I’m having trouble. I’m on a mission and I want to start off by saying that I fully intend on finishing my mission. The problem is I’m not here worthily. I want to be, I just don’t have the courage to confess my sins. Before I left on my mission, I struggled with pornography and masturbation. I tried confessing to the bishop ONCE, but didn’t fully confess. Since receiving my endowments months ago and leaving, I have messed up 3 times, and the most recent with pornography. What can I do?
Dear Distraught Missionary,
Thank you for your question! I assure you, you are not the first missionary to face this challenge.
As you have found, it is very difficult emotionally to be on a mission and to be unworthy. For one, Elder Gene R. Cook teaches, “Conversion to the Lord can only come through the Spirit of the Lord, and an unworthy individual cannot have that Spirit. He who has not the Spirit of the Lord will not prosper in the work of the Lord.” See Gene R. Cook, “Worthy to Serve“. What is more, as you have found, serving unworthily is a very painful experience. See id. The biggest problem, however, is that chastity sins are very serious and threaten our eternal welfare. See Alma 39:5. Pornography is particularly deadly, as it is both highly addictive and deeply sinful. See Dalin H. Oaks, “Pornography“, April 2005 General Conference.
Things simply cannot keep going on this way. They just can’t. It is clear you are absolutely miserable, and I am willing to bet you have been worried about your eternal welfare. Deep down, you are undoubtedly aware that, by serving unworthily, you are not doing justice to the people in your mission area.
There is a way out. It won’t be easy, and it will take courage, but there is a way out.
You are going to have to sit down with your mission president and have a conversation with him. Pornography is an example of a sin that requires priesthood authority to overcome. See id. (pornography requires confession to a bishop). Masturbation also requires priesthood authority to overcome. See Vaughn J. Featherstone, “A Self-Inflicted Purging“, April 1975 General Conference,. Just open up and be honest about everything – that you had a problem before your mission, you confessed to your bishop but not fully, and the problem has recurred a few times since. I am willing to bet you are going to find your missionary president will be much more like a loving and concerned father than a harsh judge. He is a man, you are a man, I am a man, we have all been tempted by pornography and masturbation and we understand their pull and how easy it is to get into trouble. It is a very understandable and human mistake you made, and you will find sympathy and love from your mission president. Why not let him use his priesthood to heal you, once and for all?
Now, I know you are worried about consequences, so let’s discuss consequences. What is going to happen if you confess to your mission president? Will you be sent home? I know you are worried about these things. I do not know exactly what your sin entails, and I am not entitled to receive revelation for you, so I cannot give you an answer. However, if you are sent home (and it is far from certain that this will be the outcome based on what you described), it will be for your eternal welfare, which is far more important than your momentary embarrassment. Also, you are an adult now – I am guessing 18 or 19 – so, if you are sent home, it is frankly no one’s business but your own and the Lord’s (and, to the extent your bishop is involved in helping you repent, your bishop’s). You did what you had to do to take care of yourself, and you don’t owe anyone else an explanation as to why you had to return home.
Please do yourself a favor and confess now. Today. Call your mission president and tell him over the phone, just like you told me. Don’t let the pain and sorrow go on a second longer. You may find that your discussion with your mission president is a pivotal moment in your life, a moment when you found courage to beat pornography and masturbation once and for all.
Good luck! I will keep you in my prayers.