I don’t think that I had any bishops that had ill intentions. It never occurred to me that anything that happened could have even been construed as wrong. It was how it was since I had been raised. My bishops were good men, and I feel that they were tactful and understanding. There was only one that I dealt with that I had anything to admit to, though, and he was a principal, and I think he had also worked as a school counselor. It may have made all the difference. He was very understanding and kind, and mostly let my boyfriend and I lead the conversation. We were in the same ward, and our bishop let us confess together. Nothing too major, basic slap on the wrist, and I don’t recall ever even being told to skip the sacrament. But the general cultural rules we abide by; respect your elders; be polite and respectful; be honest; concealing a truth is the same as lying…being coupled with the normalizing of grown men asking youth questions about their sexuality…it does condition people.
I didn’t realize this connection until recently. I worked at a McDonald’s when I was a teenager. We had some older men that were regulars. Once I was on lunch break when one came in. He sat down, and started a conversation about God, and church, and the importance of families. I thought it was harmless, and was even enjoying our conversation. Then he started asking about my sexual purity and if I had started menstruating. I was disgusted and sick, but felt like I had to answer his questions. I had been conditioned to be honest and polite about it. It never occurred to me that it was okay to tell him that he was making me uncomfortable. It never occurred to me that it was okay to tell him to fuck off. I don’t know if he was LDS, or FLDS. I think he must have had a similar role to bishop at some point. Maybe he was conditioned that it was normal, too. I did report the incident to my supervisor, and I never had to work the register while he was there, but there wasn’t much else that could be done, and I wasn’t even aware that this could be considered any form of sexual abuse.
My parents were extremely uncomfortable talking about sex. The sex talk I got from them was along the lines of “put Tab A in Slot B”. I don’t blame them, but I think it is very common in christian cultures in general. When my husband and I got married, it was a little difficult at first. I’d say the first several years, we didn’t have a very healthy sex life. It’s hard to make an adjustment like that, and I was very prudish. I didn’t know what was okay, so I was afraid of enjoying any of it. After being told so long that all of it is wrong, I had no clue at all about what kinds of things were considered wrong or right, and for a long time, I worried about how to have sex in a righteous manner. I kind of resented it at first. It was a chore. Not really something that drew us closer together.
Now I’m of the opinion that what’s okay is between him and me, and no one else can decide what that is. If a marriage is supposed to be between and man and a woman, then as long as it’s only between that man and that woman, it is ONLY between that man and that woman. God is an important part of our lives, but I like to think he closes his eyes when we’re putting tabs in slots.
I know a beautiful young woman who is honestly one of the most Christ-like people I have ever known. She is kind and gentle, and compassionate. She never judges others, and has a genuine love for all people. It sickens me to know that she has struggled with depression and self-loathing over things that she was never aware were a perfectly normal part of growing up.
I’ve read through the new changes to the interview guidelines. It makes me sad to see how this was handled. It’s good to know that when my children are going through these interviews, I can be there, but I don’t know that this will be something that, in practice, is even made known to the children, whose responsibility it is to decide who, if anyone, they want there. The language they used in these changes downplayed all of the stories shared here. It seems these changes weren’t implemented to protect our children from people who may abuse their authority. The only warning that they really had about explicit questions was that they should be careful so as not to encourage curiosity or exploration. Allowing parents in on the interview is to “prevent misunderstandings”. How many of these stories do you feel were just “misunderstandings”?