I grew up being exposed to sexual activities and situations from my neighborhood peers, starting at a very young age. I always felt shame around things I had been exposed to or reluctantly participated in based on what I learned at church. As a youth, I regularly visited the bishop for worthiness interviews. I always felt uncomfortable as a young woman just by being in a closed room with someone’s dad. My bishops were good men. They didn’t pry too much into uncomfortable details, but they also didn’t help me very much. Sometimes it felt nice to get things off my chest. The problem with my experience was that I was facing real issues that any adult with basic training in human development would’ve recognized. Instead, all my guidance was spiritually-based and I wasn’t able to process my issues until seeking therapy in my 20’s.
My worst experience with LDS leadership came when I was interviewing for my full-use temple recommend. As a teen I had sexual experiences, and each experience I had already discussed with a bishop in the years prior to these interviews. The bishop’s interview went well. But then I met with a member of the stake presidency. When it got to the law of chastity question, this man asked me, in detail, if I had ever done an entire list of sexual activities. He started with minor offenses, and worked up to specifics. I was so upset because I had already “taken care of” these “issues” but here I was, being asked by somebody’s grandpa, if I had *ever* done any of them. And I had to endure this if I was to be married in the temple, which I thought was vital to my salvation. I started saying no to each of the acts, annoyed because it was inappropriate and I had already repented of these things, hoping that he would stop when he realized I hadn’t had these experiences, but he just kept going. Like someone would’ve experienced oral sex without also having experienced passionate kissing? Hello! By the time he got to the more serious “offenses” I finally broke down and said yes.
It was traumatizing to have to relive my shame, and certainly had nothing to do with my “worthiness”. I was only 18 years old at the time, and didn’t have the courage to stand up for myself to the inappropriate questions.
After getting married, it took years and lots of therapy to undo the mental damage that the church’s shame-based sexual policies have done to me.