but of course, nothing changed. I wish I had known then what I know now.
An advisor, a counselor, or a bishop of children should have the tools to guide those children in correct ways. What happened to me was malpractice, and it changed my life for the worse forever. Please don’t let these terrible crimes continue on children today.