If I committed a serious sin before I was baptized, must I tell the bishop?

Posted on April 19, 2006 at 10:52 am


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Dear Gramps,

This is pretty serious. I did something terrible when I was 18 (and BEFORE I was a member of the church) and have never told ANYONE. I have repented, begged for forgiveness and have felt a lifting of that burden, but will be getting married in the temple soon and question as to whether this is still “on my head” because I did not “come clean” and have not spoken with the Bishop. Do I need to do this? Even though the sin was prior to my being a member and worse, while I was young and not very bright. The sin was abortion. I want to do the right thing, but have wiped this act totally from my mind until I was proposed to . . . I remembered it then. Please help.

Beth, from Georgia

Dear Beth,

I can appreciate your concern, which seems to stem from “a broken heart and a contrite spirit.”

And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost. (3 Nephi 9:20)

When you were baptized, you were baptized for the remission of sins. You have felt “a lifting of that burden.” The purpose of confession is to work within us the contrition associated with and necessary for repentance, so that we may be forgiven–a precursor to baptism. If you did not go through the formality of a full revelation of your all your sins to the person who interviewed you for baptism, but, with a broken heart and contrite spirit, came to your baptism having repented from all the wrong that you had done, I’m sure that your baptism was not invalidated.

Having been baptized for the remission of sins, and having felt a lifting of the burden of sin, and as you live in accordance with the principles of the gospel, you must know that you have been forgiven. The severity of the sin doesn’t matter. The Lord said,

though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:18)

Having repented and been baptized, if you believe that the Lord has forgiven you, you have the obligation to also forgive yourself. You mentioned that you had wiped this act totally from your mind. When the Lord said, and I, the Lord, shall remember them [former sins] no more, it doesn’t mean that he has a lack of memory, it means that they will not be brought up for consideration in your relationship with him. Since those things are no longer a part of your life, they don’t belong to you. You are a different person from the one who committed them. Why then should the Savior remember them? They are simply not you.

The experience of Alma when he repented is instructive as we consider repentant sin. Alma had confessed to being the vilest of sinners, (Mosiah 28:4). Before repenting he said that I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins (Alma 36:17). But after being forgiven by the Lord he remarked, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more (Alma 36:19). It is important to note here that it was his pain that he could not remember. He could remember his past sins, but that memory brought no further feelings of guilt-he was not “harrowed up”-because of the faith that he had in the validity of the great atoning sacrifice and in the saving grace of the Savior.

And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain! Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy (Alma 36:20-21).

So perhaps, with Alma, you could have a feeling of rejoicing in the Lord and be “harrowed up” no more.


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If I committed a serious sin before I was baptized, must I tell the bishop? - Ask Gramps - Q and A about Mormon Doctrine
This is pretty serious. I did something terrible when I was 18 (and BEFORE I was a member of the church) and have never told ANYONE. I have repented, begged for forgiveness and have felt a lifting of that burden

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