My response to a TBM defending worthiness interviews.
You said, “we want our children to adopt responsibility…”
This is fundamentally our responsibility as parents, to teach our children healthy boundaries, responsible behavior, good decision making, and accountability.
You also are absolutely correct that these are powerful ideas. They are, unfortunately, often imposed and cemented through the use of sexual shame. We (and our children) are indoctrinated to believe that an external entity (in this case an untrained representative purported to be an intermediary with God, otherwise known as a "Bishop") has the right…nay, the responsibility to tell us what and how we are to think, act, and utilize our sexual organs.
Sex is simply the most personal and private act of every individual’s life. In indoctrinating our children that our genitals are not “ours”, we have stolen control of the most fundamental aspect of “self.” Our very identity is tied up and expressed in our sexuality.
Fundamentally, a worthiness interview is a place of interrogation. A child is called in, cross examined, sometimes pressured for information on bedroom behavior, and held to standards which in many cases they don’t yet even comprehend. Further, they are shamed if they have thought about sex, touched themselves (normal behavior), or are a victim of abuse. Even outside of the Bishop's office they receive messages all through their adolescence that sex is the “sin next to murder,” that even thinking about sex is sinful (“as ye think so are ye”), even told to try to sing a hymn if sex crosses their minds. An adult has made covenants in the temple regarding the “law of chastity.” A child has not. So why is a child being held to the standards of a grown, responsible adult, and punished for bedroom behavior as though they were an adult?
You also said, “…to find purpose and discover their innate worth in such pursuits.” In all of the stories which are flooding the Internet, on PLDSC.org and in many Facebook forums, the one startling fact is that children (and many adults) are having their “innate worth” destroyed by the sexual shame indoctrinated in Mormonism.
Even if the only question is “do you keep the law of chastity” the Bishop has just asked a sexual question of a minor. If the child doesn’t know the answer, answers incorrectly, or has been abused, the bishop is then free to explore in explicit nature the depths of the child’s “depravity” ⁄s and assign public punishment for private behavior, putting the child at risk for bullying behavior, shame, depression and suicide.
The very idea that “sex is the sin next to murder” is absurd. Our very humanness is intricately tied to our sexuality. It is an act in which we may express our deepest emotions. It is often so deeply tied to our emotional well being that sexual shame can completely warp our most important relationships. There is literally nothing about sex that is shameful. Regardless of whether shame is imposed by a parent, a peer, a teacher, or a bishop, the shame that is imposed IS about controlling another person, making them feel worthless, getting them to surrender their most innate self into mental bondage. The “worthiness interview’s” purpose is to inculcate shame and offer church leaders boundary crossing access for controlling members.
This pervasive idea that sexual activity has anything to do with “worth” just doesn’t hold up in examination. A person is “worthy” just by virtue of their existence. I’m really confused with the perception that a person regardless of age is somehow “lessened” for having sexual experience, especially when we are at our most fundamental, basic, humanness…sexual beings.
While a person can be “irresponsible”, even "immoral" in the expression of sexual activity, I am unable to be convinced that they are either damaged, or are damaging others, or are somehow less worthy or immoral through consensual sexual activity. In "non-consensual" sexual activity all children (and assaulted adults) are victims.
Further, the “worthiness” demanded by Mormonism is an arbitrary standard that is literally unenforceable if a person chooses not to reveal their sexual activity in these interviews. Some have attended the temple anyway. I personally wouldn’t, but there are those who have told me that they did.
Is the proxy work for the dead invalidated because these people weren’t worthy? Would God be that petty? Did it somehow diminish the spirit for those who attended "worthily?"