I can’t sit here silently any longer. My silence to the issue of sexual assault and molestation would just condone this behavior.
My story is different then most. It was around my 19th birthday in 1998. At the time, life seemed to really be coming together. My mother had remarried, I was in my last year of high school, getting ready to graduate. I had my mission papers and was about to submit them. I knew my path and was taking the steps to walk it.
The closest temple was an 8-10 hr drive, so I carried my personal ordinances record for a few months. When my older sister came for a visit, i saw it as the perfect chance to go through for my first time. I had taken temple prep classes, felt mature enough but honestly, had no idea what to actually expect. We decided to kill 2 birds with 1 stone and would attend the temple before dropping my sister off at the airport.
First, we went to the attached clothing store to purchase garments. Entering the temple I was so excited to take on the covenant responsibilities. My step father was my tour guide and walked me back to the locker area and told me to put on a tunic with open sides. I entered an individual locker changing area, put on a pair of bottoms, put the tunic over my head, and was escorted to the initiatory area. I entered an enclosed area with the same beige locker style walls without lockers. A hand came through a sheet, felt that I had bottoms on, removed his hand and told me quietly to remove them.
I exited the area and walked back to my locker explaining to my step father I didn’t need the bottoms yet. We had a laugh as I walked back from my locker in just the tunic. I again entered the enclosed area alone. The hand came back though reached under my tunic and grasped my penis. His oily hand would move around my genitals as he repeated the initiatory.
I have no idea how many repetitions were done but between each he would remove his hand, apply more oil and start again. He spoke quietly, in a forced reverence tone and stuck to the standard script. Given the sacred setting and with my step father just outside, there was no erection, there was no spilling of seed. He finished the required names and it was done.
I walked out of the enclosed area unaware that my spiritual right of passage was any different that anyone else. My step father asked how I felt. I said “uncomfortable”. I took the sacred nature of the ordinance as personal and private. Like many members, I used words to try not to violate sacred nature of privileged information.
Not knowing what had happened he told me that was normal to feel uncomfortable and I would get used to it. I explained, I didn’t want to get used to it and would never do it again. He told me that was ok and maybe my opinion would change with time.
I toweled off the oil, changed and completed the endowment with out another issue. Hugged my family in the celestial room and we left. Months later I would receive my mission call, I served faithfully, and made life long friends. I came home and married in the temple.
As years continued to pass, my shelf was being stacked with questions. The importance of the sacred privilege started to feel less and less sacred and more like a secret. May 10th, 2017. My shelf exploded. I was talking to an old mission companion, laughing about old mission stories. Over the course of our conversation temple topics and memories were shared. It became clear my experience was abnormal but I said nothing more about the subject at the time.
As I was processing the realization, I needed to ask more questions. So a couple hours later, I sent a message to another old companion and directly asked if his initiatory experience included greasy handed groping. I felt sick, ashamed, hurt but most of all empty. My spiritual path was obstructed by a pervert. A faceless hand behind a sheet, attached to a predator who was allowed to enter the lords house.
The thought that the leaders of the church couldn’t discern honest and faithful saints from predators and perverts is still a painful realization. For months, my mind churned with guilt. I’d been complicit in my own assault. If I’d only gone and done initiatory again I would have known.
It took time to be able to come to the conclusion that this wasn’t even about me. I was just in a place where the opportunity presented itself. Had any one else gone through for the first time, in the same place, at the same time, it would have been them. I hadn’t asked for it. I had done the right things and followed my own compass to not put myself in that situation again.
Knowing earlier, wouldn’t have changed the fact that it happened. It wouldn’t answer the question of, how could this happen? It does provide us a window into a system that fails to protect the right people. A system that chooses to hide and deny, over admit, confront and correct. The lack of adequate response continues to hurt and damages more people and that is unacceptable. A system that chooses to have locks on temple lockers, rather then admit the redundancy of personal worthiness interviews, needs to do serious reflection and start to represent the attributes of Jesus Christ.
I can’t sit back, I won’t sit back. There is a problem here, it needs to be discussed, and serious changes need to be made.