My name is Istrea Ann Guest. I was born a 6th Generation Mormon on my Mother’s side of the family. James Campbell Livingston is my Great, Great, Great Grandfather and his legacy is my heritage. That is a lot to live up to, especially living in UTAH. I was born into a Mormon Family, Baptized a Mormon at the age of 8 and my course in life seemed destined: Get married in the SLC Temple, have many children and be the perfect little Mormon wife and mother. But that isn’t what happened…When I was 17 years old I lost my childhood and very best friend. He was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. This sent me into a tailspin and I reached for the only thing I thought was true; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I started to meet with my Bishop on a weekly basis. Trying to find some kind of answer. At first it was just talking about my week and how I was doing and dealing. But then it changed and I will never forget what happened.
Bishop N. of the Payson, Utah 6th Ward asked me if I was keeping any secrets from him that he needed to know about. I remember feeling my face burn and I knew it was bright red. I felt the tears stinging my eyes and could not look at him. I felt as if God had told Bishop N. my deepest, darkest secret… I had been sexually abused by my much older sister (6 years older) from the time I was 5 until I was 13. I didn’t tell Bishop N. all of this right then but I felt I was the one at fault. It was my sin to bare. I went home that day and wrote out on paper all that had happened. I felt if Bishop N. just read it, I could maybe get through all of it coming out. But that next Sunday, I had my regular meeting with Bishop N.. What transpired changed my life. I told Bishop N. to please read my letter. He took the letter and after a moment of reading it, he handed me back the papers and told me I had to read it. I had to say it out loud. I’ll never forget the shame I felt in having to read about my sister sexually abusing me. I cried the entire time. When I was done, I felt I could breathe again and looked to my Mormon Bishop to tell me I did nothing wrong. To guide me and let me know God and Jesus loved me. But that never happened. Bishop N. looked at me and asked me to repeat my ages of when I was abused. I told him again, from the age of 5 to the age of 13. Bishop N. then told me… “So when you were Baptized at the age of 8, you didn’t stop what was happening, you let it continue for many years and because of that, you did in fact sin against our Lord and Savior.” I sat there crying, barely able to breathe. Bishop N. started writing in his calendar and told me I had to meet with him every Wednesday and Sunday and I was no longer allowed to take the Sacrament until my sins had been forgiven. I asked Bishop N. if he was going to tell my parents. He said as long as I kept meeting with him twice a week, it would be “our secret”.
Over the next couple of months I would meet with Bishop N. and per his instructions, I had to tell him in EXPLICIT DETAIL what my sister did to me. Week after week, every Wednesday and Sunday, I had to tell of my abuse over and over again. Bishop N. then came to my present day of a young 17 year old girl. He asked me if I masturbated. I remember sinking in my chair and saying yes. My weekly Wednesday and Sunday meetings would not stop, nor did Bishop N. asking me details of how I masturbated. The shame I felt was beyond repair at that point and I felt as if I was being sexually abused all over again.
While all of this was happening, I had a childhood friend who I reached out to and her to me. She quickly became my very best friend and Bishop N. apparently saw this and in one of our weekly meetings, asked me about her. He then told me: “Name-Withheld——, is a predator and will bring you down, Istrea. You should not be friends with her.” Funny, that’s what made me finally stand up and I was done. I was finally 18 and I stopped going to church and stopped taking Bishop N. or his secretary’s calls. (*I’m still best friends with that girl today. She has been my salvation.*) My Mother knew something was wrong but she didn’t push. However at the age of 22 when I swallowed 200 Tylenol and ended up in the ER, the truth came out. All of it. My Mother was furious at my sister and Bishop N. She went to her Stake President and was told they would take care of the situation. But no one said a word to my Mom or me. No apology, nothing.
My life moved on. I moved to Arizona at the age of 24 but all I did was mask my pain with food. At weighing 420 pounds, I had bariatric surgery and it worked. I was losing great weight but my pain was still there and this time I started masking my pain with drugs and alcohol. I moved to the other end of the Country in Chesapeake, Virginia. After a 10 year battle with the LDS Church, I was finally able to have my name removed from the records of The LDS Church in 2008. I was so happy that day but I was still abusing prescription drugs and alcohol. It finally got so bad, I ended up in a Court Appointed Rehab. I thought that was my rock bottom… oh no. That came in 2014.
In 2013 my Father asked me to move back to Utah to help him with my Mom. She had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and she was forgetting and fading fast. When I returned to Utah what did I learn? That Bishop N. was now Stake President N.. When my Father told me this, I wanted to destroy the world I was so angry! But instead, I chose to destroy myself. In August of 2014, on a warm, end of Summer night… I drank down two bottles of Vodka, took a bottle of 30, 3mg Klonopin and prayed to God to please end my suffering. I sat on my bed swaying, took a box cutter and slit both my wrist.
How I survived, I will never know. But I did… and I’m stronger now for it.
I finally got in the right counseling, I’ve forgiven my sister and I live a much happier life. At the age of 45 I finally, FINALLY, found a man to have a normal relationship with, he loves me and I so easily told him all of my story… he said he loves me even more for being so strong. I am truly happy.
I rarely think of N. but when I do, my anger still dwells. How different my life might have been if someone, anyone of the LDS Church Leaders truly knew about this evil man, if REAL Trained Counselors would have been on hand to help me, to let my parents know. But no, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints refuses to deal with REAL issues. It is 2018 and the practice of ‘One on One Meetings’ with anyone under the age of 18 should NOT be allowed. I am living proof of that! To even ASK a sexual question of a child or young teen, is actually against the law! School Teachers are not allowed, so why is someone with a “Religious Title” allowed to do so?
If the LDS Church is so emphatic about being the “Only one true church of Jesus Christ”, then maybe they need to read what Jesus Himself said:
“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to fall away–it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea.” -Matthew 18:6