This past Sunday I had the privilege of sitting through one of the finest fast and testimony meetings I have ever participated in. One thing I have to say about my ward: we have great Fast Sundays.
Most touching to me was the testimony of a sister who stood up about half way through the meeting. Emotion was evident in her voice from the moment she began to speak. Without sharing all of the details, she unburdened herself to the ward about a sin she had committed recently. It was a beautiful testimony, full of humility and sorrow for the wrong that she had done.
At one point, she said she was talking this through with her husband when he jokingly suggested that if she wanted to repent, she should say thirty Hail Marys, ten Our Fathers, and go and sin no more. She laughed, but then said that she envied Catholics for the simplicity of their penance. She wished that she could simply offer a few prayers and then feel free of the guilt of the wrong she had done.
Unwittingly, she was demonstrating that we can, in fact, learn something from our Catholic brothers and sisters about repentance. She was confessing her sins, and her confession furthered reconciliation and atonement. She feared that her confession would reveal her to be a hypocrite (I know how she feels), when in fact it proved her to be a disciple. For a long time, I was uncomfortable with confessions -- making them and hearing them, both. As bishop, I've heard a number of confessions over the past five years and my view has changed. Confession can be cathartic and a catalyst to reconciliation, but the greatest value is in the affirmation of humanity that comes from confessing. From it we learn that we are loved by God and by our brothers and sisters even when our imperfections and failures are known to them. The love we receive from others is more meaningful when we know that we are loved despite our sins.
This sister laid bare her soul before her fellow saints and rather than being uncomfortable with her candor and honesty, we felt her pain, empathized with her, and cried with her. We participated in atonement with her. I was grateful for her confession. It was edifying.