The scriptures use confession in at least two ways. One is to confess that Jesus is the Christ; that is, a confession or profession of faith; see, for example, Matt. 10:32; 16:16; John 6:68–69; 12:42; Rom. 10:9; Philip. 2:11; 1 Tim. 6:12; Heb. 4:14; 1 Jn. 4:2. A second usage of confession is confession of sin. It is a duty of all persons to confess all their sins to the Lord and, when necessary, to the person or persons sinned against. Sins against the public must be publicly confessed (D&C 42:88–93). Other items may be confessed to a church official (bishop), or in many cases to the Lord alone. Confession to a church official (in most cases the bishop) is necessary whenever one’s transgression is of a nature for which the Church might impose loss of membership or other disciplinary action. The bishop cannot and does not forgive sin, but he may judge the matter and waive the penalty that the Church might otherwise impose against the person. The repentant sinner must still make confession and obtain forgiveness of the Lord.
Confession is a condition of forgiveness. The Lord has said that true repentance is always accompanied by confession (D&C 58:43; 64:7). Confession was clearly a requirement of forgiveness under the law of Moses (Lev. 5:5; 26:40; Num. 5:7; Josh. 7:19; Ezra 10:11). John the Baptist baptized those who repented and confessed their sins (Matt. 3:5–6).