Latter-day Snitches

(I posted another version of this earlier today and decided I didn’t like the tone and specificity of it. This is a revised version.)

My sister coined the term ‘Latter-day Snitches’ after a ward member informed my mother that my sister had been seen canoodling with a boy. (I called them ‘concerned citizens,’ like when Boss Hogg made anonymous calls snitching out the Duke Boys to the state police.) Indeed, there were enough snitchy ward members around our SoCal suburb that I couldn’t be sure any misdeed would go unnoticed. (Which is why we started hitchhiking over the hill to anonymity.)

Later, when I was YM president, a small group of members would call me at home or stop me in the hall and tell me what they had seen (or what they thought they had seen) the boys doing around town, everything from Word of Wisdom violations, riding bikes on Sundays, wearing earrings, hanging out with tough-looking kids or girls who didn’t meet some standard of ‘modesty,’ and on and on. Again, it was only a few members, but in the beginning I was getting about a snitch a week. My response was to say that I would talk to the boy in question, but I would need to tell him how I knew what he was doing, and I would need to give the name of the informant. They didn’t take me up on the offer, and the informants faded away in a cloud of disgruntle.

Now, as a member of the bishopric, I’m aware that members occasionally want to let ward leaders know that they have seen another member doing something they don’t think is right. And when these reports are made to protect a direct victim of sin, I totally agree that they should be reported, to the police when applicable. But the few mormon snitches I’ve encountered seem more concerned about the purity of the church then they are with the salvation of the sinner.

I don’t think snitchiness is uniquely mormon by any stretch — any small group with specific rules of conduct will have a few people who want to report what they see a violations of the group’s standards. (Heck, I work with junior high students, the snitchiest snitchers of all.) I also want to stress that, in my experience, 1% of the people are doing 99% of the snitching.

Here’s my advice to the few potential snitchers that might be out there: if you see someone doing something that looks dodgy, give them the benefit of a doubt. Even if you’re sure, consider how you’d feel if someone saw you doing the worst thing you do. If you feel the person would benefit from discussing their behavior, and I think we can all agree that would be a rare occurrence, talk to them about it face-to-face. We all struggle with sin of one kind or another, and the idea that people are watching doesn’t really lighten our load.

Any ideas how we can discourage snitchiness in our own wards? How do leaders deal with it?

Comments

  1. BAN HIM! BAN HIM!

  2. You should definitely ban John C. I saw him trying on earrings the other day at the mall. Also, hanging out with tough-looking girls who didn’t meet some standard of modesty.

  3. Norbert,

    Man, I hate that kind of stuff.

    The first thing we need to do, though, is realize that we have something of an institutionalized problem. As long as we continue to describe home teachers and visiting teachers as “the bishop’s eyes and ears”, we are going to get a lot of tattling.

    I think when talebearers come to the bishop or RS president, the bishop and RS president should say, as forcefully as necessary, that they refuse to be a party to gossip in any form.

  4. Norb, it seems like we don’t want to eliminate the instinct for us to watch over each other and be a supportive, caring and proactive community — snitching is the extreme selfish perversion of this. I mean, would you prefer an alienating and standoffish congregation to a snitchy one? Don’t answer that.

  5. I agree with adults and disagree with kids

    However I am always thankful when somebody sees one of my kids doing something wrong and tells me.

    When they are teenagers I will be even more grateful cause I will get a heads up.

  6. Steve, I think the difference is that snitches expect somebody else to bring the hammer down. If we saw a ward member walk into a bar, I hope that I would go in after him, instead of getting the bishop on the phone and expecting him to do the dirty work.

    We can’t honor our covenant to stand by one another if we expect somebody in a position of authority to do the standing.

  7. When my sister was 14 she and her friend were playing with candles on the front porch, melting wax all over the place and playing with it like kids do. Someone told the Bishop and they were called into his office out of fear they were in the occult. The occult? Talk about a witch hunt! Is there something in the culture that has us looking evil?

  8. I like the idea of telling the “snitcher” that you have to tell the “snitchee” where you got your info. I’d go one further: ask the “snitcher” why, given their baptismal covenants as explained in Mosiah 18, they did not choose to help bear the burden of the “snitchee” by standing as a witness of Christ to the “snitchee” in his or her moment of spiritual weakness.

  9. Steve Evans says:

    Mark, that’s an excellent distinction.

  10. sister blah 2 says:

    Norbert, I’m really surprised you heard things as YM president. Why don’t those people tell the parents? I’ve never thought of YM/YW leaders as having jurisdiction over the kids’ lives outside of church and activities. We’re there to instruct, to plan & oversee activities, and advise if requested by the youth. The only outside-of-church thing I could imagine a leader appropirately getting involved in would be something like a tiff between two YW that happened at school but was spilling over and negatively effecting the class and its activities.

    Am I outside the mainstream in that view of youth leaders? (that they oversee the program that blesses youths’ lives, not that they oversee the youths’ lives in a direct controlling sense)

  11. Steve Evans says:

    I, too, would hope to go into the bar after that member you mention.

  12. Okay, so I was about to comment, hit refresh, and Mark had pretty much said what I was about to say. Snitches are bad because they want to police the ward without ever having to be confrontational… which means that a lot of times, they inadvertantly end up spreading a lot of untruths, since most of the stuff they are snitching about turns out to be misunderstandings.

  13. sister blah 2 says:

    And to be clear, I think it would be appropriate and desirable for people to inform parents of things they see kids doing. I’m sure there are plenty of idiots out there who will find a way to take that one too far, too. But IMHO a good general rule.

  14. But the few mormon snitches I’ve encountered seem more concerned about the purity of the church then they are with the salvation of the sinner.

    Why is this such a bad reason to “snitch”? What if I knew a PH was sleeping around, but was about to participate in a vital priesthood ordinance? Shouldn’t I “snitch” then? Are there any circumstances in which I should “snitch” in order to perserve the reputation of the church or to stop an individual from unworthily participating in an ordinance?

  15. I suppose a leader should say “Thanks for letting me know,” and then handle the matter the in an appropriate way. Giving the impression that he doesn’t care and doesn’t want to know seems like a bad idea because it takes proper (probably minimal) handling of the matter out the leader’s hands and leaves it in the snitch’s.

    My view is colored by a serious error I made. One morning I passed a young man who looked out of place and whose behaviour was vaguely suspicious; dodgy, if you will. Continuing on, wondering what to do about this person who troubled me, I figured I should call the police and let them sort out if this person was trouble or not. Before I had gone much further, though, I began berating myself for wanting to turn the police on someone just because of his appearance, and so I did nothing (always the easy solution). A half hour later, someone in that location closely matching that young man’s description attacked a woman.

    I think Elia Kazan got it right with “On the Waterfront”; it’s disgusting and disfunctional for a culture to think of reporting problems to authorities in the same terms that mob criminals do. A ward’s bishopric isn’t the Stasi.

  16. If you feel an overwhelming need to snitch on someone, TELL THEM first. Then, if you still need to, they will at least know who to direct their anger first.

    BTW, Steve, I’m gonna tell your bishop about the thing that one time.

  17. er…anger at.

  18. I wouldn’t tell a bishop, RS president or even a parent about anything I saw a ward member doing unless it was very nearly a matter of life and death. And that includes not repeating every little thing I know about people who are being discussed in a ward council meeting. I hate it when someone’s name comes up in a ward meeting and everyone chimes in with everything they know about that person, whether it has anything to do with the topic of concern or not.
    It’s usually pretty effective to immediately say something positive about the person being discussed if the chat in a meeting is going too far. Or at least point out that they are probably doing the best they can, just like the rest of us.

  19. I think there is a distinction between properly alerting authorities of potentially dangerous activity/behavior and “snitching”. The former the informant has a desire to protect victims or help the subject. The latter is schadenfreude. I know of one ward member who informed the bishop about a member who was arrested for arranging a sexual liaison with a minor that she read about in the paper. Her concern was to inform the shepherd so he could better protect the flock. I don’t think we are discussing this type here, but the selfish, “I want to see somebody else punish them” attitude.

  20. I think that information is always vital to helping people. I’m a bishop of a large and fluid ward where a lot of people keep things private: illness, emotions, challenges… and of course sin. With information, a caring priesthood leader can reach out to someone who may not be on their radar. The individual may bring up the issue, the fact that he’s meeting with you may solve the issue of hanging out with drugged out trannys at the Provo Towne Center even without discussing it directly, or you may feel prompted to ask directly. “Someone saw you do…” is a horrible way to confront someone. But I have zero problem asking people if they are faithful, drug free, avoiding porn, and so on.

    I just hope no member sees me buying my RockStar drinks on my way to work every morning. Now that would be embarrassing.

  21. I’d have to lump this my feelings on gossip in general. After watching a friend get dragged through the gossip mill courtesy of ward members and PEC/Ward Council, I determined to do a couple of things: Don’t say something about someone I wouldn’t say if they were standing next to me, and don’t listen to things about people that I think would make them uncomfortable to hear discussed.
    Here’s a fun game: Next time someone begins to share a particularly juicy tidbit in your presence say, in your most cheerful “I can’t believe it” tone, “Wow! I can’t believe she asked you to repeat that to me (all of us)!” Then sit back with your happy, innocent, “tell me more” face and watch the train wreck of awkwardness unfold. Deliciously evil. Please reserve only for the worst offenders whose gossip habits merit public humiliation.

    Beyond that, I think the same rules can apply to snitching. If you couldn’t say it to the person’s face, it probably doesn’t need to be said.

  22. Dave,
    The problem is the person maybe doesn’t even want you, the bishop, to know about their concerns. What does it matter if someone tells you you bro. Jones is looking at porn if he doesn’t want to talk to you about the problem? It doesn’t really matter how you approach him about it if he doesn’t want to ‘fess up, so why not wait until he comes to you?

  23. You know what happens to snitches in my ward? They mysteriously disappear.

    No snitchin’! Represent!

  24. The first example you gave (of someone in your ward telling your mother about something your sister was doing) does not seem overly snitchy to me.

    Shouldn’t there be some sort of conceptual separation between telling someone’s parents about something that you think they may want to know about and taking that same information to ward leaders?

    As a general matter, I would be unopposed to the former, but would discourage the latter unless there was some very compelling reason to involve ward leaders (e.g., Brother X was arrested on charges of child molestation and Brother X is a primary teacher).

    As a parent, while I certainly would not act on every little thing other people think I ought to know about my children, I would certainly appreciate knowing about such things so that I could address problem issues appropriately.

  25. Anyone here ever lived in a neighborhood full of old Catholic women?

  26. Since I’m on the topic, and ain’t nobody stoppin’ me, I shall impart more infallible wisdom: Don’t ask for or divulge information about someone without their permission.

    Lemme ‘splain it this way.If you just gotta know somethin’ ’bout somebody, go ask ‘em. If that seems awkward, you probably didn’t need to know in the first place. This works as well when someone wants you to divulge info about someone else. A simple, “Did you ask him about that?” Usually takes care of it. Generally people get the point that if they aren’t close enough to the person to ask directly, then it probably doesn’t concern them.

    Yes, I know. Timeless wisdom you could never have come to on your own nor found anywhere else. Your welcome.

  27. Um, or “you’re welcome”.

  28. Reminds of of the time one of the busybodies in the ward where I grew up called to snitch on my brother and his friends. She said she’d seen them pull up to the house and head straight for the basement entrance in the back. “And,” she said, her voice lowering to an outraged whisper, “they were holding BIG GULPS!”

  29. Is “Latter-Day Snitches” the same as “Every member a mission president”?

  30. Lulubelle says:

    When I was in high school attending one of my first parties, a fellow YW was at the same party, left before I did, told her mom I was there, who promptly called my dad, who confronted me when I got home with the information that I had been to a drinking party. It didn’t help dad and me have a conversation we wouldn’t already have had, it didn’t stop me from going to more parties, and it didn’t make me like the snitchers. In fact, it lent itself to a lot of hostility aimed their way. I hate snitches. Unless is something super serious (like child molestation, etc), people, please mind your own business.

  31. Lulubelle brings up child molestation. I’ve heard way too many stories from angry people or about angry people who told the bishop that something was happening and the “appropriate action” was not being taken by chruch authorities. Who in their right mind tells the bishop? Call the approriate authorities–the police!

  32. Mark & Steve (#6)- I go into bars all the time to eat and spend an evening with friends. I sure hope you wouldn’t come running after me like you’re talking me off a ledge.

  33. John (#15),

    Are you sure you want to use Elia Kazan as a reference? Didn’t he snitch on his friends to the Un-American Activites Committee? Ouch.

  34. 31. mmiles Not always that simple. Wish it were.

  35. It’s the glee factor that gets me- the Snitcher takes odd delight in the Snitching and the Gotcha factor over the Snitchee. That’s disturbing.

    That said, when I first started posting here, I posed the question on what I should do with WoW info I experience with another couple we know. I did nothing, for the record. But it was a wierd feeling… I was confused to see people I know go to the Temple drinking heavily at a company party. I still don’t know what would have been right, but I never told anyone.

    Also, if it were my kids doing something dangerous or violating a law, I would hope someone would tell ME, and not a ward leader.

    As far as I’m concerned, we go to our favorite Brittish pub all the time for Fish and Chips for me and Bangers and Mash for DH- I can’t imagine someone grabbing my arm and giving me that concerned look! How horrible!

  36. Jami,
    With all do respect, Yes it is.

  37. snitching, particularly when the snitching is based off a misunderstanding or assumption, can be very damaging. i will never forget when my YW president “snitched” (pretending that it was out of concern) that i had been “making out” with my sort-of boyfriend on the church lawn. she had driven by as we were hanging out at church and had mistaken a nose rub (we had never even kissed at this point) for a make-out session. i already had an undeserved “bad girl” reputation and this was just one more insult. honestly, i’m not certain why i didn’t go inactive as a teenager. snitching is usually no more than gossiping.

  38. Did you read the abortion discussion, sideline on the subject of under-reporting of rape? Things are never as simple as they sound. Add mental handicap to victim. Add perpertrator on the move, from family member to family member, diferent counties, different wards. Add victim moving out of state. Add CPS (child protective services)notification. Add inept police force. Or three. It all adds up to a Bishop needing to know, and no police to tell. And the snitcher being in her right mind.

  39. 38. Meant to address it to mmiles, 36

  40. jami–
    I think this gets at the heart of the post. The post is about telling tales to church leaders when it really is out of their jurisdiction. If you see a kid doing something (smoking dope or making out with someone), maybe tell their parents. It is really not the Bishop’s or other church leaders’ job to worry about such issues. I’m sure the Bishop doesn’t want to be told. If someone knows someone is committing a crime, they should be reported to legal authorities. If you just are trying to help someone out by telling the bishop so that he is aware of the situation, that is another (not necessarily valid, but possibly) story. I can’t imagine a real situation where there exists no police. I think you are exaggerating.

  41. Just one more burden for the poor bishop.

    Though, as a counter-point, Nephi noted that the wicked take the truth to be hard.

    So, my suggestion is wait for an angel to tell someone the truth.

    Hmm, or not.

  42. When kids are acting like kids, I don’t see any reason to tell anyone, other than to encourage them to perhaps consider who else might be encountering them.

    Talking to them directly usually has seemed best. It has been an exceedingly rare occasion when talking to their parents has seemed appropriate (though I have had kids go to their parents and fess up after I encountered them).

    Most of the time it is just people acting human, where is the news in that.

    The only intense gossip I ever heard that one might think should be mentioned to a bishop, the sister was spreading about herself. She couldn’t help but spread gossip, and since the story was so juicy, she was spreading it, even if it was about her.

    My poor bishop. I caught his eye in the hall. He’d heard about it, I didn’t have to say anything. “What can you do” he said “she is just a yankee.”

    “Wow! I can’t believe she asked you to repeat that to me (all of us)!”

    She did indeed, the entire off to the high school reunion without her husband, sleeping with a guy she didn’t remember from high school, her surprise when he ran away when she brought up moving in with him with her kids and leaving her husband and the strange case of non-standard v.d. she brought back and was trying to get treated.

    I confess. I couldn’t bring myself to repeat any of it. Just look at the poor bishop and let him sigh and vent, and he couldn’t bring himself to say anything but “she is just a yankee” which pretty much is where it ended. Who can repeat something like that? It has been twenty years and I can use it as an example, finally, but I still wouldn’t feel comfortable linking it to a name.

    Some people are compulsively addicted to gossip, it can be a sickness, and not one to encourage.

    Sometimes there is just nothing to be done.

  43. If you are being physically or sexually or even mentally abused, screw what this blog says. Please snitch out the people abusing you. Tell your bishop, tell the police, tell your parents.

    I don’t like that we have a culture where it somehow is uncomfortable for real victims to share when they’ve been abused because of the shame of it.

    Yes there are stupid people who snitch out stupid things, but Bishops are supposed to be smart enough to know the real problems from the fake ones and to educate the ignorant snitchers and to raise up aid for those in real need.

    Anyway, I now live in a ward where we have had YW who were raped, and 16 year olds who are pregnant and don’t know what to do and feel like the other young women think they are going to hell, and young men who beat up younger men. We have a family who were kicked out of Utah by in laws for “snitching” on sexual predators (the predator bishop forming a small lynch mob) And yes we have people who complain about apostate sunday school lessons and children’s haircuts. I’ll take the latter if it helps stop the former.

  44. Interesting post, Norbert. Before my mission, I served as a youth guide at the Mesa Arizona Temple Visitors Center. We used to meet in the old Family History Library for our Sunday night meetings. We shared the building with the Arizona Mormon Choir. One evening, when I was extremely bored, I looked through the comment/suggestion box kept for choir members (it was unsecured and I was curious what people were writing about). One of the comment cards contained a note that went something like this:

    I followed Sister so-and-so home after choir practice and found Brother so-and-so from the choir had stopped by to see Sister so-and-so. Neither are married to each other. They were alone in the house for quite some time. I think they are having an affair.

    My thought was the person who wrote the card, like me (on that particular evening), had waaaay too much time on their hands. This comment card also cemented my decision to never audition for the Arizona Mormon Choir (that and the fact that I don’t have the voice to join the choir).

  45. I didn’t mean don’t tell if you are being abused for crying out loud! I meant PLEASE tell the police! and whomever else the heck you want.

  46. I grew up in sort of a dysfunctional ward. At twelve I stumbled onto a bunch of kids smoking pot behind the dumpster. I told my dad who told their parents but there wasn’t much of a crack down. My report was treated as “snitching” especially by the other youth.
    Letting that sort of trouble linger brought terrible problems. Through the years more of the youth got into drugs and other crap including child molestation. It was BAD.
    I think it’s important to recognize there are problems serious enough to warrant an alarm cry for the whole ward.
    And I think most of the bishops I’ve had-besides the first- have done a great job sorting through what’s idle obsessing and a big red flag.

    That big gulp story is golden. I wish I grew up in a ward where there was so little to worry about.

  47. mmiles–With all due respect, I am not exaggerating. When a crime is committed in one jurisdiction (and the police are notified through CPS) and the perpetrator is bouncing from one county to another (all a different county than the crime spot) and the victim is mentally-impaired and her mother runs to the middle of nowhere. And you know the ward the creep finally ends up in, do you really think you wouldn’t call the Bish and say, “Hey, heads up. He may not be going to jail, but he is not safe around children.”

    I know my tone is not nice, but I have to go. And it’s obviously a hot subject for me.

  48. If my children know of – or even suspect – anything that makes them uncomfortable, I want them to tell me – “snitching” be damned. I then will determine if it really is something that needs someone else to hear it. The last thing I want my children to do is suppress something that might be an impression of the Spirit because they are afraid of being wrong. However, as children, I don’t want them to make any accusations. They simply aren’t mature enough for that.

    That’s for children. Part of being an adult is supposed to be the ability to discern between improper “snitching” (trivial stuff) and proper informing (important stuff).

  49. Okay folks, I don’t think anyone here is stupid enough to suggest that victims of abuse keep such unpleasant topics to themselves so as not to burden the bishop. Let’s just all agree that abuse is worth reporting. However, let’s not confuse the bishop’s charge for the spiritual welfare of his congregation with proper legal authority. If abuse needs to be reported in order for a victim to be protected, that is a legal matter. The bishop’s responsibility has more to do with offering support. I hope no one would substitute church authority for legal authority in such a matter. That would be stupid.

    As for other situations (which I think this post was really about), again I would have to say you should address it with the person. If you are afraid of looking stupid, well, you’re probably right. If you can’t muster up the courage to talk to the person, it must not have been worth talking about or you realize it’s not any of your business.

  50. #47-Sounds like a pretty specific problem. I think most of this discussion is dealing with generalities. Also, I don’t think anyone is refuting the idea that a bishop should be aware of offenders among the flock. The point is that it’s not his place to be the liaison between victim and law.

    #48-Kids talking to their parents? Sure! Parents talking to youth leaders or bishop about other kids or adults? Weird!

  51. #50, last part – Weird? Yes and no, which is the whole point of the discussion, methinks.

  52. #51- When is it not weird? When is it? Better, give me an instance wherein you would want a fellow ward member to talk the bishop about your wrongdoing, real or imagined.

  53. Um, meaning whether the offense was “real or imagined”, not asking for one of your transgressions, real or imagined. Seeing as how we’ve just met and all…

  54. That big gulp story is golden. I wish I grew up in a ward where there was so little to worry about.

    Oh, there was plenty else to worry about–among my brother and his friends, I’m sure :), as well as with the snitcher’s own children. But her Sin-o-meter was calibrated to such a high sensitivity that she kept too busy reporting soft-drink-abuse to even ponder the possibility of more serious vices.

  55. Ray, I wasn’t being glib. I am sincerely interested in an example of when YOU would not find it weird or just plain crappy that a ward member reported you for something. Please?

  56. Matt W #43 ‘screw what this blog says’
    I actually cover that. ‘And when these reports are made to protect a direct victim of sin, I totally agree that they should be reported, to the police when applicable.’ But your emphasis is still important.

    One reason people tell bishops and not parents is that they think the parents’ laxity is the reason for the wayward youth, and they want the leader to take care of it, or, in the case of YM, to ban them from sacrament preparation. In my case, nothing the snitches said about the YM surprised me because of the one-on-one contact I had with them away from the church meetings.

    I agree that telling parents about their kids is different in many cases. (I provided the example to give the etymology of the phrase.) Although I have a policy when dealing with my students: I will always talk to them about an issue before I talk to another adult, including their parents. They shouldn’t be surprised. Likewise, I think we owe it to our kids to teach them the difference between snitching, protecting victims and being confused because people do bad things.

  57. #52 – “Better, give me an instance wherein you would want a fellow ward member to talk the bishop about your wrongdoing, real or imagined.”

    Are you serious? People cover their sins all the time. Do you really feel there are not legitimate examples of things that a Bishop would want to know – even if he had to learn about them from other members? He is the President of the Aaronic Priesthood. It is his responsibility, ultimately, for the administration of the sacrament. Do you really feel that there are not cases where a YM shouldn’t be participating in the administration of the sacrament but isn’t going to self-identify as not worthy to do so – that the Bishop would not welcome word from a member who knew of *real* and serious “wrong-doing”?

    I am NOT advocating anything close to “snitching” about trivial, non-confession-requiring actions; I am, however, advocating notifying Priesthood leaders of serious issues – preferably AFTER speaking with the individual directly. Of course, the best approach is to that person, followed by that person (if “guilty” of serious sin) approaching the Bishop, but that second step doesn’t happen all the time. Tracy M’s #35 is a perfect example of that. If I had been the Bishop, I would have wanted to know – even if the observer didn’t feel comfortable going to the couple first. That’s not trivial, and I wouldn’t classify it as snitching or gossip – if it was told in confidence to me and nobody else.

  58. #55 – If I were guilty of something serious and hadn’t confessed it to my Bishop, then I probably would feel “weird” or “crappy” or upset or angry or bitter if a ward member told my Bishop about it. That would be my problem, however. If a ward member “snitched” about something that did not require confession, of course I would object to that. Those scenarios, however, do not eliminate ALL cases as “weird” or “crappy”. Sometimes, things simply have to be known, even if the perpetrator won’t make them known.

  59. Ray
    “perpetrator” implies a crime–not someone breaking a commandment. I think we have already clarified if a crime is being commited it should be dealt with by legal authorities. Maybe if someone reports to the bishop a crime is being committed–he should alert authorities.

  60. mmiles, Strike that word then. Substitute whatever word you want that does not imply a crime.

  61. #57

    Do you really feel there are not legitimate examples of things that a Bishop would want to know – even if he had to learn about them from other members?

    Sure. But that wasn’t the question, was it? The bishop may want to know, but what is the line of it being someone else’s job to “confess”? Priesthood ordinances being performed by someone you feel is unworthy? Anything constituting the breaking of temple covenants?

    I am, however, advocating notifying Priesthood leaders of serious issues – preferably AFTER speaking with the individual directly.

    This sounds honorable, but, again, in what case what you tell another adult, “If you don’t go the bishop I will”? Cases of abuse and such aside.

  62. That was typo-riffic. I meant “in what case would you tell another adult..” and “go to the bishop..”

  63. Lost in the mmiles/Jami dispute is a small point – When bishops have knowledge of a crime (i.e., a confession or pretty solid evidence), particularly abuse cases, they are to report it to the authority. Period. (A “he said/she said” may a different case, of course.)

  64. Yes. But the dispute seemed to be over the proper route of reporting. Take legal matters to legal authority. Take things that really would be within the bishop’s realm to the bishop. Don’t use the bishop as a bridge between victim and legal authority. Why put the poor guy in that position when you can call DCFS or the police just as easily the bishop?

  65. Nobody can “confess” except the (insert word for perpetrator). I don’t believe in anyone “confessing” for someone else.

    “The breaking of temple covenants” is too ambiguous and subjective, although the line for temple recommend holders is radically different than for non-recommend holders. For recommend holders, since you directed it at me and my situation:

    Adultery or fornication; serious and chronic use of alcohol and/or drug addiction; serious and chronic abuse that does not reach the level of breaking the law; regular and apparently intentional teaching of obviously false doctrine (although that one would have to be egregious); obviously improper sexual advances not resulting in adultery or fornication; etc.

    Which of these should a Bishop NOT be aware of if the (substitute word for perpetrator) doesn’t confess?

  66. #64 – sol, given that comment, why are we seeming to disagree?

  67. #66- My #64 was in relation to cases of abuse, so a little outside what we’re discussing.

    As for disagreement, I am sorry to have come off as confrontational if that is how I’ve sounded. My questions to you were sincere, though maybe not couched the best, and may have appeared sarcastic in tone. I’m not sure how much we disagree. Part of me feels the obligation you express (mostly the old RS president part of me), but then part of me feels like I’m not sure what the bishop is to do with some of that information without the perp (oh yes, I said it. Because now it’s just funny.) confessing. I’ve had some bishops that would have no problem having a very straightforward talk about that info, others I think would flounder a bit. And then what of the person who wasn’t ready to confess in a remorseful way? I mean, is the point to get the sin out in the open, or to help the sinner repent? Who’s best interest is at heart? The perp? The ward? I guess it depends on the situation, but I’d say I’d really have to consider my intentions and the possibilities for good or bad before making that step.

  68. Okay, I think I know what I’m trying to say. Barring cases of abuse or other horrors, WHY do we need to tell the bishop something the perp doesn’t want told? If you have talked to said perp, and he/she doesn’t want to confess, what is your obligation to tell the bishop stemming from? This perp is working out his salvation before God just as much as you or I, why not let him work it out as he may? On the other hand, is it part of being my brother’s keeper? Is this part of the baptismal covenant? How much does church authority really need to factor in to peoples’ daily struggles before God? Again, these are not rhetorical or attacking questions. I really want to understand another point of view.

  69. This conversation reminds me so much of my CTR-8 classes. Every year it takes about a month for the kids to lay off on telling me the juicy details about the time their brother hit them, the time their little sister broke something after she was told not to, the dirty words their seatmate at school says under his breath, the fact that their mom doesn’t ever do Family Home Evening on Mondays… We have a “if it’s serious talk to your parents or the Bishop, if it’s not just keep it to yourself, and in this class, only use your own acts or made-up stuff for examples” rule. More for my sanity and the sake of general decorum than anything else.

    I hope I’d have the courage to talk to the parents if I saw teens doing something dangerous. I don’t know the parents, often times: when I find things out through my calling, I go to whoever is in charge of me (mostly that means the Primary presidency.) I’ve never come across something serious that I found out from some other method. And I’ve never come across anything that requires a real authority — just stuff like bad habits some kids get into in terms of how they treat each other, or the language they use. The Primary presidency helps me figure out whether the parents need to know (mostly in their capacity as parents.)

    Sometimes I think Mormons make things too complicated. But then, the stuff I’m in charge of is pretty small.

  70. Sarah and Ray- Both in Ohio? That’s where I served a mission. Columbus and Dayton areas.

  71. 70. That’s where I first heard the gospel, too. Dayton-born to Dayton-born parents.

  72. #71- Most of my experience on the Dayton side was Centerville and surrounding areas. Beautiful.

  73. Yeah, if there is nobody else being harmed except the (swfp) I wouldn’t go to a Bishop about it. It is when the action truly is hurting or invariably will harm someone else in a serious way that I would talk with the Bishop – or want someone to tell me. A shepherd might not have the responsibility to force a straying sheep to stay within the fold, but that shepherd certainly has he responsibility to protect the fold from attacks by wolves in sheep’s clothing.

  74. Jami, you were born in Dayton? Was it downtown, Dayton proper? I worked for a while trying to help the Dayton City Schools, so if you were born and raised there, I’m sorry. :-) Some of the suburbs, however, are nice.

  75. Yeah, hard call. I guess that’s why I was curious as to a situation where you would want someone talking to the bishop about you. The bishop wanting to know is usually a given. The bishop needing to know is the hard question. Thanks for the response.

  76. mmiles–There is nothing more frustrating than being in a situation where it is absolutely obvious what the right thing to do is and where it is completely impossible to do that right thing. (Unless it’s having someone tell you that you are exaggerating about the experience and that they don’t believe you.)

    Only fiction is simple. Beginning. Middle. End. Nice and clean. Good old closure.

    To everyone else, sorry for giving TMI on such a specific situation.

  77. Re Dayton/Columbus – The real beauty of the Ohio is in the Land of the Cleve. I was not born there, but it might as well have been, my parents having got there as fast as they could…

  78. But the dispute seemed to be over the proper route of reporting. Take legal matters to legal authority. Take things that really would be within the bishop’s realm to the bishop.

    Yes. I guess my point was that if one thinks that reporting, for example, a case of sexual abuse to the bishop is a way to help spur repentance while simultaneously preventing the authorities from getting involved, they are wrong. In the case of a sexual abuse, the bishop should be on the horn to the authorities pretty much the minute he hears it.

  79. Let’s see. I was born downtown when my family (very newly formed) lived in Fairborn. Most of my experiences were in the Tipp City, New Lebanon, Beavercreek, and America’s largest brick community, Huber Heights. I had family in all those communities that I visited every summer.

    Yes, it’s beautiful, very green and hilly. I missed snow and lightening bugs when my mom moved to CA (when I was eight). I got both back when I served my mission in Chicago.

    When did you serve Sol?

  80. Now for less-critical issues.

    I do think that there are lines that bishops want to cross, under the guise of preventing small temporal problems from getting worse, that members might push back against. In my case, we had a visiting teacher report to the bishop that our air conditioning had gone out. Now, I live in an area of the country where this can be a significant problem, but it was a time of year where we were able to make due to fans and intelligent air flow design. We didn’t have the cash on hand to cover a new a/c unit, but in about 2 paychecks, we would be able to buy a new one.

    I got called into the bishop’s office the next Sunday to discuss the problem (I didn’t even know he knew). I remember forcefully making the point to the bishop that we were not destitute, we were not dying of heat exhaustion, and that we didn’t require welfare funds to help us out.

    I think the bishop was pleased we were working it out, but I still get a little irked when I think of some RS sister who felt she had to run that information up the chain of command…

  81. Since late night threadjacks harm / tick off fewer people –

    The northern suburbs of Cincinnati beat the suburbs of Cleveland any day, if only for the rolling hills and the lack of the Great Lakes snow effect. Now, if the “land of the Cleve” refers to Cleves – you have my sympathy.

  82. #80 – Yep, that’s a good example.

  83. 80. Ah yes, but had you been destitute would you have felt comfortable asking?

    I’ve always understood it to be the duty of a visiting teacher or home teacher to let the RS Pres or Bishop know if there was a need in the home. Not so?

  84. Ray, depends on which Cleveland suburbs. There are a few I’ll renounce. But there are some precious jewels in that Emerald Necklace — full of unique and significant history and unparalleled beauty. Plus, we all know that Cincinnati is just West Virginia North, not really Ohio. And it’s not often you get a great university whose icon used to be a Sunday comic character.

    Regarding my run-in with my bishop – I should say, I loved that bishop very much. A great man. But he definitely came down on the side of wanting to know minute details about people’s lives (not sexual things, just whether or not someone was spending an inordinate amount of time in grad school or with a family business, or what activities your kids did in school, etc.)

  85. #79- Tempting. But I think I will not betray my age just yet. Yes, I know, I started the conversation. But what if any of us Ohioans found out we knew each other and, worse, knew something about each other? Who would win the race to the bishops doorstep?

  86. Jami that’s a good point. When is it helping and when is it gossip? If someone I VT is having marital problems, there’s no way I’m going to tell anyone unless she wants me to. If someone is sick and needs meals, then yes, I’ll tell the RS Pres.

  87. Jami – The beef was that I wish the VT would have made a comment about it to us before going to the VT supervisor, then the RS president, then the ward welfare meeting. If she had even asked my wife, “hey, what’s up with the a/c?”, my wife would have said, “ah, it’s on the fritz, but we’re going to buy a new one in 2 paychecks.” We had just returned from a vacation and had just repainted the house.

    Instead, word went around that our a/c was out and people made the illogical leap that because no sane person in our area would go without a/c, we must be destitute.

    Now, since the bishop had received the information already, I admit he had to ask. But the conversation I had with him was not one of “hey, what’s going on?” The illogical leap had already been made, and I was receiving counsel on the basis of incomplete and incorrect information.

    There was a better way to handle it. The VT should have asked some questions first (believe me, we were doing quite well; the temperature was probably 5 degrees higher than most people would run things, but it was not uncomfortable).

    I have a family I home teach who are big Indianapolis Colts fans (having moved from Indy mid-year). Their attendance has been spotty during the football season. Rather than going to the bishop telling on them, I asked the question, how are you guys doing? Turns out that not only are they die-hard Indy fans and traveling to a few games, the husband’s company is making him travel a lot of weekends and the family is accompanying him.

    Rather than go snitch to the bishop with bad information, I followed up myself. Indy is eliminated, and the family was in Church last Sunday.

  88. 85. sol–I served in Chicago in 88-90. (That makes 40 years earned so far.)

    I took my first set of missionary discussions at 12 in (she fumbles for a calculator) ’79, Tipp City with sister missionaries.

    Go ahead, jump in. The water’s fine.

  89. I wish the VT would have made a comment about it to us before going to the VT supervisor, then the RS president, then the ward welfare meeting.

    Amen and hallelujah.

  90. But what if any of us Ohioans found out we knew each other and, worse, knew something about each other? Who would win the race to the bishops doorstep?

    I heard a telling comment made during a testimony given by a mission president’s wife when visiting a ward located in what Utahns would erroneously call “The Mission Field”; said MP wife was from Salt Lake City and had all of her brood within 15 minutes.

    She commented that it was so different being in TMF; in SLC, no one told their ward or bishop anything as long as they had family nearby. People went to Church with one another for years and didn’t know a lot of personal details about their fellow congregants. Whereas in the TMF; people tended to have fewer family nearby, so they relied more on ward members.

    I still don’t know if I completely agree with her, but it’s an interesting theory.

    (1. I hate the term “The Mission Field”.)
    (2. Her theory is based on an assumption that most wards in TMF are comprised of Utah exiles without family nearby. On a recent Sunday, we ascertained that over 60% of our active congregation had lived in Texas most of their lives and only about 25% considered themselves native Utahns.)

  91. 87. Yep, I’m with you there. A clarifying question can…well..clear up things. And save quite a bit of gossip.

    By the by, how do you pronounce queuno?

  92. If someone is sick and needs meals, then yes, I’ll tell the RS Pres.

    I knew of a family whose newborn had multiple surgeries, and the family didn’t want visits or meals. They wanted to be treated as if nothing was wrong. They expressed that to their HT/VTs on multiple occasions, and were more than a little upset that their wishes for privacy and non-special treatment weren’t honored.

    Sometimes people don’t see their trials in the same light we “see” them.

  93. #88- Aha! I KNEW that was you walking into an r-rated movie in Tipp City all those years ago! (Fumbling for bishop’s number in rolodex while rubbing hands greedily)

  94. Interesting discussion. About bishops reporting child abuse to the legal authorities, I am not sure that really happens. My understanding is that there must be a clear danger to a specific person. Knowing of a crime that has already happened without clear evidence that the perpetrator intends on repeating it, would not generally be reported by a bishop. Especially if the person has confessed and is stating that they will never do it again.

    However, any other person in the ward can make a report, and contrary to some peoples belief, they do not need the bishops permission to make a report to the law. In fact anybody who is required by law to report, such as school teachers, nurses, physicians, etc, are required to make the report, regardless of how they acquire the information, unless they are the bishop. There is no privilege rule for visiting teachers, home teachers, RS or EQ presidents, etc.

    But the confession by the sinner to the bishop is absolutely confidential, except in the one situation, of a probable known future crime against a specific person, in which case a report can be made to the law to protect that person.

    The confession to the bishop is so confidential that the bishop can not even use it against the person in a disciplinary council with out the confessors permission.

  95. Jami, queuno = kay-OO-noh. Think high school Spanish. I’d change the handle, but it’s been a nickname of sorts for most of my life.

  96. CW, I’m basing my opinion on a conversation I had with a bishop yesterday, on the topic of abuse. (Not my bishop, and not my ward, but I was curious about something.) He indicated that if he received credible evidence of a crime had been committed, particularly in the case of sexual abuse, he was too report it. The bishop’s confession is not a protector in all cases. Obviously, the bishop can make his own decision as to how to proceed, but my bishop friend felt there was little grey area in the training he’d received.

    Maybe an actual bishop here can elaborate. Are there any actual bishops or SPs who read BCC?

  97. (Sorry, I can’t type or use proper grammar at 2am. Going to bed soon.)

  98. Nice try. As we all know, Tipp City had no movie theatre back in 79. You had to go to Vandalia, IIRC.

    However, you might have caught me taking a slug out of the Jack Daniels bottle when no one was looking and living off of ice tea, Pepsi & Irish moca mint. And wearing…tank tops. (Oh, the shame.)

  99. #98 Stop! I’m losing my fragile testimony with every keystroke…

  100. queuno, #95, If the abuse is an ongoing situation, than that meets the criteria to report to the law. Another point is that bishops are supposed to call the Church abuse line, and they help the bishop sort it out and protect the Church, particularly if it happened on Church property, etc. And the bishop you were talking to might have meant that he would be on the phone calling the Church and reporting it to them.

  101. Plenty, but I bet they don’t blog at this time of night – which is my way of saying good night to everyone.

  102. Buck up sol, I was a twelve year old non-member daughter of an alcoholic. My bad behavior should not mess with your testimony. And baptism did an astounding job of giving me a clean slate. :)

  103. #94- While definitely no expert on bishops’ duty to report, to the best of my knowledge it would vary somewhat by state. I’m not sure what the church’s policy is, but it has to be adapted to state law in these cases. I only know this because of my husband’s area of work. In fact, the church’s legal department just sent word through the ranks of LDS social services about acts they felt their therapists had to report, but, at least in our state, reporting those things would have been illegal (based on confidentiality agreements), so state law trumped church policy in that instance. I’m certain it’s the same for bishops.

  104. #102-Whew! What a relief! I was starting to think there were post-baptism sinners among us. Horrifying.

  105. I don’t understand the differentiation between eminate crime and past crime. If it was something like rape? murder? It is my understanding that for someone to get baptized who committed a crime, they have to first pay the legal penalty (can’t be on probation, etc) So why is it ok for a bishop to absolve a criminal of wrong doing simply because the legal authorities never knew the crime was committed? Why is ok to hide the crime then, especially when someone might still be hurting from a crime committed against them 10 years before?

    ok end of thread jack

  106. CW, I ended up having this very conversation with my Bishop when the abuse situation arose in my friend’s life and I ended up taking her daughter for a few weeks while they sorted this thing out.

    My Bishop called SL with the question of how my friend could talk to her Bishop without getting her husband arrested. Apparently, a Bishop runs the risk of being personally sued if he breaks the confidentiality of a confessor who confesses in private, one on one. But the church encourages the Bishop’s to follow their conscience and report abuse and the church will deal with the legal fall-out of breaking confidentiality in the attempt to protect a child. Which is precisely what her Bishop did. She did not sue. Most people don’t.

  107. Sol, #103 well actually it is quite different for social workers, whether they work for the Church or not. They are legally required to report, just like nurses or school teachers, etc. We send ward members to LDS social services and they inform our ward members that they are required to report child abuse and that they will report if they confess to them.

  108. mmiles, Do you mean morally ok or administratively ok?

  109. Both.

  110. Jami, #106 If you are making the report to the law because there is an identified victim and a probabilty of future abuse, you are on safe legal ground, actually required to report to the law in those cases.

    Lets say some father had sex with his daughter twice when she was 16. She is now 19 and away at college and he confesses to the bishop. He can not report that to the law, because no probability of committing the crime again.

    On the other hand lets say a father has been in his 9 year old daughters bedroom, committing sex abuse 2-3 times a week for the last 6 months. No doubt about it he has to make the report to protect her.

    But in real life, it is never all that clear.

  111. Lets say some father had sex with his daughter twice when she was 16.

    Let’s say some father raped his daughter twice….
    and let’s call a spade a spade.

  112. #111, sorry, thanks for the correction.

  113. CW–“But in real life, it is never all that clear.” So true.

    mmiles–Morally I’d have to say it’s not OK.

    Legally, I think they are allowed to keep confidences that are made to them as confessions, but only if they are one on one.

    Administratively? Don’t know. I have a hard time believing the church would encourage a member to hide their crimes. That restitution part of repentance seems like it would require paying for one’s crimes.

    Tomorrow someone with a good night’s sleep and a law degree will have your answer.

  114. I really have a very hard time seeing any gray here.

  115. Again CW, I think it would come down to state law. And, yes, I understand the whole signed consent and duty to report in mental health settings. A bishop in any of these situations would do well to have someone who knows his particular state’s laws to run hypotheticals by (as talking about real situations even without naming names is a sticky business that can get you in trouble). I would not count strictly on the church’s legal department as, had a friend followed the church’s new policy previously mentioned, he could have been sued and lost his license.

  116. mmiles Really?

  117. Yes. Really.

  118. You didn’t follow the link. Go ahead. Follow it. :)

  119. I have no idea what you are referring to.

  120. ok end of thread jack

    liar liar pants on fire!

  121. Click the blue Jami.

  122. oh, wait. it was supposed to be like this:

    ok end of thread jack

    liar liar pants on fire!

  123. I know. Tomorrow the last 20 or so comments will be deleted for their gross tangential nature. Maybe some kind-hearted permablogger will next address When does the bishop keep things to himself, and when does he report them, and kindly address #105.
    I thought you were going to bed–something about a bus?

  124. More like a train wreck i can’t keep my eyes off of now.

  125. jami
    touche

  126. While definitely no expert on bishops’ duty to report, to the best of my knowledge it would vary somewhat by state.

    Yes, it does. A few years back, I was in a stake that bordered on two states, and an impetus for dividing the stake along state lines was so that stake leaders and trainings need only deal with one set of rules.

  127. Besides a criminal thug term like “snitching,” another slang term for reporting signs of wrong-doing is “whistleblowing.” Bystanders with a habit of following some code of silence is what allows embezzlement, data falsification, contract kickbacks, and abuse of authority to carry on far longer than they should. Turning a blind eye to signs of impropriety is motivated mainly by laziness, cowardice, or indifference, not by some high moral principle of keeping confidences. That also goes for leaders who, when these matters are brought to them, act like they don’t want to be bothered.

    David T., yes, Kazan was right, and the apologists for Stalin in Hollywood, sticking together like a bunch of gangsters not telling “nothing about nobody,” were wrong. So is the current Fidel Castro Fan Club that continues to villify Kazan.

  128. a criminal thug term like “snitching”

    Wow, John. ‘A criminal thug?’ Jeepers. I would go with ‘schoolyard’ myself, but you may be better versed the vernacular of the underground than I.

  129. Norbert, google “no snitching” and see how many homicides are mentioned on the first page of hits.

  130. Sarah (#69) –
    That’s a great tack to take with 8 year-olds, but sometimes they may not know what to classify as “serious.” Anecdotally, it was in just such a setting in my stake where a little girl told her teacher about her grandfather molesting her. He was our stake patriarch, and it was discovered that he had abused all his daughters when they were young, and had moved on to his granddaughters.

  131. Sol, #115, Yes you are right, things such as the priest privilege rule always vary somewhat from state to state.

    “As with most privileges, a debate still exists about the circumstances under which the priest-penitent privilege applies. The capacity in which the clergyman is acting at the time of the communication is relevant in many jurisdictions.
    In twenty-five states, the clergyman-communicant statutory privilege does not clearly indicate who holds the privilege. In seventeen states, the penitent’s right to hold the privilege is clearly stated. In only six states, both a penitent and a member of the clergy are expressly allowed by the statute to hold the privilege.” (wikipedia)

    The LDS Church and Oscar McConkie have shaped much of the current understanding of the priest privilege rule. The quote below is in reference to Oscar, on some cases when he was representing the LDS Church.

    “He has significantly impacted the law in the area of Church and State. For instance, he argued cases in the Utah Supreme Court and the United States District Court in Utah wherein the courts broadened the meaning of the Utah statutory term “confession” in the clergy-penitent privilege, protecting certain communications from public disclosure, to include all communications between a cleric and parishioner that were intended to be confidential wherein the parishioner was seeking spiritual advice.” (Kirton & McConkie website.)

    Although I support the general notion that people ought to report abuse, etc to the bishop, they should not rely on the bishop notifying child protective services, because in most cases, he will not do so. If they are a required reporter, (nurse, social worker, physician, school teacher, etc) they should obey the law and make the report themselves. If they are not a required reporter, they should highly consider making the report themselves, anyway.

  132. John, LOL. I’ve been out of the US for a long time.

  133. #131Although I support the general notion that people ought to report abuse, etc to the bishop, they should not rely on the bishop notifying child protective services

    Exactly. I think that was the point last night. The church is not the law. The church is not a liaison or mediator. If you feel it needs to be reported, report it or seek legal advice on the matter. Or, sure, talk it over with your bishop if you really feel it’s best, but don’t then drop it in his lap and leave him to make a grey-area painstaking decision.

    #127Bystanders with a habit of following some code of silence is what allows embezzlement, data falsification, contract kickbacks, and abuse of authority to carry on far longer than they should. Turning a blind eye to signs of impropriety is motivated mainly by laziness, cowardice, or indifference, not by some high moral principle of keeping confidences.

    Um, but we’re not talking about the mob and all sorts of illegal activities, are we? The question had to do with good ol’ fashioned sinnin’ and whether it’s your job to tell leaders what you think you know about someone else.

    That also goes for leaders who, when these matters are brought to them, act like they don’t want to be bothered.

    Just to be clear, did someone actually post a comment with this sentiment, or is this statement coming from a personal experience you have not shared with the class? If it is the former, I missed it but would love to be directed toward it. If it is the latter, then your concern can be answered with the idea that whether or not your leaders “want” to be bothered with the illegal activities you point out (and I’m not sure it’s your job to bother them unless you’re the one laundering money), you, as a citizen have a duty to report to legal authorities. Telling your bishop does not negate your civil responsibilities.

  134. Norbert, I’m glad to provide one more reason for you to feel happy with your choice of country.

    Here’s a little case from twenty-some years ago. A missionary noticed some indications of embezzlement in the branch he was serving. He told the mission president. (The branch was part of a district of the mission, so the mission president was a leader over the branch.) The mission president chastized the missionary for bringing this tale to him. Some months later, the embezzlement had grown to an extent that couldn’t be ignored, and some branch leaders were excommunicated.

    This was a pretty minor bit of wrong-doing. No individuals were hurt aside from some loss of confidence in the integrity of donations to the Church or some loss of whatever benefit to the branch that the stolen money would have provided. Was the missionary wrong to bring the signs of embezzlement to the mission president’s attention? Was the mission president right to criticize the missionary for talebearing?

  135. Was the missionary wrong to bring the signs of embezzlement to the mission president’s attention?

    Um, no. I can see where a missionary would feel unsure and seek advice. That said, the rest of your post makes my point. The mission president is not legal authority. The mission president made a poor decision. That may be the case in a lot of circumstances. SO don’t leave the civil duty to ecclesiastical leaders. The missionary still had a civil duty, didn’t he? If it wasn’t “worth” reporting legally, then what else is the missionary or mission president expected to do? Force the people involved to confess? What, in your opinion, should the mission president have done?

  136. Sol, in this embezzlement case, I don’t think legal authority was ever involved; it was a matter of internal church governance. There are lots of reasons to release leaders or excommunicate members that don’t involve the police. That’s my point with this example: there are matters that are very, very, very minor compared to child molestation that still merit attention.

    I think the mission president should have thanked the missionary for informing him of his suspicions, reminded the missionary not to spread rumors to members and missionaries about the matter, and then quietly investigated the matter.

  137. So the embezzlement was from the church? I mean, that’s not even a question. That’s like the difference between whether you should turn in a fellow employee for stealing from the company versus telling the company about an employee doing something wrong in their private life. OF COURSE you should report someone stealing form the church. The question would be whether activities outside church should be reported.

  138. #136, I agree that had the mission president responded in the fashion you suggested, he would have lifted a burden off the missionaries shoulders. The missionary would have felt something was being done and he would have felt vindicated. The way the mission president handled it probably caused heartburn for the Elder for the rest of his mission. And I think that an important stewardship for the mission president was handling the elder’s report correctly so that his faith and confidence was protected. It isn’t just about the Church or the embezzler, the person making the report had a burden. The president needed to lift that burden, whether he felt pursuing the money was important or not.

  139. My story of someone who “snitched” on me….

    While waiting for a visa for my mission, I was sent to Arizona. When we finally left and were checking in at the airport for the flight to LA to get our visas and fly to our mission, my companion and I, wanting to do some missionary work on the way, decided to ask for seats in the smoking section (i.e., where the chances of being seated by LDS were, well, small). We had a great discussion on the short flight – prompted, not surprisingly, by a passenger immediately asking what LDS missionaries were doing in the smoking section. (We responded that we thought the smoker might be more friendly….) When we arrived in our mission, the president interviewed each of us individually, asking about anything that occurred during our trip. After the interviews, he told us that someone had called the Missionary Department and reported two elders smoking on the plane out of Phoenix. We were required to write letters to the Missionary Department telling what happened, and never heard anything else about it. I recall at the time being convinced that the “snitch” was the ticket agent who assigned us our requested seats….

  140. Like I said, every member a mission president.

  141. John, I see your example as having a pretty clear set of victims, namely the members of the ward whose church funds were being stolen from them. As I see it, this should have been reported directly. I wonder what motivated the mission president to behave in that way — my mission seemed to thrive on snitching. Ü

  142. Too many comments to read them all, but I agree with #6 and 16.

    Maybe you could say something like “You’ve mastered that whole ‘watch over’ thing. Now you just need to work on the ‘be with and strengthen’ part!”

  143. As a recently released Bishop (after 7 years) I can attest that the reporting rules are different for each State (Clergy-Penitent priviledge) but each Bishop is counseled to follow his conscience as to alerting authorities. I always gave the offender (Perp?) the opportunity to immediately self report. In that way, he/she could begin the repentance process.

    Remember there are (at least) 3 things to consider in each case: 1) Protect the innocent, 2) Save the sinner, 3) Protect the good name of the Church

  144. #143, I like the order you put them in.

  145. I’d agree with CW, the order you listed is important. I only had one instance while serving as bishop that involved legal authorities, and I was on the phone to the Church’s legal counsel and with the police department about equal time. All the charges against the ward member were dropped, as the teenagers making accusations were inconsistent in their stories, one later admitted to making it up, and no other evidence could be found.

    But the first thing that happened when I learned of the allegations was to bring everybody potentially involved or harmed into the bishop’s office to discuss the allegations, ask them if they had any information one way or the other, and make sure that everyone who could potentially be victimized was warned.

    As I think we have seen from several high profile cases, trying to protect the good name of the church by being quiet about it often has just the opposite effect.

  146. #145, 1 case?!!! ONE CASE! I think I had my own batphone hotline to SLC. Unfortunately, I quickly filled up my Bishop’s bingo card.

  147. Thanks for the last few comments.

    The bulk of my own personal *administrative* experience with snitching is that (a) I was a member of the BYU Honor Code Council at one time (highly ironic, in retrospect) and (b) a former employer in Provo reported me to HCC (after I was no longer a member of the Council) for what the employer thought was libelous behavior.

    This has been, though, a topic that has always interested me (given my other run-ins with bishops over things like air conditioning and my wife’s health and things like that).

  148. I know an ex-bishop, though, who was involved in a murder-for-hire case involving a ward member that was later turned into a TV movie. There’s a case where the sin is unlikely to be committed a second time (unless they start contracting additional murders).

  149. #130 – in my class “not serious” means things, done by other children, that they’re telling me mostly because they want to let someone know that They Saw That Happening. If something happens to them — if they get touched or it makes them uncomfortable — we talk about how they are to tell the bishop or a parent. 7-8 year olds are, to be frank, tattletales. See the discussion here.

    I especially like this line:
    “You said this is a rule and we should all follow it…but I see so and so is not following it, and when I tell you, you get after me for telling you, so exactly what is a rule. Is it a rule if you don’t get caught. Which rules are the ones that we really have to follow all the time and which rules are only sort of rules.”

    In my class we try to generalize whatever does get reported, and reflect it back on ourselves: “And does that mean that you should hit her back?” “Is it okay to take his toy, since he did it to you?” “If someone is being mean to you, who should you tell?” Our class rule is “if someone else did it, it’s not our business, in this room.”

    Maybe I’m somehow squashing a desperate need to disclose serious abuse. I kind of doubt it, though. Can we agree that in the middle of Sunday School is a crummy time to talk about the behavior of people not present?

    I also think it’s worth pointing out that the original post (reports to the YM president on teens hanging out with a “rough crowd”) and the line of comments (defining clergy/penitent confidentiality) have seriously diverged.

    Oh, and sol, #70 – yeah, I’m near Columbus (we’re in the new Columbus South stake, covering everything from Gahanna down to Athens.) I’m guessing you saw that in a different thread, though, as I don’t think I mentioned it in here. I teach CTR-8 and am a YSA rep and half the people I know in the ward either read my blog or everything I say on the Primary mailing lists — including the Primary president. Some are even members of my Facebook group, “Ohio Mormons.” So no one needs to tattle on me to my bishop. ^_^

  150. Sarah- I’m gonna tattle on you way. I’m just bored.

  151. That was anyway. Or maybe “waaaaay”, like Bill and Ted.

  152. Total Threadjack Alert! But here seems to be the place to mention it. In my HC responsibilities, I was in a meeting last night with a professional LDS counselor and a number of PH leaders, where the topic was internet addiction, and it seemed to focus strictly on gaming (WoW, Halo, etc).

    As it was getting towards the end, I asked the question, “Do you get the same sort of thing from adults and blogging?”

    Apart from the funny look that seemed to say “do you have something you’d like to share”, I’ll say that she was primarily speaking about the problems of teens and young adults, but that yes, adults can be just as addicted and troubled by blogging. I didn’t bring up Elder Ballards comments at BYU-H. I felt like I had already disclosed too much.

  153. Can I have your bishop’s #? There’s a little matter I’d like to discuss…

  154. sol, bishopw!

  155. Here’s a relevant link from the SL Tribune, where an ecclesiastical leader and neighbors were keeping tabs on an adulterous husband/future murderer.

    http://www.sltrib.com/ci_8078355

  156. #154- I don’t get it. But if it’s funny, I really want to. Or scandalous. Ooh, I really love scandalous.

  157. sol, if Im kevinf, then my bishop must be bishopw. You.ve just confirmed by biggest fear, which is that the stuff that always looks so funny when I write it, never is when someone else reads it. Unfortunately, not so scandalous.

    BAN ME! BAN ME!

  158. Matt Thurston says:

    As a 17-year-old Priest, my Bishop scheduled an interview with me that ended up being solely for the purpose of ratting out my fellow Priests.

    He asked who among my fellow brethren had been guilty of Word of Wisdom or Law of Chastity violations. He worded it in such a way as to make me feel like I was helping them, and helping the Lord.

    The answer to my Bishop’s question was, “Pretty much all of them,” but I held my tongue and said I just didn’t know for sure. That was a lie, but I didn’t have the courage to tell him it was none of his business, that it was first and foremost between the individual and the Lord, that the Bishop was an intermediary that (usually) only entered the picture at the behest of the individual/sinner.

    I’m not saying I can’t think of exceptions to the rule (I can), but in most cases I consider repentance to be a personal, voluntary matter. And I consider “forced repentance” to largely be ineffective.

  159. Kevinf, sol some alternative translations for 154:
    She often laughs, but ice she hates or people whining.

    Son of laughter, brother I skate hard on pure wind.

    She oddly loves, but snitches, heavy on pride. Witch!

  160. Matt Thurston says:

    I will also note that I was on the receiving end of snitching at BYU on at least two different occaisions. Once during my Freshman year, and again during my Senior year, I was called into the Bishop’s office because a fellow student or ward member had snitched on me. Of course, the Bishop protected the Snitch’s anonymity in each case.

    The sad thing was that in one of the two cases the Bishop’s information was flat-out wrong. But right or wrong, I was pretty fired up. Felt like Big Brother was looking over my shoulder. Since signed ecclesiastical endorsements were involved, it really sent me into a crisis of conscience… was I repenting for the wrong reasons?

  161. #159- Wow. I feel really stupid now. Is this a riddle? A famous poem I should recognize? The first line of random horoscopes for the day? I’m lost. Help me…

  162. Matt Thurston says:

    Wow, my last two posts are admittedly negative. So, in the interest of fairness and full disclosure, with the exception of the three interviews I mention in #158 and #160, the 30-40 other one-on-one personal interviews I’ve had with Bishops over the years have by and large been very positive experiences, whether repentance was involved or not. :)

  163. s.o.l.b.i.s.h.o.p.w. stands for 159

    (Some famous poetry, hahahaha. No, it’s my avaoidance response to the pressing need to go fix a pinewood derby car–again.)

  164. Jami, # 159,

    Those were funny. Now we’ve got sol questioning his sanity. Time to snitch on him to the mental health folks!

    kewl even very ironic nigh funny!

  165. Am I wrong on gender again? Could’ve sworn sol was a gal!

  166. Well, with a name like sol, I got confused. My apologies, sol, i must be smoking the iguanas again. I’ll go home and read the proclamation again.

  167. When you check me out in my gold spandex pants I don’t think there will be any room for doubts. Yo! Line the pan with crisco when I dance this disco.

  168. I just wanna know what canoodling is. Or is it one of those you know it when you see it things?

    Back when I was in the bishopric, or even the stake presidency, I used to play b-ball on our lawyers’ league team. Post-game refreshments were usually at a neighborhood bar. And, when we won the championship one year, a couple of the secretaries gave us each a bottle of champagne.

    And nobody was there to rat me out! Just imagine how much more free time I lost because nobody was there to rat on me! Damn!

  169. Jeremy: loved the Big Gulp comment. Wonder what your lady would think of me as I sit here w/my SUPER Big Gulp sitting right beside me!

    The story about the AC was interesting- too bad the sis didn’t properly talk about this concern w/the family w/no AC at the moment.

    I feel if someone in “leadership” knows something, then it means a duty to care or do something , not just to sit and “know things” about people. Do some service, say a prayer or something if we find out things about people.

    Queno (i think) said there was a bishop who liked to know all details of people- I think lots of times this is just to show care. My teen brother thinks my questions are “nosy” (as he tells me) but my purpose is to show interest/concern. When I ask people questions, it is to show care. I respect the fact that if people don’t know someone well, perhaps their good intentions could be miscontrued as gossip.

    I seriously am surprised by this thread and had no idea that people were this way!

    I could not believe the experience of the man who wrote about sitting in the smoking section on the airplane!

    On my mission, sometimes people used to say “every member a mission president ” ( i served in a area w/a high density of LDS). I recall one time on a non-Pday we went to the church bookstore which was in a mall to buy something for an investigator. A random member gently “chided us” as he posed the questions, w/emphasis to each word: “Is it P-Day Sisters”.

    I did have one experience at BYU where I was involved in a prank in the dorms. My friends and I were going to turn ourselves in but then someone else “beat” us to it.

    Then back to mission stuff, there was a time when some missionaries were occasionally involved in some inappropriate activities on Mom night (ie things in the rules)at the home of a member “mom” . Well I had my comp and had to stay, she resisted my attempts to leave. I didn’t go on a mission to sit in a member home while some missionaries did this one activity. So I did tell the pres. Well my comp found out, she was upset w/me and said something like “if the pres was inspired, he would have figured out on his own and wouldn’t have had to been told”. So she requested an emergency transfer away from me. To me, this kind of telling is a little different for on a mission, you are stuck w/a comp. If they don’t obey rules of the mission, this can impact you and your mission. I think it is a different standard than everyday life and expectations.

  170. OK, this is somewhat on topic, but it’s a relatively minor matter and doesn’t involve going to the bishop.

    Say you live near the local high school, and one morning while in the front room with your visiting teachers, you look out your window and see your friend’s teenage son slouching past with his buddies and smoking. You actually say, “Oh, look, there’s Aloysius — no, check that, smoking, guess that isn’t Aloysius.” And your VT lets you know that indeed, it is he, because her dh, who is a member of the YM presidency, saw the kid drop a pack of cigarettes at some activity. (He did not rat the kid out but did make a point, next time the WoW came up in quorum meeting, of mentioning his own past struggle with nicotine addiction and how much better his life would have been if he had never started.)

    Anyway, you aren’t inclined to snitch on the kid to priesthood authorities, and you are not particularly bothered to see young Aloysius blessing the sacrament the next Sunday. BUT do you mention it to his mother?

    If you were his mother, would you be more upset if your friend snitched on your son to you (after all, chances are you’ve figured it out already), or if your friend knew your kid was cutting class and smoking and didn’t tell you?

  171. sol, Still clueless as to your gender. Sorry dude(tte).

  172. Cutting class, wouldn’t snitch. Smoking–snitch. As a mother I feel pretty much the same way–I’d want to know about the smoking, cutting class, probably not.

  173. Jami–
    But isn’t it more fun that way?

  174. #173- Holy crap! Those old pictures are still out there? I’m gonna my life partner, Terry.

  175. 171-in reference to 167? I assume you visited my hero on FMH today?

  176. 174- I’m gonna kill my life partner. Don’t leave verbs out of sentences.

  177. knock it off.

  178. 177- huh?

  179. Sol, it means you better put a sock in it, or you’re gonna get banned.

  180. Yes, sir. The first gal was legit. (I think.) I only did the second one. (The third was an accident.) I’ll be good.

  181. 179- Ouch! honestly, I don’t know what happened, or who it was directed toward. I think maybe a misunderstanding of comments carried over from an earlier discussion? Please let me know what line I crossed and I will gladly step right back over it. Sincerely.

  182. sol, Jokes about killing a “life partner” have connotations that, while perhaps not meant, are hard to avoid.

  183. I can see that, though, it was in reference to an SNL Pat joke and I don’t remember Pat’s significant other being addressed as anything else. It was a comment about gender ambiguity. I promise not to talk about killing people. As for life partner, I do apologize to anyone whom I offended, as it was definitely not intended and had no direct reference to any type of lifestyle. That said, looking back, I’m not altogether sure Steve’s warning was directed at me. There were other comments removed, none of which being mine.

  184. MikeInWeHo says:

    Are there Bloggernacle snitches?

    I’m always concerned that someone is going to snitch me out as the GA spy under deep cover that I really am.

  185. sol Although I see Tracy’s point. I also think the reprimand was directed at me, as it was my comments that were removed. In a stop using this site as playground sort of way, I think. Or maybe enough thread-jack already kind of way.

    (Or maybe he’s just trying to help be keep my New Year’s resolution to clean more, lurk less.)

  186. Nick Literski says:

    #20:
    I just hope no member sees me buying my RockStar drinks on my way to work every morning. Now that would be embarrassing.

    My ex used to work graveyard at a 7-11 in Provo. Every Sunday morning, before she got off shift, a local man she knew to be a ward bishop stopped in for his coffee. Of course, I think anyone who has to serve as a bishop probably deserves whiskey. ;-)

  187. #184 – Nice job, Mike.

  188. In retrospect, it’s kind of frustrating that most of the parents of my daughter’s friends knew that she was sexually active long before I did. They were happy to talk about it among themselves, but nobody thought to tell me about it.

    I’m reminded of a story of a woman engaged to marry a man who was a real Don Juan. All his friends knew, all their wives/girlfriend’s knew, and they all liked this woman, but nobody would tell her. “None of their business.” “Didn’t want to get involved.”

  189. When I was 17+, my early morning seminary teacher caught me skipping school—driving my mom’s car—in to the next town to go to the mall.. I was so scarred. In class the next morning, she let me know that she wasn’t planning on ratting me out but she suggested that I tell my parents. 15 years later I did.

    I think it made a difference that I was a good student, and with a girlfriend (I was skipping to mourn the fact that my boyfriend dumped me—who 15 years later became my husband.

    I think we need to exercise good judgment, talk to the “offender” is possible, PRAY, and than speak to the Bishop.

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