My heart just breaks. I was subjected to these interviews as a youth. I had endured many years of sexual abuse as a child beginning at the age of 4. The perpetrator was not a member of the LDS church, but was my mother’s step-brother. My victimizer threatened me that he would hurt me and my family if I ever breathed a word of what happened, and I believed him.
My family joined the LDS church just after I turned 11. I had never told anyone what happened to me. Members of the bishopric are generally not licensed professional counselors and are utterly ill-equipped for this type of “interview”. The explicit and probing questions of the Bishopric members made me physically ill, caused even more shame and damage to me, and reinforced the feeling and thoughts that everything was my fault. Though I never admitted to anything due to the overwhelming shame, I came away with the deep feeling that I was already unacceptable to God and there wasn’t anything I could do about it, no matter how hard I might try.
Every few months, I had to undergo another interview and I would brace myself for the questions that I knew were coming. These interviews, and my anxious anticipation of them, compounded my crippling shame and, I believe, ultimately made me more vulnerable. By the time I was 20 years old, I was so emotionally and mentally vulnerable, that I was sexually assaulted by a predatory coworker. I am currently 51 years old and in my third year of therapy healing from depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and PTSD. I am doing SO incredibly well, now, but I still suffer with occasional panic attacks and flashbacks.
I worked so very hard to be perfect as a youth, to uphold the standards of the church, to adhere to the Word of Wisdom rules, to never watch television or work on a Sunday, to participate in Family Home Evening every Monday night, to go to ALL the meetings, attend Seminary for all 4 years of high school, to never watch an “R” rated movie, to serve as a Beehive Counselor, a MIA Maid Counselor, a Laurel Counselor – I was even asked to serve as Ward Chorister at the age of 16. I had my Patriarchal Blessing. I was baptized for the dead 75 times. I was sealed to my parents in the Salt Lake Temple at the age of 12. I attended the dedication of the Dallas Temple. All the while, I was dying inside. Though no one in the Bishopric ever touched me in a sexual way, these interviews were a continuation of my abuse in an emotional, mental, and spiritual way.
The LDS people are sincere, family-loving, God-loving people. They deserve better. They deserve church leadership that places the safety of children above the public image and power of the church. They deserve to know that God loves them and counts them as worthy simply for accepting the sacrifice of Jesus – not because they pass a “worthiness interview” in a Bishop’s office.
Any church that would excommunicate a faithful member, simply for daring to bring attention to a dangerous practice that puts children at risk, is a church that is placing its ego and power above the worth of a child’s innocence. This council does not have the eternal power to sentence anyone to outer darkness or bar anyone from the presence of the Savior. They are modern day pharisees who only have power granted to themselves, by themselves, and it is only effective within their own echo chamber. Jesus loves all of us more than we can possibly comprehend or fathom.
Would Jesus act in the way the church is acting? The Jesus that said, “suffer the little children to come unto me,” would be interested in doing whatever is necessary to PROTECT THE CHILDREN. The Jesus who told us we must become as little children to enter his Kingdom would be interested in doing whatever is necessary to PROTECT THE CHILDREN. The Jesus who said that for a man who hurts a child, it would be better that a millstone be tied around his neck and his body thrown into the sea would be interested in doing whatever is necessary to PROTECT THE CHILDREN.
When Jesus himself came face to face with a woman, not a 14-year-old, but a woman caught in the very act of adultery, he DID NOT CONDEMN HER. He did not ask her probing and explicit questions. He refused to join into that salacious scene, though he had the legal right to stone her. Instead, he forgave her and saved her life. Any church that claims to follow Christ – particularly a church with the name “Jesus Christ” as part of the title, should try just a tiny bit harder to actually employ policies and practices that are in line with the example of Christ himself
I am no longer a member of the LDS church, primarily because Jesus’ sacrifice ALONE is sufficient to pay for my sins – not Jesus’ atonement PLUS my obedience to a bunch of man-made rules. I don’t believe that any man should have the level of power that the LDS church has over anyone. Jesus Christ accepts me and is healing me. The process is slow and painful, but I am slowly integrating all the split-off parts of me.
My prayers are with all children who have been harmed by this practice and other practices within the LDS church, all the family members of children who have committed suicide due to the shame brought on by these policies, and all the church members who want to genuinely follow Christ, not these policies created by men. May God bless you, heal you, show you his love, show you the truth, and grant you freedom from this bondage.