Quite apart from the standard questions on masturbation and sexual purity that always made me feel uncomfortable, I had one incident that was the most harrowing.
I did some things on two occasions as a teenager, which of course are no one’s business. When it came time for my interview to go on a mission, I didn’t fully confess everything. Just too embarrassed and ashamed.
Then I entered the mission training center. We got that fear-inducing speech about how if we hadn’t confessed everything, we had better do that now, and to talk to center presidency about it. It did its job and loaded me with all kinds of crippling guilt, so I went in to confess.
I had no idea what to expect. I tried to give a high level, detail-free explanation of what I’d done, but no, that wasn’t good enough. He proceeded to interrogate me at length in deep, explicit detail about every single act I did through each incident. I was shocked at how much detail he wanted and tried to wrap my mind around why he needed to know every little thing.
It was such a relief to get that over with, but then I was promptly told I had to meet with a General Authority about this to see if I could stay on my mission. AN appointment was made for the next morning. I went into that General Authority’s office–a man who was among my religious heroes–and he proceeded to demand of me that I describe in explicit detail every little thing that happened. Seriously, again? I couldn’t believe it!
When that horror was finally over, he then told me we had to call my bishop and see if he’d still recommend me for a mission. At this point it was beyond belief what they were putting me through. My bishop was a man who knew me all growing up, and I was considered a good member. Now I had to tell him all this too?
He couldn’t get hold of my bishop, so he called my stake president. This was only slightly less traumatic because he was also a man who had known me many years before becoming president. I had to go through every explicit detail again. I had to recount every single act I committed three times for one confession.
The part that bothers me the most is that even though I felt shocked, embarrassed, shamed, and as I later came to realize traumatized by this, not once did I question the process. I had already been trained throughout my adolescent years to think of this as normal and necessary and required of God.
In hindsight I can see how this had a tremendous impact on me, but like a fish who can’t see the water surrounding it, I wasn’t aware of the impact. It was just part of being a Mormon. When I finally left the church, I was astounded how quickly the burden of guilt I’d been carrying all my life vanished because never again would I feel an obligation to have to go into an office alone with an authority figure and reveal the most intimate parts of my life. Now it was just between me and my God.