Soon after, I came before a disciplinary council. It was scary in some ways to admit what I had done in front of people who had been my leaders and mentors for years, but as I looked around the room, I felt peace. I could see that they were there to understand and help me. As I left, I felt the Spirit assure me that no matter what the decision was, I was doing my part, and I was going to be OK. God and leaders who loved me would work with me to get me where I needed to be. I walked away feeling the love of the Savior and knowing that I wasn’t beyond His redemption.
A Place for Imperfection
Despite the peace I had felt, it was hard to face questions about why I wasn’t on a mission. As I continued working with my bishop through the repentance process, it became less and less likely that serving a mission was in my future. I had to figure out how to move forward with my life. At 21, because I didn’t fall into the premissionary, returned missionary, or married groups of young adults, it was hard to feel like I belonged anywhere.
Dating was tough. Sometimes girls would treat me differently after I’d tell them I didn’t serve a mission and that I had been inactive for a period of time. For one reason or another, most interactions never made it past the first date.
Eventually I married in the temple, but sometimes I still felt like I didn’t fit in. I had a testimony, but I couldn’t figure out how to share it, and church classrooms felt like tests where my peers would see me fail. I thought that because most of them had the lives I wanted, they hadn’t stumbled as much as I had.
One day the bishop called me in and extended the call to teach elders quorum. I was surprised, since I had been to elders quorum only twice in the last year. Despite feeling incredibly anxious, I accepted the calling. On my first Sunday teaching, I found myself starting out with the strangest introduction they had probably ever heard: “Hi, brothers, I’m Richard Monson. I never served a mission, and I’ve been inactive most of my adult life. I haven’t attended elders quorum pretty much ever, because I don’t feel like I belong or fit in. I won’t be able to answer all your questions, but I’m hoping that you will participate so we can learn together. If you’re OK with where I’m coming from, then we’ll get started.”