I was sexually abused by family members (aunts and cousins) and babysitters from my earliest memory (as a toddler). One such abusive event actually resulted in my drowning death but I was miraculously and gratefully revived. All of my abusers were “faithful” members of the LDS Church. I have also since learned that the abuse is multi-generational, started by men who were Bishops, Stake Presidents and negatively impacted thousands of people. This abuse exposed me to horrific and damaging sexual activities. In addition, at a young age (approximately 5 years old) I was introduced to pornography in film and print. With that being said, through all of that, up until age 12, I was always forced to please others sexually, but did not ever please or act upon myself.
At age 12, for my priesthood interview, I was asked by a Bishop if I masturbated. I did not know what meant and explained as such to him. He then asked me if I “played with myself”. I responded ignorantly that because I did not have a lot of friends I often would play with games or toys by myself. My bishop laughed at me and then moved in closely and asked if I ever touched my penis. I thought it an odd question and I said that I did when washed myself during the shower. He laughed again and then asked if I ever played with my penis. I informed him I did not. He said he did not believe me because “every young boy does”. He told me it is a sin and we should not do it, but explained that you take your penis in your hand and rub it (using his hand in a masturbating motion) until it gets hard. He then asked me if my penis ever got hard and I explained that it did sometimes in the morning. He explained that if you rub it hard and fast again and again it will feel really good and eventually some white cream would come out of your penis. He advised that this is normal and I should not be scared. He repeated, “It feels really amazing, but we should not do it.” He further advised he would follow up with me on our next visit to make sure I was not doing it. Well, I went home and immediately did it and have struggled with it ever since. I coupled that with my sexual abuse and pornography into a life-long addiction that impacts my self-worth, my relationship with my wife and my worthiness to participate in the Church.
A few weeks later, I was on my first boy scout trip and my scout leader pulled me aside in a tent and asked me to play with his penis, he told me it was expected as a new scout. I did and then he encouraged me to do it with the other boys in the troop. Between his sexual advances and the activity with another young man, it started a multi-year series of same-gender sexual experiences that left me with feelings of homosexuality that have plagued my marriage and led to a serious identity crisis.
Six months after my 12th birthday I visited with the Bishop again, he asked me if I was masturbating and I told him that I was. He told me that I could not pass the sacrament or take the sacrament. I was being punished for doing what he taught me to do. I told him that my scout leader was also making me touch and stroke his penis and he called me a liar and that it was inappropriate to cover up my sins by tattle telling on someone else.
I told my Stake President who essentially said the same thing and told me that speaking against my Church leaders was the beginnings of Apostasy. That scout leader was convicted over 20 years later of dozens of accounts of sexual abuse (not including the hundreds more outside the statute of limitations). Many young men informed Church leadership of this abuse and were all met with the same response that we were liars and apostates for questioning our leadership. I struggle to this day with trusting and honoring my priesthood leaders because of the abominable way I was treated as a youth.
To add insult to injury, the Bishop in question further exacerbated the issue by telling details of my story from the pulpit in sacrament meeting. He did not say my name but gave enough information that many in the ward knew it was me. Sharing my personal sins and perceived lies to the entire ward further left me with feelings of disdain and distrust for all Church authority.
At age 20, while on my mission, my mission president, during a priesthood interview asked me if I masturbated. I informed him that I did from time to time but was trying to control it. He then asked if I had any same sex attraction feelings which I informed him that I did. He proceeded to tell me that he was sending me to LDS social services, threatened to send me home if it continued and advised me he would be transferring me the next transfer. He sent me to the predominantly gay community in our mission with another companion who struggled with the same issues. Fortunately, we did not engage in any activities, but the temptation was real and the exposure was cruel and inhumane. Further leading to disdain and distrust of Church leadership.
Recently, as an grown adult, I decided to come clean with my wife and bishop about my pornography and masturbation addiction and participate in the Church’s Addiction Recovery Program. Which has been helpful. Prior to entering Ward Council I mentioned to the members in the hall that I had been with the Bishop the night previous (in passing conversation). During Ward Council my Bishop announced that he met with a male member of the ward the night before and was appalled to have another member of the ward addicted to pornography. Now the whole ward council knew of my personal and private sins and challenges. This further supports my disdain and distrust of Church leadership.
It is only through years and years and thousands of dollars of therapy and my burning testimony of the Book of Mormon and of Jesus Christ and the principle of forgiveness that I continue to participate in the Church. But I assure you that the policy of one-on-one interviews, the lack of appropriate training, the lack of confidentiality, the cover-ups and lies and deceit by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have caused me and my family unbelievable damage and harm and the promises of a covenant family and trusted leadership did NOT apply to me. I suffered with shame and guilt my entire life and still do to this day. I have seriously considered suicide on many occasions and have witnessed the suicide and destruction of many of my friends from my childhood who did not survive the abusive situations created.
I further had to endure the extreme disappointment of Church leaders that informed me that if I just went on a mission, was faithful and married in the temple my gay feelings would go away and I would be “healed”. This is not a reality. The impacts of a bishop’s inappropriate interview and a scout leader’s selfish desires have left a dent in my soul that can only be fixed by the Atonement of Jesus Christ at some point in the future. But for now, it is a struggle that the Church created and yet punishes me for non-compliance to the standards they “claim” to support. The hypocrisy is disheartening and devastating.
I am advocating against the Church’s one-on-one policy and explicit sexual questioning so that my children do not have to experience the same pain that I did and continue to experience today. I would not be a good and faithful father and a good steward of these Spirits if I did not fight against such poor practices by my chosen Church.