[First Presidency letter]
To Bishoprics of Wards, Dear Brethren:
At the Stake Clerks' meeting, held during the late general conference, definite instructions were sought for in regard to making a record of cases of transgression of young people who make public confession of their wrongdoing and are forgiven.
No record should be made of this class of cases, nor of cases of the same character of a strictly private nature considered by a Bishop or Bishopric, but a record should be made and kept of cases of fornication or adultery tried in the regular way by the Bishop's court.
This question has also been asked:
At which of the meetings should persons guilty of unchastity be required to make confession, at the general meeting of the members of the ward, at the fast meeting, or at the monthly priesthood meeting?
Answer: The regulation of confessions should be left to the Bishopric of the ward in which the wrongdoing occurs, each case considered by them on its own merits, and disposed of according to the publicity already given to it. For instance, where people guilty of adultery or fornication confess their sin, and their transgression is known to themselves only, their confession should not be made public. But where publicity has been given to it their confession should be made before the priesthood of the ward at the regular monthly meeting; or, if it be deemed advisable that a still more public confession be made, such a confession should be made at the monthly fast meeting, and not at the regular Sunday services. ...
As a rule therefore where the transgression is known to but few, the confession (if required at all) should be made at the priesthood meeting, and only in cases where the offense has become a public scandal and reproach to the Church, should the more public confession be required. Your Brethren, JOSEPH F. SMITH, ANTHON H. LUND, CHARLES W. PENROSE, First Presidency.
[1916-June 19-Original letter. Church Historian's Library, in Clark, James R., Messages of the First Presidency (6 volumes)]