I began masturbating without knowing what it was. When I realized I felt afraid and guilty, feeling I’d done the worst thing save murder. A few months later, at age 13, I told my bishop. He asked me to describe how I had been doing it, how often, and for how long. He also told me it was especially important for me to dress modestly because I was pretty. I have forgotten many of the other details of our conversation, but I remember crying a lot. It went on so long, my mother started knocking on the door repeatedly. At first, he ignored the knocking. When her knocking persisted, he told her to continue to wait in the foyer.
When I was in high school, I confessed a different slip up to a different bishop. He asked whether the boy had orgasmed. When I reacted with a shocked expression, he said, “I need to know these things,” in a short tempered manner, shaking his head. I felt so embarrassed in his presence after he knew about the sexual things I’d done.
Despite my efforts to confess, since I was 13, I have never really felt worthy. I always have felt afraid to go in the temple for fear I haven’t truly been forgiven, because I didn’t confess well enough. In my teens and twenties, I felt a sometimes debilitating sense of shame, worthlessness, and depression. In high school, I once wrote in my journal I wished I had died before I was 8, so I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to commit these sins and suffer for them. I felt no LDS guy would ever want to marry me because of the things I’d done. My feelings of shame and bad memories seem to always surface when I focus my attention on religion. I still sometimes feel I need to limit time I spent alone praying or reading the scriptures to avoid guilt spiraling.
Nonetheless, I’ve had overwhelmingly positive experiences with the church and my leaders, including many bishops. Bishops that handle themselves like Christ would are a great blessings. I was hesitant to share, because I do not want to lead anyone away from it. I believe that if things are ever mishandled, it is due to men’s shortcomings, not God’s or the Church’s; I share in hopes of helping inform any response by church leadership, and I have full confidence they will respond with inspiration. Also, reading some of these stories has helped me feel less alone – I always felt like an outlier; I thought most everyone else (especially girls) avoided these temptations and subsequent emotional struggles with ease.