I was born into and raised in another church. I was baptized as an infant, received my first communion, went through catechism, and was confirmed as a member of that church when I was 15-years-old. Six months later I met a beautiful girl that was Mormon. She was not just beautiful in appearance; she was lovely inside. She was alive, and I was mesmerized by her in every way. When she invited me to her home for dinner, I readily accepted. When she mentioned something about missionaries from her church being there, I had no idea what that meant, cared what that meant, or what was to come. Three months later, with my parent’s permission, I joined the LDS church and began my new life as a Mormon.
From the start, I was in trouble. The life I was leading before being LDS was that of a typical American teenager. I met a lot of new Mormon friends when I joined the church, but I found it difficult to simply stop my normal teenage habits and sever my friendships with people I’d known since grade school. Suddenly, everything that was once fun and exciting about growing up became sinful and evil beyond measure inside the bubble of Mormonism. Masturbation. Making out with girls. Drinking at parties. These things were not just wrong; I was informed that some were sins next to murder! Although I found that hard to believe based on the Christian principles of my youth, these teachings were a constant drumbeat in church meetings. In less than a year I went from living the life of Ferris Bueller to living in constant shame, and some things we learn as children never leave us.
I met my wife when we were teenagers. She was a friend of the girl that introduced me to the church. We were introduced at a stake dance, and I fell in love with her the moment she started talking to me. After a period of time, we became sexually intimate. Although it seemed like the normal progression of a healthy relationship she was mortified after our first experience. It was wonderful, but everything she was taught as a YW weighed on her conscience, and after a few months and many encounters she eventually said we needed to see our respective bishops. We did. We were told to inform our parents and not to date each other any longer. Luckily that didn’t happen. We stayed together and saw our bishops a number of other times. The constant shaming was confusing with the love we had for each other. In our early twenties, after graduating from college, we eventually married in the temple. We have had a wonderful life. Unfortunately, we have struggled with intimacy. We talk about how we feel and why we aren’t on the same page, but nothing seems to get better. I blame the church and the lessons that were taught to my wife when she was a Young woman for this difficulty.
We were very active in the church, and I served as a bishop in the early to mid 90’s for six years and interviewed dozens of kids. Based on my experience as a young person in the church, I never asked ANY young men or young women sexually explicit questions. In fact, I couldn’t get young women out of my office fast enough it was that uncomfortable for me to talk to young girls behind closed doors. When I sent my first missionary out I know we talked about living the law of chastity. I asked him if he did. He said “yes,” and I said “good” and that was it. When I was a bishop, all of my children were very young and some not even born. One thought that always went through my mind after I was released was “I hope my kids have a bishop that cares for them as much as I cared for the youth that I worked.” For a time they did, and then they didn’t, and that, along with another significant event was the beginning of my disbelief in Mormonism.
These are some of the things that happened to my children: One child returned from a mission to be told that he was a sex addict (he failed to confess multiple intimate relationships to his bishop and stake president. To avoid being disfellowshipped, he was mandated to attend a program sponsored by the church for sexual addiction. He had a “sponsor” who was a friend of our family that never told me this was happening. My son was so embarrassed he did not tell us this was happening at the time. Eventually, he had the personal fortitude to tell his bishop that he would no longer participate and that ended that. My next son was so traumatized by his brother’s experience he made it known that he would not be going on a mission. My youngest son turned 18-years-old and was preparing to leave for his first year at college. As we prepared to have him receive the Melchizedek priesthood, I was talking with our bishop about the best date for our family to perform the ordination before a sacrament meeting. It was there, in the back of the chapel that he proceeded to tell me my most righteous son, my most Christlike son, would not be ordained to the office of an elder because he was not worthy to do so. When I asked him why he simply said: “talk to your son.” I became emotional and raised my voice telling him he was the worst bishop I had ever met. Needless to say, after watching every kid in our ward be made Elders before going off to college, my good son left as a Priest. When I sat him down and asked him what had happened, he said he admitted to masturbating recently. Finally, my daughter met a boy when she was in high school and fell in love with him. He was not a member but was a very religious kid, and our entire family loved him. She turned 18-years-old during her last year of high school and had her final interview with our bishop. The last question he asked her was if she still had her virginity. That’s the last time she has ever spoken to a Mormon bishop.
One of the most disturbing things about three of these four events was that I as a parent was unaware of what had happened until it was over. I wasn’t present during these interviews. I wasn’t informed of what had happened by the leader. My kids didn’t want me to know what happened. I’m not sure what level of guilt my children feel about these experiences today. They’re strong and don’t look at the church the way they used to because of those events, and because I have spoken openly against bad policies and bad leaders; however, my own experience, and that of my wife, tells me my children may still feel guilt and shame based on LDS teachings, worthiness interviews and totally unqualified leaders that discuss things of a sexual nature.
I morn with those who have experienced extreme abuse at the hands of LDS leaders. I’m sharing my lesser experiences to support this movement. I love God, and I love the teachings of Jesus Christ. Mormonism has no absolute claim on either.