I went through those highly emotional and impactive teen years, in the 70s. This was when our LGBTQ brothers and sisters were still in the closet. A time when much that we now understand about our sexuality was misunderstood and frankly the LGBTQ community was demonized. (I regret that my opinions and likely comments as well; for several decades, were hurtful to the very being of my fellow children of God.)
I had a deep belief in the “truth” claims of the LDS church. I really believed they were getting ‘direct revelation’ from God himself…thus if the president or one of the other GA’s said something, I believed it to be true. (They were on the watchtower so of course had a better view than me). What I’m saying is that I ‘always’ deferred to what ‘the church’ said about things… I didn’t question: and furthermore, if I felt ‘contrary’ to what I heard, or read or thought, I had been trained to ‘trust the brethren’…not myself. So I was constantly trying to conform, to be good enough, to be righteous enough.
Of course basically ALL sexual feelings were “evil,” “sinful,” and “unrighteous” because only within the bonds of heterosexual marriage were they allowed. However my body apparently didn’t get the memo…so my sex drive (in my case, hormones going absolutely boy crazy) naturally, was alive and healthy.
After several talks and object lessons (yes I got the unwrapped stick of gum passed around the room…then someone given the choice of a new wrapped piece of gum or the already handled piece… Talk about a fear and shame based form of manipulation disguised as “teaching?) …Anyway…I was pretty darn pure, but then came the day when I had an orgasm…basically organically…we were literally only kissing…and WOW, Nature did that!…and nature also taught me how to repeat this most fabulous experience.
Enter the guilt trips, the shame, the talks and writings about all of these normal natural feelings being against God. So off I went to “confess” to the bishop because I was also taught that I couldn’t find forgiveness from this “serious sin” that was literally next to murder in seriousness, unless I confessed to my Priesthood leader.
Of course, I was told this man was special, he was a ” judge in Israel” and he was picked by God through direct revelation and further, he could receive direction from God about how I was to gain this ever elusive forgiveness. (So who was I to question that kind of clout?)
So off I went, in fear and trembling, to confess.
I want to interject here, that I had a love/hate relationship with masturbation. (mostly love followed by intense shame… So then hate) on and off (mostly on) through every minute of my single years. (I was again single after being divorced and after being widowed). Many of those Bishop’s were ‘easy going’…I actually think they ALL meant well…but oh the first one…his ignorance caused me decades of fear, shame and guilt. And though the mis-information he gave me is somewhat laughable today… It was ANYTHING but laughable when my innocent, naive mind was only 16 and 17 and 18.
So I went in to confess. I don’t recall what I was to do to fully repent… What I do remember as clear as can be are two things:
FIRST and foremost, was that my inner being was absolutely SCREAMING that this was NOT ok…the questions and discussions being held in this room, alone with a married man; the very nature of these type of ‘worthiness interviews’ made me uneasy to the core of my being. I NOW recognize that this was my Divine Self, that I can ALWAYS trust, doing it’s very best to get me out if these “rooms and interrogations.” But that wasn’t how I interpreted those feelings then. Then I reasoned; if this is God’s one and only true church, and this is God’s servant picked by God through revelation…then any horrible feelings I had were logically because I was such a sinner and the fault MUST be that I was out of line. Ouch ouch ouch! And the self-loathing deepened.
Thankfully I now realize that that sweet, sincere and innocent young girl had fear, shame and guilt thrown at her…and with little life experience, and even less trust in her own feelings and intuition…she was easily manipulated by those tools.
(As an aside…I had no healthy boundaries at the time, and only now, in my late 50’s am finally learning how to tell someone that they have no business asking me questions of a sexual nature! I’ve learned now that healthy, normal humans don’t ask others sexually explicate, probing questions…that information is MY business, and perhaps a partner, a doctor or a therapist if I deem it appropriate.
SECOND, and this is the part that may seem laughable today… But it was ANYTHING but laughable at the time. My bishop warned me that if I didn’t stop this most horrible, sinful behavior…(next to murder!) then I was (A) OFFENDING GOD, (dang, it was difficult to stay between those narrow lines when it seemed so many things made me unclean before the Lord…i.e. Sleeveless shirts, certain drinks, a two piece bathing suit, heck even too much loud laughter, let alone my incredible libido). I was also told that (B) my MEMBERSHIP in His kingdom would be in JEOPARDY. (Is that a great FEAR tactic or what?… I was going to be literally kicked out of God’s kingdom? – which in LDS terms is synonymous with the church… But I’d also lose my own family eternally too…because if ya don’t go to the Celestial you’re basically less than). So that was another huge dose of FEAR, SHAME and GUILT. And (C) I was informed by my bishop, who was a college professor (more knowledgeable than I) and an authority figure that I trusted, (Bishop’s are big deals) he told me in no uncertain words, that if I didn’t stop masturbating, it would TURN ME INTO A LESBIAN! It sounds absurd today, it was anything but absurd at the time, I had no reason NOT to believe him.
I had so much fear and shame that I don’t think I even shared this story with anyone other than one of my sisters, who was my confidant at the time…for decades. Couldn’t even say this had happened to me the fear and shame was of such a magnitude! I don’t know if I ever shared it even with my children’s father, who I was married to for 20 years…temple marriage by the way!
While my story is mild compared to so many others…the point is that too often these UNTRAINED men are NOT accurately informed, (I don’t know if this mis-information was handed down from the leadership of the church, like reparative therapy and many other horrendous pieces of counsel, or if mine was an isolated instance of ignorance being used against the innocent). What I do know is that I carried FEAR, SHAME and GUILT, especially for almost anything of a sexual nature…including AFTER I was married; for several decades. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone!
These were the burdens I carried with negative impact on my life, my marriages and my sex-life for decades…I don’t think I’ve overcome them even to this day.
It is my sincere desire that closed door, one on one interviews stop immediately. Personally I find this to be an unholy, and an impure practice. I know of nothing doctrinal that makes this an essential practice…I do know a ‘tiny’ bit of the damage done behind these closed doors… It can be avoided by putting an end to the practice.
Please protect the children!