Thursday, October 22, 2015


Mormonism: Extending Power Through Sexual Control
By Max Crapo

At five years of age, I was caught “playing doctor” with the neighbor girl.  I remember very clearly my mother telling me that “God was ashamed of me.” I was utterly heartbroken.  From that moment in my life there was a gulf between me and God.  It is probably no surprise that as an adult I’m a non-believer in God. Truth is, my interest in the opposite sex at that age is normal.  It’s about then in the childhood development life cycle we become aware of gender differences. Growing up in a high-demand, high control cult though, sabotages normal sexual development.  For some reason most fundamentalist religions, whether they be Christian, Muslim or Mormon fixate on sexual control. It seems to be an outgrowth of the “Patriarchal” nature of religions which are offshoots of the Abrahamic philosophy.

Being raised in a traditional Mormon household, I was, of course, fascinated by these gender differences, a fascination which I am quite certain was heightened by the “taboo” nature of my interest. “Modesty” was the byword of the day and in obedience to the religious texts and rules of the culture, every attempt was made to thwart my natural curiosity in anything remotely sexual. Due to my mother’s unfortunate attempt at control, I was instantly indoctrinated with deep and abiding shame over sexual behavior.  Did it stop my curiosity?  Not in the slightest. It did however create feelings of despair, depression, anger, and self-hatred.

Where things get dicey is at the onset of puberty.  Suddenly, I was flooded with sexual desire.  It is an unfortunate truth that when boys hit puberty, testosterone production goes from zero to 100%. We are flooded with this hormone, and frankly have no idea what to do with it. It doesn’t take long before we figure out how to take care of the sexual needs, usually (and safely) through self-pleasure. Starting around age 12, I availed myself of this “safety-valve” and thought nothing of it. In my mind and innocence self-pleasure was unrelated to sex.

As Mormons grow up, the LDS church encourages the Bishops to start conducting worthiness interviews starting during adolescence. I was subjected to my first worthiness interview at age 15.  During the course of that interview the Bishop asked me questions about my sexual behavior. (These were questions asked behind closed doors with no parental supervision)

 “Are you sexually clean?” (Code words for “are you having sex with anyone.”)

"Yes sir."

“Do you have a problem with masturbation?” 

Masturbation? What’s that?” I quietly thought to myself.

“No sir, no problem.” 

Truthfully, it wasn’t a problem. Up to this point I had no idea that it was prohibited. I wondered if he was talking about self-pleasure though. When I got home, I looked it up in the dictionary…and the guilt came crashing in. I spent the next 30 years battling suicidal depression over this single issue. It was something I desperately tried to quit and was never quite able to do.

Sexual behavior is a frequently visited lesson in the Mormon Church.  Lessons which compare sexuality with “licked cupcakes” or chewed bubblegum are used to further stigmatize sexual behavior.  Girls are taught that their virtue is irreplaceable and to engage in sexual behavior is to destroy their value. Elizabeth Smart talks about how these teachings were a factor in extending her captivity after her abduction and subsequent rape.

My studies in sexual development  indicates that the onset of sexual hormone production in women follows a different path than men. Hormone production in women starts out very low and gradually increases over a period of several years, peaking usually in the mid-thirties. Women generally don’t become interested in sexual activity (in the average development cycle) until their late teens or early twenties. Sexual interest is not triggered until blood hormone levels reach a certain point. I’d hazard a guess that this is nature’s way to delay reproduction until adults have reached a point of emotional and mental maturity where taking on a dependent is feasible. Men’s testosterone production peaks shortly after puberty and then begins a slow decline over the rest of their life.

Sexuality becomes a target as a mechanism of control because our sexuality is at the core of our identity.  It colors every relationship we have. As such, the moment we are convinced to surrender our sexuality, we no longer own ourselves. It is much easier to gain control over sexuality when a child is young than as an adult. In shaming me over sexual interest at five years of age, my mother unwittingly began grooming me for sexual control by Mormon leadership. The levers of control are further deepened by making a sin of normal behavior (masturbation) and then starting “accountability” reviews through “worthiness interviews.”  By doing so, sexual control is stripped away, emotionally and mentally, and deposited in the hands of church leadership. When mental and emotional maturity are achieved, sexual behavior is tightly controlled through teachings of “proper” sexual activity, meaning sex only between husband and wife.

The Finger of Shame

The idea that my sexuality was subject to external control was cemented in that very first worthiness interview. As one programmed from early youth to believe in God, and that church leaders were the “representatives of God,” I willingly handed over my control of my sexuality to an external entity, one who I believed had the right and the power to judge me. In my view, my very salvation was in the hands of the Bishop; this man, who in Mormon theology is a “judge in Israel” and tasked with overseeing my salvation.

Worthiness interviews are a requirement throughout the life of a Mormon. As a member approaches adulthood, young men are encouraged to serve missions (encouragement is very heavy handed, stopping just short of “requirement”) and women are permitted to go if they wish.  Heaven help any youth who succumbs to “sexual sin.” Mormon theology teaches that “sexual sin is second only to murder in its seriousness.” The consequences of this teaching are profound and serious, to families who have ejected children from homes to youths who have committed suicide for failure to maintain “sexual purity.”  I have lost friends and my children have lost friends to suicide over this very issue.

Once a member becomes an adult, they are encouraged to attend the temple where they are compelled to accept certain covenants, one of which is a covenant to “the Law of Chasity” which states that you will not have sex except with your husband or wife to whom you are legally and lawfully married.  Most Mormons are not married when they first go through the temple. This occurs at a period when a member is the most likely to engage in sexual activity without marriage. They are single and within a period of high hormone production.

Mormon Leaders use public humiliation as a method of punishment.  It’s done subtly (in most cases) where the transgressor is forbidden from participating in public venues. For young men this means that they are not permitted to bless and pass the Sacrament, a public service. If they are asked to participate they have to tell their peers that they are not permitted to do so.  While they are not required to tell their peers “why” they are unable to participate, the rest of the peers are free to try to guess…thus ensuring public humiliation. Depending on the “seriousness” of the transgression, they can also be forbidden for praying in class, giving a talk, teaching a lesson and so on. Social ostracizing is employed to encourage behavioral conformity.

Interestingly, short of being “excommunicated” (stripped of church membership) one of the requirements for reinstatement is “paying tithing.” If tithing is not paid, the transgressor will remain on “probation” until tithing is caught up, regardless of the transgressor’s “forsaking the behavior” for which he/she is accused.

Guilt and shame are employed to keep the member constantly striving to please their external “handler” which is always a church leader. Worthiness interviews are where control is enacted. As adults there are two church leaders tasked with worthiness interviews; one by the Bishop (similar to a pastor in charge of a congregation) and a Stake President, who is in charge of a group of congregations. Worthiness is expressed in the form of a signed temple recommend signed by both the Bishop and the Stake President.

Mormonism is a religion which worships sex.  In fact, for almost 200 years the church has taught that only in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom will one be able to procreate and progress. It is a reward given only to those who are obedient to all the laws and commandments of Mormonism. Worthy men will be given the “worthy” wives of unworthy men.  An eternity of sex with multiple women becomes the ultimate reward. Recently, with public scrutiny on Mormonism, LDS leaders have downplayed this doctrinal teaching.

It is simple to break this cycle of control...simple but not easy.  All one must do is recognize that their sexuality is theirs to control. It is that simple. Unfortunately, it is the rejection of shame and guilt, indoctrinated since birth that’s hard. A lifetime of indoctrination isn’t rejected overnight. Fundamentally, it is a shift from an “external locus of control” (owned by church leaders) to an “internal locus of control” (self-directed). The moment you reclaim your sexual control, you have severed your connection with the church.

Sexual control is so integral to the church that its loss of control over your sexual behavior is grounds for excommunication, judged and condemned as “the loss of your worthiness.” You might not be excommunicated for reclaiming your control but the moment you act on it, you are subject to church punishment up to and including the severing of your membership. This is done through a so-called "Court of Love" where you must stand and be judged by the Stake High Council, comprised of a group of 12 men. By most accounts, excommunication for sexual sins is a most "humiliating experience."

Such a "court" is a violation of privacy, an exposure of the most intimate of acts to a group of men who have ordained themselves the arbiters of your sexual purity. It is the most egregious violation of boundaries and a fundamental sign of a cult. In Mormonism, the very word "morality" is a pseudonym for "sexuality" and your worthiness hinges on your sexual compliance to church rules...and because it is so central to the core of your very identity, it is the most powerful lever of control.


  1. I know that you are speaking of your own experiences Max, but there are literally a million Mormon men who could write their name at the bottom of your article and say "me too." Thank you for helping all of us understand a bit better that it is the church, and unfortunately our country's continued obsession with Puritanism, that is at fault for our societally imposed guilt over our very nature.

    1. Thank you, Dwight. I know many LDS Children are subjected to personal questions regarding their sexual behavior in one-on-one interviews with a man who is neither their parent, nor trained in counseling. I find it horrifying that people trust their children to these men solely on the fact that they are an "ecclesiastical leader."

      From my own experience, being asked to divulge intensely personal details about my sexuality to someone who was basically a stranger was an intensely uncomfortable situation to experience. Today, I see it as a complete violation of boundaries and verging on criminal sexual harassment of a child.

  2. Hey there's a fascinating documentary that focuses on the sexual control of Christianity that you might find interesting.

  3. Fantabulous! Orgazmic Relief baby! Pop that cork!...seize the day! Thier fear and guilt is destructive and son went to Israel and while there was on the sea of Galilee and had an opportunity to be ordained a Teacher right on those waters...but the bishop would not approve it.

  4. The following is an absolute-must-read on the subject:

    I will never let an LDS leader indoctrinate my sons into believing that masturbation is inherently "evil" or wrong -- any more than passing gas is! These are natural urges and functions, given to us by God for a DIVINE purpose! The mere fact that boys -- as early as 12 -- experience INTENSE sexual desires and manifest NEED to express those impulses demonstrates that masturbation is intended to be the mechanism by which males PREPARE for maturity and matrimony. The machinery must TURN ON and work right LONG (no pun intended) before it is needed! This doesn't happen all at once, or only on one's wedding night, any more than a car, never having been started for ten or 20 years, would run "just fine" the moment you stick the key in the ignition!

    While sexual conduct WITH OTHERS is intended to be postponed until marriage, innate sexuality CANNOT be suppressed, except by extraordinary (deleterious and unnatural) means and controls, ALL tending toward abnormal and dysfunctional development.

    What one does with one's self in the privacy of one's own bathroom (or toilet stall) is NEVER the business of ANY church leader -- unless one is HURTING one's self. (And masturbation, except when done to excess, hardly qualifies for ecclesiastical scrutiny.)

    Good men often rue the impulses that drive them to masturbate. But when they are old, they probably look back with admiration and fondness at the power and grace, good fortune and amazing sensations that once motivated them to act, giving them a sex drive. We love (or hate) our sex drive when we're young, but miss (or appreciate) it when we're old.

    I, for one, am grateful that, for me, the age of "indomitable" desire has passed. (Now it's at least "manageable.") Fortunately, OLD AGE delivers us from temptation, thank God, when nothing else will! So just hold on! (Again, no pun intended.)

    There is NO VIRTUE in NOT having a sex drive. (I've known a few people so "cursed" with no drive.) Only by properly CHANNELING this drive do we demonstrate really virtue. Bearing your soul to a bishop so he can punish you for doing something VIRTUALLY ALL MANKIND is incapable of perfectly arresting is ludicrous and sinful, in and of itself.

    If you have experience otherwise, please share with us. Many of us here would like to benefit from your perfect example.

  5. Trigger Warning * details of molest included in these comments.

    Max, Thank you for creating such a well written article on the realities of all this!
    I experienced molest while being subjected to the whole "worthiness interview" as a young Mormon girl. I felt utterly shamed and felt as if there was no way out except to hide my shame and guilt!

    I know I am not the only one. After posting about what happened to me, I have becomes friends with a man who also was sexually molested during the "worthiness interview".
    The horrible reality of this man's story is that his mother thought she saw him touching himself and he hadn't even discovered masturbating At that point in his life. He was only 10 years old. Upon "thinking" she saw him touching himself, she sent him to the bishop so the bishop could deal with it. The bishop had him expose himself to him so he could see what his mother was talking about.. and the details he experienced of molest by this bishop are so heartbreaking. I understand the difficulty in speaking out all to well.

    My story has been shared public on a blog by Sam Young. If you are reading this and the time window is still open for signing the petition to ask the Mormon church to stop these interviews, you can find a link to the petition on Sam's blog.

    The link to my story is here:

    The link to the petition is here:

    This article, Max, helped me to see another piece to my own puzzle: how my mother (shaming me for masturbating) was unwittingly grooming me and SETTIMG ME UP forsexual control by Mormon leadership -which, in my case, was also a sexual predator and and pedophile!

    1. Thanks for sharing your story Amy. I truly hope we can figure out a way to end the church's "worthiness interviews." They are much more harmful than members think.