When I was twelve years old a male leader came to our Sunday School class. One by one, he took each child out of class to have a talk with the bishop. No parental permission. No “voluntary” confession (these assembly-line interviews with probing questions are at odds with the practice of voluntary “confession”). I can’t remember being asked any questions, however, I thought the whole experience was odd.
But my 14-year-old sister came home from church highly traumatized. She had also been pulled out of class for an “interview”. The bishop asked her, “Have you had sexual intercourse?” She had never been on a date. She was horrified. I didn’t even know what the term meant. That day was the beginning of my sister leaving the church.
As the interviews continued year after year, I developed strong feelings of shame, insecurity and inferiority, largely related to my inferior position as a female in the church. The power dynamic in these interviews, for girls, continues through adulthood where there are always male leaders who have power and authority over females, so they lack potential for growth into autonomous, authoritative members of the church.