Confession: Example 1

Poor Wayfaring Man

Like every other Mormon missionary, my mission started with a stay in the Missionary Training Center (the “MTC”). I will probably have more to say about this topic in the future, but for my purposes today, I will just say that the MTC fills the same role as boot camp does for the military–it is meant to break down the new recruits and re-mold them into homogeneous parts of a mighty army. In the MTC, part of that process involves convincing the new recruits that they are sinners, and in need of repentance and reconciliation with God in order to avoid being a complete failures as missionaries.

As a new missionary, I was in the (common?) position of having never really leveled with my local bishop back home about grave sins like masturbation and/or looking at pornography. Before the MTC, I had convinced myself that looking at my dad’s erotic photography books (or Showtime: After Hours) in the privacy of my own bedroom (or mom’s TV room) and/or masturbating, was a victimless crime–if a crime at all, and certainly not something that required shouting from the rooftops, for goodness sake. After a couple of weeks in the MTC, however, I was convinced that I had to confess my adolescent sins to somebody with authority from God to make the sins go away. I tried to find an opportunity to discreetly meet with a member of my missionary branch presidency, and found that there was a line of male missionaries waiting, outside an empty classroom, for a meeting with him. I decided that I would just blend in with them and wait my turn.

While I stood there, my mind began racing. “What if I what I’ve done is actually really bad? Have I broken my temple covenants? What will happen to me? Can I be sent home from my mission for this? How will I face everybody back home? What will I do? Is confession worth it? I definitely won’t ever masturbate again–do I even need to confess? Should I just get up and leave?”

Too soon, it was my turn. I entered the classroom to find the first counselor in the branch presidency waiting for me. He was a tall skinny man with wire-rimmed glasses, completely bald on top. He seemed like a nice enough guy. He exuded confidence and wisdom. He seemed comfortable talking to me, but I was not comfortable. I was worried that my life was going to suddenly go sideways, spinning off in the wrong direction.

He made an attempt at small talk. He asked how I was doing, whether I was used to the schedule, learning a new language, getting along with my companion. I played along. After a minute, he asked me why I wanted to meet with him. Was there anything he could do for me?

I was brave. I didn’t cry or anything. I confessed to (most of the) bad stuff. He asked me how often I had masturbated. I told him. He asked me if the pornography and the masturbation had ever happened at the same time. I told him yes. I braced for the consequences of my awful deeds.

He smiled and told me that he was glad I had confessed. He told me that he generally considered habitual masturbation or pornography viewing to be sins requiring confession to a church leader. He told me that when masturbation happened while viewing pornography, that was a sin that must be confessed, even if it happened only once. He told me that my repentance was now underway, and that the next step was to never do it again. I told him I was already there.

I walked out of the meeting feeling light and happy. I wasn’t going to be sent home, humiliated. In fact, I was now actually worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost. It was now possible for me to be a decent missionary. I would never masturbate again.

(And I didn’t do it even once for the balance of my mission. Two+ years of perfect sexual “purity”. Been there, done that.)


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