My 17 year old daughter has been sexually active for a bit. Her mom and I knew about it and mostly talked about safe sex. Daughter felt she needed to repent, went to the bishop—who is a really decent guy—and he pulled out a sheet of paper and said “I’ve been instructed to ask you these questions. As far as I’m concerned, you don’t have to answer them.” He then asked a bunch of explicit questions: who, how often, what happened, details, etc.
She didn’t come out uplifted. She felt shamed and shaken. He’s a good guy, she said, but once it went to the questions on the paper, it went downhill fast. She said to me, “I don’t understand. If God can forgive me, why can’t the church?” She wanted to serve a mission and was basically told she couldn’t. She said, “this is so unfair and hurtful.” This led to a nice discussion of the Peace Corps which she said sounded totally awesome and “way better than a Mormon mission.” She hasn’t attended church for the last few weeks. She feels totally ashamed and abused.
For myself, I was the “good kid” who felt guilty my entire teenage years about masturbation. I confessed every time to every bishop I had. Some made me skip the sacrament for a period. Others were more relaxed. But frequently, they went into probing detail. I had one stake president who grilled me for *hours* asking me to confess every sexual sin I had ever done, whether confessed or not. When we were done with that humiliating experience, he gave me a copy of the Miracle of Forgiveness, made me read it and come back and go over things again.
I spent decades of my life having to tell intimate sexual details to church bishops. I was humiliated. I was shamed. I felt unworthy almost all of these years. It even affected the early years of my marriage, where I still felt guilty about sex. Only my wife, who is a medical doctor, was able to convince me it was normal and that the church was very wrong about this. “They shamed and guilted you for being a normal teenager,” she said. It has taken decades to undo the damage.