SP says I cannot baptize my son

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strebor
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SP says I cannot baptize my son

Post by strebor » 18 Nov 2011, 10:31

I am not a regular member of this forum but part of my story was brought up in a "ominous development" thread sometime last spring. I would like to update but first I'll give a short backstory.

While serving in the Bishopric, i began my faith crisis/journey. I stepped down from my calling to maintain my integrity and nearly lost my family trying to sort through it all. I attended church/paid tithing until my wife began her own journey and we are now happily on the same page. I was able to have a temple recommend for most of that time because the SP knew my story and my process very well. I was very honest and open during several discussions with him. He never wanted to know any thing really challenging but he knew my sincerity and was very loving and understanding. During this time I baptized/confirmed and blessed some of my children.

My youngest son turns eight soon. I now have a new SP. A few months back he stopped by our house and my wife and I had a chat with him about our situation. I really tried to steer the conversation away from anything specific because I know the misunderstanding that can result from that. My wife and I actually thought things had gone relatively well.

This week we were called in to his office for an appointment. I actually was expecting him to ask us to do something. My wife expected something different. She had better instincts than me. He got right to the point. He said that our bishop had approached him because we had asked our bishop if I could baptize my son(which we did not). He said this greatly surprised him because his takeaway from our previous conversation was that we no longer believed. He spent a lot of time on the first 4 temple recommend questions, stressing that we needed to believe "literally". He wanted yes or no, not an explanation of what the atonement meant to me. I gave my best hope answer about the atonement and he said that equals a "no". Near the end it came out that he had "inquired of the brethren about our right to membership" because of our previous conversation. This took me by total surprise. He was told he cannot ex us for our beliefs until we communicate them to someone else. Lucky us.

The sad part is that prior to this interview our family was actually making some movement to be in a better place with the church. My oldest daughter had decided to be more active and we supported her in that decision. My wife and I had actually talked about trying to go at least once a month and have been twice lately. We were encouraging our son to be baptized. Listening to the Mormon Stories podcasts had given us some hope to find a place within our church family.

After the discussion with our SP, all of that is in jeopardy. It makes me sad. My oldest daughter has taken it very hard. My son that is to be baptized cried, when we told him. As of now, he doesn't want to be baptized.

I am at a loss what to do, thoughts have been all over the place, from officially resigning, to challenging the SP on his interpretation of the worthiness questions, to simply showing up in my whites with my son at the baptism. I am not unworthy to do it.

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Brian Johnston
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Re: SP says I cannot baptize my son

Post by Brian Johnston » 18 Nov 2011, 12:21

strebor wrote:Near the end it came out that he had "inquired of the brethren about our right to membership" because of our previous conversation. This took me by total surprise. He was told he cannot ex us for our beliefs until we communicate them to someone else.
Woah ... wow ... [picks jaw up off the floor] He considered the possibility of trying to excommunicate you for thought crimes against certainty?!

Was this guy ever a Bishop before becoming a newly-minted Stake President? I really wonder. It sounds like someone who is incredibly inexperienced in dealing with anyone who has had concerns at some point in their life.

You don't really sound hostile to me, or even that upset when you tell your story. You sound way more chilled out than most people who are struggling with doubts and questions. It's really sad what a crap shoot it is with leadership. Your last SP was comfortable ministering to people with "doubts" and your new SP seems to have no such empathy or compassion.

What do you do? I am not sure I have a great answer. Two things come to mind. One is pretty radical and aggressively forward, the other is more of a roll-with-the-punches and punt response:

1. You could ask to meet with him again and try to clear the air.

This would be pretty bold, and would require a lot of emotional discipline and chutzpah. You could have a face to face conversation and TELL him pretty much exactly what you just told all of us here. Tell him you have been interested in trying to make it work, come back to some level of activity, that your daughter and son were excited to try this too, and then let him know how this affected all of you. Ask him to try and have some compassion and tolerance for your efforts, that you want to believe, and even perhaps quote some scriptures about faith being imperfect. "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." (Mark 9:24)

Perhaps you might be the catalyst for change, and through your love for this man, soften his heart towards you and others.

I know. Pretty bold and radical. I personally would be tempted to try this, but readily admit it isn't everyone's cup of postum.

2. The uber-practical.

Make a cost-benefit decision. How hard do you want to work to overcome this and push forward with your exploration of re-connecting on some level with Mormonism? Having crappy leadership that are out to get you really puts a damper on the fire. I don't blame you at all for feeling discouraged. :-(

What is your ward like? Are they welcoming and friendly? Do you have friends there? You can decide to spend pretty much all contact on that level, I would think, without a lot of effort. I've been in my current ward around 2 years, and only met with a stake leader once, and even that was under some extraordinary circumstances. If it hadn't been for that one time, I wouldn't even know who my Stake leadership were.

Your son could be baptized by you or someone else later, if that is what he really wanted to do. Could your daughter continue to go to see friends and just ignore all that other junk? I'm just throwing out ideas.

I don't know you well enough, or know enough of your story and circumstances to advise better. I can only say generally that we all make this kind of practical cost-benefit calculation.
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

Roy
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Re: SP says I cannot baptize my son

Post by Roy » 18 Nov 2011, 13:01

strebor wrote:He was told he cannot ex us for our beliefs until we communicate them to someone else. Lucky us.
How Sad! (sarcasm voice) He can't use his position to personally weed out those he may deem not celestial material. :cry:
strebor wrote:After the discussion with our SP, all of that is in jeopardy. It makes me sad. My oldest daughter has taken it very hard. My son that is to be baptized cried, when we told him. As of now, he doesn't want to be baptized.

I am at a loss what to do, thoughts have been all over the place, from officially resigning, to challenging the SP on his interpretation of the worthiness questions, to simply showing up in my whites with my son at the baptism. I am not unworthy to do it.
I would ask you to remember that you are still in charge of your family, I would not think it wise to unload this conversation in your home without filters. If the SP made comments to your son to make him cry that would be another story, but until then you are able to decide how to frame this ("We just found out that Grandpa Strebor really would love to baptize you"). If you wanted to baptize your son in a river or a swimming pool as a symbol before God that he is wanting to follow the Saviour in his life, this would be another choice (admittedly one that might complicate yours and your son's relationship with the church). Finally, there have been several talks recently about having semi-worthy priesthood holder fathers participate in certain priesthood ordinances. Most importantly, I was lead to believe that the new CHI explicitly said that a father DOES NOT need to be temple worthy to baptise his children (but that he may not be able to confirm them...does anyone have confirmation on this?) So without getting into battle, I might meet with the SP privately and very politely let him know how important it is in your family that you perform the baptism, that while you have unanswered questions about certain truth claims - you do want to give your children the same religious upbringing benefits that you had, that the CHI seems to be in your favor and that you are willing to arrange for another male relative to perform the confirmation (perhaps Grandpa Strebor).
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

strebor
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Re: SP says I cannot baptize my son

Post by strebor » 18 Nov 2011, 13:35

Thanks for the response.

I am not hostile, mostly just sad. I guess i'm chilled a little bit because of the time involved, it has been a long lonely road, but I am in a good place relatively speaking. I have been through angry and lived to see the other side.

I live in the ward I grew up in, so I know pretty much everyone. Our ward is possibly one of the most orthodox of the church anywhere. My Mom and Dad have never really confronted me in 9 years, although I know it has been very hard for them.

Current SP and previous SP both grew up here as well, so relationships are long. SP is actually a really nice guy. I think he believes he is protecting the integrity of the church. I really got the sense, going back over the interview, that he wasn't hearing anything I said. Anything besides a "yes" was just noise that he interpreted as "no". I don't think that is fair, or that it even really gets at the intent of the questions, but that's what he heard.

He kept returning to statements like "i can tell that you both have 'some sort of spirituality' but my job as judge is to decide if you are worthy to participate in the ordinance." He insisted on "literal" atonement, which although i haven't checked out for sure, I don't think is actually part of the question.

His only real hesitance was the effect that he knew it might have on my son. He was right about that, my son was devastated, I have a really good relationship with all of my kids. I really hate to think that a shortsighted decision like this could have a really counterproductive influence on my family.

Anyway I appreciate the advice, I will consider any suggestions. Not really sure what I am looking for in posting other than a chance to be heard. Nine years is a long time to be quiet.

To the point about being exed for current lack of certainty. I was absolutely shocked by this. My wife and I actually heard a rumor about this shortly after our first visit with SP. We dismissed it as misunderstanding because the nature of our visit had felt positive. In retrospect he was trying to pin us down for specific testimony claims, and my attempt to avoid specifics were proof that we were apostate. I was just trying to avoid the inevitable misunderstanding that comes from the discussion between one side that thinks black/white and one side that see more color. Didn't think he would feel the need to follow through on any of it.

strebor
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Re: SP says I cannot baptize my son

Post by strebor » 18 Nov 2011, 13:47

Would be interested if the CHI really says that Roy. Does someone here have access to that information?

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Heber13
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Re: SP says I cannot baptize my son

Post by Heber13 » 18 Nov 2011, 14:16

Strebor, I'm sorry to hear your situation. This to me, is an example of imperfect people trying their hardest in church to do what they think is right...it is just that we differ on what is right, so it requires us to choose how to handle it, and in that, there is opportunity to learn and grow.

I don't have great answers, but I will share my thoughts on what I would do, although I realize situations differ.

1. Study Pres Packer's talk from April 2010. From this I would sincerely try to get the idea from our apostles, what they teach about the importance of fathers doing the ordinances when they can, and priesthood authority.

2. I might prepare thoughts to want to meet with the SP again, and share these with an honest and open mind to ask him to teach me what this means. Why would Pres Packer say one thing, and a bishop or SP say something different? What are the long term consequences of this situation.

3. I have come to accept the church leaders have the keys and authority to make decisions, and I must respect them. I can't take authority to act with priesthood without them knowing or approving, but I can challenge them on how I see things and how they might not be understanding things. Perhaps your situation is a great learning experience for them and you can help open their minds to new ideas that benefit people that come after you. You might be able to help.

At the end of the day, should they not let me baptize or ordain my child, I'd talk with my wife about not doing it.

This also depends on your beliefs. If I don't believe in God at all, then really, baptism doesn't matter for me or my kids. My child may struggle with wanting it done like other siblings or friends, and creates a new challenge on how I teach my kids...but really, doing things because of tradition isn't the most important thing to me. Taking my son to a special vacation or 8th birthday party or something similar to celebrate his life could be substituted and the young ones might not know the difference. There isn't an easy way to deal with it.

If I do believe baptism but just have some other issues with the church, I think those could be worked out with discussions with the SP. So it depends on where you are at, and then the approach can be laid out on possibilities.

If the SP focused on the first 3 or 4 TR questions, I think the answers to those are probably telling on what they will feel good about approving. Based on what you said, inquiring about removing you from church based on your beliefs to me signals you have inexperienced and closed-minded leaders. If that is correct, I feel bad for you. That's rough. But still...is that something you can challenge them on in a calm, humble, way to clarify these things by using conference, scriptures and a true spirit of seeking to help understand what is right? Maybe they are wrong and need to be helped?
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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Re: SP says I cannot baptize my son

Post by Curt Sunshine » 18 Nov 2011, 15:02

I really got the sense, going back over the interview, that he wasn't hearing anything I said.


Knowing nothing but what you've shared, I think this might be right - and the crux of the issue. He simply might not be a listener; instead, he might be a "fixer". If that is the case, and if he sees you as needing to be fixed, I'm not sure there is a good approach that will change his mind - at least, not one that you can take.

Have you thought about approaching your former SP and talking with him about it? If the former SP was willing to talk with your current SP and share his own perspective on your situation, that might help. He could say something like, "I notice (your son) hasn't been baptized yet. I thought it would have happened by now. Is anything wrong?" That could open the conversation without the current SP feeling attacked or questioned in any way.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

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Brown
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Re: SP says I cannot baptize my son

Post by Brown » 18 Nov 2011, 17:14

Honestly, this is why a lot of those with uncertainty just keep it to themselves and give the bishop the answers they want to hear.

Roy
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Re: SP says I cannot baptize my son

Post by Roy » 18 Nov 2011, 18:34

strebor wrote:Would be interested if the CHI really says that Roy. Does someone here have access to that information?
Sorry Stebor,

I found the relevant posting but it seems to only help if your local leadership is willing...
Ray Degraw wrote:The wording now is very clear that the only times there is an absolute need for a current temple recommend and "full temple worthiness" is when the person is acting as the voice who is representing the Church itself in an ordinance that traditionally includes a circle of Priesthood holders and requires the Melchizedek Priesthood. Otherwise, a Stake President or Bishop may allow a father, for example, who is not "fully temple worthy" but is not embroiled in "serious sin" to baptize his children or confirm them to an office in the Aaronic Priesthood, to bless his children in Sacrament Meeting, etc.

I really like this change, but it still leaves the ultimate decision in the hands of the Bishop or Stake President. I can't see a way around that, frankly, but it will create situations where two people with the exact same situation will be held to different standards, based on the mindset of their individual leader. Again, I can't see a reasonable way around that when it comes to something like baptism, but I certainly feel for someone with a stricter leader who knows of someone else with a more lenient outlook.
It still may not be a bad idea to bring this up - as it is but further proof that the Brethren in general (as recently as November 2010) would actually like to see you participate, but it still seems to leave the ultimate decision to the local leadership.
Here is the link to where I got my info from:
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=2222&p=26719&hilit= ... end#p26719
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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SilentDawning
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Re: SP says I cannot baptize my son

Post by SilentDawning » 19 Nov 2011, 07:28

Wow...that's all I can say...wow.....as I have been kicked around like a rough stone rolling, my perspective sure has gotten far more lenient on most matters in life.

I feel this SP has either been influenced by the Middle Way Mormon scare, or he is simply unable to see this issue from multiple sides. It underscores the importance of being uber-careful about what you share with your local leaders. For a Church that is full of bureaucracy, the local leaders certainly do have a lot of leeway in their decisions -- and opportunities to do a lot of damage.

And yes, the Church is very much about carrots. Checkpoints along the way to make you either cut or commit (although I realize some Bishops/SP's might be lenient) throughout your whole life, with some leaders not providing much leeway for the ebb and flow of life, and testimony.

This is sad, and I feel for you. And these posts are real eye-openers for us all.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

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