On average, from age 5 to 28, I considered suicide and/or self-mutilation roughly once a week, in part because I was subjected to these interviews. I encountered some of the church’s teachings about sexual sin early on, and as early as age 5 (I was molested by another child a few years older than me—as far as I’m aware, this event had no connection with the church), I honestly believed that I was essentially a murderer. Confessions about masturbation and pornography throughout my pre-teen, teenage, and even adult life thoroughly reinforced this view of myself. While I’m thankful that I was spared creepy, detailed sexual questions that others have reported, I can’t count the times I was asked to read the section of the Book of Mormon that compared sexual sin to murder in these interviews, and encouraged to feel that kind of guilt. In one of my earliest interviews (I think age 15), I was even encouraged to read the Biblical teaching: “if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out,” and apply it to my situation. I genuinely felt that I should be imprisoned, castrated, or even executed for my “crimes.”
Some priesthood leaders were certainly better than others—one bishop even seemed pained by the fact that I felt the need to even confess these things to him. Most, however, were much more severe, including my first mission president (who openly and shamelessly announced to zone leaders which missionaries had confessed to specific sins), and even my own father when he served as a bishop. My last bishop was perhaps the worst… tragically, his son committed suicide at 15. I don’t know the specific reasons—however, the way this man was able to make me feel about myself (even as an adult!) is highly suggestive as to why his son took his own life.
Worthiness interviews absolutely robbed me of any self-respect for most of my life, and I doubt their lasting effects will be completely resolved for many years to come. If my understanding of LDS theology is correct, the need to confess “lesser sins” like this significantly distorts the church’s own doctrine on the issue. I found that most bishops and leaders willingly encouraged self-hatred and shame for something that most of the world regards as harmless or even healthy.
Until my faith transition out of the church, the only thing that stopped me from actually attempting suicide was a literal belief in LDS soteriology—that suicide would only exacerbate, rather than solve the problem. I seriously considered self-mutilation on multiple occasions. Perhaps the greatest irony I experienced in the process of leaving the church was that the compulsive nature of this and related habits were significantly reduced when I no longer believed them to be wrong: when I embraced a secular perspective, I suddenly experienced the “miracle” I had been praying for my whole life.