I was 16 when I had pre-marital sex with my then high school girlfriend. In hindsight, we were kids with raging hormones and we both felt horrible about our actions. We both went to speak to my home-ward bishop about our mutual sin. We were upfront, honest, self-loathing and willing to do whatever it took to make it right again. Part of my personal counsel from my home ward bishop was to marry this young woman—he and I both knew that was a recipe for disaster, which was confusing coming from this man whom I considered a personal friend and confidant. After all, I had confessed to him years previous about my (then feeling) unforgivable sin of masturbation. I was determined to serve a full-time mission, however, which I did, declining my then girlfriend’s plea to marry before the age of 20.
Fast forward to being a returned missionary at BYU, falling in love and having, yet again, pre-marital sex. The guilt was overwhelming. Once again, I went through the same steps of penance, self-loathing and confession to my BYU bishop of what I had done. Here’s where it gets interesting; during what must have been a “disfellowshipment court” (if that’s a thing) I was asked if I ever had the same “problem” before—if I had ever had pre-marital sex before. I chose to be honest, in a sort of incredulous manner asking myself, “Why does this matter if I’ve repented of this already?” After answering in the affirmative that, yes, I had sex with my high-school-girlfriend, (and this I will never forget), the 2nd councilor interjected with, “Son, you need to keep it in your pants!” Sage words of advice for an individual such as myself, borderline suicidal from my actions, facing a lifetime of misery as a result of my actions (or so I thought).
I ended up meeting the love of my life, married in the temple (now going on two decades) and have two children. I have suffered and continue to suffer sexual-psychological guilt in ways too numerous to count. From the intrinsic feeling of shame after copulation to the mind games that ensue afterwards like, “I promise and covenant to be a better person after this. It won’t happen again.” Only to realize that you’re MARRIED and it’s SUPPOSED to be okay. I honestly don’t know if the act of sex will ever feel normal to me—it still feels forbidden, dirty, shameful, perverted. My only hope is that we can raise our own children to be aware and in control of their own bodies, making smart choices along the way, using protection, being educated and safe. At least I can have hope that my own children won’t be raised guilt-ridden and shamed for their decisions. The church will not be part of their upbringing.