The following is my personal story of childhood abuse and how church leadership concealed and diminished its significance. It is long.
I come from a large Mormon family. I was born-in-the-covenant and raised “knowing” that it was all true. There was no choice in attending church, seminary, or serving a mission. Those choices were made for me before I was born. While sex was part of early education and discussed openly (I applaud my parents on this piece), it was presented with such strict guidelines that ANY deviation was viewed as damning.
I was exposed to pornography at a very early age; six or seven. My older brother (brother 1) had acquired a Playboy or two and decided to share them with me. I liked what I saw. I knew where he hid it. I would check frequently to leaf through it and see if anything new was there. Later, my brother invited me to look at it again. He then masturbated in front of me; describing how it felt. I enacted what I saw and explored with masturbation when I was alone with the magazine. Even though I hadn’t gone through puberty, I enjoyed it.
A year or two later, another brother (brother 2) caught me around the hiding spot. I didn’t know it then, but they kept a shared cache of Mormon contraband in this spot. He knew what I was doing and asked if I wanted to see more. He promised to provide a new magazine if I did him a favor. That night he tried to penetrate me anally. He was unsuccessful and stopped when I complained of pain. I told no one.
Some more time went by. Around then we upgraded our computer and connected it for the first time to the internet. Brother 2 shared a computer game about sex. It had cartoon nudity and was a choice-based game. We played this from time to time. On one occasion, everyone was out of the house. Brother 2 offered to help me masturbate. I had still not gone through puberty. He exchanged this favor for oral sex, which I performed on him. Again, I told no one.
Nothing ever happened after that. I don’t remember if it was just that they went to college, or if something else happened. From then on, I regularly watched pornography, futilely masturbated, and kept it all secret.
I continued to go to church, doing all that was expected of me. Around 14, all my fantasies turned into reality. I talked to girls, would chat and IM about sex at length. These relationships became physical. I knew that I could keep everything from my parents short of a pregnancy; so that’s what I did, everything except intercourse. I never confessed or “repented”. My home life was as Mormon as could be, but away from home, I was engaging in sexual activity as much as possible. It was girls, girls, girls.
I lied my way through every interview, through the temple, and onto my mission. I got very ill in the MTC. I had a fairly severe infectious disease and was in the hospital frequently for treatment. Several times, going home was discussed. I knew this wouldn’t bode well at home. My illness was complicated by a hospital-acquired infection and things got worse. I planned to go home and told my district president. He asked me to meet with the MTC president. The same answer resulted, but he asked if I would talk to one other person. I agreed.
The next day I met with a general authority. I don’t remember who; I checked for my journal entries for a name but couldn’t find one. I think he was a member of the second quorum of the seventy. We sat in the MTC President’s office. He asked about my illnesses in the MTC. I walked him through those. After I finished he sat there for a long time before asking if I masturbated. I thought the gig was up. In that moment, I was convinced he already knew everything. I said yes. He asked when the last time was, if I used pornography, etc. He asked if there were other sins I had not repented of. I said yes. I detailed my track record with girls. He asked many explicit details: What color was her bra? Did she wear thong style underwear? Was she shaved? Did I orgasm? Did she like it? How many fingers did I use? Where did I ejaculate? The questioning went on for more than an hour. He then asked, “If you could be forgiven of all of your sins, would you go into the mission field.” I thought about my parents and said, “yes.”
He wished me well on my mission.
Just weeks into my mission I was ill again. I spoke to my mission president about it. He asked me if I had unresolved sins. I said, “No, I took care of all of that at the MTC.” He asked again if there was anything I left out. I told him my stories of sexual abuse. I had never recounted it. I hadn’t ever said the words. He asked if I had told anyone this. I said no. He asked if I still looked at pornography and masturbated. I said no. He asked me what I wanted to do. I said that I thought I needed to talk to my brothers. He asked why. I explained that they must have forgotten this too; if they had repented of it, surely I would have been talked to. I was worried about their salvation. My mission president told me that he thought my siblings had repented. I asked why no one ever talked to me; after all, there was no restitution. He said he didn’t think I needed to talk to them. I said, well if you think they repented, they would have repented to my dad; he was our bishop during the abuse. My mission president said I didn’t need to worry about it; the atonement was there for me to heal too. I asked to speak to my parents, I wanted to know if they knew I had been abused in their home.
We called my parents together; I recounted the abuse. Without a pause, I asked if they knew. They said no. I said that I needed to call my brothers, surely they hadn’t repented. My parents discouraged this. They said it wouldn’t be good for their families (by then they were married and had a kid or two each). I asked about their salvation; they needed to repent. My dad said the same thing my mission president had. I asked about restitution. He didn’t have an answer for me.
I left the mission shortly after. I sought therapy; my parents arranged for an LDS therapist. I recounted my abuse, asked about confronting my brothers. She discouraged that.
I have forgiven my brothers. I genuinely have, one is a very close friend. I have never said anything to either of them. My parents never spoke to me about again. I didn’t think about it much until Joseph Bishop. That’s when I asked myself if my parents had chosen to protect the church over their son. I still don’t know.