To begin, I will say that I was three when a man first took away my sexual agency. My father, a pedophile, showed me porn that included Rape, origies, and children. Fast forward, to age 12, when I had my first worthiness interview. Somehow, it felt normal, because it was for a group youth trip to the temple, and I took my turn in a line of other boys and girls. At age 14, my bishop visited the young women’s meeting and explained that masterbation was wrong, and so was engaging in “petting” (making out). I tried and failed both of these mandates for most of my adolescence. After having sex with my high school boyfriend, I had one of the scariest dreams of my life, where a giant Jesus came stomping angrily through the sky, shaking the earth. I thought I was “tainted,” and feared I would never be “clean” or worthy. After several Bishop interviews I came to believe I had found some forgiveness, enough to attend BYU. In my freshman year at BYU I moved in with relatives. My uncle sexually assaulted me within a month. I was already meeting regularly with my Bishop at that time, struggle to shake off the shame I experienced both from healthy sexual desires, and from disturbing flashbacks of childhood sexual abuse. I wanted to feel clean, and felt that if I could go to the temple I might feel pure. When I reported the sexual abuse from my uncle, it was a cry for help, it was also something of a confession, since I was very very confused. My Bishop, without hesitating, instructed me that what I had told him was going to be between “you, your uncle, and the Lord.” He then blamed me for behavior he’d deemed as lending to the sexual assault, and instructed me to go home and tell my uncle not to touch me anymore.
I will never forget the walk home. My feet scraped against the gravel on the side of the road. My heart pounded so hard I wondered if I was having a heart attack. I did as my Bishop said, and my uncle just sighed in relief. He stopped touching me, but continued to molest two of my young relatives in the home for the next year.
With respect to my other relatives’ privacy, I will end with saying my uncle was brought to justice for his crimes. He was charged for what he did, because I chose to disobey my Bishop and break the silent pact he had placed on me with his priesthood authority. My uncle ended his life in jail. It has been almost twenty years, and I have left the church. I have found my voice, autonomy, and healing, but the toll has been considerable. The flashbacks and nightmares from that terrible time followed me for many years, until I finally found counseling. It took me well into my 30’s to stop feeling guilt for having sex. I feel angry a lot. When I left, there were no apologies. Just a letter, signed by President Hinckley, warning me of the eternal consequences of my decision to leave. Bishop worthiness interviews are not only despicable, they are a violation and a danger to both children and adults. As it is, LDS culture not only hides sexual abuse, it breeds it.