As a young boy, I only ever wanted to do what’s right, be honest, and grow in the church.
Around the age of 12, I had my first experience with pornography. I was naive and innocent, and was curious about some webpage my friends had found. I felt miserable, knowing that what I had seen was considered serious sin in the LDS church. Eventually, I sat before a bishop who I was desperately attempting to impress through my honestly. I was devastated that this bishop was not going to allow me to partake if the sacrament or pass it with my fellow deacons. I was released as the deacons quorum secretary, a role that I was very proud of (had a whole binder and everything). I was asked not to pray publicly and told that I must address these things with my parents.
Before this time in my life, I don’t recall ever experiencing depression. Due to my continued battle with pornography, however, and the subsequent “punishments” wrought by my church leaders, depression and anxiety became standards in my life, and I even occasionally contemplated suicide.
As I grew older, my desire to be obedient never changed, however I had been in inappropriate relationships with several girls. Each time I would participate in a sinful act, my shame, grief, and depression would increase. My second semester at BYU-Idaho ended prematurely when I confessed to my bishop of recent sexual sin, leading to expulsion. Eventually, a bishop told me that the door to serving a mission was closed. I was devastated. I worked diligently to be worthy to attend the Temple, and eventually my stake president allowed my to serve a full time mission, having seen me as truly penitent for my sins.
While on my mission, I frequently came forward to my mission president to confess my problem with masturbation. Eventually, he snapped and angrily told my that he was not interested in hearing it; there was nothing he could do about it and if I wanted to change I would change. I stopped bringing it up in subsequent interviews. Later, I told my mission president of a flirtatious married-but-separated woman living in our house, and that I felt it was inappropriate for us to be there. He rolled his eyes and told me to toughen up. He said he was not concerned and was not going to let us move.
In a moment of weakness, I found myself kissing this woman. Afterward, my sense of guilt was so great that I sent my mission president a text that night. He called me and scolded me, and bought me a bus ticket to the Mission home that night. After meeting with him in person, he told me I would be changing missions. I again felt miserable and depressed for my actions, but finished my mission worthily and as a leader in the new mission. I was given a reacceptance letter from BYU-Idaho upon reapplying.
A couple years passed and I met with my stake president at BYU-Idaho for an interview to be sealed in the temple. I was about to say with certainty that I was worthy this time to every question. When he asked me if there was anything in my life left unrepented, I told him that I had been through countless repentance processes with numerous church leaders, but I’m uncertain if one instance I simply had forgotten to address from years ago. He wanted to know all the details, including: oral or vaginal? Did I ejaculate? Did she orgasm? How long were we together that night? Etc. I answered his questions. He then wanted to call my old bishop (now a primary teacher) to ask if I was really repentant of this. For the first time, I stood up for myself against a church leader and told him that was unacceptable. I had done worse things and been through long and arduous repentance processes for each one; most of them occurred after this instance. I told him it was inappropriate to hold that against me. He then said, “as a member of the stake presidency, I represent Christ and have the power to pronounce you clean, and I do so now.”
I was sealed to my wife, but my testimony of the Gospel was and has remained nearly non-existent since that day. Had a leader responded with that message to a 12 year old boy, I may have avoided years of depression and shame for being normal and curious. Today, I love my wife with all my heart, but 4 years later, sex is not something I often share with her. I feel gross and guilty every time I do relating back to the lifelong guilt I have felt on the subject.
I have been permanently damaged from my meetings as a youth with bishops of the LDS faith. I grew up always believing I was broken. My desire to be open with people is shaken. Opportunities for healthy sex are missed. I have a general disconnection from people that I didn’t have before (due to always being an outcast in my own circles due to LDS publicly shaming of their youth).
Church leaders should not be the ones to “treat” the sexual problems of LDS youth.