Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Another Trial of my Faith

Yesterday the Bishop approached me right after opening exercises in Priesthood meeting and said something in a very serious tone: "Jeff, there's a letter from Salt Lake in my office with your name in it. Please come in later so we can talk about it." I couldn't get any more hints than that from him in the few seconds he had. After getting the High Priests Group meeting started and turning the time over to our instructor, my mind turned to this ominous letter. Was this some kind of call? His voice and body language had suggested that the letter meant trouble. Was I in trouble? For what? Ah, could it be my Web site?! Or my blog? Hmmm, was some General Authority upset about something unorthodox I may have said, or was there a new policy discouraging LDS Web sites and blogs? Look, the Church is true, but there's still a large percentage of mortals among its leaders and poor decisions can be made - but there also might be a wise and inspired purpose in asking me to redirect my efforts. Freedom from site-related email and updates and blogging and site design and generating new pages? But my site is needed, isn't it?? That couldn't really be it, or was it?

The suspense was becoming agonizing as I pondered the possibilities, so I got up and left in the middle of the lesson, hoping to catch the Bishop in the hallway. I did find him there, but he was in a conversation. I would need to wait until right after Church.

When I finally got into his office, he looked at me with a serious, even ominous look and asked a question that probably made my heart skip a beat or two: "Brother Lindsay, how are your finances?"

How are my finances? Oh no, they're going to ask me to do something that will require living off my savings. But what? Where? Are they serious? I've been working hard to save and invest wisely, but shutting off my income was not something I was planning to do right away. "How are my finances?" I blurted out. "Well, they are, uh, . . . come on, what's this letter about?" He then opened the large envelope on my desk and pulled out a letter on a rich cream-colored paper with an elegant letterhead. It looked official, serious, and lengthy. I wasn't getting any more comfortable.

He then explained that this was a letter from the LDS Medical Department noting that my son Daniel had needed an extra vaccination for his mission while he was in the MTC, and that they hoped the Lindsay family would be able to cover the $112 fee. It was a long letter talking about the need to be sensitive to family finances and so forth. Why didn't they just send this letter to me? But this was all a huge relief. Even with some of my favorite stocks dropping last week, I can handle $112.

"Bishop, I can handle that. But why all the suspense? I was thinking they wanted me to shut down my Website or something, and had been making decisions about how to deal with that."

He smiled and said that he occasionally likes people to be able to review all the possibilities before giving out the details. I guess that can be healthy process.

"Interesting. Well, anyway, I'm relieved. And now I can call the Methodists and tell them that the deal is off."

He chuckled. He knew it was a joke. And I sincerely hope it was.

The main trial of my faith here may have been helping me to see if I had enough patience to sit through the priesthood meeting I'm in charge of without walking out in the middle to satisfy my curiosity. I guess I need more faith.

(By the way, the Bishop and I joke with each other a lot. The question about finances was a tiny little joke, and the brief delay in telling me the content of the letter was certainly not malicious. He had no idea what was going through my head. And even if he had, I would excuse it as a joke, just not the kind I want to hear every week. Those few nervous minutes gave me something to think about, and to blog about - so all is well!)

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Most likely it is a Bishop that likes to see people sweat and exercise control over them. If I make you sweat I can control you.

Generic said...

Ok, so maybe he was messing with Jeff a bit, but for real who doesn't enjoy messing with someones head sometimes? Sometimes people go a bit to far, but I'd like to think that generally such a practice is excersized with sound discression.

This is a pretty funny anecdote and hardly forms a basis to establish his Bishop as a power-hungry and controlling man, if that's what you're getting at Anonymous @ 5:54.

Walker said...

LOL

Quite funny. Yes, Anon, I know about the whole "truth in all sarcasm" business, but I think this should indicate that the adage is bust.

A good healthy chortle at oneself is good for the soul.

Ian said...

Given Jeffs position, I too would have been nervous as all get out. I would probably bear a little animosity towards my Bishop if he had done that to me.

Anonymous said...

I am frustrated with the involvement of the stake officers in our stake and have come to the conclusion that a better structure would be to disband all stake auxillaries. Send all these good intentioned leaders back to their respective wards where they can contribute in the "trenches."

The stake high council members can provide the necessary training to the wards. In the event the stake presidency was a special event such as a pioneer trek a member of the high council could organize an ad hoc committee for that specific event.

Mormanity said...

The Bishop and I joke with each other a lot. His question about finances was surely a well-intended joke, and delays in telling me the content of the letter were probably not calculated, just matter of getting me into his office for a second. And I'm sure he had no idea of what was running through my head during this episode. I think it was interesting and did not mean to cast aspersions on him with this post.

However, there may be a training opportunity for more sensitivity to the needs of Webmasters and bloggers.

Ian said...

I would probably bear a little animosity towards my Bishop if he had done that to me.

Having said that, I feel the need to divulge that I am a forgiving person and would probably get over it in a day or so.

Jeff, I really can't imagine that the church would have a problem with your website though.

Mike Parker said...

This is a perfect example of how the Church at all levels is made up of individuals with different personalities and senses of humor, and how differences of perception between two people can potentially spark animosity. I could see how a person more sensitive than yourself, Jeff, would be upset by the way your bishop handled this situation.

There are many emotionally sensitive people in the Church, and a significant percentage of bishops who are not sensitive to that sensitivity. Some of it is a "male thing" — a cultural inability to see how playfulness could be taken the wrong way, and teasing could be taken seriously. (I've had several bishops like that.)

I think that many (but certainly not all, or even most) of those who have left the Church in bitterness have done so because of a bishop who wasn't attuned to their emotional or spiritual sensitivities. Anonymous' comment (#1) is perhaps an example of that — someone who sees a bishop who's being puckish and takes it for a power play.

Cliff said...

I received a similar letter that the stake president received from missionary medicalt about medical treatment my son had in the MTC. It was like $100 and we paid it immediately. About 3 months later, the stake president received another letter saying we hadn't paid it. I looked like a real deadbeat. I had to call missionary medical and convince them I paid it. I wished they had just sent it to me directly, but I think they were trying to spare me in case I couldn't afford it.

Bookslinger said...

I was a bit upset when a bishop misunderstood me and jumped to the wrong conclusion. It wasn't until after I stewed over it a while, I realized, "Duh! He wears hearing aids!"

Kim said...

Mike said:

"I think that many (but certainly not all, or even most) of those who have left the Church in bitterness have done so because of a bishop who wasn't attuned to their emotional or spiritual sensitivities."

I agree. It couldn't have anything to do with members weighing the sum total of the doctrine and choosing to live their lives in another way. If they just weren't so sensitive and easily offended...

Mike Parker said...

Kim wrote: "It couldn't have anything to do with members weighing the sum total of the doctrine and choosing to live their lives in another way. If they just weren't so sensitive and easily offended..."

If you'll read what I wrote again, you'll see that I qualified my statement with "certainly not all, or even most."

Yes, of course, there are people (but certainly not all, or even most) who leave the Church because they conclude its teachings are false.

The fact is there are as many reasons for leaving the Church as there are people. My experience in working with such people has been that they don't have a strong enough belief in the teachings of the Church to carry them through difficulties of being a Church member. Those difficulties include interpersonal conflicts, inability or unwillingness to give the significant time and effort required, emotional or family problems, and a desire to live a lifestyle that is not acceptable to Church teachings.

I've met very few people who claim that doctrinal or historical difficulties were the sole reason for their departure. Personally, I think that in most cases doctrinal/historical issues are a cover to justify exiting the Church for other reasons, or assuage the guilt one feels in doing so. But I freely admit there are some out there who have legitimately left over issues of faith.

annegb said...

If my bishop messed with me like that, I would mess with him right back.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you got a letter? they just made my son pay for his vaccination with his own debit card.

D-Train said...

Doesn't this sort of thing defeat the purpose of equalizing cost between missions?

ltbugaf said...

annegb: It looks to me like Jeff does "mess him right back." The way he describes it, the two men joke with each other frequently.

Bookslinger said...

D-train,
The reason they billed it back to the missionary (or his family) is that vaccinations are supposed to be up-to-date _before_ a missionary enters service. It's akin to getting your wisdom teeth pulled. The missionary/family/ward is supposed to take care of it first.

When I got my call years ago, there came a list of vaccinations I had to get prior to reporting to the MTC, and I had to take proof of those vaccinations to the MTC with me.

Mike Parker said...

ltbugaf wrote: "It looks to me like Jeff does 'mess him right back.' The way he describes it, the two men joke with each other frequently."

As an addendum to my previous comment, I've found that this is a major difference between men and women (with a few exceptions): Men enjoy a little practical joking and playful sarcasm, while women don't understand this and take it seriously and personally. This is the cause of many interpersonal problems between husbands and wives, bishops and sisters, etc.

brianutley@gmail.com said...

Jeff, I have a completely random question for you. Do you know how I can use the Book of Mormon online? Can I create a website that has the Book of Mormon complete text? I'm trying to create an online searchable version of the bofm and am curious. Any ideas?

Mormanity said...

I would start by learning from the University of Michigan's site. Not sure what software is used, but it's a great site - usually the first one that pops up for searches on "Book of Mormon". Yes, even ahead of me!