Even though it was long ago, I remember being interviewed by the bishop as I prepared to be baptized at the age of eight. It was the mid-1950’s, and both of my parents were with me in the bishop’s office. I was NOT asked if I lived the law of chastity, but rather was asked if I were ready to follow Jesus and become a member of His church. I was still nervous, as I had not been interviewed before, but I was not uncomfortable with the questions.
Before my twelfth birthday, I was again interviewed by the bishop as I prepared to leave Primary and enter the Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Association (YWMIA or “Mutual” for short). Again, my parents were there with me. I was nervous because I knew I would be expected to recite one of the Thirteen Articles of Faith, which I had been diligently memorizing during the previous months. I do not remember being asked any uncomfortable or puzzling questions.
So, why am I writing my story? It is my opinion that these interviews, even if probing questions about sexual purity are not asked, are still harmful and part of a larger picture. Children and young people in the Church have been and still are being groomed to be obedient, compliant, and submissive to adults. They are expected to think it is all right to be alone with a bishop and to answer ANY questions he might ask. This was very much a part of my childhood and youth.
At the age of eleven, I was molested on two different occasions, both in a public place, with other people nearby. I submitted to this abuse. I did not run away or cry out for help. I never told my parents what had happened. I just kept it all to myself, not having the words to describe these frightening experiences. Perhaps I was afraid of getting in trouble for not running away or crying out for help, even though I had not learned at home or at church to speak up for myself, to question adults, or to determine if something an adult said or did were inappropriate. The values I grew up with were obedience, compliance, and submission.
As a teenager I was interviewed by the bishop each year in order to earn my Individual Award. One of the questions was, “Are you morally clean?” What that meant was left to special group meetings for the Young Women, with mothers invited. I am shocked and dismayed at the stories I have read concerning the questions that are asked of our young people at the present time.
Throughout my adult life I have submitted to these interviews. I have experienced many things, from being asked about the intimacy of my marriage bed to being excommunicated to experiencing unkindness and shunning to having my Church membership and “blessings” restored. It is only in recent years, after learning the truth about Mormonism, that I have had the strength to break the bonds of a lifetime of grooming in the Church. The last time I went for a temple recommend interview, I was sitting in the office of a counselor in the stake presidency. After a bit of small talk, he suddenly sat up tall and in a booming voice too loud for the size of the room, began his interrogation. Again, I submitted to these questions, and from someone quite a bit younger than myself! However, in my mind I was not submitting. I was thinking, Who does this guy think he is? As I left his office, I decided there would be no more such interviews. It has taken me most of my life to come to this decision. The life-long grooming I had received was very, very strong.