Taking Responsibility For Our Own Perceptions

M. Miles is the busy mother of 3 living in the bay area. She often comments around the ‘nacle as mami. I also feel the need to note that this was written prior to her hearing Elder Bednar’s talk on Sunday. Great minds…

When my sister was about 12, a girl in our ward whom we knew fairly well became pregnant. She was fifteen. Upon finding this out, my sister went to my mother and said with great alarm, “Oh no! Now J. is going to hell!” My mother looked at her quite puzzled and, in all earnestness and seriousness, asked, “Where did you get that idea?” or maybe it was, “Why do you think that?”

As the discussion ensued, it became quite clear that somehow my sister had not internalized the repentance and atonement discussions at family home evening. They continued the discussion at great length. It seems of all the children in my family able to understand what was going on at the time, only one of us was worried that J. was going to hell. We all felt bad for her, understood it was sad–but none of us but one thought she was doomed to eternal torment. Yes, I am certain my sister’s youth had something to do with it, but even then there were younger siblings who understood a little better. Rest assured I am not faulting her.

My point is that we can all experience the same church and family spiritual lessons, and perceive them differently. We experience the spirit differently, and it teaches us what we need to know, or are ready to know at the time. (hence we understand scripture differently at different times, etc). But sometimes we just miss the lessons we are supposed to be learning entirely. Maybe it isn’t because the message is wrong, or because the messenger is not a good messenger —but is because of the condition of our hearts at that moment in time. Jesus said:

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? (Matt 7:3-4)

When it comes to our perceptions of the church and of doctrine, often we accuse the message or the messenger of having a mote obstructing visions of the truth. But maybe the reality is that we have a beam in our own eyes. If we could really see everything clearly as the Savior does, then there would be a lot fewer motes–or accusations, because there would be less spiritual visual obstruction of our own.

Often times in the great expanding universe of the Bloggernacle, often times in our lives, and often times sitting in church we may get annoyed or offended at a speaker or a message. Too often we don’t point the finger at ourselves and ask what it is about our state of spirit that makes us come to a certain conclusion. Blanket attitudes like, “I’m mad at the church,” should be a red flag. Blanket attitudes like “All is well in Zion,” should be too.

But I argue that most often offense is not given, but only received. And when it comes to doctrines and when it comes to leadership, how we interpret and receive the message and the messenger has everything to do with us and the condition of our hearts and little (if anything) to do with the message or the messenger. My sister understood the law of chastity and sin and the whole plan of salvation as “If you fornicate, you go to hell.” But just because she perceived that as what was being taught, didn’t mean that that was being taught. So when we perceive the church as being hateful, bigoted, anti-gay, sexist, out-of-touch, it doesn’t meant it is. It simply means that is how we perceive it to be. And clearly, there are many different perceptions in (and out of ) the church.

Unfortunately, we only have our own life experience to go on–and our own perceptions are based on how we have acted and been acted upon; or in other words by what we have chosen to do, and what people and the circumstances of mortality have done unto us. But because of the atonement, men became free to act “for themselves and not to be acted upon” (2 Ne 2:27). Although great leaders can foster warm-fuzzy feelings about church and community and help us develop a testimony, our testimony is our own. We are responsible for it, not our Bishop, and not our parents. And although poor leadership can leave hurt feelings and deep offenses and anger in our souls–we ourselves are responsible for those thoughts and feelings as well.

The reality is that there are people and leaders in the church who are bigoted, sexist, arrogant, both hateful and hurtful, and (gasp) make bad decisions and give poor counsel. But surely none of this is what the Savior has in mind. If we learn to live as Christ lived, we will be secure in our understanding of the gospel, “line upon line, precept upon precept.” (2 Ne 28:30).

Finally, we must choose to believe and take responsibility for our own belief and conversely our own unbelief. “O then despise not, and wonder not, but hearken unto the words of the Lord, and ask the Father in the name of Jesus for what things soever ye shall stand in need. Doubt not, but be believing, and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your cheart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him.” (Mormon 9:27)
Simply put, we should give each other the benefit of a doubt.

Comments

  1. M,
    This is well and good, but does it discount serious attempts to offend? If some people have experienced “bigoted, sexist, arrogant,…hateful and hurtful” activities in the Church, are they wrong to be offended or would they only be wrong to be offended if they left the church?

  2. M.,

    Good work. I imagine that sometime in the future I will be embarassed to blame the condition of my life on a former bishop or Sunday school teacher. Just as parents are often horrified to realize they are making mistakes they swore they would never make, sometimes when people are called to teach SS or be RS president, they find it is very difficult to NOT do something that could be construed as ofensive.

    HP/JDC,

    At least for me, it is helpful to make a distinction between beeing hurt and taking offense. In the church, we are going to catch some elbows with our ribs. Fortunately, most of them are inadvertant.

    And allow me to be the first to make the cheap wisecrack:

    J. is going to hell.

    Is that J. Stapley, J. Nelson-Seawright, or J. Daniel Crawford?

  3. Eric Russell says:

    Sister Miles, great post. Thank you.

    HP/JDC, I think at this point we have to parse out exactly what we mean by “offended.” I think that such people wouldn’t be wrong to have their feelings hurt, but they would be wrong to hold a grudge or to let their hurt feelings get in the way of doing what they ought to be doing.

  4. Too often we don’t point the finger at ourselves and ask what it is about our state of spirit that makes us come to a certain conclusion.

    Awesome. I completely agree.

  5. Is that J. Stapley, J. Nelson-Seawright, or J. Daniel Crawford?

    All of them, I am sure.

    :)

  6. We all three post here after all.

    Eric,
    I agree, which is what I was trying to get at in my question.

    I also wonder how we should respond to people who are not just offended by people in the church, but by people who are hurt by them. Whether or not the hypothetical bishop who abused you was truly representing Christ or the church in the process is a non-issue. Of course he wasn’t, but it is common and, I think, not-unnatural for the abused to make that connection. Should we adjust the advice in M’s post to apply to them? If so, how?

  7. HP
    I think as Elder Bednar said it is sad to willfully choose to be offended and then throw all our own blessing out the window. So yes, perhaps it is more detrimental to us in this way if we choose to be offended. However, I think it is very detrimental to us if we simply choose to be offended. Surely we’ve all read at least once the story of the two monks:

    Two monks who had both taken a vow of silence amongst other things– were traveling together when they came across a river crossing. There on the bank, they saw a beautiful young woman who wished to cross the river but was unable to do so. Without a word, one monk simply picked up the woman and carried her to the other side.
    The second monk was greatly annoyed and distraught at the other monks disobedience. He agitated for days about the event Finally, he could not contain himself any longer.
    “How could you, a monk, even consider carrying a woman in your arms, much less a young and beautiful one? It is against our teachings. It is very dangerous.”
    “I put her down two days ago,” said the other monk. “Why are you still carrying her?”

    This perhaps applies to not getting caught up in whether or not someone else is doing what they are supposed to do. But it can also easily be applied to forgiveness and getting on with life. It hurts us, our hearts and our spirits if we continue to live in a state of taking offense.

    Mark IV&HP
    We can take offense when offense is never given, and likewise we can choose not to be offended when offense is given. I think maybe we could feel pain (hurt feelings) , but not at being offended–but because the other person is being offensive, as in we have charity for them. It is our way of seeing other people in the world that causes us to take offense, or not take offense. Has anyone ever read Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot? (my personal favorite of his books). I think Prince Mishkin is an incredible example of this—or possibly Alyosha in The Brothers Karamazov.

    HP #6
    I have often wondered about this–I still think the offended person is as much to blame, if not more than the “offender”–but where is the line?
    All too often we hear “The church is not the people in the church, but it is the gospel.” I feel maybe we say this too much, because after all, the Savior taught, “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” If we as members are horrible to each other, ie gossipy, etc.–how can anyone be expected to view us as the body of Christ?

    That being said, I am convinced by personal experience that no matter how real a hurt or offense can be in or out of the church, it is up to us personally to stop taking the offense, and accusing those around us. Surely some offenses are real, but we don’t have to suffer our whole lives because of them. If that were so, the atonement would be null and void.

    I do not think that it is a matter of changing advice—it is simply human nature that offenses can not be ended in any other way. Even if someone first apologizes for something, we still have to decide to not be offended. This may not be a well thought out process, because we choose to be offended or not to be offended moment by moment. Essentially it is who we are. It is in all actuality who we are, the way we are being in the world.

  8. Mark Butler says:

    This is what Joseph Smith had to say on the subject:

    All are bound by the principles of virtue and happiness, but one great privilege of the Priesthood is to obtain revelations of the mind and will of God. It is also the privilege of the Melchizedek Priesthood, to reprove, rebuke, and admonish, as well as to receive revelation. If the Church knew all the commandments, one-half they would condemn through prejudice and ignorance
    (TPJS, 111)

    Of course the privilege mentioned properly extends only according to the office held by the person concerned. But the more relevant point is that it is not uncommon for people, even active members of the Church to condemn commandments through prejudice and ignorance.

  9. cj douglass says:

    Christ uses the word offend quite a bit in the NT and uses it in more than one way. There are people in this world that should offend us because their actions are truly offensive. I don’t think being offended is the problem as much as holding onto it. I’m offended on a weekly basis but I try to let it roll off my back whether the offense is legit or not. I wish I was more successful. I think this has been implied but not spelled out.

  10. Great post, mami. Reminds me of President Benson’s talk on pride, where he said that taking offense is prideful. (see here)

  11. While it is our personal responsibility to choose whether or not to be offended and then how short of a period of time to hang on to those feelings, does this counsel also have the potential to empower us to offend a bit more readily, thinking that the person taking offense is at fault?

    After being offensive, making comments like…..

    1. You’ll get over it.
    2. It wasn’t that bad.
    3. I was just kidding.
    4. Can’t you take a joke?
    5. You’re too sensitive.

    ……..in an attempt to soothe our conscience.

    All the while placing the blame for “taking” offense on the person whom we have mistreated.
    I think Elder Bednar’s comments on having an honest discussion with the person in question is a good step towards alerting both to their separate but equal parts in the matter.

  12. Eric Russell says:

    Pemble, and others who have expressed similar sentiments:

    It’s interesting, Elder Bednar’s talk is really rather similar to the one that President Hinckley gave on forgiveness last year. Yet strangely, I don’t recall hearing people warn that some people could take the attitude that they could go around throwing rocks through peoples windows with the expectation that others are supposed to forgive them. (How come President Hinckley didn’t spend more time chastising the people who commit crimes or other offenses that require forgiveness?)

    Perhaps it’s because the fault of such attitudes is obvious. It just doesn’t seem to me that the fault of similar attitudes are any less obvious in this case either.

  13. I think it is useful to observe that taking offense, being hurt, and not forgiving are all different things.

    It is possible to be on the receiving end of offensive behavior and nonetheless refuse to take offense. We can acknowledege that something is offensive without allowing it to rob us of our peace.

  14. I’ve been waiting since that talk for all the people who’ve offended me to come and beg my forgiveness and beg me not to leave the church. Or maybe I’ll just leave for awhile till they come and apologize. That’s it.

  15. Eugene V. Debs says:

    The distubing thing about most discussions of offending people is that they seem to treat the offense as purely perceptional: the offended person has somehow misinterpreted the situation or cannot muster enough charity to see that the offender is only human and should be forgiven. All of this is good for the offendee, but it tends to let the offender off the hook. Sometimes church leaders do make serious procedural mistakes. Since they are mistakes, the people hurt by these actions should not hate the leader for the rest of eternity. On the other hand, the leader should feel bad enough to seek the person out and say sorry. Elder Bednar’s talk made it sound like the resolution of any hurt feelings lay only with the person whose feelings were hurt. Don’t be offended, in other words, because outer darkness is going to freeze over before a church leader actually admits he was wrong. Suck it up and move on.

    But this is not right. When I was a common judge in Israel, I made a serious procedural error that enraged the nonmember wife of someone who had just come back to activity. While this good brother chose not to be offended, I also sought him out and apoligized for my mistake. His wife would not look at me while I was speaking, but I think she heard me. Bednar, sounding more like a university administrator than anything else, did not include a strong call for all of us to make our offenses right. Instead, he helped foster a culture that enables serial offenders and allows people in positions of trust to act boorishly.

  16. Pemble,
    As I see it–taking offense and giving offense in the way you described are the same kind of sin. If you see people in a way that you think it is no big deal to say unkind or thoguhtless things, etc—you are also probably going to get offended esily. So if you stop one–and see people with more charity–you stop the other.

  17. Eugene–I think I have made it clear, and Elder Bednar did too, that there are such things–and often, as real offenses. But it is for our own peace and blessings that we choose not to be offended. We don’t have to get offended just because someone did/said something to us. We don’t have to wait for an apology to forgive. Of course as people who offend, we should try to fix our mistakes.

    Jesus said, “Forgive them…for they know not what they do..”
    He was offended by their sins, but not in the same way we usually are when someone offends us.

  18. “…for they know not what they do….”

    Sadly, it seems that many know what they do, and find a weird pleasure. As they see it, they are “straight shooters.”

    Bednar’s talk gave me they green light to continue being an a$$hole.

  19. Eric (#12),

    I was not decrying the lack of attention to sin and offensive behavior in conference as a whole, but simply trying to point out that in a talk such as Elder Bednar’s that there be equal billing for each person’s responsibility.

    I think we would all agree that conference is designed to bring “all unto Christ.” With that, we would hope that consistency and balance would have a place at the head of the table. Elder Oaks has said in the past that re-entry to the Church for a man guilty of child abuse “might do well to be the length of a mortgage (30 years).”

    Now, I’m former SP and now Elder, Bednar sitting across the coffee (or postum or hot chocolate) table, from the wife and children who have been subjected to the abuse. Or I’m the family of the young girl cornered and fondled by a member of the bishopric. The mixed message is obvious: We the Church, acting for the Lord, will not forgive this offense for “x” number of years, but we expect you to take no offense and forgive now. It may be harsh but I feel it safe to say that I don’t think Elder Bednar or perhaps anyone in the upper deck there at the conference center, has ever been on the “other” side of the coffee table.

    This does not mean that they cannot give counsel concerning the subject but (IMO) I agree with Eugene (#15) that this was given with the “love” of a college administrator and might well be further evidence why there are so many “other” sides of those coffee tables in the Church.

    I agree with Mami (#16) that in small offenses from day to day, that an attitude of looking outside ourselves and realizing that people make mistakes (people, meaning “us” too) is absolutely sound.

    Eric, when Bishop’s and Stake President’s offices as well as police stations, jails and prisons, continue an upward swing in patrons, while it may be “obvious” what qualifies as offensive behavior, apparently the message is not translating into a change in conduct.

    Forgiveness is certainly to the benefit of the person who has been wronged and counsel to look in that direction appropriate, but that healing process is an individual time frame that should not be hastened simply as an overture to not be offended.

  20. I don’t think in such instances as the abuse you described, Pemble, that anyone is giving anyone else a time frame in which they must forgive.

  21. I definitely agree with the Pemble/Eugene/Carlton thoughts here.

    The word “offended” is such an amazing tool for a scripture-savvy offender.

    “I am sorry that you feel hurt.”
    READS
    “I am sorry that you feel hurt.”

    “I am sorry that you feel offended.”
    READS
    “I am tricking you into thinking that I care, but really I am saying that you lack charity as defined in the book of Moroni. If you would have read your scriptures you would have known that, you pitiful @#%^, but I will go through the motions of comforting you because I am an ACTOR. If you do read your scriptures then you will kindly now shut up as you now realize that I am aware that you do not have a leg to stand on.”

  22. I’m baffled by the response to these ideas here. Let me offer an analogy.

    Suppose you have two sons and the older one has been mercilessly teasing and taunting the younger one. In response, the younger one goes up and shoves the older boy. As a parent, you’d probably discipline them both. And if anyone holds a greater deal of blame in the conflict overall, it’s probably the older son because he started it with his abrasive behavior.

    After talking to the older son the parent then goes and talks to the younger son. The younger son, upset by the fact that he is being scolded at all, complains of the behavior of the older son. The parent responds, “Yes, I understand that what he did was wrong, but you did not have to shove him in response.” The son then responds that he couldn’t help it because his brother made him angry. The parent says, “You are 100% responsible for your own actions. No matter what he did, it was your choice to shove him back.” The son replies, “But he…” and the parent says, “No. We’re not talking about him. We’re talking about you.”

    The younger son’s being 100% responsible for his actions does not entail a lack of blame on the older son for the conflict. It does not justify the older son’s actions. But if the parent were to sit down with both sons at the same time and try to explain the fault that each of them had in the conflict, it would do no good. They would both hear only the other side. The younger son would only hear that the older son was wrong in teasing him. And the older son would only hear that the younger son was fully responsible for his own behavior and possibly conclude that he could continue teasing because it was his brother’s job to control himself.

    I understand that the last line above is a concern that people have with such a talk as Elder Bednar’s, because the speech to the younger son seems to validate the actions of the older. I also understand that it would be an especially bad idea for the parent to talk to the younger son through the older son. In such a case, the younger son would probably totally reject the idea that responsibility was his, and the older son would probably feel particularly justified.

    I have a number of ideas as to why Elder Bednar would have gone ahead with this approach anyways.
    1. The reality of the situation is that there really is no other way to connect to the offended who have left the church except through the active. If Elder Bednar could go personally into the home of every single member who’s ever been offended, I’m sure he’d prefer that as a more effective method.
    2. If Elder Bednar had spent a significant amount of time chastising the offenders, it would weaken his message to the offended. As I mention above, the only thing about the talk that would stick in the minds of the offended was that the offenders were wrong in their offense and would further validate their offense.
    3. I think Elder Bednar is hoping and believing that the active members of the church are not little children and will not take the attitude that the older brother would likely take. Unfortunately, some of our more immature members will. But I think that’s a small price to pay to get this message out.
    4. Though much of the focus of Elder Bednar’s talk is to those who have left activity because of the offense, I think the talk is intended for all of us, whenever we are offended about anything. He’s telling all of us to grow up and stop pointing the finger. I think it’s become evident that it’s a lesson that’s much needed.

    Finally, apologies for further threadjacking away from mami’s post, which I think she’s doing a fine job explaining on her own.

  23. Steve Evans says:

    Eric: “there really is no other way to connect to the offended who have left the church except through the active”

    is that really so? I haven’t thought about this idea for more than a minute and I can think of a half-dozen ways.

    2. “If Elder Bednar had spent a significant amount of time chastising the offenders, it would weaken his message to the offended.”

    I don’t see any evidence for this assertion. Why would this be so? Further, no reason for him to have spent “a significant amount of time” on it. A sentence would have sufficed.

    3. I just don’t understand what this point meant.

    4. Now this point I can get on board with. It’s your strongest assertion and the only one of yours in that comment I think rings true.

  24. I hate to be a party-pooper, but I’m not actually convinced that “taking offense” is the number one reason people leave the church. That maybe the excuse people give but I think it would be strange if people said, “Yes, I have a burning testimony of the Gospel; the Church is the one true church; my eternal salvation depends on it, of that I’m sure!….but, Sister X has offended me so I ain’t coming.”

  25. Ronan, maybe being offended has a broader definition, as in, I am offended that I am bored / treated like a dolt for three hours every week, I am offended that the church can tell me what I can and cannot do on a Sunday afternoon, I am offended that you expect me to take time out of my day to vt/ht a bunch of people who don’t even care anyway, etc.

    Perhaps if we use this word in terms of a larger sense of pride issues (not just I’m offended brother so-and-so make a comment about my tatoo!), it could include not having a testimony of being there in the first place.

    I dunno.

  26. Steve, responding back by point.

    1. What ways are these? Printing the talk in the local newspaper? Paying someone to drop it off at each household? If you mean to say that you can think of other ways that members can engage in reactivation work, I agree. I was just referring to the method of spreading this particular message.

    2. It’s not really something that can be proven. I’m just saying it’s a natural tendency for all of us to point the finger. And I think a chastisement of offenders in this talk would just give more justification to pointing the finger. But if it’s really just a single line you are concerned about, I could concede that much.

    3. My point here is that I think that Elder Bednar doesn’t think that many members will actually take the attitude that Carlton mockingly takes in the last line of #18.

  27. Ronan,

    I agree that having a testimony is really at the heart of the issue and thus the “real” reason for inactivity. But I think many members of the church coast through on weak testimonies. After they have left, they then have little incentive to get a testimony. If the barrier of offense were removed, they would have more reason to come back and pursue one.

    Secondly, I heard numerous people tell me almost exactly that in Brazil. And yes, it is strange. Very strange.

  28. Mami,(#20)

    I understand that in this forum probably few are advocating a forgiveness time-frame for others. I was simply trying to point out that there are varying degrees of offensive behavior.

    Eric, I agree with your point that this was a way to counsel active members to seek out those who may have been offended with minor offenses. However your line that: “whenever we are offended by anything,(He) wants us to grow up and stop pointing fingers.” Anything?

    Eric, I hope that you will never have to face the abuse of a child by a church leader as your “anything”.

  29. Pemble,
    We are commanded to forgive all men. So yes, ANYTHING!

  30. But I argue that most often offense is not given, but only received. And when it comes to doctrines and when it comes to leadership, how we interpret and receive the message and the messenger has everything to do with us and the condition of our hearts and little (if anything) to do with the message or the messenger.

    Christ warned us that if someone sins against us, and we fail to forgive them we harbor the greater sin.

    That has given me a great deal of pause throughout the years.

    The younger son’s being 100% responsible for his actions does not entail a lack of blame on the older son for the conflict. It does not justify the older son’s actions.

    Nicely said.

    Not every talk will cover ever base and every point. Reminds me of a brief I was writing that had to make three points. After several drafts, the person reviewing them realized that he had forced me to change which point came first five times — and that there was no way all three points could come first.

    Nor, for that matter, could two other points, important to the litigation — but not to the motion — be shoehorned into the motion at all.

  31. HP/JDC:

    Again to reiterate. I am not advocating not forgiving and eventually we must all forgive. But based on the offense, that is a far cry from choosing not to be offended if the offense is heinous. But apparently not in your mind. You seem to be saying that there is no difference between the Bishop telling you he doesn’t like your tie and the scoutmaster molesting your son.

    I am fully aware that the atonement more than adequately covers both offenses but I believe the time-frame under which forgiveness and healing are accomplished is different.

    When Stephen Robinson gives the parable of the divers the point of the story as he states is “degree of difficulty.” I believe this applies here as well; that none of us can judge another’s state of mind or the effect a particular offense may have on that person. Yes we must all forgive but when, is not up to the judgment of someone else unless that someone else is Heavenly Father or the Savior.

    Not that anyone would be interested, but I have never been inactive (or PC now less-active) in the Church. Through some of those years there have been many opportunities to seek forgiveness and to provide forgiveness with varying degrees of success and varying degrees of elapsed time.

    One of the mistakes (IMO) that is commonly made is attempting to provide forgiveness and understanding to the abuser (or offender) while they are in the midst of offending; that they have not recognized their behavior as being wrong. This only accentuates self-loathing and feelings of worthlessness in the person attempting to forgive.

    So guys (and gals) sorry for the hornet’s nest here but my answer is to love people and allow them their agency and time-line. Maybe through that love they will find themselves back in church and you will have made a new friend.

  32. Pemble,
    I am simply arguing that choosing to not be offended is an essential part of forgiving someone. I agree that there are many cases where this is nigh unto impossible without divine intervention. It is demanded of us (commanded of us) nonetheless.

    As has been noted above, nobody here was demanding time-frames (nor do I think it can be reasonably argued that Elder Bednar was). I obviously understand the difference between the tie and the child scenarios, since I brought it up in comment #6. We appear to be agreeing at each other.

  33. Story time.

    Ten years ago I sat across the table in my SP’s office and he asked me TR questions. I answered correctly and felt worthy to enter the temple to marry my sweetheart. Strangely the interview continued, in interrogation fashion, after the required recommend questions were asked.

    A portion of the interrogation went something like this:

    SP, “You answered the questions correctly but I sense you are a rebel.”

    Me, “Why do you say that?”

    SP, “Your facial hair, I have counseled that every priesthood holder must be clean-shaven to hold a stake calling”

    Me, “I don’t hold a stake calling and I grew this goatee after I was released. My fiancée really likes it, too.”

    SP, “See, you are easily offended!!!!!!!”

    Me, “What? I’m not offended in the least.”

    SP, “I refuse to sign this until we work this out.”

    Me, “Are you angry.”

    SP, “NO, I’M NOT ANGRY!!!!!!”

    Me, “Why is your face so red? Have you considered that maybe you’re easily offensive?”

    SP (clutching the recommend, face about to explode), “You are a rebel!!!!!!”

    Me, “I served my mission in SLC and a SP (Sugarhouse Stake – 1991) there decided he should ask the women explicit law-of-chastity questions. The matter made it’s way up the chain and the SP was rebuked. A letter was sent instructing Bishops, SPs, and counselors not deviate from the required questions.”

    SP, “Hogwash, you’re easily offended and a rebel.”

    Me, “Maybe we should refer this matter to your superior?”

    SP (signs recommend), “You can leave.”

    Strangely, he resigned his membership a couple months ago. Guess he was easily offended (or offensive) after all?

  34. Carlton, That is a riot. Would be unbelievable except that I believe it.

  35. When I first heard Bednar’s talk I thought it was a little strange. Then I realized it was specifically tailored for a certain individual, my former SP/TP.

  36. I will be interested in hearing reports from people who try the Elder Bednar approach.

    There are a number of people in my ward who were less active at one time, and I have played a very small role, along with many others, in their return. I never asked, and to my knowledge, no one else in the ward ever asked, why they had stayed away. And to this day, I do not know why any of them stayed away.

    Many years ago (in a galaxy far away), while in leadership positions, I tried something like the Elder Bednar approach in visiting people, and gently inquiring why they did not attend. I probably do not have the right touch, because people either declined to answer, or concocted reasons that were likely not the real reason (“We’re just too lazy,” “We’re just too busy”, etc . . .) I never once had a person tell me the reason he or she stopped attending was because of an offense. Eventually, I came to feel that a person is entitled to his or her privacy, and that if the person wishes to tell me why he or she stays away, the person will tell me when the person is ready. And I have stopped asking.

  37. HP/JDC,

    Sorry. I had not remembered your number six and I agree that we agree.

  38. Ronan,
    I don’t think Elder Bednar was saying that was the number one reason–but a common theme–
    It is easy to say that if someone had a solid testimony they would not leave the church—but we try to help the weak .

  39. Ronan,
    Seems my last comment was already covered.

    David H,
    I think the key with Elder Bednar’s approach is that this is a tool he used–not an answer. I am certain if it is done without love, sincerity and humility–that it would be an utter failure. I think the word may be less important than the spirit.

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