Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Dangerous View of Bishops, Stake Presidents and Leaders Generally

I know of a Stake President who once said the following to a member of his stake: 

"Your Bishop represents Christ. If people understood that they would be excited to talk to him and willing to do what he asks." 

If I was the Bishop about whom the Stake President was talking, I would have been VERY uncomfortable with the Stake President's statement - and all of the Bishops I've know personally would have been uncomfortable, as well - except one. Instructively, he was the worst Bishop I've known.

I have no problem with the idea that the Bishop represents Christ in a unique way - in some specific situations. However, in most situations, a Bishop does not represent Christ any more than any one of the members of his congregation does.  To say it differently, all of us represent Christ, but the Bishop has certain unique responsibilities in the way he represents Christ. It simply isn't one or the other; we aren't Catholic Priest of the Dark Ages and parishioners

"They would be excited to talk to him." 

Generally, that's a function of him as a person, not his office or calling. People usually like to talk to nice, good people; they usually don't like to talk to jerks or harsh people.  The vast majority of Bishops are nice, good, sincere, loving people - but whether or not most regular members are excited to talk to their Bishop has little to do with representing Christ. 

"They would be willing to do what he asks." 

This is where my biggest concern lies - and it is a HUGE concern. It's dangerous to put someone in a position where they can expect obedience just because of their position. It's too easy to fall for the allure of the power.  Our War in Heaven narrative and the explanation of unrighteous dominion in D&C 121 ought to eliminate our tendency to say things like the quote above, particularly without any qualifications whatsoever.

I wouldn't have a problem with,

"They would be willing to consider seriously what he asks."

but I cannot accept the quote as worded and the all-encompassing implication of someone giving up their individual agency and doing something just because a mortal leader asks them to do it.

I believe in "obeying" God; I believe in "sustaining and supporting" righteous leaders.

Those two beliefs are not the same thing, and we should NEVER confuse or equate them.  Any leader who does is on the path toward unrighteous dominion. 


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