Sunday, December 3, 2017

The lie every teenage boy tells their bishop

(unless your conscience gets the better of you)

I just listened to this ( podcast from Mormon Stories about bishop interviews regarding sexual purity. I recommend listening to it. One of the main points of this podcast is to shed light on the fact that it is totally inappropriate for bishops to be talking with children and interviewing them about their sexual behavior.  It’s funny because until I listened to this podcast I had never considered how inappropriate this is, but now that I have been thinking about it I can’t believe that this is still a normal, acceptable practice. Especially after listening to the podcast and hearing some people’s experiences where their bishop made them describe every little detail of what they did.  It’s just so disgusting and crazy that that happens. 
While listening to it I started reflecting on my own experiences with my church leaders. I started masturbating when I was around 11 or 12. I also started getting curious about porn around that time and tried to look at it whenever I got a chance. During the summer when I was 13 there was one week where I was going to be home alone all week because my mom and sisters were going to girls camp and my brothers where going out of town. It was just going to be me and my dad at home all week. My dad worked during the day so I was home alone until the evening when he got home. I was excited because this gave me tons of time to look at porn. We had the internet, but we only had dial-up so it was SUPER slow. 

One day my dad came home and he was suspicious of me because he would randomly call home to check on me, but since I was on the internet it just returned a busy signal. At that time I barely knew how the internet worked so I didn’t know how to delete my browser history. He checked it and found all the dirty stuff I had looked up. I was sitting in the same room as him pretending to play video games whilst really trying to figure out what he was doing. I figured out he had caught me so I was freaking out inside and just wanted to die. I was also doubly freaking out because it was all gay porn and that is when he found out I was gay. 

A little later he sat me down and asked me about it and I confessed because I knew he knew. He told me all the cliché stuff like it was okay and he still loved me and it’s not a sin to be gay, just acting on it is. He then said he was going to set up a meeting with our bishop so I could confess it to him and repent. After we talked I was relived because the awkwardness was over and the cat was out of the bag, but I was still dreading talking to the bishop. When Sunday came, my dad shuffled me into the bishop’s office so I could confess to him. From what I can remember he basically just probed me and asked me if it was a law of chastity issue and if it had to do with masturbation and/or pornography and if I knew what that meant. He explained it all to me and said he would talk to me next week to see how I was doing and for the time being not to take the sacrament.

I remember not being able to pass the sacrament and being incredibly uncomfortable during sacrament meeting because I felt like everyone knew that I was masturbating because why else would a deacon not be able to pass the sacrament. Looking back, I feel like I was one of the few young men in my ward who ever confessed to the bishop about masturbating. It seems like almost none of my peers ever had to sit out from passing the sacrament, but based on my own sexual proclivities I can’t imagine how none of them could not have also been doing it.

I avoided masturbating all week because I was so scared and embarrassed about what would happen if I didn’t and when I talked to the bishop again he told me I could continue taking the sacrament. I think that same day after church, as a reward for doing so well (lol but not really), I gave in and masturbated again. Right afterward I felt horrible and started stressing out about having to confess to the bishop again so I tried to be perfect all week to make up for it. The following Sunday, the bishop pulled me aside in the hallway and asked me, “How are you doing?” I think he must have been referring to avoiding masturbation, but since he was so vague I just told him I was fine even though I had masturbated. After that I told myself I was going to stop, but I never could go for more than a few days. He followed up the next few weeks with more vague questions about how I was doing and I always said I was fine. I didn’t really feel like I was lying because he never asked me directly if I was still masturbating.

When I turned eighteen my bishop was kind of pressuring me to become a Melchizedek priesthood holder and to get my patriarchal blessing. Even though I had been lying throughout my teen years about worthiness, I did not feel conformable doing either of those things if I was unworthy so I confessed to him. We had the same kind of conversation about the law of chastity and he counseled me about what to do to keep myself pure. Some of the things he told me were to hum a church hyme, take a cold shower, or chew gum. He literally told me that chewing gum could help me not masturbate.  Amazingly and with excruciating effort I just stopped masturbating and looking at porn and after a few weeks it became easy to avoid. So I was able to get my patriarchal blessing and be ordained an Elder with a clear conscience.  That lasted about six months until I started masturbating again.

When I started going to the YSA ward I had an interview with my new bishop and he asked about the law of chastity and I told him my issues with it. He ask what problems I was having exactly and how often.  He told me to not take the sacrament and encouraged me to go to the addiction recovery program, but I never did. I met with him every few weeks, but did not make any progress. Eventually the meetings became less and less often. I ended up just not taking the sacrament for like 3 or 4 years because I lost my virginity to a guy and started dating other guys and I did not want to confess that and come out to my bishop. Every few months he would ask if I would like to talk about it, but I said no. I moved to a new YSA ward and the same thing continued with my new bishop until I stopped going to church.

All my experiences were incredibly awkward and made me feel very ashamed, but none of my leaders were ever too nosy or gross about it. It just always made me feel terrible and extremely guilty. It even crossed my mind to castrate myself because I had so much difficulty with stopping. I’ve heard some of my brothers express similar feelings about this when they were growing up, even thinking about suicide because of the extreme guilt that comes from this. But what do you expect when the church teaches kids that masturbating is just one step up from murder.

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