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Monday, September 22, 2014

When You Believe Someone is Unworthy to Serve a Mission, What Should you Do? - Part 1

Dear Bro Jo, 

I'm a guy who is 19 waiting to go on a mission because of some medical issues. Hopefully, I'll be cleared in about 6 months, if all goes well. This means a lot of my friends are gone or are going in short order.

I'm in a bit of a predicament.

Several months ago a female friend, I'll call her Katy for clarity, came to me and told me that another mutual female friend, let's call her Heather, came to Katy and confessed a bunch of sins that she and her boyfriend had been involved in.

I only kind of know Heather's boyfriend.

This all happened just after it was rumored that he had to postpone his mission for 6 months. Well, now I know why.

The problem is that I actually know the list of things that make you wait 6 months and which things you need to wait a year or more for. Heather confessed that she had been feeling guilty, so she and her boyfriend plotted to confess to a "lesser" sin to the bishop, and so he had to wait only six months. 

What she confessed to Katy was a whole lot more.

Unfortunately they've been involved in just about everything except intercourse...plenty of things on the "wait a year" list.

What's worse is that the behavior didn't stop after their confession to the Bishop.

Then, they made a pact to clean things up, so that he can go on his mission.

At the time of her conversation with Heather they had made the pact to stay clean for 3 months so that he could go.

Katy was so shocked that she didn't really offer any advice, she just listened.

Then she came to me and asked me what she should do.

My first instinct was to talk to Heather about it and council her to repent, but Katy wouldn't hear of it.
She basically swore me to secrecy, because she didn't want Heather to know she didn't keep her confidence.

So, I've tried to be really nice to Heather and whenever we're together I've tried to steer the conversation towards missions and even repentance and how neat it is to be a worthy representative of God.

I've always tried to emphasize how wonderful repentance is.

But, to keep Katy's confidence, I've never said anything direct. I've just hoped that she and her boyfriend would find their way to repentance on their own.

Katy has passed on advice in subsequent conversations with Heather, but Heather has been pretty tight lipped and almost acts as if it never happened.

My older brother and best friend was sent home from the MTC because he kept something hidden.

It was really really hard for him to face the shame, but he did.

He worked really hard for a year and is now a year into his mission in (Location Withheld).

He and I had long conversations about how putting off repentance only increases the suffering that must come before the great joy of forgiveness.

So, obviously, I have strong feelings about living without unnecessary pain.

Jumping forward, the new age qualifications were announced just as the boyfriend's papers were going back in. Now Heather is excitedly and very publicly announcing her intentions to go.

She's met with the Bishop and Stake President, done medical and dental checkups and is preparing her papers.

Obviously, since she met with the Bishop and Stake President, and her intentions became no less public, she obviously didn't say anything to them.

The boyfriend has announced that he got his call and leaves in 3 weeks to the MTC.

So, I caved.

I got permission from Katy to write to Heather.

Katy actually had second thoughts and texted me not to, but I had already put the letter in the mailbox.

I tried to be as loving as possible.

I didn't threaten to expose them,

I just wrote that Katy had mentioned to me some things about their conversation and I knew that they weren't going on missions the right way.

I wrote my testimony that I knew that repentance often involves pain and shame, but that the reward is worth it.

I also wrote that the shame will only increase as time passes and that it will eat away at them like a cancer.

Well, I don't know if I should have done that or not.

Heather got pretty mad at Katy, but to her credit, Katy was clear that she didn't write the letter and tried to rescind permission, but that she agreed with it.

Then she texted me and basically told me that her repentance was between she and the Lord and that she was worthy and ready.

She didn't say anything to deny the sin, however.

I did tell her that repentance was between she and the Lord, but it had to be according to His rules and not hers.

But, then I said, I was just hoping to help, that I loved her no matter what, and that I wouldn't talk to her about it anymore.

Obviously, it still eats away at me that they'll both be representing the Church. But I also believe in agency.

I had hopes that he would cave under the pressure of the MTC, like my brother, but the more I've learned about him, he's pretty manipulative and guilt free, so he might make it through.

She's so afraid of him that she won't say anything either.

So, my question is this: Do I have an obligation to do more?

If it weren't that they were going on missions, I would know that the answer is "no".

But if they are going to be representatives of the Church, do I have more of an obligation to let anyone know that they aren't worthy?

If so, who?

-Trying to do what's right

P.S. To be clear, I don't have romantic inclinations to Katy or Heather. I've got someone else already who isn't going to "wait", but I'd like to see where things go after the mission. She's also been aware of the whole situation.

Dear Trying,

No, I don't think you have an obligation to do more.

And, frankly, I think you may have gone about this the wrong way.

All of the information you have is second hand, and you don't even really know these people.

Your first move was correct: try to convince Katy to convince her friend to repent fully before being dishonest with her Bishop about her worthiness.

One should not go "running to the Bishop" about information they have regarding another's worthiness.

Even if the information we have is directly from the sinner, it's not our job to do their confessing for them. 

There is a line, of course, between minding our own business and being our "brother's keeper".

(By the way, I think we misuse that phrase . . . A LOT. We seem to forget the context in which it's introduced in Scripture.)

But this girl, and her boyfriend, aren't your brothers, they're more like a friend of a friend of a friend. 

Remember, this missionary (and soon his ex-girlfriend) had to lie to his Bishop, multiple times, and then his Stake President multiple times, and soon the MTC Presidency, and then his Mission President . . . I mean we're talking about Priesthood interviews . . . Missionary Application Interviews . . . Temple Recommend interviews . . .

That's why he'll feel the "pressure", and as you know, she'll feel it, too.

And consider this: what if they didn't lie to priesthood authority?

What if your friend's friend was bragging? 

Or trying to seem like she was more worldly than she is?

(My gosh, that happens So Many Times in the Church! Drives Sister Jo and I crazy when Latter-day Saints think they're cool by bragging about how "bad" they used to be . . . topic for another day.)

The thing is, because the information is so far removed from you, it's really tough to tell.

What if they did fully confess?

There's no way that either you or Katy would necessarily be privy to that information.

In fact, it would be a concern of a different type if you were.

Rather than a note, it would have been far better to talk to her in person.

That's a tough thing to do, so one option would be to pose it to her (and him, separately) as a question.

"Hi, can I ask your advice? I heard third hand about a couple that committed some sins that could call their worthiness in question; I don't know either of them very well, but I know they're about to go into some interviews where, if this is all true, they're either going to have to confess or lie", and then ask them "what would you do if you were me?"

See the difference?

Rather than being straight out accusatory, rather than putting someone on the defensive, you're asking for help for yourself.

You could take the same tactic with their Bishop.

"Hey, I need some advice: if I knew, possibly, about this stuff about someone, what do you think I should do in this situation?"

That conversation is not too late to happen, by the way.

Just be careful.

You're treading on some very shaky ground here because the information isn't stuff you're supposed to know in the first place, and your sources aren't direct.

Sometimes it's better to just let the process work.

Trust in the Spirit.

Trust in the Lord.

It's typically better if people come to the realization that they need to repent on their own, rather than have someone, especially someone that they don't really know, rat them out.

Look at the positive things that happened for your own brother when he had the opportunity to repent.

He came to that moment on his own.

With the influence of the Spirit, of course, but do you see what I'm saying?

Remember, the first step in True Repentance is to recognize what we've done wrong.

It doesn't always count if someone else does the recognizing for us. And trust me, I know it can be difficult.

You feel like you're sitting back, watching someone set themselves up for pain, and you think that if only you stepped in you could save them that pain, and maybe even help a Bishop or the Church in the process . . . But that's not Heavenly Father's plan, is it?

He allows us to figure it out for ourselves, painful as it may be for Him . . . and for us.

The biggest thing He does is speak to us directly, through the Spirit mostly.

If you do end up talking to her, him, or their respective Bishops (or Stake Presidents), will you let me know what's said and how it goes?

I appreciate your concerns, and your earnestness in doing the right thing.

Good luck and God bless,

- Bro Jo

Dear Trying,

One thing that I'm not certain I said or said clearly : Whether or not another person has confessed or repented is not our business, regardless of what we know or think we know.

That's between them, priesthood authority (if applicable), and the Lord.

- Bro Jo

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