I am writing to you today with hopes that my story will not fall on deaf ears. My name is Sue Krupa-Gray and I was a member for over 4 decades. I believe my story is a prime example of why the church needs to stop interviewing children behind closed doors, especially in regards to sexuality or anything related.
I was about 12 when I was called into my bishop’s office for an interview I will never forget. I’m sure it had something to do with advancement into the YW program. My bishop began asking me a few simple questions, which I answered. But when the subject matter evolved into personal inquiries about my time spent with boys, kissing, touching, and other sexually based subjects, I froze. It’s not that I had done anything wrong. I froze because of the nature of the questions. I froze because he wanted details and became pushy when I silenced myself. I froze because of something the LDS church played a part in.
Let me give you some of my back story.
When I was 9-10 years old we had a home teacher named Richard Bell placed in our home. He was single, came around far more than the required once a month visit, and he spent a lot of time with my triplet brothers, often excluding me. He never arrived with a partner. (Because my mom was single he should have had red flags placed all over him, but no one questioned anything.) He took the boys swimming a lot, played in the yard with them, brought gifts, prompted tickle fights, and took a liking to them. He was eccentric and creepy and he was grooming them for a moment that would change the lives of three children…forever.
The long and short of a complicated and far more detailed story is that Richard Bell marched my two brothers up a hill, in broad daylight, at a church campout and no one questioned him, even though he had a small tent thrown over his shoulder. What he did to my brothers is unforgivable. The repercussions that followed each of us is unpardonable.
My brother Robert, who had been asked to give him oral sex, recounted the events with me years later after I came out with my own story. After confronting Dave in our teens he also shared some details, but immediately closed down. Eventually, I was able to put the pieces together.
Rob wept as he recalled listening to our brother scream and cry in the tent as Richard molested him. My brothers were 10 years old. 10. Soak that in for a moment, please.
Dave later had a nervous breakdown at age 15 and has spent most of his life in an institution. Many believe the molestation changed the course of his life. I absolutely do too.
The story does not stop there. That same brother, Dave, began to come into my room the next year and I was molested. It changed the course of my life in numerous ways. A counselor assessed that the abuse he endured sparked a rage and unhealthy sexuality in him, hence pushing him to act against me, of all people. There is an eerie frost that still abides in me today when I think of what took place.
The next year my brothers decided to move out of our unstable mom’s home. I wanted to go too, but couldn’t because I did not want to be near my brother, my abuser. It was one of the hardest and most gut-wrenching choices I have ever made. I lost being a triplet. I lost having siblings that were all now living with my dad. I went from being one of 7 children and a triplet with built-in comrades to being alone. I survived for 6 more years with a mom that suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder. I left
home at 17 and never returned. I lost more than I can describe in words. My family never knew the true reason for my departure until I was almost 39, though I shared fragments with my dad.
The last birthday we triplets celebrated together was when we were 11 years old. We were born together….meant to be together. And one heinous act destroyed that.
Ask yourself this? What if the church had asked more questions about Richard Bell? Why sit and harass me, a 12-year-old girl about petting and kissing? I sat in the office of that bishop feeling humiliated and shamed and had done nothing wrong. That same bishop already had it out for our broken family because we did not fit the perfect Mormon mold. We all knew it.
I spoke up a year later when I was once again called in to talk about things he had not been trained to talk about and were unnecessary. I asked him “why are you allowing Richard to hurt boys? Why not care about what he is doing to people? And I blurted out what happened to my brothers and others in the ward. (By this time rumors were flying.) Steve Underdown was his name. And the only reply he had was: “I think people are blowing Richard’s weirdness out of proportion and misreading him.” He had closed the case without one question! Yet, he had a ton of questions for me about sex, touching, and things that were none of his business. I sat mortified.
These bishops are not prepared for the trauma people deal with. These bishops do not have degrees or knowledge to help people. I realize there are many good men in the role of the bishop, but, there are also many uninspired, predatorial, sexist, and misogynistic men wearing suits and playing God that are doing more harm than good.
Richard Bell married a blind woman in our ward who had at least 2 sons. They eventually had a son together. All of those boys were molested, the baby was 6 months old. There are court documents, though he got off because of a legal technicality. He also was arrested for a molestation of a crippled girl in Colorado. He went to a different congregation and groomed her before he hurt her. I am enclosing a picture of him in his prison jumpsuit. He is a prodigy of Mormonism in so many ways.
Another church went after him. How sad I was to see that the Mormon church did nothing!
So let me strongly state my opinion.
1) You have no right to question youth about sexuality, sex, or other natural things. That is a parents job. If there’s no parent, then that is the job of another adult that cares for them or someone they trust. These interviews are damaging, inappropriate, and wrong.
2) Sexuality is God-given and need not be shamed. The LDS church perpetuates such ugly notions of sex to youth. And then you have the gall to ask bishops to close a door, make a child feel intimidated, and ask them if they have touched themselves or participated in sexual acts. Do you understand how wrong that is? What about the kids like me that endured sitting in an office, weeping inside because I felt so bad and wrong for what had taken place with my own brother? Do you know have any idea how shaming that felt? Do you know how confused it made me?? My bishop had no skills or training to talk about such a loaded subject. And my bishop clearly had no promised gifts of discernment or inspiration. He never even reported Richard to the authorities. He instead protected the church and a priesthood holder.
3) Isn’t it time for the church to stop repressing people, shaming them, and making them feel awful for having sexual feelings? When will the church focus on helping people find and feel joy, despite mistakes and being human? Christ did not walk around guilting and bullying people. In fact, I’d imagine He was the opposite. He probably took time to talk, to understand, and to grant empathy and compassion. I’m pretty sure he would ask the youth “what can I do to help you? How are you? What do you need to become more?” He would not be prying into their sexual actions or sending hopeless messages about sin.
4) When will LDS Inc., look at LGBTQ members and people and see just people? Your brutish Nov 5th policy walked me out of the church doors forever, along with a dishonest version of history. Love is love. Stay out of people’s bedrooms, please. There are plenty of homeless, hungry, naked, and suffering that deserve attention.
STOP. Stop closing doors on youth visits. Stop asking them about things your bishops and other leaders really have no right to be involved in. Stop avoiding the real problems in the church. How about you devote some time to this latest sexual predator and all that you allowed him to get away with before you pressure or shame another young child about their sexuality or feelings?
There are many apologies owed. You can feel free, to begin with the one my brothers, family, and I are owed.
Someday, I hope the church can practice what it preaches instead of bullying members, labeling people you know nothing about, and shaming youth in order to manipulate and control them.
I didn’t lose my faith; I simply found my truth.