[Note handwritten in excruciatingly neat printing, with what must have been a calligraphic pen, on a 6"X 8" heavyweight cream-colored notecard suitable for a wedding invitation:
Dear Mr. I. Ron Door,
I would like to place this story in your story-writing contest. I earnestly hope in my heart that it may strengthen the testimonies of some readers of the Nozzy News.
I thank you
--Mrs. LaReen Fleen]
Confession Is Good for the Soul
by LaReen Fleen
I don't want to name names, but a certain not-too-young Elder from my ward, who has been somewhat inactive for many years, attended Fast and Testimony Meeting recently. He runs a couple of businesses downtown; you've probably been in them many times. I was surprised but happy to see him in church. I was really surprised when he was the first person to stand up to bear his Testimony. He practically sprang up like a jack-in-the-box. His wife, with her neat, tight grey perm Aqua Net-ted perfectly into place, looked at the floor intensely. His son looked like he had a tummyache. But he looked super happy, like he had really good news to share--as if his not-so-bright son had got into BYU, maybe, or he could now start selling Idaho Lottery scratch stickers in his store.
"Brothers and sisters, I feel inspired by the Spirit to talk to you today. It has been quite a long time since I said anything in Testimony Meeting. Basically, I had drifted away from our Heavenly Father. I did something about twenty years ago. That sin has been a wedge that Lucifer stuck in between our Father in Heaven and I, and until recently I didn't see that. But now I do. I understand. I know that this iniquity has pulled me farther and farther away from our Lord and His teachings. So the Spirit has whispered to me that I have to confess it to you. Then I can be reconciled to our Father."
His wife bored holes into the linoleum with her eyes. She shrank in her seat. His husky son carefully inspected his folded hands.
"Twenty years ago, when [Mrs. X] and I were engaged, is when this happened. I made a trip with several other Elders from Missouri, which is where we lived then, to help the people in Capetown, South Africa. In those days, South Africa was segregated, black and white. It was the law. It was called apartheid. So there was literally a white side of town and a black side of town.
The black side was the one that was having problems. There had been a big earthquake and tidal wave, and most of the damage had happened on the black side. The tidal wave had wiped out a lot of houses, so we were helping the people build shelters and clean up the streets. We were passing out food and medicine. It was a really big job. The waves had really done a number on the black side of town. We worked all the hours it was light enough to see, for about three weeks. Sometimes we got so tired that we had to just lay down where we were and sleep there for the night. See, they didn't enforce the segregation on the black side of town as much as on the white side. We could stay on their side, they were just kept out of the white side mostly.
So after about a week, one of the colored families asked me if I wanted to stay in their house instead of walking all the way back across to the white side after working hard all day. Well, that was a long walk, and I wasn't too much thinner then than I am now, and I was really, really tired, so of course I said yes! I was grateful. They were actually very nice people.
Anyway, to make a long story short, when I was staying in that household I fornicated with their daughter, who I think was eighteen. Not just once, but twice, two different nights. It's not something I'm proud of. It just...happened. Obviously, the Devil put it into the family's hearts to ask me to stay over. Then he put it into my heart to lust after their young daughter, who was actually kind of pretty in a way. I'm just very blessed and thankful that we did not have a child together. Brothers and sisters, that was our Heavenly Father's great mercy right there. We did not procreate. I've just carried the heavy sin in my heart ever since then."
In the pause that followed, [Mrs. X] shrank further. I could not have seen her over the pew's top if I hadn't been sitting a few feet away. She stared at the floor. The son inspected and rubbed a dark spot on the uncushioned wooden pew. The father continued.
"The Spirit told me that I must confess this great sin to you today. I have allowed it to torment my conscience for twenty years. But today I know, I know, that the Lord forgives me completely, now that I have fulfilled his commandment and confessed. He loves us and forgives us all when we do as He wishes. This I say in Jesus' name, Amen."
Having abruptly concluded, he smiled and passed the microphone back to the frightened-looking deacon who came to take it.
Wife's eyes on linoleum. Son rubbing the pew like it was his job. Half the congregation was staring at [Mr. X], some with open mouths and goggling eyes; half gazed into their laps, embarrassed--for the wife, for the son, most of all for themselves.
What I must tell you here and now is this. At first, I was shocked and, I guess the word for it is, a little bit nauseated. Why would he say this in front of everyone? What purpose could it possibly serve to tell this story now? He said himself that he didn't make a child. It was twenty years ago, before he was even married! We're all young once, right? Why tell it now?
But then I realized the Truth of it. These thoughts were my own weakness, disguised by Lucifer as compassion for the wife and son. See, the Devil is tricky that way. He won't just openly come right up to you and say, "Blahaha, I want you to turn against the Lord! Go forth and sin!" Instead, he whispers in your ear; he convinces you that what is bad is good, and what is good is bad. He messes with your mind without you even knowing it. I try to be a compassionate person, and so the Devil in his cleverness tried to turn my softheartedness against me. He made me think that feeling sorry for [Mrs. X] and their son, and wishing [Mr. X] hadn't said all this in public, was righteous and natural. He made me think that the confession was a terrible thing that would only break people's hearts. But you see, brothers and sisters, it can't be bad, because the Holy Ghost whispered the Lord's wishes to [Mr. X]. He just carried out our Father in Heaven's wishes. Sometimes what our Father asks of us is hard, and sometimes it is difficult to understand. I know it wasn't easy for [Mr. X] to confess his fornication, and at first I didn't understand why he did. But we don't need to understand, because our Father in Heaven does. He is always right. We must always follow Him.
This I testify to you in Jesus' name, Amen.