I remember a dimly lit room where I was interviewed quickly for baptism at 8 years old. My parents were ‘inactive’ and the first I heard of what I was agreeing to was in that interview. I was told I was promising to never sin again. I had a fight with my sister that night and felt the first of how I would feel the rest of my life feeling guilty and unworthy.
My father abandoned us shortly after that, and my mother married a man who was a pedophile. When my mom finally knew about my stepdad, she went to the bishop about it. That Bishop sat me next to my stepdad and asked me if I could try harder to get along with him. He explained how important families are and I shouldn’t break it up. I never told anybody again.
The first terrifying interview I had with a Bishop after that, we had just moved, I was 14, he came and got me from class and took me to his office. I was terrified. I had already learned to be scared to be alone with a man. This perfect stranger started asking questions about masturbation from the get go. I was horrified and embarrassed (shamed)! I didn’t want to lie to God so I admitted to it. He then changed from being distant and strange to being disgusted and demeaning. He interrogated me about how often I did it etc. He asked if I included other girls with me. Horrified again I said no! He spelled out what type of touching was wrong with other girls and asked me over and over and told me usually girls who masturbate also liked to have sex with other girls. I kept assuring him I didn’t.
I remember running back out to the basketball court where everybody was when it was over, and feeling completely violated. I felt so dirty from his questioning, and guilty from him shaming me. I went home and vowed to never do it again. You can still open my diary and see the little check marks where I kept track of the days I was ‘good’ and the days I was ‘bad.’ Meanwhile, I lived in an unsafe home with a pedophile. I quit going to church.
At age 16 I got pregnant. My mother took me to get an abortion. I was told it was just a little seed they were removing and I didn’t think anything of it. Life went on and 3 years later I went back to church and a very nice Bishop asked me to confess all my sins. I did. He told me to come back in 2 weeks and he would pray about what the church would do. I spent 2 weeks feeling like I was going to hell over having sex. The nice Bishop finally told me I needed counseling but all was fine with the church and me. Until 2 years later when a stake president interviewed me and told me I had to confess every sin I had ever committed. I told him I thought I was already forgiven. He said, no you have to tell me everything. So I did. He stood up, pointed at the door, and yelled at me to get out of his office because I was unworthy! He said he would have the bishop contact me, which he did.
By now I had a different Bishop who spent over an hour telling me how unworthy I was. He said I was a murderer and he couldn’t tell me if God would forgive me. He said the bishop I had confessed to when I first came back had been wrong not to make me realize I was a murderer. I was crying and looked at the picture of Jesus on the wall, who never got mentioned in the Bishop’s office, and I said why was I born then? All he said was, ‘for this.’ I went home and spent years feeling unforgivable, I would tell people I was on thin ice with God. I quit going to church, what was the point? I hated myself so bad, it took decades to figure out how to think differently about myself. Having children helped save me, I loved them so much, I realized eventually that what had happened to me at home, and at church was as far as the East is from the West away from Love. Shouldn’t the church be the one place children and young people should be able to go for love? There is far too much riding on the line for even one leader to make one mistake. Maybe my stake president had a bad day that day. Maybe my bishops were wrong. I was destroyed. Most of my life spent in self hatred. I was taught they spoke for God. No more. My daughter would never be behind one of your closed doors.