One Sunday, when I was in Beehives, all the girls were brought together to watch a film called “Morality For Youth” (1982). The video used a group of teens on a river rafting trip as a metaphor for our lives being full of dangers that we had to protect ourselves from. Specifically, the movie warned us of dangers of a sexual nature. Quotes from the prophet, Spencer W. Kimball warned us against necking and petting, and masturbation.
I remember that I had figured out masturbation somewhere around the age of 8, and other than understanding it was meant to be private, had no idea that I was doing anything wrong. When the prophet said that it would lead to “the more serious sins of exhibitionism and the gross sin of homosexuality”, I was panicked.
Not long after the video, we all underwent Bishop’s interviews. I can’t say now whether this was part of the process instigated by the video or if it was just time to get annual teen interviews over with again, but I found myself in the bishop’s office. He ran down the questions, specifically asking about necking, petting, and masturbation. I had to admit everything. I felt terrible. How could God forgive me?
He was certainly surprised. I was maybe 13 or 14 years old. As an adult, I have to wonder if he had many girls of that age admit to masturbation. Maybe it was something he only expected from the boys. In any case, he scolded me severely, telling me I should be ashamed of myself. I sat in silent, humiliated tears.
Afterwards, I would struggle to be good, but would inevitably slip up. I never admitted to doing it again, even though I was asked at nearly every interview. The humiliation was just too terrible. Of course, knowing I was lying to the bishop made it even worse. I was a terrible person. God may never forgive me. I tried to talk to God about it directly, but I never felt like I was really doing the right thing. The only real way to be forgiven was to go confess. Sometimes, I would try to work up the courage to tell the truth, but I would always chicken out at the end, lie quietly to the Bishop and continue feeling miserable and worthless.
As I got older and started dating boys, there were more pointed questions about necking and petting. I had two Bishops as a teenager and both questioned my purity because I dated non-Mormon boys. (I grew up away from Utah. There weren’t many Mormon boys to choose from.) We really didn’t do much other than kiss and touch over clothes, but because of my guilt over occasional masturbation (Remember, every time you slip up, all your previous sins are added back as though you never repented!) I felt like a harlot.
That guilt drove me to marry the first Mormon boy who looked my way after high school, and kept me in an emotionally and sexually abusive marriage for years because I didn’t deserve anything better.