Q&A: Questions and Answers
October 1989

“Q&A: Questions and Answers,” New Era, Oct. 1989, 17

Questions and Answers

Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.

There is something in my past which I know I should confess to the bishop. I really want to, but I just don’t have the courage. Everytime I mean to I chicken out. How can I bring myself to do the right thing?

New Era Answer:

You’re on the right track already because you realize the need to confess your problem.

The Lord said, “By this ye may know if a man [woman, boy, girl] repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them” (D&C 58:43; emphasis added). All sins should be confessed to our Heavenly Father in prayer. Serious transgressions should also be confessed to a person’s bishop or branch president.

We should remember that confession is only one step in the repentance process. We must also forsake our sins, make restitution where possible, strive to live an exemplary life, and forgive others of their wrongs against us. Nevertheless, it is an important step that can bring great comfort and peace. Our Father in Heaven knows how hard it is for you, and if you overcome your fear and take this action he will bless you accordingly.

Satan, of course, would love to have you postpone your confession indefinitely. He’ll whisper all manner of nonsense in your ear about how the bishop may be shocked by your confession—or that the bishop would not be understanding—or that the bishop might not keep your confession confidential.

The truth is that your bishop has been called of God because he is a compassionate and godly man who wants to help. He is God’s agent on earth to hear your confession. He can help you get on the road to repentance and forgiveness and the unspeakable joy which comes from knowing your sins have been forgiven. He will also assist you in getting whatever help you need.

You can be certain that your bishop will keep what you say confidential. He is under a solemn obligation to do so.

Years ago an elderly brother came to his bishop. For 57 years this man—active and faithful in every other way—had carried a burden of sin and guilt for a transgression committed in his youth, never quite able to confess it to his bishop.

Hearing the brother’s confession, the bishop felt a wave of compassion and love for the old gentleman—also a great sadness that this wonderful man had not received the miracle of forgiveness years ago.

“You’ve carried this terrible burden for over 50 years,” said the bishop. “When you walk out of this office, I want you to leave it behind. Tonight, for the first time in 57 years, you don’t have to carry it anymore.”

The brother was wracked with great sobs of relief and joy. “Oh, bishop,” he said, “if only I’d had the courage to confess this years ago. I’ve wasted my whole life carrying a burden the Lord didn’t want me to carry.”

As he walked out of the bishop’s office, he seemed somehow to be about six inches taller.

Now, if it still seems hard to confess, consider these ideas. Perhaps they will help you to muster the courage you need:

  1. Read the scriptures, especially the Savior’s Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5–7). Also read chapter 13, “Lifting Burdens through Confession,” in The Miracle of Forgiveness by Elder Spencer W. Kimball.

  2. Talk to your father or mother or to a trusted friend or adviser.

  3. It might help to take a parent, adviser, or perhaps your best friend with you when you go to see the bishop. (You needn’t tell your friend what you’re going to see the bishop about.) He/she can support you and strengthen you right up to the bishop’s door.

  4. Don’t forget to pray. Plead with the Lord to give you the strength you need.

  5. Make an appointment with the bishop. Then keep the appointment, no matter what. In fact, right now might be a good time to make the appointment.

Finally, remember this: The Lord suffered and died so that your sins could be paid for by him, rather than by you. But it can only work if you do your part—by confessing and forsaking your sin. And the sooner this is done, the sooner the sweetness and joy of that forgiveness can surround you.

Youth Answers:

I know exactly how you feel. A few months ago, my boyfriend and I did something wrong. After that, it seemed as if in every fireside the speaker was talking just to me. I felt like dirt. I knew I needed to tell my bishop, but I just couldn’t.

I tried to tell myself that if I just forgot about it and never did it again, the Lord would forget too. Last week I had an interview with my bishop to get my patriarchal blessing. I knew I had to tell him. I prayed before I went in. Then with a prayer in my heart, I took a deep breath and told him. Now I feel so much better! It was so hard to do. But I thank the Lord for giving me the courage to confess. Now I can complete my repentance, and I won’t have to carry that burden for the rest of my life.

Name withheld

It’s hard, I know. I’ve been there. It took me two years to gain the courage I needed to go to my bishop. When I did and talked with him about my problem, you wouldn’t believe the amount of guilt and pain that was lifted from my shoulders. It’s almost impossible to imagine the joy one can feel when the problem is gone. Bishops keep these things you tell them a secret. They have to. They show you how to repent and solve your problem. They also let you know that you’re still a son or daughter of God and that your Father in Heaven still loves you. Please, go to your bishop if you haven’t already. You’ll be glad that you did.

Name withheld

Having a desire to confess is the first step. Remember that your bishop is there to help you. He won’t mock or belittle you, but will help you get back on the right track for good.

Carolyn Shupe, 15
Las Vegas, Nevada

Not many years ago I had a similar experience. I knew that I should tell the bishop of my mistake. I knew that if I were to die without confessing, I wouldn’t be able to look my Maker in the eye without guilt. But then I thought of the bishop. I felt that he respected me. I was the Laurel president. Over the years I had held many callings in Young Women. The thought of telling the bishop crushed me. I felt that he would think less of me.

I decided to tell the bishop anyway to clear my conscience. I was extremely nervous when I called and asked if I could see him. The bishop was very understanding. He didn’t lecture me. He assured me that my sin was forgivable and that my Father in Heaven loved me very much and wanted me to be happy. As soon as I told him, the burden lifted and I felt clean once again. The next time I saw him he treated me as if nothing had happened. He never mentioned it again.

I have since thought about my past mistake, but the memory of it is as if it were another life. Two years after this incident I was married in the temple to a wonderful husband. We have now been married six months.

If I hadn’t taken that step I wouldn’t have been worthy to go to the temple.

It’s really worth it! No one needs to know but the bishop, the Lord, and you. Keep your chin up and good luck.

Name withheld

My dear friend, I know the feelings you feel. You are not alone. For me, I had to ponder in my heart what the Lord truly did for me. I read Doctrine and Covenants 53:42–43 [D&C 53:42–43] and realized that the Lord is waiting for us to have faith and to rely on his atonement. He loves us and wants us to run to his loving arms so we can be clean.

As your brother, I hope you can pray for strength and courage so you can put this behind you and go forward. It is not easy, I know. I also know that it is the only way for us to be able to return to our Heavenly Father.

He is reaching out to us. Let’s love him enough to reach back and hold his hand.

Name withheld

I had the same problem you do. I committed a sin that I had to see my bishop about. I learned that it’s better to just hold your breath and jump in.

I understand that you really want to confess, but you’re scared. Maybe you should call your bishop and talk to him over the phone. Tell him the situation and then when you set up a time for an appointment, your bishop will know everything that you told him, so you will already have cleared the first hurdle. I found that’s a lot easier.

Also, remember that your Heavenly Father wants you to be able to walk with him, so if anything, do it so you can someday walk with him in the celestial kingdom.

Remember that Heavenly Father and your bishop are the two best people you can turn to.

Name withheld

I had an experience like yours. I wanted so much to be able to tell the bishop, but I thought he would have little respect for me as a member of his ward. I prayed about it for a long time. I was finally comforted enough by the Spirit to be able to tell the bishop about my problem. After I told him what I had done, he let me know that what I had done was wrong but that he still loved me and so does my Heavenly Father. He let me know that there is a way back and that is by repentance. Repentance is such a wonderful process. I beg you to give it a try. The Lord is waiting for you!

Name withheld

I went through a period when I had been involved in some bad things that I knew required a confession to the bishop. I was very fearful of going through with what I new was right. Instead of just confessing, I quit going to church because I didn’t feel comfortable there. I quit praying because I felt unworthy. I got involved in other more serious activities that would also require a confession.

Please believe that no matter what you have done, no matter how scared you are of going to the bishop, living with it by yourself is a lot worse than confessing. My bishop told me that nothing could make my Heavenly Father change the way he feels about me. No matter how terrible the act, he will always love the person.

Actions taken by the bishop are for your benefit. Being asked to not partake of the sacrament or go through a period of probation might seem stringent, but it will be most beneficial to you if you accept it as something that will be helpful.

Please don’t live with your secret alone. Go talk to the bishop. He is your friend.

Name withheld

Ask the Lord for help. He will direct you when you talk to the bishop. Don’t lie. If you lie it will only make things worse, and later on you’ll feel guilty about it.

Tonya M. McKoon, 16
Peoria, Arizona

Before my mission, I had things I, too, needed to clear up with the bishop. I was afraid to talk to him at church because I thought it would look obvious. So I called him at work and said I would be playing basketball at Mutual. I asked him if he could casually ask to speak with me for a minute or two. I remember the feelings I had experienced. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I walked out of my bishop’s office feeling much better.

Name withheld

Photography by Phil Shurtleff