My story began growing up not only being molested by an older neighbor, but also in a house full of siblings who had all learned throughout their childhood how to masturbate with themselves and with each other. It was a sickness that slowly trickling down to every child born into the household. I was the youngest. I have no idea when it began with me but my first vivid memory was at six-ish years old. I was a bed wetter and running to the linen closet to get some clean sheets. I couldn’t find a shirt and covered my chest with my hands while I quickly rushed to find clean bedding. My brothers room was next to the closet and I remember being whistled at by several of them while fumbling around until I made it safely back to my room. This was normal and I never really knew any better until I became older. But at his point, it was too late. I grew up with an uncontrollable masturbation problem. I grew up enjoying it whether it was by myself or as a mutual agreement with a sibling. We were all tainted from birth and never understood any better, only that we had to hide it from everyone else. I grew up not knowing I could say no, not always wanting to say no.
In fifth grade, I finally told my mom about one of my brothers. She talked with our bishop, who was also a family counselor, and eventually my brother was sent away for a few years. But it didn’t stop with my other siblings. Shortly after this, I proceeded with my first bishop interview for my first temple recommend. The same bishop who I had gone through childhood therapy with. When I mentioned what I had done throughout my childhood, he quickly told me it was not my fault and that I didn’t need to mention that in future interviews. That made me feel good, so I didn’t think I had to tell him it was still going on with other siblings. Although he was also my family therapist during this time, he never counseled with me in ways to control my behavior, so I never told him it was still an issue. I was never asked either. His lack of helping me overcome this addiction at a young age set me up for some major interviews with future bishops who would never be able to understand my childhood. Who would never understand that I was addicted to masturbation and that I never knew how to say no to anyone, ever. Bishops who would never understand why I was promiscuous nor give me the proper guidance to help myself, to protect my self worth.
So fast forward through obvious youth interviews, multiple disciplinary actions and finally adulthood. A lifetime of self guilt and shame for my inability to control my own sexuality. I was temple worthy one time and spent the rest of my youth and single adult years on some form of disciplinary council. You see, bishops don’t care WHY you do this, only that it has to stop. But how do you stop an addiction you’ve never learned to control? Just stop praying in public and stop taking the sacrament, the two things that every church member has a privilege of participating in. Ordinances that are part of repentance and should never be part of the discipline. How do you become closer to the spirit if you can’t participate in the two most important aspects of attending church?
I got pregnant at 19 and knew I had to get married to someone I didn’t love. One more baby later and we were divorced in less than two years of marriage. Several years later, I found myself in the same situation. I had been going to LDS Social Services from my struggles as a single mother of two, so naturally they pushed me into adoption and quickly found a temple worthy family who my child could be sealed to. Forget about the two children I already had that couldn’t be sealed to me, right? Apparently they didn’t matter to the church, only the welfare of this unborn child. So instead of adoption, I married him, resulting in six years of hell. You see, this man I didn’t want to marry, this man I had prayed about countless times and received an adamant NO every time, he had to become my husband in order for me to keep my child. And then he molested them. The one thing I tried to prevent my children from ever going through, and it happened by the man I didn’t want to marry. The man I should not have married, but the teachings I grew up with, confirmed by both my LDS counselor and bishop, was that you marry or give your baby up for adoption. Our lives would still be hard if I kept my baby and didn’t marry him and went against the counsel of my church leaders, but the sexual abuse, physical abuse and mental abuse we all endured during this unwanted marriage would not have been a factor in my children’s lives. That could have been avoided. My prayers about marriage were clearly answered, but I guess that doesn’t matter when it comes to pregnancy outside of wedlock in the eyes of a bishop.
During and after my divorce, I relied on church assistance to help me get through on my own, to help my family regain their composure and learn to properly heal. I quit working for a year to help save the lives of my children, all of whom had attempted suicide. During this time, my bishops counselor, also a very close family friend of my parents and myself, told me I could no longer get any assistance and cut me off 100%. No warning, no food, no support, effective immediately. I finally had the nerve to leave my husband, knowing it would be a financial challenge among everything else, and they wouldn’t even support me long enough to get me through the most challenging point of mine and my children’s lives.
That was my breaking point and I decided once and for all that I could not keep listening to the guidance of my bishopric and it was time to do this on my own. I attended church one last time and couldn’t wait to get out of there. I was done. Nobody really understood why, but I knew without a doubt that my children would never endure misguidance simply because they grew up thinking the bishopric and church leaders were the law. They would not have to discuss their sexuality behind closed doors with a tainted bishopric, instead they would seek advice from me, their mother. I would parent them for the first time without the contradicting influence of my bishopric. My children would come to me, not a strange leader, when they became sexually active. They would be put on birth control or given the proper tools to ensure protection, not to encourage promiscuity, but to prevent. To be realistic of their childhood fears and understand the reality of the physical body.
I remarried again, but for the first time in my life, it was our decision to make with no guilt and no preconditioned reasoning except pure respect and love for each other. Our example of marriage is what our children will now grow up expecting in their own relationships. Our marriage was a choice, not a decision.