I had just turned 12 and was incredibly excited to finally get the chance to go to the temple with all of my friends. They were all older than me, and had therefore been going on temple trips quite often with each other. I was also fascinated by the temples and what they meant. They sounded so mysterious and mystical to me. I begged my parents to take me during the months following my birthday, as they wanted to take me before I went with anyone else, but they just didn’t have time.
I wasn’t able to go to the temple until I was 13, but when my dad announced that we were going to take a family trip to the temple, I was ecstatic. I was going to the House of God! I was going to feel the Spirit stronger than I ever had before! When I told my Young Women leaders about it, they told me that I should be so excited and grateful to have this opportunity. Later that Sunday, I got a phone call from unknown number and I flipped open my Razor phone. It was the ward clerk, asking to set up an interview appointment with the bishop for me. I hesitantly set up a time, nervous and unsure of how the interview was going to go.
The time for my recommend interview came. I was nervous, my heart beating fast, sweat pooling in my hands, and the backs of my thighs sticking to the cold metal chairs outside of the bishop’s office. I had questions racing through my mind a million miles a second. What if I failed the interview? What if I wasn’t worthy? How would I break it to my parents?
The interview started off without a hitch. It was going well, and I was able to answer the questions confidently and with absolute certainty. Yes, I believe in God, yes I believe in the Book of Mormon, of course I have faith! But then he asked me one question I wasn’t expecting: “Do you watch pornography?” My smile faltered, but it was only a stumbling block. “Nope,” I answered nonchalantly. He stared at me for a moment, and then he said, “Are you sure?” Feeling a little less sure of myself, my responded, “Uhh… I don’t think so?”
My bishop leaned back in his seat and stared at me. The picture of Jesus behind him was staring straight at me, too, his eyes burning into my soul, daring me to lie. My bishop then looked at the heavy binder on his desk and asked the next question. “Do you masturbate?” I was silent. Then I asked, “What’s that?” He laughed and said it was nothing I needed to worry about it. The rest of the interview went on as normal, but something felt wrong. When I received my temple recommend, I was relieved or happy. I was questioning my worth.
Two years later, at the age of 15, I went back to my bishop because I was “struggling” with the law of chastity. I hadn’t even kissed a boy at that point, but because some boys had grabbed my boobs at school without my consent, I felt like I had committed a great sin. My bishop, upon hearing this, asked me that same question. “Do you masturbate?” The words still echo in my head, as does the shame I felt when I told him yes, I have before.
He told me that what I did was very wrong, but that if I worked with him, I’d be on the road to repentance in no time. He instructed me to tell him if I ever felt aroused, and to tell him whenever I touched myself. He gave me a calendar. On it, he said to put an “X” on any of the days I masturbated, and to share it with him so that we can go over my progress. I then started have quarterly meetings with my bishop. I prayed hard, cried hard, and tried my best to keep the law of chastity, but a 15 year old girl is going to have feelings, thoughts, and desires she can’t always control.
I started to dread the interviews, and I think that’s what ultimately drove me away from the church when I was 17. After leaving the church and years of working on myself and my relationships with men, I can finally say that I’m happy with myself, my body, and my sexuality, and no one can take that away from me.