This is probably going to stir the pot a bit, but I want to bring it up anyway.
Back in November ’07, I came across a blog article called, “Which Sins Do You Confess To The Bishop?” Most of the comments followed the presupposition that there were certain sins that members were required to confess to their bishop on their own, in order to obtain forgiveness from the Lord. My comments (which you can read on that page, beginning with comment #33) were based upon a reading of the scripture (D&C 42) that showed no concrete command to the church to confess to their ecclesiastical authorities if no witnesses were testifying against them (or if no inquiry was made.)
The general rule, as I read it, is to confess to the person who has been offended, and to God, but in cases of denial and impenitence, witnesses could bring a sinner to the ecclesiastical authority and testify of his or her sin and unrepentant state, thus requiring him or her to confess and repent in order to avoid a judgment by the ecclesiastical authority. This keeps the church clean of unrepentant sinners.
There is only so much that can be said in a comments section and I wrote my understanding about as briefly as I could. In postings back and forth, I finally decided that I would take up D&C 42 and fully analyze it, expounding it according to my understanding. I have, since then, read and re-read it, but I have yet to begin writing my analysis and exposition.
I expect most LDS to think I am wrong in my estimation of this scripture. I expect that even what4anarchy may disagree with me. We have been taught from the time we are baptized and even before (for those who were brought up in the church) that some sins must be confessed to the bishop, even if there are no witnesses or inquiries made. But that does not mean that such teaching is entirely scriptural.
The purpose of this post is to invite discussion from visitors. Open your scriptures and show me, if you wish, where it is written that we must confess our sins to the ecclesiastical authorities when there are no witnesses or when there are no inquiries made. Or, put another way, is there anywhere in the scriptures that states that in order to receive forgiveness of sins, we must confess to our ecclesiastical authorities in cases in which there are not two or more persons witnessing against us?
This is not to argue with others over points of doctrine, but to view the scriptural basis other LDS use for voluntary, “witness-less” and “inquiry-less” confessions to bishops. By this I mean that an individual commits a sin and feels it is necessary to confess to his bishop in order to receive forgiveness from the Lord. I will post a follow-up article explaining what I understand D&C 42 to say in this regard.
Next Repentance article: The law governing confession
Previous Repentance article: Daily repentance