My mission president’s monthly interviews with sister missionaries in my mission were emotionally abusive and left me spiritually debilitated and suspicious of all priesthood leadership and closed-door interviews. Our president tried to make it sound like he was just checking up on our worthiness, but he always wandered into vulgar territory with lewd, probing questions about our clothes or our private parts. He told us about sexual transgressions confessed to him by others in gruesome detail or lectured about doctrines our investigators needed to learn (always chastity, and always very graphice) to the extent that my companions and I stopped meeting with him individually. Instead, we requested joint companionship interviews so that we’d have support when forced to sit and endure these terrifying experiences.
But two sisters in the room didn’t stop him, which is why I don’t think inviting parents into interviews is protection enough for LDS youth. If anything, an audience of two women fanned his flames even more, so my companion and I ended up choking back tears more than once after these disgusting interviews, though we never dared talk openly about them for fear of sounding like apostates. The whole experience severely impaired my mental health, yet I had no choice but to just sit and take what he dished out. I was in a foreign country before the age of Internet or cell phones, back then nobody believed reports by women about things like this, and turning him in would have only ended in disgrace for me and/or my companions.
I tried reporting what happened to me years later, after I became a mother, when I noticed some security issues within the church that made me fear for my own daughters’ safety. Church leaders weren’t listening to me and didn’t seem to believe me when I said that two-deep leadership was necessary everywhere and that all male leaders needed a companion or spouse with them when working with youth or children. So I took aside a trusted member of the bishopric and told him my story. He laughed it off and absolutely refused to believe me. The shame I felt that day was second to none, because it had taken me so many years to finally give voice to the pain I’d been holding in all these years about what had happened to me and my mission companions. I had hoped so badly that telling my painful story would result in somebody seeking justice for the abusive we endured in the mission field, but all I got was disbelief and dismissal. I often dream of contacting my former mission companions to ask if they’d be willing to report it, but even while in the mission field we barely spoke about it. We mostly used gestures and facial expressions to convey feelings or plan our solidarity, because we lived in fear of displeasing God by disrespecting his highest-ranking priesthood holders.
This is why I am now such a supporter of Sam Young’s mission. Thank you for fighting to protect LDS children from being singled out for interviews with men the way my companions and I were by that obviously sick mission president. God bless you. You are the hero that the other church leaders declined to be back when I was a missionary. You are the hero that other church leaders declined to be when I reported this abuse. God bless you.