My story I hope will bring light to how systemic the issue is. The story is my father’s who is now 70. When my father was being interviewed to be a deacon it was now Prophet Russell M. Nelson who interviewed him. My dad said the first question asked was, ” How often do you masterbate?” My dad said, “What is masturbation?” Since my dad was unaware of what it was, the interview moved on. My dad never heard of the word before until the word was introduced to him.
Do I think President Nelson treated my dad any different than any other 12 year old interview. No. Do I think the question appropriate for a 12 year old? Absolutely not. Never would I think it appropriate for a mature adult to ask sexual questions to a child. Not only to boys, but I find it horrifying that girls are taught that it is okay to express sexual things to a much older man. As this line of questioning happened when my dad was a child I think it would take a lot for the church to change. I absolutely believe it should, but I am not hopeful. There will always be ways found to justify the inappropriateness of children speaking to mature men about sexual issues but for my own sanity I put my foot down and will not allow the occurrence to even happen with my child. I will not trust that situation as it is a can of worms.
If I look on my own bishop experiences thankfully I was never asked the masturbation question however I did have a similar experience in which at a very young age, for me it was age 16. I was introduced to the sexual topic of oral sex by my teacher before I knew what it was. This teacher placed so many negative connotations on the unknown term it would have been impossible for me to see anything positive from that term. The systemic abuse comes from the adults belief that teaching the morality aspect of these terms can only end positive. For me, one lesson from a teacher created sexual hangups that took me years to heal. My dad was relatively lucky since he had no knowledge of the term so there was no deeper prodding with his interview.
When my daughter was interviewed for her baptism, I asked to be present. It was frowned upon and the bishop said he needed to be alone with her to assess her worthiness and that I could wait outside. I asked that the door be open. Again, that was frowned upon. My daughter is a teenager now and I will not allow her to have an interview as I feel there is too much at risk and I do not want her to have similar hang ups that I had growing up.
I am grateful that the church no longer promotes Boyd K. Packers pamphlet on The Little Factory so that’s progress of a kind. There is so much more progress needed to be done to keep children free of sexual hangups and sexual predators that are found within our own church. Thank you Sam for standing up for the children. Truly the only thing I’ve been able to do to protect my own child is to no longer allow my child to be put in that situation. They are not allowed under any circumstance to be alone in one on one interviews.