Child support and the Temple Recommend interview: Oppressing the precariate

I was raised by only my mother from the age of 8 until my mid-teens. During that time my father paid very little child support and even went to extraordinary lengths to avoid it. We struggled financially. There were times when we could not afford heating or food. For a short while my 3 siblings and I lived with my Mum in a single room in sheltered housing. My mother went to university while working full-time so that she could provide for us.  My Dad is not now a member of the Church but if he had returned I wonder how the Bishop would have handled this question in the temple recommend interview: “Do you have financial or other obligations to a former spouse or children? If yes, are you current in meeting those obligations?” Would the Bishop have required my father to be ‘current’ before giving him a temple recommend and what type of stipulations would the Bishop have placed on being current? I raise this question because I am sure that there are wards where this question is treated quite light or merely as aspirational. I applaud the Brethren for including this question in the Temple Recommend interview but I fear that local leaders are not thinking through the importance of this question as it pertains to our temple covenants.

The book of Malachi contains emphatic condemnation of those who fail to pay their tithes. According to the KJV, the messenger asks “Will a man rob God?” “Wherein have we robbed thee?”, reply the people. “In tithes and offerings!” One perspective on this motif of theft argues that when we (as stewards of the earth) fail to render to God what is rightfully His then we are guilty of stealing from Him. The text however provides evidence for another possible reading. The reason God desires these tithes and offerings is so that “there will be meat in [his] house”, but why? Tithes and offerings were not merely a matter of piety but a mechanism through which the produce of the land was redistributed to both Temple personnel and other groups – in particular, the vulnerable or the precariate. Refusing to pay tithes and offerings was ‘tantamount to upsetting the cosmic harmony’ that assured prosperity in the land and was a refusal of the shared sense of peoplehood. Rather than robbing God (how can we take anything from Him?), when we fail to meet a financial obligation to care for a former spouse or children, we rob those in the land (our families) who have a claim on the fruits of the ground. In particular we fail to provide to specific people part of what was promised to them through the marriage covenant and through the act of bearing those children.

If theft seems to be too strong a metaphor then I would argue that this is precisely what the scriptures describe as ‘grinding the faces of the poor’ (Isa 3.15). When someone fails to pay their child support (i.e. retaining what should be given to another) they reinforce the precarious economic position of the poor and exploited in society. This is a form of oppression.

Certainly I can envisage exceptions which require that a person might not pay all of what is owed – the Temple Recommend certainly has scope to be aspirational where circumstance prohibits full adherence. This, however, should be the exception rather than the rule and should be coupled with the assumption that if the person cannot meet these obligations, perhaps their financial situation is so serious that they might need church welfare. In fact, in my personal opinion, someone should meet their financial obligations to their children before they give their offerings to the Church. Obviously this is to be done with the Bishops approval but this seems to reflect the spirit of Malachi 3.

In my opening paragraph I mentioned that I applaud the inclusion of this question in the Temple Recommend interview. My reason for such hearty support is this: almost every interpretation I can imagine for why a Bishop might be lenient toward someone who is not current with their financial obligations are grounded on patriarchal privilege. A working male (who is also a Bishop) can all too easily feel and understand how hard it is to meet financial obligations to a ex-wife, especially when that money is so hard-earned. This, to me, is a blatant manifestation of the system of patriarchy that has continued to leave women poor and powerless.

This question is a radical break in that framework which should cause Bishops to reflect more carefully on that privilege. This break is evident when we consider that this question could very well have been subsumed under the previous question: “Are you honest in your dealings with your fellowmen?” That it is not included, but is offered as its own point of worthiness, suggests that we should be taking this issue very seriously.

This is not a proscriptive post. I am not calling for a blanket prohibition on all those who cannot pay child support but I think the Brethren clearly want Bishops to withhold recommends from those who will not pay. Rather I hope that Bishops recognise the seriousness of this sin. I hope they remember the families like mine who are suffering economically and emotionally because of this failure.  How can those who fail to pay make the covenant to consecrate all that they have to Kingdom of God when they are leaving their families financially destitute? I believe that promise, in such circumstances, would be a mockery of what it means to consecrate.

Note:

Some of the comments in the post are drawn from a conversation with friends.  I appreciate their wisdom and thoughtfulness on this difficult issue.

Comments

  1. There is just an overwhelming amount of “stuff” for people to pay attention to, yet all of it is important. I would not blame it on patriarchy though, but more on the temptation to sympathize with those you know vs. those you do not.

  2. One of the beautiful aspects of the Church is that higher-ups teach correct principles and lower-downs govern themselves. Thus, a bishop in one ward might be more or less strict about a particular matter than a bishop in another ward. This diversity is troubling to some among us, but I think it is beautiful and more generously shows the hand of God than an iron-clad monolithic man-made evenly-applied rule would.

    It is also beautiful that only the bishop (and not any committee) deals with temple-readiness matters. No one else in a ward has to spend any time worrying about the worthiness of their neighbors, even their child-support-owing neighbors. Rather, we are free to love our neighbors, to forgive them, and to build Zion where we live.

  3. Kristine says:

    ji, I agree as a general matter, but it’s rather less easy not to spend time worrying about the worthiness of your neighbor if you happen not to be the struggling single mother whose neighbor is her non-paying ex-husband.

  4. Mark B. says:

    “I raise this question because I am sure that there are wards where this question is treated quite light or merely as aspirational.”

    I am puzzled at your certainty. Unless you’ve heard confessions from men who themselves have been “passed” in temple recommend interviews despite not being current in such obligations, how would you know?

    Just like tithing settlement, temple recommend interviews do not call for a detailed audit–no bishop is asked to review your financial records to determine whether you have actually paid a full tithe. So, if the answer comes “Yes, I am current” what more should the bishop do?

  5. In my own experience being a person paying child support, when I was behind for a short time at the start (due to being willfully unemployed for three months trying to finish my degree), the discussion turned to what I am doing to get myself current on the child support. I’ve not had any Bishop try to skip or hedge this question, no matter what my financial circumstances at the time. Also, with as often as Bishops have had to withhode temple recommends for this lately, its a bright point in their day to see someone actively working to be current with these obligations.

    Yes, the question of child support should be subsumed uner being honest with your fellowman, but for some people (men and women) family is not included in fellowman. Also, being a church focused so much on family, the extra emphasis on child and ex obligations is an important message that not trying to live up to taking care of your familiy (even if a former family, your children are always yours) is as bad as failing to do any of the other things described in the questions.

    I’ve less than 5 years left paying child support. Except for the time at the start when I was “willfully unemployed”, I’ve worked to make sure my sons get the amount the State has decided they need, even when I’ve been unemployed unwillingly. I may not agree with how the money is used, butt that’s not for me to worry about – it’s her stewardship. The best I can do is try to be a part of their lives and what little I can do to teach them, even if the messages I disagree with from their mother are stronger. And, as they grow and learn more of the world and how few people actually pay their child support obligations, they will be able to see and appreciate that I was one that cared enough to do it right.

  6. Stephen, it is true that there is always more complexity in these issues than any single person can handle but these questions help us see those things our leaders have argued are most important. Moreover, that sympathy is not all that clearly distinguishable from the in-group/out-group dynamics at work in patriarchy.

    ji, certainly there is beauty in that which is why I acknowledge how important it is. But lets not kid ourselves that any Bishop is going to let someone have a temple recommend who is also guilty of stealing thousands of dollars or adultery. There are clearly some sins which are severe enough that we draw a clear line in the sand. I argue that there is such a line of this issue but that it is currently not as normative in our community.

  7. Mark B., suffice it to say that I would not be writing this post if this situation did not happen. In the situation you describe, of course there is nothing else that can be done; but that is kind of obvious. I was quite specific about the situation I describing here.

    Frank, thank you for your comment.

  8. Aaron R (no. 6) — One of the problems with drawing lines in the sand is that they tend to multiply, based on the concern of the moment and who is holding the mike at the moment, until there are entirely too many lines laying and crossing everywhere. Far better to have fewer lines in the sand. And far better to have individual bishops to judge rather than committees, even if those bishops judge differently from ward to ward.

  9. Thanks for this post Aaron.

  10. What I find amusing is those who cheerfully claim that they are current on their child support, but it is true only because their wages are being garnished. Alma 32:13-16 comes to mind.

  11. Anon for Today for Obvious Reasons says:

    I’m intrigued by your points as I’ve recently been called to the bishopric and done my first temple recommend interviews. As I consider myself young an lacking in experience (I’d be the “token younger guy” in the bishopric but for my bishop being a year younger than I), I trust the Spirit but my first inclination is to read the questions I’ve been asked to read and not probe too much further. I’m not aware of any reason why anything less than the “right” answers (“Yes, I’m current”) would be grounds for anything other than a referral to the bishop. I don’t see why it would be any different than, “I try to keep the word of wisdom but I smoke occasionally–but I’m working on it!”

  12. My father stopped paying child support when he stopped working due to struggles with various things and the courts refused to make him pay. It was a kind Bishop that ultimately convinced him that he should restart payments.

    He did not have a temple recommend at the time regardless.

  13. I serve in a bishopric in a relatively conservative stake and ward. When this situation arises, the bishop tells the person in question that they can’t have a recommend until they get current with their child support. One time the person in question was quite far behind on their support and had few prospects of becoming current. The bishop was saddened because the person desperately needed the blessings of the temple in their life but still told the person in question that they would have to get current before receiving a recommend.

    I suppose it’s possible that there might be some ward out there with a bishop that doesn’t take his duties as presiding high priest and common judge over his ward in these matters seriously, but I have yet to meet one. I certainly don’t think that it’s common or endemic for bishops to treat this question (or any other in the interview) lightly.

  14. In previous years, during my time as a bishop, I did indeed refuse a TR to a few parents (both genders) who were behind in child support. And never once (knowingly) gave a TR to a parent behind in child support. (Certainly, someone lying to me could have slipped by.)

    I get the idea that a bishop (working male) might share much in common with the in arrears working male in front of him. But assuming that is the end of the considerations a bishop has is a little short-sighted. Most bishops have kids too. Kids they are working hard to support. And the idea that the man sitting across from me is NOT taking care of his kids AND still wants me to give him a TR is more than a little aggravating.

  15. Observer says:

    In my last recommend interview, I actually had to prompt my Stake President to ask me this question, and he attended my first wedding, 7 years ago (when he was my parents’ Bishop). He had forgotten that I was divorced and remarried.

    I don’t have any financial obligations to my ex-wife (it was a clean split), and fortunately we didn’t have any children (she suffered from depression and some related issues, and decided that she didn’t want to remain married anymore), but it didn’t feel right to me for the question to get glossed over.

  16. My general sense is that bishops are somewhat reluctant to take action against members on financial matters unless there is court action. Even then, they often want an official judgment.

    We had a local guy who ran a massive ponzi scheme. He remained an elder’s quorum president until just before charges were filed and kept a temple recommend until after they were filed. He was in the press extensively for about a year in connection with stealing over $70 million dollars.

    Some of the investors were furious about this issue.

  17. Meldrum the Less says:

    Just a hypothetical question:

    If a man has a lot of business debt with large payments due and lost several cash clients so that it became mathematically impossible to meet all of his obligations and he can only do two of the following:

    a) pay tithing
    b) pay child support
    c) pay down debts, preserving future ability to earn enough for b

    Which duties are more important?

    (Barring a miraculous bail-out, dubious stories of which abound).

    Part of me says c,b,a
    The zealot in me says a,b,c damn the likelihood this leads to not being able to meet any of them.

  18. As a Bishop I’m not sure I understand what you are saying. Are you saying its common for Bishop’s to be lenient on this. If so, what is the basis for this. Saying you are sure that some wards see it as only aspirational seems weird to me, and invoking patriarchal privledge for something seems even weirder. How can you know how common this is, even if you do know of a Bishop here or there that does this? I haven’t run into problems with this question myself but if I did I would treat it like any other question, its a yes or no question which then means yes or no for a temple recommend. This is especially since the most common welfare problems I have are from single mothers who do not receive child support. I would be rather strict on this.

  19. Actually come to think of it I have come accross this, and yes I was strict on it, trying to become worthy of the temple by encouraging them to get current on child support

  20. sorry for typos. I meant trying to help them to become worthy of the temple, by encouraging them to get current on their child support. I also talked to them about how not paying child support affects their children and puts them in poverty.

  21. Aaron, as I read the OP, I kept wondering what experience (beside your own as a child) led you to assume bishops give delinquent dads a pass. But no matter.

    The TR questions are all yes/no questions. If there is an answer out of step with the expectation, then the most strict reading of the recommend interview is that person is not worthy to have the recommend. I know of no instruction that suggests there are some questions which bear more weight than others. Certainly questions of testimony are more difficult to put into binary boxes than, say, tithing compliance, or payment of child support.

    That you have written the post the way you have suggests that you know of examples in which a lenient bishop has allowed a non-compliant father to hold a recommend. I hope that does not happen often; I’ve never seen it in my own experience.

    Like Mark, I would assume a father who claimed to be current is, unless someone else tells me he isn’t.

    #17 Meldrum — you may be right in your suggested order of paying obligations, but until tithing and child support are sufficiently current the hypothetical holder of business debt should not hold a recommend.

  22. There is a great way to avoid this: Marry when you have sufficient means to have a spouse and or children. Both spouses educated/trained to contribute to the shared economic good. Pre-nup agreement. EVERYONE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR EVERYTHING.. Then give to your ex-spouse and children because its in your heart to do so.(Zion)

  23. Anonymous says:

    Interesting to see the dads get all the blame. Are the mothers being asked if they are giving visitation rights to the fathers. Not all divorces are the fault of the man.

  24. Child support payments are not dependent upon the custodial parent’s compliance with orders relating to visitation. No matter how many ex-spouses who feel that way, and therefore withhold payments as retaliation, that’s not the way the law works.

    And, whoever is to blame for the failure of the marriage, the children need financial support. If the court orders the non-custodial parent to provide some or all of that support, then that is what must be done, no matter where fault lies–whether pre- or post-divorce fault.

  25. Glad to see someone else address that this question is in there separately in order to avoid it getting missed.

  26. Anonymous says:

    There appears to be a disconnect here in the law. The mother gets the money and hopefully it is spent all on the children, but the needs of the children with respect to having a father and a mother are not met. Must have been devised by lawyers.

  27. Anonymous (#23) – the question isnt exclusive to fathers. One of the commenters has already mentioned that he has had at least one woman dealing with paying child support.

    As for the “mother gets the money and hopefully it is spent all on the children” – how the money is used only becomes your problem if you can plainly see that the children are not getting the funds, then the law has a lot of recourse in child protective services.

  28. lenient bishop says:

    Aaron,

    Thank you for framing this question as you have. Your point about a male bishop’s difficulty in empathizing with a woman who is not receiving court-ordered alimony is certainly correct in many cases. I have been unemployed myself before, and my tendency to side with the unemployed man, even unconsciously, is something I try to guard against. I agree completely with your post in cases of men who have an income and who simply don’t pay, or who take evasive action in an effort to avoid paying.

    In my ward, I have had none of those. In each case I have personally dealt with, the man has fallen completely down the ladder, hitting his head on every rung on the way down, and landed at rock-bottom. These are men coming out of rehab, or who have some combination of mental illness or physical disability which renders them essentially unemployable. There is simply no money to be had, and no short- or intermediate-term prospects of getting any. Do we, in effect, want to make having a good salary a requirement for a man to go to the temple? I have taken the approach suggested by King Benjamin with regards to charity — “If I could give, I would”. I’m not arguing that court mandated alimony is the same as charity, but the principle of being unable to wring blood from a turnip applies, I think.

    I also think the guidelines allow for some leeway in interpreting the recommend questions. If we take the example of tithing, what counts as a full tithing? Net or gross? How long does a recently activated member have to pay tithing before being considered temple worthy? 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, a year? Being current on one’s obligations to a former spouse is a more exact question, but I fear that if we don’t allow for some leeway, we are writing off an entire group of members. A repentant adulterer can be back in the temple in less than a year, but a decent man who is trying his level best might never climb out of the hole he got into after his bout of unemployment. I am simply unwilling to make them pariahs among their fellow saints.

    I do not like the reliance on an outside authority to establish worthiness, in this case the family court. In our current economy, a man can easily get tens of thousands of dollars behind, which renders him unworthy. But it is at least hypothetically possible for a man with no job, no prospects, and a mental illness to petition the family court to have his obligations decreased, or done away with entirely. So he is still the same man, but from one day to the next, by action of the court, he goes from unworthy to worthy.

    I also want to assert that at least some of the questions are indeed aspirational. When we are asked if there is anything in our behavior with our family members that is not in keeping with the gospel, we would all disqualify ourselves, if we were at all honest. I’ve given recommends to people who yell at their kids 15 times a day. I take their answer to the question to mean that they want to do better in the future.

  29. lenient bishop says:

    #18,

    “most common welfare problems”

    I don’t mean to get nitpicky, and I assume you were probably in a hurry and would re-phrase if you considered it, but I do want to take exception to the way you have phrased this.

    There are no welfare problems, only privileges to serve, and I don’t mean this in a rah rah, Tony Robbins way. The handbook enumerates 5 duties of a bishop and one of them is to seek out and care for the poor and needy. When people turn to the church for assistance, they are doing us all a favor by allowing us to serve them and extend Christ’s love to them. The greatest experiences I had serving as bishop were when I was able to assist in the temporal salvation of the body of Christ.

  30. 29.
    I agree with you on your rephrasing of the term welfare problems, and yes I was quick in the typing.

  31. I am butt-hurt about the welfare issue, so handbook or not I think it is more correct to say that *some* bishops see it as an opportunity to serve–others see it as a power trip. I’m not suggesting that all do, but when you tell your bishop you have enough food until Tuesday and he tells you come back (the following) Sunday it is more than hard to swallow that bishops see it as an opportunity to serve.

    If I had child support obligations I would be ashamed to not pay if I were able. Some people have no shame though I guess.

  32. I’m just going to poke my nose in here long enough to point out that alimony is different than child support. Alimony is a court ordered payment to the former spouse for the benefit of that spouse. Court ordered alimony is increasingly rare. Child support is a payment to a former spouse who has primary custody of the children, and is for the benefit of the children.

  33. I can think of many reasons a person might not be temple worthy but they are not used to judge that worthiness. Naturally, I would like to see some of the things I personally find offensive brought up in an interview, but if everyone’s favorite sins were used to screen temple goers we might not have anyone go at all. In the end, it really comes down to a relationship between an individual and the Lord and maybe rather than expect bishops to run through an exhaustive checklist they should simply point out that the ultimate judge is the Lord at leave it at that.

  34. Also, as far as child support goes, if you experience an involuntary downward change in financial circumstances, the child support is adjusted according to your means.

    So I’m not sure why it would lead to being behind on payments.

  35. It likely I’m far less than objective, as this is very close to home for me. Falling on the side of mercy is nearly always my preferred vantage point but in this case, mercy to whom? As has already been pointed out, child support and alimony are substantially different things. If a parent gets behind on court-ordered support, it can indeed be a pit that is near impossible to climb out of; as a custodial parent who is waiting on support, I would be happy to have the non-custodial parent just pick up from today, and begin providing support, in order to honestly answer “yes” to the temple question.

    The non-custodial parent is still legally obligated to eventually provide that back-support, but for the sake of the temple, if s/he starts now, could move forward, I believe, honestly.

    What I do take issue with is a non-custodial parent who has not or is not paying anything, still getting a pass (and yes, it does and has happened). It comes back to the question of “mercy to whom?” If there are children who are in precarious safety because the custodial parent is managing everything about their care with no safety net from the other parent who helped bring them into the world, I would wonder at which mercy is being places ahead of the other.

  36. I’ve been chewing on this one for a bit, trying to decide how to phrase how I feel. I am a single parent, divorced twice, and have had plenty of experience with non-payment of child support. My first husband left me in college *because* I got pregnant (temple marriage) and so for many years I didn’t hold him accountable because he had been clear that he didn’t want to have kids and I was young and stupid and thought that would change (I know that wasn’t very nice of me). When our child turned 18 (and back child support could no longer be collected) he owed me over $10K and I had never gone back to have the amount raised when he graduated from college and began earning a great deal as an architectural engineer, so even that figure was extremely conservative. We struggled for a many years.

    My second husband (also temple marriage) whom I married several years later, ended our time together through violence. He is currently behind about the same amount. The courts are pursuing him where they never did the other, but I am ambivalent about the whole thing. We have struggled many times as a family of 7.

    I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes who is struggling, but for me, it’s just money. Struggling isn’t the worst thing in the world and I’m no longer consumed by the need to make someone else do what I or society thinks is right. It has been extraordinarily freeing to take the leap of faith and let God and my own strength be enough. I am grateful when there is child support to help, and we make do when there is not.

    When my FH wanted to remarry, which he did three times, each time a bishop would call me and ask about child support. He would pay for a bit, then quit after the wedding. The 1P allowed him to remarry in the temple the first time, but not the second. The third he had to wait for a very long time – a year or two I think. Once during that time a member of the committee called me to ask some questions. My experience was that he was honest with his bishops and his bishops were careful to gather more information. That was actually balm for my soul, since nobody particularly held him accountable for his choices and his membership was never even in question all those years. Now, I’m just pleased that he has the opportunity to repent at his leisure as a member. It’s no skin off my nose.

    My SH has not been exed, though his sins are many and varied. He makes absolutely no attempt to hide any of it. Still, he is a child of God and God loves him through is addictions and would welcome him back if he ever wanted to come back. He hasn’t held a TR in almost 15 years, but if he wanted to and the question came up, it would be between him and the bishop and the Lord and I’m okay with that.

    I know this all makes me sound like a sappy, co-dependent woman, but I feel free. I’m glad the questions are asked and I’m glad that they are general and private between individuals and their bishops. I’m glad men who want to help their children but are having difficulty are not unfairly penalized (at least I hope they aren’t) and I’m glad some women receive support. I always hope people have what they need so that they don’t feel abandoned or wounded.

  37. Bonnie, if you’ve not heard it lately, you are -amazing-.

  38. CarminaB says:

    I always have difficulty when renewing my recommend. I read through the questions and feel, Hmm, well I am not perfect, these questions seem like I have to be. I am glad there is a Bishop who commented that he gave TR to parents who yelled at their kids 15 times a day!!! Maybe he was talking about me!

    As far as child support, I have had some very conservative Bishops who I doubt they allowed anyone who wasn’t 100% up to date to have a temple recommend. I feel for women who are in this situation. I always wonder about the questions of “affiliations to groups…”. I read and I am a member of the blog Feminist Mormon Housewives, should that keep me out of the temple?

    I rather not have a TR than lie although we all know that all sorts of creeps get into the temple.

  39. StillConfused says:

    I had an attorney in my prior ward steal another vulnerable ward member’s inheritance. He used it to buy his wife a BMW. The victim reported the matter to the bishop who refused to do anything at all (He was also a bishop). I convinced her to call the Utah Bar Association. He was disbarred, imprisoned and even tried to run from the FBI… all the while being the young men’s president and bragging about his weekly temple attendance.

  40. StillConfused, that is a terrible story. I could not imagine attending Church alongside someone who stole my money while the Bishop happily signs his recommend for him.

  41. Anon at 23 raises a fair point about visitation being an issue. Presumably, the same arguments about denying a temple recommend to people who don’t pay child support apply to people who do not live up to visitation orders?

  42. I agree, TMD. The wording of the question is “financial or other obligation to former spouse or children.” I think complying with visitation orders is clearly within the scope of that question. I wonder if it is commonly read that way by bishops?

  43. Bonnie – that’s very interesting. I thought I was done paying support, but am now once again paying. It is conceivable and even likely that Alex will wind up living with us at some point. I could never go after his mom for support. I would appreciate what she felt she could send, and if that was nothing, so be it. There are so very many problems, and I’ve been one often enough – I’d prefer to not be one anymore. More and more I just feel I must let things go. I’m not great at it … but I’m well ahead of where I was 10 years ago. If Alex’s Mom needed money and we were in a position to send more, we’d do it. Whatever was asked. I don’t give a rat’s azz about money, anymore.

  44. A big thing is knowing when to fight and when to surrender. There are plenty of things I’m theoretically willing to fight over. Money isn’t one of them. Do I feel I’ve been done wrong. Yes, I do. So what. I can’t bear the thought of getting caught up in some kind of game of who owes me what and what the world owes me or I it. What a gross entanglement. You put a balance sheet out there and chalk it all up with pain I’ve caused and pain that’s been done me, and I have no idea how I stack up, but I do know the balance sheet is just one more invitation to pain. So, I like your attitude, Bonnie.

  45. I fight for the money that is owed because it is my kids’ money. I am only their advocate. Having been left in total poverty for a few months while pregnant and with a two-year-old when he ran off with thousands of dollars, I make sure I get what is fair and agreed upon, no more and no less. And I put a huge chunk of it away for their future, because I hope to never again have to tell them that mashed potatoes and carrots are all we have to eat.

    And that is why, while both time and money are important, money is more emphasized.

    I do not consider that refusing to risk myself for my girls, which would be the easy way, is the best for them. They deserve the time and money that was agreed upon or ordered. They deserve as much consistency as out is in me my power to grant.

  46. I agree with SilverRain. That money is worth it because it is for the child–it isn’t the parent’s money to let go. I suppose if one were well-off and could easily provide for their children’s needs and future needs then maybe fighting isn’t worth it. However, I cannot say that I find any nobility or good attitude in refusing to care about money owed to your children while they struggle.

    My parents were separated for 2 years when I was little. My mother was 26 years old with 6 children (only 2 in school) and suddenly all by herself. The court felt thar my father only had to pay $60/month. That is less than peanuts in NY, and he even tried to not pay that. My mother was having none of it. He had a decent paying job, we were on welfare, and she was going to be damned if we were going to eat government cheese while he stayed out and partied. THAT is an attitude I like.

  47. KaralynZ says:

    I just want to say here that I’m constantly reminded of how lucky I was to have two parents who – even though they divorced – were mature, responsible people who were able put their own pain aside and deal with each other with fairness and civility.

    As an adult now I have seen in my friends the emotional pain involved in divorce and I can see how that pain causes people to be selfish and do these things. It just makes me respect my parents more.

  48. The only reason my X pays child support is because of this – he wants his temple recommend. How do I know this? because he’s told me to my face that I don’t deserve anything. He percieves it to be my “mad” money or something similar. So I guess I’m glad that temple recommend means I get child support every month. BTW – he is still an abusive jerk, but by golly, he has a temple recommend (sarcasm intended).

  49. Stephanie says:

    I think it is easier to say “money is just money” when you are not the child who is hungry, wearing old hand-me-downs, and constantly under the threat of eviction. Then money is EVERYTHING.

    Thank you for this post, Aaron. I appreciate you drawing the connection between not financially supporting children and grinding the face of the poor. It is an apt comparison.

  50. Indeed, Stephanie. Those who have transcended money invariably have it.

  51. I understand why people would say that only someone who hasn’t struggled with money would be able to affirm that it’s not important. It’s true that often we speak of things of which we know little, and online it’s especially easy to say things off-handedly. I can’t speak for anyone besides myself, but I can say that our struggling has embraced, repeatedly, all the things mentioned here and more (and still does) and I can still say that money (for me) is not worth fighting for. I wouldn’t suggest that anyone else needs to alter their opinions or their lives, but I don’t wish to be grouped into the “comfortable and clueless” group. I freely admit that making peace with money in its varying availability is something that came later rather than earlier in life, but again, that was my particular journey. It is difficult to make generalizations when we’re face-to-face. Much harder in this setting.

  52. “Those who have transcended money invariably have it.”

    Not at all. I transcended money (to the degree that I have) when I lost everything.

  53. After the business failed, months after, and when the cars were gone, and the good meals were gone, and just a few weeks before the roof was gone, I was walking along a farm road south of Sumner, WA. (Later we packed what was left – including my library of 600 some books – into a storage unit. After we were unable to pay the rent on that unit, it too was gone.) In short, everything I’d been laying my hopes and my ego on, not to mention my comfort, were gone or quickly vanishing. Anyway, I was walking along in the state of near nervous breakdown that I’d been in for months – it was a beautiful day, Mt Rainier was out – and I suddenly had the most amazing feeling of freedom, and it was if love washed over me and through me, and I was free of everything that had be threatening to break me. I had taken what it could dish out, and there I was, still able to love, able to appreciate beauty, walking, breathing, feeling joy. I understood just how little they can do to me. For a while, I felt fearless. Now, more stress was yet to come, and some of that had to do with money. But I’ve never again been afraid of what it was that I had feared for so long. _That_ is what I would bequeath to my kids, were I able.

    I like what Cher says: ‘I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. They’re both ok. Rich is better.’ I would rather have money than not. But neither will I ever let the lack of it, or of the things that it buys, interfere with my living fearlessly.

  54. ““Those who have transcended money invariably have it.”

    What Thomas said. I’ve had lots of it and lost it all, and losing it helped me finally transcend it.

    Many of the people I know who truly have transcended money don’t have it, and some of them don’t have it specifically because they have transcended it. I know a lot of people who intentionally chose pathways that assured they wouldn’t have it, and I know others who chose pathways that provide it but who still don’t have it in the end.

  55. Having said that, I care deeply about money when it comes to obligations to children and spouses whose faces really would be ground by not paying support. That is a totally different thing than my attitude about money in general.

    Thanks for this post, Aaron. It should be required reading.

  56. For those who have sincere stresses with anything, the statements of those who may have overcome those stresses appear condescending and sting. That issue, whatever it is, then becomes a divisor between people and creates subsets of us all. Still, the process of overcoming is the real measure of our souls, as stated by John so repeatedly in the preface to the Revelation. We only own what we overcome. For someone for whom faith in the prophets comes easily, they are blessed, but for someone who has fought to overcome many doubts about the prophets, that overcoming has inestimably greater value. For someone who walks a tightrope, balance is a gift. For someone who overcomes a paralyzing fear of heights, walking a tightrope is something entirely different. While I think overcoming fears or compulsions about or simply being controlled by money is a good thing, it has also come at great cost for me personally (which likely explains my appreciation of the peace that follows overcoming that thing.) Like some who have commented, it came after a crucible. I only hope that in commenting we are drawn together in compassion and unity instead of divided by our differing experience.

  57. Stephanie says:

    Ray, thank you for that clarification.

    Bonnie, my concern with your comments is that I feel like you are saying that the more “righteous” choice is to not fight for child support. Granted, I know you are talking about your own experiences, but I think your comments could be used by some to criticize mothers who are fighting for it. Fighting for money to take care of your children is not a weakness to overcome.

    I don’t know your experience, and I don’t want to minimize your struggles, but there is a very real desperation that comes from living in poverty as a child. It’s not just about “overcoming stresses”. It is about security being completely shattered. In my case, knowing that my dad was living in a Penthouse on the beach while we were getting food from the church welfare program because he’s wealthy enough to hide his wealth with expensive lawyers just kind of made it worse. It felt a lot like he was grinding the faces of his own children. And that is WRONG. I’m old enough now that his choices don’t affect me (well, now that I am done helping to raise my last brother because he and my mom came to live with me while he was in high school because she couldn’t afford to make it on her own). But my anger burns white-hot for selfish men who do this to their children.

    My dad’s excuse for not paying more money (told to me while my husband and I are the ones feeding and housing his son) was that he didn’t want my mom to waste the money on her. But now that my brother has graduated and is in college, my dad has other excuses for not helping him. There are a lot of men (and women) like that out there, and we just don’t do a good job of condemning that behavior enough in our society, IMO. I appreciate that the church makes being current on obligations a requirement for a temple recommend – it at least shows that we think it is important.

  58. CS Eric says:

    I know I am late to this conversation, but I see this issue from a slightly different angle. As part of my responsibilities at work, I provide routine legal advice to military members and their families. Divorce and related issues are by far the most frequent kind I see. I’ve been doing it for over 20 years, and still the only clients I have ever yelled at have been ones who complain that child support to their first family makes it difficult to care for their second (or third) family. The question that I always ask them which inspires that action is whether they knew about that first family before they started their subsequent one. With only a few exceptions, they have said yes (the stereotype of young military guys who sleep with anything that moves is, unfortunately, too common). I have no sympathy when I hear that the b***h first wife is taking them to court to enforce child support payments. On the other hand, I always advise them to make the required payment by military allotment, so their official pay records show that they are meeting their obligations.

    I’m not sure how differently I would treat this issue if I were a bishop. Technically, the money belongs to the children, and I don’t like the idea of somebody not meeting their obligations to their children.

  59. This is just a sad topic all around. I hate to think of so many children caught in the middle; at the mercy of one or two parents who either cannot or will not figure it out.

    My cousin fathered a child with a girl he knew in passing from the gym that he had met twice. He does not pay what he should be paying, and complains about it cutting into his Air Jordan budget. He lives at home, pays no rent, and has a high paying job that nepotism got him because he is dumber than a box of rocks. The child’s mother is in a similar situation, and has the added fun bonus of purposely teaching their 2.5 yr old various curses and racial slurs on purpose because she thinks it is cute (true story!) Neither one of them is a halfway decent role model for this child yet all the world loves them for some reason.

    Obligation to children is much more substantial than to business associates and other people we come in contact with. Indeed parents have stewardship over children and where much is given much is required. I would be sincerely disappointed if the TR interview did not place special emphasis on this stewardship role, so needless to say that I am glad that it does and hope all bishops use the opportunity to guide those who are not meeting these special obligations.

  60. The only person my children have to fight for their true rights is me. I’ll not fail them in that. It is not about the money. I could probably provide for my children on my own, day-to-day, at this point. Honestly, I’d prefer it if he would just disappear. But when he has to pay the money, he is reminded of his responsibilities to them. He is more likely to take his time with them. He often complains that he and his wife don’t have enough money, and leaves me to pay most of the extras. I’m fine with that, as I bank the part of the money he gives his children which are not needed for their immediate welfare.

    Child support isn’t about me. AT ALL. It isn’t about my ability to “transcend money.” It isn’t about what I need to live. It is about their father, and them. And since he won’t take responsibility for them on his own, I am the voice that they don’t have. I am the one who can get his wages garnished, and negotiate so that he spends his allotted time with them, and lets me spend mine with them.

    I insist upon the complete payment of a fair child support for my children because I believe that accountability is a divine principle. I spent six years of my life covering his sins for him. Now I have learned the higher law, that of leaving spiritual justice in the Lord’s hands, and in supporting the law for temporal justice.

  61. #60, Brava!

  62. When Jesus met with the Jews, an oppressed and embattled people (and called his friends from those hotheaded Galileans who were consumed with a fight for legal rights) he counseled them to walk a second mile and to turn their cheek when struck rather than fight back. It IS wrong for someone to strike us or to make legal but unrighteous demands of us. The power of the second mile is that a situation _out_ of our control becomes a situation _within_ our control as we exercise charity. The Roman soldier who demands that we drop what we are doing and carry his pack for a mile has no power over the noncitizen who offers to carry it the second mile.

    I have made my life’s work about helping single mothers to have opportunities that free them from the battle of rights and money specifically because of that second mile freedom. Many choose to remain locked in the struggle and therefore money contorts their relationships. Money rightfully owed has the same power to do this as money unrighteously desired. I understand holding others accountable (Joseph has well-described the importance of listing grievances for this purpose); I am simply suggesting that how we do that communicates a great deal to the next generation about what enlivens our life.

    Stephanie, I have heard stories like yours so very many times, and my heart goes out to you. I wish peace for you, and for SilverRain, and for vulnerable people everywhere. I think the Savior wished peace for his friends. As inconceivable as it might seem, he offered them peace through the second mile. Either way we decide to progress, however, he did not beat them with it, and neither will I. I send fond wishes that the stresses in your lives are alleviated.

  63. Stephanie says:

    Bonnie, let’s go back to the OP and look at the situation from the perspective of a Bishop. As a Bishop, if you have a single mother whose children have very real needs in your office, would you counsel her to “transcend” her feelings and go the second mile and buck up and make it on her own and leave her ex alone? Or would you do all you can to encourage the father to meet his financial obligations? Of course there is the Atonement and forgiveness and peace. But there are also temporal needs and responsibilties.

    I really do get your point, Bonnie, But your ability to forgive your ex-spouses and make it on your own does not excuse them from their financial obligations to their children. We as a society need to hold non-custodial parents acountable for their children.

    Yes, there are single parents who make it on their own and struggle through (or even thrive). That should not be held up as the standard. I am concerned that it is used sometimes to beat other women over the head with. (“I did it on my own. Why can’t you?”)

    So, this isn’t about me and forgiving my dad, this is about society holding parents responsible for the care of their own children. I think that is the compassionate thing to do.

  64. Bonnie, I’m not disagreeing with what you’re saying FOR YOURSELF. Sure, turn your own cheek, walk your own double mile. But that is not what child support is about. I am not fighting for my rights, but the rights of my children, and ironically, for HIS right to be a responsible father. There are blessings that are received, opportunities that are granted him for being current in his child support (including the possibility of receiving a temple recommend.) If I didn’t arrange for his wages to be garnished, he would be so far in debt, he’d have no way to get current if he ever decided to repent and try to obtain a recommend again. If he wasn’t current, he’d be less able to receive loans. And that’s only a couple of the blessings here on this earth, let alone the eternal ones. We are all benefitted by being held accountable for our stewardships, that is a divine principle.

    Child support isn’t your money, it is your children’s money. Charity isn’t charity if you are giving away other people’s money, turning their cheeks, making them walk the extra mile. It doesn’t sound like you’re saying to be careful in how you go about holding your ex-spouse accountable, which is doubtlessly necessary. It sounds like you are saying not to do it at all. And maybe in some situations that IS the best, most righteous answer. But not in all, and I’d wager not even in most.

    It reminds me of my very generous younger brother. He loves to give away his hard-earned money. Which would be great, if he didn’t then turn around and demand that my parents continue to support him. It’s not really his money he’s giving away, it’s theirs.

    Refusing to support the law, to do what I can to help enforce it, isn’t me being charitable. It’s me giving away my children’s property to soothe my own sense of righteousness. And that, I refuse to do.

  65. Stephanie says:

    Come to think of it, my father initially left the church over lack of support from church leaders. They didn’t buy his excuses on why he shouldn’t be supporting his family more, and this made him mad. But what it did was show us kids and my mother that the church took his obligations seriously. He would not remain in full fellowship while depriving his children. Can you imagine the spiritual harm it would have done to us if they had supported him? To hear at church that a father is responsible for providing for their children, but not our father? He was exempt for some reason?

    I just really appreciate this OP. Aaron said it well.

  66. Clearly, non-custodial parents have a moral obligation to participate financially in their children’s upbringing, and the church is right to raise this obligation to the point that temple blessings are associated with it.

    I like the advice of Obi-Wan Kenobi. “You must do what you feel is right, of course.”

  67. Excellent points, Stephanie and SilverRain. I disagree, however, that child support is not your money. Child support is your money to care for your children and you are a steward over your children’s care. A choice to withdraw from the battle when the situation is out of your control (which was my point in the second mile reference if you reread it) may be as valid a choice for their welfare as fighting for that money would be. As I suggested earlier, HOW we employ those choices may be more important for our children’s welfare than what those choices end up being. (So yes, SilverRain, being careful in how one goes about holding others accountable is EXACTLY what I’m saying). Nothing in my comments should be construed as an attack on vulnerable women and children by the self-righteous, or to soothe any sense of personal righteousness, but merely putting forth another option. It is an illusion that we are forced to be embattled. THAT is the power of the second mile. Jesus never said to stick our faces in the sweep of anyone else’s hand or to walk up to soldiers and offer to carry their packs.

  68. Bonnie, one final thought to clarify my meaning. If you were advocating the removal of hatred and vindictiveness without advocating the removal of accountability, I’d wholeheartedly support your comments. But obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law includes both ends, as victim and as perpetrator. Grant perpetrators the dignity of having to take responsibility for their actions, even if they don’t see it that way. Some of them only find repentance through being compelled to repent.

  69. I’m late getting back to this, but I think Stephanie and Silver Rain nail it. In observing that those who have transcended money invariably have it, I’m talking about something quite different from Thomas Parkin’s and Ray’s and Bonnie’s experiences. I suspect that as Thomas contemplated Mount Rainer and the loss of his 600 books he had food in his stomach, or at least the immediate prospect of food in his stomach. If you’re on a computer claiming you’ve transcended money, you haven’t. If you can feed your children–if you even have the option of dropping child-support litigation–you are speaking from a position of privilege. It’s that privilege that isn’t getting adequate playtime among the money-transcenders on this thread.

    If your basic needs are met and you’re letting go of unnecessary wants and desires and giving up old resentments, more power to you. More of us should doubtless do the same. But if the basic needs of your children are unmet, it’s immoral to transcend money, and it’s immoral to moralize to those in that situation.

  70. Bonnie, I applaud your openness about the lessons you’ve learned about forgiveness. They are important and valuable, and there’s no doubt that forgivenenss brings peace.

    That said, I can forgive someone who has harmed me and society can still impose its justice on that person. In fact, my forgiveness is not related to the societal penalty someone must pay. So, although I could hypothetically forgive someone for killing my wife, that forgiveness would not require me to lobby for clemency on his behalf. The societal punishment is not mine to stop.

    Similarly, although child support payments pass between former spouses to benefit their dependent children, it is a societal requirement (hence, the court order), and so there is nothing (in my mind) inconsistent with full and complete forgiveness and the expectation that the absent parent pay court-ordered child support. That the church expects him to live up to his court-ordered obligation has nothing to do with whether his former spouse has forgiven him (either for delignquency in payment or whatever led to the divorce) or not.

  71. ZD Eve, seriously, you don’t know enough about my and others’ situations to say we haven’t transcended money if we are on a computer talking about it. I’ve been unable to feed my children (and quite recently, in context of my adult life), so please don’t tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about just because I can feed them now.

    I never claimed to be at the level of a Mother Teresa or Jesus of Nazareth – but I’ve walked away from lucrative opportunities to do valuable work that makes me live paycheck to paycheck for now.

    This is an important topic, and dismissive comments don’t help in the least.

  72. “But if the basic needs of your children are unmet, it’s immoral to transcend money”

    Amen.

    “and it’s immoral to moralize to those in that situation.”

    Thomas and I haven’t done that or even come close.

  73. “at least the immediate prospect of food in his stomach.”

    Food stamps, much to my amazement. As I parenthesized right off the bat, ‘to the degree I’ve transcended money.’ I don’t think you’ll find a single absolute in anything I’ve said here. I’ve shared my admiration for Bonnie’s approach, and some of the reasons why.

  74. “This is an important topic, and dismissive comments don’t help in the least.”

    Sigh.

    Indeed they don’t, Ray. Indeed they don’t.

  75. Anon for Today for Obvious Reasons says:

    I’ve really appreciated the perspective by folks who are on all ends of the spectrum here. I remain unclear as to what expectations any of the viewpoints expressed place upon a bishop or other recommend interviewer. Church discipline has a process for “accusing” a member of wrong-doing, and I’m unconvinced that a bishop is charged with investigatory powers in the moment of the interview. What information would he have to have to be sufficient for him to confront an interviewee who answered one way but he suspected another? Indeed, much has been complained of and much fault has been found in interviewers who go beyond the question/answer process of a recommend interview (e.g., in comparatively trivial circumstances, asking about Coke as a follow-up to the WoW question).

  76. I really admire and respect you, ZD Eve, and what you contribute to the Bloggernacle. I mean that seriously.

    Please forgive me for appearing to dismiss your contribution to this thread. I didn’t mean to do that – but I did mean to dismiss your dismissal of my and Thomas’ comments. That’s all.

    Let’s just leave it at that, with a reiteration of what I said at the beginning of this comment.

  77. Look, Ray and Thomas, I suspect we’re actually not far apart on this issue. In fact, I did note your caveat, Thomas, and I continue to suspect we’re talking about two quite different things. Ray took my comment about moralizing to be referring to you two when, in fact, it was not.

    I’ve had more than enough of this conversation, and I have no idea what bishops should do about this or about anything else. I’m getting back to my real life. Peace to all.

  78. Aw,thanks, Ray. You’re a better man than I am. ;)

  79. #75 I may be letting my naive side show here, but aren’t bishops supposed to be able to tell when people are lying? At least to some degree? If I could go around lying to my bishop I would never have had to go inactive/barely active for over 10 years.

  80. #79 – Nope, it’s not part of their job description.

    Insight sometimes, yes; lie detector radar, no.

  81. Not lie detector radar, but discernment. Lord. This really rains on my parade big time. Maybe I will get brownie points from God for not lying when I could have. Oh well.

  82. The interview isn’t for the bishop to figure out your worthiness, it is an opportunity for you to be accountable to God. You might lie to the bishop. Although they may discern the lie, that really isn’t the primary purpose of the interview. And you can’t lie to God, even if you think you have.

    The bishop interviews are practice sessions for the Great and Last Accounting. If you squander that practice through lying or finessing the truth, you hurt mostly yourself.

  83. fairsister says:

    I think the fatherless should be helped by everyone in the fellowship of Christ. I think you can have a forgiving heart toward a negligent spouse and still hold him accountable to support the children financially with the strong arm of the law.

  84. SilverRain that practice is a two-way street. The bishop ought to pray mightily to act with the spirit rather than going home and telling his wife damaging information about a young woman who is barely an adult. A chatty-judgy sort of wife no-less. If I could have saved myself several years of misplaced guilt and pain you can bet that I would have lied to that bishop or simply declined the interview.

  85. The information that bishops can’t really discern when people are lying is hitting me hard. I have lost some of my fervor/zeal for a TR again. If unworthy people are getting in to the Temple all over the place simply because they know what to say/how to say it then it sullies the entire practice, imo. So, good people who actually ARE worthy to enter the house of God are denied by virtue of the fact that they are not members, but lying, hating, abusive members are welcomed in?? Please tell me there is some nuance here that I am missing. The Temple is the only thing that even keeps me around anymore.

  86. The freedom in the temple recommend to lie is also the freedom to truthfully state your righteousness. There isn’t another option really. I detest the concept of being checked up on, and the thought that a priesthood leader could just decide I wasn’t worthy based on something other than what I said? I’m not ready to give away that much control to a man. I do want the freedom have my word stand as my witness of worthiness-so I have to allow others to let their words testify against them. I’m fully aware that I am not perfect and on many questions, my answer is in the “I try” category instead of the “right answer”. Those simple questions and potential one word right answer are so loaded with intention and attitude and a life time of mistakes and repentance and behaviors. I’ll leave it the way it is.

    With the whole Bonnie and others… I would assume this is a Noah-Moses thing. We happen to prefer boat builders…we’ve got noah, nephi, brother of jared…I doubt in heaven they are up there mocking Moses for taking the easy way out and parting the sea. Point being…when personal revelation is based on principle, we think it may apply to everyone. Bonnie has this sense of peace and forgiveness-definitely a principle based approach to her situation. Her approach is unique. That it is principle based does not mean it is the right answer for everyone. The other approach-the stephanie silver rain-the importance of fatherhood and accountability-rights of a child-also principle based, also a way to bring peace into your life-also not the right answer for everyone. Hopefully having both voices on the thread will mean that others in this situation will be able to recognize that there isn’t one right way. We don’t have to always build a boat. There is a plan for every specific family.

    I don’t know of a person who has gotten away with not keeping their commitments to their prior spouse without it being taken seriously by their leaders. I know in most of my interviews, if the leader doesn’t already know me, they have asked about prior marriages and other children before they get to that question…so they know what and who to ask about. Those specific questions imply they are taking the concern seriously. Not that every single leader is perfect, or that we don’t need the reminder…

  87. EOR, Perhaps the nuance you’re missing is that you should concentrate on you own relationship with God and stop concerning yourself with the worthiness, or lack of it, of other temple attendees.

  88. It isn’t my relationship with God (or that of others) that I am concerned with. It is the cleanliness of the Temple. If it is The Church’s Temple then that is fine that is what needs to be said, if it is God’s Temple that is an entirely different story. I believed the hype about only members who have been baptized and found worthy being let in because I thought there was something actually to being found worthy rather than merely the person’s say-so.

  89. EOR, Fair enough. We are coming at this from two different viewpoints I guess. I’ve always assumed that an individual who lies to the bishop only defiles himself. The idea that that person might make the temple less clean, or less of God’s house, has never really occurred to me.

  90. EOR, you’re totally missing the point. Of course bishops CAN discern if you are lying or not. But that isn’t the purpose of the interview. Let me put it another way, even if the bishop knows you’re lying, that may not keep you from the temple. He is only standing in proxy to God.

    And bishops are being taught line upon line, just as we are.

    Of course “unworthy” people are constantly getting into the temple. I sat through a session one time with an old lady behind me eating chicken wings. But it didn’t sully my temple worship because I knew I was there worthily. The temple experience is a parallel group experience, not an interdependent one.

    It is God’s Temple, and as such it is His prerogative how and when to cleanse it. The Savior did not castigate the worthy temple worshippers when He threw out the moneychangers, but he castigated the moneychangers. Any bishop who is acting against the will of the Spirit by letting someone through knowingly will answer for that. But bishops are people, too, just like you and me. And they are doing their best. Different bishops have different primary spiritual gifts, some are better at discernment, others better at operations, others are better at ministry. The Lord calls whom He will, and who are you to stand in judgment on the cleanliness of the House of the Lord where the Lord Himself refrains?

  91. To clarify one point, I will say that there is only one stage in the entire endowment ceremony that IS interdependent, and only one other ordinance in the temple, and that is made clear at those points. But other than those, it is an individual, parallel, simultaneous experience. Another’s worthiness does not affect your covenants or experience except at those points.

  92. Anon for Today for Obvious Reasons says:

    @EOR, I do have something of a personal perspective to offer on this. I struggled with worthiness for a time in which I regularly lied during my worthiness interviews (TR included, though other times for callings and ecclesiastical endorsements). I did eventually come to the bishop to discuss my sins and repentance process. He was a new-ish bishop but I’d lied to him in a handful of interviews by then. After we discussed the issue, he confided in me that he was relieved that I’d spoken to him because he’d gotten the feeling that I was witholding something/struggling with something for some time. I asked him why he never called me on it, and he confessed that he didn’t know. He said that no one had ever really trained him on it other than to “follow the Spirit.” He offered his opinion that since there is a formal process for “accusing” a wrongdoer within the world of church discipline, his job wasn’t, in the context of an interview, to investigate.

    I can only imagine how damaging it would be to have a wrong impression as an interviewer and call the interviewee out on it. “Are you sure?” “Yes.” “Positive?” “Yes!” “Nothing you want to talk with me about?” “No, Bishop.” “Okay, I guess.” Relationship destroyed.

    I see your point about protecting the cleanliness of the Lord’s house. It’s a solid one. I’m content to allow the disingenuous (as I myself once was) to come to their own repentance in their own time and am in no hurry to turn the bishopric into the gestapo of worthiness.

  93. #84 EOR: (And just that comment) — I’m very sorry you had that experience. You are absolutely right: no bishop should share with anyone the contents of a confidential interview without the permission of the interviewee, and then those contents are only shared when necessary (as in a welfare issue with the RS president or a discipline issue with the stake president). Casual chatting with his wife would be wrong in any case.

  94. Thanks for your thoughts Paul.

    Thank you to everyone else as well. It is definite food for thought. I need to chew on it and see how I feel.

  95. Hi, I am out of semi bloggernaccle retirement for this one

    I see the obligation to pay child support as being pretty similar to the ” honest in your dealings question” No man who has a fathered a child is being honest in his dealings if he fails to pay court ordered child support. The court ordered child support is just the bare minimum as far as I am concerned. Kids come with expenses… medical bills, school supplies, clothes etc lead me to believe that not only should the non custodial father pay his legal obligations but he should also help out with other expenses.

    My exp in Church leadership is that Bishops spend a lot of time dealing with this failure to pay child support issue (and other issues created by divorce) and that the typical Bishop won’t accept excuses for non payment. I also think that “obligation” can be interpreted to go further then court ordered payments.

    I do not see any sympathy anywhere in my experience for dead beat dads in the culture of the church that the opening post alludes to.

  96. Jim Donaldson says:

    Speaking solely from my own experience, I think that bishops can discern falsehood pretty regularly. But that is not the same thing as calling someone a liar to his face. One can gently scoot the interview in ways that make it easier for the interviewee to come clean, but ultimately if he or she insists on ‘going on the record’ with something not true, that is what happens. We run this thing on an honor code. Nobody investigates, nobody audits. Sometimes bishops get contacts from the aggrieved former spouse and he can use that opportunity to invite the alleged liar back in for an interview under the guise of “I just got a call from ….” If someone is bent on lying, they will succeed, even if the bishop knows it. One hopes that there is enough of a testimony left in the prevaricator that he will see the foolishness of that choice or be eaten alive by guilt. But sometimes not. There are sociopaths who can and do beat us regularly. God will deal with them. That’s maybe the best we can hope for.

  97. Thanks for the comments everyone. I think this particular conversation has gone as far as it can.

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