I grew up in a small town in Southern Utah. When I say small I mean about a 100 people small, give or take a few. Everyone in town was Mormon with the exception of a wife and kids of a Jack-Mormon that had moved there to sort of homestead. Their daughter, in fact, was the only other person within 25 miles of town my age
School was a conglomerate of several towns within a 30-mile radius and even that collection of kids was small but mighty in terms of Mormonism. I would estimate 98% of the school was Mormon. These were hard core Mormons, most multi-generational, most with polygamy in their history. The church, and everything about it, was a part of home, school and culture. Sometimes people didn’t live the rules very well, but nobody ever questioned its truth.
I grew up a pretty lonely kid. Although I came from a large family, my brothers and sisters were all significantly older than me, the youngest child. I had a lot of time to myself and I discovered masturbation pretty young. I never in my wildest imagination thought it was a bad thing, until about six months into my time as a Deacon when I suddenly learned in quorum meeting that playing with yourself was intensely horrible to God. Confusion ensued. When I’d been asked if I masturbated in my worthiness interview I didn’t even know what it was so I said no. I had not felt any guilt or worry that there was anything wrong with it, thanks a lot Holy Ghost, until I was taught I should by my priesthood leadership. In one short lesson, I went from a happy go lucky Deacon, to a sinner that now needed to confess and repent.
So put yourself in my shoes. I was facing the prospect of having to tell someone I pretty intimately knew, because of the smallness of where we lived, that I was playing with myself. This was a horrid weakness I had and I couldn’t quit, and I really didn’t want to except to make the guilt go away. Thus I learned how to lie and I learned how to lie well because there was no way in hell I was sharing this part of me with people that I saw multiple times throughout the week and often worked for in the summers.
Lying may seem like a small price to pay for keeping a secret that really was no one’s business but my own, but the great consequence was that as much as I believed in God, I also believed in Satan. I developed such a fear of him and his ability to possess me that it affected almost every aspect of my life. Sometimes I couldn’t eat, most nights I wouldn’t allow myself to go to sleep, until so totally exhausted I couldn’t fight it anymore. I just knew the moment I fell into slumber he would show up with his minions and possess me, and this thought was reinforced with multiple stories and testimonies by well meaning leaders trying to inspire, when in reality all they were doing was scaring the shit out of me. I realized by my decision to not confess and repent I was already in his power and it was just a matter of time.
This whole cycle taught me that I could lie and get away with it, I could find a way to swallow fear and loathing by being aloof and uncaring, that emotions, especially the big ones, needed to be avoided at all costs. It ingrained in me a “fuck you” attitude that even today can creep into my interactions, especially when people confront about emotions or question my honesty or integrity in even the smallest way. I’m 50 years old, out of the church for eight and still hyper defensive and self-protective because of the pattern established to protect myself so long ago. I still have problems with sleeping enough because of patterns and habit that developed years ago.
I no longer believe in God or Satan, or the church and its harmful policies. That brings peace and relief to my soul. What I do believe is that these infernal interviews are harmful in such a myriad of ways that no one can really know the full damage that is being done to individuals who have to subject themselves to this process to be considered “righteous”. Its so damn disturbing that the highest levels of leadership won’t open their eyes and ears to even consider the damage, past present and future that is happening in this process. My greatest act as a human, thus far in my life, is that I made decisions and took actions that will preclude my four children from having to experience this mess.