You might mention the shame and guilt heaped on those who come to the church for help....food or rent....all the questions and requirements to get a sack of groceries.
When I was still a Mormon, but struggling with all of it and not attending church, we had a house fire. The church did nothing for us because I was inactive. Other churches in the area donated clothes, household goods, and two beautiful handmade quilts. The omission of my own church made a lasting impression on me and on my non-member husband and family. Several people asked me where 'my' church was. In fact, that was when my husband told me that he would 'never' join that church.
I would also say that dealing with people as individuals was important. Making blanket policy doesn't work. I took a big leap on my journey out of that church when the stake president told my bishop that, no matter how worthy, no matter how much my husband agreed to all the terms, I was not allowed to be endowed until my husband took me to be sealed....which I knew was not going to happen. I believed that my 'blessings' were being withheld because of someone else's behavior. One woman in the stake--also married to a non-member--had been endowed and afterwards her husband refused to allow her to wear the garments, so the stake president refused to allow any 'woman' to be endowed if she was married to a non-member.
I would also say to allow the women as much autonomy as he can. If a woman can run a household of children, she can run a Relief Society. If she can't, she shouldn't be president. Help the women to feel as valuable as human beings as any priesthood holder.
He's in a tough spot as a middle manager......balancing the demands of his members and the limits of the church.
Wonderful letter! I hope it helps this bishop to open his mind to some of your suggestions.
You know, I grew up feeling so smug that we did not have "paid clergy". As if it was a virtue. As time went by and I found myself in dire need of spiritual direction, I realized that my bishop was ill prepared to help me. In fact, all he could say is "I just don't understand it". I made the determination that I would never go back to talk to him about my situation, and I never did. Many others on this list have told horror stories about bishops who not only did not help the situation, but brought great harm and danger to people at times. If your words to this friend of yours can help him avoid these pitfalls, you have done a great service to his ward.
brilliant, what more can one say?
Before I read your mail in detail I thought for myself what I did in trying to be a "good" counsellor, member of the bishopric, father, husband etc. when I was still a LDS. I always found out, that I was "loved" by many people, was "popular", really helped people. So I was told, often a positive influence to the lives of people. But then there were also a few of the "conservatives" who weren't very fond of me and my actions. I came up with some points which made me "tick." I think you described them, the "ingredients":
You wrote for example:
The only suggestion I could add at the moment is an article I'm translating in part at the moment. I will use it in my webpage one of these days (still working on it). Maybe some thoughts in there which support your letter. I think it's one of the most amazing publications I read by a Mormon. Just a few excerpts.
From Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol.1, No.1, p.44ff. "The Challenge of Honesty", by Frances Lee Menlove.
Frances Menlove brings to this essay her insights and experience as a Ph.D. in psychology and a teacher of young children and adults in the Church. She is Manuscripts Editor of Dialogue.
I think because of the personal relationship he has with this bishop, it is important to "help." It proves for example the point, that Exmos are not fanatics and only "enemies to the church."
I had another "picture" in my mind. Not sure if it is appropriate, but Richard's situation reminded me of a military conflict. In the heat of the battle there are times where a truce needs to be called, a fire-pause. Wounded are taken care of, no matter what the nationality, who the enemy etc. This can be tough sometimes. Especially if you have taken heavy casualties yourself before or the "enemy" has played "unfair". This bit of "fairplay", respect, is important for oneself not to become bitter.
The last thing a person wants to hear is that he or she is wrong. By giving such advice, the bishop is telling the person that his (or her) feelings do not matter, that he is wrong in feeling that way, wrong in believing that way, wrong in the eyes of the church and the eyes of the Lord, which, at least creates the inner conflict, the double bind.
If people want to leave the church, allow them to do it with your blessing. If you do, you are leaving the door open for their reentry, if sometimes in the future the feel that they would like to return. By making it difficult for these people to leave, you will be closing the door for them and giving them yet another reason not to return.
Furthermore, if you believe in the doctrine of free agency, you will be facilitating their use of their free agency, which is not a sin or a crime. In addition, people who leave the church do so often for doctrinal reasons, give them no reason to dislike you personally.
In summary, treat people like human beings, listen to them when they are hurting, give them a hug when needed, some words of advice that would help them with their struggles (not necessarily the church line). You were probably appointed bishop because of your compassion toward others, and your example as a human being. Let people be themselves, without judgement from you, in the best example of what Jesus would do, if he were bishop. Show the people under your authority how your God and Jesus live through you.
Thanks all for the replies to my questions about Richard's letter to his friend. It is nice to be able to question without being punished for it!
I have just finished reading Susan's story, which I enjoyed very much - thank you Susan. I was aghast when I read that she had been advised by her bishop, in regard to her abusive husband, to "try not to provoke him, and maybe you should improve your cooking skills". I was stunned! These are the exact same words spoken to me by my bishop and my family. I was 22 years old and saw the rest of "time and all eternity" and being a living Hell. Like Susan, I thought it was my fault - my husband told me that, my church told me that, my family told me that. I even naively attempted to speak with my husband's family about the "problem" - I was told that he wouldn't have sexually abused me, either, if I hadn't slept on the couch! I was supposed to have cuddled up to him after he pounded on me??? I felt horribly defeated.
So now, no longer in the church, I think back on the many hurtful and ignorant things that were said to me, and I am almost grateful. It helped me to leave that organization, it helps me to keep perspective when I feel guilty and less than. The more insidious aspects of the mormon church are often difficult to identify when you have been indoctrinated for so many years. The blatantly dehumanizing experiences actually helped me separate from that abuse. I agree with the person who said it is important to not be bitter ... so I try to do that by looking at how those experiences helped to get me out of the church. (The comparison to military conflict was quite thought provoking).
It certainly struck a cord in me when Richard posted the letter to his friend ... my immediate reaction was "please don't help them be better at brainwashing people to accept the status quo!" Yet, I can see why one might want to do lesson the damage, also. The bishop is lucky to have a friend such as you.
"Admit that not everyone will be saved in the Celestial Kingdom. Ease the pain for those who will be in lesser kingdoms, and let them go in peace. Learn to recognize who they are, and do what you can to ease them into life outside the church."I just about cried when I read this. This is a wonderful sentiment. Let them go in peace, indeed. A lesser kingdom suits me just fine.
There are bishops that are truly good men, even men of God, or men of some form of spiritual power. Even Brigham Young said something to the effect that you cannot wield your power by virtue of your position, but only through patience and long suffering. So even Brigham Young understood the corruption that power can cause, even though he seems to have succumbed to it himself. With any luck, your bishop friend will learn from your letter and make life happier for his flock. I'm pleased that he takes the position seriously enough to seek council from an apostate.
"People carry enough guilt around, and if one had to summarize the message of Christianity in its finest and most humane form, I think it would be that 'God forgives you! You are his child! Bask in the love of God, freely given!'"Amen to that!
Oustanding. I'd love to hear his reaction. Your letter is earnest, honest, and even handed, and has the potential to make life better for a lot of people. Making life better for others is probably the greatest thing a person can do, and I'm glad you make your wisdom freely available for others to benefit.
"I would think the best advice you could give 99% of the people who come to you for advice and counsel is to tell them that it's between them and God, and there is no reason why they can't ask God themselves."Richard,
Tha above quote from you was the exact reason I started to leave the church. I sat in many interviews with my Bishop over this. I COULD NOT, and still don't understand how loving someone and showing love was wrong! He was truly one of the only examples I have from the church that I can honestly say was a wonderful person. He was a "recovered" inactive member, he was very humble , actually makes me want to cry, he was just so REAL. He was in charge of this giant young adult ward in [..deleted...] which I'm pretty sure he really didn't want to be, tons of young adults with all of these sins... If memory serves me right, he actually said at the pulpit that what we think are sins are not, basically , get on with your lives you are dwelling on yourselves toooooo much! Let alone I believe he actually said "Damnit" at the pulpit when he was so fed up with the evil BITCHY gossiping and cruelty that young people - as that is who he was speaking to - can inflict on others.
The man has come to my memory so much since being on this list, and he is the only church member I can really say, was simply Christ Like in a really human sort of way that I ever ran across in my 24 years before leaving the church.