Over the years I have talked to hundreds of people that want to come back to church, want to go on a mission, or want to raise their kids in the Church in good conscience. Many more write to me privately through this blog, expressing their desire to come back but not knowing how to go about it. They’ve all done something that they know they need to talk to the bishop about but the thought of sitting in that office telling this random person their deepest secrets is too much for them to bear. I can see their point. But I want to show you why you don’t need to be scared to talk to your bishop about things that are bothering you.
This moment in time is a critical juncture for people. I think its one of the most critical junctures in a person’s life. This decision and interaction can make or break a person’s entire future in the church. We’re sitting in our rooms, laying in our beds, waiting, wondering, procrastinating what we know would be best…but sometimes, fear gets the best of us. Are we more concerned with what God or men think of us? This is the moment when our true character is put to the test.
At this point…we can go one of two ways. We can either bury our troubles deep inside for no one to find or we can get it off our chest.
Sin is heavy enough as it is…but just like carrying a 20-pound weight…the longer we carry it, the heavier it gets. We don’t give enough credit to how powerful sin really is. Sin has the power to drive a person insane. It can cause physical, emotional, and mental instability. It can induce anger, anxiety, and depression. It’s like a deadly disease that eats away at you over time. There is only one cure…and I think you know what that is.
Do you ever wonder why carrying around sin makes you feel physically sick? Why the guilt, misery, and depression? The physiology of sin in relation to the gospel makes perfect sense. We are spiritual beings. Our spirit came from the presence of God. Our spirit also knows what it was like there and wants to return. Sometimes we allow our temporal bodies to make decisions that prohibit us from returning to the place where our spirits came from. So naturally, the spirit begins to declare war on the body. The spirit inside you does not know what else to do to make you see that the path you’re going down is the wrong one. It tries to bring your body back into harmony with the will of God. Some people call it a conscience, but I call it an old and wise spirit that resides within you that doesn’t want that one little thing you did to keep you from living up to your foreordained potential.
If you try to bury your sins, your spirit will never leave you alone. You may try and start coming up with reasons why the church isn’t true or use logic to explain why you shouldn’t have to explain yourself to a bishop but none of it will work. As long as you live…the Spirit will try at times to reach you. You may be able to dim that spirit but that unquenchable flame is most likely still burning within you. President Harold B. Lee explained: “That light never entirely goes out … [speaking of the Light of Christ] unless we commit the unpardonable sin. [Which you haven’t] Its glow may be so dim that we can hardly perceive it, but it is there for us to fan into a flame that shall burn brighter with understanding and with knowledge.
One day while sporting that stylish white shirt and tie in the RV parks of Grand Rapids MI, we knocked on a family’s door and they let us in. The husband and the wife sat there and told us their story. The wife…in tears told us about how they had been members and had gone inactive about 15 years ago. They said how they had been miserable and how they had wanted to go back. So…we asked them! “Why don’t you come back to Church with us this week?” I’ll never forget the answer she gave as she paused in silence for about 2 minutes. She began to cry and said, “There is no way I can take one step back in that building. God would never want me back after what I’ve done.”
Out of this conversation came my favorite scripture in the Book of Mormon. We immediately opened Alma 36 where Alma recounts his less than stellar behavior as a former day saint. Alma says that “I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins. Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments.” The stuff Alma did was so bad that “that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror. Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds.”
But then Alma remembered, “the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.” The minute he confessed and admitted to his own guilt and then asked Jesus Christ to forgive him, his spirit jumped back into alignment with his body, he received his strength and his guilt, pain, and misery was gone. Just like that. All he had to do was look to Christ and take a few steps and his life was changed forever. Imagine what the Book of Mormon would be like without Alma!
But here is the key to it all…and my favorite scripture. Alma recounts that “from that time [speaking of his repentance] even until now, I have labored without ceasing.” (Alma 36:24) Alma embodied what the Savior said in Luke 9:62 that “No man [or woman] having put their hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.” We can show God that we are truly sorry by placing the past behind us and laboring without ceasing! Not looking back.
Here’s what you need to know. A bishop doesn’t forgive sins. He is there to help you accept Christ’s atonement. It’s never too late to come back and it is never too soon to repent and change. You may think that the bishop is going to look down on you or think bad of you. It couldn’t be farther from the truth. When you come to the bishop…instead of him losing respect for you, he’ll actually gain respect for you. He’ll look at you as a courageous follower of Christ that is humble enough take the necessary steps to align yourself with the will of God. That takes the best of the best to do that!
What a shame it is to miss out on all of the blessings of the gospel because of the fear of one 30 minute conversation. I can tell you from experience…that if I had not knocked on my bishop’s door in my younger years to ask for advice and help, I wouldn’t have my family right now, I wouldn’t have served a mission, and you definitely wouldn’t be reading this blog right now. If those weights are starting to get a little heavy…its time to drop them off at the bishop’s door. He’ll introduce you to the strongest person to ever walk the earth and the only one worthy or capable of bearing the weight of your sins so that you can be free, and happy, and awesome!