It was summer and we had a large garden in Nothern California we shared with neighbors and ward members. My dad was a postman and money was always tight for our big family. I was not yet old enough to date – 16 years old. But I my lessons in young women’s taught me that my sexual virtue was my most valuable possession. No one wanted a crumpled rose. I should fight to the death to protect my virtue. I was 14 and very naive and innocent.
Out of respect we called one of our neighbor’s “Bishop ______” as he had been the bishop of the ward for many years. He and his wife lived down the street from us and were now in their 70’s. I believed he was an authority figure to whom I needed to show obedience as he had been called of God as a leader of the only true restored church. Surely this meant it was very important for God to carefully select only good and honorable men. My own father is about as good and honorable man I have ever known and he was never called as a bishop.
My multiple siblings and I had been working hard in our garden all summer weeding and watering. We had also been sent down the street to help Bishop______ and his wife with their small garden and fruit trees. One afternoon we were picking corn and the bishop was at our house helping. I went inside to get a drink of water. The bishop followed me. I got him a glass of water too, not.
As I turned to give him the water his hands slipped under my t-shirt. One behind me grabbing my back to pull me in. The other up my chest and under my bra to grab my breasts. He then open mouth kissed me.
l was shocked and horrified. I pushed him away and ran outside and told my parents immediately. I did not see him again for a while. I believe a visit with the sitting bishop was coordinated during young women’s so I could see he was seeking forgiveness. But no one ever said anything to me again until I brought it up as an adult when my family tried to convince me to return to the church.
As I child I was left to process this incident on my own. What it did was taint the claims of the church for me. My trust was betrayed. How dare God call someone to a position of authority over me who was comfortable taking my most prized possession! But I could not be angry at God… my anger transferred to the church – it could not be what it claimed. I had no choice but to leave the church and disappoint my family, because in my leaving they would believe I was destroying their eternal happiness. I stayed an obedient daughter while I lived with my parents. But I moved out and got a job working on Sundays as soon as I graduated high school at 17. This allowed me a convenient excuse to slip into inactivity. By the time I turned 20, going to church gave me anxiety. And it was not because of “sin”.
The distance this put between me and my family was very painful.