When I was 8 years old and receiving my worthiness interview for baptism, I remember feeling uncomfortable. I didn’t know my bishop well beyond singing songs to him in sacrament meeting and making candy posters for him in primary. I was taught that he was safe, good, loved me, and had my best interests at heart. I remember feeling so strange in that interview. I wished I didn’t have to be there. I wished we didn’t have to talk about these weird things.
A couple of weeks after my baptism, we had a sacrament meeting unlike one I had ever experienced before. The stake president got up and announced the excommunication of my bishop. I was shocked and confused. The most trustworthy man in the world had lied straight to my face about who he was just days prior to being excommunicated. I felt dirty, unsafe, and betrayed. I remember that no one wanted to talk about what he did. I was reeling from the experience and wanted to understand, but it was never again addressed after that day. As the years wore on, I learned more and more about the things he had done to hurt members of the ward. And in due course, I developed a deep mistrust of all priesthood leaders in my life. I remember being 12 and having a panic attack before going to see the bishop. I had heard what kind of questions he would ask. I didn’t want to be alone with a bishop again. And I didn’t want to answer those questions. Every year at my annual meeting with the bishop, I was overcome with nausea and dread. I started to wonder if maybe I was wrong somehow. Was I not faithful enough? Was I a bad person? I had thought about sex before and seen sexual images. As I was maturing, I naturally became interested in sex. I knew I had to tell my bishop about the thoughts so that I could be forgiven, but I was physically ill whenever those questions came up. I was frozen and could only think of ending the interview as quickly as possible so I could leave his office.
When I went to BYU, I felt like an impostor. I was determined to trust my new leaders and do the thing that I had been dreading for years: confess my sexual thoughts to my bishop. I had learned that sexual sin was “second to murder” and I couldn’t be close to God unless I was forgiven of my sins. I learned that I could never move on from my sins until I confessed and discussed them with my bishop. And so, after many panic attacks and bouts of nausea, I made an appointment to speak with my bishop. At this time, I was not yet 18. Yet the bishop shocked me with explicitly detailed questions about my sexual experiences. “What have you seen?” “What have you thought?” “Have you touched yourself?” “Have you orgasmed from doing so?” “How often?” On and on. I, a 17 year old young woman, spent the better part of an hour alone in a small room with a middle-aged man, forced to vividly describe my sexual experiences or risk eternal damnation. After that meeting with the bishop, I didn’t feel new or forgiven. I felt sick, dirty, and hopeless. I wanted to die. If I couldn’t feel whole by confessing and forsaking my sins, I didn’t want to live.
I suffered for 20 years with panic attacks, depression, self-hatred, spiritual hopelessness, and sexual dysfunction as a result of my experiences in worthiness interviews. The only way to escape the suffering was to remove priesthood holders from my life and remove myself from the church. Because of my experiences in worthiness interviews, I will never risk the safety of my children and allow them to suffer the same trauma.
To anyone reading this story, please consider the negative impact of one-on-one worthiness interviews on young people. They are destroying lives and destroying faith. No child should have to learn vivid sexual details from a middle-aged man in an enclosed room. No young person should be forced to put their personal safety at risk in order to gain access to baptism or the temple. No one should have to forsake their faith to feel safe. No bishop should be alone in a room discussing sexually-explicit topics with a child.