The Sexual Guilt Cycle in Mormonism
Dr. Darell Ray did some outstanding research on sexual guilt in religion. He gave David Packman an interesting interview in which explained that religions are obsessed with sex. He believes that when people have sex and feel guilty because of their religious upbringing, they only have one place to turn for forgiveness, their religions. If religions can control your penis and your vagina, then they can control you.
Mormonism is the master of sexual control. I believe that the general authorities genuinely believe that “misusing” the “powers of procreation” is a serious offense; thus I do not believe their motivation in controlling sex lives is to control people but control people they do! Allow me to share some memories first of how sexual guilt was instilled in me, second how it kept me tied to the Mormon church for a period in my life and third how I freed myself from it.
When I was a preteen, I found out that there were certain sins so serious that I had to talk to my Bishop about it. My parents told me that committing a “bishop” sin would ruin my life and the Bishop, a man five or six times my age, seemed so very scary; thus I resolved never to commit a “bishop” sin. Pornography, masturbation, and premarital sex were “bishop sins” (that’s how I understood it).
When I started going to the temple to do baptisms for the dead, maybe one or two youth would not be able to come. They were objects of humiliation and speculation. I didn’t want to be the person that people looked down at by sitting outside the temple.
Teachers, Bishops, and General Authorities obsessed in our meetings with pornography. I was convinced that looking at porn was a horrible wickedness.
When I started masturbating, I felt like trash. It took me about a year and a half to come out to my Bishop. During that period I felt that I was the worst teen in the ward. The teens that sat outside of the temple had the courage to go to the Bishop and face humiliation. I just assumed that the rest of the teens were “chaste.” ( I wonder now if there were others like me).
When I talked to the Bishop and quit, I felt redeemed. I told others that I used to be a bad person but that Jesus saved me.
Fast foward a few years. When I got back from my mission I was getting quite firm in my desire to leave the church. I made the decision to start masturbating again. I thought that because I saw things differently I might have a different experience. I felt like trash again. The guilt was so powerful that the only way I could silence it was by returning to the only consolation I had; my belief in the church. For months, I fell into this “sin”, returned to my belief in the church, returned to disbelief, and went back into this “sin.” My internal world was in chaos.
What helped me free myself from this cycle was coming out to selected people about what was going on. Another thing that helped me was to realize that I didn’t have to do it if I didn’t like how I felt. Sexual guilt faded away slowly; it was a process. Today I live without sexual guilt and when I look back I marvel at how effective the Mormon church was in creating an internal world in my mind in which sexual exploration outside of the marital bed was almost as bad as murder.