Growing up in the church, I first learned of masturbation from a bishopric member asking if I did it. I was young and being interviewed to go to the temple to do baptisms. I said “no,” as it sounded horrible, and then went home to look up the definition in the dictionary. (Thank goodness I looked it up in the dictionary and not the internet!)
A few years later, my parents got word of these types of questions being asked to the youth, but thought it was contained with the bishop’s counselor. They asked the bishop to be the only one to interview me. My parents tried to keep me safe. They put their trust in the wrong person.
I had a boyfriend at age 16. We were best friends and very close. We were also very devout and kept our standards. I was having a period of time where I was feeling severe worthlessness about who I was. I was so depressed; I was incapable of feeling loved. My only source of comfort was my best friend/boyfriend.
My depression worsened and worsened. I kept thinking there was something wrong with me, or perhaps I had done something wrong to feel this way. I went to the bishop for help. Instead of recognizing my severe depression and getting me help, the bishop forced me to “confess” to my “sins.”
The bishop likened confession to a dentist’s office. If there is a cavity, you have to drill out all of the bad tooth before you are healed. With sin, if there is sin, you need to root it out by a complete and total confession before you are forgiven.
He then proceeded to ask horrible, invasive questions. What exactly did I do with my boyfriend? Did he touch me? Where did he touch me? How did he touch me? Did I masturbate? (No.) Had I orgasmed? (No.) Had we engaged in oral sex? (No.) Had we engaged in intercourse? (No.)
I was so mortified. I started looking at the door. He saw this and told me that he knew I was feeling uncomfortable and that was because we were discussing sins. That it was the spirit telling me that these types of sins were disgusting and wrong. – I now know that this is “grooming” behavior of predators. He manipulated me and my natural, divinely-given senses of warning.
He then told me that I was on a path to serious sin. So, instead of a warning, he said I needed to know what it felt like to sin. He punished me by disfellowshipping me from the church, forbidding me to take the sacrament for months.
The bishop would not tell me how long my punishment was for. (It ended up being for 4 months.) I also had to return each week, during youth group (Mutual,) to continue to discuss these horrible, horrible things. He gave me “The Miracle of Forgiveness” to read. It brought me even lower in my depression.
I also had to break up with my boyfriend and have no contact with him at all. I felt completely alone.
During one of these “sessions” with the bishop, I told him that I felt so horrible, that if I were to die that day, I would go to the Telestial Kingdom, with the liars and the murderers. He nodded.
After my experience, I stayed in the church for several years, but continued to struggle with depression and self-doubt. Because of my experience, I felt that my body was not my own. I found myself in other bishop’s offices often, as I thought I was not capable of recognizing sin, or working it out on my own with Heavenly Father and my Savior. Those bishops were a lot kinder. I actually confessed to some minor sins to one, sins more severe than when I was a teen. I left his office with a blessing.
After years and years of self-loathing, I eventually became inactive because I could not find happiness at church. It was one of the hardest, most painful things to do, but after I left, I found I was happier.
Life got easier for a while. However, I still followed the church. I read conference talks. I watched the news about the church. I saw members starting to stand up for those that didn’t fit in. I started to feel like there were people who cared for me. I wondered if (President) Uchtdorf was speaking to me when, in his conference talk of fall of 2013, he said, “There is room for you here.”
But then my sister came out as a member of the LGBT community, and I realized how she had years and years of worse self-hatred and attempted suicide. – All brought about due to her experience in our ward when we were growing up. Then the church excommunicated Kate Kelly and John Dehlin. I have not been back.
I started having depression again. I went to a professional – this time, getting the right kind of help. Within 15 minutes of our first session, my therapist diagnosed me with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The trauma imprinted on my mind when I went to the bishop’s office when I was 16. Through therapy, I realized that I was a victim of sexual exploitation and voyeurism.
PTSD has affected my life tremendously. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of that event with the bishop. It has been debilitating throughout my adult life.