August 2, 2007

Growing Up Mormon - Youth Temple Trip Preparation

Every year our ward planned a youth temple trip to do baptisms for the dead. For Montanans, this required a road trip to the nearest temple since we didn't have enough members to warrant a temple being built (yet). The cool part for us was it meant a 6-hour drive to the Idaho Falls Temple and an overnight stay. Planning meetings, fund-raisers, and excited anticipation permeated the young mens and young womens organizations for months prior to the trip.

As MWOM (Mormons Without Money), my brother, sister and I always had to scramble to make enough money to pay our way to the temple. My brother is a year older than me and my sister is a year younger. Having six younger brothers and sisters meant I had a lot of experience babysitting, as did Eric and Val. I remember being relieved that I was finally able to earn my own money so I could have more money for clothes, shoes, and. . .oh, who am I kidding?? CANDY. I loved babysitting because it fed my addiction to candy.

One particularly lean year, my mom came up with a plan for us to raise money for our trip. She got out the ward directory and divided the list of names into three equal groups. Each of us got a different group of names, and a bit of instruction on what to say.

Let the cold calling begin!

"Hi, Sister Hodges? This is Lisa from your ward. I'm trying to earn money for the upcoming youth temple trip, and would just like to ask you to keep me in mind if you need a babysitter in the next month. Thanks!"

I was so uncomfortable making those calls. Perhaps those calls are the reason I've never worked as a phone solicitor. But lo and behold, it worked. We always made enough money to go. Of course, we also worked at every single bake sale and every single car wash too. I used to envy my MWM (Mormons With Money) friends, because they could skip those lame activities and all that hard work if they wanted. We didn't have the luxury. We worked every single fund-raiser we could.

I remember my first temple recommend interview. I was twelve years old, uncomfortable and nervous because I didn't know what to expect. After asking me to sit down, my bishop proceeded to try to make me feel more at ease by asking about my family. I told him they were fine. He asked me if I was a full tithe payer. Yes. He asked me if I followed the Word of Wisdom by not drinking coffee, tea, or partaking of alcohol, tobacco, or drugs. I assured him I obeyed the Word of Wisdom. These questions were standard, so his next one caught me by surprise.

"Lisa, tell me how many boys you've kissed."

"NONE!" I kind of laughed nervously as if he had told a joke while I squirmed in my chair and looked at the wall behind his head. I could feel my face turning purple.

"Oh, come now. Surely you've kissed boys by now!"

"No! Not one! Sheesh!"

"Are you sure you've never kissed a boy, not even one? Come on, you can tell me. You must have kissed at least one. Tell me about it." He had lowered his voice to try to sound like a confidante who'd never tell my secrets.

What the hell?! I was starting to get mad. "Bishop. Listen. I have never kissed a boy. Ever. Why won't you believe me?" I was still beet red and my forehead had broken out into a cold sweat.

"I just find it hard to believe that someone like you has never even kissed a boy. You should tell me if you have. I'm your bishop."

"Well, I haven't, so the answer is no."

The interview ended quite quickly after that, thankfully.

Now that I look back on that interview with adult eyes, I realize things about that bishop that most Mormons won't acknowledge a priesthood leader could be capable of. I'm not sure what jollies he got out of just listening to a young girl talk about kissing other boys, but there can be no doubt that he had something going on that made him want to hear it.

My discomfort over being questioned wasn't for naught, however. I left the interview with temple recommend in hand. I was going to the temple, baby, the House of the Lord!


Cele said...

I never considered that you would have to pay tithe out of your babysitting money. And then to have him perv on you, ugh. Too weird.

CV Rick said...

damned creepy bishop . . . I never trusted a single one of them.

C. L. Hanson said...

I remember what a big deal it was to go on a temple trip when I was a teenager. The Chicago temple was brand-new -- it was one of the early small temples, a forerunner of the modern micro-temple -- and it was cool that there was finally one close enough that it was reasonable for our ward to plan a trip there.

I don't recall any creepiness in my temple recommend interviews though. My memories of the various interviews is pretty vague, so I may be blocking something out. ;^)

On the other hand, it might just be that if every single bishop were a creepy perv upsetting the kids, the church would have stopped this practice earlier...

mark said...

That bishop is a low-life bastard. Id like to smear a can of Alpo dogfood on his balls and then release a pack of hungry pit bulls on him.
I wish you would have kicked him in the balls on your way out the door.

Bishop Rick said...


Now that made me laugh.

Beulah said...

I don't remember any creepiness during interviews, but I think I was just lucky!

I do remember holding a yard sale at home to raise money for girls' camp one year. How embarrassing! The MWO came over to "help" me. I guess I was the charity case that week.

Paul said...

That might have been a very close call, Sister! I wonder what happened to the girls who confided in him that they'd kissed a boy or two?

A few years ago, I met a father and his two sons, all of whom were pastors. They seemed uneasy, as if they were hiding something, and the conversation didn't last long. The next day, I found out why: The older son was on trial for statutory rape of a 13 year old choir girl.

As it turned out later, he was convicted.

from the ashes said...

What a perv. My friend had the SP keep questioning her like that about sex with guys when she wanted to go on a mission. She kept telling him, no, she'd never done anything. "Are you sure? Are you sure!??!?" Finally, she had to say, "Sheesh, I've never even kissed a guy!" Which was true. He left her alone after that.

The Sacred Sister said...

The majority of Bishops are like that... they must sit up at night thinking of ways to embarrass young girls. I'm sure they get a kick out of watching them squirm and (for those that have kissed a boy) making them feel guilty. Gawd forbid you should have a normal existance and show interest in the opposite sex!
I was like CV Rick... I never trusted any bishops either. From day one I thought it was odd that they would expect us to confide in a bishop rather than our parents.
Just more brainwashing...

Janet M Kincaid said...

My first interview with my bishop was creepy as hell! I remember it vividly. Bishop Wilcox was the man. I, too, didn't really know what to expect so I was nervous as well. (Perhaps it was really my underdeveloped intuition telling me that something wasn't quite kosher about all of this priesthood interview stuff.)

I remember, he asked me all the requisite questions about obeying my parents, keeping the WOW, reading my scriptures, saying my prayers, etc. Then he asked me, "Do you masturbate?"

I looked at him incredulously and, being 12 and naive, said, "What's that?" He then proceeded to tell me in explicit detail what that was. I answered that I hadn't ever and was horrified that he'd even suggested as much. I recall leaving his office and feeling violated and scared. I never told my parents what he'd asked until I was well into adulthood.

Ironically, I might have never considered or known about masturbation if he hadn't asked. The result of his asking was keen curiosity, to say the least! I've often wondered since how many young TBM kids end up engaging in sexual behaviors because their pervy bishops put the ideas in their otherwise naive minds?

In some ways, I'm grateful to that bishop... ;-0

Just One of Many said...

I love the abbreviations of MWM and MWOM! OMG! I remember feeling like the bishies were next to god! So glad I don't have to subject myself or my children to their "worthiness interviews"!

Sister Mary Lisa said...

Cele ~ kids pay tithing from the time they are baptized, in order to learn obedience to the laws of God.

Rick ~ yeah, he was slightly creepy.

Chanson ~ his was the only creepiness I had in my interviews as a youth, or as adult. I'm glad all he wanted was to pry for details, vs. what some women/girls had happen to them. Yikes.

Mark & BR ~ Mark's comment made me laugh too...although the situation was fairly harmless, so maybe only warranted a punch to the throat rather than the family jewels.

Beulah ~ yeah, so many fundraisers, so little time!

Paul ~ wow, that pastor's son sounds like a real piece of work.

FTA ~ makes you wonder if this type of questioning of girls was the righteous man's porn or what. Sheesh.

Sacred Sis ~ I'm not sure they sit up at night thinking of it, unless they already have a problem with temptation to fantasize about young girls. Not all bishops are that way, I'm certain of it.

Janet ~ wow! I'm sorry to say I was masturbating at a very young age...OK, I'm not sorry at all! But I can guarantee you that it wasn't something I got questioned on, rather it was something I confessed when I was ready to. Gawd, the horror! Also, bishops in the CHI (Church Handbook of Instructions) are encouraged to find out what kids are doing sin-wise while being very careful not to "educate" kids and thereby tempt them to engage in said sins.

JOOM ~ CV Rick came up with those will want to check out his blog entries for HIS Growing Up Mormon memories...they rock.

C. L. Hanson said...

I like the MWM and MWOM acronyms too. I touched on this subject a little bit in Young Womens because in the "mission field" wards -- which generally cover a large geographic area -- you get the two side-by-side in the same ward.

In my family's case we were kind of between the two, though I guess leaning a little in the "WM" direction, so I don't have quite the horror stories CV Rick recounts in his fantastic memoirs. But there are some things that are the same for everyone who grows up in a gigantic extended-family clans: having almost all vacations either involve visiting relatives or be church-related (our whole family went to boy scout camp the same week as our ward's scout troop every year for years when I was growing up...).

Jeremy said...

Just recently a friend of my counted a story to me of a young girl and her thong underwear that was apparently enough for her bishop to call her in for a worthiness interview. Apparently you go to hell if you have thong underwear.

Paul said...

I've long suspected thong underwear were a highway to hell, which is why I've often enough wanted to remove them when I've seen them.

JulieOShields said...

SML, I joined the church just before my senior year in HS, so I didn't have too many temple trips. Our temple was in Seattle, so I would have had to done fundraisers if I were to go. We were a poor family also.
I was so fanatical, I always made my kids pay tithing...even before they were baptized. Thankfully, I have seen the error of my ways and tell the kids to put the money in the bank for college now.
Tithing...what a waste!
AKA Enlightenedmolly

aka madre said...

That really pisses me off! Was that Bishop Deim???

At one of my meetings with him, when you guys were very young teens, he said, "I'm really worried about V, when the boys start to notice how large her breasts are!"

I was dumbfounded, but then again, I was by everything he said and did! What a poor excuse for anything!

Sorry, sweetie...

aka madre

Sister Mary Lisa said...

Hi Madre!

Of COURSE it was him. Who else? What a sicko. And what's worse...I never felt the need to tell anyone about his questions. I mean, you don't question your righteous priesthood holders, right??


paranoidfr33k said...

SML, its interesting to look back on those experiences with new eyes and think to myself "What the hell!!??". I was always asked if I masturbated by my Bishops and I thought that it was a valid question to determine my worthiness. Now I see it as creepy, although your story is mucho creepier.


Janet Kincaid said...

I've got to piggy back on your mom's comment. I remember when I told my parents about Bishop Wilcox, my mother was FURIOUS! She said, if she'd known that's what he was going to ask, she wouldn't have sent me to that interview. Up until I left the church, I hated--I mean HATED--bishop's interviews. Unfortunately, in my experience, the majority of bishops were this way. I can only think of two bishops I ever had who I felt comfortable around. The rest were sickos and bastards!

P.S. When I told my therapist the Bishop Wilcox story and the fact that I didn't tell anyone for years, she said that his behavior was akin to sexual abuse. He may not have touched me physically, but the fact that I didn't tell anyone meant I felt violated and is typical of kids who have been molested. They fear the supposed power of the person who's abused them and they don't tell anyone for fear they either won't be taken seriously or they'll get in trouble. Either way--it's sick and wrong. And this is one more reason why Mormon clergy ought to be trained and certified in pastoral care and counseling

JulieAnn Henneman said...

First I wanna know how you get so many comments and readers...second...have you kissed a boy yet? How was it? Was it wet, or dry or sloppy...? He he he

I would never allow my daughter into a bish interview alone if I were Mormon. Too many freaks.


xoxoja :0)

Jer said...

Stories like this confirm my decision to leave. The fact that my daughters will never be put in a similar situation is extremely comforting.

Kullervo said...


And this is one more reason why Mormon clergy ought to be trained and certified in pastoral care and counseling.


Since I have left the LDS church, I have realized more and more what total crap having a lay clergy is. This is not to say that professional clergy always do the right thing, but at least there's some training involved, and the practical consequences of screwing up are more weighty. A Mormon bishop goes over the line and he just gets released; no skin off his back. A Christian pastor (particularly in a larger, established denomination) goes over the line, and it's time to find a new career.

I'm sure there's no perfect system, but I'm also sure that the LDS system is unacceptable.

But of course the standard Mormon "it's a feature, not a bug" answer is that when Bishops are abusive it 's because God wanted to teach you something, or to give you the opportunity to learn forgiveness. Or some crap like that.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I remember being interviewed by the bishop for a temple trip and he asked me if I masturbated. I figured that it was worse to lie than to do what I been doing forever. So I said that I did. He asked me what I thought of when I did it. I told him, quite honestly, that I didn't think of anything as it was all very innocent and abstract. He told me that I could go to the temple if I refrained from doing so for 3 weeks. Longest 3 weeks of my life.

Steebie Weebie

sister sherrell said...

Being a Latter Day Saint is not about what it portrays or makes itself out to be. It is only what we receive spiritually and are able to accept of what we have been given. It was once told to me, that we are who we are when no one is looking. My bishop once told me that if we all had 18 things to "get", some may "get" 16 and still have to struggle with the last 2, where someone else may "get" 3 and all they need is 3.
If you are having a hard time leaving the church, perhaps you may want to keep the things that you know are true and ask that you will be in your rightful place in GOD's world a couple or 3 times a day, even each time you think of it. Your prayers will be answered. The Love never stops and the sparkle that you feel behind your eyes. that makes its way into what you see, when you look out at the beauty of what you know is spiritually real will always be right where you put it. The very best to you and all the love you will accept.