Current and former members of the Mormon Church are calling for an end to the practice of asking children as young as eight intimate and sexual questions during annual interviews by church officials.
“I suffered with a lot of guilt, because I did things we weren’t supposed to do,” 27-year-old David Sheppard told the Victoria Derbyshire programme.
“They teach us masturbation is just below murder, and I felt like I was some sort of sexual deviant or pervert for doing it.”
Mr Sheppard, from London, was brought up within the Mormon Church.
From the age of 12 he was interviewed alone in a room by a bishop for what is known as a “worthiness interview”.
The Mormon Church is divided into wards, similar to parishes, with the bishop being the spiritual head of a local ward.
The worthiness interviews, the church says, are designed to prepare children and teenagers spiritually and ensure they are obeying the commandments.
They often start around a child’s eighth birthday, when Mormon children are baptised, and then again at the age of 12.
They are meant to be carried out at least annually thereafter into adulthood.
The most controversial element of the interviews relates to something known as “the law of chastity”, though some bishops choose not to ask questions about sex.
In the Mormon Church – officially known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – sex outside of marriage, pornography and masturbation are banned.
Mr Sheppard says between the ages of 16 and 19 he had “a few girlfriends” with whom he had intimate relationships, without having sex.
“I decided to confess to what I had been doing and it resulted in six hours of interrogation,” he adds.
“They asked questions like, ‘Did you touch her?’ and ‘Did you make her orgasm?’.
“They even tried to get me to give up the names of the girls so that she could be dealt with.
“At one point during the interview I felt sick from anxiety and asked to leave and go to the toilet but they wouldn’t let me do that.
“I felt as though I had a total loss of control.”
The interviews are conducted in a closed room, one-on-one with an older male bishop, unless the child or teenager requests another person to be present.
They have caused controversy in the US, and now in the UK – where the church says there are 190,000 believers – a campaign to stop the practice is gaining ground.
Read the full story at the BBC