Surprise meeting with Bishop

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Roy
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Surprise meeting with Bishop

Post by Roy » 10 Sep 2013, 13:18

I haven't made a tithing payment since we lost our daughter. The tithing settlement after my bishop said that he sympathized with what I was going through (bereavement + faith crisis), he admitted that the way "tithing for blessings" is sometimes taught in church is wrong, but that it was his administrative duty to confiscate my TR.

Fast forward several years to last Sat. night meeting with a different bishop in a different state. He started with small talk and then got to the question, "Do you mind if I ask why you don't have a TR?" I responded that it was mostly because of tithing that I had been disillusioned by the teaching that God would bless me if I paid.

We had some discussion on hard things that befall the faithful - but Bishop seemed to be clearly of a mind that we are all still very blessed. I agreed that I still have many things to be thankful for.

He asked how I felt about the temple and I told him that I don't have any problems with it. I believe in the sealing that bound DW and I together. I told him that if I had a TR that I would attend at least occasionally. I told him that I believed I could answer all the other TR questions correctly. (My rationales behind the TR questions are not much different than Matt’s from a similar thread but I feel that I can answer them yes/no satisfactorily).

He asked me why I would obey all the other commandments and not this one. I responded that I believe the gospel habits make me a better person or at least don't hurt me (in the sense that abstaining from drinking coffee and tea doesn't make me a better person). Payment of tithing could help me be a better person (if done for the right reasons) but the cost would be so great that it might be smart to find other less expensive ways to exercise generosity and humility.

He asked if it also had to do with my frugality and I admitted to him that tithing had never been easy - before I had just told myself that it was an investment under the tithing for blessings model.

At one point he invited me to pay tithing once more and then paused for my response. I told him that I was thankful for his concern, I felt that it was genuine. I told him that I wasn't going to commit to anything on the spot but that I would discuss it with DW and make it the subject of thought and prayer.

At one point he asked me how I felt about the plan of salvation? I told him that I was in favor of it and then asked if he could be more specific. He asked if my testimony of the plan was stronger, weaker, or about the same as it was before we lost our daughter. I told him that my knowledge and certainty was gone, but that I did have hope and faith (which is a hope for things unseen).

He asked me if I would object to having a calling (not that he had one ready at the moment) and I told him that I had no objections. I was in favor of contributing if there could be a calling that would fit with my schedule (I go to work immediately after SM). I even recommended door greeter. :D

I then asked him about DD's upcoming baptism, the date, the time, what kind of autonomy we have over the program. He said that the talks should be short, 2.5 to 5 min long and that they should not divert attention away from the ordinance. The confirmation will take place immediately after. I didn't ask if I could perform the ordinances and left it assumed that I could. In a previous hallway chat where I asked him what I needed to do as a non-TR holder to prepare for the baptism ordinance and he said we would just need to have an informal chat. In my mind that box is now checked and if he believes differently then he's going to need to bring it up.

There were multiple times when he made statements and assumptions that I didn't quite agree with but I just nodded my head, or said "yup". In a way it was almost as though I was dealing with a child or an older person that has had life experiences so different than mine that they are just incapable of understanding my position and polite courtesy was more important than brutal clarity. It might be said that this approach is inauthentic. I can understand why it might seem so. At a different time in my life, having the bishop to validate some of my feelings would have been a stronger need - but not so now. He is just a man, a good man trying to do his best. I no longer see him as my confessor or my judge or as a representative of my God. He is still a gatekeeper to certain administrative functions that I desire to be a part of. For those that might still see this as dishonest, that's ok - I was never burdened with an overactive sense of honesty anyway. That might be one of my imperfections that the Atonement will make whole in the next life - I'm ok with that.

Neither one of us really opened the subject of history. It didn’t really seem pertinent to the discussion and I was glad to keep it separate.

I felt that I left the meeting with an intact relationship with the bishop, my options open, and - as a bonus - I presumably get to baptize and confirm DD.
"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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Re: Surprise meeting with Bishop

Post by Curt Sunshine » 10 Sep 2013, 13:23

Thanks for sharing this. It is a great example of what can happen with two good people who are respectful of and care about each other.
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)

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SilentDawning
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Re: Surprise meeting with Bishop

Post by SilentDawning » 10 Sep 2013, 15:05

Roy wrote: There were multiple times when he made statements and assumptions that I didn't quite agree with but I just nodded my head, or said "yup". In a way it was almost as though I was dealing with a child or an older person that has had life experiences so different than mine that they are just incapable of understanding my position and polite courtesy was more important than brutal clarity. It might be said that this approach is inauthentic. I can understand why it might seem so. At a different time in my life, having the bishop to validate some of my feelings would have been a stronger need - but not so now. He is just a man, a good man trying to do his best. I no longer see him as my confessor or my judge or as a representative of my God. He is still a gatekeeper to certain administrative functions that I desire to be a part of. For those that might still see this as dishonest, that's ok - I was never burdened with an overactive sense of honesty anyway. That might be one of my imperfections that the Atonement will make whole in the next life - I'm ok with that.

Neither one of us really opened the subject of history. It didn’t really seem pertinent to the discussion and I was glad to keep it separate.

I felt that I left the meeting with an intact relationship with the bishop, my options open, and - as a bonus - I presumably get to baptize and confirm DD.
I think this is excellent. Exactly how I would have handled it. And I have the same perspective as Roy on how to talk to priesthood leaders.

I don't have a problem with answering theTR questions with the backdrop of unorthodox interpretation guiding me either. And keeping your options open is critical to feeling you can return to full commitment at some point later -- if you choose. As we have seen with cWald, and Matt, if you are brutally honest, the leadership makes withdrawals in your very relationship with them. And for me, they are the church as the official representatives. Their reaction can close your emotional and administrative doors forever if they know how you really feel. Plus, they are not equipped to handle unorthodox statements very well.

He was obviously trying to determine whether he should allow you to baptize your daughter. I like your soft landing about praying about it. His true intentions in letting you baptize your daughter may come out when you go to schedule the baptism, but it sounds positive. I hope he isn't making the ability to baptize your daughter contingent on paying tithing. Do you think that is possible?

I appreciate the report and think you did a great job Roy.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

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Life_Journey_of_Matt
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Re: Surprise meeting with Bishop

Post by Life_Journey_of_Matt » 10 Sep 2013, 16:07

This is a very interesting parallel to my story indeed. And I must say, you're very honest about your level of honesty. :D

In all seriousness, I like that you are in a place that you didn't feel the need to deconstruct as much as I did. The steps I went through felt very necessary for me at this point in my life, but it is surely not going to be for everyone, and it has its difficult moments. I have my work ahead of me to be able to humbly, respectfully and tactfully navigate the situation that I'm now in, and it's not simple. I'm finally starting, though, to feel like I'm at a place where I can begin my faith reconstruction.

Thank you for sharing this Roy.
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Roy
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Re: Surprise meeting with Bishop

Post by Roy » 10 Sep 2013, 17:22

Life_Journey_of_Matt wrote:In all seriousness, I like that you are in a place that you didn't feel the need to deconstruct as much as I did. The steps I went through felt very necessary for me at this point in my life, but it is surely not going to be for everyone, and it has its difficult moments.
FWIW, I did my share of over sharing when my crisis began. The EQP visited my house and told me the story of the stage coach driver that stays as far away from the cliff as possible. He related that to only reading the scriptures as every degree of separation from the scriptures was closer to the line.

My bishop at the time was actually very sympathetic but he still took my TR away. I wasn't even unorthodox. I was grieving and bewildered. I had been the ward mission leader and DW the primary president, so my fall from good standing was very public.

I had a Mormon co-worker corner me in the break room to say that bishop had been giving a talk about the tests that try men's souls. She felt that the talk was specifically referencing me and she felt inspired to warn me (as the self appointed messenger of the bishop) lest I fail my own personal test.

This move to a new state for us represented a chance at a clean start. Maybe we could come to church without all the baggage of people's expectations. It does seem to be working for us, but I understand the needs of others being different.
SilentDawning wrote:He was obviously trying to determine whether he should allow you to baptize your daughter. I like your soft landing about praying about it. His true intentions in letting you baptize your daughter may come out when you go to schedule the baptism, but it sounds positive. I hope he isn't making the ability to baptize your daughter contingent on paying tithing. Do you think that is possible?
I actually think that he forgot about the baptism. He said that his wife and children were out of town so he is just trying to do things that he has been meaning to do for the last year. I was the one that brought it up. The baptism is in a couple months and we don't have any appointments to meet again - so I would say that there is no ultimatum at this point. I was fully prepared to have someone else do the confirmation (because I understand that there is a higher standard of worthiness associated with confirmation) but in following the bishop's lead he has made no such suggestion. Perhaps the danger of not being brutally honest and keeping my options open is that both the bishop and I are not completely sure where I stand in relation to the church. There are tradeoffs to every approach it would seem, but I am getting pretty comfortable living on the periphery.
"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: Surprise meeting with Bishop

Post by SilentDawning » 10 Sep 2013, 17:35

FWIW, I did my share of over sharing when my crisis began. The EQP visited my house and told me the story of the stage coach driver that stays as far away from the cliff as possible. He related that to only reading the scriptures as every degree of separation from the scriptures was closer to the line.

My bishop at the time was actually very sympathetic but he still took my TR away. I wasn't even unorthodox. I was grieving and bewildered. I had been the ward mission leader and DW the primary president, so my fall from good standing was very public.

I had a Mormon co-worker corner me in the break room to say that bishop had been giving a talk about the tests that try men's souls. She felt that the talk was specifically referencing me and she felt inspired to warn me (as the self appointed messenger of the bishop) lest I fail my own personal test.

This move to a new state for us represented a chance at a clean start. Maybe we could come to church without all the baggage of people's expectations. It does seem to be working for us, but I understand the needs of others being different.
All this saddens me -- you have sincere concerns and inner pain, and the organization that should be supporting you and helping you makes it worse. Kind of like how you have to pay COBRA after you lose your job and your income. I have been there. I wasn't aware they took away your TR until you shared it.

In a way, it's a bit liberating not to have one because you end up with having very little to lose anymore. Barring participation in ordinances (like a confirmation), there isn't much control the organization can exert upon you. We had a family who started attending outside their Ward, and the word is the SP met with them and threatened their TR's unless they went to their own Ward. Without a TR, you are a free agent.
Perhaps the danger of not being brutally honest and keeping my options open is that both the bishop and I are not completely sure where I stand in relation to the church. There are tradeoffs to every approach it would seem, but I am getting pretty comfortable living on the periphery.
I think part of this healthy attitude of "comfort" with uncertainty comes from something you said earlier -- that you no longer buy into the leadership as the oracles of knowledge whose approval you need (you said something like that in a previous post, although my paraphrase here may be more dramatic). With that realization comes a lack of interest in these meetings except to the extent you walk out with your options intact going forward -- as much as possible.

The other thing to consider, is that when priesthood leader takes away a TR, he starts a slippery path where someone who might otherwise have had the reported spiritual boosts from temple attendance, no longer has that benefit. Other commandments seem less important. You can get pretty comfortable, pretty fast with not paying tithing, not having the temple in your life, and not feeling you have to follow every administrative, non-gospel item that comes across the pulpit.

I received an invitation to be a veil worker again recently. I never enjoyed being a veil worker, and it was a bit of relief to be able to simply discard the letter knowing that I wasn't eligible....such is the risk priesthood leaders take when they revoke TR's too easily -- they encourage dissaffection.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

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DarkJedi
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Re: Surprise meeting with Bishop

Post by DarkJedi » 10 Sep 2013, 20:17

I do think it's sad the the TR has become a weapon. This is a new idea for me. In my active years - including several in bishoprics - I don't ever remember someone who wasn't undergoing formal church discipline having a TR pulled. Maybe that's something that has evolved over the past 10 years or maybe it doesn't happen here - I know local leaders can have a huge impact on that sort of thing. Also in our area, it has always been that even an inactive father could baptize his own children as long as he met some basic worthiness - not at the TR level necessarily. I am aware, for instance, of fathers who didn't keep the WoW and/or pay tithing being permitted to baptize their own children, partly just to give them the spiritual experience in hopes of more fully activating the individual and family. I am also aware of people who made themselves worthy of a temple recommend by being good for a couple months prior (like to attend a sealing) and then going back to their "wicked ways" soon after - and keeping the TR.

I don't particularly struggle with tithing, but I also don't pay (although my DW seems to overpay anyway - I don't think that counts). I see tithing as the way the church is funded, and here in the US we do benefit through funding for ward activities and such. I remember the days when there were separate contributions for such things as ward budget and buildings. I suppose I don't have a testimony of tithing in that, like you Roy, I see no blessings from paying tithing. I, too, have much I could be thankful for - but I don't count those as blessings because my non-member and atheist neighbors and acquaintances also have much they could be thankful for. I think most members would be shocked if they know how few members are actually tithe payers - it's about 15% in our ward - about 1/3 of the active membership.

All that said, I agree that it sounds positive that you may be able to baptize your daughter, and I hope it does work out that way for you. My heart has been ripped apart as I have not participated in these landmark events for my own children, and I'm not sure that's something that can ever be fixed in our relationships.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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SilentDawning
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Re: Surprise meeting with Bishop

Post by SilentDawning » 11 Sep 2013, 04:21

DarkJedi wrote:I do think it's sad the the TR has become a weapon.
When I was a militant priesthood leader years ago, I was frustrated no one would do home teaching. We talked about it in PEC and our Bishop flirted with the idea of asking people about whether they do their home or visiting teaching in TR interviews. He said he knew of one Bishop who revoked TR's over it, he said, and appeared to be considering the idea for our Ward.

All the leaders were excited about the idea as it meant there FINALLY might be some incentive to do home and visiting teaching. When we pushed the Bishop to implement this measure, he finally told us to make a general announcement that people who don't do Home and VT "are not supporting their local Bishop"....he indicated this was a reference to the TR interview. But then, he later told me he wasn't going to pull TR's because he tried it with a woman, and she left the TR interview crying.

I now have a full 180 degree change in my attitude on the use of TR's to induce short-term behavior. It does not obey the higher law that Christ taught when he came -- it is a reversion to the law of Moses where there are immediate rewards and punishments for behavior -- and Christ did away with that when he came to earth. I also think the fact so few people do HT is partly because the program is flawed, and it should be a signal to the leadership that perhaps change is necessary.
I see tithing as the way the church is funded, and here in the US we do benefit through funding for ward activities and such. I remember the days when there were separate contributions for such things as ward budget and buildings.
In Canada, the individual Ward financials are a matter of public record. I looked up a few Wards I lived in and I was astounded -- only 5-11% of total donations went back to the Wards to fund their programs. As a HPGL, I had a budget of $50 for the whole year. No one wanted to spend money on social activities. So we ended up with pot luck dinners all the time. I tried to get an appointment with LDS Social Services to help me with something a while ago, and they were overbooked and couldn't accept me. Our Bishop would not fund letters to less actives we could not see (there were too many) and then at the end of the year, sent surplus funds back to the Stake.

Anyway, beyond a place to meet every week (the building, of which they are very protective), I don't see a lot of benefits trickling back to the Ward members in terms of Ward budgets. The real benefits come from the free labor and service of the members.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

Roy
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Re: Surprise meeting with Bishop

Post by Roy » 11 Sep 2013, 10:36

SilentDawning wrote:All this saddens me -- you have sincere concerns and inner pain, and the organization that should be supporting you and helping you makes it worse. Kind of like how you have to pay COBRA after you lose your job and your income. I have been there. I wasn't aware they took away your TR until you shared it.
Yeah, all that happened before I found StayLDS. The ward was great in offering help (meals, financial donations, even plane tickets) and terrible in offering emotional support. I now believe that they just weren't comfortable or even weren't capable of exploring the questions that I needed to explore. They were doing what they thought was right and I no longer resent their actions - even though at the time it felt like rejection. In the three examples I listed you can see that they were trying to pull me back into the group but only if I would return to conformity.
DarkJedi wrote:Also in our area, it has always been that even an inactive father could baptize his own children as long as he met some basic worthiness - not at the TR level necessarily. I am aware, for instance, of fathers who didn't keep the WoW and/or pay tithing being permitted to baptize their own children, partly just to give them the spiritual experience in hopes of more fully activating the individual and family.
Ray explained it best when the new handbook came out.
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.
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=2222&start=20

We have had participants here with hardliner bishops that wouldn't let them baptise. Unless you have a personal connection to someone at the stake level there doesn't appear to be much avenue for appeal on a bishop's ruling.
DarkJedi wrote:I suppose I don't have a testimony of tithing in that, like you Roy, I see no blessings from paying tithing. I, too, have much I could be thankful for - but I don't count those as blessings because my non-member and atheist neighbours and acquaintances also have much they could be thankful for.
I do find it ironic that the emphasis seems to be on paying tithing and whatever self justification I need to go through to get there is less important. If I believe that God extends the life of my old Junker car or prevents me from getting in accidents or increases the rate of return on investments - no problem. If I do it just to maintain the church or express gratitude for all the good in my life - no problem. If I do it to remain in good standing and be accepted of my social circle - no problem. If I do it as a direct quid pro quo transaction to not be excluded from landmark family events - no problem.

I'm not saying that the church wouldn't prefer that we pay "for the right reasons" but the onus is on the payment. If the payment stops - problem - there is no acceptable reason.

But to return to the OP, most of that is behind me. I now have a genuinely caring bishop who seems to be willing to let me baptise and confirm DD on her birthday. I am in a better place now and I have grown more practiced at interfacing with the church on my own terms. :thumbup:
"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: Surprise meeting with Bishop

Post by SilentDawning » 11 Sep 2013, 14:08

Roy wrote: I am in a better place now and I have grown more practiced at interfacing with the church on my own terms. :thumbup:
And for me, that is the crux of what it means to STayLDS.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

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