I accidentally discovered masturbation right after I turned 12, and I engaged in the act just one time. Shortly thereafter, the bishop told the parents of the ward that they needed to talk to their kids about sex and to send the kids to him if there were issues. My parents, who never questioned a church leader, complied. I denied ever masturbating, but after repeated questions, I finally admitted it. So, I was forced to make an appointment with the bishop to tell him.
As an innocent 12-year-old, this was a traumatic experience. I felt tremendous shame, and all through my teenage years, I felt I was going to hell. The Church, my bishop, and my parents all “bought in” to this horrible practice of shaming children. The shaming has affected me for over 20 years. It has impaired my ability to have a normal relationship and sex life.
The only word to describe my experience is “abusive.” A 12-year-old boy has no perspective. I was made to feel that I was the only boy who ever masturbated, that I was already likely destined to go to hell, and I would certainly go to hell if I ever did it again. Why should a teenager, who masturbated just one time by accident, be made to feel like he was beyond saving and going to hell? I was psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually manipulated, which is nothing short of abuse.
The Church’s policy change to allow a parent in the room is NOT sufficient change. Many parents are like mine–terribly naive to the damage such interviews can cause children. This abuse must stop!