I did not realize until I started typing how difficult this might be to share. I am flooded with so many emotions. I grew up in a very devout Mormon family. I was never sexually abused, but for some reason I discovered my sexuality in my childhood and began masturbating even before I was a teenager. The guilt and shame started young. I started dating at the Mormon appropriate age of 16 and discovered that I liked boys…a lot! This led to innocent kissing, which led to some minor petting/touching etc.
I was very involved in my ward and young women’s group and really was a “good girl”. I did not have the relationship with my parents that would allow me to discuss any of this with my parents. I knew that I was ” not morally clean” because of the masturbation and also the petting and even french kissing. In the 80’s french kissing was also labeled immoral and I remember seeing a video at a youth conference where french kissing was likened to SEX!….because of the exchange of bodily fluids. (as if I didn’t have enough to feel terribly guilty and shamed about). The shame and self hatred was something that I felt on a daily basis.
The fear that my secrets would be discovered after my death by my loved ones and that I would not be allowed into the Celestial Kingdom was the driving force that led me to approach my bishop after sacrament meeting one Sunday when I was around 17 years old. I loved and respected my bishop. My family had moved into the ward about a year prior and he had welcomed me with open arms. He was a cool bishop and a relatively young bishop in his early 30’s with a young family. Just to have made the appointment with the bishop was a great relief for me. I had heard so much that when one repents there is often a feeling of a big burden being lifted, and I was anxious for that to happen to me!
So later that day, I sat in the bishop’s office in a chair directly across from his big desk. I remember praying with him. I remember the incredible nervousness and awkwardness that I felt. I don’t remember how I began this conversation but I remember telling him that I needed to repent because I was not morally clean. That was when the questions began. The questions that I was not expecting or was I really prepared to answer. I truly wanted to repent but I had no idea that I would have to give details…every detail, and name. I was asked explicitly what I had done. Just to confess of “petting” was not enough. What body parts had been touched? And in what way had they been touched? Names? How many times? I was shocked and humiliated to share this. I dutifully responded to each question honestly, although it was terribly shameful and embarrassing to speak about things so personal with a grown man. He seemed so very interested in every aspect of my shameful experiences.
One of the last questions I remember being asked and one that came as a complete surprise even after all the prior probing was this… “Did you orgasm while doing any of this?” Seriously, I was so shocked and unprepared for that question, that the only thing that I could do in that split second was lie. “No!” I said. I definitely knew what an orgasm was and I knew that I did have an orgasm while petting but there was no way that I, as a naive Mormon girl, could confess that to this man, my bishop. I still wonder to this day why he asked that question. Why would an orgasm have any bearing on my sin or my repentance?
After that I openly confessed to having a “problem” with masturbation. At this point, after all the questions and probing I really expected to be rebuked and still am surprised by his response. He said something like “Ok, well that is something (masturbation) that you will stop doing as you get older”. Then I was counseled about appropriate dating and encouraged to talk to my parents, which of course I could not do. I walked out of the bishop’s office not feeling relief but instead feeling even more guilt and shame because of “my lie”.
The guilt and shame and self hatred continued, unknown to anyone, for years and years. It affected my self esteem well into my adult years. I won’t go into the details here but I finally was able to share this with a few good friends and move on. I now love myself wholeheartedly. One can never be sure, but I’d like to believe this bishop was a good man and just trying to do his calling and at the same time, I also believe that it was VERY VERY INAPPROPRIATE AND DAMAGING. And some days, I still want to have a face to face conversation with him, his wife, and children, who I knew very well because I lived in the same ward as a married woman for many years. Do they see this as ok?? How could anyone see this as OK?
Fast forward to 2018. I am 51 years old, divorced, engaged to a wonderful man, and also a grandma. I have since left the church and most of my children have as well, but I still have some grandchildren that are being raised in the church. That is the reason I am sharing my story. I’m fine, I’ve recovered, but the thought that this or even worse could happen to my precious grandchildren or anyone’s grandchildren or children is my motivation to share.
If you are reading this, thank you! Many that read will be like me and have their own experience. My heart has broken with each story I have read.
Some of you that read this will not have an affiliation with the church. To you, I share my story so that you will understand what happens behind closed doors within the Mormon church and the far reaching impact these interviews have had. It may not happen every time, it may not even be the majority…who knows…but it happens. And for some, so much worse has happened.
Some of you may be members of the church I once loved and believed. Some of you may have had your own experience. Some of you may be surprised, that this happens because your experience was different…or you may even question if it does really happen. Some of you may think it is my fault…because I had sinned…I got what I deserved. I don’t believe that any more. I know the difference between guilt and shame and the resulting damage of shame. I know the impact these interviews have had in my life and I personally know many others who can relate to my experience. If you care about children or believe in the teachings of Jesus how can you NOT stand up against this practice. I am no longer ashamed and will not step down. I am not against the Mormon church but I am disgusted by what these interviews are allowing to happen. It is not enough to allow parents to join their children during an interview. Not every Mormon child has a parent that will do that. What if it was your child? Your Grandchild?