My experience with interviews has been all over the map. It ranges from mildly intrusive to absolutely inappropriate. At one point the proceedings of a church disciplinary council made me consider ending my life.
I grew up in Utah as a member of the church. I remember first being asked questions of a sexual nature at 8 years old in my baptismal interview. I was asked if I masturbated, and then had to have the bishop explain it because I had NO idea what he meant. Looking back, I simply can’t believe he asked a little 8 year old girl that question and denied her parents the opportunity to talk about it with her on their own terms. I still remember the way I felt when he defined ‘that funny word’ as “touching yourself in your private area to make yourself feel good”. It messed up my view for a long time. This sounds silly, but I distinctly remember after that interview an instance where I was getting dressed and accidentally brushed my hand down there. I thought I was in huge trouble because you’re not allowed to touch yourself! It is absolutely insane that an 8 year old could have such a skewed view because an adult was allowed to bring that topic up in private with absolutely no regulation or protection.
From the time I was in young womens (12-18) my dad was my bishop. My dad is the kindest, most loving person on this earth. And yet, he still felt the need to ask me questions of that nature to fulfill his “duty”. He didn’t want to know. I didn’t want to tell him. It created an awkward setting for us to discuss really important issues, and made me dread temple recommend interviews so I didn’t have to have that awkward exchange. When I finally did have something minor to confess to him involving my high school boyfriend, he was very kind, and avoided overly specific questions. I can’t imagine what would’ve happened to my teenage self if I had been asked questions by one of the two leaders I talk about next. I had already begun to have suicidal thoughts and began cutting myself over the fact that my dad and bishop knew I was “unworthy” and that there was something fundamentally wrong with me as a girl because I was having sexual thoughts and desires.
My dad confided in me once that his least favorite part of his calling was talking about the law of chastity with people. He didn’t judge them…. he just really didn’t want to talk about it in detail, especially with teenagers. It hurts me now to think that even though my sweet, awkward, loving dad really didn’t want to have those conversations and felt it wasn’t his place, he was forced to have them over and over again because he was trying to do what he thought was right. Just another perspective I’ve gained about why these interviews are so wrong.
My interview to leave on a mission was absolutely horrific. My stake president wanted to know details from “the age of 8 up until now”. First of all, who on earth remembers?! This stressed me out the most because it made me think “If I can’t remmeber every single time, there must be something wrong with me because I have TOO many instances to be worthy”. The interview commenced with “From the time you were 8 until now….. Have you ever lied? Have you ever watched pornography? Have you masturbated? Have you ever had sexual dreams? Have you ever indulged in fantasies? Have you ever French kissed? Have you touched another person? Where? Over or under clothes? How long? What were you wearing? Where were you? How many times? Did you become aroused by it? Did you orgasm?” By the end I was in tears because apparently I had so many indiscretions I couldn’t remember them all and I wasn’t worthy to even be in his office. He assured me these were all normal questions, and told me I was doing fine. I served a mission with these horrible questions on my mind every day. I was still a teenager then even though I was in college at BYU. I remember constantly thinking on my mission “Why am I the only woman on the planet who seems to struggle with sexual thoughts?” and it depressed me over and over again. I literally felt completely alone in the world. It was never to be discussed with anyone, except to the man in the chair who had the power to forgive you.
Fast forward to my church disciplinary council. I had all but left the church by this point, but was still clinging to a hope of returning. The ‘council’ was a room full of men asked me about my experiences with my boyfriend (now husband). I was literally shaking as I, a young adult woman, was sitting in front of a group of men asking me questions about positions, locations, outfits, ability to climax and how that was achieved, if there was anal or oral, and every other detail their twisted minds “needed” to know to make a decision.
That was the final straw. I did consider ending my life after that council, and I still have nightmares about those proceedings. I can’t even imagine what damage can be inflicted on young children and teenagers as they grow up and try to navigate their own puberty and sexuality. It almost destroyed me as a young adult. Whether it’s an experience like I had growing up where an awkward lovable man feels like he has to ask, or whether it’s predatory and dangerous…. it all absolutely needs to stop. It is setting children up for failure to become normal, well-adjusted human beings. It places them in a place of vulnerability that is not okay ANYWHERE else.