Monday, April 7, 2014

Why I Don't Like the Idea that We Should Talk with Our Bishops about Everything

I have heard lots of members say, "Go talk with the Bishop" about almost everything imaginable.  Frankly, I really don't like that outlook and advice - for numerous reasons.  Rather than go into those reasons directly, the following are some reasons why I think members say it so much:

1) Many people want to be able to give the responsibilities for their choices to someone else. It's a very natural inclination - almost like the occasional Catholic's practice of confessing sins and receiving absolution for them even before committing them.

2) Many members are converts who grew up with a model of pastoral / ministerial / priest care that makes them see the Bishop as the ultimate adviser / counselor in everything.

3) Too many members see the Bishop as the "father of the ward". I really dislike that view, especially since it's not supported in any of our canonized scriptures - and in Matthew 23:9 Jesus even says, "And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven." (Obviously, I make an exception for our biological fathers.)  

4) There is the mistaken idea that being a leader entitles someone to revelation for the individual people within the organization being led. I believe that's wrong, but it's ubiquitous in the Church.

5) Most members have no idea how much of a Bishop's typical burden could be removed if they would find someone else with a listening ear and non-judgmental heart in whom to confide and question. 

I'm not saying, at all, that members shouldn't seek counsel and advice from Bishops.  I'm just saying that there are so many times they go to a Bishop when it's not necessary - and so many times when it really is an unnecessary burden that should not be laid on his shoulders.  True compassion and understanding is important in those situations, in my opinion. 


Anonymous said...

Excellent points. When I served as Bishop, I didn't have adults seeking my counsel in minor things. I always encouraged the youth (with respect to anything moral) - when in doubt, talk it out. Meaning, come see me. I especially believe there are some members who want to shift responsibility for their decisions to the Bishop. I see it in comments on the bloggernacle where someone blames his/her bishop for everything under the sun. The handbook is very clear that we are to counsel people, be a listening ear, and so forth, but that ultimately, people are to receive their own inspiration. Of course, there is the opposite problem, too, with some Bishops inserting themselves into members' lives and trying to make decisions for them. Either way is not good.

ji said...

I like all of your points. Too often, we can separate folklore from doctrine.

Here is doctrine, straight from the handbook: only serious transgressions need to be confessed to a bishop, and serious transgressions means a deliberate and major offense against morality, such as attempted murder, forcible rape, sexual abuse, spouse abuse, intentional serious physical injury of others, adultery, fornication, homosexual relations, deliberate abandonment of family responsibilities, robbery, burglary, theft, embezzlement, sale of illegal drugs, fraud, perjury, and false swearing.

Sins that don't fit in this list can be confessed directly to God and repented of privately.

The idea that a member, especially a teenager, should confess EVERYTHING to the bishop is folklore, not doctrine. It isn't even good advice. Yes, a member should feel free to approach his or her bishop for any matter, but he or she shouldn't feel compelled.

Anonymous said...

Nice one, I've always felt the same. Unfortunately we once had a Bishop when we had a very unhappy teen, who denied us recommends because we did not drag her into his office on a regular basis.For us, our very rare temple trips were our only other way of drawing down the powers of heaven into our home,and this experience was very damaging to my daughter also who felt that her life was nobody else's business.It put us in an impossible position as parents, until we realised that we did not need a recommend to stand worthy before the Lord, but it was truly traumatic at the time.
I'd hope, as a visiting teacher that I might be able to help the Bishop in his support of my brothers and sisters. We now have a very hands off bishop who is a mazing with our youth, and my now inactive son has had great experiences with him that I hope will some day bare fruit.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with ji's interpretation. He's leaving out other parts of that same section that talk about informal probation and private counsel. The items he listed are serious things that require a disciplinary counsel. Then there are a host of other things that don't require a council but still would benefit from counseling with the bishop. There is also a section in Handbook 1 on how to counsel with members. I think the post is generally referring to people who run to the bishop for advice (What mutual fund should I invest in?, My parents are mean to me, what can I do? Should I divorce my abusive spouse?) There is a big difference between seeking advice and counsel and meeting with the bishop to discuss a possible moral transgression. If you have any question about what you should discuss as far as moral transgressions go, I suggest meeting with your bishop and reviewing all of the language of Handbook 1 on disciplinary matters

Papa D said...

Anon1, I also agree that members are supposed to receive their own inspiration. That is one of the main reasons I believe in lowering what we ask or expect of our Bishops.

ji, when dealing with confession, I agree that we tend to confess too much to mortal leaders.

Anon2, there is NO excuse for denying temple recommends based on attendance at interviews. None. If it is happening anywhere, it needs to stop.

Anon3, I think ji focused on confession when I wasn't being that narrowly focused. I agree with you, generally, but I wouldn't go to the Bishop to review Handbook 1. It is available online now, so I would read it there.

ji said...

Perhaps Anon3 didn't read my last sentence: Yes, a member should feel free to approach his or her bishop for any matter, but he or she shouldn't feel compelled.

ji said...

The above link is relevant to the posting here.

Patty said...

If we, as members, would lovingly "bear one another's burdens" and be the non-judgmental listener that someone needs I think that we would also be helping to bear the Bishop's burden by enabling him to focus his limited energies on those serious concerns that need to be handled by someone in his position, and not having him be weighed down with lesser matters where some moral support is all that's needed. I think we tend to forget that a Bishop is still just a human with finite capacities, and if you take a step back and see just how tired many of them look- you'd want to avoid adding to his burden unless it's truly necessary.