Moral Conundrum?

As a relatively new member, there are still tons of things I don’t understand. I was one who was very pleased to see the new member issue of the Ensign last month- and I hope Stakes keep back issues of it on hand for new converts.

Since we joined the Church, there have been many time where questions have come up, from the mundane, such as “What’s a Bishopric?”, to the more esoteric, “Why was the atonement necessary?”- Still waiting on answers for some, by the way. The Bloggernacle has been a stellar source of information for a new member- sometimes maybe too much information, and sometimes information I wish the Church addressed on its own, so new members wouldn’t have to find things out on the playground, such as it were. (I’m thinking specifically of Church history…)

Recently something happened that I don’t know what to do with- where to file it away, or if I have some sort of moral responsibility. So, I come to you, great and mighty Oz.

My husband and I were at a business dinner and cocktail partly for his company. Boorish affairs, but free dinner and a night out, so we attend. At the party is a married member couple we know. We are not in the same Ward, but we are casual friends, and see them occasionally socially. They’re nice people. We live very near the Temple, and they attend regularly- we have not done so yet.

During dinner, the wife comes and sits next to me and starts to chat. She is very chatty this night, and it doesn’t take me long to see that she is drinking (vodka). I’m a little startled, but I don’t say anything, and just continue to visit with her. The night wears on, and both she and her husband are drinking heavily, and are obviously intoxicated.

On our way home, I talked with my husband about how disconcerting I found the whole night. He listened and nodded, but didn’t say much, beyond noting they were adults capable of making their own choices.

When I ran into the wife a few weeks later, she looked a little sheepish, and made a joke about my being quiet, and thanked me. I felt terrible and strangely caught in a place I don’t want to be…

Now, as a convert, I had a colorful life before joining the Church. I am in no position to throw stones at anyone. But I feel so awkward, as though I am the keeper of a secret I don’t want to have, that isn’t mine. These people are breaking what I understand to be very serious covenants- and my heart aches. Do I have a moral obligation to do anything with this information? Or do I just sit on it, allowing that they are adults, as my husband says? I loathe the idea of being a gossip, and have told no one. I also loathe the idea that I have this secret that makes me so very uncomfortable.

What would you do


  1. Do I have a moral obligation to do anything with this information? Or do I just sit on it, allowing that they are adults, as my husband says?

    You just sit. Confessing someone else’s sins, unless they’re abuse or something, is never a good idea. We all break our covenants. I don’t consecrate everything to the church, for one. The list goes on. The Word of Wisdom is not the sin next to murder. I’m sure they feel lousy enough.

  2. Steve Evans says:

    Tracy, that’s a pickle, but the most I believe you should do in this situation is to seek an opportunity to speak with the woman in private to see if there is any way to be of help to her. Your moral obligation, first and foremost, is to succor her and her spouse.

    Now, if you had been her bishop, the answer might be different.

  3. I don’t want to tell anyone. What I do want is the awkward, discomfort I feel around them to be gone, and I’m afraid that just isn’t possible. It makes me sad.

  4. Yeah, that feeling’s not going to go away. Maybe it would diminish if you managed to reach out to her and connect on some interpersonal level. But otherwise, nope.

  5. Tracy,

    I would have the exact reaction you had. I agree with Ronan that it is generally not a good idea to confess other people’s sins (although I wouldn’t put “getting wasted at a party” in the same category as “not consecrating everything to the church”). I also agree with Steve that your moral obligation is to help this friend in whatever way you can.

    This friend did bring it up on a later occasion, right? Maybe you could just tell her that since this happened you feel like you are carrying a terrible burden and you want to know if there is something you can do to help them. There are really only a couple of options.

    (1) They feel guilty themselves, which means they may be on the road to repentance already, or someone reaching out to them (you?) could help them get there. I think if this is the case, finding out would help the terrible feeling to go away.
    (2) They do this all the time and lead a double life in which they go to the temple while willfully breaking the commandments they say they are keeping in recommend interviews. This would not make the terrible feeling go away, but it might turn it into a different kind of terrible feeling that you would no where to file.

  6. Well, if you can muster the courage, I would talk to her and let her know that you aren’t judging her. You know how uncomfortable it feels to have this “elephant in the room”, so think how embarrassed she must feel. When learning that others we hold in high esteem, or at least those who we assume to be respectful of their covenants, “fail” in our eyes, it can be a brutal awakening — disillusionment to the max. Say what you can to help your friend, don’t gossip about it, and just chalk it up to an unfortunate bit of knowledge you wish you didn’t have. Whenever I learn about stuff like this in my life, at first I’m disappointed, then I just say, “well, I guess they’re on their own path, just like I’m on mine…”

  7. Jacob,

    Actually, I’d say that in the grand eternal scheme of things, “getting wasted at a party” is a very poor relation to “not consecrating everything” to the kingdom.

    A quibble: one does not covenant to obey the Word of Wisdom in the temple, so breaking the WoW isn’t quite “breaking a covenant.” Yes, we do promise to keep God’s law, but the WoW is only one part of that; the rest we break every day. Yes, it’s part of the worthiness standard, but so are other things that no-one keeps perfectly. (Do you magnify all your callings, all of the time? Are you perfectly honest in all of your dealings — every single one — all of the time?)

    Which is not to say getting drunk is cool. It’s not. But we are all sinners, all unworthy, and I simply refuse to see breaking the Word of Wisdom as a sin of such magnitude that we are led to all manner of angst when fellow Mormons break it.

    Tracy, I’m confident there are gross sinners in your Mormon circle, but you’d never know it because they behave oh-so-respectably in public. So, let it go, please. When I was younger, I used to worry about exactly the same thing, but I decided in the end that it was a colossal waste of time and energy.

    I know it’s hard because Mormon conditioning has made us all edgy about this kind of stuff, so I don’t know exactly how to pop the awkwardness balloon. It shouldn’t be there, but the fact is that it is. Sorry about that.

  8. Tracy, you’ll find no end of disagreement about this. Some people, like Jacob, would find breaking the Word of Wisdom to be a serious sin. Others, like Ronan and me, would see it as something of a lesser, venial sin. It’s the kind of sin, for example, that Joseph Smith was happy to commit the night before he was martyred in Carthage. Certainly, it will keep you out of the temple. So, on the other hand, will paying only 9.75% tithing.

    If being around people who drink makes you socially uncomfortable, well, I can understand that. Taryn and I always prefer hanging out with people who don’t feel that they have to partially turn their brains off to be around us. One option would simply be to not spend as much time with them. This doesn’t have to be because of the sin aspect of it all; it can just be because of the social discomfort.

  9. Tracy, you’re right. The awkwardness and discomfort isn’t going away anytime soon, and it isn’t fair to you. Maybe the best thing to do is to view this as part of the burden you have agreed to bear.

    And my lifetime in the church tells me that Ronan is almost surely right, too. You probably know people who do worse than violate the WoW, but you just don’t know it. It must be hell for them to live the double life. If they are trying to repent, they’ll appreciate you, if they aren’t, nothing you can do will help them.

  10. Tracy,

    Good question, and tougher than people here give it credit for, I think. There _are_ a lot of scriptural injunctions to strengthen and watch over other members, for instance. I think if you took a vote on the issue (in the abstract) from your ward members, it would be a close call. In the bloggernacle, it’s likely to come out as a clear decision, against any duty to do anything.

    On the sunstance of the question, I’m with most of your other commenters. I would say, it’s an issue that those people have to deal with.

    I agree with others who have said, if they’re looking for help, that it could be helpful for you to be a resource for them. But perhaps they’re not looking for help. Or perhaps they’re going back and forth – defiantly drunk one day, tearfully repentant the next, a lot of drama.

    Also, if they’re getting drunk in public at company events, it’s unlikely that you’re the only members who know about it. Gossip travels at light speed among Mormons.

  11. If you want to break the awkwardness bubble, and you get a chance to talk to her in private ever, you might just ask her about it, if there is anything you can do to help. Ignoring it totally, and feeling awkward about it doesn’t seem like the sisterly thing to do, does it? Knowing someone is on her side, supporting her efforts and rooting for her to quit may be quite helpful to her. On the other hand, if she really doesn’t want to stop, she would then probably begin to avoid you, which would solve the problem another way. =)

  12. Non-members know very well that LDS people aren’t supposed to drink, and they’ll be talking about it. Some of them may even go to their LDS friends to confirm they aren’t mistaken in their assumptions about LDS people.

    I don’t think these days there’s a safe place for Mormons to get drunk.

  13. Julie M. Smith says:

    I want to react to the word “gossip” in the original post. I think it would be very, very inappropriate for you to discuss this matter with anyone you know in real life. The exception to this would be your bishop. I can think of two reasons why you might want to discuss it with him:

    (1) Your assessment is that you need to be sure the bishop is aware of the information about them for matters such as extending callings, temple recommends, etc. You would see this as sustaining him by helping him to be a better judge in Israel.

    (2) It has nothing to do with them–it is about *you* and the distress this kind of hypocrisy (assuming it is hypocrisy) is causing you. You could even discuss it without mentioning the identity of the people involved.

    In your situation, I’d be prayerful about it. I would rely on the inspiration of the Spirit to let me know if I should discuss it with the bishop or let it go because in my mind, this isn’t a clear-cut issue either way.

    The fact that other people are guilty of worse sins that you don’t know about strikes me as irrelevant: the existence of murderers shouldn’t stop us from imprisoning rapists, for example. But I also don’t want to be a part of a church where the members go tattling to the bishop over every little thing. I’m not sure whether this constitutes a “little thing” however. Again, I’d pray and act accordingly.

  14. Kevin Barney says:

    Good timing with this post, as I’ve been asked to speak on “moral courage” next Sunday in Church. I’m still thinking about the topic (and, as an aside, if anyone has any thoughtful ideas to share with me, please e-mail me at klbarney at yahoo dot com).

    My sense is similar to those of most other commenters that your husband is right. Whistle blowing can be an example of the exercise of moral courage. But moral courage is not an absolute; it works best in moderation. For while on one side is moral cowardice, on the other is moral rashness. And my sense is that to “out” this couple would be rash and unwise. (I suppose part of the reason for that is that I agree with Ronan and JNS that the WoW is a lesser sin.)

    I also like Steve’s thought that, rather than focusing on their attending the temple under less than honest circumstances, you might focus on whether you can help her/them as individuals. She reached out to you in an embarrassed sort of way, which is an opening. But you are under no obligation to insert yourself into their troubles if you find it simply too awkward.

    If it is helpful, this strikes me as a rare situation. I’ve never encountered a temple-attending couple that drinks hard liquor publicly at social events.

  15. Thank you for perspective, one and all.

    I do want to claify; I don’t personally hold lapses in the WoW to be serious sins- what does bother me is being complicit in a lie. It is fair to assume there is deception, since they both hold recommends- and being part of that deception is what makes me squirm.

    My own husband has has a beer since being baptized, but we have not yet been to the Temple and he was frank with the bishop.

    I too, am not interested in a church where members go tattling on one another- ugh. Perhaps it is just a marker of my spiritual immaturity that this at all weighs on me.

  16. That is a tough call. I agree with Julie – pray about it. My gut feeling is – we are suppose to look out for other members of the Church. If it was a one time thing…let it slide. But if you have seen them plastered multiple times – I would see the Bishop. Call me a tattle-tale, but if these people are going into the temple when I know they aren’t worthy, I personally feel that they should be held accountable. Even if they don’t fess up themselves.

    It seems like I am in the minority, but that is what it think.

  17. You probably need to pray about it and then decide what you should do. It could very well be that the spirit tells you to talk either directly to them or to their own church leaders. For all we know the Lord put you in a position to witness their drinking for reasons known only to Him.

    My gut tells me that you should remain quiet unless prompted by the spirit. You are not their VT or Bishop. So pray and decide.

    Also I want to second the thought that others both in and outside of the church have probably noticed their drinking as well. This might very well be an open secret.

  18. Julie M. Smith says:

    “the WoW is a lesser sin”

    Probably. But some greater sins might include causing a crisis of faith/confidence for a newish convert, suggesting to the entire office that Mormons are hypocrites, setting a bad example for the youth, causing confusion among nonmembers concerning out doctrine, undermining missionary work by being a bad example, and putting oneself in a situation of moral impairment that might lead to much greater sins, such as infidelity or even the taking of a life (did they drive themselves home?).

    Again, I’m not sure what I would do in this situation other than pray for guidance. But I don’t think we should minimize this too much–they didn’t have a half glass of wine at home–they got roaring drunk in a social setting.

  19. If you should choose to speak to your bishop, you have to realize that he may question your story or that he may end up conferring with the couple about their observed behavior. They may deny what you say.

    While I was a university freshman, a friend of mine told me that another guy (who was in our ward) tried to force her to commit a sex act on him while they were on a date. I went and spoke with a member of the bishopbric about it.

    When she learned I had spoken with a bishopbric counselor, she changed her whole attitude about the incident and denied her original story. It didn’t matter to me all that much because others had also heard her original story. It was amazing to me that she could flip around so quickly on something she had only told me hours previously.

    Some people are freaks. We should expect that many people will embrace contradictions in their words and behaviors. To a great extent, that is a part human nature.

  20. Something that has worked for me, Tracy, is praying that my feelings will be changed on a matter, based on what God’s will is. If that makes sense. I’d first pray to know if I should do anything about it—and if not, then remove these feelings of awkwardness. If so, intensify them. If I should do something, then make it obvious what it is, and provide an opportunity for me to do so. Etc.

    And regardless of what the answer is about doing something, I’d pray for them, often. Maybe even put their names on the temple roll.

  21. Please, oh please do not speak to the bishop, barring an angel appearing to you with a drawn sword.


  22. I’ll speak out as I seem to be in a minority here. I would probably contact their bishop. I have been trying to hash out why and I don’t know if I have a good reason. In part, I would do it because I know that their bishop would like to know about it, so that he can help them repent. In part, I would do it because if I didn’t, I would feel like I was entering into a secret combination with them. That said, I have, in other conditions, contacted the offending party directly and talked about what they wanted to do. So maybe I wouldn’t.

    It would be easier for me to talk to the bishop because I don’t have a close relationship with them. At the same time, if it was someone with whom I had a close relationship I would be more likely to talk to the person directly. Does this make me an enabler?

    In any case, dissecting whether or not Word of Wisdom violations violate temple covenants is beyond the point and, I think, confusing the issue. When we covenant in the temple, we effectively covenant to give our whole self to God and keeping all the commandments we can is a part of that. Each and every sin we commit is a violation of temple covenants. This one is a violation that is serious enough that should you tell the bishop about it, it will have some bearing on whether or not you will get a temple recommend. So yes, it is important.

  23. That brings up a good point- when I do go in to renew my recommend, because of this can I answer all the questions honestly?

    Ronan, to go to the bishop, I would probably need that angel with the sword! That is not my intention.

  24. Please, oh please do not speak to the bishop, barring an angel appearing to you with a drawn sword.

    …or the Spirit.

  25. Furthermore, I don’t like the “serious” sin talk. It is a bit like saying my killing one person isn’t that serious compared to the millions and millions that Stalin had killed. Sure, in the grand scheme of things the occasional beer may not make you a viler person to your fellow people, but it is sufficient, if one doesn’t repent of it, to lose you your salvation (just like that gum stolen in fifth grade).

    Having reread the comments and the post, I don’t think I would contact their bishop. I would pray about it and I would probably contact my own. I don’t know if I could be friends with them, though. I would feel like they had already taken advantage of my friendship once and thus made me an accomplice in their sin.

  26. This one is a violation that is serious enough that should you tell the bishop about it.

    Please tell us why. Breaking the Word of Wisdom will keep you out of the temple, yes. So will not “magnifying your calling.” Are we going to round up all the home teaching slackers?

    Tracy, really, if you take this advice you are going to wear yourself out in the church before long. Because, over the years, this is going to happen again. And again.

    Let each worry about his own sins, something we Mormons could really do with remembering. Seeing the bishop over this is nonsense, utter nonsense. (Barring absolute, verifiable revelation to the contrary.)

    Yegads! Confessing other people’s sins? This is a truly awful.

    Child abusers, yes. Word of Wisdom violators? Give me a break, HP. The list would be endless.

  27. Tracy,
    When you go for your own interview, one of the questions is NOT: “So please, Sister M., are you aware of any SINNERS in the ward?” And thank heavens too.

  28. Tracy,
    I don’t know if this helps, but I was in a sort of similar istuation when I was a new member of 2 years and on my mission. My Zone Leader kept perpetually talking about which women he thought were attractive and making very suggestive comments. I was probably a missionary of two months, and at the time, I had an oppourtunity to have some alone time with the missionary. I told him how I liked him as a person, but that he really hurt me and that I had a hard time respecting him or following him as a leader with that attitude. He wept, I wept, but it opened the opportunity and we talked about it and he changed. It helped me to feel more comfortable because I was better able to see him as a person, and it helped him because he could see what the problem was.

    In short, I think you should let her know that you do not support or condone her inappropriate behaviour, if you get the opportunity. Otherwise, if it really bothers you (say it keeps you from having a good experience at the temple.) I’m gonna go against the stream here and say I’d talk to your ecclesiastical leader (Maybe your bishop if you have a comfortable relationship with him.) but more for your sake and not for the other’s.

    That is a horribly uncomfortable situation to be in, and I am sorry you are in it. It is like when your sibling asks you to not tell mom they are doing something they shouldn’t…

  29. Ronan,
    You mixed up my subject and my verb. I said “should you” (as in “if”), not “you should”. Please bear that in mind.

    I, like Tracy, am of two minds about it. Partly because I would feel a part of their deception if I let it go and partly because I think that people ought to repent if they are sinning. Having said that, I am not the judge and I am definitely not the jury or the prosecutor. I dont know what I would do in the situation. I do know that my acting wouldnt be denial of thier agency and my doing nothing can easily be read as tacit approval by them.

    In some ways, I think being an alcoholic is a blessing because you dont get to hide your sins (not saying that these folks are alcoholics, of course).

    This comment has been written without apostrophes, because apostrophes are causing my computer to hiccup. Thanks.

  30. I’m in the camp that advises against confessing somebody else’s sins.

    The situation reminds me a bit of the end of the first Harry Potter. Dumbledore tells Harry that what happened when he got the Sorcerer’s Stone was an absolute secret, so naturally, the whole school knows all about it. I suspect this couple’s drinking is similar–it is widely known, but is also the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about. I would talk to the woman and offer help. The awkwardness isn’t going away unless and until you address it.

    Good luck.

  31. I agree with CS Eric’s idea that this is probably something other people know about. I doubt it’s really a secret at all.

  32. Someone very close to me was inactive for over three decades. He broke the WoW with gusto while his wife was a completely faithful member. He gave up drinking but still had coffee. The Bishop called him as Membership Clerk. AFter Tithing Settlement, he decided to pay some tithing. Then after some time the coffee pot disappeared and he surprised his wife with a Temple recommend.

    The point of this story: I’m all for including WoW breakers, non-tithe payers, and whatever-elsers in the community of Saints with callings and everything else. I’m reminded that Heber J. Grant used to have a five beer a day habit (but that was obviously in a different age and he eventually gave it up completely).

    Now to Tracy’s predicament: It is not the WoW breaking that is necessarily that big of a deal – especially if it is an open secret. However, if they had callings where a Temple Recommend was necessary, I would say that confronting the issue is quite important. The reality is that the church accepts the WoW as a litmus test for certain service opportunities. If this were the case, I would likely talk to them and tell them that I might be talking to the Bishop, and that I would encourage them to do so first.

    If they didn’t have such a calling and was still bothered by it, I might simply talk to them and share the experience that I shared above and note that we fellowship all, but that it is not cool mess with a temple recommend.

  33. HP,

    Once when we were in the same ward we watched a movie at my place on Sunday. I think it was Gladiator, or something. Do you remember the bishop coming over out of the blue to speak to Becky? I do. We turned the TV off as soon as we saw him at the door. Now, that was deception. Ha!

    The point being, we all lie and deceive. Well, you and I do anyway.

    I want to bring in some theory. You seem to be in a quandary because violating the WoW as a temple-goer is “serious” (your word). What I need you to demonstrate to me is why it is “serious” enough that you would consider confessing someone else’s sin. There are other temple requirements that you would probably not worry much about, say, not magnifying one’s calling.

    In being moody with the confessors ’round here, I probably haven’t been very helpful. You feel awkward and that is understandable. I was once in a similar position. I knew about someone’s WoW violation and I also toyed with the idea of telling the bishop (I was younger and hyper-righteous at this point). This person was very close to me. Instead, I found a good time to bring it up with the person. This was a good thing. Telling the bishop, and forcing repentance would have been a complete and utter disaster. And I will add that it was only appropriate to bring it up with the person because they were close to me.

    So, please, don’t fret. Mormons fret far too much. I’m against fretting.

  34. Joseph Smith had something to say about this exact question.

    I charged the Saints not to follow the example of the adversary in accusing the brethren, and said, “If you do not accuse each other, God will not accuse you. If you have no accuser you will enter heaven, and if you will follow the revelations and instructions which God gives you through me, I will take you into heaven as my back load. If you will not accuse me, I will not accuse you. If you will throw a cloak of charity over my sins, I will over yours–for charity covereth a multitude of sins. What many people call sin is not sin; I do many things to break down superstition, and I will break it down”; I referred to the curse of Ham for laughing at Noah, while in his wine, but doing no harm. Noah was righteous man, and yet he drank wine and became intoxicated; the Lord did not forsake him in consequence thereof, for he retained all the power of his Priesthood, and when he was accused by Canaan, he cursed him by the Priesthood which he held, and the Lord had respect to his word, and the Priesthood which he held, notwithstanding he was drunk, and the curse remains upon the posterity of Canaan until the present day. (November 7, 1841.) History of the Church 4:445-446.

  35. Stapley,
    And I ask you too: why the WoW and not “magnifying your calling”? Why threaten someone because of the former but let the latter slide?

  36. Ronan, yes. Except for frets on guitars, which are cool.

  37. Hopefully, quoting the scriptures will not be deemed a queuable offense. Here goes.

    John 8:7:

    He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

    Matthew 7:3-5:
    3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
    4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

    5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

    Leviticus 19:16:

    16Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD.

    Proverbs 26:20:

    20 Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.

    Luke 6:37

    37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:

    D&C 88:124:

    cease to find fault one with another;

    As far as the alleged “sinfulness” of this couple, I think that is left to God alone to judge. As for their “worthiness” to enter thr temple, again, that”s between God and them and, to some extent, their Bishop and Stake President. if you are not God, the Bishop, or the Stake President, I think the do-nothing approach is the one recommended by the scriptures. And, really, I see no reason to feel “burdened” by this. Everyone on the planet is imperfect, including the folks who appear on Sunday mornings dressed in their fine-twined linens and shiny shoes and including those who dress in white and grace the doors of the temples. We’re all imperfect, we all have weaknesses and struggles. I once had a Bishop say as he surveyed the congregation on Sunday morning that if sin stunk the chapel would smell like a sewer. For some reason, though, the Word of Wisdom gets some Mormons all in a dither, even though there is no scirptural justification for believing the “sin” of drinking alcohol is worse than, say, not doing your home teaching, failing to pay a generous fast offering, bloggin during Gospel Doctrine, or, hey, eating a Quarter Pounder with cheese in summer or times of plenty.

  38. “Does Ronan attend all his meetings?” (A TR worthiness question.)

    Last Sunday, Ronan was alone with the kids because Mrs. Ronan was visiting her parents. Ronan looked out the window and saw the howling wind and thought about dragging 3 kids to church via the U-bahn and the S-bahn. Ronan decided he was going to have the week off.

    Last March, Ronan was staying with his pal Steve in Seattle. They stayed up late on Saturday night. When Sunday morning came they looked at each other and decided to take a walk in the park instead of going to church.

    No, Ronan does not attend all his meetings.

    Is he in violation of the temple recommend standard for skipping church those two days? Yes, for the question does not ask, “do you attend most of your meetings?” it asks, “do you attend all of your meetings?”

    Does Ronan need to repent? Yes. Has his bishop noticed these occasional lapses? I doubt it.

    Should BCC readers tell his bishop?

    That’s up to you. I’ll give you his email if you want.

    All Tracy knows for sure (and anything else is left to our imagination) is that these people broke the WoW once. If you think she should confess their sins to the bishop, you need to confess mine too.

  39. But really, it’s none of your business.

  40. As far as I can tell, most people on this thread seem to agree that it’s not imperative to “confess other peoples’ sins”, as it has been put.

  41. Ronan, if you got plastered at a party I attended, we would have a nice chat after the fact. If you were in the Bishopric, I would advise you to talk to the Bishop, fast.

    As I mentioned before, I am all for WoW breakers having callings, etc. But the Church has established it as a litmus test and I sustain the Church’s right to do so. There is no similar test for meeting attendance and calling magnification that I am aware of.

  42. I think that “Confessing other people sins” Is generally not a good idea.

    Unless is pretty serious. Like child abuse or something like that.

    WOW violations just are not serious enough to warrant an unprompted by the spirit discussion with these peoples bishop.

    Question: What if they were in your ward and say teaching the YM/YW? Or if they were being sustained as say a new RS president or Bishops Counsellor? Interesting question. What would you do then?

  43. No, there is no duty to interfere. If there is a duty at all, it is to respect the choice of adults.

    Why should you interfere? Some argue that your acquaintances have “problems.” Getting drunk once or twice a month is not a problem.

    Neither does your report indicate that your acquaintances put anyone else in danger.

    You are not related to the people in question. They are not your friends. They are not even your neighbors. It would be inappropriate to regulate their behavior.

    The fact that they happen to share our religion does not give us the right to interfere with their lifes. Acquaintances do have a claim, however, on our discretion. That seems to be your only obligation in this case.

  44. Ronan, I’ll take his e-mail address, I’d love to give him some suggestions on your current work load and callings. I think you need 2 or 3 more… :)

    Anyway, Tracy did say that this person wasn’t in her ward, so telling her Bishop has NOTHING to do with the person accused. It has everything to do with Tracy seeking consolation for her problem, which is that she is uncomfortable. If she contacted the other person’s Bishop, that would be different. My wife is in charge of Young Women’s and does the same thing often because she has a very strong relationship with the Bishop. She’s not really gossiping or condeming the kids, she is expressing her concerns for those under her in her ecclesiastical position. I don’t know half of the concerns, but I am glad she can vent to the Bishop and be supported by him.

    On the other hand, I never go to the Bishop because I always think I am taking him away from his family and just want him to be able to spend some time at home with them.

    Anyway, I think the whole “Not my brother’s keeper” attitude is unfortunate. Self-righteousness is a problem, but not caring enough to do something is a bigger problem.

    Last, Why are we all afraid to talk to the bishop?

  45. The Church has established it as a litmus test and I sustain the Church’s right to do so. There is no similar test for meeting attendance and calling magnification that I am aware of.

    Where? How? Both are absolute TR standards. I missed the memo you’re talking about.

    Oh, and this just in: Scientologist knows that fellow Auditor has been cheating on her Patter Drills and is thus P.T.S. Should that Auditor notify the Operating Thetans on the Freewinds?

    (Tracy, again, my grumpiness is not directed towards you! I’m just astounded at the pharisaical rubbish being spouted here.)

  46. Steve Evans says:

    Ronan (#38), I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about. That must be some other Steve.

  47. First of all,
    I am a sinner. Never claimed otherwise. I don’t remember the incident, but I have talked with Ronan about other secret combinations in my life that are likely equally egregious. Perhaps I am cool with that because I was a part of the deception (lame as it was) and I am usually all about letting myself off the hook for my sins.

    This isn’t about judgment. Tracy, should she approach the bishop in this other ward which I am not recommending to her to do, would not be sitting in judgment over those people. She will be telling the bishop that she noted those people in public violation of the word of wisdom and that other people noted the same. In her shoes, if I talked to my bishop about it, I would explain the situation in vague detail, leaving out names and other identifying features, in an effort to figure out how I ought to be in the situation, not how they ought to be. What those folk’s bishop cares to do with that information (which I assume would be nothing, due to confidentiality issues), is up to that bishop. He is the judge, not hypothetical me and not hypothetical Tracy. This isn’t gossip; hypothetical me isn’t considering telling the bishop because I want to purge all the “bad people” from among us. That I happen to believe that repentance is a good thing (even if it involves the bishop) is much more relevant. That said, probably hypothetical me or hypothetical Tracy should approach the couple first, explaining our own feelings and trying to understand theirs. However, there is a grave risk of becoming an enabler in that situation (with any sin, not just alcohol). We need to find the fine line between sympathizing with the sinner here and implicitly justifying the sin. I don’t think we’ve found it (and I don’t pretend to know where it lies).

    Ronan, regarding magnifying callings and the word of wisdom, a question answered “incorrectly” should lead to a discussion of what it means to answer correctly, including the opportunity for a reassessment of what it really means to keep a given covenant in this fallen world of ours. I almost always feel like I am lying when I answer the personal worthiness question at the end, but I have been told in that setting that my intuition is superseded by other decisions that I have made. In any case, the call to repentance is the call to commit to doing better (or at least attempting better). It isn’t meant as a referendum on what it is possible to get away with today.

    Finally, regarding confessing somebody else’s sins, obviously mileage varies dependent on the individual sins. Where obvious harm is being done (abuse, etc.) we know that we have to report (both to the bishop and to the local authorities). Regaring WoW, I have been convinced. Don’t do it unless you talk to them first and, even then, only do it if really prompted a lot.

  48. Steve Evans says:

    p.s. can we please just exchange recipes? On second thought, maybe that’s why Ronan is really so angry — don’t invite the Brit to the recipe swap.

  49. Many of you have probably read President Kimball’s “Lock Your Heart”, standard fare for new missionaries in many areas of the world since the 1970s.

    He urges the missionaries of an apparent (but unknown) South American mission to lock their hearts (against inappropriate behavior with the female gender) while serving. This came after at least one missionary was sent home for some very poor choices.

    The gist was that that missionary’s companion had a duty to report to the mission president the behavior of his wayward brother. In no uncertain terms was this made clear by then Elder Kimball.

    This situation is a bit different–maybe very different. But I wonder what SWK would say today? I’m not advocating any particular action on Tracy’s part–just wondering what some of the Brethren, even today, would recommend. I do believe, however, that Tracy should visit with the woman about the issues involved and that that should precede any thing else she may be considering.

  50. Phinehas would have known what to do.

  51. One of the more peculiar features of social life in Utah is that neighbors don’t hang out with each other.

    People are friendly but they aren’t friends. They attend services and activities together but they do not entertain each other in their homes.

    Reading this thread, explains why people behave that way. If you are a member of a group where a number of people consider it appropriate to tattle tale on each other then you have to keep folks at arms length.

  52. The gist was that that missionary’s companion had a duty to report to the mission president the behavior of his wayward brother. In no uncertain terms was this made clear by then Elder Kimball.

    I know a number of prominent East Germans who would wholeheartedly agree with that approach. It was also quite popular seventy years ago.

  53. Wow, Hellmut is the final word on “social life in Utah”. We don’t entertain each other in our homes. Our lives are like the lives of people afraid of the East German Stasi. Only problem is, we didn’t get the memo and still invite friends over for meals and for “friend-time”. But it’s interesting to learn from Baltimore-residing German Hellmut that we in Utah don’t entertain people in our homes.

    Now, it’s true that I don’t really invite tons of exmos over who are going to spend the evening criticizing that which is holy to me. But, we’re only human.

  54. Right on John. My neighbors were much more friendly in UT than they are here in Seattle.

  55. I was once in a similar situation, when I was helping out a needy widow in our ward by taking her grocery shopping (and paying for her groceries myself) where she surreptitiously bought cigarettes.

    Don’t tell the bishop, don’t bring it up with her, and don’t feel personally awkward about it. Just let it go, forget about it, completely. When you see her, treat her with friendliness and compassion. That’s it.

    The ONLY exception, I would say, is if one of the couple were called into a position in which loyalty to the institutional church—which is the only thing the WoW really measures—were an important factor. A prominent leadership position, perhaps a public affairs position. Otherwise simply leave it alone.

  56. John, I am sorry that I have upset you. The personal nature of your response does not hurt me as much as it undermines the quality of your argument.

    Fortunately, there is data. Some of it is right here on this page.

    I did enjoy the pleasure of residing in your home state several times for several years. There are several Utah Mormons who happen to agree with my assessment. Of course, there will be exceptions. I can tell you that no one in my wife’s home ward, for example, entertains anyone else from the same ward.

    By the way, you can observe the same social dynamics in company housing of LDS staff around the world. Within a year of moving into housing, people will become more cautious and more private. Even here in Maryland, you can reliably tell the Utah Mormons. They are the ones who ask you to wait on their doorstep.

    Being the most experienced in the consequences of interacting with other Mormons, they learned their lesson. Reading the recommendations of some folks here, I can’t say that I blame them.

    Of course, there will be outliers. There always are and they never disprove the trend.

  57. a random John says:

    I relate the following not to say that Tracy M is wrong, but that misunderstandings happen. More than once in college I was asked the day after a party, “So, um, how much did you have to drink last night?” The answer was always “Zero, I’ve never had a drink in my life.” The person would then swear that I was drunk as a skunk the previous night. So I know that people can be perceived to be drinking even if they haven’t. Tread carefully.

    Secondly, why do you always take two Mormons fishing with you?

  58. Hellmut,

    I have heard you make the same argument in multiple posts. Everytime I hear you say it I scratch my head in wonder at your comments in this regard.

    You can tell a Utah Mormon because when you knock on the door they make you wait outside?

  59. One of the more peculiar features of social life in Utah is that neighbors don’t hang out with each other.

    People are friendly but they aren’t friends. They attend services and activities together but they do not entertain each other in their homes.

    Reading this thread, explains why people behave that way. If you are a member of a group where a number of people consider it appropriate to tattle tale on each other then you have to keep folks at arms length.

    Obviously this is generalizing, but it can be true in some cases. We had some neighbors over for dinner in the last area we lived. They noticed some DVD we had rented tht was rated R and commented onit. Not just “oh Schindlers List, isn’t that rated-R?” they went on and on about how horrible movies like that are and how they thought so much of us, how could we have that filth in our home?

    After that they would no longer let their daughter play with our daughter, something that’s pretty devestating for a five-year-old,

    Now I’ve become alot smarter. We don’t have people over that we live near. Friends from old neighborhoods that already know us and don’t believe I’m going to hell because my favorite movie is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind are welcome in our home. I can’t risk it anymore, I want my children to have friends.

    So Hellmut is making a pretty broad statement, but it holds truth for me and many LDS friends I know.

  60. Hellmut,
    LOL!! Yeah, that sounds entirely reasonable and not at all affected by the fact that you’re disassociated with the Church. Those darned Utah Mormons, always keeping me at their doorsteps!!!

  61. Steve Evans says:

    OK, folks: if you want a thread to bag on Utah mormons or to wonder whether or not people leave you standing on the doorstep, just say so and we can set up

  62. People, let’s not make this a discussion of the accuracy of Hellmut’s recollections (or currect interactions) regarding Utah Mormons. What Hellmut complains about in Mormons, I see in the western world at large, but perhaps this is neither here nor there.

    Finally, don’t confuse a desire to do the right thing with a desire to rake somebody else over the coals in a fit of pride. This applies to both sides of this argument.

  63. HP, “don’t confuse a desire to do the right thing with a desire to rake somebody else over the coals in a fit of pride.” Good advice. Is there a harder scriptural injunction to live up to than this one?

  64. Though, to be fair, RT, I’m not sure this situation is about judging here. It seems to me that it is more about institutional norms. Let’s say I have a friend that I found out was cheating on his spouse. I may love this person, have empathy for them, and perhaps even understand why he did what he did. I could ultimately not “judge” him and still have the dilemma of what to do with that knowledge. Do you tell the spouse?

  65. Yes.

  66. J. Stapley, I’m sorry. I wasn’t clear enough in what I was saying in #63. That was intended as self-criticism; I don’t have enough knowledge of other people to know whether their concerns about the drunken couple in this post involve accusation or judgment, or not. I know that such considerations would be relevant for my response to this situation — but I think I’ve erred and judged as I shouldn’t do when I assumed above that they were relevant to others.

    HP #65, to be fair, the verse you link is addressed to folks who are basically apostles, right? Or perhaps you were referring to the second part of the scripture, in which case I take your point and emphasize also this one.

  67. And this:

    John 7:24

    24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

    This is really hard thing to do which is why its really hard to run to a bishop when you see another church member apparently violating the WOW.

    I would tell the spouse. I would feel that the spouse has a right to know of the infidelity. So that they can protect themselves and their children

  68. I just reread Rusty’s comment. When I first read it, I thought he had said “those damned Utah Mormons” and I was thinking, Gee, I can rat Rusty out to the Bishop for cussing online, and then he can’t be the new stake president and his world will come crashing down.

    But then I saw that he had written “darned.”


  69. Tracy, I don’t envy the pickle you’re in. I hate those feelings.

    How about “you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself” (NRS) or “Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt.”(NIV) Leviticus 19:17, part of the Holiness Code.

  70. Fortunately, there is data

    Hellmut, you slay me!

  71. Ben, the Old Testament certainly does support that approach. Yet New Testament and Book of Mormon texts point in the opposite direction, as seen above. How to resolve?

  72. I don’t understand the conundrum whatsoever. You don’t have any responsibility for this couple. Why do we (mormons) feel such a responsibility for reporting to the hierarchy other people’s actions. What possible good could come of it.
    Possibly they repented yesterday. Then your report would be erroneous.

    Breaking the WoW is not like committing a crime against someone. they did not abuse anyone but themselves.

    blah, blah…..lighten up people

  73. Julie M. Smith says:

    #69 is interesting.

    I had another thought: we’re all tossing around the phrase “going to the bishop” as if it means the same thing to everyone. But I think to some of us it might mean . . .

    “Punish them! Take away their temple recs and their callings! They are BAD people!”

    . . . but to others it might mean . . .

    “Bishop, I am really concerned about Sister and Brother Jones and I wanted you to be aware of the situation so we can help them.”

    . . . with the same vibe that you would let him know if Br. Jones was sick or Sr. Jones had been laid off or whatever.

    I’m obviously a lot more sympathetic to #2 than to #1. It is hard for me to see public drunkenness by a temple-holding Saint as anything but (1) open rebellion against the gospel or (2) alcoholism. (Is there some other option?) And I would want to help someone in either of those situations in any way that I could.

  74. Tracy-

    Listen to Ronan’s advice. Seriously.

    If you stick with the church long enough, you will see lots of hypocrisy. That’s not to say Mormons aren’t well-intentioned people. They are. However, lots of us are not living up to Christ’s ideals–myself included.

    Previous posts have suggested that reporting this to the bishop is part one’s duty as “my brother’s keeper.” I completely disagree. To me, in this instance, being your brother’s keeper means not judging this person and using this as an opportunity to get to know them. You might find them to be a very Christ-like person who occasionally likes to consume alcohol. I can think of far worse sins.

    This doesn’t mean you have to agree with the behavior; however, reporting their behavior to the bishop is simply a quick way of absolving yourself of the situation. True ministry involves more effort such as using this as an opportunity to get to know the person a little better. She may be using alcohol to find acceptance that she is unable to find in her own faith–who knows?

    Leave the judgement in this matter to God.

  75. What if you went to the bishop and he confronted them. then they became offended and left the church. That wouldn’t be good.

    We all need to mind our own business more

  76. Tracy,

    I think that this type of “What should I do?” question is one that someone should ask their bishop or relief society president, in private, without naming names. That way, you’re not confessing someone else’s sins, but you’re allowing someone in authority (or in an official leadership position) to give you the tools to handle that situation and similar future situations.

    The bloggernacle may be an interesting forum to sound out questions and ideas, and to ponder the options and posible answers. But please don’t take the opinions expressed online by members, non-members and commentators as church doctrine, policy, or even legitimate LDS traditions.

    When I was a recent convert, I sometimes went to rank-and-file members for advice, and a lot of advice that I received was misleading. Additionally, I heard more false doctrine on my mission from fellow missionaries than I had in my entire time in the church up to that point. People outside of obvious leadership and teaching positions are often not reliable sources of information.

    There are a couple things that I think are pertinent to your original question that haven’t been mentioned so far in the comments. But to follow my own advice, I think you should hear them from your bishop, not from an anonymous person online.

    So my suggestion would be to either make an appt with your bishop (not the bishop of the couple in question), or save it until the next time he asks you in for a visit, and to pose your original question without naming names in the “what should a good member do in such a situation?” frame.

    Your bishop may then tell you how he would react if someone were to “tattle” on fellow members in such a situation. He may review with you the temple recommend questions, and how he would respond if he suspected someone were not answering those questions truthfully.

    The Doctrine and Covenants also has teachings on the matter about witnesses, and how church leaders can’t take action unless there are two witnesses or the accused person confesses.

    The only cases where I regret not going to priesthood authority were those of cases of verbal and emotional abuse by spouse on spouse, abuse by parent on child, abuse by priesthood leader on subordinate, bullying (or undue imposition) by member upon member, and by missionary upon missionary.

    I think I’m at the point where I’d even report suspected abuse.

    Years ago, there was an LDS gynecologist who was charged (and convicted I believe) of impregnating several of his patients with his own semen during exams. Most of the women has “suspicions” about what he was doing, but had no proof, and they dismissed their suspicions because the well-respected doctor was above reproach. I mention this because if those women had shared their suspicions with their bishop(s), perhaps the bishop could have added up the various data-points and determined something was amiss.

    I’ve heard bishops called “the keeper of secrets”, and almost like catholic priests, they are our “father confessors.” So even when we don’t “have to” go to the bishop and get something off our chest, even a suspicion, doing so can often relieve us of the burden of keeping a secret, even if it’s someone else’s secret.

    And hearing a “you don’t need to worry about that” is much more comforting and reassuring coming from the bishop in a face-to-face interview than it is from anonymous people over the net.

    Another question to ask yourself, under the “Golden Rule” rule is “Would I want a witness to tattle if I were the transgressor?” and “Would I want a witness to tattle if I were the victim of the transgression?”

    As I’ve gotten older, I’ve changed my priorities about what is proper to inform the bishop about and what is not.

  77. What some people aren’t getting is that despite that this particular offense is in the eternal scheme of things less offensive than say lacking charity, because it is quantitative and because the Church has institutionalized the prohibition it has become definitive for the community.

    Because it is definitive of the community it is not just, “no big deal.” As has been mentioned before, those who drink should be fellowshipped and they should have any calling that we can have for them. So it really becomes a question of what this person is trying to portray with their membership. No, I don’t care who in my ward smokes or who shows up a bit tipsy to the ward party. But there are instances where it does become important. and it is not just a matter of lightening up blah blah blah.

  78. Good point, Julie. I also envisaged something more along the lines of #2.

    Of course, any attempt to help other people without those signing on first (and sincerely) is fraught with peril (for example, Iraq).

  79. #71, though I think there are several possible ways Tracy could interpret that passage from Leviticus, I don’t see any of them as running contrary to the Book of Mormon or New Testament.

  80. I’d pray about it, possibly talk to the woman and, if it seemed appropriate, suggest she tell her bishop. If it bothered me, I’d ask my bishop whether he would want to know about a WoW transgression by another member if that member were in his ward (which they aren’t, so there would be no need to ID anyone). I’d be much more interested in what the Bishop thought than in what Ronan (notabishop) thought :)

    I had to deal with a similar circumstance once, I suggested they see the Bishop, they did, and seemed grateful for the intervention. Such sins are a nasty business, and Satan works hard to get people to avoid confronting their problem by pretending no one else knows. Breaking that fiction can be helpful. Or not, which is why you pray about it.

    Also, as per Hellmut’s counsel, we will immediately stop inviting so many neighbors over to our home for dinner, desert, or conversation. Blasted Utahn Spies!

  81. Guys,
    downplaying Ronan’s advice because He isn’t a bishop isn’t fair play. Who here is? And even if one of us was, so what? We’re not Tracy’s bishop. Let’s not get into a game of ecclesiastical one-upmanship.

  82. FTW: go see the GA that’s a friend of your high school buddies, and ask him.

  83. I think we all agree that abstaining from alcohol is a defined rule within the church. There are many rules in the church. Abstaining from child abuse is rule–and a good one at that. Just because we see somebody breaking a rule means we have to report it to the bishop. I think people go to the Bishop far too often for matters they ought to be able to figure out using their own brain or relying on the Holy Spirit.

    When breaking a rule rises to the level of inflicting harm on other people, this probably merits a discussion with the bishop. Getting drunk at a party is not one of them. Assuming they found a sober driver, they are not harming anyone.

    I find it scary that so many members in here would still ask the bishop what they should do in this situation and just not mention names. Though they are well-intentioned, Bishops dole out bad advice all the time. Come on, people! There is no guarantee that he will give you good advice or even been inspired with his counsel.

  84. Drunkard, you’re being myopic if you think that the behavior of a single member of the Church does not affect anyone else.

    The modern argument of “they are not harming anyone” directly contravenes Paul: “know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?…” or, better yet,

    Nay, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be more feeble are necessary:

    and those parts of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness;

    whereas our comely parts have no need: but God tempered the body together, giving more abundant honor to that part which lacked;

    that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.

    And whether one member suffereth, all the members suffer with it; or one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

    And your statement that there’s no guarantee that a bishop will give you good advice or be inspired is, well, uninspired. You sound like someone who has a ton of respect for local leaders.

  85. I have a story. When I was in college I had a friend who was regularly sleeping with her boyfriend. I and one other friend knew this. The other friend who knew went and told the Bishop. The Bishop never did anything. I’m not sure why, but I always figured that unless she was going in for a temple reccomend interview or something–he didn’t need to bring it up. Obviously she wasn’t ready to quit her behavior. Or it might have had something to do with the fact that she had some other very colorful sins in her passed that she had already discussed with him–and he knew she would eventually come in.
    I know it’s just antecdotal, but I agree with Julie. WHat does anyone expect the Bishop to do? I know of another Bishop who did call some friends of mine in because he suspected them of swinging–because their good friends who were in the ward were, so he thought they might be too.
    Maybe the Bishop already knows. I agree with Ronan also, drinking is not adultrey, (which–if someone knew was happening to my family–they better tell me!)

  86. Yikes… this thing just took on a life of it’s own, didn’t it?

  87. Julie M. Smith says:

    “What if you went to the bishop and he confronted them. then they became offended and left the church. That wouldn’t be good.

    We all need to mind our own business more ”

    What if you do nothing and they end up killing a child via DWI? That wouldn’t be good either.

    We all need to help our fellow Saints more.

  88. Kimball Hunt says:

    “FORGIVE” them?…….

    (Althought this doesn’t mean you’d subtly “wink” at their indiscresion either. But allow yourself to sense some sort of UNDERSTANDING of whatever their weaknesses as you yourself would hope to have towards whatever your own; with your impulse being: “You are forgiven – that is, when and should you avail yourselves of this opportunity; but – sin no more!”?)

  89. Funny how Steve argues that one’s behavior does impact other people and then he proceeds to start quoting scripture and maligning my “uninspired” comment. Finally, he finishes it all off with a touch of sarcasm.

    Thanks Steve-Love the irony, bro.

  90. Julie M. Smith says:

    BTW, I intended #87 to show that the comment I quoted was only giving half of the story. My opinion is still that she should pray about it to determine what to do.

  91. Drunkard, there’s no irony in pointing out where you are wrong. Hopefully my behavior has its desired effect: discouraging others from taking a view similar to your own.

  92. Nick Literski says:

    I have to chuckle when LDS get so worked up over violations of the Word of Wisdom. What about all the more serious sins, that you don’t see as readily? How many adulterers are in your ward? How many in your ward cheat on their taxes? How many take unethical advantages over others in business, but tell themselves they’re “honest?” How many sit at home, viewing pornography over the Internet? How many abuse their children? Isn’t it funny how we pay so much attention to relatively minor transgressions, just because they’re VISIBLE?

  93. #64 “Do you tell the spouse?”

    If you had watched last night’s episode of Desperate Housewives, the answer to this question would be clear to you. (For those who missed it, the answer is “No, because then the spouse might then go on a jealous, crazed killing spree, and that would be bad.”)

  94. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 57 (To answer the question at the end of the comment)
    Because if you take along only one Mormon, he’ll drink all your whiskey and smoke all your cigarettes.

    That’s an old Utah joke, isn’t it?

    WOW, this thread makes me glad to be on the furthest edges of Mormondom. Just reading through all these comments makes me want to go get a drink. Won’t do that, but I do make a killer cosmo (shaken, up) from time to time.

    Question: If Tracy M spoke to her Bishop, would he be obligated to keep the conversation in confidence, or might he then call the WoW-violating-boozers’ Bishop and blow the whistle on them? Are there any written guidelines that a Bishop should follow in a case like this? I’d imagine that in some wards there are busybodies who quite eagerly function as morality cops.

    And Ronan, you’re awfully comfortable with Scientology jargon. You’re scarin’ me man.

  95. Most sins are harmless to others and should not be reported. This includes smoking, drinking, and any straight or gay sexual activity between consenting unmarried adults.

  96. Mike, I am no expert, but I do believe that the bishop is required to maintain confidence.

  97. geena,
    although to be fair, if you are watching straight or gay sexual activity between consenting adults, you should probably report yourself.

  98. Also, as per Hellmut’s counsel, we will immediately stop inviting so many neighbors over to our home for dinner, desert, or conversation. Blasted Utahn Spies!

    That would be sad.

    What if you do nothing and they end up killing a child via DWI? That wouldn’t be good either.

    In that case, I agree with Julie. Drunk drivers require an intervention because they are endangering people other than themselves.

    I would also agree that an intervention is warranted if there are indications of addiction because addicts do not have a choice.

    That is essentially different from adults chosing to get blasted.

    We all need to help our fellow Saints more.

    Telling the bishop may neither be helpful nor selfless.

  99. I know of another Bishop who did call some friends of mine in because he suspected them of swinging–because their good friends who were in the ward were, so he thought they might be too.

    See, that’s inappropriate. I cannot even imagine what would happen if some guy accused me of swinging. That’s a stain that’s hard to erase.

    And the fact that the accuser is a community leader who claims to be inspired only makes it worse.


    My husband and I were talking about this incident and the thread just a while ago- he was surprised that I was so surprised at their drinking. He knew about it long before- evidentally, it’s commonplace.

    For me the real issue with this about ourselves- how we internalize it when someone else makes us witness, viewer or innocent party to their wrongdoings. What do we do with it inside?

    I have no interrest in a church where people are policing the morality of others, and I apologize if the OP sounded like that was my dilema.

    Carry on.

  101. re 97 LOL! But seriously, I was in an east coast singles ward where this worked really well. There were coed roommate situations in several apartments and no one tattled or cared, even when it became obvious that some roommates were lovers.The TR questions make liars of us all. We can never be completely honest or perfect. Some are too honest to try pretending. Good for them!

  102. Thank-you, Bishop Frank. I always enjoy heeding your advice.

  103. Ah, but Ronan, my “advice” was that if one wanted substantive earthly advice, get it from a bishop. I was never claiming, explicitly or implicitly, to be a good substitute for advice from her bishop.

  104. Tracy: I have faced this very issue as well. I was driving home from work and happened to see an ex-missionary companion. We had remained friends and I knew that he had continued active in the Church. He pulled into a bar. Stunned, I pulled into the parking lot and watched him go in. I was so stunned that I got out and followed him because I was sure that I must have mistaken him for someone else. Nope, it was him. He ordered a large glass of beer. I left.

    I asked a good friend — what do I do? Well, we still meet from time to time so I raised the issue to him about what to do if I saw a friend who was active in the Church go into a bar? He responded that such conduct is a private decision unless the friend chose to include me in the conversation. So I honored is request, as such, to leave him alone. I simply responded, “I suppose that in the end, God knows, and my friend knows that God knows, and that is enough. If having God know isn’t enough, then what would be?”

  105. Last Lemming says:

    What if you do nothing and they end up killing a child via DWI? That wouldn’t be good either.

    In that case, I agree with Julie. Drunk drivers require an intervention because they are endangering people other than themselves.

    Note that the intervention in this case should be by the police, not the bishop.

  106. I suspect that the particular sin at issue has much to do with your discomfort.

    Vodka is more than just verboten-–it is taboo for the Saints. The WoW is bound up with our cultural identity. It is one of the lines that sets us apart as a corporate priesthood.

    Ronan’s example is handy. Attending services, making financial contributions—-these are imperatives that weigh on many (maybe a majority) of those in your social circle. But abstaining from drink is more uniquely Mormon. Thus, as Julie suggest, the actual sin is only part of what is causing your angst. It is also caused by hypocrisy and poor example.

    We don’t expect our fellow Saints to be perfect. But the WoW is one of those things we hold out that ends up culturally distinguishing us.

    Consider the recent news of the promiscuous anti-homosexual Evangelical leader. The story is not his sin. The story is his identity and marginal beliefs.

  107. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 106 I’d say the story is his rank hypocrisy, actually.

    I see your earlier point, though. This problem with the vodka drinkers is really the fact that they violate an important community norm. The WoW is part of what makes you unique. So in terms of how it makes active members FEEL, it really is worse than quiet greed, dishonesty, etc.

  108. MikeInWeHo, in my mind, has hit upon the “real” sin here. The drinking is hypocritical, and therefore wrong.

    But the nod and the wink is the hurtful part–she made her hypocrisy your problem. She has put you in a double-bind. Either you are complicit in her hypocrisy, or you are a tale-teller.

    I would tell her that she is welcome to be a hypocrite if she chooses, but that you refuse to accept the burden of her choices–i.e., that you won’t tattle, but you won’t cover for her, either.

  109. Perhaps I can give some perspective from the point of view of someone who was tattled on.

    One of my roommates in University thought that my girlfriend and I were having sex on a regular basis. He took it upon himself to report this to my Bishop, as well as my mother.

    The only thing was he was wrong. It never happened, not once, not ever.

    My girlfriend and I went to dinner at my parents house where my mother cornered me in a room and tearfully expressed her disappointment in me. I had no idea what she was talking about, and when I did figure it out, I was furious! On the drive home I had to explain to my girlfriend what all the comotion was about. Now she started balling because my parent’s opinion of her was tainted.

    We no sooner got back to the appartment when the phone started ringing. It was the Bishop calling me in for an interview. I took my girlfriend (who was/is a non-member and is now my wife) with me to the meeting to set the record straight.

    The whole thing snow-balled out of nothing. If my roommate had come to me directly I could have set the record straight at the outset.

    This same roommate eventually went on to get married, cheat on his wife, and get divorced. I don’t wish misfortune on anyone, but part of me did take some satisfaction in the irony.

  110. Julie M. Smith says:

    “Either you are complicit in her hypocrisy, or you are a tale-teller.”

    Exactly. That’s such a good explanation of what the rest of us have been dancing around for +100 plus comments.

  111. What’s hypocritical about not being perfect? Unless she was a GA or a local leader, or had given a very moving and powerful talk in the church the Sunday before about following the WoW, why are you holding someone else to an impossible standard of perfection? Nobody is perfect. Let it go. Being hypocritical is not the same as being imperfect. Stop calling someone a hypocrit just because they don’t measure up to perfection in everything. What’s that saying, major sins are those that other people break, minor sins are those that I break?

    Also, all these comparisons to rape or adultery or murder is a huge joke. If there are no innocent victims, it’s not your business, period.

    This thread has proven to me once again how judgemental and petty mormons can be. The one voice of reason, Ronan, has been attacked or ignored. Typical.

  112. Nathan- please go back and read comment 100.

  113. “Either you are complicit in her hypocrisy, or you are a tale-teller.”

    Exactly. My conundrum all along.

  114. Nathan,
    If you read all of the posts you’ll discover that roughly 98% of them are counseling Tracy NOT to tell her Bishop or anyone else. Thank heaven for the 2% or your judgemental opinion about “mormons”(like you can sum up the whole of the population in various corners of the earth with one sweeping label) would lose all validity.

  115. Nathan,

    You do most of the commenters on this thread wrong, and your generalization to “how judgemental [sic] and petty mormons can be” does wrong to most mormons.

    Most of the commenters recommended doing nothing or talking to the woman directly. And many of those who suggested talking to the bishop were clearly thinking in terms of counsel for Tracy, not ratting out the boozing couple.

    The conundrum Tracy raises is real, and cannot be ignored with a “well, it’s their lives”. Breaking the Word of Wisdom isn’t committing adultery, but there is a specific question about it in the TR interview.

    I’d follow George’s advice, and leave it at that.

    Let the couple continue to booze it up, but don’t make me watch them do that and then show up at the temple after the hangover has gone away.

  116. I’m way too late to this conversation.

    Tracy, I’m guessing it makes you more antsy because you don’t know the couple super well and don’t know why they are making the choices that they are.

    As an occasional WoW breaker, my friends and churchmates that know me and they understand why I’ve made the choices I have and they trust me. They may never make those choices themselves and may not deem it a healthy part of their church membership but they don’t worry about my repentance or their role in helping me keep the commandments. There is a trust that comes with love and substantial friendships. When people don’t know me or the way I relate to God, the Church, commandments or whatever, I’m sure my WoW breaking ways make them fret. Or freak out. Sometimes I choose not to do anything around them and sometimes I choose to deal with their fretting/judgment.

    You do not judge your husband in the same way because you know him and understand his choices. You do not know why they choose what they do.

    So I think to ease the hurt you feel over their breaking a commandment and you knowing the “secret” you either must get to know them more earnestly so as to judge them more accurately or to let it go. We can’t know everyone so mostly I think we have to let a lot of judgments go.

    I also believe that God is so personal and all powerful that He will deal with them on their terms at the Temple or otherwise and you on your terms. Your spirituality or connection with God is not inhibited by their choices.

  117. Speaking of being “judgmental,” seeing Steve’s comment reminded me that it’s OK for Canadians and Brits to put that “e” after the “g”. If Nathan is an American, the [sic] stays.

    If he’s a Brit or a Canuck, my apologies.

  118. Don’t forget colour, centre, and pronouncing the letter z as zed.

  119. a random John says:


    re 97: No, no, no! The correct answer is: He’ll drink all your beer!


  120. “Either you are complicit in her hypocrisy, or you are a tale-teller.”

    This is a false dichotomy. Everybody I know has sins. I do not wish to confess them, nor do I feel complicit. Ah, but Ronan, this is a sin that would keep someone away from the temple. Please see comment 38.

  121. Ronan- you make good points, and points with which I find little to argue. For me, like I said in comment 100, the issue is about myself, and how I felt, seeing someone I considered a friend, do something that I am still new at trying NOT to do. I have made so many changes in my life since joining the church, I was plain startled to see someone so obviously disregarding what we had been taught.

    Again, probably more a mark of my own spiritual immaturity. Next time I see something like this happen, I certainly won’t have the visceral reaction I did this time.

  122. I also need to add that I have absolutely no stomach for deception of any kind. To me, lying, to oneself, to another, or to the world at large, is the worste kind of personal compromise. That might explain too, why I felt so strongly.

  123. I don’t think you have to worry about the way you felt/feel about the experience, Tracy. Whatever you feel, be it dissapointment, disgust, sadness, concern, is justified. The only thing you shouldn’t feel is superiority, and it doesn’t seem that you do. That would be a cause for concern.

    There are some people I know who, if I saw them do something like that, it would be deeply disturbing. I think I would be more concerned about the way I reacted if I just shrugged it off as no big deal. These kinds of things are a big deal and they should affect us.

  124. Tracy,

    Put that way, I feel sorry for not having more empathy. Your reaction is understandable, and is not a case of spiritual immaturity at all. You have made big sacrifices to join the church, and it is difficult to see people treat their membership so shoddily. Kudos to you, Tracy M.

  125. (Just try and let it go, otherwise your membership is going to be full of disappointment.)

  126. What would happen if it were coffee instead of vodka?

    One of our top local leader’s sons lead our son into very bad things. I think his parenting skills are very bad, non-christian, bad enough to have driven another of his sons off into the desert to die, effectively.

    I have a hard time talking to this man. He makes me feel very uncomfortable. Almost like sitting next to a murderer. Is this different?

    Another, the ex of a friend of my wife used to be bishop, divorced her after 30 years and 5 children. He said life with her was unbareable. Do I feel comfortable around him? Not on your life.

    If we are thinking people, we all must adjust our thoughts to temple inverview questions. Do I support one or two toxic men in the quorum of 12 as prophets? How do I define prophets? Am I a liar? Is he a prophet?

    So vodka is not such a bad thing put in context. We muddle through. I think Mormonism makes us all very good rationalizers. To be fair, rationalization is not half bad, at least we know we are not doing the right thing.

    What can you expect of a religion of works, not of grace.

  127. Bob,
    I wasn’t aware that grace was out of the equation. Or maybe you’re also into the habit of making sweeping assertions that judge millions you’ve never met. Its alright, I won’t tell your bishop.

  128. easy there, cj. Can we keep the vitriol to a minimum please, all?

  129. Last Lemming says:

    I know this has gone on too long and may be a dead horse, but a related question just occured to me.

    Suppose Tracy and her husband go up to join the prayer circle in the temple and look up to find this other couple joining them. Upon the invocation of “Only the best of feelings..,” what should they do?

  130. Alright Steve – enough. But you have to laugh at the semi-coherent posts that make mostly reasonable points and then end with a…”oh ya by the way mormons stink” comment. It’s pure comedy and very hard to resist.

  131. Steve Evans says:

    cj, yes. yes, indeed.

  132. LL- forgive…?

  133. Robert Durtschi says:

    >>If you stick with the church long enough, you will see lots of hypocrisy.

    Apparently 47 years isn’t long enough.

    I tend to agree with Orsen Scott Card:

    Jesus did not tell us to ignore or mock the messages of hypocrites. He said, if they speak with authority and truth, then do what they say, but do not follow their personal examples.

    Modern popular wisdom has changed this message about “hypocrisy.” According to the popular wisdom of our day, a hypocrite is anyone who appears to fail to completely live up to any of the principles and values that she advocates. Popular culture demands that we mock and reject every value and principle that any “hypocrites” as ever advocated.