When I was 13, I was a very devoted little Mormon girl. I prayed every day, read my scriptures, dressed modestly, and got good grades. One day, I was thinking and realized that in previous years, I had intentionally viewed some things that were considered pornographic and masturbated on occasion (although at the time I didn’t realize it was bad, I just knew it felt good). A wave of horror came over me when I realized that pornography use and masturbation were things that had to be confessed to your bishop.
The next few days I felt so sick from shame and fear that I couldn’t sleep, eat, or socialize. There was no way I was going to tell my very TBM parents that I had committed such horrific sins, and so I decided that I would wait until my interview to become a Mia Maid to confess, which wasn’t for a year. During this year, I developed severe depression and anxiety. Although there were several factors contributing to the depression and anxiety, a huge part was the fear of having to confess to my bishop. I had never talked about sex with anyone ever in my life, let alone by myself with a grown man I barely knew behind a closed door.
A few months later, I started cutting and having other self-harm tendencies to relive my pain. I never told anyone because I thought someone would ask why or it would be dismissed as just an edgy teen phase, but inside I was hurting so much. I felt like I was carrying such a heavy burden. I thought only boys and men had sexual problems that had to be talked about with a bishop, and I felt like I was living a lie being a perfect little Mormon girl on the outside but actually having committed the sin next to murder.
I was so careful during this time because I was so worried I would get in some freak accident and die and go straight to hell. At one point, I was considering suicide. I had read stories of people having bad experiences confessing to bishops, I thought it would just be easier to die and ask for god’s forgiveness in person than through our bishop. Luckily I got through that. My anxiety worsened, however.
One day I was sitting in math class, and started to think about how my mia maid interview was coming up in several months. I got so sick thinking about it I had to run to the bathroom. I threw up and just collapsed on the floor crying and praying to god to not make me not have to talk to the bishop about masturbation. All of this happened when I was in 8th grade at the tender age of 13.
Finally, after a year of anticipation, my 14th birthday arrived and it was time for my interview. I walked into the church and sat outside the bishops office waiting for him to finish with the person he was meeting with. I was shaking so much. He finally had me come in. We said a prayer, and then we started talking about the gospel, what it means to be a mia maid, etc. The whole time I was just nodding because I was too scared to talk. Eventually he asked if I had a temple recommend, and I said no. He asked why, and I just said there was something I needed to talk about. I paused for about 15 seconds. I then said I had been using pornography and tried to repent but couldn’t. He then asked if I masturbated and I just whispered “yes” and buried my face in my hands. Then he asked when I did it, how often, if I had sex with anyone, and I answered his questions very reluctantly. I was horrified. Then he started talking about the repentance process and how priesthood authority is necessary to repent of these sins and so forth. He said that if I feel okay and don’t do it again, I didn’t need to do anything else, but to come back if it became a problem again. He smiled and asked how I felt, and I said “better”.
After I walked out, though, I went to the bathroom and cried. I felt awful. I was so confused. I was always told that after confessing your sins, you were supposed to feel relieved and happier than you’ve ever been. I felt worse. I went and sat down for sacrament. During announcements, he had me come up to the podium to recognize my advancement. He put his hand on my shoulder and told the ward how I was so faithful, sincere, bla bla bla, but I felt so ashamed.
I was under the impression that after you repent of something, it won’t be a temptation anymore. I was devastated when I felt the desire to masturbate again. I had been through so much and it felt like it had been wasted. I soon accepted that it was a trial that god had placed in front of me to overcome, and god wouldn’t give me a trial that I couldn’t handle, and so I just tried so hard not to, thinking it was a test from god. I did not want to have to confess it again and go through the shame and pain once more. It was hell trying to ignore my “temptations”.
After an entire year of complete abstinence from porn, masturbation, or even thinking about sex at all (which was extremely difficult), I became so frustrated and upset that I gave in and began looking at porn and masturbating again. After a couple days of this, I realized I would have to confess it again, but just ignored it and decided it would deal with it later because I was so mad at god. Why would he give me a trial I couldn’t overcome? Lucky for me, this is the thought that made me begin questioning the church, and shortly after turning 15, I abandoned my belief in the Mormonism (although I still pretend even now to be a TMB).
I do not believe it was the bishop who caused all this. He’s a great guy and I still see him every week at church. It’s the system that is harmful. No 13 year old should ever be made to think that they’re going straight to hell for doing anything remotely sexual unless they go behind a closed door with a man and tell them all about it. Bishops shouldn’t be made to, or allowed to ask sexual questions. Now, not too many years after this whole experience, and after a change in personal belief, I realize that it’s perfectly normal and healthy for a teenager to be curious and experiment sexually, and it wasn’t the grip of Satan trying to get me to masturbate. I’m so fortunate to have realized this while I’m young, and I would say I now have a fairly healthy sexuality. I’m also very lucky to have had a mild bishop who was kind and didn’t make me go into extremely graphic details. However, what took place that day was still very harmful, and no child or adult should ever be subjected to interviews like that.