I discovered masturbation at age 11 before I had even heard of it. My parents had given me “the talk” and I knew that a man ejaculates sperm during sexual intercourse, and sex was only supposed to be for marriage. I put two and two together and I began to worry that I had done something bad. But it felt so good that I kept exploring. I was too embarrassed to tell my parents, so I kept it a secret. A year later, my curiosity got the best of me and I started viewing pornography. It wasn’t too long before my parents caught me. What follows is a course of events that continued from the time I was 12 to when I was 17.
I still remember my mother sobbing uncontrollably, wailing that her son was a porn addict and was going to end up being a child molester or a rapist. She started dragging me to seminars and BYU Education Week classes about overcoming sexual addiction, and stacking my nightstand with maturation books by Brad Wilcox and John Bytheway. She was going to fix this problem, even if it meant sleeping on the floor of my room (which she did on one occasion). My dad pitched in by making me give a daily report of my abstinence as he drove me to school each morning, and lecturing me whenever I slipped up. This only served as a constant reminder of my failure. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how much anguish I poured into my prayers or how many hours I read the Book of Mormon, I always failed. The blame was on me, since Satan can’t tempt anyone above their ability to resist (1 Corinthians 10:13). I was weak, and it was my fault for not being strong enough.
The emotional toll of losing my privacy, disappointing my parents, and my self-inflicted guilt paled in comparison to my visits with the bishop. Every several weeks for 30 minutes, he would drill me about the times and places I got stimulated, the type of pornography I watched, and the number of times I had masturbated. He spoke with graveness as though I had committed murder, and accused me of being flippant to Christ’s atonement. As a repeat sinner, none of my previous attempts at repentance mattered: I was guilty of all my former sins (D&C 82:7). God would not forgive me until I stopped completely. If I didn’t, I would not be endorsed to earn the Eagle Scout rank, I would not serve a mission, I would not go to BYU, I would not get married in the temple, and thus I would be eternally barred from the Celestial Kingdom. And even if I did get married civilly, I would be a lousy father and an unfaithful husband. Oh, and don’t even think about killing yourself: you’ll still have sexual addiction in the spirit world (Alma 34:34), and if you don’t repent there you’ll certainly be damned.
The cheerfulness of my childhood was incinerated by guilt and despair. Every time I masturbated or watched porn just reinforced my belief that I was a sinner on the path to Hell. When my bishop put me on probation and I stopped blessing and passing the sacrament, my friends and neighbors began to wonder and distanced themselves from me. I was humiliated and all alone. No one would see me for who I was except that I was a person “struggling with issues”. My depression spiraled into suicidal thoughts: I would make jokes about killing myself, although I knew better and my bishop’s threat of eternal damnation kept me from actually doing it. To compensate, I became obsessed with screamo and death metal music. I never cut myself because I was too afraid of the attention it would bring. The last thing I wanted was more people involving themselves in my problems.
By this time, after seeing all the misery and pain his son was enduring, my father decided to reevaluate his beliefs about the definition of sin and question the church’s policies. He recognized that I was being emotionally abused, and took the argument to my bishop. According to him, I hadn’t suffered enough: I needed to suffer more in order to fully comprehend the weight of my transgressions and only “godly sorrow” would bring me to true repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10-11). My dad exploded. When he finally came home from the argument, he sat down with me and told me that I didn’t ever have to visit the bishop again. And if anyone ever asked about my so-called problems, I should lie to their face. “It’s none of their damn business,” he said.
From then on, life got better. I realized how I had been brainwashed into believing something as harmless and normal as masturbation or sexual curiosity were in a class of sin second to murder in severity (Alma 39:5). Over time, I felt less guilty when I masturbated or viewed porn. And most surprisingly, as I felt less guilty about those things, I started doing them less frequently. My depression eventually subsided and happiness returned. I found hope again, and renewed vigor to do something great with my life. I recently graduated from BYU and I’m extremely proud of that accomplishment. Yes, I lied to BYU and didn’t truly live the honor code, but my father’s words ring true: “it’s none of their damn business.” Never again will I confess anything to a bishop. I’ve lost trust in the system, and I’m sure as hell not going to play leadership roulette.
I’ve since let go of the past and forgiven my parents and bishop. I don’t hold anything against them, as they too were brainwashed to think and behave a certain way. They acted out of concern for my future and well-being, despite failing to distinguish my torment from the process of repentance. I also had to forgive myself and let go of my guilt for not having any friends, not enjoying the wild freedom of my adolescence, and not having a pleasant high school experience. I can’t think of those years as being “wasted” and hold a grudge against myself. No, I have to move forward. As time has gone by, I have realized the strength and wisdom those years gave me. I am assertive and quick to denounce any destructive falsehood that crosses my path. Guilt is Satan’s greatest weapon and I shall stand against it. I have become a defender of truth and protector of the innocent.
I still view porn and masturbate occasionally, but my thoughts no longer dwell on them. And you know what that means? I’m a normal human being! It turns out that I’m not a rapist or child molester as my mother feared I would become, and neither am I a sex-crazed pervert who views all women as objects. On the contrary, I feel my life has been renewed with meaning and ambition. I strive to be a respected member of my community and do my part to make the world a little better. I feel more connected to God than ever before, and every day I’m discovering new ways to become more like Him. I embrace my sexuality and value it for the spiritual and pleasurable gift it truly is. One day, I’ll find the girl of my dreams and share it with her. And let me tell you, I’m going to be the best father and most devoted husband she’s ever known.