I had been been given a disciplinary action (disfellowship) before due to disobeying the law of chastity. However, I committed the same mistake with a returned missionary once again. That RM and I broke up. Unfortunately, I disobeyed it again (a lot of times) with another man. I had been molested when I was young a lot of times, but I know that it’s not an excuse. If I confess and repent, can I be forgiven? Will I be excommunicated? Is exaltation still possible for me? Thanks.
Reading your question brought tears to my eyes. I can sense you’ve grieved over the consequences of some of the choices you’ve made and it pains me to think you’re suffering the consequences of the actions that someone else has done against you.
There are a few layers to your question and I’d like to break it down in sections so please bare with me as I go through some key points you’ve brought up:
- being disfellowshipped and/or excommunicated is not a “punishment”.
- being a victim of sexual/emotional/physical abuse is not what defines a person.
- how do we heal so that previous wrong choices we’ve made, do not become a defining factor in future behavior.
- what does repentance really mean?
- who will achieve exaltation?
- we were NOT sent here (earth) to fail.
Disfellowship and/or Excommunication:
I know there is a lot of misinformation about excommunication and I think it’s best to review. Previously, I have answered similar questions about excommunication and to summarize, I have said this:
When someone is disfellowshipped or excommunicated, it is done with love in order to help them, not as a punishment. When we are baptized, we make binding covenants with our Father in Heaven. Later as we grow in the gospel we may attend the temple and make more covenants with God. When a person chooses to live in such a way that they are breaking their covenants in substantial ways, it is a serious matter. They are putting themselves in a position to reap condemnation, for the Lord will not be mocked.
Being disfellowshipped or excommunicated frees them from the covenants that they chose not to honor, and also releases them for the expectations (and blessings) associated with those covenants. A person who is disfellowshipped or excommunicated may choose to return to living the gospel and keeping the commandments and reenter into those covenants at a later time, when they are ready to accept the responsibility associated with those covenants.”
I cannot determine whether you’ll be excommunicated or not, only your bishop and/or your stake president can determine that, but, if you do end up being excommunicated, don’t fear. It is NOT the end. And please, whatever the outcome is, do not ever give up on yourself.
In a 2002 discourse, sister Chieko N. Okazaki gave a powerful message (titled “Healing from sexual abuse”) and in it, she provides, any victim of abuse the ability to become real survivors. She eloquently stated, in part:
The case of physical or sexual abuse poses particular challenges. In such cases, we have to develop simultaneously protection against the abuse, shape a pattern of life for ourselves that means we do not become immoral and abusive in turn, and finally develop the ability to forgive those who have violated our agency and damaged our trust.
She continues with a very timely point:
Many women and men who have been sexually abused respond in ways that they cannot control, with irrational fears and compulsive behaviors, even in repeated transgressions. Very often they are so filled with guilt and self-loathing that repentance seems impossible for them.
You’re right about abuse not being an excuse for our behavior, but it does explain why we do the things we do and if we are to make course corrections in our lives, we need to understand the past and how it affects our choices.
How do we HEAL?
It is important to mention that anyone who has been victimized physically, mentally, emotionally or sexually needs to know that you are not “broken” or anything less than what you might think of yourself or have been told by others. I am not an expert psychologist nor therapist, however, I do know this much: I beseech you to seek help, professionally speaking. Whether it is your local LDS Family services office, or your family doctor referral’s to a physiologist or therapist, there is help available. In conjunction with this professional help, you could also attend a support group (such as A.R.P. sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) , and in your case, ones where only women can attend. The road to recovery isn’t easy, but once healed, it is so worth it. Now, going back to the talk given by sister Okazaki, she ends by giving this advise:
Perhaps these are not words that are in your heart yet. I pray that someday they may be, that the words of other scriptures sink deep into your heart. Hear his voice saying, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He knows the burdens with which you struggle. He understands your heartbreak, your self-doubt, the anger, and the despair. Perhaps when he says, “Come unto me,” all you feel is paralysis. If you feel you cannot go to him, remember that he is already with us. Listen to his words from Hebrew 13: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” So that we may boldly say, “The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what others shall do unto me.” Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever. Matthew records the Savior’s final words to his apostles: “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” In 2nd Kings, the Savior speaks gently to a sorrowing person: “I have heard thy prayer. I have seen thy tears; behold, I will heal thee. Go up unto the house of the Lord.” Now think of those words as if they were spoken to you, and listen to this promise of the end times as though it were your vision: “And I, John, heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold the tabernacle of God is among us, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither there shall be any more pain for the former things are passed away.” Believe that assurance. Believe the prophets who promise us, “And he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness, and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female.” What greater bondage can there be than being enchained by a sin from which you cannot even repent because it was not you who committed it? I implore you to turn to the Savior. I testify to you that when the scriptures tell us, “He descended below all things,” it means that he understands, knows, and accepts the pain of sexual abuse, as well as other kinds of innocent suffering. He is there with you in that suffering. I tell you that I love you. I pray daily for you, for your help and healing. For those of you who have been spared the scourge of abuse, I ask you to open the circles of your sisterhood and brotherhood. Include those whose trust has been betrayed by those who should have been their protectors. Open your hearts to them. Let them open their hearts to you. This is a burden that is grievous to be born. May we shoulder it together, not many adjust it upon the backs of those who have born it so long alone. May we love each other with a pure unselfish active love as the Savior has loved us. May our troubled hearts find the peace we seek with him, I pray, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.
(Healing From Sexual Abuse Chieko N. Okazaki – Discourse was given on 23 October 2002 at Brigham Young University by Chieko N. Okazaki.)
What does it mean to repent?
A few years ago, I read a quote that has deeply impressed my mind. President Ezra Taft Benson said:
One thing I’d like to suggest to you is this: print out this quote and carry it with you in your purse/wallet and whenever you’re feeling low or at the point of temptation, read it. It is important to talk to your bishop, nevertheless, at the end of the day only God has the power to forgive and give you that peace and comfort which comes from forgiveness.
Who will achieve Exaltation?
This is such a great question, one that needs a careful and detailed explanation, so I will direct you to the Church’s website and/or manuals to study it on your own time, however, I will highlight parts of the topic here. In the website, we read:
The Lord has said, “If you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God” (D&C 14:7). President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “If we will continue in God; that is, keep his commandments, worship him and live his truth; then the time will come when we shall be bathed in the fulness of truth, which shall grow brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:36).
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil [died] before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 268).
Joseph Smith taught: “It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God. … He was once a man like us; … God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 345–46).
Our Heavenly Father knows our trials, our weaknesses, and our sins. He has compassion and mercy on us. He wants us to succeed even as He did.
Imagine what joy each of us will have when we return to our Heavenly Father if we can say: “Father, I lived according to Thy will. I have been faithful and have kept Thy commandments. I am happy to be home again.” Then we will hear Him say, “Well done … ; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:23).
We all have the same opportunity to achieve such a marvelous reward. It is totally up to us to utilize every resource and tools available and then leave it up to the atonement to make us whole. It is not an easy task but it is totally worth it.
We were not sent here to fail:
One last thing: Heavenly Father did not put us here to fail. We are here to be tried and tested. We are here to have joy. We are here to overcome. We are here to learn and grow. Our journey is not over and we’ll have many opportunities to get up when we fall. John M. Huntsman Sr. once said:
Again, we must each remember that God did not put us on this earth to fail. We are His children. We are here to succeed. The obstacles placed before us will be many, and in certain cases we may falter or even fail. I love the scripture that states, “He who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (D&C 58:42)
A quote that I find very inspirational is one that I have framed and hanging above my headboard:
“Many people die with their music still in them. Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it time runs out.” ― Oliver Wendall Holmes
Don’t wait Mary! You can do this. Forgive yourself and know that you are enough. You are special and unique in every way. Seek help, and then watch yourself go through a spiritual metamorphosis. Pray often and listen for an answer. Talk to your bishop and get your affairs in order. You will conquer your fears and overcome all of your obstacles because you have the Lord on your side.
With Great Love and Respect,