I converted to the church at the impressionable age of 16. My parents did not go to the church and they had no knowledge of what was asked during bishop interviews. And I never told them. If I had, they’d probably make me leave the church, and at the time, I thought the church was necessary for my eternal salvation.
I remember being really excited for an upcoming trip to the temple with several other youth from my ward. I knew about temple recommend interviews and I knew the questions that would be asked. My bishop was one of my best friends’ fathers. Like most adolescents, I had already discovered masturbation and it was a typical part of my life. It was not until joining the LDS church that I was ever told it was an egregious sin. I had been part of other Christian churches growing up, and sexual sins did come up in discussions about living a clean lifestyle, but masturbation was something not really talked about. Pornography, lust, and topics such as that were, but never were children shamed in church for touching their genitalia. This was a new concept to me in the LDS church, and at the time, I thought that I had to stop any and all masturbating if I ever stood the chance to get into the temple and thus achieve eternal salvation since in the LDS church, grace is not sufficient for salvation.
Looking back, I see it as nothing short of abuse. And that’s before the perversion of the adult male talking to a minor female about her masturbation habits in a private setting. I remember walking into my temple recommend interview, nervous and flopping back and forth on the idea of simply just lying about having masturbated. When the question came up, I remember the father of one of my best friends’ asking me the chastity questions, and masturbation was asked. This was a man who I had plans to have dinner with after church cause I was invited over regularly. I told him that I had. He asked me about how long it had been, how often I did it, etc.
Now, this man did NOTHING wrong according to what he was supposed to do. I don’t feel for a moment that he was a predator. He was simply part of a systemic problem within the church. I was a minor female. Being asked about how, when and how often I masturbated, if I had ever been “petted” by a boy, etc. All of these questions were coming from an adult male in a room with just me and him. Being a convert with my parents out of the church, this was done completely without my parents’ knowledge. I was very impressionable, wanted to be a stalwart member of the church, and I had to go through that in order to do so. I had to. So I sucked it up, and I went through it.
My temple recommend was delayed by a couple of weeks and I had to go in and update him on my masturbation habits. If I had refrained for those 2 weeks, then I could go to the temple with the group. Which I did. Boy, was I worthy. This is spiritual abuse. It’s psychological sexual abuse. It took years before I no longer felt like masturbation was going to keep me from eternal salvation. Many works-based churches seem to have similar problems. The LDS church isn’t the only one. I feel worse for people still in the LDS church that they feel like their eternal salvation hangs on their worthiness when I now know that my eternal salvation hangs on the worthiness of Jesus, not on mine. LDS leaders: I would plead with you to end the systemic problem of including questions regarding sexuality, masturbation, etc. in the temple recommend interview when it concerns minors. I have no hope that the church will change its stance on works-based salvation, so I don’t see a change in the law of chastity. Really that is an entirely different matter, but it’s very much related. I fully expect that spiritual abuse to continue. Millions of members worldwide will continue to feel that they’re not good enough, that they aren’t worthy and that they can’t be assured of their salvation unless the church makes a huge shift in ideology. The very least that can be done to end the systemic practice of psychological sexual abuse with children is to end the practice of forcing children to discuss their sexuality with their bishops. This is scarring your youth. People are speaking out. It’s scarring your church’s reputation. It has to stop.