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  1. Some of what I hear attributed to the church I think may be problems from past abuse, or perhaps a touch of OCD informing ones emotions about guilt and shame and anxiety. I suffer from OCD and had some childhood abuse. I spent years suffering in guilt and shame. I think that if the things that happened to me had happened to someone without my particular thought pattern it may have been less damaging — I tended to direct everything in on myself. I think it is not the way the church interacted with me but rather my own difficulties coloring the way the church interacted with me. I think perhaps we should be made well aware that bishops are not there to handle our psychological issues. These are handled by trained professionals. I have often thought as a parent that I wish there was an official policy regarding masturbation especially that was known. I fear now that I may have caused undue hardship on my child trying to head off what I experienced as a child. I remember the for young men only pamphlet, and so I addressed it with my son when he turned twelve knowing of the impending interviews. I tried to tell him it is an incorrect behavior that is common to all and does not make you a horrible person, that it is the feeling of being alone, and the undue guilt and shame that can lead one down the dark lonely paths that are the real negative fruit of this issue. I sure hope I did not cause undue anxiety for my son.

  2. I also wish to address the thought that had been stated that women are treated more harshly in discipline than men. While I think it is logical to assume this could be the case, I believe it is not the case at all. From the actual statistics, if there are any to be had, that I have seen males are excommunicated way more often than females for the same issues. There are anecdotal stories of the boy who is not punished by his bishop and his girlfriend is, but these are apples and oranges cases involving two different people and bishops. Had the boy and girl had the same bishop then the story would be relevant. I just do not think it is true that women are punished more severely in the church compared to men. I have heard numerous accounts of the opposite men being excommunicated for activities when their counterparts were not simply because counterparts were able to show more emotion, or the men had the priesthood and this was considered sin against greater light.

  3. Thank you for this important series, John. Just one slightly different perspective about something I’ve heard several times now – that women are punished more harshly than men for sexual transgression. My experience and others I’ve heard have been almost exclusively the opposite. In my experience, it depends on the level of covenants a person has made. Thus, Melchizedek priesthood holders or those who have been through the temple will usually be punished more harshly. I have seen this several times in couples where the woman has not been through the temple yet, but the man has, and he has been punished far more harshly. This happened to me and I’ve talked to others it’s happened to as well. Not that everyone who experiences church discipline will talk about it, but anecdotally in my circle, with several different wards and bishops, this has been the case. I don’t know of one non-endowed woman who has been excommunicated or disfellowshipped for sexual transgression (not taking the Sacrament, yes, but not official disciplinary council….just meeting with the bishop), but lots of returned missionaries (mostly men) who have.

    I completely agree about the interview process needing to change. Thankfully, my personal experiences have been good. I am 46 and have never been asked about masturbation or any specific details of sexual transgression, everything has been very general and have never heard the word masturbation in an interview. But I know several others who have not been as fortunate and I do think these interviews need to stop.

    Thanks for the good work.

  4. I do have a question I was once told of a stake president that had relations with a sister missionary. I guess that happens in the real world but the next part floored me- he was not excommunicated- he was given a “second chance”?? I was told after a certain level that can happen!

  5. What a great series, thank you. Fits very well with the current national conversation about inappropriate sexual behavior by men in positions of power. Which makes me wonder if the petition will carry an impact it might not have otherwise. I hope so.

    To all of the interviewees: I think what you’re doing is incredibly courageous and will do exactly what you hope: Save at least some from the experiences inflicted on you. Thank you for doing this.

  6. Thanks to Mormon stories I listened for years before I became a bishop 5 years ago I applied many ‘true principles’ I learned from MS such as never have an one-one-one interview with a minor without a youth leader with the kid…nor I asked any sexual questions….for anyone under 16, no sexual/porn questions…..and those from 16 and above I stuck to the handbook, “do you live the law of chastity” and that’s it…never tried to ‘interpret’ what that meant. I had several husbands who tried to give me back their temple recommends because they masturbated because their wives didn’t want to have sex…I told them to keep their TR and praised them for being good, for their services in church and for not having an affair…even suggested they continue to masturbate until their wives resume to wanting to have sex again. As a result, we ended up having more happy youth and YSAs and adults in the ward:) Good job John!

    1. Way to go James! The church would be a better place is more leaders were of the same “ilk” as you. It would probably retain many more of the droves that are leaving for the reasons set out in so many of the stories here. Your’s is a Christ like approach.

  7. It’s been obvious to me for quite a while that the men who rise to positions of authority in the so-called church are the ones who lie in priesthood interviews, have always lied and are perfectly comfortable lying. In their minds they are expected to lie. The boobs who are honest about such things, the ones who haven’t figured out the game is played, wind up at the bottom of the leadership pile.

    The other thing that’s pretty obvious is that the dirty old men who conduct these interviews are getting off on it and living vicariously through the members who are naive enough to relate detailed accounts of their sexual dalliances.

  8. We might want to consider that there is potential risk with any one-on-one interview. There was a mand who was a counselor both in our bishopric and stake presidency who did NOT like that I stayed married to my disaffected husband and used interviews (for TR or callings) as an opportunity to tell me how I was damaging my kids, that my husband was going to lead them to hell, that my TR was at risk if I was too sympathetic to my husband’s views, etc etc.

    So a few years later, he was called into our newly called bishopric. I told the bishop that this man was NOT to interview my sons (the oldest was 14) unless I was present. And started a huge controversy. When I told the bishop what my concerns were, the counselor flat out denied that he ever said those kinds of things.

    And there it was: the typical he said-she said dilemma and who was the bishop to believe? Over the course of this controversy, I met with the bishop a few times and every time I realized that the bishop remembered those conversations much differently than I did. More he said-she said. Since that time, I have made it a point to have what might be controversial conversations with another person (or two!) present.

    The problem with these one-on-one conversations or interviews is that even honest people can leave the conversation with completely different ideas of what was discussed and decided. A third party can be a witness to what actually transpired.

    1. Wow! A mighty warrior Prairiechuck! I knew a very pious stake President in Calgary who was caught and charged with sexually abusing many young boys in his interviews. Of course he was caught and charged but the damage was done for so many unsuspecting and trusting families who didn’t have the good sense like you to insist that a parent be present. Good for you. It’s not worth the risk. Some of these people in very high positions are the last person you would suspect and yet it happens over and over and over. Better safe than very very sorry. Have you signed Sam’s petition?

  9. I´m a former investigator. My though after listening to these latest podcasts is: all these men of power and age, bishop´s and presidents in the church are breaking the law of chastity! While asking all these question of how, when, what exactly did you do, oral, anal, orgasm and so on …. they are focusing there own thoughts on sex, bodyparts… almost like listening to porn.
    The person that- many times done what people do with the person they love and are going to be married to, has nothing to be ashamed of! Sexuality is a gift from God, a blessing if you like to see it that way.
    I´m glad I got mu eye´s open before I joined-

  10. I was always suspicious how well informed the big 15 we’re back in the early days of the internet regarding the saturation and onslaught of pornography . They even gave statistics in talks about chat room cyber sex … I wonder how they knew so much especially since they were supposed to be the most righteous people on the planet . Ahhh I got it .. they obviously did some online research. Lol lol lol

  11. After much thought I feel that I need to add my experience to the line-up of abused members who have experienced great shame at the hands of, sometimes well meaning – sometimes not- authority figures in the church. When I was a young mother I was married to an abusive priesthood holder who was physically abusive as well as emotional (and might I add very sexually dysfunctional). I was very devout – making sure that I read my scriptures and had family prayer every day – full tithe payer – etc. etc bla bla bla. I went to the bishop for the renewal of my temple recommend. I told him that my husband was abusive and that I wanted to go to the temple to seek spiritual guidance as to how to proceed with my sad life. I believed that my mother, (who had died when I was 14 and was a TBM) would be there to help me with my sad and heartbreaking decision. The bishop said that he didn’t feel comfortable giving me a recommend without going into the Sunday School class – pulling my then (physically abusive – masturbating) husband out of class – bringing him into my personal interview to ask him if it was ok if he (the bishop) gave me a recommend!! Oh please!! I knew that there was something very wrong with this. After this very self righteous bishop – (and future stake Pres.) was told by said husband that he had no objections to my receiving a recommend – that I was an exemplary member – good mother etc. – he coldly signed my recommend and pushed it across his desk. I told him that I felt that I didn’t believe that I needed to be judged by either of them and that indeed neither were “worthy” to judge my “worthiness” and that I wouldn’t be needing the recommend. I cried all the way home and left the church that day. After suffering a real beating later my aunt told me that I should tell the bishop which I reluctantly did. (Different bishop – same little town) – After I tearfully told what had happened he coldly leaned back in his chair and said …”well, sister – I know you to be a very outspoken woman – I am going to have to get the other side of this story before I can comment on his behaviour.” I felt like jumping in front of a train that day. I thank them now in a convoluted way as they both helped me to remove myself from this abusive and unloving system that I decided is designed specifically for the suppression of women. BTW that bishop never did call him in and ask him one thing about the beating. A few years later my friend confided in me that she was being raped repeatedly by her husband. She was so beaten down and too timid to go to her bishop so I went on her behalf. He looked at me very seriously and said “well sister Aldrich it is not rape if it is your husband.” I was absolutely appalled and told him that I thought that he was mistaken. I then went straightaway to the temple president (you see what he meant by “outspoken”) – who straightened him out immediately. There never was any kind of an apology offered to me or my friend from this very wrong bishop. Unfortunately these damaging men keep getting promoted to positions of higher power while the women are marginalized, blamed and shamed. Why do these so-called followers of Christ keep doing things that Christ would NEVER do? Christ did not excommunicate anyone and in fact, by clear example, did the very opposite of what these men are doing. The confounding question for me is why any good thinking woman would stay in such a system. It makes “reason stare” to me. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ – Amen! (tongue-in-cheek)

    1. I am continually shocked at the experiences so many members have received at the hands of their ‘loving’ and ‘righteous’ priesthood leaders.

      Often it makes me take a deep breath and hope that I caused little harm. Unfortunately, at the time, I was likely clueless of the damage that I had the capacity to cause.

      Best wishes Jeanne and I’m sorry that any of this happened to you.

      1. Thank You Sam. Some people have asked what it would take to have be come back to the church. It would take John Dehlin becoming the head of the church – you and Darron Smith as first counselors! At least 6 of the 12 apostles being women and for them to do away with children being baptized for heaven’s sake! All would be well in Zion then! LOL When my daughter was getting her name taken off they wouldn’t do it until she had an interview with the stake Pres. She wrote “oh so you will take the word of an 8 year old that they want in but not the word of a 40 year old that they want out!” Good Point. Love the work you are doing Sam. I think it’s God’s work! See you on the 1st. at T square.

  12. I think the sexual questions within Mormonism are also common among other religions. Many church leaders of most denominations feel masturbation will become a substitute for being sexually active within your marriage with your spouse. There is also a major concern that oral sex will lead to curious exploration and sex with same sex partners. From a medical standpoint, the number one reason for contracting HPV related oral throat cancer is through having multiple oral sex partners. It is most prevalent among men as women have developed some immunity to it. However, cervical cancer among women related to HPV through having multiple lifetime sex partners is on a dramatic rise. Thousands of these cancers result in death every year.

    I could list several sources but I’d rather you google the topic and do the research yourself. On a separate note, does this mean that church leadership are the ones who should be having these conversations with us? Like many of you, I’ve been through the checklist and was somewhat horrified by the coldness of the systematic approach. Regardless of the rhetoric we hear about the bishop no longer being able to remember it once we’ve forsaken the practice, it isn’t true and we all know it. In the end, I think these conversations are best left within the family, unfortunately, the family unit has all but disintegrated.

  13. One of the best ways for churches to propagate religion and control their flock is through the control of human sexuality and reproduction.

    Sexual desires are impacted by biological factors, specifically our hormones, and fundamental psychological needs, which are necessary to remain mentally healthy. Religions take advantage of this human trait by putting unnatural restrictions on it. Ordinarily, humans will absolutely have difficulty adhering to the religious restrictions. This is a problem that religion creates, and at the same time, religion creates the solution for it. This ideology creates a dependency on religion for forgiveness from God. Religion claims God exists, and religion is the only path to God’s forgiveness. By creating a sin out of a basic human need, and providing the only path to forgiveness for that sin, religion depends on the devaluing of a basic human need to recruit new followers and control current members.

    Reproduction is also important to religion for it’s enhanced member growth capabilities. Aside from the number of new members that are born into a religion, the large indoctrinated families are important for the entrenchment and spread of religious doctrines and values.

    In this age of information and communication, there can be no reasonable argument of Ignorance to the damage these interviews can cause, and yet the church continues with this practice. The church needs to be held accountable for the damage it is doing.

    Just like the backlash occurring from the exposure of sexual misconduct and assaults in the movie industry, powerful business men and politicians, we can stop these ridiculous interviews when they becomes exposed to society.

  14. Thanks to all the participants for finding the courage to share their stories and for doing so in order to help others. Knowing you are not alone, not the only one, is very therapeutic for all. It is encouraging to see that those who were shamed at such tender ages have been able to regain their self worth and break loose from the mind control the church imposes through the use of shame, guilt, and fear.

    For a young man to think his only alternative is to castrate himself is as disturbing as the gay youth thinking their only alternative is suicide. If the church leadership cannot see or does not care what its policies, or lack thereof, are doing to youth, how can it dare to continue to claim the inspiration and authority of Christ?

  15. I went to college from a Southern state and moved to the West. In the South the Bishops were respectful and never gave me the impression that I was unworthy, but had a few things to work on. With the new bishop he asked very personal question that were so graphic & I won’t write them down as its shocking. I can tell you he was playing with himself the whole time behind his desk. The follow ups got worse and I literally never went back to church until I graduated college and moved. Maybe less than a year later he was in the paper for being fired and charge for sexually allegations at his work.

  16. Thanks to all those who were interviewed for this podcast. It reveals a dark side of this Church, that we as members, have been so complacent and have accepted this practice. Not only did these interviews make me a liar, but also a coward now for letting my children become part of this atrocious process. My TBM wife is still okay with it and doesn’t want to ruffle any leadership feathers and draw attention to ourselves. I’m so glad I didn’t confess to any leaders during my youth about looking at porn, looking at biki-clad women at the pool, and most of all, having those private “sessions.”
    Here’s is what I have experienced over the years:
    -Being asked about masturbation in nearly every interview in my youth.
    -Having the bishop telling me the definition of masturbation during the interview because I never heard of the term. “It means playing with yourself.”
    -I was floored when Paul, in Part One in this series said he connected Utah with winning a game and his righteousness because I also felt I was going to be partly responsible if BYU lost a game, I think in the Holiday Bowl, because I rubbed one off the day before! The freakin’ mind games!
    -Seeing my brother being made to sit outside of the bishop’s office every Sunday at one time because of his little transgression with his girlfriend. Members and youth knew something was going on. Someone from the other ward even noticed and said something like “you must be in trouble because I see you here every Sunday!” No concern for for his confidentiality. However, I guess you can call it Karma when years later this bishop’s wife had an affair with one of his counselors. We all knew about that yet every step was taken to ensure her privacy.
    -Constantly being asked if I masturbated by my mission president during our monthly interviews.
    -After my mission I became somewhat less active and a “ward hopper” so I could avoid being interviewed and going to the temple.
    -Being asked if I look at porn, which is not an interview question for a temple recommend, but was asked anyway.
    -Being asked if I love my wife during a release from calling. Apparently they interview during a release in my stake.
    -My wife telling me that she was asked if she knew what the Law of Chasity meant in an interview and it sounded like this member of the stake presidency was prolonging the interview to fish for some juicy info and just to spend more time with her. Another cowardly moment for me for not doing nothing.
    -Youth in our ward get interviewed twice a year besides interviews for advancement, callings, and temple recommends to do baptisms for the dead.
    -My son being asked explicit questions about his chastity.
    -My bishop interviewing my daughter, rambling on and taking up my daughter’s time…very creepy and disturbing.
    -Having to let my kids endure these interviews kills me.

  17. I am old and still suffer from knowing I told my “sins” to these humans. I hope someday to break the guilt and shame cycle that the LDS church perpetrated on me!! Thanks John and to all those who spoke out!! Love to you all!!

  18. John, I love your cause and appreciate what you’re trying to accomplish; however, in my opinion, you need to do a better job vetting your guests. While I don’t think your interviewees are necessarily lying, I do belive your’re willingness to take them at face value discredits you as an unbiased podcaster. I do understand your limitations in getting both sides of the story; but, given that you’ve chosen to dedicate your life to this paticular cause, you need to provide your silent nemisis wider latitude in terms of benefit of the doubt.

    Keep up the good fight!

    1. Your comment rubs me the wrong way. First, how would you vet all of the guests? Would you require that they had undercover video or audio of their experiences? I believe recording the interviews is against the church’s rules and TBMs are not cognitive that they really should record those interviews. Leaders have been put on pedestals and given far too much courtesy of the benefit of the doubt. This is exactly why there are so many stories that people need to share. Second, What percentage of the guests do you think would be lying? Should all of the guest stories be disregarded due to a few possible dishonest guests? What if 80% of them are lying and only 20% are telling the truth, should those 20% be dismissed? Mormon stories is a useful, inviting forum for people to share their personal stories. Some of those stories are quite painful. This forum is a place for some people to gain validation and even help on the road to recovery from trauma. The guests should be listened to at face value because the numbers of stories are so numerous that they can not all be lying. The church is aware of Mormon Stories. It didn’t embrace Mormons Stories and use it as a tool to fix problems and answer questions. It excommunicated John to excommunicate Mormon Stories. The church does not want to answer questions about the pain it causes. It wants to project the blame of all the damage that it causes onto it’s victims. The church does not need any more benefit of the doubt. It needs to start listening to the stories about the damage that it is causing people. The church needs to acknowledge these stories, validate the people that they have hurt, apologize, and truly change to something honest, empathetic and supportive, or it can just go to hell.

    2. CJ – I understand stories like this are difficult to hear/believe, especially when we’ve been groomed from birth to ‘trust’ Priesthood authority.

      I believe these stories – I believe behind these voices are thousands more who are silent, whose stories we’ll never hear.

      CJ – I am one of these stories. How would John have ever ‘vetted’ me? After our experiences, all we have left is our story and for so many, healing takes place when we share.

      Also, starting at age 12 is when I was asked annually if I masturbated by my Bishop. Up until I left the church, I would ask my MD for a yearly, one-time-dose of Ativan, just to get through a temple recommend interview.


      1. My Bishop interviews where always awful experiences and a hit to my fragile self-esteem, but the interview I had with my stake president was in a whole different ball park and nothing short of a perverted power trip and degradation. I am not exaggerating when I say that if he had just physically raped me instead I don’t think it would have been as emotionally painful for me.

        I told my father in-law, who had been a bishop. He was a good hearten person and still gave the benefit of the doubt to my stake president. I told my bishop. He told me he would talk to the stake president and get back to me. He never got back to me. I never even bothered to tell my parents. All threw my life they have always disregarded my issues with church and told me my issues were in my head. Church is always right to them.

        The benefit of the doubt that was given to my stake president was a message to me that I was as valuable as a piece of trash. He was the one with all the value.

  19. Bishops, dime a dozen. I served in SLC mission 94-96. We would have about 24 to 40 bishops that we worked with, at any given time. There were some crazy ones, all shades of pride.
    When I got home I had a girlfriend who had a very strict bishop. Here bishop said that R rated movies were pornography, yep, wholesale pornography. About 6 months after one of her visits with her bishop, she told me that she had worked things out with here bishop and that her bishop wanted to make sure that I was fully repented as well. It was for some very minor stuff, but that bishop wanted to extend his scope of leadership across state lines, and beyond all boundaries. I consoled my old girlfriend that I had taken care of everything with my own leadership, but I was kind of disturbed by how unreasonable her bishop was.
    Yep, dime a dozen.

  20. At the age of 19, I sat in a room with 5 older men – a ‘disciplinary council’. They all asked questions regarding the sexual interactions I’d had with my boyfriend, questions so personal, I wanted to die once I left the room and never see these men again. I sat in my car afterwards, hoping I would get in a car accident on the way home. – I would see them again, many times and every Sunday.

    This was over 25 years ago, but I remember one man who sat in front of me during this interrogation with a very obvious erection.

    What they didn’t know was I had also been date raped. This I didn’t share. This I blamed myself for, and for this I spent 6 months not taking the sacrament, not giving talks, and basically walking ‘barefoot over the coals’ to prove to some men I paid my dues for ‘my’ actions. Raped twice. Once by my boyfriend, then verbally and mentally ‘gang raped’ in my Bishops office by five men.

    I left the Mormon church, 3 years now. Best decision for my mental health.

    1. I can relate with your story. Back when we were growing up, saying no meant that we were just playing hard to get, which seemed to encouraged guys to push harder. This was acceptable and normal. It was almost completely up to the female to guard the unspoiled body parts of her human value. As females, in the church and in society we were taught that if we did anything that may have caused a guy to become aroused then we were at the least partially to blame for our sexual assault or sexual encounters that were pushed on us. To add insult to injury, we were tought that if intercourse occurred females were ruined and undesirable. This plays havoc on one’s self worth. I took on all the blame for anything and everything that happened to me regardless of any circumstances that were not actually my fault.

      As members, we were coerced to feel as though we had to go through these interviews and Instead of receiving any compassion or understanding, at the average best, we were just judged and shamed. Those situations are bad enough but then there are the stories that go beyond bad. There are predators being called to serve in positions that put people at risk of being horribly abused and people are being abused. We were both mentally raped. Trauma on top of trauma. What a church!!!

  21. When I was about 13 or 14, when my dad had “the talk” with me, he told me I should expect to be asked about masturbation by bishops, as if that was standard procedure for all interviews. As it turned out I was only ever asked once, fortunately. I can totally relate to the guy who talked with his bishop about what “counts” as masturbation. I never discussed it with a bishop, but managed to come up with similar mental gymnastics completely on my own.

  22. This is an extremely important topic and John is the perfect person to conduct these interviews, firstly he is a trained professional but also is a sensible man.

    This is a matter that the ‘Brethren’ need to move on NOW. Not at their regular glacial pace.

    When the mainstream media picks up on this, and it will, the Church will look not just peculiar but foolish and Irresponsible.

    Mormon Children’s Lives Matter.

  23. John you are doing your job bringing to light the disturbing truth about the church in this case the leaders and Doctrine around sex

    What leaders do is a reflection of the doctrine and structure and reflection of the history just look at Joseph Smith and other attitudes of early leaders
    This is what we need !!!! please continue bringing us the truth which is so disturbing

    I thought I had looked at the cobwebs in my life from the church but listening to these people talk I realize how messed up my attitudes were about sex and guilt and my self image —-and also the ridiculous and inappropriate need for confessing to priesthood leaders

    The church has affected us so many negatives ways we will probably never really understand or be aware of all of it

    I think all of us in the church don’t really realize the impact this attitude about sex has had on us— because even though we know The church is wrong we still have deep-seeded attitudes from the past that have really messed us up

    Even people you interview sometimes seem to make excuses and say that the leaders are still good and the church is still good

    They don’t see it clearly…..

    In reality anybody —leaders—who do and say those things —even if they believe it is their religion — should know it is wrong very very wrong and if they listen to their conscience they wouldn’t do and say the things they do in these interviews etc

    The problem is the church in indoctrinates us from childhood and we have ceased to listen to our own conscience and hard to know what is right and wrong and therefore these leaders do wrong things in an effort to follow the church

    And isn’t that the history and policies of the church in a nutshell

    They think they will teach us to be good but using guilt and fear

    It’s a disgusting and abusive

  24. Sorry to say but it is obvious in CJ’s comments he is totally out of touch and unaware of how the church history and present doctrine and policies are hurting people every day

    Just another apologist not looking at the facts and being unwilling to see the truth as it is

  25. John this is just another plea to please continue to search for truth that is so disturbing about the Mormon church
    In our journey of learning the truth we become closer to understanding ourselves and how devastating it has affected us and why we do the things we do understanding helps us try to recover
    To become healthy and whole again

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