My story doesn’t have to do with interviews as a youth, but I still feel so compelled to share it. Please understand that I am in no way, shape, or form comparing myself to these poor souls abused as children, who were 100% innocent. I was not. I have read almost every story here, and fully support this cause. My children will NEVER sit in on a worthiness interview alone again, after all of this. My heart is broken at Sam’s excommunication and at the hardened hearts of these spineless leaders. I fully agree with the 10 words mission and despise all 29 of the questions. There is NO excuse to ask children any of them. None.
As I have shared postings, press conferences, and news stories on my feed, I have received so much push back, but there is one “justification” that is repeated most frequently from my LDS friends, and that is, “Well they have to ask some of these things so that the Bishop can understand the severity of the offense.” I am calling this out as ridiculous. Here’s my story…
I was LDS in my youth from the time I was 7 until I was 14. I was baptized with my mother’s permission at age 10, and was the only member in my family. When I moved away from home, I didn’t attend church for 23 years. In 2010, my husband discovered the church, and he and my 2 oldest children were baptized. I returned to full membership. In 2013, we were endowed and sealed together with our 3 children. In 2015, I had an affair and became pregnant. I confessed the affair to my husband and we tried to work things out. We stopped attending church as the pregnancy progressed, and my daughter was born 10 weeks early, accompanied by a lengthy NICU stay. When she was released from the hospital, I initiated the call to the executive secretary and made an appointment with my Bishop so that I could get things back on track with my family. My husband and I sat across the desk from a newly called Bishop and after listening to a 25 minute speech about how excited he was to be called as a Bishop and all the reasons why it was unexpected, before he finally invited us to speak. I explained that I had chosen to carry on a 6 week affair, and that as a result, we now had a child in our family as a result of it. I expressed my feelings over repairing my marriage and the damage I had caused, as well as what to do regarding my daughter’s place in our eternal family. The Bishop asked many questions, including if I was planning on placing her for adoption (a firm NO), as well as how many partners I’d been with, and frequency of the intercourse. Up until this point, I had been honest with my husband as to the nature of the affair, but his request was that even if he asked, I not give him the details. I expressed that to the Bishop, but he kept asking personal details. It was awkward at best trying to answer the Bishop’s questions and hold that boundary that my husband had set. By the time we left his office, my husband was furious and reconciliation between he and I was taken off of the table.
Two weeks later, the ward boundaries were realigned, and I found myself in the same office with a new Bishop, trying to figure out what to do. The new ward Bishop had been in place for almost 4 years, so I thought we’d have better communication with him, and I begged my husband to go. When we arrived, we gave him a very brief description of everything that had happened. I was VERY clear that no personal details regarding the affair were to be discussed in front of my Husband and the Bishop agreed. I was asked to go wait in the hall while the Bishop spoke to my Husband. 20 minutes later, the door opened and my husband exited the office. He looked me right in the face and said, “I told him I want our sealing cancelled.” He then left. Took the car home and left. To this day, I don’t know what was said inside between those two men and the closed door.
I went in to the office, sat down and began talking to the Bishop. Over the next hour, there were a lot of tears and embarrassment, but I answered everything to the best of my ability. The questions started simply enough…basic things like was I aware of the law of chastity and the covenants I’d made in the temple? Was I remorseful for committing adultery? What would stop me from doing it again? Was my affair partner a member of the church? (He was not.) I had no problem answering these things. In my opinion, they were necessary.
It went much further than that though. This Bishop asked about frequency, number of partners, wanted to know if I’d had threesomes, foursomes, if we’d included women, had we watched pornography and if so what kind? Was I on top when we were having intercourse? Was that at my preference or my partners? Did we engage in “rough sex”, including bondage and domination? Did we mutually masturbate one another? Did we participate in oral? How many times? Anal? How many times? Did I have a preference? Where did we meet? Hotels? Outdoors? Did I experience multiple orgasms? Did my partner? What happened in the session where my daughter was conceived?
And on and on and on for over an hour.
Now I want to point out that my husband and I had a very full life prior to becoming adult members in the church and so the topics of his questions didn’t make me google what he meant by any of it. I knew everything he was asking and in all honesty was a little shocked that HE even knew what half the stuff was he was asking about. I couldn’t really understand the reason for about 95% of them. I began to get incredibly frustrated and finally snapped. I asked the Bishop point blank, “What does it matter if I got on all fours and barked like a dog? Are you aware of voyeurism? Because that is EXACTLY what this sounds and feels like and I’m not answering anything else. What do I do as far as repentance?”
He told me then that he wasn’t trying to upset me, just determine the severity. The severity of the “offense” wasn’t in question-my husband knew I’d had an affair and by now there was a 4 month old child involved. My husband wanted our sealing cancelled and a divorce. It was pretty serious and severe at that point. His questions weren’t helping. I excused myself from the meeting and walked home from the church, since my husband had left.
A few days later, I was contacted for an update. They were going to hold a disciplinary court to determine my repentance process. The Bishop met with my husband prior to this, and disclosed ALL of the details to the questions I had been asked. He moved out the following day. At my court, I sat before 4 men who chose to excommunicate me. I was heartbroken, but hopeful, as I honestly felt it was a new beginning, and I’d be able to start the entire process over again, eventually getting my sealing to my children back. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
My husband moved out for 6 months, and I worked with the Bishop on the repentance plan. Instead of filing for divorce, my husband and I lived separately and attended counseling. We moved out of our home and into a new ward. My husband made the decision to move back in with us. Of course that meant working with another bishop, who asked no questions, embraced us both in his arms and told us Heavenly Father sent us to their ward for a reason. I finished most of the repentance process with him, and then another new Bishop was called. By this point, my husband had legally adopted my daughter and she was just over a year and a half old. Wounds were healing, and our family was growing stronger.
The last bishop (the fourth I’d been through during this whole thing) met with me to tell me that we’d have one final meeting and then there would be a reconvening of the court so that I could get re-baptized. By this time, McKenna and Sam were both individuals I was actively supporting and I was told to back off of those causes for awhile. I refused, and also told the Bishop I would not be answering ANY sexually explicit questions and gave him a very brief description of what Bishop #2 had asked me. He stopped the meeting at that point, and said he was going to contact the Stake President. A week later, I was told that I’d “been placed in the Que” to have my new court and that baptism would be shortly after. Then two weeks went by. Then a month. Then two months. Every time I’d ask about it, I was told I was still “in the Que” and they’d let me know. Week after week, I attended church, unable to speak, unable to pray, unable to take sacrament which made my newly baptized son ask me in a sacrament meeting (loudly) “Why doesn’t the atonement work for you Mom?”
I stopped going that week. I haven’t been back. I’ll NEVER go back.
I don’t share any of this for sympathy or again, to compare myself to these innocent children. I share it, because the excuse of “need to know the severity” has the opportunity to be exploited and used in ways that are shameful and abusive. I made horrible choices and have been transparent regarding them, as well as my journey back. What happened in my case is still inexcusable, and easily preventable, if ONLY we could implement 10 simple words…”No one-on-one interview. No sexually explicit questions EVER.”