20-ish years ago, in the seventh grade, I had a history teacher. He was single, in his late 30s, and he was very interested in having kids come swim at his house, the ones who got good grades. He had several “hush-hush” parties of which he did not have permission from the school administration. Just he and a couple of students, to reward the ones who maybe got an “A,” or ones who “showed big progress.” What a nice guy, and how fair!” I thought! He was going above and beyond his job to give rewards to students. I thought he’d make a such good Mormon, Mormons are just like that. So kind, so generous. Surely, he should take the discussions. I could see how “improved” his life would be; maybe he could meet a young Mormon woman and get married in the temple.
I saw absolutely nothing wrong, no red flags at all, because I was used to being alone with an older man- a nice, caring, middle-aged man who asked deeply personal questions one-on-one with me a couple of times per year. This was very normal to me. How protected I felt, knowing I could talk one on one with not only my teachers, but my bishop, who was called of God, and his counselors as well. The world felt so safe, and Heavenly Father had blessed me in every possible way, was my thought.
A plot twist occurred here though. It was soon discovered that my bishop was having an affair with a ward member. The one who was a judge over me, who could question my chastity and “worthiness” was the one committing adultery, and had been for an entire year. I thought he was so righteous, a true man of God, and infallible. He was a bishop! How could this happen? This was a reality check for me as I suddenly recognized the very human tendencies of even “righteous” priesthood holders, even the most elect. The ones I am supposed to follow and to whom I should confess and discuss personal sins.
A few years later, the history teacher was arrested for several counts of sexual abuse of minors.
I am so fortunate that the abuse did not happen to me, but it terrifies me to think how close I came to subjecting myself to this because I saw no danger in the situation. I was perfectly willing to put myself in a completely abusive situation because of my own Mormon culture. There was actual danger all around me, and I could not see or discern the danger.
Where the rest of the world insists now that children/minors are never alone one-on-one with an adult—whether they be a professional teacher, coach, or physician—our church lags behind, and I believe all efforts should be made to stop one-on-one situations from occurring between minors and adults.