I grew up in a small farming community in Oregon. Fifteen years ago there were (and still are) many LDS members in my home town. I remember being 11 years old and getting ready to leave primary (finally!)
I don’t know if this was a stake wide thing or just our ward…but my Bishop held an “activity” at his house, in his backyard actually, for all the upcoming deacons and their fathers. There were 6 of us boys who would be turning 12 that coming year. We ate ice cream and the Bishop asked our fathers to read from the Elder Packer booklet. The Little Factory booklet (I don’t remember the actual name but I do know the church recently discontinued publishing the book). I don’t remember everything that was said and taught there but I do remember the feelings of uneasiness I felt. There were a few things I do remember and several things that negatively impacted me.
11 year old me didn’t know what a “homosexual” was until that night. I wasn’t understanding what masturbation was either (and my parents had opted me out of the school sex Ed but never gave me any kind of sex talk until I was 16….which was about 5 years too late). So at this Sunday evening activity I learned what gay was and what masturbation was (kind of) and that apparently, according to Elder Packer, masturbation would bring about homosexual tendencies/feelings.
I spent the next few months asking friends and searching the internet to try to fully understand what they had referenced that night (internet at home was just becoming a thing) I strongly feel this was the start and root of my decade long battle with porn.
My body began puberty a few months later and remember throughout all of young men’s feeling guilt and shame whenever I was asked about masturbation. “Where in the house were you?” “How many times this week?” “What were you thinking about?” “Oh, so were you looking at the images while you were masturbating?” All questions that should never have been discussed behind closed doors with a grown man and a 12 year old boy.
I felt dirty, gross, perverted etc. From 16-18 I blessed the sacrament 3 times. I felt so unworthy and worthless. All the other times I would show up late so i wouldn’t get asked to go up and bless or i would fake getting a cold so I couldn’t touch the sacrament bread or water.
Some Sundays I actually contemplated suicide. I knew my parents were ashamed of me too. I eventually went off to BYU, served a mission, back to BYU, and married my wife in the temple. I overcame many of the challenges i faced and my life has had a great second half. But I still look back at my childhood and late teens and remember always feeling worthless and ashamed of myself…so much that to this day I dread going back to my home town.
My wife says i should probably see a councilor/go to therapy and she’s not wrong. I’m a very active member of the church but have felt the damaging effects of closed door interviews and unnecessary discussions about sex. My wife and I have discussed this in depth (she’s actually had her own bad Bishop interview experiences, though different from my own).
Our children will NOT have any type of closed door “worthiness” interviews with a Bishop or church leader. I know this is not how the Savior would speak to children. I have full confidence that in 10-15 years these interviews and discussions won’t be a thing…I just wish changes would happen now (or before i turned 11 fifteen years ago). Our kids are 3 and 1, but I will let every Bishop in our future wards know if they pull my child out of church classes to speak alone they will risk legal action. I hope to protect my children. Thank you for standing up and protecting ALL children.