Better Late than Never: You’re the Bishop! (Poll #7)

By: Bishop Bill
September 17, 2011

Bishop Bill, back after a long needed vacation! Just to reintroduce this section, its called “You’re the Bishop”. My name is Bishop Bill. I was Bishop for 6 years in a medium sized ward in the South West.

Once every few weeks I’ll post a situation that I had while I was bishop, and let you decide how to handle it. I have changed the people and circumstances when needed so that no confidences are compromised, and not even the person about whom I drew the situation would recognize him/her and the source. Everybody gets to play, even the ladies out there.

Now, on to You’re the Bishop.

Poll #7:  Better Late than Never

An elderly widow in your ward asks to talk to you. You bring her in your office, and she nervously tells you that she has been reading Kimball’s “The Miracle of Forgiveness” She says she got to the part on sexual sins, and says there this something she needs to tell you. You can’t imagine what in the world this sister (in her 80’s) could need to tell you. She has held many callings in the church during her life, and her now departed husband held many very high level callings while alive.

She then precedes to tell you that before she and her husband was married over 60 years ago, that she and her then fiancée did ” inappropriate sexual things.”  You can tell she is very embarrassed in having to tell this to somebody young enough to be her grandson. She said that after reading Kimball’s book, she realized how serious this sin was. She said it was never confessed before they got their temple recommends. She has been feeling guilty for weeks now, and needed to tell you about it. She adds that after marriage, she was completely faithful to her husband.

You're the bishop. What do you do? (#7)

  • Due to the passage of time and her faithfulness, all has been forgiven years ago. She has nothing to feel guilty about. She should stop worrying about it and remain faithful. (63%, 113 Votes)
  • You tell her that the book she read should more appropriately have been named “It’s a Miracle Anybody is Forgiven," and that she should go home and burn it. (31%, 55 Votes)
  • Ask more questions to find out what “inappropriate” means, so you can find out how far they went. (5%, 9 Votes)
  • You counsel her on the seriousness of sexual sin, next to murder. You tell her that she should not take the sacrament for 4 weeks, after which you'll meet with her again. (1%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 180

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Or would you do something else?  Why?  Discuss.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

54 Responses to Better Late than Never: You’re the Bishop! (Poll #7)

  1. E on September 17, 2011 at 7:11 AM

    Certainly although you might be thinking “burn the book”. You would never dismiss her concern that way. Also who freaking cares what the transgression was? That’s why I chose the option of just telling her all is well and don’t worry about it anymore.

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  2. el oso on September 17, 2011 at 7:54 AM

    One question for her: Have you felt the spirit whisper forgiveness or “well done” or burning testimony to your heart and mind over the last 50+ years? I suspect that the answer is yes, many times. If she still needs more reassurance, discuss some spiritual highlights of her life. Is the bishop’s role any less than to allow people to feel this?

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  3. Stephen Marsh on September 17, 2011 at 8:21 AM

    Miracle of Forgiveness convinced a lot of people I know that they could be forgiven. Interesting how others take a different view of it.

    I’d have a fifth choice:

    [x] Ask her what she feels she needs to forgive herself and then listen to the Spirit.

    Repentance is about reconciliation. It is about what the person needs to feel healed, and that is what should be focused on.

    Or that is my thought.

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  4. John Roberts on September 17, 2011 at 9:03 AM

    The tools available to a Bishop to help an individual through the repentance process- disfellowshipment, just as an example- are time-limited in their application.

    Surely, after all these years, these tools are no longer efficacious.

    I would counsel this woman to go directly to the Saviour and counsel with him to clear up any residual guilt she may feel.

    You never know what might happen.

    Sometimes when we approach the Lord for one reason, He ends up having a message for us regarding something entirely different.

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  5. Eman on September 17, 2011 at 9:51 AM

    I’d make her suffer like every poor sop who’s ever crawled into a bishop’s office to confess to heavy petting. Every 19- year-old missionary-in-training who confesses to masturbarbqtion (even though his bishop and every other male including the GAs probably does, and often) deserves to see grandma squirm. Let the crone squirm! Why, does age get a pass? Shouldn’t everyone just keep mum about their private sexual activities until their deathbed?

    Fair is fair; and the point is—you lied, Granny. Repent for being a liar too while you’re at it.

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  6. L-dG on September 17, 2011 at 10:43 AM

    Eman, that is one of the most horrible things I’ve ever read in my life… Also, it’s one of the funniest.

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  7. Justin on September 17, 2011 at 12:10 PM

    So this sweet lady, who was faithful and loving to her husband for 60 years, feels like a horrible person for doing stuff with him shortly before they got married? Her entire life!?

    Good thing she was a member of the Church so she could experience its “blessings” and “happiness” her entire life…

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  8. jmb275 on September 17, 2011 at 1:25 PM

    Oh man! I really wanted to combine option #1 and option #4. She should not worry about it, and then go home burn the book, and warn everyone not to read it.

    BTW, I read that book before my mission. I was certain I was going to go to hell. Seriously, I was in my bishop’s office every week (took me a few weeks to read it) the 3 months prior to my mission. I would dig up EVERYTHING I thought, saw, or did that may have been questionable. Finally my bishop basically told me to go away and stop worrying about it. I’m not sure I’m completely unique either.

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  9. Jared on September 17, 2011 at 3:08 PM

    Re: The Miracle of Forgiveness

    When I’m asked about the “Miracle of Forgiveness”, I use the quotes below as a guide to my response. Note the tepid endorsement by Pres. Monson.

    The best book I know for those needing/wanting to repent is the Book of Mormon. From there, repentance needs to be individually experienced.

    I’m writing an internet book on the first principle of the gospel, so I’ve been studying repentance in the context of the first principles.

    Here are two links from the book for those interested in this gospel topic.

    If you read what I’ve written, I’d appreciate a critique.

    1. http://www.ldsaliveinchrist.com/2011/04/repentance-made-easy-part-1-justification/

    2. http://www.ldsaliveinchrist.com/2011/05/repentance-made-easy-part-2-sanctification/

    ————————————–
    “As one reads the book, particularly the first portion, one wonders if anyone will make it to the Celestial Kingdom. However, in reading the final portion, it is apparent that, with effort, all can qualify.” – Thomas Monson , To the Rescue , p. 374. Also, On the Lord’s Errand, p.342

    ————————

    “I suggest that you read President Spencer W. Kimball’s inspired book The Miracle of Forgiveness. It continues to help the faithful avoid the pitfalls of serious transgression. It likewise is an excellent handbook for those who have committed serious errors and want to find their way back. Read the last two chapters first to appreciate the full miracle of forgiveness before reading anything else.” Richard G. Scott, The Path to Peace and Joy, Oct 2000 General Conference

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  10. Stephen Marsh on September 17, 2011 at 4:27 PM

    Jared, thanks for sharing the links.

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  11. John Roberts on September 17, 2011 at 8:33 PM

    My number-two son received his mission call last January. He shortly received a “mission library” list of books he was expected or allowed to take on his mission.

    The Mission President specifically addressed “Miracle of Forgiveness”. He actually advised that his missionaries read it after their missions, to avoid over-counseling with their bishops before they came out into the mission field.

    In the mid-seventies, I once heard President Kimball discussing his book. He indicated that the initial message he wanted to present was contained in the last two chapters (hence the title), and that he would have liked to have re-written it had he had the time.

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  12. jks on September 18, 2011 at 12:21 AM

    I’m surprised you don’t have my response there. I think it is too extreme to tell her that she should NOT have been feeling guilty. And I think it is too extreme the other way to make her sweat it out and come back in four weeks.
    Accept her confession (rather than dismissing it) and tell her to go and sin no more. Seems pretty straightforward.

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  13. jmb275 on September 18, 2011 at 10:49 AM

    Re jks

    I’m surprised you don’t have my response there. I think it is too extreme to tell her that she should NOT have been feeling guilty. And I think it is too extreme the other way to make her sweat it out and come back in four weeks.
    Accept her confession (rather than dismissing it) and tell her to go and sin no more. Seems pretty straightforward.

    Yeah, I think that’s reasonable. Here’s why I don’t agree though. In this case, I would say the confession portion is nothing more than the checking off of an item on a “stages of repentance” checklist. What does it mean to repent if not to amend one’s ways and spend the next 60 years in service to her fellows? In other words, what does the confession profit anyone other than torturing her with humiliation and further guilt and shame?

    Also, FWIW, I can’t help but look at this situation and feel pity for someone who is so worked up over the nature of her clearly non-grievous sexual sins of long ago. Why aren’t her actions over the past 60 years an indication of her discipleship? In other words, why are we so hung up on sexual sins? It’s just something I’ve never understood. More specifically, I understand why they CAN be grievous, but it’s not at all obvious to me that the minor ones we fret about are really against some almighty heavenly law.

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  14. Ray on September 18, 2011 at 11:38 AM

    The Miracle of Forgiveness works really well for someone who is mired deeply in sin and realizes while reading the final chapters that s/he really can be forgiven.

    It doesn’t work at all for those who are “normal sinners” like me and granny.

    I wouldn’t burn it; I would recommend it only to those who are like an alcoholic who needs intervention NOW – those mired in “serious”, habitual sin. I also would share Elder Scott’s quote Jared included in #9. (Thanks, Jared.)

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  15. Jeff Spector on September 18, 2011 at 12:02 PM

    I hesitated to make any comments because it all seems so obvious that the woman is guiltless after all this time.

    True repentance is not a moment in time to be passed, but a life lived to demonstrate.

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  16. Will on September 18, 2011 at 1:56 PM

    There is no pillow so soft as that of a clear conscience.

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  17. L-dG on September 18, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    Have you tried memory foam, Will? It’s pretty awesome too.

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  18. Douglas on September 18, 2011 at 10:20 PM

    Would agree with jmb275 about combining responses 1 and 4. Especially #4! Having read MoF several times, though I appreciate the times and context that then Elder Kimball was dealing with (and I say that considering all the “hard cases” which he had to work with as an Apostle at the time, if I’d done only one-tenth of what he’d done and turned out only ten times as cranky, THEN I could criticise), since the book was prefaced as being Kimball’s own work and not necessarily scripture, then we should take him at his word and consider his observations but his (well-experienced) opinion and nothing more. But criticise MoF among the faithful and you’ve all but blasphemed! It was probably NOT SWK’s intention to convey the message “it’s a Miracle if your Forgiven”, though it’s quite understandable to conclude that from reading MoF. To those that put this work right up there with Talmadge’s work (Articles of Faith, Jesus the Christ), I say, “brother and/or sister, can you please cite the General Conference where the work ‘MoF’ by SWK had been previously voted upon by the First Presidency, affirmed by the Quorum of the Twelve, and presented to the body of the Church in Conference to be accepted as scripture?” If you did, you’d likely get a blank stare.
    As for the elderly sister, naturally it’d be a given that her life and presumably that of her now-deceased husband should be amply evident that they’ve more than repented and need not be worried that the Lord has anything against her. Were I to inquire any further, it would be ONLY to ensure that she understood that she need not have suffered guilt for all these decades. That, IMO, is part of the fruits of repentance…the blessing of being able to honestly lay aside the burden of guilt and move on. I would assure her that the Lord has, from the very moment that any transgression occurred, wanted to forgive her far quicker than she’d want to be forgiven, and that she need only avail herself of it. I would want to assure her that I’d do my best to be an adequate role model, whatever my shortcomings may be.
    Though this situation is hypothetical, I fear that all too often, members in general and Priesthood leaders in particular tend all to often to get on their respective self-righteous high horses and hammer errant members on the guilt trip. The role of the Lord’s Church IS to bring people to him, not guilt them as to how far they’ve strayed!

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  19. Toni on September 18, 2011 at 10:58 PM

    I don’t have the reference, but I remember reading that so many people came to Spencer Kimball after reading that book, that he asked another general authority to help him. When that person asked, “What shall I do?”, he was told “forgive them.” I got the impression that he wished he hadn’t written the book, but I can’t remember the exact words that gave me that impression. (Perhaps someone here is familiar with that quote – Pres Monson in a conference?)

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  20. Toni on September 18, 2011 at 10:59 PM

    I meant that Pres Monson may have been the one to mention that, as he spoke in a general conference.

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  21. andrew h on September 18, 2011 at 11:25 PM

    Vaughn J Featherstone tells a story similar to the one in the OP where a couple comes in and confesses to having been immoral just before their Temple Wedding 40 ears earlier. He takes them to President Kimabll who tells them that they have been forgiven. The talk is called “No Pther Talent Exceeds Spirituality” Look under the bold heading “Repentance” about 3/4 of the way through the talk.

    http://news.yahoo.com/behind-poverty-numbers-real-lives-real-pain-151738270.html

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  22. andrew h on September 18, 2011 at 11:26 PM

    Oops! I posted the wrong link. Sorry. Here is the link to Elder Featherstones talk at the BYU Speeches website:

    http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=6130&x=63&y=6

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  23. andrew h on September 18, 2011 at 11:30 PM

    President Kimball did, apparently, feel he had been to harsh in MOF.

    The story on that can be found in “The Working Draft” of Ed Kimball’s book “Lengthen Your Stride.” If you are one of the Lucky 400 people that bought a copy from Benchmark in Salt Lake, or if you have the CD-Rom version from Deseret Book, go to the first page of Chapter 8.

    A story is related there that President Kimball told a Temple President that, “I might have been a little too strong about some of the things I wrote in this book.”

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  24. hawkgrrrl on September 19, 2011 at 5:42 AM

    Maybe MoF should be subtitled “For Sociopaths Only.” It could be required reading on Death Row.

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  25. Paul on September 19, 2011 at 6:26 AM

    Well, Bishop Bill, your pithy answers are of course a little too short (as most multiple choice answers are). Clearly you want to listen to the spirit, not only to know how YOU should act, but to discern what this lovely sister needs to help calm her heart.

    For some it is simply the act of confessing. For others it is more reassurance. But of course you’re right that the passage of time and a lifetime of faithfulness have demonstrated her repentance. But she still may need some help healing from the pain of guilt.

    As for SWK’s book — I read it on my mission, and have read it since then. I still recommend it, though Elder Scott’s advice is great (and it is advice I’ve given, too).

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  26. Jeff Spector on September 19, 2011 at 7:13 AM

    If you listen to the Classic Speeches at BYU that President Kimball gave in the 50s and 60s, he was a pretty hard line guy. His rant on shorts is a classic!

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  27. mormon metamucil on September 19, 2011 at 8:02 AM

    “Thank you for coming in, but this does not put your membership in the church in jeopardy. Members need only confess issues that jeopardize their membership status. My opinion is that God has forgiven you, but you should take that up with Him.”

    The more we can get members to work out their own salvation, the better.

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  28. hawkgrrrl on September 19, 2011 at 8:30 AM

    I definitely agree with those who said the best answer is to help the sister identify that she’s been forgiven (not just tell her she has been) by talking to her about her relationship to HF and when she feels forgiven. But clearly, living faithfully 60 years speaks louder than her transgression.

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  29. Bishop Bill on September 19, 2011 at 11:22 AM

    I did pretty much #2. Then later, I was at a priesthood leadership meeting for bishops and Stake Presidents that was broadcast from SLC, and Pres Monson told the following story: He was driving home late from the office and felt prompted to stop by the house of some old friends of his. He knocked on the door, and the couple welcomed him in, and said they needed to talk with him. The husband then proceeded to tell Monson that a few weeks before they were married 0ver 50 years ago, they had sex, and because of the large temple wedding planned, had not told anybody. They had decided to make it up to the Lord by fulfilling their calling 100%. Pres Monson said that they had each help very high calling in the church. He told the couple that they were forgiven long ago, and that they should not worry about it any longer.
    I guess my only concern was that for over 50 years, this couple had this in the back of their mind, and every time they heard a talk about repentance, it would come back to the surface. I also wonder about the brother, who was probably a bishop and stake president during his life. Was he more compassionate when people came to him and confessed a similar sin?
    My bottom line when handling things like this is to follow the example of David O McKay, who told a friend that “When problems like this come to me, I say to myself, sometime I shall meet my Father in heaven and what will he say? He will forgive you if you err on the side of mercy”

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  30. jmb275 on September 19, 2011 at 2:41 PM

    Re Hawkgrrrl

    I definitely agree with those who said the best answer is to help the sister identify that she’s been forgiven (not just tell her she has been) by talking to her about her relationship to HF and when she feels forgiven. But clearly, living faithfully 60 years speaks louder than her transgression.

    Here’s my issue with this (generally agree, but I think it has an issue). See I would claim that the “reasonable” thing to conclude (with even a casual glance at the scriptures) is what’s been observed in the comments (she would not worry about it). Her needing to feel like she’s forgive, IMHO, is primarily a function of her conditioning in life, and MUCH LESS a function of her relationship to HF or any reality of an actual sin. In other words, she’s not the one with the problem, or God, it’s what she’s been led to believe her whole life that has a problem (clearly exacerbated by reading that book).

    My suspicion is if she actually worried more about what HF thought, and less about what SWK, the church, or anyone else thought, she probably wouldn’t have come in in the first place (but maybe I’m projecting my version of God onto her).

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  31. Paul on September 19, 2011 at 3:00 PM

    jmb, I disagree.

    If we accept that covenants and commandments are important, and if we accept that worthiness is important (and most faithful latter-day saints accept those ideas), then it is easy to see that this dear sister might have felt guilt even absent SWK’s book. It is highly likely that she felt it much earlier in her life.

    My own observation is that those who are faithful who confront that guilt and resolve it in the end are stronger and more faithful. Seeing the power of the atonement in one’s life is a remarkable thing and a blessing. Sometimes the process of repentance is the only way to realize that astounding blessing.

    Now it may in fact be that this sister’s actions early in her life were inconsequential. We don’t know. And I’ve made an assumption about what she felt earlier in her life which may also be incorrect.

    But a cleansing and healing conversation — whenever one feels the need to have it — is a wonderful gift.

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  32. Jeff Spector on September 19, 2011 at 3:44 PM

    I think that God is much more merciful on us than we are on ourselves, most of the time. the cleansing power of the Atonement is effective in our lives to the extent we are faithful and strive to do our best.

    If the Sister has clearly forsaken the sin, she needs to realize that the Savior’s Atonement takes care of the rest. Even if it wasn’t confessed to an authority when it occured. she needs to forgive herself on both counts. That is the help the Bishop can and should offer.

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  33. Eman on September 19, 2011 at 7:34 PM

    Well, on a more serious note (and I was serious, though snarky, before):

    1. Why is close-to-deathbed repentance even admirable at all? Why is she supposedly forgiven just because she was finally honest? Would she be just as glibly forgiven is she had embezzled? Murdered? Sexual sin is still next to murder, isn’t it?

    2. Given this example, why should engaged couples not just sleep together if they want to, especially since marriage and time make everything all right in the end? Throw in a few crocodile tears sixty years later and all is forgiven and forgotten.

    3. What is the measure of true repentance, anyway? You marry the person with whom you transgressed? Okay–so to make up for it, you…have more sex?

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  34. Will on September 19, 2011 at 7:58 PM

    Eman,

    To repent means to turn away, or turn from some activity, tendency or behavior. Confession to a priesthood leader is good to the extent a relationship of trust is established – a confidant that can provide measurable accountability. It is a tremendous aide to those who are involved in addictive behavior. It also weakens the adversary and creates a fair fight – no one can beat the adversary on these types of battles by themselves, no one.

    With some events, confession is not always necessary for repentance. Some can turn away from a one-time event without this step. Remember, we are not judged by what we have done, but by what we become. A single event may change us for the better and provide a constant reminder and motivation; while an addictive activity will always make us weaker.

    With this in mind, all of us will face some behavior, activity or event that we cannot solve by ourselves. This is the whole purpose of the Atonement. It is real and it can correct behavior, activity or tendencies that we cannot fix on our own. In these events, we need the Savior. We need a trusted confidant. We need someone to help us fight the adversary.

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  35. Meldrum on September 19, 2011 at 8:46 PM

    I am engaged to be married next month. After resisting much temptation we finally went too far last night. We really don’t want to cancel the big temple wedding. After reading President Monson’s advice in #29, we are going forward with the wedding and will make it up to the Lord by doing our callings 100% for the next 60 years. We were going to anyway. Then in the year 2071 she can straighten out the mess with some yet unborn Bishop after I die. Everybody pretty much OK with that?

    I thought so.

    I think what is clouding the issue is the false connection between mandated confession to a possibly voyeurist church leader and actual repentance followed by genuine forgiveness. The bishop isn’t there as a hostile guard at the gates of heaven. He is supposed to be a guide and sherpa to help members carry some loads that are exceedingly heavy. If you want to carry rocks in your backpack your whole life instead of allowing someone to help you take them out, that is your business. If you make it, then kudos to you.

    Sounds like granny was either stubborn enough to carry the rocks for 60 years or got them out without help at some point.

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  36. Ray on September 19, 2011 at 9:02 PM

    Eman:

    1) Repentance is repentance – and Jesus said the 11th hour worker would be paid the exact same amount as the one who worked all day. No, not all sexual sin is next to murder. If you care:

    http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2011/06/sexual-sins-are-not-next-to-murder.html

    2) Seriously? There’s no real answer to that question other than a shake of the head – and maybe a heart transplant.

    3) Yes, that is the proper course of action – IF you really love the person and want to marry him or her. Great perk, don’t you think?

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  37. Bea on September 19, 2011 at 11:23 PM

    @33. 36: Marriage to a fellow partner in sexual sin might be the custom or the expectation, but I also question how that can be considered “repentance.” Is that really forsaking sin?

    Love is not enough. Hormones are not enough. Marriage because one is immature or eager to “stop sinning” by “becoming legal” (a la BYU Vegas wedding lore) is pretty darn crass.

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  38. Paul on September 20, 2011 at 6:33 AM

    33, Eman: Although I don’t much like your tone, your questions are interesting. Is there a place for confession in repentance? I think there is. Is it better for that confession to come early rather than late? Yes. Is it better to come late than not at all? Yes.

    This is not about church discipline (though there is a role for that, too), but repentance. The weight of sin can be an oppressive burden to the believer. Watching the atonement work on someone’s life as that burden is lifted is a remarkable thing. Having it work in one’s own life is even more remarkable.

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  39. Meldrum the Less on September 20, 2011 at 7:28 AM

    Hey, Eman- concerning point #3.

    Marriage isn’t sex.

    Actually there are many running jokes based on the irony that marriage is a good way to not have sex. All that aside, marriage is about taking care of a complicated creature called woman and it isn’t easy and not always laughs and giggles. Sex is about 5% of the picture, maybe 10-20% the first few months.

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  40. notknowingbeforehand on September 20, 2011 at 8:08 AM

    The most important thing that Bishop Bill can do for this suffering sister is give her relief. He should invoke authority, revelation, the voice of God himself to tell her that she is forgiven and that she should be happy. People are more important than theology or doctrine. By the way I voted for a 4 week sacrament because of my love of dark humor.

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  41. jmb275 on September 20, 2011 at 2:26 PM

    Re Paul

    If we accept that covenants and commandments are important, and if we accept that worthiness is important (and most faithful latter-day saints accept those ideas), then it is easy to see that this dear sister might have felt guilt even absent SWK’s book. It is highly likely that she felt it much earlier in her life.

    No, it’s absolutely possible to accept that covenants and commandments are important, as well as worthiness, without admitting she should feel guilty. Why? Because what you really mean is “if we accept that LDS covenants, and commandments are important, and LDS notions of worthiness is important…” And that underscores my point. Guy x in religion y may have made a covenant to wear a certain article of clothing his whole life. But I would certainly never think him a sinner if he took it off one day. The point is, it’s her conditioning that has led her to believe that what she did is a sin and that she has to go see her bishop to confess it.

    My own observation is that those who are faithful who confront that guilt and resolve it in the end are stronger and more faithful. Seeing the power of the atonement in one’s life is a remarkable thing and a blessing. Sometimes the process of repentance is the only way to realize that astounding blessing.

    Well sure, of course they’re more faithful. It’s like saying that those who read church magazines regularly are more faithful. Duh! It doesn’t mean that the guilt was actually justified.

    Nevertheless, I will not argue that seeing the power of the atonement in one’s life is a remarkable thing and a blessing. I’m not trying to say she was right in committing the unknown sexual sin. And I’m not saying she shouldn’t pray and try to be forgiven. I’m just saying that her need to confess, and live with guilt despite living an otherwise virtuous life is missing the mark (at least according to my read of the NT).

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  42. Paul on September 20, 2011 at 3:41 PM

    jmb — let’s see: Mormon themed blog about a Mormon bishop and a Mormon senior sister. I guess I assumed this sister had made LDS covenants.

    I think most faithful LDS would not put sexual sin in the same category as wearing a piece of religious clothing for a day. Maybe I’m wrong.

    I suppose you’re right that those who are faithful to their religion and who demonstrate that faith (even when it is difficult to do so) often become more devoted to the faith. I suppose that is true for other denominations besides LDS, too.

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  43. Paul on September 20, 2011 at 3:47 PM

    And, jmb, I would suspect that a person of any faith who strayed from his covenants would feel some guilt over that, not just LDS.

    A Catholic might deal with that guilt by visiting with his parish priest. A protestant might not feel the need to speak to his clergyman (or woman). And an LDS would — depending on the perceived severity of the act — speak to his bishop.

    If a person did not feel allegiance to any denomination, or did not accept that his clergy-person had any role to play in the repentance process, then I assume he’d feel no need to visit with him.

    When I served as a bishop, on more than one occassion someone came to see me when I would not have thought it necessary to visit with the bishop. I usually found a way to say as much, but I also respected the feelings of the person who found the courage to come and speak with me, and to offer comfort.

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  44. jmb275 on September 20, 2011 at 4:14 PM

    Re Paul-

    jmb — let’s see: Mormon themed blog about a Mormon bishop and a Mormon senior sister. I guess I assumed this sister had made LDS covenants…I think most faithful LDS would not put sexual sin in the same category as wearing a piece of religious clothing for a day. Maybe I’m wrong.

    I think my point is not being appreciated. It’s fine. I was clearly using an extreme example, not to imply that religious clothing and sexual sin were in the same category. If that’s what you really got from my statement then I communicated poorly.

    And, jmb, I would suspect that a person of any faith who strayed from his covenants would feel some guilt over that, not just LDS….A Catholic might deal with that guilt by visiting with his parish priest. A protestant might not feel the need to speak to his clergyman (or woman). And an LDS would — depending on the perceived severity of the act — speak to his bishop.

    That’s exactly my point. I don’t see why you’re arguing with me I guess. I’m saying that her guilt and need to confess may be a function of her religious upbringing and beliefs, but may not actually reflect God’s feeling about it or anything like that. That’s all.

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  45. Paul on September 20, 2011 at 4:21 PM

    jmb: sorry — I was arguing from the woman’s side: she felt a need to talk about the situation and she did.

    There’s an interesting question about God’s will in the matter, from an LDS point of view. On the one hand, confession is an important part of repentance in the LDS tradition (to God, and to a bishop in certain circumstances). Whether that confession is still necessary decades later is an interesting question.

    It seems you point is that the New Testament would suggest that confession is not important, at least in the case of this sister. I’m not sure I’m there, yet.

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  46. Ray on September 20, 2011 at 9:50 PM

    “Marriage to a fellow partner in sexual sin might be the custom or the expectation, but I also question how that can be considered “repentance.” Is that really forsaking sin?”

    Yes; it’s forsaking sin by eliminating sin.

    Repentance, at the core, means nothing more than “change”. Getting married absolutely is change. (Don’t read more into my comment than is there. I wasn’t addressing virgins getting married in a rush to have sex. That isn’t sin – but it’s stupid.)

    We ask non-married non-Mormons who are cohabitating to get married and keep having sex or break up and stop having sex before they can be baptized. If they get married, they are forsaking that sin by changing their situation to make it no longer sin. We teach that it’s better to have lots of sex while married than to have sex once when not married.

    As I said, forsaking sin in that way is a great perk.

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  47. Jon S. on September 21, 2011 at 12:22 AM

    JMB:

    Maybe here’s a hope I have… but I think you should do a more in-depth write-up of what you said earlier about how we reconcile our needs for approval/forgiveness between God and/or the Church.

    I happen to agree with your premise (that “confession” issues between man and man – i.e. a church leader and an individual – happen way too frequently and are more a function of culture than scripture/divine provenance), but have never been able to really answer it sufficiently for my needs and haven’t really seen any write-ups that have treated the issue in any depth.

    Paul: what is the “NT” treatment of it?

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  48. jmb275 on September 21, 2011 at 8:03 AM

    Re Paul

    It seems you point is that the New Testament would suggest that confession is not important, at least in the case of this sister. I’m not sure I’m there, yet.

    Yeah, basically. When I step back and look at what Jesus taught, I get a sense that good deeds, charity, an outward expression of love for God as characterized by charity towards one’s fellows are the things that save people. I DON’T feel like Jesus seemed to be all that concerned with the details of individual shortcomings and sins particularly in the context of an awakening (read: change of heart) to the reality he was teaching (sell all you have, give it to the poor, and follow me etc.).

    To me, most of the things we label as “sin,” the “steps” of repentance, etc. are primarily a function of our culture and reflect the need we have as immature god-embryos to have things clearly spelled out for us. Most of us are not spiritually mature enough to individually handle a relationship with God (in addition to the fact that our faith culture might reject us and frequently does for having ideas (even if they’re revelatory) out of the proverbial box). I do love the church, don’t get me wrong, but I also think it (through it’s culture and leaders) often stands in the way of real spiritual growth. It certainly does help many people grow spiritually, but I think it has it’s limits. But I’m guilty of all of this myself, so it’s not like I am on my Rameumptom here.

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  49. jmb275 on September 21, 2011 at 8:07 AM

    One more point about my above comment. One reason I like (and dislike) Joseph Smith is because he WAS mature enough to handle an individual relationship with God. But look at the result! He was a loose cannon sometimes, upsetting the status quo (both within and without the church). I’ve often said that there’s no way in hell the LDS church would handle another Joseph Smith. We’d throw him right out!!

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  50. jmb275 on September 21, 2011 at 8:13 AM

    Re Jon S.

    Maybe here’s a hope I have… but I think you should do a more in-depth write-up of what you said earlier about how we reconcile our needs for approval/forgiveness between God and/or the Church.

    That’s a great idea. Maybe someday. I don’t really consider myself much of a doctrinal scholar. Opinionated – yes, but doctrine isn’t something I take very seriously (the reason why is a discussion for another day). I’m completely open to the idea that I’m totally off base and have no clue what I’m talking about. Discussing doctrine feels more like an exercise in solving algebra problems by chewing bubble gum (to quote a reference from my graduating high school theme song).

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  51. Paul on September 21, 2011 at 8:42 AM

    #48 jmb: Thanks. I see where you are coming from. From your 49: “I’ve often said that there’s no way in hell the LDS church would handle another Joseph Smith. We’d throw him right out!!”

    Yeah, probably. I suppose there are those who would argue that we don’t need a Joseph Smith today.

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  52. Justin on September 21, 2011 at 8:50 AM

    …and the one’s who’d argue that would be the ones to throw him out when he came around.

    Lol.

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  53. jmb275 on September 21, 2011 at 8:59 AM

    Re Paul

    Yeah, probably. I suppose there are those who would argue that we don’t need a Joseph Smith today.

    Yeah, probably, which is too bad since if you’re a believer he seemed to be a proverbial fountain of revelation straight from God. A sentiment like that expressed in 2 Nephi 29:6 comes to mind.

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  54. All_Black on September 23, 2011 at 6:32 PM

    My 2c worth: Correct answer is the first part of “Due to the passage of time and her faithfulness, all has been forgiven years ago. She has nothing to feel guilty about. She should stop worrying about it and remain faithful.”

    However it is her who is feeling guilty. She never confessed the sin and that once small stick has become a wedge tearing her soul in two. She needs to go straight to her heavenly father in prayer and fasting to ask for and find that feeling of forgiveness and cleanliness again. The church shouldn’t do anything now with respect to discipline but we -as bishops or branch presidents- need to encourage someone like this to find and obtain the full forgiveness that comes only from the Lord through his power or through the ‘miracle of forgiveness’. One would offer a blessing there during the interview and ask to see her again but she needs to take this to the Lord directly and find the peace she is seeking…. imho!

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