I am a mother. When my children were young, two of them were sexually and ritually abused by a family member. The children came forward with their story when that family member was far away serving an LDS mission. Through two family therapists, a child play therapist, DCFS and a police detective investigation – the abuse case was opened and charges were prepared to be filed.
As parents we turned it over to the authorities and focused on healing our children. We had the full support of our local bishop and stake president. The young man was brought home from his mission. But charges were never filed. He was protected by his extended family in their stake and their stake president, he was protected by his mission president (who now serves as a general authority), and he was counseled and supported by an attorney representing the corporation of the church. It was determined by the judge, after this group of attorney and church leaders showed up in a mass group at court to defend and protect their missionary…that there was not enough evidence.
The charges were dropped, and that young man was allowed back into the mission field. I cannot tell you the devastation that rippled through our family, local church leaders, therapists, counselors and friends. I recall the confusion of the police and DCFS who said they did all they could, and they were baffled at the way the church handled this.
But my children – knowing they told the truth, and understanding what a missionary does – represents and bears the name of Christ – were devastated and confused most of all.
When my son entered his teenage years, he struggled with depression and anxiety – no doubt a result of what he had been through. Our family had moved to a new city in hopes to have a fresh start. He was my oldest so I was not aware of the types of questions that could be asked in a yearly “birthday” interview with a bishop. I complied and encouraged him to have that interview so that his Bishop could get to know him better, and perhaps even give him some advice in his struggles. In that meeting, he was asked if he had ever looked at porn. He had seen porn, his perpetrator showed it to him. And he knew it was wrong. He had been through extensive counseling to know it was not his choice or fault to look at it. But he admitted to the bishop that he had seen a pop up ad one time when he was doing a search online…and it was of a girl wearing a bikini that barely covered her. And he clicked on it. But it was only one time.
He was then immediately scolded and told he was playing with fire and to never ever click or look at anything like that again. That to even have thoughts about girls like that is a sin and will lead him to the worst kind of sin.
He was then asked if he masturbated. He did not know what that meant and the bishop explained it to him. He had done that, he admitted it. He said he didn’t know it was a sin. The bishop asked how often he did it and was told that, once again he is playing with fire and that if he kept it up he would not be worthy to go to the temple to do baptisms with the other youth. Temple trips were so very important to my son. He loved learning about his ancestors and doing the work for them. This news shamed him greatly.
I had no idea all of this had taken place during this interview. But over the course of time after that my son lost interest in church, fell into deep depression, self loathing, over-eating to the point of weight gain and making himself physically sick. He said he “couldn’t” go to the temple when I encouraged him to go with the youth….he said he was not worthy. I questioned him about this, and that is when he finally shared with me about this interview with the bishop, and the subsequent meetings he had had every six months to “check on” him.
He was struggling, and though the bishop had never taken his recommend away, did tell him he needs to work on these issues. My son took it upon himself to step away and work on it…plummeting alone into shame and unworthiness feelings. His “sins” were small in comparison, he felt, to the abuse he and his sister had suffered at the hands of a man who lied and then was allowed to go back onto his mission. Why would this bishop question him…when another bishop, even a mission president, pushed for charges to be dropped in the abuse of him?
My son was recently placed into a treatment center on suicide watch. The only way that we have been able to fully reach him and help him is to actually pull away from the church and bring him into our loving arms and home and teach him his worth through the Savior Jesus Christ…and that the men in our church have no right to label or tell him his true worth.
As my daughter is now entering her teenage years, there will be no meetings behind closed doors with a bishop or any church authority. This was a decision that I made long before I ever knew about Sam Young or this effort to Protect LDS Children. Bless you…there MUST be change. I would say to the Church – you must listen, you must make a change…you are losing those of us who would give anything for the gospel of Jesus Christ…but we won’t give up our children….and if you lose us – the parents, and members who have been through great challenges and come out stronger – you are losing the very strength of your church.