I grew up in a strong LDS family. My parents never talked to me much about sex and I took every teaching from the church as “the only way” to live.
As a teenager and young adult, I felt a lot of shame about masturbation but was too ashamed to even talk to a Bishop about it. I internalized the shame and felt something wrong was with me. Isn’t this just something that guys do? Nobody ever talks about girls having that “problem” and I felt I was the only one; there was something wrong with me.
I went through several years of depression and self-harm in my early 20s, feeling deep down that I was flawed and not normal. My friends married off one by one and I was still single but dating a lot and in several long-term relationships. It was inevitable that after a couple of months of dating, strong feelings would develop and it would seem impossible not to have sex.
I spent most of my 20s in what I thought of as spiritual limbo – trying to be “good” in every way possible, but still messing up by having sex with my boyfriend. It led to several relationships ending because we felt so much guilt. I felt trapped. I couldn’t get married unless I could stop having sex, but every time I was in a serious relationship it would happen. It felt as though I would never get married for that reason alone.
Finally, at age 29, I decided I had to end the pattern I was stuck in, and began to meet with my Bishop. He was understanding and didn’t ask for any details of what I had done. I worked through the process with him and things were getting better. I finally felt like I could break free of the trap I was in.
Then the wards split and I was placed in a new ward. My previous Bishop had told me I was done with the repentance process and to continue on my path, so I didn’t plan on meeting with my new Bishop. However, he called me in for an appointment which I assumed would be for a new calling.
Instead, he started asking me about my past repentance process and what it was for. Did Bishops pass notes from one to another about member’s past sins? He asked probing questions about what I had done. Did I climax? How often did we have sex? When was the last time? Was it oral? Had I done anal?
With that question, I finally had a reality check: What is going on? Why is he asking me these questions? How can this be a man called by God? I finally became assertive and informed him I had already worked through everything with my previous Bishop and felt I was done with the repentance process. If he had any questions, he could talk to my previous Bishop.
Fortunately, I met my husband just a month later and we married in the temple. Though I would say our physical relationship has always been healthy, we weren’t able to open up and really talk about our needs and desires until we left the church years later. We began to shed some of the shame and guilt we had both endured from the harmful teachings. After ten years of marriage, our relationship is thriving more than ever.