For the past couple of months I have been thinking a lot about a temple marriage. I belong to the Mormon Church, but am currently inactive. My boyfriend is also a Mormon, but currently inactive as well. We are quitting smoking, for our sake of health, future family possibilities, and church beliefs. We both have tattoos, which have good meaning behind them. My question is, what would we have to do, regarding our tattoos, to be able to be married in the temple? I also feel I should not “confess” of my sins to my bishop, because I feel that if I know I committed my sins, then so does God. And that if I have forgiven myself of these sins, then so has God. I do not feel comfortable confessing to a bishop due to lack of trust with them. Around me, in my town, parents have made their children confess to their bishop of their sins, and later on everybody would know of their sins. The bishops broke confidentiality, and nobody in the ward would speak to those who have confessed. So, my other question is, would I have to confess? Get rid of my tattoo? I have no problem with going back to church, but would I have to get rebaptized? I hope you can help. Thanks.
First, let me congratulate you on your desire to return to church and qualify yourself to be married in the temple. You are working on two of the most worthy and important goals that exist! We will try to address your concerns, and I think that we must start with your relationship with your bishop. He is actually a very key figure in everything that you have stated that you would like to do.
Let’s begin with the lack of confidentiality. I’ve heard this same complaint a few times. But I have some grave concerns about it. In the first place, I have been going to church, believe me, for over 80 years, and I have NEVER experienced or personally known of any circumstance where a bishop has revealed a confidential trust. Here’s my question. If a person confesses to a bishop and later some other people talk about the sensitive subject that the person confessed to the bishop, I guess it would be a natural conclusion that the bishop had not kept the confidence. Do you think that this person and the bishop are the only two people who knew anything about the subject of the confession? I’ll warrant that any number of people could have also known, and would have had ample opportunity to spread it around. But it would be quite natural for the person who had recently “confessed” to immediately blame the bishop for the information leak.. Confidentiality is a very sacred trust that the bishops have from the Lord, and I am fully confident that you could go to any bishop with full assurance that he would honor the confidence that you would place in him.
Now let’s talk about being baptized again. That baptism was not only for the remission of your sins, but it represents a covenant that you would have made with the Lord. If you were baptized at the minimum age of eight years you undoubtedly would not have understood at that time the baptismal covenant. So, in the case of children, the covenant is learned later on, and the child learns that he must abide by that covenant all the days of his life in order to receive the blessings associated with it. The baptismal covenant has three parts–one, that we take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ. That means that we would act as He would act, and that bearing His name we would represent him to all others. The second part of the baptismal covenant is a promise to obey His commandments. If we fail to do that He has given us the wonderful principle of repentance, by which we can rid ourselves of those things that are contrary to His will, so that they are no longer a part of our character. And the third part of the baptismal covenant is that we will remain true and faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ all the days of our lives. This life represents the only opportunity we have to earn the blessings of God that result from obedience to the baptismal covenant. As I said, I’m over 80 years old, and I am not there yet, but I am still trying. I understand that we may never in this life achieve the goal of full compliance with that covenant, but the least we can do is to do our best. And if we do that, my understanding is that our loving Father in Heaven will accept us even though we have not yet perfected ourselves.
Now a word about confessing our sins. It’s very commendable of you that you are able to forgive yourself of the wrong things that you have done. Not everyone can do that, and it seriously impedes their righteous progress. But it’s not really true that because you have forgiven yourself that God has forgiven you. His forgiveness is not dependent on your forgiveness. God said on one occasion—
I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men (D&C 64:10).
Concerning repentance, confession and forgiveness the Lord has also said this—
Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.
By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins–behold, he will confess them and forsake them (D&C 58:42-43).
So confession to the Lord’s representative, (the bishop) is a requirement for the forgiveness of serious sin. Further, a recommend to enter the holy temple can only be obtained after a searching interview by the bishop and also by the stake president to determine and verify the worthiness of the individual to enter the House of the Lord. These interviews to determine worthiness are extremely important, and are really designed to be a protection to the person who desires to go to the temple, because in the temple we make sacred covenants of obedience to the gospel. If a person goes to the temple and makes a covenant of obedience to a principal that he is not practicing, that would be an immediate lie directly to God, and would certainly have very serious consequences in the eternal salvation of such a person.
And now about your concern for your tattoo. I think that would be in the realm of a personal decision for you to make. I understand that you would not be kept out of the temple because you had a tattoo.