I never was asked explicit sexual questions in bishop’s interviews, but I feel such pain and anguish with every story shared here, and with the experiences of my loved ones.
The constant barrage of chastity lessons in Mutual taught me that sexual feelings were evil, that we needed to be pure in thought at all times, and in control of our physical desires. I was made to feel like we were all just monsters. These teachings, combined with my poor self image and my parents’ confusing messages about sexuality, caused me years of guilt and shame for having any sexual thoughts whatsoever. I didn’t even know what masturbation was, and I didn’t have any sexual experiences, but because I was physically attracted to men and had occasional sexual desires, I thought I was a fake “good Mormon”, impure and the vilest of sinners. I was sure the Lord was going to strike me down when I received my temple endowments. I lied about my worthiness in bishops interviews and the MTC worthiness interrogations and felt intense shame for not confessing to having sexual desires. I was sure that I wasn’t a successful missionary because of these thoughts.
For years, I tried to be exactly obedient and righteous in hopes that would be enough for God to forgive me for my feelings. I obsessively ruminated on my unworthiness. As a young adult, I was surprised when my gentle bishop told me sexual attraction is normal and not to worry about it. Wait, what?!!!! One thing that really irritates me is that we get inundated with teachings about the evils of masturbation and sexual desires, we are made to feel intense psychological guilt and shame for those feelings, and then when we go to bishop he says it’s normal and don’t feel guilty?!!! Why aren’t we teaching healthy sexual attitudes in the first place?!
It is a miracle that as a married adult I have been able to work past that shame and come to a healthy view about sexuality and my self image. I really wish the church would consistently teach that sexual desires, including masturbation, are part of a balanced, healthy life. We can honor the law of chastity and at the same time have healthy sexual attitudes. So much unnecessary anguish could be avoided.
Our church leaders’ obsession with masturbation and sex is really perplexing. Yes, keeping our sexual behaviors within the Lord’s guidelines is important, but do we really have to pry into people’s lives about it and teach that any sexual thought or act is like murder? There are so many other problems people have to deal with, so many issues throughout the world, does obsessing about sex really need to be one of our top priorities?