I grew up in the church. I vividly remember sitting through a Young Women’s lesson one Sunday when I was 15 or 16. The lesson was on chastity. Our well meaning leader explained to us how chastity is similar to touching rose petals. The more the petals are touched, the more wilted they become. I remember holding my breath through the lesson. Trying to bury the recent memory of my own “slip ups” with the law of chastity. I tried not to let the words enter my mind, but I couldn’t help it. I felt sick, and the words from my teacher, “what worthy young man is going to want a wilted rose?”.
Immediately after the lesson I walked straight to the bishop’s office, wanting to remedy my sins as soon as possible. The bishop was alone in his office and welcomed me in. As hot tears rolled down my cheeks, the words, “I made a mistake with a boy” stumble awkwardly out of my mouth.
The bishop asked me how exactly? I pulled out a phrase that I had read from the Strength of Youth. The questions that followed were strange. Where were we? When did it happen? Was this my first time? Did my boyfriend touch me or did I touch him? Did I take all of my clothes off? Did I like it? Did it feel good for me?
After answering these questions he paused and very slowly scanned my body from top to bottom with his eyes. I will never forget the way he stared or what he said to me after. He told me, “Women are aroused by touch, while men are aroused by sight. Always remember that while you may not feel arousal until being touched. Men may be aroused just by looking at you. The clothes you wear and the way you present yourself affect the young men around you. It’s your responsibility to help keep their thoughts clean.” He looked me up and down one more time, his eyes paused at my breasts.
I didn’t realize at the time that his “counsel” was inappropriate. He was the leader of our ward, a man called by god. I didn’t know that a man in his 60s shouldn’t be asking a teenager about sexual pleasure. I knew that the way he slowly and deliberately looked me up and down made me feel dirty, but I didn’t know I felt that way because HIS leering was inappropriate. I thought I felt that way because I was the problem for making my appearance distracting to the male eye.
The object lesson about chastity would not be the last I heard. I would hear other metaphors such as being a chewed piece of gum or a donut sitting in the garbage. I would even hear that breaking the law of chastity was one of the most serious sins a person could commit. Secondly only to taking another persons life.
I remember going away to college and eventually becoming active in the Young Single Adult ward. I felt cemented in the role of “reformed sinner”. I felt like I had been tainted in my youth. My purity and virginity carried all of my dignity and worth. I remember truly believing that a nice, good guy would never settle down with someone who had given so much of herself away. I thought of my teenage self and I hated that girl for all she had done.
Years passed. The combination of time away from those chastity sermons and therapy made me realize how much harm had been done to my self image. I told my mom about the interview with our bishop about 10 years after it happened. She was appalled and furious that he would have an interaction like that with a young girl. She asked me why I never told her. She assured me that if she had known she would’ve raised hell. 26 year old me believes her, but 16 year old me didn’t know that what had happened was wrong. We respect our priesthood leaders. We obey them. We believe the best of them.
When I heard what Sam Young was doing, I was elated. Anything to put an end to the shame and potential for abuse. My experiences were mild compared to many others. I was one of the lucky ones. Grown men should not be discussing sexuality with children. Period. There is no room for compromise. The solution to this problem should not be an optional parental accompaniment to these so-called “worthiness interviews”. That is the bare minimum and should’ve been in place from the very beginning.