This is a story about one of my children whose life was impacted in a huge way due to explicit sexual worthiness questions by clergy. Growing up in the church, the gospel was a large part of his identity and self-worth. All of that changed upon turning 17 years old and being disciplined by the bishop after a worthiness interview where he was specifically asked about masturbation. Besides not being able to pass, bless or take the sacrament, he was required to attend SAA meetings which stand for sexual addicts anonymous. Because he was a minor, I was required to go with him.
I thought it was a huge mistake and was upset, yet I went along regrettably with this so that he could go on a mission. This group was full of adult males who where chronic viewers of pornography, had cheated on their wives or something of the like. It was no place for a child who is naturally beginning to experience his own sexuality.
Now, he began to self identify as a sexual addict when in fact he was not in the least bit. Self-loathing and self shame begin to erode his self esteem and yet, he continued go to these meetings every week and was subjected to more specific interview questions regarding his sexuality. If he could be sexually worthy over the next year, then the bishop would send him on the mission that he desired so much after a lifetime of being engineered for it by his church and us parents. After more than 11 months of being able to follow the rules, he slipped and was told by the bishop that he had to go six months worthily.
This cycle continued and not long after he must have judged that he was not worthy to live as he attempted suicide. My wife and I went to the bishop, the same Bishop and explained about the suicide attempt and the depression and this whole sexual worthiness interview issue. Do you think there was any intervention by the bishop to pay a special visit to my son? Would you think that perhaps someone from the stake presidency might have paid him a visit to check up on him? No, there was nothing. Only Mom and Dad to try to put the pieces back together.
Years of severe depression, not able to hold a job or pass college classes and more suicide attempts. During this time, I was called to the bishopric with a new bishop. Now, I began to see behind the scenes of the leadership. I could not believe that there is no training or guidelines when it comes to interviewing and advising people, children or adults. There is absolutely nothing as every leader is expected to just wing it and go off of their own conscience in regard to interviews. I read the leadership manuals and there was nothing. I went to the monthly bishopric stake trainings and there was nothing.
My son was now 21 and still trying to go on a mission. I tried to reason with the bishop in his regard but this cycle of his worthiness interviews and his extreme depressions only continued. Because of this and other reasons I resigned my calling in the bishopric and months later I resigned from the church. I left because my son believed he had disappointed me in not being perfect enough to go on a mission. I was so desperate to take pressure off of him, so I resigned . I did not know what else to do.
He is doing much better today after great therapists and impatient treatment. The earlier therapy through LDS services was not good as it seemed to reinforce church standards over focusing on the patient. Perfectionism is a sickness. An adult male interviewing a child behind closed doors about their sexuality is sick.