What to Do When Your Bishop Messes Up…

dieter_f_uchtdorf_MDPresident Dieter F. Uchtdorf made two very interesting and important statements in his October 2013 Conference talk:

“We openly acknowledge that in nearly 200 years of Church history—along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable, and divine events—there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question.”

…and…

“…[T]o be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine.”

Honestly, many Mormons already know this. Joseph Smith was a prophet, but he was just a normal human who was called as a prophet. Same with Brigham Young, and John Taylor, etc. So I would be much more surprised to find one of these men not making a mistake here and there. I believe President Uchtdorf is asking us to have a little understanding with the normal mistakes that humans make, even if they are “prophets, seers, and revelators.”

Doesn’t the same apply to our local leaders?

Recently, I was visiting with a friend who said, “I was really offended by what my teacher said. He made me lose my testimony…” I thought about that one. No, your teacher/bishop/leader can’t make you lose or gain a testimony. You’ll read about how a person left the church because their bishop did kind of a jerky thing, or their Sunday School Teacher taught something that wasn’t actually true, or their Relief Society President shared an unkind observation about them to someone else. I understand having feelings hurt or enjoying attending church a little less. But then I thought about President Uchtdorf’s teachings. If those truths apply to prophets, don’t they apply (maybe even more so) to local leaders (bishops, teachers, rabbis, presidents, priests, reverends, preachers, etc.)? Isn’t my bishop allowed to mess up without having to worry about me leaving the congregation or fold over it?

 

Personal Example:

When I was bishop I tried my hardest to follow the direction of the Lord. I prayed, counseled with others, pondered, studied scriptures and handbooks, and tried to make decisions that I felt were in line with the will of God. During one particular ward leadership meeting, I was training our leaders on a topic, then suggested a “ward rule” on that topic. In the ensuing conversation, a member of the group disagreed with me, but in a very friendly way. Instantly, thinking I was in the right, I stood my ground and kind of called him out on the matter. I was very straightforward and very clear in what I expected of each of them, especially him. And I knew I was right…

Until the meeting ended. Very quickly, I realized that I was wrong and that I had been too unkind in the way I had treated the man. I felt bad. I had made him feel bad. He had every right to ask to be released from his calling and to spend as much time avoiding me as was possible. I found him a few hours later and expressed my apology the best that I could. His response told me a lot about him. “Oh bishop…no big deal. We’re all human. Don’t worry about it.” To his credit, he continued to serve in his calling for years, with no hard feelings between us.

Take President Uchtdorf’s quotes from above and read them, inserting “local leaders” into the thought. Makes sense to me.

If I am going to allow Joseph Smith to make a few mistakes, I think it wise to allow my local bishop the same courtesy*, knowing that my testimony does not depend on my leaders being more than human…

Be Encouraging…

BJM

*Our local bishop actually never makes mistakes…He really is one of the best men I know. I mean, I’m sure he has made some mistakes, but none that I’m aware of. We are blessed with a wonderful bishop…

These views are personal, and are not the official views of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints...
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